Ray Butler’s 2018 Top 200 MLB Prospects: #161-180

Written by: Ray Butler

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Twenty more prospects? Twenty more prospects. If upside is your thing, this group has PLENTY of it.

180. Nicky Lopez, SS, KC, Age: 23

Lopez 1) is a valuable base stealer, 2) doesn’t strike out, 3) has the potential to bat .300, and 4) plays a premium position. He may never have the power that elite fantasy shortstops possess (relative to the position), but Lopez has a lot of tools to someday hold value at the big league level. Even if his ceiling is 10 HRs in the big leagues, he’ll get on base and swipe enough bases to make an impact. Lopez will likely start the year in AA (where he finished the 2017 season), and whenever the Royals finally figure out that Alcides Escobar isn’t Carlos freakin’ Correa, Lopez’s path will be much more clear.

179. Jordan Luplow, OF, PIT, Age: 24

Luplow improved in basically every important offensive category from the 2016 season to the 2017 season. He dominated stints in AA and AAA (combining to slash .302/.381/.527 to go along with 23 HRs) before struggling in 87 plate appearances with the Pirates. I’m intrigued to see whether Luplow’s true offensive profile resembles that of last season, or if he’ll find a middle between his 2016 and 2017 campaigns. If he can find a spot as an everyday big leaguer and repeat his success from last season, Luplow will have standard league value. Even with Andrew McCutchen now in San Francisco, the Pirates still have Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Austin Meadows, and others who will certainly have their say in the Pirates’ outfield outlook in the near future.

178. Wander Samuel Franco, SS, TB, Age: 17

Wander. Samuel. Franco. What a freakin’ name (even though it’s not even the best name in this batch of top prospects). And what a freakin’ talent. Including Franco on a list like this is based purely on projection and potential, and Franco possesses both of these. He’s 16 years old, so he’s nowhere near making a big league impact (it’s a very similar situation to Kevin Maitan last season), but it’s never too early to put a potential star on your fantasy radar. Since there are no stats to talk about, here’s a few fun facts about the Rays’ youngest gem. He was the consensus (or at least near-consensus) #1 international prospect last season (before Luis Robert became available). He’s a switch hitter. HE HAS TWO BROTHERS WHO ARE ALSO NAMED WANDER FRANCO!!! Fun facts aside, if he can get the hang of professional baseball, Franco should be a fixture on prospect lists for the next four or five seasons.

177. Dillon Peters, SP, MIA, Age: 25

Few prospects in baseball were as triumphant last season and Marlins prospect Dillon Peters. After undergoing Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted in 2014, Peters officially began his professional career in 2015 before competing unrestricted in 2016. Last season, Peters dominated batters in High-A and AA before getting his first taste as a big leaguer late in the regular season. The 31.1 IP big league sample isn’t fantastic thanks to an out-of-character BB%, but that certainly didn’t sour me on the southpaw. He’s 25 years old and small-framed, so he may not have the enormous upside of other pitchers you’ll see on this list. However, I think Peters possesses the floor of a back-end-of-the-rotation starter. The Marlins will certainly give Peters an extended look at some point this season.

176. Mickey Moniak, OF, PHI, Age: 20

Evaluators across the board ranked Moniak last season based mostly on his hit and speed tools with the assumption that Moniak, in his first season of professional baseball, would meet the expectations of a defending #1 overall draft pick. A year later, we’re ranking Moniak based on a harsh reality that he ‘might’ not be great at any aspect of evaluation. We never expected him to hit 20 HRs, but we CERTAINLY expected him to reach base at a MUCH higher clip than the cringe worthy .284 OBP mark he posted last season in Low-A. Of course, one season is wayyyyyy too soon to give up on a #1 overall draft pick, and he’s only 19. But I think we’d all agree that Moniak needs to have a much better showing in 2018 to retain any top prospect or fantasy value moving forward.

175. Jose Siri, OF, CIN, Age: 23

The 24 HRs and 46 SBs last season were truly remarkable, but there’s a reason I (like most industry lists) remain bearish on Siri. He absolutely has to show a willingness to take more walks this season; a 6% walk-rate exposes holes in swings against better competition. Speaking of competition, Siri’s age (he’ll play half of the 2018 season as a 23 year old) was basically league average (which isn’t great) in Low-A last season. A repeat performance of his 2017 season with an increased BB% would lead to a huge bump for Siri on my list, perhaps as soon as my midseason top 100.

