The fine print: Our midseason list update does not include 2019 draftees, 2019 J2 signings, or any prospect-eligible player currently in the majors. This is going to change again in two months, so it’s a little fuzzier than our offseason lists.
Why he’ll succeed: Franco turned 18 just before the season started, but is already one of the highest-floor prospects in baseball. He was one of the best hitters in the Low-A Midwest League in the first half. He has gotten off to a furious start after a recent promotion to High-A. He has been walking way more than he has struck out. He projects for plus or better hit and power. He’ll probably stay up the middle and on the dirt defensively. Did we mention that he’s 18 with this ridiculous level of polish yet?
Why he might fail: Let’s be really, really clear here: he’s extremely unlikely to fail. But, no prospect is perfect. He isn’t a defensive wizard at short yet, and might ultimately slide to another position, perhaps second base. Maybe he’ll hit a little less than we think? His offensive tools might “only” be 6s? We don’t have a lot for this section for Franco, which is why he’s the top prospect in baseball.
Why he’ll succeed: The tools here are louder than Franco’s. The track record is longer. It’s a five-tool center fielder of the ilk that BP Lead Prospect Writers love to put at number one, and the 90th percentile outcome here is higher than Franco’s too.
Why he might fail: There’s swing and miss concerns. There’s an injury track record that’s mildly concerning. But a below-average result here is good everyday outfielder so—like with Franco—we are grasping at straws a bit as far as negatives go.
Why he’ll succeed: If one was so inclined to put an OFP 80 on any of the top three on our midseason list, you might get a plurality for Gore. It’s four above-average or better pitches with plus command. He might just be Clayton Kershaw and this entire exercise will look silly in 24 months.
Why he might fail: He’s thrown ~160 professional innings. We might be needlessly gunshy here, but there’s risk in the profile that the teenager with an integer for his BB/K rate and the toolsy outfielder killing Double-A just don’t have.
Why he’ll succeed: Robert’s path in the American minors had something of an air of mystery around it—he was kept in the DSL after signing in 2017, and his 2018 was wrecked by injuries. Now healthy, he’s finally showing off the huge power/hit potential that had been promised back to his days in Cuba. He advanced quickly to Double-A, performed well there, and will start the second half in Triple-A Charlotte. There’s a real chance for a superstar five-tool center fielder here.
Why he might fail: The swing’s still on the longer side, and the plate approach isn’t there yet. Those two factors have combined to forestall many a promising offensive talent over the years. We would also like to see him have a sustained run without injuries before we declare that no longer a concern.
Why he’ll succeed: Mize throws four pitches that all rate as plus offerings, and we’ve seen everything flash higher in individual viewings. His command and pitchability are off the charts. On skill, he’s probably a good major league pitcher right now, and there’s ace upside here.
Why he might fail: We were a bit concerned coming into the season about Mize’s ability to remain healthy on a pro schedule. He had some elbow issues in college, and the Tigers were extremely judicious with his post-draft usage. Mize was absolutely brilliant on a regular rotation schedule for the first two months of 2019, brilliant enough that he was in consideration for the top spot on this list when we started putting it together. He then promptly came out of a June 13th start with shoulder inflammation, and just started a rehab assignment in the GCL. It is a testament to just how good he’s shown in all of our looks that he’s still this high, but we’re still concerned.
Why he’ll succeed: He’s hit everywhere while being young for every league he’s played in. Kieboom is a potential plus hit/plus power middle infielder with enough athleticism to play anywhere on the dirt and give your big club some lineup flexibility.
Why he might fail: Okay, he hasn’t hit everywhere. Kieboom struggled in a brief major league appearance this season and looked badly overmatched. That’s gives us a little pause, but admittedly only a bit. There still is a good chance he’s the next homegrown Nats superstar they fail to re-sign in six years.
Why he’ll succeed: The Gingergaard continues to quickly climb the minor league ladder. He’s filled out, added to his stuff, and basically done all the things we could have hoped for after somewhat aggressively giving him that nom de guerre shortly after the 2016 draft. There’s a full complement of power stuff now, and top-of-the-rotation upside.
