5 Future MLB Superstars You've Probably Never Heard Of
The MLB landscape has been reshaped by an impressive influx of young talent in recent years, and that wave of star-caliber prospects arriving on the scene figures to continue this coming season.
Even the casual baseball fan knows names such as Corey Seager, Byron Buxton, Lucas Giolito, Julio Urias and Tyler Glasnow, as those five players figure to be atop most prospect ranking lists. Seager and Buxton got their first call-ups last season, and the others should be able to make an immediate impact once they arrive in the big leagues.
However, those five guys are by no means the only minor leaguers currently making their way through the ranks who have legitimate star potential.
Ahead we've highlighted five under-the-radar prospects who are not yet household names but who all have the tools to be future superstars as they continue on the developmental path.
3B Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves
Born: April 2, 1997 (18 years old)
Ht/Wt: 6'2", 230 lbs
Drafted: 1st Round, 41st Overall in 2015
Who Is Austin Riley?
After adding a pair of high school arms in Kolby Allard (No. 14 overall) and Mike Soroka (No. 28 overall) with their first two picks last June, the Atlanta Braves stayed in the high school ranks with their third pick of the top 50.
They wound up taking third baseman Austin Riley at No. 41 overall, making him the second third baseman off the board behind Ke'Bryan Hayes at No. 32 overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A two-way player at DeSoto Central High School in Mississippi, Riley touched 92 mph on the mound with his fastball, but the Braves took him for his power potential at the hot corner.
"I'd seen him in the summer a lot," Braves scouting director Brian Bridges told MLB.com. "You'd see him hit balls and you say, 'Man.' Then you'd see him on the mound and you're like, 'Well.'"
He certainly looks the part of a future middle-of-the-order force with a big 6'2" and 230-pound frame, and his strength has already translated to in-game power during an impressive all-around showing at the rookie league level.
Riley played shortstop in high school, and while he doesn't have the quickness to stay there as a pro, his good hands and footwork should translate well to third baseman, and there's no doubt he has the arm strength.
After a disappointing season from 21-year-old Rio Ruiz, it may not take long for Riley to move ahead of him on the organizational depth chart and into the role of third baseman of the future.
RHP Brent Honeywell, Tampa Bay Rays
Born: March 31, 1995 (20 years old)
Ht/Wt: 6'2", 180 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round, 72nd Overall in 2014
Who Is Brent Honeywell?
The Tampa Bay Rays know a thing or two about cultivating their in-house pitching talent.
Since the franchise's inaugural season back in 1998, they have drafted and developed the likes of David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee and Jeff Niemann, among others.
The next in that long line of successful homegrown arms appears as though it will be 2015 Minor League Player of the Year Blake Snell, but there's a right-hander making his way through the lower levels of the system named Brent Honeywell who could be the next front-line star.
Something of a wild card in the 2014 draft coming out of Walters Community College in Tennessee, Honeywell went 11-3 with a 2.95 ERA, 1.030 WHIP and 111 strikeouts in 88.1 innings in his lone season there and wound up being the first JUCO player off the board.
A dominant rookie league debut in 2014 earned Honeywell the No. 8 spot among Rays prospects heading into last season, according to Baseball America, and successfully making that jump to full-season ball has officially put him on the top-prospect map.
An uptick in his velocity after high school now has him sitting in the mid-90s and reaching as high as 97 on the gun, and he has a deep repertoire beyond that with a plus screwball, changeup and curveball.
His 6'2" and 180-pound frame still has some projectability, and his all-around feel for pitching should allow him to continue moving quickly up the organizational ladder.
3B Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies
Born: Dec. 14, 1994 (21 years old)
Ht/Wt: 6'2", 185 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round, 42nd Overall in 2013
Who Is Ryan McMahon?
Ryan McMahon was a two-sport star at football powerhouse Mater Dei High School, where he followed in the footsteps of a pair of Heisman Trophy winners in Matt Leinart and John Huarte—as well as NFL players Matt Barkley and Colt Brennan—and quarterbacked the football team.
