While Myrtle Beach, at least on paper, doesn't have the star power or exciting names from the top to the bottom of their roster that Rome has, their pitching staff should be exciting to watch.
The Pelicans looks to have a strong starting staff, with Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Jose Ortegano, JJ Hoover, and Cole Rohrbough set to take the bulk of the starts. The left handed Ortegano, who is a member of Atlanta's 40 man roster, is the biggest surprise on the roster, as he was effective in 21 appearances (12 starts) for Myrtle Beach last year, working a 4-5 record, 3.49 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP, then more than held his own in 8 starts for Mississippi, with a 5-2 record, 2.83 ERA, and 1.28 WHIP. Right handers Delgado, Spruill, and Hoover were the top starters on last year's Rome team with Spruill leading the team in wins and ERA, Hoover leading the team in innings and strikeouts, and Delgado leading the team in strikeouts per 9 innings. The trio will move up to the Carolina League together and look to continue their solid development. The lefty Rohrbough will return to the Pelicans for the third straight year and will need to get over the hump in 2010 if he's going to have any hope of living up to his early career hype. Rohrbough has struggled with his command, mechanics, and the mental aspects of the game, but early indications are that he's been able to right his own ship and if that's the case it might not be long before he moves on to Mississippi.
With the experience of the two lefties and the sheer talent of the three righties, not to mention the pitcher friendly effects of Myrtle Beach's home field, the Carolina League is going to have a hard time against the Pelicans' starting rotation in 2010.Bullpen
Right hander Benino Pruneda (above) returns to Mytle Beach after spending most of 09 there and will begin 2010 as the team's closer. Pruneda has one of the liveliest fastballs in the system, reaching as high at 100mph at times, but unfortunately his diminutive size, his listed size of 5'9" 170lbs is a friendly lie, means he tends to wear down as the season goes on. Each of the last two years he's started off stell but his numbers have tanked as the years wore on and his body gave out on him. Consider how great his 08 numbers with Rome were, 2.83 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 11.5 K/9 and realize that his second half was terrible.
Righty Jaye Chapman and lefty Chad Rogers also return to Myrtle Beach, though Rogers was only able to make 4 April appearances before succumbing to Tommy John Surgery. Chapman pitched in 27 games for Mytrle Beach and will look so see if his number there in 2010 can be more like those he put up last season for Rome, a 0.40 ERA and 0.57 WHIP in 19 games. Joining them will be a trio who were Rome's most effective relievers in 2009, Angelo Paulino, Yeliar Castro, and David Francis. Paulino was particularly effective, leading Rome with 37 appearances while racking up a 2.67 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 11 K/9. Castro and Francis each started a handful of games, but really seemed to find their nitche in the bullpen.
Rounding out the bullpen will be organizational newcomer Juan Abreu, a right hander, and 2009 Appalacian Pitcher of the Year Matt Crim, a left hander. Both have been starters in the past and while others seem more likely to be in the rotation a situation could arise that works these to into the rotation, perhaps through a piggybacking scenario where on pitcher starts the game and throws 4 innings, only to be relieved by another pitcher who will pitch the next four. Abreu was let go by the Royals last November, then signed with the Braves as a free agent. The team actually added him to their 40 man roster, but he pitched his way off that roster during Spring Training. His fastball blazes to the plate in the high 90s, but he has almost no control over it or his other pitches. Conversely, Crim was masterful at controlling both his pitces and their results last year, walking just 1.3 per 9 innings en route to a Danville record 10 wins.
Whether Abreu and Crim end up in the rotation or the bullpen, the Pelicans have a solid relief corp. with pitchers who are experienced at their roles. It's likely that Pruneda will move up to Mississippi at some point in the year, but there are plenty of viable closer options on this team.
The Pelicans catching duo will be Jesus Sucre and Matt Kennelly, who both played for Rome and Myrtle Beach last season, though at opposite times. Each are fine defensive catchers, who are excellent at handling pitchers, but both come with some offensive questions. Sucre had a breakout year with the bat in 09, hitting .290 with a .724 OPS after hitting just .198 with a .500 OPS in the previous two seasons. But, he did most of his damage in 45 games with Rome, hitting .325 with a .784 OPS. His average fell .066 points and his average dropped .112 points in 53 games with Myrtle Beach. Kennelly had just the opposite happen, as he started the year with the Pelicans, hitting just .195 with a .499 OPS in 47 games, then raised his average .060 points and his OPS .137 points in 46 games after a demotion to Rome. Both catchers need to prove their batting numbers with Rome weren't a fluke and they'll get plenty of chances as they'll likely share both the catching duties and the DH duties. (All Minor League teams below AA use the DH in every game.)
