Ray Butler’s 2018 Top 200 MLB Prospects: #121-140

Written by: Ray Butler

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Lots of power, lots of ceiling. My #121-140 prospects certainly have some superstar potential….

140. Danny Jansen, C, TOR, Age: 23

This time last year, I really thought that in 2018, the Blue Jays catcher prospect I’d be hyping on a prospect list would be Max Pentecost. Instead, I’m writing about Jansen, and with good reason. More walks than strikeouts in 2017. Ten home runs throughout three levels (High-A, AA, AAA). A combined 10 HRs, .323 AVG, and .400 OBP. What’s there not to like? Okay, okay. Maybe you wish he hit for more power. But listen to me: I’d rather get 10 HRs and a 9% K% from my catcher than 15 HRs and a 20% K%. With Pentecost’s positional future in serious question, it’s looking like Jansen may be the eventual heir to Russell Martin’s throne in Toronto.

139. Mike Matuella, SP, TEX, Age: 24

High-risk, high-reward. Perhaps no prospect on this lists fits that title better than Matuella. The 23 year old has literally been through the ringer. He was diagnosed with spondylosis (a lower back condition) in 2014. In 2015, he underwent Tommy John surgery. Both of these occurred while Matuella was still in college. Instead of being a top draft pick, the Rangers took a chance on the battered right hander in the third round. After a grueling rehab and a setback that prolonged the timeline of his return, Matuella threw 75 IP in 2017, totaling a 4.20 ERA (though his FIP and xFIP were better) and a 7.2 K/9. Nothing too magical from the outside looking in, but the numbers are quite remarkable when you consider the injuries and that the 75 IP was his first taste of professional baseball. At a gigantic 6’6 220 lbs., Matuella is built to eventually have the capability of withstanding the toll of a 162 game season. He boasts three above average pitches, and the most important factor in Matuella’s outlook is simply remaining healthy and gaining experience. He’s certainly not a top 100 prospect in my eyes (yet), but if everything clicks right and Matuella continues to show durability, there’s potential to be a #2 starting pitcher.

138. Ryan Castellani, SP, COL, Age: 22

Yes, Castellani is a pitcher for the Rockies. I know, I know. And then you look at his stats from last season, and you probably wonder why he’s on a list like this, much less #138. The first thing that jumps off the page at me is that Castellani’s FIP and xFIP are both nearly a run better than his ERA last season. He’s not a heavy strikeout guy, but he also pitched in AA as a 21 year old this past season. As a Rockies’ pitcher specifically, Castellani keeps the ball in the yard (0.92 HR/9 last season), and he has a slightly above average ground ball rate (45.1% GB% last season, which was actually the lowest number he’s posted in four seasons as a professional). It’s always best to tread carefully when getting your hopes up about a Rockies pitcher, but Castellani has the makings of an above average big league pitcher. Heck, he’s not even the only Rockies pitching prospect you’ll read about in my #121-140 rankings!

137. Freicer Perez, SP, NYY, Age: 22

If size is your thing, Perez is almost certainly on your radar. Standing at a monstrous 6’8, Perez enjoyed a fantastic first full season in professional ball last season and will look to build on that momentum last season. Still extremely raw, Perez is viewed as a high-ceiling prospect whose potential hinges greatly on his ability to repeat his mechanics continuously (like most tall pitching prospects). With his height, I’d like to see Perez continue to develop physically. We’ll likely see the Dominican native in High-A to start the season, and a repeat performance from last season with a slight uptick in strikeout frequency should land Perez in several midseason top 100 prospect lists.

136. Chris Shaw, OF, SF, Age: 24

Shaw may not be Heliot Ramos, but he ‘could’ be one of the most underrated prospects on this entire list. Giants’ position player prospects tend to be underrated in prospect list thanks to the hellish offensive conditions at AT&T Park, but it’s hard to look at Shaw’s .292 AVG and 24 HR output last season at 23 years old and not fantasize of a player who has an outside shot of hitting .300 with 30 HRs at their peak, even in San Francisco. Shaw isn’t a stolen base threat, and there’s certainly some swing-and-miss tendencies in play. But at the price you’ll be asked to play, why not take a chance on a player with Shaw’s ceiling? Especially when the outfielder could play a role with the Giants’ major league club sometime in 2018.

