2019 Season Preview: Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+)

We have saved the very best for last. Your 2018 South Atlantic League champion Lexington Legends have all grown up and graduated on to Advanced-A baseball. Seuly Matias, MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto and the gang will head to Wilmington, Delaware, to begin 2019 where they will compete in the Carolina League.

The 2019 Wilmington Blue Rocks have gotten plenty of notice around Minor League Baseball for being one of the most talented teams assembled. 17 of our top 30 Royals prospects could all potentially see time in Wilmington during the 2019 campaign. The problem though with Wilmington is that the Royals haven’t always left their top prospects in the Carolina League very long. Let’s go back and look at some of KC’s top prospects from recent history and how many games they played in Wilmington after starting a season in Wilmington for the first time:

  • Khalil Lee – 71 (half season)
  • Nicky Lopez – 70 (half season)
  • Mike Moustakas – 129 (full season, didn’t perform as well)
  • Eric Hosmer – 87 (destroyed the level)
  • Salvador Perez – 99 (most of a season)
  • Hunter Dozier – 66
  • Ryan O’Hearn – 22 (68 total games)
  • Samir Duenez – 56
  • Jorge Bonifacio – 54

As you can see, amongst recent top Royals prospects to begin a season in Wilmington, almost everyone that hit the ball well was promoted to AA during the season. Wilmington’s roster is going to begin the 2019 season absolutely loaded, but it’ll be Northwest Arkansas that could have our attention by July. This is important for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s going to be important for the Naturals to get off to a hot start, so that the front office is ready and willing to promote players from Wilmington into a playoff race. Daniel Lynch stayed behind in Lexington to compete for the SAL championship in 2018, when he should’ve been promoted, and I really don’t want to see that happen to any of the core again in 2019.
  2. The Royals can’t possibly promote the entire roster to AA. It will be interesting to see which prospects perform to the Royals liking, which prospects get promoted early on, and which prospects get held back in Wilmington for a bit during the season.

Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of your 2019 Wilmington Blue Rocks roster:

Projected Starting Rotation:

  • Brady Singer
  • Jackson Kowar
  • Daniel Lynch
  • Daniel Tillo
  • J.C. Cloney

Projected Bullpen:

  • Holden Capps
  • Daniel Duarte
  • Robert Garcia
  • Rito Lugo
  • Tad Ratliff
  • Collin Snider
  • Nolan Watson
  • Tyler Zuber

Projected Lineup:

  • C: MJ Melendez/Sebastian Rivero
  • 1B: Nick Pratto
  • 2B: Ricky Aracena/Marten Gasparini
  • SS: Cristian Perez/Angelo Castellano
  • 3B: Dennicher Carrasco
  • LF: Brewer Hicklen/Kyle Isbel
  • CF: Blake Perkins/Kyle Isbel
  • RF: Seuly Matias
  • DH: Seuly Matias/Revolving Door

Goodness sake, this team is freaking loaded. Good luck to the rest of the Carolina League.

You probably don’t need me to tell you much about the main guys on this roster. Ricky Aracena, Cristian Perez, Angelo Castellano, and Marten Gasparini will all serve as the utility infielders. The defensive specialists, the gamers, the juice that kind of help the big name guys win games while they’re developing. At no point in time should their importance to the team be overlooked. I’ve heard some awesome stuff about both Perez and Aracena. There’s a reason they’re staying with this core.

In terms of guys who could be promoted fairly early, we’ll have to look to the AA team to see where they could be openings. Drew wrote up the Naturals roster preview on Tuesday, and I’ll refer you to that here.

Let’s take a look at some guys that could be promoted based on positional need with a couple months of good play at Wilmington:

  • Nick Pratto: Samir Duenez is about to enter what will be his 4th go at AA. He was destroying the baseball towards the end of 2018 and, with any kind of similar performance in 2019, should be promoted to Omaha rather quickly. If Nick Pratto comes out of the gates swinging a hot bat, he could fill in at first base by June for NWA, especially if Travis Jones isn’t performing to standards.
  • Blake Perkins: After spending all of 2018 in the Carolina League, Perkins and his ++ defensive skill set figure to be the first outfielder ready to roll into AA when one of Miller/Lee/Heath is promoted. Everything he heard before Spring Training sounded like Perkins would start the year in AA, but judgments of his bat will keep him in A+ just a bit longer.
  • Tad Ratliff/Holden Capps: Two really good relievers that I think will handle this jump pretty quickly.
  • Daniel Lynch: The rotation in NWA is uhh, interesting. I don’t expect Lynch to be in Wilmington long.

Yefri Del Rosario was removed from a Spring Training start with a “cramp”…and is not on the Opening Day roster. Carlos Hernandez is still pitching back from a shoulder problem that benched him last summer and will open up in Extended Spring Training. I expect both of them to be in Wilmington as soon as Lynch/Capps/Ratliff/Singer/Kowar or whoever is promoted to AA.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you arguably the best team this organization has ever assembled in the minor leagues.

 

Photo Credits: PLPhoto2015 (@PPhoto2015)

 

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