Thursday, April 4, 2013

2013 AB4AR MiL Season Preview: Double-A Trenton

If there's one MiL team to pay the most attention to this season, it's hands down the Double-A Trenton Thunder.  And it's not just because they have a badass name and logo, which they do.  This year's season-opening edition of the Thunder will be stacked with high-end prospect talent, both in the field and on the pitching mound.  There will be no less than eight top 20-30 organizational prospects on the roster to start this season, and that's not even counting the rehabbing Jose Ramirez, who will get some time in Extended ST to let a couple of small nagging injuries heal before joining the rotation.  Check out the rest of this All-Star collection after the jump.

The first thing that should draw your attention on this team is the outfield.  It's a real doozy, easily one of the best all-around outfields in all of Minor League baseball.  After his organizational best 2012 season, Tyler Austin got the bump up to Trenton to start this season, along with borderline 5-tool talent Slade Heathcott.  Both are dealing with some minor injury issues of their own right now, but are expected to start the season on time.  Manning left field with them will be the perennially underrated Ramon Flores, who might have the best hitting approach in the Yankee system and is a little more power away from being a top 5-10 prospect.

There isn't much to get excited about in the infield; guys like Jose Pirela, Rob Segedin, and Kyle Roller are starting to look more and more like organizational filler.  But there is a real prospect behind the plate in J.R. Murphy.  He struggled in his Dobule-A debut last season, but with some experience under his belt and a strong showing in spring camp he's on the way to re-establishing himself as a productive 2-way catcher.

The rotation will be minus Ramirez to start the season, but there is plenty of quality depth to make up for it.  Nik Turley will be the staff ace and is scheduled to make the first start of the season today.  Fellow lefties Matt Tracy and Francisco Rondon will join him in the rotation, Rondon being a bit of a surprise after spending the bulk of last season and big league spring camp working as a reliever, as will right-handers Zach Nuding and Caleb Cotham.

Rondon, Nuding, and Cotham are all candidates to get transitioned to the bullpen at some point.  If and when that happens, they might not find many high-leverage innings to be had.  Hard-throwing righties Branden Pinder and Tommy Kahnle are expected to battle for the closer role, with a now healthy Dan Burawa and former starter Graham Stoneburner also in the mix.  Lefty Jeremy Bleich is also back from some serious arm issues and is working on making the transition from starter to possible shutdown LOOGY.

If pitching wins championships then this year's version of the Thunder should be considered a major title contender.  They've got great depth, great stuff, and a tremendous amount of flexibility in their collection of arms.  They'll also back that up with what should be a more than formidable offense, headed up by that 3-headed outfield monster.  This is the no-doubt team to watch in the Yankee system this year, and could get even more exciting if Sanchez and Williams get added to the mix.

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