Ray Butler’s 2020 Top 200 Prospects: #181-200

Written by: Ray Butler

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Ahhhhhhh. It’s here! It’s officially PROSPECT LIST SZN on Prospects365.com.

If you’re a new reader, the list will be released 20 prospects at a time in ascending order, with lengthy, thorough write-ups attached to each player. Upon completion, the list should near 60,000 words, with plenty of (healthy) debate certain to follow. If you’d enjoy some supplementary information on many of the prospects included below and in future releases, my top-200 will be a focus of the Prospects 365 Fantasy Baseball Podcast throughout the next month. Make sure you give us a listen and subscribe on your favorite platform.

As always, thanks to FanGraphs and Baseball Reference for free, convenient access to player pages and an abundance of statistical data. Thanks to Baseball Info Solutions and RotoWire for publicizing the minor league batted ball data you’ll read about throughout this list.

Now, without further ado….

200. Thomas Szapucki, SP, NYM. Age: 23

When he’s not healthy, we call him Thomas Szayucki. Yikes. Anyways, the 23-year-old was able to make it through… most… of the 2019 season unscathed, posting a 2.63 ERA and a 27.3 K% in 61.2 IP scattered throughout three different levels. If you noted the low innings pitched total, that’s fair. The Mets intentionally limited Szapucki’s workload as he worked back to full form from Tommy John surgery. It’s also worth noting the southpaw ended the season on the Double-A injured list, which subsequently led to him being scratched from participating in the Arizona Fall League. It’s unknown whether there was an actual injury or if the Mets opted to simply rest the 23-year-old, but a Mets’ source told me in November there was no reason to believe Szapucki would enter the 2020 campaign ‘at anything other than 100 percent.’ Having been pushed all the way to Double-A after beginning the season in the South Atlantic League, there’s no reason to think the Mets won’t again be aggressive with Szapucki this season. There’s plenty of starting pitcher depth in Flushing, but depending on injuries (or the Mets selling at the deadline) Szapucki could be ready to make his big league debut by July or so. Just stay healthy, sweet prince. Mets Rank: 6th

199. Austin Beck, OF, OAK. Age: 21

Another season has passed, and prospect rankers find themselves still searching for legitimate reasons to include Beck on their lists. Reports were excellent last offseason: it was beginning to sound like the outfielder had become comfortable with a retooled swing. The California League placement seemed inevitable, so it was easy to draw the conclusion Beck would improve his stock in 2019 while making a mockery of a hitter friendly league. That simply didn’t happen. The 21-year-old slashed .251/.302/.411 with 8 home runs and 2 stolen bases in 85 games and 367 plate appearances. If you were quick to notice the lack of games played or plate appearances, Beck missed considerable time in June and July with a quadriceps injury. The power output ticked up a bit (if you distribute the eight home runs to the amount of plate appearances Beck accumulated in 2018, he likely hits double digits), but the strikeout rate drastically increased (from 21.9% in 2018 to 34.3% last season). The speed output for an above average runner also decreased (8 SB in 2018, 2 SB in 2019). One could surmise the quadriceps ailment played a role in the decrease in stolen bases, but sooner or later we simply need to see Beck connect more of the dots both in written reports by evaluators and in the box score. At this point, the pedigree, raw power and defensive skills are enough to keep the 21-year-old on a list as deep as this one. Here’s to hoping he can put together a full, productive (and healthy) 2020 campaign. Athletics Rank: 7th

