2016 Northwest League Top 20 Prospects
Championship Series Eugene (Cubs) 2, Everett (Mariners) 1
|Best Record Eugene (Cubs), 54-22 (.711)|
|Most Valuable Player Eric Filia, of, Everett (Mariners)|
|Pitcher OF The Year Manuel Rondon, lhp, Eugene (Cubs)|
|Did Not Qualify Cal Quantrill, rhp, Tri-City (Padres)|
See Also: 2016 League Top 20 Index
See Also: League Top 20 Prospects Historical Index
A year ago, No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson helped Hillsboro win its second straight Northwest League championship en route to earning top prospect honors. He’s already a big leaguer after being traded to the Braves.
A similarly quick rise to the majors isn’t likely for the top three prospects in the NWL in 2016. A pair of toolsy Rangers teenagers—outfielder Leody Taveras and shortstop Anderson Tejeda—impressed managers and scouts in a less than half a season. Everett outfielder Kyle Lewis, the BA College Player of the Year who slipped to the Mariners at No. 11 overall in this year’s draft, also opened eyes before a grisly knee injury cut short his season.
Eugene, which had the league’s best regular-season record, won its first outright league championship since 1975 thanks to the league’s top pitching staff (3.24 ERA), led by hard-throwing righthander Dylan Cease. Everett outfielder Eric Filia, 24, led the league in batting and on-base percentage in a .362/.450/.496 campaign to win the league’s MVP award.
A quartet of talented Padres from Tri-City—2016 first-round righthander Cal Quantrill, lefthander Eric Lauer and shortstop Hudson Potts, plus big league progeny Fernando Tatis Jr.—fell shy of qualifying for the list.
1. Leody Taveras, of, Spokane (Rangers) | Age: 18. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.
Signed for $2.1 million in 2015, Taveras started his first pro season in the Dominican Summer League, then moved to the Rookie-level Arizona League and on Aug. 4 was promoted to Spokane for his final stop. There, despite modest production, he showed managers and scouts a well-balanced set of tools. He’s got above-average range to his left and right and possesses a plus arm in center field.
Long and lean at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Taveras has yet to grow into his man’s body. Scouts expect power to develop from both sides of the plate once he packs on more muscle. For now, he’s a line-drive, gap-to-gap type of hitter with plus speed.
Taveras has some swing-and-miss to his game that should improve with more reps. He’s a long way off, but he projects as a center fielder with value on both sides of the ball.
2. Kyle Lewis, of, Everett (Mariners) | Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 210. Drafted: Mercer, 2016 (1).
Were it not for a grisly knee injury, Lewis might have played his way out of the league. Instead, the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft and the BA College Player of the Year had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament as well as torn medial and lateral meniscuses. The injury should cost him at least part of the 2017 season, and it was severe enough to temper some enthusiasm for his future.
While on the field, Lewis showed solid instincts in center field as well as a plus arm. Evaluators who saw him early noticed he had trouble with fastballs above the hands—but once he got acclimated the results were spectacular. His swing mechanics are complex and include a deep load and a leg kick, but managers weren’t concerned because of the simplicity of the swing itself and his ability to get the barrel of the bat out quickly.
If he comes back from his knee injury with the same speed and athleticism, Lewis could be a center fielder with the ability to hit for average and power.
3. Dylan Cease, rhp, Eugene (Cubs) | Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 190. Drafted: HS—Milton, Ga., 2014 (6).
Cease was unquestionably one of the most electric arms in the NWL. He had Tommy John surgery just after the Cubs selected him, and this season was his first outside of the controlled environs of extended spring training and the Rookie-level Arizona League.
The results were encouraging. At his best, Cease showed off a fastball that sat in the high 90s and touched as high as 101 mph. His incredibly fast arm also generates a wipeout, downer curveball that’s another plus pitch at its best. He also throws an occasional changeup. That arsenal, however, was slightly mitigated by below-average command and control that stemmed from a tendency to lose his release point, as well as below-average life on his fastball.
Cease walked than 5.0 hitters per nine innings and quickly ran up high pitch counts, but he has excellent athleticism and some of the most electric stuff in the minors. He'll have to improve his control to remain a starter.
