We wrap up our minor league previews at Kannapolis, where the roster is a photo negative of Winston-Salem's. The Intimidators' pitching staff will rely on players who have struggled to establish themselves at any level, but there are a couple of position players who are poised for breakout seasons. Basically, prepare for a lot of crazy box scores.
Winston-Salem and Birmingham benefit from the bevy of arms that succeeded with Kannapolis last season, but the Intimidators have a few guys repeating the level. Luis Martinez is one. After signing with the White Sox out of Venezuela for $250,000 in 2011, the start of his career was delayed by Tommy John surgery and other issues, and he didn't get on a pro mound until 2014. With this history, the fact that he was healthy enough to throw 108 innings makes 2015 a relative triumph. Outside of July, though, he didn't enjoy all that much success, so now's the time for the 21-year-old righty to add quality to quantity.
Yet even with this rocky history, Martinez stands out from the rest of the staff. Yelmison Peralta has a similar story: a 21-year-old, $200,000 signing out of the Dominican Republic who struggled with the Sally League last year. Unlike Martinez, who had no problems with Great Falls the year before, Peralta hasn't had much luck anywhere he's pitched.
Likewise, Zach Thompson has some pedigree as the fifth-round pick in 2013, but he was considered a project out of University of Texas-Arlington, and steady success/control has yet to materialize.
Kannapolis is far richer around the diamond here. The Intimidators are carrying two collegiate catchers from their 2015 class -- Casey Schroeder (eighth round) and Seby Zavala (12th), and both have cases to start. Schroeder is a switch-hitter and reportedly the better defender, and he received the tougher initial assignment at Great Falls last season, although he didn't stand out. Zavala, meanwhile, tore up the Arizona Rookie League with a .326/.401/.628 line, although since he played at San Diego State, he should've been successful there. If either makes an impression, he could head up to Winston-Salem.
Corey Zangari is the biggest prospect, and at 6'4" and 240 pounds, one of the bigger boys on the team. The Sox selected him as a power bat from Carl Albert High School in Oklahoma, and he showed an aptitude for adjusting while hitting .323/.356/.492 in the Arizona Rookie League. Kannapolis will be an ambitious initial assignment, not just because he's making the jump to full-season A ball at 18, but because his defense at first base needs a lot of work. His plate is a full one, but the early returns are encouraging.
At shortstop, Johan Cruz makes his full-season debut. After initial struggles in his first try at stateside play in 2014, he made strides at Great Falls in 2015, hitting .312/.338/.442, even while playing third base. He's expected to return to shortstop this year, and if he picks up where he left off, he could be a prominent Latin American prospect, which the system sorely needs. He signed out of the Dominican Republic for $450,000 in 2012.
Antonio Rodriguez joins Cruz as an international signing getting his first exposure to full-season pro ball in the States. He's had a promising bag of tools, but the only skill that's developed is his throwing arm, which racked up 11 assists in 69 games between center and right last year. He also hinted at more power in 2015, but at the expense of his plate discipline (.260/.274/.416 in Great Falls).