Whitecaps sweep MWL players of the week honors

RHP Alfred Gutierrez is the Midwest League pitcher of the week. (Photo by Emily Jones/MiLB.com)

Both Midwest League players of the week for May 8-14 are West Michigan Whitecaps.

Right-hander Alfred Gutierrez was named the MWL pitcher of the week after dominating the Peoria Chiefs last Wednesday. He earned the win after giving up only one hit and walking none while striking out six batters in six scoreless innings. He is 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA, one save, 30 strikeouts and one walk in 27.1 innings pitched (seven games/four starts) for the Whitecaps this season.

Outfielder Cam Gibson was named the MWL offensive player of the week after batting .385 (10-for-26) with three homers, a triple, eight runs batted in, eight runs scored, and two stolen bases in his last six games. His week was capped by a 3-for-5 performance including two homers and five RBI against the Burlington Bees on Saturday. In 34 games this season, he is batting .274 with five homers, six triples, three doubles, seven stolen bases, and 14 runs batted in.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Four MWLers on BA’s updated top-100 prospects list

Four current Midwest League players are included in Baseball America‘s updated Top 100 Prospects list unveiled last week.

Lansing Lugnuts third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the highest-ranked Midwest League player, coming in at No. 16. The other three Midwest Leaguers are ranked in the 90s: South Bend Cubs RHP Dylan Cease at No. 90, Lugnuts middle infielder Bo Bichette at No. 93, and Bowling Green Hot Rods outfielder Jesus Sanchez at No. 96.

Guerrero is batting .327 with four homers, nine doubles and 20 RBI in 30 games this season. He is young for the Midwest League, having turned 18 just two months ago.

Cease is 1-1 with a 2.23 ERA, 50 strikeouts and 17 walks in 32.1 innings/seven starts this season.

Bichette is batting .367 with three homers, 12 doubles and 20 RBI in 27 games this season. His batting average leads the Midwest League by 17 percentage points.

Sanchez is batting .264 with five homers and 23 RBI in 29 games this season.

Tampa Bay Rays prospect Jesus Sanchez ranks No. 96 on Baseball America‘s updated list of top prospects. (Photo by Steve Roberts/Bowling Green Hot Rods)

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Crawford, Diaz named Midwest League players of the week

Great Lakes Loons LHP Leo Crawford and Cedar Rapids Kernels first baseman Lewin Diaz respectively were named the Midwest League pitcher and offensive player of the week for the period of May 1-7.

In his only start last week, Crawford held the Burlington Bees to one hit and one walk in six scoreless innings. He struck out five batters. Overall this season, the Los Angeles Dodgers prospect is 1-2 with a 5.92 ERA, 14 strikeouts and eight walks in 24.1 innings (six games/five starts).

Diaz batted .400 (10-for-25) with two homers, five doubles, a triple, nine runs batted in, and four runs scored during his last six games. The Minnesota Twins prospect is batting .273 with 3 HR and 18 RBI in 29 games this season.

Minnesota Twins prospect Lewin Diaz is the Midwest League offensive player of the week. (Photo courtesy of the Cedar Rapids Kernels)

Diaz also is one of two Midwest League players named to the latest MLB Pipeline Prospect Team of the Week. The other is West Michigan Whitecaps RHP Bryan Garcia, who struck out seven in three perfect innings of relief this past week. He earned two saves.

Garcia is 1-2 with a 3.97 ERA, 21 strikeouts and four walks (three intentional) in 11.1 innings this season. He is 7-for-9 in save opportunities.

Speaking of the Whitecaps, it’s worth noting the Detroit Tigers farm team has the top two starting pitchers in the Midwest League as measured by earned run average. LHP Gregory Soto has a 0.00 ERA, having given up only one unearned run in 28 innings this season. LHP Austin Sodders has a 0.69 ERA, having given up only two earned runs in 26 innings.

Only one other qualifying Midwest League pitcher has a sub-1.00 ERA: Kane County Cougars RHP Jon Duplantier. The Arizona Diamondbacks prospect has given up three earned runs (and two unearned ones) in 31.1 innings, giving him a 0.86 ERA.

Kane County Cougars RHP Jon Duplantier (Photo by Rikk Carlson)

Posted in Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Great Lakes Loons, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Three Lugnuts and a Cougar earn monthly honors

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (left) greets Bradley Jones at the plate after the latter player homered in a Lansing Lugnuts game last month. (Photo by Tyler Marcotte)

Four Midwest League players, including three Lansing Lugnuts, recently earned monthly honors for April.

