MWL season preview: Five prospects to watch

Cease, Jones, Cameron among talent on rise in full-season ball

Cubs righty Dylan Cease fanned 66 in 44 2/3 innings with Class A Short Season Eugene in 2016. (Jared Ravich/

By Staff | April 5, 2017 10:45 AM ET

Play in the Class A Midwest League play gets underway Thursday with a full slate of eight games. The action starts at 6:05 p.m. ET on MiLB.TV as the Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers) play host to the Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays) followed at 6:35 p.m. ET when the West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers) welcome the South Bend Cubs. 

Here are some of baseball's top prospects expected to open the 2017 season in the Midwest League:

Dylan Cease, RHP, South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs)

Cease, who was on last year's Cubs Prospect Primer for his "loudest tool" fastball, certainly still has that going for him.

"The velocity is great, but just the way it plays ... it has great life. It kind of jumps at the hitters late at the plate," Cubs director of player development Jaron Madison said. "I think he just needs to understand locating his fastball is maybe more important than the velo. A 95-mph fastball in the right spot is better than a 100-mph fastball that's out of the zone, so just understanding how to harness and figuring out the pitchability part of it while not backing off of his stuff."

As Spring Training wound down, it appeared Cease would get the chance to try to learn those lessons in the Midwest League.

"We have him penciled in right now to go to South Bend," Madison said. "We'll see how everything plays out here in Spring Training, but that's our plan right now, to have him break camp and go to South Bend and join that rotation."

Cease feels ready.

"Wherever I'm pitching, I'm excited," the righty said. "It doesn't matter if it's here or there, but I'm definitely looking forward to that."

Jasrado Chisholm, SS, Kane County Cougars (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Arizona signed Chisholm in 2015 and had to wait until 2016 for his pro debut, but he did not disappoint when he finally got on the field. As an 18-year-old, Chisholm led Rookie-level Missoula with 13 stolen bases in 17 attempts, and while he is not known for his power, the left-handed hitter's nine homers ranked third for the Osprey.

Chisholm's fielding is his best tool, though he showed room for improvement when he made 34 errors in 60 games at short. The club's No. 3 prospect also played an inning at second base.

"He's got a great swing," said Mike Bell, Arizona's vice president of player development. "Offensively, [he] had success in Missoula. He's going to have the ability to hit for average, he showed some power last year, and at shortstop, he can make all the plays. He's got a strong arm and can make the plays from deep in the six-hole. He's athletic enough to stay at short."

A native of the Bahamas, Chisholm went 2-for-7 with a run scored for Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers.

Taylor Trammell, LF, Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds)

While third baseman Nick Senzel draws the headlines from Cincinnati's 2016 Draft class, Trammell should not be overlooked as a future top-level contributor. Taken 35th overall, the 19-year-old swiped 24 bases in 61 games at Rookie-level Billings while batting .303/.374/.421 with 17 extra-base hits -- nine doubles, six triples and two home runs.

Much like left-handed pitcher Amir Garrett, Trammell was a two-sport star in high school, playing baseball and football. That makes his debut season even more impressive, especially considering his ability to work counts and draw walks with 23 in just over 250 plate appearances. His raw left-handed power hasn't quite shown up yet, which isn't a surprise considering Trammell played all of 2016 at age 18.

"He's incredibly athletic, very strong and really takes consistent quality at-bats," said Jeff Graupe, the Reds senior director of player development. "We're going to challenge him to go to full season and expect him to perform and be a leader on that team at a young age."

Trammell's plus-plus speed plays on the basepaths and in center field, although there are some who think his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame will fill out too much for him to stick in center. Regardless of where he ends up playing full-time, Cincinnati's No. 5 prospect projects as an all-around talent.

Jahmai Jones, CF, Burlington Bees (Los Angeles Angels)

Less than two years removed from high school, Jones showed why he's rated as the Angels' top prospect heading into 2017.

Drafted in the second round in 2015, the 19-year-old Georgia native turned in an All-Star season with Rookie-level Orem last year. In 48 games for the Owlz, Jones batted .321/.404/.459 with 19 stolen bases and 49 runs scored, leading to a promotion to Class A Burlington. Though his numbers dipped during a 16-game stint with the Bees, the 6-foot, 215-pounder finished his first season at .302/.379/.422 in 64 games.

Beyond the numbers, Jones has impressed the Angels with his leadership and maturity as well.

"He's a special person and a special player," said Los Angeles' Minor League director of operations Mike LaCassa. "Jahmai is one of the most mature teenagers I've ever been around, and it shows up on and off the field. Combine that attribute with his talent, and it's turned him into someone who could be on track for a really impressive year at the full-season level as a 19-year old. I think baseball will be seeing an exciting player for years to come." 

Daz Cameron, CF, Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston Astros)

Like his father, longtime Major Leaguer Mike, Daz Cameron's game is built around his defensive ability and a solid bat. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to flash those skills in an injury-riddled 2016.

Cameron scuffled through April with Quad Cities and was shut down for a few weeks in early May with a hamstring injury. After rehabbing, the 20-year-old was sent to Class A Short Season Tri-City and seemed to figure things out. In 19 games for the ValleyCats, Cameron batted .278/.352/.418 with a pair of homers and 14 RBIs. Just as it was looking like had turned the corner, he broke his right index finger when he was hit by a pitch and was shut down for the rest of the season.

When the Astros drafted Cameron 37th overall in 2015, the thought was he and fellow outfielder Kyle Tucker would rise together. Although that hasn't happened yet, a fresh start for the Georgia native could be just what he needs to get that plan back on track.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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