The minor league season has also crossed the halfway point with the Sunday’s Futures Games the next big event for prospect watchers. However, for me, every week is about prospects.
This week, we present 15 players who have played extremely well over the past week or so. Wander Franco, the best hitting prospect leads our hitters and MacKenzie Gore, arguably the best pitching prospect leads our pitchers.
Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.
1. Wander Franco (TB, SS, High-A)
Five games into the Florida State League and things are going quite well for Wander Franco. He’s batting .556 with a couple of home runs and has yet to strikeout. Remember, he doesn’t turn 19 until next March.
2. Alex Kirilloff (Min, OF, Double-A)
I write about prospects for a living and supplement that by playing in five Dynasty Leagues. One player that I hardly ever get asked about, nor do I see any of my league mates discuss is Alex Kirilloff. Maybe it’s because he missed the entire 2017 season recovering from Tommy John Surgery or that he’s only hitting .268 this year with two home runs. Perhaps people think this guy is just “ok”, but I’m here to tell you, he’s much better that. In fact, I think he could be a star.
First, he can flat out hit. While his 21% strikeout rate in 2019 is a little high, he’s historically been a mid-teens K%-rate guy and I expect that going forward. He also can work a walk and is averaging nearly a 10% walk rate this season. Secondly, there is big raw power in the bat that has yet to translate into in-game power. The most impressive thing is that it’s not just pull-power, but it’s power to all fields. If you told me that one day, he hits 30 home runs in the big leagues, I would not be surprised.
The Twins have a stacked young outfield, but in 2022, Eddie Rosario will be a free agent and that might mean the Twins move him prior to that. Kirilloff could be a terrific replacement for him in 2020-21. If not, he’s likely blocked which means something else will have to be figured out.
Kiriloff has been red hot of late batting .327 in June and .400 over the past week.
3. Ibandel Isabel (Cin, 1B, Double-A)
Ibandel Isabel carrying tool is double-plus raw power and his 19 home runs easily leads the Southern League in home runs. The problem is his strikeouts also lead the league and that, coupled with a poor walk rate, give pause as to his ultimate ceiling. Over the last 10-days, he’s been red-hot, hitting .314 with five home runs.
4. Blake Rutherford (CHW, OF, Double-A)
Drafted 18th overall by the Yankees in the 2016 MLB Draft, Blake Rutherford has not torn up the minor leagues. In parts of four years, he’s hit .283 with a .308 OBP and a .408 SLG. This year, it’s been more of the same with a decent batting average but with little power and speed.
I do believe Rutherford will be a big leaguer and that opportunity might come as early as 2020. But I don’t see an impact performer. There will be a little speed (10 to 12) and once he starts using the major league baseball, he could also hit double-digit home runs. However, he needs to cut down on his strikeouts and show more plate patience. Until then, he’s a marginal add in a dynasty league. That said, I’m not giving up on him as I still do love the athleticism and I’m still holding out hope that he’ll be a late bloomer.
He makes our list with a .365 batting average in June but it came with a .471 SLG and one home run.
5. Cal Raleigh (Sea, C, High-A)
Drafted in the third round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of the Florida State University, Cal Raleigh has had a nice season. He’s a switch hitter with good raw power from both sides of the plate. While he’s only batting .246, he’s shown an ability to control the strike zone with a reasonable strikeout rate of 21% and walk rate of 9%.
Raleigh’s carrying tool is his plus raw power and provided he can continue to control the strike zone; he has a chance to be a full-time regular. He’s a fine receiver with a solid arm and pitchers like throwing to him. The Mariners will likely promote him to Double-A in the second half and if he continues to progress, should see Seattle sometime in 2021.
Raleigh hit six home runs in 23 games in June batting .333 over the last week.
6. Dom Thompson-Williams (Sea, OF, Double-A)
Dom Thompson-Williams was acquired from the Yankees in the James Paxton deal prior to the 2019 season. He started his breakout in 2018 when he hit .290 with 17 home runs and 17 stolen bases in the Florida State League and has continued his progression in Double-A.
He’s still raw at the plate but with his athleticism, there is an intriguing combination of power and speed. While he does show good plate patience (9.0%) he is still striking out too much (26.3% strikeout rate). If he can put it all together, the upside is a 20-20 performer with more on the power side. However, whether he reaches this ceiling will likely come down to his ability to cut down on his strikeout rate. He’s already 24-years-old and is still a year away from a promotion to the big leagues.
Over the past week, he’s hit .333 with four home runs.
7. Orelvis Martinez (Tor, SS, Rookie)
The Blue Jays signed Orelvis Martinez to an impressive $3.5 million dollar signing bonus last July. The 6-foot-1 Dominican outfielder’s carrying tool is his 70-grade raw power. While he was signed as a shortstop, his body type suggest that he will eventually move off the position to third base or even a corner outfielder.
The Blue Jays started him off in Rookie Ball and he’s showing no issues handling the league. In his first five games, he’s hitting .421 with a home run and a stolen base. In 22 plate appearances, he’s struck out three times and has also walked three times.
