Each MLB Team's Prospect Who Will Become a Household Name in 2017
Not every baseball fan keeps an eye on prospect development and the minor league ranks, but most are familiar with the top prospects around the league.
It wasn't just Boston Red Sox fans and Washington Nationals fans whose ears perked up when they heard that Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito had been traded during the winter meetings.
So what exactly is it that makes a previously unheralded prospect a household name? We'll lump them into two categories:
- Breakout Prospect: If a lower-level prospect turns in a breakout season that vaults him into the top tier of prospects in his organization and perhaps onto leaguewide top-100 lists, there's a good bet he'll become a household name along the way.
- MLB Impact: Even if a player is not a top-tier prospect, he can make a name for himself by contributing at the MLB level. Few knew who Ryon Healy was prior to the 2016 season, but a strong showing after he joined the Oakland Athletics made him a household name.
Ahead we've taken a crack at identifying one prospect from each MLB team that has a chance of falling into one of those two categories this coming season.
For the sake of clearly identifying which prospects already rank as household names, anyone that appeared on Baseball America's midseason top-100 list was not eligible to be included.
Arizona Diamondbacks: LHP Jared Miller (MLB Impact)
Just like a collegiate prospect can put himself on the MLB draft radar with a strong showing in the Cape Cod Baseball League, an MLB prospect can put himself on the prospect radar with a standout performance in the Arizona Fall League.
That's exactly what 6'7" lefty Jared Miller did this fall.
Miller posted a 5.88 ERA and 1.68 WHIP at the Single-A level in 2015 while being used primarily as a starter, promoting the team to move him to the bullpen and send him back to Single-A to start the 2016 season.
After he opened the year with 14.1 scoreless innings over nine appearances he quickly earned a promotion to High-A, the first of what would be three in-season promotions culminating in five appearances with Triple-A Reno.
That regular-season performance was just the tip of the iceberg, though, as he followed it up by thoroughly dominating the AFL.
The 23-year-old worked 18.1 scoreless innings, allowing just six hits and four walks while striking out 30. That should be enough for him to get a long look this spring for an MLB bullpen spot.
Atlanta Braves: RHP Patrick Weigel (Breakout Prospect)
The Atlanta Braves farm system is loaded with high-ceiling pitching prospects, making it relatively easy for someone like Patrick Weigel to go unnoticed.
That won't be the case for much longer, though.
Weigel, 22, was taken in the seventh round of the 2015 draft as something of a project after bouncing around during his collegiate career, making stops at the University of the Pacific, Oxnard College and the University of Houston.
With some projection left in his 6'6" frame and a good fastball, his future hinges on the development of his secondary stuff—a slider-curveball-changeup mix.
That future looks awfully bright after he was nothing short of dominant this past season with Single-A Rome, taking home the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors for his efforts.
If he can duplicate that success in the upper minors he'll join Sean Newcomb, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Ian Anderson as the cream of the pitching prospect crop in Atlanta.
Baltimore Orioles: 1B/OF Adam Brett Walker (MLB Impact)
A ton of power and a ton of strikeouts.
That pretty well describes two players the Baltimore Orioles stand to lose in free agency—Pedro Alvarez (22 HR, 25.8% K rate) and Mark Trumbo (47 HR, 25.5% K rate).
It's also Adam Brett Walker to a T.
The 25-year-old has slugged 124 home runs in five minor league seasons, including 27 this past season in his first taste of Triple-A action.
However, he also struck out a staggering 202 times for a 38.0 percent strikeout rate, which raises some obvious questions about how he'll handle MLB pitching.
Originally drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the third round of the 2012 draft, Walker bounced from Minnesota to Milwaukee to Baltimore on waivers this winter and he may very well have landed in the perfect place.
Boston Red Sox: RHP Roniel Raudes (Breakout Prospect)
With Anderson Espinoza and Michael Kopech both traded in the past year, there's no runaway top pitching prospect in the Boston Red Sox system.
First-round pick Jason Groome will no doubt claim the top spot on most preseason prospect lists and there's no question the 18-year-old has significant upside.
Keep an eye on right-hander Roniel Raudes, though.
Raudes was signed for a rather modest $250,000 bonus out of Nicaragua in 2014 and absolutely dominated the Dominican Summer League in his pro debut, registering a 63-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 53.2 innings before making his way stateside.
It's rare that an 18-year-old has such an advanced feel for pitching and it showed against significantly older competition in Single-A. His three-pitch repertoire already grades out as above-average across the board with potential for more.
Groome might be the household name, but Raudes could be the marquee pitching prospect in the system before 2017 is over.
Chicago Cubs: RHP Dylan Cease (Breakout Prospect)
The Chicago Cubs rolled the dice when they selected Dylan Cease in the sixth round of the 2014 draft and handed him a well-above-slot bonus of $1.5 million.
