Prized young arms will be littering the Midwest this summer, with 10 starters who feature among their team's top-10 prospects alone slotting into rotations across the league.
The most notable name among these 10 figures to be Max Fried, the seventh overall pick in the 2012 Draft who will ace the staff at Fort Wayne. Fried, the Padres' No. 2 prospect, was given a brief introduction to pro ball last season after being taken out of Los Angeles' Harvard-Westlake High School. He threw 17 2/3 innings for the Rookie-level Arizona League Padres, compiling a 3.58 ERA with 17 strikeouts and six walks in 10 appearances.
Followed closely by Fried will be Taylor Guerrieri at Bowling Green, who put up a miniscule 1.04 ERA for Class A Short-Season Hudson Valley last year. The second-ranked Rays prospect was drafted 24th overall in 2011, and struck out 45 while walking just five in 52 innings in the New York-Penn League last season. He'll be joined on the Hot Rods by Blake Snell, Tampa's No. 7 prospect, who went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA for Rookie-level Princeton last season and struck out 53 in 47 1/3 frames.
One other Midwest League rotation will feature two top-10 prospects, with the Blue Jays' Roberto Osuna (No. 2) and Daniel Norris (No. 3) earning the spotlight in Lansing. Osuna had a 2.27 ERA in 43 2/3 innings across two levels last year at the age of 17, while Norris is a projectable lefty who was taken in the second round of the 2011 Draft.
Lance McCullers, the Astros' No. 5 prospect, and Pierce Johnson, the Cubs' No. 7, will take the ball for Quad Cities and Kane County, respectively.
Among the prospects returning to the league will be Robert Stephenson, the second-ranked Reds prospect, at Dayton where he had a 4.19 ERA with 35 strikeouts to 15 walks over 34 1/3 innings in eight starts last season. No. 7 Cardinals prospect Tyrell Jenkins and No. 7 Dodgers prospect Angel Sanchez return to the circuit, as well.
Try to keep up: More than a third of the Midwest League saw affiliate changes over the offseason, with six Major League clubs setting up shop with new Class A affiliates in the league for 2013. In Beloit, the Twins are gone, replaced by the A's. In Burlington, the Angels have filled the A's void. The Twins, for their part, have gone to Cedar Rapids where the Angels were parked last season.
Beyond the musical chairs of those three teams, the Cubs took over the vacant affiliation in Kane County left by the Royals, who departed for the South Atlantic League. They'll be followed in Peoria by the Cardinals, while the Astros, who had been affiliated with the Sally League's Lexington franchise, move into the Midwest League at Quad Cities.
Try to keep up, Part II: The Midwest League was not without its fair share of managerial turnover this offseason, either. Perhaps the most high-profile hiring sees Larry Parrish return to the Tigers system to take the helm at West Michigan. He managed the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens to back-to-back championships in 2005-06 for the organization and was named the Minor League Manager of the Year in 2005 by The Sporting News.
Parrish spent last year away from the game after serving as the Atlanta Braves hitting coach in 2011.
In an October press release, Parrish said, "I'm excited about coming to West Michigan next season. During my entire coaching career, I've always felt it was important to make an impact. Class A ball is a level that requires a lot of hands-on teaching and will really allow me to make an impact on the young players."
A whopping 10 other new managers will be employed by Midwest League teams this year. Six of those are due to the new affiliations in the league, with Omar Lopez taking over at Quad Cities, Dan Bilardello at Peoria, Jamie Burke at Burlington, Jake Mauer at Cedar Rapdis, Ryan Christenson at Beloit and Mark Johnson at Kane County.
Additionally, new skippers include Scooter Tucker with Lake County, Razor Shines with Great Lakes, Jose Nieves with Dayton and Jared Sandberg with Bowling Green.
Spruced up digs for the champs: Fresh off a 2012 Midwest League title, Wisconsin's Fox Cities Stadium has seen a major facelift, which the team announced last June, and which was completed over the winter.
A second level behind home plate, encompassing a club level and six luxury suites, has been added to the park. Other improvements included an expansion of administrative offices for team staffers and, as Brewers prospects will surely appreciate, a nicer home clubhouse with a new player lounge, meeting area and weight room, training room and coach's offices expansions.
Last things last: Here's a look at some significant lasts around the Midwest League.
- Last season's championship: Wisconsin over Fort Wayne in four games MiLB.com Coverage »
- Last back-to-back champion: Fort Wayne TinCaps, 2006-07
- Last no-hitter: Jordan Shipers, Clinton vs. West Michigan, July 12, 2012 MiLB.com Coverage »
- Last 200-strikeout pitcher: Alan Webb, West Michigan, 1998 (202)
- Last cycle: Donald Lutz, Dayton vs. Peoria, July 21, 2011 MiLB.com Coverage »
- Last 100-RBI season: Miguel Sano, Beloit, 2012
- Last 30-homer hitter: Yazy Arbelo, South Bend, 2011