The Great Lakes Loons
, single-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, will open up its 12th season of minor league baseball in the Midwest League with a visit from the Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto Blue Jays) on Thursday Apr. 5, with the first pitch set for 6:05 pm at Dow Diamond in Midland, MI.
Following the conclusion of minor league spring training at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix, AZ, the Dodgers will send its single-A players to Midland, where members of the Chemical Bank Founders Club
are invited for a meet-and-greet, introducing the 2018 Loons team on Tuesday Apr. 3, at 6 pm in the Great Lakes Reserve inside Dow Diamond.
The Loons had many bright spots, both offensively and defensively last year, but with the return of former Great Lakes manager John Shoemaker
as skipper this year, we could see another Loons roster loaded with big time prospects.
Dodgers No. 26 prospect Cristian Santana
(signed by the Dodgers as a 17 year old free agent from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic in 2014) led the Loons with a .322 batting average in 44-games from the end of June until he was promoted to advanced single-A Rancho Cucamonga
in early September last year. Santana will likely start the year in Rancho Cucamonga, and should advance to double-A at some point next year.
No. 9 prospect Gavin Lux
(a first round pick, 20th overall, by the Dodgers in the 2016 MLB draft) signed a $2.31 million dollar signing bonus following the 2016 MLB draft, then went on to lead the Loons with 106 hits in 111-games last season, spending most of the year as a middle infielder, primarily at second base or shortstop. Look for the 20-year old Kenosha, WI native to possibly start out with Great Lakes, before a promotion to advanced-A or double-A at some point this year.
No. 6 prospect Keibert Ruiz
(a Valencia, Venezuela native signed by the Dodgers as a free agent on his 16th birthday back in July of 2014) has hit above .300 at every level of minor league baseball in the four years since signing as a free agent. He tore up MWL pitchers last year, hitting .317 in 63-games for the Loons, before his promotion to advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga in early July, where he continued to be a consistent threat from the dish, hitting .315 in 38-games for the Quakes, finishing with a combined .316 batting average in single-A and advanced-A last year.
Following an invite to Los Angeles' Major League spring training, Ruiz finds himself ranked the highest player at his position (No. 3 MLB catching prospect according to MLB Pipeline) in the Dodgers' system, and has an outside chance at an MLB call-up in 2018, however, 2019 is much more likely. He should start the season with the Dodgers' triple-A affiliate, the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
No. 14 prospect Dustin May
(a third round pick of the Dodgers in the 2016 MLB draft) led the Loons' pitching staff with a 9-6 record and a 3.88 ERA in 23-appearances, including being named the eastern division starter for the 2017 MWL All Star Game, prior to his promotion to advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga near the end of August last year. He will likely start the year with advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga, with a chance to advance to double-A or triple-A by the end of the summer.
(a 21-year old from Bani, Dominican Republic) led the Loons' bullpen with 7-saves in 8-save opportunities in 31-appearances, where he boasted a 1.91 ERA, before he was traded (along with former Loons SS Oneil Cruz
) to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Dodgers' MLB relief pitcher Tony Watson
on July 31, last year.
(an eighth round pick of the Dodgers from High Point (NC) University in the 2016 MLB draft) led the Loons with 3-holds as a setup man in the Great Lakes bullpen. Scrubb should start the season in advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga, but could also start out back in Midland.
There were also a few 2017 Dodger draft picks who made their way to the Great Lakes Loons last year as well.
No. 4 prospect Jeren Kendall
(a first round pick, 23 overall, of the Dodgers in the 2017 MLB draft) signed a $2.9 million dollar signing bonus after he was drafted by L.A. out of Vanderbilt University, prior to hitting 2-home runs and 7-triples in 35-games for the Loons last year. Kendall will either start the year back in Midland or advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga.
No. 25 prospect Connor Wong
(a third round pick of the Dodgers out of the University of Houston in the 2017 MLB draft) hit .278 with 5-home runs and 18-RBI's with an .831 OPS in 27-games with the Loons after signing a $550,000 dollar signing bonus with the Dodgers. Wong would be the top catcher with the Loons if he starts the season in Midland, however, he may make the jump to advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Carlos Rincon is congratulated after winning the 2017 MWL Home Run Derby: