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Carolina Mudcats 2016 Roster preview

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Dansby Swanson headlines a crop of talented players for the Carolina Mudcats. While lacking top pitchers, the team has a solid depth to it and reinforcements waiting in the wings at Rome.

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

While most of the prospects this season are in Mississippi and Rome, Carolina received it's fair share of top prospects. Top prospect Dansby Swanson headlines the list, and while anchor a solid lineup. They have all the makings of a competitive team in the Carolina League, especially with a solid rotation that could receive reinforcements from Rome.

Notable Prospects

Braxton Davidson

Braxton Davidson had a very up and down season last year, and will hope to develop a more consistent power stroke. Hopefully a move up the ladder will help, as he struggled with umpires in Rome who failed to see the zone as well as he did. His strikeout numbers will be the main point of conversation this year, and if he can begin to solve that bug he will really jump up lists. His potential leaves plenty to be excited about, and a return to his native North Carolina could make 2016 all the more special for Davidson.

Help Me! It's 3:30 AM and I'm being held hostage until I finish this article (Don't help him...there is no escape. -Eric)
Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Max Povse

Povse was lights out in Rome last year, but early on after his promotion suffered an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. Durability with a body as large as his will be a major concern, and it will be important to see if he fills out that 6'8 frame more this offseason. He won't spend much time at Carolina if he proves himself, and will likely be the first pitcher called up to Mississippi as a replacement.

Zack Bird

Zack Bird is armed with a lightning fastball, but his inconsistent command and offspeed stuff has plagued his early performance. HE hopes to improve on flashes of briliance he has shown in his early career, hoping to make that a more consistent theme. While he will forever be linked to the Infamous Trade, he will be an important factor to determining the true outcome of that swap

Chase Johnson-Mullins

Not many teams have a 6'8" pitcher on it, but the Mudcats can claim 2 in Povse and Chase Johnson-Mullins. Johnson-Mullins is a walking giant (and friend of the program I might add), and his fastball is every bit as big as his frame. He could be a fast-rising lefty in the system, potentially taking much the same course that Matt Marksberry took last year.

Dansby Swanson

There's not much to say about Swanson that we haven't already said. He has a great package of tools, is an advanced player, and will fit in well with the culture the Braves are trying to build. He should pretty well dominate Carolina League pitching, and a mid season call up seems almost inevitable.

Rotation

Carolina may not have the top level pitching prospect every other level has, but there is a solid assortment of potential major league arms in the fold. The starters on the team will be Matt Withrow. Max Povse, Ryan Clark, Wes Parsons, and Ryan Lawlor, while the bullpen will be filled with other arms that could assume on of those roles. The Medlen-esque Zach Quintana was great for Rome in both a starting and relief role, and could very well see himself take on a similar spot with Carolina. Zack Bird will need to stay healthy, but a move to the bullpen will allow him to use his live fastball better, while lessening the consequences of his frequent walks. It will be important to watch Wes Parsons this year. He has talent, but was unable to get on the field much last year. He will hope to stay healthy most importantly, but also jump up through the system quickly.

Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Offense

Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

The 2015 Rome Braves starting outfield has all made their way up to Carolina, with Keith Curcio, Braxton Davidson, and Joseph Daris all debuting in Carolina. In fact, the entire starting lineup short of Joey Meneses at first base and Dansby Swanson will be the same as the opening day team for Rome last season. To see all but 1 player make a jump is definitely a positive sign that the Braves are successfully developing their position players in the lower minor leagues. While Carolina is one of the weaker teams in the system, they still have a solid all around team.

Surprises

Although hand in hand with the surprise of having Lucas Herbert in Rome, it was very shocking to see Tanner Murphy in Carolina. He flashes all of the tools to be an outstanding catcher, but his performance has been uninspiring and leaves doubt as to his viability at this level. Also surprising was Bird, who I expected to carve out a role in Mississippi's bullpen. If needed, he would likely be the first reliever to get the call. As for a pleasant surprise for me, Ryan Clark and Chase Johnson-Mullins both started out a level higher than I expected. Neither is undeserving of the position, as both could move quickly and have shown the ability to pitch above the level of their peers. Still, I think the possibility that doing interviews with Eric and I is a good luck charm for players can't be ruled out, and if you are a prospect reading this we'd be more than happy to send some positive juju your way.

Potential Promotions

The Rome Braves will be a rich farming ground for Carolina this year, as there are multiple potential impact call ups waiting in the wings. Touki Toussaint almost certainly should get a chance in Carolina this year, and will provide a great rotation boost and some prospect power to get butts in seats. Ricardo Sanchez also should be a late season call up, like Lucas Sims to Mississippi last year, mostly because I doubt the Braves want to see him stuck at the same level for 2 straight years. Dalton Geekie and Matt Custred will also likely provide bullpen help to Carolina at some point during the season. While most of the position players in Rome are first timers and likely will stay there, Luke Dykstra will spend some time in Carolina as well this year. He will be a bump to the lineup, especially since second base is probably the weakest position on the team.

Breakout candidate

I may have mentioned earlier that Tanner Murphy has been "uninspiring" in his early career. I value honesty, and that is honesty. I don't, however, dislike him as a prospect. Murphy produces above average power from the right side of the plate, and shows a smooth swing that with some refinement to his approach should allow him to be a respectable contact hitter. Murphy is also a comfortable, athletic defender behind the plate. There's a lot of risk to Murphy as a prospect, but with the added pressure of what is likely a do-or-die season, and Jonathan Morales and Lucas Herbert creeping up behind him I think he will be motivated to perform well. I actually expect this to be the first season of Murphy's turn around as a prospect.

Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Conspiracy theory: The Braves don't put as many prospects in Carolina because they don't own the team and therefore won't make as much money off of attendance as other levels. Discuss