New York-Penn League Top 20 Prospects
By Justin Coleman
Gilberto CelestinoTri-City (Astros) OFNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-L. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 170.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.
The toolsy Dominican put up excellent numbers before being traded to the Twins for reliever Ryan Pressly at the deadline. In just 34 games, Celestino hit .323 while also stealing 14 bases. His on-base percentage was a sparkling .387, which would have been good for sixth in the league if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
Celestino has an above-average hit tool, a solid understanding of pitch recognition and developing power. He also plays a solid center field. Celestino begins his swing with a big timing step, but he gets his foot down on time and seems to have few issues with balance or timing. He demonstrated an advanced all-fields approach, as he sprayed extra-base hits to right, center and left field. The only concern about Celestino’s offensive game is that his swing can get a little long at times, although he manages his strikeouts well.
Celestino has a high floor as an outfielder who can play all three spots, but he also has a shot to be a solid regular in center field.
127 AB, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 10 BB, 24 SO, 14 SBMore Less
Travis SwaggertyWest Virginia (Pirates) OFNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 170.
Drafted: South Alabama, 2018 (1).
The Pirates’ most recent first-rounder impressed in his first stint of professional baseball after being selected 10th overall. The Louisiana native built off of an excellent season for South Alabama, where his on-base percentage was .455 and he walked more than he struck out. Swaggerty showed the same prowess for West Virginia, getting on base at a .365 clip before being promoted to the low Class A South Atlantic League to end the season.
Swaggerty’s first-round selection was merited by the five tools he showed. His hit tool is solid and his power has the potential to be plus. He has plus speed and an above-average arm. While Swaggerty has a chance to stay in center field, scouts generally expect him to end up playing in a corner long-term.
Managers around the league applaud Swaggerty for being someone who can do a bit of everything, and he makes the most of his athleticism on defense.
139 AB, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 15 BB, 40 SOMore Less
Luis OviedoMahoning Valley (Indians) RHPNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 230.
Signed: Venezuela, 2015.
Oviedo received $375,000 from the Indians in 2015 and dominated the NYPL this season. The skinny righthander struck out 61 batters in just 48 innings.
Power and upside is what makes Oviedo’s profile exciting for Cleveland. Oviedo throws four pitches, including a swing-and-miss fastball that can reach the mid-90s with sink. He has good feel for his offspeed pitches with an athletic, repeatable delivery that creates quality command.
Listed at 6-foot-4, Oviedo throws from a three-quarter arm slot and maintains a competitive composure on the mound.
Oviedo’s complete dominance of the New York-Penn league earned him a promotion to low Class A Lake County near the end of the season. His season ended with a stint on the disabled list due to back problems.
4-2, 1.88 ERA
48 IP, 34 H, 10 BB, 61 SOMore Less
Juan De PaulaStaten Island (Yankees) RHPNotes:
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 165.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.
The lanky De Paula was originally signed by Seattle, then traded to the Yankees for Ben Gamel. De Paula had great success keeping the ball in the park, giving up only one home run in 109.1 innings the last two seasons at Staten Island, and in August he was traded to the Giants as part of the package for current Yankees outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
De Paula’s fastball is his main pitch and a good one, sitting in the low 90s and touching 95 mph with plenty of projection left. He also throws a slider and curveball, as well as a changeup. All three of his secondary pitches grade below his fastball, but his athleticism and arm strength leave room for growth.
In order for De Paula to reach his potential, he needs to improve his secondary offerings while also pitching inside with more conviction. The ingredients are there.
2-2, 1.71 ERA
47 IP, 35 H, 26 BB, 46 SOMore Less
Roansy ContrerasStaten Island (Yankees) RHPNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 197.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
The Yankees signed Contreras in 2016 despite being in the second year of their international penalty period (during which teams are prohibited from spending more than $300,000 on a player) and bought into him thanks a live arm, a strong lower half and an impressive fastball-curveball combination. He made it to low Class A in 2018, and he was the youngest pitcher in both the New York-Penn and South Atlantic leagues this season.
Contreras, who has added 22 pounds since signing, has a low-90s fastball that touched as high as 96 mph this year. He backs it up with a downer curveball with 11-to-5 break and a promising changeup. He needs to work on finishing his delivery more often in order to drive his entire arsenal down in the zone, where it will be most effective. He also shows advanced pitchability for his age, and he could grow into a little more velocity.
0-0, 1.26 ERA
29 IP, 15 H, 9 BB, 32 SOMore Less
Tanner DodsonHudson Valley (Rays) OF/RHPNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 160.
Drafted: California, 2018 (2s).
