Legends On Deck

LOD’s 2018 Midwest League Preview

Our Midwest League coverage is back for 2018 and as always, we start things off with the annual season preview. Last year’s MWL campaign featured top prospects, dramatic games, and many memorable moments. 2018 looks as though it is poised to follow suit. All 16 teams will field some top prospects this year, so without further ado, let’s dive right in with our team previews!

Photo by Mathew Carper

Eastern Division:

Bowling Green Hot Rods – Tampa Bay Rays

Bowling Green, Kentucky

2017 Overall Record: 72-65 (3rd in Eastern Division)

The Hot Rods made the playoffs for the second straight year in 2017. Unfortunately for the Midwest League’s lone Kentucky club, they were also eliminated in the first round for the second straight year. The roster looks solid for the Hot Rods in 2018 as they are led by the Rays number three prospect, the two way Louisville product, Brendan McKay.

Rays Top Prospects on Roster: #3 Brendan McKay LHP/1B, #14 Austin Franklin RHP, #18 Tobias Myers RHP, #19 Vidal Brujan 2B, #20 Ronaldo Hernandez C, #23 Drew Strotman RHP, #28 Resly Linares LHP

Opening Night: 4/5 vs. Dayton

Dayton Dragons – Cincinnati Reds

Dayton, Ohio

2017 Record: 71-69 (4th in Eastern Division)

It was a 24 game swing for the Dragons in 2017 as they posted just 47 wins the year prior. The Dragons made it to the Midwest League semifinals last year, their first playoff appearance since 2011, before falling to Fort Wayne. There is a lot of excitement going on in Ohio as the Reds top pick in the 2017 draft, Hunter Greene, will start the season just 54 miles north of Cincinnati in Dayton.

Reds Top Prospects on Roster: #2 Hunter Greene RHP, #7 Jeter Downs SS, #11 Stuart Fairchild OF, #12 Jose Israel Garcia SS, #30 Miles Gordon OF

Opening Night: 4/5 @ Bowling Green

Fort Wayne TinCaps – San Diego Padres

Fort Wayne, Indiana

2017 Record: 68-72 (6th in Eastern Division)

The Padres have one of the top farm systems in the game and it was frequently showcased in Fort Wayne last year.  All signs point to another talented squad suiting up for the Friars Single-A club again in 2018. The roster is highlighted by number one overall LHP prospect and former number three overall draftee, MacKenzie Gore. The TinCaps made a run to the Midwest League Championship series in 2017 where they were swept by Quad Cities. With a young and talented roster like this, don’t be surprised if they secure a playoff spot in the first half of 2018.

Padres Top Prospects on Roster: #2 MacKenzie Gore LHP, #11 Gabriel Arias SS, #12 Esteury Ruiz 2B, #15 Tirso Ornelas OF, #19 Jeisson Rosario OF, #24 Luis Campusano C, #25 Mason Thompson RHP

Opening Night: 4/5 @ Lake County

Great Lakes Loons – Los Angeles Dodgers

Midland, Michigan

2017 Record: 69-70 (5th in Eastern Division)

The Great Lakes Loons took home the 2016 Midwest League Championship despite finishing with an overall record ten games under .500. The 2017 edition of the Loons finished just one game under .500 last year, but didn’t have the same luck as they missed the playoffs completely. Fans will see a lot of familiar faces in Midland this season as the Loons return quite a few players from last year’s squad.

Dodgers Top Prospects on Roster: #17 Starling Heredia OF, #27 Romer Cuadrado OF

Opening Night: 4/5 vs. Lansing

Lake County Captains – Cleveland Indians

Eastlake, Ohio

2017 Record: 54-85 (8th in Eastern Division)

Lake County finished with the worst record in the league last year despite being loaded with a lot of young Indians talent. They bring some top names to this club like highly touted third base prospect Nolan Jones. There are also some strong returners from last year’s squad like Todd Isaacs Jr.

Indians Top Prospects on Roster: #4 Nolan Jones 3B, #7 Will Benson OF, #18 Oscar Gonzalez, #24 Ernie Clement INF, #28 Elijah Morgan RHP

Opening Night: 4/5 vs Fort Wayne

Lansing Lugnuts – Toronto Blue Jays

Lansing, Michigan

2017 Record: 63-73 (7th in Eastern Division)

Arguably the most exciting team to watch in the 2017 Midwest League season, last year’s squad boasted names like Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, and J.B. Woodman just to name a few. Although those guys have moved on, the 2018 edition of the Lugnuts will feature five top prospects. It is also worth mentioning that Roger Clemens‘ son, Kacy, is on the roster. We all know how well former MLB player’s sons are doing in the Blue Jays organization.

Blue Jays Top Prospects on Roster: #13 Samad Taylor 2B, #18 Ryan Noda OF, #19 Kevin Smith SS, #23 Kevin Vicuna SS, #24 Maximo Castillo RHP

Opening Night: 4/5 @ Great Lakes

South Bend Cubs – Chicago Cubs

South Bend, Indiana

2017 Record: 75-64 (2nd in Eastern Division)

The South Bend Cubs failed to make the playoffs last year despite owning the second best overall record in the Eastern Division. They were one of the more consistent teams in 2017 and the Cubs return eight players from that squad. There are six of the Cubs top 30 prospects on this team and five of them are pitchers.

