2017 Gulf Coast League Top 20 Prospects
(Photo by Cliff Welch)
|Championship Series: GCL Yankees East 2 GCL Nationals 1|
|Best Record: GCL Phillies, 36-22 (.621)|
|Most Valuable Player: Mason Martin, 1B, GCL Pirates|
|Pitcher of the year: Carlos Suniaga, RHP, GCL Twins*|
|Did Not Qualify: Kevin Maitan, SS, GCL Braves|
|*Selected by Baseball America|
To qualify for a Minor League Top 20 Prospects list, a position player must have one plate appearance per team game, a starting pitcher must have one-third of an inning per team game and a reliever must have 20 relief appearances.
The Phillies, Yankees and Nationals all packed their Gulf Coast League rosters with talented teenage prospects—particularly from Latin America—and used that talent to win their divisions, while No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis carried the Twins to the top spot in their division.
Despite splitting their players among two teams in the GCL, the Yankees won the championship, with the Yankees East beating the Phillies 5-4 in the decisive third game of the finals. Beyond Lewis, the clear-cut talent at the top of the league was down from recent years, though the depth of potential breakout prospects with high risk factors remained high.
Outfielder Drew Waters and shortstop Kevin Maitan were both well-regarded prospects in the league, though the Braves promoted both of them to the Rookie-level Appalachian League before they had enough GCL plate appearances to qualify for this list.
The Twins drafted Lewis with the top overall pick in June, then signed him for $6,725,000. He looked as advertised in his pro debut in the GCL before an August promotion to low Class A Cedar Rapids, where he will likely open the 2018 season.
Lewis has an exciting blend of top-shelf tools and instincts for the game. With a high waist and wide shoulders, Lewis has outstanding bat speed and plus raw power. He makes frequent contact with a mature hitting approach, driving the ball with authority to all fields. His sharp eye for the strike-zone should make him a high on-base threat to go with his power, and his plus-plus wheels make him a power-speed threat. There are questions about whether Lewis will stay at shortstop or fits better in center field. Lewis showed plus arm strength before the draft, though in the GCL he didn’t have the same zip behind his throws.
2. Lolo Sanchez, OF, Pirates Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.
With Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in Pittsburgh, the Pirates have shown a knack for finding talented outfielders in the Dominican Republic. Next in line could be Sanchez, whose $450,000 bonus was the biggest in Pittsburgh’s 2015 international signing class.
When Sanchez was 15, he was a below-average runner. By the time he signed, he ran the 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds, and his plus-plus speed makes an impact in all phases of the game. He’s an excellent defensive center fielder who reads the ball well off the bat and takes good angles to the ball, along with an average, accurate arm. Sanchez is a line-drive hitter who puts the ball in play at a high clip. He’s a patient hitter with a good sense for the strike zone and, while his power is mostly to the gaps right now, he could grow into average power.
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Baz signed for $4.1 million and made 10 starts in the GCL. However, the Pirates kept him on a tight leash, so he never threw more than three innings in any of those starts.
Baz showed the physical indicators and high-end stuff that typically excites scouts. With a strong, athletic frame, Baz has a plus fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and peaks at 98 mph. He flashed a plus curveball that’s a potential putaway pitch for him with more consistency, and during the spring he added a slider to his repertoire as well. While Baz leaned more on his fastball and breaking stuff in the GCL, he did show feel for a changeup as well. Baz’s athleticism and body control should help him repeat his delivery going forward, but he did struggle throwing strikes in his pro debut.
Garcia was a favorite among international scouts in 2016, when the Nationals signed him for $1.3 million. Yet after looking great during extended spring training, Garcia was hitting .232/.274/.273 at the end of July. While many 17-year-olds wear down in the first season, Garcia made adjustments and rebounded in August, batting .370/.388/.500 over his final 24 games.
Garcia is an aggressive hitter with good hand-eye coordination. That worked against him early in the season as started pressing and making weak contact on pitches he should have let go, an area he improved upon at the end of the year. He has a flat swing path and good hitters’ hands, putting a lot of balls in play with good plate coverage. Garcia has gap power now but with the leverage in his swing and physical projection in his broad-shouldered build, more power should be coming.