After drafting Brendan McKay in 2017 and encouraging him to play both ways, the Rays did it again with Dodson. The former California outfielder and closer who set the school’s single-season saves record was drafted with the 71st overall pick this past June and assigned to Hudson Valley. He didn’t disappoint, impressing both in center field and on the mound. He spent most of the year as the club’s leadoff man while also working out of the bullpen.
Dodson has impressive range in the outfield and he has an above-average to plus arm that should help him stay in center field. A switch-hitter, Dodson doesn’t hit for much power but he controls the strike zone well. Out of the bullpen the righthander has huge pure stuff. His fastball can reach up to 98 mph, and his slider is a wipeout pitch that sits in the upper 80s and can reach 92 mph. Evaluators note he doesn’t hold his velocity for multiple innings, but overwhelmingly still think his offerings are excellent. Dodson’s pure athletic ability and combination of tools make for an excellent prospect moving forward.
2018 Pitching Stats
1-0, 1.44 ERA
25 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 25 SO
2018 Hitting Stats
198 AB, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 20 BB, 34 SOMore Less
Alex McKennaTri-City (Astros) OFNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 200.
Drafted: Cal Poly, 2018 (4).
McKenna posted a .323/.402/.472 slash line for Cal Poly in the spring and kept it up after the Astros made him their fourth-round pick. McKenna built upon his offensive production in college, rolling along with a .423 on-base percentage at Tri-City before being promoted to the low Class A Midwest League for the final 12 games of the season.
McKenna profiles as a strong-bodied, instinctual outfielder who has developing power. McKenna hit seven doubles and five home runs while driving in 21 runs in just 34 games for Tri-City, and then hit two more home runs in the Midwest League.
“He’s a good fastball hitter,” one scout said. “Not exactly a natural hitter, but the hit tool is solid.”
Scouts applaud McKenna for his decision-making in the field, although he profiles more as a corner outfielder because he has only average speed and a fringe-average arm. His routes and reads make him playabe in center field in limited exposures, however.
116 AB, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 11 BB, 24 SOMore Less
Alec BohmWilliamsport (Phillies) 3BNotes:
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-5. Wt: 225.
Drafted: Wichita State, 2018 (1).
Bohm posted a 1.061 OPS his junior season at Wichita State to cement himself as one of the elite college bats in the 2018 draft. The Phillies selected the 6-foot-5 third baseman with the No. 3 overall pick and signed him for $5.85 million before he made a brief cameo in Rookie ball and eventually made his way to the New York-Penn League.
Bohm is known as a strong player with plus raw power. The power potential draws attention, but his approach with Williamsport was more contact-oriented. In 121 plate apperances, Bohm recorded just six extra-base hits and zero home runs. He did seem somewhat tired, which isn’t all that surprising since he began playing in January.
The biggest question with Bohm is whether or not he will stick at third base. His athleticism is good for a big guy and he features a solid arm, but it’s definitely a bat-first profile. While Bohm’s power production hasn’t been there, and his production in general failed to match his college output, his plus raw power and all-around quality approach are positives even if he has to move across the diamond to first base.
107 AB, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 10 BB, 19 SOMore Less
Israel PinedaAuburn (Nationals) CNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 190.
Signed: Venezuela, 2016
The importance of a quality catcher cannot be understated, and Pineda is slowly growing into that mold. The Venezuelan backstop has had two solid seasons so far in the minors, batting .273/.341/.388 for Auburn in 2018.
Despite being just 18 years old, Pineda features an advanced bat with a feel for spraying the ball to all fields. He is also credited for being a leader at the position, which is rare considering the short amount of time he has in the minors. In addition to his bat, he is considered a solid-average defender behind the plate.
Pineda’s body is already physically mature, leaving scouts wondering if he has already maximized his bat and power potential. Even so, his feel to hit and solid defensive tools create a profile of a solid all-around catcher who could grow into a big league regular.
165 AB, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 12 BB, 35 SOMore Less
Tyler FreemanMahoning Valley (Indians) SSNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 170.
Drafted: HS—Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., 2017 (2s).
Freeman has posted two excellent seasons thus far since being drafted 71st overall last year, including a 2018 campaign when he posted the highest batting average (.352) in the New York-Penn League. Although home run power isn’t there yet, Freeman recorded 35 extra-base hits and posted a gaudy .511 slugging percentage with Mahoning Valley this season.
Freeman runs well and takes advantage of his contact-hitting ability, and managers around the league have noticed his quick hands and plus athleticism at shortstop, which will allow him to stay up the middle in the future.
Freeman’s plus strike-zone management and athleticism create a bright future for the middle infielder. While his power may not develop into much more, his understanding of the game and contact-oriented bat will drive his value.
