Ray Butler’s 2019 Top 200 Prospects: #121-140

Written by: Ray Butler

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For previous installments of this list, you can check out my #141-160 prospects here, my #161-180 prospects here and my #181-200 prospects here.

It’s absolutely wild to consider Bryce Harper and Mike Trout will probably play for the same team after the 2020 season. A Trout-Harper-Hoskins trio will be an absolute nightmare for opposing pitchers over the course of the next decade.

Anyways, here’s the next 20 prospects from my #P365Top200….

140. Eric Pardinho, SP, TOR. Age: 18

Ranking an undersized, 18-year-old pitching prospect who hasn’t pitched above Rookie Ball inside of my top 150 isn’t exactly my comfort zone, but Pardinho has the makeup and pitchability that makes me feel like this placement is low risk… relatively speaking. The right-hander is a plus athlete who already features a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball. He used the combination to strikeout 31.5% of the batters he faced while posting a 2.88 ERA in the Appalachian League last summer. Short Season ball for Pardinho in 2019 is the safe bet, but don’t be surprised if the Jays challenge the right-hander with a full season placement similarly to how they handled Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette in 2017.

139. Tirso Ornelas, OF, SD. Age: 19

The counting stats from Ornelas’s age-18 season in Low-A may not knock your socks off, but evaluators think the outfielder has all the makings of a future middle of the order, impact bat. Fangraphs has already slapped 55-hit 60-raw power grades on Ornelas, and scouts who have evaluated the outfielder in-person have come away impressed. The AVG and lack of home runs last season may sour you, but make sure you notice Ornelas’s 44.3 IFFB% that lowered his BABIP for the season to .297. When you remember the Padres prospect played the entirety of 2018 as an 18-year-old, it’s easy to assume more game power is on the way. I’d be surprised if Ornelas doesn’t climb prospect lists while in the California League this season.

138. Corbin Martin, SP, HOU. Age: 23

Last season was Martin’s first full campaign as a pro, and the right-hander was unquestionably impressive. The 23-year-old struck out (exactly) a batter per inning, finished with a 2.58 BB/9 and posted a 2.51 ERA between High-A and Double-A, officially announcing his viability as a pitching prospect in the process. With clean mechanics and a four-pitch arsenal, Martin is a solid-bet to remain in the starting rotation throughout his career once he reaches the big league level. Led by a fastball that he commands well and a plus slider that often acts as his out pitch, Martin might get a few opportunities in Houston at some point in 2019 before really settling in with a spot in the rotation next season.

137. Luiz Gohara, SP, ATL. Age: 22

Finally removed from a season that was headlined for Gohara by a death in the family and a shoulder injury, the southpaw has reportedly dropped significant weight (35 pounds as of November) with his sights set on a bounce back campaign in 2019. The unseen truth is this: Gohara was rushed to the big leagues out of necessity in 2017 (the Braves needed to see how the left-hander projected before making a decision as to whether or not to protect him during the offseason’s Rule 5 draft). The left-hander was fantastic in four different levels that season, making Atlanta’s decision to keep the southpaw easy. What the prospect and fantasy community didn’t account for was, while he was strategically rushed to the big leagues in 2017, Gohara’s undeserved consequent was missing out on development and seasoning he needed to reach his long-term big league potential. That fact, combined with the aforementioned personal tragedy and shoulder injury, created the perfect storm for the 22-year-old’s 2018 season. The numbers backed up, the health was never good, and Gohara has since plummeted down prospect lists. He’ll enter the 2019 season completely healthy, in better shape, and ready to restore his standing as an above-average pitcher at the big league level. Note: Or maybe not? Gohara recently felt some prolonged shoulder tightness after a bullpen session in Spring Training. The minor ailment isn’t thought to be serious, but it could potentially impact where Gohara begins the upcoming season.

