Written by: Ray Butler
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I count SIX plus-plus athletes amongst my #41-60 prospects. We’re beginning to creep into the ‘tomorrow’s superstars’ portion of this list.
60. Anthony Alford, OF, TOR, Age: 24
Alford’s tools scream as loudly as any tools in the minor leagues. But the outfielder will turn 24 in July, he’s played three full seasons of professional ball, and the numbers simply haven’t matched the skillset yet. Let me clarify: Alford has been good. Last season, he slashed .299/.390/.406 in three different minor league stops. Alford also received his first taste of the big leagues with the Blue Jays, but the right-hander fractured his left hamate bone in his fourth MLB game. Alford hit 5 HRs and stole 19 bases last season in the minor leagues, but the tools suggest Alford is capable of hitting 15-20 HRs and stealing 30 bases. For me, the 2018 season will be telling as to whether Alford is capable of tapping into the ceiling of his massive potential, or if he’s a superior athlete who might not ever figure it all out. For the sake of his place in the top half of top 100 prospect lists, Alford will need to post his first professional campaign of 10+ home runs during the 2018 season.
59. Jon Duplantier, SP, ARZ, Age: 24
Named Pipeline Pitcher of the Year at the conclusion of last season, Duplantier was one of the most dominant pitchers at any level in 2017. The right-hander finished with a hilariously good 1.39 ERA with 165 K’s in 136 innings pitched. Duplantier is one of those ‘needs to develop a solid third pitch’ guys, but if you don’t invest now and Duplantier replicates his success from last season, he’ll be a top 25 prospect and owned by someone else in your league. At this point, it’s not really important to consider (because Duplantier hasn’t pitched at a level more advanced than High-A), but the humidor in Arizona will eventually give a slight bump to Duplantier’s potential major league value. He’s a late bloomer, but Duplantier could be a middle-of-the-fantasy-rotation guy for you as early as sometime in 2019.
58. Cal Quantrill, SP, SD, Age: 23
Possessor of what is easily one of the best changeups in the entire minor leagues, Quantrill will play the 2018 season two years removed from Tommy John surgery and will likely knock on the door of an MLB debut at some point this season. Now, there is some unfortunate research that speaks to the low strikeout rate amongst pitchers who rely heavily on their changeup, but Quantrill also boasts an above average fastball that should continue to develop as Quantrill extends further and further away from UCL surgery. I’ll be interested to see if Quantrill’s BABIP against improves in 2018 (opponents had an insane .353 and .341 BABIP against Quantrill in High-A and AA last season). It’s bound to, right? Some positive regression in that category would lead to a slight bump in Quantrill’s performance. The Padres window is about to open, and Quantrill could play near the top of their rotation when they’re ready to legitimately compete in the NL West.
57. Monte Harrison, OF, MIA, Age: 22
A lot of prospects are considered “one of the best athletes in the minor leagues” because Monte Harrison exists. Harrison is a freak athlete, and it’s far from a unique take to consider him the very best athlete in the minors. Harrison totaled 21 HRs and 27 SBs (swoon) last season in Low-A and High-A. The .272/.350/.481 slash is also encouraging (in other words, the man is at least willing to consider taking a walk), even if the K% was a high 27.1%. Harrison’s swing is certainly not flawless, and it must continue to evolve in order to not be exposed against higher-level competition. I tend to think that elite athletes have a better chance of ironing out mechanical issues than functional athletes, so I remain optimistic in Harrison’s future. I’m not necessarily in love with the move from Milwaukee’s farm system to Miami’s, but Harrison’s ceiling holds massive value anywhere on planet. Just know that even in the height of his prime, Harrison (who is a big-time low floor/high ceiling prospect) will likely disappear from your production spectrum for a couple of weeks (or a month) each season.
56. Heliot Ramos, OF, SF, Age: 18
“He’s probably got the highest upside of any prospect they’ve had since Buster Posey.” Those are the words from Jim Callis, a senior writer for MLB Pipeline, when discussing Ramos recently. How many prospect evaluators are slightly-limiting Ramos’ ceiling thanks to the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park in San Francisco? It’s certainly an interesting nuance, but I’m not sure it should have much to do with how we view Ramos (currently 18 years old and years away from an MLB debut) as a prospect in 2018. Ramos has the chance to be a state-of-the-art five tool contributor. He’s extremely athletic, he packs some pop, and he should be a factor on the bases until late in his career. There’s absolutely-zero chance that he maintains the .500 BABIP he posted last season in Rookie Ball, but the fact remains that even though he’s ranked inside of the top 60, Ramos might be the most underrated athlete (and one of the most underrated prospects in general) in my top 200 list.
