Texas League Top 20 Prospects
By Kegan Lowe
- 1San Antonio (Padres) SSNotes:
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.
A left thumb fracture and ensuing surgery ended Tatis Jr.’s 2018 season in late July, but he clearly separated himself as the top position player prospect in the TL. All five of the 19-year-old shortstop’s tools drew plus grades from one evaluator. He’s made steady improvement with his speed, body and range.
Tatis finished second in the league with an .862 OPS despite being its youngest player on Opening Day. Even on the rare days he didn’t get a hit, he found other ways to beat teams, drawing walks, stealing bases, and preventing hits with his glove.
Though there were previous concerns about his ability to stick at short, those evaporated as he solidified himself as a plus shortstop with quick actions and a reliable glove. His 16 homers and 16 stolen bases in just 88 games showed his exciting 20-20 or potential. How recovery from his thumb injury will determine his time line to the majors.
353 AB, 16HR, 43RBI, 34BB, 109SO, 16SB
- 2Midland (Athletics) LHPNotes:
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 205. Drafted: HS—Parkland, Fla., 2016 (3rd round).
The Nationals made Luzardo a third-round pick in 2016 even after he had Tommy John surgery as a high school senior. They traded him to the A’s roughly a year later to acquire relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
Luzardo entered the year with just 12 pro appearances, all in short-season ball, but that didn’t stop Oakland from assigning him to the high Class A California League. He moved to the TL after just three starts and finished the year at Triple-A Nashville.
Working off a 92-97 mph fastball that usually sits at 93, Luzardo shows above-average control to both sides of the plate. He also throws a plus changeup and above-average breaking ball that he’s able to manipulate in both velocity and shape.
Luzardo clearly separated himself as the best pitching prospect in the TL—and also as the top lefthanded prospect in the game. He should be big league ready early next season.
7-3, 2.29 ERA
78.2 IP, 18BB, 86SO, 5HR
- 3Tulsa (Dodgers) CNotes:
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 200. Signed: Venezuela, 2014.
Ruiz and Fernando Tatis Jr. were the only two 19-year-olds on TL Opening Day rosters, and both rewarded their clubs by responding to the challenge with productive seasons.
While Ruiz’s statistics might not stand out at first glance, he showed an elite ability to make contact. He struck out just six percent of the time to lead the league. Like most switch-hitters, Ruiz is more productive from left side, where he hit .276/.334/.420 with 11 of his 12 home runs.
Ruiz shows the making of an above-average to plus defensive catcher with quick feet and an above-average arm he used to throw out 36 percent of basestealers. He caught the second-highest total of games (86) in a brutal league for catchers but allowed a league-high 11 passed balls as he continues to refine his overall catching technique.
377 AB, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 27 BB, 33 SO
- 4Corpus Christi (Astros) 1BNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-5. Wt: 225. Signed: Cuba, 2016.
One of five under-21 players to start the season in the TL, Alvarez put up eye-popping statistics in a 43-game sample before being promoted to Triple-A Fresno. Among hitters who qualified for this list, he ranked first in slugging (.615) and OPS (1.005) and sixth in batting average (.325).
Alvarez has present plus raw power, with one evaluator projecting future double-plus raw power with an above-average hit tool. Alvarez played mostly left field this season, though he doesn’t project as more than a fringe-average defender with an average arm. Most likely, Alvarez ends up at his natural position of first base, but it will always be his bat and power that carry him.
169 AB, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 21 BB, 45 SO
- 5Tulsa (Dodgers) OFNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 195. Signed: Cuba, 2015.
Traded by the Dodgers to the Orioles as the top prospect in the Manny Machado deal, Diaz was one of four TL hitters who qualified for this ranking who posted more walks (43) than strikeouts (39).
Diaz combined a discerning batting eye with emerging power. He slugged a career-high .477 in the TL and homered twice at the Futures Game. He went deep six times in the TL, however, and needs to improve his launch angle to reach the seats more frequently.
Diaz made improvements in center field this season. He has a plus arm and potentially above-average range. He may be able to stay in center, but the 21-year-old has the bat and power potential to handle the profile of an everyday right fielder.
220 AB, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 43 BB, 39 SO
- 6Midland (Athletics) CNotes:
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 215. Drafted: Wright State, 2016 (3rd round).
