Arizona League Top 20 Prospects
By Bill Mitchell
Brayan RocchioAZL Indians SSNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: B-R. Ht: 5-10. Wt: 150.
Signed: Venezuela, 2017.
Rocchio’s reputation for advanced instincts and game awareness preceded his early July arrival in the Arizona League. His intelligence and feel earned him the nickname “The Professor.”
A quick, compact hitter with plus speed, good hands, feel for the barrel and a balanced approach from both sides of the plate, Rocchio earned at least plus grades as a hitter from talent evaluators. He also showed more power in the bat than expected for his size, so he should add more power as his body matures and strengthens.
His current average range and average arm play up because of advanced instincts and solid actions on the field.
“He’s a step ahead of the game mentally,” Indians manager Jerry Owens said. “He always finds himself in the right spot. That’s something you don’t see in a kid his age … he’s always trying to do something more which tells me that he’s not satisfied where he’s at.”
143 AB, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 10 BB, 17 SO, 14 SB
Jhon TorresAZL Indians OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 199.
Signed: Colombia, 2016.
Arizona League scouts regarded Torres as one of the most improved players from early in the spring to the mid-season of the Arizona League, at which point the 18-year-old outfielder from Colombia was included as one of two minor league players traded to St. Louis in the deal for big league outfielder Oscar Mercado. His prospect stock continued that trajectory with a very strong performance for the Cardinals’ Gulf Coast League team.
A prototypical, power-hitting right fielder with good makeup, Torres projects to have above-average power and a plus arm while his bat speed and strength allow him to have all-fields power. He should be able to add even more strength to his athletic, live body. The biggest key to Torres’ in-season improvement was that he controlled the zone better and started making better contact, although he struggled with breaking balls from righthanders.
99 AB, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 11 BB, 24 SO
- 3AZL Brewers SSNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 165.
Drafted: HS—Corona, Calif., 2018 (1).
A well-known prospect on the high school circuit, Turang came as advertised during his brief Arizona League stint. Not flashy but instinctual on the field, Turang possesses at least solid-average tools across the board and projects to stay at shortstop. An above-average runner, he has good hands, an above-average arm, and his feet work well with a quick first step to the ball. At the plate, he makes good contact with a quick, compact swing and solid feel to hit.
What impressed the Brewers’ staff was Turang’s mature attitude and willingness to learn.
“He’s a good ballplayer that wants to get better,” Brewers manager Rafael Neda said. “From the time he got to Arizona he made the adjustments … he has the ability to make adjustments with the bat and the glove.”
47 AB, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 6 SO, 8 SB
- 4AZL Padres SSNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht: 5-10. Wt: 155.
Drafted: HS—Coconut Creek, Fla., 2018 (1s).
Edwards was no stranger to amateur scouts, having played in most of the top high school showcases during his high school career. The best compliment given to Edwards is that he’s a throwback player who does the little things expected from a shortstop. He’s a plus-plus runner who puts the ball in play and plays above-average defense with advanced instincts on the field.
Scouts described Edwards as the type of player whose skill allows him to play above his solid tools. His average arm works at shortstop because of a quick release that makes up for his lack of pure arm strength, and he showed an advanced understanding of the game.
“It looks like the game is just slow for him,” Padres manager Vinny Lopez said. “That’s something you don’t learn until you’re at Double-A. He’s just born with it.”
73 AB, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 13 BB, 10 SO, 12 SB
- 5AZL Indians C/3BNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 195.
Drafted: HS—Mississauga, Ont., (1).
Naylor was the second member of his family to be picked in the draft’s first round, with brother Josh having been selected three years earlier by the Marlins.
Lefthanded power runs in the family, but the younger Naylor is more athletic with a chance of playing multiple positions. A natural hitter who has a combination of both hit and power, he gets good leverage in his swing and has excellent balance at the plate. He doesn’t expand the zone, hits to all fields and runs better than expected for his stout frame.
Behind the plate, Naylor’s arm is at least solid-average with some scouts grading it higher, helping him throw out 12 of 42 runners this summer. He receives the ball well but his feet and hands don’t always work well together. Naylor has the skills to be at least a solid-average catcher.
