Updated Top 30 Outfielder Prospects (2020 Preseason): #1-20: There Are Lots Of Intriguing Names, But How Many 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 and even the names at the top of these rankings carry at least a little bit of risk (though with significantly high ceilings, of course) With that in mind, let’s take a look at our rankings:

D

RankingPlayerGradeTeam
1Jo AdellA-Los Angeles Angels
2Luis RobertA-Chicago White Sox
3Jarred KelenicA-Seattle Mariners
4Dylan CarlsonB+St. Louis Cardinals
5Brandon MarshB+Los Angeles Angels
6Alex KiriloffB+Minnesota Twins
7Julio RodriguezB+Seattle Mariners
8Kristian RobinsonB+Arizona Diamondbacks
9George ValeraB+Cleveland Indians
10Jasson DominguezB+New York Yankees
11Alek ThomasB+Arizona Diamondbacks
12Corbin CarrollB+Arizona Diamondbacks
13Christian PacheBAtlanta Braves
14JJ BledayBMiami Marlins
15Riley GreeneBDetroit Tigers
16Drew WatersBAtlanta Braves
17Hunter BishopBSan Francisco Giants
18Sam HilliardBColorado Rockies
19Josh LoweBTampa Bay Rays
20Brennen DavisBChicago Cubs

1) Jo Adell – Los Angeles Angels
Grade – A-

Adell is one of the premier prospects in the game, and the Angels were aggressive with the 20-year old (he’ll turn 21 in April).  In fact injuries slowed him just enough, costing him an opportunity to debut in ’19 though it seems inevitable he gets his opportunity this year having already reached Triple-A.  The results at the level were hardly impressive after a strong showing at Double-A:

  • Double-A (159 AB) – .308 with 8 HR, 23 RBI and 28 R
  • Triple-A (121 AB) – .264 with 0 HR, 8 RBI and 22 R

It’s fair to be concerned with his ability to make consistent contact.  Just consider these numbers from ’19 (Strikeout Rate / Walk Rate / SwStr%):

  • Double-A – 22.5% / 10.4% / 12.6%
  • Triple-A – 32.6% / 7.6% / 19.0%

He has the potential to get that in order, as we have to remember that he was extremely young for the competition level.  Still it’s something to monitor and could help to limit his production initially at the highest level.

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2) Luis Robert – Chicago White Sox
Grade – A-

Robert is widely considered one of the elite prospects in the game and the power/speed upside was on full display in ’19 as he played across three levels (High-A, Double-A and Triple-A), hitting .328 with 32 HR (as well as 31 doubles and 11 triples) and 36 SB.  His contract extension has opened a path to the Majors immediately, though there are questions as to if he could struggle initially.  Overall he posted a 23.4% strikeout rate and 5.1% walk rate, and the SwStr% regressed as he moved up in levels:

  • High-A – 16.6%
  • Double-A – 16.8%
  • Triple-A – 21.1%

He also appeared to take a flyball-centric approach, with a 50.1% flyball rate, which could limit the ability to maintain an elevated BABIP.  There needs to be growth/development for him to realize his full potential, but the upside is there.

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3) Jarred Kelenic – Seattle Mariners
Grade –
 A-

Acquired as part of the Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano blockbuster, Kelenic’s inclusion is the reason the Mets could ultimately regret the deal.  Playing across three levels (including 83 AB at Double-A) Kelenic hit .291 with 23 HR and 20 SB, including having added 31 doubles and 5 triples.  He was seen as having plus power potential when he was drafted, and while it was expected to take longer to develop it has already presented itself well at 20-years old.

He doesn’t have blazing speed and the SB could shrink as he matures physically, but he should remain a double-digit threat.  His approach, at his age, is solid with an overall 22.2% strikeout rate and 10.0% walk rate.  His SwStr% did rise as he advanced:

  • Single-A – 10.4%
  • High-A – 14.1%
  • Double-A – 11.6%

We’ll need to monitor the mark, though having improved going from High-A to Double-A was an important sign.  As long as he can keep the strikeouts in check, the other skills should make him a highly impressive player at the highest level.