198. Esteury Ruiz, 2B, SD. Age: 21

2019 was not kind for Ruiz. The 21-year-old continued to sell out for power, posting a 51.4 Pull% and 45.0 FB%. The strikeout rate dropped two percent (28.6% to 26.6%), but the walk rate decreased as well (7.7% to 6.8%). The slash numbers dipped, but it was more of a BABIP normalization for a pull-heavy player than Ruiz being struck by batted ball misfortune. There were no reports of notably better defense at second base, and perhaps in a foreshadowing development, Ruiz played twelve games in left field. In the fantasy realm, the worst trend in the 21-year-old’s 2019 campaign was the power output, which was slashed in half from Ruiz’s season in the Midwest League (12 home runs in 2018, 6 home runs in 2019). The second baseman played in the hitter friendly California League in 2019, so the drop is quite condemning. And perhaps even worse: Ruiz’s 17.1 Hard% ranked near the bottom of all minor leaguers with batted ball date in 2019. When you sell out for power and are only able to muster a sub-20% hard hit rate with minimal power output, it’s pretty damning. The 21-year-old was left unprotected leading up to the 2019 Rule 5 Draft; of course, that was partly because the Padres have an embarrassment of riches within their farm system, but it also probably doesn’t speak too highly on how San Diego values Ruiz. As things currently stand, there’s a non-zero chance the second baseman is traded for a second time within the next calendar year. As the advanced pitching in either the California League or Texas League continues to seep into Ruiz’s on base ability with his current approach, I’m fearful this might be the final time Ruiz appears on a preseason prospect list of mine. Padres Rank: 10th

197. Omar Estevez, INF, LAD. Age: 22

Estevez had an interesting 2019 campaign; his season can be split into two different parts. From MiLB Opening Day to May 14th, the 22-year-old slashed .333/.412/.456 with 2 home runs and a 12.1 BB% (18.2 K%). Then, the infielder suffered a left leg injury that sidelined him for more than a month. Upon returning, the slash numbers dipped (.268/.319/.415) and eyewitness reports suggest Estevez was pressing to make up for lost time. Despite the lackluster numbers in 59 games post-activation, the 22-year-old still managed to post a career-high 119 wRC+ and later supplemented his regular season with 20 games in the AFL. Generally speaking, Estevez’s carrying offensive skill is his ability to get on base. However, it’s the thought of eventually possessing above average in-game power that makes the infielder so intriguing to evaluators and scouts. The 22-year-old’s upper and lower halves work in tandem on a swing that generates natural loft. Estevez has a thick lower half, and the consensus within the industry is more power should be on the way. The Dodgers being loaded in the middle infield (and everywhere else around the diamond) clouds Estevez’s path to big league playing time a great deal, but at this point on a fantasy prospect list, it’s easy to buy the tools. The hope here is Estevez eventually establishes himself as a 55-hit, 55-power middle infielder with sufficient defensive prowess. Not quite reaching that power ceiling would still make the 22-year-old a low-end regular for second division teams. Dodgers Rank: 11th

196. Quinn Priester, SP, PIT. Age: 19

Highly scientific opener here: there’s just something about Priester that I really, really like. The pedigree and arsenal are apparent: the 19-year-old was selected with the 18th overall pick in last summer’s draft. The four-pitch arsenal is dynamic and deadly, featuring a mid-90s four-seam (with ride) that’s touched 97, a two-seam that runs into the hands of right-handed hitters, an 11-to-5 curveball and a changeup that should eventually be a weapon versus lefties. He’s athletic and projectable, and his 6-foot-3, 195 lb. frame should add positive mass once he experiences organizational weight training programs in the offseason. Cold weather prep arms aren’t exactly a favorite of many throughout the industry, and often with good reason. But Priester has the upside of a SP3 who should continue to make strides as he ascends the levels of the minors. The upcoming (or perhaps already ongoing) philosophical shift within the Pirates organization should help, too. FYPD Rank: 29th, Pirates Rank: 8th

195. Tahnaj Thomas, SP, PIT. Age: 20

Thomas was a prospect obsession of mine last season. Then, in his first two Appalachian League starts, Thomas posted a line of 1.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 1 K. That’s a 27.00 ERA for those of you keeping score at home. I won’t lie to you: I stopped paying attention until his season was nearly over. The 20-year-old bounced back nicely, finishing the season with a 3.17 ERA (3.49 xFIP) and 29.5 K% (7.0 BB%) in 48.1 IP, which I certainly would have enjoyed tracking while it was happening instead of catching up retroactively. Thomas’ current arsenal consists of an explosive fastball that can touch triple digits, a high-80s slider and a changeup. As you’d expect with a pitching prospect who’s so raw, the latter two offerings are inconsistent and currently only flash above average qualities. Thomas is extremely athletic and projects well physically; if everything clicks, we’re probably looking at a strikeout heavy SP3 at the big league level. Of course, there’s also an extreme amount of risk that’s inherent with any unrefined pitching prospect who is yet to sniff full season ball. Because of this, there’s certainly a non-zero chance the 20-year-old eventually becomes a dynamic reliever. There’s also a chance enough facets click and Thomas becomes one of the more electric starting pitchers in the big leagues. Regardless, the right-hander certainly needs to be on your radar as we enter a new season. A solid 2020 campaign would likely mean Thomas slots similarly to Francisco Morales’ current ranking a year from now. Pirates Rank: 7th