If it all comes together, the upside is a 30-home run performer. With his quick and strong hands, he should get adept at allowing balls to travel deep into the strike zone. If that happens, he should be able to hit for average as well. His ability to manage the strike zone is still an open question, but based on the raw tools alone, he should be owned in most deeper Dynasty Leagues.
8. Jonathan Arauz (Hou, SS, High-A)
Jonathan Arauz was part of the return the Astros got in the Ken Giles trade in December 2015. Signed as an international free agent earlier that year, he’s the kind of young high-upside guy that gets included in big trades. It’s now been four years since the Astros acquired Arauz and I think it’s safe to say, the results have been inconsistent.
He’s shown an ability to control the strike zone but has yet to hit for much power. This season, he’s hit .253 but with a 20% strikeout rate and 8.5% walk rate but has also only posted a .391 SLG. Given his bat speed, I would expect to see more power in the future. He’s also added four stolen bases.
In Dynasty Leagues, Arauz is still a hold for me, but if it all comes together, he could develop into a solid middle-infielder bat with a little speed and pop. Over the past week, he’s shown just that. He’s 10 for 29 with two home runs.
9. Terrin Vavra (Col, SS, High-A)
I know it’s Asheville, but Terrin Vavra continues to perform extremely well. The third round pick last year hit .350 in June with two home runs and four stolen bases with more walks than strikeouts. He’s a player that should be considered for all Dynasty Leagues that roster 150 or more minor league players.
10. Brett Baty (NYM, 3B, Rookie)
The Mets drafted Brett Baty in the first round (pick 12) in June’s MLB Draft and quickly signed him to an under slot $3.9 million dollars signing bonus. The Mets took that savings and were able to then select and sign Matthew Allan, a promising right-handed pitcher later in the draft.
The Mets assigned Baty to the GCL and in five games, he’s performed very well slashing .350/.480/.650 with six strikeouts and five walks. He also has added one home run.
Baty is currently a third baseman and time will tell if he can stay there or if a move to first base will be necessary. Regardless, the power should play at either position but at 6-foot-3, there will be holes in his swing and therefore, pressure on the batting average. But in the modern game, that appears to be acceptable provided the production is there.
1. MacKenzie Gore (SD, LHP, High-A)
The Padres drafted MacKenzie Gore with the third overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and he’s quickly established himself as one of the best pitching prospects in the game, if not the best.
Pitching in the very difficult environment of the California League, he has dominated. In 14 starts, he’s pitching to a 1.12 ERA, striking out 12.5 per nine while walking 2.1 per nine. The Padres have been conservative with his workload, limiting his pitches per game early in the season and then building over each outing. He hit a high of 100 pitches in a June 26th contest with Rancho Cucamonga.
It’s an elite arsenal with a fastball that sits 93 to 95 MPH and a double-plus curveball. What is unique about Gore is his ability to command his fastball which allows each of his secondary pitches to play-up. Remember, command and control are different. Sure, he can throw strikes, which is control, but he’s able to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate and that is what gives him a ceiling of a number one.
I think he sees San Diego sometime in 2020 and given his arsenal, athleticism, and control and command, he could be good right away. The only fear is an injury. But that’s something that we fear with all pitchers.
2. Tarik Skubal (Det, LHP, High-A)
One of my breakout players for 2019 has been Tarik Skubal. In four June starts, he pitched to a sub 1.00 ERA with 35 strikeouts and seven walks. I think a promotion to Double-A should be in the cards very soon.
3. Sixto Sanchez (Phi, Mia, High-A)
After starting the season on the Injured List, Sixto Sanchez has been pitched very well; particularly of late. In five June Double-A starts, he’s pitched to a 2.05 ERA with 35 strikeouts and five walks. I still worry about his size, but it’s an electric arsenal highlighted by an 80-grade fastball that he when he’s on, can hit 100 MPH.
4. Joey Cantillo (SD, LHP, Low-A)
The Padres have cleaned up Joey Cantillo’s delivery and he’s added a bit more velocity and the combination are paying dividends this season. In 12 starts in Low-A, he’s pitched to a 1.19 ERA with 11.6 strikeouts per nine while walking less than two per nine. The upside is still a number four starter, but if he can continue to smooth out the mechanics and improve his velocity, there could be more in the tank.
5. Brian Howard (Oak, RHP, Double-A)
Drafted in the 8th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Brian Howard has already exceeded what many expected from him.
Originally drafted by the Astros, the 6-foot-9 and 185 pounds has put on weight and the stuff has taken a nice step forward. His fastball is now sitting 91 to 92 MPH and scraping higher with an improving slider and change-of-pace curveball. The ceiling is likely a fourth starter in the Major Leagues, but his height and ability to control his arsenal makes him an intriguing prospect.
Last week, he was particularly impressive, pitching seven no-hit innings against Fresno in the Texas League with seven strikeouts and only two walks.
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