The preliminary Opening Day roster for the Great Lakes Loons includes Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Starling Heredia and last year’s Midwest League Home Run Derby champion, Carlos Rincon.
Baseball America ranks the Dodgers farm system as the ninth-best in baseball, but unfortunately, only one player ranked by BA among the top 30 Dodgers prospects is on the Loons roster for the start of the season. That player is Heredia, a 19-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic who is ranked as L.A.’s 17th-best prospect. BA says he has plus-power and impressive speed for someone his size (6’2″, 200 lbs.), but can get too aggressive and is “wildly inconsistent” as a fielder. After spending 2016 in the Dominican Summer League, Heredia went from rookie ball to the Midwest League over the course of last season, his first in the United States. Overall he batted .325 with 7 HR, 34 RBI and 10 SB in 52 games, but batted only .212 in 26 games with the Loons at the end of the season.
Rankings aside, Heredia won’t be the only player worth watching on the Loons squad. Sixteen players on the Loons roster suited up for the rookie-level Ogden Raptors last year, helping the team win the Pioneer League championship. The most notable of them is 20-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Romer Cuadrado, who batted .335 with 9 HR, 60 RBI and 11 SB in 64 regular-season games with the Raptors. Another new Loons outfielder, Brayan Morales (22, from Puerto Rico), batted .297 with 12 RBI and 29 SB in 41 games with Ogden; he also played 10 games with the Loons last year. Garrett Hope, a 24-year-old catcher from Kansas City, batted .310 with 7 HR and 27 RBI in 24 games with the Raptors last year.
A couple of pitchers from last year’s Raptors team worth watching: RHP James Carter and LHP Devin Hemmerich. Carter actually split his 2017 season between Ogden and Great Lakes, making 10 relief appearances for each team (plus one for High-A Rancho Cucamonga). He cumulatively went 3-1 with 2.37 ERA, one save, 54 strikeouts and 11 walks in 38 innings. Hemmerich made his pro debut last year, pitching exclusively for the Raptors. He went 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA, one save, 41 strikeouts and 12 walks in 31 innings.
Nineteen players who spent time as a Loon last year are returning for the start of this season. The most notable name besides Heredia is probably Carlos Rincon, the outfielder who won last year’s Midwest League Home Run Derby. A 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic, Rincon hit for power (18 HR) but not for average (.198) in his 87 games with the Loons last year.
Here are all the players currently assigned to the Loons roster:
Pitchers: James Carter, Max Gamboa, Austin Hamilton, Devin Hemmerich, Dan Jagiello, Melvin Jimenez, Marshall Kasowski, Wills Montgomerie, Riley Ottesen, Zach Pop, Andre Scrubb, Edwin Uceta, Jesus Vargas, Aneurys Zabala
Catchers: Garrett Hope, Gersel Pitre, Ramon Rodriguez
Infielders: Marcus Chiu, Zach McKinstry, Brandon Montgomery, Moises Perez, Jared Walker, Nick Yarnall
Outfielders: Romer Cuadrado, Starling Heredia, Brayan Morales, Zach Reks, Carlos Rincon
John Shoemaker, who managed the Loons in 2011 and 2012, returns to manage the team again this year. You can read about him and his coaching staff here.
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