Pioneer Top 20
By Bill Mitchell
- 1Grand Junction (Rockies) 1BNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 220.
Drafted: HS—Bedford, NH, 2018 (1s).
Pioneer League managers and scouts covering the league were universally effusive in their praise for Lavigne, a supplemental first-round pick. The New Hampshire high school product stood out for advanced plate discipline and pitch recognition, traits that were well beyond his years for a high school draftee from a cold-weather state.
“He has an advanced approach for what he’s trying to do,” Grand Junction manager Jake Opitz said. “He’s not trying to do too much a lot of times. For a young kid able to use the whole field, that’s an impressive feat.”
Lavigne is more hit over power now, with opposite-field, gap-to-gap pop. With strength to his swing and plus raw power, those doubles will likely turn into home runs as he matures and gets stronger. An average runner, Lavigne is surprisingly quick for his solid muscular body and is aggressive on the bases. He’s an average defender with an average arm, with the aptitude to improve defensively. Managers and scouts were also impressed with his makeup.
206 AB, 6 HR, 7 SB, 40 BB, 12 SO
- 2Helena (Brewers) SSNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 165.
Drafted: HS—Corona, Calif., 2018 (1).
Turang started his pro career in the Rookie-level Arizona League before finishing the season in Helena. A good contact hitter with a quick, compact swing and plus hit tool, Turang needs to get stronger to add more power to his game. He’s an above-average runner with an above-average arm, and he has good instincts and a quick first step to ground balls. He’s mature and advanced enough that he should be able to move quickly through the minor leagues, especially as his body gets stronger.
“His baseball IQ is advanced for his age,” Helena manager Nestor Corredor said. “He’s very friendly, (a) good teammate (and) easy to coach. The good thing about him is that he was easy to coach the Brewers’ way ... he was willing to learn the newest stuff.”
He projects as a solid regular who can remain at shortstop.
112 AB, 1 HR, 6 SB, 22 BB, 28 SO
- 3Grand Junction (Rockies) LHPNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: R-L. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 195.
Drafted: Mississippi, 2018 (1).
Rolison followed a stellar two-year career as a regular weekend starter at Ole Miss with a strong pro debut at Grand Junction.
The Rockies limited Rolison to three or four innings per start because he’d already thrown 97 innings at Ole Miss. He never topped 60 pitches in an outing for Grand Junction. The durable lefty uses a simple delivery with at least above-average control of all three of his pitches.
Rolison’s fastball sits at 91-94 mph with arm-side sink and run, and he commands it to both sides of the plate and is effective working inside to righthanded hitters. The gem of Rolison’s arsenal is a plus slider, a swing-and-miss pitch with good depth. He has a changeup, but he needs to work on finishing the pitch more often.
“He’s definitely a special arm,” Grand Junction manager Jake Opitz said. “The more experience he gets and the more time he has to develop, he’s going to be special.”
0-1, 1.86 ERA
29 IP, 8 BB, 34 SO
- 4Idaho Falls (Royals) OFNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 183.
Drafted: Nevada-Las Vegas, 2018 (3).
Isbel spent just one month in the Pioneer League after his three-year career at UNLV, but rival managers saw enough of the lefthanded- hitting outfielder to declare him one of the league’s premier hitting prospects.
“He’s so advanced for the level,” Helena manager Nestor Corredor said. “(It’s) exactly what you’re looking for in a college bat. . . . (He’s) a legit prospect.”
Isbel shoots balls to the gaps with a compact swing that produces plenty of contact. He has doubles power now, but his above-average raw power portends more over-the-fence pop as he develops. He could be a 25-25 hitter in the big leagues.
Isbel’s above-average speed plays up because of his outstanding first-step quickness. An infielder earlier in his college career, Isbel doesn’t always take good routes in the outfield but his instincts and added experience should allow him to stay in the middle of the field.
105 AB, 4 HR, 12 SB, 14 BB, 17 SO
- 5Idaho Falls (Royals) LHPNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 220.
Drafted: Stanford, 2018 (1s).
Bubic was the fourth of five advanced college pitchers the Royals took in the 2018 draft’s first two rounds. He’s a high-floor southpaw with a fastball from 90-94 mph with good run and sink, a pitch that he would cut to the glove side and sink to the arm side. He commands his pitches to both sides of the plate, and a plus changeup with late sink is his “go-to” offering.
Bubic’s 73-78 mph curveball has medium depth and 12-to-6 break. It was an average pitch in college for Bubic, but at times was below-average while pitching in the Pioneer League. A low-effort delivery with a pause in the back creates timing issues for batters. The big-bodied lefthander projects as a reliable, back-of-the-rotation starter.
