Ray Butler’s 2018 Midseason Top 200 Prospects: #141-160

Written by: Ray Butler

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This group of 20 prospects includes ELEVEN pitching prospects…….

160. J.B. Bukauskas, SP, HOU, Age: 21

The 2017 first round pick is 1) 21 years old, 2) in Low-A and 3) has all of 5.2 IP this season. Rumor has it that an oblique injury is what’s sidelined Bukauskas for most of the regular season, and there’s a decent chance he returns sometime in July. I’d expect the right-hander to throw some during fall ball before progressing to High-A Buies Creek to begin the 2019 season.

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

Words can’t really describe the anxiety I have ranking a 24 year old who’s never pitched above High-A anywhere near my top 150, but Kaprielian has the talent to make it necessary. He was shut down nearly a month ago due to shoulder discomfort (the right-hander is making his way back from Tommy John surgery), but he’s begun to throw again and should be ready for Opening Day 2019. From a comeback standpoint, I think Kaprielian will begin next season in High-A Stockton before pitching most of the season for AA Midland. I know stashing a 25 year old, High-A pitcher isn’t the most scintillating endeavor ever, but the return associated with Kaprielian could be monumental.

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

Romero allowed no fewer than three earned runs in his first six starts of the regular season, so his current full-season numbers certainly don’t reflect how good he’s been lately. In his last seven starts, Romero has posted a 3.00 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 45 IP. Romero credits the improvement on cutting down on his repertoire of pitches, so I’ll be interested to see what the numbers look like at the end of the season (he also needs to cut down on his home run numbers).

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

“A Rockies pitching prospect you can believe in,” I said as my famous last words. Really though, Lambert GB% is up eight percent to 50% this season, and while the strikeout numbers aren’t glorious, the 2.40 ERA and 1.3 BB/9 are. There are plenty of pitching prospects who possess more upside, but even as a future Rockies pitcher, I like the floor and safety that Lambert presents.

156. Nick Pratto, 1B, KC, Age: 19

The slash numbers and K% thru 260 plate appearances are ugly, but scouts I’ve talked to who have seen Pratto in person this season have come away utterly impressed. Recently named MVP of the South Atlantic All Star Game, Pratto possesses plus power and elite base running skills (though he isn’t overly fast from a speed standpoint). If the hit tool develops (and most think it will), Pratto should someday be the Royals’ everyday first baseman.

155. Cristian Javier, SP, HOU, Age: 21

I might be ranking Javier too aggressively for a prospect who exploded onto the scene so recently, but the right-hander’s strikeout/ERA combination has simply been too good to ignore. I think his performance in High-A Buies Creek will paint a crystal clear picture of the prospect Javier really is, and while the analytics of Javier’s 2018 performance are all over the place, all you have to do is look at the 36.4 K% and 1.64 ERA to realize what the ceiling looks like.

154. Austin Beck, OF, OAK, Age: 19

The counting stats haven’t matched the tools so far this season, but Beck is a toolsy teenager who’s perhaps outperformed the 40-future hit tool early in his professional career. Slashing .297/.336/.364 with a 23.2 K% this season, Beck, a first round pick last season, is currently in the throes learning how to become a professional hitter. With plus raw power and speed, Beck should eventually be a perennial 20/20 threat (with more in the tank, perhaps). If his on base ability continues to develop, the outfielder could be a special player.

153. Jarred Kelenic, OF, NYM, Age: 18

A prep outfielder who was the first high school player selected in this season’s draft, Kelenic has a plus hit tool, is an above average runner and has developing power. Though he was drafted as a center fielder, Kelenic likely projects as a corner outfielder as a professional. With a 6’1, 195 lb. frame, Kelenic should add a few pounds of muscle to his physique as he finalizes his physical development; there’s an outside chance he eventually becomes a prospect with plus hit and power tools who is also a strong runner.

152. Micker Adolfo, OF, CHW, Age: 21

Adolfo has lowered his strikeout rate by 4% while raising his walk rate by 3% this season. Of course the calling card is the 70-grade raw power, but Adolfo has only hit 8 HR in 281 plate appearances for High-A Winston Salem. As he continues to progress through an elbow injury, I’m hoping Adolfo’s power numbers increase as he nears 100-percent. The White Sox are hopeful that Adolfo returns to the outfield (he’s been DH’ing) before the end of the regular season. I wrote about Adolfo in the Ramblings in April.

151. Daz Cameron, OF, DET, Age: 21

Cameron deserves a little bit of lenience this season, with 2018 being his first full season with in the Tigers organization and all. And despite a 28-percent strikeout rate in 246 High-A plate appearances, Detroit has apparently seen enough from the outfield prospect to recently promote him to AA Erie. For the season, Cameron is slashing .264/.354/.383 with 3 HR and 11 SB. The 21 year old smacked 14 HR last season, so a second-half power surge in Double-A wouldn’t surprise me.

150. Alexander Canario, OF, SF, Age: 18

At 18 years old and currently in Rookie ball, Canario is a young outfielder who could absolutely explode in the prospect world this summer. Talented might be an understatement: 55-future hit, 60 raw power and 55 speed according to Fangraphs. At 6’1, 165 pounds, Canario should continue adding muscle weight that could enhance the power even more. Canario’s numbers at the end of the summer should be eye opening.

149. Zac Lowther, SP, BAL, Age: 22

Lowther’s 2018 performance can perhaps best be described as “college pitchers doing what college pitchers should do against Single-A hitters”, but I’m hoping there’s more to the story for the southpaw. The 22 year old was promoted to High-A Frederick nearly a month ago, and he’s bettered his ERA by more than a point (1.16 to 0.44) despite allowing a BABIP much higher (.192 to .291). The true test will come next season when Lowther pitches against Double-A competition, but for now we’ll bask in the glory of his Single-A numbers.

