Prospects1500 Prospects of the Year: 2018

First of all, let me say that it was a phenomenal year. I thoroughly enjoyed every article Scott Greene and I put together this year. During the offseason, I will miss scouring the weekly game logs on Baseball Reference to find the best candidates for weekly awards. The welcoming I received from Prospects1500 and the readers was more than I could have ever expected. Thank you for bringing me into your community and enjoying the Prospects of the Week every Monday. Each piece was an arduous labor of love, and I wanted to say all that before continuing with the last article in the 2018 series.

Scott (@Scotty_Ballgame) produced Twitter polls for each position, and the result is a community-curated Prospects of the Year team. Thank you all for voting and deciding some tight races. Without further ado, let me get into the team that you created!

2018 Offensive Players of the Year:

First Base: Peter Alonso (New York Mets #4)
Highest Level: AAA (Las Vegas 51’s)
(G: 138, AB: 478, .285/.395/.579, H: 136, 2B: 21, 3B: 1, HR: 36, R:RBI: 92:119, SB: 0)

The New York Mets farmhand took off on a meteoric rise which continued to skyrocket as the year progressed. He started the year as Prospects 1500’s 127th ranked player in our Top 148, and now finds himself secured within the Top 30 of most lists around the internet. The 23-year-old belted 15 home runs in his first stop at Binghamton while slashing .314/.440/.573 in 65 games. More importantly, he showed an improved approach against right-handers by hitting for a higher average against them than LHP for the first time in his career, (.310 vs. LHP/.315 vs. RHP.) This staggering rate did not continue at AAA, but he did post a higher average in Las Vegas than he had in the previous two seasons.

Alonso destroyed the ball all season en route to hitting 36 home runs while slashing .285/.395/.579, finally possessing the coveted +100 point difference between AVG and OBP. The first baseman gathered a ton of fan support to end the season. He even started to hear “call-up” cries from the most average of Mets fans. The year showcased a rise from fringe to future Mets starter with more on-base upside and a higher power ceiling than ever before.

First Base: Nick Pratto (Kansas City Royals #11)
Highest Level: A (Lexington Legends)
(G: 127, AB: 485, .280/.343/.443H: 136, 2B: 33, 3B: 2, HR: 12, R:RBI: 79:62, SB: 22)

Second Base: Keston Hiura (Milwaukee Brewers #1)
Highest Level: AA (Biloxi Shuckers)
(G: 123, AB: 485, .293/.357/.464, H: 142, 2B: 34, 3B: 5, HR: 13, R:RBI: 74:43, SB: 15)

Milwaukee has a serious bat on their hands with this infield prospect. Hiura is doing nothing but flexing muscle and racking up barrels since being drafted in last year’s 1st round. Looking at the raw stats will not provide a full image of what this second baseman can do with the ax. All of the positive contact abilities from college are translating to the professional ranks in a big way. There is nothing in the line from 2018 that argues to the counterpoint.

Hiura was able to cruise through the lower levels and settle in AA for most of the season. He received a few bold takes near the all-star break where it looked like he could get a chance to play at some point in a playoff run. The bat was taking off at that point, accumulating 8 HR and 24 2B before the minor league festivities. Those wild predictions were soon dashed by the signings of Mike Moustakas and the emergence of Jesus Aguilar. Hiura also tamed his pace throughout the season and plateaued at an impressive level in AA. He is one of the most exciting prospects going into next year and continues to fly up Top Prospect lists everywhere since being drafted in 2017.

