Ray Butler’s 2020 Top 200 Prospects: #101-120

Written by: Ray Butler

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When you find a portion of a prospect list that consists of several pitchers you’re higher on (or lower on) than the industry consensus, it likely means that portion of the list is quite volatile. This is that portion of my 2020 prospect list. Enjoy these write-ups, then bring me your fire takes: @Prospects365.

120. Luis Garcia, INF, WAS. Age: 19

Garcia’s 2019 season is what happens when a sum-of-the-parts, position playing prospect gets pushed to a level they’re probably not ready for. Playing in the Eastern League as a 19-year-old, the infielder slashed .257/.280/.337 with 4 home runs and 11 stolen bases (68.8%). The 79 wRC+ basically tells you everything you need to know, and the 13.9 Hard% is somehow even more damning. I haven’t talked to anyone who’s evaluated Garcia in-person who came away thinking he’s bound for stardom. ‘Grinder’ is probably the descriptor I’ve been given the most. An unexplosive but solid profile that will truly click when the teenager begins to pair some added patience at the plate with his elite hand-eye coordination. If it all comes together, all five of Garcia’s tools may grade above average; the offensive output has a ways to go before we witness this in the numbers, and I’ll bet the under on the in-game power ever getting to 55. Dear Nationals: if you’re reading this, please let Garcia cook in the Eastern League for another season. Nationals Rank: 2nd

119. Yusniel Díaz, OF, BAL. Age: 23

On my life, Diaz had the most nonchalant 135 wRC+ season of any prospect on this list in 2019. Still, there wasn’t much to write home about in the numbers: .265/.341/.464, 11 HR, 10.1 BB%, 20.9 K% in 85 games and 317 plate appearances. The outfielder spent the majority of his season at Double-A Bowie, though hamstring and quadriceps injuries forced him to the MiLB injured list at different times. At this point in Diaz’s development, the main concern is simply lack of explosion. From a fantasy standpoint, there’s nothing we can hang our hat on here. The 23-year-old is trending towards being a high Pull FB% player, so I suspect the HR/PA might continue increasing at the expense of the AVG and OBP. Diaz isn’t a stolen base threat, so are we looking at a player with a .270/.340/.470, 20-25 HR ceiling? What happened to the upside here? Diaz was a tough evaluation for me this offseason because I so badly want to believe in the culmination of the tools; but for now, I think we’re all at the point we’d like to see him connect more of the dots before paying a top-100 price in dynasty leagues. If the Pull FB% increase leads to more home runs than I’m expecting, I’ll gladly admit I’m wrong a year from now. Orioles Rank: 6th

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

Ryan was one of the biggest pop-up pitching prospects of the 2019 season, if for no other reason than the statistics being unfathomably good. In 123.2 IP between three levels (Low-A, High-A and Double-A), Ryan posted a 1.96 ERA and struck out 38.1% (!!!) of the batters he faced. The right-hander utilizes a fastball-heavy approach, a pitch that ticked-up to 95 last season after previously topping out at 93. Ryan extends well, so the offering (which he also commands well) plays exceptionally well in the top of the zone and appears to be even faster to opposing hitters than its clocked velocity. The 23-year-old’s best secondary pitch is a relatively new slider, a pitch he began showcasing more frequently near the conclusion of the 2019 season. There’s also a curveball and changeup in the arsenal, but both are fringe average offerings that mostly serve to combat left-handed hitters the second and third time thru the order. Because of the unspectacular weapons vLHB, Ryan tends to rely on the viability and explosiveness of his fastball to attack lefties. To this point, there have been no notable disparities in splits by handedness. All facets put together, the 23-year-old is a perfect candidate to be an Bulker for the Rays’ big league staff. He’ll have the opportunity to attack big league hitters with his FB/SL combo one or two times through the order, compiling season-long totals of 100-120 IP along the way. With pitchers like Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough currently filling that role in Tampa Bay, Ryan would offer more strikeout upside than either once he’s deemed ready to debut. He’ll likely open the 2020 season back in the Southern League, but a big league debut at some point this season is certainly possible. Rays Rank: 10th

Recently, Connor Kurcon and I embarked on a data-driven journey in search of finding the players who were most affected by the juiced ball in the big leagues last season. Focusing on a certain strand of wOBAcon and a subsequently created ‘Benefit Ball’, here are our findings

