Ray Butler’s 2019 Top 200 Prospects: #41-60

Written by: Ray Butler

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For previous installments of this list, you can check out my #61-80 prospects here, 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.

60. Josh James, SP, HOU. Age: 26

One of the best feel-good stories of the 2018 season, James overcame sleep apnea, witnessed a huge jump in his stuff and is now a consensus top-100 prospect who’s destined to be an impact big leaguer in 2019 and beyond. The right-hander features a three-pitch repertoire of a plus fastball, plus changeup and borderline plus slider that join together to form a masterpiece of an arsenal. The only thing that limits James’s ceiling is the command, but it’s enough (currently) to limit the upside to that of a mid-tier SP3 instead of the SP2 his stuff says he is. As long as the Astros don’t get cute and decide to change his role, James has sneaky redraft value in 2019. Note: A recent quadricep strain will keep the 26-year-old from cracking the Astros’ Opening Day rotation. Despite being relegated to a multi-inning role from the bullpen or the Triple-A rotation, I still foresee James playing a gigantic role in Houston throughout the 2019 season. 

59. Trevor Larnach, OF, MIN. Age: 22

A polished college hitter, Larnach proved to be too much for his Rookie Ball and Low-A competition last summer, slashing .303/.390/.500 with 5 home runs and a double-digit walk rate in a 42-game sample. I think ‘fast track’ is written all over Larnach, and he should start the 2019 season in High-A at least. The outfielder possesses easy plus raw power, but he’ll probably be an experienced big leaguer before we ever see the home run output reach its potential. Larnach is not to the level of Royce Lewis or Alex Kirilloff yet, but he’s certainly good enough to help form a three-headed monster that will set up camp in Minneapolis before 2021.

58. Nolan Jones, 3B, CLE. Age: 20

With massive power and the ability to take the ball to the opposite field as he desires, Jones has a lot of ingredients to be an impact fantasy player someday. The third baseman hit 19 home runs between Low-A and High-A last season, slashing .283/.405/.466 in the process (519 plate appearances). Noisy mechanics means Jones is a decent bat to always strike out more than we’d like him to (his 25.2 K% last season is a fair projection), but the delicious 17.1 BB% makes up for the swing-and-miss shortcomings. There were whispers that Jones might not be able to handle third base in the long run, but reports at the end of the 2018 regular season suggest he’ll be adequate at the position moving forward. The 20-year-old only slashed .186/.307/.299 versus left-handed pitching last season; those numbers obviously need to improve as Jones begins continues to progress through the minor leagues.

57. Luis Garcia, INF, WAS. Age: 18

Garcia made a name for himself last season, slashing .298/.336/.406 with 7 home runs, 12 stolen bases and a 15.1 K% as an 18-year-old (!) in Low-A and High-A. The infielder is just beginning to tap into his potential. His swing doesn’t currently allow for a ton of power, though it figures to be altered at some point in his minor league career. Fangraphs has Garcia at 60-hit, 55-raw, 55-speed and I think they’re on the dot. Second base is probably his future defensive home, though he’ll likely continue to move around the infield for now. Garcia will almost certainly be a 19-year-old in Double-A at some point this season.

56. Vidal Brujan, 2B, TB. Age: 21

The second baseman broke out in nearly every way possible last season, hitting 9 home runs, stealing 55 (!!!!!!!!!!) bases and slashing .320/.403/.459 in Low-A and High-A. Brujan is a prospect who would provide plenty of value your fantasy team without many home runs, but scouts think the 21-year-old may eventually develop league average game power. Perhaps my favorite add-on to Brujan’s profile is the walk and strikeout rate (11.5% and 12.4% last season respectively). The second baseman only played 27 games in the Florida State League after being promoted last season, so I imagine that’s where he’ll start in 2019. A mid-summer promotion to Double-A should be in the cards for Brujan.

55. Yusei Kikuchi, SP, SEA. Age: 27

I feel a little slimy including a 27-year-old in a prospect list, but my Twitter followers made it pretty clear they wanted Kikuchi included in this prospect list. Let me paint you a picture: what if you knew that, barring injury, a pitching prospect would be a sure-fire middle-of-the-rotation big league starter? That’s Kikuchi. Recently posted from the NPB and signed by the Mariners, the left-hander is basically a mid-tier SP3 if he can avoid the same injury scares that have plagued him in the past. Kikuchi’s best pitch is a filthy, wipeout slider; he counters the offering with a mid-90s fastball and a curveball that doubles tactically as a slow changeup. The Mariners will reportedly find ways to limit the southpaw’s workload in his first season stateside, but he should provide as much immediate value as any pitching prospect on this list. Join me in praying that the shoulder holds up.

54. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT. Age: 22

Allow me to plagiarize my industry buddy Connor Kurcon for a moment: Ke’Bryan Hayes is #good. The floor is to die for: Hayes slashed .293/.375/.444 with a 11.2 BB% and 16.5 K% last season. He’ll compete with Nolan Arenado for the NL Gold Glove at third base as soon as he arrives in the big leagues. Because of these facts, Hayes is a safe prospect. But I think there’s a higher ceiling than we currently see. Hayes possesses plus speed, but he didn’t run as much last season as he did in 2017 (12 SB in 2018, 27 SB in 2017). I also think there’s more thunder in his bat than we’ve seen so far. He may never reach 20 home runs in a season at the big league level, but Hayes should post double-digit home run seasons without much effort throughout his big league career.

53. Drew Waters, OF, ATL. Age: 20

Waters is as tooled-up as any prospect in the minor leagues. There’s a chance he finalizes as a 60-hit, 60-raw power, 60-speed outfielder who has the arm to easily profile from right field at the big league level (let’s be real, Cristian Pache will be in centerfield). He’s got a ways to go before reaching that ceiling, though, and his aggressive plate approach will be heavily challenged in the Florida State League this season. I’m hesitant to throw a 30 HR/30 SB projection on a prospect who will hit a lot of pitcher’s pitches with his current approach, but Waters does figure to carry the 20 HR/20 SB label pretty comfortably with plenty of development left to go.

52. Estevan Florial, OF, NYY. Age: 21

Florial has enough tools to build a skyscraper by hand, but staying healthy and continuing to improve his plate discipline will be absolutely critical in the young outfielder one day reaching his massive ceiling. Florial was bitten by the ole’ ‘fractured hamate’ bug last season, missing a month and a half of competition in High-A as the consequence. The 21-year-old possesses plus power, plus speed and above average skills defensively, but the hit tool lags behind and handicaps the other tools to an extent. Florial did make some positive strides in his strikeout rate (24.6% in 2018, 31.1% in 2017), and the walk rate is already good enough to provide value in OBP leagues. If he can simply avoid being injured in 2019, this could be the season Florial officially becomes a top prospect.

51. Kristian Robinson, OF, ARZ. Age: 18

No need to dive deep here. Robinson is my breakout prospect pick for the 2019 season. Soak it up.

50. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, TB. Age: 23

A pure-hitting prospect who made some astounding strides in 2018, Lowe has become one of the top first base prospects in baseball and should make his MLB debut sometime this season. Between three levels last season (High-A, Double-A and Triple-A), Lowe slashed a jaw-dropping .330/.416/.568 with 27 home runs and 102 RBIs. Not in love yet? Check out his 445 plate appearances from High-A and Double-A. Pull%: 34.4%. Oppo%: 32.5%. The approach should allow Lowe to maintain a high AVG even in the big leagues. The 12.3 BB% does the same for his OBP. We have to see some sustainability in 2019, but Lowe seems destined to be an above-average offensive first baseman in the big leagues sooner rather than later.

49. Brusdar Graterol, SP, MIN. Age: 20

Graterol has an effort-filled delivery and has already endured Tommy John surgery as a 17-year-old in 2015. That’s basically the entirety of the negatives in Graterol’s entire profile. There’s potential for three plus pitches here: the fastball and slider are already there, and the changeup appears to be on its way. When you figure in the fact the right-hander posted a 2.5 BB/9 last season (mostly as a 19-year-old), you can understand why he’s ranked so highly on lists like this. I suspect Graterol will probably debut back in the Florida State League to begin his 2019 campaign, but a bump to Double-A should happen before the midseason point.

48. Jonathan India, 3B, CIN. Age: 22

India possesses a beautiful swing and could be a fast-mover through Cincinnati’s farm system. Some of the third baseman’s value is tied into his above average defensive skills, but the offensive profile plays just fine in the top-50 of fantasy-focused lists. India doesn’t possess world-changing speed, but he’s been a successful base stealer throughout his college and early-pro career. I figure he’s a solid bet to steal anywhere from 10-20 bases perennially. With a good chance to hit for a decent average and above average power, India could potentially be the first player from the 2018 draft to reach the major leagues.

47. Keibert Ruiz, C, LAD. Age: 20

In 2018, Ruiz played the entirety of his season as a 19-year-old in Double-A. He was 4.9 years younger than his average competition. Despite this, Ruiz posted a 100 wRC+ thanks in large part to 12 home runs and a minuscule 8.0 K%. The slash numbers weren’t great, but they’re tolerable when you consider his age and the fact a lot of his focus is centered around continuing to develop behind the plate defensively (where he’s projected to remain throughout his career). The Dodgers just traded for Russell Martin, who should simply serve as a bridge for the organization until Ruiz is fully ready. He may rest more than a normal catcher thanks to Will Smith, but Ruiz’s 55-hit, 55-raw tools can make him a top-tier fantasy catcher option.