2-3, 4.03 ERA
38 IP, 19 BB, 53 SO
- 6Grand Junction (Rockies) RHPNotes:
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 190.
Drafted: Ohio State, 2018 (4).
Pitchers generally aren’t expected to put up such excellent numbers in the Pioneer League. But Feltner recorded a microscopic 0.88 ERA with an outstanding 39-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, quite the improvement from his final college season when he averaged more than four walks per nine innings.
The righthander brings a mid-90s fastball that shows potential to be a plus pitch thanks to its velocity and arm-side life. His changeup also has plus potential thanks to late run and advanced deception. His slider is inconsistent but has potential to be average.
“His demeanor is what’s going to separate him. He’s a guy who gets on the mound and he carries himself like a first-rounder,” Grand Junction manager Jake Opitz said.
0-0, 0.88 ERA
31 IP, 16 SV, 4 BB, 39 SO
- 7Billings (Reds) OFNotes:
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 170.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.
Bautista’s four years at the Rookie levels have been marked by intriguing ability with lots of uncontrolled swings, but he shortened his swing this year and is growing into more power.
The ball jumps off his bat with plus bat speed, and he projects to have plus power when he gets more leverage in his swing. Bautista is a plus runner who can chase down balls in the gaps, and an average arm will suffice if he switches to a corner outfield position.
“One of the better ones for me as far as prospects,” Billings manager Ray Martinez said. “I think he’ll move up the ranks quickly after this year.”
209 AB, 4 HR, 16 SB, 16 BB, 29 SO
- 8Ogden (Dodgers) 3BNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 198.
Signed: Cuba, 2017.
Vargas hadn’t played baseball for two years after defecting from Cuba along with his father, Lazaro Vargas, who played 22 years for the Havana Industriales in Cuba’s Serie Nacional and won two Olympic gold medals with his country’s national team. Understandably rusty when he first started working out at the Dodgers’ complex in Arizona, Vargas proceeded to tear up the Rookie-level Arizona League in eight games before showing up in Ogden, where he enticed observers with his advanced approach, supreme hand-eye coordination and plus raw power. It’s not just pull-side power, as Vargas’ inside-out swing allows him to drive balls to the right-center gap. Eight of his 11 doubles for Ogden and one of his two home runs were hit to right field.
A second baseman with quick hands during his early years in Cuba, Vargas played more third base with Ogden. A slow-twitch body that will continue to grow will likely push him to first base.
“He came out swinging the bat right away,” Ogden manager Jeremy Rodriguez said.
94 AB, 2 HR, 6 SB, 8 BB, 13 SO
- 9Missoula (Diamondbacks) OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 175.
Drafted: HS—Chicago, Ill., 2018 (2).
Thomas didn’t miss a beat after moving from the Rookie-level Arizona League to Missoula, again becoming a favorite of both scouts and rival managers with an all-out, intelligent approach to the game.
A grinder who gets the most out of his tools, Thomas is a plus runner with a compact swing that is geared to generating plenty of hard contact. Thomas is an aggressive runner with good instincts on the bases, and he could get to average power as his body matures.
With his speed and average arm, Thomas should be able to handle all three outfield positions. He has the floor of a solid fourth outfielder, but with his hitting ability such a role might be selling him short.
“His maturity level is that of a college kid,” farm director Mike Bell said. “When you talk with him, you’d think he spent at least a couple of years at college, and he hasn’t.”
123 AB, 2 HR, 4 SB, 11 BB, 19 SO
- 10Orem (Angels) SSNotes:
strong>Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 165.
Drafted: HS—Mobile, Ala., 2018 (2).
Jackson was part of a wave of prospects who provided a jolt of talent toward the end of the Pioneer League season.
He showed the same plus speed, athleticism and surprising raw power as in his debut in Arizona, although he tired toward the end of the summer.
The ball jumps off his bat in part because of his quick hands. There’s a lot of swing-and-miss to his approach, but he should cut down on the strikeouts as he develops better recognition of breaking balls.
Evaluators question whether Jackson stays at shortstop because his footwork needs plenty of work. Also, his throwing mechanics (and poor footwork) sometimes cause his throws to sail. His athleticism and speed would also fit in the outfield if the Angels decided to move him eventually.
“He’s such a good athlete that it allows us as an organization to be able to make those decisions a little further down the road,” Orem manager Dave Stapleton said.
91 AB, 2 HR, 4 SB, 8 SO, 34 BB
- 11Billings (Reds) RHPNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-5. Wt: 220. Drafted: HS -- Lake Worth, Fla., 2017 (4)/Dodgers
Marinan started his second pro season back in the Arizona League before he was included in a trade from the Dodgers to the Reds in a deal for a couple of big league bullpen arms. With a tall, strong body, Marinan certainly looks the part on the mound. He has a likely ceiling as a fourth or fifth starter with good feel for pitching and a competitive streak that allows him to pitch through tougher outings.
