2020 Midwest League Preview

Wander Franco, Bowling Green Hot Rods. Photo credit Rikk Carlson, @rikkcarl10 on Twitter

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). 

Brennen Davis, South Bend Cubs. Photo credit Rikk Carlson, @rikkcarl10

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.

Nolan Gorman, Peoria Chiefs. Photo credit Rikk Carlson, @rikkcarl10

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

Hitters: Kristian Robinson, Corbin Carroll, Wilderd Patino*, Tristin English 

Pitchers: Luis Frias, Blake Walston*, Drey Jameson, Ryne Nelson, Justin Martinez, Tommy Henry 

BELOIT SNAPPERS

Hitters: Logan Davidson*, Jordan Diaz*, Marcus Smith, Kyle McCann

Pitchers: Tyler Baum

BOWLING GREEN HOT RODS

Hitters: Greg Jones, Nick Schnell*

Pitchers: JJ Goss, Seth Johnson, Taj Bradley, John Doxakis

BURLINGTON BEES 

Hitters: Jeremiah Jackson, D’Shawn Knowles*, Trent Deveaux

Pitchers: Jack Kochanowicz, William Holmes, Garrett Stallings 

CEDAR RAPIDS KERNELS

Hitters: Keoni Cavaco*, Wander Javier*, Matt Wallner*, Will Holland

CLINTON LUMBERKINGS

Hitters: Victor Mesa Jr.*, Nasim Nunez*, Will Banfield 

Pitchers: Evan Fitterer

DAYTON DRAGONS 

Hitters: Tyler Callihan, Rece Hinds, Ivan Johnson

Pitchers: Hunter Greene, Noah Davis*, Miguel Medrano*, Jacob Heatherly

FORT WAYNE TIN CAPS

Hitters: CJ Abrams, Hudson Head*, Joshua Mears

GREAT LAKES LOONS

Hitters: Diego Cartaya, Michael Busch*, Andy Pages*, Alex De Jesus

LAKE COUNTY CAPTAINS 

Hitters: George Valera, Brayan Rocchio, Aaron Bracho

Pitchers: Daniel Espino*, Carlos Vargas, Lenny Torres 

LANSING LUGNUTS

Hitters: Orelvis Martinez, Miguel Hiraldo, Leonardo Jimenez, Dasan Brown

Pitchers: Alek Manoah, Adam Kloffenstein, Alek Manoah, Kendall Williams 

PEORIA CHIEFS

Hitters: Jhon Torres*, Malcom Nunez, Trejyn Fletcher, Mateo Gil

QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS 

Hitters: Korey Lee, Colin Barber, Jordan Brewer, Luis Santana

Pitchers: Hunter Brown

SOUTH BEND Cubs

Hitters: Cole Roederer, Chase Strumpf*, Pedro Martinez 

Pitchers: Kohl Franklin, Ryan Jensen, Chris Clarke, Michael McAvene, Richard Gallardo

WEST MICHIGAN WHITECAPS

Hitters: Riley Greene*, Nick Quintana

WISCONSIN TIMBER RATTLERS

Hitters: Carlos Rodriguez*, Joe Gray, Nick Kahle

Pitchers: Antoine Kelly

 




About James Weisser 16 Articles
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.

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