270 AB, 2 HR, 38 RBI, 8 BB, 22 SO, 14 SBMore Less
Jeremy EiermanVermont (Athletics) SSNotes:
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 205. Drafted: Missouri State, 2018 (2s).
A Missouri State product, Eierman impressed scouts throughout his amateur career. He matched 2017 first-round pick Jake Burger home run for home run in 2017, but his power tailed off in 2018 at Missouri State. He produced mixed results for Vermont in the New York-Penn League, however, slugging eight home runs while striking out in more than 25 percent of his at-bats.
Overall, the athletic middle infielder shows a plus power tool with the ability to hit the fastball. His pitch recognition needs work, as evidenced by his high strikeout totals, and at times he will move away from an otherwise solid approach at the plate in favor of more power. Eierman carries the reputation as a average defender at shortstop with a plus arm who could easily play third base or move around the diamond.
While scouts are impressed with his plus power and arm, they think he needs to work on consistency.
"He looks a little out of whack sometimes, needs to work on putting it together", said one scout. If he puts it all together, he can have an impactful future in the big leagues.
247 AB, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 13 BB, 70 SOMore Less
Rafael MarchanWilliamsport (Phillies) CNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht: 5-9. Wt: 170. Signed: Venezuela, 2015.
While the Phillies invested millions into outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz in July 2015, they were also able to come to an agreement with Marchan for $200,000 during that same international signing period. The converted shortstop-turned-catcher produced a .301/.343/.362 slash line in his second year stateside.
While he has yet to produce a home run in more than 125 minor league games, Marchan has shown solid feel for hitting. He is contact oriented, and his raw power tool is developing into becoming solid-average. For a catcher, he can run quite well and won't clog up the bases. His defense is solid, as managers have noted that he has a good throwing arm and is improving at blocking pitches in the dirt.
His detractors will point to his size (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) and struggles to block balls as areas that cause concern. An average defensive profile that features a contact-oriented bat with improving power makes him a good candidate to continue his ascension through the minors.
196 AB, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 11 BB, 18 SOMore Less
Matt SauerStaten Island (Yankees) RHPNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 195. Drafted: HS -- Santa Maria, Calif., 2017 (2).
A highly touted arm out of high school in California, Sauer posted quality numbers for Staten Island spanning across 13 starts. Although he gave up double-digit hits in back-to-back starts at the end of July, the righthander still managed to post a 3.90 ERA in 67 innings.
Sauer's fastball sits in the low 90s, but he can dial it up to 97 mph when he needs a little extra. His breaking pitch, a curveball, is currently average but has the potential to be a plus offering in the future. Although he hasn't walked many hitters, scouts peg him as having questionable command in and around the strike zone.
While he does feature a good fastball and developing curveball, scouts wonder if he is more of a finished product than many young arms. Sauer has time to hone his command, but the profile reads more as a back-end rotation piece.
3-6, 3.90 ERA
67 IP, 60 H, 18 BB, 45 SOMore Less
Chris BettsHudson Valley (Rays) CNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 215. Drafted: HS -- Long Beach, 2015 (2).
Betts had an impressive offensive season and showed off his defensive skills as well for Hudson Valley. But even more importantly, he stayed healthy.
Betts has had a rough introduction to pro ball. In 2016, Betts hit a paltry .179/.345/.250 between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and his first appearance in the New York-Penn League. The following season he had Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him for nearly all of 2017. Although he missed some time in 2018 after suffering a concussion, this year was a breakout campaign for Betts, as he posted nine home runs and 36 RBIs in 56 games.
The backstop features an average arm, as well as good footwork behind the dish. Scouts have noticed that he likes to take charge and routinely catches runners napping on the bases. Betts' hit tool is average, and he has the potential for 15-plus home run power as well.
"I like him as a six-hole type hitter," one scout said. "At catcher, he needs a to work a bit on blocking."
Rays personnel are pleased with his developing power and give him high praise for the way he handles a pitching staff and controls the running game.
262 AB, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 33 BB, 60 SOMore Less
Adam HallAberdeen (Orioles) SSNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 170. Drafted: HS -- London, Ont., 2017 (2).
Hall, an athletic second-round pick out of Canada in 2017, was impressive during his time with Aberdeen. The middle infielder didn't showcase much home run power, but he did get on base (.368 OBP) with excellent frequency.
Hall has a contact-oriented approach, and he routinely hits line drives. While still young, Hall is noted for having exceptional feel for the game both on offense and defense. He has an average arm at shortstop, but his arm is helped by his quick release on throws.
