The Winston-Salem Dash clinched the Carolina League’ Southern Division First Half Championship, which means they will be in the playoffs after the regular season ends in September. The Dash's 43-25-1 record is the third-best mark in all of High-A baseball. The Dash have already begun to see some of their key performers graduate to Birmingham and that's likely to accelerate in the next few weeks.
One of those departures is RHP Andre Rienzo, who returned from his 50 game suspension for a positive steroid test and went right to the Barons. His debut last night was shaky: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 5 BB, 2 K.
Birmingham is last in their division so they'll hope that some of the Dash's success comes with the promoted players. But their second half push will need to be supported by improvement from some of their current players, including SS Tyler Saladino (.236/.382/.332), 1B Andy Wilkins (.216/.330/.409) and the very disappointing RHP Nestor Molina (79.1 IP, 102 H, 17 BB, 57 K).
The International League doesn't split its regular season into halves so the first place Charlotte Knights are going to need to sustain their solid team play through September. Having Dan Johnson, one of the best Triple-A players of all-time, on your team certainly helps - .291/.426/.561. The 32 year old is a veteran of numerous minor league playoff teams.
One guy the Knights will not be able to count on is RHP Terry Doyle who asked for and received his release to play in Japan. The 26 year old has been productive in the minors but the White Sox clearly have believed, and continue to believe, that Doyle simply isn't a major league player. Scouts concur, as you'd be hard-pressed to find any that put more than a middle relief label on him. He'll take his 76.1 IP, 53 H, 18 BB and 71 K to the defending Japanese Champions Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, who will more than triple his minor league salary. He signed a three-year deal with a guaranteed $500K+ salary for 2012, a team option for 2013 and a mutual option for 2014.
Kannapolis is middle of the pack in their division, so they'll also need to turn things around when the second half begins. They've had to do without CF Keenyn Walker for the past week and a half as he nurses a minor injury. Walker has been doing what you want to see from a raw prospect - he's steadily improved as the season has gone on. His season line is .260/.377/.347 with a very nice 81% stolen base success rate to go along with a prodigious 35 steals. He's also been getting those strikeouts down, with his recent rate sitting just above 25%.
The Rookie League affiliates get started this week. Tentative rosters for Bristol and Great Falls are here.
OF Jared Mitchell: .271/.401/.450 with a 29.5% strikeout rate and 14 for 17 in stolen bases.