Second Base: Vidal Brujan (Tampa Bay Rays #12)
Highest Level: A (Bowling Green Hot Rods)
(G: 122, AB: 475, .320/.403/.459H: 152, 2B: 25, 3B: 7, HR: 9, R:RBI: 112:53, SB: 55)

Third Base: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Toronto Blue Jays #1)
Highest Level: AAA (Buffalo Bisons)
(G: 95, AB: 357, .381/.437/.636, H: 136, 2B: 29, 3B: 1, HR: 20, R:RBI: 67:78, SB: 3)

2018 Third Baseman of the Year is the most obvious pick, potentially of all-time. Vlad Jr. fought injury to post one of the most special seasons in the history of the minor leagues. A quick glance at his slash-line and power numbers can easily explain my hyperbole. The take above is commonplace with many fantasy writers, and it is hard to overstate his probable stardom. We will see Vlad attempt to hammer away at his father’s legacy fairly soon after the start of the 2019 season. I was lucky enough to witness the talent multiple times this year, and he provides an aura with his swagger, confidence, and talent.

Third Base: Bobby Dalbec (Boston Red Sox #8)
Highest Level: AA (Portland Sea Dogs)
(G: 121, AB: 483, .257/.361/.558H: 117, 2B: 35, 3B: 3, HR: 32R:RBI: 73:109, SB: 3)

Third Base: Austin Riley (Atlanta Braves #2)
Highest Level: AAA (Gwinett Stripers)
(G: 108, AB: 408, .294/.360/.522H: 120, 2B: 30, 3B: 3, HR: 19, R:RBI: 61:70, SB: 1)

Shortstop: Royce Lewis (Minnesota Twins #6)
Highest Level: A+ (Fort Myers Miracle)
(G: 121, AB: 483, .292/.352/.451H: 141, 2B: 29, 3B: 3, HR: 14, R:RBI 83:74, SB: 28)

2018 provided a continuation of the 2017 sample that solidified the hype of Lewis’ 1.1 status. He gave us 121 games of slick play in the field and power, speed combination that makes fantasy owners salivate. The 19-year-old is mature much beyond his years and should speed through the rest of the minors leagues for a debut in 2020, maybe even late-2019. This season provided more of what we wanted to see out of the developing teenager. These qualities included 29 stolen bases, 14 home runs, 29 doubles, and the overall base-running ability to produce over 150 combined runs and RBI. Look for Lewis to start next season in AA with the Chattanooga Lookouts.

Shortstop: Wander Franco (Tampa Bay Rays #1)
Highest Level: ROOKIE (Princeton Rays)
(G: 61, AB: 242, .351/.418/.587H: 85, 2B: 10, 3B: 7, HR: 11, R:RBI 46:57 SB: 4)

Outfield: Corey Ray (Milwaukee Brewers #3)
Highest Level: AA (Biloxi Shuckers)
(G: 135, AB: 532, .239/.323/.477, H: 127, 2B: 32, 3B: 7, HR: 27, R:RBI: 86:74, SB: 37)

This center fielder is also one of the most improved players of the 2018 season. Ray disappointed in the first two samples we’ve seen since being drafted in the 1st Round in 2016. The statistics told a dark tale of little power, and the scouts backed it with road stories of lackluster bat speed. He ended the 2017 campaign by slashing .238/.311/.367 with 7 HR and 24 SB. Ray had two things going for him after his 22-year-old season, he could play respectable centerfield, and the speed was consistent.

Opening 2018 in AA seemed aggressive for Ray after stumbling for another year in Advanced-A. However, the Brewers felt as an organization that he was ready for the next step. April was tough for Andy Patton’s #3 prospect in the system. Ray ended the month with a .252/.310/.421 triple-slash and only 1 HR. Then May came, and something clicked with the bat. He began to hit homers at a rate unknown at any other level in his game. By May 30th Ray surpassed his previous career high in HR, which came along with 12 SB. The season became even better in the 2nd half when he hit 18 HR in his final 67 G, proving that he can provide substantial fantasy and real-life value at a premium position.

Outfield: Jo Adell (Los Angeles Angels #1)
Highest Level: AA (Mobile BayBears)
(G: 99, AB: 396, .290/.355/.543, H: 115, 2B: 32, 3B: 4, HR: 20, R:RBI: 83:77, SB: 15)

Adell offers one of the most exciting profiles in all of the minor league. Climbing from high-school first rounder in 2017 to AA phenom and consensus Top-10 prospect in 2018 is no small feat. He is yet to show weakness in any of his major stops throughout the minor leagues. Flying through a weak system is bringing the Jo Adell hype train to new speeds. Producing the power, speed, and ability to barrel the ball were necessary to solidify the scouts’ praise of this kid. The exceptionally athletic center fielder is one of the true five-tool prospects within the MiLB. Next year is another chance to build upon his muscle and quickness to flourish into a superstar MLB prodigy.

