2017 International League Top 20 Prospects
Ronald Acuna (Karl L. Moore)
|Championship Series Durham (Rays) 3 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) 1|
|Best Record Scranton/WB (Yankees), 91-50 (.610)|
|Most Valuable Player Rhys Hoskins, 1B/OF, Lehigh Valley (Phillies)|
|Pitcher Of The Year Steven Brault, LHP, Indianapolis (Pirates)|
|Did Not Qualify Gleyber Torres, SS, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre|
To qualify for a league top 20, a starting pitcher must have thrown 1/3 of an inning per team game played, a relief pitcher must have made 20 appearances, and hitters must average one plate appearance per game played.
The International League was the home for a number of the game’s most talented prospects in 2017, including the No. 2 overall prospect in baseball to start the year (Yoan Moncada), Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year (Ronald Acuna) and Rhys Hoskins, who made major league ballparks look like Little League fields during his debut.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre led the league for a second straight season, with an 86-55 (.610) record, but fell short of defending its league title after losing the Governor’s Cup finals in four games to Durham. It’s the Bulls’ fifth IL title since joining the league in 1998 and first since 2013.
Acuna began the year in high Class A before pushing all the way to Gwinnett and getting better at every level. He has a mature hitting approach, tantalizing tools and all-star potential.
Acuna’s bat speed is elite, which will produce above-average power or better. He has excellent feel to hit and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. More power could come as Acuna continues to develop physically, with 30 home runs a possibility.
On top of that, Acuna is currently a plus-plus runner, though he needs to become a more efficient basestealer and improve his decision-making on throws. He has plus arm strength from center field, and evaluators have pegged him as an above-average to plus defender.
Moncada showed power, patience and speed at Charlotte in his first year in the White Sox system. While that sort of offense had not fully translated to the big league level following his July 19 callup, he has some of the best tools in baseball.
Moncada’s primary issue moving forward will be one of makeup and mindset. Multiple evaluators questioned his mentality and effort level, noting lackadaisical play and preparation. While he has plus power and speed, his ability to hit for average is an open question. Moncada’s strikeout rate surged this season, and some scouts don’t like the switch-hitter’s swing from the right side.
Scouts were impressed with Moncada’s defensive progress at second base, noting his improving his actions and instincts.
A year after cracking 38 home runs in Double-A, Hoskins continued to rake as the IL’s top power hitter. He was leading the league with 29 home runs when the Phillies called him up on Aug. 10 and finished as the IL leader for on-base percentage (.385), slugging (.581) and RBIs (91). In the majors, he became the fastest player ever to reach 10 homers—just 17 games.
Evaluators were impressed with Hoskins’ approach at the plate, both in terms of feel for the strike zone—a career low 16 percent strikeouts—and ability to make adjustments. The advanced timing in his load alleviated previous concerns he would only be a mistake hitter. His power should play as plus-plus because he drives the ball to all fields.
Cited as being anywhere from adequate to a good defender at first base, Hoskins lacks the fluidity and athleticism to be an impact glove at his natural position or in left field.
Honeywell used a five-pitch mix to great success in his first stint at Triple-A. He ran up a 4.91 ERA through his first 12 starts but lowered that to 2.35 in his final 12 starts as he focused on getting a more consistent release point and better extension on his fastball.
Honeywell sits 92-93 mph and hits 96 with his fastball and backs it up with a wide array of secondary weapons. Known for his screwball, he throws the pitch just a few times per game and instead uses a plus changeup as his go-to secondary. He can throw it in any count, whether for called strikes on the black or for chases out of the zone.
Honeywell has two breaking balls: a slider with potential to be an out pitch and an early-count curveball. Honeywell profiles as a No. 3 starter or perhaps better if he can improve his pacing and hold his velocity deeper into games.
Adames advanced to Triple-A and produced a near carbon copy of his 2016 season in Double-A, with similar rates for strikeouts, walks and power production.
Adames got out of the gate cold by hitting .230 with a .653 OPS through May before shortening his stance to avoid lunging. From June 1 to the end, he hit .303/.389/.455 with eight of his 10 home runs. Adames doesn’t stand out for his power or speed—both are fringe-average to average—but his hitting approach and defensive ability should allow him to be a dynamic player.
The best defensive shortstop with the best infield arm in the IL, Adames will be a plus defender in the majors, according to evaluators. His arm flashes plus and his infield actions and coachability are separators.
Albies made positive defensive strides at second base while showing that his poor first look at Triple-A last season probably was a case of growing pains. He earned his first big league callup in August.
The switch-hitting Albies excelled as a righthanded batter (.970 OPS, 12 percent strikeouts) but faces serious questions about his lefthanded swing (.707, 20 percent) in a performance trend that has held steady in his career. Still, IL managers were bullish on his batting potential and think he’s young enough to figure out the holes in his swing. Some believe he could grow into average power while being a menace on the basepaths.
