2022 Sussex County Miners vs Lake Erie Crushers

Frontier League: MLB Prospects To Watch

Frontier League: MLB Prospects To Watch

Martin Figueroa and Ryan Middendorf are two standout prospects to keep an eye on this season in the Frontier League.

May 6, 2022 by Briar Napier
Frontier League: MLB Prospects To Watch

The expansive list of Frontier League alumni who’ve made it to the big leagues grows nearly every year. Now, as a Professional Partner League with the MLB, the attention it gets from major league franchises will only increase.

All of the Frontier League’s teams feature “dudes” that can play baseball at an elite level, but only a select few earn the call from major league organizations and sign a deal to test the waters for themselves.

Here’s a look at some of the players and prospects to watch for in the Frontier League throughout the 2022 season as the league makes its debut on FloBaseball this month.

Martin Figueroa, 3B, Sussex County

Pitching rotations around the league were immediately put on high alert once the Miners announced that the 26-year-old former MLB Draft pick of the Houston Astros was returning to the team for the upcoming season. The Frontier League’s defending hitting champion (.352 average), Figueroa will be looking to earn attention from major-league clubs once again after brief stints with the Astros and St. Louis Cardinals organizations, where he was limited to just the rookie and Single-A levels. 

Sussex County—where Figureroa will be playing his fourth year with the team—is where the Dominican Republic native has thrived, batting .334 in 166 games with the organization. He should be the heartbeat of a Miners lineup that placed second in the league in 2021 in team batting average (.281), and with the extra motivation of getting back to the big leagues, Figueroa should be set up for another stellar campaign.

Jeffry Parra, C/DH, Québec

Parra and second baseman David Glaude combined for 148 RBIs between them for Équipe Québec—the Canada-based traveling team from last season—as the squad won the Atlantic Division in 2021. Parra gets the nod as the more intriguing prospect due to being three years younger (at 24) than Glaude and having already been on the MLB radar after being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2016. Parra has power at the plate, smacking 15 home runs and 73 RBI a year ago as his career got a fresh start following four years of bouncing around the Giants’ minor league system. 

Now that Équipe Québec has ceased in favor of three standalone Canadian teams in the Frontier League this season, Parra—who is currently the Capitales’ only catcher on the roster—may be able to see additional time as the backstop, where he holds a solid .991 fielding percentage for his career (including the minors). 

Tim Holdgrafer, RHP, Evansville

When Holdgrafer, who’ll turn 26 in July, has gotten a chance to show what he can do as a top starter on a team, the Cal Poly Pomona alum has usually delivered. Two years after his final college season—in which he went 10-4 with a 4.39 ERA and 86 strikeouts—Holdgrafer marked his debut season in the Frontier League with another 10-4 season while improving his ERA (3.45) and strikeout numbers (121) in the process. 

Holdgrafer was the bonafide ace of the league’s best rotation last season, and his return to Evansville for 2022 could set the stage for an even better season on one of the Frontier League’s best teams. The league’s defending Pitcher of the Year, former Washington Wild Things left-hander Ryan Hennen, inked a deal with the Kansas City Royals’ organization this offseason following his stellar 2021. Holdgrafer could be the favorite to follow in his footsteps.

Ryan Middendorf, RHP, Schaumburg

Sometimes, looks can be deceiving. Middendorf struggled mightily on the mound during his final year at Division II Lake Erie College in the spring of last year, going 1-9 his senior year as the 6-foot-6 Ohioan wasn’t able to find his footing to close out his college career. Just a few months later, the 24-year-old was the ace on the team that ended up winning the Frontier League title, going 11-5 with a 3.14 ERA as one of the league’s premier arms. 

He and fellow right-hander Kyle Arjona—who also returns—made up one of the league’s best one-two punches on the bump in 2021, but Middendorf’s strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.91 (compared to Arjona’s 3.04) from this past season indicated an affinity to find the strike zone that major-league clubs love. Middendorf’s 2022 season will tell much more about whether or not he’ll be a talent MLB teams will want to keep their eye on, particularly as the Boomers have the pressure of a championship defense on their hands.

Jason DiCochea, SS, Windy City

The Frontier League has a reputation as a proving ground for talented baseball players that originally slipped through the cracks, catapulting them to productive professional careers. DiCochea, a 6-foot infielder that hit .334 with 66 RBI in 72 games for the Boise Hawks of the Pioneer League last season, could make a similar mark in his debut Frontier League season with Windy City. 

A four-year starter at Santa Clara, the California native could be one of the top offseason additions in the Frontier League for a ThunderBolts team that was one at the worst at the plate (.244 team average, league-low 52 home runs) in 2021. DiCochea had 10 home runs and two separate hitting streaks of 10-plus games with Boise last year. His defense could improve as DiCochea had a .930 fielding percentage in his only season in Boise, but the immediate jolt to the ThunderBolts’ lineup he brings could prove to be vital to him catching major-league eyeballs.