Ray Butler’s 2019 Prospect Obsessions: Position Players

Written by: Ray Butler

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*whispers* My prospect obsession list might be my favorite article to write each preseason. Releasing my top-200 prospect list always gives me a sense of finality. A sense of fulfillment after spending a grueling amount of time researching, ranking and blurbing.

My prospect obsession list simply brings me a sense of excitement. A sense of hope. The knowledge that regular season baseball is so close, we can taste it. We’ve almost made it.

My prospect obsession list is not a breakout list. This is not necessarily a list of prospects I believe will take the prospect world by storm this season.

It is, however, a list of prospects I’m enamored by heading into the 2019 season. My ears perk up when I hear their name or see their name pop-up on my Twitter timeline. It’s a list of prospects (most of whom you could probably call underrated) who I believe in a little bit more than your typical prospect.

I’ll be eye-balling these prospects’ stat-lines on a nightly basis this season, because I believe they could become the next big thing in the prospect world.

Let’s dive in.

Sherten Apostel, 3B, TEX. Age: 20

The 20-year-old was already a shoe-in to make this list, and then Prospect Live’s Eddy Almaguer published this piece on the third baseman. Apostel is right in a sweet spot because he’s known throughout the prospect world, but he’s not that known. That will change this season when he debuts in full season ball. It’s kind of hard to envision a scenario in which Apostel doesn’t improve his stock in 2019. The third baseman was a PTBNL in the Keone Kela trade in July, and The Athletic’s Jamey Newberg published a piece on that process (as well as a look at Apostel) in February. #P365Top200 Rank: 136

Akil Baddoo, OF, MIN. Age: 20

Baddoo is a fantastic athlete who had some weird batted ball luck last season during his full season debut. I think we’ll see some positive regression in 2019; I’m also hopeful Baddoo is more aggressive at the plate in High-A this season, which would (perhaps ironically) lead to a drop in the 24.0 K% strikeout rate from 2018. The Florida State League isn’t hitter friendly by any stretch, but I still think Baddoo improves his stock while in High-A Fort Myers. #P365Top200 Rank: 146

Mariel Bautista, OF, CIN. Age: 21

From a progression standpoint, Bautista is going to be a late bloomer. But the tools are certainly there, and if he flashes his talent early this season (while in Low-A, probably), he could finish 2019 in Double-A. The plate appearance profile (walks and strikeouts specifically) is what I’ll be watching here as the outfielder looks to put his above average raw power and speed to use. The raw tools suggest we might have a future top-100 prospect on our hands. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

Austin Beck, OF, OAK. Age: 20

Beck’s mechanical changes last season were the equivalent of a well-known professional golfer changing swing coaches, changing his mechanics, disappearing from the spotlight for a year, then reappearing with a vengeance. The numbers don’t necessarily scream it, but Beck got better last season. He’ll show it in 2019, and the revolution will certainly be televised. I’ll be disappointed if there’s not double-digit home run output here this season. #P365Top200 Rank: 107

Antonio Cabello, OF, NYY. Age: 18

Considered a catcher prospect by a lot of evaluators when he signed out of Venezuela, Cabello gets the most out of his swing and his frame, which has led to above average raw power despite only standing 5’10. He only turned 18 in November, but I imagine we’ll get to see Cabello in full season ball in 2019. As I said in his prospect write-up, there’s an outside shot he gets to 60-hit, 60-raw, 60-speed, which means the upside is ginormous. In a February chat, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel called Cabello “a cannonball on fire that’s above average at everything.” The teenager was runner-up for my breakout prospect pick of the 2019 season. #P365Top200 Rank: 120

Alex Canario, OF, SF. Age: 18

He’s about as raw of a prospect as it gets, but Canario has posted back-to-back double-digit walk rates as a 17-and-18-year-old in Rookie Ball the past two summers. When you add that to the above average raw power and speed, you get a high-upside teenage outfielder. Full season ball likely awaits this season, where there’s a chance Canario leapfrogs fellow Giants outfielder Heliot Ramos on the pecking order of prospect lists. #P365Top200 Rank: 194

