Ray Butler’s 2019 Top 200 Prospects: #81-100

Written by: Ray Butler

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For previous installments of this list, you can check out my #101-120 prospects here, my #121-140 prospects here, my #141-160 prospects here, my #161-180 prospects here and my #181-200 prospects here.

Halfway there! You’re all top-100 prospects in my book…

100. Daz Cameron, OF, DET. Age: 22

After playing the entirety of the 2017 season in Low-A, Cameron progressed all the way to Triple-A last season and will knock on the door of a big league debut throughout 2019. Around the prospect-sphere, the outfielder is considered a 55-raw power, 55-speed player who is making strides to develop his hit tool and game power. Fellow Tigers prospect Christin Stewart will likely surrender prospect eligibility early this season, but with the Tigers not figuring to genuinely contend again for another two or three seasons, don’t be surprised if Cameron receives a ‘check list’ of things he needs to improve on before being considered for a big league promotion. If it all comes together, Cameron has .270 AVG, 20 home run, 25 stolen base potential.

99. Justin Dunn, SP, SEA. Age: 23

Despite only playing professional baseball for three years, it’s already been a winding road for Dunn. A first round pick in 2016, a 30 IP sample in Short Season ball that season boosted the right-hander into several top-100 lists prior to his first full season. But 2017 was a disaster; Dunn walked 4.5 batters per nine innings and posted a 5.00 ERA in High-A. No longer on any top-100 lists, the 23-year-old bounced back in a big way this season. Between High-A and Double-A, Dunn struck out 27.1% of the batters he faced and notched a 3.59 ERA. The difference? The right-hander really turned a corner with the development of his changeup last season, utilizing it in any count to make his deadly fastball/slider combination even dirtier than it already was. The latest turn of Dunn’s winding road was being traded to the Mariners as part of the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz trade. He’ll be back in Double-A to begin the 2019 season.

98. Adonis Medina, SP, PHI. Age: 22

Medina’s worst pitch might be his fastball. Medina’s fastball is above average. The right-hander carved up batters in the Florida State League last season, posting a 26.1 K% and 3.42 xFIP in 111.1 IP. The slider/changeup combination is really what makes Medina click, and it’s the key to making the right-hander a big league SP3 someday. The 22-year-old is a good athlete; I’ve already mentioned the strikeout rate, but my favorite part of Medina’s profile is his ability to induce groundball outs. A big Double-A test in Reading awaits in 2019.

97. DL Hall, SP, BAL. Age: 20

I (foolishly) left Hall off my #MidseasonTop200 last season, but I’m rectifying that mistake now. And trust me, the southpaw deserves it. Scouts love in the in-season development that occurred for Hall in 2018, and the southpaw was markedly better in the second half than the first. Unlike many of his same-age peers, Hall’s arsenal only needs continued refinement instead of the development of any semblance of a third pitch. I won’t say it’s a shoe in, but with the frame to boot, Hall has as good of a chance as any 20-year-old to remain a starting pitcher throughout his professional career. High-A awaits in 2019, where the left-hander will have the opportunity to cement himself as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.

96. Hudson Potts, UTIL, SD. Age: 20

Hudson Potts doesn’t care that you think he’s over-performing. As a 19-year-old last season between High-A and Double-A, Potts smacked 19 home runs and slashed .260/.335/.455 with a 26.8 K% in 542 plate appearances. The power-first aspect of Potts’s offensive profile would make you assume he ranks higher on fantasy lists than real-life lists, but the 20-year-old is a solid defender who projects to be an above-average big league defender at third base. It gives Potts a study floor on real-life prospect lists as well. The right-hander has funky swing mechanics and will always be susceptible to strikeouts, but he could flirt with 30 home runs a time or two in his prime. A .260 AVG (.330 OBP), 25 HR, 25.0 K% big league projection feels about right. With the Padres recently signing Manny Machado, Potts has been getting reps at first base and second base this spring. How the decision makers choose to utilize Potts defensively throughout the 2019 season will be quite telling as it relates to the 20-year-old’s potential fantasy value.

95. Kevin Smith, INF, TOR. Age: 22

Get a whiff of this: in 575 plate appearances last season (his first full campaign in pro ball), Smith slashed .302/.358/.528 with 25 home runs and 29 stolen bases. Aroused? The truth is, the infielder’s numbers after being promoted to High-A are more representative of Smith’s true talent. There will always be some swing and miss in Smith’s game, and the AVG should settle around .270 versus top-tier competition. A good athlete with obvious pop, Smith should be capable of 20 HR/15 SB seasons at the big league level. Double-A pitching to begin the 2019 season will be Smith’s toughest test yet.

