Top 20 Outfield Prospects: #1-10 (Preseason 2017 Edition)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Some of the best prospects in the game reside in the outfield, with a few who are primed to make a significant impact in 2017 and another wave coming close behind.  Of course there are questions, especially after we get past the first few names, but that’s to be expected.  Who has the highest upside?  Who is the next potential superstar?  Let’s kick off our Top 20 Outfield Prospects and find out:

 

1) Victor Robles – Washington Nationals
Grade – A
ETA – 2018

A popular breakout candidate heading into 2016, Robles lived up to the billing across two levels of Single-A:

  • Single-A (285 PA) – .305 with 5 HR, 19 SB and a 13.3% strikeout rate
  • High-A (198 PA) – .262 with 3 HR, 18 SB and a 16.2% strikeout rate

It’s fair to wonder how much power will develop, with 17 doubles and 8 triples, but he’s still 19-years old and has some growth and maturation ahead of him.  Maybe he’s not a 30+ HR slugger, but if he could get to 20 HR with his top-level speed and terrific approach you are looking at a potentially premier player.   It wouldn’t be surprising to see him emerge as a Top 5 prospect by the end of 2017.

 

2) Andrew Benintendi – Boston Red Sox
Grade – A-
ETA – Already Arrived

Had it not been for injury he would’ve already graduated off this list.  That said it doesn’t mean he should be overlooked, after delivering 8 HR and 8 SB, courtesy of an impressive 11.4% strikeout rate, while playing at Double-A.  During his time in the Majors he showed his line drive approach (25.0%) while also showing an impressive eye considering his lack of professional experience:

  • SwStr% – 7.4%
  • O-Swing% – 25.2%

The 2015 first round pick is going to open the season as a starter for Boston and should deliver both power and speed.

 


 

3) Manuel Margot – San Diego Padres
Grade – A-
ETA – Already Arrived

One of several former Red Sox prospects who reside on this list, Margot finally arrived in the Majors (37 AB) after spending the year at Triple-A.  His power is still developing, though with his other skills all he needs to do is develop into an 8-12 HR hitter to be a superstar.  Last season he totaled 39 extra base hits, so it’s not a significant number, but at 22-years old it’s not a stretch (he had 6 HR).

Even if he doesn’t add the power, what’s not to like about a player who could routinely swipe 30+ bases (he’s had 30+ in three straight seasons, including 32 last season) and post an average of .300?  While we’d love to see him draw a few more walks, his 11.3% strikeout rate at Triple-A is highly impressive and with his speed he should maintain an elevated BABIP.  That skillset screams of a leadoff hitter who should routinely score 90+ runs as well.

 

4) Eloy Jimenez – Chicago Cubs
Grade – A-
ETA – 2019

Playing all of 2016 as a 19-year old at Single-A, Jimenez showed power potential as he pounded out 37 extra base hits:

  • 40 doubles
  • 3 triples
  • 14 home runs

It’s easy to envision some of those doubles turning into home runs as he matures and adds strength (something we’d expect from a player listed at 6’4” and 205 lbs).  While he didn’t draw many walks (5.4%) the strikeout rate was reasonable (20.3%) and he improved in the second half (32 K over 174 AB).  While that could be an issue moving forward, the power potential will help to overcome it.  The upside is a player who could routinely top 30 HR.

 

5) Clint Frazier – New York Yankees
Current Grade – A-/B+
ETA – 2017

You know the Indians do not regret making the trade to acquire Andrew Miller at this point, though it’s possible that they come to at some point down the line.  Frazier was the centerpiece of the trade and he did show improvements this season to help get us excited.  Opening the year at Double-A he showed an improvement in his plate discipline, with a 22.0% strikeout rate and 10.5% walk rate.  The strikeouts did jump back up upon reaching Triple-A, both for the Indians (28.6% in 21 PA) and Yankees (27.8% in 108 PA), so it is something we will have to continue to monitor.

