I received a twitter request to include a name on the Hot Prospects list that I’ve not heard of. Well, that’s hard as many of the great performances are coming players that have already appeared on the list OR are just great talent. But, I’ve dug pretty deep to give everyone a handful of “under-the-radar” names. Remember, you can also listen to our weekly “Just Prospects” to get the really deep, super young players during that podcast. You can listen to the podcast here.
Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.
1. Isaac Paredes (Det, 3B, Double-A)
After Isaac Paredes split his time in 2018 between High and Double-A, the Tigers had him return to Erie in the Eastern League where he has had little trouble. In 100 games, he’s slashed .279/.364/.405 with eight home runs and three stolen bases. As he’s always done, he controls the strike zone very well and has walked as much as he’s struck out.
While Paredes carry tool is his approach and ability to put “barrel on ball”, he lacks plus secondary tools (speed and power) and therefore that will scare off many fantasy owners. However, he did hit 15 home runs in 2018 and added another eight so far in 2019. As he gains strength and works with the Major League ball, a ceiling of 20 home runs could be in the cards. While that might not be incredibly exciting to fantasy owners, when it comes with a .280/.360 average and a handful of bases, he will have sneaky value in 15-team mixed leagues.
He’s been red hot over the past couple of weeks hitting over .500 with only two strikeouts.
2. Canaan Smith (NYY, OF, Low-A)
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Canaan Smith has really come into his own in Low-A. Since July 1st, he’s hit over .400 with a .520 on-base percentage and more walks than strikeouts. While he’s only hit eight home runs, he has plus bat speed and therefore projects to hit for plus power.
He’s also a solid runner and has stolen 11 of 15 bases. However, he’s already 215 pounds, so as he continues to fill out, the speed will likely regress. Overall the profile is very exciting with a chance to be a full-time regular as a corner outfielder with 20 plus home run potential and a high on-base percentage.
3. Alexander Canario (SF, OF, Short-Season)
After crushing AZL pitching in June, the Giants promoted Alexander Canario to the college heavy Northwest League and he has continued to play extremely well. In 29 games, he’s hit .291 with a .377 on-base percentage with five home runs and three stolen bases. He has shown a penchant to strike out too much (30% K/9 ratio) but he just turned 19 and is extremely young for the league.
While the tools are still very raw, the upside is a power hitter outfielder with a chance to add a handful of stolen bases. As mentioned, the approach will need to be refined and the strikeouts reduced, but there’s a ton to like in the 19-year-old outfielder. I expect him to begin 2020 in Augusta of the Sally League.
4. Jesus Sanchez (Mia, OF, High-A)
In the excitement of the trading deadline, I initially missed that the Rays traded Jesus Sanchez to the Marlins for relief pitcher Nick Anderson. While I think Anderson has closer potential with five years of additional team control, Jesus Sanchez has the higher upside. He has elite bat speed with a chance to hit for plus power at the highest level and he’s currently a solid runner.
The Rays worked hard with him on his approach and being more selective at the plate, but after seeing him several times, he just knows how to make contact. In fact, he reminded me of a young Adam Jones at the plate. He’s up there looking to swing the pole and has such great hand-to-eye coordination that it works. I’m guessing the Marlins will not try and change that it hopes that he will see the Major Leagues sometime in 2020. Once he fully arrives, he could hit 20 to 25 home runs with a .280/.320 average with a handful of stolen bases. That’s a solid fantasy player.
5. Steele Walker (CHW, OF, High-A)
It’s been a big all or nothing for Steele Walker this year. When he’s on like has been over the past week, he has some of the most exciting tools in very good White Sox system. So far in August, he’s hit .571 with a home run, a stolen base and more walks than strikeouts.
6. Abraham Toro (Hou, 3B, Triple-A)
Abraham Toro was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB Draft with a lot of average to above-average tools across the board. However, until this year, he was a .260 hitter with 10 home runs and a handful of stolen bases but with a good strikeout and walk ratios. Through the magic of BABIP, his .260 average has moved to .300 this season and his power has started to tick up. With his recent promotion to Triple-A, he’s still hitting and people are starting to take note.
How good was he in Double-A? In 98 games, he slashed .306/.393/.513 with 16 home runs and four stolen bases. He posted a reasonable 17.7% strikeout rate and walked 11% of the time. Sure, the BABIP was .346, but the profile suggests he can slash .280/.340/.450 with 20 home runs and a handful of stolen bases. That’s a pretty solid player but of course, he plays in the wrong organization.