117 AB, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 21 BB, 28 SO
- 6AZL D-backs OFNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 190.
Signed: Bahamas, 2017.
Already possessing a mature, strong body, Robinson projects as a power-oriented hitter with questions remaining as to how the hit tool will develop. He has a good feel for the strike zone and some feel to hit but needs to get more consistent with barrel contact to get to his plus raw power.
While some observers believe Robinson can stay in center field, he profiles better in an outfield corner where his solid-average arm should play in either spot. He’s an average runner on the bases, slower out of the box, but shows better speed getting to balls in the gap. Robinson played as a 17-year-old, so he has more potential to develop than most.
162 AB, 4 HR, 31 RBI, 16 BB, 46 SO
Cole RoedererAZL Cubs OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 175.
Drafted: HS—Newhall, Cal., 2017 (2s).
Roederer quickly became a favorite of scouts covering the Arizona League by showing top-of-the-order skills and more power than expected. He is a gamer with solid, all-around tools and good makeup. He has quick hands and good feel in the zone, with the chance to develop into an impact bat as he grows into power. Roederer should be able to stay in center, with above-average speed and a tick below-average but accurate arm.
“The way he plays the game is what impressed me the most,” said Cubs manager Jonathan Mota. “He will be more consistent as he plays more games … his plate discipline, jumps in the outfield, jumps on the bases. All of those will get better.”
142 AB, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 18 BB, 37 SO, 13 SB
- 8AZL Angels OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 180.
Drafted: HS—Cary, N.C., 2018 (1).
Adams was likely going to attend North Carolina to play both football and baseball before the Angels signed him for an over-slot $4.1 million bonus. His rawness showed, but Adams flashed the tools that enticed scouts, with plus-plus speed and plus range in center.
There’s still a lot of work to be done in improving his approach at the plate. Adams will have to make better quality contact, but the tools, bat speed, strength and raw athleticism are there. Adams moved up to the Pioneer League, but his season ended early as he broke his jaw in an on-field collision.
“He’s clearly a superb talent—a super talent,” Angels manager Jack Santora said. “He’s young … just playing the game and learning through experience and developing will be his biggest challenge going forward.”
70 AB, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 10 BB, 23 SO
Alexander CanarioAZL Giants OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 165.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
The Giants may have gotten one of the bigger bargains of the 2016 international class in Canario for a $60,000 bonus. After a strong Dominican Summer League season in 2017, Canario started slowly in the Arizona League before a torrid July in which he posted a 1.030 OPS while hitting four of his six home runs.
All five of Canario’s tools grade as average or better, with future plus power and above-average bat speed. There’s explosiveness in his lower half, and he gets good leverage in his swing, although his approach is inconsistent when he tries to do too much.
A center fielder for now, Canario profiles better in right field as his solid-average to above-average arm should develop more strength with maturity. He’s an average runner out of the box, but better underway.
176 AB, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 27 BB, 51 SO
- 10AZL Rangers 3B/SSNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 155.
Drafted: HS—Glendale, Ariz., 2018 (3).
It’s not often that a third-round pick gets such strong support to rank as a league top 10 league prospect, but Ornelas’ combination of baseball savvy, offensive potential and versatility makes a strong case for him ranking among the AZL’s best. He has good bat speed and this summer improved his approach at the plate by better learning what pitches to swing at and learning how to adjust to breaking balls.
He’s wiry strong with surprising pop for his size. While not a blazing runner, advanced understanding of the game allows Ornelas to steal bases, with projections that he could have 20-20 potential in the future.
Primarily a shortstop in high school, Ornelas spent more time at third base in deference to other more natural shortstops on the AZL Rangers roster. With an above-average or better arm, good hands and good movement, Ornelas profiles well at the hot corner or in a super-utility role.
172 AB, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 25 BB, 41 SO, 15 SB
Carlos VargasAZL Indians RHPNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
One of the more notable high-risk/high-reward players on this list, Vargas made his pro debut in Arizona after sitting out 2017 with an elbow strain. The right-hander with a lightning fast arm regularly touched into the high 90s this summer with periodic reports of triple digit velos. Equally impressive was Vargas' hard slider with depth at 92-93 mph. Like the rest of his repertoire the slider is inconsistent, but when he commands the pitch it's been a plus and sometimes a plus-plus offering.
