This is the Prospects Live All Stars series, where we settled on All Stars from all 17 professional leagues, giving credit where it was due. To be eligible for a list, a player must have played the majority of his season in said league and not exceeded 60 IP/300 PA in the majors. Players are listed under the position they played the most and stats shown pertain only to the listed league.
The Midwest League was absolutely loaded with talent in 2019, and this list just scratches the surface. It was a pitching heavy league, per usual, in 2019, but some rough (cold!) weather early on made things that much more difficult for the hitters. Anyways, here’s your Midwest League team of the Year for 2019. -Matt Thompson
C – Gabriel Moreno (TOR)
.280/.337/.485, 12 HR, 7 SB, .205 ISO, 11.1 K%, 6.5 BB%
Don’t sleep on Moreno! An under the radar J2 signing out of Venezula in 2016, all he’s done since he entered pro ball is hit. The swing is loose and athletic with plus bat speed that makes up for his long bat path. It’s very similar to Bo Bichette mechanically, and he even ditches his leg kick for a more controlled toe-tap like Bo does with two strikes. The plate skills are really strong, and the power is emerging. He’s an above average athlete and while the defense remains a work in progress, the future is bright. Moreno had a strong offensive season despite being young for level and the Midwest League being a traditionally pitching heavy league. Buy!
1B – Evan Edwards (MIA)
.285/.361/.441, 8 HR, 3 SB, .156 ISO, 25.7 K%, 9.7 BB%
The Marlins 2019 draft provided some early returns, and the fourth rounder out of North Carolina State raked after getting promoted to Clinton on June 20 and did enough damage to earn a spot on this squad. A senior sign, Edwards is physically maxed out, but is shorter than your typical first baseman. He makes up for his lack of physicality with a patient, line drive oriented plan of attack.
2B – Xavier Edwards (SD)
.336/.392/.414, 1 HR, 20 SB, .078 ISO, 10.2 K%, 8.7 BB%
The switch-hitting Edwards would’ve won the Midwest League batting crown but a midseason promotion to the Cal League prevented him from qualifying. You know the drill with Edwards. He’s a plus runner that lacks present in game power, but he’s built his offensive game around his elite speed. He’s a quick twitch athlete with tremendous feel for the strike zone, and seldom strikes out. He’s a future up the middle athlete that profiles at the top of the order.
3B – Miguel Vargas (LAD)
.325/.399/.464, 5 HR, 9 SB, .139 ISO, 13.3 K%, 10.8 BB%
Vargas burst on the scene in 2018 with strong rookie ball campaign that put the 2017 Cuban signee on the prospect map. The plate skills are strong, so is his ability to put the barrel on the ball. The power numbers don’t pop, but Vargas has a natural inside out swing and most of his power is to right-centerfield, and in a tough offensive environment hitters of this profile won’t traditionally show big power numbers. I think there’s 20-25 homer pop here, and that with plus plate skills is enough to survive a probable move to first base.
SS – Wander Franco (TB)
.318/.390/.506, 6 HR, 14 SB, .189 ISO, 7.4 K%, 11 BB%
What else needs to be said here? Franco is an absolute monster, and has posted a wRC+ no worse than 155 at any level in his professional career. The plate skills are the best in the minors, and he did this while being the youngest offensive player in the league. He would’ve been the easy choice for MVP of the league if he was here longer, but he’s the number one prospect in baseball and it’s not particularly close.
OF – Alek Thomas (ARI)
.312/.393/.479, 8 HR, 11 SB, .167 ISO, 17.9 K%, 10.7 BB%
Alek Thomas is my pick for the MVP of the Midwest League in 2019. Thomas contributes in all facets. His 153 wRC+ is easily the top number in the league, and he’s an above average defender as well as a positive baserunner. The hit tool is the most impressive tool in the box though, as he hits line drives to all fields. His over the fence power is to the pull-side, but eventually some of those deep flies to left-center will leave the yard. He does need to lift the ball more to fully maximize the power potential, but I think we could have a future .300 15-homer, 20 steal type on our hands. He’s stronger than he looks which should surprise no one as the son of the White Sox strength coach.
OF – Peyton Burdick (MIA)
.307/.408/.542, 10 HR, 6 SB, .235 ISO, 23.3 K%, 11.1 BB%
Burdick was the most impressive of the Marlins’ 2019 picks, as the third rounder out of Wright State obliterated Midwest League pitching after entering the league in June. Power and exit velocity are the loud tools here for Burdick. I’d put a 70 grade on the power, and he was near the top of the Cape exit velo lists when he was there in 2018. He’s more athletic than people give him credit for, and I’d say he’s a 50 runner right now, with strong baserunning instincts. He moves well enough to occupy a corner outfield in spacious Marlins Park, and the bat will certainly play. Burdick is a nice late flier in FYPD’s this winter.