55. Miguel Andujar, 3B, NYY, Age: 23
Andujar looked destined to the Opening Day third baseman for the Yankees, but a trade for Brandon Drury will likely keep the Dominican Republic native at bay…. for now. A potential .300 AVG/20 HR hitter who doesn’t strike out much holds a ton of value regardless of the fact that he plays third base. Unfortunately, I think Brandon Drury is going to become quite valuable in pinstripes, so I’m not sure how Andujar will make a big league impact this season. If Drury pans out, Andujar could be a prime candidate to be traded at some point this season. If Drury flatlines, I think Andujar could get a shot at everyday playing time relatively early during the season. If there’s a complaint, it’s that I’m not sure Andujar can continue his high on-base ability long-term in the major leagues if his BB% remains near six percent.
54. Leody Taveras, OF, TEX, Age: 19
Scouting the stat-line of Taveras’s 2017 performance would likely lead to a much lower ranking than I have him here, but the talent, intangibles, and age discrepancy between Taveras and his opposition is simply unquestionable. Taveras was 3.5 years younger than the average competition he faced in Low-A, and the low K% goes to show just how advanced Taveras’s offensive approach is (despite the unsavory AVG and OBP). I think Taveras has an above-average chance of excelling in 2018 (nothing crazy, but a 15 HR/20 SB campaign wouldn’t surprise me). Speaking honestly, Texas isn’t noticeably close to contending in the American League; if Taveras projects like I think he will, he may be A New Hope for the Rangers sometime next season or in 2020.
53. Ian Anderson, SP, ATL, Age: 20
Thought I might rank 20 prospects in 2018 without including a Braves pitching prospect? Think again. A lot of my in-the-know Braves guys think Anderson is the best arm in the entire system, which is no small feat seeing as the Braves have the most arm-stockpiled system I’ve seen since I began evaluating prospects more than two seasons ago. The command isn’t optimal (which is what you would expect from a 19-year-old professional pitcher), but scouts I’ve talked to think Anderson will eventually possess MLB-average command at least. Like they did last season with older arms, I could see the Braves challenging Anderson with a potential AA placement to begin the season. It would be the first true arsenal test for the right-hander, who largely skated through Low-A with his above-average fastball/curveball combination. The Braves will almost assuredly move multiple arms as their window begins to open, but seeing as they drafted Anderson with the third overall pick of the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft, I think the soon-to-be 20 year old is relatively safe in Atlanta’s elite farm system.
52. Franklin Perez, SP, DET, Age: 20
It’s weird how a trade from one team to another can make a prospect symbolize something totally different than he would have otherwise. If Perez were still a member of the Astros organization, he’d most likely blend in (or perhaps even be an afterthought) with Forrest Whitley, David Paulino and the immense active roster the Astros currently possess. Now with the Tigers (as the main piece in return for Justin Verlander), Perez represents the future for an organization that desperately doesn’t want to normalize not making the playoffs. At 20 years old with a deep arsenal that features three above-average offerings (fastball, curveball, changeup), Perez is a strong-bet to remain a starting pitcher throughout his career. I’m very, very interested to see if he can maintain the performance of a top 60 prospect under the tutelage of a new organization.
51. Austin Hays, OF, BAL, Age: 23
If you care anything about the Orioles or Hays, you’re probably wondering why I don’t have Hays ranked higher than I do. Honestly, I’m worried that I have him ranked too high. I haven’t directly said this (though you’ve probably understood my vibe when I’ve alluded to it), but I just can’t hitch my horse to a prospect who refuses to take a walk. You may disagree; you may be tired of me saying it. I don’t care. That being said, it’s hard to argue against Hays’ non-BB% stats in AA and AAA last season: .329/.365/.593 with 32 HRs, 95 RBIs and 85 strikeouts in 563 plate appearances. A dream-come-true for a stat line scout, right? The problem is how well the holistic picture (namely the 4.4% BB% last season in the minor leagues) projects to the biggest stage the sport offers. In the long-run, Hays will likely be much more valuable in an AVG league (he should post a .270 or better AVG in his prime) than an OBP league (which might minimally exceed .300 in his prime). He’ll average anywhere from 20-30 homeruns. You know what you’re getting with Hays. The conundrum is obvious: Is the 23-year-old outfielder worth his current price tag? If you think so, he’s probably already on your team. If he’s not, he’ll probably be on another owner’s team for the foreseeable future. I’m an OBP/TB guy, so I’ll gladly let Hays slide and pay the pied piper if he exceeds expectations in the future. So be it.
