Image credit: Nolan Gorman (Photo courtesy of Danny Parker)
Elizabethton won the Rookie-level Appalachian League title for the second year in a row, topping Princeton two games to none in the finals. The Twins affiliate now has 12 Appy League titles since 1974—the most of any team during that span.
While the 2017 edition of the Elizabethton club featured a handful of Top 20 Prospects, the 2018 version places only one: catcher/first baseman Ryan Jeffers. He led the league in average (.422) and on-base percentage (.523) in his pro debut after he was the Twins’ second-round pick out of UNC Wilmington.
Runner-up Princeton led the league in OPS and also employed the services of the consensus top prospect in the league: 17-year-old shortstop Wander Franco. He established himself as one of the top prospects in baseball in his first pro season.
Franco’s presence alone makes the Appy League a stronger prospect crop than 2017, when Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan topped the list. In addition to Franco, the 2018 group features an exciting combination of decorated recent draft picks and high-pedigree, high-ceiling international signees and a handful of college players who opened eyes.
While performance is taken into consideration when ranking Appy League prospects, tools and future projections by scouts are paramount. This is true for all leagues at the Rookie or short-season level.