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

Written by: Ray Butler

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Let’s continue. This batch of prospects features *all* the Dodgers prospects. 

180. Will Smith, C/3B, LAD, Age: 23

A catcher whose value will always depend on your league format (meh in AVG leagues, adequate in OBP leagues), Smith must also compete with fellow-Dodger farmhand Keibert Ruiz for the future catching throne in Los Angeles. It’s currently Ruiz’s battle to lose, which is evident by Smith’s partial shift to third base this season (he played a little third base and second base last season). The 23 year old seems like a prime trade candidate as the deadline begins to approach, and a move to almost any other organization would give Smith an immediate bump in stock.

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

Only 17 years old, Franco is in the midst of making his Rookie League debut this summer for the Princeton Rays. Widely known as the best international prospect from the 2017 signing class, Franco possesses a plus hit tool from both sides of the plate and is a plus runner. If his current-listed size of 5’10 190 lbs. is correct, Franco has added thirty pounds since inking with the Rays a year ago. I’m excited to see what the additional weight does for Franco’s raw power (evaluators graded it at 45 last season).

178. Nolan Gorman, 3B, STL, Age: 18

Gorman was arguably the most powerful prospect in the 2018 MLB Draft, and the addition of the teenage third baseman is an immediate infusion of raw power in a Cardinals’ organization that needed it. There are some fairly substantial questions centered around Gorman’s hit tool (namely, his ability to recognize and lay off spin) and whether he’ll remain at third base or eventually shift across the diamond. If his hit tool can simply develop to league average (and he doesn’t strike out in a third of his plate appearances), Gorman will eventually be one of the best dynasty prospects in baseball.

177. Bubba Thompson, OF, TEX, Age: 20

A 2017 first round pick, Thompson has 30 full-season games under his belt after getting a late start to the regular season. The strikeout rate isn’t pretty, but evaluators I’ve talked to think Thompson has at least a decent chance of someday possessing a league average plate approach. That would allow Thompson’s 55-raw power and 70 speed to play to its full potential, so the upside here is obvious.

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

The Twins really have some solid young pitching depth, and I think Littell generally slides under the radar in the prospect world. Don’t pay attention to his MLB debut; Littell, once he settles in, is a steady right-hander who will strike out 8-9 batters per nine innings in the big leagues while maintaining an ERA around 4.00. Jose Berrios, Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves and Littell will someday form a quartet of stout arms in the Twins starting rotation.

175. Beau Burrows, SP, DET, Age: 21

The next two starting pitchers on this list may not possess astronomical upside, but I’d be willing to bet they’ll someday be rosterable assets on your active fantasy roster. Burrows pitched half of last season in Double-A, and he’s currently repeating the level with a promotion to AAA Toledo imminent. The strikeout numbers are down and the GB% is up, but Burrows’ floor is can’t be ignored. He should make his big league debut sometime next season. My current #2000FollowerGiveaway involves a Burrows’ Bowman chrome auto. Don’t miss out!

174. Travis Swaggerty, OF, PIT, Age: 20

I hate that Andrew Benintendi has been the arch-type comp for undersized, toolsy left handed hitters with solid plate approaches, but here we are once again. Almost none the Benintendi-underlings possess Nintendo’s raw power or elite plate idealogy, and that’s true with Swaggerty too. But I do think there’s some 20 HR/20 SB potential here, especially if Swaggerty’s approach develops to the top-end of projections.

173. Carter Stewart, SP, ATL, Age: 18

Oh look, another potentially elite pitching prospect in the Braves’ organization. If did much research on the 2018 MLB draft class, I probably don’t need to tell you about Stewart’s hilariously good curveball. If you don’t know, it has a higher spin rate than any curveball in the major leagues. Yeah. But what gets lost in the talk of Stewart’s curveball is Stewart’s polish for a prep pitcher. The eighteen year old won’t be an option for Atlanta when their window of contention officially opens (it hasn’t yet), so I’ll be interested to see Stewart’s path of progression once he begins full season ball next season.