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4) Dylan Carlson – St. Louis Cardinals
Grade – B+

The 2016 first round pick split time between Double and Triple-A last season, posting highly impressive results:

  • Double-A (483 PA) – .281 with 21 HR and 18 SB
  • Triple-A (79 PA) – .361 with 5 HR and 2 SB

He saw his strikeouts rise (20.3% to 22.8%) and his walks regress (10.8% to 7.6%) after the promotion, and his 12.1% SwStr% at Double-A is a number that will need to be monitored.  He has solid skills across the board, but he doesn’t possess blazing speed or double-plus power so expectations need to be tempered.  Could he take another step forward in terms of his power?  Perhaps, though the speed could also take a step backwards.  Think of him as a potential 20/15 type player at the highest level, assuming he can continue to keep the strikeouts in check.

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5) Brandon Marsh – Los Angeles Angels
Grade – B+

While you can question Marsh’s power, which has yet to present itself on the field (he had 7 HR in 360 AB at Double-A in ’19), it’s something the left-handed hitter should develop as he continues to learn/mature.  Once he does the upside is across the board production, as his approach took a key step forward last season at 21-years old (Strikeout Rate / Walk Rate / SwStr%):

  • 2018 (580 PA) – 27.2% / 12.6% / 8.6%
  • 2019 (433 PA) – 23.1% / 10.9% / 7.9%

The improvement came despite spending the bulk of the year at Double-A.  As he continues to develop the upside is there for at least 20 HR and he started to show it late in the season (.357 with 3 HR and 5 SB in August) and throughout the Arizona Fall League (.328 with 2 HR and 4 SB).  It shows how high the ceiling could be, especially with the proven ability to make consistent contact.

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6) Alex Kiriloff – Minnesota Twins
Grade – B+

It wasn’t a spectacular 2019 campaign at Double-A, but a wrist injury that limited him to 411 PA may be the explanation.  He hit .283 with 9 HR and 7 SB, though he had his best month to close the year as he hit .311 with 5 HR over 106 AB in August.  In 2018 he had 44 doubles, 7 triples and 20 HR and despite the injury and moving against more advanced pitching he improved his SwStr%:

  • 2018 – 10.9%
  • 2019 – 10.1%

His 2018 shows that there’s more power for him to tap into, and he did add 18 doubles and 2 triples last season.  He’ll play the year at 22-years old and still has time for it to develop, and would it be surprising if a healthy Kiriloff starts to show it at Triple-A (and potentially the Majors)?  This may be the last chance to buy him, as this could be the year he puts it all together.

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7) Julio Rodriguez – Seattle Mariners
Grade – B+

Rodriguez, who played all of 2019 at 19-years old, is already listed at 6’4” and 225 lbs., and he’s never going to be a big contributor on the bases (and ultimately he’ll likely settle into a corner outfield spot).  His power is for real, with 12 HR (as well as 26 doubles and 4 triples) over 367 PA across Single-A (263 AB) and High-A (65 AB).  The early results will bring some questions to his approach, with an overall 6.8% walk rate and a SwStr% that could be exposed further as he advances:

  • Single-A – 16.1%
  • High-A – 11.0%

Obviously we’d want to get excited that the number improved, especially at his age, though it was a small sample size so we can’t put much stock into it.  As long as he can keep that in check and we are talking about significant power with a solid average (though just a small cut behind Kelenic).

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8) Kristian Robinson – Arizona Diamondbacks
Grade – B+

Robinson is a toolsy outfielder who hit .282 with 14 HR (as well as 13 doubles and 2 triples) and 17 SB over 291 PA split between Low-A (189 PA) and Single-A (102 PA).  His average did crash after the promotion, and part of that could’ve been due to luck (AVG // BABIP):

  • Low-A – .319 // .398
  • Single-A – .217 // .263

His SwStr% didn’t take a meteoric after moving up (13.2% at Single-A), and considering he played the year at 18-years old it’s not a completely discouraging mark.  There’s power for him to tap into as he continues to mature, but as he develops physically the speed will likely fade (we’d expect him to put on some weight, as he’s currently listed at 6’3” and 190 lbs.).  While he could steal 20+ bases per season right now, long-term he should be more of a 30/10 type player. 

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9) George Valera – Cleveland Indians
Grade – B+

We don’t have too much to go on with Valera, who was signed as an international free agent in 2017 and then missed most of 2018 due to a broken hamate bone.  The Indians were aggressive with their assignment of him to start 2019, with the 18-year old playing the bulk of the year at Low-A (188 PA) before getting an opportunity at Single-A (26 PA).  While he hit .217, considering his age and level his 13.4% SwStr% (28.5% strikeout rate) isn’t a red flag when paired with a 14.5% walk rate.

