Written by: M-Rod (@MRodProspects)
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Search any (and every) prospect writer’s Twitter mentions. The most popular and common question you’ll find? “Who is the next Juan Soto/Ronald Acuna/Wander Franco?”
The rational answer is always, well, probably no one. There probably won’t be another 19-year-old prospect who gets called up and performs at an elite level for the foreseeable future. There probably won’t be a relatively unknown international prospect that takes the prospect world by storm and catapults himself into consensus top-10 prospect status on the strength of Rookie Ball production alone.
However, there’s always an outside chance. And participating in the recent Harvest Draft via Baseball Farm gave me a great opportunity to attempt to identify the prospects who have even the slightest chance of a similar explosion. In doing my own research, and in learning from the selections of other respected prospect enthusiasts, I’ve compiled a list of the names you might wish you had stashed (or traded for) in your dynasty league this time next season.
George Valera, OF, CLE. Age: 18
Let’s begin with one of the sexier names on this list. Valera, originally from the States, signed with Cleveland in 2017 for $1.3 million as one of the top international prospects out of the Dominican Republic. Since then, Valera has managed to appear in just six games before going down with a hamate injury. That didn’t stop him from making a considerable impression on anyone lucky enough to lay eyes on him.
Such a tiny sample of production means all we’re working with when it comes to Valera is scout-speak and projection, both of which paint a pretty rosy picture. Valera’s swing is glaringly similar to Robinson Cano’s, making it understandable that some evaluators slap a future 70 on the hit tool. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs noted that Valera has a “chance to turn into Kyle Tucker if it all goes right.”
#Indians 17yr old highly touted OF prospect George Valera with his first HR in just his 3rd game as a pro during Arizona Rookie League action. Valera signed last July 2nd out of the Dominican Republic for $1.3MM #Future #AZL @GV13__ pic.twitter.com/5MIV2acauh
— Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) June 23, 2018
Valera isn’t the most physically-imposing prospect you’ll come across, listed at just 5’10”, 160 pounds. However, his compact yet powerful swing makes the 18 year-old tailor made for the modern MLB. He showed signs of an approach during his brief game action and is sure to add some bulk as he matures. Add it all up, and you have a dynamic offensive package in Valera, whose profile will be carried as far as his bat can take him – precisely what we should be in pursuit of as dynasty leaguers.
I ranked Valera extremely aggressive with the intent to single him out as someone who has a chance to be the closest thing we get to Soto or Franco this year. That being said, the tiny sample works in his favor, as he hasn’t played enough to display any weaknesses either. It’s far from a slam dunk, but investing in Valera before his possible ascent is absolutely a risk worth taking.
Kristian Robinson, OF, ARI. Age: 18
The Bahamian Phenom nearly doubled Valera’s signing bonus in 2017 when the D’backs shelled out $2.5 million for the outfielder. While Robinson’s eye-catching tools were no surprise to anyone, it was his refinement as a 17-year-old that caught some off guard in 2018. His 10.5 BB% over 256 PA served as the cherry-on-top of an already exciting package of 70-power and 60-speed. The strikeout rate will definitely be something to monitor, but hope for a plus approach mitigates some risk there. Ray’s in-depth profile on K-Rob is as must-read as it gets.
Antonio Cabello, OF, NYY. Age: 18
A writer whom I respect as much as anyone in our little prospect world is ESPN’s Keith Law. For me, his hyper-critical approach makes his glowing reviews especially noteworthy. Law notes ($) that Cabello has so much upside, he had scouts lobbying for his immediate inclusion in his Top 100. That’s something that should make your ears perk up when mentioned in relation to an 18-year-old who has only seen Rookie Ball action. Cabello posted impressive contact and walk-rates in the GCL last year and has a chance to become plus in power, speed, and hit-tool.
Tirso Ornelas, OF, SD. Age: 19
Ornelas is my guy. I tabbed him as a potential breakout prospect last May, but he didn’t quite explode last season like I had hoped. At the same time, he solidified the traits that attracted me to him in the first place. In 355 plate appearances for Low-A Fort Wayne, Ornelas posted a double-digit walk-rate and a sub 20% K-rate as an 18 year-old. The power still exists mostly in the projection of his 6’3 frame, which evaluators noted looked noticeably trimmer than it was a year ago. Some have cooled on Ornelas, but I’ll happily stick to my guns on the sweet-swinging lefty with present approach and contact skills to go along with future plus power.
Alek Thomas, OF, ARI. Age: 18
Perhaps one of the sneakier sleepers on this list, Thomas is a former TCU commit, where he was planning on playing both baseball and football. His power ceiling is somewhat limited by his size, but being the son of the Chicago White Sox strength coach should help him maximize his home run output. The hit tool is already good, as he dominated two separate Rookie Ball stops after being drafted 63rd overall last summer.
