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Midwest League Top 20 Prospects

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No. 1 prospect Royce Lewis (Photo by Paul Gierhart)

By Justin Coleman

Updated on: 10/3/2018
  1. 1
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    Royce Lewis

    Cedar Rapids (Twins) SS
    Notes:

    Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-2. WT: 188. Drafted: HS - San Juan Capistrano, Calif., 2017 (1).


    The No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft lived up to expectation by showing plus tools across the board. He ranked among the MWL leaders in batting average (.315), stolen bases (22) and doubles (23) at the time of his promotion to the high Class A Florida State League in mid-July, even though he had been slowed by knee tendinitis.


    Scouts project Lewis to be a potential .300 hitter with plus power and plus speed, which makes him a potential 20-20 threat. Defensively, he should stick at shortstop with enough range, anticipation, hands and actions to be an above-average defender. His arm grades as above-average.


    Lewis also embraced his role as an on-field leader. As a potential middle-of-the-lineup hitter who can play a premium defensive position, he's one of the best overall prospects in the game.


    2018 Stats
    .315/.368/.485
    295 AB, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 24 BB, 49 SO

  2. 2
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    MacKenzie Gore

    Fort Wayne (Padres) LHP
    Notes:

    Age: 19. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-3. WT: 191.
    Drafted: HS - Whiteville, N.C., 2017 (1).


    Blisters derailed much of Gore's first full pro season. The BA High School Player of the Year in 2017 made just three starts in the first two months and didn't pitch into the fifth inning until July. Even when he was on the mound, he didn't always have his best stuff because of his finger issues. He allowed a hit per inning, but he showed advanced control and kept the ball in the ballpark.


    Evaluators were impressed with Gore's feel for pitching and his stuff. His plus fastball sat in the low 90s and touched 95. Gore's curveball and slider both are plus at their best. Like many young pitchers, he struggles to spin both consistently on the same night. Some nights he had an impressive slider and on others he has a better curve. His excellent athleticism helps him have above-average command within the strike zone.


    Gore's season was a little disappointing statistically, but he remains among the highest-ceiling minor league starters because he throws four average or better pitches and owns potentially plus control and command.


    2018 Stats
    2-5, 4.45 ERA
    61 IP, 61 H, 18 BB, 74 SO

  3. 3
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    Alex Kirilloff

    Cedar Rapids (Twins) OF
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-2. WT: 195.
    Drafted: HS - Pittsburgh, 2016 (1).


    A promotion to high Class A Fort Myers in mid-July kept Kirilloff from winning the MWL batting title, but his .330 average and his .607 slugging percentage were the best by any player in the league with 250 or more plate appearances. He showed no ill effects from the year-long layoff he endured recovering from Tommy John surgery.


    Kirilloff has a chance to be a special hitter. He was the MWL's best power hitter, but he also proved tough to strike out with whiffs in roughly 17 percent of plate appearances.


    Kirilloff's opposite-field power impressed managers around the league. Nine of his 13 home runs in the MWL went to left field. The combination of barrel control, raw power and athleticism give him the chance to be a plus hitter with plus power.


    He should be an average defender in right field.


    2018 Stats
    .333/.391/,607
    252 AB, 13 HR, 56 RBI, 24 BB, 47 SO

  4. 4
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    Brendan McKay

    Bowling Green (Rays) LHP/1B
    Notes:

    Age: 22. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-2. WT: 212.
    Drafted: Louisville, 2017 (1).


    As a pitcher, McKay quickly demonstrated that he was too advanced for MWL hitters. The lefthander toyed with lineups, spotting a plus mid-90s fastball with plus command as well as a plus cutter. His slider and curveball sometimes seem to get in each other's way, but each has at least average potential.


    McKay looked similarly advanced as a hitter but much less imposing. He showed a better knowledge of the strike zone than most MWL umpires, but he didn't do much with pitches in the zone. Scouts thought his approach was too passive and he was seen as a fringe prospect as a hitter.
    McKay's ceiling as a mid-rotation starter will continue to push him up the ladder, which makes it harder for him to catch up as a hitter.


    2018 Pitching Stats
    2-0, 1.09 ERA
    25 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 40 SO


    2018 Hitting Stats
    .254/.484/.333
    63 AB, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 28 BB, 13 SO

  5. 5
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    Hunter Greene

    Dayton (Reds) RHP
    Notes:

    Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-4. WT: 215.
    Drafted: HS - Sherman Oaks, Calif., 2017 (1).


    Greene's season started and ended terribly. In between, he showed the promise expected from the No. 2 overall pick in 2017. In April, Greene was tagged with a 14.63 ERA in eight innings. Then his season ended in late July with an injured elbow ligament.