The power was already on display (7 doubles, 2 triples and 8 HR) and there’s also some speed (6 SB).  He’s a long ways away from arriving and a lot can happen during his development, but there is top-end talent depending on how he matures. 

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10) Jasson Dominguez – New York Yankees
Grade – B+

The bulk of the ranking for Dominguez is based on conjecture and projection, as he won’t turn 17-years old until February ’20 and has yet to take an AB as a professional.  There is no question that his ceiling is immense, and he could develop into an overall Top 5 type prospect in short order.  That said, until we see his power/speed combination on the field we won’t know for sure if he’ll truly be able to tap into the seemingly limitless potential.

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11) Alek Thomas – Arizona Diamondbacks
Grade – B+

Playing between Single-A (402 PA) and High-A (104 PA) Thomas hit .300 with 10 HR and 15 SB.  There are exciting tools for a player who won’t turn 20-years old until the end of April, but a significant jump in his strikeout rate is something that needs to be monitored:

  • Single-A – 17.9%
  • High-A – 31.7%

While the results were dramatically different, his SwStr% was 12.2% at Single-A before leaping to 15.4% upon his promotion.  It’s not a huge sample size, but with his SwStr% given the level of competition it’s something that can’t be ignored.  His overall upside may be the highest in the system (think a 15/25 type player), but he first needs to prove that he can make consistent contact against more advanced pitching.

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12) Corbin Carroll – Arizona Diamondbacks
Grade – B+

Selected 16th in the first round of the 2019 draft, Carroll could quickly make those teams that passed over him regret it.  The biggest concern was his size (he’s listed at 5’10”), though the upside is similar (or arguably greater) than Alek Thomas’.  He hit .299 with 2 HR and 18 SB in 186 PA in his first taste of professional baseball, as there’s no questioning his speed (he went 18-for-19 on SB attempts) and there’s ample power to start tapping into (he added 9 doubles and 7 triples).

There was plenty of swing and miss (14.1% SwStr% led to a 22.0% strikeout rate), but part of that may have been due to being too patient (15.6% walk rate).  As he learns to be a little bit more aggressive (or should we say if he learns) he could start tapping into his power quickly, leading to him getting more and more attention.  Getting him this season may be your only chance to buy at a discount.

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13) Christian Pache – Atlanta Braves
Grade – B

The 21-year old has significant upside, having hit .278 with 11 HR and 8 SB over 433 PA at Double-A (.274 with 1 HR over 105 PA at Triple-A).  However there are also significant questions that need to be answered.  The same player who stole 32 bases in ’17 went 8-for-19 in stolen base attempts last season.  Then you have the swing and miss, which wasn’t particularly good at either level he played (SwStr%):

  • Double-A – 14.6%
  • Triple-A – 15.0%

The lack of efficiency on the bases and the risk of the strikeouts continuing to rise significantly hurts his outlook.  It’s not to say that he can’t figure it out, and we’d expect him to (especially with his power potential, adding 36 doubles and 9 triples), but for now the questions outweigh the potential answers.

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14) JJ Bleday – Miami Marlins
Grade – B

The fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft, Bleday held his own at High-A in his first taste of professional baseball as he hit .257 with 3 HR (as well as 8 doubles) over 140 AB.  It was an aggressive assignment, but an 8.6% SwStr% is promising and backs up the praise he received for his approach heading into the draft.

At 22-years old the left-handed hitter has the potential to move quickly and emerge as a fixture in one of the corner outfield spots for the Marlins.  He’ll look even better if he develops some power, though time will tell.  A strong approach is half the battle, and something that he already possesses.

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15) Riley Greene – Detroit Tigers
Grade – B

Greene was selected fifth overall in the 2019 draft and the Tigers were aggressive with him immediately, playing across three levels (including seeing time at Single-A).  He held up to the challenge, hitting .271 with 5 HR and 5 SB overall, though there are questions hanging over his development:

  • While the Tigers believe, some question how much power he’ll have long-term
  • Listed at 6’3” and 200 lbs, there are questions as to how much speed he’ll ultimately have

The outlook is solid and he should have a place in one of the corner outfield spots in Detroit, but the ceiling may not be quite as high as some others.

