The early part of the season this year has already seen several debuts from top prospects on both sides of the ball from Fernando Tatis Jr. to Chris Paddack to Kyle Wright to Kyle Zimmer to Victor Robles . There are still plenty of names to keep an eye out for as they progress this year. This week we will cover American League names to watch by division and next week we’ll do the same for the National League.

AL East

Just to be clear we aren’t going to talk Vladimir Guerrero Jr. here because he’s going to come up once his oblique heals, and he was drafted as a starting third baseman in most leagues this March so it would be a waste of time to do a full breakdown.

Yusniel Diaz (BAL) – Diaz was a key piece in the Manny Machado trade to the Dodgers last year and after splitting the season between both organization’s Double-A affiliates, Diaz is ready to make the jump to Triple-A Norfolk this year. In 97 games, split pretty evenly between the PCL and IL, last year he had 11 home runs, 12 stolen bases, 59 runs, 45 RBI, and a .285/.392/.449 slash line as a 21-year-old. Diaz posted over a 13-percent BB-rate and under 17-percent K-rate last year as well which suggests the average should be able to stay up over .280. The major deficiency in his game is his inability to effectively steal bags. Yes, he does have 28 steals in his 293-game minor league career, but he’s been caught 35 times to get those 28 thefts. That’s a 44.4-percent success rate which is not ideal. Diaz is the unquestioned top-prospect in the O’s system and if all goes well for him at Triple-A Norfolk in the first half of the season, he could make Baltimore’s roster in the second half as the O’s will have nothing to play for but scouting their young talent.

Nate Lowe (TB) – Lowe was a 13th-round pick of the Rays in 2016, not a relation of Brandon Lowe , and had a breakout year in 2018 as he went from High-A to Triple-A with 27 home runs and 32 doubles while slashing .330/.416/.568 in 130 at bats. The first baseman prospect has above-average hit and power tools that will play just fine in the major leagues in a middle-of-the-order role. Lowe is in fact the reason that the Rays felt comfortable with trading Jake Bauers this offseason. The power numbers did jump in 2018 from 2017 but the other peripherals were there in XBH and batting average and OBP so he’s not just a one-year wonder type guy. Lowe is stuck at either first base or DH with his 35-grade speed tool, but he does have at least adequate defense at first allowing him to be an everyday major league first baseman. He does only have 28 games at Triple-A Durham thus far so he will get more seasoning on the farm to start 2019 but starting in June, Lowe, along with Brandon Lowe , could make up the right side of the Tampa infield.

Darwinzon Hernandez (BOS) – Hernandez was the talk of Red Sox camp in spring as he made six appearances, 11 innings, and pitched to a 0.82 ERA, .184 BAA, and 12 strikeouts. Hernandez was used as both a starter and a reliever in 2018 with five of his 28 appearances coming out of the pen between Double-A and High-A. The young lefty has one of the best fastballs in the minors at a 70-grade on the 20-80 scale while sitting 93-98 when he starts and 97-99 when he relieves and, in both situations, it has a very high spin rate. He has two distinct breaking balls in his curveball and slider but the slider fits better with his lower-three-quarter delivery. The problem is that he doesn’t always stay on top of those pitches and hence they are inconsistent. The changeup is an average fourth pitch that keeps righties honest in the box. In the 107 innings Hernandez pitched in 2018, the southpaw struck out 134 while walking 66 with a .222 BAA but an unsightly 1.42 WHIP. If he can control his stuff and reduce the walk rate Hernandez possesses the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter or a high-leverage bullpen piece which seems the more likely route in the nearer term given the still uncertain bullpen arms in the Boston relief corps.

AL Central

Eloy Jiménez already signed a six-year deal this offseason that guaranteed him an Opening Day roster spot so like Guerrero Jr., there’s no sensible reason to do a full breakdown.

Lewis Thorpe (MIN) – Thorpe was signed by the Twins out of Australia when he was 16 back in 2012 and showed promise in the lower levels before Tommy John and Mono cost him part of 2014, and all of 2015 and 2016. In 2018 he topped 100 innings for the first time in pro ball and pitched in the Futures Game at the All-Star break. The southpaw features a low-to-mid-90s fastball that he controls really well, two breaking pitches in a north-south Curveball and a tight slider, with the fourth pitch being a sinking changeup to works well on both handedness of hitters. In the 129.2 innings pitched between Double-A and Triple-A, Thorpe posted a 3.54 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 3.00 xFIP, 10.8 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, and a .250 BAA in 25 starts. Now starting at Triple-A for a full-season and fully healthy, Thorpe could be in line as the first starter recalled from the farm to help the burgeoning Twins rotation as they make a run at the AL Central. Ultimately, he likely doesn’t stick full-time in 2019 but his stuff profiles as a mid-rotation starter starting in 2020.