The Astros are stacked at all positions in the Major Leagues and particularly at third. The Astros have had him play some first and second, but he’ll be blocked there as well. If he continues to hit, they will find a place for him or move him. Regardless, fantasy owners need to take note and start rostering him in teams that have 200 plus minor league slots.
7. Brennen Davis (CHC, OF, Low-A)
Brennen Davis was a sexy pickup in many Dynasty Leagues this year and for good reason. He’s been one of the better performers in the Midwest League showing an intriguing speed and power combo with a semblance of an approach. He just got put on the 7-day IL again with continued problems with his finger after getting hit trying to lay down a bunt.
The Cubs selected Davis in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft based on his great athleticism, plus bat speed, and plus running ability. The bat speed has already started to translate into in-game power as he slugged .509 with seven home runs in 2019. He hasn’t attempted to steal many bases yet, but the speed is at least 65 on the 20 to 80 scale. The approach is still a work-in-progress, but he has shown some plate patience with the ability to not expand the strike zone.
He’s likely three years away from contributing at the Major League level but could start to be in the discussion of our Top 100 list as early as mid-season 2020. If he’s out on your waiver wire, now is the time to make the move.
8. Brandon Marsh (LAA, OF, Double-A)
Brandon Marsh continues to be more of a “tools that you can dream on player” but starting in 2018 and continuing in Double-A in 2019, we saw a definitive improvement in his approach at the plate. The walk rate is a solid 12% and his strikeout rate, which is still on the high side at 24% has also improved. While some might ask where the power is, it’s in there and as he matures and adds more loft to the swing, it should emerge.
While there is a risk, the ceiling is a 20-20 performer with upside on both the power and speed. If he can continue to cut down on his strikeouts, he could become a monster performer at the highest level.
Finally, for fantasy owners, few people are talking about Brandon Marsh. Why? When you have a stud performer like Jo Adell in the organization, you get lost. Look at Vlad Jr and Bo Bichette. Sure, most people knew who Bichette was, but all the talk was about Vlad. Guess what? Bo Bichette can really play and so can Marsh.
9. Gabriel Moreno (Tor, C, Low-A)
The Blue Jays signed Gabriel Moreno out of Venezuela in 2016 and assigned him to the DSL in 2017 and then the GCL in 2018. He had modest success at both levels but has really broken out in 2019. In 60 games in Low-A, he hit .303 and slugged .516 with nine home runs. The most impressive thing is he rarely strikeouts, posting an impressive 8.9% strikeout rate as a 19-year-old kid playing in full-season ball. As a receiver, he does a very good job framing pitches with an above-average arm.
The upside is a full-time regular backstop with a chance to hit for a high average with 50 points on top of that in on-base percentage. His swing is more contact-oriented, but he has plenty of bat speed and strength to profile for at least 15 plus home runs as the highest level. While he’s still only a teenager, he’ll start 2020 in Dunedin and if he has a similar year, could even see Double-A before year-end.
He was red hot in July but has cooled off in August. However, based on his .330 batting average with four home runs in July, he makes our list.
10. Jameson Hannah (Cin, OF, High-A)
While the Reds traded Taylor Trammell at the deadline to the Padres, they did receive Jameson Hannah in return when they shipped Tanner Roark to the Athletics. As one of my readers exclaimed: ”Isn’t Jameson Hannah simply a poor-mans version of Trammell? As a big supporter of Trammell, my first reaction was “no way”, but if I squint, I can see his point.
Hannah was selected by the A’s in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of Dallas Baptist as an athletic outfielder with plus speed who could hit. He’s been just fine in the field showing an ability to track balls well and run down most anything. Offensively, it’s just been ok. He hit .283 with a .341 OBP in 92 games Stockton prior to the trade with six stolen bases but was also caught seven times. He also struck out 21% of the time and with limited power, that’s a troubling statistic. Since the trade, he’s gotten off to a great start with his new team hitting .313 with a .421 OBP.
The ceiling for Hannah continues to be a full-time regular, likely at the corner who with his speed, should be able to steal a lot of bases. Based on his swing mechanics, I doubt there will be much power. However, the more likely scenario is that he’s a fourth outfielder and a part-time player. Is that Trammell? I hope not, as Trammell is a better defender with superior all-around tools. However, if he doesn’t hit, well he too could become a fourth outfielder.
