2019 was an incredible season for the Midwest League as it was a home to the #1 prospect in the minors, Wander Franco. The beauty of the Class A Midwest League is that it is the first full season league for many players and it’s been a home to many of baseball’s biggest stars such as Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Clayton Kershaw, Francisco Lindor, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to name a few.
Last year’s Midwest League Champions were the South Bend Cubs whose top prospects were Brailyn Marquez and Brennen Davis. For 2020 a few teams that look to be stacked with prospects that have a good chance of winning the Midwest League are: Kane County (Diamondbacks), Lake County (Indians), Fort Wayne (Padres), Dayton (Reds), and Lansing (Blue Jays).
Although we’re not exactly sure when the season will start due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we are all highly anticipating the season starting at some point. The hardest part about this season besides dealing with COVID-19 is minor league contraction. According to the contraction plan that’s been laid out, there are 3 teams that would no longer exist after this season – the Burlington Bees (Angels), Clinton Lumberkings (Marlins), and Quad Cities River Bandits (Astros). These teams would all be missed, by the families that take their kids to the ballpark to learn the game as well as all the fans that have been a staple at these ballparks for years and for some, decades. This season will hopefully start sooner than later as many people, players, coaches, and ballpark workers, as well as all those involved with this great game and league, look forward to another season of baseball. Below are some players that I’m hoping to see play and provide prospect reports of once the season officially begins.
Must See Midwest League Prospects
CJ Abrams, SS, Fort Wayne
CJ Abrams had an outstanding pro debut making it from the Arizona League to the Midwest League a rare feat for most players that get drafted out of high school. Abrams was named the Top Prospect in the AZL by Baseball America after hitting .401 and slugging .662, outstanding numbers for a player whose top tool is his 80 grade speed. He is the San Diego Padres top hitting prospect and currently ranks as the 16th best prospect on our site.
Kristian Robinson, OF, Kane County
Kristian Robinson was another player that got an early taste of the Midwest League and impressed with his power hitting. Kristian is more than just a power hitter as he has plus speed which he’s able to use on the bases as well as in center field to go along with a strong arm that helps to make him a plus defensive outfielder. Scouts last year were already making Ronald Acuna Jr. comps and he’s the Arizona Diamondbacks #1 Prospect, he currently ranks as the 26th best prospect on our site.
Riley Greene, OF, West Michigan
Greene was considered to be the best pure hitter out of high school in the 2019 MLB Draft and he worked his way from the Gulf Coast League to the Midwest League (once again an incredibly rare accomplishment for players that played in high school that same season). In his first Spring Training Riley Greene continued to impress hitting HR’s early on. He is the Detroit Tigers top hitting prospect and currently ranks as the 42nd best prospect on our site.
Corbin Carroll, OF, Kane County
Corbin Carroll was considered a potential Top 10 overall pick for the 2019 MLB Draft but fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks at 16. He already looks like a steal after posting a slash line of .299/.409/.487 with 18 stolen bases in 42 games between the Arizona League and Northwest League. He is already a Top 100 Prospect on most websites and is currently ranked as the 48th best prospect on our site.
Hunter Greene, RHP, Dayton
Greene was the top pitcher taken in the 2017 MLB Draft and the only player in the Midwest League that has played in a Futures Game. He still has plenty of talent and upside but had mixed results in his first taste of the Midwest League in 2018 and missed all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery so the Reds might decide to have him start back in the Midwest League. He was touching 100+ MPH with his fastball prior to Tommy John and is still considered a Top 100 Prospect by most websites, he currently ranks 67th on our site.
George Valera, OF, Lake County
Valera is a left-handed power hitting outfielder that has a chance to rank amongst the very best prospects in the Midwest League, he too got a taste of the Midwest League in 2019. Ben Badler of Baseball America likened him to Juan Soto as an international player coming up, if Valera can show the ability to hit for average he should be a Top 100 Prospect by the end of the season. He currently ranks as the 70th best prospect on our site.
Orelvis Martinez, SS, Lansing
Orelvis Martinez was the second highest paid International signing in 2018 out of the Dominican Republic. He has earned early comps to Adrian Beltre. In his stateside debut he impressed while being named the #1 Prospect in the Gulf Coast League by Baseball America. He has a chance to become a Top 100 Prospect by most websites by the end of the season and is ranked as the 99th best prospect on our site.
Brayan Rocchio, SS, Lake County
Rocchio is an impressive young player, he looks super athletic, has the ability to switch hit, has plus speed, and even displays some power. If Rocchio can continue to impress over the course of a full season he has a chance to become a Top 100 Prospect on most websites. He’s currently ranked just outside our sites Top 100 Prospects.
