Gulf Coast League Top 20 Prospects
By Ben Badler
- 1Phillies SSNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: B-R. HT: 5-11. WT: 170.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017.
Garcia was one of the premium international prospects a year ago when the Phillies signed for $2.5 million after he trained with Carlos Guzman, whose program that year also had Mets shortstop Ronny Mauricio, the No. 2 prospect on this list. Highly regarded for his fielding ability as an amateur, Garcia not only played slick defense in the GCL but also won the batting title (.369) and ranked third in the league in on-base percentage (.433).
Garcia is a smooth, graceful defender at shortstop with quick feet, great hands and a plus arm. He has the ability to make the flashy barehanded play, though unlike a lot of young shortstops, Garcia also makes smart decisions in the field and plays under control. While there was a split camp among scouts on Garcia’s hitting ability as an amateur, he showed a mature hitting approach from both sides in the GCL.
A solid-average runner, Garcia has a calm, quiet setup and uses his hands well at the plate, staying within the strike zone and spraying line drives around the field with gap power.
168 AB, 1 HR, 32 RBI, 15 BB, 21 SO, 12 SB
Ronny MauricioMets SSNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: B-R. HT: 6-4. WT: 180.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017.
The Mets signed Mauricio last year for $2.1 million, the most money the franchise has ever given a Dominican amateur player. At the time, Mauricio was a highly-regarded shortstop with a high waist and long arms on an extremely skinny body at 6-foot-2, 165 pounds. Since then, Mauricio has grown two inches and filled out with considerable strength gains, driving the ball with impact and making a strong impression with his defense.
Mauricio was batting .322/.333/.510 at the end of July before tailing off in the final month when he looked run down at the end of the season. Mauricio whips the barrel through the zone with a loose, easy swing from both sides of the plate, keeping his long arms inside the ball well to make frequent contact with impact. Mauricio already shows the ability to hammer the ball from both sides of the plate, and with plenty more room to fill out, he could develop plus or better future power.
Mauricio is a below-average runner with some risk he could move off the position depending how big he gets, but he handles himself well at shortstop. He gets quick reads off the bat and good body control with a knack for slowing the game down. He has smooth hands, transfers the ball quickly and has a 70-grade arm.
197 AB, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 10 BB, 31 SO
- 3Rays LHPNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-5. WT: 200. Drafted: HS—Glendale, Ariz., 2018 (1).
Liberatore built an impressive resume as an amateur, including six shutout innings for USA Baseball’s 18U national team in a gold-medal game victory over South Korea in 2017.
So when Liberatore was still on the board, the Rays were elated to land him with the No. 16 overall pick in the draft this year (Baseball America ranked him No. 2 overall coming into the draft). Liberatore immediately showed why he was the top-ranked high school pitcher in the class, breezing through eight GCL starts with a 0.98 ERA before a late-August promotion to the Rookie-level Appalachian League, where he tossed 4.1 scoreless innings in a playoff start.
Liberatore has a fairly loose, quick arm action that produces fastballs sitting 89-93 mph and topping out at 96 with downhill plane from his 6-foot-5 frame. He has a knack for manipulating his secondary stuff, including a plus changeup and a sharp-breaking curveball that flashes plus as well.
Between his repertoire and pitchability, Liberatore has the ability to miss bats and throw strikes that could translate into a front-end starter. There are scouts who see him as one of the best young lefthanders in the minors.
1-2, 0.98 ERA
28 IP, 16 H, 11 BB, 32 SO
- 4Tigers SSNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: B-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
Detroit’s top international signing bonus ($550,000) in 2016 went to Perez, who performed immediately last year and ranked as one of the Top 20 prospects in the Dominican Summer League. For an encore, Perez tore through the GCL, earning two in-season promotions to finish the year at low Class A West Michigan.
Perez has an exciting combination of quick-twitch, bouncy athleticism and bat control from a premium position player. He has quick wrists, good bat speed and a knack for barreling all types of pitches, with good hand-eye coordination and plate coverage. Perez showed a little more power than he did last year, though he projects to have a hit-over-power offensive profile.
A plus runner, Perez has the athleticism, hands, range and arm strength to stick at shortstop, though he’s still learning to cut down on decision-making mistakes and play under control.
81 AB, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 12 BB, 14 SO
- 5Blue Jays SS/3BNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 180. Drafted: HS—Magnolia, Texas, 2018 (1).
Drafted No. 12 overall in June, Groshans made a strong impression on scouts and managers around the GCL in his pro debut. Groshans has a polished hitting approach and a knack for finding the barrel. He squares up good pitching with quick bat speed and plus raw power. While Groshans has the sock in his bat to go deep from right-center over to his pull side, he mostly showed a line-drive, all-fields approach in the GCL, hammering fastballs and driving pitches on the outer half with authority to the opposite field.