OF – Will Benson (CLE)
.272/.371/.604, 18 HR, 18 SB, .332 ISO, 30.1 K%, 14.3 BB%
Is there a more polarizing prospect than Will Benson? Despite his contact issues and the fact that he was repeating the league, you still can’t ignore the numbers. Believing them and acknowledging them are two different things however, and I’m skeptical of the contact rate playing as he climbs the minor league ladder. He’s got easy 70-grade raw thump, with a top of the scale arm and average wheels. His severe contact issues will be an obstacle to the power reaching its potential, but he absolutely has a future in the big leagues due to the tools alone. Someone will always believe they have the key to unlock his immense potential.
SP – Joey Cantillo (SD)
98 IP, 1.93 ERA, 2.15 FIP, 34.7 K%, 7.3 BB%, .171 BAA
Prior to this year Cantillo sat 89-91 with the heater, but he’s unlocked some velocity and some reports have him sitting a few ticks higher than that now. This is an extremely important development for any pitcher, but more so for Cantillo because what he traditionally lacked in velocity he was making up with elite command. The added velocity pushes him from back-end innings eater to potential mid rotation arm with his three average to above-average offerings.
SP – Levi Kelly (ARI)
100.1 IP, 2.15 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 30.9 K%, 9.6 BB%, .198 BAA
The 2018 eighth rounder took the Midwest League by storm in 2019 and his first full season of pro ball exceeded any and all expectations. There is still some reliever risk here though due to the high effort delivery and how well the fastball and slider play off of each other. The fastball sits primarily 91-93 with the sweeping two-plane slider coming in at 8-10 MPH slower than that. The slider is a plus pitch now, and it gets whiffs. The Diamondbacks had strict innings limits on their pitchers in 2019, but it’s hard to argue with the results as the Kane County Cougars had the lowest ERA in the league by a substantial margin.
SP – Matt Tabor (ARI)
95.1 IP, 2.93 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 26.8 K%, 4.2 BB%, .220 BAA
The other half of Kane County’s two-headed ace monster, Matt Tabor was another reason why the Cougars cruised to the league ERA title. Tabor has plus command of his three-pitch mix and also owns the most consistent changeup I saw all year at Kane County (Tampa’s Shane Baz had the best, but it came and went). Tabor’s fastball sat mostly 92-94, but would sit around 95 when he needed it. His big curveball is also an above average offering, but the command of that pitch lagged behind the other two during my multiple looks. Tabor is a future mid-rotation arm, and has a bit more upside due to the command/changeup profile.
RP – Blake Workman (ARI)
52.1 IP, 1.72 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 31.5 K%, 2.8 BB%, .245 BAA
Workman was, well, a work man out of the Cougars bullpen in 2019. The command is plus, as he only walked six hitters in his 52 innings of work. The delivery is athletic and repeatable, and he mixes in a change and a tight breaking ball to go with the low-90s fastball.
Most Valuable Player: Alek Thomas
Hit tool, burgeoning power, and speed: Thomas did it all as he rose the ranks of prospectdom and claimed my Prospects Live MWL MVP.
South Atlantic League
For most of these players, the South Atlantic League represents their first taste of a full-season of baseball at the professional level. The Sally League has been the first stop in full-season ball for current stars like J.D. Martinez and Juan Soto and is home to some of minor league baseball's oldest franchises. This All-Star team comprises a strong core of teenagers and is led by the Orioles’ Grayson Rodriguez, who lived up to the hype of being a number one pick and top 50 prospect. There is a realistic chance in two or three seasons we see many of these names on a Major League roster. - Jason Kamlowsky
C – Willie MacIver (COL)
.252/.319/.421, 13 HR, 12 SB, .169 ISO, 22 K%, 7 BB%
A ninth-round pick out of Washington in 2018, MacIver made strides at the plate this year with a moderate power surge. In addition to his 13 home runs, the 23-year-old added 27 doubles and chipped in 12 stolen bases for Asheville.
1B – Triston Casas (BOS)
.254/.349/.472, 19 HR, 3 SB, .218 ISO, 23.5 K%, 11.8 BB%
Casas was the #1 Red Sox prospect on our midseason Top 10 list and for good reason. At a hulking 6’4 and almost 240 pounds, Casas ranked third in the Sally League in ISO and fifth in RBIs. As a teenager playing in full-season ball, Casas has plenty of room to grow into a legitimate power hitting corner infielder.