Hall is also an above-average runner with the instincts to steal bases. His athleticism, intelligence and overall tools should play up the middle in the big leagues.
222 AB, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 17 BB, 58 SOMore Less
Jameson HannahVermont (Athletics) OFNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht: 5-9. Wt: 185. Drafted: Dallas Baptist, 2018 (2).
Dallas Baptist has had plenty of players drafted recently including Hannah, who impressed in college with athleticism, power and speed. He brings all the tools to the table and had a robust .363/.451/.554 in his senior year for Dallas Baptist.
Speed is the tool that sticks out the most with Hannah, as he is known to be an accomplished base-stealer with plus-plus speed. Defensively, he plays a solid center field and should stick there. Although Hannah is known for hitting line drives, he has an athletic body and features future 60-grade power on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also features an advanced batting eye, which creates quality on-base skills.
Athleticism, speed and defense make for a quality asset. Hannah needs to work on hitting lefties better, according to one evaluator who saw him, but with developing power, the profile is a high-floor outfielder with plenty of upside.
86 AB, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 9 BB, 24 SOMore Less
Eduard BazardoLowell (Red Sox) RHPNotes:
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 155. Signed: Venezuela, 2014.
Though he spent parts of three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, the undersized Bazardo has seen improved performances since coming stateside. While posting a 2.36 ERA and striking out over a batter per inning, Bazardo was promoted to low class A Greenville, where he continued to shine in five starts in the South Atlantic League.
Although a starter in the Red Sox organization, his profile fits more of a bullpen role in the future. His fastball tops out 95 mph, and he creates deception with a high arm slot. His primary weapon is his slider, which sits comfortably in the upper 70s. The offering features big shape with a slurve break that generates swings and misses.
Bazardo's biggest improvement was limiting his walks per nine innings from 3.79 in 2017 to 1.09 in the New York-Penn League in 2018. As he improves his command, he should fit into the bullpen as a two-pitch righthander with a wipe-out breaking ball.
5-3, 2.36 ERA
49.2 IP, 36 H, 6 BB, 56 SOMore Less
Rafael KellyVermont (Athletics) RHPNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 190. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
Often overlooked in a deep Oakland farm system, Kelly is beginning to come into view as a future prospect for the Athletics' bullpen. After posting a 2.48 ERA across two levels in 2017, the Dominican native struggled a bit with his command and also struck out less than a batter per inning this season in the New York-Penn League.
Kelly has a lot of arm strength, but he is still considered to be quite raw. His two-seam fastball touches the mid-90s but comfortably sits 92-93 mph with sink. Power over pitchability summarizes Kelly, and he also features a slider with good sink. The slider is a developing pitch, however, as Kelly tends to get on the side of it, which causes the pitch to flatten on occasion.
"The arm works good, and hitters do not take any comfortable at-bats against this guy", noted one scout who saw him this season. Like many younger pitchers, he still needs to iron out some command issues. His aggressive mentality and developing fastball-slider combination will make him an exciting option out of the bullpen in the future.
5-6, 4.59 ERA
68.2 IP, 65 H, 27 BB, 59 SOMore Less
Marcos BritoVermont (Athletics) 2BNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 165. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
While Oakland made a big splash by signing Lazaro Armenteros in 2016, they also managed to ink Brito, an athletic infielder, for just more than $1 million. Brito has shown steady performances despite not featuring much power, totaling just seven extra-base hits in 54 games for Vermont in 2018.
Brito's statistics don't jump out, but his tools are definitely interesting. He is a wiry guy who is a plus runner and good defender at second base. His bat is more contact oriented, but he is known as being an unselfish hitter who could develop into a top-of-the-order threat.
Scouts have taken notice of his excellent work ethic and his understanding of the game. Although he will need plenty of time to develop, his athleticism and developing tools make him an interesting contact-oriented second baseman down the line.
212 AB, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 27 BB, 50 SOMore Less
Jose MedinaBrooklyn (Mets) OFNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
While the Mets' player development system is flush with infield talent, Medina sticks out as an outfield prospect who has started to put things together. Signed in 2013, the Dominican native slashed .271/.342/.429 with five home runs over 54 games for Brooklyn in 2018.
In addition to the solid all-around statistics, this is the first season that Medina's tools have really begun to shine. He is known for having a good bat that features a short stroke. He currently hits mostly for gap power, but he should continue to develop more power as he physically matures. Medina roams the outfield as an above-average runner with a plus arm.
He has continued to make more contact, which has helped him to hit for more power. "He has a lively body and carries himself like a ballplayer", said one scout.
As he grows into his tool set, Medina will be a player to watch in the future.
210 AB, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 22 BB, 41 SOMore Less