Ray Butler’s 2018 December Top 100 Prospects: #41-60

Written by: Ray Butler

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Just now catching up on my #DecemberTop100? Read about my #81-100 prospects here. Read about my #61-80 prospects here.

60. Kyle Wright, SP, ATL. Age: 23

The right-hander doesn’t possess an overwhelmingly dynamic fastball, so there are questions surrounding his ability to induce ‘top-of-the-rotation’ strikeouts against major league hitters. The slider is a dominant offering, though, and the 23-year-old would be dynamite as a multi-inning reliever if the Braves choose to go that route with Wright. If he remains in the rotation, which you’re hoping he does if you roster him in fantasy baseball, Wright projects as a solid (albeit unspectacular), mid-rotation staple. The Braves prospect was last featured in Ray’s Ramblings in July.

59. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT. Age: 21

One of the easiest players to love in the minor leagues, Hayes did *a lot* of good things at the dish last season, though the numbers weren’t necessarily amazing. The glove will always be the 21-year-old’s calling card (it’s Gold Glove caliber at the big league level right now), but I’m a believer in what Hayes’ peak offensive production will look like.

58. Drew Waters, OF, ATL. Age: 19

The 30-game sample in High-A last season proved a lot of scouts right: Waters has work to do with his plate approach in order to succeed against above-average pitching. He’s only 19 though, and there’s legitimate 20 home run, 20 stolen base potential for the outfielder at the big league level. Waters’ pending 2019 performance at High-A Florida and Double-A Mississippi will either give us some pause about his long-term outlook, or it will officially launch his prospect status into stardom.

57. Kristian Robinson, OF, ARZ. Age: 18

Don’t mind me, I’m just setting the bar for what could be an earth-shattering year for Robinson. The young outfielder looks like he should be torching defensive secondaries to the tune of 175 yards and three touchdowns every Saturday. Instead, the 18-year-old phenom sticks to hitting dingers and stealing bases instead. He’s miles away from the big leagues, so the risk is apparent, but saying the sky is the limit for Robinson may not be doing him justice. Especially if more refinement means striking out less. The teenager was featured in Ray’s Ramblings in August.

56. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, TB. Age: 23

A .330 AVG, .416 OBP, 27 home runs and a 16.2 K%. These are the actual numbers Lowe posted last season between stops at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. Phenomenal. The glove isn’t good, and Lowe will likely DH more at the big league level than play first base. He’ll maintain 1B eligibility, though, and Lowe and his thunderous bat should make their MLB debut at some point in 2019. The all-fields, jaw-dropping raw power will bring you to your knees.

55. Triston McKenzie, SP, CLE. Age: 21

McKenzie continues developing despite his slight stature. A forearm injury that sidelined him until June limited the right-hander to 90.2 IP in 2018, so I’m guessing the 21-year-old is still a full, healthy season of development away from being a legitimate candidate to fill a spot in the Indians’ big league rotation. I’m fearful the non-premium velocity will lead to a lack of missed bats versus big leaguers, but it’s important to be mindful that McKenzie is a long way away from being a finished product. The right-hander was discussed in the Ramblings in August.

54. Jonathan India, 3B, CIN. Age: 22

Jonathan India will be ranked in two different manners leading up to the 2019 season. Those who prioritize statistics and outcomes will feature India at the tail-end or outside of their top 100 lists. Others will focus more on scouting reports and ‘the process’, which will lead to inclusions anywhere from 50-75 on prospect lists (if not better). I’m in the latter group, of course, and think India will hit for just enough power to be a factor in redraft leagues once he reaches the MLB.

53. Brusdar Graterol, SP, MIN. Age: 20

An All-Name first teamer, Graterol showed enough improvement in his command last season to make you think he could someday be truly elite. Continued success versus High-A and Double-A hitters and sustained durability are the next stepping stones for the 20-year-old.

52. Nick Madrigal, INF, CHW. Age: 21

The raw power will never be what you’d like it to be, but Madrigal brings more than enough of other offensive skills that he’s impossible to discard. The strikeouts will always be nearly non-existent, but I’m hopeful he’s willing to walk more as a professional hitter before he reaches the major leagues. Madrigal was featured in the Ramblings in July.

51. Estevan Florial, OF, NYY. Age: 21

I believe. Florial’s 2018 campaign was hampered by a hamate injury that required surgery, but scouts who saw the outfielder in person were pleased with the progress Florial had at the dish. The big question will always be the hit tool, but Florial unquestionably has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect in baseball. The 21-year-old was featured in the Ramblings in May.

