Columbia County currently has five athletes playing minor-league baseball, ranging from an 18-year-old who graduated from high school two months ago to a 26-year-old who spent three years at Vanderbilt University before signing a professional contract.
The new one on the base paths is former Augusta Christian Schools star Jordan Belcher. The veteran is Tydus Meadows of Evans High School.
Meadows is enjoying quite a season so far. He is playing for the Wichita Wranglers, a Class AA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Through 99 games, Meadows was 107-for-369 for a .290 average at the plate. He posted 15 homers and 75 RBIs, both of which are team-leading totals. In addition to the power numbers, Meadows motored to 24 doubles and 13 stolen bases.
The only mystery is why Meadows has not advanced more quickly. He has size, strength, speed - and he knows the game. The one question mark could be his defense, but his offensive production is hard to ignore.
Meadows isn't the only Columbia County native in the Royals' organization. Former Greenbrier standout James Shanks is considered one of the top prospects in Kansas City's farm system.
Shanks is currently playing in Wilmington, Del., with the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
Though Wilmington is a high-A club, Shanks might be ready for a huge promotion. His agent, Miles Shota of Leader Enterprises, recently told a local scout that Shanks didn't realize how close he was to the big leagues.
As a matter of fact, if Kansas City wasn't leading the American League Central, Shanks may have been called up this year.
Through 51 games, Shanks was hitting .318 (64-for-201), scored 37 runs, stole 16 bases, ripped nine doubles and added a pair of homers.
His athleticism makes Shanks the best prospect from Columbia County, and his talent could put him on the fast track to Kansas City.
But don't discount the chances of these three other minor-league players from Columbia County:
J.J. Johnson (Greenbrier) - Single A, Lansing Lugnuts - Chicago Cubs: 72 games; 249 at-bats; 25 runs scored; 55 hits; six doubles; two home runs; 29 RBIs; .221 batting average.
BJ Hawes (Augusta Christian) - Single A, Dayton Dragons - Cincinnati Reds: 48 games; 154 at-bats; 12 runs scored; 37 hits; four doubles; two home runs; 12 RBIs; .240 batting average.
Jordan Belcher (Augusta Christian) - rookie ball, Gulf Coast League - Cincinnati Reds: 29 games; 108 at-bats; 11 runs scored; 32 hits; eight doubles; no homers; eight RBIS; .296 batting average.
Belcher's early numbers are particularly impressive. Rookie ball in Florida usually is dominated by the pitchers as the hitters make the adjustment from aluminum to wooded bats.
That switch hasn't bothered Belcher, who has been the biggest surprise of the 2003 draft, according to one Reds insider.
Belcher is already as good a defensive outfielder as just about anyone in the Cincinnati farm system. When he adds some upper body strength, he might muscle his way into the majors.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.