Marinan's best pitch is a plus fastball from 92-96 mph, a heavy ball with life down in the zone. The curveball at 75-79 mph shows depth but is inconsistent at the finish, and his changeup shows promise. His command can be inconsistent because of his tall body and the long arm circle in his delivery.
"(He has) a great arm. He competes and the frame is really good," Billings manager Ray Martinez said. "He's a tall kid (who is) strong and durable."
3-2, 3.98 ERA
43 IP, 49 H, 19 BB, 39 SO
- 12Ogden (Dodgers) SSNotes:
Age: 20 B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 180. Drafted: HS–West Covina, Calif., 2017 (11)
Amaya was undersized and sometimes overmatched in his pro debut in the Arizona League in 2017 before coming to spring training this year noticeably stronger. The added strength and experience showed in his performance in 32 games in the Pioneer League before moving up to Great Lakes of the Midwest League. Amaya has the plate discipline and advanced pitch recognition necessary to hit at the top of the order. He has gap power now but could grow into at least average power eventually. An average runner with an above-average arm and a good internal clock who gets good jumps and reads in the infield, Amaya can stay at shortstop but observers remarked that he could turn into a plus defender at second base.
Amaya also stood out for his leadership skills while in Ogden.
"Whatever team he plays for is going to be a winning team," Ogden manager Jeremy Rodriguez said. "He brings the whole team around him (with) a lot of passion and a lot of energy."
127 AB, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 27 BB, 29 SO, 11 SB
- 13Missoula (Diamondbacks) SSNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 160. Drafted: HS–Bradenton, Fla., 2018 (11)
Like teammate Alek Thomas, Alexander continued his outstanding play when promoted from the Arizona League to Missoula for the last month of the Pioneer League season. His swing is short to the ball with pull-side power and good feel to hit, and his average speed plays up on the bases. Alexander's carrying tool is his plus arm which some evaluators have graded as plus-plus, enough for anywhere in the infield or a move to the outfield if a super utility role suits him.
Alexander is a good athlete with instincts and feel for the game, impressing observers with his advanced approach to the game.
"You watch him play and you do not feel that you're watching a high school kid play," said Mike Bell, Arizona's Vice President of Player Development. "He's mature, and you can tell that he's had good coaching and training as he was growing up."
116 AB, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 12 BB, 31 SO
- 14Orem (Angels) OFNotes:
Age: 17. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 165. Signed: Bahamas, 2017
Knowles was one of the surprises of the Arizona League with his aggressive, hard-nosed play, and he raised his game even more after moving up to the Pioneer League–especially impressive since the native Bahamian won't turn 18 until early next year. The switch-hitting outfielder showed good bat speed and made hard contact at Orem, projecting to be able to hit for average but with below-average power.
Knowles is a plus runner now. He doesn't show that plus speed out of the box, but he displays that speed once up to speed and when chasing down balls in the outfield gaps. Knowles projects to be an above-average runner as his body matures, but he'll still have enough closing speed and athleticism to handle center field. A fringe to average arm would make him playable in right field in a fourth outfielder role.
Orem manager Dave Stapleton also had Knowles with him in extended spring training and has seen incredible growth this year.
"To see the maturity in this young man is pretty incredible," Stapleton said. "For him to come out of the cocoon … now he's pretty talkative and very vocal in the dugout. He has a ton of upside."
109 AB, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 13 BB, 38 SO
Niko DecolatiGrand Junction (Rockies) OFNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 215. Drafted: Loyola Marymount, 2018 (6)
One of the raps against Decolati in his three-year college career at Loyola Marymount was his high strikeout totals, but in his pro debut at Grand Junction the righthanded hitter cut his strikeout rate 18 percent, nearly ten percent below what he posted last spring at Loyola Marymount.
Possessing strength and athleticism with fast-twitch actions, he plays the game hard. Decolati has a longer bat path but with good bat speed from a upright stance and a swing that generates loft. He has above-average raw power with most of his pop going to the opposite power alley. The question remains whether he'll be able to get his bat through the zone quickly enough against better velocity at higher levels.
Primarily an infielder in college, Decolati switched to the outfield at Grand Junction and he took to the new position quite well with plus speed and enough arm to stay in right field.
"He's close to being one of the better outfielders that you're going to see," said Grand Junction manager Jake Opitz. "Once he puts it all together he's a special one."