117. Greg Jones, SS, TB. Age: 22

A year ago, I was out on Jones to the extent he didn’t make my first-ever MLB Draft prospect list (I ranked 1-65). A lesson the 22-year-old has taught me since then: a high strikeout rate shouldn’t be a disqualifier when a player is capable of posting elite BABIPs. The 22-year-old is a 70-runner who sprays the ball to all fields with authority. He also takes walks (10.1 BB% in 48 games and 218 plate appearances in the NYPL post-draft) with confidence, so despite a strikeout rate that should hover between 25% and 35% throughout his career at various levels, the rest of the ingredients should allow the switch hitter to thrive offensively without the slash numbers suffering. The Rays’ acquisition of (future second baseman?) Xavier Edwards is an interesting wrench for Jones’ potential defensive home playing for an organization that will likely slot Wander Franco at shortstop on an everyday basis (the Rays had Vidal Brujan, too). Maybe the 22-year-old eventually dethrones Kevin Kiermaier (or Manuel Margot) in center field? I trust the Rays to figure the logistics out; while they do that, I’ll be busy buying the raw tools and potential fantasy goodness. Jones should take the majority of his at-bats in the challenging Florida State League in 2020. FYPD Rank: 16th, Rays Rank: 9th

116. Brailyn Marquez, SP, CHC. Age: 21

Within this profile we find the hardest-throwing southpaw in the minor leagues, a plus slider, a developing changeup and a ground ball rate higher than fifty percent—all being thrown by a pitcher who’s 6-foot-4 and physically projectable. Marquez cleaned-up his mechanics in the middle of the 2019 season, and the results led to a decreased walk rate (14.0 BB% until May 31, 9.7 BB% from June 1st to the end of the regular season) and a changeup that evolved from an afterthought to a real third pitch. So why does a pitcher with so many skills rank outside the top-100? Despite possessing the ability to touch 102 fairly regularly, I’m concerned the fastball isn’t a true swing-and-miss offering. The pitch has below average spin (2250 RPM), and with its current movement profile, the offering will induce more soft contact than whiffs. I believe this is evidenced in the noticeable drop in K% from the Midwest League to the Carolina League (30.7 K% to 24.5 K%) especially since the left-hander was leaning heavily on his heater during homestretch of the regular season. It feels weird to ask a triple-digit fastball to add explosion, but unless the 21-year-old can find ways to tinker with the RPMs or ride of the pitch, it’ll be the slider and changeup that produce more strikeout viability. Marquez has a thick lower body and should slot for 130-140 IP in 2020 if healthy. It’s likely he’ll end the season in the Southern League, which means he could debut in Chicago at some point in 2021. Cubs Rank: 4th

115. Ethan Hankins, SP, CLE. Age: 19

There’s a lot to digest here. When you look at the numbers, it appears Hankins has the stuff to both miss bats (28.6 K% between the New York Penn League and Midwest League last season) and induce soft contact (55.0 GB%) at fantastic rates. But I’m afraid this profile won’t end up being what you think it will be. The command and inconsistent strike throwing (12.1 BB%) is obvious, though it’s important to remember the right-hander is only 19 years old and still relatively green. There’s also a lack of secondary pitch viability. The slider, curveball and changeup seemed to tick down after Hankins suffered a shoulder injury during his senior year of high school, and none of three have been overly consistent since he was selected with the 35th overall pick of the 2018 draft. The slider is the best of the bunch; it pairs with the fastball to create a deadly combination versus right-handed hitters (who only managed to slash .149/.246/.182 versus Hankins in 2019). Lefties are a much different story though, and their .284/.404/.432 slash against the 19-year-old basically mandates further development of the changeup and/or curveball as Hankins begins facing advanced hitters in full season ball. The lower half here is built like a Mack Truck, and the fastball could touch triple digits by the time he turns 22. As you can see, there are some pretty significant pieces of the puzzle that must come together for Hankins to reach his lofty SP3 upside. Pedigree and the Indians’ track record of pitcher development are both on the 19-year-old’s side, so he has a better chance to overcome those obstacles than most other pitchers with the same issues. Indians Rank: 6th

114. Daniel Espino, SP, CLE. Age: 19

As far as ceilings go, Espino likely has the highest of any prep pitcher from the 2019 draft class. We can talk about the body if you’d like: the right-hander is a 6-foot-2, 210 lb. specimen with a body equipped to maintain velocity late into his outings. We can also talk about the arsenal: a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 99, two plus breaking balls in a curveball and slider, and a developing changeup. To reach his SP2 upside (the only pitcher from the 2019 class I’ve given that distinction to), it’s all about command refinement. The fastball command is advanced, and we know he’s capable of consistently missing bats out of the zone with his breaking balls. We need to see if he can throw his curveball and slider for strikes consistently, since hitters in the Carolina League and beyond will simply spit on those pitches if there’s no track record of consistent Zone%. As you likely know, there are some folks within the industry who believe Espino is eventually bound for the bullpen. In my eyes, the 19-year-old has too many ingredients working in his favor for that to be the assumption. Plus, the Indians have a decent track record of developing pitching throughout their organization. FYPD Rank: 15th, Indians Rank: 5th

