Rochester, Minn. – The Northwoods League today announced its’ list of Alumni Prospects to Watch for 2023. The team features multiple player and pitchers of the year for their respective organizations. Each player is listed below by position, college attended, Northwoods League team and current MLB team.
RHP Brandon Pfaadt, Bellarmine, Mankato 2018, Arizona Diamondbacks
Recently labeled a top 30 MLB prospect by Baseball America, Pfaadt had a stellar 2022 season in AA and AAA with 218 strikeouts, the most in a minor league season since 2001. Promoted to AAA Reno mid-season, Pfaadt showed why he is Arizona’s top pitching prospect going 5-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 61 innings winning the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
SS Brooks Lee, Cal Poly, Willmar 2020, Minnesota Twins
Taken 8th overall in the 2022 MLB Draft, Lee wasted no time moving up the Twins minor league ranks as the switch-hitting shortstop shined in High-A Cedar Rapids with an .848 OPS over 25 games, receiving some at-bats in AA by year’s end. Lee is seen as a top-50 MLB prospect and is widely considered as the #1 prospect in the Twins organization.
2B Michael Busch, North Carolina, St. Cloud 2017, Los Angeles Dodgers
Busch has long been considered as a top-50 prospect in MLB, and his 32 home run, 108 RBI season between AA and AAA proved he is knocking on the door for his MLB debut. With movement around the Dodgers infield in the off-season, the former 1st round pick will be a hot name to debut for Los Angeles in the upcoming season.
RHP Gavin Stone, Central Arkansas, Battle Creek 2019/Traverse City 2020, Los Angeles Dodgers
One of the fastest rising pitching prospects in all of minor league baseball, Stone skyrocketed up through the Dodgers organization from High-A to AAA throughout 2022. Jumping three levels, Stone totaled a mind blowing 1.48 ERA and 168 strikeouts over 121 innings pitched earning him the Dodgers Minor League Pitcher of the Year award. Stone quickly was recognized as a top-60 MLB prospect for 2023 and his stock continues to rise every time he steps on the mound.
1B Kyle Manzardo, Washington State, Willmar 2020, Tampa Bay Rays
The premiere power-hitter in the Tampa Bay system, Manzardo broke out in 2022, promoted up to AA and vaulted into a top-60 MLB prospect. Between High-A and AA, Manzardo combined for 22 home runs and 81 RBI with a .327 batting average and led all Rays minor leaguers in OBP and OPS taking home the Rays Minor League Player of the Year Award for his exceptional season.
SS Joey Ortiz, New Mexico State, Wilmar 2018, Baltimore Orioles
Knocking on the door of making his MLB debut, Ortiz showed he is more than ready to take over at shortstop for Baltimore in the near future. Ortiz is considered the best defensive infielder in the Orioles system winning the organization’s Platinum Glove Award, but his .346 batting average over 115 at-bats in AAA show he is more than just a defender, which is why he is labeled a top-100 prospect in 2023.
1B Matt Mervis, Duke, Kalamazoo 2018, Chicago Cubs
A budding star within the Cubs minor league system, Mervis shattered all expectations as an undrafted rookie in 2020, promoted from High-A to AAA by year’s end. Across the three levels, Mervis smashed 36 home runs and drove in 119 runs earning the ‘Mash’ Mervis nickname. The former Growler was voted as the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year, Arizona Fall League All-Star and is now seen as one of the best 1st basemen in all the minors.
1B Niko Kavadas, Notre Dame, Kalamazoo 2018, Boston Red Sox
Another Growlers 1st baseman crushing the ball in the minor leagues, Kavadas is considered the best power hitter in the Red Sox organization, if not all of MiLB. Kavadas started in Low-A Salem but ended in AA Portland due to clubbing 26 home runs and tallying 86 RBI. He led all of Boston’s system in slugging percentage, OPS, walks and RBI. By year’s end, the Red Sox honored Kavadas as their 2022 Minor League Offensive Player of the Year.
RHP Louie Varland, Concordia St. Paul, Willmar 2017-2018, Minnesota Twins
Varland shined in AA and AAA before making his debut for the Twins on September 7th vs the Yankees. During his time in the minor leagues during 2022, Varland led the entire Minnesota farm system in strikeouts (146), innings pitched (126.1), and won Twins MiLB Pitcher of the Week four times throughout the season. Louie won the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season, making him only the second player to ever accomplish that feat in their organization.
LHP Jordan Wicks, Kansas State, Rockford 2020, Chicago Cubs
Possessing one of the best changeups in all levels of MiLB, Wicks continues to move up the Cubs system as he was promoted to AA Tennessee for the second-half of his season. The Cubs 1st round draft pick in 2021, Wicks totaled 121 strikeouts over 94.2 innings with only 28 walks and a 3.80 ERA for 2022.
LHP Brandon Williamson, TCU, Thunder Bay 2017, Cincinnati Reds
The former 2nd round pick of Seattle in 2019, Williamson was traded to Cincinnati before the 2022 season as part of the Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker trade. Considered a top-10 prospect and the premiere left-handed arm within the Reds system, Williamson is creeping up on the MLB doorstep with his promotion to AAA mid-season. The former Border Cat started 27 games between AA and AAA in 2022 and struck out 123 batters over 122.2 innings.
OF Nick Loftin, Baylor, Wausau 2018, Kansas City Royals
Loftin is another former Northwoods League alum that is making his push to making his MLB debut very soon. The former 2020 1st round pick continues to fly up the Royals ranks with a 17 home run, 66 RBI campaign between AA and AAA. Loftin is also one of the most feared runners in the MiLB with 29 stolen bases and scoring 104 runs in 2022.
2B Zack Gelof, Virginia, Kalamazoo 2019, Oakland Athletics
Another top-100 MLB prospect, Gelof flew up the Athletics system in 2022 after an 18 home run, 66 RBI season. Gelof is seen as one of the best middle-infielders in MiLB and a top-three prospect for the A’s. Moving up to AAA Las Vegas to end the ‘22 season, Gelof could be arriving in Oakland sooner rather than later.
C Korey Lee, California, La Crosse 2017-2018, Houston Astros
The top prospect in the Astros organization in 2022, Lee made his highly acclaimed MLB debut in July vs the Angels. The former 2019 1st round pick bounced up and down from AAA to MLB, but it did not stop him from hitting 25 home runs and driving in 76 runs at the AAA level. Lee joined the Astros World Series roster for the 2022 postseason and was rewarded with his first World Series Ring.
OF Garrett Mitchell, UCLA, Mankato 2018, Milwaukee Brewers
Considered the one of the fastest players in minor league baseball and a top-5 prospect within the Brewers organization, Mitchell displayed all the hype making his Major League debut in late-August. His short stint in the big leagues was highlighted by his first career home run in just his second MLB game vs the Pirates on August 29th as well as his walk-off single on September 15th vs the Yankees. The 2020 1st round selection is projected to hold down the centerfield spot in the Brewers lineup in 2023.
Full league schedules for the Northwoods League’s 30th Anniversary Season can be found by clicking view all dates at www.northwoodsleague.com/schedule/ or by going to northwoodsleague.com/schedule/2023-printable-schedule/ and downloading PDF versions of the Great Lakes and Great Plains Division schedules.
The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Entering its’ 30th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 24 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires, and front office staff, over 310 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (NYM), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and 2019/2021 Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and 2021 All-Star, MLB Gold Glove winner and 2019 Second Team All-MLB shortstop Marcus Semien (TEX). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website at watchnwl.com and on ESPN+. For more information, visit www.northwoodsleague.com or download the Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.