Best known for his plus arm behind the plate, Murphy showed significant improvement as a hitter in his second taste of the TL. After struggling at Midland late in 2017, Murphy improved his numbers across the board and received a late-season promotion to Triple-A Nashville despite missing a month and a half with a broken right hamate bone.
An unforgiving, windy home park at Midland limited Murphy to just eight home runs, but he showed his above-average power potential with 26 doubles and .498 slugging percentage.
Evaluators gave Murphy rave reviews on both his blocking and receiving. That gives him the potential to be a plus defender at a premium position with a solid bat.
257 AB, 8 HR, 43 RBI, 25 BB, 47 SO
- 7San Antonio (Padres) LHPNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: R-L. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 200. Drafted: HS—Bradenton, Fla., 2015 (8th round).
The league’s youngest pitcher on Opening Day, Allen showed the makings of a potential middle-of-the-rotation workhorse. He was one of just five pitchers to notch at least 121 innings, and he did that even with a late-season promotion to Triple-A El Paso.
Allen paired his 92-94 mph fastball and plus changeup with potentially plus control to attack hitters, while still refining his breaking ball. Evaluators commented on Allen’s fierce competitiveness on the mound, while also noting his intelligence when working through a lineup multiple times and executing a plan of attack for each individual hitter. That mix of stuff and maturity has Allen in line to reach San Diego as soon as next year.
10-6, 2.75 ERA
121 IP, 38 BB, 125 SO, 7 HR
- 8Corpus Christi (Astros) RHPNotes:
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 200. Drafted: Texas A&M, 2017 (2nd round).
Martin rose to Double-A quickly in his first professional season and one evaluator said he could succeed in the middle of a big league rotation as soon as 2019.
Martin’s main offerings are a 90-94 mph fastball and an above-average slider, but it’s his above-average command of four pitches, including a curveball and changeup, that allows Martin to get the most from his stuff.
Martin does a nice job of mixing his pitches in and around the zone. He limits his walks, but also stays away from the middle of the plate to limit hard contact, as evidenced by his .221 opponent average.
7-2, 2.97 ERA
103 IP, 7 HR, 28 BB, 96 SO
- 9San Antonio (Padres) LF/1BNotes:
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 250. Drafted: HS—Mississauga, Ont. (1st round).
Naylor showed marked improvement offensively in his second taste of Double-A. After struggling with San Antonio last season, he ranked fifth in the league in both batting average (.297) and OPS (.830), while hitting 17 home runs and posting more walks (72) than strikeouts (69). Naylor was often described as being able to “flat-out hit,” with an ability to handle both lefthanders (.307/.405/.467) and righthanders (.294/.375/.440).
The 5-foot-11, 250-pound Naylor faces defensive concerns. He played exclusively first base before starting 89 games in left field this season. The Padres seem open to the idea that Naylor could potentially be a bat-first, below-average defender in left field, but he also has ample experience at first base, where his limited athleticism would seem better suited.
501 AB, 17 HR, 74 RBI, 72 BB, 69 SO
- 10Tulsa (Dodgers) C/3BNotes:
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 192. Drafted: Louisville, 2016 (1st round).
Smith’s power numbers took a massive jump with 19 home runs in 73 games at Tulsa. His .890 OPS would have led the league if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, but Smith missed nearly four weeks with a bone bruise in his thumb and was eventually promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Aug. 1.
Smith caught almost exclusively his first two seasons, but at Tulsa he started 49 games at catcher and 39 games at third base to accommodate teammate Keibert Ruiz. Smith showed the athleticism, arm strength and overall profile to handle both positions, with the potential to be a plus defensive catcher and an average third baseman. His increased power output and steady 12 percent walk rate gives him the offensive profile for both positions.
265 AB, 19 HR, 53 RBI, 36 BB, 75 SO
- 11Corpus Christi (Astros) LHPNotes:
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 170. Signed: Cuba, 2016.
Perez was one of the breakout pitchers in the Texas League this season, striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings and finishing the year as one of only two TL pitchers to complete at least 40 innings with an ERA below 2.00. As a reward for his efforts, and to give the Astros another intriguing lefthanded arm for their postseason run, Perez is currently in the Astros’ bullpen, where he has made several relief appearances with varying success.
