MLB Top Prospects Preview: Midwest League Baseball
The Midwest League is always a hotbed for MLB top prospects. In 2014, international signings are all the rage. Unlike more advanced leagues, it’s an opportunity to uncover the next big prospect to shoot up top-100 lists this winter. The fact so many of this year’s top “gets” are from outside the United States adds to the mystery even more. Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa led a banner group of prospects in 2013. Will any of this year’s crop reach such lofty heights?
MLB Prospects Preview: Midwest League Hitters
Phillip Ervin, OF, Dayton Dragons (Reds)
Ervin had a highly productive 2013 debut (.331/.425/.564 in 200 plate appearances) at Billings and Dayton, so it was somewhat surprising for Cincinnati to give him such a conservative assignment. Ervin will be promoted quickly with a strong start and is poised to post huge numbers in the California League. MLB.com rates him highly with 60 grade hit and run tools. A productive Ervin who shows enough glove to stick in center field ranks among the most valuable outfield prospects in baseball.
D.J. Davis, CF, Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays)
A D.J. Davis scouting preview highlighted the outfielder as Toronto’s top position prospect. If able to cut down on the strikeouts and maximize his athleticism, the center fielder will surge up prospect lists. At present, Davis’ developing power and walk rate (10.1%) allows prospect followers to continue drooling over the high ceiling talent.
Jacob Scavuzzo, OF, Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers)
Scavuzzo’s inclusion is generous given his selection in the 21st round, but he hammered the Pioneer League in 2013 with a triple-slash line of .307/.350/.578 and 35 extra-base hits (including a league-leading 14 home runs). Can he carry the power to a full season league and improve on his 6.4-percent walk rate? If so, the 6-foot-4 Scavuzzo will quickly ascend MLB top prospects lists next winter.
Franchy Cordero, SS, Fort Wayne Tincaps (Padres)
Behind Rymer Liriano, Cordero is San Diego’s best international prospect. The Dominican shortstop is tall for the position at 6-foot-3, so he will need to preserve his athletic profile to avoid a move to third base. He flashed speed and power in a 35-game stint in the Arizona League last year with 11 stolen bases and .177 isolated power. Cordero will try to rebound from 11 strikeouts in his first 16 at bats to start the 2014 season.
Dawel Lugo, SS, Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays)
Lugo was expected to go to Vancouver, but his Single-A assignment was a welcome addition to the Lansing lineup. Plate discipline is priority number one as Lugo walked six times in 272 plate appearances between Bluefield and Vancouver. He possesses pop (24 of his 74 hits went for extra bases) and has an impressive collection of tools, according to Jays Journal.
Javier Betancourt, SS, West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers)
One of the youngest players in the Midwest League, Betancourt earned a full-season assignment with his bat. Since signing out of Venezuela in 2011, he has hit .333 in each of his professional seasons and only struck out at a 6.8-percent rate last year. In the field, he has an uphill battle to avoid a future move to second or third base. However, Bless You Boys thinks Betancourt could develop into an above average defender at the keystone.
MLB Top Prospects Preview: Midwest League Pitchers
Kohl Stewart, RHP, Ceder Rapids Kernels (Twins)
Minnesota’s 2013 1st-round pick is the cream of the Midwest League. He logged just 20-innings after signing, but his 10.8 K/9 and 0.85 WHIP were elite. Stewart is raw, but is a top athlete (former four-star quarterback recruit and Texas A&M football signee). He’s a four pitch guy with ace potential.
Edwin Diaz, RHP, Clinton LumberKings (Mariners)
At 6-foot-2 and 165-pounds, Diaz is thin and must prove durability is not an issue in full season baseball. A reliable third pitch is also on his task list. The Mariners selected the Puerto Rico native in the 3rd-round of the 2012 draft based on a mid-90s fastball and promising slider. Rick Randall of Seattle Clubhouse reported his change-up improved dramatically last year. In Diaz’s first start, he struck out five in 4 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs.
Alex Reyes, RHP, Peoria Chiefs (Cardinals)
Like Stewart and Diaz, Reyes has garnered prospect buzz for big stuff. He’ll spend 2014 in Peoria, working on a changeup to his fastball/curveball foundation. In 12 starts at Johnson City last year, Reyes registered a 10.49 K/9, allowing one home run. The Cardinals will limit his innings as Peoria using a six-man rotation in 2014.
Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP, Kane County Cougars (Cubs)
The Taiwanese right-hander first turned heads by dominating the 2012 Baseball 18U World Championships. In 21 1/3 innings, he allowed 12 singles with a 0.84 ERA and 0.66 WHIP. He’s been inconsistent since, but the Cubs gave him $1,625,000 anyway. Just 19, Tseng will spend 2014 at Kane County. Tseng’s international resume and the Cubs’ lack of pitching are reasons for him to hit the fast track.
- Aaron Blair, RHP, South Bend Silver Hawks (Diamondbacks)
- Austin Wilson, OF, Clinton LumberKings (Mariners)
- Bobby Wahl, RHP, Beloit Snappers (Athletics)
- Dylan Covey, RHP, Beloit Snappers (Athletics)
- Jonathon Crawford, RHP, West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers)
- Lansing starting pitchers Chase DeJong, Jairo Labourt, Tom Robson & Alberto Tirado (Blue Jays)
- Michael Feliz, RHP, Quad Cities River Bandits (Astros)
- Mitch Nay, 3B, Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays)
- Nick Travieso, RHP, Dayton Dragons (Reds)
- Paul Blackburn, RHP, Kane County Cougars (Cubs)
MLB Top Prospects: Late-Season “Gets”
This list will grow later in the season. Clint Frazier (Indians – currently unassigned due to a hamstring injury), Lewis Thorpe (Twins), Franklin Barreto (Blue Jays), Justin Williams (Diamondbacks), Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals), Nick Ciuffo (Rays), Riley Unroe (Rays) and others were considered strong possibilities to start the season in full-season ball. Most, if not all, of those MLB top prospects should finish the year in the Midwest League.
8 Apr 2014 / Bob Usselman /
Tags: MILB League Previews
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