Introducing the Names You Didn’t Recognize From My Midseason List

Written by: Ray Butler

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Out of all the midseason list-related articles I’ve written/will write, this one is the most important.

You’re not going to agree with all the things you’re about to read. In all likelihood, I’m going to be dead wrong on at least one of the prospects you didn’t recognize on my midseason list.

But I’m going to be right on some of them, too.

We’ve grown exponentially over the last calendar year, and with that has come access to resources I never dreamed I’d gain access to. Truth be told, a lot of the process that led to the inclusion of these prospects on my midseason list came from those resources. In other words, this time last season, a lot of these prospects would have been excluded from this list. I’m hopeful it leads to lists that are even better than they have been in the past.

Here you go. The ‘who?!?’ guys from my midseason top-200 prospect list:

83. Josiah Gray, SP, LAD. Age: 21

As far as off the radar goes, the first three prospects on this list are infinitely more well-known than the others (see: they’re still relatively unknown). To me, Gray is the pitching-prospect equivalent of Alec Bohm. By that, I mean the 21-year-old had no business being placed in Low-A to begin the season (much like Bohm), so the numbers we’ve seen in High-A and one start in Double-A (following a recent promotion) are much more telling of Gray’s true talent. At one point, there were questions regarding the right-hander’s size, but recent reports have suggested he’s added good weight to his frame. A converted shortstop, Gray’s athleticism and command makes me think he’ll eventually put any lingering durability concerns to rest. There’s still some rawness here, but that also means there’s late-bloomer qualities for a pitcher with an eye-opening 29.1 K% and 5.6 BB% this season. Oh, and thanks to a trade from the Reds last offseason, Gray is now in an organization that is arguably the best in baseball at developing its prospects. The outlook is awfully bright here.

87. Luis Gil, SP, NYY. Age: 21

This is much more of a projection-based ranking than Gray’s ranking above, but one thing is very clear: if Gil reaches his ceiling, he’ll be a star at the big league level. Traded from Minnesota for Jake Cave (yikes), Gil possesses one of the best fastballs in the minor leagues and two offspeed offerings with ridiculous spin rates. He’s athletic with a low-effort delivery, but there’s a rawness that’s led to concerns (both visual and statistical) about the 21-year-old’s command. The BB% has dropped from 15.4% last season to 11.1% this season, so there certainly seems to be some developments being made. A similar drop from 2019 to 2020 would likely lead to Gil being a top-50 prospect, if not higher. The undeniable portion of the statistical profile is the strikeout ability, as the right-hander has struck out a whopping 32% of the batters he’s faced this season in the South Atlantic League. I expect Gil to be a consensus top-100 guy by the end of the regular season and one of the more hyped pitching prospects in all of baseball heading into the 2020 season.

107. Jhoan Duran, SP, MIN. Age: 21

Duran might not quite have the ceiling of Gray or Gil, but he’s currently my personal favorite of the trio. Complete accountability: it was a mistake to not have Duran in my top-250 this preseason. The 6-foot-5, 230 pound right-hander has seemingly taken another step forward in the Florida State League this season: a 30.0 K%, 9.3 BB% and 3.16 ERA (2.79 xFIP) in 74.0 IP. What’s more, he hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 14 outings so far this season. Impressive. I very intentionally moved Duran above Brusdar Graterol in my midseason rankings; if the Twins push all their chips to the center of the table to chase a 2019 World Series, I suspect Duran will be a hot commodity amongst teams looking to trade their assets before the deadline.

113. Alejandro Pie, SS, TB. Age: 17

In my eyes, Pie at 113 in my midseason top-200 is the most aggressive ranking on the list. Truth be told, it’s probably too aggressive. The numbers from the DSL this summer (97 wRC+) don’t exactly support such a bullish ranking. And there’s a bust rate amongst teenage prospects high enough to make me seriously regret this ranking by this time next season. Quelled your excitement yet? There are two possible outcomes—perhaps the outcomes that are most likely, in my opinion—with this profile that would make Pie incredibly valuable from a fantasy standpoint. First, Pie could maintain or even marginally advance his athleticism. This is my favorite outcome, because it probably leads to a 6-foot-4 shortstop with 15-25 home run pop and 20-30 stolen bases annually. The second outcome hinges on Pie losing some of his athleticism as he develops physically. In this scenario, he probably moves to either third base or the outfield defensively. However, within this profile, less athleticism likely leads to more raw power, so the second outcome coming to fruition could mean Pie grows into 25-30 home run pop with 10-15 stolen bases. Again, the risk—just like the risk with most 17-year-olds in the DSL—is enormous. Gigantic. But one doesn’t have to squint too hard to envision Pie evolving into the prospect Ronny Mauricio has quickly become… but with legitimate speed. Mauricio is in Low-A as an 18-year-old and Pie is in the DSL as a 17-year-old, so it’ll certainly take some time for the latter to ascend to that tier. I imagine we’ll see Pie stateside next season before he debuts in full season ball in 2021.  

