Written by: Ray Butler
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At long last, my 2019 top-200 prospect is finally here. I won’t waste any of your time. Let’s dive right in.
200. Cole Roederer, OF, CHC. Age: 19
Drafted with the 77th overall pick of the 2018 draft, Roederer already grades at 50 or better at all fantasy-relevant facets of his tool-kit (hit, power, speed). Despite some swing-and-miss during his first professional stint (at Rookie Ball), the 5 home runs and 13 stolen bases in only 36 games this summer will do little to quell the growing hype surrounding the teenager. Scouts are split on how the outfielder projects physically; some evaluators think further growth will eventually dictate a move to left field for Roederer. That would also mean he’ll lose a step, but the prediction is far from a consensus based on folks I’ve talked to. For now, we can dream on an outfield prospect that finalizes his development with borderline-plus raw power and above-average speed. Roederer will see full season ball in 2019, where I’m hoping he fares better versus southpaws than his small sample from last season (.593 OPS).
199. Luis Medina, SP, NYY. Age: 19
The numbers in Rookie Ball from this summer aren’t too inspiring, but Medina has the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect ranked outside of my top 200. Heck, he has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect in my top 250. The command is in such an infantile stage that it hasn’t moved on to solid food yet (his K/9 in Rookie Ball this summer was 11.75. The BB/9 was 11.50). But with two 70-grade-or-better pitches (fastball and curveball), the sky is the limit for the teenager. He may never make it to Double-A, but I think Medina is in a system and surrounded by people to make some serious strides as soon as the upcoming season. Depending on how he looks this spring and the amount of patience the Yankees choose to utilize, we may or may not see Medina in full season ball until 2020. Staff writer John Stewart profiled the right-hander and other Yankees farm arms earlier this month.
198. Joe Palumbo, SP, TEX. Age: 24
I took a pretty good look at Palumbo in this article discussing candidates to be this season’s Chris Paddack, but I’ll repeat a few things here. There’s bullpen risk. There’s also a chance Palumbo, who will be challenged from an innings pitched standpoint in 2019, finally puts durability and performance together and experiences a legitimate break out this season. Read the article linked above for more on the 24-year-old southpaw.
197. Blake Rutherford, OF, CHW. Age: 21
How about the bad news first? We keep waiting on Rutherford’s athleticism to carry him to another level in the prospect world, but it simply hasn’t happened yet (hello, 54.4 GB% last season). The good news is the once oft-injured outfielder played in 115 games last season (487 PA), and the adjustments he needs to make to reach his potential are pretty obvious. Assuming continued durability, I’m hopeful Rutherford is able to make some tweaks to his mechanics versus Double-A pitching in 2019. If we could suddenly pair a 15-20 home run ceiling with Rutherford’s other skills, we’d be cooking with grease. The outfielder has reportedly bulked-up this offseason while training with Christian Yelich, and the ball has been exploding off his bat so far in Spring Training. Sustained power with a little more loft in his profile would do Rutherford’s stock wonders.
196. Brock Burke. SP, TEX. Age: 22
Recently traded to the Rangers in the three-team Jurickson Profar deal, Burke broke out in a big way in 2018, striking out 27.2% of the batters he faced while posting a 3.08 ERA between stops at High-A and Double-A. According to Fangraphs, while still a member of the Rays organization, Burke and other Tampa Bay pitchers participated in a Driveline Baseball program. Burke credits the program to improving his velocity and command. Now a member of a new organization, the 22-year-old will look to repeat his 137.1 IP, 158 K, 3.08 ERA performance from last season. If he does, he’ll likely be a big leaguer by the end of the regular season.
195. Tyler Freeman, INF, CLE. Age: 19
Every prospect in baseball strives to have the bat-to-ball skills of Freeman. The problem is the infielder is a little too anti-three true outcomes, especially for a player with limited power potential. Freeman walked in a staggeringly-low 2.7% of plate appearances in Short Season ball last summer. The 7.3 K% is awfully nice, but it’s justified to wonder how well Freeman’s uber-aggressive approach will play versus full season pitching. Without much power to fall back on, I’m hopeful we see a progression in Freeman’s plate approach in full season ball in 2019.
194. Alex Canario, OF, SF. Age: 18
The bat-to-ball skills are still sitting at the kids’ table, but there’s a ton to love about what Canario has shown at the Rookie Ball level the past two summers. In a combined 482 plate appearances between both rookie levels in 2017 and 2018, Canario has 11 home runs, 26 stolen bases and a .357 OBP. Conversely, the outfielder has struck out in 24.5% of his plate appearances and has only mustered a .250 AVG. Plus athletes tend to reach their high-upside ceilings at a better clip than non-plus athletes, and with Canario likely debuting in full season ball as an 18-year-old this season, I believe the outlook is quite optimistic.