Why he might fail: May hasn’t ever truly dominated a level like some of the other top pitching prospects to either side of him on this list. He’s always been good, and he’s almost exclusively faced older hitters. But this is a case where the performance hasn’t quite matched the profile so far. May might just be a durable, above-average major league starter.
Why he’ll succeed: Bat speed, bat speed, bat speed. Bichette has among the most in organized baseball, and he pairs it with plus barrel control to make his long, violent swing work despite not being the platonic ideal of a plus hit/plus power stroke. He’s not a bat-only prospect either. While it’s not the smoothest, prettiest shortstop you’ll see, Bichette gets it done at the six, and would be a plus glove if he were to slide to the keystone long term.
Why he might fail: Bichette hasn’t dominated the upper minors to the same degree he did A-ball. He can get a little pull-happy at times, and the raw power hasn’t come into games as much you’d like yet either. There’s always the chance that swing gets beat by the kind of stuff and sequencing you only see in la grande liga.
9.) Luis Urías, SS/2B, San Diego Padres
Why he’ll succeed: We’ve projected Urías for a plus or better hit tool for years. He hadn’t gotten to his raw power—which was interesting despite a diminutive frame—in games, but it finally came this spring; he broke his career high in home runs by mid-May. So now what we’re looking at is a guy who will stick at second base who might project for plus hit and plus power. Wilson Karaman noted last year that Urías was a prime candidate for this kind of offensive growth, and well, here we are.
Why he might fail: I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in this, but he’s been awful in limited major league exposure. The Padres seem weirdly uninterested in playing Urías even though we’re past the service time shenanigans point on him and the main players “blocking” him at second are a probably-washed Ian Kinsler and waiver-claim utilityman Greg Garcia. His power surge might be an illusion caused by current Triple-A conditions. Then again, one of the things driving the Triple-A power surge is the major league baseball, which of course is also used in The Show.
Why he’ll succeed: If he doesn’t have the best hit/power projection combo of any player in the minors, he’s close enough for horseshoes. Tucker has a chance to be a dynamic all-around offensive force. He’s got over 800 plate appearances tearing up Triple-A. All he needs is to be planted in left or right for someone.
Why he might fail: Weirdly, for a lot of the same reasons as Urías, even though he’s a 6-foot-4 corner outfielder and Urías is a 5-foot-9 second baseman. Tucker was terrible in three separate major league stints last year, and the Astros have repeatedly bypassed him for a call-up this year. He’s hitting for even more over-the-fence power this year, but that’s probably driven by the new Triple-A baseball. Overall, Tucker is going to make it as far as his bat carries him, but the Astros might not have room for him.
Why he’ll succeed: He’s made consistent improvements to his offensive game since the beginning of the 2018 season, unexpectedly surging to become a top global prospect. He was already a polished defender, likely to stay at the six, but certainly capable of handling other positions. He always showed an advanced plate approach for his levels, too. But now, we expect an above-average outcome in both hit and power as well, and he’s already knocking on the door of the majors
Why he might fail: There’s low outright failure risk here, even for this section of the list. If he comes in a little low on hit and power, he might settle in as “just” a pretty good baseball player. If you consider it a failure for a player ranked this highly to lock in as a long-term regular instead of a star, well, I guess that would be a failure.
Why he’ll succeed: Madrigal’s contact skills are really only matched by Willians Astudillo. It might just be an 8 hit tool, and in that case he wins a bunch of batting titles and we all write think pieces about how unique and cool he is until 2035 or so.
Why he might fail: It’s a completely unique profile for a modern prospect, almost out of the deadball era, so we don’t have a lot of history to go on here. It is possible that Madrigal won’t be able to drive the ball enough to consistently post averages starting with a 3 at the major-league level. Unlike Astudillo, he has a solid defensive home at second and adds significant baserunning value, so he’s probably a regular even if he’s actually a .275 hitter. But that wouldn’t be a star and it’s not a player well matched to the modern game.
