11 Players to Watch at Metro Bank Park This Season

One of the joys of having a beautiful minor league ballpark in our area is the opportunity to watch future stars come into town with their Eastern League team before they develop into bona fide major leaguers. In the recent past, the Senators have squared off against Justin Verlander, Ryan Howard, Joe Mauer, Andrew McCutchen, and Matt Wieters before they became Cy Young winners, MVPs, and All-Stars.

So, who can we look forward to watching in 2012?

Here are just some of the players with no previous Double-A experience that I am excited to see bring their skills to Harrisburg against our hometown Sens.

Julio Rodriguez (Reading Phillies)

(2011: 16-7, 2.76 ERA, 56 BB, 168 K)

Has excelled at every level by varying speeds and deceptiveness despite low 90’s velocity
Overshadowed by more highly touted pitchers in the Phillies’ system (May, Colvin, Pettibone, etc.)
Particularly tough on right-handed hitters as they managed to only bat .159 against him last season
A classic “we should be killing this guy” guy

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: April 12-15, May 25-28, August 20-22

Aaron Hicks (New Britain Rock Cats)
(2011: .242 AVG / .722 OPS, 79 R, 38 RBI, 17 SB, 78 BB, 110 K)

Pure athlete the Twins hope develops like previous Minnesota centerfielders Torii Hunter and Denard Span
Many question his bat and specifically his continued foray with switch-hitting
Great defensive outfielder who covers a lot of ground and has a terrific arm to boot

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: April 30-May 3, July 19-22

Gary Brown (Richmond Flying Squirrels)
(2011: .336 AVG / .925 OPS, 115 R, 80 RBI, 53 SB, 46 BB, 77 K)

Clearly the projected Giants’ CF of the future as he tore up the California League in his first full professional season last year hitting .336, driving in 80 runs, and swiping 53 bases from the leadoff position
Plenty of speed to burn, both on the base paths and patrolling the outfield
Plan on seeing him early because the team won’t be afraid to promote him quickly to Triple-A Fresno

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: May 7-9

Manny Machado (Bowie Baysox)
(2011: .257 AVG / .756 OPS, 48 R, 50 RBI, 11 SB, 45 BB, 73 K)

Selected #3 overall in the 2010 draft behind Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon and has quickly established himself as the top SS prospect
Adjusted after his first month in the Carolina League and earned the Mills Cup MVP as he led his squad to the title
5-tool player with great hand-eye coordination and a quiet swing
Possesses a strong arm and even at 6’3″ has good defensive range

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: May 18-20; Aug 31-Sept 3

Bryce Brentz (Portland Sea Dogs)
(2011: .306 AVG / .939 OPS, 91 R, 30 HR, 94 RBI, 40 BB, 115 K)

True masher who displayed tremendous power last season as he combined for 30 home runs between Greenville and Salem
Defensively he’s an adventure in right field as he needs to improve his routes and decision-making
However, the former college pitcher has a strong arm that he’s not afraid to show off from the outfield

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: May 29-31

Zack Wheeler (Binghamton Mets)
(2011: 9-7, 3.52 ERA, 52 BB, 129 K)

Former #1 pitching prospect for the San Francisco Giants before being dealt last summer for Carlos Beltran
Power pitcher that harnessed his control (walking only five in 27 innings with St. Lucie) after reverting back to his high school mechanics in July
Looks to improve as he works on the mental side of pitching and the command of his secondary pitches
The heavy weight of expectations for the Mets’ organization fall squarely on the shoulders of the 6’4″ Georgia native

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: June 5-7

Photo courtesy Robin Buckson / Detroit News

Avisail Garcia (Erie SeaWolves)
(2011: .264 AVG / .686 OPS, 53 R, 11 HR, 56 RBI, 18 BB, 132 K)

Typical feast or famine hitter as he struggles with making contact, strike zone judgment, and pitch recognition
But when Garcia connects, it’s something to watch – – arrive early and wait for his BP home runs out on Championship Way
6’4”, 230-pounder that moves well for his size

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: June 12-14, June 30-July 3

Ronnier Mustelier (Trenton Thunder)
(2011: .356 AVG / .925 OPS, 23 R, 11 HR, 27 RBI, 9 BB, 17 K)

• Defected from Cuba in 2009 and has seen time in the outfield along with his natural 2B and 3B
Tore up last season’s Arizona Fall League and proved he’s ready for the next challenge
• The 27-year old has only 34 games under his belt in the minors

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: June 15-17

Ramon Cabrera (Altoona Curve)
(2011: .343 AVG / .881 OPS, 46 R, 53 RBI, 38 BB, 29 K)

Won the FSL batting title last season with a .343 average
Rare switch-hitting catcher with an excellent eye at the plate
Because of his 5’7”, 202 pound frame, his physique is consistently compared to a fire hydrant

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: June 26-29

Photo courtesy Eddie Michels

Asher Wojciechowski (New Hampshire Fisher Cats)
(2011: 11-9, 4.70 ERA, 31 BB, 96 K)

Righthander from The Citadel finished 2010 at Dunedin with a strong July and August
Peppers the strike zone
Possesses a low 90’s fastball backed up by a good slider

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: July 23-25

Preston Guilmet (Akron Aeros)
(2011: 1-1, 2.16 ERA, 35 Sv, 11 BB, 60 K)

The 2011 Carolina League Reliever of the Year had a rough time in the Arizona Fall League
Excellent command to go with his high 80’s fastball, slider, and splitter
Unconventional over-the-top delivery adds to his deception (ala the Diamondbacks’ Josh Collmenter)

When to catch him at Metro Bank Park: August 14-16

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