    Greene made significant progress as a pitcher. His athleticism and arm strength are apparent. He easily reached triple digits with regularity. The steady improvement of his potentially plus slider and average changeup helped him find success.


    Greene has the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation starter thanks to his blazing fastball, promising slider and changeup and usable curveball. His elbow injury is a complicating factor, but the Reds hopes he can rehab the injury.


    2018 Stats
    3-7, 4.48 ERA
    68 IP, 66 H, 23 BB, 89 SO

  6. 6
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    Matt Manning

    West Michigan (Tigers) RHP
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-6. WT: 190.
    Drafted: HS - Sacramento, 2016 (1).


    Manning dominated in his second stint in the MWL. His 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings ranked first among all league starters with 50 or more innings.


    Evaluators are impressed with Manning's athleticism, delivery and extension. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 95 mph with late carry. He paired his fastball with a sharp-breaking curveball that flashes plus. He improved his changeup, but it's still fringe-average. If Manning can improve his fringe-average control, he has mid-rotation potential.


    2018 Stats
    3-3, 3.40 ERA
    56 IP, 47 H, 28 BB, 76 SO

  7. 7
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    Ronaldo Hernandez

    Bowling Green (Rays) C
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-1. WT: 185.
    Signed: Colombia, 2014.


    Will Benson's 22 home runs narrowly edged Hernandez for the MWL title, but the Colombian native was among the best sluggers in the league. He finished in the top three in the league in home runs, slugging percentage (.494) and home run rate (one every 19.3 at-bats).


    Hernandez, a former third baseman, is still a work in progress behind the plate, but evaluators see the tools and skills to be an everyday catcher with a chance to also be a middle-of-the-order bat.


    Hernandez has plus power, an advanced understanding of how to hit and a plus-plus arm. He loses focus at times behind the plate - his 19 passed balls were easily worst in the league - but the tools are there for him to be at least an average defender. He threw out 36 percent of basestealers.


    2018 Stats
    .284/.339/.494
    405 AB, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 31 BB, 69 SO

  8. 8
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    Jeter Downs

    Dayton (Reds) 2B/SS
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: R-R. HT: 5-11. WT: 180.
    Drafted: HS - Miami Gardens, Fla., 2017 (1s).


    A shortstop named Jeter carries lofty expectations, but Downs started making his own name with an impressive season.


    Downs is a bat-first middle infielder who has a plus hit tool to go with developing power. He has a quiet stance, starting from a narrow base and using a modest load. Defensively, scouts are skeptical that he will have the range to stay at shortstop.


    Downs played more second base than shortstop with the Dragons in 2018, and that likely is his long-term home. His above-average arm would fit at third base, too. Downs is an above-average athlete with plus speed.


    2018 Stats
    .257/.351/.402
    455 AB, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 52 BB, 103 SO

  9. 9
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    Elehuris Montero

    Peoria (Cardinals) 3B
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-3. WT: 195.
    Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.


    Montero's special hand-eye coordination stands out. He led the MWL in batting average (.322), slugging (.529) and OPS (.910) and became the Cardinals' first Midwest League MVP since Albert Pujols in 2000.


    Montero shows plus raw power in batting practice. He pulls the ball for home runs, but he hits plenty of doubles to right field and should eventually develop all-fields home run power. He is vulnerable to a pitcher with a plan, but his hand-eye coordination, bat speed and barrel control give him a chance to develop into a plus hitter with plus power.


    Montero is a below-average defender at third base who may have to slide to first base eventually unless he works his way to fringe status by taking thousands of ground balls.


    2018 Stats
    .322/.381/.529
    382 AB, 15 HR, 69 RBI, 33 BB, 81 SO

  10. 10
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    Luis Patino

    Fort Wayne (Padres) RHP
    Notes:

    Age: 18. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 192.
    Signed: Colombia, 2016.


    Despite being short for a righthanded starter, which often worries scouts, Patino wowed evaluators with excellent stuff and easy velocity. Patino's 2.16 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings would have led the MWL if he had qualified.


    At his best, Patino was unhittable. He went five or more no-hit innings three times. Righthanders hit a microscopic .140/.190/.173 against him.
    Patino's fastball, which sat in the mid-90s and touched 98 mph, was one of the best in the league. He keeps hitters off balance by elevating his fastball and sinking it below the zone. His slider and curveball both have plus potential. His high-80s slider has good shape and plenty of power.


    His changeup flashes above-average with sink and fade.


    2018 Stats
    6-3, 2.16 ERA
    83 IP, 65 H, 24 BB, 98 SO

  11. 11
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    Vidal Brujan

    Bowling Green (Rays) 2B
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: S-R. HT: 5-9. WT: 155. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.


