Top MLB Prospects In The Minor Leagues
1. Wander Franco | Princeton (Rays) SS
Age: 17. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt: 189.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017.
Franco signed with the Rays for $3.825 million as the No. 1 prospect in the 2017 international class and exceeded all expectations in his 2018 pro debut. He dominated the Appy League despite being more than three years younger than the average hitter by leading the league with 85 hits and 57 RBIs. He ranked fourth in average (.351) and third in slugging (.587).
Franco has a loose, easy swing from both sides of the plate, and many scouts believe he could develop a plus-plus hit tool, which is a testament to his elite bat control at such a young age. He rarely swings and misses, and his strikeout rate of seven percent led the league. He has a chance to be an elite offensive player, and he has established himself as one of the best prospects in baseball.
All of Franco’s tools grade as average or better. He has sneaky power with a chance to hit 20 home runs one day. Scouts and coaches were impressed with Franco’s work at shortstop. He has more than enough arm for the position, but evaluators are split on whether he fits best at shortstop or second base.
“We had him circled on our lineup every time we went in there to play him,” one Appy League manager said. “He can beat you offensively. He can beat you on the bases, and he was going to take away a couple hits every single time you played him.”
1. Jo Adell | Inland Empire (Angels) OF
Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Ht: 208 Drafted: HS—Louisville, 2017 (1)
Just one year removed from high school, Adell shot through the Cal League as he ascended three levels of the minors up to Double-A. He led the league in runs, extra-base hits (34) and total bases (130) during his time there, punishing older pitchers with light-tower power.
Adell hammered both velocity and spin and drove the ball in the air to all fields. He occasionally got over-aggressive as he sought to do damage, but his special blend of physicality, bat speed and maturity checked every box of a future impact offensive player.
“He’s well advanced in his maturation as a hitter,” Stockton manager Rick Magnante said. “His ability to recognize pitches, be on time, use the whole field, drive the ball, battle deep into counts and have success—it was very impressive for a guy at his age making the strides he’s made in such a short period of time.”
Adell further showcased plus speed on the bases and a plus arm in the outfield. He also demonstrated a keen understanding of the mental side of the game, keeping a notebook with details on every pitcher he faced.
Adell’s offense is ahead of his defense. His routes and jumps in center field need refinement, but he’s capable at all three outfield spots.
1. Dylan Cease | Winston-Salem (White Sox) RHP
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 190. Drafted: HS–Milton, Ga. 2014 (6th round).
Cease has long had an outstanding fastball, but the slender righthander took a step forward in 2018 because his curveball and his changeup have become viable second and third pitches and he’s commanding his fastball better.
Cease’s 94-98 mph fastball is a little true, but he’s getting more plane and sink on it now and it demonstrated the late hop of a high-spin rate fastball. He’s started to throw his 12-to-6 curveball as a viable two-strike finisher. It has plenty of depth and power, and generates swings and misses. It’s still inconsistent, but it’s an average pitch now with a chance to be plus. He now has started to throw it with conviction after largely casting it with less feel in the past. He’s started throwing his changeup more often and considering the quality of his fastball, conviction and solid velocity separation is all he needs to make it an average pitch.
Cease also mixed in a slider every now and then, but it’s a distant fourth pitch.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. | New Hampshire (Blue Jays) 3B
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 200. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.
Guerrero ran away with BA’s Minor League Player of the Year award and was the Eastern League’s best prospect by a wide margin. Many scouts tabbed him as an 80-grade hitter with 80-grade power on the 20-80 scouting scale before the season, and he spent the summer living up to those lofty expectations.
Guerrero opened the year as the league’s youngest player and promptly destroyed the league with bat speed and a batting eye that both ranked as elite. He hit .402, and the only thing that could stop him was a knee injury that shelved him for a month.
Everybody’s in on Guerrero as the best hitter in the minors, but he faces questions about where he will wind up defensively. He signed as an outfielder before shifting to third base as a pro. He shows an above-average arm but his range and ability to make plays on slow rollers are limited.
Staying at the hot corner is not out of the question, but Guerrero will have to work hard to maintain his large frame if he wants to avoid a move to first base. No matter where he plays, there are multiple all-star games in his future.
1. Royce Lewis | Fort Myers (Twins) SS
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 188. Drafted: HS—San Juan Capistrano, Calif., 2017 (1).
The Twins made Lewis the first choice in the 2017 draft and then quickly hinted at his potential by promoting him from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to low Class A Cedar Rapids in his first season as a pro. He was impressive in the Midwest League both last year and upon his return there in the first half of 2018 before hitting his way to the FSL.
Scouts like just about everything about Lewis, who has quickly become one of the game's elite prospects. On defense, he has made people believe he can stick at shortstop by showing strong range and reactions with an above-average arm. Even so, some scouts wondered if he might also be a fit in center field.