Why he’ll succeed: Potential for plus hit and plus power in center. Kelenic took to full-season ball like a fish to water, immediately showing a high-end offensive upside. There’s a broad base of skills and tools in all aspects of the game, and he’s polished for a prep hitter.
Why he might fail: Maybe there’s latent bad Mets karma surrounding him? More seriously, Kelenic might slide to a corner outfield spot at some point, and not everyone believes he’s going to hit for big power or average quite yet. There could be some chance he ends up lacking a true carrying tool.
Why he’ll succeed: Gorman just turned 19 and he’s already flashed big power in the not-particularly-friendly confines of the Midwest League. It’s 70-grade raw, with more projection left in his teenage frame. There’s going to be swing-and-miss in his game, but he should hit enough to get the prodigious power into games, and he’s athletic enough to stick at third base for now. This sounds a lot like Austin Riley…
Why he might fail: The delta on Gorman is larger than any other bat in the top 15. The swing-and-miss might eat too much into the offensive profile, and while he’s a 19-year-old third baseman, he might be a 22-year-old first baseman. That sounds a lot like Pedro Alvarez…
Why he’ll succeed: He’s back! Our reports out of the Southern League are coming back a lot like 2017 Sixto, a phenom throwing triple-digits with a bevy of offspeed offerings. His fastball is one of the very best in the game, and eventually we think he’ll settle on two or three good secondary pitches. Or maybe he’ll just continue to throw everything forever.
Why he might fail: Durability and health. Sanchez missed a lot of 2018 with an elbow injury, and has had a variety of other minor knicks. He’s generously listed at 6-foot, and is somewhat lithe. We don’t know if he can stay on the mound yet or in what role, but he’s going to be awfully good if only he can find the right role to stay good in.
Why he’ll succeed: Lewis went first overall two years ago. He offers premium athletic tools up the middle with quick hands and surprising raw power. It’s the exact type of profile you want to bet on to develop into an impact major leaguer.
Why he might fail: Keanan has you covered here. In short, his swing is kind of a mess right now and we’re coming up on a full calendar year of struggles in High-A.
Why he’ll succeed: He’s an advanced three-pitch arm with excellent command and pitchability. He’s been a statistical monster at every level he’s pitched at. He’s already functionally in the major league rotation, and it certainly looks right there; the Rays made a paper transaction on Friday that makes him eligible for this list even though he isn’t likely to pitch while down. And just for kicks, he’s a potential contributor with the stick, too. 80 percent of Shohei Ohtani is still a monster, right?
Why he might fail: As a pitcher, McKay is a safe bet to be a good starting pitcher, but lacks the pure stuff of most of the arms surrounding him. His bat is lagging significantly behind his arm, but the two-way player rule provides enough roster manipulation incentive for the Rays to push the issue at least a little, anyway. We haven’t actually seen someone handle a full rotation workload plus occasional hitting duties yet without breaking down.
Why he’ll succeed: You’d probably notice if we just copied and pasted last year’s blurb, right? Not much has changed here. Keller still has a plus-plus fastball and curve combo and he’s already gotten a couple major league starts under his belt.
Why he might fail: Not much has changed…including the change. The Pirates have added a slider, which shows some promise, but although we aren’t strictly supposed to consider this I have my doubts about Pittsburgh developing Keller to his full no. 2 starter projection. There’s a reason Jeffrey has started making 2021 AL Cy Young winner Mitch Keller jokes.
Why he’ll succeed: Bart has a rare combination of upside, polish, and defensive ability for a catcher. There’s big bat speed and big raw power. He’s an advanced receiver, to the extent that we can reliably observe such things about low-minors catchers. Basically, the bar for a two-way catcher is quite low these days, and Bart might exceed it by quite a lot.
