• Astros righthander Jordan Lyles, the No. 91 prospect in baseball, will skip high Class A Lancaster and open with Double-A Corpus Christi. It's not a huge surprise that Lyles is skipping Lancaster—he's an advanced pitcher for his age, Lancaster is a nightmare for pitchers and the Astros have hinted all offseason that he would begin the year in Double-A—but it's still a significant jump for a 19-year-old. Righthanders Matt Nevarez and Henry Villar will join Lyles in the jump to Double-A from low Class A Lexington.
• The Dodgers will move shortstop Dee Gordon, their No. 1 prospect, from low Class A Great Lakes to Double-A Chattanooga, skipping the high Class A California League. Gordon, who turns 22 later this month, hit .301/.362/.394 in 131 games with Great Lakes last year. The Dodgers' previous top prospect, left fielder Andrew Lambo, returns to Chattanooga for another year after hitting .256/.311/.407 there last year and dropping to seventh in the organization.
• After gaining some experience in the Arizona Fall League, Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias will make his minor league debut with Double-A Portland. Righthander Casey Kelly jumps to Double-A after making just eight starts last year for high Class A Salem. Someone asked me recently whether Kelly could reach Boston this year. It's possible, but remember that Kelly threw just 95 innings last year because he split his time between shortstop and the mound in 2009, so it's unlikely the Red Sox will push his innings too high in his first full year of pitching. First baseman Lars Anderson also returns to Portland to try to regain some of the luster he lost from a difficult season a year ago.
• Aaron Hicks began last season in extended spring training, then joined low Class A Beloit in mid-June and finished as the Midwest League's top prospect. The Twins are taking it slowly with Hicks again this year, giving him a return assignment to the Midwest League, where the center fielder hit .251/.353/.382 in 67 games a year ago.
• Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman hit .248/.308/.342 in 41 games for Double-A Mississippi in 2009, but the Braves are rewarding the 20-year-old with an assignment to Triple-A Gwinnett. It's an aggressive assignment, but remember that Freeman hit well in the high Class A Carolina League and in Double-A for his first month there before he played through a sore left wrist the rest of the year.
• Righthander Dexter Carter tied for fifth in the minors with 166 strikeouts a year ago, with most of those punchouts coming with the White Sox' low Class A affiliate in Kannapolis before being traded to the Padres and joining their low Class A club in Fort Wayne. Carter's reward is a return assignment to Fort Wayne. Carter, 23, did struggle mightily after joining the TinCaps, tossing up a 12.86 ERA in six starts with 15 walks in 21 innings.
• Between his time with the Reds and the Blue Jays, Zach Stewart made 20 Triple-A appearances out of the bullpen in 2009, but the Blue Jays assigned the righthander to Double-A New Hampshire rather than the hitters' haven in Triple-A Las Vegas. First baseman David Cooper, the 17th overall pick in 2008 out of California, returns to the Fisher Cats after hitting .258/.340/.389 there last season in 128 games.
• Dominican righthanders Alexi Ogando and Omar Beltre will start in Double-A Frisco after finally getting their visas (Ogando and Beltre had been involved in a marriage scam six years ago). One scout who saw Ogando this spring saw him sit in the low-90s and touch 97 mph with his fastball, though his delivery, control and secondary stuff still need work.
• Dustin Ackley will take his first minor league at-bat with Double-A West Tenn. Ackley, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft out of North Carolina, didn't play in the minor leagues after signing but did get time in the Arizona Fall League. Ackley played in the outfield in the AFL, but the Mariners are trying him out at second base to start the season.
• Nationals right fielder Michael Burgess returns to high Class A Potomac after spending the entire 2009 season with the club. Burgess has 70 raw power on the 20-80 scale and hit 19 home runs last year, but he's a free-swinger who often expands his strike zone, which led to a .235/.325/.410 batting line in 131 games last year.
• Left fielder Nick Weglarz returns to Double-A Akron after spending the entire 2009 season with the Aeros. Weglarz was limited to 105 games last year after going on the disabled list at the end of the season with a stress fracture in his left shin, which required surgery in the offseason. Shortstop Carlos Rivero and first baseman Beau Mills also return to Akron for their second seasons with the Aeros.
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