Kirby, Kloffenstein, Robinson Lead Talented Northwest League Group
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 Northwest League.
Everett AquaSox (Mariners)
George Kirby, RHP
The Mariners’ first-round pick and the No. 20-ranked talent on the Baseball America 500, Kirby earned a rep as one of the nation’s premier strike-throwers. He boasts a solid four-pitch mix, including a fastball that can sit in the mid-90s and has touched as 97 mph. He backs the fastball with a plus changeup and two breaking balls that also flash plus.
Carter Bins, C
Seattle selected Bins in the 11th round of the 2019 draft after he spent three years at Fresno State earning a reputation as a defensive standout behind the plate. He blocks and throws well, and he hits the ball hard with regularity.
Kristian Robinson, OF
Robinson is one of the most exciting prospects in the Northwest League who didn’t come from the 2019 draft. He signed out of the Bahamas in 2017 for $2.5 million on the strength of a ready-made pro body and an impressive set of skills. He combines size, strength and speed into a player who should be able to stick in center field while hitting for average and power.
Jorge Barrosa, OF
Barrosa signed with Arizona in the same class as Robinson and gained recognition as an extremely gifted hitter who can spray line drives to all fields. Evaluators who saw him in extended spring training liked his baseball IQ and his ability to move the ball around the diamond.
Harrison Francis, RHP
The Diamondbacks’ fourth-rounder two years ago got to the Northwest League last season and whiffed 21 in 18 innings. He brings a low-90s fastball and pairs it with a curveball that showed improvement toward the end of the 2018 season.
Vancouver (Blue Jays)
Adam Kloffenstein, RHP
Kloffenstein was teammates in high school with talented Toronto prospect Jordan Groshans (whose brother, Jaxx, was drafted in the fifth round this year) and was taken in the third round and lured away from a commitment to Texas Christian with an over-slot bonus of $2.45 million. He made a brief appearance in the GCL last year and brings a fastball that has touched up to 95 mph. He backs it with a standard array of slider, curveball and changeup, with the slider the most advanced of the three.
Will Robertson(^), OF
Robertson socked 25 homers over the past two seasons at noted power-killing TD Ameritrade Park while playing for Creighton. A dozen longballs in 2018 set a team record during the TDAP era, and 13 more this year established a new mark. He’s got the skills to hit for average and power while holding down left field.
Tanner Morris, SS
The Blue Jays popped Morris, who was a draft-eligible sophomore at Virginia, in the fifth round of this year’s draft. He shows a sound hitting approach with a feel for the barrel during two seasons with the Cavaliers. He has a swing geared for opposite-field line drives and power toward the pull side. He’s likely to slide over to second base as a pro.
Edmond Americaan, OF
The Cubs took a flier on Americaan in the 35th round in 2018 and signed him for a bonus just shy of $209,000. He’s a toolsy player who developed power in his second season at Chipola (Fla.) JC and put forth a solid debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2018. He’ll look to turn tools into skills in Eugene.
Kohl Franklin, RHP
Franklin dealt with a pair of serious ailments as a child, including spinal meningitis and a bone condition that required surgery on both ankles. He overcame those roadblocks and was taken by the Cubs in the sixth round last year. He makes his living with a loose, easy delivery that pumps mid-90s heat.
Reivaj Garcia, SS
Still just 17 years old, was signed out of Mexico at 16 years old for $500,000. He was impressive in 2018 in the AZL, so much so that some evaluators felt comfortable projecting the switch-hitter to have a plus bat. His average footspeed and throwing arm gives him a chance to stick at shortstop.
Florencio Serrano, RHP
Originally a Cubs prospect, Serrano’s signing was voided by MLB and he landed with the Rangers, who will get the benefit of his low-to-mid-90s fastball and potential plus fastball. He’s shown feel for a changeup as well and should be one of the NWL’s most interesting pitching prospects in the early going.
Ricky Vanasco, RHP
Vanasco drew the Opening Night start for Spokane and was impressive. Opposing Vancouver’s Adam Kloffenstein, Vanasco that has touched as high as 99. His offspeed arsenal flashes average or better but no single pitch is consistent. In an age of extreme velocity, Vanasco is one to watch.