194. Luis Rodriguez, OF, LAD. Age: 17

Not going to lie: out of the 250 prospects on this list, Rodriguez is the biggest unknown. There’s just very, very little information available on him so far. The outfielder signed with the Dodgers for $2.67 million in July. That’s basically the last we’ve heard from him. From what I’m able to gauge, the raw power is a bit better than what was projected prior to his signing in July. In general, I keep hearing that the 17-year-old was generally underrated from an offensive standpoint throughout the ‘recruiting’ process. As it stands today, Rodriguez’s proponents consider him a 50-hit, 55-raw, 55-run, 55-arm, 50-field prospect. He’ll probably play quite a bit of centerfield early in his career, but standing at a projectable 6-foot-2, he’s a decent candidate to move to right field as he fills out physically. My main (read: only) Dodgers source says it’s likely the outfielder never plays in the Dominican Summer League and instead debuts in the Arizona League next summer. He’ll be 17 years old when that happens. Do your thing, Dodgers Developmental Machine. FYPD Rank: 28th, Dodgers Rank: 10th

Have you weaponized your Twitter account for the 2020 season? 

193. Johan Rojas, OF, PHI. Age: 19

Love me some Johan Rojas. After torturing the Gulf Coast League for 18 games (159 wRC+ in 84 plate appearances) to begin the summer, the outfielder was promoted to the NYPL. Viewed as an aggressive placement in the middle of the summer, Rojas posted respectable albeit unspectacular numbers–.244/.273/.384 with 2 home runs and 11 stolen bases (96 wRC+)—in 42 games and 172 plate appearances. The reports on the tools are what you hope to read about any teenage prospect: 70-grade speed, emerging power that could potentially ascend to 55 raw, and solid defense at a premium position (center field). The swing is a little funky (there’s quite a bit of movement with his front foot pre-pitch and a bit of a bat wrap), but any flaws have not yet manifested in strikeout rate (16.0 K% in 60 total games in 2019). I feel like the bigger challenge for the 19-year-old will be the development of patience (5.5 BB% last season) and quality of contact. The South Atlantic League should be in the cards for Rojas in 2020, and he’ll be a prospect whose stat line I glance at on a daily basis. Phillies Rank: 5th

192. Jake Cronenworth, INF/RP, SD. Age: 26

A Jared Walsh we can actually believe in. Cronenworth is going to be a really fun story at the big league level in 2020. A 26-year-old who was added to the Rays’ 40-man roster then traded to the Padres along with Tommy Pham, Cronenworth is capable of playing every infield position and effectively pitching in relief. A hamstring injury cost the utility player more than a month of his 2019 campaign, and when he was activated from the Triple-A injured list, he was used exclusively as a position player in order for the Durham Bulls to secure a playoff spot. That means the recent offensive sample is much more extensive than the pitching sample, but both are quite intriguing. In 406 plate appearances last season, Cronenworth slashed .334/.429/.520 with 10 home runs and 12 stolen bases (12.1 BB%, 15.3 K%). That’s good for a 147 wRC+. He also pitched in seven games last season; he didn’t allow a single run and struck out 26.5% of the batters he faced (with a .154 BAA). He also walked 23.5% of the batters he faced, and it’s hard to see the 0.00 ERA without also noticing the 4.44 FIP. Of course, the 7.1 IP sample is far from reliable or predictive of future outcome. Cronenworth has proven his offensive viability and is certainly capable of being at least a role player from a utility standpoint at the big league level. For this experiment to work, we also have to be able to believe in his stuff on the mound. Luckily, the 26-year-old’s fastball topped out at 96 mph in Triple-A last season. He also flashed a curveball that missed bats with relative ease. It. Is. On. Now a member of the Padres and with an extra MLB roster spot being implemented in 2020, it’s very likely Cronenworth will be unleashed in the NL West early and often this season. If you’re a daily league player, the 26-year-old is the perfect late round target. I’d bet he becomes a fun topic of conversation around the Twittersphere and on MLB Network in 2020. Cronenworth was included in my recently-published article about non-elite prospects with sneaky 2020 redraft value. Padres Rank: 9th