4. Anderson Tejeda, ss, Spokane (Rangers) Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.
Signed in September 2014 for $100,000, Tejeda started in the Dominican Summer League, moved to the Rookie-level Arizona League shortly thereafter and made his NWL debut on Aug. 4. He ranked fifth in the league in homers (eight) despite playing just 23 games in a 76-game schedule.
Tejeda has the hands, quickness, range and above-average to plus arm to stick at shortstop. At the plate, he showcased plus bat speed and the power that it produces. He needs to sharpen his plate discipline after striking out 35.1 percent of the time.
5. Bryan Reynolds, of, Salem-Keizer (Giants) | Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 200. Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2016 (2).
The Giants drafted four position players among their first five picks in 2016 and sent them all to Salem-Keizer. Reynolds, the highest drafted of the quartet, impressed the most, ranking among the league batting leaders before a promotion to low Class A.
None of Reynolds’ tools grades as top-shelf, though with a mixture of solid-average or better tools, his only glaring weakness is contact rate. His speed and instincts could play well in center field but might play better in either corner. His average arm is strong enough to play at all three spots.
A switch-hitter, Reynolds displays a smooth stroke from both sides of the plate and shows ability to both slash for contact and turn-and-burn for home runs. Scouts noticed that part of his strikeout total came from an unwillingness to expand the zone at all.
6. J.B. Woodman, of, Vancouver (Blue Jays) Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 195. Drafted: Mississippi, 2016 (2).
Woodman tied for the Southeastern Conference lead in home runs and showed an intriguing combination of power and speed this year that could allow him to be an offensive-minded center fielder. He played some right field toward the end of his tenure at Vancouver, and he has the power and arm strength to profile there if necessary.
Evaluators around the league noted that Woodman made a lot of hard contact and showed the ability to hit both fastballs and offspeed pitches equally well. He showed contact problems by ranking fifth in the league with 72 strikeouts. He’s a steady defender who gets good jumps and reads on balls and has speed enough to steal double-digit bases.
7. Garrett Hampson, ss, Boise (Rockies) | Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 185. Drafted: Long Beach State, 2016 (3).
The quintessential hard-nosed gamer, Hampson didn’t blow away the competition with one particular tool. Instead, he impressed with a balanced set of skills and has the chops to stay up the middle. He’s got appropriate actions at shortstop, despite what some evaluators termed a second baseman’s body, and has just enough arm strength to stick at the position.
Hampson is as steady as they come at the plate, with a line-drive approach to all fields and a willingness to work counts. He led the league with 48 walks and ranked third wiht a .404 on-base percentage.
Hampson’s power is to the gaps, and his plus speed helped him lead the league with eight triples. After stealing 50 bases in three years at Long Beach State, he led the NWL with 36. He doesn’t project as an all-star, but he has the tools to be a solid middle-infield regular or at least a utility player.
8. Justin Maese, rhp, Vancouver (Blue Jays) Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 190. Drafted: HS—El Paso, 2015 (3).
After starting the year in extended spring training, Maese moved to Vancouver. The 19-year-old showed a solid three-pitch mix that allowed him to dominate in his short NWL stint, earning him a promotion to low Class A Lansing.
Maese starts his arsenal with a heavy sinking fastball that sits in the 91-95 mph range that allowed him to record one of the most extreme groundball rates in the NWL. He couples the fastball with a slider and changeup, both of which flash above-average potential. He delivers from a three-quarters arm slot, which helps generate heavy sinking life on his fastball.
If everything clicks, Maese profiles as a power sinkerballer toward the back of a rotation.
9. Heath Quinn, of, Salem-Keizer (Giants) | Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 190. Drafted: Samford, 2016 (3).
The right fielder for Salem-Keizer’s collection of talented, college-drafted outfielders, Quinn teamed with center fielder Bryan Reynolds and left fielder Gio Brusa. His .571 slugging percentage led the NWL, and his nine home runs tied for second behind Brusa. His batting average (.337) and on-base percentage (.423) both ranked second to Everett’s Eric Filia.
Quinn’s carrying tool is his power, and it’s not only apparent on fastballs. One opposing manager noted that his team would get Quinn in breaking-ball counts only to see him crush those pitches, too. He’s not the swiftest runner down the line, but his speed plays better once he gets going in the outfield. He also possesses a strong, steady arm in the outfield.
10. Wladimir Galindo, 3b, Eugene (Cubs) Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 210. Signed: Venezuela, 2013.
