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2016 Arizona League Top 20 Prospects



See Also: AZL/Pioneer League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Bill Mitchell

See Also: 2016 League Top 20 Index

See Also: League Top 20 Prospects Historical Index


LEAGUE SUPERLATIVES

2016-arizona-league-top-20 Championship Series AZL Mariners 2, AZL Angels 0

Best Record AZL Dodgers, 33-22 (.600)
Most Valuable Player Oscar Gonzalez, of, AZL Indians
Pitcher OF The Year* Luis Ledo, rhp, AZL White Sox
Did Not Qualify Cal Quantrill, rhp, AZL Padres
* As selected by Baseball America
Hitters dominated the Rookie-level Arizona League prospect list in 2016 by taking 17 of 20 spots. Rangers outfielder Leody Taveras ranks as the top prospect followed by Dodgers righthander Yadier Alvarez, but either would have been a worthy choice for the top spot.

Scouts and fans were treated to the pro debuts of a number of high-profile hurlers, including 2016 first-round righthanders Zack Burdi (White Sox) and Cal Quantrill (Padres), supplemental first-round righty Jordan Sheffield (Dodgers) and 2015 first-round righty Walker Buehler (Dodgers) coming back from Tommy John surgery—but none pitched enough to qualify for the Top 20.

Oscar Gonzalez (Indians) was voted the league MVP, leading all hitters in slugging percentage (.566) and tying for the lead in home runs (eight). Second baseman Josh Vidales (Athletics), a 28th-round pick who hit .229 in the spring at Houston, led the league in batting (.345), on-base percentage (.437) and OPS (.944). Vidales, 23, is not regarded as a top prospect although scouts foresee a possible big league bench role for him later in his career.

The Mariners captured the league crown by sweeping a best-of-three championship series against the Angels after disposing of the Cubs and Reds in the qualifying rounds. First-time skipper Zac Livingston earned his first ring after spending the previous four years as a minor league catcher and coach in the Angels organization.

Veteran minor league manager John Shoemaker was named manager of the year after his Dodgers squad posted the top regular season record (33-22).


1. Leody Taveras, of, Rangers | bba_video_icon_red

3ds_rangers83Age: 17. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.

The switch-hitting Taveras quickly generated a buzz among scouts in the AZL, playing in his first pro season after signing for $2.1 million. Scouts couldn’t remember an AZL player being evaluated as heavily prior to the Aug. 1 trade deadline as the native Dominican, a cousin of former major league outfielder Willy Taveras.

Taveras is a natural center fielder with an advanced feel for hitting, and he draws comparisons with a young Carlos Beltran.

“Defensively, he’s as good of a young center fielder as I’ve seen,” Rangers manager Matt Siegel said. “He was put on this earth to be a center fielder.”

A five-tool athlete, Taveras takes a whippy bat to the plate with a good feel for the barrel. His power began to emerge during his time in Arizona and will continue to develop with added strength. He’s an above-average runner who stole 11 bases during his 33 games in Arizona. An instinctual defender who moves well in the outfield because of his long strides, Taveras is a plus defender with plus range and an accurate, above-average arm.

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2. Yadier Alvarez, rhp, Dodgers | bba_video_icon_red

3ds_dodgers83Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 175. Signed: Cuba, 2015.

Alvarez was one of the jewels of the Dodgers’ 2015 international period, signing in July for $16 million. He finally made it to the U.S. partway through spring training in 2016 and impressed observers as quickly as his electric right arm delivered 100 mph fastballs.

“(He’s) learning how to be part of a team and getting used to pitching against different types of competition,” longtime Dodgers manager John Shoemaker said.

The Dodgers kept Alvarez in Arizona to allow him to acclimate to life in the U.S. He moved to low Class A in mid-July after showing off his athleticism and extremely loose arm. He uses a three-quarters to high three-quarters arm slot he repeats well. He hides the ball well in his delivery, allowing his pitches to get on batters quickly. His fastball ranged from 94-100 mph and it’s very easy velocity.

Alvarez gets good angle on a plus low-80s curveball and late action on an 84-88 mph slider. He didn’t use his changeup very often, but it flashed plus at times and is best as a harder pitch from 86-91 mph.

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3. Will Benson, of, Indians | bba_video_icon_red 3ds_indians83 Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-5. Wt: 225. Drafted: HS—Atlanta, 2016 (1).