Vargas doesn't yet have a lot of feel for the changeup and his infrequently used curveball is a below-average pitch now. He's athletic and has a projectable frame, so it's not hard to envision Vargas as a big league starter or closer if he can improve his release point and get the delivery more repeatable.
1-2, 3.93 ERA
34.1 IP, 33 H, 24 BB, 41 SO
- 12AZL Padres RHPNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 170. Signed: Venezuela, 2017
Arizona League scouts were so taken with the potential of Lopez that a stray cat frequenting one of the league's facilities was named "Frank Lopez" in honor of one of their favorite pitching prospects. Pitching the entire year at age 17 (he won't turn 18 until next April), Lopez showed the inconsistency expected for his age but also flashed effortless arm speed. Lopez has a hard 88-94 mph fastball with good life, late run and sink. It projects as a future plus pitch, and he has feel for a slider and changeup. Lopez should have plus command in time, with his high walk totals coming more from being too fine with his pitches.
Padres manager Vinny Lopez was impressed with the strides that Lopez made in his conditioning during the summer. "He gained some man muscle," manager Lopez said, "and that really helped with his delivery and helped him being able to sustain his strength."
1-4, 3.86 ERA
28 IP, 26 H, 22 BB, 35 SO
- 13AZL Indians RHPNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 190. Signed: Bahamas, 2016.
Thomas was an infielder with scant pitching experience when the Indians signed him for $200,000 in 2016, so the extremely athletic righthander is still understandably very raw on the mound. But Thomas' inexperience didn't keep Arizona League observers from being wowed by the potential and aptitude for his craft, even though his season got off to a late start due to visa issues that kept him back in the Bahamas for the first month of the season.
Thomas touched 94 this year with his heavy fastball, and there should be more velocity in the tank as he matures. The arm works well and he has good feel to spin his breaking ball, with his max effort delivery keeping hitters off-balance. Thomas needs to better repeat his mechanics to improve the command, but there's a lot to like about the kid.
"You see the big arm, you see the breaking ball, and then you see the length in the body plus the youthfulness and the fresh arm because he hasn't thrown that much in his whole life," Indians manager Larry Day said. "There's certainly plenty to be excited about."
0-0, 4.58 ERA
19.2 IP, 13 H, 10 BB, 27 SO
Geraldo PerdomoAZL D-backs SSNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 184. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016 (Diamondbacks)
Perdomo, who signed with Arizona in 2016 for $70,000, stands out more for his advanced instincts, superb batting eye and internal clock then for his raw tools. He performed well in 21 Arizona League games before moving up first to the Pioneer League and then to the short-season Northwest League, continuing to shine at each level. There's strength to the swing and feel for the barrel from both sides of the plate to go with the plate discipline, and he should add strength to his projectable body. He's not rangy in the infield but more solid and dependable, projecting to be an above-average or better shortstop with above-average speed and an above-average arm that can get stronger.
"He's a student of the game … the kid wants to learn," D-backs manager Darrin Garner said. "His glove and his instincts are far beyond a lot of young kids right now."
86 AB, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 14 BB, 17 SO, 14 SB
Alek ThomasAZL D-backs OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht: 5-11 Wt: 175. Drafted: HS–Chicago, Ill., 2018 (2).
The son of a Chicago White Sox strength coach, Thomas could have gone to TCU to play both baseball and football but instead chose the professional path after getting a $1.2 million bonus from Arizona. He quickly became a favorite with AZL observers for his gritty, gamer profile. While he's not physically big and won't likely be a consistent home run threat, Thomas showed surprising pop with a nice level compact stroke. He has a high motor and is an above-average to plus runner.
Thomas should be able to stay in center field, but his plus speed and average arm will allow him to handle all three positions in a fourth outfielder role. While not the flashy type, Thomas is the type of player whose baseball instincts and gritty demeanor will have him playing above his tools.
123 AB, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 13 BB, 18 SO, 8 SB
- 16AZL Angels SSNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 165. Drafted: HS–Mobile, Ala., 2018 (2)
Jackson homered in his Arizona League debut, giving observers a hint of what was to follow with the Alabama high school product showing off more over-the-fence power than anticipated. His plus bat speed allows the ball to jump off his bat and he has quick, loose hands, is athletic and gets plenty of loft in the swing. He'll swing-and-miss more than desired until he gets used to seeing better quality breaking balls and closes holes in his bat path.