123. Gabriel Rodriguez, INF, CLE. Age: 17

“Buzz” is an appropriate word to use to describe Rodriguez’s 2019 calendar year, both during extended spring training and in the early stages of the Dominican Summer League. The numbers don’t necessarily make your eyes roll to the back of your head, and the swing will need some tinkering to fully unlock the power potential. However, for a 17-year-old with a great chance to stick in the middle infield, Rodriguez has a great understanding of his approach as well as the strike zone. While it’s likely he’ll never contribute in the stolen base department, a combination of Rodriguez’s projectable 6-foot-2, 175 pound frame and offensive instincts makes me think he’ll eventually grow into sizable raw and game power. Backfield fiend Jason Pennini wrote-up Rodriguez after XST looks in May.

127. Angel Martinez, INF, CLE. Age: 17

Martinez doesn’t quite have the frame or physical projection of his teammate Gabriel Rodriguez (discussed directly above), but he’s generating just as much buzz. In 35 games, the 17-year-old is slashing .285/.368/.444 with a home run and 6 stolen bases in 164 plate appearances. He’s walked (17) nearly as many times as he’s struck out (19), which is always a welcomed sign for someone so young (though K and BB rates in the DSL can be fluky). But I can’t hype him as much as Prospect Live’s Jason Pennini hyped him in this XST piece from the spring. There’s a chance we see both Rodriguez and Martinez stateside before the end of the summer, where a good showing (albeit the fact it would be an extremely small sample) in the AZL would lead to the duo being two of the most-hyped teenage prospects in baseball heading into 2020.

130. Yerry Rodriguez, SP, TEX. Age: 21

Not going to lie to you: the immediate aftermath of the release of my midseason top-200 coincided with extremely unfortunate injury news for Rodriguez.

Prior to the news of a season-ending injury, Rodriguez had struck out 30% of the batters he faced in Low-A Hickory (7.4 BB%) with a 2.08 ERA in 73.2 innings pitched. If the UCL in Rodriguez’s right elbow is ready to fully heal with rest and rehab, the right-hander likely enters the 2020 season headed to the Carolina League as a back-end inclusion on my prospect list. If Tommy John surgery is eventually required, we likely won’t see the right-hander until the summer of 2021 at the earliest, when he’d be 23-year-old who’s never faced competition above the Low-A level.

140. Omar Estevez, INF, LAD. Age: 21

Statistically, Estevez has no business ranking inside the top-150 on a fantasy-focused prospect list. And then you watch the swing, which is short enough to maintain a high contact rate at any level… all while generating natural loft that should eventually lead to, at worst, league-average power. He’ll be doing it from the middle infield, too—which means we should all be hoping Estevez is traded sometime prior to being ready for a big league debut. Body and current MLB hot streak excluded, the 21-year-old reminds me a lot of Luis Arraez with more power potential. I feel like an early-season leg injury is currently hampering some of Estevez’s counting stats, but don’t let that stop you from either adding him to your watch list or beginning the process of adding him to some of your deep dynasty rosters.

142. Erick Peña, OF, KC. Age: 16

Outside of Jasson Dominguez, Peña is my favorite player from the 2019 J2 signing class for fantasy purposes. The hit tool is the current offensive calling card, but I expect the outfielder to eventually grow into 55 or 60 raw power to pair with 55 or 60 hit. There are differing opinions on whether Peña will stick in centerfield or eventually shift to right field; if the latter happens, it probably means the raw power has finalized as a plus tool. Also of importance, Peña is already bilingual, and scouts laud him for his makeup. The Royals haven’t necessarily had the best season in the realm of developing position player prospects, but Peña appears to have an extremely-high ceiling and sneakily-high floor for a 16-year-old.

