Top 30 Outfield Prospects (2019 Preseason): #1-15: An Intriguing Group Of Elite

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There are a lot of intriguing outfield prospects, though how many of them can we truly label as “elite”? Many come with potential strikeout issues, and that’s going to help suppress the perceived upside. Does that mean they can’t figure it out? Absolutely not, but we need to know the risk involved. With that in mind, let’s take a look at our rankings:

RankPlayerCurrent TeamCurrent Grade
1.Eloy JimenezChicago White SoxA
2. Victor RoblesWashington NationalsA
3.Kyle TuckerHouston AstrosA
4.Jo AdellLos Angeles AngelsA-
5.Leody TaverasTexas RangersA-
6.Taylor TrammellCincinnati RedsB+
7,Alex KiriloffMinnesota TwinsB+
8.Victor Victor MesaMiami MarlinsB+
9.Jesus SanchezTampa Bay RaysB+
10.Julio Pablo MartinezTexas RangersB+
11.Jarred KelenicSeattle MarinersB
12.Christian PacheAtlanta BravesB
13.Drew WatersAtlanta BravesB
14.Brandon MarshLos Angeles AngelsB
15.Luis RobertChicago White SoxB
16.Travis SwaggertyPittsburgh PiratesB
17.Estevan FlorialNew York YankeesB
18.Daz CameronDetroit TigersB
19.Heliot RamosSan Francisco GiantsB
20.Everson PereiraNew York YankeesB
21.Christin StewartDetroit TigersB
22.Yusniel DiazBaltimore OriolesB
23.Alex VerdugoLos Angeles DodgersB
24.Kyle LewisSeattle MarinersB
25.Randy ArozarenaSt. Louis CardinalsB
26.Corey RayMilwaukee BrewersB
27.Monte HarrisonMiami MarlinsB
28.Trevor LarnachMinnesota TwinsB
29.Julio RodriguezSeattle MarinersB
30.Lazaro ArmenterosOakland A'sB

1) Eloy Jimenez – Grade – A
Jimenez is one of the elite prospects in the game, and he’s just waiting to show just how talented he is at the biggest stage.  Splitting time between Double and Triple-A he hit .337 with 22 HR over 416 AB and there’s never been a question about his power potential.  The issue was always if he would make enough contact, but he showed it at each level he played last season:

  • Double-A – 17.1%
  • Triple-A – 13.2%

Of course an overall 12.5% SwStr% shows that there is reason for concern, but all he needs to do is post a strikeout rate in the 22-25% range to have tremendous success.  He should arrive early in the year, maybe before April is over, and could challenge for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

2) Victor Robles – Grade – A
An early season injury cost Robles the opportunity to assume a regular spot in the Washington outfield, as he was leapfrogged by Juan Soto when a job opened up.  It ultimately was a disappointing season for Robles, as he hit .276 with 2 HR and 19 SB over 192 AB in the minors and .288 with 3 HR and 3 SB over 59 AB in the Majors.  That said, even then he showed off the skills that place him among the elite prospects in the game.

The speed is obvious and it’s his best tool as of today.  That said he added 13 doubles and 2 triples overall, showing off the potential for his power to grow, and his 6.8% SwStr%, 14.2% strikeout rate and 11.5% walk rate in the minors show off a strong approach at the plate.  He has the potential to put it all together quickly and should get an opportunity to truly emerge in 2019.  A year after Juan Soto challenged for the NL Rookie of the Year (finishing second to Ronald Acuna), Robles should be in a similar spot by year’s end.

3) Kyle Tucker – Grade – A
No one is going to question the potential of Tucker, who continued to thrive at Triple-A though he stumbled in his first taste of the Majors:

  • Triple-A – .332 (135-407) with 24 HR and 20 SB
  • Majors – .141 (9-64) with 0 HR and 1 SB

It wasn’t a poor approach that plagued him in the Majors (10.8% SwStr%, 25.3% O-Swing%) and he wasn’t swinging for the fences (35.3% fly ball rate).  That’s all promising and with a little bit better luck (.176 BABIP) he’s going to show his talent at the highest level.  Don’t let those struggles in his first exposure to the Majors change your opinion.  He wouldn’t be the first top prospect to struggle initially, only to figure it out and thrive.

