Former Midwest League MVP signs with Giants

Wynton Bernard was the Midwest League MVP in 2014, the year he played with the West Michigan Whitecaps. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Wynton Bernard was the Midwest League MVP in 2014, the year he played with the West Michigan Whitecaps. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Former Midwest League MVP Wynton Bernard recently signed a minor-league contract with the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants are Bernard’s third MLB team. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2012 and played in their farm system until being released in January 2014. His time with the Padres included a five-game stint with the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 2013.

Bernard signed with the Detroit Tigers after participating in an open tryout in February 2014. That turned out to be his breakthrough year, when he batted .323 with six home runs, 30 doubles, 47 runs batted in, and 45 stolen bases in 131 games with the West Michigan Whitecaps. That earned him the Midwest League MVP Award that year.

He spent the next season in Double-A, and split the 2016 season between Double-A and Triple-A. In 2016 he batted .308 with 6 HR, 22 RBI and 13 SB in 58 Double-A games, but only .235 with 1 HR, 11 RBI and 10 SB in 46 Triple-A games. He exercised his right to become a minor-league free agent in early November.

Whitecaps construction photo

As I wrote about here last month, the Whitecaps have three improvement projects they are doing at Fifth Third Ballpark this offseason.

One of those projects is expansion of their playground in the right-field corner area from 2,500 square feet to 6,400 square feet. Here is a photo of the construction in progress, shared by the Whitecaps on social media Wednesday:

wm-playground-construction

Posted in Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Ex-Cards farmhand named new Chiefs manager

Former St. Louis Cardinals minor-leaguer Chris Swauger, who played in the Midwest League in 2009, will manage the Peoria Chiefs in 2017.

Swauger will take the reins from Joe Kruzel, who became the winningest manager in Chiefs history during his three years as the team’s skipper. Kruzel is assigned to manage the State College Spikes, the short-season New York-Penn League affiliate of the Cardinals, next year.

Swauger managed the short-season Johnson City Cardinals the past two seasons. He led the team to a 39-29 record and the Appalachian League championship in 2016. He played in the minor leagues (all but eight games in the Cardinals organization) from 2008 to 2014, including 31 games with the 2009 Quad Cities River Bandits. The outfielder/first baseman batted .296 with 4 HR and 22 RBI in the Midwest League.

Dernier Orozco will return for his third consecutive season as Peoria’s pitching coach, while Donnie Ecker takes over as the team’s hitting coach. You can read more about them here.

Posted in Appalachian League, Johnson City Cardinals, Midwest League, New York-Penn League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, State College Spikes | Leave a comment

Midwest League unveils new logo

new-midwest-league-logo-white-background

The Midwest League unveiled this new logo Wednesday.

The Midwest League unveiled its new logo Wednesday, replacing one that was used for 32 years.

“While the existing Midwest League logo served the league well, we, as a league, decided to create an updated identity going into our 71st season,” Midwest League President Dick Nussbaum said. “While keeping the traditional primary colors, we now can be immediately identified as the Class-A Midwest League, which was established in 1947.”

Here is more about the logo, from the league’s press release:

As the logo committee set out to create and design the new logo, the Midwest League took the approach of making the logo bigger and bolder while keeping America’s red, white and blue the primary focus. “Midwest League” is now prominent in large white letters with a red background, and establishes the league’s proud longevity. Two crossed bats and a home plate serve as the foundation for the logo.

In addition, all Midwest League teams are granted the flexibility to use the logo with their own team colors if it incorporates better with any promotional design concepts.

“Our approach in creating the new logo was to get our members involved and gather ideas, and we then combined two of the concepts, blended them together, and created a strong and straightforward logo,” added Nussbaum. “We appreciate the guidance and feedback that Minor League Baseball provided from the start of the process to the release and it will be exciting to see the new logo proudly on display at all 16 Midwest League ballparks starting in April 2017.”

Posted in Midwest League | Leave a comment

Ex-Quad Cities outfielder Jay signs with Cubs

Free-agent outfielder Jon Jay agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.

Jay began his professional playing career in the Midwest League. The then-St. Louis Cardinals prospect batted .342 with 3 HR and 45 RBI in 60 games with the 2006 Swing of the Quad Cities. He returned to the Midwest League for a three-game rehab assignment in 2015, his final year with the Cardinals. He went 0-for-10 with a walk and one RBI for the Peoria Chiefs.

Jay played for the San Diego Padres this year, batting .291 with 2 HR and 26 RBI in 90 games.

He is expected to platoon in centerfield for the Cubs, sharing duties with Albert Almora, who made his major-league debut this year. Almora also played in the Midwest League, batting .329 with 3 HR and 23 RBI in 61 games with the 2013 Kane County Cougars.

Jon Jay fields a ball during the 2006 season when he played for the Swing of the Quad Cities. (Quad-City Times photo)

Jon Jay fields a ball during the 2006 season when he played for the Swing of the Quad Cities. (Quad-City Times photo)

Posted in Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Braves acquire former top Mariners prospect Alex Jackson

alex-jackson

Former Clinton LumberKings outfielder Alex Jackson was traded to the Atlanta Braves on Monday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Seattle Mariners continued to stay active in the trade market Monday, sending former top prospect Alex Jackson and a player to be named later to the Atlanta Braves for pitching prospects Max Povse and Rob Whalen.

Despite being the No. 6 overall draft pick in 2014, Jackson has yet to advance past Low-A, topping out in the Midwest League thus far. He started the 2015 season with the Clinton LumberKings, but batted only .157 with 0 HR and 13 RBI in 28 MWL games before the Mariners sent him to extended spring training. He finished the 2015 season with the Everett AquaSox of the short-season Northwest League, where he batted .239 with 8 HR and 25 RBI in 48 games.

Jackson started the 2016 season back in extended spring training — an atypical assignment for a first-round position player beginning his second full season as a pro, as Baseball America noted in its trade analysis here — before returning to the LumberKings in May. His power numbers improved with 11 HR and 20 doubles to go along with 55 RBI in 92 games, but Jackson still batted only .243 and struck out 103 times.

Neither Povse nor Whalen pitched in the Midwest League.

Volquez agrees to deal with Marlins

RHP Edinson Volquez reportedly agreed to a 2-year, $22 million deal with the Miami Marlins on Monday. He pitched for the Kansas City Royals in 2016, going 10-11 with a 5.37 ERA, 139 strikeouts and 76 walks in 189.1 innings (34 starts). He gave up 113 earned runs, the most by a pitcher in the American League.

As a Texas Rangers prospect in 2004, he went 4-4 with a 4.21 ERA, three saves, 74 strikeouts and 27 walks in 87.2 IP (21 games/15 starts) for the LumberKings. He also made two rehab appearances with the Dayton Dragons in 2010, when he was a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. He struck out 19 batters in 13 IP for the Dragons.

Posted in Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Everett AquaSox, Midwest League, Northwest League | Leave a comment