On Tuesday night, the Midwest League ushered in the start of summer with its annual mid-season All Star Game. The Peoria Chiefs played host to a group of All Stars that included recent high school draftees, top Latin prospects, and interesting college sleepers. The East team defeated the West by a score of 5-0. With frequent pitching changes and position players swapping out, it was difficult to get a great look at many of the players, but I wanted to share some things that stood out for me during the game.
The game featured a total of 29 strikeouts between the two sides. A stunning number, made slightly less so by understanding the impact of allowing talented young arms to air it out in short stints. Top prospects like Grant Holmes and Justus Sheffield made quick, effective appearances buzzing through opposing hitters. Almost every pitcher that threw was highly effective.
Cubs prospect Jeremy Null lived up to his reputation as a strike-thrower with 12 strikes in 16 pitches. He featured a quick pace and the ability to change speeds. His sinker had good movement and was located well down in the zone. He also showed the ability to command a solid breaking ball as a chase pitch. John Moore highlighted Null in his mid-season look at the league. I agree with his assessment that Null's ceiling is that of a back end starter.
Blue Jays outfield prospect Ryan McBroom won the league's Home Run Derby competition prior to the game. In a fan-friendly twist, the contest was held with batters hitting from the warning track in center field back towards the grandstand. The 2014 15th rounder from West Virginia is having a solid offensive season hitting .330/.405/.478 good for 156 wRC+. Interestingly, McBroom only has three homers so far this season.
After hitting 11 in his first taste of pro ball for Vancouver last year and averaging ten per year as a junior and senior at West Virginia, it appears he may have some more power in the tank. He will need to bring it into game action to profile as a true prospect because of his defensive profile. After breaking into pro ball as a first baseman, McBroom has played just 10 games in the left field in 2015 while spending the rest of the season at DH. Already 23 years old, the odds are against McBroom having a significant big league career, but that is part of the fun of the minor leagues.
Angels pitching prospect Jeremy Rhoades is another lesser-known name to keep an eye on. Drafted in the 4th round in 2014, Rhoades struck out over a batter per inning in the Rookie-Level Pioneer League after signing. As an experienced college arm out of Illinois State, Rhoades has fared quite well in the Midwest League in 2015. In 68 innings, he has a 3.04 ERA on the strength of 66 strikeouts, 14 walks, and only four homers allowed.
Rhoades showed a strong slider in his brief outing on Tuesday, drawing nothing but empty swings and weak ground balls. He also flashed a solid change that he used as a weapon to neutralize lefties. Rhoades should have a chance to progress through the system as a starting pitcher due to his three-pitch mix and solid control. In the long run, he could profile better as a reliever where he can lean heavily on his slider. I would not be surprised to see him promoted at some point during the second half as he appears ready for a new challenge.
Cubs shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres had a couple impressive moments on Tuesday night as well. You can refer to Mr. Moore's article for a little more detail on his offensive profile. Where Torres stood out for me was on defense on Tuesday. While starting at shortstop for the East team, Torres looked like a player with a chance to stick at the position as he climbs the organizational ladder.
He was repeatedly in the correct spot and demonstrated the ability to make a variety of tough plays. In the second inning, Torres charged a soft chopper into the baseline and completed the off balance throw across his body to nail the lead runner at second. A less savvy player may have taken the more routine play by throwing across to first, but Torres showed confidence and aptitude to keep a runner out of scoring position.
Torres then answered the bell again in the third inning when he made a nice play in the hole on a grounder hit by Caleb Adams where he completed the jump throw to get the out at first. Finally, in the fifth inning, Torres showed great awareness by coming in to make a diving catch on a soft sinking liner to his right. The play was such that if he reacted too slowly and allowed the ball to drop, it would have had very tough spin and probably resulted in a base hit for Colin Bray. Ultimately, this is just one night's worth of plays and Torres's defensive future will be determined by his ability to play the position with consistency. He may not end up as a flashy defender, but he showed excellent instincts on this night leaving me optimistic that he can stay at short in the long run.
The Midwest League All Star Game provided a great starting point for me in my coverage of the league. I have begun to compile a list of players I hope to check on as we move into the league's second half. Feel free to submit suggestions or requests along those lines and I will see what I can do.