A lot of top prospects have passed through the Midwest League in recent years, and this season will be no different. Here is a look at some of the top talents on Opening Day rosters for the MWL’s Eastern Division teams:
The MWL player everyone will have eyes on is Bowling Green Hot Rods shortstop Wander Franco, who not only is the Tampa Bay Rays’ top prospect, but is ranked the fourth-best prospect overall by Baseball America. He batted .351 with 28 extra-base hits and 57 RBI in 61 games in the Appalachian League last season. The sweet-swinging switch hitter has drawn comparisons to baseball’s top prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., in terms of production, and just turned 18 on March 1. He isn’t expected to be in the Midwest League all season, so see him early if you can.
Speaking of Guerrero (an ex-Lugnuts third baseman), Lansing will have another highly-touted slugging infielder on their team to start the season. Jordan Groshans — last year’s top draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays (No. 12 overall) — uses a combination of power and pure hitting ability in his offensive game. Although he is a better hitter than defender, he has an above-average arm and can play shortstop and third base. In his debut season last year, he batted .296 with 18 extra-base hits and 43 RBI in 48 games split between the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues.
One of the top pitchers to watch is power lefty Brailyn Marquez, a 20-year-old Chicago Cubs prospect who will start the season with South Bend. Baseball America ranks him third among Chicago’s prospects and gives him a ceiling of mid-rotation starter in the big leagues. South Bend also has Chicago’s No. 4 prospect on its roster: Cole Roederer, an outfielder with above-average power.
Seven of the Cleveland Indians’ top-30 prospects are assigned to the Lake County Captains roster. The most notable ones are Tyler Freeman, a 19-year-old middle infielder who led the New York-Penn League in batting average (.352 in 72 games), hits (95), runs (49) and doubles (29); Bo Naylor, a 19-year-old catcher who was Cleveland’s first-round draft pick last year; and RHP Luis Oviedo, who posted an impressive 1.88 ERA with 61 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 48 innings/nine starts in the NYPL last season.
Top prospects on the West Michigan Whitecaps roster include outfielder Parker Meadows (brother of Rays outfielder Austin Meadows), who is considered to have “plus raw power”; and shortstop Wenceel Perez, who batted .309 during a 16-game stint with the Whitecaps last year.
Mike Siani, one of the top outfield prospects in the Cincinnati Reds system, is on the Dayton Dragons roster. He has the speed and above-average arm teams look for defensively in a centerfielder. He batted .288 with 11 extra-base hits and 13 RBI in 46 games in the Appalachian League last season.
The Fort Wayne TinCaps roster includes a notable prospect in LHP Ryan Weathers, son of former MLB pitcher David Weathers. The San Diego Padres drafted him seventh overall out of high school last year. He turned 19 in December.
The top Los Angeles Dodgers prospect on the Great Lakes roster is corner infielder Miguel Vargas, who batted .213 in 23 games with the Loons at the end of last season, after hitting an even .400 in 30 games at rookie-level earlier in the year. The 19-year-old is the son of Lazaro Vargas, a Cuban baseball legend.
To read about more of the prospects assigned to the Eastern Division teams, here are links to each club’s team preview and my posts about their coaching staffs: