20 American League Prospects to Watch in Spring Training: Part 1

Casey Mize. Tigertown. Lakeland, FL. Feb. 18, 2019. Photo credit Tom Hagerty/MiLB.com on Flickr (lakelandlocal)

This is a 2-part series, featuring 40 players to watch for in Spring Training that have a chance to make an impact in the majors soon. The first installment is 20 American League prospects; the follow-up will be 20 National League prospects.

The National League might lack the depth that the American League has, but there are some diamond in the rough type players that could still have a chance to garner plenty of attention this season among fantasy/dynasty leagues owners and writers, prospect and rookie card collectors, and MLB analysts. Although not all of them might make it to the majors this season, those that might seem like longer shots have a chance to possibly get there and play important roles among teams pushing for a playoff spot later on in the season.

Remember, Juan Soto debuted at 19 and it seems like players are getting to the Majors faster each and every year. These are some of the top players to keep an eye on that sites like Baseball America and MLB Pipeline have listed with an ETA for 2020. Players on this list are ones to watch during Spring Training, since they have a chance to debut this season, as well as be impactful franchise players in upcoming years.


Prospects1500 ranks are from our Overall Top 172 that was published this past October. Our new overall 150+ rankings will be out later in February/early March and many of these players’ rankings could very well change.

#1 Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays

Signed by the Tampa Bay Rays out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, Wander Samuel Franco comes from a baseball family: his uncle is former major league shortstop Erick Aybar, and he has 2 older brothers also named Wander Franco. When Franco signed, he was considered the top player in his International class. So far he has lived up to that and even more.In 2018 he made his pro debut in the Rookie Advanced Appalachian League and absolutely destroyed the competition despite being the youngest player in a college heavy short season league. He won the Appalachian League Player of the Year award and was considered the top prospect in the Appalachian League according to Baseball America at the age of 17. In 2019, he played in his first full season and showed scouts and evaluators why he is the top prospect in the minors across two levels while being considered the top prospect in both the Low-A Midwest League and the High-A Florida State League. Franco is the unanimous #1 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America and MLB Pipeline.

Age
: 19 Size: 5’10”, 189 Bats: S Throws: R ETA: 2020

Hitting
: Franco is perhaps one of the most amazing and impressive young hitters scouts have ever seen. He’s received 80 grades for his hit tool, which means that in his prime he’s the type of hitter that scouts feel could win a few batting titles. One of the things  that stands out the most about the young hitter is that he rarely strikes out: he was the only player in the minors with 100 games played to have more than 50 walks and less than 40 strikeouts. He has an incredible eye, while also being able to consistently make hard contact from both sides of the plate with power to all fields. He’s also physically gifted and incredibly strong and athletic. Scouts consider him an above average runner. 

Fielding: One knock on Franco is the possibility he will not be able to stick at shortstop long term. With his strong arm, he could be a third baseman like his two brothers; however, some scouts do believe he will make it as a shortstop.From what I’ve seen he’s still very capable of being an above average defender at shortstop thanks to his good hands and strong arm, and he’s move well enough to play the position at the moment. Either way, wherever he plays, he has a chance to be an above average or better defender.

2020 and Beyond: Franco might get a nice long look in spring training but will more than likely start the season at AA with a chance to make it to the majors by the end of the season. Especially if the Rays are contending and he is playing at the same level he has so far. He is an incredibly rare talent that has the mindset and intangibles to succeed wherever he plays, and he is an incredible competitor and excellent teammate that wants to win. He has a chance to have a similar impact offensively to that of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. but at a premium position. He should rank as a leader in multiple offensive categories with a chance to win a few MVP’s and/or batting titles in his prime. Incredible, generational type talent.

Prospects1500 #1/Baseball America #1/MLB #1


Hit Streak:
12 (4/13-4/26), 18-45 (.400), with 5 doubles, a triple and 3 home runs 
Best Game: 4/25/19 vs. Lansing, 3-4, with 2 home runs and 3 RBI 

Splits: vs. RH: .336/.404/.517 vs. LH: .293/.375/.380 Fielding%: .968


#2
Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox

Signed by the Chicago White Sox out of Cuba in 2017, Luis Robert was considered to be one of the best, if not the best, international player at the time he signed with the White Sox. In 2018, his first full season playing stateside with the White Sox, Robert struggled with health issues but started to gain some more momentum as a prospect in the Arizona Fall League in 2018.

In 2019 however, Robert was fully healthy and able to show why he was one of the best players in the minors. He advanced from High-A to AAA while hitting 32 home runs and stealing 36 bases. Most scouts and evaluators felt he was one of the best prospects they’d seen in 2019, and that he had the talent to make it to the majors. The White Sox, though, decided to handle Robert similarly to how they handled Eloy Jimenez service time the year before.

I had heard from one pro scout this past summer that Robert was the best prospect he’d seen in about 5-7 years. He also impressed other scouts and evaluators enough in the upper minors to rank as one of the best prospects in the AA Southern League. He was also the top prospect in the AAA International League according to Baseball America. He is the 2nd best prospect in the American League behind Wander Franco according to MLB Pipeline and is my #1 outfielder and the number one prospect in the minors not named Wander Franco.