With Corpus Christi, however, Perez made 11 starts and just five relief appearances. As a starter, his fastball mostly sits 90-94 mph, and his slider took steps forward into potentially being a plus pitch. He is still working on a changeup, which will be crucial to his development as a starter. Perez also needs to improve his control to remain an effective starting option, although it’s clear he has a fairly safe fallback option as a fastball-slider lefthanded reliever.
6-1, 1.98 ERA
68.1 IP, 22 BB, 83 SO, 3 HR
- 12Northwest Arkansas (Royals) SSNotes:
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 175. Drafted: Creighton, 2016 (5th round).
Voted as the Texas League’s best defensive shortstop in BA’s annual Best Tools survey, Lopez added to his prospect reputation this season by hitting .331 with an .814 OPS in 73 games in Double-A. Though he is never going to hit for much power, Lopez did have a career-high nine home runs this year, although only two of them came while he was playing for Northwest Arkansas.
Evaluators consistently lauded Lopez for his barrel control and his approach at the plate, both of which helped him post an impressive strikeout rate of just 7.1 percent compared to a 10.2 percent walk rate. Lopez is an above-average runner who has stolen at least 15 bases in each of his three pro seasons, and he has good range and a solid-average arm at shortstop.
281 AB, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 33 BB, 23 SO
- 13Tulsa (Dodgers) RHPNotes:
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 207. Drafted: Santa Clara, 2016 (2nd round).
After a brief, 28-inning taste of the Texas League last season, White made 22 starts and pitched 105.1 innings for Double-A Tulsa in 2018 with inconsistent results. After routinely posting sub-.200 opponent averages in the lower levels, and even having a .172 opponent average in a small TL sample last year, White had a harder time getting outs and avoiding hits this season.
White’s stuff took a step back early in the season, but he regained his fastball and his success as the season wore on. He was much better over his final seven starts of the season, going 4-2, 3.82 with 32 strikeouts and seven walks in 39 innings.
White’s low- to mid-90s fastball can be hard to square up when it features late sink and arm-side run, but he can find himself in trouble when the pitch flattens out. White’s above-average slider is his best secondary offering, and he’s still refining his 12-to-6 curveball.
6-7, 4.53 ERA
105.1 IP, 34 BB, 88 SO, 12 HR
- 14Tulsa (Dodgers) OFNotes:
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-6. Wt: 225. Drafted: Western Nevada JC, 2016 (4th round).
The 2018 Texas League home run champion, Peters hit 29 home runs this season, six more than his closest competition. On the flip side was the fact that Peters struck out 192 times in 132 games, 32 more strikeouts than the next closest TL hitter.
Peters’ all-or-nothing approach doesn’t seem to be improving either, as his strikeout rate has increased each season (career-worst 34.3 percent in 2018), while his walk rate is decreasing (career-worst 8.1 percent in 2018).
Defensively, the 6-foot-6 Peters shows solid-average range in center field, and his plus arm would fit well in right field as well. The obvious concern with Peters is his ability to shrink the holes in his swing and improve his on-base skills, although his power production and defensive skills make him a legitimate threat to impact a game whenever he steps on the field.
491 AB, 29 HR, 60 RBI, 45 BB, 192 SO
- 15San Antonio (Padres) RHPNotes:
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 208. Drafted: Stanford, 2016 (1st round).
After entering the season as the No. 4 prospect in a loaded Padres farm system, Quantrill struggled in the Texas League for the majority of 2018. In 22 starts, the 6-foot-3 righthander posted a 5.15 ERA, .282 opponent average, 1.48 WHIP and struck out 7.77 batters per nine innings.
The reports on Quantrill’s stuff, however, was still mostly encouraging, as he boasts a low- to mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup and an inconsistent slider. His changeup isn’t as impressive as it was in past years (it earned 70 grades in the past) and he continues to struggle to spin his slider consistently.
Yet translating pure stuff into outs was an issue for Quantrill, who can grow easily frustrated when making too many mistakes over the middle of the plate with an inability to string together multiple solid outings.
6-5, 5.15 ERA
117 IP, 39 BB, 101 SO, 12 HR
- 16Springfield (Cardinals) CNotes:
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 200. Drafted: North Carolina State, 2016 (7th round).
