Voyagers to Kannapolis: The Hitters
Yesterday we got a first look at the layout of the full-season rosters across minor league baseball. I spent the first look checking out the new roster of the Kannapolis Intimidators, which turned out to but full of last year’s Voyagers. Yesterday, I went over the 7 pitchers that hit Kannapolis, and today it’s time to take a look at the hitters.
Ten Intimidator hitters were Voyagers at some point last season, and just as Blair Walters name immediately jumped out among the pitchers, there are several new Intimidator hitters who made big impacts for the Voyagers last year. The new Intimidators will be especially strong up the middle with the addition of former Voyager double-play mates David Herbeck and Joe De Pinto. Herbeck, a definite favorite among Voyagers fans last year, will take over the Intimidator shortstop position after a full year in Great Falls in 2011. It’s tough to say what Voyagers fans will miss most: the Virginia native’s friendly persona or his .760 OPS (On base plus slugging) – a very productive mark for the demanding shortstop position. De Pinto provided similar production from the second base side. With an .821, the 21st round pick from USC brought the lumber as he adjusted to his first season in the pros. Fans shouldn’t forget De Pinto’s occasional opportunism on the basepaths either: the infielder stole 7 bases in 9 attempts. Herbeck and De Pinto’s continued ability set the table across the Intimidators lineup will ultimately allow Kannapolis power-men plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. Last year it worked out for the Voyagers perfectly as Herbeck and De Pinto finished first and second on the team in runs scored with over 100 runs between the two.
Somebody has to knock in De Pinto and Herbeck, and the most likely candidate for the Intimidators is Mark Haddow. A 24th round pick from UCSB, Haddow absolutely lit up Pioneer League pitching last season. It’s difficult to find a category Haddow didn’t produce in last season, as he finished with a .903 OPS, 51 RBI, 12 HR, and 49 runs scored. The only one of these numbers that wasn’t in the top 10 of the league was OPS, which missed narrowly at 11th. Voyager fans check Kannapolis box scores should certainly look in the heart of the order for Haddow’s name, and Kannapolis fans should expect the 24 year old to meet the challenge A-ball presents.
20th round pick Martin Medina had a great season with the bat last year as well, finishing with an .825 OPS while playing baseball’s most demanding defensive position. Medina played exactly half of the Voyagers’ games last season, so it will be interesting to see how he shares time with Jim Jacquot and Kevan Smith, both of whom also had good seasons with the Voyagers. There will be plenty of at bats to go around during the 140-game Sally League schedule, but at some point the White Sox may decide they want to test the every-day endurance of one of the players and force the others to find playing time at other positions. The playing time breakdown of the three may be an interesting storyline in Kannapolis this season.
Three former Voyagers spent time in Kannapolis last season and are returning there. Dusty Harvard, Leighton Pangilinan and 2011 first-rounder and top White Sox prospect Keeyan Walker all had brief stints with the Voyagers in 2011, and they will have a chance to start the year in full-season ball this year.
With a roster of fully three quarters former Voyagers, Kannapolis will definitely have the eye of Great Falls fans. Of course, there are Voyagers up and throughout the White Sox system, so tomorrow I’ll take a look higher up the ladder at the guys in Winston-Salem, Birmingham, and beyond.