24 Breakout MLB Prospects For 2019
As soon we we finish a Top 100, it's easy to start thinking about who will be the next wave of breakout players.
Below are 24 prospects who are breakout candidates this year and could eventually find their way on to a Top 100. I'm obviously excluding anyone currently on our Top 100 Prospects list, so you won't see Blue Jays shortstop Jordan Groshans or Phillies shortstop Luis Garcia here (I wouldn't be surprised if they both end up as top 50 prospects before the end of the season), as well as anyone who has previously been in our Top 100.
Brayan Rocchio, SS, Indians: "The Professor" has a short, fluid swing from both sides of the plate with excellent bat control and a strong sense of the strike zone. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time in the field, giving him a chance to be a high on-base percentage middle infielder.
Trevor Larnach, OF, Twins: Larnach is a 6-foot-4 corner outfielder with good plate discipline, an accurate barrel from the left side and good plate coverage for his size. Combine that with the power to hit 25-plus home runs, and Larnach has the potential to be an above-average regular.
Deivi Garcia, RHP, Yankees: Garcia has averaged at least 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings every year since his pro debut in 2016, including last year when he reached Double-A Trenton as a 19-year-old. He's a strike-thrower with quick arm speed on a low-90s fastball that touches 95 mph and a sharp, tight-spinning curveball that dives underneath the barrels of hitters to help him pile up whiffs.
George Valera, OF, Indians: Valera's swing looks like Robinson Cano's swing and Carlos Gonzalez's swing had a baby. Injuries basically wiped out Valera's 2018 debut, but he could show why he was one of the top pure hitters on the international market two years ago.
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners: Rodriguez has the swing, bat speed, discerning approach and outstanding power to do a lot of damage in the middle of a lineup. He has a well-above-average arm in right field too, but it's his offensive impact that will bring most of his value.
Ryan Weathers, LHP, Padres: The No. 7 overall pick last year, Weathers joins MacKenzie Gore, Adrian Morejon and Logan Allen to give the Padres an enviable collection of exciting leffthanders. His athleticism, control, low-90s fastball and bat-missing secondary stuff are a great starting point for a teenage lefty.
Wenceel Perez, SS, Tigers: A quick-twitch athlete with above-average speed, Perez has the athleticism, hands and arm strength to stick at shortstop. With his short, quick swing and excellent hand-eye coordination, he makes frequent contact to project as a potentially plus hitter who could fit toward the top of a lineup.
Brice Turang, SS, Brewers: Turang has a smooth, fluid swing from the left side and was one of the most advanced high school hitters in the country when the Brewers drafted him in the first round last year. That combination of hitting ability, strike-zone discipline and plus speed should help him get on base at a high clip.
William Contreras, C, Braves: Contreras projects to stick behind the plate, where he has soft hands and a plus arm. He has hit well in each season of his career too, a trend that should continue this year.
Marco Luciano, SS, Giants: Luciano was the top 16-year-old international prospect in the 2018 class. Our No. 1 international prospects in recent years: Wander Franco, Kevin Maitan, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Adrian Rondon, Eloy Jimenez and Franklin Barreto. Whether Luciano stays at shortstop remains to be seen, but he has the swing, bat speed and power to be an impact player.
Diego Cartaya, C, Dodgers: Some scouts preferred Cartaya to Luciano, with Luciano having more electric power, while Cartaya offers a more well-rounded, polished game. A catcher with a strong arm, high baseball IQ, a short swing and high on-base potential is a great place to build for a 17-year-old.
Noelvi Marte, SS, Mariners: Seattle has consistently started all its international signings in the Dominican Summer League, so while Marte might not have a chance to show his skills outside the Dominican Republic this season, he could follow in the path of Rodriguez with a big DSL campaign in his pro debut. Marte is a different type of player than Rodriguez, with big offensive upside as well but better athleticism, even though he's likely to change positions in the future.
Mark Vientos, 3B, Mets: The Mets already have shortstop Ronny Mauricio on the Top 100, with Vientos another young Mets infielder who could join him soon. He could have a plus bat/plus power combo with the ability to control the strike zone and hit 25-plus homers.