Cease would have almost certainly gone off the board in the first round if not for an arm injury during his senior season that eventually required Tommy John surgery.
He's come back strong from that surgery, touching 100 with his fastball and consistently working in the mid-90s this past summer.
It's not just his high-octane fastball that makes him such an exciting prospect, though, as he pairs it with a lethal power curve that one club official compared to Dwight Gooden's, per MLB.com.
The Cubs will no doubt continue to be extremely careful with the 20-year-old, who still has just 68.2 professional innings under his belt.
There's little question he has the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect in the Cubs' system. His move to full-season ball will be highly anticipated.
Chicago White Sox: CF Charlie Tilson (MLB Impact)
Rebuilding efforts have finally begun for the Chicago White Sox after Chris Sale and Adam Eaton were both shipped out for prospects during the recent winter meetings.
As a result, a youth movement is brewing on the South Side and outfielder Charlie Tilson stands to benefit as much as anyone during the upcoming season.
The trade of Eaton and departure of Austin Jackson in free agency leaves the team with only Melky Cabrera locked into a starting outfield spot.
Tilson, 24, came over from the Cardinals last season in the deadline deal that sent lefty reliever Zach Duke to St. Louis and he has little left to prove in the minors.
With a good hit tool, plus speed and a solid glove it's not out of the question to think he could be the team's starting center fielder and leadoff hitter on Opening Day.
Cincinnati Reds: CF T.J. Friedl (Breakout Prospect)
There's no question that T.J. Friedl was one of the strangest stories of the 2016 season.
After hitting .401/.494/.563 with 21 extra-base hits during his sophomore season at the University of Nevada, Friedl earned a spot on the collegiate national team and he was one of the team's most productive players this past summer.
Everything was lining up for him to be one of the better college bats in the 2017 draft, only to find out he had in fact been eligible for the 2016 draft and was now free to sign with any team as an undrafted free agent.
The 21-year-old wound up joining the Cincinnati Reds for a $735,000 bonus. While he doesn't have the same ceiling as 2016 first-round pick Nick Senzel, he could move just as quickly.
Speed is presently his best weapon, but he has the hit tool and the glove to be an everyday center fielder and a top-of-the-order bat once he reaches the majors.
After crushing rookie league pitching he'll likely jump straight to Single-A and a strong first full season would push him into the top tier of a good Cincinnati farm system.
Cleveland Indians: RHP Triston McKenzie (Breakout Prospect)
Despite going No. 42 overall in the 2015 draft, Triston McKenzie received the largest bonus of any high school arm in the class when the Cleveland Indians gave him $2,302,500.
That looks like a wise investment for a pitcher who seems poised to take over as the top arm in the Cleveland system after Justus Sheffield was shipped to the New York Yankees in the Andrew Miller deal.
McKenzie already has 95.1 pro innings under his belt—including six starts with Single-A Lake County at the end of last season—and he won't turn 20 until next August, so he's well ahead of the developmental curve at this point.
His stuff and pitchability also belies his age.
"His delivery is clean and simple and easy to repeat, and it allows the right-hander to throw strikes with all three of his pitches," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
A 1.62 ERA and a 104-to-22 K/BB ratio over 83.1 innings could earn him a place on some preseason top-100 prospect lists.
From there, he has the potential to emerge as one of the game's elite pitching prospects.
Colorado Rockies: C Tom Murphy (MLB Impact)
With veteran Nick Hundley departing in free agency, the Colorado Rockies appear ready to go with a platoon of glove-first backstop Tony Wolters and unproven Tom Murphy behind the plate this coming season.
"Talking to our guys, they are high on Murphy and Wolters," new manager Bud Black told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. "High on their makeup, their aptitude, their work ethic, what they believe in, what they need to do to help our pitchers."
Murphy has been a work in progress defensively since he was selected in the third round of the 2012 draft, but he's come far enough that he should stick behind the plate and his offensive production is tough to ignore.
The 25-year-old has received September call-ups each of the past two seasons, posting a combined .949 OPS with three doubles, eight home runs and 22 RBI in 88 plate appearances.
He's not going to keep up that pace over a full season, but if you're looking for a dark-horse NL Rookie of the Year candidate, he might be your guy.
Detroit Tigers: RHP Beau Burrows (Breakout Prospect)
It's no secret the Detroit Tigers like to target big, hard-throwing high school pitchers early in the draft.
With a sturdy 6'2", 200-pound frame and a mid-90s fastball, Beau Burrows fit the mold and the Detroit Tigers made him the No. 22 overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Despite getting by largely on the strength of his fastball during his time in high school, Burrows already flashes a good power curve and a solid changeup.