At the plate, Lewis has a little bit of an unorthodox setup, but he gets the job done. One evaluator said that his swing looked long but was actually rather short to the ball.
Lewis may have to tweak his approach a little bit to further unlock his offensive potential, but scouts see a player with the much-desired combination of power and speed as he matures. Those qualities will make him an all-star player at his peak.
1. Luis Garcia | Phillies SS
Age: 17. B-T: B-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 170.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017.
Garcia was one of the premium international prospects a year ago when the Phillies signed for $2.5 million after he trained with Carlos Guzman, whose program that year also had Mets shortstop Ronny Mauricio, the No. 2 prospect on this list. Highly regarded for his fielding ability as an amateur, Garcia not only played slick defense in the GCL but also won the batting title (.369) and ranked third in the league in on-base percentage (.433).
Garcia is a smooth, graceful defender at shortstop with quick feet, great hands and a plus arm. He has the ability to make the flashy barehanded play, though unlike a lot of young shortstops, Garcia also makes smart decisions in the field and plays under control. While there was a split camp among scouts on Garcia’s hitting ability as an amateur, he showed a mature hitting approach from both sides in the GCL.
A solid-average runner, Garcia has a calm, quiet setup and uses his hands well at the plate, staying within the strike zone and spraying line drives around the field with gap power.
1. Eloy Jimenez | Charlotte (White Sox) OF
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-4. WT: 205. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013 (Cubs).
Jimenez’s much-anticipated arrival at Triple-A proved to be warranted because he showed he was worthy of top billing
Jimenez matched his production from Double-A, and he got better the longer he was in the IL, batting .388 with a 1.072 OPS in July and August. He has extraordinary plate discipline for a player with his experience, and his two-strike approach stands out.
Bat speed and leverage for huge power tend to be staples when he’s in the batter’s box. His strength is an attention-getter, with the power likely increasing even more as he grows into his frame.
“You see the physical attributes, the long arms,” Durham manager Jared Sandberg said. “You can dream about all the things he can do.”
Jimenez is a below-average runner and left field is his only viable position.
1. Royce Lewis | Cedar Rapids (Twins) SS
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-2. WT: 188. Drafted: HS - San Juan Capistrano, Calif., 2017 (1).
The No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft lived up to expectation by showing plus tools across the board. He ranked among the MWL leaders in batting average (.315), stolen bases (22) and doubles (23) at the time of his promotion to the high Class A Florida State League in mid-July, even though he had been slowed by knee tendinitis.
Scouts project Lewis to be a potential .300 hitter with plus power and plus speed, which makes him a potential 20-20 threat. Defensively, he should stick at shortstop with enough range, anticipation, hands and actions to be an above-average defender. His arm grades as above-average.
Lewis also embraced his role as an on-field leader. As a potential middle-of-the-lineup hitter who can play a premium defensive position, he's one of the best overall prospects in the game.
1. Gilberto Celestino | Tri-City (Astros) OF
Age: 19. B-T: R-L. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 170.
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.
The toolsy Dominican put up excellent numbers before being traded to the Twins for reliever Ryan Pressly at the deadline. In just 34 games, Celestino hit .323 while also stealing 14 bases. His on-base percentage was a sparkling .387, which would have been good for sixth in the league if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
Celestino has an above-average hit tool, a solid understanding of pitch recognition and developing power. He also plays a solid center field. Celestino begins his swing with a big timing step, but he gets his foot down on time and seems to have few issues with balance or timing. He demonstrated an advanced all-fields approach, as he sprayed extra-base hits to right, center and left field. The only concern about Celestino’s offensive game is that his swing can get a little long at times, although he manages his strikeouts well.
Celestino has a high floor as an outfielder who can play all three spots, but he also has a shot to be a solid regular in center field.
1. Joey Bart | Salem-Keizer (Giants) C
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 220. Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2018 (1)
After a standout junior season at Georgia Tech in which he led the Atlantic Coast Conference in batting average and finished among the top three in on-base and slugging percentage, Bart was taken second overall in the June draft, just behind Auburn righthander Casey Mize.
He got a quick tune-up in the Rookie-level Arizona League but otherwise spent the entirety of his pro debut in the NWL.
Bart was expected to be one of the most advanced hitters in the league, and he delivered. He showed an easy swing with exceptional barrel control that allowed him to hit 13 home runs, which was tied for third in the league. He especially impressed scouts by crushing pitches without having to sell out for power. There were some evaluators, however, who believe he might be best served by toning down a sizable leg kick. Defensively, Bart showed a strong arm, as well as fearlessness when it came to blocking pitches in the dirt.
1. Kyle Tucker | Fresno (Astros) OF
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—Tampa, 2015 (1)
Tucker began the year billed as the top prospect in the PCL and lived up to it. He led the league with a .989 OPS, finished third with a .332 batting average, reached the 20-20 plateau and earned his first major league callup on July 7.
