The Great Lakes Loons announced their 2013 opening day roster on Sunday night, and the top prospect on the team is Corey Seager. The soon to be 19 year old had a solid professional debut with the Ogden Raptors in 2012 as he batted .309 with 8 homers, but the pitcher friendly Midwest League will be a much more challenging environment for Seager. The full roster can be found here, but I'll break down some of the more interesting prospects on the team below.
In addition to Seager, who apparently will continue to play shortstop for now, the Loons also have a couple of other intriguing infield prospects on the roster. 21 year old Jesus Valdez, who will probably spend most of his time at 1st base, is also coming off a big 2012 season in Ogden where he hit .324 with 9 bombs. He'll be joined the right side of the infield by 2nd baseman Malcolm Holland who didn't hit for much of an average in 2012, but led the Pioneer League with 44 SB's and walked more than he struck out. The 20 year old also spent time in center field last season so he'll probably see some time in the outfield as well. The other infielders will be Bladimir Franco, Alexis Aguilar, and Paul Hoenecke.
The catching duties will be split among 3 backstops, with both Eric Smith and Tyler Ogle ranking in my top 100 and #'s 85 and 82, respectively. Both are coming off solid campaigns and I expect them to share the starting duties fairly easily. The 3rd catcher on the team is Jose Capellan who continues to slowly work his way through the minor leagues.
The Loons only list three healthy outfielders on their roster, although both Valdez and Holland who I mentioned above also spent time in the outfield in 2012. James Baldwin will return to the club after a disappointing season in 2012 during which he hit just .209 and struck out in over 35% of his plate appearances. I still consider him a top 30 prospect thanks to his great speed and overall athleticism, however, so hopefully that translates into success in 2013. The other legitimate outfield prospect on this team will be Jeremy Rathjen, who was drafted in the 11th round last year and tore up the Pioneer League in his professional debut. He's lanky yet athletic and can play all 3 outfield positions.
Devin Shines, whose father Razor is the Loons' Manager, is the other healthy outfielder on the team. Pat Stover is also listed on the roster but has already been put on the DL.
Loons Starting Pitching
I'm going to be guessing as to who the Loons will use in the rotation because nothing has been announced yet, but from what I can tell the roster has at least 6 guys who could be used as starters. The top prospect of that group is 18 year old Zach Bird who was selected in the 9th round of the 2012 draft, but in retrospect probably should have been picked much higher. He had a solid debut in Arizona and has a 96 mph fastball to go along with a curveball that shows good potential. Angel Sanchez is also widely still considered a solid prospect by most, and he returns to Great Lakes after a horrendous 2012 season in Rancho. He was very good with the Loons in 2011, however, so he'll look to return to form.
Miguel Sulbaran and Jonathan Martinez are two other top 50 pitching prospects who should be in the rotation, and the two teenagers will try to continue their rapid rise through the system after starting their career in the DSL in 2011. 2010 2nd rounder Ralston Cash is another guy who will return to the Loons and he hopes to finally get through a season injury free. Finally Lindsey Caughel was a starter for most of last year and he'll look to continue have the same success he had with the Raptors in 2012.
Former UCLA closer and 2012 8th round pick Scott Griggs should be the closer of this team, but he'll need to throw strikes with more consistency if he wants to have any kind of success. The next best relief prospect on this roster is probably Jharel Cotton who was a bit under the radar last season as a 20th round pick, but he put up big numbers last season and has a couple of plus pitches. The rest of the bullpen arms aren't all that exciting, with only Arismendy Ozoria cracking my top 100 and he actually was used mostly as a starter last year. The rest of the relievers, who are all right handed by the way, are Daniel Carela, Carlos Frias, Sawil Gonzalez, and Luis Meza.