150. Lolo Sanchez, OF, PIT. Age: 20

Sanchez’s ‘ascension’ this season is perhaps more of a product of fixing the mechanical disaster he was at the plate last season than anything else. I’m not sure, but I *think* we can notice the improvements by looking at his stat-lines from Low-A the past two seasons…

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 3.31.29 PM

I assume 90% of the people reading this are extremely familiar with a player’s ‘Season Stats’ page on Fangraphs, so I didn’t worry about including the categories above each statistic. If you look at the table above and are extremely confused, just know this: the numbers were infinitely better this season than last season. Known for being a defense-first prospect with plus speed, Sanchez has shown glimpses of being viable in the fantasy world as well. There have been noticeable struggles since being promoted to the Florida State League (.156/.214/.200 with a .044 ISO thru 101 High-A plate appearances), so a strong finish to the summer would help maintain the 20-year-old’s status on prospect lists. Despite his ranking at 150th on my midseason list, there’s a good chance Sanchez is a better real-life prospect than fantasy asset.

157. Robert Puason, SS, OAK. Age: 16

On most real-life J2 lists you’ve read online, Puason ranks second amongst his fellow 2019 signees, listed only behind ‘prodigy’ Jasson Dominguez. And when you factor in defensive skills, that’s probably right. Puason is viewed as an above average (or plus) defender at shortstop, where most expect him to remain throughout his professional career. But the offensive tools currently lag behind, which bumps him slightly below Erick Peña on a fantasy-oriented list. Speed is Puason’s carrying tool amongst fantasy-relevant skills, ranging anywhere from plus to plus-plus depending on who you ask. The 6-foot-3, 185 pound frame is extremely projectable, so there’s hope the raw power eventually lands closer to 60 than the 50 it’s currently labeled with. My biggest concern is the switch hitter’s plate approach, which leads me to visualizing Puason becoming a 55-raw, 55-speed guy (once he finalizes his physical development) we just hope gets to 50-hit. The ceiling here is quite high, but the current risk gives me quite a bit of pause until we know/see more.

162. Adam Hall, SS, BAL. Age: 20

It might be hit-over-power throughout his career, but Hall has done wonders for his stock this season. Currently slashing .309/.387/.414 with 4 home runs and 22 stolen bases thru 381 plate appearances (86 games) in Low-A, Hall is beginning to tap into a skillset that would play extremely well at shortstop throughout the minor and major leagues. The profile hangs its hat on plus speed, but the hit tool could eventually ascend to 55 or 60 as well. The game power seems to be moderate for now, and Hall would have to be careful in purposefully increasing that tool given the fact he’s currently a high-BABIP sprayer of the baseball. The ceiling isn’t as high as a lot of the prospects on this list, but Hall should stick at a premium defensive position while posting high AVG, OBP and SB marks.

163. Trent Deveaux, OF, LAA. Age: 19

Much like Lolo Sanchez (discussed above), Deveaux’s ascension this season is largely about reclaiming his reputation. Repeating the Arizona League, the teenager has dropped his K% by more than eight percent while raising his SLG from .247 to .479. In turn, the wRC+ has increased from 72 (last season) to 110 (now). Why are the improvements so critically important? Check out this excerpt from Deveaux’s write-up on the Angels top-prospect list on Fangraphs.

After an exciting showing during minor league spring training, Deveaux struggled throughout the summer as he made swing change after swing change after swing change. It makes much more sense to tinker and find the right swing sooner rather than later, but Deveaux hit just .199 as he was asked to bring his side work onto the field during the summer. He had no fewer than four different cuts during 2018, and at times seemed so out of whack that pro scouts in Arizona began to actively steer clear of Tempe Diablo to avoid falling out of love with a player they were so enamored with during the spring.”

Later in the write-up, Kiley and Eric remind us that Deveaux is comparable to fellow Angels prospects Jordyn Adams and Jeremiah Jackson from an athletic standpoint. The ceiling here is extremely high, but it’ll almost certainly include some bumps in the road for Deveaux and fantasy rosterers. The ceiling here is something like 50-hit, 60-raw and 70-speed. That alone should be enough to make your ears perk up.

164. Kevin Alcantara, OF, NYY. Age: 17

Alcantara being included in my midseason top-200 shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, unless you don’t read the Ramblings (he was featured a month ago). Since he was featured, the 17-year-old has moved stateside and has debuted in the Gulf Coast League, which is pretty aggressive for a long-limbed 17-year-old. The numbers aren’t impressive thru 53 GCL plate appearances (30 wRC+ and no walks), but this is thankfully a ‘tools over stats’ ranking. Make sure you read up on Alcantara in the Ramblings, then add him to your watch list in your dynasty leagues.