    Brujan finished second in the Midwest League with a .313 batting average, third in on-base percentage (.395), third in runs scored (86) and fifth in steals (43) despite an early August promotion to the Florida State League.


    Brujan is an excellent hitter from the left side, where he has sneaky power (he slugged .516 as a lefty with all nine of his home runs in 2018) to get with excellent bat-to-ball skills. As a righthanded hitter, he's much more of a slap hitter with well below-average power, but his plus-plus speed makes him capable of beating out infield hits when he pulls the ball on the ground. That speed is also useful on the basepaths. He finished second in the minors overall with 55 steals.


    2018 Stats
    .313/.395/.427
    377 AB, 5 HR, 41 RBI, 48 BB, 53 SO

  12. 12
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    Miguel Amaya

    South Bend (Cubs) C
    Notes:

    Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-1. WT: 185. Signed: Panama, 2015.


    This was a very good year for catchers in the Midwest League. Between Hernandez, Amaya, Ryan Jeffers, Hendrik Clementina and Luis Campusano, the league was full of intriguing young catchers. Amaya was among the most interesting.


    Amaya took a big step forward this year with his power, as he hit nine home runs and slugged .500 in the first half of the season before wearing down in the second half. Amaya does chase out of the strike zone too often and needs to improve his ability to recognize breaking balls, but he has future average or even above-average power.


    Defensively, Amaya has an above-average arm, is a calm receiver who has a chance to be at least an average defender. Considering his age and tools, he has a chance to be the rare catcher who contributes both offensively and defensively.


    2018 Stats
    .256/.349/.403
    414 AB, 12 HR, 52 RBI, 50 BB, 91 SO

  13. 13
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    Moises Gomez

    Bowling Green (Rays) LF
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: R-R. HT: 5-11. WT: 200. Signed: Venezuela, 2015.


    Scouts came away from watching Bowling Green extremely impressed with the team's large number of potential big league regulars. Gomez was arguably the highest-ceiling prospect of all of the position players, although there is plenty of risk for a prospect with big power but poor defense and swing-and-miss issues.


    Gomez finished first in the league in doubles (34), second in slugging percentage (.503), fourth in home runs (19) and first in extra-base hits (60). Scouts like Gomez's bat path, but his swing is clearly geared for power as he coils with a big timing step before exploding into a powerful but sometimes lengthy swing.


    Gomez's defense will require plenty of work. He has below-average range thanks to struggles tracking fly balls and poor routes and his average arm works best in left field. While lacking defensive prowess, evaluators view the offensive minded outfielder as an everyday option in the future. Rival managers have also given high praise to Gomez for being a guy that plays the game the right way and with a lot of enthusiasm.


    2018 Stats
    .280/.328/.503
    471 AB, 19 HR, 82 RBI, 34 BB, 137 SO

  14. 14
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    Lazaro Armenteros

    Beloit (Athletics) OF
    Notes:

    Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 182. Signed: Cuba, 2016.


    Armenteros' first exposure to full season ball was a successful one. He missed most of June with a trip to the disabled list for a knee injury, but otherwise was healthy and productive. Armenteros' athleticism draws attention, and that translates into some quality tools such as power.


    Evaluators cited Armenteros' power as some of the best in the league, earning plus-plus raw power grades. His profile is clearly power over hit, but he has shown some developing plate discipline (although 10 hit-by-pitches helped his on-base percentage as well) that gives him a chance to be an average hitter as well.


    Armenteros is already limited to left field - he didn't play one game in center or right field all year. But his bat should be productive enough to make a corner-only profile work.


    2018 Stats
    .277/.374/.401
    292 AB, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 36 BB, 115 SO

  15. 15
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    Kevin Smith

    Lansing (Blue Jays) SS
    Notes:

    Age: 22. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-1. WT: 188. Drafted: College-- Maryland, 2017 (4)


    In college, Smith was a low-average hitter who did drive the ball enough to be a useful shortstop. But he's fixed and improved his swing since, as what was once a long and loopy swing is now shorter and more conducive to hitting. Smith was simply too advanced for the Midwest League and the Blue Jays promoted him to the Florida State League in late May.


    Although not seen as a flashy player, Smith's profile features a lot to like. He has demonstrated a much-improved hit tool, and he has average power as well. Smith has a blue collar feel to the way he plays and features the intangibles that scouts love to see.


    Scouts see Smith as more of a well-rounded player with few big weaknesses, although he also lacks plus tools. Smith projects as an average defender at shortstop who can be an above-average second or third baseman.


    2018 Stats
    .302/.358/.528
    523 AB, 25 HR, 93 RBI, 40 BB, 121 SO

  16. 16
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    Esteury Ruiz

    Fort Wayne (Padres) 2B
    Notes:

    Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 169. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.