Minor League Baseball named Lugnuts infielder Bradley Jones its Midwest League Player of the Month for April. Here is what MiLB said about Jones in its press release:

Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays) first baseman Bradley Jones led the Midwest League in home runs (six), RBI (23) and total bases (58), while finishing second in average (.372), hits (32), slugging (.674) and OPS (1.089). He recorded 10 multi-hit games and separate hit streaks of seven and eight games in April. Jones, 21, was selected by Toronto in the 18th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the College of Charleston.

Through Sunday’s game, Jones is batting .343 with six home runs in 27 games this season. His 24 RBI are tied for most in the Midwest League.

Baseball America recently announced its all-prospect team for April. Three Midwest Leaguers made the cut: Lugnuts third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lugnuts shortstop Bo Bichette and Kane County Cougars outfielder Marcus Wilson.

Guerrero is batting .310 with 4 home runs, 16 RBI and 17 walks in 25 games this season. Here is what Baseball America said about him:

The second-youngest player to open the season on an Opening Day roster, the 18-year-old Guerrero also is one of the most promising. He has had no trouble acclimating to full-season ball after ranking as the No. 1 prospect in the rookie-level Appalachian League a year ago. Guerrero has nearly as many extra-base hits (nine) as strikeouts (11) in April.

Bichette leads the Midwest League with a .368 batting average, and his 22 runs scored are only two less than league leader Zack Short of the South Bend Cubs. He has three homers, 11 doubles, 13 walks and 18 RBI in 22 games this season.

Wilson ranks third in the Midwest League with a .362 batting average. He has five home runs, 14 walks and 20 RBI in 18 games this season. Baseball America noted that Wilson “flashed a bit of everything — power, speed, contact ability, patience — in April.”

MiLB attendance on rise

Minor League Baseball announced Monday that its teams attracted over 6 million fans through the end of April for a 5.3 percent increase compared to April of last year, despite 28 more rainouts this April (102) than last April (74).

The 11 full-season leagues and 136 clubs that began play in April averaged 3,986 fans a game. By comparison, in 2008, when Minor League Baseball set its all-time record for yearly attendance (43.2 million), MiLB averaged 3,850 fans per game in April.

Not surprisingly, the Dayton Dragons led the Midwest League in average attendance in April. The team drew an average of 7,624 fans to each game, with the largest crowd (8,141) on Sunday, April 30.

The Dragons have an active streak of home-game sellouts (1,187) that is the longest in professional sports history.

Posted in Appalachian League, Dayton Dragons, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Sierra singles, makes great play in MLB debut for Cards

St. Louis Cardinals rookie Magneuris Sierra played for the Peoria Chiefs in 2015 and 2016. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

A year ago, he was playing in the Midwest League. On Sunday, outfielder Magneuris Sierra made his major-league debut for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sierra batted seventh and started in centerfield, and because the game lasted 14 innings, he made seven plate appearances. He reached base twice, on a single to leftfield (his first MLB hit) in the 6th inning and on a fielding error in the 14th inning.

Known for his stellar defense even when he played in the Midwest League, Sierra also made a great running catch during the game. According to Statcast, he covered 79 feet in 4.4 seconds to snag an Emilio Bonifacio fly ball.

Sierra struggled in his first Midwest League stint, batting only .191 in 51 games with the Peoria Chiefs before finishing the 2015 season in the rookie-level Appalachian League. He was 19 years old that season.

He did much better the following year when he spent the entire 2016 season with the Chiefs. He batted .307 with three homers, four triples, 29 doubles, 60 runs batted in, and 31 stolen bases in 122 games. He was a Midwest League All-Star that year.

Sierra started this season in the High-A Florida State League, where he hit .272 in 20 games with the Palm Beach Cardinals.

Sierra was 21 years and 30 days old on the day of his MLB debut. The last 21-year-old position player to make his MLB debut for the Cardinals was Albert Pujols, who also played for the Peoria Chiefs.

Pujols batted .324 with 17 HR and 84 RBI in 109 games with the 2000 Chiefs, and was named the Midwest League MVP and co-Prospect of the Year.

Posted in 2016 All-Star Game, Appalachian League, Florida State League, Midwest League, Palm Beach Cardinals, Peoria Chiefs | Leave a comment