Age
: 22 Size: 6’3”, 185 Bats: R Throws: R ETA: 2020

Hitting
: Robert has been considered to be an 80 grade athlete with a chance to have plus tools across the board. He’s more of an athlete with incredible raw power. He will need to improve on recognizing breaking balls better and perhaps be more selective at the plate to improve his hit tool but scouts and evaluators feel he has the ability to develop into an above average to plus hitter in time. He has plus power that started turning into more in game power during the 2019 season. He is a plus to double plus runner whose speed plays up on the bases.

Fielding: Robert has a chance to eventually be a plus defender in centerfield, thanks to his plus or better speed to go along with a plus arm. There are still some minor concerns about his defense as he’s still working to improve his reads and jumps, but he looks like he will be a solid or better center fielder in time.

2020 and Beyond: Robert has an excellent chance to make it to the majors early on in the season, but might start the season off at AAA. Robert has all the talent and skills to be a future All-Star and could be a potential 30 homer, 30 stolen base player at the major league level with a chance to be a plus defender in centerfield. Is he the piece to help turn this young up and coming White Sox lineup into a playoff contender? We will you soon find out but I think there is a good chance he might be a future MVP candidate at some point if he can continue  to improve as a hitter and prove his durability over a full season. Special talent that could rank as high as #1 or #2 in some people’s minds and should be able to put up good offensive numbers with the White Sox for quite some time, as a true 5 plus or better Tools player he could be a star for quite some time. Definitely a player that could be worth watching on a nightly basis for quite some time.

Prospects1500 #3/Baseball America #2/MLB #3


Hit Streak:
14 (5/22-6/4), 28-64 (.438), with 7 doubles, 2 triples and a home run

Best Game: 4/29/19 vs. Potomac, 4-5, with a triple, a home run and 3 RBI 

Splits: vs. RH: .315/.372/.580 vs. LH: .356/.386/.719 Fielding%: .961

#3 Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 

2017 1st Round Draft Pick of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim selected with the 10th overall pick out of Ballard HS (KY). In 2017 as an amateur Jo Adell led all high school hitters in home runs (25) and was named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year for Kentucky. In retrospect Jo Adell should have gone higher than 10th overall but at the time there were some scouts and evaluators that questioned his ability to hit at the pro level as some had felt he benefited from playing against competition in Kentucky and would take some time in getting used to hitting as a professional, but Adell proved he was ready and took off in the minors making it to AA at age 19 in his first full season. Since signing as a professional Adell has impressed scouts and evaluators enough to be ranked as the top position prospect at every level he’s qualified for (2017- Arizona League (R), Pioneer League (R+), 2018- California League (A+), 2019- Southern League (AA) according to Baseball America and he is the Angels #1 prospect.

Age: 20 Size: 6’3”, 215 Bats: R Throws: R ETA: 2020

Hitting: Adell has always been blessed with incredible bat speed which has given him some of the best raw power in the minors. He’s still learning to make adjustments as a hitter and has shown improved plate discipline and will need to continue to do so in order to reach his potential as a future above average or better hitter. He has plus power that could develop into double plus as he continues to get even stronger. Adell is also a plus runner but isn’t considered to be a stolen base threat and might lose some speed as his body continues to mature.

Fielding: Adell has the ability to be a plus or better defender as he has plus speed that has allowed him to cover plenty of ground in center field although he will more than likely move over to right field at the major league level. Adell has a plus arm that will allow him to make a good transition to right field in the majors. 

2020 and Beyond: Adell should get a nice long look in spring training with an excellent chance to be up in the majors as soon as perhaps mid-April as he has easily been one of the most major league ready prospects and might have had a chance to make it to the majors already if the Angels had been contending last year. He shows all 5 tools which all have a chance to be at least above average if not plus and he profiles well anywhere near the top to the middle of the Angels lineup. It’s been impressive how quickly Adell has made the transition to pro baseball and he has a great chance to impress at the major league level despite being one of the youngest players in the league. He also has a great chance to be one of the top young power hitters in the game in the near future.

Prospects1500 #2/ Baseball America #4/MLB #6

Hit Streak: 6 (6/4-6/11), 10-21 (.476), with 5 doubles and a home run. 

Best Game: 6/21/19 vs. Jackson, 3-4, with a home run and 2 RBI 

Splits: vs. RH: .286/.351/.486 vs. LH: .294/.378/.447 Fielding%: .957

 

#4 Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays 

2017 1st Round Draft Pick of the Toronto Blue Jays selected with the 28th overall pick out of the Junior College of Central Florida. From 2017-18 Pearson spent most of the time either in short season leagues or on the DL in 2018 due to a fractured right forearm that resulted from a line drive, but in the Arizona Fall League while making up for lost time during the season, he was able to impress, perhaps foreshadowing an impressive 2019 season that saw him shoot up the prospect rankings.

In fact in 2019 he began the season in the High-A Florida State League but was able to make it all the way to AAA while impressing scouts and evaluators enough to rank as the #1 prospect in the Eastern League (which had its share of impressive pitching prospects) by Baseball America. He is the Toronto Blue Jays #1 Prospect and the #1 Right Handed Pitching Prospect according to Baseball America.

