9 things to know for the Chattanooga Lookouts' 2023 season

Staff photo by Olivia Ross  / The Chattanooga Lookouts will benefit from Cincinnati's stocked minor league system, which is ranked fifth-best by MLB.com, when they open the 2023 season in Huntsville Thursday.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / The Chattanooga Lookouts will benefit from Cincinnati's stocked minor league system, which is ranked fifth-best by MLB.com, when they open the 2023 season in Huntsville Thursday.

One of the greatest summertime draws in downtown Chattanooga is back.

The Chattanooga Lookouts will open their 138-game regular season on the road against the Rocket City Trash Pandas on Thursday at 7:35 to start a three-game series before making their home debut in a six-game series against the Mississippi Braves next Tuesday-Sunday at AT&T Field.

Here are nine things to watch for as the Double-A season is ready to begin.

1. Six Southern League prospects are inside MLB's and Baseball America's Top 100

Biloxi five-tool centerfielder Jackson Chourio, 19, is ranked the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America and comes in at No. 8 on MLBpipeline.com. Other highly-regarded prospects include: Pensacola pitcher Eury Perez (No. 7 BA, No. 13 MLB), Tennessee outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong (No. 25 BA, No. 28 MLB), Chattanooga infielder Noelvi Marte (No. 29 MLB, No. 63 BA), Birmingham shortstop Colson Montgomery (No. 38 MLB, No. 39 BA) and Rocket City shortstop Zach Neto (No. 53 BA, No. 89 MLB).

2. Reds have the No. 5 farm system in baseball per MLB.com

Cincinnati is regarded as having one of the strongest minor league systems in baseball. The Reds are loaded with infield prospects, which includes Elly De La Cruz, Christian Encarnacion Strand, Matt McLain andMarte.

3. Six of the top 30 Reds prospects are in Chattanooga

Marte could be many team's No. 1 overall prospect. Only behind De La Cruz in the Reds prospect rankings, the 21-year-old is set to make his Double-A debut. Marte had a 1.164 OPS (on base + slugging percentage) in July last year and has the potential to hit 25 home runs and steal 25 bags this season.

Other top 30 Reds prospects on Chattanooga's roster are pitcher Andrew Abbott (11th), pitcher Connor Phillips (12th), outfielder Rece Hinds (18th), shortstop Jose Torres (26th) and catcher Daniel Vellojin (28th).

4. Lookouts have big strikeout arms

Chattanooga should be able to miss plenty of bats. Thirteen of the Lookouts' 15 pitchers average over nine strikeouts per nine innings in their minor league career. Nine of those pitchers average over 10 K/9, while five of them are over 12.4 punchouts per nine innings. Flamethrower Joe Boyle has 194 strikeouts over 120 1/3 career innings, good for a 14.5 K/9 mark.

5. Allan Cerda has strong breakout potential

The 23-year-old outfielder went 3-for-10 with two home runs and three walks in big league spring training camp, where many noticed his more simplified swing. Cerda's plate discipline and power are both plus tools as he hit 24 home runs and walked 84 times last season. Look for his .208 batting average from last season to significantly rise after showing signs of improvement with his contact ability.

6. Abbott looks to build on strong finish

The southpaw, who overpowered the Tennessee Volunteers in the 2021 College World Series, could be a fast riser with a chance to make the big league rotation in the near future. Abbott did not allow a run over his last three starts for Chattanooga last season, in which he allowed just seven hits, three walks with 21 strikeouts over 16 innings. Opposing hitters had a sub-.600 OPS against his elite curveball in 2022.

7. Torres brings strong glove to the infield

Jose Torres has one of the strongest defensive skills of any Reds prospect. In 576 1/3 minor league innings played at shortstop, the 23-year-old has only made six errors on his way to a .974 fielding percentage. He also hit .333 with a .948 OPS against pitchers younger than him last season.

8. Hurtubise is becoming an on-base machine

In Jacob Hurtubise's first 488 minor league at-bats he has drawn 81 walks and been hit by a pitch 29 times. He had a .541 on-base percentage in his last collegiate season for Army and has a .404 career mark as a professional.

9. Lookouts set hat giveaway

The first 500 fans to arrive to the Chattanooga Lookouts home game against the Mississippi Braves at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 16 will receive a free Lookouts bucket hat.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com.

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