Francisco Morales, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (complex-level GCL)
Last year I bet on a different Phillies prospect, shortstop Arquimedez Gamboa, as my breakout pick. It didn't go exactly according to plan, but Gamboa acquitted himself well down the stretch when he was finally healthy. I thought about doubling down on Gamboa for a second year, but instead I will dip into the Phillies pipeline of your arms in the complex league. Morales was a bigger bonus baby than Franklyn Kilome, Adonis Medina, or Sixto Sanchez, and he may very well join them on our top 101 list by 2019. He’s a tall, projectable righty, already touching 96 and flashing a plus slider. He's potentially polished enough to jump right to full season ball, and while I don't know if he will inspire the same Homeric epics of word count that our South Atlantic League watchers (myself certainly included) have spent on Sixto this year, a breakout into the national stage is certainly possible. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Seranthony Dominguez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (High-A Clearwater)
Dominguez, signed back in 2011 out of the Dominican Republic, has now been in the Phillies organization for six seasons. But he’s finally starting to make a move that could brand him as an impact arm to watch next season. The fastball velocity is there, as he can sit a comfortable 93-95 mph, capable of touching 97-98. His curveball has flashed above-average and is well on its way to being a potential plus offering. The changeup is lagging behind slightly, but he has flashed average with it. It’s ways away from being an above-average offering, but we’re here to predict a breakout after all, so we’ll go with Dominguez’s change-up being a huge part of his 2018.
What else will Dominguez need to focus on next season? The fastball control exists, but he’ll need to command it better in the zone to get strikes with it. Dominguez only tossed 67 2/3 innings this season due to a neck injury suffered in May, so his health will be something to watch, too. But while he’s sort of an unknown it’s also time for him to step up: He’ll be 23 in November, and the Phillies will have to add him to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him. They will do that. After all, Dominguez put up this line before the May injury: 35 2/3 IP, 23 H, 13 BB, 45 K, 2.02 ERA, with opponents hitting .187/.268/.317 against him. Yes, the Phillies have more to offer than just Sixto Sanchez. And if Dominguez can remain healthy next year, you'll be able to throw him into the conversation in an organization overflowing with talented right-handed pitching. —Victor Filoromo
Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Oakland Athletics (short-season Vermont)
See if this plot sounds familiar: amateur hurler with Great Stuff and exploding stock hurts his elbow in his draft season, he has Tommy John surgery, a bunch of other teams in baseball go “Ehhhhh…,” the Nationals swoop in and draft the hurler with a high-round pick. So it went with Luzardo, one of the top prep lefties in the ’16 class, a kid who worked mid-90s and showed a really interesting changeup before succumbing to the knife. The Nats grabbed him in the third round that June with a double-slot investment, waited out his rehab, and, in a twist, shipped him off to Oakland this July in the Doolittle trade.
He climbed back onto a hill for the first time since the surgery in his professional debut back in July, and promptly showed everyone that the Great Stuff was back. He’s shown it many times since, across three lower-minors levels. It’s a three-pitch mix, with the aforementioned excellent cambio and feel to spin a curveball from the left side. He’s primarily worked in brief stints to date, though he’s navigated five a couple times down the stretch. So next year will be the first season starting to build up volume for him since the operation, and likely in a full-season debut. The profile’s one that can make up some lost development time quickly, and a steady season through High-A can solidify him as one of the better left-handed pitching prospects around. —Wilson Karaman
Monte Harrison, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (High-A Carolina)
Few things are more tantalizing to the prospect crowd than a toolsy, physical athlete with raw projection and a goofy-high ceiling. Although such ceilings are rarely realized, these prospects dot draft boards and Top 100 lists for good reason. Harrison is starting to look like a raw prep first-rounder made good, and he was the best prospect I saw on a talent-laden Carolina Mudcats squad. Harrison roamed center (pushing Corey Ray to right) where his 7-speed and 6-arm were on display. He was not smooth in this look and his route running and reads need ample work at present, but his ability to make up ground and close quickly help him overcome some current deficiencies, and I think he'll be able to smooth it out to stick in center with an average glove. That big-time speed played great on the bases, where Harrison is aggressive and instinctual. For example: maxing out his lead and drawing four throw-overs before swiping a bag.