Age: 23 Size: 6’6”, 245 ETA: 2020

Stuff: A 4 pitch pitcher with a chance to have 2 plus pitches and 3 above average or better pitches. His best pitch is his double plus fastball that sits in the upper 90s and has been able to touch 103 or 104 depending on the radar gun. His best secondary pitch is his plus slider that sits in the upper 80s. Pearson also mixes in a changeup that could be a third above average pitch, and he has shown a curveball that he’s mixed in more in the past. He primarily has dominated off his incredible fastball and slider. His command and control is still somewhat of a question at times but has improved over time leading some scouts and evaluators to believe it could be better than average in time. He will still need to prove his durability but he has front of the rotation caliber ability if everything comes together for him. 

2020 and Beyond: Pearson should get a nice long look in spring training as he has a  chance to make it to the majors by the end of the season but he will more than likely start the season at AAA. Pearson has front of the rotation or better stuff but will need to continue to prove he’s durable enough to handle a full time starters workload. He will be one of the most talked about pitchers as he is the hardest throwing pitcher in professional baseball, and if he can put it all together he could be the best homegrown pitcher for the Blue Jays since Roy Halladay.

Prospects1500 #14/ Baseball America #7/MLB #8

Best Game: 4/25/19 @ Jupiter, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10 K, 1 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .193 vs. LH: .154 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 8

#5 Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Oakland Athletics

2016 3rd Round Draft Pick of the Washington Nationals. In 2017 Luzardo was traded from the Nationals to the Athletics as part of a trade that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from Oakland to Washington. Luzardo didn’t make his full season debut until 2018 due to him having to recover from Tommy John surgery he had his senior year of high school but he made up for lost time quickly. Unlike most high school pitchers that would typically start their first full season at Low-A, Luzardo began the season at High-A and was so impressive that it took him only 3 starts at High-A to get promoted to AA where he spent most of the season at in 2018 as a 20 year old. He ended the season at AAA and was the starting pitcher for the World Team at the Futures Game in 2018 where he continued to impress. In 2019 it seemed like Luzardo would have a chance to make it to the majors early on as he was impressive in spring training but he started the season on the DL and didn’t pitch until June where he impressed but ended up missing most of July due to injuries once again. Luzardo returned in August and stayed healthy the rest of the season and was able to make it to the majors in September

Age: 22 Size: 6’0”, 209 ETA: Debuted 2019

Stuff: A 3 pitch pitcher with a chance to have 3 plus or better pitches. His best pitch is his plus or better fastball that sits in the mid 90s and has topped out at 98 mph. He compliments his fastball by using a plus changeup to mix speeds and keep hitters off balance. He also uses a curveball that’s an above average or better pitch. He has excellent command of all 3 pitches and scouts and evaluators believe he will develop plus or better control as he continues to improve.

2020 and Beyond: I believe if he can stay healthy and continue to develop he has a chance to be the top rookie pitcher as he’s playing for a contender in the AL West giving him a chance to have a solid number of wins. I believe he should be able to make it to the majors out of spring training as he’s an incredibly polished pitcher that made it to the majors with less than 200 innings pitched in the minors. He still has plenty of upside as he’s been dominant despite battling injuries and playing against older competition. Luzardo has #1 starter ability but will need to stay healthy in order to reach his full potential.

Prospects1500 #11/ Baseball America #9/MLB #12

Best Game: 8/30/19 vs. Tacoma, 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 10 K, 0 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .229 vs. LH: .115 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 1

#6 Casey Mize, RHP, Detroit Tigers 

2018 1st Round Draft Pick of the Detroit Tigers selected with the 1st overall pick out of Auburn.

Originally undrafted out of high school, Mize worked hard and improved his game to the point that he was the top pick in the country and the highest drafted player ever out of Auburn. In his first full season in 2019 he impressed early on in the High-A Florida State League earning a promotion to AA after only 6 starts. In his AA debut he pitched a no-hitter while keeping his pitch count under 100 demonstrating his ability to execute and dominate. In June, Mize suffered shoulder fatigue after pitching a career high number of innings in 2018, but he was able to return in mid July albeit with mixed results. Mize impressed scouts and evaluators enough to rank as one of the best prospects in the Eastern League according to Baseball America. He is the Detroit Tigers #1 Prospect. and the #1 Ranked Pitching Prospect according to MLB Pipeline. 

Age: 22 Size: 6’3”, 220 ETA: 2020

Stuff: A 4 pitch pitcher with the chance to have 4 plus pitches. His best pitch is his splitter that scouts and evaluators feel has the chance to develop into a double plus pitch, it currently sits in the mid 80s. He also uses a plus fastball that sits in the mid to upper 90s with movement that he has good command of. He also uses a cutter and a slider that could develop into plus pitches but are better than average pitches right now. He projects to have above average to plus command and control in time. He’s  an excellent student of the game that’s willing to work hard to be the best he can be, excellent off the charts makeup. Hard worker.

2020 and Beyond: Mize will more than likely start the season at AAA with a chance to make it to the majors perhaps by midseason. His biggest challenge will be proving his durability and that he can handle the workload of a starting pitcher. He has the stuff to be a #1 starting pitcher and is in my opinion the top right handed pitching prospect in baseball.