Dylan Carlson, OF, STL. Age: 20

Away from the pitcher friendly confines of the Florida State League, I think Carlson is actually a really intriguing breakout candidate in 2019. Switch hitters with power from both sides and a double-digit walk rate are hard to come by, and the outfielder should utilize both this season in Double-A. If he continues to trend in the direction he’s heading, Carlson will eventually be evaluated as a 50-hit, 60-raw outfielder with solid defensive skills. At minimum, I think he’s a top-150 prospect by midseason. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

That was no scrub pitching to Carlson, either….

Jazz Chisholm, SS, ARZ. Age: 21

Somehow, Kristian Robinson won’t be the only Bahamian Diamondbacks prospect to improve their stock drastically in 2019. Chisholm has above average pop and speed, but it’ll be his improvement in contact rate that really boosts his standing on lists this season. He should play quite a bit of his season in Double-A Jackson, so that means I should get multiple looks at him in person. Can’t wait! Fake Teams’ Zack Waxman published a deep dive on Chisholm on New Years Day. If the shortstop can cut his strikeout rate to 25% (or thereabouts), he’ll skyrocket into the upper-echelon of all prospect lists. #P365Top200 Rank: 91

Eddy Diaz, SS, COL. Age: 19

We don’t really know much about Diaz except for the numbers he’s produced in the Dominican Summer League two summers in a row. If nothing else, this season should provide clarity on a prospect that, on paper, could be a very exciting player. The 54 stolen bases in 51 games and more walks than strikeouts last season arouses me every time I see it. #P365Top200 Rank: 192

Yusniel Diaz, OF, BAL. Age: 22

An argument can be made that Diaz has already partially broken out, as Prospect Live’s Ralph Lifshitz wrote here. I think the outfielder continues to make strides in his batted ball profile in 2019, which will undoubtedly lead to more power output. The Orioles will stink this season, but the 22-year-old’s performance this season (he’s already started with a solid spring) should give fans hope moving forward. #P365Top200 Rank: 73

Mauricio Dubon, INF, MIL. Age: 24

The infielder has fallen off the radar since tearing his ACL and missing a huge chunk of last season, but he’ll be back with a vengeance and primed to make an impact at the big league level in 2019. I’ve always thought Dubon would be a prospect to hit for more power as a big leaguer than he ever did as a prospect, and he should push Orlando Arcia for playing time in Milwaukee at some point this season. An ‘intestinal illness’ has slowed Dubon’s spring, but that only means the reemergence will be all-the-more shocking. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

Luis Garcia, INF, WAS. Age: 18

We were early to the party on Garcia at P365, but not even I would have predicted he would be a top-75 overall prospect this early in the process. The Nationals have a decent track record of developing their position player prospects recently, and I think the infielder is next in line. Look for the power output to improve in 2019, where Garcia could (should?) finish the season as a teenager in Double-A. #P365Top200 Rank: 57

Luis Garcia, SS, PHI. Age: 18

When’s the next time two prospects with the same name will both be featured on my obsession list? The younger of the pair is ‘developing average power’ away from prospect stardom; seeing as he’s only 18-years-old and still has some filling out to do, I like the odds of that happening. Garcia should fill the Phillies’ top prospect void left by  Sixto Sanchez rather quickly. I keep going back to Prospect Live’s Jason Woodell‘s “superstar in the making” line from the Phillies top 30 list. #P365Top200 Rank: 110

Andres Gimenez, SS, NYM. Age: 20

A P365 reader on Reddit said my ranking of Gimenez (25th in my #DecemberTop100) was ‘bold as heck’, but I’ve got the shortstop ranked even higher in my top-200 this preseason. And really, if you think Gimenez possesses the raw power I think he does, there’s no reason to not rank him somewhere inside your top-25. Let’s hope that, once he’s truly ready, the new decision makers in the Mets’ front office don’t slow the 20-year-old’s arrival in the big leagues. Gimenez should get to double-digit home runs for the first time in his career this season. Even if he eventually transitions to second base (which would mean Amed Rosario has developed into everything the Mets dreamt he would be), Gimenez’s statistical profile wouldn’t be too far away from that of Whit Merrifield. #P365Top200 Rank: 23

Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT. Age: 22

Easily a top-5 defensive prospect in the minor leagues, Hayes makes this list for the impending emergence of his offense. I’m hopeful this is finally the season the third baseman unlocks the 55-raw I think he’s got hidden deep down somewhere inside of him. If I’m right, and it’s paired with Hayes’s 60-hit and 55-speed, we’ve got a five-tool star who’s also on the cusp of a major league debut. #P365Top200 Rank: 54

Heriberto Hernandez, C, TEX. Age: 19

The teenage backstop was (briefly) considered for my #P365Top250 (for VIP members) despite the fact I know very little about him. Why? Hernandez slashed .292/.464/.635 with 12 home runs and 5 stolen bases in only 60 games in the Dominican Summer League last season. So if nothing else, I’m hoping to learn more about him in 2019 as he debuts stateside. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

Nico Hoerner, SS, CHC. Age: 21

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Hoerner’s makeup as well as the short sample he gave us after being drafted in the first round this summer. He reportedly did some tweaking to his swing post-draft, and I fully believe we’ll see a 55-hit, 55-raw, 55-speed premium position player in 2019. He has the chance to move fast, both through the Cubs’ system and on prospect lists. Recent rumblings suggest Hoerner may be aggressively placed in Double-A to begin this season. #P365Top200 Rank: 109

Wander Javier, SS, MIN. Age: 20

More than anything else, I’m just excited to see what Javier can do 1) healthy, and 2) versus full season pitching. The power/speed combination will surely be lovely, but the contact rate and on base ability will be what I’m keeping an eye on in 2019. If the hit tool catches up to the defensive skills, watch out. If you’re searching for this season’s version of Alex Kirilloff (a position player prospect who spends an entire season injured before exploding onto the scene the following year), Javier seems like a viable candidate. #P365Top200 Rank: 128

D’Shawn Knowles, OF, LAA. Age: 18

As a 17-year-old, Knowles torched Rookie Ball last summer, posting a combined 130 wRC+ with 5 home runs and 9 stolen bases. With potential for five-tool impact, Knowles has a chance to become a fantasy monster. Contact rate and stolen base efficiency will be the next step in the outfielder’s development, and I’m hopeful we get a look at the 18-year-old in full season ball at some point in 2019. #P365Top200 Rank: 125

Marco Luciano, SS, SF. Age: 17

The Arizona League is always fun, for many reasons. The 2019 version should be especially noteworthy, seeing as it should mark the stateside debut of Luciano, who will still be 17-years-old when the league begins. If he is what the scouting reports say he is, Luciano should enter the 2020 season as a top-50 prospect, with tools somewhere in the realm of 55-hit, 60-raw and 55-speed. There’s so much unknown here, but we should get a decent glimpse of what exactly Luciano brings to the table later this season. #P365Top200 Rank: 112

Ronny Mauricio, SS, NYM. Age: 18

The numbers from Rookie Ball last summer don’t reflect the opinions of scouts on Mauricio. In a group with Shervyen Newton and Mark Vientos, I think Mauricio has the best chance to stick at shortstop throughout his career. It’s certainly possible I flip-flopped Mauricio’s and Vientos’s ranking this preseason in my top-200 list. All eyes will be on the 18-year-old’s contact rate this season as he likely debuts in full season ball. Everything considered, Mauricio might have the most upside amongst the Mets’ aforementioned trio. If you notice on Fangraphs’ 2019 top-100 prospect list, Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel precluded Mauricio’s write-up with “This is what Fernando Tatis Jr. looked like at age 17.” Making bold comps based on frame alone is a fool’s errand, but the shortstop’s solid performances at aggressive placements last summer make him one of the more intriguing prospects in all of baseball this season. Mauricio was a finalist for my breakout prospect pick for 2019. #P365Top200 Rank: 111