Groshans split time between shortstop and third base. He has an above-average arm and showed solid defensive actions, but he’s still cleaning up his defense and might ultimately lack the first-step quickness to stick at shortstop.
142 AB, 4 HR, 39 RBI, 13 BB, 29 SO
- 6Cardinals OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 200. Signed: Colombia, 2016.
The Indians dealt Torres and outfielder Conner Capel to the Cardinals for outfielder Oscar Mercado at the trade deadline. Torres earned rave reviews from scouts who saw him in the Rookie-level Arizona League, with that praise only getting louder after he arrived in the GCL.
Torres has a tall, physical build and flashes plus raw power, with the bat speed and strength to drive the ball with impact. Torres sticks out for his power, but he also has a knack for being on time and staying within the strike zone.
With fringy speed, Torres moves well for his size and reads the ball well off the bat in right field, where his arm earns plus or better grades.
63 AB, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 8 BB, 13 SO
- 7Yankees OFNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 185. Signed: Venezuela, 2017.
When the Yankees signed Cabello last year for $1.35 million, he was a catcher who had near plus-plus speed underway despite a thick, physically mature frame.
Cabello moved to center field soon after signing. He made a seamless transition to pro ball at the plate, dominating the GCL with a balance of hitting ability, strike-zone judgment and power until he injured his left shoulder diving for a ball on Aug. 13, requiring surgery. Cabello is a patient, disciplined hitter with good contact skills, which makes him a high on-base threat. He has quick, explosive hands and manipulates the barrel well, with the physical maturity and strength to generate hard contact to all fields.
Cabello has the speed and athleticism for center field, though his defense understandably remains a work in progress.
137 AB, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 21 BB, 34 SO
- 8Orioles RHPNotes:
Editor's note: Rodriguez was mistakenly excluded from the first edition of this ranking because of an oversight. We decided to insert Rodriguez at No. 8 and move everybody else down one spot to better reflect the reality of this year's GCL class.
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-5. WT: 220. Drafted: HS—Nacogdoches, Texas, 2018 (1).
Rodriguez was an arrow-up pitcher going into the draft, having improved his fastball from bumping the low-90s last summer to hitting 97 mph with improved physical conditioning in the spring. The Orioles drafted Rodriguez with the No. 11 overall pick and the arrows continue to point up after his pro debut in the GCL, though like many high school pitching prospects, the Orioles kept him on a restricted workload, never letting him pitch more than three innings in a game.
Rodriguez overmatched GCL hitters with his fastball, combining plus velocity and plus movement with heavy action. He commands it well too and attacks hitters with good angle from his 6-foot-5 frame. Rodriguez has a strong, durable frame and a smooth, easy delivery that he’s able to repeat consistently. That helps him throw all of his pitches for strikes, led by a tick above-average slider that he uses as his out pitch, along with a low-to-mid 70s curveball.
Rodriguez has a changeup in his repertoire, but he didn’t have much need for it in high school or in his brief GCL outings.
0-2, 1.40 ERA
19.1 IP, 17 H, 7 BB, 20 SO
- 9Astros SSNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-1. WT: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
Nova was one of the top international prospects in the 2016 class and showed why as a tooled-up shortstop with bouncy, quick-burst athleticism, plus speed and a plus arm.
With his first-step quickness and agility, Nova makes the rangy, flashy play in the field, although he’s still learning to play more under control. With plus bat speed and a compact swing, Nova makes contact at a high clip and regularly drives the ball with impact, with potential plus power in the future. Nova does have an aggressive hitting mentality that borders on free-swinging at times, along with a pull-heavy approach.
146 AB, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 6 BB, 21 SO
- 10Cardinals CNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 180. Signed: Panama, 2016.
For an 18-year-old, Herrera already has a strong track record of hitting. He was a standout hitter at international tournaments for Panama before signing with the Cardinals for $200,000 in 2016, then kept it up last year as a Top 20 prospect in the Dominican Summer League. He performed even better in the GCL, standing out as a pure hitter with a sweet swing and a chance to stick behind the plate. He’s a balanced hitter without much wasted movement in his quick, compact stroke.
Herrera’s efficient swing helps him barrel up fastballs and adjust to square up breaking pitches as well with a flat, line-drive path. His power is mostly to the gaps, though he has enough projection to grow into 10-15 home run power. Herrera is an offensive-minded player who should be able to stay at catcher, but his defense needs improvement. He has a fringe-average arm and had trouble with his blocking and receiving.
112 AB, 1 HR, 25 RBI, 11 BB, 20 SO
- 11Tigers OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-5. WT: 185.
Drafted: HS—Loganville, Ga., 2018 (2).
