Image credit: Wander Franco (Photo by Dan Arnold)
Elliot (Youngstown OH):
- Hi Emily, How did the managers like Bo Naylor? Indians were a little aggressive moving him to full season ball. I’m probably most interested in what the word is on his defensive skills; his hitting improved over the course of the summer
Emily Waldon: The Lake County managers were very pleased with his progress overall. Jason Esposito, a first-year hitting coach said they expected more of a breakout from Naylor in the second half at the plate and that’s exactly what happened. Offensively, there is so much raw power, but for a kid that young, there is still a lot to learn about getting the most out of that frame.
Elliot (Youngstown OH):
- Indians are full of middle infield prospects. Jose Fermin may not be among the best but his stats look pretty solid. What’s his upside?
Emily Waldon: Fermin was a really pleasant surprise. Although his “star power” hasn’t been as quickly noticed as some of the others, Tyler Freeman, Will Benson, and Bo Naylor all credited Fermin for helping influence them through his plate discipline. He’s not built to hit for power, but if he’s able to keep his contact rate up, I believe he could sell himself as a bottom of the order starter. He could climb the order a bit if his contact continues to sharpen.
Clint (BC, Canada):
- Where would you have ranked Groshans if he were eligible?
Emily Waldon: It was hard leaving Groshans off the list, just because I loved his bat so much during the first part of the year. If he had met the qualifications, he’d be a Top 15 guy to me. His defense is still a question mark as to where he’ll stick in the infield, but the progression outside of his foot injury keeps me optimistic about his ceiling.
Zac (Tallahassee, Florida):
- What level do you expect Wander starts the season at, and where do you think he finishes? Thanks!
Emily Waldon: I think that depends on how much the Rays decide to gamble on him. He proved he could handle a challenge with the jump to High-A and, as expected, blew everyone away. I’d expect him to start the year back in High-A, but if his Spring camp is strong, I wouldn’t scratch out the chance of him getting an aggressive push to Double-A to see how he handles it.
Don (Rosemont, IL):
- Is it safe to say that Bowling Green was the most prospect-laden team in the league? Who would you pick as #2: Fort Wayne, Kane County, or Other?
Emily Waldon: Great question. Obviously, the Padres are still very high on this list with the young group in Fort Wayne, but Bowling Green has specifically caught fire on the pitching side. After acquiring Baz, the mix of he, Liberatore and McClanahan show a strong eye for quality arms in the Rays front office. Outside of Franco, I think there is still some work to do in collecting more hitters, but the system has become extremely solid. Lake County and Kane County are not far off that list.
Billy Jones (Peoria):
- Of the Fort Wayne pitchers who has the highest upside?
Emily Waldon: This is a multi-faceted question, as a lot of the strongest ones were promoted before the end of the season. Joey Cantillo easily stood apart this season and topped my list. Ryan Weathers, albeit a solid mix battled some injury and because of that kept him from really shining this season. Mason Fox was a nice surprise for the TinCaps prior to his promotion. Fox is one to keep an eye on moving forward.
- Brennen Davis oozes projection and tools so I was surprised to see him at #10 but I understand why considering how stacked the MWL is this year. Considering how quickly he acclimated for a raw talent could he be a top 100 guy by mid season next year?
Emily Waldon: Brennan was a lot of fun to see this year. His placement wasn’t by any means a knock to his projection. I think it came down to how competitive the league proved to be this season. One aspect I really enjoyed was how he seems to sharpen as his surroundings get more challenging. Sharp kid with a bright future.
Carol (South Bend):
- What happened to Brailyn Marquez during the season. Did he do anything different that helped him take off or did he just gain experience?
Emily Waldon: With a lethal profile like that of Marquez, it’s about channeling what he already has. His fastball easily touches triple digits but can be a bit unpredictable at times. If the Cubs are able to pace him and channel his mix, there is a ton of projection.
James C (Marion, Ill.):
- Bowling Green seemed to be full of prospects. Besides the Wander Franco/Shane Baz/Shane McClanahan group did anyone else stand out as a player to watch?
Emily Waldon: Of the names I saw pass through Bowling Green, I liked how well Nick Schnell adapted to his promotion to the Midwest League. A lot of people discount how challenging the Midwest League can be and at 19, Schnell handled the pressure very well in my looks.
Jeff (Bay Area):
- What’s the most likely long-term position for Xavier Edwards, SS, 2b, or CF? Thanks
Emily Waldon: This is a question that pops up a lot. Because of his athleticism, I think he’d handle any of the three, but I think there’s enough there for him to stick in the infield. He’ll need to keep his contact rate up to hold that role as he gets higher up the pipeline.
- Man, the MWL was stacked this year. Can you share a few words on Lansing’s Pardinho, Groshans and Connine?
Emily Waldon: I, unfortunately, didn’t get to see much of Pardinho, but a lot of Groshans and Conine. Groshans is an athletic profile that plays hard no matter where you put him. There are questions as to where he’ll stick in the field, but his bat played well in the Midwest League. Conine is a home run guy and with that comes a lot of swing-and-miss. He’ll need to shave that down to get the most out of his raw power.
Roy T (San Diego):
- What do you think of Blake Hunt’s season on both sides of the ball? How do you see the Padres managing their depth at the catcher position in the near future?
Emily Waldon: One of the biggest things that stood out to me was how well Hunt handled the league for being so young. He’s extremely mature. He’s listed as 6’3, but looked closer to 6’4, in my opinion, and that gives him a lot of body to manage. For Hunt, it’s minor things. Smoothing out his bat path, tightening his work behind the plate. He showed me no real red flags and I’m excited to see how 2020 goes for him.
- Who do you think will be the first player from the MWL in 2019 to make it to the majors?
Emily Waldon: Easy. Wander Franco.
Bob (Mundelein, IL):
- Of the younger OF’s who didn’t make this list (Jordyn Adams, Gilberto Celestino, Jerar Encarnacion, Mike Siani, Parker Meadows, etc.), did any of them stand out? It’s hard to make the list in a 16-team league!
Emily Waldon: This list was tough! Of the ones I got the most looks at, Mike Siani and Parker Meadows are both developing profiles to watch. Meadows’ progression was slower than some expected, but the improvements in pitch recognition and swing path were promising. Siani has really good instincts, but gets ahead of himself at times, in my opinion. Both just needing sharpening and we should see more of that in 2020.
- Non-Midwest League question 🙂 How has Josh Lowe looked in the Arizona Fall League?
Emily Waldon: You’re sneaky, Sally. Since I’m out in Arizona, I’ll bite. He’s been sound since I got here. I’m a fan of his fluidity. I think it comes from confidence and understanding the development process takes time.
- Any players from 2019 draft come close to making your list? Thanks for the chat!
Emily Waldon: Good question. The hardest part about that class is just not enough innings or AB’s to qualify. Padres CJ Abrams got bit by injury and Tigers Riley Greene didn’t arrive until close to the end of the season. You should expect a lot more names in 2020 from that class as they keep progressing.
William (Bronx, NY):
- Ivan Herrera showed off a nice bat for a 19 year old in A ball this year. Any chance he becomes a ML regular at the catching position?
Emily Waldon: I like his chances, yes. Scouts have told me they like the direction he’s heading, but he’s still raw. I think the development path he’s on is promising.
Moderator: Thanks for coming out everyone.