by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There’s some intriguing offensive talent near the top of the system, but once you get past those you get to a series of pitching prospects that have questionable upside. That’s not to say that they can’t emerge as starting pitchers, but there are going to be repeated questions as to whether or not they transition to the bullpen. Who are the names worth targeting? Who could emerge? Let’s take a look:
1) Leody Taveras – Outfielder
Grade – A-
ETA – 2020
The tools remain for Taveras, though the results weren’t there as a 19-year old at High-A in ’18 (.246, 5 HR and 19 SB). He did show a propensity to make consistent contact (9.4% SwStr%), which led to a 16.6% strikeout rate and given his age that’s an impressive number. He also has the speed to maintain much better than his .292 BABIP and he’s clearly still developing his ability to use that speed and translate it into stolen bases (19-for-30 last season).
A switch-hitter it’s easy to be down on Taveras if you are just going to look at the surface numbers. The upside remains and this is likely just a step in his development. When everything clicks the hype is going to rise quickly.
2) Julio Pablo Martinez – Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2020
Signed out of Cuba Martinez played most of the year at Low-A as a 22-year old, so it’s easy to argue that he was old for the level. A 25.3% strikeout rate is obviously going to catch your eye, especially for a player whose speed is supposed to be his strongest asset. That said we have to give him time to adjust to professional baseball, and a strong start to 2019 could lead to him being pushed aggressively through the organization. With an upside similar to Taveras, he could ultimately be the first to arrive.
3) Cole Winn – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2022
The 18-year old was drafted 15th overall in the 2018 draft and has yet to toe the rubber of a professional mound. Reports have him bringing the potential for an impressive four-pitch mix that plays up even better due to strong control/command. We are going to take a somewhat conservative approach to his grade until we see him actually on the mound, but don’t be surprised if he thrives and gets pushed into the A-/B+ range by the end of the year.
4) Hans Crouse – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2021
Crouse is an intriguing arm that has significant upside if he can develop his changeup into a reliable third pitch. If not with his high octane fastball and a delivery full of “a lot of effort and moving parts” (according to MLB.com), it’s possible that he ultimately transitions into being a lights out reliever. Further adding to that is that he’s still learning control (3.13 BB/9) and there’s the risk of home runs (36.0% groundball rate).
While the 2017 second round pick only threw 54.2 innings last season they were impressive with a 2.47 ERA and 1.13 WHIP as he showed strikeouts (10.21 K/9). At 6’4” he’s going to get the opportunity to develop as a starting pitcher, and at 19-years old he has time, but he may never fully get there.
5) Bubba Thompson – Outfielder
Grade – B-
ETA – 2021
Thompson spent the year at Single-A, hitting .289 with 8 HR and 32 SB over 332 AB. There’s no questioning his athleticism, having been a quarterback in high school, and having split his focus between sports in the past may have slowed his development slightly. A first round pick in 2017 we will need to watch the strikeouts as he moves up the ladder (14.6% SwStr%), especially since he has not yet shown much power (he added 18 doubles and 5 triples). If he’s going to be a speed first player he needs to cut the swings and misses down significantly (28.7% strikeout rate). He should get there in time, and the upside is there to be a 20/20 type performer.
The Next Five:
6) Tyler Phillips – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
He spent the bulk of the season at Single-A, making 1 start at High-A, and racked up a 2.64 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 133.0 IP. Even more impressive were the underlying metrics, thriving in all three skills we look for from a pitcher:
- Strikeouts – 8.59 K/9
- Control – 1.08 BB/9
- Groundballs – 53.6%
With a 15.0% SwStr% and standing at 6’5”, the potential total package is there. He’s still developing and isn’t garnering much attention, but it’s time to take notice. If he can continue improving his strikeout rate he could easily be among the biggest breakout pitching prospects in the game this season. It wouldn’t be surprising if he improves his stock at least half a grade by year’s end.
7) Anderson Tejeda – Second Baseman/Shortstop (Grade – C+)
Playing at High-A Tejeda hit .259 with 19 HR and 11 SB over 467 AB last season. Of course there was also a lot of swing and miss in his game (14.0% SwStr%) and he will likely draw comparisons to Willie Calhoun given his size (Tejeda is listed at 5’11”, a few inches taller than Calhoun’s 5’8”) and that’s going to bring questions about his power (he added 17 doubles and 5 triples, further complicating things).
8) Jonathan Hernandez – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Hernandez showed a lot of potential at High-A early in ’18, with a 2.20 ERA in 10 starts. However his control really took a turn after being bumped to Double-A, going from 2.67 to 5.06 (and with a 4.27 in 65.1 innings at High-A in ’17 there obviously is going to be a lot of concern). The fact that his strikeouts dropped (12.09 K/9 to 8.02) also raises a small red flag, though a 14.3% SwStr% overall helps to ease that a bit. With a solid groundball rate (50.3%) there’s value, assuming he can figure out the control.
9) Joe Palumbo – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Palumbo only threw 45.1 innings last season across three levels, as he made his return from Tommy John surgery. The fact that he showed impressive strikeouts (11.71 K/9) and control (1.99 BB/9) are still impressive, as was his 19.6% SwStr%. Back in 2016, when he split time between starting and relieving, he owned an 11.40 K/9, 3.36 BB/9 and 50.2% groundball rate at Single-A. The problem is that it came over 96.1 innings, which was his career high, and it’s easy to envision him ultimately settling into a lights out reliever (something the team was clearly toying with even before the injury). This is going to be a key year for him and his development.
10) Taylor Hearn – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
The lack of groundballs is at least slightly concerning, with a 38.7% mark in ’18 (he owns a career 1.01 GO/AO). Pitching for two Double-A teams he did bring solid strikeout (9.77 K/9) and control (3.28 BB/9) marks and he owns a top-end fastball as a southpaw. Unfortunately is that enough to garner much praise or is there a one-way ticket to the bullpen in his future?
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 Top 10 Prospect Lists:
|AL East||AL Central||AL West|
|Baltimore Orioles||Chicago White Sox||Houston Astros|
|Boston Red Sox||Cleveland Indians||Los Angeles Angels|
|New York Yankees||Detroit Tigers||Oakland A's|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Kansas City Royals||Seattle Mariners|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Minnesota Twins||Texas Rangers|
|NL East||NL Central||NL West|
|Atlanta Braves||Chicago Cubs||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|Miami Marlins||Cincinnati Reds||Colorado Rockies|
|New York Mets||Milwaukee Brewers||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Pittsburgh Pirates||San Diego Padres|
|Washington Nationals||St. Louis Cardinals||San Francisco Giants|