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Notable dates for the Round Rock Express this year at Dell Diamond:
Thursday-Monday vs. Nashville: Not only is it the season-opening series, but the Sounds had the best record (83-59) in the Pacific Coast League last year and showcase four of the Oakland A’s top-10 prospects. Franklin Barreto, a 21-year-old shortstop, is the headliner, but there also are infielders Matt Chapman (No. 3 prospect) and Chad Pinder (No. 7) and catcher Bruce Maxwell (No. 10). This is perhaps the most prospect-heavy team in the league.
May 6-9 vs. Oklahoma City: The Dodgers’ system always seems to be loaded, and this year’s team includes 20-year-old Mexican fireballer Julio Urias and 6-foot-4 first baseman Cody Bellinger, the 11th overall prospect in the game, according to MLB.com. Corner infielder Rob Segedin is a returning PCL star.
May 23-26 vs. Las Vegas: Shortstop Amed Rosario is the top-rated blue-chipper in the league, No. 4 overall, according to MLB.com. The Mets’ club, which includes slugging first baseman Dominic Smith and well-regarded third baseman Gavin Cecchini, didn’t visit Round Rock last year.
June 22-25 vs. Iowa: The I-Cubs are consistently the biggest visiting draw at Dell. After the parent club’s World Series drought-breaking performance, they’ll put even more people in the stands for a weekend series.
July 4-6 vs. Memphis: Combine Fourth of July fireworks with the Cardinals’ top farm club, and you can expect an overflow crowd on the Fourth. Catcher Carson Kelly and starting pitcher Luke Weaver are St. Louis’ No. 2 and No. 3 prospects, respectively.
July 29-Aug. 1 vs. El Paso: Express Hall of Fame/Alumni weekend will be highlighted by Keith Ginter’s induction on Saturday night, the 30th. The Chihuahuas (Padres) made the playoffs last year.
Aug. 19-22 vs. Omaha: The Storm Chasers, with former Nebraska quarterback pledge Bubba Starling, will be the final weekend visitors before school starts and most Central Texans turn their attention to football.
—Kevin Lyttle, American-Statesman staff