Tri-City came within a game of taking the Northwest League title, falling to Hillsboro in the championship series. In the first half, the team was 16-22, but turned it around with a 22-16 record in the second. The 2019 Dust Devils didn’t have the one top prospect as they have had in years past with Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer or Xavier Edwards, but what they did have was an interesting blend of players the organization sees more as long-term prospects in Jordy Barley, Sean Guilbe and Logan Driscoll.
We use a simple formula for the awards. Whichever team the player appeared for most is where he is eligible. For the top prospect, we take into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
The Northwest League has existed in various forms since 1901. It features a mix of college talent acquired in the current draft, as well as high school and Latin American prospects who worked their way up from rookie ball. Pitchers are generally ahead of hitters on this circuit since the batters must transition to wood bats, though many of them are on strict pitch and innings limits. Players rarely go straight from the high school ranks to this level, with most having some experience in either the Arizona League or in college.
Gesa Stadium, the Dust Devils’ home stadium in Pasco, Washington, is considered the best pitchers’ park in the league and it takes an absolute cannon shot to drive it out of the park.
2019 Tri-City Dust Devils Player of the Year
SS Jordy Barley .254/.310/.423 98 K, 22 BB, 14 stolen bases in 22 attempts, 301 PAs wRC+ 107 (Conniff, Davey)
Barley, 19, led the Dust Devils in hits, extra-base hits, and total bases and his slugging percentage was good enough for third on the team. He was second on the team in games played – most of them at shortstop, although he also had a few at second base. Barley has always been an elite athlete, and this year we saw glimpses of the tools converting into baseball skills. The question remains how often he will be able to perform during games.
Next year at Fort Wayne, he should see some time at shortstop, but the majority will be spent at second base with CJ Abrams in the Summit City.
INF Kelvin Melean .308/.400/.400 37 K 22 BB 207 PA wRC+ 132 (Pond, Jay)
Melean struggled in some time with both High-A Lake Elsinore and Low-A Fort Wayne to open the year, but stepped back to Tri-City and produced his best year as a pro. Melean posted the highest batting average and the best on-base percentage of any Dust Devil who logged over 50 games. With the Dust Devils, he rotated between second, third and shortstop; but going forward should be at either second or third in what could be very intense infield competition next year in Low-A. While he only turned 21 after the season, he’s been in the organization since 2015.
INF/OF Sean Guilbe .233/.318/.434 67 K 21 BB 210 PA wRC+111 (Charity)
After hitting .132/.233/.289 in June, Guilbe, 19, made some adjustments in his approach – mainly expanding his zone – and put up much better numbers in July (.266/.348/.544) and August (.262/.338/.385). Guilbe was second to Barley in extra-base hits and total bases. Defensively he split time between third base and left field, but is also capable of playing second base.
2019 Dust Devils Top Prospect
C/OF Logan Driscoll .268/.340/.458 23 K 15 BB 157 PAs 124 wRC+ (unanimous)
Driscoll, 21, the Padres’ competitive balance pick at the end of the second round of this year’s draft played in only four games before going down with quad issues. He came back in late July and gave the organization a glimpse of what the could do hitting .279/.355/.492 in 136 plate appearances. Driscoll is a solid enough athlete that at George Mason University, he alternated between catcher and center field. The Padres aren’t going to have him roaming around center, but they will continue to give him repetitions in the corner outfield along with behind the plate.
He should be the everyday catcher in Fort Wayne in 2020.
Others of Note
Matthew Acosta, 21 got off to a hot start for the Dust Devils hitting .333/.467/.407 in June before the combination of playing every day and a long season finally ground down the 12th-round pick out of USC. He can play all three outfield positions but is probably best situated for a corner. …Like Melean, Reinaldo Ilarraza, 20, was signed by the Padres in 2015 and has struggled in full-season ball. This year, he might have found his niche, putting up a .356 on-base percentage in 283 plate appearances while playing across the infield and outfield. He will need to make more consistent hard contact to make his strike-zone awareness pay off. …Nick Gatewood, 21, had a solid debut year in the AZL last season, before struggling to open 2019 with Fort Wayne. He bounced back at Tri-City with a .724 OPS. The left-handed catcher/first baseman saw most of his time at first base and with San Diego’s depth at that position will have to establish himself there to earn playing time going forward.