Ray Butler’s 2018 Top 200 MLB Prospects: #81-100

Written by: Ray Butler

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Folks. We’ve finally moved into the top half of my #Top200 prospect list. My #81-100 prospects are chalked full of guys destined to make a big league impact sooner rather than later…..

100. Chance Sisco, C, BAL, Age: 23

My fingers are crossed, but it’s looking like this may be the last time we have to include Sisco on our prospect lists! With Wellington Castillo now in Chicago, the path has been seemingly cleared for Sisco to be the Orioles Opening Day catcher. It’s about time. The backstop sacrificed some contact ability (career high K%) for some extra pop (career high 9 HRs) last season. I’m not sold on him ever being a star, but I do think he’ll be drafted regularly in standard formats throughout his big league career. Here’s to Sisco being ineligible for this list by the time we get to midseason.

99. Michael Chavis, 3B, BOS, Age: 22

Chavis exploded onto the scene last season, mashing 31 HRs and slashing .282/.347/.563 between stops at High A and AA. The performance was enough to land Chavis on prospect lists across the industry heading into the 2018 season, but what will the encore look like? The third baseman is unlikely to duplicate the .360 BABIP he posted in High A last season (he had a putrid .265 BABIP in 24 more PA in AA after being promoted), and I project him more of a .260/.325/.450 player moving forward. I hope to be surprised. Interestingly, Chavis played some first base in Peoria during the Arizona Fall League. With Rafael Devers seemingly the Red Sox third baseman for the foreseeable future, Chavis’s future (defensive position and, possibly, long term team) will obviously play a huge role in his value moving forward.

98. Dylan Cease, SP, CHW, Age: 22

Why ‘pitcher wins’ is the most useless stat in baseball, exhibit 34,829,470,273: Cease went 1-10 last season despite compiling a 3.28 ERA with a sub-3 FIP while striking out 126 batters in 93.1 IP. Crazy. CRAY-ZEE. This time last season, Cease had been labeled as the pitching prospect who was finally going give the Cubs a viable ‘homegrown’ starting pitcher. Then, Cease was traded to the White Sox alongside Eloy Jimenez in exchange for Jose Quintana. The White Sox will soon be one of the best teams in the MLB, and Cease certainly has a chance to play a major role in any future success. A Tommy John surgery recipient, if he performs to his projections this season, Cease will be knocking on the door of a major league debut during Spring Training next season.

97. Colin Moran, 3B, PIT, Age: 25

At 25 years young, there’s a bit of #posthype associated to Moran. But thanks to a swing change and a new opportunity with a new club, the third baseman could kick down the door and become a fantasy mainstay in 2018. Moran increased his FB% by more than ten percent, which led to a career high 19 HRs. Moran also increased his AVG and OBP and lowered his K%. None of that really mattered, though (because the Astros’ infield is set for the next decade), until Moran was traded to Pittsburgh (along with others) in exchange for SP Gerrit Cole. He should be penciled in as Pittsburgh’s every day third baseman, and there’s a real possibility that Moran is a .300 AVG/25 HR hitter at his peak.

Side note: I originally scoffed at the Pirates’ return for Gerrit Cole, but I’ve since convinced myself that both Moran and Joe Musgrove will be above average MLB players. I suppose we’ll see.

96. Logan Allen, SP, SD, Age: 21

Allen doesn’t get the same hype that a lot of Padres prospects are currently receiving (maybe because he was originally drafted by the Red Sox), but it’s time to take note. One of my favorite things about Allen: he surrendered only three home runs in 125 innings pitched last season (his first full professional season). Oh, he also struck out 143 batters. He walk numbers aren’t high. Allen is an underratedly solid prospect whose buy-low window is quickly diminishing. There’s a chance the Padres stick him back in High-A to begin the 2018 season, but I think we’ll see Allen pitch predominantly in AA during his second full season of pro ball.

95. Dustin Fowler, OF, OAK, Age: 23

It’s a true shame that a lot of average baseball fans only remember Dustin Fowler as the Yankees player who suffered a gruesome leg injury in his first ever MLB game. During his rehab, Fowler was traded from the Yankees to the Athletics, where he’s hoping to become an outfield staple beginning this season. A lot of Fowler’s value lies in his ability to steal bases, so I’m very interested to see if he continues swiping bags at the same rate as he did in past seasons (25 SBs in 2016, 13 SBs in 70 games last season). Fowler has never been one to take many walks, so I’m interested to see if he can maintain a batting average north of .280 in the major leagues. The 23-year-old lefty is currently viewed as the favorite to land the Athletics starting center fielder job, so Fowler should be an instant-impact prospect if you can grab him this preseason.