Why he might fail: If this all sounds like Mike Zunino, well, we’ve heard that comp a lot too, and his line in the Cal League this year does look like a good Zunino season. Zunino was only eligible for one BP list because he advanced so quickly after being the third pick in 2012, and he ranked 33rd in a stronger prospect pool. John Sickels coined a term called “Young Catcher Offensive Stagnation Syndrome” long before either of us started doing this, and we still see catchers stagnate offensively under the weight of their defensive obligations far more than other positions.
Why he’ll succeed: He’s one of the best defensive center fielders in the minors, which gives him a major league floor even if he doesn’t hit much. And he’s started to hit more as a 20-year-old in Double-A. The tools have never been in doubt, and Pache arguably has more upside than many of the bats in the tier ahead of him.
Why he might fail: Pache’s swing has never led evaluators, Baseball Prospectus or otherwise, to have a ton of confidence in the hit tool. It only really needs to be average to make him a good everyday player given everything else, and he’s assuaged some of our concerns in 2019—hence the jump up the list—but he hasn’t banished all of them.
21.) Jesús Luzardo, LHP, Oakland Athletics
Why he’ll succeed: He’s a lefty with three potential plus pitches, above-average command of everything, and he’s dominated in the minors. All before his 22nd birthday.
Why he might fail: High school Tommy John surgery, mysterious preseason shoulder ailment, and, most recently, a Grade 2 lat strain. That’s all before his 22nd birthday, too.
Why he’ll succeed: When he’s been healthy, he’s previously been the best pitching prospect in baseball, with four above-average or better offerings and command of everything.
Why he might fail: He hasn’t been both healthy and good for any extended period of time since 2017. He could come back later in the year or in the Arizona Fall League and make this look overly reactive, or we might not see him again until 2020.
Why he’ll succeed: He throws harder than anyone on this list. He might throw harder than anyone in the minor leagues. There’s a plus hard slider here too, and potential on both a curve and a change. He’s already dominating the Double-A level despite very little pro experience.
Why he might fail: He’s had so little pro experience because he’s had difficulty staying on the mound. At press time, he’s coming off a groin injury that sidelined him for a few weeks. We know he has a screw in his pitching elbow from surgery in high school. The Blue Jays have been extremely, extremely careful with his workload, and we just have no idea how many innings he can actually throw in a season yet. This is a recurring theme with top pitching prospects now, but Pearson is extreme even with that caveat.
Here’s the weird edge case for list inclusion purposes. Kopech is out for almost all or all of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer. We’ve come to the conclusion that he’s technically ineligible for this list because he’s on the MLB IL, but he was eligible for the 2019 101, where he ranked 24th, and he’ll be eligible for the 2020 101. So we are noting where he’d rank for posterity’s sake. As you probably know, he’s as talented as any pitcher on here, and the main risk is Tommy John recovery. We’ll have a longer feature about ranking players recovering from Tommy John later in the week.
24.) Luis Patiño, RHP, San Diego Padres
Why he’ll succeed: Patiño has dominated two A-ball levels as a teenager, flashing four above-average pitches including a potential plus-plus fastball. His advanced feel for pitching only makes the stuff play up even more, and his plus athleticism allows him to repeat a funky delivery and generate serious arm speed.
Why he might fail: His career high for innings pitched is 81, and Patiño will probably only best that by 20 or 30 this year. We don’t know how his short and somewhat slight frame will hold up over 180 major league innings, nor if the stuff will pop as much across longer outings.
Why he’ll succeed: A plus fastball, a plus-plus curveball, a new slider that’s trending towards plus itself, and a usable changeup. That’s not quite as broad as Mize’s arsenal, but it’s not that far off, and we said in his blurb that a healthy Mize would’ve contended for the top spot on this list. The stuff is unimpeachable. He absolutely crushed Double-A this year and earned the call-up to Triple-A even though he turned 20 just six weeks ago.
Why he might fail: He’s even smaller than Patiño, listed at just 5-foot-9 and 163 pounds. That’s tiny for a starting pitcher. While we don’t have any specific durability concerns here, we’re just not sure about his ability to handle the workload to stuff him higher. Sometimes-wavering command could push him further towards a bullpen outcome, although we’d expect that to be higher end too.
