Short-Season Preview: Hudson Valley, Princeton, and the GCL Rays

It's short-season ball time! The Hudson Valley Renegades open tonight at 7 pm, the Princeton Rays start tomorrow night, and the GCL Rays are playing as this post is being published. Here's your position-by-position guide to follow along with the prospects worth noting.

Catcher
Hudson Valley - Luke Maile, Justin O'Conner, Jake DePew
Princeton - Oscar Hernandez

The Renegades actually have five catchers on the roster, these three plus a NDFA and 1B Michael Williams, who split the catching duties at Kentucky with Luke Maile. Justin O'Conner, a 2010 1st-round pick, looks like he'll be relegated to DH duties because of a hip injury suffered in spring (if he catches, it will be very sparingly). After striking out 78 times in 48 games on his way to a .157/.234/.354 line with Princeton in 2011, any step forward in his ability to make contact will be welcome. Maile was Kentucky's best hitter this spring, but his defense needs work. Jake DePew was a 9th-round pick in 2010 out of high school but hasn't made much noise in two seasons.

And then there's Oscar. Outside of perhaps Taylor Guerrieri, this might be the most-anticipated short-season player. Hernandez tore up the VSL to the tune of a .403/.503/.732 line, so it'll be interesting to see how those video game numbers translate to the states. Hector Guevara was the last "big" VSL prospect to come over, but he hasn't topped a .671 OPS in the States. Then again, 1.237 is a bit higher than .908. The GCL Rays have various org filler at the catching position.

First Base
Hudson Valley - Michael Williams
Princeton - John Alexander
GCL - Miguel Beltran, Travis Flores

Alexander is the biggest prospect of the bunch here as an 8th-round pick (who got 3rd-round money) last June. He's big at 6-5/200 but athletic, a volleyball standout in high school, and hit .314 in a twelve-game debut with the GCL Rays last season. As noted above, Williams also caught at Kentucky and may see some time there this year. Travis Flores missed all of last season with an injury; he was the Rays' 11th-round selection in 2010 and Miguel Beltran was this year's 19th rounder.To

Second Base
Hudson Valley - Tommy Coyle
Princeton - Julian Morillo

Not a ton here, even by the relaxed standards second base offers. Coyle was the 16th-round pick earlier this month out of UNC, but he's probably most noteworthy for being Sean Coyle's brother (Sean was a 2010 3rd-rounder). Julian Morillo got a $210,000 signing bonus three years ago, but he's hit just .206/.308/.254 in two seasons with the GCL Rays. The GCL will have 32nd-round pick Benjamin Kline and Adderly Rosa, who spend the past three seasons in the DSL.

Shortstop
Hudson Valley - Ryan Dunn
Princeton - Brandon Martin
GCL - Johnny Eierman (?)

Martin and Eierman were both parts of the 2011 draft haul, Martin in the supplemental round and Eierman in the 3rd. There's been some noise about Eierman moving to the OF, and that's probably his eventual home, but I'm not sure why he'd be in the GCL unless there's (a) an injury, or (b) the Rays want both Martin and Eierman to be everyday shortstops (also note that 2012 second-rounder Spencer Edwards would be with the GCL Rays when he signs). Martin hit for a .726 OPS in his brief GCL debut, Eierman for a .752. Ryan Dunn was the 2012 17th-round selection out of Oregon State.

Third Base
Hudson Valley - Leonardo Reginatto
Princeton - Reid Redman
GCL - Cesar Perez

The Brazilian Reginatto hit .198 last season for the Renegades, and realistically he's just keeping the 3B seat warm until Richie Shaffer signs and takes over as the every day guy. Cesar Perez might be the biggest bust in the system, signing for $1 million back in 2009 and hitting .160/.235/.184 in 87 Gulf Coast League games since. He was reputed to show big raw power, but obviously he hasn't done a whole lot in-game. Redman was the 23rd-rounder out of Cal State-Los Angeles this June.

Outfield
Hudson Valley - Deshun Dixon, Marty Gantt, Joel Caminero
Princeton - James Harris, Granden Goetzman
GCL - Yoel Araujo, Bralin Jackson, Clayton Henning

Aruajo received an $800,000 bonus and comes stateside following a .221/.348/.379 campaign in the DSL. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts, whiffing 76 times in 57 games last summer. He's joined by Jackson and Henning, the Rays' 5th- and 11th-round picks from this year's draft. Princeton has Harris and Goetzman, who each got equal $490,000 bonuses in last year's draft and who each struggled to sub-.500 OPSes in the Gulf Coast League last season. Dixon hasn't shown the same ability as older brother Rashun (in the A's system). Gantt was a senior sign as a 7th-round pick, and may be joined by 9th-rounder Joey Rickard, a junior at Arizona who's still alive in the College World Series. Andrew Toles, this year's 3rd-rounder, would play with either HV or Princeton after signing.

Starting Pitching (Note: Some guesswork here)
Hudson Valley - Taylor Guerrieri, Jeff Ames, Jesse Hahn, Matt Spann, Ian Kendall
Princeton - Jacob Faria, Blake Snell, Kevin James
GCL - Stephan Havlicek, Nolan Gannon, Damion Carroll

Hudson Valley clearly packs the biggest punch here. Guerrieri was the 24th overall pick in the 2011 draft, and he makes his pro debut tomorrow night. Jeff Ames is the opening-day starter, a hard thrower who struck out 39 against 7 walks last year with Princeton, but posted a 7.12 ERA. Jesse Hahn got $525,000 back in 2010, but the Virginia Tech RHP underwent Tommy John surgery his first pitch this year will be his first as a pro. Ian Kendall was taken the round before Hahn but struggled (33 strikeouts, 30 walks in 54.1 innings) last season Matt Spann, a 6-7/185 LHP, struck out 61 and walked 18 in 63.1 innings for Princeton last season. Dylan Floro and Brandon Henderson are also candidates to pick up some starts here and there.

Princeton has a pair of 2011 high school draftees in Snell and Faria, both of whom looked good in their short times with the GCL Rays last summer. Kevin James has totalled just 29 innings since being a 9th-round pick in 2009 from a Wisconsin high school, walking 33 and posting a 7.45 ERA over that span. Carroll and Gannon will likely make brief Gulf Coast League debuts, though they'll be on tight innings and pitch limits after their high school season. Havlicek was signed out of the Czech Republic and pitched 15 innings here last year.

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