Loading…
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Current Weather
Loading Current Weather....
Published: Wednesday, 4/4/2012

2012 MUD HENS SEASON PREVIEW

International League teams add a player

Scranton/WB on road all year as Empire State

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Lonnie Chisenhall of Columbus gets a hit against Toledo last season. Chisenhall helped the Clippers, the Triple-A team of the Cleveland Indians, win the International League title last season. Lonnie Chisenhall of Columbus gets a hit against Toledo last season. Chisenhall helped the Clippers, the Triple-A team of the Cleveland Indians, win the International League title last season.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Change is a watch-word for the International League in 2012.

One of the biggest changes is one fans may not notice: rosters for all 14 teams have increased by one player to 25.

While that may not sound like a big deal, it is to managers. It will allow teams to carry one extra player, whether it's a pitcher to cover multiple games that inevitably stack up during the season, or a position player to provide depth when a teammate is suddenly promoted to the big leagues.

Speaking of managers, there are six new ones. The most recognizable new names for local fans are former Cleveland Indians coach Joel Skinner, who takes over at Charlotte, and former Indian David Bell, who now is in charge of Louisville.

2012 MUD HENS SEASON PREVIEW

Perhaps the biggest news around the league this year is that one of the franchises will spend the entire season on the road.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees' home field, PNC Stadium, will undergo a $40-million renovation this year. As a result, the New York Yankees' Triple-A team will play all 144 games on the road, playing 37 "home games" in Rochester, N.Y., 10 in Syracuse, N.Y., eight in Allentown, Pa., seven in Batavia, N.Y., six in Buffalo and four in Pawtucket, R.I.

The team will be known as the Empire State Yankees and will wear jerseys and hats with the "ESY" logo.

Here's a look at the International League franchises.


WEST DIVISION

COLUMBUS CLIPPERS

Affiliate: Cleveland

Manager: Mike Sarbaugh

2011 record: 88-56

2011 finish: First

Top prospects: 3B Lonnie Chisenhall hit .267 with seven homers and 45 RBIs in 66 games with the Clippers before earning a promotion to the Indians last season. … LHP Nick Hagadone begins this season ranked by Baseball America as the third-best prospect in Cleveland's organization.

Worth noting: The Clippers will attempt to become the first International League team to win three consecutive Triple-A National Championships. To do that, Columbus must win its third straight Governors' Cup title. The only other team to do that? The Clippers, who turned that trick from 1979-81.


INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS

Affiliate: Pittsburgh

Manager: Dean Treanor

2011 record: 76-68

2011 finish: Second

Top prospects: CF Starling Marte begins this season ranked by Baseball America as the fourth-best prospect in the organization. He won the Eastern League batting title last year with a .332 average. … LHP Rudy Owens, Pittsburgh's minor-league pitcher of the year in both 2009 and 2010, will anchor the Tribe's rotation.

Worth noting: Indians announcer Howard Kellman is in his 36th season with the club. The only announcer with a longer tenure is the Mud Hens' Jim Weber, who is entering his 38th season with the team.



LOUISVILLE BATS

Affiliate: Cincinnati

Manager: David Bell

2011 record: 73-71

2011 finish: Third

Top prospects: 2B Neftali Soto hit .278 with 31 home runs and 80 RBIs last season, making him the first Reds farmhand to hit 30 homers in a season since Adam Dunn in 2001. … OF Denis Phelps was Cincinnati's minor league players of the year after hitting .346 with 12 homers and 64 RBIs at two levels.

Worth noting: The Bats have a new manager for the first time since 2004 as David Bell takes over for Rick Sweet. Bell looks to lead Louisville to its seventh consecutive winning season and its fourth division title in five years.


SOUTH DIVISION

CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS

Affiliate: Chicago White Sox

Manager: Joel Skinner

2011 record: 69-74

2011 finish: Third

Top prospects: RHP Nastor Molina, who came to Chicago in trade from Toronto, won 12 games across two levels last year and is the second-best prospect in the organization, according to Baseball America.

Worth noting: The team is looking to build a new ballpark in Charlotte's "uptown" area, and the talks are becoming series. Knights Stadium, the team's current home, actually is located in Fort Mill, S.C.





DURHAM BULLS

Affiliate: Tampa Bay

Manager: Charlie Montoyo

2011 record: 80-62

2011 finish: First

Top prospects: SS Tim Beckham was the top pick of the 2008 first-year player draft and has played in MLB's All-Star Futures Game.

