2018 Arizona, Pioneer League Top 20 Prospects Chat
Pioneer/AZL Top 20s Chat
Bill Mitchell: Welcome to our annual combined Arizona League / Pioneer League chat. The AZL prospect crop was very deep, primarily because of the number of teams now in the league (with more reported to be added next year!). It was extremely hard to cut the list to just 20 names and a lot of deserving prospects had to be omitted from the list even though they certainly deserved to be there. The Pioneer League group had more intriguing pitchers than is typical for that extreme hitter-friendly league. Lots to talk about in both leagues, so let's get it rolling.
J.P. (Springfield, IL):
- Thanks for chatting, Bill. Had he qualified, where would George Valera have ranked? What's the consensus opinion of his upside?
Bill Mitchell: Hello J.P., always appreciate your chat questions. Valera, one of the gems of the Indians 2017 international class, got into only six AZL games before a hamate injury prematurely ended his pro debut season. As I mentioned in the league overview, some observers believe he would have ranked as the top prospect. He's a natural hitter with a good chance to stay in center field. For more background on George, check out the article I wrote on him in extended spring training --- https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/only-17-george-valera-is-growing-into-his-own/
Mike R (Lockport, New York):
- Did Leugim Castillo receive any consideration for this list ?
Bill Mitchell: Castillo got some mentions for the Pioneer League list as he had a much better season than in his pro debut as he cut down on strikeouts and made better contact. He's got a big body and will need to watch his conditioning, drawing some power/speed comps to former Brewers farmhand Demi Orimoloye, but he doesn't have Demi's athleticism. LG (as he's known to his teammates) will probably be limited to left field in the future, so the bat's going to have to continue to develop.
William (Pensacola, FL):
- Would Jeremiah Jackson move quicker through the system with a position change ?
Bill Mitchell: Probably not because a lot of his area for improvement relates to tightening his strike zone and improving his approach at the plate. I don't think a position change is coming in the near future, and I believe he'll be a one level at a time guy for now.
Navin (Pasadena, CA):
- I know the AZL is a big league so I’m not surprised they didn’t make it but did Reivaj Garcia (as a 17-year old middle infielder with good numbers) or Yovanny Cruz (ended the season with a promotion to the NWL) get any considerstion? Thank you!
Bill Mitchell: Regarding a couple of Cubs prospects that just missed making the top 20, Reivaj Garcia got a lot of support as a 16-year-old who was not at all intimidated by his first taste of pro ball. He's a natural hitter who someday may make me look foolish for not including him on this list, but he's still just so young. Garcia will probably be limited to second base but the bat should play there. He was a tough one to cut from the list. It wouldn't surprise me to see him on the Northwest League list next year as a 17-year-old. Cruz is another Cubs prospect who just missed making the list but some scouts saw him as ultimately more of a middle reliever. It's easy mid-90s velo and some feel to pitch.
- Thanks for the chat! I'm intrigued by Kristian Robinson. Very young, but seems like he could develop into a monster. Just curious to know what you're hearing about him. Thx!
Bill Mitchell: You are not the first to use the term "monster" to describe Robinson, both his current physicality and his potential. He has a very high ceiling but will need to keep improving the hit tool as he advances. Robinson is part of an exciting crop of young prospects in the Diamondbacks organization that could form the core of their future, as Baseball America correspondent Nick Piecoro wrote about today in the Arizona Republic.
- Hi Bill. In the writeups for Alek Thomas in both leagues, they mention he could be a potential fourth outfielder. Is that really his projection? A good defensive center fielder who can hit is at least an every day player, no?
Bill Mitchell: The "fourth outfielder" label is Thomas' floor --- there's an excellent chance that he reaches that projection, but the tools and makeup are there for him to be a starting outfielder if it all comes together as he develops. He's another of that group of young prospects in the lower levels of the Arizona system. That Low-A team in Kane County next year could be a fun one to watch for Midwest League observers.
Warren (New London):
- I'm a little surprised to see Kyle Isbel this high. I know he was excellent in this league, so I was looking forward to seeing him in the South Atlantic League, but I was pretty underwhelmed by him there—not great in the outfield, impatient at the plate. Did anyone like his teammate Nathan Eaton?