Outfield: Seuly Matias (Kansas City Royals #2)
Highest Level: (Lexington Legends)
(G: 94, AB: 338, .231/.303/.550, H: 78, 2B: 13, 3B: 1, HR: 31, R:RBI: 62:63, SB: 6)

Seuly started the year smoking hot, hitting 14 HR in April/May, and never let go of our hearts throughout the season. Following up on those raging first two months, Matias hit another 10 in June. He became the lovable Royals prospect that did nothing but strike out and hit home runs. Now that there is a place for these players in the new-age of MLB, Seuly grew into a fan favorite by me and many others in the Twitterverse. “Seuly HR Trackers” developed and this 20-year-old right fielder lodged himself into the center of the prospect community. It will be incredibly difficult to repeat such a magical combination of hype and performance, but Matias is young, raw, and ready to jump to the next level in his development.

Outfield: Drew Waters (Atlanta Braves #7)
Highest Level: A+ (Florida Fire Frogs)
(G: 114, AB: 460, .293/.343/.476, H: 135, 2B: 39, 3B: 9 HR: 9, R:RBI: 72:39, SB: 23)

Designated Hitter: Eloy Jimenez (Chicago White Sox #2)
Highest Level: AAA (Charlotte Knights)
(G: 108, AB: 416, .337/.384/.577, H: 140, 2B: 28, 3B: 3, HR: 22, R:RBI: 64:75, SB: 0)

Eloy is probably the closest to the pure hitting Godliness that Vlad Jr. presents to his fans and disciples. In his first full season with the White Sox, the 6’4″ 21-year-old split his time between two levels that were far advanced for his age. However, Jimenez tore through both levels displaying the power of his barrel with double-digit home runs in each AA & AAA. He is undoubtedly the safest bat behind Guerrero Jr. and continues to showcase why his positional value does not matter when attached to a stick such as the one he carries. Next year should mark his arrival in the big leagues alongside other big names in the White Sox system like Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Michael KopechDylan Ceaseand other names that have been stacking the Chicago farm for so long.

Designated Hitter: Alex Kirilloff (Minnesota Twins #5)
Highest Level: A+ (Fort Myers Miracle)
(G: 130, AB: 512, .348/.392/.578, H: 178, 2B: 44, 3B: 7, HR: 20, R:RBI: 75:101, SB: 4)

Catcher: MJ Melendez (Kansas City Royals #3)
Highest Level: (Lexington Legends)
(G: 111, AB: 419, .251/.322/.492, H: 105, 2B: 26, 3B: 9, HR: 19, R:RBI: 52:73, SB: 4)

This Royals farmhand finds himself amongst the top names at the position after his first full season with the team. The 2017 2nd Round pick out of Westminster Christian H.S. exhibited more power than anyone expected this early. Slugging nearly .500 as a 19-year-old is one thing, but Melendez is also known for being more than fair defensively. Kansas City could possess the finest young two-way catcher in the minor leagues. As exciting as the bat can be at times, he still needs more consistency in the approach and hit-tool to move smoothly through the higher levels on the minors. Lexington boasted one of the most exciting teams in the MiLB last season with Melendez, Seuly Matias, Nick Pratto, Kyle Isbeland Brewer HicklenThese players will be the offensive core of an interesting farm system moving forward into 2019.

