by OSC Special Edition
March 24, 2017 - Pacific Coast League (PCL)
The upcoming 2017 MiLB season is going to be one of the most exciting and fun-filled ones to date for teams and fans of the Pacific Coast League. With so many players on the verge of MLB careers, any day at the ballpark, fans can watch future all-stars at work.
In Albuquerque, the Isotopes have catcher Tom Murphy. He will be moving back and forth between the Rockies and the 'Topes. His numbers last July are hard to deny. Murphy batted .540/.586/1.079 with eight homers and 21 RBIs. LHP Kyle Freeland has been invited to the Rockies spring camp. The lean southpaw works regularly in the low 90's but can reach back for 97 mph with his fastball, and his slider might be even better. MLB Pipeline describes it as "a wipeout pitch at its best, arriving in the low 80s on the same plane as his heater before darting at the plate." Freeland may start the season with Albuquerque for some finishing touches but should make his homecoming this year.
The Round Rock Express have their own star pitcher in the making. Top prospect and 6'5" lefty Yohander Mendez is the Rangers next big thing. From MLB.com "Mendez has developed into a potential mid-rotation starter and one of the best lefty pitching prospects in the game. He throws his fading, sinking changeup with deceptive arm speed, and it's a legitimate plus pitch that keeps right-handers at bay. He has added velocity in 2016, boosting his fastball to a consistent 90-94 mph."
Tomas Telis is expected to be the starting catcher for the newly minted New Orleans Baby Cakes. Though the 25-year-old bounced between Triple-A and the Majors three times this past season, he managed above-.300 averages for both teams. With a career-high 27 walks for the Zephyrs, Telis posted his best on-base percentage (.362) since his rookie campaign with the DSL Rangers in 2008. 90 feet from home, 3B Brian Anderson, Minor League Player of the year, and the Marlins number 4 overall prospect came into his own this past season, tying one career high with 11 long balls while setting others with 65 RBIs and 58 walks across the two levels.
The Oklahoma City Dodgers have the shining star of the league in first baseman Cody Bellinger. The 21-year-old slugger, who's capable in the outfield but can be a fantastic defensive first baseman, belted 23 homers and 17 doubles while posting a .359 on-base percentage over 114 games in his first look at Double-A pitching. OKC has the pitching to go along with great fielding and hitting. RHP Yadier Alvarez's fastball sits in the mid-90s, and the 21-year-old Cuban can ratchet it up into triple digits at his leisure. It's no wonder then that he coasted through Rookie and A ball over 14 starts in his first year as a pro, putting up a 2.12 ERA while striking out 81 over 59 1/3 innings.
All in all, the stars are bright in the West, and the Pacific Coast will have lots of young talent to watch out for. Opening day is April 6th, so you don't have to wait much longer!