Top MWL prospects to watch on Western Division teams

Third baseman Nolan Gorman, a top St. Louis Cardinals prospect, returns to the Peoria Chiefs for the start of the 2019 season. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

In my last post (which you can read here), I took a look at the top prospects assigned to the eight teams in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. This post is about the top prospects on the Opening Day rosters of the eight Western Division teams.

One of the most notable prospects on a Western Division team is a returnee to the Midwest League. Third baseman Nolan Gorman, a top St. Louis Cardinals prospect, returns to the Peoria Chiefs after hitting .202 with 6 HR and 16 RBI in 25 MWL games at the end of the regular season last year. (The 18-year-old also saw postseason action with the Chiefs, who reached the MWL Championship Series.) The 2018 first-rounder has above-average power and arm strength, and should hit for better average in his first full pro season. (Fun fact about Gorman: He was the first player in Chiefs history who was born in 2000 — the year Albert Pujols played for Peoria.)

The Marlins’ top pick in last year’s draft, Connor Scott, is assigned to the LumberKings in the first year of Clinton’s affiliation with Miami. The 19-year-old outfielder has five-tool potential, and looks to improve at the plate in his first full season as a pro.

Another first-round pick from last year’s draft is a player to watch on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Milwaukee Brewers prospect Brice Turang, a shortstop who turned 19 in November, is considered an advanced hitter for his age, and has plus-speed. He doesn’t have much power potential, but he does show plate discipline, drawing 31 walks in 42 rookie-level games last season.

Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Geraldo Perdomo, a 19-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, is assigned to the Kane County Cougars. Baseball America calls him “one of the Diamondbacks’ most intriguing young prospects,” noting his advanced plate discipline and some offensive impact that emerged last year. BA says scouts see Perdomo as “a talented, instinctual, smart player in the mold of Tony Fernandez,” a former infielder (and fellow Dominican) who played 17 seasons in the major leagues, most notably with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Another notable prospect on the Cougars roster is Alek Thomas, a left-handed outfielder who batted .333 with 22 extra-base hits, 27 RBI, 24 walks and 12 stolen bases in 56 rookie-level games last season. He turns 19 later this month.

Another standout outfield prospect assigned to the Midwest League is Los Angeles Angels farmhand Jordyn Adams, who begins the season with the Burlington Bees. A two-sport star in high school (baseball and football), Adams shows great bat speed and quick feet, and has power potential. His first pro season was cut short by a broken jaw, but he still moves up from rookie-level to low-A to start this year.

The top Minnesota Twins prospect assigned to the Cedar Rapids Kernels is a returnee. RHP Blayne Enlow, who turned 20 last month, posted a 3.26 ERA in 94 innings with the Kernels last season, but also gave up 94 hits and 35 walks. He likely will be moved up to high-A sometime this season, assuming he finds more command consistency with Cedar Rapids first.

The Beloit Snappers lost out when Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray chose football over baseball — there was a good chance he would have played in the Midwest League — so instead they get second baseman Marcos Brito as the top Oakland Athletics prospect assigned to their roster. Brito is a speedy switch-hitter who turned 19 last month. He is very good on defense, but needs to improve on the .241 batting average he posted in 54 games in the New York-Penn League last season.

The starting shortstop for the Quad Cities River Bandits is 19-year-old Jeremy Pena, son of former St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Geronimo Pena. A third-round draft pick of the Houston Astros last year, Pena is above average defensively, but needs to improve at the plate. He batted .250 in 36 games in the NYPL last season, and is not a power threat.

To read about more of the prospects assigned to the Western Division teams, here are links to each club’s team preview and my posts about their coaching staffs:

Beloit Snappers team preview and coaching staff

Burlington Bees team preview and coaching staff

Cedar Rapids Kernels team preview and coaching staff

Clinton LumberKings team preview and coaching staff

Kane County Cougars team preview and coaching staff

Peoria Chiefs team preview and coaching staff

Quad Cities River Bandits team preview and coaching staff

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers team preview and coaching staff

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Posted in 2018 Playoffs, Beloit Snappers, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, New York-Penn League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Top MWL prospects to watch on Eastern Division teams

Shortstop Wander Franco – one of the top prospects in baseball – will start the season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. (Photo by Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)

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:

Bowling Green Hot Rods team preview and coaching staff

Dayton Dragons team preview and coaching staff

Fort Wayne TinCaps team preview and coaching staff

Great Lakes Loons team preview and coaching staff

Lake County Captains team preview and coaching staff

Lansing Lugnuts team preview and coaching staff

South Bend Cubs team preview and coaching staff

West Michigan Whitecaps team preview and coaching staff

Posted in Appalachian League, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, New York-Penn League, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Flooding causes opening series move from QC to Burlington

Mississppi River floodwaters surround Modern Woodmen Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits. (Photo by Josh Franzen)

Mississippi River flooding has prompted the Midwest League to move the opening series between the River Bandits and the Bees from Quad Cities to Burlington.

That means the two teams will play four straight games at Burlington’s Community Field to start the season, as they were already scheduled to play each other there in their third and fourth games of the season, too.

Although all four games will be played in Burlington, Quad Cities will be the home team for the first two games. Burlington will be the home team for the next two.