Gerardo Avila (above) comes to the Braves from the Seattle Mariners organization and he'll get the lion's share of the playing time at first base. Coming into his 6th professional season, the left handed hitter has played just 9 games above Low A ball and actually spent last season destroying the short season Northwest League for Everett (the equivalent of Danville), hitting .333 with a .950 OPS, 13 homers and 54 RBI in 54 games.
Second baseman Yoel Campusano, who had a fine seaon in 09 for Rome, hitting .288 with a .730 OPS, will move up to the Carolina League to continue to devlop his game. He's a solid fielder with good range, but little speed, despite his 13 stolen bases last season. Shayne Moody, Randy Gress, and Amadeo Zazueta round out the infield. All three are natural shortstops capable of playing around the infield. Moody seems likely to take the majority of the starts at third base after playing most of his games (46) there last year, but he'll need to improve on his .262 average and .622 OPS. Gress has been a nomad each of the last two years, splitting both seasons between Danville, Rome, and Myrtle Beach. He'll hope for some consistency in 2010 as he seems likely to get plenty of the starts at shortstop, but, like Moody, he'll need to drastically improve on the .194 average and .527 OPS he put up for Myrtle Beach last season. Zazueta was signed out of an independent league in the off season and looks to provide depth as the team's utilty player. He hasn't hit much in his career, but, especially last season, he's probably been a little overmatched by his competition. He should be a reliable backup for the Pelicans.
The Pelicans are light on star power, but if left fielder Adam Milligan (above) can come close to reapeating what he did in 2009 he should be able to provide all the excitement himself. Playing mostly for Rome, but also appearning in a handful of games for Danville and Myrtle Beach, the left handed hitter smacked the ball around to the tune of a .344 average and a .985 OPS, while slugging out 13 homers and 49 RBI in just 67 games. Milligan is definitely the hitter to watch for the Pelicans and if he tears it up early there's a good chance he won't hang around Myrtle Beach long.
Joining Milligan in the outfield is the team's next most promising hitter, converted first baseman Gerry Rodriguez. After playing a handful of games in the outfield in 09, while he was also hitting .269 with a .802 OPS to with 23 home runs and 83 RBI in a season split between Rome and Myrtle Beach, the Braves decided that rather than having his bat blocked by the team's first baseman of the future, Freddie Freeman, they would try him out in the outfield. This is the second time the Braves have changed Rodriguez's position, after he started his career as a catcher in the Yankee organization. Unfortunately, he's not that fleet of foot, so it will be interesting to see how the move plays out.
Another converted infielder, Cole Miles, looks to get the majority of playing time in center field, though he'll likely still play some games at his native second base. Miles returns to the Pelicans after hitting .266 with a .679 OPS for the team in 09. He has next to no pop in his bat and needs to work on driving the ball better and making smarter use of his speed. Chris Shehan and Jahdiel Santamaria will round out the outfield. Shehan, who is capable of playing al lthree outfield positons, split 09 between Rome and Myrtle Beach and was actually better at the higher level, hitting .261 with a .683 OPS in 39 games for the Pelicans. Santamaria, another Yankee castoff, is also capable of backing up the entire outfield and will continue the role he held for Rome in 09, that of a defensive sub and occasional starter. Luis Sumoza, who hit .271 with a .681 OPS in 119 games for Rome, will begin the year on the disable list, but will bolster the outfield, likely in right field, upon his return.
The 2010 Myrtle Beach Pelicans have a rotation that most Minor league teams would envy, but their lineup seems particularly weak. There's also reason to question the defense, particularly in the outfield where converted infielders look to start in center and right and left fielder Milligan isn't known for his defense. This seems like a recipe for dissapointment, as it's easy to envision pitchers with ugly win-loss records and low ERAs. The Pelicans are likely to struggle, much as they did last season, but there's some hope, as several of the players starting the year at Rome seem like solid candidates for mid-season promotions.
- CF Cole Miles
- 2B Yoel Campusano
- LF Adam Milligan
- RF Gerry Rodriguez
- 1B Gerardo Avila
- C Jesus Sucre
- 3B Shayne Moody
- DH Matt Kennelly
- SS Randy Gress
- Jose Ortegano
- Cole Rohrbough
- Randall Delgado
- JJ Hoover
- Zeke Spruill
It'd be easy to pick a top prospect like Delgado or Milligan, but we're looking for some one who's not as high on the radar, so we're going to go with Angelo Paulino. He was outstanding as a reliever for Rome last season and the guess is he'll continue that good work setting up games for the Pelicans in 2010, possibly even closing later on in the season.