Minor League Preview: Charleston RiverDogs

charleston-riverdogs-logo-540x519After a mediocre season last year, the Charleston RiverDogs will look to rebound with a new and exciting crop of prospects in 2014. Behind strong performances by Greg Bird, Jake Cave and Rafael De Paula, the RiverDogs went 75-63, putting them in third place in the Southern Division of the Sally League and seven and a half games behind the Augusta GreenJackets. This year there will be plenty of new faces in Charleston looking to give RiverDogs fans a lot to cheer about as they work towards the majors, so here are a few to keep an eye on as the season gets underway. If that's not enough of a reason to check out a game in Charleston, there is always the chance you might catch a glimpse of Bill Murray bringing some extra entertainment to the Park.

The RiverDogs will start the season with some intriguing prospects all over the field. Aaron Judge, one of the Yankees' first round picks last year, will take his first professional swings in Charleston. The big outfielder (6'7, 230 lbs) comes out of Fresno State and should give the RiverDogs some nice power. He will be joined in the outfield by Michael O'Neill, who was drafted in the third round of last year's draft and is the nephew of former Yankee Paul O'Neill. O'Neill started his professional career in Staten Island with a bit of a lackluster season, hitting .219/.282/.293 over 64 games.

While the Yankees have whatever is left of Brian Roberts starting the season at second base, the RiverDogs have the highly touted Gosuke Katoh offering some hope for the Yankees infield in a few years. The 19 year-old was taken by the Yankees in the second round last year out of high school. He put in a solid showing in the Gulf Coast League (.310/.402/.522 over fifty games) and is ready to start full season pro ball. Katoh is a strong defender, should be able to hit for average and has plus speed.

Across from Katoh, the RiverDogs will have Abiatal Avelino manning shortstop. Another infielder who shows promise on both sides of the field, the youngster from the Dominican hit a combined .303/.381/.399 between both Yankees GCL affiliates and Staten Island last year. With the Yankees second GCL team, he managed to steal 17 bases in as many games, swiping 26 bags in 30 tries on the season. Both Katoh and Avelino are just nineteen and are unlikely to be able to fill the Yankees' infield holes right now, but they should give Yankees fans some hope for the future.

Charleston should have some strong pitchers to send to the mound this year as well. Luis Severino is a righty from the Dominican Republic who throws hard and has found his way onto multiple top ten Yankees prospect lists. Finally, Jordan Cote, the Yankees third round pick in 2011 out of New Hampshire, will be coming out of the bullpen for Charleston. Over two seasons in the GCL, he owns an ERA of 1.01 and a WHIP of 0.881. He has 43 strikeouts in 53.1 innings and only walked nine batters. If he can stay healthy, this could be a crucial year for the big righty.