94. Tyler Nevin, 1B, COL. Age: 21

Nevin finally appears fully healthy and rust-free after a severe hamstring injury forced him to miss almost all of the 2016 season. The 6’4 first baseman slashed .328/.386/.503 in High-A last season, adding 13 home runs and a tolerable 18.5 K% in 417 plate appearances. Nevin is really in the top-half of the top-200 list, though, because of what he’s shown us lately. From July 1st to the end of the regular season, the 21-year-old hit 9 home runs and slashed .363/.430/.553 in 57 games. As an encore, Nevin slashed a scorching .426/.535/.593 in 71 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League. Double-A should be ahead for Nevin this season, where I’m hopeful he continues to unlock his raw power in game settings.

93. Oneil Cruz, SS, PIT. Age: 20

There’s a lot of development that has to occur for Cruz to reach his ceiling, but the potential here is that of one of the most prolific sluggers in all of baseball. Cruz is the epitome of a free-swinger, so much so that his moderate 7.7 BB% last season is a little bit deceiving. The eagerness to swing is really the only thing standing in the way of the 20-year-old continuing to unlock his massive power. At 6’6, there’s a lot of concern about Cruz’s future defensive position. He played all 102 games at shortstop last season, but evaluators are split on whether his frame will allow him to continue to play the position at higher levels. If he does move away from shortstop, third base or right field are the likely landing spots. Cruz certainly has the arm and offense to profile just fine from either spot. At the dish, Cruz is a little bit of a reverse-splits player, compiling a 1.015 OPS versus left-handed pitching and a .778 OPS against righties. The 20-year-old’s development of his approach (namely, his pitch recognition and plate patience) is something I’m most interested to see this season.

92. Esteury Ruiz, UTIL, SD. Age: 20

Perhaps the personification of a fantasy prospect, Ruiz is an offense-first player who might be without a long-term defensive home. That means you likely won’t see him on any real-life top-100 prospect lists this preseason, but he fits in just fine here. The 20-year-old slashed .253/.324/.403 with 12 home runs and 49 stolen bases last season in a Midwest League that doesn’t go out of its way to favor hitters. He struck out in 28.6% of his plate appearances, but there’s a general consensus amongst scouts that the hit tool should develop quite nicely over the next few seasons. I’m in the minority when I say I think he has a decent chance to stick at second base, which means Ruiz would hypothetically be a 55-hit, 55-raw power, 55-speed player at one of the thinnest positions in fantasy baseball. Left field would be the destination if the 20-year-old were relegated. Ruiz’s numbers in the California League this season should be fun.

91. Jazz Chisholm, SS, ARZ. Age: 21

Chisholm catapults into my top-100 after narrowly missing my December Top 100. The shortstop’s hit tool is still getting picked up in the car-rider line, but I’m a sucker for high-ceiling athletes at premium positions, and Chisholm is certainly that. As a 20-year-old last season, Chisholm slashed .272/.329/.513 with 25 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 501 plate appearances between Low-A and High-A. He’s also a plus defender, so his offensive development will have a longer leash than a prospect with similar offensive tools but poor defensive ability. And that’s good, because Chisholm struck out in 29.7% of his plate appearances; he also only posted a .670 OPS versus left-handed pitching. The lack of a current hit tool means Chisholm carries some variance, but the above-average raw power, speed and defensive skills make the 21-year-old awfully intriguing moving forward. He’ll carry quite a bit of helium into the 2019 season, and I’m hoping the shortstop shows an increased affinity of laying off first-pitch non-fastballs in Double-A Jackson.

90. Khalil Lee, OF, KC. Age: 20

I thought we were going to see a power breakout from Lee after he was promoted to Double-A and away from the pitcher-friendly confines in Wilmington, but a back injury ended the outfielder’s season early in August. I want to believe Lee can hit for above-average power, and I’ve spoken well of it in the past. But the more I study, the more I tend to think his propensity to hitting the ball on the ground might get in the way. The 20-year-old dropped his strikeout rate significantly last season, and he has a good chance to eventually hit either first or second in the Royals’ big league lineup, especially if he increases his production versus left-handed pitching (.661 OPS last season). The home run and stolen base output should increase in 2019.

89. Daulton Varsho, C, ARZ. Age: 22

‘Baby Realmuto’ likely would have been even higher on this list had a fractured hamate not derailed a chunk of his 2018 season. A 55-hit, 55-raw power, 55-speed catching prospect, Varsho brings value to every aspect of fantasy baseball while playing a positional that typically offers the least. The problem, as I’ve stated before, is his size. Listed at 5’10 190 lbs., it’s hard to envision Varsho being able to withstand entire seasons behind the dish at the big league level (Francisco Mejia is currently fighting this fight with a similar frame). Maybe I’m wrong and Varsho sticks at catcher for the next decade at the big league level. I think it’s more likely Varsho eventually either splits time between catcher and another position (that would be a fantasy gold mine), or he moves to another position completely. He’s a 22-year-old who will tackle Double-A for the first time this season, so we’re not too far away from finding out what the Diamondbacks have in store for him.

