On hiatus until further notice

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I was really looking forward to updating this blog frequently as the Midwest League season got under way.

And then things changed in an instant Thursday morning.

I lost a good friend.

Rest in peace, Nick. You made it back to the big leagues and you showed the world your best stuff. Those who didn’t know you will never know what they missed out on.

Some day, and possibly soon, I’ll pick up where I left off with this project. Until then, take a moment to enjoy your life and those around you.

Prospects fill Wisconsin roster

 

brandCAKEQZED.gifAnd I thought Great Lakes had a solid initial roster. Then I came across Wisconsin’s release.

The T-Rats, in their first year as a Milwaukee affiliate, will be as stacked as native Wisconsinite Phil Helmuth’s poker chips. The Wisconsin roster features first-rounder Brett Lawrie, who will make his professional debut after playing with Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

Outfielder Cutter Dykstra, the son of former world champion Lenny “Nails” Dykstra, was a second round pick.

The release also points out that the pitching staff will feature eight hurlers taken in the first 12 rounds of the MLB Draft, including 2008 Supplemental first-rounder LHP Evan Frederickson and 2008 second round choice RHP Cody Adams.

That’s an embarrassment of riches. Whether or not it translates into wins for former Lumberking hurler and T-Rats skipper Jeff Isom remains to be seen but talent goes a long way toward locking up a playoff spot in this league.

 

A Kernel of hope in CR: Experience

kernels.jpgJeff Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Gazette has an article in today’s paper highlighting the 2009 Kernels roster which features plenty of experience but appears short on prospects.

The biggest surprise is catcher Anel De Los Santos, a former member of the Angels’ Top 10 prospect list (2008) who spent time with the Kernels last year before being promoted to Double-A Arkansas where he was promptly inured.

Among newcomers, LHP Will Smith ranks the highest on BA’s current Top 30 list for the Halos. The Tom Kotchman signee was a seventh round draft pick last summer and went 8-2 with a 3.08 ERA for perennial Pioneer League power Orem in 2008.

As Jeff points out, the roster is missing a pair of big names in Roberto Lopez and Luis Jimenez. Lopez led the Pioneer Leauge in hitting and RBI but didn’t check in on the Top 30 prospect list, likely due to his age which skewed his Rookie League numbers. Jiminez, the Angels’ No. 26, was expected to play third for the Kernels this summer but a labrum injury derailed his 2009 campaign.

Bees look to pick up right where they left off

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As expected, Burlington will benefit from the services of Royals’ first-rounder Eric Hosmer at first base. What wasn’t expected was the number of former Bees players making a return engagement at Community Field this year.

Burlington’s Opening Day roster includes 12 players with prior MWL experience, including familiar names like Luis Cota and Nick Van Stratten who helped play a role in the team winning the 2008 league crown. Cota, the Royals minor league pitcher of the year in 2005, is a former top prospect attempting to work his way back into the picture with Kansas City.

Now, back to Hosmer. He’ll look to avoid the slow start that Mike Moustakas got off to last year in Burlington. Hosmer ranks No. 2 on BA’s Royals Top 10 prospect list, right behind Moustakas.

The rest of the Bees’ roster remains something of a mystery. At some point I suppose they’ll update their website, but as of right now it hasn’t happened.

Talk about your Loon-y rosters

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Great Lakes enters its third season of existence with arguably its best collection of talent. That’s not saying much since the Dodgers haven’t been too concerned about fielding a winning club in Midland. Sure, players like Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Santana, and Andrew Lambo have taken the field at Dow Diamond, but for the most part those big-time prospects have been few and far between.

This year’s Great Lakes roster features a bunch of college vets and guys who have plenty of professional experience under their belts and it appears to be stocked with lots of talent if you trust Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook (and why wouldn’t you?).

The Loons will feature 3 of the Dodgers’ Top 10 prospects and 9 of the Top 30, including three players with significant High-A playing experience. You don’t often see that many entries on a Top 30 list taking a step back.

  • No. 3 Ethan Martin, RHP
  • No. 7 Devaris Gordon, SS
  • No. 10 Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
  • No. 11 Austin Gallagher, 3B
  • No. 17 Kyle Russell, OF
  • No. 18 Jon Michael Redding, RHP
  • No. 19 Tony Delmonico, C/2B
  • No. 25 Javy Guerra, RHP
  • No. 30 Jordan Pratt, RHP

Martin was BA’s 2008 High School Player of the Year and will be making his professional debut later this week. He’s recovering from a meniscus tear in his right knee suffered during a post-draft minicamp.

Gordon is the son of longtime big leaguer and 1988 Midwest League All-Star Tom “Flash” Gordon (1988 Appleton Foxes) and was a fourth round pick of LA last summer.

Eovaldi continues to recover from the Tommy John surgery he had in the spring of 2007. He appears to be a hard thrower but pitched in just seven games last year between the Gulf Coast League and Ogden.

Among those outuside the Top 10, Gallagher’s name stands out as a bit of an oddity. The 2007 third-rounder batted .284 at Ogden in ’07 and hit .293 at High-A Inland Empire after vaulting the MWL last year. It sounds like the Dodgers are still waiting fo rthe 6-5 Gallagher to grow into his body and BA mentions he needs to work on his defense, so perhaps that explains his assignment.

Guerra, a 2004 fourth rounder, has spent the last two years pitching in the Cal League for the 66’ers. Another Tommy John survivor (2005), BA predicted Guerra would open the season in Double-A.

Pratt, who has been in LA’s system since being drafted in the fifth round of 2003, appears to have control issues. He’s spent the past two years at Inland Empire and in 2008 he ranked third in the Cal League in walks with 67 in just 69 innings pitched. Throw in 21 wild pitches and this assignment begins to make a bit more sense. Still, Pratt has 383 career punchouts in 368 innings so you can see why the Dodgers are giving him every opportunity to put things together.

It sure looks like Great Lakes pitching coach Danny Darwin will have plenty of talented arms to work with and mold this season. It also sounds like he might have his hands full at times.

Bandits’ roster filled with familiar faces

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Yeah, Rascal will be back as well, but his return was never in doubt.

This is one of my favorite weeks as it’s usually around this time word starts leaking out about what some of the rosters around the MWL are going to look like.

No one covers the circuit better than the Quad City Times’ Steve Batterson and here’s a story he wrote yesterday about some of the familiar names that will be returning to John O’Donnell Stadium, er, Modern Woodmen Park.

The most intriguing name on the list is Niko Vasquez, a Dominican shortstop that checks in at No. 18 on the Cards’ Top 30 according to Baseball America. Vasquez was a third round pick last year who signed for $423,000 and split time between Johnson City and the River Bandits. According to his writeup in BA’s Prospect Handbook, Vasquez should have a decent glove at short but his bat seems to be a bit of a question mark at this point in his young career.

An organization that gets it

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Among the many reasons to love the Burlington Bees – Dollar Mondays, Dancing Bobby, Macho Nachos, Old Style in cans – you can add this to the list:

According to this brief in the Burlington Hawk Eye, the Bees have frozen their prices across the board heading into the 2009 season.

Said Bees’ GM Chuck Brockett:

“I think we do a good job of providing good entertainment at an
affordable price. With the
state of the economy, it is important to keep the cost down as much as
possible”

That’s sound logic right there. Other clubs around the MWL (and the country) would do well to remember it.