Galindo has been a slow-burn prospect who has shown profile third-base tools with his power and arm strength. His nine home runs tied for second in the NWL, and he led the league with 32 extra-base hits despite playing his home games in PK Park, one of the minors’ least hitter-friendly venues. Galindo hit .305/.389/.611 with six homers and 31 RBIs in road games.
He has well above-average arm strength but will need to watch his body to make sure he doesn’t have to move to a corner-outfield spot.
11. Joey Lucchesi, lhp, Tri-City (Padres) Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-5. Wt: 204. Drafted: Southeast Missouri State, 2016 (4).
A Northern California prep product, Lucchesi played two years at Chabot (Calif.) JC and two more at Southeast Missouri State, where in 2016 he led the country in strikeouts with 149 in 111 innings. The Padres handled him carefully at Tri-City, and he never threw more than four innings.
Lucchesi's success stems from both deception in his delivery and command of three average to above-average pitches. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touched 96 mph. He can change the shape on his downer curveball, and his changeup also has earned above-average grades. All three pitches come out of the same slot, lending him command that helped him strike out 11.9 per nine innings in the NWL.
Because Lucchesi is 23, the Padres will probably push him in 2017.
12. Patrick Murphy, rhp, Vancouver (Blue Jays) Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 220. Drafted: HS—Chandler, Ariz., 2013 (3).
Murphy had Tommy John surgery as a high school senior, then had one procedure to remove a rib to alleviate a pinched nerve and another to remove a ligament from his pitching elbow. That translated into just four innings during his first three pro seasons. He was finally healthy this year and caught the eye of evaluators.
Managers praised Murphy for the angle on his 92-96 mph fastball and ability to pound the bottom part of the zone with his entire arsenal. He couples his fastball with a 12-to-6 curveball that rates as an above-average pitch and a changeup he spent time developing at Vancouver. His control (3.0 walker per nine innings) was impressive considering his missed time and poor start (14 walks in 21 innings) at low Class A Lansing this spring.
13. D.J. Wilson, of, Eugene (Cubs) Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 5-8. Wt: 177. Drafted: HS—Canton, Ohio, 2015 (4).
Signed for $1.3 million last year, Wilson was Eugene’s everyday center fielder and thrived away from the pitcher-friendly confines of his home park. At home, he recorded a .567 OPS compared with .829 on the road.
Wilson is a slash-and-burn type of hitter with a flat bat path that allows him to spray line drives. He has a bit of sneaky power as well. He’s mostly a pull hitter at present but worked diligently to adopt more of an all-fields approach.
Wilson will stick in center field with above-average speed and an effortless ability to run down balls in both gaps that recalls his days playing wide receiver in high school. His arm, however, is a tick below-average. His speed and defense could get him to the big leagues as a backup outfielder if his bat doesn’t pan out as expected.
14. Gio Brusa, of, Salem-Keizer (Giants) Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 220. Drafted: Pacific, 2016 (6).
The first thing about Brusa that sticks out to evaluators is his power; he led the NWL with 10 home runs after hitting 14 in the spring for Pacific as a senior. He’s got power from both sides of the plate and natural loft to each of his swings, and he also showed the ability this year to take balls out to center and left field. There’s plenty of swing-and-miss to Brusa’s game, too, but managers across the league believed he could alleviate that problem with time and adjustments to pro pitching.
He’s not a standout on defense, and some evaluators suggested he might have to move to first base in the long-term. He’s a well below-average runner, which might also push him out of the outfield. If such a move occurs, he’ll have the power to profile at the position.
15. Bryson Brigman, ss/2b, Everett (Mariners) | Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 180. Drafted: San Diego, 2016 (3).
A Mariners third-round pick this year as a draft-eligible sophomore, Brigman is a well-rounded middle infielder who played shortstop at San Diego this season after deferring to Kyle Holder, a Yankees first-round pick in 2015, in his freshman season with the Toreros.
Brigman showed a little bit of everything in the NWL but lacked a standout tool. He showed an experienced eye at the plate and an ability to spray line drives around the diamond. His power grades as below-average—he didn’t homer in college or in the NWL this season—so Brigman will have to improve his jumps and maximize his above-average speed more consistently on the bases.
