Breaking Down the Midwest League Western Division Race
We have just about a month left in the Midwest League first half and while Lansing and Bowling Green have positioned themselves comfortably at the top of the Eastern division, all eight teams are within five games of first place in the West. With the first half’s top two clubs from each division clinching a playoff spot, a lot is on the line early in the season. Let’s take a look at how things have shaken out in the Western Division so far.
Quad Cities River Bandits (23-18, First Place)
The defending MWL champs have picked up right where they left off in 2017. Pitching has been the key so far for the Bandits as the staff has allowed the fewest runs and hits in the MWL while posting a league leading 1.31 WHIP. Quad Cities started off hot in May, but have since posted a losing record in their last 10. Patrick Mushinski, Peter Solomon, and Cristian Javier have led the staff so far this season as all three have an ERA under 2.50.
Clinton LumberKings (21-17, 0.5 GB)
Clinton is trending in the same direction as the division leaders as they have lost six of their last 10. However, they entered play on Sunday with a chance to move into a tie for the division lead. The LumberKings Jack Larsen has been hammering MWL pitching as the California native has slashed .317/.445/.579 with six homers, three triples, nine doubles, 28 RBI, and a team leading 28 walks.
Peoria Chiefs (21-18, 1 GB)
The division race has gotten much more interesting in May. With the top two teams trending downward or hovering around .500, these next two clubs have taken advantage and have closed the gap. Peoria kicked May off with a 3-5 start before bouncing back to win eight of their last 10 entering play on Sunday. The Chiefs had perhaps the best hitter so far in the 2018 MWL season in Juan Yepez who has since been promoted to High-A. Yepez was hitting .415 in 25 games prior to his promotion.
Kane County Cougars (20-18, 1.5 GB)
Kane County has also been on a tear winning seven of their last 10. The majority of the games they have left in the first half will be at home, but this may not be the best news for Arizona’s Single-A affiliate. The Cougars are 14-11 on the road and just 6-7 at home entering play on Sunday. Brian Shaffer has been lights out on the mound as the righty out of the University of Maryland is impressing in his first go at full season ball. He has struck out 48 and walked just 12 while posting a .241 average against and 1.22 WHIP.
Cedar Rapids Kernels (18-19, 3 GB)
The Kernels have gotten contributions from some of the Twins top prospects, but no one has had a better season at the plate than 2016 first round pick Alex Kirilloff. After missing all of 2017, the outfielder is slashing .319/.362/.582.
Beloit Snappers (17-20, 4 GB)
Xavier Altamirano has struck out 37 and walked just eight through 41.1 innings this season as the righty has solidified himself as the staff ace.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (19-23, 4.5 GB)
The Rattlers have quite a weapon in Joantgel Segovia. The Venezuelan outfielder has a .907 OPS and has terrorized opposing pitchers when he gets on base as he has swiped 11 bags. He is the league’s only player to do so while posting an OPS over .900.
Burlington Bees (17-22, 5 GB)
Despite being five games under .500, the Bees only find themselves five games out of first and 4.5 out of a playoff spot prior to first pitch Sunday. This club is full of big names, especially position player wise, and top Angels prospects Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, and Torii Hunter Jr. have been leading the Bees offense.
It has been a tight race through the first month and a half of the season and with some of the game’s top young names frequenting the nightly box scores, I anticipate a wild finish in the Midwest League’s Western Division. Here’s to playoff races in mid-May!
Featured Image Courtest of our Awesome Photgrapher, Mathew Carper.