Harrison's hit tool has been a concern in the past but he demonstrated the ability to barrel balls and wait for good pitches, at times taking good strikes. His strength is a feature, the backbone of future 6 raw power and I watched him muscle balls into the outfield he missed, or adjust and go the other way. I expect the hit tool to play to average, giving Harrison a well-rounded Role 6 future, an above-average regular. —John Eshleman
Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP, New York Yankees (short-season Staten Island)
I knew absolutely nothing about Loaisiga until his August 28th start in Lowell. However, it did not take long for him to pique my interest. During that outing, he struck out nine batters in 4 1/3 innings while only allowing two hits, no walks, and no earned runs. It turns out that the Giants originally signed him out of Nicaragua, and he made his professional debut in 2013. After missing the entire 2014 season due to injury, the Giants released him in May 2015. The Yankees then signed him in February 2016, but he left his first start of the season with an elbow injury and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery. In 32 2/3 innings since returning this year, he has posted a 1.38 ERA and 0.61 WHIP along with 33 strikeouts.
It can be easy to overlook a 22-year-old short-season pitcher listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds in a deep system, stocked with talented teenagers. Nonetheless, he features a potentially plus fastball-curveball combination with the ability to throw either pitch for strikes in any count. The fastball consistently hovers around 95 (t97) with late movement. Considering that he has only made 11 starts post-surgery, he should continue to get stronger and thus hit 97-98 more frequently going forward. While most of the nine strikeouts were off his fastball, his curveball (80-84 mph) generated several swing and misses as well. It flashed plus with hard, tight break and at times can be difficult to distinguish from a slider. The Staten Island pitchers sitting in front of me confirmed though that his breaking ball is indeed a curveball. His changeup is presently a clear third pitch yet flashed average with decent fade. Loaisiga’s injury history and height suggest a future as a reliever, but his arsenal could succeed in a big-league rotation. With hopefully significantly more innings pitched in 2018, expect him to start shooting up prospect lists. —Erich Rothmann
Brenan Hanifee, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (short-season Aberdeen)
When trying to find which prospect may “break out” in any given season, it is wise to look the lower minors. The reason being is that many of these players are still developing physically, which could drastically change their profiles by the time they start knocking on the door of the majors. One short-season pitcher who stuck out for me this season is Orioles farmhand Brenan Hanifee. A former fourth-round selection by the Birds back in 2016, Hanifee has a picture-perfect starter’s build, listed 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, with tons of room to grow physically. His athleticism only enhances his projectability, as the right-hander employs a free-and-easy throwing motion that enables him to hold his stuff throughout a start.
His repertoire flashes starter potential too, as he sits 91-93, but should get to plus velo consistently as he continues to mature. The heater has consistent sinking, arm-side action that projects to miss a solid number of bats in the future. The concern lies in the offspeed stuff as the slider flashes average, but lacks consistent command and swing-and-miss action. The change is still well-below-average too, but I’m chalking up the below-average secondaries to youth at this point because the arm action is too loose and athletic to think he can’t improve them as he moves up the ladder. Pair this with the fact that Hanifee showed the ability to pound the zone and you’ve got an upside pitching prospect to keep an eye as we start to look towards 2018. —Greg Goldstein
Wilson was described in our Diamondback’s top 10 at the beginning of the year as a slow-burn prospect who hasn’t hit for power in his time in the minors. Since being drafted 69th-overall in 2014, the slender outfielder had never hit more than one home run in any of his three professional seasons. However, this year there have been some signs that the bat is finally catching up to the other tools. While still lean and athletic, he has added some muscle to his frame. That added strength, along with a swing path that features more leverage, has caused the power numbers to increase. It’s currently raw pull power but continued physical growth should cause more balls to leave the yard. The swing is quick with above-average bat speed, and Wilson has displayed a patient approach to go along with solid bat to ball skills. Speed, defense, and the hit tool all have the look of being plus which would give a profile of an everyday major league outfielder. He’s never going to be a slugger but if the power continues to grow next year in Visalia or Jackson, you might see the once slow-burning prospect begin to catch fire. —Nathan Graham
