2018 MLB Prospect Report: AL & NL East
Matthew Selz breaks down some of the top prospects in the AL and NL east and analyzes how soon they could be up with their big league clubs
Warm temps, warming bats, warming arms, and position battles. Pretty well sets the scene for spring training. Across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues teams are trying to sort out who will break camp with the team and who will be relegated back to Triple-A or lower when April rolls around. Fantasy owners alike a keenly aware of this time of year but there are always a few prospects that most believe will break with the team but end up back in the minors for a cup of coffee to start the year. So in the first few prospect reports of the year, we’ll go division-by-division to see what the prospect situations look like and who are the most likely to make the team out of camp.
Willy Adames (SS TB) – Adames was mentioned in a few pieces last year and you may remember that I was decently high on the middle infielder. He was received by Tampa in the David Price-to-Detroit trade a few years back and now has a shot as the opening day short stop. Defensively there is no question he can play the position, the only question has been his bat’s consistency. However over the last two seasons in the Rays system, he’s hit .274 and .277 respectively with 11 homers and 10 homers over 132 and 130 games. He also possesses double-digit steal capability giving him a decent power-steals combo up the middle. With all the moves Tampa made this offseason and Matt Duffy moving back to third base from an attempt at short, the only real competition for Adames is Adeiny Hechavarria coming into camp.
Miguel Andujar (3B NYY) – Andujar is the heir apparent at the hot corner for the pinstripes and has looked the part so far this spring. It’s a small sample size granted but 4-for-10 with two jacks isn’t a bad sample. He is dealing with a minor injury issue at the moment that they list as day-to-day but there is also Brandon Drury, who was recently acquired, and he can play third base until Andujar gets some seasoning. Gleyber Torres is fully healthy and expected to be the starter at the keystone so he isn’t really in question for making the team.
Chance Sisco (C BAL) – Sisco has been mentioned for the last couple of seasons as the follow-up to Matt Wieters at catcher in Baltimore, but he had yet to really produce in the minors. Last year however he hit the most homers in a season he’s hit yet, but his average dropped quite a bit (.267 from .317 in 2016) which is certainly not a great look. Caleb Joseph is expected to be the everyday starter at catcher in Camden Yards but Sisco has a shot at the back-up catcher role. Meanwhile Austin Hays, a dynamo of an outfield prospect, who has hit at every level he’s been at, and hit for power with speed, is a near-lock to make the Opening Day roster as the likely right fielder. If he’s available in your league, getting Hays would be a great idea.
Ronald Acuna (OF ATL) – Acuna has been the talk of baseball since his breakout year last year when he went through three levels with 54 games spent at Triple-A at just 19 years of age. His stat line in that campaign is remarkable at: .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers, 88 runs, 82 RBI, and 44 steals in 139 games. That’s the definition of a five-tool prospect if I’ve ever heard one. The problem for him is, is it sustainable. His previous highs were four homers in both 2015 and 2016 and 16 steals in 2015 backed-up by 14 in 2016. The average will stay above .300 but he almost assuredly needs more seasoning at Triple-A both because of his age and because there really isn’t a place for him just yet in Atlanta, though that should change about mid-season this year.
Luiz Gohara (LHP ATL) –At just 21, he is part of the youth movement of Atlanta’s rotation plans that feature a potential Mets-like grouping, only healthier. Gohara got a taste of the bigs last year with 29.1 innings pitched for the Braves after 123.2 down on the farm at three different levels. His combined line over those minor league innings present a 7-4 record in 25 starts with a 2.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and a 147:44 K:BB ratio. The big lefty features a three-pitch mix with a lights out fastball that touches upper 90s with a slider and changeup mixed in. He is competing for the fifth rotation spot this spring and could very well get it if his stuff is more like Triple-A Gohara instead of MLB Gohara last year. Just a basis of comparison, he’s the sixth-ranked Braves prospect right now, Acuna is number one and four other pitchers are ahead of him but none are as close the bigs as Gohara.
Monte Harrison (OF MIA) – I will stipulate right up front that Harrison is much more of a dark horse to make the Opening Day roster than anyone else on the list. It’s certainly not for lack of spots available and Miami traded their entire starting outfield from 2017 this offseason, and didn’t exactly fill the major league roster with great replacements. Derek Dietrich, Lewis Brinson, Braxton Lee, and Cameron Maybin are expected to make up the top-four outfield spots with the first three being the potential starters from left to right. Harrison however, is an intriguing prospect they received as part of the deal for Christian Yelich with the Brewers. He was a second-round pick in 2014 of the Brewers and last year had a very good season across two A-ball levels. Over 122 games played and 453 at bats, a stat line of .272/.350/.481 with 21 homers, 73 runs, 67 RBI, and 27 steals followed. The 22-year-old’s best tools are his 70-grade arm and 60-grade run tool with average power. He still needs refinement of his long-path swing and working on pitch recognition wouldn’t hurt either but he does offer better upside than nearly everyone in their system, ranked number two behind Lewis Brinson. A jump from A-ball to the majors maybe too much to expect but unseating Braxton Lee in right shouldn’t be hard with experience.
Victor Robles (OF WAS) – Robles was almost as hot a name last year as Acuna was with one big difference, Robles made the majors and was even on the Division Series roster for the Nationals. He did decently in his 13-game stretch with the big club last season with a .250/.308/.458 line with a double, two triples, and four RBI in that stretch. However his minor league numbers are far better with a .300/.382/.493 slash between two levels over 114 games with 10 homers, 73 runs, 47 RBI, and 27 bags stolen. Robles will be more of a speedster with decent pop than anything else, but a great defensive center fielder and a very threatening top of the order hitter. Robles is just 20 years old and will turn 21 in May and hasn’t played in Triple-A yet, but with the Nats having a position battle in center field in camp, it’s feasible that he breaks camp with the team anyway. Michael A. Taylor figures to be his main competition, and to a lesser extent Brian Goodwin.