50. Keibert Ruiz, C, LAD, Age: 20
I feel like it’s such a lazy comp seeing as he’s still a prospect, but we may have another Francisco Mejia on our hands. At this point, Ruiz is a mythical figure. He’s never batted below .300 in any professional season, he’s never approached a 15% K% in any professional season, and he’s increased his power output since beginning his professional career in 2015. What’s not to like? Honestly, I’m not sure. If I’m nitpicking, Ruiz will likely never be a 20 HR hitter. There isn’t a huge discrepancy between his AVG and OBP because he doesn’t walk at an optimal rate. His path to the majors is cloudy. Other than that? I’m scratching my head. Ruiz likely won’t be ready until late-2019 at the earliest, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue developing like a typical Dodgers prospect. Ruiz might someday be ranked similarly to how I’m ranking Francisco Mejia this season, which would make him one of the most valuable prospects in the entire minor leagues.
49. Justus Sheffield, SP, NYY, Age: 22
He might not receive the hype that Chance Adams does (to me, anyways), but if I had to pick a Yankees pitching prospect to potentially play a crucial role in my fantasy rotation, I’m immediately sliding my chips to the middle of the table in favor of Sheffield. The right-hander threw his most IP in a single season in his first professional season as a member of the Indians organization. Sheffield was 19 and 20 years old, and it was before he was traded from Cleveland to the Bronx in a trade that featured Andrew Miller. Yes, the Yankees will always possess one of the most polarizing pools of prospects regardless of talent due to interest level, but Sheffield is legit. The profile is far from finalized, but I could certainly see Sheffield making an impact in the Bronx before the end of the 2018 season as a 22 year old, whether it be the regular season or postseason.
48. Jesus Sanchez, OF, TB, Age: 20
Another guy I considered for a potential ‘breakout prospect of the 2018 season’ label, Sanchez burst onto the scene in his first full professional season and has squarely planted himself amongst the best prospects in baseball who can’t yet sit down at a blackjack table or buy alcohol. The hit tool is just-now beginning to progress and he hit .305 last season. The power tool is just-now beginning to progress and he hit 15 HRs last season. Oh, and he was more than two years younger than his average competition. Yes lawd. Look, I highly disagree with the Rays organizational moves so far this season (when was the last time a sub-.500 team made high-volatile, lateral-move(s) with a successful outcome?), but the end game with Sanchez might actually be improved thanks to the unceremonious exit of Corey Dickerson from the organization. With the timeline likely decelerated until sometime in 2019, Sanchez has one of the most attractive outlooks of any prospect ranked between 41st and 60th.
47. Carson Kelly, C, STL, Age: 24
One of the most talented players at a premium position in the entire minor leagues, one of the most blocked paths in baseball. I don’t know this from personal experience, but Kelly has to be extremely frustrating to own in the fantasy realm. I briefly discussed the Yadier Molina/Carson Kelly situation here,, but the recap is this: If you own Kelly, you’re hoping he gets traded as soon as humanly possible. That’s not a fantastic spot to be in. If he remains in the Cardinals’ organization, there’s a real chance that (barring injury) he doesn’t become a fantasy asset until he’s 27 years old! Yowzers. What’s more, he’ll likely lose his prospect eligibility this season regardless of Molina’s health, which means you’ll be forced to use an active player slot on a player who either plays in the big leagues once a week or remains well-above-average in AAA. Like I said, a trade remains the best case scenario for Kelly. Are you willing to pay a top 50 price for a prospect to simply hope he gets traded? It’s one of the toughest situations any player faces in my entire top 200 list.
46. Adrian Morejon, SP, SD, Age: 19
It’s absolutely mind-boggling to me that Morejon has been bumped-down on most prospect lists after his performance last season. “He’ll need to strikeout more batters to retain top-prospect-status” doesn’t seem fair when the player you’re evaluating is almost FOUR years younger than his average competition. All in all, I think the Padres’ $11 million man is right-in-line with the projection he was given the day he signed a big-league contract. The man was clearly above-average in his first taste of professional ball, and he only threw 63 IP. He’ll likely exceed (or at least near) 100 IP this season, and it’ll be in full season ball. Like the aforementioned Cal Quantrill, Morejon has a chance to be at the top of the rotation when the Padres’ window-of-contention opens. Actually, Morejon and Quantrill could potentially form one of the most formidable duos in the major leagues someday. You should be doing everything you can to acquire Morejon from your league mate right now. Once the next wave of prospects graduate, Morejon could find himself somewhere in the top 25 range. I also expect the K% numbers to increase as Morejon continues to mature and develop. He has legit-#2 SP potential.
45. Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD, Age: 22
I use this cliché from time-to-time when doing write-ups on players, and I’m going to use it here: Alex Verdugo is not for everybody. If Ender Inciarte with a higher batting average but fewer steals is your cup-of-tea, I probably don’t have to tell you that you should be head-over-heels in love with Verdugo. If you prefer a prospect with a higher ceiling and lower floor, you likely discarded Verdugo as a potential acquisition a long time ago. At the end of the day, prospect lists are all about taste. Sure, Verdugo could eventually be the 15 HR hitter that Inciarte likely never will be, but there’s no NL MVP ceiling there. But as I’ve discussed several times already, Verdugo won’t lose you matchups over the course of a week. He won’t strike out, he’ll walk enough to keep his OBP high. He’s the ultimate high-floor/limited-ceiling prospect who just-so-happens to play in the best developmental system in baseball. If there’s untapped potential to be reached, the Dodgers will find it with Verdugo. At minimum, you’re drafting Verdugo and (at some point) plugging him in to your starting lineup without worry. At best, Verdugo develops into a top-of-the-lineup bat who easily surpasses 100 Rs each season while batting somewhere around .325 in one of the best lineups in the major leagues. Simply put, Verdugo is one of the safest prospects in this entire #Top200 list.
44. Corbin Burnes, SP, MIL, Age: 23
Of all the pitchers inside of my top 50, Burnes is likely the most underrated and least talked-about. Everyone talks about the Brewers rotation and its weakness when compared to the Cubs. Everyone thinks the Brewers should sign or trade for a premium starter (see: Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb (lol), or Lance Lynn). The truth is, the missing piece in the rotation could very well be Burnes. The 23-year-old has a very high floor because he keeps the ball in the yard and doesn’t walk people, though a potential AAA placement in Colorado Springs to begin the 2018 season would be the ultimate test of those skills. From a statistical standpoint only, I could see Burnes mimicking the numbers of a guy like Kyle Hendricks. He’ll never be a #1 or high-end #2 SP, but he certainly won’t cost you large stretches of success and will (likely) commonly aide your rotation tremendously.
43. Willie Calhoun, UTIL, TEX, Age: 23
I feel like there are hundreds of baseball gurus that want to take everything about June Calhoun’s offensive approach and inject it into their veins. No batting gloves, free swinging (without striking out), and huge success. Now, Calhoun plays in a league that can afford him at-bats without exposing his defensive shortcomings. The trade from the Dodgers to the Rangers was one of the best things (from a fantasy standpoint) that could have happened to Calhoun, and it appears as though his offensive prowess will take full-flight at the major league level in 2018. Rougned Odor comfortably roams second base on an everyday basis for the Rangers, so Calhoun will mainly play left field or DH (with occasional spells at 2B when Odors get a rest day). As far as projections go, I think Calhoun will be a perennial .280 AVG/25 HR hitter with spurts of something better. Calhoun has never neared a 20% K% in any of his professional seasons, so the high floor should make Calhoun a staple in fantasy lineups throughout the next decade.
42. Keston Hiura, 2B, MIL, Age: 21
Keston Hiura has never played a full season of professional baseball. Keston Hiura is one of the most pure hitters in the minor leagues. Defensive placement/potential is a major question mark with the 2017 first round pick, but the Brewers are brimming with confidence with Hiura. Heck, they even invited Hiura to their MLB Spring Training without a full-season of professional experience under his belt. I’m interested to see if his throwing-elbow holds up over time (he received a PRP during the offseason after reportedly partially tearing his UCL during his amateur career). Tommy John surgery would obviously cost him an entire season of development, so let’s hope the injection is enough to keep him on-the-field…. Forever. If surgery is officially out of the picture, Hiura remains a high AVG/OBP prospect with questionable power numbers. There’s certainly HR numbers to be had, but we won’t really get an idea of what those look like until Hiura plays a full professional season (that means that trained eyes will be watching him throughout the 2018 regular season). I expect him to tempt double-digit HRs as an MLB hitter with room to grow. The upside is the AVG and OBP numbers, which should remain around .300 and .350 respectively throughout Hiura’s minor league development.
41. Jo Adell, OF, LAA, Age: 19
If box-jump ability translated to baseball performance, Adell may be the next Babe Ruth. Seriously, if you haven’t watched Adell perform feats some would consider impossible, allow me to bless you here. In my rankings, Adell tops what is a meteorically-transformed farm system. He’s young, he’s an elite athlete, and he possesses a high-ceiling without a ‘holy crap my parachute isn’t opening’ floor. If I’m being detail-oriented, I think Adell’s ceiling increases while the floor decreases throughout what should be his first full-season of professional baseball. In general, I think he’ll be ranked primarily due to his notable ceiling this time next season. The Angels are about to be a legitimate threat throughout the next decade. Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani will obviously be the household names, but Adell has a chance to be a major factor in the rise to prominence as well. I’m iffy as to what defensive position Adell will play when he’s MLB-ready (there are probably more moving parts with the Angels’ future than any other MLB organization), but I do know that I’m all-in on the tools and future outlook.
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