Who were the best players in the Midwest League this year? I posed that question to some of the circuit’s broadcasters late in the season, with an important qualifier: I wanted them to mostly base their selections on what they saw with their own eyes and not on reputations.
Because the Midwest League is comprised of two divisions, with an unbalanced schedule, a certain amount of sample-size bias was inevitable. I felt that was preferable to having the broadcasters put much too weight on second-hand information. Their expertise is what I was after.
I asked each of the participants for a list of seven players, ranked in order, plus any honorable mentions they cared to include. Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. are partially responsible for the list size. I originally planned on five, but as Lansing’s dynamic duo dominated my initial inquiries, I decided to bump up the number two notches.
Seven broadcasters participated, five from the Eastern Division and two from the Western Division. A pair of them, Alex Cohen and Chris Vosters, augmented their lists with snapshot scouting reports.
Alex Cohen, Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays)
1. Bo Bichette (Lansing Lugnuts, Blue Jays): Not sure what position he’ll play in the long run, and Vlad Jr. may have a better/longer career, but he was by far the best player in the league this year and it’s not really even close.
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Lansing Lugnuts, Blue Jays): Pure, effortless swing. Such a high-ceiling, little-risk hitter at age 18.
3. Fernando Tatis, Jr, (Fort Wayne TinCaps, Padres): We saw him early and he struggled. Then we saw him later and was a man amongst boys. From afar, he has five true tools. The arm and range at shortstop is real, and the power and speed is just as advertised. Hope he doesn’t strike out as much at age 21 as he’s done at age 18, but he was awfully impressive.
4. Jose Siri (Dayton Dragons, Reds): Spark plug in every sense of the word. Can hit, run, throw and will let you know about it.
5. Taylor Trammell (Dayton Dragons, Reds): Seemed to be getting better and better as season has gone on. Uber athletic with impressive discipline and knowledge of strike zone. Can really run, and power developing.
6. Jesus Sanchez (Bowling Green Hot Rods, Rays): If they actually considered both halves when talking about postseason awards, he may be Midwest League MVP. Has opportunity to lead two-thirds of categories in triple crown (BA, RBI).
7. Monte Harrison (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Brewers): A mix between Trammell and Siri but with a little more raw power. Only saw him for three games, but wanted to put a Western Division guy on this list and he was the one who stuck out.
Chris Vosters, Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers)
Note: Vosters interpreted my question as “Players besides Bichette and Guerrero, Jr.,” hence their non-inclusion on his list.
1. Fernando Tatis, Jr. (Fort Wayne TinCaps, Padres): Power to all fields… was hitting over .290 by the time of his late-August call-up to Double-A at age 18… also led the league in walks by a significant margin… a play I’ll remember for awhile is the first-inning, lead-off home run he hit 402 feet to right-center field off Dustin May.
2. Jose Siri (Dayton Dragons, Reds): Flamboyant player whose panache rubbed a lot of teams the wrong way (see a June brawl against West Michigan)… a tad on the old side for the league now (22)… 20/40 player in the league this year, only the third hitter in Midwest League history to do that… had a 39-game hit streak, a Midwest League record.
3. Taylor Trammell (Dayton Dragons, Reds): Only 19… athletic build… really impressive… only average defensively, but a guy I think could really explode next year… 10/30 guy this year with a shot at 150 hits this season… played almost every day.
4. Dylan Cease (South Bend Cubs, Cubs/White Sox): No-hit the Loons over six innings in April… Cubs were really light on him… he never faced a lineup three times before he was traded… still sat high 90s with his fastball and a very effective curveball… our guys said he was so tough because he mixed his pitches very well.
5. Jon Duplantier (Kane County Cougars, Diamondbacks): Only saw him once in May, and would love to have seen more… sat 92-93 with his fastball, but it was a bowling ball with outstanding two-seam action… threw six innings against the Loons and allowed an unearned run on five hits, no walks, and six strikeouts (did hit a batter).
6. Lewin Diaz (Cedar Rapids Kernels, Twins): Hit for power and a pretty decent average (just under .280 in late July, now over .290)… it was a pitcher’s league this year… huge dude… I’ll remember the 400-plus homer he hit to right-center field in the All-Star Game at Dow Diamond for awhile.
7. Anthony Castro (West Michigan Whitecaps, Tigers): Dominated the Loons in four starts this year: 3-1, 1.88 over 24 innings (5 ER, 6 BB, 19 H, 26 K)… great fastball-slider combo.
Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays)
1. Vlad Guerrero, Jr., 2. Bo Bichette, 3. Dylan Cease, 4. Fernando Tatis, Jr., 5. Jon Duplantier, 6. Daz Cameron, 7. Jose Siri.
Andrew Luftglass, Lake County Captains (Indians)
1. Bo Bichette, 2. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3. Fernando Tatis, Jr., 4. Michel Baez, 5. Isaac Paredes, 6. Jose Siri, 7. Jesus Sanchez.
Yordan Alvarez, Pedro Avila, Michel Baez, Clark Beeker, Conner Capel, Dylan Cease, Jon Duplantier, Tommy Eveld, Jason Foley (2), Lucius Fox (2), Kyle Funkhouser, Griffin Jax, Joshua Lowe, Adrian Morejon, Edward Olivares, Isaac Parades, Jesus Sanchez, Jose Siri, Forrest Whitley.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.