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113. Miguel Amaya, C, CHC. Age: 21

The most underrated catching prospect in baseball, Amaya continues to improve his stock by being an above average hitter at advanced levels for his age—all while impressing scouts and evaluators with his defensive skills behind the plate. The 21-year-old checked a lot of impressive boxes in 2019: The walk rate and isolated power increased, the strikeout rate decreased. The batting average dropped a bit, but the on base and slugging percentage remained practically the same. In all, Amaya increased his wRC+ by eight points despite facing the second toughest promotion in the minor leagues (Low-A to High-A). With the catcher allotting so much of his time to receiving, footwork and throwing mechanics, the consistent offensive performance is very impressive. So is the defense, with reports suggesting Amaya is both an above average receiver and impediment against would-be base stealers. The Southern League awaits the 21-year-old in 2020; if the Cubs eventually pull the trigger on trading Willson Contreras, it’s at least partially because Amaya is on the way. Cubs Rank: 3rd

112. Isaac Paredes, 3B, DET. Age: 21

Paredes keeps hitting at advanced levels for his age. Saddled back in the Eastern League after a 39-game taste in 2018, Paredes slashed .282/.368/.416 with 13 home runs in 127 games and 552 plate appearances. Those numbers—teamed with a 10.3 BB% and 11.1 K%–were good for a 133 wRC+. Not bad for playing in a league that’s average competition is four years older than you. Away from the plate, there are some concerns with Paredes that could lower his real life floor. I witnessed the suboptimal body firsthand at the Futures Game in Cleveland last July, though I fully believe it will hinder him more defensively than anywhere else. It’s third base only at the big league level at this stage of the 21-year-old’s career, though early deterioration of lateral mobility might cause a post-prime move across the diamond. In some ways, Paredes reminds me of Josh Naylor from third base. Tigers Rank: 5th

111. Jonathan India, 3B, CIN. Age: 23

When you look at the numbers, it’s hard to understand why India is falling out of favor of prospect writers throughout the industry. The 23-year-old slashed .259/.365/.402 with 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases (129 wRC+) in 121 games and 512 plate appearances between the Florida State and Southern leagues last season. So why the sourness? Based on live looks, the general feeling is India isn’t as explosive now as he was during his time at the University of Florida. The athleticism seems to be more functional than dynamic. The Hard% in 2019 was still above average (31.9%), but the power output upside suddenly feels closer to 20 home runs than 30. Consider that with a pull-heavy spray chart that could limit the batting average to .260 or so from third base, and the profile quickly becomes a bit lukewarm. The isolated power oddly dropped a bit from the Florida State League to the Southern League after India was promoted last season, but there’s a chance he can right the ship in a larger sample this season. Still, I get the sense the 23-year-old will be more of a Brian Anderson than an Anthony Rendon as a big league third baseman. Reds Rank: 4th

Staff writer Adam Ehrenreich recently published the hitter portion of his 2020 sleepers and breakouts.

110. Luis Campusano, C, SD. Age: 21

No catching prospect improved their stock the way Campusano did in 2019. Try to poke holes in these numbers: .325/.396/.509, 15 HR, 10.7 BB%, 11.7 K%, 33.8 Hard%, 148 wRC+. Nick it a bit for being in the hitter-friendly California League if you’d like, but those rates and Hard% at the minimum are foolproof. The 21-year-old has ascended to the point that the Padres appear to be actively shopping one of Francisco Mejia or Austin Hedges this offseason, with an obvious eye on Campusano’s eventual arrival to the big leagues. The defensive skills behind the plate aren’t spectacular, but they are adequate and an assumed improvement to the current Mejia experiment. Reports on a strong work ethic and noticeable strides defensively in 2019 also make it easy to believe Campusano might continue improving before he reaches his mid-2021 ETA. I don’t think the 21-year-old is a .300 hitter at the big league level by any stretch of the imagination, but something like .270 with 20-25 home runs and a nice OBP would make Campusano a top-8 catcher in redrafts. A continued increase in FB% (and subsequent decrease in GB%) might mean I’ve overrated the BA and underrated the power output a bit in the projection above. Padres Rank: 5th