Defensively, Garcia split time between shortstop and second base and earned widespread praise for his defense. A plus runner before he signed, Garcia has slowed down since then, but he has excellent defensive anticipation, body control and instincts, making several highlight grabs and glove-flip plays with quick reactions.
Antuna scored Washington’s biggest international bonus ($3.9 million) in the Nationals’ pool-busting 2016 signing period. Antuna’s strength as an amateur was his bat, which showed in his pro debut. He has a calm, patient approach and controls the strike zone well for his age. A switch-hitter who started hitting from the right side at the end of 2015, Antuna gets himself into a good hitting position, has good bat speed and hand-eye coordination to make contact and spreads line drives across the field with gap power.
Antuna’s athleticism was a question mark as an amateur, but that’s no longer the case. He’s gotten stronger, faster and more athletic since signing, as he’s worked hard to increase his first-step quickness. Defense, however, remains a focal point for Antuna to improve. Splitting time between shortstop and third base, Antuna committed 26 errors in 36 games. He has to improve his internal clock and cut down on throwing mistakes. Shortstop is a longshot, though he has the arm strength to stay on the left side of the infield at third base if he can clean up his defense.
6. Mason Martin, 1B/OF, Pirates Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 201. Drafted: HS—Kennewick, Wash., 2017 (17).
While some teams overlooked Martin this year in the draft, he fell to the Pirates in the 17th round and signed for $350,000 instead of going to Gonzaga. He immediately dominated the GCL, leading the league in on-base percentage, slugging and home runs to win MVP honors.
Martin’s carrying tool is his plus-plus raw power with an approach geared to launch the ball. He has a pull-minded approach but true power to go deep to all fields. Martin can hammer mistakes but he also has quick bat speed and a sound swing that should translate at higher levels, though he did strike out in 25 percent his plate appearances. Martin complements his power with an extremely patient approach, evidenced by his 19 percent walk rate. Martin’s offensive game will have to carry him, as he’s a limited runner and defender who spent time in the outfield but may ultimately fit best at first base.
The Red Sox signed Muzziotti for $300,000 in 2015, but when Major League Baseball determined the Red Sox circumvented the international bonus pools to sign him, the league removed him and fourth other players from the organization. Muzziotti signed with the Phillies last year for $750,000, then made a strong impression around the league for his play on both sides of the ball this year in the GCL.
Muzziotti earned high praise for his defense in center field. He’s a plus runner with a gliding stride who gets good jumps off the bat. Muzziotti has good range to both sides and goes back on the ball well, with an arm that’s improved since his amateur days when an elbow injury hampered him. At the plate, Muzziotti has excellent hand-eye coordination and rarely swings and misses, striking out in just six percent of his plate appearances. He has superb bat control and plate coverage, using the whole field with a line-drive approach but not much power at this point.
8. Jonathan Guzman, SS, Phillies Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.
The Phillies quickly realized they had a bargain after signing Guzman for $60,000. Playing most of the season as a 17-year-old, Guzman hit well during extended spring training and was batting .319/.364/.458 late in July, then faded down the stretch as he got run down.
Guzman uses his hands well at the plate and has excellent bat-to-ball skills. His feel for the barrel allows gives him good plate coverage to make contact at a high rate. Guzman doesn’t have much power right now and probably won’t ever be much of a power threat, with his offensive game relying more on his ability to put the ball in play and get on base. As he tired by August, that took a toll on his bat speed and he got away from his approach, expanding the strike zone more frequently. An average runner with a tick above-average arm, Guzman is a true shortstop with good instincts. He has good range to both sides and is adept at charging the slow roller as well.
9. Elehuris Montero, 3B, Cardinals Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014.
Montero received the biggest international bonus among Cardinals position players in 2014, when he signed for $300,000. Despite playing nearly the entire GCL season at 17, Montero was one of the most polished hitters in the league. Montero has natural feel for hitting and a mature approach. He hits all types of pitches, turning around good velocity and maintaining his balance on offspeed stuff. He makes consistent contact with a swing that generates loft, allowing him to tap into his plus raw power in games.
