The first installment of the Dodgers’ full-season minor league affiliates, the Midwest League is home to the Great Lakes Loons in Midland, Michigan. They play at Dow Diamond, one of the best pitchers’ parks in a pitchers’ league. It’s 400 feet to straight away center field, about 375 feet to the alleys and about 330 down the lines.
The Loons had one of the oldest lineups in the league last year, averaging 21.9 years old while the league average was 21.3. Conversely, they had one of the youngest pitching staffs, average 21.1 years old while the league average was 21.9.
Famous quote: “I have to admit that I had no idea what a loon was when I got here. Once I learned it was a duck, or is it a bird? I guess I still don’t know exactly what it is. A loon is a loon, I suppose.” – Clayton Kershaw, 2007
2013 Record: 67-72
Great Lakes struggled on offense, finishing 4th to last in the league with 4.24 runs per game. They ranked 3rd worst in the league in home runs with just 66 in 139 games and were dead last in team slugging with a .340 mark.
They surrendered just 4.28 runs a game, 5th best in the league. They led the circuit in strikeouts and tied for second in shutouts with 13.
2013 Team MVP: Corey Seager [image src=”http://www.chadmoriyama.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/CoreySeager2013.jpg” width=”240" height=”135" title=”Corey Seager” lightbox=”yes” align=”center”]
Who woulda thought the best prospect on the team would be its best player? Seager started out strong but injured himself in May and missed nearly a month of work. However, he came back strong and OPS’d 1.034 in June and .979 in July. By August, he was moved up to Rancho Cucamonga where he finished the season.
2014 Manager: Bill Haselman
Bill Haselman was brought over from the Angels organization this offseason, where he managed the Dodgers’ former High A affiliate Inland Empire 66ers. Haselman was born in New Jersey but went to school at UCLA and was drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft by the Rangers, a pick after Craig Biggio. He spent parts of 13 seasons in the majors with the Rangers, Red Sox, Mariners and Tigers. He caught the second of Roger Clemens’ two 20 strikeout performances.
Bill Simas returns as pitching coach for the second straight year, his fourth with the organization. Johnny Washington moves from the Cal League to the Midwest League to serve as hitting coach in his sixth season with the organization.
2014 Players to Watch: Jacob Scavuzzo, Justin Chigbogu, Joey Curletta, Alex Santana, Zachary Bird, Scott Barlow
Lots of intriguing talent should be coming up to the Loons this spring. Scavuzzo and Curletta are two big outfielders who raked in Ogden last summer. Scavuzzo is a lanky athlete who split time between center and left field last season with speed and power, while Curletta profiles more as a right fielder with his arm and power potential.
Chigbogu and Santana should man the corners of the infield. Santana, a former second round pick, has begun growing into his 6’4 frame and showed increased patience at the plate last year, though he needs to polish his defense. Chigbogu, who’s built like a defensive end, has immense power potential but really needs to cut down on the strikeouts.
Barlow and Bird are a pair of prep pitchers who haven’t quite developed. Barlow missed all of 2012 with an injury and struggled last year when he returned to game action. When he’s right, Scott features a low 90s fastball and a good curve. Bird has had struggles of his own, mostly with throwing strikes. His almost over the top delivery is difficult to repeat and leads to inconsistent release points. He was better late in 2013 and will again try his hand in Great Lakes in 2014.
Jesmuel Valentin SS
Brandon Trinkwon 2B
Jacob Scavuzzo CF
Joey Curletta RF
Justin Chigbogu 1B
Alex Santana 3B
Pat Stover DH
Spencer Navin C
Henry Yates LF
A lot of potential in this lineup but a lot of downside as well. You could see a top 3 ranking in homers and a top ranking in strikeouts by the time the year is out.
Zachary Bird RHP
Scott Barlow RHP
J.D. Underwood RHP
Brandon Martinez RHP
Jonathan Martinez RHP
Closer: Jacob Rhame RHP
I expect the big names like Chris Anderson, Tom Windle and Julio Urias to move up to Rancho. The Martinezes will likely pair up at the back end of the rotation, with the killer B’s at the top. Another pair to watch for come midseason are Victor Gonzalez and Victor Arano, who will likely start in Ogden.
2014 Opening Day: April 3
The Loons are one of the reasons I sign up for MiLB.tv. All of their home games are broadcast with audio and video. They provide radio feeds for away games and, while some other teams in the league offer video, it’s not up to par with the Loons. This year’s team should be fun to watch.
Next up, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League.
ICYMI: Here’s our Dodgers Nation Week In Review Video