Ray Butler’s 2019 Top 200 Prospects: #141-160

Written by: Ray Butler

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For previous installments of this list, you can check out my #161-180 prospects here and my #181-200 prospects here.

HAPPY FRIDAY! Let’s celebrate in style with another batch of prospects…..

160. Kyle Muller, SP, ATL. Age: 21

The Braves have enough pitching prospects to arm a small village, but it’s past time to give Muller his due. To put it in proper perspective that’s relevant to the structure of Atlanta’s organization, the monstrous southpaw doesn’t have the ceiling of a bonafide staff ace in real life, but he’s more than good enough to headline a potential trade for active talent the Braves can utilize to help them win big in 2019. Still developing, and with a chance to strikeout a batter per inning before it’s all said and done, Muller will likely begin the 2019 season back in Double-A. A promotion to Triple-A will likely be on the near horizon. The Braves will be in the market for help down the stretch of an impending playoff run, and Muller will certainly be a prospect opposing front offices ask about throughout this season.

159. Tristen Lutz, OF, MIL. Age: 20

Scouts who evaluated Lutz in-person last season are currently more excited about the outfielder than the 2018 statistics would recommend, but a couple of putrid months (check out the April and August numbers) weighed down the outfielder’s slash numbers more than they would be otherwise. He still struck out in 27.6% of his plate appearances, but evaluators tend to agree the whiff rate will drop as Lutz refines his bat control. The raw power is plus plus, so the 13 home runs last season is just scratching the surface of the 20-year-old’s power potential.

158. Travis Swaggerty, OF, PIT. Age: 21

The fantasy team name potential is endless if you roster Swaggerty, but you’re probably more in love with the raw power and speed the 2018 first rounder possesses. But prospects with those tools who ranked outside of any top 100 list must have a flaw, and for Swaggerty it’s the hit tool. A college hitter, the 21-year-old struck out 25.3% of his plate appearances between Short Season ball and Low-A last summer. In 229 plate appearances between the levels, Swaggerty hit .239 with 5 home runs and 9 stolen bases. The wRC+ was 108. There’s plenty of time for development here, but Swaggerty is currently a low-floor, high-ceiling college bat who’s hard to love until we see more.

157. Triston Casas, 3B, BOS. Age: 19

If you’re a dynasty player who acquires raw power and waits for the rest of the cards to fall where they may, Casas is in the center of your sweet spot. Most already consider the third baseman’s raw power 80 grade, and at 6’4 240 lbs., Casas certainly looks the part. Unfortunately, the 19-year-old’s plate approach is unpolished and will likely lead to a high strikeout rate early in Casas’s professional career. If he can develop the hit tool to 50 or even a 45, Casas could be one of the most prolific power hitters in all of baseball. It should also be mentioned that an eventual move to first base defensively is expected.

156. Elehuris Montero, 3B, STL. Age: 20

My gut tells me Montero’s 106 plate appearance sample at the end of last season saturated his perception in the prospect community a little, which is stupid if you’re basing the change of opinion on the third baseman’s slash numbers only. However, it might be fair to question whether Montero’s naturally-aggressive approach will hold up in the Florida State League with a bigger sample in play. Scouts also consider Montero limited from a mobility standpoint, so much so that he may not be able to remain at third base at the big league level. Regardless of his defensive future, Montero should continue to produce offensively at every level of the minor leagues without too much issue.

155. Franklin Perez, SP, DET. Age: 21

Once a consensus top 100 prospect who’s slipped down lists thanks to a tumultuous 2018 campaign, Perez is primed to reemerge as a viable pitching prospect in 2019. The right-hander was featured in my recent article discussing candidates to be this season’s version of Chris Paddack, and Perez’s age makes a ‘comeback’ easy to root for. Casey Mize and Matt Manning are the current darling pitcher prospects in Detroit’s system, but Perez has a solid chance of joining that party once again in 2019.

154. Geraldo Perdomo, SS, ARZ. Age: 19

I wanted to see if Perdomo had walked more than struck out in his 257 career plate appearances, but I quickly figured out the slash numbers were just as impressive: .280/.423/.372. And yes, the shortstop has a career 18.5 BB% and 15.1 K%, which, as you know by now, is the quickest way to my heart. A switch hitter with skills from both sides, Perdomo is a plus hitter who, for now, projects to hit 10-15 home runs and steal 10-15 bases per season. As the shortstop continues to fill out and add muscle, the former number should climb closer to 20. The 19-year-old remains relatively unknown for now, so acquire at the ground floor while you still can.