    Multiple scouts compared Ruiz's body and profile to Alfonso Soriano, which is a pretty lofty comparison for a teenager. The Padres acquired Ruiz from the Royals at the trade deadline in July 2017. In his first exposure to full-season ball, he showed solid average power to go with aggressive baserunning that made his average speed play up significantly.


    Ruiz's 49 stolen bases led the league and he was successful on 81 percent of attempts. But scouts were even more impressed with his developing hit and power potential. Ruiz's swing is geared to produce plenty of contact (especially once he improves his pitch recognition). His long arms helps him get to average power right now with more power potential to come.


    He is a solid defender at second base and slid over to third base on occasion. Ruiz's mix of average and above-average tools makes Ruiz a potentially well-rounded middle infielder.


    2018 Stats
    .253/.324/.403
    439 AB, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 38 BB, 141 SO

  17. 17
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    Johan Oviedo

    Peoria (Cardinals) RHP
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-6. WT: 210. Signed: Cuba, 2016.


    Oviedo's introduction to the Midwest League was a brutal one. The Cuban native was greeted by a 40 degree day with a steady wind. He recorded only one out as he was chased after he walked five batters of the six batters he faced. All five scored to crater his ERA for a month.


    The righthander quickly settled down from that inauspicious debut to prove to be a durable starter for Peoria. He led the league in walks allowed (79), but also was second best in opponent's batting average (.238). Like many 20-year-old pitchers, he's not all that consistent yet, but he did make steady improvement. He cut his ERA by nearly three runs from the first half (5.82) to the second half (3.02) while also improving his walk rate and holding hitters to a .212 average against in the second half of the season.


    Oviedo's velocity waxed and waned, but even at his worst he had an average fastball and he often sat 93-94 and touched 96. Similarly, he'll follow a well-below-average curve with one that is plus. His changeup is more consistently an above-average pitch with some scouts projecting it as a future plus offering.


    2018 Stats
    10-10, 4.22 ERA
    121.2 IP, 108 H, 79 BB, 118 SO

  18. 18
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    Akil Baddoo

    Cedar Rapids (Twins) OF
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: L-L. HT: 5-11. WT: 195. Drafted: HS - Salem, Conyers, GA., 2016 (CBB)


    Most toolsy young hitters with power and speed have to figure out the strike zone later on. Their hand-eye coordination and power leads to over-aggressiveness that they have to tamp down as they mature.


    Baddoo has power and plus speed, but his best attribute is an advanced understanding of the strike zone that allows him to draw walks and work himself into favorable counts. Baddoo ranked fourth in the league with 74 walks and he also led the league with 11 triples.


    Baddoo missed some time early with a hamstring injury, but showed no ill effects upon returning to action. He's a work in progress in center field, but he's shown significant improvement in the consistency of his routes. His swing is also more consistent.


    2018 Stats
    .243/.351/.419
    437 AB, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 74 BB, 124 SO

  19. 19
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    Nolan Jones

    Lake County (Indians) 3B
    Notes:

    Age: 20. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-4. WT: 185. Drafted: HS - Bensalem, PA., 2016 (2)


    Jones was one of the best hitters and sluggers in the Midwest League in 2018. While it was his teammate Will Benson that led the league with 22 home runs, it was Jones who managed to combine power - he was fourth in the league in home run rate with one home run every 20 at-bats - and hitting ability. Jones was fourth in the league with a .393 on-base percentage.


    At the plate, Jones shows all-fields power and does not succumb to the temptation to expand his zone to try to hit pitcher's pitches. He projects as an above-average to plus hitter with plus power.


    Defensively, Jones has made steady improvement at third base. He reads balls well off the bat and has cleaned up his footwork.


    2018 Stats
    .279/.393/.464
    323 AB, 16 HR, 49 RBI, 63 BB, 97 SO

  20. 20
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    Patrick Sandoval

    Quad Cities (Astros) LHP
    Notes:

    Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS - Mission Viejo, CA., 2015 (11)


    Sandoval's wild 2018 season began with 71 excellent innings with Quad Cities. He was quickly promoted to high Class A Buies Creek, was traded to the Angels for Martin Maldonado in late July and finished the season in Double-A.


    Sandoval impressed with his ability to mix four solid pitches, which generally left him two steps ahead of inexperienced low Class A hitters. Sandoval works in and out and sinks his 88-94 mph fastball, but hitters can rarely sit on the heater as he is comfortable using his changeup in almost any count. His change generates potential plus grades while his slider and changeup both flash above-average as well.


    Sandoval misses bats and has the ability to mix and locate his varied arsenal with present fringe-average control giving him a solid chance to be a future No. 4 starter.


    2018 Stats
    7-1, 2.49 ERA
    65 IP, 58 H, 11 BB, 71 SO

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