Jhon Torres, OF, Cardinals: The Indians signed Torres out of Colombia in 2016, then traded him and outfielder Conner Capel to the Cardinals last summer for Oscar Mercado. Torres hit well in the Rookie-level Arizona League before the trade and performed even better after, showing good timing at the plate with a sound grasp of the strike zone and plus raw power, along with a strong arm in right field.
Geraldo Perdomo, SS, D-backs: I liked Perdomo when we ranked him as a Dominican Summer League Top 20 prospect in 2017 after he hit .238/.410/.285 that season. He looks even better now, coming off a 2018 season split between three Rookie-level and short-season leagues with a .322/.438/.460 slash line. Signed for just $70,000, Perdomo is a disciplined hitter with good bat control from both sides of the plate, while his athleticism, smooth actions, strong arm and internal clock are the attributes of a promising defender at shortstop.
Cole Winn, RHP, Rangers: The Rangers shut down the high school pitchers they drafted last year once they signed, so 2019 will be the pro debut for Winn, the No. 10 overall pick in 2018. With the ability to control a 92-96 mph fastball and miss bats with a curveball that flashes as a plus pitch, Winn has a combination of stuff and pitchability that should translate to quick success.
Antonio Cabello, OF, Yankees: Cabello is unconventional—there aren't many catcher-to-center field conversions—but he consistently performed at a high level as an amateur in Venezuela, then kept it up last year in the GCL by hitting .321/.426/.555 in 40 games as a 17-year-old. Whether Cabello sticks in center field is still a risk, but his combination of athleticism and hitting ability is impressive.
Grant Lavigne, 1B, Rockies: It's not easy to evaluate a hitter going up against high school pitching in New Hampshire, especially when you have to project that player to hit enough as a first baseman. Lavigne's pro debut last year in the Rookie-level Pioneer League helped add more confidence to evaluators who loved his combination of hitting ability and power after he hit .350/.477.519 with more walks (45) than strikeouts (40) in 59 games.
Reds' Callihan, Hinds Highlight Appalachian League Rosters
The Reds, Yankees, Cardinals and Mets are among the teams with intriguing prospects in the Appy League this year.
Daniel Lynch, LHP, Royals: Lynch already had good stuff when the Royals drafted him with the No. 34 overall pick. Since then, his velocity has ticked up to reaching 97 mph and he's a prolific strike thrower.
Luis Santana, 2B, Astros: Houston did well to pry Santana away from the Mets in the January trade that sent J.D. Davis to New York. Santana is one of the best hitters who has yet to make his full-season debut, projecting as an offensive second baseman who has excellent hand-eye coordination to barrel balls with high frequency from an aggressive swing with strength behind it.
Tucupita Marcano, SS/2B, Padres: The Padres already have one middle infielder with superb bat control in Luis Urias. They have another one coming in Marcano, who has struck out just 31 times in 446 plate appearances, a career seven percent strikeout rate. Marcano might never be a big power threat, but he's an athletic middle infielder whose barrel stays on plane with the ball for a long time and has great strike-zone discipline, attributes that should continue to translate at higher levels.
Adam Kloffenstein, RHP, Blue Jays: Signed for $2.45 million last year as a third-round pick, Kloffenstein has a lot of positive projection indicators. He's an athletic, 6-foot-5 pitcher with good body control to throw strikes, working off a fastball that's up to 95 mph and could tick north, with signs of future above-average secondary stuff.
Spencer Howard, RHP, Phillies: Howard cut his ERA from 5.25 in the first half to 2.67 in the second half last year with low Class A Lakewood. It wasn't just that Howard had better outcomes at the end of the season, his stuff improved as well. His fastball jumped from the low to mid-90s to sitting more regularly in the mid-90s and touching 100 mph by the end of the year, with big progress on a changeup that flashed above-average to get empty swings from both lefties and righties.
Everson Pereira, of, Yankees: Pereira's numbers weren't as shiny as some other notable 2017 international signings, but that's partly because the Yankees felt he was too advanced for both the Dominican Summer League and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last year, sending him to the Rookie-level Appalachian League instead. He has a promising package of tools, athleticism and hitting ability (although a higher strikeout rate in the Appy League is somewhat of a concern) with power that spiked last year.