Richard Lovelady (KC) – You’ve heard Lovelady’s name brought up before in previous prospect reports last year and in spring training podcasts here on Fantasy Alarm. It’s not just us touting his abilities though as Royals’ GM Dayton Moore brought up his name at Royals FanFest earlier this season as a guy who could be the next Greg Holland or Kelvin Herrera or Wade Davis because of his swing-and-miss stuff and bulldog mentality on the hill. He was taken in the 10th round of the 2016 draft out of Kennesaw State and since then has made quick work of the Royals’ system, pitching the full year at Triple-A Omaha in 2018 as a late-inning arm and racking up nine saves too. The southpaw mainly works with a fastball-slider combo from a lower-three-quarters delivery that adds movement and deception to the pitches although the fastball does sit at 95 and touches 97 consistently. The slider is an out pitch for him bearing in on righties and away from lefties while his changeup is still developing but improving quickly. Posting a 71:21 K:BB ratio in 73 innings with a 2.47 ERA and .204 BAA at the highest level in the Pacific Coast League goes a long way to make his case to joining the Royals pen midway through this season.

Daz Cameron (DET) – Cameron was part of a huge draft class for the Astros in 2015 that netted them Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker before taking Cameron at 37th overall and then sending him Low-A in 2016. In 2018, Cameron reached Triple-A for the first time for a 15-game stint at the end of the season. He did look a bit overmatched at the upper level but that has happened before and then he came back the following year and raked at the same level he previously struggled. The just-recently-turned-22-year-old outfielder has above average tools across the board which should allow him to be a 20-20 guy who can hit for average in the majors while playing very good defense in center field. Detroit is in desperate need of an influx of talent especially in the outfield and Cameron will likely fill that need later this season after a half a year at Toledo.

AL West

Forrest Whitley (HOU) – Whitley is known to just about everyone as the best pitching prospect in baseball at this point. Jim Bowden wrote about him in the original rookie piece of the Fantasy Alarm MLB Draft Guide this year as well. It’s just a matter of time before Whitley comes up to the big club this year so it’s worth refreshing everyone’s memory about the stuff he possesses. The four-pitch mix all grade out as plus or double-plus offerings starting with the 93-98 mph heavy sinking fastball that also cuts if it’s up in the zone, a changeup with fade and depth, a 12-to-6 power curve, and finally a hard-biting slider that morphs into a cutter from time-to-time. Since being drafted in 2016, Whitley hasn’t put up a K/9 lower than 10.32 at any stop in pro ball and he’s been up over 13.0 at four of the six stops. The drug-related suspension and minor injuries from 2018 behind him, he’ll be at Triple-A Round Rock to start 2019 with expectations to be in the Houston rotation in the second half of the season as the playoff push really gets underway.

Jesús Luzardo (OAK) – Luzardo was the key return for the A’s in the Ryan Madson , Sean Doolittle trade with the Nationals in 2017. Since that trade he has taken off and now become the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball while pitching through three levels in 2018. Featuring a 95-98 mph fastball with riding life and sink to both sides of the plate, a fading and sinking changeup, and a curveball that misses bats while he adds and subtracts from it at will gives him an arsenal that’s capable of being positioned at the front end of a major-league rotation. The peripheral stats are there as well as he’s posted double-digit K/9 rates in both of his full seasons in the pros and below 2.0 BB/9 rates as well while generating a near 50-percent ground ball rate for his career. The southpaw will need to get over a strained left shoulder strain before he can make progress towards cracking the A’s rotation.

Justus Sheffield (SEA) – Sheffield is now with his third organization in his brief five-year pro career after being traded this offseason from New York to Seattle in the James Paxton trade. Sheffield was thought to be in the running for a Mariners’ rotation spot this spring but ultimately wind up heading to Triple-A Tacoma first. He did get a taste of Triple-A in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with New York last year where in 88 innings Sheffield pitched to a 2.56 ERA in 15 starts, 20 appearances, an 84:36 K:BB ratio and a .204 BAA. A 92-97 mph running fastball, a wipeout slider, and a swing-and-miss changeup are the weapons at his disposal coming from his 6’0”, 200 lbs. frame. Overall, he has the upside of a number two starter at best but is likely a mid-rotation starter when all is said and done. As far as 2019 is concerned, the Mariners rotation is still looking for another quality starter so Sheffield should be the one to fill that void once he gets a taste of Triple-A in the hitter-friendly PCL.