Very few baseball players bring the same raw tools and physicality to the field as Benson, the 14th overall pick in 2016. He’s still very raw and that lack of refinement showed during his pro debut.

While his tremendous bat speed produces 70 raw power on the 20-80 scouting scale, Benson has a loopy swing at times. He doesn’t always get his hips closed and get consistent separation, and he struggles to recognize spin. But he improved his timing during the season and worked on driving the ball to all fields. With elite bat speed, Benson squares up balls when he makes contact.

Defensively, Benson gets good jumps and reads in the outfield and shows a plus arm. He moves well for his size with long strides that make him an average runner. Benson is a good teammate and works extremely hard.

“He’s probably one of the hardest workers on the field,” Indians manager Anthony Medrano said. “You don’t have to tell him twice . . . He’s out there working all the time and does it on his own. You can tell that he wants to get better.”

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4. Khalil Lee, of, Royals | bba_video_icon_red 3ds_royals29 Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht: 5-10. Wt: 182. Drafted: HS—Oakton, Va., 2016 (3).

Scouts were split prior to the draft as to whether Lee was a better prospect as a hitter or a pitcher. The Royals signed him for $750,000 to hit, with pitching as a fallback, but early returns indicate he’s in the right place.

“The first time I saw him take batting practice there was electricity in that bat,” Royals manager Darryl Kennedy said.

Lee has plus bat speed, barrels balls up and uses the whole field. After his hot start, AZL pitchers started throwing him more breaking balls, but Lee did a good job of adjusting to how the league adjusted to him, Kennedy said. He’s aggressive on the bases, both in terms of swiping bags and taking the extra base.

While he needs to improve his outfield defense, Lee should be able to stay in center field. He’s an above-average runner and at times flashes a plus arm.

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5. Brady Aiken, lhp, Indians | bba_video_icon_red 3ds_indians83 Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 205. Drafted: HS—Bradenton, Fla., 2015 (1).

Picked by the Astros in 2014 with the No. 1 overall pick, Aiken did not sign after Houston lowered its signing bonus offer due to medical concerns. The San Diego native instead enrolled in the post-graduate program at IMG Academy but tore his UCL in his first start, requiring Tommy John surgery.Despite the injury, Cleveland selected Aiken 17th overall in 2015 just three months after his surgery, signing him for $2,513,280.

Aiken made his pro debut on the first day of the AZL season. The rust was evident in nine appearances, but he stayed healthy and went on to pitch better after an August promotion to short-season Mahoning Valley.

Aiken’s arm speed has not completely come back. His fastball sits 88-89 mph and touches 91. Most impressive was his ability to get so much spin on his breaking ball so soon after surgery, with solid depth on a low-70s curveball that helped him get swings and misses.

“He’s been through a lot and overcome a lot of situations,” Indians manager Anthony Medrano said. “He’s a great kid, a competitor and wants to get better. The arm strength is building . . . next year is going to be a real eye-opener for him”

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6. Nolan Jones, 3b/ss, Indians | bba_video_icon_red 3ds_indians83 Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 185. Drafted: HS—Bensalem, Pa., 2016 (2).

With first-round picks from both the 2015 (Brady Aiken) and 2016 (Will Benson) drafts on its roster, the Indians were the most interesting AZL team to watch. Another gem from the recent draft was Jones, who signed for $2.25 million out of a suburban Philadelphia high school. Jones is expected to outgrow shortstop and spent most of his pro debut at third base, his expected future home.

Jones made adjustments in the field during the year, improving his footwork and learning how to read hops, and his plus arm will be more than enough for the hot corner. At the plate, he projects as a gap-to-gap hitter who drives balls to all fields with some over-the-fence power. He has good bat control, a fluid stroke and good plate discipline, and he improved the ability to pick up spin as the season progressed. His swing still has a lot of moving parts, and he needs repetition to solidify his approach at the plate.

While he doesn’t have teammate Benson’s sky-high ceiling, Jones is a better bet to reach his solid-regular projection.

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7. Hudson Potts, ss, Padres  Padres-small Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 180. Drafted: HS—Southlake, Texas, 2016 (1).