Although Modern Woodmen Park, home of the River Bandits, is protected from flooding thanks to a flood-wall system installed in 2004 and expanded in 2010, the surrounding floodwaters have prevented the arrival of necessary equipment and food and beverage shipments.

Additionally, Canadian Pacific Railroad — which has a track that runs alongside Modern Woodmen Park — is in the process of making improvements to lift the railroad track along Davenport’s riverfront, allowing its trains to continue operating during higher flood stages. Because this project is active, the city cannot install a pedestrian bridge to allow fans access into the ballpark as it has during previous floods.

The Midwest League season begins Thursday. Game 1 in Burlington begins at 6 p.m. that day.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

‘Rocky Balburrito’ wins Whitecaps Fan Food Vote

“Rocky Balburrito” won this year’s West Michigan Whitecaps Fan Food Vote.

“Rocky Balburrito” — a deep-fried cheesesteak burrito — went from contender to winner in this year’s West Michigan Whitecaps Fan Food Vote.

The win wasn’t a knockout, however, as the competition was tight between the top 10 contenders, with the victorious Balburrito edging out the Oinkurrito (a pork, bacon and cheddar mac-n-cheese burrito) and Marge’s Donut Sundae (an oversized donut with ice cream and various toppings) for the victory. (You can see descriptions and photos of all 10 finalists in this previous post.)

Here are some other new additions to the Fifth Third Ballpark menu for the 2019 season, with descriptions and photos from the team:

Deep Fried Bread Pudding: Bread Pudding originated more than 1,000 years ago and now we’re going to deep fry it! Bites of sweet bread will be served with rich vanilla bean mousse.

Deep-Fried Bread Pudding

Pork Skin Nachos: For those watching the carb intake, we’re here to help. Homemade fried pork skins loaded up with your choice of melted cheese, bacon, pulled pork, and more.

Takis: Spicy, roll-shaped snacks fashioned after the traditional Mexican taquito. Cheese is a great topping for this tasty treat.

Takis

Spare Ribs: 10 oz. of smoked, bone-in pork spare ribs drenched in BBQ sauce.

Grub Tub: Making ballpark food easy by allowing you to carry popcorn, french fries and nachos by utilizing this container. The Grub Tub clips on your souvenir cup like a lid that holds your food. You’ll be able to eat and drink one-handed so you can cheer with the other hand.

Top N’ Go Fritos:  A big bag of Fritos loaded up with your choice of melted cheese, bacon, jalapenos, and more.

Coppercraft Bourbon: Building upon West Michigan’s legacy as high-quality makers and manufacturers, Coppercraft Distillery brings together grain and oak to craft the finest bourbons.

Coppercraft Distillery bourbons

Wine Slushies: Your choice of red sangria or white michato served slushy-style.

Street Corn Nuggets:  We’ve made street corn easy to eat at the ballpark. We’ve taken sweet corn clusters coated in corn dog batter and fried to perfection. Mayo is topping of choice.

Street Corn Nuggets

Gluten-Free Brownies: Adding to our already extensive gluten-free menu. A nice dessert to end a great night at the Whitecaps.

Chicken Gyro: The gyro cart at Fifth Third Ballpark is legendary. So much so that we’ve added a chicken option.

Go to https://capsgrubgetter.com/ to see these and other concession options being offered at the ballpark this year.

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

Snappers ballpark situation: Build new one or relocate team

Winter may be coming for Midwest League baseball at Beloit’s Pohlman Field, metaphorically speaking.

For more than five years, the Beloit Snappers have been trying to secure funding to build a new stadium. If they don’t succeed in their quest soon, they may be forced to relocate the team after the 2020 season.

The Beloit Daily News reported Tuesday that the Snappers are under pressure to put together a viable plan for a new stadium with modern amenities as the metaphorical clock ticks toward the end of the current Professional Baseball Agreement next year. Higher standards for facilities are expected to be part of the next deal — it would not be the first time that’s happened in the history of Minor League Baseball — and while the current agreement doesn’t end until after the 2020 season, a more modern facility that meets the new requirements would need to be in place for 2021.

In other words, a deal needs to be reached soon or there won’t be enough time left to keep Midwest League baseball in Beloit.

In fact, Snappers president Dennis Conerton told the Daily News that while the team’s board of directors is 90 percent focused on building a new stadium, it is not ignoring the possibility of relocation. He says the majority of a new stadium deal has been reached, but “the last five or 10 percent of the funding” still needs to be secured.

Conerton announced in early September that the Snappers signed a memorandum of understanding with two investor groups, setting the framework for sale of the team and construction of a new stadium in downtown Beloit by the start of the 2020 season. The parties were working toward completing the deal by the end of January, but that still hasn’t happened two months later.

Conerton remains hopeful that a deal will be reached in time to keep the team in Beloit. Meanwhile, MWL president Dick Nussbaum says he hopes the team will stay put, but “time is of the essence” to resolve the issue.

You can read a lot more from both Conerton and Nussbaum in the Beloit Daily News story here.

In the 16-team Midwest League, the Snappers outdrew only the Burlington Bees in total attendance last season. Beloit drew the league’s lowest total attendance in each of the previous five seasons.


Posted in Beloit Snappers, Burlington Bees, Midwest League | Leave a comment