Typically considered an offense-first catcher, Knizner continued to show off an above-average hit tool in 2018. The former N.C. State product hit .313/.365/.434 in 77 games in the Texas League before being promoted to Triple-A Memphis, where he hit .315/.383/.407 in a limited, 17-game sample.
The power will likely never be any more than average for Knizner, who has never hit more than 12 home runs in a season, but his hit tool and overall approach at the plate should be more than enough to hit for a high average and post a respectable on-base percentage in the majors.
After not becoming a full-time catcher until later in his college career, Knizner is still relatively new to the position. His arm strength is average, but he’s improved in both blocking and receiving and earned strong reviews from pitchers, who enjoy throwing to him.
281 AB, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 24 BB, 40 SO
- 17Frisco (Rangers) RHPNotes:
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 175. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
Hernandez dominated the high Class A Carolina League for the first part of 2018 before being promoted to Double-A Frisco on June 11, where he experienced more inconsistent results. Line one with Hernandez is his plus fastball, which regularly sits at 94-96 mph during starts, but can touch the upper 90s. Commanding his fastball was an issue in the latter half of the season, however, which led to Hernandez posting 5.06 walks per nine innings in the Texas League.
The righthander is typically better at spotting his fastball to his glove side, but he is still learning how to throw it to both sides of the plate. There was some thought that he might have been trying too hard, speeding up his delivery and over-throwing in Double-A.
Hernandez’ slider is at least average with above-average potential, while his changeup is still being refined as a more distant third pitch.
4-4, 4.92 ERA
64 IP, 36 BB, 57 SO, 6 HR
- 18Midland (Athletics) SSNotes:
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 190. Drafted: Florida, 2015 (1st round).
A first-round pick out of Florida in 2015, Martin experienced a career-revitalizing season in 2018. After never hitting better than .237 with a .695 OPS in his first three pro seasons, Martin hit .300 with an .807 OPS in 118 TL games. Among qualified league hitters, Martin, who also stole a career-high 25 bases, was one of only three to hit at or above .300, and his .807 OPS ranked in the top 10.
Martin missed the first few weeks of the season with a back injury, but he played above-average defense at shortstop once he returned, consistently showing off a plus arm. Full health and maintaining his improvements at the plate would go a long way in Martin recapturing some of the prospect reputation he had coming out of college.
453 AB, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 47 BB. 86 SO, 10 SB
- 19San Antonio (Padres) CNotes:
Age: 24. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 220. Drafted: Florida Tech, 2015 (4th round).
Voted by league evaluators as the best power prospect in the Texas League, Allen hit 22 home runs and ranked second in slugging percentage (.506) among qualified hitters, trailing only Fernando Tatis Jr. (.507).
Although his glove work behind the plate has improved. He’s still a fringy receiver/blocker but he has shown a desire to work and improve. He could end up as a fringe-average defender with a borderline above-average arm, but that may be enough to earn a big league role because of his bat and power potential that carries him to the majors.
The lefthanded hitter still needs to improve against same-side pitching, as he hit .252/.285/.431 against lefthanders this year, but he continues to mash against righthanders, hitting .305/.375/.534 with 17 home runs in more than 350 plate appearances.
451 AB, 22 HR, 56 RBI, 37 BB, 97 SO
- 20Midland (Athletics) 2B/SSNotes:
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 175. Drafted: Clemson, 2016 (11th round).
White had even better offensive numbers than his Midland middle-infield counterpart Richie Martin, although his defensive game is built more on versatility than playing a true, plus shortstop. While Martin is a future big league shortstop, White’s best path to the majors is as a versatile, well-rounded infielder who plays multiple spots.
Still, White was voted as the best defensive second baseman in the Texas League this season, and he’s proven he can play an adequate shortstop as well as third base and even a playable center field.
While that versatility may help him get to the majors, it’ll be White’s improvements at the plate that could help him carve out a regular role. White set career-bests in batting average (.306), on-base percentage (.388), slugging percentage (.450) and walk rate (10.7 percent) in 2018, and he ranked in the top 10 among qualified TL hitters in all of those same categories.
504 AB, 9 HR, 55 RBI, 63 BB, 116 SO, 18 SB