The Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Midwest League have been named Baseball America’s Minor League Team of the Year. Lead by top prospects Vidal Brujan and Ronaldo Hernandez, the Bowling Green Hot Rods were fantastic in 2018.
The Tampa Bay Rays Class-A affiliate was absolutely dominant this past season. They finished with a record of 90-49 and won the Midwest League Title with ease. Lets review their season…
Led by head coach Craig Albernaz, the Hot Rods would sweep Lansing in round one of the playoffs and sweep Western Michigan in the Midwest League semifinals. The Hot Rods advanced to the finals where they won the best of five series with Peoria, taking three of the first four games.
Champions of the Midwest League and the minor league team of the year, the Hot Rods were absolutely dominant at the plate leading the league in several categories: AVG (.274), Hits (1283), RBI (636), and OPS (.747). They also owned the second best SLG (.407) and OBP (.340).
On the mound they had the best WHIP (1.21) and second best ERA (3.11). Hot Rod pitchers also struck out the fourth most hitters in the league.
At the plate they were led by two of the Rays top prospects, catcher Ronaldo Hernandez and second baseman Vidal Brujan. Hernandez, Tampa’s top catching prospect comes in at #7 in the top 30. Brujan, one of the best infield prospects in the Rays system comes in at #12.
Ronaldo Hernandez made a statement this year at Bowling Green. The former international prospect signed by the Rays at the young age of 16 has truly blossomed into one of the game’s top backstop prospects. In 2018 he led the Hot Rods with 21 homers. He finished with a .284 batting average. He was second on the team with 79 RBI’s and total bases, 200.
Vidal Brujan, a switch hitter, has blossomed into a top prospect for the Rays after signing for only 15,000 dollars. In 2018, he hit .313 with 5 homers and 41 RBI’s. He led the team with a .395 OBP and 43 stolen bases.
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Not to be overshadowed by Brujan and Hernandez would be outfielder Moises Gomez. Gomez played in a team high 122 games. In those games he hit .280 with 19 homers and 82 RBI. Gomez led the team with 237 total bases. He did however strikeout 137 times 471 at bats.
Also not to be forgotten is shortstop Taylor Walls. The Florida State product hit .313 with 6 bombs and 57 RBI’s. Walls finished tied with Hernandez with 200 total bases. He was second on the team in stolen bases, 31, and OBP, .393. Jim Haley, who appeared in 80 games, led the team with a .323 batting average.
Bowling Green not only played host to top 30 prospects Hernandez and Brujan, but also to Brendan McKay, Austin Franklin, Resley Linares, Drew Strotman, and Tobias Myers.
Myers, the 23rd ranked prospect who came over to the Rays in the Tim Beckham trade, led the group in innings pitched and only finished behind Tommy Romero for the team lead. Making 21 starts and throwing 119 innings, Myers pitched to a 3.71 earned run average. He struck out 101 and finished with a record of 10-6 on the year.
Linares, the highest ranked prospect of the group at 20th, made 17 starts and threw 84.1 innings. He finished with 97 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.20. The 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic will be fun to watch going forward with a fastball that pushes 94.
Franklin, the 21st best prospect in the Rays system, had a very similar workload to Linares. Making 15 starts and throwing 82 innings, Franklin struck out 65 but walked 31. Scouts like his heavy fastball with sink and his above average curveball. Look for him to work on command in the coming seasons.
Spending a portion of the season at Bowling Green was Brendan McKay, the Rays #2 overall prospect. The two-way player pitched well, making 6 starts and throwing 24.2 innings pitched in which he struck out 40 batters and finished with an ERA of 1.09. At the plate he hit .254 and worked 28 walks while only striking out 13 times. His plate discipline would land him with an impressive OBP of .484. He was promoted to Charlotte mid May.
Finally, the 28th best prospect in the organization, Drew Strotman had a solid second season of professional baseball. In 9 starts, the 2017 4th round draft pick threw 46 innings and struck out 43. He finished with an ERA of 3.52 and a record of 3-0.
Like Moises Gomez, pitchers like Tommy Romero and Phoenix Sanders can’t go without mentioning. Romero led the team in innings pitched (128) and strikeouts (131). He made 25 starts, one of those being a complete game shutout. He finished with an ERA of 2.95.
Phoenix Sanders was good out of the pen for the Hot Rods striking out 71 in 50.2 innings of work. Leading the team in saves was Hunter Schryver. He saved 8 games and struck out 48 in 36.1 innings of work.
Overall, the Bowling Green Hot Rods had a fantastic season and their fans got the chance to watch some of the best prospects in baseball play on a daily basis. Over the course of the year they witnessed the growth of seven of the Rays best prospects.
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Bowling Green played host to much of the Rays loaded farm system. Even with many of the top prospects graduating, next year there will be more of the same in Bowling Green with many more top prospects knocking at its doors.
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