Ray Butler’s 2019 Top 200 Prospects: #61-80

Written by: Ray Butler

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For previous installments of this list, you can check out my #81-100 prospects here, 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.

Congratulations on making it to another weekend. We’re less than three weeks away from real, regular season baseball. Let’s dive in to some more prospects.

80. Jon Duplantier, SP, ARZ. Age: 24

The way I see it, Duplantier basically has one question left to answer before becoming a valuable, mid-rotation, big league starting pitcher: can you stay healthy? As a professional player, Duplantier has a 1.79 career ERA. He’s struck out an astounding 29.5% of the hitters he’s faced. He’s never posted a season-long GB% under 50-percent. The makings are there. The durability hasn’t been. To my count, the right-hander has dealt with shoulder, elbow, hamstring and biceps injuries dating back to his college days at Rice. Overcoming the ailments that have seemed to find him is really the last thing Duplantier has left to conquer before becoming an impact pitcher at the big league level.

79. Brandon Marsh, OF, LAA. Age: 21

ESPN would refer to Marsh as ‘deceptively’ athletic, but the truth is the outfielder is just an excellent athlete. The overall profile here is good, though the defensive skills currently exceed the offensive prowess. Marsh hit 10 home runs and stole 14 bases last season, slashing .266/.359/.408 along the way (579 plate appearances). The 21-year-old struck out in 27.1% of his plate appearances in 2018, and the continued development of the hit tool is the undoubted factor that would take Marsh’s prospect status to the next level. The Angels have outfield prospects galore, so the outfielder should receive the time he needs to reach his potential. Don’t be surprised if Marsh begins the 2019 season back in High-A.

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

I can’t wait to see the number of people who don’t criticize my ranking of Sheffield now that he’s been traded away from the Yankees organization. I’ve always been somewhat of a low-man on the left-hander, mostly because I’m not sure the command will ever be good enough for the perceived SP2-ceiling to take hold. But the stuff is awfully good, and Sheffield is major league ready in an organization that figures to need arms for a lot of innings this season. Consider this: In his past two seasons at the minor league level, Sheffield has struck out 23.5% of the batters he’s faced (8.9 K/9) while walking 3.5 batters per nine innings. The ERA has been 2.78, though it could be argued the .279 BABIP means the left-hander has been a little more lucky than he should have been (the FIP is 3.64). There’s very little doubt Sheffield is a mid-rotation big league pitcher, I just continue to think less of the upside than most other evaluators.

77. Jahmai Jones, 2B, LAA. Age: 21

Jones had some funky numbers last season for a prospect with his skillset: .239/.337/.380 with 10 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 559 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A. The AVG is particularly peculiar, but I’m willing to chalk up the low number to Jones being preoccupied learning a new position defensively. Long term, the 21-year-old is going to need to make strides in lofting the ball a bit more (48.5 GB% last season) to fully unlock his hit tool and power potential. With a full season at second base under his belt, I think the holistic offensive numbers will improve in 2019. I’m in the minority, but I see 20 HR/20 SB upside if Jones reaches his ceiling.

76. Nick Madrigal, INF, CHW. Age: 22

Quite the enigmatic prospect, Madrigal and his anti three true outcome skillset are one of the hardest to rank on a fantasy-focused list like this one. The hit tool is obviously plus and perhaps plus-plus, but the uber-aggressive approach doesn’t give Madrigal the comfortable floor we typically see from players with a 70-grade hit tool. The speed is somewhere between plus and plus-plus as well, so on the outside looking in, the 22-year-old will always be an AVG/SB-fueled. That notion is furthered when you consider Madrigal has shown very little power throughout his college or professional career (he’s hit 8 home run in three seasons of college and pro ball combined), though the White Sox think the infielder will develop adequate power during his time in the minors. Madrigal should move quickly through Chicago’s system; I’m interested to see how well his free-swinging approach works throughout an entire season of pro ball.

75. Nate Pearson, SP, TOR. Age: 22

There’s some pertinent injury background information on Pearson that you need to know in order to correctly evaluate him. I won’t dive into that here for originality’s sake, but I linked to a previous write-up you should read if you don’t already know the history. Pearson’s stuff is elite, and you’d be hard-pressed to successfully argue he doesn’t have some of the best stuff in all of baseball. If the right-hander can simply hold up health wise, there’s all the makings of a high-end SP2 here. You know I don’t throw that label around lightly. But the checkered injury history makes him impossible to be ranked base on pitchability only, though that could certainly change with a stellar 2019 campaign.

