Written by: Ray Butler
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Hello, hello! The chaos of high school football season is in the rearview mirror, and school is out ’til the first week of January. That means I’ve had some time to dive back into the prospect world, and I’m hopeful I get to continue pumping new content out of Prospects 365 until Opening Day 2019. What better way to wrap up the most successful year in our history than to publish one more round of prospect rankings? The write-ups for each prospect aren’t quite as long as my preseason and midseason lists, but I feel good about the rankings. Here we go: My 2018 December Top 100 MLB prospects….
100. Heliot Ramos, OF, SF. Age: 19
Statistically, it was a disappointing full-season debut for Ramos, a teenager who is widely considered to have some of the loudest tools in the minor leagues. Patience should abound, though, and he’s a solid candidate to bounce back in the California League in 2019.
99. Daz Cameron, OF, DET. Age: 21
Cameron makes a big jump from my midseason top 200 list, and it’s mostly because I believe he is making solid strides in unlocking his game power. He’ll always have some swing-and-miss in his game (and he’s more valuable in OBP leagues than AVG), but the outfielder’s arrow is certainly pointing up as we head to 2019.
98. Griffin Canning, SP, LAA. Age: 22
Fairly unheralded heading into last season, Canning surged thru the Angels’ system in 2018, debuting in High-A and finishing the season in Triple-A. I’m not completely sold on the 22-year-old missing a ton of bats at the big league level, and the Angels have a plethora of big league/AAAA arms to serve as rotation depth heading into next season; make no mistake about it though, Canning should be a mid-rotation fixture before it’s all said and done.
97. Michael Chavis, 1B/3B, BOS. Age: 23
A suspension and an oblique injury limited Chavis to 194 plate appearances in 2018, but he utilized a sky-high BABIP en route to posting some nice numbers upon his return. I’ve long thought Chavis will eventually shift to the right side of the diamond at the big league level, and I worry he’s a .260/.320 guy against the best pitchers in the world.
96. Hudson Potts, 3B, SD. Age: 20
Respect. Hudson. Potts. There’s a ton of variance in what scouts have to say about the third baseman, but one thing that can’t be argued is the on-field production, especially at Potts’ age. Maybe the naysayers are right and we’ve already seen the best Potts has to offer; maybe he’ll continue to exceed expectations. I discussed the third baseman more in the Ramblings back in August.
95. Tyler Nevin, 1B, COL. Age: 21
The 2019 season will be incredibly important for Nevin’s outlook as he faces Double-A pitching, but the first baseman put together what was arguably the best overall performance in the Arizona Fall League after a solid High-A campaign during the 2018 regular season. Still underrated, Nevin’s acquisition price remains fairly low, so now’s your chance to buy stock before it takes off during the 2019 preseason.
94. Matthew Liberatore, SP, TB. Age: 19
It was a small sample, but Rookie Ball was no match for the southpaw who, in my opinion, was the best prep arm in the 2018 MLB Draft. The Rays progress their pitching prospects notoriously slow, but I’d say there’s definitely a non-zero chance Liberatore ends up being better than farmmate Brendan McKay.
93. Oneil Cruz, SS, PIT. Age: 20
I was originally very skeptical about including Cruz in my December Top 100, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for 80-grade raw power. 2019 will be quite the challenge for the 6’7 shortstop; High-A pitching will tear him up if his approach remains as unpolished as it was at times in 2018. Cruz was featured in the Ramblings back in June.
92. Adonis Medina, SP, PHI. Age: 22
Medina allowed three earned runs or less in 16 of his 21 starts in 2018, striking out more than a batter per inning along the way. Pitching at Double-A Reading will be a tough task for the right-hander, but I’d bet Medina isn’t done climbing on prospect lists. The pitcher was featured in the Ramblings in July.
91. Daulton Varsho, C, ARZ. Age: 22
To an extent, a hamate injury (and subsequent surgery) quieted Varsho’s breakout in 2018, but the final numbers were still quite impressive. It’s easy to compare Varsho’s tools to that of J.T. Realmuto, but I’m fearful the slight build will never allow him to handle the workload of an everyday, big league catcher.