A plus runner, Albies stole 21 bases at a 91 percent success rate in the IL for his most efficient season yet. At second base he shows the above-average arm, plus quickness and plus range to be a plus defender.
Zimmer slugged just .308 in the IL in 2016 during a 37-game trial, but he bounced back with Columbus this year to earn a callup to the Indians in mid-May.
Zimmer made more contact this season to enable him to tap into his power, but because of a hitch in his load, he probably will strike out frequently (30 percent this season) and be a below-average hitter. He does most of his damage versus righthanders and offers little power in same-side matchups.
Zimmer offers significant value as a plus-plus defender in center field and as a plus-plus runner—he went 27-for-31 on stolen bases attempts between Triple-A and the majors—giving him a high floor as at least a strong-side platoon player.
Kingery was the most impressive pure hitter in the IL for some managers, and while his short, compact stroke and high average was not surprising, his power production certainly was.
Kingery hit 26 home runs between Double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley, blowing away his previous full-season high of five in 2016. Going to a homer-friendly park in Philadelphia will help him maintain his power gains and have at least average power. Managers rave about Kingery’s baseball IQ. He’s a smart and proficient baserunner, has great defensive instincts and a good approach at the plate, though he could stand to draw more walks.
Some evaluators give Kingery a chance to be a plus defensive second baseman, while others say solid-average, but his offensive potential could make him an impact player.
Adams continued to show advanced feel for a four-pitch mix during his first stint at Triple-A, where his transition from college reliever to pro starter successfully continued. He threw a career high 150.1 innings this season, only adding to his case as a high-probability mid-rotation starter.
Adams uses a fastball that ranges from 91-95 mph and has good movement, a short, downward-breaking curveball and a firm slider that he frequently buries and can use as an out pitch. Additionally, he’s shown feel for a changeup with some armside fade.
One evaluator said that between Adams’ four offerings, he has a chance for three above-average pitches with above-average control. Another was impressed with how well he held his stuff and delivery during the season. He drew comparisons with Bud Norris and Jordan Zimmermann.
Crawford started the season so poorly, hitting .194 with a .565 OPS through 56 games, that the Phillies game him a 10-day mental break. The plan worked. From June 20 onward he hit .280/.381/.522 in the IL with 13 of his 15 home runs. He made his big league debut on Sept. 5.
Managers and scouts alike noticed poor defense and body language from Crawford during the first half, which seemed to stem from his prolonged batting slump. An above-average defender at shortstop with an above-average arm, he committed 12 errors through his first 66 games but just five through his last 61, which included time at second and third base in August.
Crawford is an above-average hitter and runner, and though his power is just fringe-average, his plate discipline is a separator, as indicated by a league-leading 79 walks. He draws nearly as many walks as strikeouts and has a career .367 on-base percentage in the minors.
The Braves called up Newcomb on June 10 after he struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings through 11 IL starts. He continued to miss bats—and hand out walks—in Atlanta.
IL evaluators were impressed with Newcomb’s 94-97 mph fastball and 78-82 curveball—cited by most as plus pitches—and one manager said the control he showed against his team was better than the numbers would suggest. One scout even evoked the name Jon Lester as a high-end comparison.
Newcomb’s future hinges on improving his well below-average control as well as the development of his changeup, which showed flashes of promise in the IL and induced myriad swings and misses in the majors. A future as a high-leverage reliever is possible if he doesn’t improve in these areas.
Few prospects polarize scouts like Glasnow, who has two power weapons to perplex IL competition—he ranked third with 140 strikeouts in just 15 starts—but enough rough edges to run up a 7.45 ERA in 12 big league starts this year before the Pirates demoted him on June 15.
Glasnow sits 96-100 mph with his fastball and pairs it with a devastating 80-83 curveball along with a well below-average 90-92 changeup. Despite big stuff, he has been hit hard at the big league level over parts of two seasons because he lacks command.
The 6-foot-8 Glasnow struggles to consistently repeat his mechanics, a career-long concern, and if he isn’t able to streamline his delivery, he is likely destined for the bullpen.
Giolito continues to frustrate evaluators because he routinely flashes up to three plus pitches and seems to have his control and delivery figured out—only to lapse and lose the strike zone during his next outing. The inconsistency is particularly jarring for a ballyhooed first-rounder like Giolito, but he did rank fourth in IL this season with 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Giolito’s pitched more in the low 90s this season than the mid- to upper-90s of the past. He mixed in a low- to mid-80s slider, mid- to upper-70s curveball and a changeup that flashed above-average.
Several evaluators said that the lower fastball velocity allowed Giolito to get a better feel for commanding the pitch, and a more simplified delivery could help as well. Still others question his athleticism and ability to consistently repeat his mechanics at 6-foot-6 and wonder if he’d be better suited to a bullpen role.