174. Taylor Ward, C, LAA, Age: 24

If I don’t have an elite catcher in fantasy baseball, my goal is to acquire or draft a player who isn’t going to absolutely suck the life out of my team. A catcher who will take a walk, won’t strikeout a ton, and will simply be a solid albeit unspectacular piece of my team’s puzzle. Ward fits all of these categories. He ALMOST walked as many times as he struck out last season (57 BBs, 60 Ks). The willingness to take his base led to an appetizing .368 OBP. He never hit more than 15 HRs in a single season, but he’ll check a ton of boxes as you look to fill a catcher void that can be a black hole if you’re not careful. I consider Ward the catcher of the Angels’ future.

173. Evan White, 1B, SEA, Age: 22

Pavin Smith (who you’ll read about when we get closer to the top 100) was the toast of the town in the first base world during the 2017 MLB draft, but White has all the makings of an everyday MLB first baseman. 60 hit tool/60 power tool first basemen are continually becoming harder and harder to find, but White could possibility fit the bill. I think he’ll always hit for a solid average, so if he ever reaches his power potential… watch out.

172. Arquimedez Gamboa, SS, PHI, Age: 20

Arquimedez Gamboa is simply here because I couldn’t afford to leave the name off this list. Just kidding. (But really, I bet Gamboa’s ADP was slightly inflated just so people could say the name.) A switch hitter, Gamboa is really just scratching the surface of his potential. At 20 years old, I think Gamboa will continue to fill out, and I think the power will follow. Gamboa possesses above average plate discipline, and that’ll serve as a great foundation as his physical skills begin to mimic the advanced approach. Even if he’s not worthy of being owned with your fantasy league’s format, bookmark Gamboa’s Fangraphs page and keep it close to your heart. He has real breakout potential in 2018.

171. Colton Welker, 3B, COL, Age: 20

Like the aforementioned Garrett Hampson, if you’re a fantasy player who obsesses with the path of a prospect, Welker may not be your cup of tea. If you (rightfully) are willing to take a risk on a player with an abundance of talent and tools regardless of a potential muddy path, Welker should be squarely on your radar. Remember: it may take longer than you’d like, but good players always find a way to overcome a sketchy path to the big leagues. Welker may never steal a base on purpose, but man can he hit. I think there’s a chance his ceiling resembles that of a .280 AVG, 25 HR corner infielder. There’s a chance he moves to first base, but his talent might hold value regardless. I expect Welker to be a rather well-known name amongst fantasy baseballers before the end of the 2018 season.

170. Christin Stewart, OF, DET, Age: 24

Stewart spent the entirety of the 2017 in AAA, mashing 28 HRs and posting a .335 OBP (albeit a .256 AVG). There’s nothing wrong with those numbers, which is good, because I think it may be his ceiling. I see a bit of AAAA potential with Stewart, but the Tigers are in full-blown rebuild mode, so when the left handed slugger finally gets promoted to Detroit, the club will certainly be patient with him. At his very best, Stewart might total 30 HRs and a .350 OBP as a major leaguer; my personal opinion perceives him more as a 25 HR, .320 OBP player though.

169. Anthony Banda, SP, TB, Age: 24

Don’t you dare let anyone tell you Banda was bad last season after he was promoted to Arizona. Yes, he did have a 5.96 ERA. Yeah, he walked 3.5 batters per nine innings. He also struck out nearly a batter per inning and posted an FIP of 3.24. All in all, Banda’s first taste of the major leagues was a mixed bag, but the future remains bright for 24 year-old southpaw. He may need an opportunity to arise for him to make a gigantic impact on your active roster this season, but at the very least he’ll bide his time and continue developing while in AAA.

168. Garrett Hampson, 2B, COL, Age: 23

The probably with the immense amount of talent that the Rockies are currently developing in the minor leagues is simple: How are we supposed to confidently acquire stock in assets whose big league future seems completely blocked? Talent. Founds. A. Way. And Hampson has a TON of a talent. The second baseman ‘should’ continue to post averages north of .300 without breaking much of a sweat. The power is still a work in progress (but 8 HRs last season isn’t terrible), but the calling card is the speed. FIFTY ONE (51!) stolen bases in 2017. Yeesh. At 23 years old, Hampson should begin the 2018 season. He doesn’t have the youth that makes a lot of high-upside prospects so attractive, but I really think there’s a shot that Hampson eventually becomes a 10-12 HR, 25-30 SB, .300 AVG player. Those stats play regardless of age. Depending on what the Rockies decide to do with D.J. Lemahieu (and, in turn, Brendan Rodgers), Hampson’s path could be just as blurry as it seems or not nearly as blurry as it seems—it truly remains to be seen. What doesn’t remain to be seen is that Hampson is extremely talented and could continue his ascent on prospect lists.

