To qualify for a Minor League Top 20 Prospects list, we like to say a prospect should have spent about one-third of the season in a league. We quantify that as one plate appearance per team game played for position players, and one-third of an inning per game for starting pitchers. Relievers can also qualify with 10 appearances in short-season leagues or 20 appearances in full-season leagues.
Because of injuries, promotions and trades, every year many players fail to reach those marks in any league, even though they would have easily ranked if they had been eligible. Here’s a look at some of those loophole prospects, listed alphabetically.
Ian Anderson, rhp, Braves
Anderson worked on a tight pitch count after a spring high school season that included a mild upper-body injury and a bout of pneumonia. The Braves still drafted the New York prep product No. 3 overall in June, signed him for $4 million and saw him go 1-2, 2.04 overall in two Rookie-level assignments. He fell two outs shy of qualifying in the Appalachian League, where his average command faltered a bit.
Still, scouts said Anderson showed three pitches that could be plus when it’s all said and done, including a 92-95 mph fastball, a curveball that should be at least above-average, and a changeup. His smooth delivery and aptitude portend improved future control and command with strength gains and experience.
— John Manuel
Edwin Diaz, rhp, Mariners
Diaz began the year repeating the Double-A Southern League as a starter and got off to a 2-3, 3.10 start with a 38-5 strikeout-walk ratio, though his inability to control the running game continued. The Mariners shifted him in May to the bullpen, and his dominance began. He struck out 16 and walked just two with Jackson in 11.2 relief innings before earning a promotion to Seattle, where he quickly has become one of the game’s most dominant relievers.
Diaz led the major leagues with 15.54 strikeouts per nine innings (minimum 40 IP), using a fastball that averages 98 mph and a devastating swing-and-miss slider in the upper 80s. While he had a chance to be an effective starter, Diaz has found a home and made a major impact as Seattle’s closer.
— John Manuel
James Kaprielian, rhp, Yankees
Kaprielian was a 2015 first-rounder out of UCLA in a rough draft for college starting pitching, and some organizations had him as the top option in that player phylum. He had a strong pro debut last season and opened 2016 with high Class A Tampa, with his first start wowing scouts. His fastball velocity, erratic in his junior college season and generally in the 89-92 mph range as an amateur, sat 92-96 mph and reached 97. His feel for his breaking balls was a key asset in his amateur days, and he was up to 87-89 mph with his slider on Opening Day, with a true power curve in the low 80s. All three pitches earned plus grades, though scouts had significant questions about his stabbing arm action and stressful mechanics.
Kaprielian went down after three starts with elbow pain, stemming from a strained flexor muscle, that kept him out the rest of the year. Kaprielian has the highest ceiling of any Yankees pitcher and was the best pitcher in the Florida State League this season but essentially lost a year of development.
— John Manuel
Eric Lauer, lhp, Padres
The third of San Diego’s three picks in the first 25 slots in June, Lauer was compensation for the Royals signing of righthander Ian Kennedy. He missed qualifying for the Northwest League list by one out and would have placed among the league’s Top 10.
Lauer is a command-oriented lefthander with four pitches, though his fastball and slider are his main weapons. His fastball is a 90-92 mph offering that he commands to all sectors of the strike zone. His slider sits around 82-86 mph and flashes above-average, and his curveball is a mid-70s pitch with average potential. He projects as a classic back-end lefty.
— Josh Norris
Raul A. Mondesi, ss/2b, Royals
After being sent back to Double-A Northwest Arkansas to begin the season, Mondesi missed 50 games serving a suspension for a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug. Upon his return, Mondesi played briefly at high Class A, Double-A and Triple-A in July before getting a call to the big leagues. He played too little at each stop to qualify for Top 20 at any of his three minor league assignments.
As he showed in his erratic stay in the majors, Mondesi pairs exceptional tools with extremely poor plate discipline, which thus far has kept him from hitting consistently enough to reach his ceiling. Mondesi has the tools to be a plus defender at shortstop or second base thanks to great hands and a plus-plus arm. His 70-grade speed on the 20-80 scouting scale was the one tool on regular display in Kansas City, but his career .297 on-base percentage in the minors is a reminder that he’s not yet ready for a full-time major league assignment.
— J.J. Cooper
Luis Ortiz, rhp, Brewers
Ortiz’s combination of a quick ascent from high Class A to Double-A, paired with his trade from the Rangers to the Brewers in the Jonathan Lucroy deal, menat that he finished short of the required innings in three different leagues (California, Texas and Southern).
The 2014 first-round pick fills the strike zone with a 92-94 mph fastball that he locates well to the arm side and the glove side. That sets up a slider that is above-average in most outings and plus at times. His changeup still needs work, but it has made significant strides in his past two years as a pro. Ortiz’s advanced control has allowed him to climb the minor league ladder very quickly, but he has yet to show he can handle a heavy workload—his 91 innings this season were a career high.
— Kyle Glaser
Cal Quantrill, rhp, Padres
Even though the Padres drafted him with the No. 8 overall pick in June, Quantrill was a bit of a wild card. He hadn’t pitched all season with Stanford, save for a few bullpen sessions, while recovering from Tommy John surgery the year prior. But early reviews in the Northwest League were so positive that, if he had qualified, Quantrill would have been in the conversation for the No. 1 prospect in the league. He made five starts in the NWL, five in the Rookie-level Arizona League, and two in the low Class A Midwest League.
His primary weapons are a fastball that sat between 92-95 mph and touched 96 and a changeup with late, deep fade that he throws with a loose wrist, conviction and the same arm speed as his fastball. He complements those two pitches with a pair of breaking balls: a slider with three-quarters break that could be an average pitch, and a 12-to-6 curveball. The son of ex-big leaguer Paul Quantrill has front-of-the-rotation upside.
— Josh Norris
Julio Urias, lhp, Dodgers
In his first taste of Triple-A in 2015, Urias allowed nine runs in a pair of starts. His 2016 stint in the PCL proved to be much more successful, and it earned him a big league role in the Dodgers’ drive to the playoffs starting in May.
Despite beginning his major league career as a 19-year old, Urias quickly became a vital piece of the Dodgers rotation, which was besieged by injuries. He owns three plus pitches, a deceptive delivery, advanced feel for pitching and elite athleticism on the mound that helps him shut down the running game. Urias pitches at 93 mph, tops out at 96 and has shown plus control. He allowed a mere 1.6 walks per nine innings in the PCL.
Urias’ curveball is a wipeout pitch, and his changeup, while also a swing-and-miss pitch, is a bit behind the breaking ball. He also works in a hard slider that can be thrown for strikes or as a chase offering.
Urias quickly surpassed his previous career high for innings (88 in 2014) this season, forcing the Dodgers to monitor his workload. Though he owns a sturdy frame and appears durable, he must prove he can handle the grind of 30 big league starts.
— Brent Ingram