Each MLB Team's Most Underhyped Prospect You Need to Know ASAP

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2018

Each MLB Team's Most Underhyped Prospect You Need to Know ASAP

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Not all MLB prospects are created equal.

    While it is true that often times a player will go from being an early draft pick or a hyped international signing to being a staple on leaguewide top prospect lists and then on to MLB success, that's not always the case.

    Some players begin their pro careers in relative anonymity before establishing themselves as legitimate prospects and future MLB contributors.

    With that in mind, we set out to identify each MLB team's most underhyped prospect heading into the 2018 season.

    These guys might not have appeared on any top-100 lists or be a familiar name outside of their respective MLB cities, but that could soon change.

AL East

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    Baltimore Orioles: OF Cedric Mullins

    A 13th-round pick in 2015, Mullins made the leap from Single-A to Double-A last season and more than held his own with a .778 OPS that included 33 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases.

    He has the defensive tools to stick in center field and showed modest improvements in both his walk rate (6.6 to 7.7 percent) and strikeout rate (18.1 to 16.6 percent), so a breakout season could be coming in his second season in the upper minors.

         

    Boston Red Sox: LHP Darwinzon Hernandez

    In his full-season debut, Hernandez took an important step forward with his command, trimming his walk rate from 6.7 per nine innings to 4.3 while continuing to show swing-and-miss stuff with 116 strikeouts in 103.1 innings.

    The 21-year-old will need to continue refining his secondary stuff—particularly his changeup—if he wants to stick as a starter. And he'll get every chance to do just that as he continues to work his way up the organizational totem pole.

         

    New York Yankees: RHP Luis Medina

    Medina posted a 5.35 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in rookie ball last season.

    However, the 21-year-old has already turned heads with an electric fastball that regularly touches triple digits and a curveball/changeup pairing that flashes plus.

    He's still incredibly raw and more of a thrower than a pitcher, but if things start to click, he could quickly rise the ranks of the game's top pitching prospects and add another elite up-and-comer to an already loaded Yankees system.

         

    Tampa Bay Rays: C Ronaldo Hernandez

    After two years in the Dominican Summer League, Hernandez made his stateside debut last year and hit .332/.382/.507 with 28 extra-base hits in 246 plate appearances in the Appalachian League.

    The 20-year-old also showed a strong arm in throwing out 57 percent of base-stealers and he'll certainly be one to watch in a system that is thin on catching talent.

         

    Toronto Blue Jays: LHP Thomas Pannone

    The Jays acquired Pannone from the Cleveland Indians last summer in exchange for reliever Joe Smith, and he continued a breakout season at the Double-A level following the trade.

    All told, the 23-year-old went 9-3 with a 2.36 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 149 strikeouts in 144.2 innings as the on-field results continue to exceed his pure stuff.

    MLB.com wrote: "Because he lacks a plus pitch and thrives based on deception, Pannone will have to prove himself at each level. He has handled every challenge so far, and while he's not a top-tier prospect, the left-hander has a legitimate floor as a backend starter in the major leagues."

AL Central

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    Chicago White Sox: OF Micker Adolfo

    Ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 2013 international free-agent class by MLB.comslotted between Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres—Adolfo secured a $1.6 million bonus from the White Sox.

    While the 21-year-old has not ascended the prospect rankings like the aforementioned duo, he enjoyed a breakout season in 2017 when he posted a .784 OPS with 28 doubles and 16 home runs in a full season at Single-A Kannapolis.

    He's fallen out of the spotlight as the White Sox system has risen up the ranks, but he still has a significant upside with plus raw power.

         

    Cleveland Indians: C Eric Haase

    A seventh-round pick out of high school in 2011, Haase has always shown intriguing offensive potential, but he took his game to another level last season.

    The 25-year-old hit .260/.352/.578 with 17 doubles and 27 home runs while spending the bulk of the season in Triple-A, and he also threw out a career-best 37 percent of base-stealers.

    He's still behind Francisco Mejia on the organizational depth, but his bat could carry him to the majors in the near future.

         

    Detroit Tigers: LHP Gregory Soto

    Soto made his full-season debut in 2017 and quickly emerged as one of the best pitchers in the Midwest League, going 10-1 with a 2.25 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 116 strikeouts in 96 innings with Single-A West Michigan before a late promotion to High-A.

    The 22-year-old will need to continue improving his off-speed stuff and trim his 4.7 walks per nine innings to stick as a starter. There's still plenty of time for that to happen, though.

         

    Kansas City Royals: LHP Richard Lovelady

    Just two seasons into his pro career, Lovelady looks like an absolute steal as a 10th-round pick in 2016.

    The 22-year-old lefty has posted a 1.67 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 63 appearances spanning 91.2 innings since beginning his pro career, and he closed out last season at Double-A. Expect to see him in the Kansas City bullpen at some point in 2018.

         

    Minnesota Twins: OF Akil Baddoo

    Baddoo hit just .178 with a .570 OPS in 127 plate appearances in rookie ball after going in the second round of the 2016 draft.