Prospects1500 #7/ Baseball America #13/MLB #7

Best Game: 4/29/19 @ Altoona, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 7 K, 1 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .201 vs. LH: .204 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 8

#7 Brendan McKay, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays 

2017 1st Round Draft Pick of the Tampa Bay Rays selected with the 4th overall pick out of Louisville. In 2017 Brendan won the John Olerud award for the top 2-way player in college and the Rays gave him the opportunity to play both ways as a professional. At the time of the draft it seemed as if McKay might be a better hitter than a pitcher but that view has changed during his time as a pro. In fact in 2019 his pitching was so far advanced that it helped him make it to the majors and he showed plenty of promise upon his arrival. The Rays have still given him a few opportunities to hit but it seems like his pitching is much farther ahead then his bat and it might just be a matter of time before he becomes a full time pitcher.

Age: 24 Size: 6’2”, 212 ETA: Debuted 2019

Stuff: A 4 pitch pitcher with a chance to have 4 above average or better pitches, 2 of which are already plus pitches. His 2 best pitches are his plus fastball that sits about 92-95 mph, and his plus cutter, he has plus or better command of both pitches and he’s an excellent competitor. He’s still working on continuing to improve his curveball that sits in the low 80s, and his changeup. He’s not overpowering but is able to get outs due to his excellent command and his ability to consistently compete.

2020 and Beyond: McKay should get a chance to make it with the Tampa Bay Rays out of spring training. Although he might not be overpowering he’s an excellent competitor with plus command which should allow him to get plenty of wins while pitching for the Rays. He profiles as a mid-rotation starter that could make a difference with the bat if he continues to improve as a hitter. It only took him 9 at bats to hit a HR and he’s an incredible talent that I feel is an ultra competitor and with a good work ethic. Although his rookie season stats weren’t great overall, it’s often times a challenge pitching in the AL East as a rookie and he was able to hold his own posting a 3.08 ERA vs. the AL East. He will be one of the most intriguing rookies to watch this season.

Prospects1500 #21/ Baseball America #14/MLB #15

Best Game: 5/22/19 vs. Jackson, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 9 K, 1 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .210 vs. LH: .211 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 8

#8 Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros 

2016 1st Round Draft Pick of the Houston Astros selected with the 17th overall pick out of Alamo Heights HS (TX). In 2017 Forrest Whitley shot up prospect lists as he was one of only a handful of high school pitchers to make it all the way from Low-A to AA in their first full season. In 2018 Forrest Whitley started the season late due to having to serve a 50-game suspension for violating the MiLB drug policy but by the end of the season he had impressed in the Arizona Fall League and was considered to have a great chance  of making it to the Astros in 2019. In spring training of 2019 Whitley was impressive but missed time due to injuries and when he came back during the season struggled with his delivery which led to command and control issues. He made up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League and was once again one of the most impressive pitchers in the AFL. 

Age: 22 Size: 6’7”, 195 ETA: 2020

Stuff: A 4 pitch pitcher with a chance to have 4 plus or better pitches. His best pitch is his fastball that projects to be a double plus pitch, it sits in the 93-98 mph range with plenty of life. He compliments his fastball by using a changeup to mix speeds to help keeps hitters off balance. His changeup is considered his best offspeed pitch and it’s shown glimpses of being a plus or better pitch. He also will mix in a 12-6 curveball and a power slider, both are above average to plus pitches. As a tall young pitchers he’s had issues with consistency in his delivery which has led to issues with his command and control and during the season in 2019 his stuff tended to fluctuate from start to start as a result.

2020 and Beyond: Whitley will get another long look in spring training with a chance to impress but will more than likely start the season at AAA with a chance to make it to the majors later on in the season. Although he’s had issues with command his talent and ability is somewhat reminiscent of pitchers like Randy Johnson and Max Scherzer when they were young as they too had command  and control issues early on in their young careers, and fortunately for Whitley he’s farther along then they were at the same age but he will have to improve his command and consistency to reach that level of success but he has the talent to do so if all can come together at some point.

Prospects1500 #15/ Baseball America #25/MLB #19

Best Game: 7/30/19 @ Wilmington, 5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 9 K, 0 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .313 vs. LH: .181 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 2

#9 Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox 

2014 1st Round Draft Pick of the Boston Red Sox selected with the 33rd overall pick out of Mount Pleasant HS (TX). In December of 2016 both Kopech and Yoan Moncada were part of a deal that sent Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox to the Boston Red Sox. As a prospect in the White Sox organization Kopech quickly became the top pitching prospect in their organization and impressed enough in 2018 to earn a spot on the major league roster. 

As a major leaguer he impressed through his first 3 starts but in his 4th career start he sustained an injury to his elbow which required surgery which cost him all of 2019.

Age: 23 Size: 6’3”, 205 ETA: Debuted 2018

Stuff: A 4 pitch pitcher with a chance to have 2 plus or better pitches and 4 above average pitches. His best pitch is his double plus fastball that sits in the upper 90s and often times will touch triple digits. His best secondary pitch is his plus slider which is an absolute wipeout pitch when he’s on. He also uses a changeup and a curveball to help keep hitters off balance. He’s always battled with control issues throughout his career but in 2018 he showed improvement.

