Ranking The Top Corner Outfield Prospects, Breakout Stars Entering 2019
A pair of corner outfielders won the MVP awards last season, with Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich taking home the hardware as the best in their respective leagues. That followed Giancarlo Stanton winning National League MVP with the Marlins in 2017, giving corner outfielders three of the last four MVP awards.
The current prospect crop of corner outfielders does not project to turn out three MVPs, but there is high-level talent. Eloy Jimenez remains one of the best prospects in baseball and is slated to make for his major league debut this season. Kyle Tucker, Alex Verdugo and Tyler O'Neill should all transition to the majors full-time this season as well, giving the corner outfield crop a strong group of contributors ready to make an impact soon.
At the same time, this year's corner outfield crop is not particularly deep. Many corner outfielders in the majors were center fielders in the minors, limiting the number of these players who truly will make an everyday impact. Yelich, for example, played center field in the minors (and in the majors for a bit, too). Betts came up as a second baseman.
There is talent to be had though. Even if only the top five corner outfield prospects this year ever end up becoming impact major leaguers, their potential impact is so great as to make this overall group a solid one.
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
- Eloy Jimenez, White Sox
- Kyle Tucker, Astros
- Alex Kirilloff, Twins
- Alex Verdugo, Dodgers
- Tyler O'Neill, Cardinals
- Jesus Sanchez, Rays
- Trevor Larnach, Twins
- Austin Hays, Orioles
- George Valera, Indians
- Moises Gomez, Rays
- Julio Rodriguez, Mariners
- Christin Stewart, Tigers
- Calvin Mitchell, Pirates
- Micker Adolfo, White Sox
- Justin Williams, Cardinals
- Blake Rutherford, White Sox
- Jhon Torres, Cardinals
- Seuly Matias, Royals
- Chris Shaw, Giants
- Lazaro Armenteros, Athletics
As part of our 2019 position rankings, BA staffers are picking one breakout prospect and one prospect they are concerned about at each position. Here are the selections for corner outfield.
Breakout: George Valera, Indians
Julio Rodriguez and Jhon Torres are both teenage corner outfielders I think could jump into our Top 100 during the season. Valera might already be there now had a broken hamate bone not limited him to just six games in his pro debut last summer. Valera ranked as our No. 5 international prospect in a strong 2017 class due his advanced pure hitting ability, and the reports only grew better once Valera signed and was annihilating pitchers during extended spring training. That's only worth so much, of course, but his sweet swing, bat speed, sharp strike-zone discipline, innate barrel control and power trending up all point toward a player who could be a really, really dangerous hitter.
Red Flag: Moises Gomez, Rays
We ranked Gomez as a Top 10 prospect in a stacked Rays farm system and a Top 20 prospect last year in the low Class A Midwest League. He definitely elevated his stock from where it was a year ago—and obviously he's been a great bargain for the Rays, who signed him out of Venezuela for $40,000—but I have to tap the brakes a bit on him. He has plus raw power, but there are pretty significant questions still on his ability to adjust to breaking balls and stay within the strike zone. It's already showing up in his 27 percent strikeout rate, and with another four levels to go to the big leagues, that's an area of his game that's going to have to get better for him to be an everyday corner outfielder.
Breakout: Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners.
Rodriguez was one of the top prospects in the Mariners' system before he ever played an official game, but after an excellent debut, the expectations for Rodriguez have grown even further. Rodriguez showed his power potential in his Dominican Summer League debut, but he also shown an advanced understanding of selectivity at the plate.
Red Flag: Christin Stewart, Tigers.
Stewart can hit and has power, but the concern here lies almost entirely in his struggles defensively. This Phillies found that Rhys Hoskins' offensive value was diminished by the defensive struggles that came from moving him to left field. Stewart has a similar defensive profile in left field and may fit best as a designated hitter.
Breakout: Jhon Torres, Cardinals
The big Colombian drew rave reviews with both the Indians and Cardinals last year and is one of the biggest helium prospects in the game. He's still growing into his body at 6-foot-4, 199 pounds and has tremendous raw power. He also has the bat speed and feel for the barrel to hit for average, a cannon for an arm and surprising athleticism for his size, allowing him to stay light on his feet and move well in the outfield. All the tools are there for Torres to become an impact, middle-of-the-order mainstay, and he has the work ethic and makeup to get the most from his athletic gifts.
Red Flag: Micker Adolfo, White Sox
It's easy to get excited about Adolfo's big power and big arm, but the amount of swing-and-miss in his game does not portend future success. He struck out 32 percent of the time in low Class A in 2017 and 27 percent of the time in high Class A in 2018, and the pitching is only going to get better the higher he climbs. Add in a Tommy John surgery that makes it unclear if his arm strength is ever going to come back, and there's a lot to be concerned about in Adolfo's game.