Why he’ll succeed: See there, a son is born and we pronounce him fit to shove. Anderson seems, at times, to get lost in the shuffle in the gaggle of Top 101 Atlanta arms of recent years. But he might end up the best of the lot, with three plus pitches in his locker which he has used to lay waste to the minors so far. While he has never been a fast-track arm as a cold weather prep, he’s not far off now, and blessedly soon I won’t have to look up Jethro Tull songs that aren’t “Aqualung.”
Why he might fail: The command has never quite been to the level where you are utterly convinced Anderson’s a starter long term. There’s the usual set of pitcher risks as well.
Why he’ll succeed: Big stuff from the left side. At his best, Puk has an overpowering fastball/slider combination coming from a 6-foot-7 lefty. He had Tommy John surgery in spring 2018, and is just now throwing in official games again. Early reports on his progress have been strong.
Why he might fail: He’s 24 and lost over a season of crucial development; he should probably be in the majors by now. Full recovery from Tommy John isn’t a guarantee. Command often takes the longest to come back, and that wasn’t a strong point here before the injury. Puk has only been throwing a couple of innings each start while working back, and it’s a risk factor until we can see him tossing six innings with his best stuff.
Why he’ll succeed: Pache’s outfield mate in Mississippi is a potential five-tool outfielder as well. The tools aren’t quite as loud as Pache’s, but Waters can really hit and has been a more consistent performer in the minors.
Why he might fail: He’s probably more likely to be exactly a role 55 player than Pache is, but he’s also more likely to be a right fielder. There’s a narrower range of outcomes, but less upside. He also doesn’t have the premium glove to carry him if the bat falls a bit short of projection.
Why he’ll succeed: A second pass at High-A went better for Taveras and he earned a promotion to the Texas League at midseason. The five tools all still flash, and he has a decent floor given the plus glove, run, and arm in center field. Jeffrey even managed to convince one (1) other BP prospect writer that he isn’t nuts for repeatedly doubling down on Taveras as a top 50 prospect in baseball.
Why he might fail: The swing that makes everyone coo during batting practice still doesn’t consistently show up in games. There’s high end plus raw, but he’s never hit more than eight home runs in a season. In the end, he might just be Leonys Martin.
Why he’ll succeed: Trammell makes a nicely matched pair with Taveras. He’s an athletic center fielder with plus run and glove tools. He doesn’t have Taveras’s throwing arm, but shows a much more advanced approach at the plate. If you catch him for batting practice, you will think he’s a top five prospect in baseball. There’s easy plus raw and premium bat speed. It just looks right. When and if these guys click, you get a perennial all-star.
Why he might fail: The “if” is doing a lot of heavy lifting above. Like Taveras, he’s never hit as much as you’d think given the swing you’ll see at 5:00 p.m. During our internal discussion of where to rank him he got comped to “slower Billy Hamilton.” So if you want a downside projection, there ya go.
Why he’ll succeed: One of our major early-season breakout names, Groshans is an advanced bat for a prep pick. He has above-average bat speed and barrel control, and present plus raw power that might only tick up further in his twenties.
Why he might fail: The coming projection in the body, coupled with his presently mere average speed and range will likely force him over to third base in the coming years. Groshans has the tools to be above-average there, but the shift down the defensive spectrum will force that raw power to play to plus in games as well. He’s had recurring foot injuries, and the most recent flare up has kept him on the IL since early May.
32.) Jésus Sánchez, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Why he’ll succeed: It’s one of those pretty lefty swings that will seduce you. Everything’s in time, plus bat speed, a little bit of loft, a lean, projectable frame with present strength. He’s got a strong minor league track record of using that swing to get base hits, so it’s functional too. He might grow into some more raw power—or the baseballs will make it moot anyway—and you have two plus offensive tools on the Tropicana Field turf.