135. Bobby Bradley, 1B, CLE, Age: 22

Bradley made some of the on-base strides that we were hoping to see last season, raising his AVG by 16 points and lowering his K% nearly seven percent. He walked less, though, which led to his OBP actually decreasing from .344 in 2016 to .331 last season. The home run output decreased as well, which is likely the biggest reason for the drop in his ranking (I ranked Bradley as the 82nd best prospect in baseball prior to last season). Yonder Alonso recently signed a two year deal with the Indians, but he’s certainly not viewed as the first baseman of the Cleveland’s future. Bradley will continue to develop on the farm (he’s expected to play in AAA this season) with the expectation he’ll be major league ready sometime next season.

134. Erick Fedde, SP, WAS, Age: 25

Fedde got a shot with the Nationals last season, and things, quite simply, did not go well. Fedde posted a 9.39 ERA in 15.1 IP (though the 4.12 xFIP is much better) before being shut down with a right forearm strain. A Tommy John surgery recipient, any sort of arm injury or discomfort is always worrisome, but the Nationals were adamant that they were simply being abundantly cautious. As for the 2018 season, Fedde will duke it out with A.J. Cole for the final spot in the Nationals rotation. Even if he loses out on an Opening Day spot, it’s a safe bet to assume, barring injury, Fedde will be a heavy contributor to the Nationals pitching staff this regular season and for the foreseeable future.

133. Lucas Erceg, 3B, MIL, Age: 23

If you’re wondering where you’ve heard Erceg’s name before, you probably remember his eye-opening success last season during spring training. In the minor league playoffs last season, Erceg was promoted all the way from High-A Carolina to AAA Colorado Springs. It was certainly a challenging assignment, but Erceg showed (albeit in a small sample) that AAA pitching wasn’t overwhelming whatsoever. The on base ability regressed some last season, and Erceg will need to replicate his 2016 success in order to insert himself into midseason top 100 lists. Like most Brewers prospects, Erceg would hypothetically be a subject of trade talks if Milwaukee needed to add pieces throughout the regular season.

132. David Peterson, SP, NYM, Age: 22

Peterson is 1) a gigantic left handed pitcher, and 2) a prospect who dominated in a short sample in Short-Season A last season despite falling victim to a .444 BABIP. The number 20 overall pick last season, Peterson struck out an unsightly 14.7 batters per nine innings as he got his feet wet in professional baseball. I feel like projecting a Mets’ starting pitcher prospect is simply projecting the next wave of MLB starter to get freakishly injured, but Peterson could very well break the mold. The southpaw will almost certainly get his first taste of full season ball in 2018, and Peterson could eventually take his major league place amongst starting pitchers named Syndergaard and deGrom. Fingers crossed.

131. Shed Long, 2B, CIN, Age: 22

I struggle to determine just how ‘in love’ with Shed Long I am. There’s no way he’s a legit power hitter at the MLB level, right? Long stands at 5’8 and only weighs 180 pounds. But… he’s hit 15 and 16 HRs in the last two seasons respectively. The stolen base output diminished last season as Long only totaled nine stolen bases after registering 21 swiped bags in 2016, but the .358 OBP in 2017 is impossible to ignore. Long is viewed as the second baseman of the Reds future, even if that future won’t officially begin until sometime in 2019 or later. As Long continues to progress in minor league difficulty, I’m thoroughly interested to see if the HR numbers remain consistent. I’m also interested to see if Long will reestablish himself as a stolen base threat this season, or if we’ll get to X that category off of future contributions. Long is easily one of the most intriguing middle infield prospects heading into the 2018 regular season.