Cubs Top Prospects on Roster: #4 Jose Albertos RHP, #6 Brendon Little LHP, #10 Miguel Amaya C, #17 Erich Uelman RHP, #23 Javier Assad RHP, #28 Cory Abbott RHP

Opening Night: 4/5 @ West Michigan

West Michigan Whitecaps – Detroit Tigers

Comstock Park, Michigan

2017 Record: 91-45 (1st in Eastern Division)

The Whitecaps had the best record by 12 wins in 2017 despite starting the season with just three of the Tigers top 30 prospects. Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, they were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by Dayton. There will be 12 2017 Tigers draft picks on this year’s team and former first round pick Matt Manning is tabbed for West Michigan, but will start on the DL.

Tigers Top Prospects on Roster: #2 Matt Manning RHP, #21 Joey Morgan C, #22 Reynaldo Rivera OF

Opening Night: 4/5 vs. South Bend

Western Division:

Beloit Snappers – Oakland Athletics

Beloit, Wisconsin

2017 Record: 65-73 (5th in Western Division)

The 2018 Beloit Snappers have eight players returning from last year’s squad and 12 2017 draft picks on the roster. Highly touted outfield prospect Austin Beck, the A’s 2017 first round pick, highlights the Snappers opening day roster.

Athletics Top Prospects on Roster: #6 Austin Beck OF, #14 Nick Allen SS, #26 Wyatt Marks RHP

Opening Night: 4/5 vs. Wisconsin

Burlington Bees – Los Angeles Angels

Burlington, Iowa

2017 Record: 60-79 (7th in Western Division)

Fans in Burlington will get to see the 2017 10th overall draft pick, Jo Adell, take the field on opening day. They will boast perhaps the best outfield in the Midwest league this season as Adell will be joined by Brandon Marsh and Torii Hunter Jr. Four players from the 2017 squad return to the Bees.

Angels Top Prospects on Roster: #2 Jo Adell OF, #5 Brandon Marsh OF, #15 Leonardo Rivas INF

Opening Night: 4/5 vs. Peoria

Cedar Rapids Kernels – Minnesota Twins

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

2017 Record: 75-65 (2nd in Western Division)

The Kernels finished second overall in their division for the second year in a row. They were knocked out of the playoffs in last year’s semi-finals when they dropped the series 2-1 to the eventual MWL champs, Quad Cities. This year’s club will be one to watch as they are loaded with some of the organizations top prospects. Nine 2017 Kernels return to Cedar Rapids. It should be a good year for the Twins Single-A affiliate.

Twins Top Prospects on Roster: #1 Royce Lewis SS, #6 Alex Kirilloff OF, #9 Blayne Enlow RHP, #11 Akil Baddoo OF, #20 Andrew Bechtold 3B, #22 Tyler Watson LHP, #24 Ben Rortvedt C, #28 Jose Miranda 2B

Opening Night: 4/5 @ Quad Cities

Clinton LumberKings – Seattle Mariners

Clinton, Iowa

2017 Record: 64-73 (6th in Western Division)

The LumberKings may have a new manager in town, but the club will feature nine players that spent time in Clinton last year. The familiarity will be a key factor to the LumberKings 2018 success as the Opening Day Roster fields just three of the Mariners top 30 prospects with the highest ranked being number 23 on that list.

Mariners Top Prospects on Roster: #23 Joseph Rosa 2B, #25 Oliver Jaskie LHP, #29 Griefer Andrade OF

Opening Night: 4/5 @ Kane County

Kane County Cougars – Arizona Diamondbacks

Geneva, Illinois

2017 Record: 72-65 (3rd in Western Division)

Although 2017 saw an early playoff exit in Geneva, there was still a lot to get excited about. The Cougars had a very steady season and we got to witness players like Jon Duplantier and Anfernee Grier make a name for themselves. Former big leaguer Blake Lalli will lead the Cougars as manager in 2018.

Diamondbacks Top Prospects on Roster: #3 Jasrado Chisholm SS, #24 Brian Shaffer RHP, #28 Eudy Ramos 3B

Opening Night: 4/5 vs Clinton

Peoria Chiefs – St. Louis Cardinals

Peoria, Illinois

2017 Record: 69-70 (4th in Western Division)

It was an early exit for the Chiefs in the 2017 playoffs as Quad Cities knocked them out in the first round. There are seven players coming back from last year’s roster. One interesting note is that there are only two left-handed pitchers on the opening day roster.

Cardinals Top Prospects on Roster: #17 Jonathan Machado OF, #18 Dylan Carlson OF, #20 Alvaro Seijas RHP, #24 Johan Oviedo RHP, 

Opening Night: 4/5 @ Burlington

Quad Cities River Bandits – Houston Astros

Davenport, Iowa

2017 Record: 79-59 (1st in Western Division)

The Quad Cities River Bandits brought a championship to the city of Davenport, Iowa in 2017 and they have nine players returning from last year’s squad. An exciting aspect of the Bandits roster this year is that former University of Iowa power hitter, Jake Adams, will be returning to the state where he played his college ball. Adams and #3 prospect J.B Bukauskas are sure to be fan favorites as the Astros Single-A affiliate chases a repeat.

Astros Top Prospects on Roster: #3 J.B. Bukauskas RHP, #19 Cristian Javier RHP, #22 Jonathan Arauz SS, 

Opening Night: 4/5 vs. Cedar Rapids

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Milwaukee Brewers

Appleton, Wisconsin

2017 Record: 59-79 (8th in Western Division)

2017 was a rough year for baseball fans in Appleton, but every new season brings new hope. Seven Timber Rattlers return from last year’s squad. Promising 19 year old outfielder Tristen Lutz will be making his full season debut in Wisconsin. Lutz mashed Rookie ball pitching in 2017 and posted a .957 OPS.

Brewers Top Prospects on Roster: #9 Tristen Lutz OF, #21 KJ Harrison DH

Opening Night: 4/5 @ Beloit

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