88. Jordyn Adams, OF, LAA. Age: 19

Say it with me: projectability. Adams has plus raw power and 80-grade (!) speed. The hit tool is currently bad, but to my knowledge, 2019 will be the first year Adams has ever focused fully on baseball. He’s a freak athlete in the class of Jo Adell and Monte Harrison. We bet on athletic, unsculpted prospects around these parts, so I’m obviously excited to see Adams in full-season ball this season. With Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh a couple of levels ahead of him, Adams should be able to develop and progress at his own pace.

87. Ryan Mountcastle, UTIL, BAL. Age: 22

Despite starting his 2018 campaign late thanks to a fractured hand, Mountcastle smacked 13 home runs and slashed .297/.341/.464 in 102 games and 428 plate appearances. Prospect Live’s Ralph Lifshitz’s ‘contact over approach’ description for Mountcastle couldn’t be a more perfect label, though the 22-year-old did walk in 6.1% of his plate appearances last season, which might make you giggle until you realize his previous career mark was 4.1%. With sketchy defensive skills, Mountcastle will need all the help he can get to squeeze out value offensively (especially since left field or first base are the most likely defensive outcomes).

86. MJ Melendez, C, KC. Age: 20

Even on lists that have a focus on fantasy baseball, we can always take solace in knowing that a catcher prospect will remain behind the plate throughout his career. That’s Melendez. An upper-echelon athlete for his position, Melendez possesses both solid defensive skills and a strong arm. Earlier in this list, I predicted Royals prospect Nick Pratto would show some nice improvements in contact rate in 2019. I believe the same will happen for Melendez. Even if the 30.3 K% only improves to 25% before Melendez finishes his development, the rest of the offensive profile (see: raw power) gives the backstop immense offensive value. Melendez’s next stop in High-A Wilmington may suppress his power to an extent, but I’d like to think the 20-year-old has .270 AVG/25 HR upside in the long-term. All you need to know about what the Royals think of Melendez is the fact he was invited to Spring Training as a 20-year-old who has zero at-bats above the Low-A level.

85. Isaac Paredes, INF, DET. Age: 20

In a way, Paredes positively regressed to the mean in 2018, benefitting from better batted-ball luck than he experienced in 2017. Between High-A and Double-A, Paredes slashed .278/.359/.456 with 15 home runs and a 15.1 K% in 502 plate appearances. I’ve got the infielder at 55-hit and 55-raw, though there’s more risk than you would think due to lack of projection physically. The 20-year-old has what scouts refer to as a ‘bad body’ and likely won’t grow anymore, so the continued development of his skills will be instrumental in any continued success. Service clock considerations will certainly come into play, but Paredes could hypothetically make his big league debut in 2019. Next season is more likely.

84. Colton Welker, 3B, COL. Age: 21

I was under the assumption that Welker’s power output was really going to take off in 2018 while he was in the California League (High-A). The 13 home runs were fine but a little disappointing relative to expectations. The third baseman did slash .333/.383/.489, though it’s a little inflated thanks to a .395 BABIP. Defensively, Welker has reportedly improved his skills and is now considered a practical lock to stick at the hot corner. Playing away from altitude in Double-A this season is going to be huge in determining Welker’s future outlook.

83. Matthew Liberatore, SP, TB. Age: 19

In my December top-100 prospect list, I said it wouldn’t surprise me if Liberatore eventually becomes better than fellow Rays prospect Brendan McKay. Let me take it one step further: if any pitcher can eventually dethrone Casey Mize as the best pitching prospect from the 2018 draft class, I think it’ll be Liberatore. The southpaw already has two plus pitches (fastball and curveball), and both his slider and changeup could eventually be above-average offerings (they’re not there yet). For a prep arm, Liberatore is as polished as it gets. There’s legit SP2 upside here. I can’t wait to see the left-hander in full season ball this season (please don’t stick him in XST, Rays).

82. Mark Vientos, 3B, NYM. Age: 19

Vientos is an offensive-minded third baseman who broke out in a big way in 2018 while in the Appalachian League. In 60 games and 262 plate appearances, Vientos slashed .287/.389/.489 with 11 home runs, a 14.1 BB% and a 16.4 K%. The plate approach is fantastic (especially for his age) and the power is substantial. Vientos will make his full season debut in Columbia to begin 2019, and it feels likely the teenager will be knocking on the door of top-50 lists (if not more) by the end of the season. There’s 60-hit, 60-power upside here.

81. Michel Baez, SP, SD. Age: 23

It’s widely assumed Baez pitched without his best stuff in 2018 thanks to an early-season back injury, but the 6’8 right-hander still managed to strike out 25.1% of the batters he faced (more than one per inning) while posting a 3.69 ERA between High-A and Double-A. The biggest question I have with Baez is, further removed from the back ailment now, whether the premiere, upper-90s fastball velocity will return. If it does, the 23-year-old is currently a SP2-upside arm ranked in the back-half of top-100s. With an arsenal complete with a plus changeup and a developing curveball, Baez will start the 2019 season back in Double-A.

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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. 

Featured image courtesy of photographer Brian McLeod and MiLB.com

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