74. Xavier Edwards, SS, SD. Age: 19

Edwards can fly. The speed is five-alarm 80 grade, and the hit tool is more than good enough to allow Edwards to utilize his best skill on the base paths frequently. There’s very little power to speak of, and the shortstop has the swing of someone who recognizes their best skill is speed. Unless that changes (and he’s only 19, so it may), Edwards will continue to hit the ball on the ground at a high rate. I think a fair fantasy (ceiling) comparison is a Dee Gordon who walks more, which is an extremely valuable asset as long as you’re not relying on him for power. Tracking Edwards in full season ball at Fort Wayne will be fun in 2019.

73. Yusniel Diaz, OF, BAL. Age: 22

A well-rounded outfielder with a chance to eventually become something more, Diaz was the prized-return piece in the Manny Machado trade last season. The outfielder has never exceeded 11 home runs or 12 stolen bases in a single season, though he’s a career .285/.392/.449 hitter (14.2 BB%, 16.1 K%). It might be a lot to ask, but if Diaz can continue to pull and elevate the ball more (he showed some signs last season of doing these things more frequently) than he has historically, the remaining parts of the approach likely lead the 22-year-old to stardom. The top prospect in a farm system who’s top-third is full of high-variance position players, Diaz brings an ultra-high floor and reliability to the table.

72. Luis Patiño, SP, SD. Age: 19

Patiño was sensational last season in his full season debut, notching a 2.16 ERA in 83.1 IP in Low-A. He struck out 29.7% of the batters he faced (10.6 K/9). The right-hander has a dynamite fastball and a plus slider, but he needs to develop a reliable third pitch to take the next step as a pitching prospect. Why? Left handed hitters slashed .345/.421/.457 versus Patiño in 2018. The teenager was able to mask that flaw against Low-A competition. He likely won’t be able to do the same in High-A this season or Double-A competition after that. Because of this, the development of a true third offering (I’m hoping he simply improves his changeup) will be the key for Patiño moving forward. He’s only 19-years-old, so the current shortcomings are certainly not a death sentence.

71. George Valera, OF, CLE. Age: 18

I won’t repeat it here, but I made an interesting comparison for Valera in my #DecemberTop100 a few month ago. You should give that a look. The outfielder made scouts drool in his brief, six game stint in Rookie Ball before a fractured hamate ended his season early. It’s become a cliché at this point, but it’s nearly impossible to watch Valera swing the lumber without thinking of Robinson Cano. Despite his young age and competitive inexperience, Valera is a polished hitter. I’ve seen a couple of 70s thrown around when discussing the hit tool, but I’ll be extremely conservative and predict that if Valera fills out physically, he’ll be a 60-hit, 55-raw prospect before 2021. Maybe before 2020. Again, that may be too conservative. Understand the upside here?

70. Bryse Wilson, SP, ATL. Age: 21

The epitome of a bulldog on the mound, Wilson features three above-average pitches (the fastball is probably plus) and the pitchability to eventually become a mid-rotation big league starting pitcher. What’s crazy is Wilson ranks inside my top-75 overall, yet he’s only ranked fifth amongst Braves pitcher prospects. The log-jam has to be headed towards an endgame relatively soon (one would figure, anyways), which probably means really good prospects are either traded or relegated to a bullpen role. With three reliable pitches and above-average command, I think Wilson is a solid bet to remain in the starting rotation throughout his career. With the organizational depth of the Braves, though, we might end up waiting long than we’d like to see him pitch at SunTrust Park consistently.

69. Victor Victor Mesa, OF, MIA. Age: 22

Mesa has been away from competitive play for more than a year now, so it’ll be interesting to see how quickly we’re able to evaluate Mesa’s true on-field talent. I think the 22-year-old will be a more valuable real life player than fantasy asset, the main reason being the below-average power (but also because of the sterling defensive skills in center field that weigh heavily on his standing in real-life lists). The speed is, of course, Mesa’s calling card, but the hit tool is currently just average. For now, the fantasy comp reminds me a little bit of Ender Inciarte. Of course, we haven’t seen Mesa play stateside yet, so this comparison could be hilarious by the end of the 2019 season.

68. Danny Jansen, C, TOR. Age: 24

I’m telling you: there’s something to be said for a high, reliable floor with catching prospects. That’s Danny Jansen. Unless the skills deteriorate, the backstop should be good for a .270-.280 AVG and 10-15 (perhaps more) home runs annually once he gains his footing in the big leagues. He’ll never be a superstar, but he’ll always be rostered and utilized in your fantasy league—even if you only play in redrafts. The Blue Jays recently shipped Russell Martin to the Dodgers, so it currently appears Jansen is in line to receive a lion’s share of the workload behind the plate in Toronto in 2019. If he plays to his talent, the Jays have their catcher for the next decade.

