Ray Butler’s 2018 Midseason Top 200 Prospects: #21-40

Written by: Ray Butler

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40. Michel Baez, SP, SD, Age: 22

In his next start (in the month of July, mind you), Baez should surpass his innings pitched total from last season. It’s a reminder that Baez is still so new to professional baseball despite being 22 years old. The right hander isn’t throwing as hard this season compared to 2017, and the K% has dropped from 36.4% to 24%. That’s scary, but it becomes rather terrifying when you notice Baez’s BB% has nearly tripled (3.6% to 10.2%). The ERA, FIP and xFIP are still fine, and I think it’s important to be patient with Baez before we consider last season an outlier. Regardless, it *feels* like the right-hander is currently trending in the wrong direction. Let’s reevaluate at the end of the season.

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

A 2016 first-round pick, Marsh is making his presence known in his first full season of professional ball. The outfielder has already moved up to High-A, and he’s slashing .264/.362/.413 for the season. You see the variance between the AVG and OBP, and with a 50-grade hit tool, that difference is likely here to stay. But even in AVG leagues, the combination of Marsh’s plus raw power and plus speed will be extremely valuable. As far as prospect lists go, the 20 year old is here to stay. Marsh was featured in the Ramblings last month.

38. Ian Anderson, SP, ATL, Age: 20

Since starting full season ball in 2017, Anderson has been one of the most consistent pitching prospects in the minor leagues. As a 20 year old in High-A, Anderson has raised his K% while lowering his BB%, FIP and xFIP. I’d imagine there’s both a decent chance Anderson exceeds 100 innings pitched this season and gets his first taste of Double-A by season’s end. He’ll never garner the hype of his pitching-prospect peers, but Anderson is one of the best young arms in the game.

37. Garrett Hampson, INF, COL, Age: 23

If Hampson played for another organization with very little infield depth, how would he be perceived in the prospect world? Because when you look at the numbers and scouting reports alone, he should be getting steamed much more than he currently is. He’s never batted under .300 for a season in his professional career. The lowest stolen base total he’s ever posted is this season’s 31, and he should have another 250 plate appearances before season’s end. As you know, the knock is the power. But Hampson hit 4 HR in only 172 Double-A plate appearances (while playing at a home park that’s not overly biased towards hitters) before being promoted to Triple-A; and you know my rule: players with advanced plate discipline and an advanced approach often exceed their power expectations when they reach the big leagues. I know the Rockies have a ton of infield depth in their organization. I know the Rockies aren’t exactly the poster boys for playing promising, young position players. But Hampson is a very good player perfectly capable of playing three infield positions, and I have to believe he’ll find his niche sooner rather than later. Hot take time? Garrett Hampson is Trea Turner Lite. I wrote more about Hampson in the Ramblings in May.

36. Alec Bohm, 3B, PHI, Age: 21

Yes, Bohm is my top-ranked 2018 draftee. A 6’5 240 lb. third baseman, the profile is rather obvious from a fantasy standpoint. The 21 year old is an advanced college hitter who has been able to generate power without sacrificing contact consistency. I have Bohm as a 55-hit, 60-raw power third baseman, and if anything, I may be selling him a little short in the power department. With his frame, there are concerns that Bohm will eventually shift across the diamond to first base; it’s obviously early, but defensive reports I’ve read since Bohm was drafted by the Phillies have been very, very positive.

35. Alex Kirilloff, OF, MIN, Age: 20

I think we have a 60-hit, 60-raw power prospect on our hands here. Kirilloff has been a revelation this season, slashing .332/.383/.577 with 14 HR and a 16.7 K% in stops at Low-A and High-A. Scouts I’ve spoken to echo the sentiment of Kirilloff being a pure hitter, and the consensus seems to be that the outfielder doesn’t possess an overly-athletic swing, but his bat stays in the zone for a long time with excellent lag. Depending on how aggressive the Twins want to be with a prospect who’s currently playing his first full season of pro ball (Kirilloff missed last season with Tommy John surgery), the 20 year old might get a taste of Double-A ball at the end of the regular season. I wrote more about Kirilloff in the Ramblings in May.