Faria earned his first big league callup after 11 starts with Durham, where he pitched off of an impressive fastball-changeup combination to great success.
Faria’s stuff isn’t overpowering. He sits 92-94 mph with his fastball and throws a pair of fringe-average breaking balls and a plus changeup in the low 80s that is his separator. His changeup baffles even big league batters, who can’t touch the pitcher whether in the zone or not. Faria also tinkered with an upper-80s cutter that showed promise during his time with Durham.
Most evaluators peg Faria as a future No. 4 starter, but he’s shown a habit of out-pitching his expectations and peripherals based on his deception and feel for sequencing.
Andujar began the season at Double-A Trenton before earning a promotion to the IL on June 19. At both stops he produced power while also making frequent contact.
Andujar drew rave reviews from managers and scouts for his uncanny ability to barrel baseballs with authority as well as his energetic nature on the field. He hit all nine of his Scranton home runs to his pull side, but he uses the off field enough to develop an above-average hit tool. His bat speed and natural strength suggest he will develop home run power to the opposite field in time.
Scouts are mixed on Andujar’s ability to stay in the dirt, with some projecting him to a corner outfield spot. He has a plus arm, quick-twitch actions and a strong work ethic at third base, but below-average footwork and hard hands could be too much to overcome.
The Yankees acquired Frazier in July 2016 when they sent Andrew Miller to the Indians. He appeared in the IL for a month last season but made big strides this year by improving his walk and strikeout rates on his way to a callup to New York on July 1.
With plus bat speed, Frazier delivered power in Triple-A and the majors this season, but some evaluators think he always will pair home runs with strikeouts and low batting averages because of a limiting, rigid swing. With sufficient pitch recognition, though, he can be an impact power hitter.
An above-average runner with a plus arm, Frazier has the tools to turn into an above-average defender in either outfield corner, with the versatility to play center if needed.
17. Dustin Fowler, OF, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) Age: 22 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 195 Drafted: HS—Dexter, Ga., 2013 (18)
Fowler turned in his best season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to earn a callup to New York on June 29—but that’s where the good news would end. Before he could step to the plate for the first time, he suffered a season-ending knee injury after running into a wall in foul territory in the first inning. The Yankees traded him a month later to the Athletics as part of the price for Sonny Gray.
One scout said Fowler has a chance to be “Kiermaier lite” defensively, referencing the Rays’ two-time Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. His arm is below-average. Fowler has good barrel control and above-average speed but doesn’t walk much. He hit a career-high 13 home runs in the IL but is more of a gap hitter who racks up extra bases and stolen bases with his wheels.
After walking 6.6 batters per nine innings during his first Triple-A stop last year, Sims cut that rate to 2.8 this year while striking out 10.3 per nine and posting a 3.75 ERA to earn his first big league callup on Aug. 1. Hit hard as a starter in Atlanta, Sims moved to the bullpen after running up a 5.73 ERA and .293 opponent average.
Sims still has a chance to start but faces questions about how well his fastball—which sits in the low 90s—will play at the big league level without steps forward from his other offerings. He throws a firm upper-80s slider/cutter, an upper-70s curveball with little depth but late break and a mid-80s changeup that needs work.
A gifted young hitter who advanced to Double-A as a 19-year-old in 2015, Bauers remained one of the youngest players in his league this year in the IL. Scouts rave about his swing and approach in the box, and he ranked second in the IL with 78 walks and fifth in on-base percentage (.368).
Bauers has yet to tap into his above-average raw power consistently—which he’ll need to do as a corner player—but he continues to walk at a high rate and has no trouble driving the ball to all fields. He could mature into a plus hitter with above-average power.
A natural first baseman, Bauers has good footwork and soft hands around the bag. The Rays were grooming him as a corner outfielder because he’s an average runner—he stole 20 out of 23 bases this year—and good athlete without huge raw power. Scouts assessed Bauers’ outfield play as below-average to abysmal, but Durham manager Jared Sandberg said he made progress during the season. The Rays put him back at first after trading Casey Gillaspie at midseason.
Sisco hit a career-high seven home runs but a career-low .267 in the IL while continuing to progress as a catcher, where he caught 94 games, good for another career high. The Orioles called up their top-rated prospect in September.
Some evaluators say Sisco’s blocking and receiving have improved behind the plate, but his throwing is still below-average. He threw out just 23 percent of basestealers this season, the worst rate among qualified IL catchers, and will need to improve his footwork and release on throws. Orioles officials noted improved throwing in the second half prior to his big league promotion.
Sisco has a chance to be a solid offensive catcher—he’s a career .311 hitter in the minors—in a league where most catchers don’t hit. When he’s locked in, he can hit good velocity where it’s pitched, but he’ll need to avoid slipping into a grip-it-and-rip-it pull approach that surfaced at times this season. Sisco shows good power to all fields and scouts are convinced home runs will come later.
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