"He knows he can't just rear back and throw it by people and so he has learned to mix his speeds better and how to work through challenges," pitching coach Mark Johnson told Peter J. Wallner of MLive.com. "It's been a great learning year for him. He's developed into being a starting pitcher that can mix speeds and that's just going to get better with reps."
The 20-year-old finished the 2016 season strong, posting a 2.19 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over his final eight starts.
He has swing-and-miss stuff but that didn't exactly show up in his 6.2 K/9 rate, so there's work to do in that area.
With another step forward, he could push 2016 first-round pick Matt Manning for top prospect honors in a thin Detroit system.
Houston Astros: RHP Franklin Perez (Breakout Prospect)
Franklin Perez showed enough in his pro debut in 2015 to make the jump straight from rookie ball to Single-A Quad Cities in his first full season stateside.
The right-hander signed for a $1 million bonus out of Venezuela as part of the 2014 international free-agent class and he is already a prospect on the rise in a deep Houston Astros system.
Perez can presently touch 95 with his fastball and there is plenty of room for further projection in his 6'3", 197-pound frame.
The 19-year-old pairs that fastball with a terrific curveball and a passable changeup that should give him the three-pitch repertoire to stick as a starter. He'll be brought along slowly, but the Astros could let out a bit more leash in 2017 after he worked just 66.2 innings last year.
With another step forward, Perez would join Francis Martes, David Paulino and Forrest Whitley in the upper tier of Houston pitching prospects.
Kansas City Royals: RHP Josh Staumont (Breakout Prospect)
A pitcher can tweak his mechanics, add new pitches and refine his command, but he can't learn to throw 102 mph.
Good thing Kansas City Royals right-hander Josh Staumont already knows how.
"There's nobody we have that throws the ball as easy and as hard as he does," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo told Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. "Even when he's throwing 98 it looks like he's just playing catch."
When he's throwing his fastball for strikes and his curveball-changeup combination is flashing plus, it's easy to envision the 22-year-old as a future front-line starter.
Command remains a major issue—he walked 104 batters in 123.1 innings for 7.6 BB/9 rate—but the Royals have a unique talent on their hands with tremendous upside.
After he posted a 1.64 ERA and a 34-to-8 K/BB ratio over his final four starts in 2016, a breakout season might be waiting in 2017.
Los Angeles Angels: CF Troy Montgomery (Breakout Prospect)
With the worst farm system in baseball, it won't take much for a breakthrough prospect to ascend to the upper tier of the Los Angeles Angels' organization.
One player with the potential to do just that is outfielder Troy Montgomery.
The 22-year-old shared the Ohio State outfield with eventual second-round pick Ronnie Dawson this past spring, with the Angels scooping him up in the sixth round.
He hit .297/.423/.466 with more walks (50) than strikeouts (41) during his junior season with the Buckeyes, flashing a bit more pop with eight home runs after hitting just six in his first two seasons.
With plus speed, a good glove and a strong arm, it's his offensive game that will determine whether he's an everyday player or a fourth outfielder.
A .341/.453/.557 line over 113 plate appearances in rookie ball was a good start, earning him a quick promotion to Single-A in his pro debut.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Yadier Alvarez (Breakout Prospect)
Los Angeles Dodgers fans are already familiar with the name Yadier Alvarez and now he's ready to announce himself to the rest of the baseball world.
The 20-year-old received a $16 million bonus in 2015 after defecting from Cuba, which came with a matching tax penalty for the free-spending Dodgers.
Why such a lofty asking price? MLB.com explains:
Alvarez is a classic high-risk, high-reward pitching prospect. He has exceptional arm speed that allows him to generate mid-90s fastballs and top out at 100 mph, and there's still plenty of projection remaining in his lanky 6-foot-3 frame. His secondary pitches aren't as consistent, though he does flash a wipeout slider and throws his changeup with deceptive arm speed.
A strong showing in rookie ball to begin his pro career was followed by an eye-opening performance in the Midwest League with Single-A Great Lakes.
In nine starts, Alvarez posted a 2.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and a 55-to-11 K/BB ratio over 39.1 innings, easing some of the concerns about his command and how well his secondary stuff would play against better competition.
The sky is the limit for Alvarez and the more his performance matches his tools, the higher he'll climb on prospect ranking lists.
Miami Marlins: RHP Drew Steckenrider (MLB Impact)
The emergence of rookie Kyle Barraclough alongside closer A.J. Ramos gave the Miami Marlins an impressive one-two punch at the back of the bullpen last season.
Junichi Tazawa was signed to join them on Thursday, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, and more outside additions could be coming before the offseason is over.
However, there's also another in-house reliever ready to make an impact in right-hander Drew Steckenrider.