2020 and Beyond: Kopech will more than likely start the season at the major league level. 2020 will be a challenging year for Kopech, he will have to prove he’s healthy as well as continue to show the improvements he made with his control prior to the injury in addition to learning how to pitch in the majors. Kopech has the talent to be a future front of the rotation starter at the major league level if he can stay healthy, regain his stuff, and continue to improve his control.

Prospects1500 #25/ Baseball America #33/MLB #20

#10 Royce Lewis, SS/3B, Minnesota Twins 

2017 1st Round Draft Pick of the Minnesota Twins selected with the 1st overall pick out of JSerra Catholic HS (CA). The first overall pick in his class, Lewis has had to face a lot of pressure that comes with the territory of being the top pick and he’s handled it well up until last season which saw him go through a tremendous progression with his swing, but this season he will need to prove he can keep his swing consistent and make the necessary adjustments. I mean he has been the top prospect in his league every year leading up to 2019 according to Baseball America but in his return to the Florida State League Royce struggled and simply wasn’t himself for the majority of the 2019 season (.211 Avg against right handers for the season, with a majority of it coming at High-A). He did however manage to make it up to AA and showed he could handle the tougher assignment but he still hadn’t done anything Royce Lewis like yet. That was until he broke out in the Arizona Fall League where he impressed scouts and evaluators with his ability to play multiple defensive positions with above average or better defense while showcasing his above average offensive ability. He went on to win both the Arizona Fall Stars MVP and the Arizona Fall League MVP award while helping Salt River win the Arizona Fall League Championship, ending his 2019 season on a high note.

Age: 20 Size: 6’2”, 200 Bats: R Throws: R ETA: 2020

Hitting: In the early part of the 2019 season scouts and evaluators saw a player that was tinkering too much with his swing while at times trying to sell out for power but he slowly continued to improve as the season went on and there are still some that question his hit tool and he still has a lot to prove at the upper levels of the minors across a full season. For evaluators that saw Lewis in the Arizona Fall League he makes hard contact and his power really started to show up more in the Arizona Fall League. If he can keep his swing more consistent with what it was this past Fall, he still should develop into an above average hitter that might over time become plus thanks to his excellent bat speed and plus to double plus speed

Fielding: Lewis is extremely athletic, and quick with good range and speed to go along with an above average or better arm that can make all the plays, but he might have more value as a super utility player that’s capable of playing all over the diamond. There are some that still question whether or not he will play shortstop long term but he has shown incredible defensive versatility which has allowed him to play multiple defensive positions where it looks as if he could profile as a plus defender at either second base, third base, or centerfield. He played 21 errorless games in the Arizona Fall League at third base, second base, and centerfield without recording an error.  

2020 and Beyond: Lewis should have plenty of time to make an impression with the Twins in spring training and depending on how major league ready they feel he is could start him in either AAA or AA where he would still have a chance to reach the majors and possibly contribute  if he’s able to perform at a level similar to what he showed in the Arizona Fall League. With his plus defensive skills and power/speed combination he has a chance to be a future star.

Prospects1500 #6/ Baseball America #26/MLB #9

Hit Streak: 8 (8/8-8/17), 11-33 (.333), with 2 doubles and a home run

Best Game: 8/23/19 vs. Jackson, 3-4, with 3 doubles and an RBI

Splits: vs. RH: .211/.271/.331 vs. LH: .315/.351/.500 Fielding%: .952

#11 Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF, Minnesota Twins 

2016 First Round Draft Pick of the Minnesota Twins selected with the 15th overall pick out of Plum HS (PA). One of the top pure hitters in his draft class, he began his career in the rookie advanced Appalachian League and looked like an incredibly polished hitter as he was able to win the league’s MVP award against older college age competition. Near the end of his season in 2016, he missed time due to inflammation in his elbow. The inflammation in his elbow required Kirilloff to get Tommy John surgery and he missed all of the 2017 season. In 2018, however he was fully healthy and able to bounce back in a big way making it from Low-A to High-A before the end of the season, along the way he impressed plenty of scouts and evaluators as one of the best prospects in both the Midwest and Florida State League. Early on in 2019 Kirilloff missed the entire month of April due to a wrist injury and wasn’t quite himself for most of the early part of the season but started to get back to being himself near the end of the season where he homered in 4 straight playoff games.

Age: 22 Size: 6’2”, 195 Bats: L Throws: L ETA: 2020

Hitting: A plus to double plus hitter, Kirilloff is easily one of the best hitters in the minor leagues when healthy. He consistently hits the ball hard with power to all fields and is thought to have plus power which he can tap into more easily when healthy as he demonstrated in 4 straight  Southern League Playoff Games. There’s a reason why he’s considered one of the best pure hitters in the minors. Although he might be an average runner that moves better once he gets going there’s a chance he will probably lose more speed as he gets older.

Fielding: Although Kirilloff has a strong arm and is capable of playing either corner outfield position, he split time at first base which could be a future home for him if he loses some range/speed as he gets older. For now I think he’s capable enough to stick in the outfield.

2020 and Beyond: Kirilloff should be able to show off his excellent offensive ability throughout spring training with a chance to possibly be up in the majors early on in the season but will more than likely start the season at AAA. When Kirilloff is healthy he’s one of the best hitters in the minors and looks to be a future lefty power hitter that profiles well in the middle of a major league lineup.

