Lugnuts Lineup Powered by Top Prospects
The Lansing Lugnuts are one of two teams in the entire Midwest League that have three qualified hitters in their lineup batting over .300. The Lugnuts are the second highest scoring team in the MWL, at the time this article was written, trailing Quad Cities by just one run. The dominant offense in Michigan’s capital is led by a three headed monster consisting of a couple of teenagers and one college product. Although the Lugnuts currently sit 5.5 games out of first place in the extremely competitive eastern division, the offense is capable of leading this team to a first half division crown.
Bo Bichette, son of former long time major leaguer Dante Bichette, has taken the MWL by storm and currently leads the league with an eye popping batting average of .358. The rest of his slash line is equally impressive as Bichette boasts a .440 on base percentage, good enough for third in the league, and a .569 slugging percentage which puts him in a tie for second. Bichette is a highly touted 19 year old shortstop that was taken in the second round of last year’s draft. Praised by scouts for his bat, he does appear to have the defensive ability to stay at shortstop for the long run, but there are some that believe his glove will translate better at second base in the majors. One thing is for sure, regardless of where you play this guy in the field, he is going to continue to rake. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him earn a promotion before season’s end.
Bichette isn’t the only prodigy making a name for himself with the 2017 Lugnuts. Vladimir Guerrero Jr, son of the aptly named former MVP Vladimir Guerrero, entered his first year of full season ball as the Toronto Blue Jays number one prospect and he is certainly living up to the honor. Among the MWL players that have participated in at least thirty games this season, Guerrero ranks in the top 10 in average (.311), on base percentage (.415), and slugging percentage (.492) while hitting 4 home runs with 21 runs batted in. The most impressive offensive stat that belongs to Guerrero is more about his plate discipline than his obvious raw power. Typically when you have a guy that can mash like Guerrero, you have a lot of strikeouts and a low walk rate to come with it. That is not the case with Vlad Jr as he not only has a minuscule strikeout rate of 12.9%, he actually walks more than he strikes out. With a walk rate of 13.6%, the 18 year old is proving that power and plate discipline can be a package deal. Currently playing third base, Guerrero’s arm strength has many people wondering if he may move back to the outfield as he continues to progress.
There is one more guy making a huge impact at the plate for Lansing. He wasn’t ranked as a top prospect, he wasn’t an early round draft pick, he didn’t play at a college powerhouse program, but Bradley Jones is proving there is more than one path to success in professional baseball. Toronto’s 18th round draft pick in 2016 played collegiately at the College of Charleston and has burst on to the scene so far this season. Jones has been an extra base hit machine this year with an isolated power mark of .243 which is good enough for fifth in the MWL. The soon to be 22 year old infielder has been in the news mainly for his clutch hits in crunch time as he continues to be the bat the Lugnuts look to in high leverage situations. He is currently tied for third in home runs with 7 and ranks second in runs batted in with 29. Jones is slashing .316/.382/.559 this year while moving all around the infield defensively, splitting time at first, second, and third base.
Generally hitting in the heart of the order, Bichette, Guerrero, and Jones have helped to make the Lansing lineup the most feared in the MWL. They, along with fellow Lugnut Jake Thomas, all rank in the top seven in wRC+ this season. Just for a little bit of perspective, there is one club that has four teammates ranked in the top 20 in wRC+, Quad Cities, outside of that, no club has three in the top 20.
The Lugnuts currently sit at 21-17 and they are in the middle of a four game road series with the South Bend Cubs. They have taken the first two games of the series and the offense looks to keep the production going tonight at 7:05 against South Bend starter, Tyson Miller. With the end of the first half approaching quickly, the offense that averages 5.5 runs a game is looking to put the squad in contention down the stretch.
Featured Image Courtesy of Mathew Carper/Legends on Deck