191. Dane Dunning, SP, CHW. Age: 25

Hello there, old friend. Dunning ranked 65th on my 2019 preseason top-200 list. Here’s the start of that write-up: 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.” Unfortunately, the worst happened for the 25-year-old last season, opting for Tommy John surgery in March. The operation sidelined Dunning for the entirety of the 2019 season and will likely keep him away from competition for the majority of 2020. The right-hander was one of my toughest evaluations of the offseason. A lot of the hype surrounding the 25-year-old pre-surgery was the ETA. If healthy, it was a foregone conclusion he would play a role for the White Sox staff at some point in 2019. Now, we’re faced with the realization Dunning likely won’t debut in the big leagues until his Age 26 season—and that’s without any significant hiccups throughout his rehab. I’m extremely interested to see what the fastball looks like fully recovered versus where it was pre-injury; that pitch will play a large role in determining Dunning’s real-life and fantasy value once he returns to full health without restriction. If the stuff comes back fully functional and the command eventually returns to its above-average self, a case can be made the right-hander becomes a low-end SP3. At this point (and based on reports I’ve seen and people I’ve talked to), I think it’s more likely the right-hander slots as a SP4 who leans on his secondary pitches throughout his big league career. With infinitely more resources at my disposal now compared to a year ago, I will admit my ranking of Dunning last preseason (65th overall) was too aggressive. White Sox Rank: 5th

190. Edward Olivares, OF, SD. Age: 23

Olivares has always been a “if only the hit tool would develop” type of prospect. However, the 23-year-old just faced his toughest challenge in the minor leagues (advancing from High-A pitching to Double-A pitching) and slashed .283/.349/.453 with 18 home runs and 35 stolen bases. The 123 wRC+ was Olivares’ highest mark since 2014, when he played in the DSL as a member of the Blue Jays’ organization. The outfielder distributed the ball to all fields a little more in 2019 than in 2018 (and he did it with a stronger frame than in past seasons), but the 41.9 Pull% means the BABIP will always remain modest despite the 23-year-old possessing above average speed. To fully buy-in, I’d love to see a continuation of an increased walk rate (5.0% in 2018, 7.8% in 2019) to pair with future reports of improved patience at the plate. It’s true that he’s likely blocked (perhaps even mega-blocked) in the Padres’ system, but I do feel as though he gets penalized too harshly for it on fantasy lists. He’s already on San Diego’s 40-man roster, so it’s likely he’ll perhaps receive an opportunity more easily than we assume or he’ll be traded to an organization with less gridlock in the outfield than the Padres (a trade would subsequently open a spot on their 40-man for someone like Taylor Trammell). It’s easy for me to continue buying Olivares’ tools, especially in this tier of a prospect list. Padres Rank: 8th

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

You hear ‘dynamic fastball/curveball combo’ and ‘pitcher in the Astros organization’, check out Ivey’s FanGraphs page and you might be led to believe we have a future big time, big league arm on our hands. I was once convinced of this as well. Ivey still has MLB stuff, but I’m a lot more skeptical after learning the fastball is a low spin pitch that would sit around the 35th percentile amongst big league pitchers. Ivey is long-limbed and has good extension—and that definitely increases the viability of the offering—but I worry how well the pitch will play up in the zone against big league hitters at its current velocity (90-94 T96) and RPMs. In a sense, this issue is similar to the one A.J. Puk will face as a big league pitcher (you’ll read about him later this month), but Ivey has more working against him than the southpaw (velocity, handedness, mechanics, etc). Ivey’s curveball is going to be an impact big league pitch from Day One and it will likely carry the profile. The 23-year-old is going to pitch in the big leagues, and there are enough tools for him to be successful at the highest level. I’m just more conservative on the profile than I was six months ago. Astros Rank: 5th