193. Isan Diaz, 2B, MIA. Age: 22
Perhaps the epitome of a valuable OBP league prospect (turn your head if you play in an AVG league), Diaz’s .232 AVG last season would likely surprise you once you knew he posted a 107 wRC+. And that’s where the fun begins. Between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018, Diaz hit 13 home runs and stole 14 bases. The plus raw power is obvious when you watch the second baseman swing the bat, but the hit tool may never ascend to a place that allows Diaz to fully access it. Some good news, potentially, is that the second baseman actually had a higher AVG against left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching last season. Of course, neither was above .240, so there’s some work to do here. The Marlins will be nowhere close to competing in 2019, so the 22-year-old could get ‘service clock’d’ more so than he should.
192. Eddy Diaz, INF, COL. Age: 19
For the non-VIPers: one of the motifs of this list is “more walks than strikeouts lands you on Ray’s prospect list”. Not only did Diaz walk 6.3% more than he struck out this summer in advanced Rookie Ball, he did so while stealing 54 bases in 51 games (!!!!!!!!!!) (223 plate appearances). The only real video I’ve seen on Diaz is grainy cell phone footage of an at-bat filmed during the summer of 2017. At that time, the infielder’s swing featured a leg kick that makes me think the power may come as Diaz finalizes his physical development (he has 0 career home runs in 378 professional plate appearances). Let’s hope he doesn’t lose a step when that happens.
191. Mike Siani, OF, CIN. Age: 19
Other than Jarred Kelenic, Siani might have been the most polished prep hitter from north of the Mason-Dixon Line in the 2018 draft. The lack of above-average raw power limits the 19-year-old’s ceiling a little, but the hit tool and speed will probably grade as plus as Siani continues his development. With such an advanced plate approach for his age, I really think the outfielder has a chance to boost his stock facing Low-A pitching throughout 2019. Standing 6’1, I want to believe Siani eventually develops more game power than appears likely presently.
190. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF, CHW. Age: 22
Basabe’s moonshot of a home run versus Hunter Greene in last summer’s Future Game speaks for the explosiveness the outfielder can show at times, but I think taking a look at the 22-year-old’s 2018 stats gives us a better idea of what type Basabe is on a game-to-game basis. The 15 home runs and 16 stolen bases feels about right for Basabe at the big league level someday, though it’ll be accompanied by a strikeout rate that hovers around 25%. More valuable in OBP leagues than AVG leagues, the outfielder slashed .258/.354/.445 last season. Again, that feels just about right for LAB in the big leagues. Thank you, sweet, sweet walk rate.
189. Jorge Mateo, SS, OAK. Age: 23
Mateo will eventually prove over rankers or under rankers completely wrong, and I’m not sure there’s much of a middle ground. There seemed to be so much hope for Mateo after he was traded to Oakland as part of the Sonny Gray trade. Greener grass. A clearer path. Immediate success after being traded. But things came crashing down for the shortstop in 2018, so much so that Mateo posted a pitiful 62 wRC+ in 131 Triple-A games. The home run output decreased. Stolen bases? Decreased. Walk rate? Decreased. Strikeout rate? Increased. Batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage? It all went down. It’s just hard to get behind this profile right now.
188. Cal Mitchell, OF, PIT. Age: 20
Despite not possessing the most explosive tools you’ll find in this portion of the list, Mitchell put together a nice season in 2018 that might also give us a solid glance into his future. Competing in full-season ball as a teenager last season, the outfielder slashed .280/.344/.427 with 10 home runs and an 8.3 BB%. Mitchell is below average defensively and will be limited to either left field or first base throughout his career, so the offensive profile (considering those defensive positions) isn’t something you’re running a red light for in order to acquire. However, there are evaluators out there who believe Mitchell eventually gets to 55-hit, 55-raw power before his development finalizes, and the risk of becoming a platoon player doesn’t seem likely (he posted a .903 OPS versus LHP in 2018). I’m interested to see what the power output is in the Florida State League this season.
187. Shed Long, INF, SEA. Age: 23
After a solid 2017 campaign, it appeared Long was a short-stride away from kicking down the door of top 100 lists. Instead, the second baseman regressed in some key areas in 2018, including a drop in AVG and rise in K%. It was refreshing to see Long get back to stealing bases last season, and the MLB floor here is looking like 10 HR/10 SB seasons for the next 8-10 years. Now that I think about it, scroll up a few places on this list. Statistically speaking, Shed Long is the Luis Alexander Basabe of second base prospects. It would have been unclear how he fit within the Yankees organization after being traded for Sonny Gray in January, but he was only a Bronx Bomber for about thirty minutes before being traded to Seattle. The Mariners plan to move Long around the infield, which could get him to the big leagues quicker while also enhancing his potential fantasy value.