Why he might fail: Jésus has yet to take the wheel and really force us to put him among the best outfield prospects in baseball. His belief that he can just about hit anything is being tested in Double-A and if he doesn’t hit, there isn’t much of a major league floor given the corner profile and dearth of athletic tools compared to the outfielders around him on this list.
Why he’ll succeed: After an underwhelming 2018 on both a tools and performance level, reports have been much better on the still teenaged Ramos. The bat speed isn’t too far off the top of the scale, and there’s plus power that comes with it. While the rest of the offensive profile is more of a work in progress, he’s held his own in the Cal League, and there’s a not-overly-optimistic outcome where it’s plus hit as well.
Why he might fail: He’s going to end up in a corner outfield spot, so there will be pressure on those offensive tools. The ferocity of the swing and resultant whiffs might limit him to a solid regular rather than a star.
Why he’ll succeed: Mountcastle has an advanced hit tool and plus power that’s starting to play fully in games. (There’s that pesky Triple-A baseball thing again.) He’s hit everywhere he’s played, although not always immediately, and he’s on the verge of the majors now. We’re never happy with how high he is on these lists, because it’s extremely a hit-first profile and not entirely a safe one, but he just keeps on moving along at a solid pace of development.
Why he might fail: He finally found a position, which is good. It’s first base, which is less good. In the course of the last two years, Mountcastle has slid down the defensive spectrum from shortstop to third base to first base. We expected that might happen—shortstop in particular was a pipe dream—and we’re glad to see he is comfortable at first. But that’s going to put a lot of pressure on his bat, and there’s enough length and chase in his swing that it’s not a lock that he’s going to hit enough to carry the day.
Why he’ll succeed: He’s an advanced defender at third base, good enough that the versatility-minded Reds have toyed with him at both shortstop and second base. He has a well-rounded, solid offensive skill set. It’s easy to envision an outcome where he’s a plus defender at third with above-average hitting ability and average or slightly-above power.
Why he might fail: If we’re leading with his defense and describing his offense as “solid,” you probably can infer that this isn’t the sexiest profile in the world. There might not be an offensive carrying tool here. He’s facially been just okay in the Florida State League, although DRC+ likes what he’s doing more than a traditional slash line, and he’s not playing in the world’s friendliest hitting environment.
Why he’ll succeed: Manning has shown marked improvement since he was struggling to turn over a lineup once in the Penn League a couple years ago. He’s reined in his mechanics enough to project for at least average command of a low-90s fastball that bumps 95 consistently and plays up due to his ridiculous extension. The curve is potentially plus as well. His angles and length make him very difficult to square generally, and he has the athletic, well-developed frame of a mid-rotation innings eater.
Why he might fail: The change only flashes, he still slows his arm on the curve from time to time, and it remains to be seen if major league hitters will have as much trouble with average fastball velocity despite it coming off a very high shelf.
Why he’ll succeed: We can’t fully explain why Liberatore generally thought of as one of the top half-dozen or so talents in the 2018 Draft—slid to Tampa Bay at no. 16. The Rays certainly aren’t questioning it right now. He very nearly made the 101 last offseason, and all he’s done since is continue to display a four-pitch mix and easily roll through the Midwest League.
Why he might fail: We’re doing less “he’s a pitcher” type stuff in this list, but he’s a pitcher in Low-A and lots of things happen to pitchers between Low-A and the majors, especially teenage ones. He’s had some velocity and consistency issues over the course of his career, although he seems to have adjusted fully to the pro schedule this spring. We said in January that he’d shoot pretty far up our lists with 120 good innings. This might not be the end of the rise.
Why he’ll succeed: The Cardinals Devil Magic has conjured another potential plus outfielder from its cauldron of mystery. Carlson always had first-round tools, but didn’t have the performance to match. Nonetheless, St. Louis pushed the 20-year-old to Double-A and he responded, flashing above-average offensive tools and an overall balanced profile. He’s even playing mostly center field too, because why not?
Why he might fail: Perhaps the Cards can use the same Harrison Bader serum to make Carlson a good everyday center fielder, but it’s more likely he ends up in a corner outfield spot, and by this point in our Midseason 50 blurbs, you know what that means.