Thomas looks like a future leadoff hitter who is capable of above average on-base percentages, double-digit steals, and just enough power projection to leave his home run totals up to the far-flying modern baseballs. You can squint and see some Andrew Benintendi type upside here, and he shouldn’t be too expensive to trade for in dynasty leagues right now.
Jhon Torres, OF, STL. Age: 19
Torres has a tantalizing combination of patience and power that resulted in a ridiculous .397/.493/.683 slash line in the GCL as an 18-year-old. Visually, Torres already possesses an Eloy-esque body and swing, implying the teenager is already close to full physical maturity. He managed to keep his strikeout rate hovering around 20% despite employing a huge leg-kick, all while drawing walks in over 10% of his plate appearances. If Torres can maintain these strong ratios as he faces better pitching, he has a chance to climb the ladder faster than you might expect for someone so young.
Ronny Mauricio, SS, NYM. Age: 18
Signed for $2.1 million by the Mets in 2017, Mauricio has already garnered significant hype since making his short-season debut. A wiry, projectable body and strong contact skills landed the young shortstop on the back half of several industry Top 100 lists, and he was selected 58th overall in the prospects-only Harvest Draft. I’m not quite fully on-board with the offensive profile just yet. But if Mauricio shows a decent plate approach to go along with plus defense at short and his aforementioned tools, he could very well be the next can’t-miss middle infield prospect.
Marco Luciano, SS, SFG. Age: 17
It says a lot to be squarely on the prospect radar before playing a single professional game stateside, but that’s precisely the case with Luciano. The $2.6 million signing bonus signals what scouts thought of his potential, which projects to be a formidable average/power combination. He’s a shortstop at present, but depending on who you ask, Luciano could move to 3B or OF as his body develops. If there’s a 2019 Wander Franco to be had, Luciano looks like he could be it.
Simeon Woods-Richardson, SP, NYM. Age: 18
The Mets liked Woods-Richardson enough to take him with the 48th overall pick in 2018, and he rewarded them with a strong showing in his brief taste of short-season. Woods-Richardson showcased a hammer curveball and touched 97 mph with his fastball. He’s big, athletic and projectable with a simple delivery that should allow for developing command. I’ll be keeping a close eye on how his third pitch comes along; if it does, he won’t be a secret for long.
Geraldo Perdomo, SS, ARI. Age: 19
Perdomo enters this list as one of the lesser-hyped international signees, but he boasts an equally intriguing profile. Through 535 minor league plate appearances, including 127 of those in Low-A at age 18, Perdomo posted an 18.5% walk-rate while only striking out 15% of the time. If that weren’t impressive enough, he’s done so as a switch-hitting shortstop with the defense to stick there. His lone blemish as a fantasy prospect is his fringy power. However, Matt Thompson of Prospects Live notes that his base running instincts should allow him to accumulate around 12-15 steals per year. Perdomo appears to have an unusually high floor for a teenage prospect, and there seems to be plenty of ceiling to be had as well.
Jordyn Adams, OF, LAA. Age: 19
Adams was drafted 17th overall by the Halos last summer and fits right into a system overflowing with athleticism. Another multi-sport stud, Adams is understandably raw when it comes to the finer points of his game. But he makes up for that with 80 speed and powerful hands. Personally, I prefer not to invest too heavily in prospects whose carrying tool is speed, but Adams’ potential to be a plus CF with virtually unlimited upside makes him a very attractive dynasty target. A strong low-A debut could have him popping up everywhere as a Top 50 prospect in baseball.
Akil Baddoo, OF, MIN. Age: 20
Ray summed Baddoo up perfectly in his Top 250: “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.” His outstanding approach (14.3 BB% in 517 plate appearances) will always keep me intrigued, especially because it comes with power/speed upside. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to envision a 20/20 threat with a modest AVG and great OBP once Baddoo is fully developed.
Freddy Tarnok, SP, ATL. Age: 20
Tarnok is a converted shortstop with a fastball that touches the mid-90s and a curveball that flashes plus. Law calls him the highest-upside arm ($) in the Braves system after the Anderson/Wright/Toussaint tier. He’s a big kid at 6’3 who is still learning how to command the ball, but his size and arm-action point to a potential breakout with more time to develop. In my opinion, this makes Tarnok a much more interesting dynasty investment in comparison to the higher-floor options that you’ll see ranked ahead of him in the Braves system.
