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Five Stingers named to Showcase rosters

The Willmar Stingers host the La Crosse Loggers June 23, 2017. Jake Schultz / Tribune1 / 3
The Willmar Stingers host the La Crosse Loggers June 23, 2017. Jake Schultz / Tribune2 / 3
JAKE SCHULTZ | TRIBUNE3 / 3

Five Willmar Stingers are set to participate in the Major League Dreams Showcase August 8 in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Northwoods League itself is a chance for some of the best college baseball players to showcase their talents but on this particular Tuesday in August, the League will bring 77 of the top prospects together for a doubleheader and workouts with Major League Baseball scouts. The 77 players were selected by a panel of scouts.

The Stingers will send first baseman Danny Rodriguez (Bethune-Cookman), shortstop Josh Bissonette (Baylor), left-handed pitcher Nick Lackney (Minnesota) and right-handed pitchers Gus Varland (Concordia-St. Paul) and Alex Reyes (New Mexico State).

Rodriguez, Bissonette, Varland and Lackney will all play for a team consisting primarily of players from the South Division. They will play as part of the visiting team in game two, scheduled for a 7:35 p.m. start time. Reyes will be the lone Stinger on the home team in game two.

Varland is one of nine Northwoods League All-Stars to be selected for the Showcase. The right-hander has a 0.89 ERA in 40-1/3 innings pitched, which is just 4-1/3 innings shy of qualifying for the league-lead.

Being selected for a showcase roster doesn't guarantee anything but it certainly means a player is on the mind of scouts. Of the seven Stingers chosen to a showcase roster last season, two (Ty Tice and Max Green) were drafted in the 2017 MLB Draft. Two others (Eddie Estrada and Luke Becker) were ineligible for this year's draft and returned to the Stingers this season.

Former MLB All-Star and World Series Champion Chris Sabo of the Green Bay Bullfrogs will manage the visiting team with the majority of the Stingers while hometown Mallards manager and former MLB catcher Donnie Scott will be at the helm for the home team with Reyes.

Duluth catcher Rob Emery has also been selected to a showcase roster. Emery started the season in Willmar and played 24 games for the Stingers.

Top Prospects

The five Stingers selected to this year's Showcase hope to be in the same situation as three former Stingers who were named to MLB Pipeline's midseason top 30 prospects by team Wednesday.

Hunter Dozier and A.J. Puckett were ranked as the No. 3 and No. 13 prospect respectively for the Kansas City Royals. Steven Brault, a left-handed pitcher recently called up to the big leagues by the Pittsburgh Pirates, was ranked as the No. 7 prospect in Pittsburgh's system.

Dozier, who played for the Stingers in 2012, made his major league debut last year on Sept. 12 and recorded four hits in 19 at-bats. He's been limited to 10 games this season with a few injuries but his No. 3 ranking shows his value to the team. He was drafted No. 8 overall in the 2013 draft, making him the highest drafted Stinger.

Also drafted in 2013, Brault has ascended to seventh on the Pirates' prospect list thanks to minor league dominance. The Californian played in Willmar in 2013 and was drafted in the 11th round and has logged a 35-25 record with a 2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 8.08 strikeouts per nine innings. His numbers at Triple-A this season (8-4, 2.06 ERA, 95 K) warranted a call-up on July 22 and a spot on the International League's All-Star roster.

Puckett is the youngest of the three at 22-years-old and played with the Stingers in 2014. The right-handed pitcher is currently at advanced-A ball after being drafted in the second round of the 2016 MLB draft out of Pepperdine University.

Jake Schultz

Jake Schultz is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune, working his first job out of college. He graduated from St. John's University (CSB/SJU) in 2016 and is a baseball fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @StJake29. 

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