Montero is a big-bodied player who will always have to keep his conditioning in check. He’s done that well so far and shows quick reflexes are third base to complement an above-average arm. Scouts were mixed on his hands though, and he will have to improve his first-step quickness and footwork, especially coming in on the ball.
Vientos was one of the youngest players in the 2017 draft class and played the entire GCL season at 17 after signing for $1.5 million as a second-round pick. He’s a calm, patient hitter with fast hands and a sound swing, especially for a 17-year-old with his long levers. He stays through the middle of the field and makes hard contact with a stroke that’s geared more for line drives than loft, but he has the potential for plus power once he gets stronger and more of his doubles turn into home runs.
Vientos played shortstop and third base in the GCL, but his days at shortstop are likely limited. He’s a well below-average runner and his range is light for shortstop. Vientos’ plus arm would fit at third base and he should have the hands to stay there and avoid a move to the outfield once he gains more experience to improve his anticipation off the bat.
11. Francisco Morales, RHP, Phillies Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.
Morales was Baseball America’s top-ranked international pitcher in the 2016 class when he signed with the Phillies for $720,000. He pitched well in his pro debut as one of the youngest pitchers in the GCL.
Morales operates off a fastball that sits at 90-94 mph and reaches 96. With his tall, wide-shouldered frame, he has the physical projection to add more weight and throw harder in the future. Long and lanky, he generates good extension and downhill angle on his fastball. He has a sharp slider that flashes plus and has shown feel for a changeup that isn’t as advanced as his slider but could develop into a weapon once he throws it more.
While Morales needs to improve his fastball command, he’s not just a thrower looking to light up the radar gun. He shows feel for mixing his stuff and trying to set up hitters.
12. Jairo Solis, RHP, Astros Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.
The Astros signed Solis for $450,000 last year on July 2. After opening 2017 in the Dominican Summer League, he jumped to the GCL in July, then a month later advanced to the Rookie-level Appalachian League, striking out more than a batter per inning at each stop.
When Solis signed, he was a projectable, 16-year-old righthander who reached 91 mph. By early 2017, he hit 94, and during the GCL season he was sitting in the low 90s and touching 96. He’s an athletic strike thrower who leverages the ball well with downhill angle, and his fastball gets on hitters faster than they anticipate because of its late hop.
Solis complements his fastball with a power breaking ball that flashes plus and gives him a swing-and-miss offering. His changeup is still developing, but he’s shown early signs of feel for that pitch as well, giving him a starter’s profile.
The Twins signed No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis under slot, then used some of the savings to sign Enlow for $2 million in the third round. Enlow performed well in his pro debut, though the Twins mostly limited him to three or four innings per outing.
Enlow operates off a fastball that sits at 88-92 mph and touches 94. With his arm speed and long, lanky build, he should be able to throw harder once he adds weight. He has tight spin on a sharp curveball that’s a plus pitch and more developed than his below-average changeup, which he doesn’t use much.
Enlow's athleticism and body control help him repeat an easy delivery and throw strikes at a high rate.
14. Oswald Peraza, SS, Yankees Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 175. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.
After signing for $175,000 in 2016, Peraza debuted this year in the Dominican Summer League, but after just 10 games the Yankees quickly pushed him up to the GCL.
Peraza is a smart, savvy player and a good athlete. He has a smooth, efficient stroke, good bat-to-ball skills and manages his at-bats well with a good sense for the strike zone. His lightest tool is his power, as he lacks strength right now and will always lean more on his on-base skills than extra-base hits.
An above-average runner, Peraza projects to stick at shortstop, where he has a strong arm and a good internal clock.
15. Yunior Severino, 2B, Braves Age: 17. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
When the Braves smashed through their international bonus pool in 2016, one of their prized signings was Severino, who got $1.9 million. After getting his feet wet in the Dominican Summer League, Severino jumped to the GCL and showed a high-risk, high-reward offensive profile.