Potts was one of the younger players in the 2016 draft and played the entire AZL season at 17, but his relative youth didn’t show. Drafted as Hudson Sanchez, Potts signed for a below-slot bonus of $1 million. Based on early returns, the Padres may have gotten one of the best bargains of the draft.

“Everything he did seemed to have a purpose,” Padres manager Michael Collins said, “ . . . and the results showed.”

Potts has a solid line-drive, gap-to-gap swing now, but he should develop more power to all fields after his already strong body matures and he learns to control the bat. Scouts noted that Potts has a really good feel for hitting, with quiet hands and an advanced feel for the barrel. He’s an average runner with the ability to steal the occasional base.

In addition to shortstop, his high school position, Potts also played third and second base, though he appeared mostly at DH. His hands and feet work well and he has average arm strength, but scouts don’t expect him to stick at shortstop.

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8. Seuly Matias, of, Royals | bba_video_icon_red 3ds_royals29 Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 211. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.

The Royals’ top international signee in 2015, Matias has tools and physical projection that earned him a $2.25 million bonus. He spent the majority of his pro debut in the AZL, where he tied for the league lead with eight home runs. He’s still very raw and carries a high risk, but as Royals manager Darryl Kennedy said, “The sky’s the limit with this kid.”

Already physically imposing for his age, Matias should get bigger and stronger as he matures. He has special bat speed and plus raw power, and he drives the ball to all fields, but he needs to improve his plate discipline and learn to drive his pitch when he gets it. He also showed the ability to take a walk, an uncommon quality for this age.

Matias split time between center and right field, with good defensive instincts allowing him to handle both positions, but a plus arm makes him a natural for right. He’s a plus runner underway.

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9. Gavin Lux, ss, Dodgers | bba_video_icon_red 3ds_dodgers83 Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 190. Drafted: HS—Kenosha, Wis., 2016 (1).

Prior to signing as the 20th overall pick, Lux had committed to play at Arizona State. He instead made his pro debut at the Dodgers’ complex, 30 miles west of the ASU campus. He started nearly every AZL game at shortstop, batting at or near the top of the order.

With tools that don’t necessarily jump out, Lux won over scouts and rival AZL managers with his steady play. He’s an advanced defender with quick feet and at least a solid-average arm, and he showed the ability to make all the plays at shortstop.

He takes a good approach, good bat speed and a low-maintenance swing to the plate, profiling best as a patient, line-drive hitter. The biggest criticism was that Lux was sometimes too selective at the plate. He’s a plus runner but he didn’t attempt many stolen bases.

Lux impressed the Dodgers staff with his makeup and work ethic. “I’ve seen a professional attitude,” Dodgers manager John Shoemaker said, “someone who’s willing to listen and who’s able to adapt.”

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10. Fernando Tatis Jr., ss, Padres | bba_video_icon_red Padres-small Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015 (White Sox).

The son of the 11-year major league veteran of the same name, Tatis signed with the White Sox for $700,000 in 2015 and was traded to the Padres for James Shields in June. He served as everyday shortstop this season while also seeing action at second and third base.

Originally projected more as a third baseman, Tatis has the balance and instincts to stay at shortstop provided he doesn’t grow out of the position. Unlike his father, Tatis has a tall, lean frame with broad shoulders and should be able to accommodate more weight.

Tatis has an advanced feel for hitting with power to all fields, and the ball jumps off his bat, but he’s a free swinger who sometimes chases balls out of the zone. Defensively, he shows a plus arm with good range and smooth actions. Tatis’ early life spent around big league ballparks shows up in his approach to the game.

“He definitely has a good understanding of the game,” Padres manager Michael Collins said. “He sees the game very well, just talking baseball and understanding situations.”

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11. Anderson Tejeda, ss, Rangers  3ds_rangers83 Age: 18. B-T: L-R:. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.

Tejeda was relatively unknown at the start of the AZL season after having stayed back in the Dominican Republic during spring training and extended spring training, but he quickly made an impression on scouts.

Signed in 2014 for $100,000, he is a pure hitter with very good hand-eye coordination, though that skill gets him in trouble at times because he feels he can hit any pitch and has a tendency to get away from his approach at the plate. He has great bat speed and a really good feel for the barrel, but needs to be more consistent with his approach.