Daniel Espino, RHP, Lake County
Espino was my favorite prep pitcher in the 2019 MLB Draft Class and during his short season pro debut he showed why he was considered one of the best prep pitchers in last year’s draft class. Espino usually sits in the mid to upper 90’s (94-97) and has a chance to have 4 above average pitches with his best secondary pitch being his slider. He currently ranks just outside most websites Top 100 and has a chance to finish within the Top 100 by the end of the season.
Greg Jones, SS, Bowling Green
Greg Jones is a very exciting prospect thanks to his ability to switch hit combined with his double plus speed which might make him the best baserunner in the Midwest League. He can flat out fly and he’s also a pretty solid fielder thanks to his speed. He showed he’s a solid hitter having hit .335 with a .413 OBP. He has a great chance to make it onto the top 100 by the end of the season.
Hudson Head, OF, Fort Wayne
Hudson was considered a pop-up prospect as he wasn’t a guy with a long track record against elite competition when he got drafted in the 3rd round by the San Diego Padres, but he hit .615 as a high school senior and showed 5 tool ability with a sweet projectable swing from the left side. He impressed in his time as a pro in the Arizona League and has a chance to be a top 100 prospect at some point if he can continue to improve and have success like he has thus far.
Alek Manoah, RHP, Lansing
Manoah is a straight up power pitcher that has a heavy fastball that sits in the mid 90s (94-97) to go along with a slider that has the potential to be a plus or better pitch in time. He also has shown a changeup that looks to be a solid third offering which would allow him to be a starting pitcher long term although he will need to improve his command and delivery. Manoah was the 2nd College Pitcher taken in the 2019 Draft and he has a decent chance to crack the top 100 at the end of the season.
Jeremiah Jackson, SS, Burlington
Jackson might be the best power hitting shortstop in the Midwest League this year and he has a chance to be one of the top power hitters in a league stacked with power hitters as he tied the Pioneer League record for home runs in 2019 with 23. If he can continue to hit for a decent average without sacrificing power and improve defensively, he has a chance to be a Top 100 Prospect by the end of the season.
80+ Potential Midwest League prospect names to watch for
These names are of players that have a chance to play in the Midwest League this season. At the writing of this article there was uncertainty as to when the season might start due to the Coronavirus. The good news for players that might have missed the list is I will be mentioning which players have been making a name for themselves throughout the season in my articles as well as on Twitter @JWeisser88 where I will be mentioning daily top performances. This list below covers some of the top prospects that have a chance to make it onto a Midwest League roster and rank in MLB Pipeline’s Team Top 25’s or were a Short Season League’s Top 10 Prospect according to Baseball America. * Indicates either a League or Team Top 10 Prospect. Bold indicates either they were both or a Top 100 Prospect.
KANE COUNTY COUGARS
Pitchers: Tyler Baum
BOWLING GREEN HOT RODS
Hitters: Greg Jones, Nick Schnell*
CEDAR RAPIDS KERNELS
Pitchers: Evan Fitterer
FORT WAYNE TIN CAPS
Hitters: CJ Abrams, Hudson Head*, Joshua Mears
GREAT LAKES LOONS
LAKE COUNTY CAPTAINS
Hitters: George Valera, Brayan Rocchio, Aaron Bracho
QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS
Pitchers: Hunter Brown
SOUTH BEND Cubs
WEST MICHIGAN WHITECAPS
Hitters: Riley Greene*, Nick Quintana
WISCONSIN TIMBER RATTLERS
Pitchers: Antoine Kelly*
James Weisser has been following prospects since 2003, when the Florida Marlins won the world series with players like Josh Beckett, Miguel Cabrera, and Dontrelle Willis. He has seen MVP's, Cy Young Winners, and All-Stars before they ever played in the majors, and is an avid college baseball fan who enjoys watching the SEC and ACC in the spring when often times the cold, wet weather of the Midwest allows him to follow some of the top players in both conferences. He also enjoys following/covering the Midwest League which is often players first full-season level. He also watches some of the top amateur talent that comes through Chicago and the Midwest like the Under Armour All-America game at Wrigley Field which features some of the top incoming seniors for the following year as well as the 17U Team USA which features some of the top juniors in the country. He currently resides in McHenry, Illinois which is located within an hour from the Beloit Snappers and Kane County Cougars which allows him to see 4 or more organizations Low A teams in a week at times. A White Sox fan growing up one of his favorite moments was watching them win the World Series in 2005. A few of his all-time favorite players to watch are Frank Thomas, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard, Clayton Kershaw, Barry Bonds, Mike Trout, and Ken Griffey Jr.