MJ Melendez, C, KC. Age: 20

I’m in love with Melendez’s makeup, and I also think the strikeout woes from last season will be partially put to bed in High-A in 2019. My money is on the 20-year-old pushing Joey Bart and Keibert Ruiz for the top catching prospect in baseball by the end of the season. Lord help me, Melendez is currently my favorite catcher prospect in baseball. #P365Top200 Rank: 86

Tyler Nevin, 1B, COL. Age: 21

As evidenced last season and during2 the Arizona Fall League, Nevin obviously has the tools to reach base at a very high clip. And despite the fact the first baseman will take most of his at-bats for Double-A Hartford in 2019 (which isn’t as hitter friendly as most of Colorado’s other affiliates), I think we’re about to witness the first baseman’s game power take shape and take off. Note: Because the Rockies front office stinks, Nevin’s ETA will still be 2030 regardless of his performance this season. #P365Top200 Rank: 94

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

He’s probably not a shortstop in the long run, but Newton has the offensive tools to make an impact regardless of where he plays defensively. Heck, he posted a 127 wRC+ in Rookie Ball last summer despite striking out in 31.6% of his plate appearances. I think the whiff rate drops considerably in 2019, which will make the plus raw power even more appetizing. #P365Top200 Rank: 134

Cristian Pache, OF, ATL. Age: 20

I whiffed on my take that Pache would breakout offensively last season, but I think we’ll look back and realize the prediction was simply made a year too early. The outfielder is beginning to learn to use his lower half at the plate, and I hope we see more patience (and more stolen bases) this season. Like a few others, I see top-10 overall prospect potential here, even on lists that value offense more so than defense. #P365Top200 Rank: 33

Geraldo Perdomo, SS, ARZ. Age: 19

Jazz Chisholm and Kristian Robinson are two Diamondbacks prospects already receiving a lot of hype in the prospect community. I think Perdomo joins that fray in 2019, thanks mostly to what should resemble a .290 AVG/.360 OBP/10 HR/20 SB campaign in his full season debut. The D’Backs have a legitimate, underrated farm system. #P365Top200 Rank: 154

Nick Pratto, 1B, KC. Age: 20

I’m going to use this space to predict Pratto posts a double digit BB% and a strikeout rate less than 25% in High-A this season. He’ll also accomplish those feats with double-digit home runs and stolen bases, with a slash line around .280/.350/.450. I think this is the last time you’ll be able to acquire Pratto at a reasonable price. You might find it surprising to know the first baseman was a finalist to be my 2019 breakout prospect pick. He’ll be a top-100 prospect this time next season. #P365Top200 Rank: 135

Kristian Robinson, OF, ARZ. Age: 18

Of course Robinson is a prospect obsession of mine this season; he was my breakout prospect pick. Really though, to have the world at his fingertips, Robinson was incredibly humble when I had the opportunity to chat with him leading up to the publishing of that breakout article. He has all the makings of being one of the best prospects in baseball sooner rather than later. #P365Top200 Rank: 51

Victor Robles, OF, WAS. Age: 21

Juan Soto’s meteoric rise last season is going to make it easy for a lot of people to take what Robles will do in 2019 for granted, and that’s kind of the point of why the outfielder has been a prevalent feature throughout my preseason content. The 21-year-old is slated to be an everyday player for the Nationals this season, and I think he’ll approach (if not exceed) 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases in his rookie season. That’ll do. Robles was also featured in my high-value active player list. There were whispers that Michael A. Taylor might be the Opening Day centerfielder in D.C., but a recent knee injury should quell that notion. Even the most generic of baseball fans will know Robles’ name before the end of the 2019 season. #P365Top200 Rank: 4