136. Sherten Apostel, 3B, TEX. Age: 20

Named as a PTBNL in the trade that sent Keone Kela to Pittsburgh, Apostel is a pure-hitter who is certainly one of the most intriguing position player prospects who hasn’t yet reached full season ball. The opinions of scouts vary greatly with the 20-year-old. Some think the hit tool will eventually become plus; others think Apostel will be lucky to get the tool to average. Some think he projects just fine to remain at third base; the naysayers think a move to first base is in the cards. What’s impossible to disagree on is the upper-echelon raw power and prophetic eye (18.3 BB% between Rookie Ball and Short Season A last season). I personally think Apostel eventually (probably) shifts across the diamond to first base, but his offensive tools will profile just fine either way. I’m buying. Shout out to Prospect Live’s Eddy Almaguer for this Apostel puff piece from January.

135. Nick Pratto, 1B, KC. Age: 20

I ranked Pratto 184th on my #Top200 last preseason, and he’s 49 spots higher here despite striking out in 27.9% of his plate appearances in Low-A in 2018. That has to mean the rest of the profile looks good, and it certainly does Pratto: 14 home runs, 22 stolen bases, and a .280/.343/.443 triple slash as a teenager in full season ball. The first baseman’s straight-line speed doesn’t impress many scouts, but Pratto utilizes his athleticism and instincts to remain a threat on the base paths. I’m more skeptical on this happening for fellow Royals farmhand Seuly Matias, but I could see Pratto’s 2019 strikeout and walk rate improving similarly to how Khalil Lee’s improved while at High-A Wilmington last season. If it does, Pratto will likely sneak into the top-100 by the end of the season.

134. Shervyen Newton, 3B/OF, NYM. Age: 20

In true Mets over-seasoning fashion (I kid), Newton has compiled 719 plate appearances between the Dominican Summer League and Appalachian League the last three seasons. Crazily, though he’s never played a professional game as anything but a teenager, Newton’s career walk rate sits at 16.4%. The career strikeout rate is 24.1%, and overcoming some swing-and-miss issues will be a huge factor in fully unlocking his plus power. Smart money is on Newton (6’4 and not overly athletic) eventually shifting from shortstop to either third base or a corner outfield spot, where his switch-hitting power would project just fine.

133. Brandon Lowe, 2B/OF, TB. Age: 24

A monstrous 2018 campaign witnessed Lowe progress from Double-A, to Triple-A, all the way to the big leagues for a 43-game stint with the Rays towards the end of the season. A third round pick in 2015 who officially started his professional career the next season, Lowe totaled 16 home runs combined in his first two seasons in the Rays’ organization (917 plate appearances). Last season, the 24-year-old hit 28 home runs. As is usually the case when we witness a spike like Lowe’s last year, the left-hander pulled an elevated the ball more in 2018. He might bounce back-and-forth between Triple-A and the MLB for a little while, but Lowe should eventually become an everyday player with multi-positional eligibility

132. Will Smith, C/3B, LAD. Age: 24

A versatile catcher prospect who smacked 20 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Smith raised his stock immensely in 2018 and could make his big league debut this season. The 24-year-old doesn’t get the hype he deserves because he shares an organization with Keibert Ruiz, a 20-year-old catching prospect who’s a consensus top-100 prospect. While Ruiz has never played a position other than catcher, the Dodgers have experimented with Smith both at second base and third base throughout the past two seasons. My gut tells me Ruiz will be Los Angeles’s main catcher once he’s ready, but Smith should still see some time behind the plate if the Dodgers choose to go that route. When he’s not catching, Smith’s bat is good enough to spell Justin Turner at third base when needed (and Turner is a UFA after the 2020 season). The 24-year-old does have some strikeout tendencies and will never hit for average, but the consistent double-digit walk rates make him more valuable in OBP leagues.

131. Corey Ray, OF, MIL. Age: 24

I could simply type “hit 27 home runs and stole 37 bases last season” and leave it at that, but there’s a lot more to the story for Ray and his potential value as a big leaguer. Unfortunately, the factors that follow the counting stats are why Ray is ranked where he is on this list. The outfielder went down swinging in 29.3% of his plate appearances last season, which was an actual improvement from 31% clip he posted the season before. The subsequent slash was .239/.323/.477. The stolen base output actually paints an accurate picture of Ray’s speed: it’s plus plus and really the only reliable facet of his skillset. The 24-year-old is a below-average defender, so he likely won’t have the opportunity to continue developing his bat at the big league level while adding solid defensive value with his glove. Instead, Ray will be forced to continue improving his bat-to-ball skills in the minor leagues. The ceiling here is massive, but there’s growing doubt Ray he ever reaches it.

