Following is a summary on each player who is starting the season for South Bend which opens on April 4. The roster will be led by top prospects Fidel Pena, Alex Glenn, Cody Wheeler, Daniel Watts and Kevin Medrano. The squad has a nice blend of pitching and hitting with prospects sprinkled on both offense and defense. A good chunk of the strong Yakima pitching staff from last year is here which bodes well for being able to stay competitive in most games even when the offense doesn't show up. And the middle infield looks strong with Pena, Medrano and Ruiz while the outfield of Glenn, Almadova and Brito should be very productive. I like the makeup of this team and expect them to be right in the hunt for the Midwest League playoffs.
Jesse Darrah, RHP, 23
Repeating the level after an up and down season in 2012. One day he would look promising, the next just the opposite. By the end of the season he was toiling out of the pen. Gets another chance to be a starter and rejuvenate his career. Might be on a somewhat short leash.
Daniel Watts, LHP, 23 (#35 prospect)
Graduating from short season Yakima as the ace of a strong staff. Great control, knows how to pitch. Not a fireballer but has some upside. Might be the ace of this staff too.
Kyle Scheppel, RHP, 22
Undrafted free agent signee who pitched for Independent League Rockford last year with solid if unspectacular results. Holds most of the pitching records at Grand Valley State.
Blake Perry, RHP, 21 (#45 prospect)
Started 2012 in South Bend with disastrous results and was sent back to Yakima where he excelled and pitched as well if not better than Watts. Gets another chance at full-season ball and is still young, so chalk up last year to experience. Has upside.
Cody Wheeler, LHP, 23 (#27 prospect)
Returned in 2012 after missing all of 2011 to surgery. Performed outstandingly in Yakima while being held to strict pitch count limits. Should be ready to increase pitching load considerably and if his arm holds up still has a chance to be a good one.
Brandon Sinnery, RHP, 23
Undrafted free agent out of Michigan who pitched well for Independent League teams Lincoln and London. Good size and demonstrated excellent control with 3.26 K/BB.
RJ Hively, RHP, 24 (#58 prospect)
Was a big piece of the back end of the bullpen for Yakima's playoff run and sported a tidy 1.76 ERA, a WHIP under 1.00 and a 3.50 K/BB. Getting a little on the old side for the level so he'll need to start knocking off more than one level a year if he wants to go all the way. But he has pitched well so far.
Enrique Burgos, RHP, 22
Has been toiling in the Dbacks system for five years and finally broke through a bit last year with an excellent season in Yakima. Posted a 9.4 K/9 and got some of the wildness under control. First full-season job for him so it's showtime.
Taylor Siemens, LHP, 23
Started the year relieving and was converted to a starter mid-season where he didn't show anything special. Heads back to the bullpen apparently to see if he can advance from there. Big and tall lefty who has put up good K/9 numbers so a chance to become a loogy?
Will Locante, LHP, 23
Hard-throwing lefty drafted in 2011 but missed the entire season to injury. Came back in 2012 and the team clearly sees him as a back-end lefty. Posted big K/9 numbers last year though wildness is still an issue. His pro career is still just getting started so this is a big year for him. Potential.
JR Bradley, RHP, 20
What can you say about Bradley? Heading into his third consecutive season at South Bend after being a second round pick in 2010. Just isn't happening for him. Can't miss bats and he keeps getting hit hard. Now he heads to the bullpen for what might be his last chance.
Chris Capper, RHP, 22
Solid season for Missoula last year in middle relief and now he gets a job in full season South Bend. Nice K/9 of 9.2 and 3.14 K/BB for this BYU product. More of the same will keep him moving forward.
Thomas Brendel, RHP, 23
Undrafted free agent out of New Mexico State signed in February. Seems to have played some Independent ball but couldn't find any stats on him.
Ronnie Freeman, C, 22 (#36 prospect)
So-so season last year in Yakima sharing catching duties. Didn't show much as a hitter and will need to improve there if he wants to keep moving. Solid catcher though wasn't too effective throwing out base-stealers. Big season for him to make a statement with all the catching depth in the system.
Roidany Aguila, C, 22
Primary catcher for South Bend last year and repeats this year. Nothing special with the bat as OBP is too low though he did collect 7 home runs. Should be a battle with Freeman to see who commands more playing time.
Frazier Hall, 1B, 22
Acquired from the Angels for Barry Enright at the end of last year. Had a great rookie season in pro ball but flattened out last year in full season A ball with a .706 OPS. Gets to repeat the level now for a different team in the same league. Inspiring story here of how he put baseball life on hold to help his ailing older brother.
Kevin Medrano, 2B/SS, 22 (#47 prospect)
Medrano was a hitting machine in his first season of pro ball for Yakima, but he's proving to be mostly a singles hitter with zero power. He's also a pretty competent fielder so if he can continue to hit .300+ and get on base at a +.350 clip then he'll keep working his way up. Good start to his career. Now the real test begins.
Fidel Pena, 2B/C, 21 (#16 prospect)
Pena missed the entire second half last year due to injury so he's repeating at South Bend where he can hopefully get his bat to start playing up. He's a fine defender at both catcher and second base but a .679 OPS isn't going to cut it if he wants to remain in the top half of the prospect list. Still young though so has time.
Pedro Ruiz, 2B/SS, 21 (#44 prospect)
Ruiz took a nice step forward with his bat last year in Missoula with an .836 OPS and 20 stolen bases. But the glove was a bit of a problem as he committed 30 errors in 55 games at shortstop and was eventually moved to second base at the end of the year because of it.
Ryan Court, INF, 24
Court is a solid minor league player but he's repeating at South Bend and will likely spend too many days on the bench with upside prospects ahead of him. He's a professional though and every minor league team needs guys like him.
Brandon Drury, 3B, 20 (#37 prospect)
Drury came over in the Upton deal and he's repeating the same level where he struggled mightily last year, his first year in full-season ball. He did put together a very solid season in 2011 in the rookie Appalachian League that earned him some notice. He's still only 20 so there's still time for a breakout. But it better come soon.
Breland Almadova, OF, 22 (#48 prospect)
Almadova looks like a solid baseball player but his lack of power diminishes an otherwise solid combination of hitting for average, defense and speed. He doesn't quite do enough of those other things to overcome that. He managed a .785 OPS in Missoula last year, but that doesn't scream top prospect. We'll see how he handles full season ball.
Alex Glenn, OF, 21 (#22 prospect)
Glenn burst onto the prospect scene last year with his power display in Missoula, which combined with solid outfield defense and decent speed has scouts watching him closely this year. Another step forward in full season ball for this 21-year-old and the buzz might start about him being a future Major Leaguer.
Socrates Brito, OF, 20 (#60 prospect)
Brito more than held his own in his first season away from the DR with an .802 OPS and handling all three outfield positions while flashing a little speed too. Dominicans usually take a couple of years to get acclimated over here so his fine season shouldn't be taken lightly. One to keep watching.
Mike Lang, OF, 24
Lang stands to serve as the 4th outfielder so Brito, Glenn and Amadova can play everyday. he'll be a solid bench guy but not much more.