Luis Santana, 2B, HOU. Age: 19

In my Luis Urias write-up on my #P365Top200, I predicted a prospect 1) in Rookie Ball last summer, 2) who had more walks than strikeouts, 3) with advanced on-base skills, would eventually increase their stock to Urias’s current standing. I think Santana is the current odds-on favorite, and he’s now a member of an organization with a solid, recent track record of developing position player talent. Full season ball lies ahead in 2019, where we should see the second baseman take the next step in his prospect status. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

Yunior Severino, INF, MIN. Age: 19

Severino already possesses plus raw power, which he utilized while hitting 8 home runs in 218 plate appearances in Rookie Ball last summer as an 18-year-old. The hit tool is currently infantile, but the upside here is enormous. I’d imagine we’ll see Severino debut in full season ball in 2019. The teenager was one of the prospects the Braves lost when they were hit with penalties for manipulating the international market, and there’s at least a decent shot Severino becomes a better long-term prospect than fellow ex-Braves prospect Kevin Maitan. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

Taylor Trammell, OF, CIN. Age: 21

My breakout prospect pick last season, Trammell flashed his superstar potential during last summer’s Futures Game, where he was named MVP. The counting stats at High-A in 2018 didn’t match that potential (the OBP was still .375 and the wRC+ was 129), though I think much greener pastures are ahead in Double-A this season. Don’t be surprised if the counting stats catch up with the talent in 2019; if it does, Trammell will be a top-5 prospect this time next spring. #P365Top200 Rank: 13

George Valera, OF, CLE. Age: 18

Allow me to revert back to my #DecemberTop100 real quick: “the then 17-year-old slashed .333/.409/.556 (with a home run and 13.6 K%) in the 22 plate appearance sample. Ask yourself this question: Had Valera regressed a bit and slashed .300/.375/.475 with 12 home runs in 273 plate appearances (the same number of PA Wander Franco had in Rookie Ball this summer), how highly would Valera be ranked right now?” I actually began that write-up by comparing Valera’s 2018 season to Juan Soto’s 2017 campaign. The latter was a prospect obsession for me last season. Valera’s inclusion here just feels right. He was a finalist for my breakout prospect pick. #P365Top200 Rank: 71

Miguel Vargas, INF, LAD. Age: 19

The third baseman slashed .330/.404/.465 last season (partly in full season ball) AFTER MISSING TWO SEASONS OF COMPETITION. Insanity. All eyes will be on the encore in 2019, and I’m hoping we see more power output and continued defensive versatility from the teenager this season. The Dodgers know how to develop their prospects, and I’m completely trusting the process moving forward with the infielder. Our Tyler Spicer profiled Vargas earlier this preseason. #P365Top200 Rank: 183

Mark Vientos, 3B, NYM. Age: 19

The teenager will be a diaper dandy in full season ball this season, but Vientos has the plus raw power and plate approach to not skip a beat. Not to mention, you can’t read a scouting report or profile on the third baseman without seeing the word ‘polish’ in every other sentence, which is quite the compliment for a 19-year-old. Between Vientos, Ronny Mauricio and Shervyen Newton, the Mets have an outstanding young core of infield prospects. The teenager was a finalist for my 2019 breakout prospect pick. #P365Top200 Rank: 82

Drew Waters, OF, ATL. Age: 20

It’s been hard for me to be ‘all-in’ on a prospect like Waters because of the aggressive plate approach, but I think everything comes together for the outfielder in High-A and Double-A this season. The FSL suppresses power like nobody’s business, but a .290 AVG/15 HR/20 SB season as a 20-year-old between those levels would likely make Waters a top-25 (or better) prospect next preseason. #P365Top200 Rank: 53

Chavez Young, OF, TOR. Age: 21

Baseball Farm’s Alex ‘Juicy’ Jensen has been beating the Chavez Young drum for a while now, and the 8 HR and 44 SB (with a double-digit walk rate) in his full season debut means the outfielder is a prospect to keep an eye on in 2019. High-A opposition this season will give us a better idea of Young’s true hit tool and raw power. If there’s an ‘out of nowhere’ breakout coming in 2019, the outfielder is a prime candidate. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

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