    The toolsy outfielder returned to rookie ball last season and responded with a .323/.436/.527 line that included 28 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases while tallying more walks (36) than strikeouts (32).

    A successful jump to full-season ball could send him shooting up the organizational rankings.

AL West

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    Sean Murphy
    Sean MurphyChris Carlson/Associated Press

    Houston Astros: OF Gilberto Celestino

    Celestino, 18, showed advanced tools in rookie ball last season when he hit .268/.331/.379 with 16 extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases in 59 games.

    MLB.com wrote: "Scouts constantly liken Celestino to the Cubs' Albert Almora, and the comparison works on multiple levels. They stand out most as skilled defenders in center field whose instincts help them play well above their average speed, and their hitting ability is more impressive than their power potential."

    His full-season debut will be among the most anticipated in the organization.

         

    Los Angeles Angels: LHP Jose Suarez

    After a strong start to last season at the rookie level, Suarez made the jump to Single-A, where he went 5-1 with a 3.62 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 54.2 innings over 12 starts.

    His low-90s fastball plays up thanks to good movement and plus command, and his changeup is already a plus offering. If the 20-year-old can add a few more ticks on the radar gun and continue refining his curveball, he has legitimate middle-of-the-rotation upside.

         

    Oakland Athletics: C Sean Murphy

    There are five catching prospects—Jorge Alfaro, Carson Kelly, Francisco Mejia, Keibert Ruiz and Chance Sisco—who make up the top tier of backstops in the minor league ranks.

    Murphy, 23, could join that group if he builds off a breakout 2017 season in which he hit .250/.313/.410 with 18 doubles and 13 home runs between High-A and Double-A. It was his receiving skills and strong throwing arm that made him a third-round pick in 2016.

    He also hit .309 with more walks (10) than strikeouts (seven) in 18 games in the Arizona Fall League, and he'll likely start the 2018 season at Double-A.

         

    Seattle Mariners: RHP Matthew Festa

    Festa enjoyed a breakout season as a reliever at the High-A level, posting a 3.23 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with an impressive 99-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 69.2 innings.

    His deep repertoire and plus command make him an intriguing prospect going forward.

    MLB.com wrote: "Festa's four-pitch mix and overall durability make him a candidate to one day rejoin a starting rotation, should the Mariners ever choose to pursue that route, but it's ability to miss bats using largely his fastball/slider combo that's his ticket to a potential late-inning gig in the major leagues."

         

    Texas Rangers: RHP Kyle Cody

    A second-round pick in the 2015 draft, Cody chose to return to the University of Kentucky for his senior season; he wound up slipping to the sixth round of the 2016 draft.

    The 6'7", 245-pound right-hander was terrific in his first full season in the Rangers organization, going 9-6 with a 2.64 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 126 innings.

    He delivers a mid-90s fastball on a good downward plane, and his slider and changeup both have a chance to be above-average offerings. The 23-year-old needs to develop more consistency, but he has the upside to be a staple in the middle of a big league rotation.

NL East

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    Atlanta Braves: RHP Bryse Wilson

    The Braves are loaded with pitching talent.

    Luiz Gohara, Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Max Fried and Joey Wentz all earned a spot among the organization's top 10 prospects in our latest farm system rankings, while Kyle Muller, Touki Toussaint and Patrick Weigel are also on the top-prospect radar.

    That has allowed Wilson to fly under the radar, but after he went 10-7 with a 2.50 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 139 strikeouts in 137 innings as a 19-year-old with Single-A Rome, his stock is rising fast.

         

    Miami Marlins: RHP Trevor Richards

    Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016, Richards has quickly proven to be a diamond in the rough for the Marlins.

    The 24-year-old went 12-11 with a 2.53 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 158 strikeouts in 146 innings between High-A and Double-A as his on-field results have far exceeded his pure stuff.

    Pitchability could get him to the majors in short order for a rebuilding Marlins team.

         

    New York Mets: 3B Jhoan Urena

    After graduating top-tier prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to the majors last season, the Mets now have one of the thinnest farm systems in baseball.

    Urena is one to watch, though.

    The 23-year-old posted an .801 OPS with 34 doubles and 11 home runs for High-A St. Lucie last season, and the Mets rewarded him with a late-season promotion to Triple-A.

         

    Philadelphia Phillies: OF Jhailyn Ortiz

    Signed to a hefty $4 million bonus in 2015, Ortiz flashed some intriguing offensive tools at Low-A Williamsport last season, when he hit .302/.401/.560 with 15 doubles and eight home runs in 187 plate appearances.

    The 19-year-old has legitimate 60-grade power, and MLB.com wrote "he has the chance to be an impact run-producing bat when all is said and done."

    With J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro and Scott Kingery ready to make the jump to the majors, Ortiz could soon join Mickey Moniak as the top position-player prospects in the Philadelphia system.

         

    Washington Nationals: C Taylor Gushue

    Raudy Read and Pedro Severino are both well-regarded names as catching prospects in the Washington system.