Catcher: Danny Jansen (Toronto Blue Jays #3)
Highest Level: MLB (Toronto Blue Jays)
Minors: (G: 88, AB: 298, .275/.390/.473, H: 82, 2B: 21, 3B: 1, HR: 12, R:RBI: 45:58, SB: 5)
MLB: (G: 31, AB: 81, .247/.347/.432, H: 20, 2B: 6, 3B: 0, HR: 3, R:RBI: 12:8, SB: 0)

Other hitters:

Outfield: Kyle Tucker (Houston Astros #1)
Highest Level: MLB (Houston Astros)
Minors: (G: 100, AB: 407, .332/.400/.590, H: 135, 2B: 27, 3B: 3, HR: 24, R:RBI: 86:93, SB: 20)
MLB: (G: 28, AB: 64, .141/.236/.203, H: 9, 2B: 2, 3B: 1, HR: 0, R:RBI: 10:4, SB: 1)

First Base: Nathaniel Lowe (Tampa Bay Rays #5)
Highest Level: AAA (Durham Bulls)
(G: 130, AB: 482, .330/.416/.568, H: 159, 2B: 32, 3B: 1, HR: 27, R:RBI: 93:102, SB: 1)

2018 Pitchers of the Year

RHP: Dylan Cease (Chicago White Sox #4)
Highest Level: AA (Birmingham Barons)
(GS: 23, W-L: 12-2, IP: 124.0, K:BB: 160:50, ERA: 2.40, WHIP: 1.06)

After much hype and anticipation, the White Sox fireballer put together a full season of work. Cease struggled with injury in his year as a part of his 2nd Chicago farm system. Drafted in 2014, the 22-year-old is still young for his level, dominating AA during the back-half of 2018. The right-hander accumulated 78 strikeouts in 52.1 IP for the Barons in his final 10 starts. This stretch was one of the finest in his career-to-date, and it came against the highest level of competition on his resume. If Cease remains healthy throughout 2019, there is no doubt we see him in the bigs at some point. His upside resides in that 100 MPH heater and a devastating breaker that led him to pitch in the Futures Game this year in Washington D.C.

LHP: Jesus Luzardo (Oakland Athletics #6)
Highest Level: AAA (Nashville Sounds)
(GS: 23, W-L: 10-5, IP: 109.1, K:BB: 129:30, ERA: 2.88, WHIP: 1.09)

The 2018 World Team starting pitcher in the Future’s Game blew away the competition at three separate levels this season. Starting in A+, Luzardo needed 3 starts to rack up 25 strikeouts. This performance led to his first promotion of the year. The lefty coasted most of the year in AA pitching to a 2.29 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 78.2 innings as a 20-year-old. The dominance in the first half led to him receiving the starting nod for the World roster in Washington D.C. against the Pirates farm-hand Mitch Keller. Luzardo is one of the youngest pitchers to reach AAA in the past few seasons, and it was the first instance of the sample where we see him struggle a bit. However, this polished, young stud merely hit a speed bump in a career destined for Cy Young votes and other realms of pitching greatness.

RHP: Chris Paddack (San Diego Padres #7)
Highest Level: AA (San Antonio Missions)
(GS: 17, W-L: 7-3, IP: 90.0, K:BB: 120:8, ERA: 2.10, WHIP: 0.82)

The Padres prospect returned more than anyone expected after coming back from an injury that caused an absent 2017. The 90.0 IP this season surpassed Paddack’s 2 full years of prior minor league sample. The 22-year-old was attempting to come back from multiple frustrations from 2015-17. San Diego traded for the former Miami prospect, returning Fernando Rodney, in what was a gamble well-worth making for the low cost of a senior reliever like Rodney.

Paddack repaid the Padres‘ faith by exceeding the boldest of expectations. His rise rivaled that of Corey Ray on the batting side of this list. This right-hander climbed from injury-prone lottery ticket to top prospect within one of the most robust farm systems in the MLB. His numbers were incredible this year, walking only 8 batters in 90 innings, and if he continues to show this kind of health there is no doubting this command will play at the highest level.