Tejeda’s defense gets mixed reviews, with some observers believing he profiles better as an offensive second baseman because he doesn’t have a quick first step. Otherwise, he flashes good tools and instincts, quick hands and a plus arm. He more than handled a promotion to the short-season Northwest League, ranking fifth in home runs while playing less than a third of the 76-game season.

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12. Dustin May, rhp, Dodgers  3ds_dodgers83 Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-6 Wt: 180. Drafted: HS—Justin, Texas, 2016 (3).

May certainly stood out on the field during his first pro season, and not just for his pitching. The gangly Texas prep product flashed the most noticeable flow, with bushy red hair sticking out beneath his blue Dodgers cap.

May signed for $997,500 and is more than just looks. With an athletic, projectable body that should get stronger, he delivers a low-90s fastball, touching 93 mph, with good sink and movement. Scouts project his 80-83 mph slider to be a future above-average offering. His too-firm upper-80s changeup was used infrequently and is very much a work in progress. May throws from an over-the-top arm slot that he repeats well, and he’s aggressive and fearless on the mound.

While May is plenty raw, his ability to fill up the strike zone (34 strikeouts, four walks) is just one of many promising signs for the future.

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13. Oscar Gonzalez, of, Indians 3ds_indians83 Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014

No AZL player this season personifies the label of high-risk, high-reward more than league MVP Gonzalez. Signed for a $300,000 in 2014, he possesses plus raw power and an accurate, 70 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Gonzalez struggled to hit in his first pro season in the Dominican Summer League but started to show flashes of big-time potential this season, when he led the league in slugging percentage (.566) and tied for the lead in homers (eight).

Gonzalez has a strong, athletic frame, moves well for his size with average speed and has potential right-field tools. He needs to improve his pitch recognition and plate discipline and not spin off pitches, as well as become much more consistent at the plate. A rotational swing and lack of plate discipline is most concerning to observers.

Gonzalez is not just a dead pull hitter, showing the ability to hit home runs the opposite way. “When he hits it, it goes a long way,” Indians manager Anthony Medrano said. “He hits it hard. The ball comes off his bat very well.”

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14. Sandro Fabian, of, Giants 3ds_giants82 Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1 Wt: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.

San Francisco’s top international sign in 2014 with a bonus of $500,000, Fabian was unquestionably the top performer on an older AZL Giants team. The 18-year-old outfielder made the league's all-star team while ranking in the top four in the league in batting (.340), slugging (.522) and OPS (.886). He flashed a plus arm from right field.

Scouts are mixed on Fabian’s future. He’s not as projectable as other, more toolsy Latin teenagers, but scouts acknowledge the guy just plain rakes. He’s a good fastball hitter who needs to work on laying off bad pitches and not take so many aggressive hacks. He has good gap power, projecting to have average to above-average pop, but won’t be a big time slugger.

A below-average runner, Fabian gets good jumps and profiles as a natural right fielder.

“He was the best defensive player in the Arizona League,” said Giants manager Henry Cotto, himself a top-notch defender during a 10-year big league career.

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15. Mario Feliciano, c, Brewers 3ds_brewers79 Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 195. Drafted: HS—Florida, P.R., 2016 (2s)

Feliciano was part of a strong 2016 draft crop from Puerto Rico and the third player taken from the island. The Brewers grabbed the 17-year-old catcher with the 75th overall pick. A product of the Beltran Baseball Academy, he was labeled as the AZL’s best catching prospect, although right now his bat is ahead of his defensive abilities.

Feliciano shows impressive barrel control for his age and is a good contact hitter with average bat speed. Behind the plate, he blocks and receives well. His hands are fine and he shows an average arm. He runs well for a catcher and won’t be a baseclogger. The Brewers are convinced he has the aptitude to learn and will be able to stay behind the plate.

“He’s a good kid and works hard,” Brewers manager Tony Diggs said. “He has the potential to be an impact player in the major leagues.”

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16. Kole Enright, 3b/ss, Rangers  3ds_rangers83 Age: 18. B-T: S-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 175. Drafted: HS—Winter Garden, Fla., 2016 (3).

Enright didn’t pop onto the AZL prospect radar until later in the season, in part due to a slow start after he missed two weeks with a hamstring injury. The Florida high school product certainly made up for lost time in the season’s final month with a slash line of .366/.432/.524 while moving between three infield positions.

Enright improved his swing during the season and began making more consistent hard contact. He’s got a good frame with a strong upper body, so more power should develop as he matures.

