The major league all-star week is nearly upon us, so it feels like a good time to update our prospect rankings. We did not go with a full 100 (hopefully next season) but instead did a Top 50 with a nice write-up of each player.
I’ve been doing these list for over five years, and each year I think…well, that’s it. All the good players are in the major leagues. But, each year there are players, lots of players that are progressing just as well as the players before them. Sure, there’s unlikely a Mike Trout on the list, but there are plenty of all-stars and probably an MVP or two.
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26. Taylor Trammell (OF, Cin)– I play in five Dynasty Leagues and own Taylor Trammel in four of them. Based on the trade offers I get for him, I know that owners do not value him as one of the best prospects in the game. Perhaps I’m overvaluing him, but I don’t think so. He’s a plus runner (currently not a great base stealer) and as he fills out, I think he develops plus power. Now, he could slow down, but he could be a 20/20 guy…who can hit. He has a 19% strikeout rate and a 13% walk rate. It could all spell a high average and OBP. So, if you are a fantasy owner, congratulations, you will likely have a Top 25 prospect entering 2019.
27. Yordan Alvarez (OF, Hou) – After spending five weeks on the disabled list, Yordan Alvarez hit the ground running and made quick work of Double-A posting a .981 OPS with 11 home runs and five stolen bases. The problem, of course, is he’s blocked all over the place in Houston. The Astros have moved him to the outfield, but that didn’t help much as not only are the Astros stacked in the outfield in the majors, they have Derek Fisher in Triple-A and uber-prospect Kyle Tucker sitting in front of him. As is always the case, playing time usually gets worked out. It’s a good thing too, as Alvarez is becoming one of the best prospects in the game.
28. Michael Kopech (RHP, CHW)– Last fall, I moved to Charlotte from the great state of New Jersey…er, well, it’s a state… Anyway, my new home ballpark is now in Charlotte and I’ve had a chance to see Michael Kopech pitch a ton. I’m worried. First, he throws hard, although I’ve not seen the 105 that everyone talked about last year, he just does not throw strikes. He loses his release point during games and after looking good for three innings, can easily walk three in a row to get into a heap of trouble. It’s a problem and I’m downshifting just a little on him. I also think there is a non-zero chance he becomes a reliever. Now, it could be a lock-down closer, but in order to reach his potential, he needs to find a more consistent release point so he can improve his control.
29. Kyle Wright (RHP, Atl) – Even with their recent promotions, the Braves are still stacked in the minor leagues, particularly with pitching. Kyle Wright, who I believed was the most big league ready pitcher to come out of the 2017 draft has had an inconsistent year in Double-A. He’s shown good swing and miss stuff but has also walked nearly four per nine. It’s still the profile of at least a solid number three pitcher with the chance to be more.
30. Leody Taveras (OF, Tex) – When you are only batting .230, it takes courage to put a place a player at number 30 on any prospect list. But I still believe in Leody Taveras. He’s a toolbox that is suffering from a low BABIP. While I believe that a players BABIP will correct in the major leagues to his personal BABIP or roughly league average +/-, I also believe in the lower minor leagues, it could actually highlight a problem. In Taveras’ case, he’s rolling over a lot on his pitches which is causing him to beat a lot of balls into the ground on weak contact. I think he learns to drive pitches better as he continues to grow. Hopefully, the Rangers won’t push him too much as I do believe he needs quality at-bats at the appropriate level.
31. Justus Sheffield (LHP, NYY) – Justus Sheffield has had a great season. He had no trouble with Double-A pitching to a 2.25 ERA while striking out over 12 per nine and he has posted a sub 3.0 ERA in Triple-A. But if you dig into the numbers, he’s walked over four per nine. In other words, if he were to get promoted to the big leagues, it would probably end poorly. I believe he has a number three, maybe a number two starter profile but first, he needs to throw more strikes.
32. Alex Verdugo (OF, LAD) – I continue to be a big fan of Alex Verdugo as he can flat out hit. I still believe the power grows into a 20 home run threat in a few years and when you combine that with a handful of stolen bases, he’s going to be a nice number three outfielder on a fantasy team.
33. Adrian Morejon (LHP, SD) – Don’t sleep on Adrian Morejon. The 6-foot lefty’s fastball can scrape 94 to 95 with quality secondary pitches and the best part, he throws strikes. The command is not there yet but that should come as he moves through the system. He’s currently on the DL with some muscle soreness but should be back as we get deeper into July.
34. Peter Alonso (NYM, 1B) –Peter Alonso absolutely shoved it in Double-A this year, posting a 1.023 OPS in 63 games and a quick ticket to Las Vegas to continue his path to the major leagues. Unfortunately, things have not gone well in Triple-A to-date, but a .209 BABIP will do that. What impresses me the most about Alonso is his ability to control the strike zone. Throw in plus raw power and the profile looks like a full-time regular.