RHP: Ian Anderson (Atlanta Braves #4)
Highest Level: AA (Mississippi Braves)
(GS: 24, W-L: 4-7, IP: 119.1, K:BB: 142:49, ERA: 2.49, WHIP: 1.14)

Anderson cruised through most of the season with the Florida Fire Frogs. Dominating the Florida State League was easy for this 20-year-old righty, and the Braves continue to flaunt their wealth of talent in the arm department. After multiple Braves projects made their debuts this season, including Touki Toussaint, Mike Soroka, Kolby Allardand Kyle Wright, Anderson looks to bring that upside to the table in 2019. He possesses three plus pitches that fooled minor league batters all season. Post-promotion his talent became even more apparent as he put together one of his best 4-game stretches of the season at the AA level.

Relief Pitcher: Colin Poche (Tampa Bay Rays #15)
Highest Level: AAA (Durham Bulls)
(G: 40, GS: 2, W-L: 6-0, IP: 66.0, K:BB: 110:19, ERA: 0.82, WHIP: 0.79)

Poche fell into the best possible situation to be the fan’s favorite reliever of the year. Being that he is part of the Tampa Bay Rays system, there will be multiple chances for him to succeed in the bullpen, or as an opener, in 2019. This position is one of high necessity in the Tampa organization, and Poche embodies the mentality of preventing baserunners. The left-hander allowed 33 H and 19 BB in 66 IP this season, which is a ridiculous amount of basepath control. Another impressive stat from this 24-year-old’s resume is the 4 HR allowed in 147.1 IP, his total sample. Poche should get every opportunity to make his name known at the major league level next season and will owe those chances to his dominance in 2018.

Runners Up Rotation:

LHP: Justus Sheffield (New York Yankees #1)
Highest Level: MLB (New York Yankees)
Minors: (G: 25, GS: 20, W-L: 7-6, IP: 116, K:BB: 123:50, ERA: 2.48, WHIP: 1.14)

LHP: Logan Allen (San Diego Padres #9)
Highest Level: AAA (El Paso Chihuahuas)
(G: 25, GS: 24, W-L: 14-6, IP: 148.2, K:BB: 151:51, ERA: 2.54, WHIP: 1.08)

RHP: Josh James (Houston Astros #33)
Highest Level: MLB (Houston Astros)
Minors: (G: 23, GS: 21, W-L: 6-4, IP: 114.1, K:BB: 171:49, ERA: 3.23, WHIP: 1.12)
MLB: (G: 6, GS: 3, W-L: 2-0, IP: 23.0, K:BB: 29:7, ERA: 2.35, WHIP: 0.96)

LHP: Patrick Sandoval (Los Angeles Angels #14)
Highest Level: AA (Mobile BayBears)
(G: 26, GS: 20, W-L: 11-1, IP: 122.1, K:BB: 145:29, ERA: 2.06, WHIP: 0.96)

LHP: David Parkinson (Philadelphia Phillies #48)
Highest Level: A+ (Clearwater Threshers)
(G: 22, GS: 21, W-L: 11-1, IP: 124.1, K:BB: 141:35, ERA: 1.45, WHIP: 1.01)

RHP: Dean Kremer (Baltimore Orioles, N/A)
Highest Level: AA (Bowie Baysox)
(G: 25, GS: 25, W-L: 10-5, IP: 131.1, K:BB: 178:46, ERA: 2.88, WHIP: 1.17)

Relief Pitcher: Tommy Eveld (Miami Marlins, N/A)
Highest Level: AA (Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp)
(G: 45, W-L: 4-3, IP: 50.1, K:BB: 61:46, ERA: 1.07, WHIP: 0.93, Saves: 16)

Featured image of Wander Franco – via @MiLB on Twitter

Paul Martin graduated from the University of Connecticut with a double degree in Political Science and American Studies. After college the drive to become a baseball writer became real when Lenny Melnick asked for a podcast substitute. Ever since late-2017, Paul has been providing content for, Razzball, Pitcher List, and now Prospects1500. Living in the Connecticut area there are plenty of options for minor league coverage with the closest team being the Hartford Yard Goats. This die-hard Yankees fan has transitioned into a well-rounded cover of all things fantasy baseball and prospects.

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