The team also sports what looks to be a talented and deep bullpen with Seth Simmons, Jake Barrett and Kyle Winkler. Visalia missed the playoffs last year when the pitching didn't hold up over the course of the season but I expect that to be a different story this year. Following is a summary on each of the players on the Opening Day Roster.
Archie Bradley, RHP, 20 (#2 prospect)
One of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball Bradley posted some gaudy stats last year in South Bend, mainly 152 Ks and just 87 hits in 136 innings. Quite an inning load for an 19-YO kid. If not for some definite struggles with wildness at times it could have been an ungodly season. We'll be watching to see if the control improves, and if/when it does he may find himself in Mobile before the season is over.
Andrew Chafin, LHP, 22 (#11 prospect)
I actually thought Chafin would be posted in AA Mobile. But apparently the club would like to see him master High A first where he had some difficult stretches. His numbers aren't that dissimilar to Bradley's, though not quite as elite. If the wildness settles down he'll be special and find himself in Mobile sooner than later.
Keith Hessler, LHP, 24 (#58 prospect)
Another big lefty that was solid in 2011 at Missoula and solid again last year in South Bend. Performance is a tad less than what would get someone excited, especially considering his age though. Already looking around to see if his ceiling is around the corner. Can't be written off yet though. Huge season for him.
Andrew Barbosa, LHP, 25 (#43 prospect)
Got a late start to his pro career after missing a couple of years in college due to injury. Did some good things last year and a solid K/9 of 10.3 in South Bend for this 6-8 lefty. A few less walks and avoiding the long ball and he's positioned to take another step forward. Can he do it? Time is not his friend at his age.
Willy Paredes, RHP, 24
Converted from relief to a starter mid-season last year after his promotion to Visalia. Had a couple of electric outings but plenty of stinkers too. He'll need to step up this year because he doesn't have the power repertoire to be an upside reliever. K numbers are not what you want to see at his age and level. Lots of questions here.
Diogenes Rosario, RHP, 24
Converted to relief full-time last year after bouncing back and forth the previous two seasons. Did some good things with encouraging K/9 of 10.3 and H/9 of 8.0. But like other problem prospects the BB totals are just not good enough. He'll have his moments, it just remains to be seen if he'll have enough of them to keep moving up.
Patrick Schuster, LHP, 22
Schuster was an elite level prospect in high school at one time and he's also had his moments in pro ball. Was moved to relief full time last year and some of his numbers are encouraging. A few ugly outings really ruined his season but a K/9 of 9.4 and H/9 of 7.8 say enough to keep watching considering he's the right age for the level. Needs to take another step forward though and tidy up his control if he's going to go all the way. Pressure season coming up for him.
Kyle Winkler, RHP, 22 (#57 prospect)
Winkler was thought of as a potential first rounder at one point during his final college season. But his arm gave out and he fell to the 10th round. Missed all of 2011 rehabbing and 2012 was his first in pro ball. It wasn't a great season by any measure but pitching in 31 games and having a healthy arm was the most important thing. Now comes a huge year for this slightly undersized right-hander to start getting some results to reboot a once-promising career.
Seth Simmons, LHP, 24 (#56 prospect)
I might be selling this diminutive lefty short on my prospect list. All he's done is excel since being drafted in the 40th round in 2011. He has put up some gaudy K/9 totals (15.4/9 in 2011 at Missoula) and was outstanding at South Bend last year. He earned a promotion to Visalia late last year where a couple of rough outings made it look like a failed experiment, but he struck out 18 in 11 innings. He is 24 but he has a chance to beat the odds if he keeps pitching like he has and cuts down on the walks just a tad. A lot to like here.
Kaleb Fleck, RHP, 24
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and posted a decent 2.72 ERA in 24 games, but the peripherals are a little concerning and raise questions about whether he can keep it up. A 1.19 K/BB is not good enough to suggest he's a legitimate prospect so he'll need to improve on those numbers this year.
Frank Santana, RHP, 24
Santana is barely hanging onto his pro career. He's been in the system since 2008 and while recently he's posted a couple of decent seasons, there's not much to get overly excited about here. He can hold onto a spot at the end of the relief corps in middle level minors but there doesn't appear to be much in the tank beyond that barring some major break-through.