Worth noting: The Bulls may have a pair of Mud Hens from 2011 on the roster as 2B Will Rhymes and OF Jeff Salazar are expected to begin the season in Durham.



GWINNETT BRAVES

Affiliate: Atlanta

Manager: Dave Brundage

2011 record: 78-65

2011 finish: Second

Top prospects: RHP Julio Teheran returns after posting a 15-3 record here last season. … RHP Randall Delgado and SS Andrelton Simmons also could start the season here, giving Gwinnett three of Atlanta's top four prospects by the reckoning of Baseball America.

Worth noting: The Mud Hens weren't the only team to IL team to host an exhibition game, as Gwinnett hosted the parent team from Atlanta on April 3. The parent Braves played a group of minor leaguers managed by former Atlanta skipper Bobby Cox.


NORFOLK TIDES

Affiliate: Baltimore

Manager: Ron Johnson

2011 record: 56-87

2011 finish: Fourth

Top prospects: 2B Ryan Adams hit .284 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 94 games for the Tides last season. … RHP Chris Tillman, who is just 24, has three season's experience with the Tides and has 22 career wins there.

Worth noting: The Tides also will have some familiar faces to Mud Hens fans as 1B Jeff Larish, RHP Armando Gallarraga and LHP Dontrelle Willis all are expected to begin the season in Norfolk.


NORTH DIVISION

BUFFALO BISONS

Affiliate: New York Mets

Manager: Wally Backman

2011 record: 61-82

2011 finish: Fifth

Top prospects: RHP Matt Harvey, the second-best prospect in the Mets organization, is expected to anchor the rotation. … RHP Jenrry Mejia, New York's top prospect before Tommy John surgery last season, is expected to rejoin the team in June.

Worth noting: The Bisons will host the 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11. Buffalo hosted the first Triple-A All-Star Game 25 years ago and hosted a crowd of 19,500.


LEHIGH VALLEY IRONPIGS

Affiliate: Philadelphia

Manager: Ryne Sandberg

2011 record: 80-64

2011 finish: Second (won wild card)

Top prospects: RHP Austin Hyatt was 12-6 with a 3.85 ERA at Double-A Reading and has a 37-11 career record in the minors. … OF Domonic Brown was the Phillies top prospect a year ago and hopes to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2011.

Worth noting: Among the former Hens on the IronPigs roster are RHP Nate Bump, who struggled to a 5-9 mark last season, and LHP David Purcey, who had a 2.38 ERA in Toledo last year.


PAWTUCKET RED SOX

Affiliate: Boston

Manager: Arnie Beyeler

2011 record: 81-61

2011 finish: First

Top prospects: 3B Will Middlebrooks and SS Jose Iglesias, two of Boston's top prospects, should form the left side of Pawtucket's infield.

Worth noting: The PawSox will honor two enshrinees in the IL's Hall of Fame this season in team president Mike Tamburro and former 3B Wade Boggs.



ROCHESTER RED WINGS

Affiliate: Minnesota

Manager: Gene Glynn

2011 record: 53-91

2011 finish: Sixth

Top prospects: OF Joe Benson hit .285 with 16 homers and 67 RBIs for Double-A New Britain last season and is the Twins' second-ranked prospect, according to Baseball America.

Worth noting: The Red Wings should have several former Mud Hens on the roster, including OF Wilkin Ramirez, RHP Brendan Wise and LHP Phil Dumatrait.





SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE YANKEES

Affiliate: New York Yankees

Manager: Dave Miley

2011 record: 73-69

2011 finish: Third

Top prospects: The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation should include two of the top pitchers in the Yankees organization in LHP Manny Banuelos and RHP Dellin Betances.

Worth noting: The renovations to PNC Park include updates to everything at the 22-year-old field except the playing field, which was renovated with a new drainage system after the 2009 season, and the home clubhouse.


SYRACUSE CHIEFS

Affiliate: Washington

Manager: Tony Beasley

2011 record: 66-74

2011 finish: Fourth

Top prospects: OF Bryce Harper, considered on the top prospects in minor-league baseball, will begin the season with the Chiefs.

Worth noting: Syracuse extended its working agreement with the Nationals through 2014. The Chiefs are looking to earn their first playoff berth since 1998, and the team has not won the Governors' Cup since 1976.



Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If a comment violates these standards or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report abuse. To post comments, you must be a Facebook member. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.

Related stories