Opinions are mixed as to whether Jackson can stay at shortstop. He currently lacks the feet and quick-twitch actions for the position. It'll be the power bat that carries Jackson, so he could handle a move to second or third base or to the outfield.
"He's one of the kids that really, really opened my eyes," Cubs manager Carmelo Martinez said. "He has bat speed (and) power. He's strong … against us he played good defense."
82 AB, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 7 BB, 25 SO
- 17AZL Cubs SS/3BNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 172. Signed: Mexico, 2017 (Cubs)
Verdugo signed with the Cubs for a $1.2 million bonus in 2017, with 25 percent of that total going to the player and the rest to the Mexican League team that held his rights --- a process that has now been suspended by Major League Baseball. The 17-year-old right-handed hitting shortstop made his pro debut this summer, and while his offensive numbers weren't impressive scouts were equally enthused about Verdugo's future ceiling. He has a good feel for the strike zone and started showing more pull power later in the summer, projecting to be a power over hit tool type especially as the body gets stronger.
While a below-average runner, Verdugo covers plenty of ground at shortstop with good actions and easy, low effort. A plus arm ensures that he can stay on the left side of the infield even if he outgrows shortstop. What stood out for Cubs manager Jonathan Mota was Verdugo's internal clock on defense and the ability to separate hitting and defense, impressive traits for his age.
176 AB, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 17 BB, 45 SO
- 18AZL Dodgers LHPNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-L Ht: 6-0. Wt: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017
Ortiz was an unheralded international prospect who didn't sign until nearly a year after becoming eligible, with the Dodgers landing him in June of 2017 for a $60,000 bonus. His muscular body doesn't have a lot of projection, similar to that of Dodgers southpaw Julio Urias or Padres prospect Adrian Morejon, but Ortiz has an advanced feel to pitch and a delivery that will allow him to log innings. He commands all three of his pitches, with his 93-94 mph fastball projecting to be well above-average in the future. He spins his breaking ball and has good feel for a changeup, profiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
"It's a special package with Robinson," Dodgers manager Mark Kertenian said. "What stands out in particular is the life on the fastball to the glove side and the hand speed on his off-speed pitches. He's going to be very hard to handle at the higher levels."
2-2, 4.18 ERA
32.1 IP, 27 H, 12 BB, 42 SO
Tucupita MarcanoAZL Padres SSNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 165. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.
Despite having an unforgettable name that rhythmically rolls off the tongue (his first name is also the name of town in which he was born), Marcano was relatively unknown coming into the Arizona League season. As part of the Padres massive international class in 2016 it was easy to overlook the native Venezuelan, but a league-leading .395 average and an eye-popping total of 26 walks and only 10 strikeouts put Marcano firmly on the prospect map. He has feel to hit and advanced bat-to-ball skills to go with plus speed, but some observers don't see enough impact for power in the swing to project him as having as bright a future as other infield prospects. Opinions are mixed as to whether Marcano can stay at shortstop or will move to second base. Scouts differ on whether he possesses the arm strength for the left side of the bag.
"You know what you're going to get from him every day out there," Padres manager Aaron Levin said. "He comes to play, he's a competitor."
124 AB, 0 HR, 17 RBI, 26 BB, 10 SO, 10 SB
- 20AZL D-backs SSNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 160. Drafted: HS–Bradenton, Fla., 2018 (11)
The performance of Alexander this summer, who Arizona signed for a welll-above-slot $500,000, likely made up for at least some of the disappointment in the D-backs organization that came with not signing first round pick Matt McLain. What stood out most was Alexander's feel for the game and advanced instincts. His bat was also better than expected, with a swing that is short to the ball with some pull power.
Alexander's versatility will likely be his calling card as he should be able to handle all three infield positions, with his plus to plus-plus arm playing well on the left side. It should be even better when he learns to use his feet better. His average speed plays up on the bases, flashing plus speed on balls hit to the gaps.
94 AB, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 19 BB, 21 SO