172. Yasel Antuna, INF, WAS, Age: 18

Sometimes decently-large sample sizes don’t match obvious skill sets, and that epitomizes Antuna’s first half with Low-A Hagerstown. At 18 years old, though, he’s afforded the luxury of patience, especially considering the fact that evaluators who have watched Antuna in person this season have come away impressed. The versatile infielder still has some physical projection remaining, and without a current ‘calling card tool’, I’m hopeful we eventually view Antuna as a 55-hit, 55-raw power, 55-speed prospect.

171. Will Benson, OF, CLE, Age: 20

I would not enjoy being tackled by Will Benson. At 6’5 225 lbs., Benson is a 70-raw power, 55 speed specimen who’s still in the beginning stages of figuring it out at the plate. He’ll always possess some swing and miss, and the success of his first half in Low-A this season depends almost entirely on your league format. Since your league should definitely use OBP instead of AVG, you should be content with the .348 OBP (aided greatly by a 17.2% walk rate) instead of complaining about the .197 AVG (not helped by a unsustainably-low .248 BABIP). If the approach ever truly clicks, Benson is going to be a high-impact big leaguer. The top-notch ceiling is something like a left-handed Aaron Judge with more speed….

170. Chris Rodriguez, SP, LAA, Age: 19

I would have bet a fairly-substantial amount of money on Rodriguez breaking out this season, but a stress fracture in his back had different plans. Now, Rodriguez’s age-19 season is basically a wash (I’ve asked around on a possible return date and have received nothing but crickets). Based on his pure stuff (at least two plus pitches), Rodriguez should probably be ranked more favorably than 170th. With the inherent risk associated with 1) teenager pitchers at lower levels and 2) teenage pitchers at lower levels with a history of back injuries, I’m going to play this hand conservatively with the hope Rodriguez returns *healthy* sooner rather than later.

169. Ronaldo Hernandez, C, TB, Age: 20

Let’s start with the negative: Ronaldo Hernandez is 20 years old and in Low-A. Seeing as catchers typically move one level per season, he’s slated to make his MLB debut during his age-24 season at the earliest. That’s also four years from now. On the flip side, all Hernandez does is rake. This is his first full season, but he’s never hit under .300 in any season of his professional career (I don’t count the 50 PA-sample in Rookie Ball in 2015 when he was 17 years old). I think Hernandez possesses the defensive prowess to stick as a catcher long term, and he certainly has the tools to eventually be one of the best offensive catchers in the big leagues. I wrote more about Hernandez recently in the Ramblings.

168. Edwin Rios, 1B/3B/OF, LAD, Age: 24

Not enough people know about Rios. Yes, he’s a 24-year-old prospect who’s yet to make a big league debut, but Rios is also a 55-hit/70-raw power guy with big time potential. Cody Bellinger would likely transition to an everyday outfield role if Rios becomes apart of the Dodgers’ route to success, so that obviously makes the path quite fuzzy. The best case scenario for Rios’ big league outlook may be a trade, which would probably make Rios a big-leaguer by the end of the regular season. For now, we’ll continue dreaming of the thought of a .290 AVG/30 HR prospect who remains vastly underrated. Rios has moved around the diamond quite a bit defensively so far this season, and I suspect that trend may continue once he finally reaches the big league level.

167. Mitch White, SP, LAD, Age: 23

Lots of folks were banking on White being the 2018 version of Walker Buehler, but that simply hasn’t happened thru the first half of the regular season. A troubling trend: White has walked more batters per nine innings in each season of his professional career. We’ve arrived at somewhat of a crossroads this season; the right-hander has a 5.7 BB/9 thru 31.2 IP in Double-A this season with a 5.97 ERA. The 23 year old still has a repertoire chalked full of above-average/plus pitches, but the command has seemingly taken steps back throughout his minor league career. I trust the Dodgers to right this ship, but our trust should be wearing thin, especially if White’s full-season numbers resemble the current numbers.