Ryan Vilade, SS, COL. Age: 20
Vilade entered last season with some hype but his predicted breakout didn’t fully materialize. However, he had a strong second half, which I’ll use as an excuse to tout the wonderful Minor Graphs tool via Smada and Prospects Live:
This illustrates Vilade putting it together at the plate with his strong contact skills, though it’s the power that we’ll be hoping to see more of in 2019. He will take his fair share of walks. Known as a bat-first infielder who will likely to move to third base once he matures physically, Vilade still has a chance to be a 50-hit, 55-power infielder who takes advantage of ideal hitting environments.
Luis Oviedo, SP, CLE. Age: 20
Tall and slight, Oviedo saw his fastball tick up into the mid-90s last year. This resulted in a very impressive 32.5 K% and 5.3 BB% in 48 innings for Short Season Mahoning Valley. The secondary offerings are a work in progress, but his control of his lengthy frame and good extension suggests the package will develop in time. Like most young arms, Oviedo has a high variance profile, but he’s becoming a popular name as a breakout candidate among prospectors because of his high ceiling. Our very own Adam Tulley recently predicted a break out the right-hander in 2019.
Daniel Lynch, SP, KC. Age: 22
Lynch is a fast-moving college arm who quickly proved he was worthy of a pick higher than 34th overall in last year’s draft by posting a 1.58 ERA in 40 innings for Low-A Lexington. Although his stuff ticked up a bit, Lynch’s mid-90s fastball and above average secondary offerings make him more of a floor-over-ceiling starting pitcher. The floor is high though, and he could be slotting into the middle of an arid Royals rotation by the end of 2019.
Brayan Rocchio, SS, CLE. Age: 18
Rocchio is another name who came off the board early in the Harvest Draft, much to the chagrin of a few other participants. Rocchio spent all of last season as a 17 year-old and showed off his potential as a plus-hit, plus-speed shortstop. The consensus is he’s fully capable of handling the position defensively. There’s not much power projection to speak of and it remains to be seen what the approach will look like once challenged by better pitching. Typically, this is not the type of profile I tend to chase in dynasty, but it is one that has immense real-life value. He is still a sound investment as his stock is likely to continue rising along with his trade value.
Tyler Nevin, 1B, COL. Age: 22
Nevin has been a productive hitter at several stops in the minor leagues while missing time due to injuries. Fangraphs named him in their 2020 picks to click, noting that his strong Arizona Fall League suggests he may have a future 70 bat. Moreover, Nevin’s home/road splits in 2018 suggest that his numbers weren’t entirely a byproduct of higher altitudes. His ability to make hard contact will play anywhere and gives him a clear path to fantasy relevance.
Sherten Apostel, 3B, TEX. Age: 20
The quickest way to my heart is usually plus power paired with plus plate discipline. Therefore, it was love at first sight when I came across 6’4 Apostel’s walk-rate, which is approaching 18% over nearly 700 minor league plate appearances. Still just 19 for another month, Apostel appears to have the makings of a power + patience fantasy stud. Defensively, he may end up at first base or a corner outfield spot, but this is a profile that should play anywhere. I’ll be closely tracking the strikeout rate specifically in 2019 because if Apostel can prove the hit tool is plus as well, look out.
Everson Pereira, OF, NYY. Age: 18
Any Yankees fans out there who are feeling frustrated by the stagnation in Estevan Florial’s development can find solace in the upside of Cabello and Everson Pereira. Pereira is still just 17 years old, but that didn’t stop him from flashing an enticing speed/power combo last summer. He held his own as one of the youngest players in the Appy League while posting a .263/.322/.389 slash in 183 plate appearances last season. Above average defense in center field should help keep his stock elevated while getting a chance to develop on the offensive side of the ball.
Triston Casas, 1B, BOS. Age: 19
Boston opted for a prep bat with their latest first round pick and they got one with massive power upside. Casas stands 6’4, 240 pounds with 80-grade raw power and a potential plus hit tool from the left side of the plate. Strikeouts will certainly be part of his game, but if he can mitigate the swing-and-miss with a decent plate approach, he’ll have a better chance of becoming a 30+ home run masher at peak.
Eric Pardinho, SP, TOR. Age: 18
It’s hard to believe that Pardinho is just recently turned 18, seeing as he’s a young pitcher I’ve been tracking for a few years now. Pardinho has made a name for himself as an unbelievably advanced arm from Brazil. He features two plus secondary offerings and present plus command, and he has done so since the age of about 15. He’s only 5’10, which makes him extremely fun and easy to root for, although it might cap his ceiling a bit. He did manage to strike out 31.5% of batters he faced over 50 innings in Rookie Ball last summer, and he seems so exceptional that I’m not ready to put any limits on what he might be able to do as he progresses.
Make sure you check out M-Rod’s top-100 dynasty prospects for the 2019 season.
Follow P365 staff writer M-Rod on Twitter! @MRodProspects
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Featured image courtesy of John Lott and The Athletic