94. Alex Faedo, SP, DET, Age: 22

Faedo has actually been drafted by the Tigers twice (once as a senior in high school, once as a member of the Florida Gators), and the 6’5 225 pound right-hander has the chance to absolutely blaze through Detroit’s minor league system. The knock on Faedo (by some) is that he doesn’t possess an overpowering fastball (and some scouts question whether he’ll be able to strike professional batters out consistently like he did at Florida). The critique comes with the caveat that the fastball still has some projection remaining. Faedo’s slider has been given a 70 grade future projection, and his best asset may be his advanced game management. Two things I’ll be looking for in Faedo this season: 1) What level he begins the season at, and 2) how consistently he can strike out professional hitters.

93. Ryan Mountcastle, IF, BAL, Age: 21

It appeared Mountcastle would be ranked much higher than 93rd on this list early last season. Then, Mountcastle was promoted to AA and proceeded to slash .222/.239/.366 in 159 PA. In all, Mountcastle totaled 18 HRs and 8 SBs with a .287 AVG in 538 plate appearances last season. That’s the good. The bad? Mountcastle walked a grand total of 17 (SEVENTEEN!) times in 538 plate appearances last season. That’s good for a 3.2% BB%. How is that even possible? Now, Mountcastle is an above average athlete and has plenty of time to develop better plate discipline and a more selective eye. He’ll likely begin the 2018 season back in AA, and Mountcastle’s future status on prospect lists will have everything to do with how willing he is take more walks beginning this season.

92. Sandy Alcantara, SP, MIA, Age: 22

The centerpiece of the Marlins’ return for OF Marcell Ozuna, Alcantara will now take his triple digit fastball to perhaps the worst team in the major leagues. Alcantara got his first taste of major league baseball at the end of last season despite having a relatively disappointing season in AA Springfield. I remain rather skeptical as to whether Alcantara will remain a starting pitcher throughout his career, but I do think a trade to the Marlins (who can afford to be patient) helps that cause. Based on pure stuff, Alcantara is more than capable of racking up strikeouts at the big league level. However, the command will have everything to do with Alcantara either being a well above-average big league starting pitcher or the pitcher who posted a 7.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 125.1 IP last season in AA.

91. Bryse Wilson, SP, ATL, Age: 20

Man, do the Braves have a ton of great arms on the farm. A fourth round pick in 2016, Wilson excelled in his first professional season, posting 139 strikeouts and a 2.50 ERA in 137 innings in Low-A. Wilson doesn’t necessarily have one pitch that blows hitters and evaluators away. Instead, the right-hander leans on his ability to not walk batters nor allow homeruns. His fastball projects as an above average pitch, and he’ll likely be a 20 year old pitching in High-A to begin the 2018 regular season. It would not surprise me at all if Wilson eventually ranked higher than at least one of the Braves pitchers you’ll read about later in this list (Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka and Kyle Wright).

90. Aramis Ademan, SS, CHC, Age: 19

The conversation has shifted from “Geez, the Cubs farm system is STACKED!” to “Geez, the Cubs farm system SUCKS!”, and I simply feel like that’s allowed Ademan to become somewhat of a hidden gem. As an 18-year-old last season, Ademan hit 7 HRs and stole 14 bases while finishing with a .324 OBP in 317 plate appearances. Ademan was three years younger than his average competition in his Short Season A and Low-A placements. The future projection is also exciting: At 5’11 160 pounds, Ademan will continue to fill out as he gains more experience. The speed is here to stay and the power should continue increasing, so I’ll throw a dart and project Ademan as a future 15 HR/20 SB/.340 OBP player. The Cubs have absolutely no reason to rush him, so Ademan will continue progressing comfortably through a Cubs system known for developing position players.

89. Matt Manning, SP, DET, Age: 20

Manning no longer has the luster of a first year player and hardly threw 50 IP last season, and I feel like those facts alone led to his omission on a couple of lists I’ve studied so far this preseason. Not here. At 19 years old (now 20), Manning dominated Short Season A and Low-A to the tune of 62 strikeouts in 51 innings pitched with a 2.68 FIP. The 4.4 BB/9 isn’t great, but I’m more than willing to chalk that up to Manning’s first taste of professional baseball (and only his third year of focusing on pitching…. In his entire life). At 6’6, Manning certainly has the stature of a typical MLB starting pitching bulldog. He’s greener than a gourd, but with more experience, Manning has the realistic ceiling of a high-K, athletic, #2 starting pitcher.

88. Carter Kieboom, SS, WAS, Age: 22

Kieboom looked well on his way to enjoying a breakout season in 2017 before injuring his hamstring in May. The injury limited Kieboom to only 255 PA; he hit 9 HRs and slashed .297/.396/.493 between stops at Rookie Ball, Short Season A and Low-A. Kieboom possesses an attractive floor and ceiling, but I like the floor particularly. He may never be a valuable base stealer, but Kieboom looks like a consistent double-digit homerun hitter who will reach base at a rampant pace thanks to an advanced eye and willingness to take walks. It should be noted that Kieboom would likely be a top target for the Marlins if the Nationals get serious about acquiring catcher J.T. Realmuto.