Why he’ll succeed: He hits the ball hard. Really, really hard. The Mariners were very aggressive in certain assignments this spring, and sent Rodriguez straight from the DSL to full-season A-ball stateside. He’s responded with strong performance sandwiched around an IL stint for a hand injury, showing off a good approach and big bat speed.
Why he might fail: The swing has some length to it—he’s a big boy and it’s not a short bat path—so there’s some swing-and-miss concern. His chances at sticking in center aren’t good. He is going to have to add some loft to the swing to take advantage of the whole “hitting the ball really hard” thing.
Why he’ll succeed: Triple-digit velocity, an eff-you slider, and more command and feel for pitching than you’d expect from this kind of power arm. Graterol was off to a dominant start in Double-A as a 20-year-old, and on stuff isn’t that far off the Pearson/Patiño/Deivi/Anderson range.
Why he might fail: He’s already had elbow surgery and is currently on the Injured List with shoulder woes. Pitchers, man.
Why he’ll succeed: The overall profile is tantalizing, with an above-average or even plus hit tool paired with plus-plus raw power, an advanced plate approach, and a shot to stay at third base. That’s the type of profile that if it all comes together ends up making a bunch of All-Star teams. Bohm already quickly stormed both full-season A-ball levels in his first full pro season, landing in the friendly confines of Double-A Reading in June. With the Phillies third base situation looking unsettled, a strong second half could put him in major league roster contention quicker than you might think.
Why he might fail: He’s not quite to Bobby Bonilla/astronaut level bad at third, and he honestly might not even end up being worse than quasi-incumbent Maikel Franco. But that doesn’t mean he’s good either, and he might always be a stretch at the position. He is still working to get the plus-plus raw into games, and the delta on his game power is surprisingly high. Although he’s a disciplined hitter overall, he does currently swing through more breaking balls than you’d like.
Why he’ll succeed: We perceived Gilbert as a polished college arm when selected 14th overall last year, but he didn’t actually throw a professional pitch until this spring. He’s been one of the best pitchers in the minors in the first half, buzzing through Low-A and High-A, but he’s a polished college righty and sometimes they do these sorts of things. We’ve gotten multiple solid reports on him, with a fastball in the low 90s and a plus curveball as the party piece ahead of a usable slider and change. He’s a mid-rotation prospect.
Why he might fail: As we’ve noted many times, including in Mad Libs and verse forms, the perceived polished mid-rotation prospect is a sneakily volatile type, and often either falls short or spikes further. We’ll spare you a new song this time, but know that Gilbert hasn’t really separated himself positively or negatively from the stereotype quite yet.
Why he’ll succeed: Kiriloff has the potential to be a plus hit/plus power bat. It’s the kind of offensive profile that will play anywhere on the diamond, and he’s never truly struggled at any level of the minors.
Why he might fail: We were the low source on Kirilloff last year because of internal (okay, mostly Jeffrey) concerns about how the bat would play against upper minors pitching, and where exactly on the diamond he would play. So far in 2019 he’s posted a .404 slugging in Double-A and is spending almost half his games in the field at first base. Kirilloff dealt with an early season back issue, so we aren’t dinging him too much, but it’s a bit worrying how quickly our offseason concerns came to pass.
Why he’ll succeed: The lefty version of the big bonus Texas prep pitcher, straight out of central casting. (We’ll get to several righty versions shortly.) Muller’s a big dude—listed at 6-foot 6 and 225 pounds, but those both might be low now—who cuts an imposing figure on the mound, with the big stuff to match. He runs his fastball up into the mid 90s. The changeup and curveball both flash. There’s the basis for a pretty high-end starting pitcher outcome here.
Why he might fail: As you’ve probably deduced, given that he’s not 30 spots higher on this list, command remains a significant issue here. Muller has also bled velocity in the past; combine those two factors, and he might ultimately be best suited to air it out in short bursts in the pen.