130. Cavan Biggio, UTIL, TOR. Age: 24

A Three True Outcomes darling (48.7% of plate appearances last season), Biggio has a good chance of eventually becoming a versatile, powerful asset in the fantasy world once he’s promoted to the big league level. The 24-year-old’s shortcoming is contact rate, striking out in 26.3% of his plate appearances last season in Double-A. The pitfall is bad enough that Biggio’s ceiling will always come with the caveat that he’ll post low AVGs, though he walks more than enough to be more valuable in OBP leagues than batting average leagues. Biggio played five different positions defensively in 2018 while at Double-A; while the meh hit tool means there’s some Quad-A risk here, it’s more likely the 24-year-old settles into a utility role with the Blue Jays at the big league level. I’d expect his 20 SB output from last season to be sliced in half (at least) once he debuts for Toronto.

129. Leodys Taveras, OF, TEX. Age: 20

Taveras’s full season debut in 2017 was supposed to be a minor blip on the radar for a prospect whose defensive skills far exceeded his offensive skills. He might have fallen a few spots on top 100 lists, but he was certainly still included. Then 2018 happened, and I think it’s officially time for us to examine Taveras’s ceiling from a fantasy baseball perspective. The glove will always carry the profile, which means Taveras is a more valuable prospect in real life than on fantasy-focused lists like this one. But he’s only 20-years-old and will either be repeating High-A to begin the 2019 season or moving up to Double-A. There’s plenty of time for the bat to catch up, it just might take a little longer than we originally thought.

128. Wander Javier, SS, MIN. Age: 20

2018 was supposed to be the year of Wander Javier. The shortstop figured to easily move into consensus top 100 territory last season, and it was going to be aided by stellar numbers in his full season debut. Now much more risky than he was this time last season, Javier will take on full season ball with all eyes on the development of his hit tool. If the shortstop makes strides in decreasing the strikeout rate in 2019, the industry will be able to comfortably slap 55-hit, 55-raw power, 55-speed grades on the 20-year-old. There’s also a chance this ranking looks foolish in a few months. Either way, with Javier close to finally returning, @DustyColorado must be losing sleep on a nightly basis.

127. Jordan Groshans, INF, TOR. Age: 19

A 6’3 athlete whose physical potential you can dream on, Groshans slashed .296/.353/.446 with 5 home runs in 207 plate appearances between both Rookie Ball levels after being drafted in the first round by the Jays last summer. As he continues to develop physically, I think Groshans will eventually become a ‘pure hitter’ prospect whose offensive skills will play just fine at second or third base (I don’t really see him sticking at shortstop but there’s certainly a chance). The teenager will take on full-season ball in 2019.

126. Monte Harrison, OF, MIA. Age: 23

Multiple times in this list, I’ve discussed a prospect’s acceptable wRC+ last season despite a very-flawed fact of their statistical profile. Conversely in this scenario, when a player hits 19 home runs and steals 28 bases, you expect to see a wRC+ higher than Harrison’s 104 from last season. You already know why, but I’ll tell you anyways: the outfielder struck out in a jaw-dropping 36.9% of his plate appearances, which proved enough to drop his slash numbers to a moderate .240/.316/.399. Recently in the Arizona Fall League, Harrison showcased a quieter swing that featured less of a leg-kick than the outfielder utilized during the 2018 regular season. The adjustment will help with the contact issues, but the real progress will come when/if Harrison better recognizes offspeed offerings.