Bill Mitchell: Scouts were universally glowing in their reports on Isbel from the Pioneer League. He's going to hit, and any concerns about his outfield play should be mitigated by the fact that he's still relatively new to the position after having been an infielder earlier in his college career. As for Nathan Eaton, he is a very interesting under-the-radar guy and one of the sleepers in the Royals system. Drafted as a catcher in the 21st round out of Virginia Military Institute, Eaton played both infield and outfield with Idaho Falls. That kind of versatility has value in today's game. I saw him at both second and third base in instructional league, but I can envision him playing all over the field in a utility role.
- The Reds were shut out in the AZL list. Was there a player that warranted any sort of conversation? Maybe a young guy like Debby Santana who showed power, but seemed raw in many other areas?
Bill Mitchell: With the Reds adding a third rookie level affiliate this year, their AZL team was more like an extra DSL team with almost the entire team being young, raw Latin players. You mention Debby Santana, and he's got potential to grow into more power with maturity. The Reds prospect who got the most mentions was switch-hitting center fielder Danny Lantigua. He's athletic and has plenty of raw power (8 HRs in 197 ABs in the AZL), but lots and lots of swing & miss. It's a good swing from both sides of the plate, but he's going to have to make better contact to get to the power at higher levels.
Patrick (Glendale Arizona):
- Alexander or Perdomo? Who is better defensively and who has more offensive upside?
Bill Mitchell: Quite a few Dbacks questions for both leagues. As I said before, it's a really interesting group of prospects at the lower levels of the system. I'll go with Perdomo above Alexander both offensively and defensively. Perdomo projects as a starting shortstop (maybe all-star caliber) while most observers see Alexander as a solid super-utility type. Quite frankly, the helium on Perdomo has been so high just during the last couple of weeks of instructional league that if I was re-doing the AZL list I might bump him up a few more slots.
- Do you have scout reports for Liover Peguero? What is his best tool? Do you see him as a SS long term?
Bill Mitchell: Well, folks, now that I've raised the bar on Geraldo Perdomo projections, let's talk about the guy who took over the AZL shortstop position when Perdomo was promoted. Liover Peguero came up from the DSL mid-summer, and while his AZL numbers weren't great there are some scouts that think he has as much upside as Perdomo. He's more athletic and twitchy than Pedomo, getting explosiveness from his hips at the plate. As one observer said about Peguero, he's not a top 20 candidate this time around but watch him next year.
Warren (New London):
- You've been covering this league for a while. Can you remember a deeper year? I'm curious in particular about two high school players who missed the list, Raynel Delgado and Sean Guilbe. It seems to me that Delgado at least would have made the 20 in a more typical year—actually I still thought he'd make it this year. Am I wrong? What did observers think of these two?
Bill Mitchell: Warren, thanks for a great question that I'll expound on at length here. I believe that the league was deeper in quality prospects this year mostly because of the increase in the number of teams. The quality wasn't as high as in 2017, when we had names like Gore, Adell, Ramos and Hiura at the top of the list, and certainly not as rich as the benchmark 2012 season (Addison Russell, Albert Almora, Joey Gallo, Jorge Soler, Matt Olson, Nomar Mazara, etc.). But, yes, it was deep this year. As for Indians infielder Raynel Delgado, he was in the discussion, more of a sound baseball player with some feel to hit and ability to move around the infield. I like the Padres prospect Sean Guilbe (if for no other reason than that he's from my home state of Pennsylvania) as a future utility infielder who plays the game hard. He wore down towards the end of the summer (yeah, it gets pretty hot here in AZ!) and he'll need to make better contact at the plate, but there's something to like about Guilbe.
Patrick (New York):
- The Rockies have to be happy with their 2018 draft, having multiple players in the Top 20 list. How much has Grant Lavigne exceeded their expectations, especially with his BB totals and Pioneer League-leading OBP (.477) coming from an area not known for high-level HS baseball?
Bill Mitchell: Patrick, you nailed it in mentioning that Lavigne exceeded expectations especially for a high school player from a cold weather state (New Hampshire). One factor was how much better conditioned his body was in from when I saw him in the Area Code games a year earlier. I just went back and re-read his pre-draft report, and while it mentioned good feel to hit then it's obvious that he showed even more hitting aptitude and advanced approach and plate discipline than expected.
Frank (Salt Lake City):
- Had a chance to see Drew Mount play and he was intriguing. Several teammates made the list but he didn't. Was he close to making it?