2B – Kyle Datres (COL)
.286/.397/.540, 15 HR, 21 SB, .254 ISO, 21.4 K%, 12.4 BB%
Datres put up one of the most complete stat lines for any player in the Sally League, contributing across four different categories. The .254 ISO led the league and is one of the best in all of minor league baseball. Datres is an intriguing name to watch next year as he moves to Advanced-A ball.
SS – Adam Hall (BAL)
.296/.383/.390, 5 HR, 33 SB, .097 ISO, 22K%, 8.4 BB%
The shortstop position was underwhelming across the Sally League this summer (I thought about Ronny Mauricio here) but Hall lands this spot because of the stolen bases and he was second in the league in hits. If he would get some lift on the ball he might project to contribute double-digit home runs to go along with 30 steals.
3B – Mark Vientos (NYM)
.255/.300/.411, 12 HR, 1 SB, .156 ISO, 24.2 K%, 4.8 BB%
Vientos dominated the Appy League last summer and had another good year in Columbia, albeit with slightly less gaudy numbers. He needs to work on his walk rate (4.8%) but he continued to impress in his first full-season of professional ball. Vientos won’t be 20 until December and the arrow is pointing straight up.
OF – Pedro Gonzalez (TEX)
.249/.316/.473, 23 HR, 14 SB, .224 ISO, 28 K%, 8.5 BB%
Gonzalez’s massive power potential was on full display this summer as he led the Sally League in home runs. He saw increases in batting average and walk rate over his 2018 season as well, though the strikeout rate (28.3%) is still a little high. The fact he stole 14 bases is just an added bonus.
OF – Canaan Smith (NYY)
.307/.405/.465, 11 HR, 16 SB, .158 ISO, 20 K%, 14 BB%
The 20-year-old Smith enjoyed a stellar season in Charleston stuffing the stat sheet and showing off his plus plate discipline in the process. Smith amassed 209 total bases which was good for second in the league while also drawing a league-high 74 walks. His .871 OPS was best among hitters with at least 500 plate appearances.
OF – Justin Dean (ATL)
.284/.386/.431. 9 HR, 47 SB, .147 ISO, 23 K%, 12.2 BB%
All Justin Dean did this year was lead the Sally League in stolen bases and runs scored while sporting a terrific walk rate. The former 18th-round pick out of Lenoir-Rhyne was a catalyst for Rome all season and now he moves on to the AFL to test himself against some of the best prospects in baseball.
SP - Grayson Rodriguez (BAL)
94 IP, 2.68 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 34.2 K%, 9.6 BB%, .170 BAA
The best pitcher in the Sally League in terms of pure arm talent and the Orioles #2 overall prospect. Rodriguez dazzled in his first full year of professional ball with 12.35 K/9 leading Delmarva to the best regular season record in the league. Armed with a fastball that touches 99, Rodriguez has the makings of an ace.
SP – Seth Corry (SF)
122.2 IP, 1.76 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 34 K%, 11.4 BB%, .265 BAA
The left-handed Corry led the Sally League in strikeouts and ERA, leading Augusta to the Southern Division title and enhancing his prospect profile in the process. Although he lacks dominating stuff, he does sport a three-pitch mix including a low 90s fastball and a very good changeup giving him an intriguing middle rotation projection down the line.
SP – Roansy Contreras (NYY)
132.1 IP, 3.33 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 21 K%, 6.7 BB%, .212 BAA
Like Rodriguez, Contreras is just 19 and in his first full season of professional ball. Despite doubling his inning count from 2018, Contreras finished the year giving up just six earned runs in his last 37 innings while striking out a batter an inning over that time. Contreras oozes athleticism and has a fastball that tops 98 to go along with an above-average changeup and curveball.
RP – Dayeison Arias (SEA)
47.2 IP, 1.32 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 38 K%, 7 BB%, .147 BAA
Arias dominated for the West Virginia Power as he only allowed seven earned runs all season and had a 13.34 K/9. Between April 23rd and June 30th he didn’t allow an earned run, a stretch of 18 games.
MVP – Grayson Rodriguez
Delmarva was far and away the best team in the league and Rodriguez was a big part of the reason why. Rodriguez blew through opposing hitters posting elite strikeout and walk numbers in leading a dominant rotation that was the catalyst for a 90-win ball club.