While getting experience at multiple positions, Enright profiles best at third base, where he shows good instincts and a plus arm. Scouts noted that he carries himself like a big leaguer, and he impressed his Rangers coaches with his commitment to get better.

“He did a phenomenal job of maximizing work ethic and makeup,” said Rangers manager Matt Siegel, a first-year manager who most recently was a college assistant coach. “He is as committed as a young player out of high school that I’ve seen.”

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17. Joe Rizzo, 3b, Mariners | bba_video_icon_red 3ds_mariners83 Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht: 5-9. Wt: 194. Drafted: HS—Vienna, Va., 2016 (2).

Rizzo was a bit of a divisive player prior to the 2016 draft, with many observers being concerned that he didn’t have a natural position while others questioned the over-the-fence power of a potentially bat-only player. The AZL Mariners coaching staff was aware of that reputation when Rizzo first arrived but were pleased with what they saw in his pro debut.

“He showed some stuff over at third base,” Mariners manager Zac Livingston said. “I think he can play there as long as he keeps improving . . . He made some plays over there that normal bat-only guys don’t make.”

Rizzo flashes an average arm, which is enough to handle third base. A hard-nosed grinder, he has good feel for the barrel and good bat speed. He showed a little power this summer, and Livingston believes that Rizzo's hands will allow him to drive balls over the fence once he starts staying with his gap-to-gap approach. He’s a below-average runner.

The Mariners gave Rizzo a breather in mid-August, sitting him down for nearly two weeks, but he returned in time to help his team to the AZL championship.

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18. Gabriel Garcia, 1b, Brewers 3ds_brewers79 Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 185. Drafted: Broward (Fla.) CC, 2016 (14).

Undrafted out of high school in Puerto Rico and lightly scouted during his one junior-college season, Garcia turned out to be the sleeper of the AZL season.

Drafted as a catcher after being a corner infielder this spring Garcia spent most of his AZL season at first base while also seeing time at third base and getting in one game both at shortstop and one behind the plate. He’s athletic enough to also play at either of the corner-outfield spots. He’s got a solid-average arm, and while he’s a below-average runner he makes up for it with his athleticism.

Regardless of where he plays on the field, Garcia’s bat is what will carry him. A patient hitter, he has quiet hands at the plate and barrels balls well, making consistent hard contact. He also stands out for good strike-zone discipline, and he has room to get stronger and hit for more power.

“He’s not afraid to swing it,” Brewers manager Tony Diggs said, “but he has an idea of how to lay off balls out of the strike zone.”

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19. Amado Nunez, ss, White Sox  3ds_whitesox85 Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 178. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.

The top international signee by the White Sox in 2014 for $900,000, Nunez returned to the AZL after an injury-plagued 2015 season. He looked noticeably stronger, especially in the lower half.

Nunez makes it look easy at shortstop with good actions, soft hands and an above-average arm, but he may outgrow the position. He should be able to handle third base if that’s where he winds up, but for now can stay at shortstop.

Nunez has good feel for the barrel and some gap power, but his swing is inconsistent and he struggles with good spin. He’s an average to a tick above-average runner who can steal a base.

“He’s just a solid, solid kid who comes out and gets his work done and plays hard,” White Sox manager Ever Magallanes said.

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20. Sebastian Rivero, c, Royals 3ds_royals28 Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 188. Signed: Venezuela, 2015.

The 17-year-old native Venezuelan signed in 2015 for $450,000 and caught a majority of the Royals’ games in his first pro season. Instead of wearing down, Rivero's offensive numbers increased significantly in the second half when he hit .349/.379/.429.

Rivero was one of the more advanced catchers in the league. He blocks, receives and frames well. His solid-average arm should get stronger with maturity, and he threw out 25 percent of basestealers. Most importantly, he’s strong mentally and eager to learn.

“The best thing about him is you tell him something one time and he goes out and applies it,” Royals manager Darryl Kennedy said. “That’s a tremendous asset to have.”

Rivero will always be a glove-first player, he has a short swing and simple approach at the plate. He improved his pitch selection and plate discipline, which enabled him to make more hard contact. He needs maturity and experience to develop his power.

Guardians

Prospect Report: Nolan Jones Re-emerges For Guardians

Jones continued his hot start to his major league career and more.

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