The Low-A Hickory rotation shapes up to be the best in all of minor league baseball, featuring four players (Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez, Wilfredo Boscan, and Joe Wieland) that were all ranked in the team's top 16 by Baseball America in their 2009 Prospect Handbook, with the lone outsider, right-hander Carlos Pimentel, receiving mention as a sleeper candidate for the upcoming season. Call me a Rangers homer, but I dare you to find another rotation in the minors that can stand up to Hickory's.
While the pitching might receive the bulk of the attention, Hickory's position players stand poised to make a name for themselves in '09. The outfield will feature three players with enough raw talent to one day play at the major league level. David Paisano, Cristian Santana, and Miguel Alfonzo all took a developmental step back during the '08 season, but all three have serious breakout potential.
Clark Murphy, last season's fifth-round draft choice, will jump from the Arizona Rookie League all the way to full-season ball where he looks to showcase his smooth swing and above-average power. Joining Murphy in the infield will be former second-round selection Matt West, who looks to rebound from two disappointing seasons in short-season ball. Rounding out the left side of the infield is the slick-fielding and strong-armed Andres James, who will be repeating the level after putting up a dismal batting line of .199/.231/.230 in 82 games for the Clinton Lumberkings.
Last, but certainly not least, the man who could be assigned the responsibility of catching the stars of tomorrow, Leonel "Macumba" De Los Santos. While it's not a given that Macumba will make the jump from the AZL to full-season ball, his outstanding work with the pitchers during the Fall Instructional League made the case that his skills behind the plate were up to the task.
This roster speculation was just a means to spark conversation and to get the crowd thirsty for the upcoming minor league season. The list was produced without influence from the Texas Rangers organization and is purely for entertainment purposes. We will soon find out which players will make up the Rangers' inaugural season in Hickory. Until then, all we can do is guess. Who is on your Hickory roster?
Notes: As you probably noticed, this roster speculation exceeds the number of roster spots available. Some players currently listed will start the season in extended spring training before joining a short-season affiliate, some will jump to High-A Bakersfield, and some might even receive an outright release. Players that could make the jump to Hickory who aren't currently on this list include Juan Peralta, Clifford Springston, Edward Martinez, Corey Ragsdale, Geuris Grullon, Miguel De Los Santos, Kyle Ocampo, Robbie Ross and Justin Miller, just to name a few.
Up next: Bakersfield Blaze.