Conrad Flynn, RHP, 24
Flynn pitched at all four levels in the Dbacks minor league system last year bouncing back and forth between starting and relief. I guess he's the guy that goes wherever the club needs him to fill in. He didn't do anything noteworthy with all those outings but he's worth keeping around for more of the same. Just a professional minor leaguer doing his thing but not a serious prospect.
Jake Barrett, RHP, 21 (#24 prospect)
Barrett was the club's 3rd round pick in last year's draft and it was a long season for the young fireballer. He had some bumps along the way last year and appeared to be on fumes at the end of the season. An off-season of proper conditioning and preparation should set him up for a much-improved performance this year. Expecting big things from Barrett this year as he's only 21.
Raywilly Gomez, C, 23
One of Visalia's primary catchers last year had a solid season but it wasn't quite enough to earn a promotion. He's a fringe prospect and solid overall. Creeping up the system but soon to get passed by others most likely.
Steven Rodriguez, C, 23
Looking more and more everyday like a system backup catcher. Caught Bauer in college at UCLA and was drafted higher than he should have. Just doesn't hit enough. Still an important cog in the minor league system, just not a legit prospect.
Matt Helm, 1B/3B, 22
Solid minor league middle-of-the-order hitter spent the last three years in South Bend. Finally earned a promotion and still just 22. This kid can hit a little but he can't seem to hit enough for a corner infielder. He'll be productive but a .751 OPS in your 3rd year at A ball doesn't get you noticed. Needs to take a bigger step forward.
Yazy Arbelo, 1B, 24 (#54 prospect)
Yazy hit 21 home runs in 55 games for Visalia last year, an ungodly total. And he hit 6 more in Mobile before being sent down. He'll mostly DH as he can't find a position where he can play competent defense. A classic all-or-nothing hitter with stupid power. Baseball seems to be shying away from these kinds of players so he seems stuck in High A for the time being. He needs to go to an AL team that might appreciate his DH potential more.
Gerson Montilla, 2B, 22 (#26 prospect)
Put himself on the prospect map last year with a good combo season between South Bend and Visalia. Hit 14 home runs playing 2B with an .800 OPS and 10 stolen bases. Good all-around player in the mold of Carlos Baerga. Needs to crank it up just another small notch to really be considered a potential Major Leaguer and he has that potential. One to watch this year.
Sean Jamieson, SS, 24
Came over in the Stephen Drew trade last year. The kid has some ability, he's just a little old for the level and now is behind a pile of new middle infield prospects. Posted a .743 combined OPS last year with 11 home runs, 43 extra-base hits and 30 SBs. Average and OBP are sub-par which is holding him back. There are some things to like here though.
Jake Lamb, 3B, 22 (#14 prospect)
A fast rising prospect who put up a big season in Missoula last year with a .930 OPS. Found his power stroke which went missing in college and is suddenly popping up on various scouting watch lists. An excellent defender with good hands, feet and arm. A former college shortstop. Could be the breakout prospect of the year. I'll be watching closely.
Raul Navarro, INF, 21
Backup middle infielder to give Jamieson and Montilla the occasional break. He is young but hasn't shown he has much of a hit tool to work with.
Tom Belza, OF, 23
Extremely versatile player that can play almost anywhere on the diamond. Slated for the outfield this year but could play infield in a pinch. Has a decent hit tool and had a pretty big year in Missoula in 2011. Flattened out some in 2012 at South Bend with a .722 OPS. Good all-around player who needs to do a little more to get on the prospect list. But there are somethings to like here.
Chris Ellison, OF, 24
Hasn't posted any exciting offensive numbers yet. A .638 OPS in South Bend doesn't typically warrant a promotion. But he can play all the OF positions so he's probably slated for a lot of backup duty.
Kerry Jenkins, OF, 23
Missed part of last year but didn't play too badly in South Bend, just missing .800 OPS. Pretty athletic and can handle all three OF positions. Still needs a pretty big step forward to if he wants to get on the serious prospect list.
Evan Marzilli, OF, 22 (#28 prospect)
A plus defensive outfielder who will be patrolling center field for the Rawhide. Complete lack of power without electric speed means he needs to do everything else extra special to go all the way. Was a key cog on the powerhouse South Carolina College World Series team and he knows how to play the game. Just worried that he doesn't have the same kind of extras as an Adam Eaton.