The outfield is where the most interesting prospects reside for the Barons. Trayce Thompson headlines that group. In previous years, Birmingham would have been a massive challenge for a power prospect like Thompson. But, with the opening of a new stadium to replace the one that was the worst park in the minors for hitting home runs, the 22 year-old outfielder and his fellow prospects should have an easier time of it.
Keenyn Walker will split time with Thompson in center field. The 22 year-old had offseason surgery on his right knee and left shoulder but didn't show any ill effects from them during spring training. As I noted in my Top Ten list, Walker is allegedly a switch-hitter but he shows a ridiculous split: .235/.318/.299 from the right side and .277/.384/.385 from the left side. His splits this season should be watched in the hopes that he can figure things out batting right-handed.
Given the crowded outfield at Triple-A, Brandon Short will have to continue his comeback from his 2012 separated shoulder with the Barons. He looked good during the spring.
INF Marcus Semien and INF Tyler Saladino will likely be in the middle of Birmingham's infield for most games but not necessarily in the same positions. Both should see time at shortstop and second base. Semien showed a good bat in 2012 for the Dash, which is known to be a hitter-friendly assignment. Saladino knows this all too well, as he saw an excellent 2011 at Winston-Salem (.270/.363/.501) turn into an awful 2012 for Birmingham and Charlotte (.236/.353/.315). He'll hope to recapture his prospect status.
1B Andy Wilkins also returns to the Barons. As a power hitter, his numbers suffered quite a bit last season and he'll hope that the new park plays much fairer to hitters.
RHP Erik Johnson and LHP Scott Snodgress will head the Birmingham rotation. Johnson probably has the higher floor but I think Snodgress has a higher ceiling. Johnson may not blow hitters away with his stuff but he has a good idea what he's doing with his arsenal on the mound. Snodgress has a plus fastball from the left side but needs to continue to smooth out his mechanics and to develop his secondary offerings.
RHP Nestor Molina and RHP Jake Petricka both have seen their prospects stars fall. Molina had some elbow trouble so he may have an excuse for his horrid 2012. Petricka just doesn't seem to be a starting pitcher and this probably will be the year he moves to the bullpen.