Born in 2000, Arias won’t turn 18 until spring training next year. He’s a tall, lean shortstop with a 6-foot-2-or-3 frame who could draw physical comps to Carlos Correa. Defensively, he has the tools to stick at shortstop: smooth actions, explosive hands, and a hose for an arm. He could possibly add weight and lose the range to play short, but he would still profile as a plus defender at third base. Offensively, he’s a lot less natural. He has a high leg kick and deep load, resulting in a noisy, swooping swing with quite a bit of swing-and-miss. He has the flexibility and athleticism to create good separation and generate above-average bat speed, but it comes with too much extraneous movement for sustained success. I believe his hands are both quick enough and coordinated enough to be a better hitter with some mechanical changes and overall simplification of his swing. His approach at the plate appears to be geared too much towards hitting deep fly balls, though he sinks down and becomes more of a slap hitter with two strikes. There’s significant offensive upside here, but it could be a long road towards realizing much of it. He showed me a 4.26 home-to-first while attempting to beat out a double play, which doesn’t bode well for his future run grade. I’ll refrain from cementing him as a below-average runner until I get another time, but he definitely isn’t a burner. All things considered, this is a young, talented baseball player with serious physical tools. He’ll be a very interesting prospect to watch in 2018. —Matt Pullman
Taylor Widener, P, New York Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
Widener is a stand-in for what seems like a dozen unheralded Yankees arms that all throw in the mid-90s with the potential for a major-league breaking ball or two. They tend to pull many of these guys from later draft picks from major colleges, often the SEC, and Widener—a 2016 12th-round pick who was mostly a reliever at South Carolina, and not even a particularly good one—is archetypical. Given that these are perhaps the most scouted players in the country, that the Yankees constantly manage to pull gems out of the crop is a credit to their amateur scouting and pro player development.
Widener got pulled up for the Eastern League playoffs after a strong first full pro season for High-A Tampa to piggyback a rehabbing Justus Sheffield. Brought in to start the fifth, Widener tossed five no-hit innings, ultimately completing a combined no-hitter after a hit against Sheffield from the second was reversed to an error late in the game. As I hinted at above, Widener was in the low-to-mid-90s with the fastball, topping out at 96, and it was moving around pretty good. What got me, given the quality of the fastball from a guy I wasn’t too familiar with, was that Widener commanded it like a good Double-A starting prospect, not a guy making his first Double-A appearance. At times he flashed an interesting enough breaking ball—I think he was trying to throw both a slider and a curve, but honestly they ran together—and the change was more of a show-me pitch. A second, more traditional relief appearance later in the playoffs didn’t go as well, but with some polishing out I think Widener projects as an interesting mid-rotation prospect at the upside, with a more likely outcome as a good reliever. It wasn’t quite as good as Chance Adams popping up last year, but Widener does have a lesser version of the same profile. —Jarrett Seidler
Logan Allen, LHP, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
Allen seems to have flown under the radar this year, though that might just be a byproduct of a stacked San Diego system. I wrote about him back in June, and soon after he was bumped up to High-A where he continued to perform well and, more importantly, managed to stay healthy. Allan had only thrown 86 2/3 innings as a professional before 2017, so seeing him begin to log a starter’s workload is encouraging.
Allen’s repertoire was never the question, as he boasts a plus sinker/curveball combo from the left side. The fastball sits 91-94 but features heavy sink and run, while the curveball is a big, sharp bender that checks in around 70 mph. The arsenal is rounded out by a changeup that shows consistent fade that projects to average and a fringy slider that occasionally pokes its head out.
My biggest issue with Allen was his strike throwing ability, but he shaved nearly two percent off of his walk rate in Lake Elsinore. Going back to last season, he has managed to lower his walk rate at each step up the ladder. What I see now is a prospect who is slowly regaining his control after two years of elbow issues. I see a strong arsenal geared towards generating ground balls and whiffs. I see a 20-year-old who just posted a 56 DRA- in the Cal League. You could argue that Allen already had a pretty good season in 2017, but as he enters the high minors next year, he has a chance to really garner some attention. —Emmett Rosenbaum
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now