148. Matthew Liberatore, SP, TB, Age: 18

Perhaps the most polished prep arm in the 2018 MLB Draft, the 6’5 left-hander possesses the intangibles that allow high school draftees to progress relatively quickly throughout the minor leagues. Liberatore doesn’t necessarily pitch a consensus plus pitch, but depending on who you talk to, the southpaw throws either three or four above-average offerings (that grade at 55 in the scouting world). We’ll almost certainly have to wait until 2019 to see Liberatore in full season ball, but he should begin compiling professional IP this summer in the Gulf Coast League.

147. Mauricio Dubon, SS, MIL, Age: 23

It hurts my heart to know Dubon would likely be in the big leagues right now if he hadn’t torn his ACL earlier this season. Last season, the shortstop hit 8 HR and stole 38 bases despite posting an unlucky BABIP for a plus runner. This season, Dubon hit 4 HR and stole six bases in 114 plate appearances before suffering the season-ending injury. Dubon won’t return until 2019, but I still wholeheartedly believe in the middle infielder. Let’s hope the substantial knee injury doesn’t sap Dubon of any speed.

146. Francisco Morales, SP, PHI, Age: 18

When it comes to the Phillies, Matt Winkelman’s (@Matt_Winkelman) word is gospel to me. Recently on Twitter, Winkelman stated that Morales has the 2nd highest ceiling of any Phillies’ pitching prospect. Assuming Sixto Sanchez has the highest ceiling, that means Morales has a higher ceiling than Enyel De Los Santos, Adonis Medina, JoJo Romero, Franklyn Kilome and Ranger Suarez. That alone is worthy of your attention. Destined for full-season ball as a 19 year old next season, Morales has compiled a 3.24 ERA with eight strikeouts in 8.1 IP in Short Season ball so far this summer. The keys this season are simple: Stay healthy, build stamina. The risk attached to Morales is obvious, but the stuff is absolutely electric. I’m buying in early.

145. Oneil Cruz, SS, PIT, Age: 19

One of the more unique prospects in baseball, I find myself falling for Cruz more-and-more each and every day. The 6’6 shortstop (!!!!!!!!!!!) is now slashing .315/.371/.535 with 9 HR and 6 SB in 280 Low-A plate appearances this season. In this report from John Calvagno (who’s evaluated Cruz in-person this season), the shortstop possesses 70-grade raw power (according to Calvagno, Cruz’s exit velocities are the best he’s seen in the South Atlantic League since Rafael Devers in 2015) and 55 speed. The teenager is beginning to grow into his body, and the resulting stats have been eye-opening this season. Evaluators are split on whether Cruz can stick at shortstop throughout his professional career, and I’d say there’s at least a decent chance he eventually transitions to third base or a corner outfield spot. Even though he’s a teenager, I’d love to see him get a taste of High-A ball this season (the numbers are certainly worthy of a promotion). The plate approach is solid but aggressive, so development against High-A and Double-A pitching is absolutely critical for Oneil to reach his gigantic potential. Staff writer Andrew Lowe wrote about Cruz earlier this month.

144. Nick Neidert, SP, MIA, Age: 21

Neidert absolutely epitomizes how hard it is to definitely evaluate a pitching prospect. The right-hander had only struck out north of a batter per inning in one stint throughout his minor league career, but a trade from the Mariners to the Marlins has seemed to unlock unknown potential for the 21 year old. Neidert credits improved fastball command that’s led him to 77 strikeouts in 68.1 IP this season. When you consider his ERA is 3.16 (with an even better xFIP), now we’re getting somewhere. I do question whether Neidert can maintain the high strikeout numbers against better competition without premium fastball velocity, but it’s impossible to doubt the numbers he’s posted as a Marlins’ prospect so far this season.

143. Freddy Peralta, SP, MIL, Age: 22

Freddy Peralta is 1) a top 150 prospect in my eyes, 2) perhaps ranked a little conservatively in my rankings and 3) is ranked much more favorably in my list than most (not all) other industry lists. Let’s set the record straight: Peralta possesses some of the best swing-and-miss stuff in ALL of baseball. He walks his fair share of batters, but goodness he’s elite when he simply throws strikes. As a right-hander who only stands 5’11, there’s still some risk that Milwaukee eventually transitions him to the bullpen (the fastball/slider combination would be devastating); for now (and hopefully forever), the Brewers seem content to keep Peralta in the rotation. Take advantage of the fact he’s underrated.

142. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, TB, Age: 22

For whatever reason, I keep expecting Lowe to turn back into a frog. Instead, things are headed in the opposite direction, and it’s time to notate Lowe as one of the top first base prospects in baseball. Yeah, the BABIP is probably a little high for a player who doesn’t run that well, but find me an actual flaw in Lowe’s numbers this season. You can’t. Based on the numbers alone, this is probably a conservative ranking for the first baseman. If the stats remain in the realm they’re currently in for the remainder of the regular season, Lowe should be a top 100 prospect next preseason. #HailState

141. Cionel Perez, SP, HOU, Age: 22

Perez is one of the harder top 200 prospects to attempt to rank. The numbers are undebatable: 69 strikeouts in 54.1 IP to go along with a 2.32 ERA. In the hardest level of the minor leagues. Then you remember the southpaw stands 5’11, 170 pounds and has a history with elbow injuries. If I’m being real with you, it’s hard for me to believe Perez’s destiny is in the starting rotation, but I’m willing to trust the process until it steers me in a different direction. I’d wager Perez gets promoted to AAA Fresno sometime within the next calendar month, and there’s even a chance he plays a role in Houston’s bullpen down the stretch of the big league regular season.

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Featured image courtesy of Minor League Baseball

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