87. Shane Baz, SP, PIT, Age: 19

Prepare yourself to hear this phrase as long as Baz is a prospect: It’s all about his command. Baz had arguably the deepest arsenal of any prep pitcher draft in last season’s MLB draft, and that arsenal will be on display in 2018 during Baz’s first full season of professional baseball. The repertoire only matters, though, if Baz develops more consistent command. There’s no reason to think he won’t improve like any other 19 year old top 100 prospect, but the current tools make Baz somewhat of a low-floor/high-ceiling prospect. When it all clicks (and the Pirates have a recent track record of developing pitchers), Baz could be the next in a long line of Texas fireballers to make a big-time big league impact.

86. Albert Abreu, SP, NYY, Age: 22

We still haven’t gotten the full Albert Abreu Experience yet thanks to injury, but there’s a lot to like about the Dominican Republic native. Already drawing comparisons to current Yankees stud Luis Severino, if he can stay healthy, Abreu could easily be a top 50 prospect across the board by midseason. Don’t let the 175 pound label given to Abreu on team and statistical websites fool you: the right hander is built with a sturdy lower body that will help him maintain his velocity deep into starts and throughout a 162 game season. The Yankees should at least think about placing Abreu in AA Trenton to begin the 2018 season; as far as projections go, I think Abreu is capable of striking out more than a batter per inning while maintaining an ERA in the low-to-mid 3’s. There’s an outside chance that Abreu eventually develops into a #2 SP, and you know I don’t use that projection loosely.

85. JoJo Romero, SP, PHI, Age: 21

With Sixto Sanchez’s rise to prominence, Adonis Medina’s emergence, and Franklyn Kilome’s elite athleticism and eye-opening potential, I feel like Romero is often an afterthought in discussions about the future of the Phillies’ pitching staff. Use this to your advantage. Romero was simply fantastic last season in Low-A and High-A, totaling a 2.16 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 129 IP in his first full professional season after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB draft. Romero has above average command (7.0 BB%) and keeps the ball in the yard extremely well for someone with such little professional experience. The southpaw might not have the astronomical ceiling of future teammate Sixto Sanchez, but Romero has mid-rotation potential nonetheless.

84. Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, TB, Age: 22

If 13 HRs, 20 SBs and a .368 OBP in 2017 weren’t enough to get you excited about Bauers heading into this season, now he’s got clear opportunity. The ink just dried on the Rays designating Corey Dickerson for assignment. Logan Morrison isn’t expected to return to the club, and although Tampa Bay did just acquire C.J. Cron, Bauers almost certainly figures into the Rays plans this season. The stolen base potential will be handy for a player who should maintain dual 1B/OF eligibility, and a .350 OBP/20 HR should be attainable after getting accustomed to the big leagues. Bauers will certainly be more valuable in OBP leagues than AVG, but the lefty will probably hold value across the board beginning sometime this season.

83. Brandon Woodruff, SP, MIL, Age: 25

One of the few pitchers in the history of the world to not get completely obliterated by the friendly hitting confines in AAA Colorado Springs, Woodruff enters the 2018 season as a candidate to land the final spot in the Brewers rotation to begin the regular season. Like the aforementioned Colin Moran, despite being a 25-year-old prospect, Woodruff is an absolute perfect player for any rebuilding team who also needs to fill its active roster spots. The ceiling may be somewhat limited due to unspectacular strikeout numbers, but Woodruff should eventually become a consistent innings eater that will check a lot of boxes for your fantasy rotation.

82. Cole Ragans, SP, TEX, Age: 20

I know this is a relatively unique take, but I think Ragans is already one of the best left handed pitchers in the minor leagues, with a chance to someday be the best. The 13.7 K/9 last season was otherworldly; the 5.5 BB/9 last season was obviously suboptimal. Ragans posted a solid 3.42 xFIP in his first season of professional ball (Short Season A), and he has the tools to be a top-of-the-rotation big league southpaw. I’ll be keeping an eye on his walk rates this season in High-A. At 6’4 190 lbs., he’s built to eventually be able to take the ball every fifth day over the course of a 162-game season. At 20 years old for the entirety of the 2018 season, I think there’s a chance he doubles the 57.1 IP he totaled in 2017. There’s a ton of variance possible, but I currently view Ragans as a future #2 SP who could knock on the door of a big league debut as a 21 year old in 2019.

81. Max Fried, SP, ATL, Age: 24

Another southpaw, Fried was actually better after being promoted to Atlanta than he was in AA and AAA last season. While Fried was still with AA Mississippi (and in the same rotation as Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka), I had a chance to speak with a handful of scouts about the trio of prospects. Almost unanimously, they preferred Fried to Allard or Soroka (while admitting that all three would eventually be ‘big league guys’). Fried’s long-term ceiling in the big leagues might eventually be as high as his control takes him. He’s certainly capable of missing bats, but at times, his pitch count gets away from him due to working deep counts and walking hitters. Fried will compete against fellow lefties Sean Newcomb and Luiz Gohara for the final two rotation spots in Atlanta his spring. The short straw will likely begin the season in AAA Gwinnett.

On deck: My #61-80 prospects….

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Featured image courtesy of Baseball America

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