34. Pete Alonso, 1B, NYM, Age: 23

The first baseman has been a little shaky since being promoted to Triple-A (the wRC+ is still 111), but we’re still in the midst of a genuine prospect-breakout this season. Alonso is already up to 19 HR in 2018, a number that should continue to climb as the right-hander takes his swings in the Pacific Coast League. Barring a prolonged drought, the 23 year old should flirt with 30 HR and a .400 OBP this season. That’s truly remarkable. With the Mets already seemingly out of contention, a September cup of coffee shouldn’t be out of the question. Alonso was the cover boy of an edition of the Ramblings in April. He was also featured last month.

33. Brendan McKay, SP, TB, Age: 22

The 2017 first round pick has 2 HR and a .428 OBP in 152 plate appearances this season, but make no mistake about it, I consider him a top 40 prospect due to his pitching prowess. There’s certainly some ‘college pitcher dominating Single-A hitters’ in his profile, but McKay has struck out 69 batters in 48 IP with a jaw-dropping 38.1 K%. The oblique injury that landed him on the disabled list recently is really unfortunate, and it likely means he won’t advance to Double-A until the 2019 season. Eventually, McKay should team with Blake Snell and Brent Honeywell to form a terrific-trio of rotation arms in Tampa Bay.

32. Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD, Age: 22

Trade him, trade him, trade him! At this rate, a move to a different organization may be what it takes for Verdugo to finally crack the code of everyday big league playing time. He did some good things in Los Angeles earlier this season, but I’m much focused on the Triple-A numbers this season: .350/.393/.513 with 7 HR and a 13.1 K%. I still feel really good about Verdugo eventually tapping into additional power, and I think there’s a decent chance he eventually becomes a .300 AVG/20 HR big leaguer. Verdugo was a cover boy in the Ramblings in April.

31. Austin Riley, 3B, ATL, Age: 21

Riley is a tough prospect to rank right now simply because we don’t have a sample large enough to know if the 33.6 K% he’s sporting in Triple-A thru 113 plate appearances is legitimate or an anomaly. We do know that Riley inherently possesses some swing and miss in his profile, but it hasn’t been enough to simmer the hype of a .309/.369/.549, 10 HR performance thru 53 games by a prospect universally hailed as the future everyday third baseman for the Braves. Strikeouts aside, I remain skeptical that Riley is a .300 AVG big leaguer, but even a .270 hitter with 65-raw power should be pretty darn viable. The third baseman was featured in the Ramblings back in April.

30. Luis Urias, INF, SD, Age: 21

The versatile infielder has already matched his career high in home runs (6, lol), but an unfortunate reality concerning Urias is slowly beginning to set in with me. Let’s say Urias is able to double his career-high HR output in the big leagues. Let’s say he’s able to maintain the OBP he currently possesses in Triple-A. As a 50-grade runner, let’s say the 21 year old is able to notch 7 stolen bases with the Padres (the amount of SB he posted last season in Double-A). That would make Urias a .390 OBP/12 HR/7 SB infielder. With decent defensive skills, that makes for a really good real-life player. But you can probably finish my thought for me: How valuable are those numbers in the fantasy baseball world? Urias was included in the Ramblings last month.

29. Jesus Sanchez, OF, TB, Age: 20

The 20 year old got off to a fantastic start of the 2018 regular season, but he’s only managed two home runs in the past month, and reports suggest he’s selling out a bit offensively to recapture the power. There are parts of Sanchez’s offensive profile I love: The current .303 AVG paired with the 60-grade raw power is obviously a nice start. But you know how reluctant I am with position-player prospects with low walk rates, and Sanchez currently holds a 3.0 BB%. To truly maximize the potential behind the lightning-fast bat speed and uberly-quick hands, Sanchez needs to polish his plate approach and become more patient. He’s only 20, so there’s plenty of time to take steps in the positive direction.

28. Keibert Ruiz, C, LAD, Age: 19

Don’t you put the evil of a 19-year-old catcher prospect’s Double-A slash line on me. Don’t you dare. Ruiz has 7 HR and an 8.1 K%. Yes, the slash is .248/.302/.361, but the BABIP is .250. The underlying numbers are actually pretty good, and there’s a strong chance Ruiz will be the top catching prospect in baseball this time next season. You don’t see it now because he’s nearly five years younger than his average competition, but Ruiz is a 55-hit, 55-raw power prospect who will hit for average and power against competition closer to his age.

