Angels' Wilson, Knowles, Jackson Lead Pack Of Pioneer League Prospects
While the full-season leagues near their halfway point, the domestic half-season leagues are ready to pull back the veil on their seasons. Friday marks Opening Night for the short-season Northwest and New York-Penn Leagues, as well as the Rookie-level Pioneer League.
To mark the occasion, we’ll take a look around the three leagues and highlight a few of the best players who were on Opening Day rosters. Here’s who to watch for in the Pioneer League.
Grand Junction (Rockies)
Eddy Diaz, SS
Diaz was the first Cuban player ever signed by the Rockies, who shelled out $750,000 for him last July. He showed well in the Dominican Summer League, and brings a blend of twitchiness and tools, including plus-plus speed and swing geared to shoot line drives to the gaps.
Jared Horn, RHP
Horn is a high-profile pitcher who ranked No. 32 on the BA 500 coming out of high school. He has an ideal pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds and fronts a four-pitch mix with a low-90s fastball. He throws a true 12-to-6 curveball as well as a changeup that shows sinking action.
Idaho Falls (Royals)
Chih-Ting Wang, LHP
Eddy Diaz marked the Rockies’ first foray into the Cuban market, and Wang’s planted Kansas City’s flag in Taiwan for the first time. The Royals signed the 20-year-old and turned him loose in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2018. He struck out 40 in as many innings but gave up far too many baserunners (1.68 WHIP). As an amateur, the Royals liked him for his solid feel to pitch.
Liover Peguero, SS
Arizona inked Peguero in 2017 for $470,000 and saw him tear up the DSL the next year before running into stiffer competition in the AZL. As an amateur he showed a combination of strength and feel to hit that should translate into hittability and power. He was known more for his offense than his defense, but he has the tools to stick at shortstop with further refinement.
Will Wilson, SS
The No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Wilson starred at North Carolina State for three seasons and made two appearances on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He projects as a plus hitter and has plus raw power as well. He might have to move off of shortstop, but the Angels are likely to give him every chance to stick at the position.
D’Shawn Knowles, OF
Knowles ranked No. 13 on the among the Angels’ Top 30 prospects entering the season, and fared well in both the AZL and Pioneer League in his first taste of pro ball. The Bahamian brings improved contact skills from both sides of the plate as well as plus speed and strong instincts in center field.
Jeremiah Jackson, SS
Jackson checked in at No. 11 on the Angels’ preseason Top 30 prospects, and had a strong first test in pro ball in the AZL before hitting a rough patch with Orem. He returns to the Pioneer League in 2019, athleticism and a loose, easy swing that should produce surprising power for his size. He’s got the range and arm strength to stick at shortstop, too.
Andy Pages, OF
Pages signed with the Dodgers out of Cuba as an 18-year-old, and he showed strong on-base and power numbers in his debut. He socked 10 home runs in 166 at-bats between the DSL and AZL. He was rated as a below-average runner as an amateur and should find a home in a corner-outfield spot.
Colorado Springs (Brewers)
Joe Gray, OF
Gray checked in at No. 52 on the BA 500 and then was taken No. 60 overall and signed for just shy of $1.14 million. He was coveted for his size and strength, which scouts believed could lead to monster power as he developed. There were questions about his hit tool, which showed in his .182 average in the AZL.
Micah Bello, OF
The Brewers have a strong recent history, with since-traded lefthander Kodi Medeiros and righthander Jordan Yamamoto—the latter of whom made his big league debut on June 12—as well as Hawaii-born Oregon State product K.J. Harrison, among the club’s recent pulls. Bello was the state’s top prospect in 2018, and he held his own in the AZL in a season he began as a 17-year-old. He’s a project at the plate, but scouts who saw him in extended spring training see natural gifts in the outfield. He ranked No. 23 on the Brewers’ Top 30 to enter the year.
Caden Lemons, RHP
Lemons ranked No. 57 on the 2017 BA 500, and has progressed slowly through the system. The Brewers will be patient with Lemons and his ultra-projectable frame as returns to the Pioneer League, albeit in a new location after Milwaukee moved its affiliate from Helena to Colorado Springs.