186. Jeisson Rosario, OF, SD. Age: 19
The teenager faded down the stretch last season, slashing .234/.320/.336 with a 26.4 K% in his last 28 games of the regular season. The blip on the radar casts a shadow on Rosario’s season-long stats, but the teenager’s potential is why he’s ranked here anyways. A superb athlete known for his on-field flips, Rosario stands 6’1 and 190 pounds, but his current swing doesn’t readily allow the outfielder to hit for much power (3 home runs and a 48.6 GB% in 2018). I’m buying the 60-hit, 55-speed tools with the hope that the Padres eventually help Rosario unlock whatever genuine power potential he’s got.
185. Anderson Espinoza, SP, SD. Age: 21
Perhaps the best current example of a cautionary tale in the prospect world, Espinoza was a near-consensus top-50 prospect when he was merely 17-years-old. Now closing in on his 21st birthday, Espinoza hasn’t thrown a competitive pitch since 2016 and hasn’t faced competition above the Low-A level. Now seemingly close to 100% following Tommy John surgery rehabilitation, I included Espinoza in a recent article detailing candidates to be 2019’s Chris Paddack. Give it a look for more on the young Venezuelan. The right-hander has reportedly looked good in Padres camp early this Spring Training, boasting a fastball that’s topped out at 97 mph in bullpen sessions. Let’s hope we look back on 2019 as the year Espinoza got back on track.
184. Kolby Allard, SP, ATL. Age: 21
Allard’s three appearance, 8 IP stint with the Braves last summer went… not well, to put it lightly. But the left-hander’s capabilities are much more like what we witnessed from Allard in Triple-A in 2018. Look, the upside here is never going to blow your socks off. The 21-year-old is never going to miss a ton of bats because his fastball is only average. Allard only struck out 19.5% of the batters he faced in the minor leagues last season, and a K/9 between 7 and 8 throughout his career should probably be expected. Other than the ability to locate the entirety of his arsenal, the southpaw’s best trait is his mound makeup and pitchability. Because of these things, Allard is able to get the most out of his unspectacular repertoire of pitches. There’s not a top-of-the-rotation ceiling here, but the left-hander should stick around in the back-end (SP4 or SP5) of a big league rotation for a while. Allard’s best attribute in dynasty leagues is likely the combination of his age and proximity to the big leagues.
183. Miguel Vargas, INF, LAD. Age: 19
Want to know the craziest thing about an 18-year-old Vargas slashing .330/.404/.465 between both Rookie Ball levels and Low-A last summer? He did so after not playing competitive baseball for two years. Craziness. Vargas is a strong, athletic infielder who profiles as an adequate third baseman or above average first baseman (he’s played both professionally). Scouts believe his 6’3 frame will continue to add good weight as he fills out, which should lead to the power you’d expect from someone that size. Evaluators have also said that witnessing a Vargas BP-session is a thing of beauty, and the teenager sprays the ball to all fields with ease. Staff writer Tyler Spicer profiled Vargas earlier this month.
182. Luis Oviedo, SP, CLE. Age: 19
Another teenage pitching prospect who reached full season ball at the end of last season, Oviedo is oozing with stuff and projection and has the ceiling of a top-of-the-rotation starter. Short season ball was no match for Oviedo last summer: the right-hander struck out 32.7% of the batters he faced (1.88 BB/9) while posting a 1.88 ERA. The 19-year-old did manage to total a 3.00 ERA in two full season starts at the end of the season, but our first real sample from Low-A will come in 2019. Oviedo has four offerings, but his best two pitches are currently (and undoubtedly) the fastball and changeup. As he continues to refine his game, it’s easy to envision Oviedo someday becoming a mid-rotation-or-better big league starting pitcher.
181. Tucupita Marcano, INF, SD. Age: 19
A future, first-ballot hall of famer based on his name alone, Marcano was so good at his first stop stateside in the Arizona League that he finished the season in Short Season ball. In 237 plate appearances total, the teenager slashed .366/.450/.438 with a 12.7 BB%, 6.8 K% and 15 stolen bases. So many good ingredients. Standing at a scrawny 6’0 165 lbs., Marcano has very little power projection with his current frame and needs to add good weight to ever unlock any potential with the tool. But everything else: the fantastic plate approach, the plus speed and the above average defense, point towards a player who will be included on this list for a while. Full season ball awaits in 2019.
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Featured image courtesy of photographer Hayne Palmour IV and the San Diego Union-Tribune
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