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Baseball: Visalia Rawhide began their season last week with six of the top 30 Arizona active prospects

Baseball: Visalia Rawhide began their season last week with six of the top 30 Arizona active prospects

@TheSunGazette

VISALIA – This years’ Rawhide team features some of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top prospects. Six of the organization’s top 30 began their season in Visalia last week. The most of any minor league team in the organization. Boasting so much talent this season the 40-year title drought in Visalia might be snapped.

The top player in the prospect-laden lineup for the Rawhide, Pavin Smith, is also the Diamondbacks’ number two minor league player. The first baseman out of the University of Virginia was selected seventh overall in the 2017 draft. He made quite the impression in the short-season with Hilsboro up in the Northwest League by hitting a .318 batting average with 17 extra base hits in 51 games. Those numbers got him named to the Mid-Season All-Star and Baseball America Short Season All-Star teams.

“Smith rarely swings and misses and drives the ball to all fields from the left side of the plate,” MLB Pipeline said.

While in college he was known for the long ball and driving in runs. He is currently sixth all-time on the Cavaliers’ career home run list and second for RBIs.

A few more slots down is outfielder Marcus Wilson the fifth-ranked prospect. Originally from Los Angles Wilson was drafted out of Junipero Serra High School in 2014 during the Competitive Balance Round of the draft. Through the years Wilson has progressed though the minor league teams in the D-backs organization.

In 2017 Wilson enjoyed a breakout season with Class-A Kane County. He posted a .295 batting average with a career best nine homeruns, 54 RBIs, and 21 doubles. He nearly doubled his career high in appearances with 103 games played as well.

“Wilson may have made a larger step forward than anyone in the system, MLB Pipeline said.

Right behind Wilson with the sixth-ranked prospect Daulton Varsho. The son of former Major Leaguer Gary Varsho was drafted by Arizona in 2017 with the 68th overall pick. He made his appearance with Hillsboro as well. While there he hit 26 extra-base hits that included seven home runs. The production translated to a .534 slugging percentage. He was named to four all-star teams after that season with one of those being the D-backs’ MiLB Organization All-Star.

Skip a spot and you’ll find third baseman Drew Ellis. Selected in the second round with the Diamondbacks’ 44th pick in 2017 he was sent to Hillsboro to begin his career. While up north he hit eight home runs, and eight doubles in 48 games. Louisville is where Ellis played his college ball. For the Cardinals he led in batting average, home runs, and RBIs in 2017.

In the twenty-first spot on the Diamondbacks’ top 30 list is outfielder Anfernee Grier. The transition for Grier after being drafted out of Auburn with the 39th pick of the 2016 draft was smooth. He hit .251 batting with four home runs, 36 RBIs, 20 doubles, three triples and stole 30 bases. All of which were career numbers. Grier has yet to repeat a level of minor league entering his third season of professional baseball. 

Right handed pitcher Wei-Cheih Huang rounds out the list in the 29th spot. Huang returned to the Rawhide in 2017 after splitting time between here and Kane County. Moved to the bullpen before the season began Huang looked to be re-invented. In ten appearances he boasted a 2.19 ERA with 32 strikeouts.

Last season’s Major League Baseball’s Pipeline Pitcher of the Year Jon Duplantier is listed on the Rawhide Roster. However, he begins the season on the seven day disabled list. Along with 17th ranked prospect left-handed pitcher Cody Reed.

Today the Rawhide complete a seven game home stand against the Lake Elsinore Storm at 1 p.m. Bo Takahashi is scheduled to take the mound for Visalia.

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