50. Joey Bart, C, SF. Age: 22

A burning question that the entire prospect community will have heading into the 2019 season: what will Joey Bart’s hit tool look like versus age-appropriate competition this season? I’m ranking the catcher as though a just-good-enough hit tool will allow his plus power to shine in full season ball. With Buster Posey’s days as the Giants’ catcher waning, Bart could (should?) be fast-traced through San Francisco’s underwhelming farm system.

49. Justus Sheffield, SP, SEA. Age: 22

Disregard the 2.2 IP sample Sheffield produced with the Yankees during the home stretch of last season, but the ungaudy strikeout numbers and spotty command may keep the southpaw from ever being a top-of-the-rotation arm at the major league level. Recently traded to the Mariners, the road has been paved for Sheffield to log a lot of major league innings in 2019.

48. Alec Bohm, 3B, PHI. Age: 22

It was a weird first summer of professional ball for Bohm, mostly thanks to a knee injury that sidelined him for a month. Much like a lot of the other top hitters in the 2018 draft class, Bohm’s value will depend primarily on the development of his hit tool. He should progress quickly thru the Phillies’ farm system.

47. Gavin Lux, INF, LAD. Age: 21

Some thought Lux would fall back to earth after being promoted to Double-A in August of last season. Instead, the 21-year-old matched his numbers from High-A, posting a 147 wRC+ at both stops. It’ll be interesting to see if the infielder can replicate that performance in 2019, but for now Lux is one of the most underrated infield prospects in baseball. Read about his inclusion in a three-team, mega-blockbuster trade in my fantasy league recently.

46. Garrett Hampson, 2B, COL. Age: 24

The time is now for Hampson, a top-end speedster who figures to assume second base duties for the Rockies once current free agent D.J. LeMahieu signs elsewhere. I think Colorado’s signing of Daniel Murphy might actually help Hampson’s outlook: as long as he produces, the 24-year-old is versatile enough to shift over to shortstop or anywhere in the outfield and gain multi-position eligibility if the Rockies are bit by the injury bug. As it stands, Murphy should mostly play first base while Hampson mans second.

45. Keibert Ruiz, C, LAD. Age: 20

The Keibert Ruiz/Will Smith battle raged on last season, and the same-farm competition may come to a head at some point this preseason or during the 2019 regular season. Ruiz’s offensive skillset is far from finalized, and the hope is the 20-year-old (who had a delicious 8.0 K% in 2018) improves his quality of contact when he faces age-appropriate competition (Ruiz was 4.8 years younger than his average competition at Double-A Tulsa). It’s a decent bet that either Ruiz or Smith are playing for a different organization by the end of the 2019 season.

44. Matt Manning, SP, DET. Age: 20

A three-level pitching prospect in 2018 in his first full season of professional ball, Manning used his fastball/curveball combination to overwhelm hitters in Low-A and High-A before getting two starts at Double-A Erie to cap a fantastic campaign. The right-hander is very athletic and has a consistent, reliable delivery, leading scouts to believe his developing changeup will one day be a sturdy third pitch. A former two-sport star (baseball and basketball) in high school, Manning is just scratching the surface of his potential on the hill.

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

The development of Anderson’s changeup has been crucial to the right-hander remaining one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and the Braves giving the 20-year-old a taste of Double-A ball at the end of last season make you wonder what their plans are for Anderson in 2019. The right-hander consistently exhibiting reliable command will determine just how good Anderson will be at the big league level.

42. Cristian Pache, OF, ATL. Age: 20

The offensive stats weren’t gaudy for Pache last season, and his approach led me to the same conclusion that prospect guru John Calvagno made on Twitter recently (I’ll paraphrase): Pache’s glove will keep him moving thru Atlanta’s system, and that likely means he’ll make his big league debut before his offensive skillset is quite ready. In Athletes I Trust, though, and I fully believe Pache will someday be an offensive asset in the fantasy baseball world. Two things I’d love to see from the 20-year-old in 2019: more walks and more stolen bases.

41. Chris Paddack, SP, SD. Age: 22

Once it became evident that Cowboy Chris Paddack was back and better than ever following Tommy John surgery in 2016, it felt like a large chunk of last season was dedicated to waiting for the right-hander to get promoted to Double-A. It finally happened in July, and Paddack responded by posting a lower ERA at the level than he had at High-A earlier in the season. The 22-year-old totaled 90 IP last season, so he figures to receive a more strenuous workload in 2019. The progression of the curveball (or another, third reliable pitch to pair with the fastball and deadly changeup) will likely determine how many bats Paddack misses against elite competition.

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you check out a recent, three-team trade in my fantasy league that included Ronald Acuna Jr., Cody Bellinger, Eloy Jimenez, Fernando Tatis Jr., Jack Flaherty, Matt Chapman and Wander Franco. It was one for the ages. Read about it here.

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Matt Christensen and MiLB.com.


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