4) Jo Adell – Grade – A-
There may have not been a prospect who saw his stock rise more than Adell, who went from Single-A to Double-A and raked all along the way (.290 with 20 HR and 15 SB over 396 AB).  He did struggle at Double-A, hitting .238, but it came in just 63 AB so we can’t draw any conclusions.  The fact is he showed power (he added 32 doubles and 4 triples) and speed, the problem is going to be whether or not he can make consistent contact.  Just look at the strikeout rate at each level:

  • Single-A – 24.1%
  • High-A – 24.0%
  • Double-A – 31.0%

Overall he posted a 13.6% SwStr%, and in his short stint at Double-A it was an ugly 18.4%.  This year is really going to be the test to tell us whether or not he can make the adjustments and thrive at the upper levels or if strikeouts could ultimately cripple him.  The upside is there but that’s a significant question facing the 19-year old (he’ll turn 20 in April) and helps to suppress his ranking half a grade.  Don’t be surprised if he ends up an “A” prospect by year’s end, though.

5) Leody Taveras – Grade – A-
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.

6) Taylor Trammell – Grade – B+
The left-handed hitter played the year at High-A, going .277 with 8 HR and 25 SB over 397 AB.  He’s not going to be a huge power threat, but there’s room for more growth and he should develop into 12-15 HR annually.  That’s a solid number, but it’s not his standout skill…

That’s his speed, as no one has questioned his athleticism.  He swiped 25 bases last season, a year after swiping 41 in 491 AB at Single-A.  With his ability to get on base (12.6% walk rate) coupled with that power there’s no questioning his upside as a potentially elite leadoff hitter.  The key development will be in his ability to make consistent contact, with a 15.8% SwStr%.  He’s still just 20-years old so there’s time for him to develop and improve in that regard, and if (and hopefully when) he does he’s going to start garnering a lot more attention.

7) Alex Kirilloff – Grade – B+
After missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery Kirilloff returned in 2018 and emerged as one of the better outfield prospects in the game.  Splitting time between Single-A and Double-A he hit .348 with 20 HR, adding 44 doubles and 7 triples showing that there’s even more upside in his power.  He hasn’t shown an ability to translate some speed into stolen bases, and he may never flash more than a few in a season. 

He’s also not a .348 hitter, benefitting from a bloated BABIP at each level (.364 in Single-A, .399 in Double-A).  His overall 11.0% SwStr% shows risk (though part of that could’ve been an adjustment after missing a full season, including an improvement to 9.3% after his promotion) that the strikeout rate rises (15.3%).  The walk rate not being impressive (6.8%) and dropping upon his promotion (5.0%) adds a little bit additional risk.

All that means is that he currently falls short of being an “A-“ type prospect, though he has the ability to get there.

8) Victor Victor Mesa – Grade – B+
Mesa signed as a 22-year old, the thought is that it won’t be long before he arrives in Miami.  His speed will be his greatest asset, and while he should be able to add a little bit of power at 5’9” and playing half his games in Miami his ceiling won’t be extremely high in that regard.  He’s a top of the order hitter with the speed and athleticism to be a difference maker, assuming he can bring a solid approach.

That’s going to be the biggest question, especially initially, as we’ve seen other players coming out of Cuba struggle with strikeouts in recent years.  Just look at Yoan Moncada, for example, and with speed being his best asset that could drag him down slightly.  That said the upside is there to develop into an A-/A type prospect and make a significant impact in 2019.

9) Jesus Sanchez – Grade – B+
Seeing time at High-A (359 AB) and Double-A (98 AB) Sanchez hit .282 with 11 HR and 7 SB playing as a 20-year old.  The numbers were much better at High-A, hitting .214 after his promotion.  He struggled to make consistent contact regardless of the level, with a 12.4% SwStr%, though we have to keep his age in mind and he actually showed an improvement:

  • High-A – 12.9%
  • Double-A – 10.8%

Obviously it was a small sample size, but it is promising all the same.  There is no questioning the power potential, it’s just a matter of him fully putting it on display in game action (he added 32 doubles and 2 triples).  That should come, as he develops, and if the Rays can get him a little bit more patient and capable of drawing a few more walks (5.3%), he could develop into a top outfield prospect in short order.  A strong start could lead to him rising to a A- prospect or better.