Bill Mitchell: Mount was Cincinnati's 16th round pick from Kansas State, and posted a .850 OPS in his debut season for Billings while playing all three outfield positions. He'll be 23 before the next season starts so he was a little old even for the Pioneer League. His name did not come up in any of my discussions with managers or scouts.
Warren (New London):
- Jordy Barley had a lot of buzz coming into the AZL season but seemed to go backwards, or at best sideways. He's still very young—what do people think of him now?
Bill Mitchell: Barley was a tough one to figure out this year. After such a promising start to his pro career with the Padres in 2017 at the age of 17, he was very inconsistent and not always the same player as the year before. He's still really fast twitch and freakishly athletic, but now just needs to find a good approach and some consistency in his game. No one's giving up on him yet.
Friars on the Farm podcast (San Diego):
- Could a string AFL showing propell Hudson Potts into the top 100 prospects?
Bill Mitchell: Reminder that this is an Arizona and Pioneer rookie level chat, and not Arizona Fall League. Josh Norris is here covering the AFL right now, so he'll have some of the answers to your AFL questions soon.
Tiffythetitan (Oakland, CA):
- SF Giants had two AZ League teams but only ONE Top 20 Prospect? Anyone else close? And was there any particular method to the madness of how prospects were assigned to either the Orange or Black team? Thank you.
Bill Mitchell: The Giants had some other interesting prospects, most notably Seth Corry who just missed making the top 20 before he finished the year in the Northwest League. The LHP made strides this year, improving his command. Most scouts still see him as a future reliever because of the command. George Bell Jr. and Abdiel Layer were both interesting position players that should be monitored closely next year. Ben Madison is a RHP with some electric stuff.
- Turang an interesting prospect, bloodline and skill. Big knock is lack of power. Did he show any power potential in AZL?
Bill Mitchell: Not yet but the swing is good and the body will get stronger. Give him time.
- Grant Levigne's stats were so good. But it seems like every year, at that low level, there are guys who are more physically mature who domonate then come back to the pack as they move up. Do you believe in Grant Levigne's bat enough to think he could be a middle of the order guy?
Bill Mitchell: Another question on the Pioneer League's top prospect. I'll reiterate just how good his makeup and his advanced hitting skills are. Those doubles are going to turn into more home runs soon, and he should be a monster in Asheville next year.
- Any thought to Rubendy Jacquez or Yohanse Morel on the list? Saw Morel at instructs and he was 94 mph with a 60+ slider on that day.
Bill Mitchell: Morel was the youngest of three prospects that the Royals acquired from Washington in the Kelvin Herrera trade. The 17-year-old right-hander got some support for the list, and if I had been allowed to do a top 25 then he would have been on it. The fastball was 91-95 with good, late life and he's got two off-speed pitches that will be at least average. The command still isn't always there for him and there's more reliever risk than other pitchers who made the list, but he was certainly a good get for the Royals in that deal.
Roger (Washington DC):
- Hi Bill! Thanks for the chat. Alex Canario's season was incredibly uneven overall with ice cold spells sandwich a red hot stretch. Were there any adjustments you could see that he was making that could be the cause or just the result of a raw, uneven approach? Where would you expect to see him assigned in 2019?
Bill Mitchell: Roger, I talked with one of Canario's coaches with the Giants during a stretch when he was struggling at the plate. It was primarily just a young hitter going through the normal growing pains in his first season stateside and not a concern. As for next year's assignment, I'm guessing that will be determined during spring training but my bet would be more extended spring training time but maybe making it to Low-A before the end of next summer.
- How do these two leagues stack up? Which top 5 would you rather have?
Bill Mitchell: For high floor, I'll take the Pioneer League top 5. For raw tools and upside, then I'll go AZL.
- There seemed to be a lot of buzz around Marcano as the season went on. Is there a star level ceiling here or is the power projection just too light?
Bill Mitchell: Tucupita Marcano projects as more of a steady, reliable player than having star quality. The hit tool is for real, but you're right that the power may not come and he may wind up at second base rather than shortstop.
Bill Mitchell: Thanks to all for the great questions. I'm sorry that I couldn't get to all of them, but I've got an AFL game to get to across town. You may follow up with me with more questions on Twitter @billazbbphotog. Thanks again for your support!