Rays outfielder Austin Meadows was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 draft, with younger brother Parker going in the second round (No. 44 overall) this year Parker doesn’t have his brother’s pure hitting ability, but he hit well in his pro debut and showed a strong tool set as a power/speed threat. He’s a tall, athletic center fielder, comparable in size and tools to Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick.
A plus runner, Meadows has a chance to stick in center, where he gets good reads off the bat and has good closing speed with his long strides. His arm is another above-average weapon. As a hitter, Meadows’ carrying tool is his raw power, with the bat speed and leverage in his swing to generate plus power. A long-armed hitter, Parker does have swing-and-miss risk (he struck out in 29 percent of his GCL plate appearances), though he performed well and showed a solid plan at the plate.
74 AB, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 8 BB, 25 SO
- 12Yankees OFNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: B-R. HT: 6-5. WT: 230. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017.
It's hard to miss Garcia, who can blend in physically with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Signed out of the Dominican Republic last year for $500,000, Garcia is an imposing presence with a high-risk, high-reward profile.
As an amateur, Garcia's size, hand speed and above-average raw power stood out. Since then, he has added more bulk and more thunder, punishing balls both in BP and in games with 70 raw power. A better hitter from the left side, Garcia hit 10 home runs in just 44 games with a .269 isolated power, but his long arms and swing holes leave him vulnerable to swing and miss, with a 42 percent strikeout rate in the GCL.
Prior to signing, Garcia flashed above-average speed underway, but his running ability has regressed. He still moves fairly well for a big man and has the tools to fit in right field, though he will have to continue to work on his defense and maintain his athleticism.
156 AB, 10 HR, 20 RBI, 18 BB, 73 SO
- 13Rays OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-3. WT: 180. Drafted: HS—Indianapolis, 2018 (1).
Schnell boosted his stock heading into the draft with the offensive strides he made in the spring. The Rays drafted him in the first round (No. 32 overall) and signed him for $2,297,500.
Schnell didn't show the same barrel control after signing, with a strikeout in 28 percent of his plate appearances in the Gulf Coast League, but he does use his hands well with a solid stroke from the left side and he has a patient hitting approach. With the physical projection in his wiry frame, Schnell should be able to add to his present gap power.
A slightly above-average runner with an above-average arm, Schnell has a chance to stick in center field, though a lot of scouts believe his future is in right field, which would put more demands on his power increasing in the future.
67 AB, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 14 BB, 23 SO
- 14Yankees RHPNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: B-R. HT: 6-4. WT: 185. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.
The Yankees went over their international bonus pool in 2014, so they weren't able to sign any international prospects for more than $300,000 the next two years. On July 2, 2016, they signed Gomez for $50,000 when he showed quick arm speed and a tall, lanky frame that pointed toward future velocity gains.
That projection has started to come through. Gomez ran his fastball up to 96 mph this season in the GCL, parking in the low-to-mid-90s. He throws with downhill angle and locates his fastball well to both sides of the plate for his age. Gomez had 10 strikeouts per nine innings in the GCL thanks in part to a tight, sharp curveball in the mid-to-upper 70s with good depth that flashes above-average to freeze hitters or gets them to chase. He showed feel for a mid-80s changeup that he's willing to throw to both lefties and righties.
3-1, 2.33 ERA
38.2 IP, 27 H, 15 BB, 43 SO
- 15Pirates RHPNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-5. WT: 195. Drafted: HS—Robinson, Texas (2).
Ashcraft was a star wide receiver for the Robinson (Texas) High football team, catching seven touchdowns in one game during his junior season, finishing that year with 204 catches for 2,090 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Ashcraft dropped football his senior season to focus on baseball and went 51st overall in the draft to the Pirates, signing for $1.825 million. Ashcraft's outstanding athleticism translates to the mound, where he has an ease of operation to his throwing motion. He generates downhill plane from his 6-foot-5 frame with quick arm speed and minimal effort, popping 89-94 mph with good extension, life and the projection for more velocity to come when he gets stronger.
Ashcraft has a loose arm and has shown some feel for his secondary stuff, with a solid breaking ball that's more advanced than his changeup.
0-1, 4.58 ERA
17.2 IP, 16 H, 5 BB, 12 SO
- 16Blue Jays CNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. HT: 5-11. WT: 170. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.
The Blue Jays were in the penalty in 2016 after exceeding their bonus pool the previous year to sign Vladimir Guerrero Jr., so they couldn't sign anyone for more than $300,000. One of the sleepers they found in 2016 was Moreno, a Venezuelan catcher they signed for just $25,000.
Moreno didn't do much damage in his pro debut last year in the Dominican Summer League, but he still caught attention for his athleticism and bat control. In 2018, Moreno delivered far more impact, batting .413/.455/.652 in 101 plate appearances before getting promoted to the Rookie-level Appalachian League. Moreno has an aggressive approach and seldom walks, but he also rarely strikes out because his hand-eye coordination and barrel control is outstanding. He has a knack for finding the sweet spot, making consistent hard contact with enough power potential to hit 15-20 home runs.