153. Freudis Nova, INF, HOU. Age: 19

Other than increasing his patience (which, in fairness, could be said about 95% of the prospects his age), it’s really hard to poke holes in what Nova has done since beginning his professional career in 2017. Through two summers of Rookie Ball, the infielder is slashing .276/.337/.407 with 10 home runs and 17 stolen bases (15.6 K%) in 347 plate appearances. It’s not well-known, but Nova was originally destined to be a member of the Marlins’ organization. After failing a PED test in 2016, he was released and eventually signed by the Astros, a team he figures to make an impact for someday. Defensively, Nova has played second base, third base and shortstop during his short pro career. With his offensive skills, being versatile defensively would increase his stock all the more.

152. Wenceel Perez, SS, DET. Age: 19

When you’re a teenage prospect with a limited power ceiling, you better have great bat-to-ball skills to be considered for a prospect list of any length. A lot of prospects on this list have fit that bill, but Perez is as good as any of them. Perez played in three different levels last season, slashing .312/.363/.429 with a 13.5 K% in 251 plate apperarances combined. Perez possesses plus speed, so his 13 stolen bases in 2018 should just be scratching the surface of his eventual output. The current, limited power probably caps the shortstop’s home run potential to 10 or so for now, but at 19-years-old, Perez should continue to develop in that area.

151. Grant Lavigne, 1B, COL. Age: 19

Lavigne 1) is a teenager, 2) walked more than he struck out last summer and 3) possesses plus raw power. Drafted by the Rockies with the 42nd overall pick in last summer’s draft, Lavigne immediately improved his prospect stock by hitting 6 home runs and slashing .350/.477/.519 in 258 plate appearances in Rookie Ball. Lavigne’s 12 stolen bases in 59 games might make you raise your brow, but they’re likely more of an indictment on batteries in the Pioneer League than a testament to the first baseman’s straight-line speed. The 19-year-old will move on to full season ball in 2019, and a promotion to High-A Lancaster before the end of the regular season might be in the cards if Lavigne continues to perform. Our John Stewart profiled the first baseman in February.

150. Tony Santillan, SP, CIN. Age: 22

Santillan probably should have been more on our collective radar following a solid 2017 campaign, but the right-hander backed it up last season and finds his way into my top 150 because of it. Santillan made 26 starts in 2018, compiling 149 innings pitched with a 21.3 K% and 3.08 ERA in the process. The strikeout rate won’t blow any minds, but the 22-year-old’s 6.0 BB% (15.3 K-BB%) helps lay a solid, mid-rotation foundation for Santillan. There’s a chance the right-hander begins the season in Triple-A, but I think it’s more likely Santillan notches 5-10 starts back in Double-A before being promoted to Louisville.

149. Miguel Amaya, C, CHC. Age: 20

Amaya made some really solid strides last season, increasing his BB% by six percent and OBP by .083 in his first full season of pro ball. The catcher also flashed more of his above-average raw power, hitting 12 home runs after totaling only 4 home runs combined in Rookie and Short Season ball in 2016 and 2017. The defensive skills are adequate, and Amaya figures to stick at catcher throughout his big league career. The tools of an everyday player are evident here, though Amaya will likely progress at a one-level-per-season pace on his trek to Chicago.

148. Hans Crouse, SP, TEX. Age: 20

Hans Crouse is going to be a prospect you love to roster. The right-hander has a fiery mound presence, which is a nice cherry-on-top when your arsenal includes two 70-grade offerings. The problem, for now, is that the right-hander is still developing a changeup that would slot as his third pitch. It’s probably a 40-grade pitch for now. Crouse’s mechanics are… unique, and his arsenal is so top-heavy that he’ll be a risk to move to the bullpen throughout his prospect career, which would hurt him in fantasy but might help flourish in real life. 2019 will be Crouse’s first extended stay in full season ball.

147. Seth Beer, 1B/OF, HOU. Age: 22

A lot of scouting reports had Beer pegged as a 1B-only draft prospect last spring and summer leading up to the draft, but the 22-year-old actually played more games in the outfield than at first base after being selected by the Astros in the first round. And though he was competing against unworthy competition until he was promoted to High-A, for his final 27 games the first baseman’s .304/.389/.496 slash with 12 home runs in 296 plate appearances still feels notable. A pure hitter who will be more valuable in the fantasy realm than in real life throughout his career, Beer should continue to progress quickly through the Astros’ system.

