Hey guys, in perhaps my final wrap up piece of the 2017 season I wanted to recognize the most talented rosters in the 2017 Sally and to crown one team as most talented.
Lakewood (Phillies) and Rome (Braves) were my preseason favorites to be the most talented, with Hagerstown (Nats) and Charleston (Yankees) also receiving some consideration. I thought Kannapolis (White Sox) would be in the top half of the league talent wise but I didn’t see them competing for the top spot. Through trades and promotions of newly drafted players, Kanny had a major talent infusion in the 2nd half. Riding that to the top of the list. Edging out the uber talented squads of Lakewood and Rome in the process. Congrats to all the teams listed for fantastic seasons.
#1) Kannapolis Intimidators, my pick for #1 overall. Click here for a look back at the team preview (Previewing the 2017 Kannapolis Intimidators)
They had some players that were 50/50 whether they would start in the Sally or Carolina League (A+) that all seemed to come back. Most notably right hand pitchers Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning. But also sluggers Micker Adolfo and Seby Zavala as well as steady hitters: Alex Call, Jameson Fisher and Joel Booker. They also had a strong performance from LHP) Bernardo Flores.
An upper echelon team, the 2nd wave is what pushed into the conversation and ultimately to the top of my list. Top 2017 draft picks Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets spent significant time in the 2nd half. Also fireballer Dylan Cease and CF Blake Rutherford were acquired at the deadline. That was quite a talent infusion.
By any measure Kanny stacks up very well. A top five of Alec Hansen, Jake Burger, Blake Rutherford, Dane Dunning, Gavin Sheets is as good as anyone’s on the list and they’re among the deepest teams in the league.
#2) Lakewood Blueclaws, my preseason pick for most talented team, narrowly over Rome. Click here for the preview (Previewing the 2017 Lakewood Blueclaws)
CF) Mickey Moniak, RHP) Sixto Sanchez, RHP) Adonis Medina, SS) Arquimedes Gamboa and 2B) Daniel Brito. Were all on the horizon.
As were: RHP) Kevin Gowdy, SS, 3B) Cole Stobbe and RF) Jhailyn Ortiz.
The 1st group made the jump to full season but the 2nd group didn’t. That’s still quite a core though. Slugging 1B) Darick Hall broke out, running away with the HR title. 4th Round pick, LHP) Jojo Romero had an excellent 1st half, earning a promotion to Clearwater. Also 2017 1st round pick Adam Haseley saw significant time in August with the club.
#3) Rome Braves, Rome was 2nd on my preseason list of most talented team, click here for the 2017 team preview: Previewing the 2017 Rome Braves
Rome had a lot of talent on the horizon coming into 2017: led by the big three, Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller. As well as young Latin signees CF) Cristian Pache and SS) Derian Cruz. Also top picks C) Brett Cumberland and Bryse Wilson
I thought it would be a good debate between Rome and Lakewood for top team. I was curious how CF) Cristian Pache would stack up vs Moniak, and while Liked both, Pache did rank a little higher for me. Also was interested in the SS battle. Arquimedes Gamboa who became a rather large man crush for me vs Derian Cruz who struggled early in all facets and was sent back to extended before surfacing in the Appy. That said I liked Cruz, he’s young and raw but the tools and athleticism rank very high. Looking forward to seeing him in 2018. I was also looking forward to comparing the big three’s: Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller vs Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina and Kevin Gowdy. Muller (and Gowdy for that matter) didn’t make the jump to full season in 2017. But the other 4 all performed very well and easily lived up to the hype. Cumberland went on an impressive power tear and earned a quick promotion and Wilson had a terrific year. Another favorite of mine was young Latin OF Randy Ventura. An exciting young player and a nightmare on the bases for opposing pitchers.
#4 Hagerstown Suns, Hags was 3rd on my preseason list. Click here for the preview: Previewing the 2017 Hagerstown Suns
The Hags were led by dynamic hitters RF) Juan Soto and SS) Carter Kieboom but they had a ton of depth too. 2016, 2nd rd pick SS/3B) Sheldon Neuse (Pronounced Noisy) had a very good year (traded to the A’s this Summer). As did 2016, 5th rd pick (CF) Daniel Johnson showing off some impressive power. Former 2nd round pick Blake Perkins a terrific athlete who was a little bit on the raw side, has started to settle in. He’s got an all field approach. The ball does jump off of his barrel, with some impressive oppo pop. A threat on the bases too The pitching was unheralded but lefties Tyler Watson and McKenzie Mills were both solid and both were traded at the deadline.
#5) Charleston Riverdogs, the Dogs were among the deepest teams in the 2017 Sally , click here for a look back at the preview: Previewing the 2017 Charleston Riverdogs
The Dogs were led by two talented outfielders Blake Rutherford who was flipped to the White Sox at the deadline and Estevan Florial. Florial’s tools are off the charts he’s going to be fun to watch develop. 3B) Dermis Garcia arrived late and the bat speed and exit velocity are explosive. I’m hoping to see a lot more of him next year. I also liked young middle infielders Diego Castillo and Hoy Yun Park. As well as Catcher Donny Sands. RF Isiah Gilliam showed a lot of pop.
Coming up at Notes: The 2018 team previews will begin on November 1st with a look at the Rome Braves. Look for a preview piece in the next couple of weeks. I’m excited to get those rolling again. Cheers