Brigman's below-average arm might force him to move back to second base, which he played at times at Everett. The former prep hockey player is a grinder with hitting polish who could move quickly.
16. Chris Pieters, 1b/of, Eugene (Cubs) Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 185. Signed: Curacao, 2011.
Pieters might have the most intriguing background of any of any NWL prospect. Signed out of Curacao in 2011 as a lefthanded pitcher, he recorded a 9.31 ERA in 77 innings before the Cubs gave him back a bat in 2015. He’s an athletic player who split his time between left field and first base and swiped 20 bags in 23 tries, which tied for fourth in the league.
NWL managers were impressed with Pieters’ ability to get the barrel to the ball, though his inexperience showed with 73 strikeouts, which tied for third most in the league. Others praised his smooth, flat bat path. He’s still a little rough defensively at first base but looks better when he lets his athleticism take over in the outfield. One manager even thought center field could be an option.
Pieters is 22 and will be Rule 5 draft eligible this offseason, but he has shown the tools to help him make up ground.
17. Matt Krook, lhp, Salem-Keizer (Giants) | Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 195. Drafted: Oregon, 2016 (4).
Krook developed serious control problems early this spring at Oregon and struggled to find the strike zone. Those problems carried over the to the NWL, where he walked more than 8.0 per nine innings. He also whiffed more than 10 per nine, and a dynamic arsenal remains apparent.
Krook's fastball, which sits in the low 90s and can tick a little higher, features well above-average life that allows him to generate groundball outs at a high rate. He also owns a breaking ball and changeup that have earned plus grades from rival managers. He fails to repeat his release point, however, and struggles to maintain confidence in the face of persistent control problems. For example, in his final 15 innings in the NWL he gave up 23 hits and 22 walks while striking out 23.
Krook has had shoulder and elbow problems in the past, adding another red flag. He could be a dynamic reliever if he develops some semblance of control, and some scouts hold out hope he’ll throw enough strikes to remain a starter.
18. Melvin Adon, rhp, Salem-Keizer (Giants) Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 195. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.
Adon ran up a 5.48 ERA in 14 starts, but his stuff ranked among the best in the league. He has been pitching for just two years, so he’s among the least experienced arms in the NWL.
Adon's fastball sits in the high 90s and has touched triple digits into the fifth inning of starts. His fastball has above-average sinking life at times but will flatten out as well. He developed a slider as the season went along, and the pitch showed sharp bite at its best. He’s also working with a firm changeup as well, which pushes 90 mph.
Adon was almost exclusively fastball-oriented at the beginning of the season, so more experienced batters hit him hard. With size, stamina and big-time arm strength, Adon has a high ceiling.
19. Tyler Ferguson, rhp, Spokane (Rangers) Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 225. Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2015 (6).
Ferguson pitched in the Vanderbilt rotation in 2014 and even started a game in Omaha as the Commodores won the College World Series title. As a junior he lost command of the strike zone, walking 35 in 20 innings, and the Rangers took a sixth-round flier on him in 2015. He showed better control in the NWL this season, and many evaluators believe in his future.
At this point, Ferguson utilizes two pitches primarily—a mid- to high-90s fastball with plus life and a sharp-biting slider. When he’s right, he can get swings and misses with both pitches. Evaluators don’t see a problem with his delivery and noted that his misses weren’t by large margins. It’s a matter of making adjustments and staying mentally focused.
If he can make those adjustments, Ferguson can be a relief weapon, but he lost control again following a promotion to low Class A Hickory, when he walked 18 in 13 innings.
20. Buddy Reed, of, Tri-City (Padres) | Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 210. Drafted: Florida, 2016 (2).
After a middling junior year at Florida, Reed fell to the Padres with the 48th overall pick in June. Among his assets are a prototypical long, lean, high-waisted body for center field, a well above-average arm and well above-average speed and solid instincts on the basepaths.
What vexed NWL managers and scouts, however, was Reed's inability to hit. The Tri-City coaching staff worked hard with Reed to implement repeatable swings from both sides of the plate and to hone his timing as well. The latter of those issues, the Padres believe, led to his downturn over the past year at the plate.
Scouts also saw arm-heavy swings and the need to better incorporate his lower half. Reed has two swings to maintain and was a multi-sport athlete in high school who only has focused on baseball for three years, so the Padres hope experience and coaching will help.
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