167. Domingo Leyba, SS, ARZ, Age: 22

It’s always hard-pressed to say that a prospect lost an entire season of development due to injury, but Leyba had a rough go of it in 2017. Totaling only 96 plate appearances and seeing his season cut well-short thanks to shoulder surgery, Leyba, now assumedly healthy, will be a prime bounce back candidate this season. He’ll probably start in AA, but a quick promotion could be in order if Leyba were to perform to his ability while exhibiting durability. Depending on the performance of the Diamondbacks middle infielders, Leyba could find himself in the mix for a big league promotion down the stretch of the 2018 regular season. On the flip side of that coin, Leyba could also be a valuable trade piece if the Diamondbacks have a positional need at the trade deadline this season.

166. Starling Heredia, OF, LAD, Age: 19

Heredia really seemed to pick up some hype at the end of the 2017 season, but he’s gone widely untalked about this offseason. The 20 year old hit .325/.397/.555 with 7 HRs, 34 RBIs and 10 SBs at three stops last season… all in 234 plate appearances. Heredia is easily one of the most raw prospects to be included in my top 200 prospects, but he might also possess one of the highest ceilings. I simply need to see a larger sample size before I slide all my chips to the center of the table, and I should get that this season as Heredia prepares for his first full season of professional baseball. There are certainly some holes in his swing (29.5% K% last season), but I have no doubt that the Dodgers organization will help the 6’2 Heredia develop to his full potential. If I were to make a list of the ten prospects I’m most excited to see this season, Heredia would certainly make this list.

165. Kevin Newman, SS, PIT, Age: 24

I’ll admit it: Kevin Newman made me mad last season. Owner of what was thought to be one of the best hit tools in the minor leagues, Newman scuffled his way to a pedestrian .267/.311/.363 triple slash with just 4 HRs and 11 SBs. None of that screams anything in the ballpark of being worthy of an appearance on top prospect lists. I’m certainly skeptical, but I’m not waving my white flag yet. I’m really interested to see if Newman recommits to taking more walks (9.4% BB% in 2016, 5.3% BB% in 2017) this season. I’m really hopeful that we see a .300 AVG, .350 OBP campaign from Newman in 2018, and I think that’s a real possibility.(which would likely lead to his first big league call up). However, I also wouldn’t be too surprised if he were an afterthought on a hypothetical top 200 prospect list this midseason.

164. A.J. Minter, RP, ATL, Age: 24

I know, I know. No one really like to read about relief pitchers on prospect lists. But you know that I know that, so wouldn’t the fact that Minter makes this list entice you to take notice? I think there’s a really good chance that Minter is closing for the Braves at some point during the 2018 season. There’s some lefty-lefty specialist risk here, but Minter is easily one of the most electric relief pitchers in the minor leagues. With the Braves destined to be one of the best teams in the league in the coming years, there’s a real chance that Minter becomes a top 5-10 closer in fantasy baseball.

163. Tanner Scott, SP, BAL, Age: 24

Scott’s statistics were all over the place last season. A 2.22 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 3.45 xFIP, and 11.35 K/9 (22.2% K%). Sign me up, right? Then you notice that Scott walked an astounding six batters per nine innings and had a LOB% of 84.3%. Something’s gotta give. I think, obviously, the LOB% will regress. But Scott will either overcome the control issues in AAA (where he’ll start the 2018 season), or his electric stuff might be forced to manifest itself from the bullpen. It’s easier said than done, but even at 23 years old, Scott will skyrocket up prospect lists if he can simply cut his BB/9 from 6.0 to 4.0.

162. Jake Burger, 3B, CHW, Age: 22

Looking for an off-the-radar sleeper who doesn’t have much experience in baseball yet could fly through the minor leagues? Burger might be your guy. Need more evidence? A first round draft pick last season, Burger has a grand total of 217 professional at-bats. Who cares? The White Sox still invited the third baseman to big league camp this spring. I also think Chicago will be aggressive with Burger’s placement this season, and I assume there’s an outside shot we see him move all the way up to AAA before the conclusion of the season. Burger hit north of 20 HRs while in college during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and the HR output is something I’ll be keeping a close eye on again this season.

161. Akil Baddoo, OF, MIN, Age: 19

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way… this group of twenty prospect has a few 80 grade names on it, Baddoo including. I don’t know how much of a power threat Baddoo will ever be (5’11 185 lbs.), but his plus speed and developing contact ability make him an intriguing prospect. He’ll get his first shot at full season ball in 2018, so we should get our first real sample from Baddoo soon. I think Baddoo can be a 10-15 HR/20 RBI/.340 OBP guy at his peak, just remember that there’s a ton of variance and volatility projecting (with any certainty) a player who’s never played a full season of professional baseball.

On deck: Prospects #141-160

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Featured image courtesy True Blue LA

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