46. Francisco Mejia, C, SD. Age: 23

Despite an unimportant 62 big league plate appearance sample last season in which Mejia posted a 73 wRC+ and a 30.6 K%, the time is nigh for the 23-year-old. The Padres have reportedly discussed trading Austin Hedges this offseason, but even if he remains in San Diego, Mejia is in line to a receive the majority of starts behind the plate. In Triple-A last season (before and after being traded from Cleveland), Mejia slashed .293/.338/.471 with 14 home runs and a 17.7 K%. That’s after the catcher only managed to hit .190 throughout the first two months of the season. The season-long minor league numbers from 2018 paint a pretty accurate pitcher of what Mejia should be capable of at the big league level. And as the Padres creep closer to contending in the NL West, Mejia should receive ample opportunities to prove he’s their long-term catcher.

45. Mitch Keller, SP, PIT. Age: 23

If you’re going to be a floor-over-ceiling prospect inside the top-50, the floor better be pretty high. That’s Keller, though I think there’s more upside here than the stats suggest. The right-hander utilized his changeup frequently last season in attempt to develop the pitch, and the sequencing will certainly be different once Keller reaches the big league level (also, I’d guess the walk rate decreases back to his career norm). The most important aspect of the 23-year-old’s 2018 season was the sustained health; Keller notched 142.1 IP between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. The Pirates are the worst team in the NL Central, so unfortunately, there’s no rush in promoting top prospects to the big league level and starting their service clock. That being said, Keller should make his big league debut at some point in 2019. I’ll end with a disclaimer: some evaluators who have watched Keller in person think he’s a future reliever.

44. Gavin Lux, 2B/SS, LAD. Age: 21

Lux basically possesses everything I like in a prospect from a fantasy standpoint: an above average hit tool, above average raw power, above average speed and a keen eye at the plate. Double-A figured to be a huge challenge for Lux after being promoted in August; instead, the infielder slashed .324/.408/.495 with 4 home runs in 120 plate appearances. Lux totaled 15 homers last season, and standing at 6’2, more power could be on his way. As the 21-year-old inches closer to a big league debut, two things should be noted: 1) with Corey Seager manning shortstop with the Dodgers for the next decade or so, Lux might transition to second base at the big league level. 2) The infielder slashed .226/.278/.298 versus left-handed pitching last season. Improving against southpaws would further improve Lux’s stock.

43. Ian Anderson, SP, ATL. Age: 20

Following 20 starts in High-A, Anderson was promoted and received four starts in Double-A to end the season. It’s notable anytime a 20-year-old achieves that feat. The stuff is more than adequate. The determining factor for Anderson will be the development of his command. Though he’s never been less than 2.5 years younger than his average competition, Anderson’s career BB/9 is 3.7. It hasn’t derailed his success, but it’s an obvious focus point moving forward; it might sound crazy to say since he’s only 20, but with the Braves’ pitching depth, Anderson’s command development might determine his future role. For now, smart money is on the right-hander becoming a solid SP3 at the big league level.

42. Garrett Hampson, 2B, COL. Age: 24

We can never trust the Rockies to play their young players consistently, but as of now, Hampson is slated to receive a lion’s share of the workload at second base at Coors Field this season. Here’s the thing: I look at Hampson’s numbers from last season, and I don’t think they’re too far away from what he’ll be a capable of as an everyday big league starter. That would mean we have a .311/.382/.462, 10 home run, 36 stolen base player on our hands. Maybe it’s just .280/.330/.400 with 8 home runs and 30 stolen bases, but dang that’s valuable in fantasy leagues from second base. 2019 is an important season for Hampson, and he currently finds himself entrenched in a battle for the cornerstone with the Rockies with former top-100 prospect Ryan McMahon and…. Pat Valaika.

41. Casey Mize, SP, DET. Age: 21

1.1 in last season’s drafts, Mize was given four starts in High-A last summer and figures to progress through Detroit’s farm system quickly. Everything that Mize does is boosted by his plus command. Because of this, three of the right-hander’s four offerings grade at 55 or higher. Ironically, it’ll actually be the development of his fourth pitch (the changeup) that will eventually determine Mize’s ceiling. For now, the 21-year-old is an undoubted SP3 who will slot into the middle of your fantasy rotation without much risk. But headlined with the polish and arsenal, Mize will continually duke it out with Matt Manning and Franklin Perez to determine the future ace of the Tigers’ pitching staff.

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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.

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