166. Calvin Mitchell, OF, PIT, Age: 19

There’s something to be said for box score stuffer prospects who are also relatively safe, and that’s what Calvin Mitchell brings to the table. He’s currently slashing .316/.379/.504 with 7 HR and 4 RBI as a 19 year old in Low-A, and while there are questions regarding Mitchell’s long-term viability as a stolen base threat, the power certainly seems here to stay (and reports suggest Mitchell’s HR count thru 265 plate appearances this season has occurred despite a flat bat path). Mitchell and Oneil Cruz are going to be one heck of a dynamic duo to follow throughout the minor leagues.

165. Gavin Lux, SS, LAD, Age: 20

An athletic middle infielder who’s flashed more pop than was once suspected, Lux is slashing .312/.396/.515 with 8 HR and 7 SB thru 265 plate appearances for High-A Rancho Cucamonga. There’s not much to dislike about this offensive profile, which hangs its hat on plus speed with a dash of emerging power. There’s a real chance Lux finishes with .300 AVG/15 HR/20 SB as a 20 year old in High-A. That’ll preach. I wrote about Lux earlier this month in the Ramblings.

164. Jose Siri, OF, CIN, Age: 22

Nearly 23 years old in High-A, Siri needed to follow his amazing 2017 performance with a similar output this season in order to retain consideration amongst most prospect lists. Instead, thru 122 plate appearances for High-A Daytona (he got a late start to his season due to injury), Siri has only slashed .252/.273/.365 with 1 HR, 9 SB and a 26.2% strikeout rate. Even worse? Siri is sitting at a 3.3% walk rate. The variance was always so high that Siri could fall off the face of the earth from a fantasy perspective if things didn’t go so well, and the numbers so far this season reflect what that notion would look like. But instead of panicking, let’s be patient and see what the numbers look like at the end of the regular season. For now, I’m well-aware that there’s a better-than-average chance that Siri doesn’t make my 2019 preseason top 200 prospect list. I hope to be pleasantly surprised from here on out.

163. Isan Diaz, 2B, MIA, Age: 22

By the time it’s all said and done, prospect rankers around the world are going to be absolutely sick and tired of ranking Isan Diaz. As most of you know, Diaz is a prototypical-case of AVG vs. OBP variance. The 26.3% strikeout rate (which is numbingly consistent with his career numbers) is much more acceptable with a .368 OBP (the walk rate is 15.5%) than it is with a .239 AVG. The Marlins seem content with playing Diaz at second base, so the main mystery remaining is the untapped power most folks think the 22 year old possesses. A .250 AVG/.360 OBP/15 HR/10 SB second baseman isn’t all that valuable in fantasy circles. A .250 AVG/.360 OBP/25 HR/10 SB second baseman is.

162. Jazz Chisholm, SS, ARZ, Age: 20

The slash numbers are none-too-pretty thru 240 plate appearances this season, so let’s instead focus on the home run and stolen base numbers of an undersized 20 year old in full season ball. Chisholm is slashing .253/.317/.479, but he has a 119 wRC+ thanks to 10 HR and 6 SB for Low-A Kane County. There’s potential for plus-power and plus-speed that groups with a league average hit tool to form an everyday player for the Diamondbacks. I tend to think Chisholm sticks at shortstop; I also think Chisholm’s slash numbers this season finalize closer to .270 AVG/.330 OBP with 18 HR and 12 SB. Not a bad age-20 season for a player who should eventually be an everyday guy at a premium position in the big leagues.

161. Dustin May, SP, LAD, Age: 20

The possibilities attached to rostering May in fantasy are nearly endless. After a rocky start to his 2018 season (that didn’t start until May), Red-Headed Thor’s numbers have stabilized quite nicely. In his last five starts, May has 27.2 IP, 27 K and a 2.28 ERA. The Dodgers are second to none when it comes to developing pitching prospects, so I’m all-in on trusting the process here. The development of the changeup will be key in transforming May from a middle-of-the-rotation pitching prospect to an upper-echelon pitching prospect, especially with a promotion to Double-A on the horizon.

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Featured image courtesy of Minor League Baseball

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