146. Akil Baddoo, OF, MIN. Age: 20

Similar to my lede on Marlins prospect Isan Diaz, when a prospect hits .243 and strikes out in 24% of his plate appearances, you don’t often expect to see an above average wRC+. Baddoo somehow managed to post a 121 wRC+ in 2018 despite those numbers, mostly thanks to hitting 11 home runs and stealing 24 bases in Low-A. From an AVG standpoint, I think Baddoo is a strong bounce back candidate in 2019 (despite a solid spray chart and plus speed, Baddoo’s BABIP was only .311 thanks to a 9.2 LD% and 19.9 IFFB%). The ingredients are all there—solid plate discipline, above-average raw power and plus speed—for Baddoo to someday be a consensus top 100 prospect. We just need the skills to manifest themselves a little more on the field in 2019.

145. Joey Wentz, SP, ATL. Age: 21

Oblique and shoulder injuries forced Wentz to miss a large chunk of last season, and the southpaw’s stuff just didn’t seem all the way right even when he was healthy and competing in High-A. It seems a little unfair that I ranked Wentz 68th in my preseason top 200 list last season, and now he slots here despite a season that was so obviously affected by injuries. Assuming he’s healthy, the Braves will likely challenge the southpaw with a Double-A placement to begin the season. And assuming he’s healthy, Wentz is a good bet to ascend prospect lists once again in 2019.

144. Dustin May, SP, LAD. Age: 21

Ginger Thor is a prospect we all want to have big-time upside, but we just haven’t seen it since May was a third round draft pick in 2016. And it’s really perplexing. The right-hander’s fastball touched 97 at times last season. The slider is plus. The command is plus. Maybe the lack of a true third pitch is making him a little too predictable? Despite the meh 22.1 K% in 2018, May did post a whopping 55.0 GB%. There’s a lot of savory facets in May’s profile. He’ll begin the 2019 season back in Double-A, and it feels like he’s just one ingredient away from skyrocketing up prospect lists throughout the industry.

143. Adam Haseley, OF, PHI. Age: 23

Adam Haseley is one of the most underrated prospects in baseball. After being selected by the Phillies in the first round of the 2017 draft, some discarded the outfielder because of the initial, unspectacular reports of moderate power potential. But Haseley turned the haters into believers in 2018, slashing .305/.361/.433 with 11 home runs in 118 games (despite playing 79 games in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League). Playing half your games in Reading’s home stadium would make anyone look like a power hitter, but Haseley’s continued ascension in 2019 will be very real. There’s a chance the 23-year-old is considered a 60-hit, 60-raw power prospect a year from now. Somewhat of a post-script: I would love to see Haseley attempt to steal more bases in 2019. With Bryce Harper now a member of the Phillies until kingdom come, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the 23-year-old dangled in trade talks at some point this season.

142. Brayan Rocchio, INF. Age: 18

Rocchio is a 5’10, 150 lb. teenager who slugged .442 last summer between Rookie Ball levels. That’s somehow not even close to the most fun thing about the infielder. Rocchio stole 22 bases in 60 games last summer. A switch hitter with a good approach from both sides, the 18-year-old only struck out in 11.5% of his plate appearances and slashed .335/.390/.442. He’s currently graded with below-average raw power, but I expect that to change as he continues to fill out physically. Rocchio is already a hot commodity in dynasty leagues, and I think his stock will continue to grow this season.

141. J.B Bukauskas, SP, HOU. Age: 22

Mum was the word on the injury that caused Bukauskas to miss the first portion of last season, but word finally leaked that the right-hander suffered a back injury in a car wreck last spring. The injury would eventually restrict Bukauskas to 13 starts in 2018, but the 22-year-old seemed to make the most of them. The arsenal was lacking a true, reliable third pitch, but the changeup seems to have taken some positive steps forward in the past six months. However, the command is only average, and it will take a moderate toll on Bukauskas’s ceiling if it doesn’t ascend to the next level. But if it does, imagine what the next step will be for a prospect who struck out 30% of the batters he faced as an incomplete prospect in 2018. Our Dylan Matthews took a deep dive on Bukauskas, an RPM darling, in February.

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Featured image courtesy of MiLB.com

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