Moreno is an athletic catcher with an average arm and a quick release, erasing 38 percent of basestealers between the GCL and the Appy League, though he has to improve his blocking and receiving.
92 AB, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 4 BB, 7 SO
- 17Pirates OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 190. Drafted: HS—Voorhees Township, N.J., 2018 (30).
Herman flew under the radar as a high school senior in New Jersey this spring. Drafted No. 849 overall in the 30th round, Herman signed for just $50,000 rather than go to Maryland, but he made a strong impression around the GCL after ranking second in the league in OBP and third in batting average.
Herman has an advanced offensive approach for an 18-year-old. He's a smart hitter with a sharp eye for the strike zone, drawing nearly as many walks as strikeouts. He has quick hands and sound swing mechanics, staying through the ball well to use the middle of the field. Herman has a hit-over-power profile, but he has more than just gap power and should continue to turn more of his doubles into home runs as he gets stronger.
Herman split time between center and right field in the GCL but projects best as a right fielder.
141 AB, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 23 BB, 24 SO
- 18Marlins SSNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 180. Drafted: HS—Alameda, Calif., 2018 (2).
Johnson was one of the youngest players in the 2018 draft and played the entire season at age 17 after signing for $1.35 million as a second-round pick (No. 53 overall). Known more for his athleticism than his hitting polish, Johnson hit well in his one month in the GCL before struggling when the Marlins rushed him to low Class A Greensboro.
Johnson has a lean, lively build and is a bouncy, quick-burst athlete with experience at both shortstop and center field. The Marlins played Johnson at shortstop, where he has quick hands and a solid-average arm. His defense has improved over the past year, though there's still a split camp among scouts on whether he will remain at the position.
Johnson's hitting ability has trended up as well, with fast hand speed to get into the hitting zone quickly, though he doesn't repeat his swing consistently and will have to improve his pitch recognition.
188 AB, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 5 BB, 53 SO
- 19Marlins CNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: B-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 200. Drafted: HS—Snellville, Ga., 2018 (2).
Banfield ranked as the top high school catcher in the 2018 draft, with the Marlins drafting him at No. 69 overall and signing him for $1.8 million. He had a steady debut in the GCL before the Marlins pushed him to low Class A Greensboro in August.
Defense is Banfield's calling card. Agile and flexible behind the plate, Banfield blocks and receives well, with soft hands, experience catching high-end velocity and a knack for framing pitches already. He has a plus arm and a quick release, which helped him erase 41 percent of basestealers in the GCL, and the attributes to develop into a plus defensive catcher.
At the plate, Banfield sticks out for his above-average raw power, but he will have to make adjustments to make more contact, with swing-and-miss risk that showed up both as an amateur and in his pro debut.
82 AB, 0 HR, 14 RBI, 7 BB, 28 SO
- 20Blue Jays SSNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. HT: 5-11. WT: 165. Signed: Panama, 2017.
The top bonus for a Panamanian player in 2017 went to Jimenez, who signed with the Blue Jays for $825,000. Jimenez represented Panama in several international tournaments since he was 12, with his high-level baseball IQ sticking out for his age.
Jimenez is a smart, instinctive player in all phases of the game, helping make up for the lack of typical quick-twitch athleticism scouts like to see from a shortstop. A fringe-average runner, Jimenez's defensive range is a question mark but he reads the ball well off the bat, has soft hands, good body control and a knack for slowing the game down. At the plate he consistently puts together quality at-bats, staying within the strike zone and spraying line drives around the field. He has occasional doubles power and doesn't project to be much of an extra-base hit threat.
132 AB, 0 HR, 19 RBI, 16 BB, 17 SO
- 21Red Sox 3BNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-1. WT: 205. Drafted: HS—Lakeland, Fla., 2018 (21).
Howlett slipped to the 21st round of the draft, but the Red Sox were able to sign him away from his Florida State commitment for $185,000. He quickly looked like a potential sleeper, showing the ability to hit and hit for power while playing solid defense at third base.
Howlett drew mixed reviews from scouts as an amateur, when he showed more swing-and-miss risk, but he kept his contact manageable in the GCL with a 23 percent strikeout rate. While scouts had concerns about his pitch recognition before signing, Howlett showed surprising plate patience in his pro debut, combining that with solid-average raw power that he was able to tap into against live pitching.
While the Red sox originally planned to give Howlett time in left field with first-round pick Triston Casas on the roster, when Casas went down for the year due to injury, Howlett spent the season at third base. He has a good chance to stick at the position, with solid-average actions and an average arm.
137 AB, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 22 BB, 38 SO