Why he’ll succeed: Welcome to the “highly touted J2” section of this list! Contestant number one received a $2.1 million bonus in 2017, came stateside for his pro debut in 2018, and jumped all the way to Low-A this spring. Mauricio has been holding his own in the Sally, and he’s got a shot for a plus hit, plus power offensive profile at shortstop.
Why he might fail: There’s a lot of variance in all three of those things. His aggressiveness could damper the hit tool. He has the ability to grow into substantial power, but he’s not there yet, especially in games. And that same filling out that might get him to the power projection also might move him down the defensive spectrum. Things could go many different ways from here, which will be a recurring theme for this group of guys.
Why he’ll succeed: Contestant number two is one of the highest-profile prospects to ever sign out of the Bahamas, getting $2.5 million in 2017. We started getting insane reports on Robinson’s tools from extended last year, and they’ve never stopped since. It’s an absolute tool shed that you can dream on, with premium hit, power, speed, and field potential.
Why he might fail: See Ronny Mauricio’s comment; there’s similar huge variance in all directions. We’re slotting Robinson in a spot behind Mauricio because Mauricio’s surviving full-season ball and Robinson was held back to the Northwest League, but these guys could really be in any order.
Why he’ll succeed: Contestant number three finishes out our tour of the big 2017 signings as a $1.2 million player from the Dominican. Valera grew up in Queens, but moved to the Dominican Republic as a young teenager and signed out of there. In an alternate universe, he’d have been one of the top preps selected in the draft a few weeks ago, but instead he’s already advanced to the New York-Penn League, where he’s gotten strong early reviews. This is a hit-driven profile—he’s smaller and not as physical as Mauricio or Robinson, and probably doesn’t have quite as much power projection. But it’s got a chance to be a really good hit tool.
Why he might fail: Betting on an 18-year-old with an advanced hit tool isn’t a terrible bet, but it isn’t a safe one either. If the hit ability doesn’t play to plus, he has less to fall back on in the way of secondary abilities. His 2018 was marred by a broken hamate, which is something to watch moving forward.
Why he’ll succeed: Contestant number four was one of 2018’s top international signings, receiving a bonus of $2.6 million. Buzz from scouts started growing on Luciano before he even signed, and it has only grown since he came stateside. Like Robinson, you can dream on it all: hit, power, and speed. It’s very early, but his current numbers in the Arizona League look like he’s playing MLB: The Show on rookie difficulty. We keep hearing too many good things to not have him on this list.
Why he might fail: This one is pretty simple: he hasn’t played much competitive baseball. He signed out of last year’s J2 crop and made his official professional debut all of three weeks ago. We didn’t rank him last offseason because he was hurt for much of instructs and therefore there wasn’t anything to go off of past a bonus and vague buzz. There’s enough now for us to hazard an educated guess that he’s one of the top 50 prospects in baseball. But be aware that evaluation of complex-level players is incredibly fuzzy for a wide variety of reasons, and that there’s extreme, extreme variance in any projection we could make here.
Why he’ll succeed: Here’s the first of the two promised righty versions of the prototypical Texas prep arm to close us out. Rodriguez isn’t quite as big as Muller, but he’s still a big guy. He also runs the heater up into the mid 90s, but he mixes a potential plus slider and a curve as breaking offerings, along with a nascent change. It all looks right and flashes right.
Why he might fail: The edges still need some sanding down. His command isn’t quite there yet. The curve and slider bleed together. He doesn’t seem comfortable out of the stretch yet. It’s going to take awhile to come together if it does. There’s a significant risk that he ends up as a power arm out of the pen with the fastball and one of the breaking balls, and some risk that he doesn’t make it at all.
Why he’ll succeed: Well, for most of the same reasons as Rodriguez one spot above him. He’s from the Houston suburbs, not rural East Texas, and is a year older and a bit shorter, but otherwise, he’s your prototypical Texas prep arm having full-season ball success on the back of a mid-90s fastball and potential plus breaker.
Why he might fail: Okay, we get one: Also, he’s a pitcher.
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