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

Adam Hall is going to be eternally underrated on prospect lists. The infielder debuted at full season Delmarva as a teenager last season, slashing .298/.385/.395 with 5 home runs and 33 stolen bases (78.6% success rate) in 122 games and 534 plate appearances. If you’re keeping score, that’s a 133 wRC+ for a player 1.5 years younger than his league’s average competition. Hall currently struggles to incorporate his lower half in his swing, so it’s hard to project much power growth with his current mechanics. With the assumption the Orioles use their emerging R&D department to help Hall reach his potential, a safe projection is something like .270/.350/.400 with 10 home runs and 25 stolen bases. With defensive skills that will likely keep Hall in the middle of the infield, we’re suddenly discussing a really intriguing big league player. Statistically speaking, that’s pretty dang close to what we just witnessed from Kolten Wong, who is currently a top-250 player in redrafts for the upcoming season. Orioles Rank: 8th

187. Luis Garcia, INF, PHI. Age: 19

If you remember, one of my prospect bold predictions last year was that Garcia and Ronny Mauricio would both be top-25 prospects by the end of 2019. After beginning any subsequent conversation with the fact the prediction was wrong, it’s always Mauricio who’s discussed afterwards. The forgotten member of that duo, it’s fairly obvious Garcia was pushed too aggressively into full season ball in 2019. In 127 games and 524 plate appearances, the teenager slashed .186/.261/.255 with 4 home runs and 9 stolen bases (8.4 BB%, 25.2 K%, 55 wRC+). I’d imagine those are the worst offensive numbers from any prospect you’ll read about on this list. I don’t have any magical reports to renew your faith in the infielder. To my knowledge, there was no secret injury that hampered Garcia throughout his full season debut. He was just bad. But while he’s been largely discarded from a fantasy sense, I’m quietly gobbling-up ground floor shares and betting on a bit of a bounce back in 2020. It’s true I overestimated Garcia’s fantasy potential a bit when I ranked 110th last preseason before he debuted in the South Atlantic League, but I wasn’t wrong about the potential for an above average hit tool and above average speed. I’m buying those tools with the idea repeating the Sally this season will help him recuperate his stock. Phillies Rank: 4th

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

Perhaps the most projectable of the prospects who were promoted from the Dominican Summer League mid-season, Alcantara is a projectable string-bean (6-foot-6, 190 lbs.) whose swing shouldn’t look as beautiful as it does so early in his development. Relying on a quick glance at the DSL or GCL numbers would likely mean the outfielder would be passed over on a list like this, but there’s so much more here than meets the eye of the stat line scout. Those who have seen the 17-year-old play see aggression that is typical of such a raw prospect at such a young age. Playing in the GCL before he can legally buy cigarettes, aggression mostly leads to poor quality of contact and pedestrian box scores. But evaluators also see a prospect with eye-opening coordination for someone with Alcantara’s frame. They see the potential for plus raw power, above average speed and a defensive skillset that lends itself to center or right field. It may take a while for the in-game numbers to catch up to the 17-year-old’s raw skillset, but Alcantara is certainly one of the most intriguing Rookie-level prospects in the sport. The development here is likely to be slow but worthwhile in the long run. Yankees Rank: 10th

Interested in minor league batted ball data and isolated power? Our Tyler Spicer recently made some observations on prospects and leagues that really made their presence felt in that realm last season