1. Forrest Whitley (Hou, RHP, Double-A)
The season has not gone the way Forrest Whitley imagined as he entered the season. He was the topped ranked minor league pitcher entering the season and after his impressive performance in the Fall League, looked like he would join the Astros rotation as early as May. But a 12.21 ERA in eight games in Triple-A quickly derailed his season and then a “shoulder injury” that followed assured him that his Major League debut would have to wait another year.
Early in the season, Whitley never developed a feel for his pitches and then likely lost confidence. He was wild, walking over five per nine and became home-prone, giving up nine home runs in 24.1 innings. Sure, the juiced ball and PCL surely played a role, but when you’re considered the best pitching prospect in the game and have four plus pitches, well, you have to do better.
I’m still very bullish on Whitley and after he recovered from his bout with shoulder stiffness, he’s been much better. In his last two outings, he gave up one run in nine innings, striking out 14 and walking two. The stuff is still elite but the control is not yet there. That’s understandable as he’s 6-foot-7 with long levers that will take time to completely coordinate. Plus, he’s still only 21-years-old.
Assuming health, I think it will come together, but Astros fans and fantasy owners will simply have to wait another year, or perhaps even two. The arsenal still points to a front-of-the-rotation potential.
2. Luis Patino (SD, RHP, High-A)
I’m still scratching my head wondering why Luis Patino is still toiling in High-A. In fact, you can argue his last outing on July 31st was the best of the season. In 8.1 innings, he gave up three hits with nine strikeouts, no walks, and no earned runs. It’s time for Double-A.
3. Jorge Guzman (Mia, RHP, Double-A)
Jorge Guzman has one of the highest fastball velocities in all of baseball. I’ve personally clocked him at 102 in 2017 but have heard that he’s touched 103. But man cannot live on fastballs alone. His slider is still a work-in-progress and he has yet to show a feel for a change-up.
Throughout his career, Guzman has struggled with his control. In 2018, he posted a 6.0 BB/9 ratio in 21 starts in High-A and while it’s been better in 2019, he’s still walking 4.67 per nine. Plus, his strikeout rate has gone down this year and that is concerning. However, when it’s all working like it was on August 3rd, he can be lights out. In seven innings against Biloxi in the Southern League, he gave up one hit, struck out seven while walking two.
While it’s easy to fall in love with Guzman’s raw stuff, there are enough warning signs out there to suggest a move to the bullpen is in order. I think the slider will develop and that combined with his 100 MPH fastball could make him a force at the backend of the bullpen. Having seen him, I believe the slider develops quickly. If that happens, I further believe that the Marlins should then move him to the bullpen and get his arm to the major leagues.
4. Jackson Kowar (KC, RHP, Double-A)
Jackson Kowar was my top-ranked pitcher in the Royals organization entering the 2019 season. While Daniel Lynch has moved ahead of him, I’m still a big believer in Kowar. He split his time between High and Double-A in 2019 pitching to a 3.33 ERA, striking out 8.7 per nine while walking 2.7 per nine. Last week, he pitched eight shutout innings, giving up four hits, striking out six while not issuing a walk.
At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, Kowar has the size and stuff to be a number three starter at the highest level. He has an above-average fastball that sits 92 to 94 that he can throw for strikes with some command. His money pitch is his change-up that A-Ball hitters had no chance against. While his curveball has improved, it still is lacking in depth and movement.
If it all comes together, Kowar has a ceiling of a number three pitcher on your fantasy team. There is a risk given his lack of an above-average breaking pitch, but there are a lot of other building blocks in which to build.
5. Shane McClanahan (TB, LHP, High-A)
Drafted in the first round by the Rays in 2018, Shane McClanahan has had a quiet, but impressive season so far in 2019. He started the year in Low-A and while he struggled with his control (5.26 BB/9 ratio), he showed great swing and miss stuff striking out over 12 per nine. The Rays promoted him in early June and he’s been even better. He’s been pounding the strike zone striking out over 10 per nine while posting a miniscule walk rate of 1.46 per nine.
McClanahan is not a big kid at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, but still touches the upper nineties with this fastball. He has solid secondary pitches that clearly can miss bats. The delivery is not great as he comes from a lower three-quarters delivery that suggest he could eventually move to the bullpen. But, the Rays believe he’s a starter and the stuff and improving control is starting to lean that way.
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