However, unlike those guys, his future was always on the baseball diamond.
The Colorado Rockies took him in the second round of the 2013 draft and signed him away from a commitment to USC with a $1.328 million bonus, and he immediately turned heads with an impressive performance in the Pioneer League.
He's progressed steadily through the system the past two years and continued to hit every step of the way, putting him in position to make the big jump to Double-A in the year ahead.
With Joey Gallo struggling this past season and Rafael Devers still in the lower levels of the minors, a legitimate case can be made for McMahon currently being the best third base prospect in the game.
He generates good power with a smooth left-handed swing and has shown a willingness to take a walk (8.8 percent walk rate), though he still needs to cut down on his strikeouts (27.5 percent strikeout rate) to reach his full potential.
He's also special with the glove at third base, as MLB.com's Prospect Watch explained: "Defensively, he has the chance to be as good as the Gold Glover currently in Colorado, Nolan Arenado, with great hands, a strong throwing arm and outstanding instincts at the hot corner."
The presence of the 24-year-old Arenado in Colorado makes McMahon's long-term role with the team something of a question mark, and he could wind up being a valuable trade chip in the Rockies' ongoing search for pitching.
Wherever he winds up, McMahon has all the tools to be a perennial All-Star once he arrives in the big leagues.
LHP Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds
Born: May 3, 1992 (23 years old)
Ht/Wt: 6'5", 210 lbs
Drafted: 22nd Round, 685th Overall in 2011
Who Is Amir Garrett?
A two-sport athlete who averaged 6.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in two seasons at St. John's University, Amir Garrett finally turned his full-time focus to the baseball diamond in 2014.
The big left-hander put together a strong performance over a full season at the Single-A level in 2014 largely on the strength of his pure talent, and he opened last season as the No. 7 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system, according to Baseball America.
As he's become more comfortable on the mound, his stock in the Reds organization and around the league has taken off, and he authored a terrific 2015 campaign that included an appearance in the Futures Game.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball is among those who took notice of his transition from athlete to pitcher: "Garrett looked much like an athlete learning to pitch in 2014, but this year he was more of a pitcher who happens to be athletic, showing more consistent mechanics and the general mound presence of someone who knows what he is doing."
The 6'5" southpaw sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and pairs it with a slider that has improved into a second plus pitch and a changeup that has the potential to be a third solid offering.
The Reds system is loaded with quality pitching prospects, including Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed, who rank ahead of Garrett in the latest organizational prospect rankings from Baseball America.
However, with his high ceiling and the progress he made from 2014 to 2015, don't be surprised if Garrett finds himself atop that list before the 2016 season is over.
CF Victor Robles, Washington Nationals
Born: May 19, 1997 (18 years old)
Ht/Wt: 6'0", 185 lbs
Signed: July 2, 2013, via Dominican Republic
Who Is Victor Robles?
Right-hander Lucas Giolito and shortstop Trea Turner are generally the first two names that come up when talking about the Washington Nationals farm system.
However, another prospect by the name of Victor Robles is quickly climbing the ranks, and he figures to take over as the cream of the organizational crop once those two graduate to the majors.
Robles was signed out of the Dominican Republic for a $225,000 bonus as part of the 2013 international free-agent class. MLB.com's Prospect Watch did not rank him among the top 30 international prospects that year, so he was by no means a high-profile signing.
However, he has quickly proved to be something special, as his quick-twitch tools have translated to in-game success faster than anyone could have anticipated.
After tearing up the Gulf Coast League this past season, the Nationals aggressively promoted the 18-year-old to Low-A Auburn, where he continued to rake with a .343/.424/.479 line over 140 at-bats.
Robles’ tools, right-handed hitting ability and instincts for the game would have made him a high first-round pick had he been a high school senior in the United States this year instead of an international free agent the Nationals acquired for a low six-figure bonus out of the Dominican Republic two years ago when he was 16.
He'll likely begin the 2016 season as one of the youngest players at the Single-A level, and he'll continue to shoot up prospect rankings if he plays the way he did last year.