109. Josiah Gray, SP, LAD. Age: 22

Gray is a late-blooming, athletic right-hander who popped into 2019 after—surprise, surprise—being traded from the Reds to the Dodgers in a December blockbuster. The 22-year-old leans heavily on a dynamic fastball/slider combination that served as the catalyst to a 28.5 K% (22.5 K-BB%) and 2.28 ERA (2.48 FIP) in 130.0 IP between the California League and Texas League last season. Both pitches are above average and have created a solid foundation for the right-hander. The changeup is lousy (Gray decelerates his arm and the pitch itself doesn’t have much fade) and one would think that would lead to split issues, but Gray was actually better versus left-handed hitters in 2019 than right-handed hitters. With two pitches making up 80-90% of the usage, it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of the arsenal at each level of Gray’s MiLB journey. There’s always a chance the Dodgers’ organizational depth leads to the right-hander becoming a swing man in Los Angeles, but this feels like a high-end SP4 profile. Dodgers Rank: 4th

108. Monte Harrison, OF, MIA. Age: 24

An excerpt from my Monte Harrison write-up from last preseason’s prospect list: “Recently in the Arizona Fall League, Harrison showcased a quieter swing that featured less of a leg-kick than the outfielder utilized during the 2018 regular season. The adjustment may help with the contact issues, but the real progress will come when/if Harrison better recognizes offspeed offerings.” Another season has passed, and we’re still not sure the outfielder will ever make enough contact to be an everyday player at the big league level. Harrison missed a lot of time last season with a wrist injury that required surgery, but he was a below average offensively in a hitting wonderland Pacific Coast League even when he was healthy. The longer we go, the more the 24-year-old’s statistical outlook reminds me of that of Domingo Santana. Explosive tools, droolworthy athleticism, not enough hit tool to ever fully showcase the skills at the big league level. If I’m right, Harrison will continue to show flashes of brilliance that make us believe he’s in the process of putting it all together. And with the raw tools he possesses, some will even think he might become a late-blooming star at the MLB level. We’ll continue to run back to him in the endgame of redrafts, hype articles abounding in the History of our cell phones and laptops. He’ll break our hearts time and time again. This doesn’t mean the outfielder won’t valuable as a big leaguer. With great defensive skills, he might even be a multi-win player during his peak offensive seasons. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to conjure up a path that leads to Harrison reaching his undoubted All-Star potential. Marlins Rank: 6th

107. Leody Taveras, OF, TEX. Age: 21

From a statistical sense, Taveras made undoubted positive strides last season, slashing .279/.344/.376 with 5 home runs and 32 stolen bases (71%) in 131 games and 583 plate appearances between the Carolina League. Despite the season-to-season improvement, the 21-year-old combined to only be six percent above average offensively in the leagues he played in (106 wRC+). There in lies the problem. The tools are obvious when you watch the outfielder—there’s a feel to hit, plus speed and at least average raw power. And even as Taveras continues to play against much older competition, we simply need to see the numbers pop a bit more (especially from a power standpoint, 17.5 Hard% in 2019) before we can fully buy-in to him being an above average contributor in redraft leagues. As of now, there appears to be 55-hit, 50-power, 60-run upside here. Seeing as Taveras has now been playing professionally since 2016 and has never exceeded 8 home runs in a single season, that power projection might be too aggressive. Rangers Rank: 3rd

106. Francisco Morales, SP, PHI. Age: 20

Part of me thinks Morales ranking so close to the top-100 is too aggressive. The 20-year-old has thrown 194.1 professional innings in his young career; at his three stops along the way, he’s never walked less 11.0% of the batters he’s faced. There’s also some effort in the delivery and a lack of a consistent third pitch. But I just can’t get over the stuff and the body. As a 19-year-old in full season ball, Morales struck out 30.9% of the batters he faced in 2019, often piggybacking off another pitcher to naturally limit his workload. The right-hander features a mid-90s fastball with fantastic spin and a dynamic slider that flashes as a 70 in the eyes of some scouts. The changeup is firm for now, which should probably be expected for a raw pitching prospect so early in their development. The 20-year-old currently stands 6-foot-4 and weighs ~200 pounds with a thick (thicc?) lower half. He looks like a pitcher who will someday be capable of 200 IP workloads at baseball’s highest level. Morales may always be an erratic strike-thrower, but there’s strikeout-heavy SP3 upside here if the BB% doesn’t get away from him versus advanced competition. If it never fully clicks, the fastball/slider combination will likely make Morales a closer for a first division contender. Phillies Rank: 3rd

You HAVE to check out my recently-released high-value infielders for 2020 redraft leagues. 