Prospects1500 #12/ Baseball America #31/MLB #32

Hit Streak: 9 (8/17-8/25), 15-37 (.405), with 2 doubles and a home run

Best Game: 6/1/19 vs. Mississippi, 3-3, with a double, a home run and 2 RBI’s

Splits: vs. RH: .302/.363/.452 vs. LH: .244/.301/.333 Fielding%: .973

 

#12 Matt Manning, RHP, Detroit  Tigers 

2016 1st Round Draft Pick of the Detroit Tigers selected with the 9th overall pick out of Sheldon HS (CA). The son of a former NBA player (Rich Manning), Matt was a 2-sport star in high school and was considered more of a raw athlete that would take time to develop. Matt’s hard work started to pay off in 2018 when he led all Detroit Tigers minor leaguers in strikeouts. He continued to impress scouts in 2019 as well, where he ranked among the Eastern League (AA) leaders in ERA, strikeouts, and innings pitched. He was considered a top 5 prospect in the Eastern League for 2019 by Baseball America. He was named the Detroit Tigers minor league pitcher of the year.

Age: 22 Size: 6’6”, 215 ETA: 2020

Stuff: A 3 pitch pitcher with a chance to have 3 above average pitches, 2 of which earn plus grades. His fastball is plus or better pitch that sits in the mid 90s, and his best secondary pitch is his curveball that also looks to be a plus pitch. He’s continued to show improvement with his changeup which has the makings of an above average pitch. Manning has shown improvement in both the command and control of his pitches and looks like he could have above average control in the future.

2020 and Beyond: Manning has a ton of potential as he’s shown the ability to continue to improve every year while facing more advanced competition. He will more than likely start the season in AAA with a chance to make it to the majors before the end of the season. He profiles as a mid-rotation starter with upside.

Prospects1500 #19/Baseball America #18/MLB #27

Best Game: 4/10/19 vs. Altoona, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 10 K, 0 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .168 vs. LH: .217 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 7

#13 Sean Murphy, C, Oakland Athletics 

2016 3rd Round Draft Pick of the Oakland Athletics. Sean Murphy has always been considered one of the top defensive catchers in the minors despite battling injuries throughout his career, and in 2019 he made his major  league debut. He was among the 10 best prospects in the Pacific Coast League according to Baseball America.

Age: 25 Size: 6’3”, 232 Bats: R Throws: R ETA: Debuted 2019

Hitting: Murphy is a defense first catcher but he still has shown some upside as a hitter. Murphy has above average power and a good knowledge of the strike zone. Scouts grade his tool as slightly better than average but they believe he has the ability to hit 20 home runs.

Fielding: An elite defensive catcher with one of the best arms behind the plate in all of baseball. He’s a good blocker and receiver. He also does a really good job of working with pitchers and calling pitches.

2020 and Beyond: Murphy is an excellent defensive catcher with the chance to be an everyday starter as soon as 2020. If Murphy can prove he can hit for both power and average, he has the talent to turn into an All-Star caliber catcher.

Prospects1500 #70/Baseball America #41/MLB #33

Hit Streak: 7 (4/16-4/25), 10-29 (.345), with 5 doubles

Best Game: 7/26/19 @ El Paso, 3-5, with 3 home runs and 6 RBI

Splits: vs. RH: .301/.388/.664 vs. LH: .228/.328/.351 Fielding%: .994

#14 A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics 

2016 1st Round Draft Pick of the Oakland Athletics selected with the 6th overall pick out of the University of Florida. As an amateur there were thoughts that Puk might be the top player in his draft class but fell due to a lack of consistency with his command and control. In his first full season in 2017 he made it up to AA but missed all of 2018 due to an injury that required Tommy John surgery. In 2019 he finally returned to game action around mid June and had impressed enough to receive a call up to the majors before the end of August. 

Age: 24 Size: 6’7”, 238 ETA: Debuted 2019

Stuff: A 4 pitch pitcher with a chance to have 4 above average or better pitches. His best pitch is his double plus fastball that sits in the mid to upper 90s with good movement. His best secondary pitch is his double plus slider which is a true strikeout pitch. He will mix in a changeup that has continued to show improvement as well as a curveball that’s more of a show me pitch which helps him to keep hitters off balance. He’s struggled with command and control in the past but showed improvement in 2019.

2020 and Beyond: Puk should get a chance to start the season off with the Oakland Athletics at the major league level as a starting pitcher. He has the ability to be a front of the rotation starter if his command and control continue to improve, or he could use his two double plus pitches in his fastball and slider out of the bullpen as a lefty power pitcher which Oakland did during his time in the majors in 2019.

Prospects1500 #34/Baseball America #21/MLB #60

Best Game: 7/16/19 @ Arkansas, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 4 K, 0 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .211 vs. LH: .275 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 0

#15 Nick Madrigal, 2B, Chicago White Sox 

2018 1st Round Draft Pick of the Chicago White Sox selected with the 4th overall  pick out of Oregon State University. While at Oregon State Nick Madrigal made a name for himself winning  the Pac-12 player of the year award in 2017 as a sophomore and in 2018 he helped OSU to win the College World Series Championship in 2018. In his first full season he made it all the way from High-A up to AAA while impressing scouts and evaluators enough in the Carolina League to finish as a top 5 prospect in the league according to Baseball America. 