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16) Drew Waters – Atlanta Braves
Grade – B

Overall Waters hit .309 with 7 HR and 16 SB as he split time between Double-A (454 PA) and Triple-A (119 PA).  With 40 doubles and 5 triples it’s easy to see the power taking another step forward, especially at just 21-yards old, but his approach at the plate is a significant question (SwStr%):

  • Double-A – 16.8%
  • Triple-A – 18.0%

It’s easy to expect that number to take another step in the wrong direction against more advanced pitching, and as it is he posted a 28.6% strikeout rate while barely drawing a walk (6.8% walk rate).  You need to make contact to tap into your power and speed, and that simply isn’t a guarantee with Waters.  Throw in having benefited from a .435 BABIP and it’s easy to envision him getting exposed in 2020.  That’s not to say that there isn’t upside or that he should be ignored, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he stumbled along the way.

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17) Hunter Bishop – San Francisco Giants
Grade – B

Drafted tenth overall in 2019, Bishop has quickly given the appearance of the new “typical” prospect.  He has power (5 HR) and speed (8 SB), which he showed over 105 AB in his first taste of professional baseball.  He also showed an ability to draw a walk, as he walked (38) nearly as much as he struck out (39).  The problem?  Obviously he struck out a ton:

  • Strikeout Rate – 26.7%
  • SwStr% – 13.3%

There is 20/20 potential, assuming he can refine his approach and make enough contact to tap into it.  That’ll be interesting to watch, but any signs of improvement will cause his stock to soar.

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18) Sam Hilliard – Colorado Rockies
Grade – B

No one is about to question the combination of power and speed that Hilliard brings, as he had 35 HR and 22 SB over 559 PA at Triple-A (before adding 7 HR and 2 SB over 87 PA in the Majors).  The question is the common one for prospects these days, and that’s whether or not he’ll make enough contact to tap into those skills (Strikeout Rate // SwStr%):

  • Triple-A – 29.3% // 15.7%
  • Majors – 26.4% // 11.0%

While he did improve in the Majors it was also an extremely small sample size and pitchers didn’t have the opportunity to adjust to his approach.  The question is if a change in his approach (reports have him cutting down his leg kick) will allow him to maintain that improved contact rate.  If he can, which doesn’t seem impossible, he has the combination of skills to be an offensive monster in Coors Field.

Will he fall victim to the lack of playing time many Colorado prospects suffer from remains to be seen, but there’s a real opportunity for him to win the starting centerfield job in 2020.

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19) Josh Lowe – Tampa Bay Rays
Grade – B

Playing the year at Double-A Lowe began tapping into his power, slugging 18 HR to go along with his ability to steal bases (30-for-39 in stolen base attempts).  He did hit .252 in the process, though he continues to show an ability to draw walks (11.4% walk rate in ’19, 10.3% in ’18). 

Strikeouts are a big part of his game, as he posted a 25.4% strikeout rate last season courtesy of a 12.2% SwStr%.  Of course that was a step in the right direction, after he posted a 13.3% SwStr% at High-A in 2018.  As long as he can continue developing and keep the strikeout rate in the 24-27% range as he moves towards the Majors and against more advanced pitchers, the potential is there for a .260/20/20 type player.

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20) Brennen Davis – Chicago Cubs
ETA – 2022

Playing at Single-A Davis hit .305 with 8 HR and 4 SB over 204 PA last season (he was limited due to a broken finger).  A second round pick in 2018, Davis should be able to develop more power as he learns/matures (he’s listed at 6’4” and only 175 lbs.), and he already has speed.  He’s clearly still learning and refining his game, as he needs to learn to tap into the power (he added 9 doubles and 3 triples) while also becoming more aggressive on the bases.

There are going to be questions about his ability to make consistent contact, having posted an 11.2% SwStr% and 8.8% walk rate, but he’s still just 20-years old.  If he can keep that in check you are looking at a 20/20 player, if not better, who should be able to hit .260+. 

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Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, MLB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 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
PositionLast Updated
Catcher04/13/20
First Baseman--
Second Baseman04/15/20
Shortstop04/17/20
Third Baseman04/20/20
Outfield04/24/20
Pitcher--

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