130. Peter Lambert, SP, COL, Age: 21

Don’t mind me, I’m just ranking another Rockies’ pitching prospect in my top 200 prospect list. And Lambert isn’t the last one! Lambert is a year younger than Ryan Castellani (a pitcher you hopefully just got done reading about), but he’s already surpassed 140 IP in a single season before throwing a competitive pitch at the age of 21. Impressive. Lambert has improved his K/9 during each of his three professional seasons, and I expect that trend to continue this season. A trend I hope comes to a stop is Lambert’s GB%, which has decreased in each of his three seasons as a pro (42% last season). Inducing weak contact on the ground is absolutely crucial as a Rockies pitcher, and Lambert’s fate on prospect lists depends heavily on his ground ball output in the near future. Lambert will pitch in AA this season with a chance at an MLB debut sometime in 2019.

129. Harrison Bader, OF, STL, Age: 24

Bader is in a really weird spot for evaluators, list makers, and fantasy baseball players. He played in 32 MLB games last season with the Cardinals, totaling 92 plate appearances. The small sample wasn’t that great, but Bader retained prospect status nonetheless and is less than a calendar year removed from being a top 100 prospect across the board throughout the industry. Bader will reportedly battle Tyler O’Neill this spring for a spot in the Cardinals’ everyday outfield, with the loser likely being relegated to AAA Memphis. Bader will strike out his fair share, but he has 25 HR/10 SB potential, which means you could do far worse when targeting outfield prospects heading into the 2018 season.

128. Franklyn Kilome, SP, PHI, Age: 23

I have an irrational love for Franklyn Kilome. I can’t really explain why, but I do. If I had to guess? It’s probably because I feel as though Kilome is one of the most athletic pitchers in the minor leagues. The 6’6 Kilome (who only weighs 175 pounds, let’s hope that improves) threw 127 innings last season, compiling a 2.83 ERA and striking out 103 batters along the way. As Kilome continues to tap into his athletic potential, I expect the strikeout numbers to really progress at some point, perhaps as early as this season. I absolutely love the pitchers in the Phillies system, and while Kilome may not rank as highly as some of his fellow teammates and farmhands, the Dominican Republic native might have a higher ceiling than any Phillies pitching prospect not named Sixto Sanchez.

127. Jaime Barria, SP, LAA, Age: 22

A three level pitcher in 2017, Barria totaled 141.2 IP and a 2.80 ERA last season for an Angels system that has quickly risen to prominence. He’ll never be an elite strikeout pitcher, but Barria should eventually be a major league starting pitcher who you can plug into your rotation with little concern. Barria will probably begin the 2018 season in AAA, but there’s a chance (especially with the sketchy injury history of a lot of the Angels’ starting pitchers) that Barria, at some point, plays a role in the Angels’ major league rotation.

126. Zack Littell, SP, MIN, Age: 22

Know what I hate? When prospects receive somewhat of a downgrade when they get traded to an organization in a smaller market. Littell almost cracked my midseason top 100 list last season, and I’ll be danged if I exclude him from this list simply because he now plays with the Twins instead of the Yankees. Littell, by definition, is a high floor prospect. He’ll never crack the top 20. Heck, he may never even crack the top 50. But Littell’s floor makes him an upper-echelon #4 starting pitcher, with room to develop into a #3. An 11th round pick in 2013, Littell posted an eye opening 2.12 ERA while striking out 142 batters in 157 IP between High-A and AA with the Yankees and Twins. A 2018 MLB debut is certainly not out of the question for Littell, and an encore of his 2017 performance would force ALL industry evaluators and websites to take notice of the 22 year old.