27. Willie Calhoun, OF, TEX, Age: 23

The walk numbers have diminished since he was traded from the Dodgers organization to the Rangers, which is concerning in my eyes. But Calhoun has always been a pure hitter, and a 5.0 BB% doesn’t really take away from that. Now settled in at left field, Calhoun is currently on a 13 game hitting streak, his first true hot streak of the season. My gut tells me Calhoun’s early-season struggles may have been a by-product of the minor league blues, and as he heats up, his chances of a big league promotion increase. As a 60-hit, 65-raw power, 10.7 K% prospect, the potential here is obvious.

26. Luis Robert, OF, CHW, Age: 20

By the time the outfield prospect fully heals from his latest thumb injury, Robert will have spent more time on the disabled list than he’s spent on the field during his professional career. He’ll also be 21 years old with only 87 full-season plate appearances, so the concerns here are fairly apparent. But so are the tools: 65-raw power and 60-speed with a developing hit tool. For now, Robert remains a high-risk, high-reward prospect with humongous potential. The White Sox prospect was featured in the Ramblings recently.

25. Carter Kieboom, SS, WAS, Age: 20

We might have already been at this point had Kieboom not missed a gigantic chunk of playing time last season due to injury, but the 2018 breakout seems full-steam-ahead. At High-A and Double-A combined, Kieboom is slashing .314/.394/.505 with 13 HR, an 18.0 K% and a 11.8 BB%. It’s really hard to poke holes in the numbers he’s posted this season. As the Nationals currently stand, Kieboom might play second base at the big league level. At this pace, it won’t matter. Kieboom has become one of the top middle-infield prospects in baseball. The 20 year old was featured in the Ramblings last month.

24. Jesus Luzardo, SP, OAK, Age: 20

Perhaps my most-proud 2018 prospect obsession other than Juan Soto, I assume Luzardo will skyrocket up prospect lists this preseason. The southpaw returned from Tommy John surgery down the stretch of last season, and the Athletics ‘aggressively’ placed the 20 year old in High-A to begin the season (he skipped Low-A entirely). After a minuscule 14.2 IP, Luzardo was promoted to Double-A. In 57.2 IP at the toughest level in the minor leagues, Luzardo has managed to strike out north of a batter per inning while posting a 2.81 ERA. There’s some potential for three plus pitches and above-average command in this profile, with some deception in the delivery to boot. Between Luzardo and A.J. Puk, the Athletics could soon have two of the most dynamic left-handed starting pitchers in baseball. More on the latter in my next post.

23. Mitch Keller, SP, PIT, Age: 22

From a ‘what does it look like on the mound?’ standpoint, Keller is easily one of the safest pitching prospects in baseball. He’s always going to strike out around a batter per inning. He’s never going to hurt you with walks. His GB% is strong. He suppresses home runs. Recently promoted to Triple-A (don’t stress over the small sample stats), the 22 year old is now just one-call-away from the big leagues. The prospect world underrates Keller. Don’t underrate him in your league. I wrote more about Keller in the Ramblings last month.

22. Triston McKenzie, SP, CLE, Age: 20

For the Indians, McKenzie’s late start to the 2018 season is nothing more than an inadvertently-convenient way to limit the slender right-hander’s workload this season. Holistically, McKenzie has been great in his 32.1 IP Double-A sample. Yes, the strikeouts are down, and I’d be willing to bet it’s because McKenzie lacks premium fastball velocity. Double-A was always going to be a big challenge for the right-hander, and I’m pleased with the results so far. The risk with McKenzie has always been whether he can weather (see what I did there?) a 162-game workload with a tiny frame. I remain optimistic on that front, though I suppose it remains to be seen.

21. MacKenzie Gore, SP, SD, Age: 19

The 4.15 ERA in Low-A certainly doesn’t match the pristine scouting reports I’ve recently read on Gore. Guess which ones I trust more? The teenage southpaw pitched thru blister issues at the start of the season, and he’s been much better lately (he hasn’t surrendered an earned run in four of his last five outings). There’s potential for Gore to someday possess three plus pitches to pair with plus command. It’s early still, but the 19 year old might someday be a #2 big league starting pitcher.

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Featured image courtesy of Minor League Baseball

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