172. Tyler Ivey, SP, HOU. Age: 23

The first of two ‘old’ pitching prospects featured in this article, Ivey has had quite the 2019 campaign. The right-hander has only managed a total of seven starts, and they’ve been sandwiched between a suspension, an injury and a whopping 37.3 K%. The 0.58 ERA has been aided by a ghastly 97.6 LOB%, but the viability of Ivey’s mid-90s fastball (T96) and plus curveball (a combination that’s become a staple throughout baseball and especially within the Astros organization) can’t be denied. Don’t worry too much about the suspension: the exact details were never disclosed, but most think it was a consequence of Ivey being ejected from a game in April due to a foreign substance being found on his glove. Details are also scarce on the injury that sidelined the 23-year-old from May 21st to July 2nd, when Ivey had a rehab appearance in the GCL. But now he’s back in Double-A, and a late-July and August that resembles his first seven starts of the season would lead to Ivey knocking on the door of top-100 lists next preseason. And while there’s a revolving door of back-end starting pitchers who have made starts for Houston this season (Jose Urquidy, Rogelio Armenteros, Brad Peacock, Framber Valdez, Collin McHugh and Corbin Martin), it’s Ivey who’s the best pitching prospect in the organization outside Forrest Whitley, especially with Martin rehabbing from Tommy John surgery for the next 12-18 months. The right-hander receiving a cup-of-coffee start for the Astros wouldn’t surprise me, though he likely won’t be a legitimate candidate to make a genuine big league impact until next season. There’s a head whack in the mechanics, but it hasn’t hindered his command as of yet.

175. Wilderd Patiño, OF, ARZ. Age: 18

I am certainly not the first industry folk to plant my flag in Wilderd Patiño Land. Jacob Zweiback of Prospects Live has gotten several live looks at the Venezuelan teenager, and he published his thoughts here. Even from an international class standpoint, Patiño is a bit of a pop-up prospect. Ranked 27th in his class, Patiño signed with the Diamondbacks in September 2017. After decent showings for Arizona’s DSL teams in 2018, the outfielder is stateside this summer and currently playing in the Arizona League. The numbers aren’t spectacular—Patiño hasn’t hit a home run in 218 professional plate appearances and currently sports a 5.9 BB% and 28.2 K% in the AZL—but this is a tool-based ranking. Fangraphs currently labels Patiño with 50-hit, 60-raw, 60-speed future grades, with above average defensive tools that serve as icing on the cake. Jacob’s piece on the outfielder seems to support that bullishness. There’s certainly a ton of rawness here, but it’s easy to dream on a 6-foot-1, 175 pound frame that possesses the tools Patiño does.

184. Luisangel (Jose) Acuña, 2B, TEX. Age: 17

Look, I tried my best to not include Acuña in my midseason rankings. Originally, the inclusion felt lazy. So I exhausted each and every one of my relevant contacts, hoping to find someone who would unequivocally tell me Acuña isn’t ready for a list like this. It didn’t happen. The build is extremely slight, so there are long-term questions regarding the ceiling from a fantasy standpoint (at 17-year-old, there’s also a chance he continues growing). However, the offensive tools appear extremely advanced—probably too advanced for the DSL. Thru 33 games, Acuña is slashing .353/.457/.456 with a home run and 10 stolen bases in 162 plate appearances. It’s hard to trust walks and strikeouts in the DSL, but the second baseman has taken ball four eight more times (25) than he’s gone down swinging (17). The offensive profile might always be hit-over-power, but Acuña is one to be aware of moving forward. Next season in the Arizona League should give us a better idea of what we can expect from the teenager moving forward. The bloodlines are pretty decent here, from what I’ve heard.

187. Juan Pie, OF, PIT. Age: 18

Alejandro Pie wasn’t the only teenage Pie to make my top-200. Just like the former, Juan is tooled-up and extremely underaged, making him an attractive albeit risky target in dynasty leagues. The 18-year-old performed extremely well last summer in the DSL, posting a 134 wRC+ and 14.1 BB% in 255 plate appearances. Thankfully, the tools (though ridiculously raw), match that performance. The numbers this summer in the AZL and NYPL have lagged a little behind, but Pie has plus raw power and above average speed, both of which should profile nicely from right field thanks to a fantastic arm and adequate fielding skills. The reason the outfielder only ranked 187th is the hit tool, which currently translates to Pie becoming a moderate AVG/high OBP player who should contribute to HR and SB categories on your fantasy team. Something in the realm of what we’re expecting Geraldo Perdomo to become. Much like most of the prospects featured in this article, Pie is currently a boisterous ball of clay with outcomes spanning from ‘whatever happened to that guy?’ to ‘someone help me think of a dessert-oriented name for my fantasy team even though it’s pronounced Pee-ay’.