125. James Kaprielian, SP, OAK, Age: 24

Like other industry prospect lists, I ranked Kaprielian comfortably inside of my top 100 heading into last season. Then disaster struck. It was announced in April that Kaprielian would undergo Tommy John surgery, ending the youngster’s season before it really got started. During his rehab process, Kaprielian was traded to the Athletics as part of the Sonny Gray acquisition by the Yankees. Kaprielian is nearing full-health, and even posted a video of him throwing recently on Twitter. He won’t play in the limelight of a big market team, but Kaprielian still has a ton of upside and, with expected development, could eventually pitch as a #2 starting pitcher in fantasy circles. He’s one to monitor very closely this season.

124. Brian Anderson, 3B, MIA, Age: 25

Opinions and outlooks on Anderson throughout the prospect and fantasy baseball community are all over the place. His cup of coffee with the Marlins last season didn’t go so well, but Anderson DID show major untapped power potential throughout AA and AAA before receiving his first MLB call up. Now that the Marlins can afford to be as patient as possible, Anderson should be an everyday player whose ceiling lies somewhere at the 20 HR, .340 OBP mark. Those aren’t superstar numbers for a third baseman in the fantasy world, but when you combine them with the fact that his strikeout numbers will never kill you, Anderson could hold value in standard fantasy formats.

123. Isan Diaz, IF, MIA, Age: 22

I ranked Diaz as the 50th best prospect last preseason (yikes) because I saw massive power potential at a premium position. Diaz was only 20 at the time, and I thought his contact skills would continue improving as he gained more experience in the Brewers system. Basically, every part of my thought was wrong. The power potential remains, but Diaz struggled last season in High-A. He had 132 fewer PA due to fracturing his right hamate bone in August, but Diaz’s home run total decreased from 20 in 2016 to 13 last season. His AVG and OBP decreased. The wRC+ decreased by more than 40 points. Even the K%, which was already a poor 25.2% in 2016, worsened to 26.6% in 2017. So why does Diaz even deserve a spot at all this season? Because he’s a 21 year old with 25 HR potential at second base. Because he gets the fantastic opportunity to ‘reset’ after being traded to Miami as part of the Christian Yelich trade. Sure, Diaz has holes in his swings that could potentially hinder him from reaching his potential. But giving up on a 21 year old with massive potential because of a bad season leads to people losing sleep as their league mates win championships with players like Diaz playing key roles. I’m certainly not concern-free when I evaluate Diaz, but I’m choosing to hold steady to see what 2018 has in store before doing anything rash.

122. Zack Collins, C, CHW, Age: 23

After our draft last season, one of my league mates made the argument that Zack Collins was ‘the best catching prospect in the game’. The comment was made in reference to me drafting Francisco Mejia nearly two rounds after Collins was taken. Lol. Like many catchers, you perceive Collins differently depending on whether your league is an AVG or OBP league. Why? Collins only mustered a .224 AVG last season between High-A and AA. He posted a .370 OBP between the two leagues. With 19 HRs last season, the power is everything we thought it would be. The defensive performance (which was the biggest concern this time last season) developed to an extent in 2017, though the White Sox still acknowledge that Collins needs to further develop from a blocking and game management standpoint. Collins has reportedly been revamping his swing this offseason in effort to be quicker to the ball, and it’ll be interesting to see how the adjustments manifest themselves in game action this season.

121. Brandon Marsh, OF, LAA, Age: 20

If any prospect in my current 121-140 range is capable of someday becoming a top 10 or 20 prospect, my money is on Marsh. A five-tool player, Marsh destroyed Rookie Ball pitching last season, leading to a .350/.396/.548 triple slash with 4 HRs and 10 SBs in only 192 plate appearances. Yeah, that’s one way to announce your professional arrival. Marsh is an elite athlete who’s built to one day become an elite power hitter. At 6’4 210 lbs., Marsh is built like an NFL wide receiver, and he’s still learning to use his frame to its full potential. Not only will Marsh get a shot at full season ball this season, but I think there’s a chance he progresses quite quickly through the Angels’ system. There’s some injury history here, but Marsh has one of the best compilation of tools in the minor leagues. Now might be the last time to acquire him without paying an arm and a leg.

On deck: The #101-120 prospects….

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