The Winston-Salem Dash have gotten off to a great start to the 2012 baseball season with a 14-8 overall mark in the High Class A Carolina League.
There's a distinct Wabash Valley flavor to the Dash, currently on a seven-game winning streak and wins in 8-of-10 games.
Perhaps of most interest to local readers is Northview High School graduate Brady Shoemaker, an Indiana State standout, who is currently playing right field for the Dash. The Chicago White Sox draft pick has hit .342 this season through 21 games and 79 at-bats. Shoemaker has homered three times this season and also has seven doubles and 11 RBI while only striking out 11 times. Over the last 10 games, the right hander has hit at a .361 clip with a pair of home runs and is reaching base more than 47 percent of the time.
Shoemaker is currently ninth in the league in batting average and tied for third in doubles.
Shoemaker's Dash teammate, Nick Ciolli was a Vigo County standout in high school and has gotten off to a .212 start in 66 at-bats at Winston-Salem. Ciolli has 11 RBI and is second on the team with three stolen bases.
Terre Haute North and IU graduate, Josh Phegley, is at AAA Charlotte this season and has gotten off to a strong start over his first 18 games as catcher. He's pounded out a .389 average in 72 at-bats and has eight RBI and six doubles for the Knights.
Around the minor leagues
A look at some of the Cubs, Reds and Cardinals top prospects in 2012
There may not be a lot of high hopes for this year's major league edition, but the Chicago Cubs have some highly thought of prospects waiting in the wings in the farm system.
Top prospect Anthony Rizzo, a 6'3, 220 lbs. first baseman has a powerful bat as his 51 home runs in two minor league seasons can attest to. He won't turn 22 until later this summer and is rated as the No. 1 first base prospect.
The lefthander has produced at AAA Iowa this season with a .378 average and already has seven home runs and 21 RBI's. Though he is playing behind Bryan LaHair, who is with the major league club, expect him to reach the big league level this year.
The Cubs No. 2 prospect is also knocking on the major league door as outfielder Brett Jackson is also at AAA in Iowa. His speed and power combo should translate to the next level and though he's hitting only .233 this season, he hit better at the AAA level after his call-up last year. He's produced six doubles, two triples and two home runs in 86 at-bats this year.
At High Class A Daytona is another outfield prospect for the Cubs as 6'1, 195 lbs. Matt Szczur is an intriguing prospect. A two-sport start at Villanova, Szczur was projected as a second-round pick in the NFL draft in 2011, but chose to stick with baseball after he hit .368 in the postseason to help his team to the Florida State League championship last year. He hits for average and should develop more power as the 22-year-old develops. He's already stolen 13 bases this season at Daytona and could be patrolling the outfield with Jackson in a couple of years.
The Cubs top-rated pitcher came as a steal in the 14th round as it took a seven-figure signing bonus to keep 6'2, 195 lbs. Dillon Maples from playing two sports at the University of North Carolina.
Maples has a plus fastball that reaches the low 90's and has a sharp curveball, though command has been an issue. Scouts believe he can develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter down the road. He's just 19 years old.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals don't have a shortage of good arms with the parent club, but their top-two prospects are on the mound.
Shelby Miller, a 6'3, 195 lbs. righty is in AAA Memphis this year after dominating the AA Texas League and playing in his second Futures Game. He's got a great fastball and has improved his complementary pitches. He's learning to work deeper into games and maintain his control and its believed he could make his major league debut this year after being drafted 19th overall in 2009. The 21-year-old has a 4.50 ERA with a 2-2 record in 18 innings this year. He's struck out 25 while walking eight this season.
Being compared to Pedro Martinez is pretty good if you're a right handed pitcher and the Cardinals' Carlos Martinez has drawn some of those comparisons. Though diminutive in size (6'0, 165 lbs.), Martinez has a plus fastball and a special changeup. He began 2012 at High Class A Palm Beach and has a 2.12 ERA over 17 innings where he's struck out 20 already and opponents have hit just .197 against the 20-year-old.
When you are asked to play in the Arizona Fall League at just 19-years-old, scouts think pretty highly of you and if you are Oscar Taveras, you can flat rake.
The kid has hit at every stop he has made, interrupted only by a hamstring injury that halted his tear for a month. Taveras, an outfielder at AA Springfield this year, is hitting .340 over 94 at-bats in 2012. He's already produced six home runs, nine doubles and two triples. He was one of the youngest players in the Fall League last year and is projected as a right fielder that could hit in the middle of the lineup down the road.
You would be hard pressed to find a player in, either the majors or minors, with the kind of speed that Cincinnati Reds' top prospect Billy Hamilton possesses. When the Reds made several blockbuster deals in the offseason, most teams wanted the shortstop included in the deal, but he was deemed an untouchable prospect.
Hamilton stole 103 bases in 2011 at A Dayton and projects as the potential lead-off hitter the parent club sorely needs. The 21-year-old is learning to be a switch hitter and to learn better plate discipline. The shortstop position is one of strength with Zack Cozart starting his first full season with Cincinnati, but Hamilton might move to second base or the outfield.
His speed has become the stuff of legend as he reportedly scored from second on a sacrifice fly in a recent game with the High A Bakersfield Blaze. Hamilton also had three hits, walked twice, drove in a run and stole three bases in a 7-0 win over Modesto on Friday night. He's currently hitting .398 in 88 at-bats and has a .481 on-base percentage in 23 games with 29 stolen bases, more than double the second-highest league total. Hamilton's 29 steals is more than all but one team in the league.
The Reds next two prospects are on the mound as Northern California's Robert Stephenson was drafted at the bottom of the first round in 2011.
Stephenson, a 6'2, 190 lbs. righty has a mid 90's fastball and a potentially plus curveball. Coming out of high school, Stephenson will see his professional debut in 2012.
The Reds No. 4 prospect is another smallish pitcher at 5'11, 205 lbs. pitcher, who has reached Class AA Pensacola this year. Corcino finished second in the Class A Midwest League strikeout race. He's got three very good pitches, which includes a mid-90's fastball. He consistently throws strikes and will remain as a starter for the time being. He's compiled a 3.24 ERA over five starts this year with 19 strike outs in 25 innings.
For more info on major league teams' top prospects, go to www.mlb.com. For detailed info on minor league players go to www.minorleaguebaseball.com.