Severino is wiry strong, generating power with strong hands and quick wrists that produce fast, whippy bat speed. A switch-hitter who looks more comfortable from the left side, he makes hard contact when the moving parts in his swing are synced up and on time, with a chance for plus or better power. That timing isn’t always there, though, and Severino tends to overswing, which led to a 30 percent strikeout rate. If he can learn to trust his hands and put more balls in play, he could be a power-hitting second baseman.
Severino signed as a shortstop but the Braves quickly moved him to second base. He’s a below-average runner who will need to clean up his footwork.
16. Yefri del Rosario, RHP, Braves Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
The Braves snapped up Rosario for a $1 million bonus in 2016 when they exceeded their international bonus pool. He was one of the top pitching prospects in the class and he elevated his stock in 2017 as his stuff jumped.
As an amateur, del Rosario sat 89-92 mph and touched 94. Now he’s more consistently throwing 91-94 and has reached 97 while generating sink and armside run. With his arm speed and build, he could continue adding velocity. Rosario will throw his breaking ball in any count. It has sharp, late break and misses bats with late break. He throws a solid changeup for his age as well.
Del Rosario’s delivery has red flags between his stabbing arm action with a hook and how he throws with effort across his body, but he does a good getting himself back on line to the plate, throwing steady strikes in his debut with a starter’s repertoire.
The Rays paid $2,132,400 to sign Mercado for well above slot with the No. 40 overall pick in the draft. He pitched well in his pro debut—he held the opposition scoreless in six of his eight outings—though the Rays never let him pitch past the third inning.
Mercado has good body control for a tall, gangly teenager, which helps him repeat his delivery and fill up the strike zone. He has good command of a fastball that sits at 89-92 mph and can reach 94. It’s not a power fastball, but with how much space he has to fill out his frame, he could throw harder in the next few years.
Mercado also throws a curveball that flashes plus and a good cutter, along with a circle changeup he hasn’t thrown much yet.
18. Jonathan Machado, OF, Cardinals Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 160. Signed: Cuba, 2016.
Machado was the leadoff hitter on Cuba’s 15U World Cup team in Mexico in 2014. After he left Cuba, the Cardinals signed him in 2016 for a $2.35 million bonus. He made his U.S. debut in the GCL this year and showed a good combination of speed, defense and contact skills.
Machado has excellent bat control. He has good plate coverage and, despite an arm-bar swing, he seldom swings and misses. He is small and can occasionally sneak a ball out to his pull side, but his approach is geared to use the middle of the field and go the opposite way with mostly line drives and balls on the ground. H
Machado is a potential table-setter at the top of the lineup with his ability to put the ball in play and use his plus-plus speed. He’s also an instinctive defender in center field. He reads the ball well off the bat, has good range and takes sharp routes to the ball, though his arm is below-average.
19. Jose Devers, SS, Yankees Age: 17 B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
Devers is a talented prospect, though he’s a far different player than his cousin, Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. Jose signed with the Yankees last year for $250,000.
In his pro debut, Devers stood out for his defensive skills and athleticism. Several opposing managers noted how many hits Devers took away from them with his glove. He’s a wiry shortstop with above-average speed, good hands and quick footwork. His arm action and arm strength were a concern when he signed, but as he’s gotten stronger, he improved on both fronts as he became able to make throws with less effort across the diamond.
Devers’ glove is ahead of his bat, but he held his own against older competition in the GCL, showing a sound swing and contact skills, though without much power.
McMillan lasted until the fifth round in 2017, where the Tigers drafted him and signed him for $1 million.
Known more for his defense coming out of high school, McMillan was an on-base machine in the GCL. He has a simple swing, good bat-to-ball skills and makes quality contact, with an approach that creates more line drives than loft power. He showed a discerning eye in the GCL, staying within the strike zone and putting himself into advantageous hitters’ counts.
Behind the plate, McMillan is loose and flexible, with soft hands that make him a polished receiver for his age. He has an average, accurate arm with a compact throwing stroke.
Yasel Antuna Just Wants To Keep Playing
The 21-year-old shortstop will suit up in the Dominican League after a year spent at the alternate site and instructional league.