35. Keibert Ruiz (C, LAD)– I finally got a chance to see Keibert Ruiz live this year and came away very impressed. The swing is short and compact with very good bat speed. He just has natural bat-to-ball skills and that has been on display in Double-A. Sure, the batting average is .230 but his strikeout rate is sitting at 7.7%. That’s Altuvian! The biggest problem with his batting average is his .241 BABIP, so I’m not too worried. Throw-in that he’s a switch hitter and only 19-years-old and already in Double-A, and you can argue that I have him too low on this list.
36. Jesus Sanchez (OF, TB) – As a 20-year-old playing in the Florida State League, Jesus Sanchez is handling things quite well. He’s showing power and a little bit of speed but is also showing an extremely aggressive approach at the plate. In 69 games, he’s walked 12 times. But he’s very young and there is a lot of time left for him to develop his approach at the plate.
37. Alex Kirilloff (OF, Min) – After missing the entire 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery, Alex Kiriloff hit the ground running to begin the 2018 season. In 62 games in Low-A, he posted a 1.019 with 12 home runs. The sledding has gotten more difficult upon his promotion to High-A but he has only been there for three weeks. When you see Kiriloff, you can quickly see the smooth left-handed swing and the leverage he gets. Assuming his swing does not get too long, he could not only hit for plus power but also a .280 plus batting average.
38. AJ Puk (LHP, Oak) – I was worried about AJ Puk when the A’s selected him sixth overall in the 2016 MLB Draft. I thought at 6-foot-7, he would struggle to throw strikes and while he’ll never be Greg Maddux, he’s averaged a reasonable 3.42 walk-per-nine rate in his professional career. What he brings is a power delivery with a plus slider and a change-up that is developing quite nicely. The results of his premium arsenal is an impressive 12.79 career strikeout rate. Unfortunately, he’s missing the entire 2018 due to Tommy John surgery, but assuming he comes back healthy, there’s a lot to like.
39. Willie Calhoun (OF, Tex) – I got it wrong with Willie Calhoun. I thought we would see him in Texas by now but clearly, the Rangers have a different timeframe. After back-to-back 20 home run seasons (27, 23 respectively), the power has been absent so far this year. However, the contact is still as great as ever and I still maintain we are looking at an above-average offensive player with a chance to hit .280 with 20 home runs and a handful of stolen bases. Defensively, it’s still a struggle. The Rangers have pushed him to left field and with his offensive upside, I think the bat will play enough for him to get regular at-bats, perhaps by August.
40. Luis Robert (OF, CHW) – The White Sox held Luis Robert back to begin the season and then had him start the year in Low-A, Kannapolis where he played well in his brief 11 game stay. After his promotion to High-A, he hit the DL with a knee injury and hasn’t played yet in July. If you like tools, then Luis Robert is your guy. He’s big, strong, athletic with plus raw power and good foot speed. Physically, he’s similar to Yoan Moncada but in limited action, controls the strike zone much better. Then again, that’s not saying much as Moncada leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts, ahead of Joey Gallo, Chris Davis, and Aaron Judge.
41. Estevan Florial (OF, NYY) – In the era of premium power with tons of strikeouts, Estevan Florial fits right in. He’s got double-plus raw power but his swing gets long and strikeouts follow. It’s been a disappointing year for the 20-year-old Yankees outfielder as he missed the last six weeks recovering from hamate surgery. Before then, he didn’t play well in High-A. In 34 games, he only hit one home run but struck out 30% of the time. It’s clearly a small sample size and we have to remember, he’s only 20. I’m not expecting much in the second half from Florial in terms of power so perhaps this will give him a chance to work on his contactability.
42. Nick Madrigal (2B, CHW) – As a 5-foot-7 second baseman with natural bat-to-ball skills, Nick Madrigal will likely be compared to Jose Altuve. While I get it as both are short players who can hit, Altuve has an MVP on the books and multiple all-star game appearances. Putting that pressure on Madrigal is just not fair. That said, there is a ton to like about him. He can flat out hit and has premium speed. He has well below average current power and his swing path doesn’t really point to any future power, but with his ability to make hard contact, there should be plenty of doubles with a chance to slug in the low 400s. While he’s currently playing shortstop, I think his natural position will be second or perhaps even center field given his below-average arm strength.