Age: 23 Size: 5’7”, 190 Bats: R Throws: R ETA: 2020

Hitting: Madrigal simply does not strike out, he struck out a total of 16 times in 473 at bats across three levels. He makes good adjustments and is an excellent contact hitter that is a plus or better hitter, although he doesn’t have much power it still improved. He has on base skills as he’s a plus runner that stole 35 bases this past season. He profiles best as a lead off hitter that’s capable of making pitchers work while having the speed to make a difference once he’s on base.

Fielding: Madrigal is a plus defender at second base with good hands and good range thanks to his plus speed, although his arm is just average it plays well at second base. 

2020 and Beyond: Without much left to prove in the minors Madrigal should start the season at AAA for a few weeks before being called up to the majors at some point before May. He has the skills to profile well as a lead off hitter on a what should be a nice young lineup in the near future.

Prospects1500 #39/Baseball America #48/MLB #40

Hit Streak: 16 (6/22-7/12), 25-64 (.391), with 3 doubles and a triple

Best Game: 9/2/19 @ Norfolk, 5-5, with 2 RBI

Splits: vs. RH: .325/.395/.407 vs. LH: .278/.338/.431 Fielding%: .992

#16 Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners

2017 1st Round Draft Pick of the Seattle Mariners selected with the 17th overall pick out of the University of Kentucky. Evan White went undrafted originally out of high school but went on to hit .356 over his career at Kentucky while earning 2nd Team All-American Honors. As a pro White has continued to produce hitting over. 290 at every full season level while displaying excellent defensive skills. The Seattle Mariners restructured his contract during the off-season and are looking at him to make a big impact in the near future.

Age: 23 Size: 6’3”, 205 Bats: R Throws: L ETA: 2020

Hitting: White is an above average hitter with good plate discipline and knowledge of the strike zone which allows him to generate plenty of walks. He’s started to show an increase in power every year since being drafted, and in 2019 he set a career high in home runs while playing in AA, despite having fewer at bats than the year before and at a higher level. He’s also an above average runner although it hasn’t translated into stolen bases.

Fielding: White is an elite defender at first base, one that scouts feel has a chance to win a gold glove someday. He also has a strong arm that would allow him to play well anywhere in the outfield if Seattle ever needed him to.

2020 and Beyond: White continues to improve displaying more power than when he originally was drafted while continuing to showcase his elite defense at first base. He will more than likely start the season at AAA with a chance to make it to the majors by the end of the season.

Prospects1500 #75/Baseball America #54/MLB #56

Hit Streak: 23 (5/24-6/27), 37-99 (.374), with 2 doubles, 2 triples, and 7 home runs

Best Game: 8/9/19 @ Springfield, 3-4, with 2 home runs and 5 RBI

Splits: vs. RH: .288/.350/.485 vs. LH: .318/.352/.500 Fielding%: .993

#17 Tarik Skubal, LHP, Detroit Tigers 

2018 9th Round Draft Pick of the Detroit Tigers selected with the 255th overall pick out of the University of Seattle. Skubal is one of the lowest drafted players on the top 100 but he definitely deserves to be here as after one full season he made it to AA. He posted a 2.13 ERA while posting a ridiculous 17.4 K/9 across 40+ innings while at AA helping to make a name for himself while making it that much closer to earning a call up in the near future. He impressed while in the Florida State League on his way to becoming a top 5 prospect in the league according to Baseball America.

Age: 23 Size: 6’3”, 215 ETA: 2020

Stuff: A four pitch pitcher with a chance to have 3 to 4 above average pitches. His best pitch is his mid 90s fastball that grades as a plus pitch and has topped out at 97 mph. His best secondary pitch is his curveball which sits in the mid 80s which generates plenty of strikeouts and grades as an above average pitch, he also throws a tight slider that grades as above average. His fourth offering is his changeup which is a work in progress but shows promise and could develop into a fringe-average or better pitch. He should develop above average control in time.

2020 and Beyond: Skubal should start the season at AAA after having dominated at the AA level. If he continues to dominate at the AAA level he has a good chance to make it to the majors and be part of an exciting young rotation that should feature Casey Mize and Matt Manning in the near future.

Prospects1500 #78/Baseball America #34/MLB #46

Best Game: 7/19/19 @ Richmond, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 13 K, 1 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .180 vs. LH: .233 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 8

#18 Logan Gilbert, RHP, Seattle Mariners 

2018 1st Round Draft Pick of the Seattle Mariners selected with the 14th overall pick out of  Stetson. In 2019 Gilbert made his professional debut in Low-A and dominated earning promotions up to AA in his first full season while posting a 2.25 ERA across 3 levels. He pitched well enough in the California League to be considered a top 10 prospect and was also named a top 5 prospect in the Texas League by Baseball America.

Age: 22 Size: 6’6”, 225 ETA: 2020

Stuff: A 4 pitch pitcher with a chance to have 4 above average or better pitches. His best pitch is his fastball that grades as a plus or better pitch that generally sits in the low to mid 90s. All 3 of his secondary pitches grade as least average or better with his best secondary pitch being his slider that could develop into a plus pitch to go along with a changeup and curveball that could develop into above average or better pitches in time. He has above average control that could also improve in time.