Tucker’s swing is unconventional and gets long in the back at times, but his excellent hand-eye coordination and timing allowed him to consistently barrel the ball to all fields. He showed strong strike-zone discipline, remained poised in unfavorable counts and generated easy power with a smooth swing.
“He’s got all the talent in the world,” Sacramento manager Dave Brundage said. “Always swung the bat well. Homers to left field, homers to right field…. He’s got a chance to be a good major league player.”
Defensively Tucker reads the ball off the bat better in right field than left. He is an average defender when he tries, but his poor effort chasing balls in the outfield turned off many observers. The same issues arose on the bases, though Tucker showed above-average speed underway when he turned on the burners, hinting at a true potential five-tool player if he puts in the effort.
1. Grant Lavigne | Grand Junction (Rockies) 1B
Age: 19. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 220.
Drafted: HS—Bedford, NH, 2018 (1s).
Pioneer League managers and scouts covering the league were universally effusive in their praise for Lavigne, a supplemental first-round pick. The New Hampshire high school product stood out for advanced plate discipline and pitch recognition, traits that were well beyond his years for a high school draftee from a cold-weather state.
“He has an advanced approach for what he’s trying to do,” Grand Junction manager Jake Opitz said. “He’s not trying to do too much a lot of times. For a young kid able to use the whole field, that’s an impressive feat.”
Lavigne is more hit over power now, with opposite-field, gap-to-gap pop. With strength to his swing and plus raw power, those doubles will likely turn into home runs as he matures and gets stronger. An average runner, Lavigne is surprisingly quick for his solid muscular body and is aggressive on the bases. He’s an average defender with an average arm, with the aptitude to improve defensively. Managers and scouts were also impressed with his makeup.
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1. D.L. Hall | Delmarva (Orioles) LHP
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 195. Drafted: HS—Valdosta, Ga., 2017 (1).
The Orioles were careful with their 2017 first-round pick. Hall threw more than 80 pitches just three times and never topped 90. But within those parameters, he dominated. Over the second half, Hall allowed a mere 32 hits in 53.2 innings as he posted a 0.84 ERA in 11 outings. He didn't allow more than one earned run in any of his final 13 appearances.
"He was far and away the best pitcher I saw (in the SAL)," a pro scout said.
Hall dominated hitters with a 92-96 mph fastball that seems to find another gear as it nears the plate. He's better locating to his arm side than glove side right now. He's comfortable elevating his fastball, but he can also tickle the bottom of the zone. Hall's 10-to-4 curveball isn't as consistent yet, though he'll break off several above-average ones each outing. His plus low-80s changeup is more consistent. It had both deception and some late fade.
Hall's frame is compact but strong and his delivery is simple. He has potential future plus command and control, making him a possible front-of-the-rotation starter.
1. Eloy Jimenez | Birmingham (White Sox) OF
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-4. WT: 205. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013 (Cubs).
Jimenez has done nothing but mash since the White Sox acquired him from the Cubs as part of the Jose Quintana deal in July 2017. He convinced SL observers of his prodigious offensive talent in a 53-game look, then moved on to the Triple-A International League, where he also ranked as that circuit’s No. 1 prospect. All told, he hit .337/.384/.577 with 22 home runs in 108 games.
Jimenez will be a high-impact major league hitter and could challenge for MVP awards. One SL manager invoked the name Miguel Cabrera when describing Jimenez’s swing. He keeps his lower half coiled, his arms relaxed and his front arm close to his body, unleashing his swing like a rubber band releasing its potential energy. What makes Jimenez particularly dangerous is his power to all fields and ability to adjust his approach from one at-bat to the next.
Jimenez has below-average but playable range and arm strength for left field and could stand to improve his jumps and routes to the ball.
“He’s the top guy in the league. He’s a freak,” Jackson manager Shelley Duncan said. “He hit a fastball over the center-field fence in Jackson—and nobody clears that—late in the game off 96 (mph) to give them lead.”
1. Fernando Tatis Jr. | San Antonio (Padres) SS
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015.
A left thumb fracture and ensuing surgery ended Tatis Jr.’s 2018 season in late July, but he clearly separated himself as the top position player prospect in the TL. All five of the 19-year-old shortstop’s tools drew plus grades from one evaluator. He’s made steady improvement with his speed, body and range.
Tatis finished second in the league with an .862 OPS despite being its youngest player on Opening Day. Even on the rare days he didn’t get a hit, he found other ways to beat teams, drawing walks, stealing bases, and preventing hits with his glove.
Though there were previous concerns about his ability to stick at short, those evaporated as he solidified himself as a plus shortstop with quick actions and a reliable glove. His 16 homers and 16 stolen bases in just 88 games showed his exciting 20-20 or potential. How recovery from his thumb injury will determine his time line to the majors.