185. Dean Kremer, SP, BAL. Age: 24

Kremer was actually the last player added to my 2020 prospect list after a few industry sources suggested I was placing far too much weight on the right-hander’s hypothetical big league situation in the near future. I already included the 24-year-old in an article discussing non-elite prospects who could provide solid value in redraft leagues this season. Kremer is by no means a superstar-pitching prospect, but there are enough tools within this sum-of-the-parts skillset to profile nicely from the back of the Orioles’ rotation beginning sometime in 2020. The right-hander’s arsenal consists of four pitches—a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider—that, in a perfect world, should protect him from split concerns at the big league level. The slider is the only pitch in the repertoire that is firmly below average, so the fastball’s viability against right-handed hitters will be key. I don’t have to tell you how terrifying of a gauntlet the AL East is, but Kremer has the upside of an SP4 who flirts with a strikeout per inning pitched throughout the prime of his big league career. Orioles Rank: 7th

184. Miguel Vargas, INF, LAD. Age: 20

You look at Vargas’ 6-foot-3, 205 lb. frame and it becomes hard to build an argument against him eventually developing above average or better raw power. Then you consider the fact he’s in the Dodgers’ organization, and you just assume it’ll happen in due time. After a full season’s worth of at-bats in the Midwest and California Leagues, I’ve become unconvinced. The lower half screams power, but the bat speed is really forgettable. The wrists are stiff, and the lack of punch was evident in Vargas’ pedestrian 19.4 Hard%. Regardless of whether Vargas takes most of his long-term defensive reps from third base or eventually shifts across the diamond to first, it appears unlocking more bat speed (and more power) will be absolutely paramount. There are solid foundational tools in place here, including solid plate discipline and above average bat-to-ball skills. If the Dodgers are able to work their magic and Vargas evolves into the prospect his body says he should be, he’ll become one of the better infield prospects in all of baseball. Dodgers Rank: 9th

183. Kris Bubic, SP, KC. Age: 22

There will be a few prospects on this list whose outlook can better be described from a blurb in the Ramblings than anything I could write here. Bubic is one of those prospects. The reasoning behind the drop in Bubic’s ranking from my end-of-season list to now is quite simple: remove the statistics, evaluate the stuff. Bubic has one of the best changeups in the minor leagues, but I’m terrified he won’t be able to adequately construct a sequence or usage that will make the pitch as deadly against Double-A and Triple-A hitters as it was in the low minors. My pessimism on this outlook means I might be the low man on Bubic this preseason, but it’s a battle I’m willing to fight. Howdy, Rhys. Royals Rank: 7th

182. Daz Cameron, OF, DET. Age: 23

The fantasy profile added some risk and shed some upside in 2019, which is never what you want from a prospect on the cusp of debuting at the big league level. Cameron was a well-below-average offensive performer in the International League last season, slashing .214/.330/.377 with 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 120 games and 528 plate appearances (84 wRC+). The strikeout rate also worsened, jumping from 25.7% to 28.8% in a full season of Triple-A at-bats. There’s certainly stolen base potential here, but the questions surrounding the hit tool were only accentuated last season. Center field being the defensive home increases the real-life floor, and the fact the Tigers stink should allow Cameron ample opportunities to prove himself once he debuts in Detroit. A projection of .240 BA/.320 OBP/15 HR/18 SB with a high strikeout rate throughout his prime feels about right, especially if the 23-year-old continues to hit the ball on the ground too often. Tigers Rank: 6th

181. Jay Groome, SP, BOS. Age: 21

2020 will always be known as the season Jay Groome re-established himself as one of the most promising, left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball… is a sentence I would love to read in ten months. It’s been a grueling process for the 21-year-old. Multiple injuries—most notably a torn UCL that led to Tommy John surgery in May 18—have derailed the lion’s share of Groome’s development since he was selected 12th overall in 2016. Now assumed fully healthy and slated to break camp with a full season affiliate in 2020, a case can be made the southpaw can improve his stock as much as any pitching prospect this season. In a sense, Groome’s current situation reminds me a bit of Luiz Gohara in 2017. The former will be exposed in the Rule 5 draft next offseason if he’s not placed on the 40-man, so the Red Sox may be selectively aggressive with Groome’s path this season to get a better idea of whether he warrants protection. This subsequently increases the chance the left-hander is eventually transitioned to the bullpen in order to impact Boston’s big league roster sooner rather than later, but we’ll continue projecting him as a fastball/curveball-laden starter until we’re told differently. Red Sox Rank: 6th

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