2020 and Beyond: Gilbert will probably start the season in AAA with a chance to make it to the majors at some point in 2020. He has the talent to develop into a front of the rotation starting pitcher in the near future.

Prospects1500 #53/Baseball America #59/MLB 38

Best Game: 5/19/19 @ Rancho Cucamonga, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 11 K, 0 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .206 vs. LH: .187 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 9

#19 Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Boston Red Sox 

Signed by the Minnesota Twins out of Venezuela in 2014, and was traded to the Boston Red Sox as part of the 3-team trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers and Kenta Maeda to the Minnesota Twins. After signing with the Twins Graterol didn’t play stateside until 2017, due to missing time while recovering from Tommy John surgery but was able to make a name for himself in short season ball after gaining a ton of muscle and velocity going from pitching at 87-88 mph before Tommy John to then sitting comfortably in 95-98 mph range with the ability to touch triple digits. In 2018 he played in his first full season league at Low-A and pitched well enough to earn a midseason promotion to High-A where he continued to impress. In 2019 he started at AA and pitched well enough to earn a call up to the majors in September. He is currently the top pitching prospect of the Boston Red Sox.

Age: 21 Size: 6’1”, 265 ETA: Debuted 2019

Stuff: Primarily a 3 pitch pitcher he has a chance to have 2 double plus pitches. His best pitch is his double plus fastball that sits in the upper 90s and has topped out at 102 mph. His best secondary pitch is his hard breaking slider that projects as yet another double plus pitch which he throws in the upper 80s. He also uses a changeup that shows flashes of being an average third pitch and he’s also used a curveball in the past. He’s had some durability issues throughout his career and went from being a starting pitcher in the start of 2019 to being used primarily out of the bullpen from August on. He shows the potential to have above average or better control as he develops more.

2020 and Beyond: While its still yet to be determined what Graterol’s role will be at the start of the season as the Red Sox might want to turn him into a starting pitcher. although that is questionable with reports his physical may be holding up the official announcements of this trade. With Minnesota it seemed like his role would have been out of the bullpen and there’s a chance he could still end up in the bullpen as a potential closer with the Red Sox. He owns front of the rotation stuff but has had durability concerns throughout his young career, there is tons of talent with this exciting young arm but he will need to prove he can stay healthy.

Prospects1500 #59/Baseball America #60/MLB #83

Best Game: 4/16/19 @ Biloxi, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 8 K, 1 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .149 vs. LH: .255 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 4

#20 Deivi Garcia, RHP, New York Yankees 

Signed by the New York Yankees out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. In 2018 Garcia made his full season debut and dominated making it all the way from Low-A to AA at the age of 19. In 2019 Deivi continued to impress with his poise and polish and there were thoughts that he might debut with the Yankees at some point. He impressed while at the Futures Game and was considered a top 5 prospect in the Eastern League according to Baseball America. 

Age: 20 Size: 5’9”, 163 ETA: 2020

Stuff: A 4 pitch pitcher with the chance to have 3 above average or better pitches. His best pitch is his curveball as he’s not afraid to use it in any count and it’s a plus or better pitch that he commands well. He also uses a plus fastball that sits in the mid 90s with good movement and his slider looks like a third plus pitch. His changeup is a work in progress but he has plenty of quality breaking balls to help keep hitters off balance. He has above average or better control but there are still some questions as to where his future is long term.

2020 and Beyond: Garcia should start the season at AAA with a chance to make it to the majors possibly before the All-Star break if he has a good spring training and performs well to start the season. Whether he’s durable enough to handle the workload of a starting pitcher is yet to be determined and will definitely be worth keeping an eye on. There is some thought that he might be used out of the bullpen primarily at some point and possibly take over the hole left by the departure of Dellin Betances this off-season, and maybe get a spot start here or there, plenty of stuff just doesn’t have a defined role yet.

make it to the majors by the end of the season.

Prospects1500 #61/Baseball America #65/MLB #92

Best Game: 6/18/19 vs. Dayton, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 15 K, 1 BB

Splits: vs. RH: .244 vs. LH: .216 Scoreless Starts (Min. 4 IP): 6




About James Weisser 13 Articles
James Weisser has been following prospects since 2003, when the Florida Marlins won the world series with players like Josh Beckett, Miguel Cabrera, and Dontrelle Willis. He has seen MVP's, Cy Young Winners, and All-Stars before they ever played in the majors, and is an avid college baseball fan who enjoys watching the SEC and ACC in the spring when often times the cold, wet weather of the Midwest allows him to follow some of the top players in both conferences. He also enjoys following/covering the Midwest League which is often players first full-season level. He also watches some of the top amateur talent that comes through Chicago and the Midwest like the Under Armour All-America game at Wrigley Field which features some of the top incoming seniors for the following year as well as the 17U Team USA which features some of the top juniors in the country. He currently resides in McHenry, Illinois which is located within an hour from the Beloit Snappers and Kane County Cougars which allows him to see 4 or more organizations Low A teams in a week at times. A White Sox fan growing up one of his favorite moments was watching them win the World Series in 2005. A few of his all-time favorite players to watch are Frank Thomas, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard, Clayton Kershaw, Barry Bonds, Mike Trout, and Ken Griffey Jr.

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