125. D’Shawn Knowles, OF, LAA. Age: 18

The floor might be a little bit lower here, but there are more similarities between Knowles and fellow Bahamian outfielder Kristian Robinson than one might think. Knowles only stands 6’0, 165 lbs., but the outfielder had no problem utilizing his power last summer, hitting 5 home runs in 253 plate appearances between both Rookie Ball levels as a 17-year-old. The speed is what Knowles hangs his hat on though (9 SB last summer), and it’s the skill that helps the 18-year-old easily project towards the top of a future big league lineup. If everything breaks right, Knowles might be a 55-hit, 55-raw power, 60-speed prospect before it’s all said and done. The Angels have outfield prospects FOR DAYS.

124. Logan Allen, SP, SD. Age: 21

Pitchers whose best offering is their changeup don’t exactly have the most sterling track record in big league history, but Allen has found success throughout his minor league career and he struck out over a batter per inning between Double-A and Triple-A last season. The Triple-A ERA (1.63) looks awfully pretty, but it’s hard to ignore the 4.78 xFIP is the more accurate representation of how the southpaw performed at the level (the BB/9 was 4.23). The industry seems pretty split on Allen’s big league outlook: some think Allen is a bonafide top-100 prospect and are willing to die on that hill. Others consider Allen a future top-tier SP4 who flashes as a SP3 from time-to-time over his career. I tend to side more with the latter group, but two things occurring at Triple-A (and likely the MLB at some point) would change my mind: Allen maintaining a strikeout rate similar to the one he posted while in Double-A last season (26%), and raising his GB% closer to league average (at least).

123. Luis Rengifo, 2B, LAA. Age: 22

Allow me to quickly hit the bullet points of Rengifo’s three-level 2018 campaign: .299/.399/.452. 7 home runs. 41 stolen bases. 109 runs scored. 75 walks. 75 strikeouts. Quite frankly, I’m in love with Rengifo’s high floor, low-risk profile, especially as a future big league second baseman. The big league ceiling is something like 12 home runs and 25 stolen bases that teams up with an above-average AVG and savory OBP to form a valuable middle infielder. The Angels have made moves this offseason that signify they’re attempting to contend in 2019, so Rengifo should have a decent shot at becoming LAA’s everyday second baseman at some point this season. There’s sneaky redraft value here.

122. Ronaldo Hernandez, C, TB. Age: 21

After being placed in Rookie Ball for three consecutive summers to develop defensively, Hernandez finally got a shot in full season ball in 2018. Offensively, he did not disappoint. Statistically, the .284/.339/.494 slash with 21 home runs was as good as any catcher prospect in baseball. The industry seems split on whether the 21-year-old can stick behind the plate defensively, and an eventual move to first base is certainly a possibility (and an unfortunate one). Hernandez walked in only 6.9% (nice) of his plate appearances last season, and I’m interested to see what the numbers look like in the Florida State League in 2019 if that number doesn’t increase.

121. William Contreras, C, ATL. Age: 21

An 83 wRC+ in a 90 plate appearance sample at High-A at the end of the season put a damper on the holistic 2018 numbers, but Contreras is easily one of the best offensive catching prospects in the sport. From video I’ve seen, Contreras continually tweaked his swing throughout last season, probably to the point that it had an adverse effect on his performance. The Braves will continue to sculpt the finer points of Contreras’s skillset, and the 21-year-old could realistically be ready for everyday catching duties in Atlanta by 2021. Complete transparency: The rough-draft of my #P365Top200 had Contreras closer to the 150 mark, but I quickly decided that was too bearish of a ranking. I’ve moved him up quite a bit (as you can see), but if anything, this still isn’t high enough. I’m very interested to see his performance this season versus High-A and Double-A pitching.

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Ken Inness and MiLB.com

If you are anything like me, your long-time passion of baseball has trickled into a passion for golf as well. Two of my good friends have launched Tight Lies Golf, a website focused on previews and reviews of PGA Tour events, course reviews, interviews with players and much more. Their podcast (the TLG Podcast) can be found on Spotify, and they’re actively attempting to build a social media presence. You can follow them at @GolfTight on Twitter and @tight_lies_golf on Instagram. They also have a YouTube channel you can subscribe to. With the 2019 PGA Tour season really revving up the next few weeks, videos like this one are sure to put you in a golf mood. Check these guys out. 

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