With the rosters now set and the games underway, we preview the California League. Long known to be a hitter’s league, the 2014 edition will feature a good mix of prospects on the mound as well as at the plate.
Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds
After two years under the direction of Ken Griffey, Sr. the Blaze are now managed by Pat Kelly, well-respected longtime Minor League skipper and also father of a big league player, pitcher Casey Kelly. The club will have talent on the roster and could certainly make a run at the playoffs.
The Blaze pitching staff is headlined big right-handed starter Ben Lively. In 12 starts for Rookie-level Billings, Lively posted a 0.73 ERA and struck out 49 hitters in 37 innings. After one late season start for Low Class-A Dayton, the Reds felt the 2013 fourth rounder was ready for the California League. He allowed just one hit, a home run, in six strong innings in his debut.
A few names to watch for that will join Lively on staff are James Allen, Drew Cisco and Brooks Pinckard. Prospects that will start the year in Dayton that could see time in Bakersfield include lefties Amir Garrett and Ismael Guillon and righties Pedro Diaz, Sal Romano and Nick Travieso.
Expect Bakersfield to score plenty of runs in 2014, led by outfielders Jesse Winker, Junior Arias and Kyle Waldrop. Winker hit 16 homers for Dayton last season and Waldrop had 21 for the Blaze in 2013 while Arias combined to hit 15 for the two squads. Third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean also had double-digit homers with 82 RBIA and hit .305/.379/.457 in 130 games combined between Dayton and Bakersfield.