    However, it would be wise not to count out Gushue as the potential catcher of the future for the Nationals.

    Washington acquired the University of Florida product from the Pirates in exchange for Chris Bostick, and he posted a .745 OPS with 18 home runs last season between High-A and Double-A while continuing to show improvement in his catch-and-throw skills.

NL Central

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    Chicago Cubs: RHP Jeremiah Estrada

    The Cubs gave Estrada a $1 million bonus as a sixth-round pick last June, signing him away from a strong commitment to UCLA.

    The 6'1", 185-pound right-hander doesn't have a ton of projectability remaining, but he was as polished as any prep arm in the class. His stuff is terrific with a mid-90s fastball, plus changeup and both a curveball and slider.

    There are a number of lower-level arms in the Cubs system capable of taking a significant leap forward, and Estrada is certainly among them.

         

    Cincinnati Reds: RHP Tony Santillan

    MLB.com wrote: "Santillan needs to keep working on harnessing his plus stuff over the course of a season while refining his command. If that happens, he could enter the conversation of some of the better right-handed pitching prospects in the game."

    The 20-year-old went 9-8 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 128 strikeouts in 128 innings in a full season with Single-A Dayton thanks to a 70-grade fastball and 60-grade slider.

    If he can take another step forward with his changeup and refine his overall command, he could join Hunter Greene atop the rotation of the next Reds contender.

         

    Milwaukee Brewers: OF Monte Harrison

    Harrison was arguably the best all-around athlete in the 2014 draft and he's finally turning his tremendous raw tools into on-field production.

    The 22-year-old posted an .832 OPS with 21 home runs and 27 stolen bases between Single-A and High-A and then followed that up with .283/.333/.604 line with five home runs and 14 RBI in 13 games in the Arizona Fall League.

    Expect to see him jump into top-100 prospects lists later this spring.

         

    Pittsburgh Pirates: 2B Kevin Kramer

    Cole Tucker and Kevin Newman receive the bulk of the attention among middle infielders in the Pittsburgh system, but it's worth keeping an eye on Kramer.

    The 24-year-old hit .290/.371/.479 with 26 extra-base hits in 251 plate appearances while spending the bulk of the season at Double-A.

    With Josh Harrison looking like a clear trade candidate, Kramer could push for the starting second base job before the 2018 season is over.

         

    St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Jordan Hicks

    Hicks has drawn interest on the trade market this offseason, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

    Goold notes his "blowtorch arm and athleticism" as reasons for the outside interest and that's exactly why he'll be shooting up organizational rankings this spring.

    The 6'2", 185-pound right-hander went 8-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 105 innings as a 20-year-old between Single-A and High-A, and he's just scratching the surface of his potential. Expect to see him ranked among the team's top prospects before the 2018 season is over.

NL West

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    Franchy Cordero
    Franchy CorderoGregory Bull/Associated Press

    Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Eduardo Diaz

    Signed for a modest $10,000 bonus out of Venezuela in 2015, Diaz was one of the breakout prospects of the rookie league last season.

    The 20-year-old hit .312/.357/.510 with 18 doubles, five triples, seven home runs and 11 stolen bases in 268 plate appearances last season. He has a chance to quickly climb to the top of a thin Arizona system if he can carry that over to his full-season debut.

         

    Colorado Rockies: LHP Breiling Eusebio

    After posting a 5.26 ERA and 1.71 WHIP with Low-A Boise in 2016, Eusebio took a huge step forward last season in his second go-around at the level and then held his own while making the league to Single-A.

    The left-hander is armed with a mid-90s fastball and a solid curveball/changeup pairing; he just needs to further refine his overall command. With a repeatable delivery, smooth mechanics and some remaining projection in his 6'1", 175-pound frame, his ceiling is considerable.

         

    Los Angeles Dodgers: OF D.J. Peters

    Playing at the High-A level in his first full professional season, Peters posted an .886 OPS with 29 doubles, 27 home runs and 82 RBI.

    There's some considerable swing-and-miss to his game after he whiffed 189 times last season, but he also walked at a solid 10.9 percent clip and his power is legit. 

    If the 22-year-old can find a way to make more consistent contact, he could develop into the prototypical right fielder.

         

    San Diego Padres: OF Franchy Cordero

    Cordero has nothing left to prove in the minors.

    The 23-year-old hit .326/.369/.603 with 21 doubles, 18 triples and 17 home runs in 419 plate appearances with Triple-A El Paso last season, then followed that up by hitting .323/.393/.495 with 17 extra-base hits in 50 games in the Dominican Winter League.

    He could make a strong push for a starting spot in the San Diego outfield in 2018, joining Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe as long-term pieces.

         

    San Francisco Giants: OF Alexander Canario

    Still just 17 years old, Canario has as much upside as any prospect in the Giants system outside of Heliot Ramos.

    Signed to a $60,000 bonus in 2016, he hit .294/.391/.464 with 26 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League.

    A strong showing in his stateside debut could quickly vault him to the upper echelon of a thin system.

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.