He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he has the potential to swipe 15-20 bases annually (he had 13 last season).  His power is also developing and putting that in Yankee Stadium could yield instant results.  Of course, there’s the risk that he becomes power hungry, which will have a direct impact on his strikeout rate, which is something we’ll need to continue to monitor.

 


 

6) Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates
Grade – B+
ETA – 2017

Injuries are an issue (he missed time due to hamstring problems in 2016), and he also saw his strikeout rate rise as he moved up the system:

  • Double-A (190 PA) – 16.8%
  • Triple-A (145 PA) – 23.4%

Still, he combined to hit 23 doubles, 11 triples and 12 HR, while also going 17-for-22 on stolen base attempts.  That total package shows tremendous potential, despite there not being the upside of 30 HR or 50 SB or a .320 average.  Overall he shows the potential to hit .290 (given his track record the Triple-A strikeout rate seems inflated) to go along with 20/20 potential.  What exactly is there not to like?

 

7) Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers
Grade – B+
ETA – 2017

The centerpiece of the trade that sent Jonathan Lucroy to Texas, Brinson thrived after the trade and a promotion to Triple-A:

  • Double-A (326 PA) – .237, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 46 R, 11 SB
  • Triple-A (93 PA) – .382, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 14 R, 4 SB

His time at Triple-A was spent in the Pacific Coast League and he benefited from a .455 BABIP (a short sample size helped lead to the unsustainable mark).  While he showed an ability to make contact at each level (strikeout rates of 19.6% and 22.6%), his lack of walks (5.2% and 2.2%) and additional extra base hits (23 doubles and 6 triples) bring a few red flags.

It’s possible that as he grows comfortable at the plate (and he has improved his strikeout rate significantly) the power will start to play.  That is the hope, and there is reason to believe that he can put the entire package together in 2017.  He has the potential to be a Grade A prospect, but there are enough questions to downgrade him slightly.

 

8) Kyle Tucker – Houston Astros
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019

His brother, Preston, is also an Astros’ prospect though Kyle holds the better potential at this point.  The fifth overall selection in 2015, he hit 9 HR with 32 SB over 432 AB as he split time between two levels of Single-A.  He did post a 17.5% strikeout rate at Single-A, and while it did drop to 8.7% upon his promotion to High-A it was in too small of a sample size (69 PA) to draw conclusions from.  It’s something to watch, though at his age (he’ll turn 20 prior to the ’17 season) he has time to figure it out.

At 6’4” expectations are that his power grows as he matures, and with 25 doubles and 7 triples that’s easy to imagine.  Sure it could come at the expense of a little bit of speed, but a potential 20/20 outfielder is easy to get excited about.

 


 

9) Kyle Lewis – Seattle Mariners
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018

The 11th overall selection in the 2016 draft quickly made his mark, hitting .299 with 3 HR and 3 SB over 117 AB.  Not impressed?  He added 8 doubles and 5 triples (.530 SLG), while also adding a good command of the strike zone (22 K vs. 16 BB).  At 6’4” and 21-years old, there’s a good chance that his power comes quickly.

The biggest question will be whether or not he can stay in centerfield, though chances are he’s ultimately shifted to a corner slot.  That obviously isn’t a major concern, and isn’t a knock against him.

 

10) Bradley Zimmer – Cleveland Indians
Grade – B+
ETA – 2017

The trade of Clint Frazier leaves Zimmer as the Indians’ clear top outfield prospect, but his strikeout rate helps to keep him out of the top spot overall:

  • Double-A (407 PA) – 28.3%
  • Triple-A (150 PA) – 37.3%

While both marks are highly concerning, the Triple-A number is even more jaw dropping when you add in his 1 HR.  He does have speed (38 SB), which is going to help, and he also has shown that he can draw walks (13.8% at Double-A, 14.0% at Triple-A).  Throw in some home run potential and the total package is there if he can make contact on a consistent basis.  That’s a big if, however, and not one that we can ignore.

Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Frangraphs, Baseball Reference

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Grading System:
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On

Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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