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2018 Prospect Graduation Grades

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Juan Soto (left) and Ronald Acuña Jr. teamed up on the Major League Baseball team that played Japan’s national team at the 2018 Japan All-Star Series in Tokyo in November. (Yuki Taguchi/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Baseball America follows prospects from the amateur ranks until they reach the major leagues, but then we tend to forget about them as we focus on the next wave of prospects.

We remedy that oversight in this space, where we rank the top 10 graduated prospects—you know them better as rookies—from 2018.

Each prospect is listed with his BA Grade both before the 2018 season and then his current BA Grade as we head into 2019. Each player is graded on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is aver- age, based on his projected future value. Risk is also assessed on a scale of Low, Medium, High or Very High.

1. RONALD ACUÑA JR., OF BRAVES
PRESEASON: 70/Medium
UPDATED: 75/Low

The 2017 Minor League Player of the Year debuted in late April and showed off his prodigious tools and talent immediately. His late start and a knee injury that cost him a month held him to 111 games, but he still won National League Rookie of the Year. His 162-game pace was .293 with 38 home runs, 93 RBIs and 23 stolen bases, the production of a perennial all-star and MVP candidate.

2. SHOHEI OHTANI, RHP/DH ANGELS
PRESEASON: 75/Medium
UPDATED: 75/High

Ohtani was hyped as a franchise-caliber player unlike any in the game today, and he lived up to it by showing ace-quality stuff on the mound and elite power at the plate. His Tommy John surgery makes it more risky he truly becomes a two-way franchise talent, but he showed without a doubt that he has the skills for it.

3. JUAN SOTO, OF NATIONALS
PRESEASON: 60/Very High
UPDATED: 70/Low

Injuries previously kept Soto off the field and made it hard to get a true read on his talent. He stayed healthy in 2018 and showed he was better than anyone could have dreamed, rising from low Class A to the majors at 19 years old and posting a .923 OPS, the highest for any teenager in major league history (min. 450 plate appearances).

4. WALKER BUEHLER, RHP DODGERS
PRESEASON: 65/Medium
UPDATED: 70/Medium

Buehler’s elite stuff was never in question, but he had never thrown more than 90 innings in a season or 90 pitches in a start. He answered those durability questions emphatically as a rookie, pitching 161 innings including the post- season and holding his elite stuff well past the 100-pitch mark multiple times. Increasing his innings into the 180-plus range is the next step.

5. GLEYBER TORRES, 2B YANKEES
PRESEASON: 65/Medium
UPDATED BA GRADE: 65/Medium

Torres recovered from Tommy John surgery and took over as the Yankees’ everyday second baseman before April was over. He showed the ability to hit for average (.271) and power (24 home runs) while playing solid defense at just 21 years old, keeping his projection of a future all-star.

6. JACK FLAHERTY, RHP CARDINALS
PRESEASON: 55/Medium
UPDATED: 60/Low

Flaherty entered the year considered a potential solid mid-rotation candidate and developed into more. His slider became a true plus pitch and his curveball sharpened to play plus as well, giving him two swing-and-miss breaking balls to go with his plus fastball. With those weapons at his disposal, he held opponents to a .199 average over 151 innings and blossomed into a potential all-star.

7. WILLY ADAMES, SS RAYS
PRESEASON: 60/Medium
UPDATED: 60/Medium

Adames spent time on the Triple-A- to-majors shuttle early in the season but flourished once he settled in as the Rays everyday shortstop in June. He played just 85 games but still hit 10 home runs while maintaining a .278 average, portending an above-average hitter with above-average power while playing a quality everyday shortstop. Now, he just has to prove he can to do it over a full season.

8. MIGUEL ANDUJAR, 3B YANKEES
PRESEASON: 55/Medium
UPDATED: 55/Low

Andujar exceeded his projections as an above-average hitter with above-average power by batting .297 with 27 home runs and 47 doubles, all plus figures. His defense, however, was worse than expected. He registered the lowest total of defensive runs saved (-27) among major league third basemen. This might foreshadow a move to first base, where Andujar’s offensive totals would be more ordinary compared with his peers but still valuable.

9. LOURDES GURRIEL JR., SS/2B BLUE JAYS
PRESEASON: 55/Very High
UPDATED: 55/Medium

A leg injury hampered Gurriel his first season after coming over from Cuba, but he responded in year two by performing at Double-A, Triple-A and the majors. He showed the ability to hit for average (.281) and power (11 home runs) in Toronto, though it was a small sample of just 65 games and his shortstop defense was poor. Even so, his bat profiles at second base and helps him project as an above-average regular.

10. HARRISON BADER, OF CARDINALS
PRESEASON: 45/Medium
UPDATED: 50/Medium

Long considered an above-average defender in the outfield who was fast, Bader showed himself to be one of the game’s elite center fielders and fastest players. With that, he seized an everyday role. Bader’s aggressiveness and ambush approach allowed him to continue to crush fastballs at the plate, but he is still vulnerable to breaking stuff (.189 average against curveballs and sliders). That limits him to more of a solid regular than a star.

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