The second week of the minor league season is upon us with Luis Robert putting on a great copy of what Vlad Jr. did in 2018. He’s hitting everything in sight while showing plus power. It shouldn’t be long before the White Sox challenge him with a promotion to Double-A.
Once again, I went with seven hitters and three pitchers but I’m considering expanding the list to 15 players next week where I’ll be able to include some lesser known names to many of our readers. After all, most prospect watchers are familiar with many of the players listed on this week’s list. It’s time to go deeper.
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Luis Robert (CHW, OF, High-A)
For two weeks in a row, Luis Robert has made our Hot Prospects list. He’s gone hitless in only one game so far in 2019. In the other nine, he’s had multi-hits and has accumulated five home runs while stealing four of five bases. He’s only walked twice, but when you are seeing the ball like he is, you might as well swing the pole.
Vlad Guerrero Jr (Tor, 3B, Triple-A)
The clock has started for Vlad Jr’s arrival to Toronto and this could, in fact, be his only appearance on our list. While it’s an 80-grade hit tool with double-raw power, I am starting to worry about his conditioning. Not only will it move him off third base faster, but it might also move him off first base fast as well; not to mention what it will do to his long-term upside. That said, he has a chance to be one of the better hitters in the game and…very soon.
Buddy Reed (SD, OF, Double-A)
I’ve seen Buddy Reed play multiple times through his career. He has 70-grade speed and 30-grade power. However, in 12 games in Double-A, he’s already hit six home runs, driving in 14. I doubt he’s re-done his swing so I would guess that this is an aberration. It’s notable as is his 16 strikeouts in 12 games. If you’re thinking that perhaps the strikeouts are pointing to a player who has changed his swing, Reed has always struck out too much and for a guy who’s carrying tool is his speed, it’s something that needs to be addressed.
Jarred Kelenic (Sea, OF, Low-A)
After getting off to a slow start, Jarred Kelenic has started putting things together. Over the past five days, he’s 11 for 20 including a 4-4 night on Tuesday evening in Lakewood. He’s a hit first prospect who should develop 20 home run power as he matures. For my money, he has a chance to be one of the best prospects in the game.
Will Smith (LAD, C, Triple-A)
While Keibert Ruiz is the better catching prospect, Will Smith has gotten off to a quick start for the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate. While Austin Barnes has gotten off to a fine start, don’t be surprised if you see him splitting time with Smith before the season concludes.
Tirso Ornelas (SD, OF, High-A)
The Padres are so deep that excellent prospects like Tirso Ornelas get lost in the shuffle. The 19-year-old outfielder is off to a hot start posting a 1.021 OPS in the first 12 games. He has plus raw power that should start to translate into in-game power as he matures. His mature approach at the plate should help to offset some swing and miss in his bat, but overall he has the ceiling of a 25 HR with .260/.350 average.
Cole Tucker (Pit, SS, Triple-A)
The Pirates gave Kevin Newman a chance to win the starting shortstop job in Pittsburgh, but with his recent trip to the IL, could this open up a spot for Cole Tucker? He’s been red hot this year slashing .356/.431/.600 with two home runs and four stolen bases. His double-plus speed gives him intriguing fantasy upside but the Pirates have to cooperate for owners to take advantage. He’ll likely have to wait until the second half, but if he stays hot and June 20th has passed, he might be an interesting free agent addition over the summer.
Matt Manning (Det, RHP, Double-A)
Matt Manning has gotten off to a strong start this season. In two starts in Double-A, he’s struck out 15, walking three while giving up two hits and one run. The athleticism and arsenal are both excellent and if he can continue to throw strikes, the upside is a number two starter, if not more.
Grayson Rodriguez (Bal, RHP, Low-A)
Now that the Orioles have new leadership, I feel better about highlighting their pitchers once again. Grayson Rodriguez was their 2018 first round pick and has gotten off to quite an impressive start to the season. In two starts, he’s yet to give up an earned run while striking out 20 in 11 innings. He’s got a solid arsenal with a fastball that will top out at 95 MPH and a slider and curveball that can both miss bats. The Orioles will likely play it conservatively with their young pitcher limiting him to 100 innings this season.
Spencer Howard (PHI, RHP, High-A)
One pitcher that I missed on in the pre-season was the Phillies Spencer Howard. However, with a fastball that can hit triple-digits and a slider that will miss bats, I’ve quickly become a believer. In his first two starts, he’s struck out 12 and walked only two. Assuming he stays healthy, he should see Double-A before the end of the season.