10) Julio Pablo Martinez – Grade – B+
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.

11) Jarred Kelenic – Grade – B
By most accounts the Mets got a bargain when they selected Kelenic sixth overall in the 2018 draft and he certainly impressed upon starting his professional career by hitting .286 with 6 HR (as well as 10 doubles and 6 triples) and 15 SB over 220 AB playing for two levels of Rookie Ball.  Regardless of the level, for a player of his age and experience level seeing a 9.7% SwStr% and 10.4% walk rate are highly impressive and shows that he has an advanced feel.

Still just 19-years old there are concerns that the speed will slow as he matures and he will need to move to a corner outfielder spot.  Obviously he has a long ways to go in his development, but seeing him mature into a 20/15 player with a strong average is very realistic.  You will need to take a patient approach, but the upside is there.

12) Christian Pache – Grade – B
There’s a question to what happened to the stolen bases, as he went from 32 SB at Single-A in 2017 to 7 SB between High-A (387 PA) and Double-A (109 PA) in 2018.  Of course we also have to remember that he played the year at 19-years old so we will have to give him time to develop/learn how to best utilize his speed.  As that happens he should be a difference maker on the base paths, with the ability to routinely swipe 30+ bases (and even flash 40+).

He did show a little bit of pop, with 23 doubles, 6 triples and 9 HR last season.  You extrapolate that out, along with a little bit of development, and you get a potential top of the order threat who delivers 10+ HR and finish in the Top 10 in stolen bases (think 12/30).  The big question is going to be his ability to make consistent contact, especially after the strikeout rate jumped to 25.7% after his promotion to Double-A and he owned a 12.6% SwStr% overall.  Again taking into account his age and the competition level we can give him a slight pass.  He needs to show signs this season, but if he develops his approach the upside is there to blowup into a B+/A- prospect this season.

13) Drew Waters – Grade – B
A 2017 second round selection, Waters exploded at Single-A (his first full season of professional baseball) hitting .303 with 9 HR and 20 stolen bases over 365 PA.  There’s no questioning the speed, with the potential to swipe 20+ bases per season.  He also showed ample power potential, adding 32 doubles and 6 triples prior to his promotion and finishing the year (he played 30 games at High-A) with 39 doubles, 9 triples and 9 HR.  He needs to continue to develop his approach (12.4% SwStr%), but he has the ability to develop into at least a 20/20 player (and it’s not impossible that he reaches 25/25 or more).  He hasn’t fully emerged as of yet, but the potential is there to develop into a B+ type prospect.

14) Brandon Marsh – Grade – B
Marsh, like Adell, brings an intriguing mix of power and speed with 10 HR and 14 SB (to go along with 27 doubles and 7 triples).  There is a question about his ability to make consistent contact, considering a 27.2% strikeout rate, but you have to wonder how much it is a youngster being a little bit too patient at the plate.  Just consider these numbers:

  • Walk Rate – 12.6%
  • SwStr% – 8.6%

He should move to Double-A and at 21-years old it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he reaches the Majors this season.  If he can cut down the strikeouts, and it’s something that he should be able to do given the other numbers, his power and speed will play up even more.  Think of him as a potential 20/20 player with a strong OBP if he can take the step, and that’s highly likely.

15) Luis Robert – Grade – B
No one is going to question the potential upside Robert brings, but there also seem to be endless questions:

  • Health – In the past two seasons he’s missed time due to issues with his thumb, ankle and knee.  Can he ever stay on the field to show off his talents?
  • Strikeouts – Maybe part of it is the consistent missed time, but a 17.6% SwStr% is highly concerning.
  • Power – In 186 AB in ’18 he didn’t hit a home run (after hitting 3 HR in 84 AB in ’17).  There is the potential to tap into his power, but it would be nice to have seen some signs of it.

Overlooking his pure potential would be a huge mistake, but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the questions that are currently hanging over him.

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

Make sure to check out all of our 2019 Top 10 Prospect Lists:

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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