43. Michel Baez (RHP, SD) – Aside from his last outing, Michel Baez has pitched very well in the difficult pitching confines of the California League. As 6-foot-8, Baez brings a power arsenal with a fastball that sits 93 to 95 MPH and can touch higher. His slider is starting to become a real weapon with his change-up still needing some work. The best part of the package is his ability to throw strikes. You can argue that a 3.86 walk-per-nine rate is poor, but given his size, it’s a great place to start. Many kids his size and throwing as hard as he does, have a 5.00 plus walk rate and are bound for the bullpen (see Tyler Glasnow). Baez is some refinement away from being a top 25 prospect.
44. Ryan McMahon (1B, Col) – Sigh. I really bought into Ryan McMahon this year and boy, did he let me down. It wasn’t all his fault as the Rockies played him haphazardly in April and after five weeks and 80 at-bats, demoted him. They brought him back in late May and have demoted him again after not catching fire. It’s the problem when you are trying to catch on when you are on contending team, but then again, both the Yankees and Astros seem to have no problem giving young players plenty of time to develop and settle-in at the big league level. Maybe McMahon is not as good as I thought? Perhaps, but I still like the combination of power and the ability to hit that one day, he will get regular and consistent at-bats at the big league level.
45. Joey Bart (C, SF) – The Giants were looking to the future when they selected Joey Bart with the second overall pick in June. With Posey now 31 and signed for three more years, the transition to Bart should play out nicely in 2021. Bart is not Posey though, at least Posey in his prime. First, he has plus raw power but does not have nearly the level of hit-tool that Posey has. His swing gets long and he can be aggressive at the plate. Defensive, he grades out as solid to above-average with a plus arm and pop times.
46. Ian Anderson (RHP, Atl) – With all the pitching depth in the Atlanta system, Ian Anderson sometimes gets overlooked. The Braves surprised the industry by selecting him number three overall in the 2016 draft, but he’s done nothing to contradict that he was actually worth such a high pick. In 14 starts in High-A, he’s pitching to a 3.13 ERA, striking out over 11 per nine. His control is still not where the Braves want it as he’s walking nearly four per nine. However, the results are still impressive.
47. Julio Pablo Martinez (OF, Tex) – The next uber-athletic Cuban émigré has arrived and his name is Julio Pablo Martinez. The Rangers forked over a $2.8 million dollar signing bonus and have taken it slowly so far with the 22-year-old as he looks to knock off the rust. He began the season in the DSL but after six games was moved to the Northwest League where despite a low batting average has hit a couple of home runs with four stolen bases. He has double-plus speed, plus raw power but the swing gets long so strikeouts could be a problem. As opposed to some of the other notable recent Cuban players, he’s physically different. Puig, Cespedes, Moncada, and Robert are all chiseled big athletes (more football player than baseball player). Martinez is smaller and already filled out. In other words, he’s likely now the player physically that he will be. But you know, that could be a very good player and perhaps even a better player than those who have come before him.
48. Jonathan Loaisiga (RHP, NYY) – Jonathan Loaisiga was one my pop-up guy for the year. The kid threw hard, had very good secondary stuff and threw strikes. In 35 starts in the minor league, he’s walked 24. Plus, the Yankees protected him, in a very deep system, because they were concerned that someone would claim him during the Rule 4 draft. Well, it all worked out as Loaisiga continued to develop and shove it until he was called up to the big leagues to make his major league debut. In four starts, he won two games and pitched to a 3.00 ERA. Look, I don’t believe he’s a top of the rotation guy, although his stuff and control might say different. But at 5-feet-11 and pitching in Yankees stadium, he could be homer-prone and that pushes his upside down. It’s a great story and a reminder of why I do this kind of work. I love finding these jewels, writing about them and then seeing them succeed at the highest level.
49. Chris Paddack (RHP, SD) – Chris Paddack was shoving it two years ago when he felt a twinge in his elbow which quickly led to Tommy John surgery. After nearly two years, Paddack made his return and quite frankly has shoved it since returning. Part of his success is coming from a double-plus change-up that lower-level minor league hitters just can’t handle. As he moves into Double-A and beyond, the 14 strikeout rate will settle back and he’ll have to rely more on fastball command and his curveball which is still a work-in-progress. He’s not an ace, but with elite control, a wipe pitch in his change-up, he could emerge as a Tyler Mahle type of success story.
50. Austin Riley (3B, Atl)
– I think the hype machine has gotten out of control with Austin Riley. Perhaps putting him at number 50, I’m simply stoking the fire. I do think he’s a big leaguer with massive raw power, but his strikeout rate is on the brink of alarming. Sure, he’s hitting .311, but it comes with a .419 BABIP. He’s still young with a lot of time for improvement, but I just don’t think he’s ready, this year or maybe even next year to contribute at a high-level in the major leagues.