191. Joe Ryan, SP, TB. Age: 23

Players like Ryan and Tyler Ivey (discussed above) are the odd-balls of this article and my midseason list, but that shouldn’t diminish their viability or potential future impact. I typically (largely) discard the performances of seventh round college arms (drafted last summer) in Low-A and High-A, but I think there could be more in the tank here. Between Bowling Green and Charlotte, the right-hander has struck out 37.0% of the batters he’s faced with a 6.1 BB%. The ERA is 2.07 in 91.1 innings pitched. Despite these ridiculous numbers, I’m more interested in what could be some untapped projection for the 23-year-old. Ryan’s extremely athletic mechanics could eventually lead to his fastball sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s instead of 90-94. These late-bloomer qualities, paired with a plus slider, an above average changeup and solid command, make Ryan an intriguing pitching prospect moving forward. It also doesn’t hurt that he pitches in a Rays organization that has fully embraced the analytics and optimization movement. I’m hopeful he finishes the season in the Southern League.

193. Osiel Rodriguez, SP, NYY. Age: 17

When you see teenage pitchers ranked at the tail-end of a prospect list, you figure their inclusion is largely based on what they could eventually be, not what they already are. Rodriguez is somewhat of an exception to that rule, having already overwhelmed fairly stiff competition in Cuba before defecting to the United States. ‘Polished’ may not be the right word to describe Rodriguez (he doesn’t yet repeat his delivery well and, heck, he’s only 17-years-old), but ‘advanced’ might fit the profile perfectly. Despite this, the ceiling and upside is just as impressive as the track record. Already 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, the right-hander should add a few more pounds of muscle weight as he finalizes his physical development. With added weight could come an uptick in velocity for a fastball that’s already topping out at 97 mph. Lastly, Rodriguez has four pitches that have flashed above average or plus. From a talent-alone standpoint, the 17-year-old has the potential to someday be one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. The Yankees will conservatively manage his workload for a few seasons at least, but I’m committed to sticking firm with this ranking as a floor until we see a valid sample. It should be noted that Rodriguez hasn’t pitched in a DSL game since June 17th, though I haven’t read or heard anything regarding a possible injury as of yet.

196. Luis Rodriguez, OF, LAD. Age: 16

If there’s any 2019 J2 signing I’m unequivocally ‘too early’ on, it’s probably Rodriguez. Only 16-years-old, and he’ll probably move away from centerfield before it’s all said and done. But I’m a fan of the offensive tools, the body (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) and the fact he’s in one of the best developmental organizations in baseball. 55-hit and 60-raw are the hopeful endpoints here, though it’ll be a long journey to get there. With a plus arm, I imagine Rodriguez will eventually find a defensive home in right field. We should begin to accrue a semblance of a statistical sample next summer in the AZL.

197. Andy Pages, OF, LAD. Age: 18

Only the newest of followers/readers haven’t heard of Pages, since I featured him in the Ramblings earlier this month. A statistical update: .291/.413/.650 with 9 home runs and 3 stolen bases thru 27 games in the Pioneer League. That’s a 164 wRC+ for an 18-year-old playing in a league with an average age of 20.5. Read the feature from the Ramblings and begin acquiring low-fee shares in your dynasty leagues.

198. Misael Urbina, OF, MIN. Age: 17

Urbina’s profile isn’t spotless: there are questions about how well the speed ages as the outfielder develops physically. The power projection isn’t spectacular. However, there are also a ton of qualities to love about a prospect so young. From an approach standpoint, Urbina is about as advanced as it gets for a 17-year-old. The discipline and bat to ball skills are both elite at-age. Unsurprisingly, the numbers from the DSL this summer completely support these claims: .286/.391/.446, 2 HR, 15 SB, 10.5 BB%, 6.0 K%, 132 wRC+ in 133 plate appearances. Truth be told, we probably won’t get an idea of the true ceiling until the teenager gets stateside and closer to full season ball, but he’s certainly off to a great start.

199. Gilberto Jimenez, OF, BOS. Age: 19

It’s okay to throw a couple of speculative darts at high upside teenagers at the back-end of a top-200 list, and that’s exactly what I did with Jimenez. It’s legitimate 80-grade speed, but the 19-year-old’s future fantasy value likely hinges on the development of anything more than a slap-like approach at the plate. Ralph Lifshitz and Jason Pennini at Prospects Live have gotten looks at Jimenez in the New York-Penn Short Season league, and their reports echoes the hope that there’s more power ahead (read Ralph’s report and Jason’s report). With a performance that’s led to a current 144 wRC+, Jimenez is almost certainly bound for full season ball in 2020.

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