67. Adrian Morejon, SP, SD. Age: 20

The southpaw is only 20-years-old and is already above average at just about everything concerning pitching. The fastball is borderline-plus, the curveball is above average, the changeup is plus and the command is above average. The only aspect of Morejon’s I’m not in love with is his height, though the polish and arsenal means he’ll likely remain in the rotation throughout his career. A hip injury limited the left-hander to 62.2 IP in High-A last season, but with the Padres contention window seemingly getting closer by the day, I think a Double-A placement for Morejon is the most likely outcome heading into the 2019 season.

66. Brendan McKay, SP/1B, TB. Age: 23

Can I make a prediction? I predict the Rays insistence on allowing McKay to continue being a two-way player eventually has an adverse effect on his pitching development. McKay is 23, but he’s only pitched 47.2 innings at the High-A level (thanks, oblique injury last summer). His bat likely needs more time in High-A, but the ‘stuff’ on the mound is ready for Double-A to open the 2019 season. In the end, these facts will have a bigger impact on his ETA than any other facet of the profile. If McKay can eventually settle in as a mid-tier SP3 and total 150-200 plate appearances per season as a designated hitter, he’ll easily be one of the most interesting players in baseball.

65. Dane Dunning, SP, CHW. Age: 24

Did we or didn’t we escape a serious elbow injury with Dunning last season? Time will ultimately tell, but at this point there’s no reason to assume the right-hander is anything but healthy. Had the 24-year-old finished last season healthy, we’d probably be discussing whether or not he’d break camp in the White Sox starting rotation. Since his season ended in late June, Dunning will likely begin 2019 at Triple-A. The moves Chicago makes to improve its active roster will play an underrated role in determining Dunning’s 2019 path. If he remains healthy, a big league debut should be expected at some point. Note: Eeeeek. The White Sox recently announced Dunning has been dealing with forearm discomfort. Thankfully, after consulting with famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews, the current plan is for the right-hander to rest his arm before beginning a throwing program. 

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

Command development will be the difference in Wright being a solid, mid-rotation big league starting pitcher and an unremarkable back-end rotation piece. The more I look at the arsenal, the more I think there’s some upside that didn’t necessarily show itself in Wright’s numbers from 2018. The 23-year-old possesses four pitches that could eventually grade at 55 or better. For Wright, it’ll be how well he locates those pitches that will determine his future role. The Braves have some sorting-out to do with their starting rotation before Opening Day, but Wright is currently a favorite to open the season in Triple-A. He’ll log big league innings at some point in 2019.

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

The ceiling isn’t quite what I once stupidly thought it was, but McKenzie is inching closer and closer to becoming a near-lock to be a high-floor SP3 in the big leagues someday. A forearm injury delayed McKenzie’s debut last season, but his 90.2 IP keeps his development on track. The right-hander had good fortune with batted ball luck in 2018, and the stint in Double-A was McKenzie’s first to not strike out more than a hitter per inning. The 21-year-old has dispatched most of the worry that his tiny frame wouldn’t hold up in a rotation, and McKenzie figures to eventually become a modern-day big league starting pitcher: 5-to-6 inning outings or through the starting lineup twice—whichever comes first.

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

Bart is not the slam-dunk catching prospect I thought he was when the Giants drafted him in the first round last summer. The catcher position is basically a black hole in fantasy baseball, so high-floor catching prospects give me confidence that high-ceiling, high-variance catching prospects don’t. Bart is in the latter group, mostly because of his uber-aggressive approach and vulnerability to striking out. Don’t get me wrong: Bart is going to be an above-average big league catcher. He’s strong defensively, and the offensive ceiling reminds me of a Salvador Perez who reaches base slightly more.

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

I ranked Bohm first amongst first-year players in my #MidseasonTop200 last season, but an injury-plagued summer and continued evaluation of the hit tool now has him ranked fifth amongst those players. Bohm is a massive, 6’5 third baseman who carries the plus plus raw power you would think he does by looking at him. While he was only able to accrue 121 plate appearances last summer due to a knee injury, Bohm should begin the 2019 season at Lakewood in Low-A. He has some work to do in the department of being more selective and swinging at pitches he can do damage with, but the 22-year-old could progress quickly through the Phillies system if proves durability and performs to his talent level.

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Bill Setliff and MiLB.com

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