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Top MLB Prospects Stock Watch

featured_33-Adell, Jo 1812 (Mitchell).JPG
Jo Adell (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

STOCK 

Jo Adell, OF Angels
Rank: 11. Preseason: 46.

Long regarded as an incredible athlete whose ability to hit good pitching was suspect, Adell has destroyed all challengers at the plate while retaining his all-around skills in his first full season. 

The 19-year-old hit .326 with a 1.009 OPS at low Class A, became the first high school first-rounder from the 2017 draft class to be promoted to high Class A and has summarily destroyed pitchers three years older at the level, hitting .336 with 10 homers in his first 32 games in the California League. 

Adell’s power, speed and arm are all game-changing tools. He shows the athleticism to stick in center field, and his hitting ability continues to get better. Adell doesn’t walk much, and evaluators note his pitch recognition and swing path have room to improve, but even with that Adell is consistently being turned in as a potential franchise player. 

Adell is physical, athletic, mature on and off the field and quickly adjusts to turn tools into production, checking every box of a future superstar.

—Kyle Glaser

Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics
Rank: 19. Preseason: Not ranked.

No minor league pitcher this year has risen more sharply than Athletics lefthander Jesus Luzardo.

The 20-year-old skipped low Class A this season and didn’t require much time at high Class A Stockton, either, in his first taste of full-season ball. In fact, Luzardo has spent most of this season at Double-A Midland—despite appearing in just five games outside the complex leagues before the year.

Luzardo dominates hitters with an arsenal that includes three plus or better pitches at times. That includes a mid-90s fastball, a plus-plus changeup and a curveball that flashes plus. He commands all three of his weapons, which makes him all the more precocious. He’s gone from a promising lefthander to one of the game’s elite pitching prospects all in the span of three months.

Luzardo has shown the stuff that was evident in the 2016 draft before he had Tommy John surgery. The Nationals selected the Florida high school southpaw in the third round, even knowing he would not be able to pitch until 2017. When he returned to the mound last summer, Washington traded him to Oakland for relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle.

The A’s tried to challenge Luzardo by sending him to the Texas League, but 60 strikeouts in 52.2 innings to go with a 3.08 ERA indicate it wasn’t much of a challenge. 

—Josh Norris

Adrian Morejon, LHP, Padres 
Rank: 22. Preseason: 66.

The Padres signed Morejon for $11 million as a 17-year-old international free agent and waited for him to grow into his body and get more consistent with his stuff. That’s happened this year, and the Padres are reaping the rewards. 

The 19-year-old Cuban has filled out to a sturdy 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, and his stuff has jumped into the elite category because of it. He now sits 94-95 mph and touches 98 in his starts. 

Morejon showed that velocity in short stints last year, but generally sat 91-93 and touched 95. He found a consistent arm slot and release point for his curveball in May and has been snapping off plus breakers ever since, and both his traditional changeup and knuckle-change remain effective. 

Morejon’s emergence as a power pitcher with a plus fastball and plus curveball have elevated him into a new echelon for evaluators. With those two pitches, his two changeups, his youth and his advanced feel for pitching, Morejon is now widely considered the equal of MacKenzie Gore as the best pitching prospect in the Padres organization, which also makes him one of the best lefthanders in the minors.

—Kyle Glaser

Peter Alonso, 1B, Mets
Rank: 73. Preseason: Not ranked.

Peter Alonso is a prospect for the analytics age. 

The 23-year-old Mets first baseman hits the ball hard nearly every time he makes contact, and the product of such frequent hard contact was 15 home runs and a .259 isolated slugging percentage that both ranked among the Double-A leaders in the first half.

And if Minor League Baseball publicized a Statcast-style leaderboard, Alonso would rank highly on that as well for his average exit velocity. 

That power outburst earned Alonso, a 2016 second-round pick out of Florida, a June promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, one step away from the big leagues.

That Alonso had climbed so far, so fast was as astounding to some as the booming home runs for which he is known.

“He is one of my biggest whiffs ever,” one pro scouting director said. “I had him as an org guy.

“It’s pretty hard to argue with what he does, and the offense looks like it’s real in pretty much every way.”

Alonso invited industry skepticism as a righthanded-hitting first baseman whose time at more demanding positions is but a distant memory. Players fitting that description are often undervalued as amateurs and even as prospects, with examples including Paul Goldschmidt, Rhys Hoskins and Jesus Aguilar.

But while Alonso’s power had done most of the talking this year, he also deserves credit for improving his plate discipline, losing his dramatic platoon split against righthanders and polishing his defense from bottom-of-the-scale to perhaps playable.

—Matt Eddy

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Six Pitching Prospects Whose Stuff Ticked Up In 2018

Identifying young pitching prospects whose projections have changed after their stuff improved last season.

STOCK

Austin Hays, OF, Orioles
Rank: 62. Preseason: 21.

Hays jumped from high Class A to the big leagues last year as he went from sleeper to potential Orioles star in the span of six months. This year, Hays has returned to earth. 

Sidelined by an ankle injury at midseason, Hays hit .224/.259/.374 at Double-A Bowie before going to the disabled list. His free-swinging ways have caused problems this year, but evaluators preach patience. Hays’ speed, power and defense are still big league caliber, but he’s further from Baltimore right now than he was at this time last year.

Luiz Gohara, LHP, Braves 
Rank: 68. Preseason: 23. 

There are logical reasons why Gohara has struggled in 2018. He missed much of spring training with an ankle injury, and he also spent time on bereavement leave visiting his ailing mother after his father passed away during the offseason. 

But Gohara’s lofty ranking coming into the season was based on his top-of-the-scale stuff, and this year he has lost some arm speed. His fastball has lost a couple of ticks this year, and he’s gotten bigger, which is always a concern for a pitcher who struggles with his conditioning.

Anthony Alford, OF, Blue Jays
Rank: Not ranked. Preseason: 60.

Alford’s baseball career got off to a slow start because he was playing college football. He quickly made up for lost time after focusing on baseball, but since then injuries have dramatically slowed his development. 

Alford has suffered from a concussion, a knee injury, a broken wrist and a hamstring injury over the past three seasons. While he still has impressive tools, he has struggled at the plate this season, and some scouts now see him more as a future fourth outfielder rather than a regular.

—J.J. Cooper

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