90. Justin Dunn, SP, SEA. Age: 23
Recently traded to Seattle in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz blockbuster, Dunn is now one of the top prospects in an organization that has a need for starting pitching. 2018 was the right-hander’s breakout campaign, utilizing a wipeout slider and an improved changeup to become one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Let’s hope the development continues in a system that’s struggled to develop its talent. Dunn was last featured in the Ramblings in June.
89. Isaac Paredes, INF, DET. Age: 19
I guess I assumed Paredes and his unspectacular body and “meh” overall skillset would eventually fade away. He has not. The Tigers were aggressive with the teenager, promoting him to Double-A Erie in July. The infielder answered the call, posting a higher wRC+ in Double-A than he had in High-A. The game power and defensive skills are still a work in progress, but Paredes answered a lot of questions in 2018.
88. M.J. Melendez, C, KC. Age: 20
The strikeout-rate in 2018 was higher than you’d like, but Melendez finished with a .492 SLG as a teenager in full-season ball. As a catcher. High-A Wilmington will suppress his power a little bit next season, but a lot of scouts and evaluators I talk to are dead-set on Melendez someday being the best offensive catching prospect in baseball.
87. Jordyn Adams, OF, LAA. Age: 19
Oh look, another tooled-up Angels outfield prospect. The calling-card is 80-grade speed, but some folks think Adams could develop above-average game power before he peaks. A post-Trout outfield of Adams, Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell might be the most athletic outfield in baseball someday.
86. Mark Vientos, 3B, NYM. Age: 19
The plate approach was more advanced for Vientos than expected this summer, which played a key role in the third baseman sky-rocketing up prospect lists this fall and winter. Full season ball will paint a clearer picture of the hit tool, but the plus raw power should project just fine from the hot corner. Snag Vientos before it’s too late. The teenager was featured in Ray’s Ramblings back in August.
85. Esteury Ruiz, 2B, SD. Age: 19
I ranked Ruiz super-aggressively this midseason, so I am glad I’m not walking back his ranking too much this offseason. If you look at Ruiz’s statistics only, you’ll probably wonder why he’s worthy of a top 100 prospect list. Just take a look at the scouting reports, which project the second baseman to develop an above-average hit tool and plus raw power. When you add that to the 49 stolen bases in 2018, you realize the teenager could someday be a star.
84. Kevin Smith, SS, TOR. Age: 22
The Blue Jays could have been more aggressive with Smith’s path in 2018, and this ranking comes with the caveat that facing Double-A pitching in 2019 could do a number on Smith’s prospect standing. However, the 25 home runs, 29 stolen bases and .302 AVG in 2018 paired with glowing scouting reports make the shortstop hard to ignore. Next season will be a big deal for the 22-year-old. Smith was featured in Ray’s Ramblings in July.
83. Colton Welker, 3B, COL. Age: 21
Welker’s 13 home runs in 2018 were a little disappointing, and the triple-slash is dampened when you notice the .395 BABIP. Still, the third baseman possesses the tools to someday man the hot corner at Coors if Nolan Arenado heads elsewhere in free agency next offseason. Welker was discussed in Ray’s Ramblings in August.
82. Michel Baez, SP, SD. Age: 22
A drop in velocity led to lower strikeout numbers, but Baez still found a way to strikeout more than a batter per inning in stops at High-A and Double-A in 2018. Destined to start 2019 back at San Antonio, Baez could knock on the door of a big league debut before the season’s over.
81. Khalil Lee, OF, KC. Age: 20
I’m not quite as high on Lee’s power potential as I was when I ranked him so highly this midseason, but the outfielder remains an under-the-radar commodity in the prospect world heading into 2019. Now promoted away from the pitcher’s haven of High-A Wilmington, I’m anxious to see Lee’s numbers next season. The outfielder was featured in the Ramblings in August.
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Featured image courtesy of Getty Images and photographer Andy Hayt.
More to come….