105. Luis Medina, SP, NYY. Age: 20

I solemnly swear there’s nothing I can write in this space that would top the 1000+ word write-up on Medina that was published in the Ramblings back in August. However, I can confirm Medina did sustain his command uptick to the end of the regular season, walking only 3 batters in 10.2 IP in the Florida State League (0.84 ERA) to put a bow on his regular season. The 20-year-old will have as much momentum as any pitching prospect coming into the 2020 season. Early season success in the FSL would likely mean Medina is a top-100 (probably top-75) prospect by midseason in my eyes. The raw stuff is some of the best (if not the best) in the minor leagues. Yankees Rank: 4th

104. Tyler Freeman, INF, CLE. Age: 20

I bumped Freeman down a bit from my 2019 end-of-season list because—after exhausting my contacts in the Carolina League—there seems to be real worry about the power projection here. And if we can’t project the 20-year-old to hit double-digit home runs someday with any amount of confidence, how valuable will he be in dynasty leagues? Freeman slashed .306/.368/.410 with 3 home runs and 19 stolen bases (79.2%) in 123 games and 547 plate appearances between Low-A and High-A last season (128 wRC+). The Hard% was a below average 20.1%, and the swing and approach are both geared towards contact over power. Freeman possesses solid but unspectacular defensive skills, but plus makeup allow scouts to believe he’ll continue improving on both sides of the diamond. The 20-year-old is a gritty player who Indians fans will enjoy rooting for, but without a swing change that unlocks more power, Freeman squarely projects as a better player in real life than in fantasy. Indians Rank: 4th

103. George Kirby, SP, SEA. Age: 22

I don’t know what to make of Kirby. He’s obviously an elite strike thrower. The command is either plus or plus plus, depending on who you ask. The pitchability is there. He tunnels his pitches well. And perhaps most importantly, he was drafted by an organization that’s already taken steps to prove their commitment in helping him reach his ceiling (Kirby’s college pitching coach was hired by the Mariners in a developmental role in October). The sum of those parts overshadows the stuff, which I’m not head-over-heels in love with. The fastball grades as plus, but it currently sits at 92-93 and tops out at 95. The slider, curveball and changeup all flash above average at times. Each of the four offerings play up thanks to Kirby’s ability to locate in any quadrant of the zone. I get the sense the 22-year-old will always be a pitcher who gets the most out of his talent. It’s a high-floor profile that also has a decent chance to exceed the moderate ceiling. As a college arm, I’d expect him to breeze thru the California League before facing his first true test in the Texas League. I think the most-likely outcome here is high-end SP4, though low or mid-tier SP3 wouldn’t shock me either. FYPD Rank: 14th, Mariners Rank: 6th

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

For me, Jimenez’s high-floor profile in real life gives him a touch of fantasy upside that’s not being discussed throughout the industry. A feel to hit, legitimate 80-grade speed, above average defense in center field and reportedly plus makeup. These tools alone probably make Jimenez a big leaguer someday. This means the ground-floor shares that are currently being gobbled up in dynasty leagues are likely to lead to a positive ROI, even if the outfielder only impacts one category in your league after debuting. The swing is currently slappy, an inside-out approach that led to the teenager posting a higher Oppo% than Pull% in the New York Penn League last season. Most evaluators who watched Jimenez in 2019 seem to think there’s more power on the way, especially if the Red Sox can make slight alterations to the swing path and trigger point without negatively impacting the on base skills. It’ll never be 20 homer power, but Jimenez should reach the double digit mark at his peak. Red Sox Rank: 4th

101. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT. Age: 23

Sigh. As he nears his MLB debut, it appears Hayes is both 1) more sum-of-the-parts than we hoped he would be, and 2) even more likely to be a better real-life player than we imagined he would be even a year ago. The third baseman was below average offensively in the International League last season, slashing .261/.334/.411 with 10 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 113 games and 492 plate appearances. The Hard% was 25.5%, a two and a half percent drop from 28.1 Hard% he posted in Altoona in 2018. Hayes missed a few weeks in June due to a fractured finger he sustained after diving for a ground ball at third base. Perhaps surprisingly, the 23-year-old improved offensively after returning, slashing .283/.335/.434 with 7 home runs and 5 stolen bases in the second half of his season. There are some late-bloomer qualities within this profile, and a change to the line of thinking in Pittsburgh certainly doesn’t figure to hurt the late stages of Hayes’ development either. But it was really disappointing to see the third baseman not unlock more of his above average raw power in the hitters’ heaven in Triple-A last season. The Gold Glove defensive skills will always give Hayes a high floor in real life, but we’re at the point that we’re beginning to need tangible reasons to keep him highly regarded on fantasy lists like this one. Pirates Rank: 3rd

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