263 AB, 11 HR, 56 RBI, 34 BB, 56 SO, 17 SB
Je'Von WardHelena (Brewers) OFNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-5. Wt: 190. Drafted: HS–Cerritos, Calif., 2017 (12)
A raw talent with some athleticism on a lean, lanky body, Ward improved significantly in his second pro season when the Helena coaching staff got him to focus on his entire game and not just on hitting.
"He was my most consistent hitter," Helena manager Nestor Corredor said. "And in most of the second half he was my leadoff guy because he showed that he knew the strike zone and swing at good pitches."
Ward cut his strikeout rate from 30 percent in his 2017 Arizona League season to 21 percent and upped his walk rate from 7 to 12 percent. He has a compact swing with opposite-field gap power but can still improve his zone awareness and getting more loft in the swing. He's an average to above-average runner with enough arm to handle an outfield corner. Ward played his entire second season at 18, so there's still plenty of time for more growth.
238 AB, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 32 BB, 57 SO
- 17Helena (Brewers) SSNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 183. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016
After making a late season appearance in the Arizona League in 2017, Carmona returned for spring training looking leaner and showing more twitchy athleticism and strength in the body. He obviously attracted enough attention with his play at Helena to be bundled in a deadline deal to Baltimore as part of the package for big league second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
Using a compact swing with good bat to ball skills and the ability to impact the baseball, Carmona projects as an average hitter with fringe power. A below-average runner, he won't impact the game with his speed. Some talent evaluators question whether he has the footwork and actions for a starting shortstop role but his average arm allows him to play other infield positions which he did both at Helena and after the trade at the Orioles affiliate in Aberdeen, Maryland.
"He proved to the organization that he was able to play multiple positions," said Helena manager Nestor Corredor.
155 AB, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 13 BB, 45 SO
- 18Billings (Reds) RHPNotes:
Age: 21 B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 180. Drafted: Lackawanna JC, 2017 (11)
Solomon may be more of a late bloomer as he was inconsistent in junior college but showed enough potential to get an above-slot bonus in 2017 as an 11th-round pick. He drew little attention in his first pro year in the Arizona League, but statistically was one of the Pioneer League's best pitchers in his nine starts before moving up to the Midwest League in early August.
Solomon is a competitor with good mound presence. He has a solid three-pitch mix featuring a 92 mph fastball. His two-seamer gets plenty of sink and he pairs it with a crisp two-plane slider that earns average grades. He rounds out the repertoire with a changeup with some arm-side sink. He's an effective strike thrower who controls the running game well. A low online stride in the delivery results in him dropping down and losing plane, and he needs to continue to improve his command.
4-2, 2.27 ERA
47.2 IP, 32 H, 14 BB, 54 SO
- 19Great Falls (White Sox) 3BNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 200. Drafted: HS–Warren, Mich., 2018 (33)
Bush was expected to honor his Mississippi State commitment, which explains why he fell until late on the final day of the draft. He eventually signed for a well-above slot $290,000. After a few weeks in the Arizona League Bush headed off to Great Falls where he slotted into the middle of the order for the eventual league champs. He stands out for explosiveness at the plate that he gets from very strong hands and plus bat speed. An average runner now, Bush could add speed with strength.
"(What was) impressive to me was this kid came right out of high school," said Great Falls manager Tim Esmay. "We put him in the three hole and he never really looked overmatched and he made adjustments."
Bush is still very raw defensively at third base but has the athleticism and reactions for the position. His average arm should get better when he learns how to get a quicker release on the ball.
96 AB, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 10 BB, 21 SO
Kevin MaitanOrem (Angels) 3BNotes:
Age: 18. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 222. Signed: Venezuela, 2016 (Braves)
Maitan's path to the Angels organization has been well-documented, first signing with the Braves in 2016 for $4.25 million and then joining the Angels for a $2.2 million bonus after being declared a free agent by MLB after it was discovered that the Braves violated multiple rules for international signings.
Scouts had been down on Maitan as he's gained more than 40 pounds since signing with the Braves and the bat hasn't developed as expected, but it should be noted that he's still only 18.
Talent evaluators who saw Maitan later in the Pioneer League season after he switched from shortstop to third base now have a glimmer of hope that he can turn back into a genuine prospect. Maitan worked his way into better shape during the season, and the Angels believe he matured considerably during his time in Orem.
After lowering his chase rate and becoming more selective at the plate, Maitan posted his best numbers in August with a .781 OPS and five of his eight home runs. He flashes an explosive swing with plus raw power from both sides of the plate with above-average bat speed, but there are a lot of moving parts to the swing. He still has plenty of work to do at third base but should become an average defender there with a plus arm. He's a below-average runner and projects as a power-first bat.