Thomas, Franco headline MWL All-Stars

D-backs outfielder, Rays shortstop take home top honors

Alek Thomas and Wander Franco were honored following their first tastes of a full-season league. (Emily Jones, Chris Robertson/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | August 23, 2019 1:40 PM

There was plenty of young prospect firepower in the Midwest League this summer, and the Class A circuit's final list of award winners clearly reflects that.

D-backs top prospect Alek Thomas was named Most Valuable Player and Rays top prospect Wander Franco took home Prospect of the Year honors as the Midwest League rolled out its end-of-season All-Stars on Friday.

Despite being promoted to Class A Advanced Visalia on Aug. 3, Thomas still leads the Midwest League with a .479 slugging percentage and .872 OPS during his 91 games with Kane County. Additionally, his 152 wRC+ leads the circuit while no qualifier has put up a number higher than 134 in that category. The 19-year-old outfielder, who checks in as MLB.com's No. 61 overall prospect, batted .312 and added eight homers, seven triples, 21 doubles and 11 stolen bases during his time in the MWL.

Video: Kane County's Thomas doubles for the cycle

Franco's award comes as no surprise, given that the 18-year-old, switch-hitting shortstop has ascended to the top spot in MLB.com's Top-100 prospect rankings. During his time with Bowling Green, Franco hit .318/.390/.506 with six homers, 14 stolen bases and more walks (30) than strikeouts (20) over 62 games. The Dominican Republic native moved up to Class A Advanced Charlotte on June 25 but left enough of a mark on the Midwest League to be honored Friday.

No. 76 overall prospect Xavier Edwards rounds out the Top-100 contingent on the end-of-season All-Star list as the representative at second base. The Padres' No. 5 prospect leads the league batting race with a .336 average -- no other qualifier is batting above .316 -- and added an .805 OPS and 20 stolen bases in 77 games with Fort Wayne before his bump to Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore on July 9.

Bowling Green right-hander Caleb Sampen and former Fort Wayne lefty Joey Cantillo split the starting pitcher honors. Sampen leads the MWL with a 2.75 ERA and ranks second with a 1.03 WHIP in 118 innings with the Hot Rods. He's struck 102 and walked 32 in that span. With 98 innings with the TinCaps, Cantillo didn't have enough innings to qualify for the ERA race, but the 19-year-old southpaw stood out with a 1.93 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over 19 starts. Even with the limited frames, his 128 strikeouts still rank fourth among Midwest League pitchers. His 34.7 percent K rate is highest among Class A pitchers with at least 90 frames at the level this season.

Great Lakes' John Shoemaker was named Manager of the Year after leading the Loons to a league-best 76-50 record entering Friday. Great Lakes already punched its playoff ticket with a 43-24 record in the first half, beating out Lake County by four games in the Eastern Division.

Below is the full list of 2019 Midwest League end-of-season All-Stars and honorees:

2019 Midwest League end-of-season All-Stars and honorees
POSITION NAME TEAM
Catcher David Fry Wisconsin
First Base Gabe Snyder Cedar Rapids
Second Base Xavier Edwards Fort Wayne
Shortstop Wander Franco^ Bowling Green
Third Base Miguel Vargas Great Lakes
Outfield Will Benson Lake County
Outfield Griffin Conine Lansing
Outfield Alek Thomas* Kane County
Designated Hitter Chris Betts Bowling Green
RH Pitcher Caleb Sampen Bowling Green
LH Pitcher Joey Cantillo Fort Wayne
RH Reliever Cre Finfrock Lansing
LH Reliever Skylar Arias Lake County
Manager John Shoemaker Great Lakes
* -- MVP; ^ -- Prospect of the Year

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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