Steckenrider missed the bulk of the 2013 and 2014 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery and made the move from starter to reliever upon returning.
That looks like the right decision, as the 25-year-old's first full season in the bullpen was highlighted by a 2.08 ERA, 14 saves and 12.3 K/9 over 40 appearances while he climbed three levels to Triple-A.
His season was capped off by a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League (13.0 IP, 3.46 ERA, 4 BB, 15 K). Armed with an upper 90s fastball and wipeout slider, he should get a chance to compete for a bullpen job this spring.
Milwaukee Brewers: 2B/SS Isan Diaz (Breakout Prospect)
Isan Diaz turned heads in 2015 when he posted a .360/.436/.640 line that included 25 doubles and 13 home runs over 312 plate appearances in the Pioneer League.
Scouts are often hesitant to put too much stock in a player's rookie league performance, taking a wait-and-see approach as the player gets set to make the jump to full-season ball.
While Diaz, 20, did not duplicate those ridiculous numbers with Single-A Wisconsin, he did prove himself worthy of attention as he posted an .827 OPS with 34 doubles, 20 home runs and 75 RBI.
The Milwaukee Brewers acquired Diaz from the Arizona Diamondbacks last offseason as part of the Jean Segura trade, and he now looks like the second baseman of the future with Orlando Arcia entrenched as the everyday shortstop.
"While he has a ways to go before reaching the major leagues, Diaz could emerge as one of the Brewers' top position prospects with another strong campaign," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
If his power continues to develop, he could make some serious noise as a bat-first second baseman.
Minnesota Twins: RHP Fernando Romero (Breakout Prospect)
Just how good can Fernando Romero be?
"It's possible Romero would be talked about now as one of the better pitching prospects of the game if he hadn't gotten hurt," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch. "But the talented right-hander needed Tommy John surgery after just three starts in 2014, missing the rest of that and the 2015 season."
Finally back in action this past season, Romero didn't take long to shake off the rust as he was dominant over five starts with Single-A Cedar Rapids and even better after making the jump to High-A Fort Myers.
Armed with a mid-90s fastball, a plus slider and a changeup with the potential to be a solid third offering, the 21-year-old has the stuff to be a front-line arm.
The Minnesota Twins already have one fast-rising pitching prospect in Stephen Gonsalves and other quality arms like Tyler Jay, Kohl Stewart and Adalberto Mejia.
Romero has a chance to be better than all of them and after another year removed from arm surgery he could be one of the biggest breakout prospects of 2017.
New York Mets: LHP Thomas Szapucki (Breakout Prospect)
An uptick in velocity has taken Thomas Szapucki from mid-level pitching prospect with intriguing projectablity to legitimate top-tier prospect in the New York Mets system.
A fifth-round pick in 2015 whose fastball maxed out in the low 90s in high school, Szapucki touched 94 in his pro debut and was up to 97 this past season.
There's still significant work to be done, though.
"Szapucki's biggest obstacle is his delivery, which isn't the cleanest mechanically and can impact his command and control," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
His changeup is also well behind his fastball and curveball and if it doesn't develop further his lack of a third offering could land him in the bullpen.
Still, it's tough to ignore that 1.38 ERA or those 86 strikeouts over 52.0 innings of work. If he can even come close to matching his 2016 performance in full-season ball, he'll solidify his place as one of the team's top arms.
New York Yankees: 3B Miguel Andujar (Breakout Prospect)
Miguel Andujar began the 2016 season as the No. 12-ranked prospect in the New York Yankees system, according to Baseball America.
That was down from No. 8 in 2014 and No. 10 in 2015, though.
Signed to a $750,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2011—the largest international bonus handed out by the Yankees that summer—Andujar scuffled to a .715 OPS in 2014 and a .651 OPS in 2015.
However, his experience playing against older competition finally started to pay dividends this past season.
Back with High-A Tampa to start the year, Andujar hit .283/.343/.474 with 10 doubles and 10 home runs in 251 plate appearances to earn a midseason promotion to Double-A.
Now the 21-year-old is set to begin his first full season in the upper levels of the minors and a similarly strong start should vault him up leaguewide prospect rankings.
Impressive raw power, an improving all-around approach and the physical tools to be a standout defender all point to an everyday third baseman with impact potential.
Oakland Athletics: 1B/3B Renato Nunez (MLB Impact)
Oakland Athletics third baseman Ryon Healy was one of the breakout prospects of 2016.
Healy raked in the upper minors and kept on hitting when he was promoted to the majors, posting an .861 OPS with 20 doubles and 13 home runs in 283 plate appearances.
Prior to his emergence, it looked like one of Matt Chapman or Renato Nunez would be the third baseman of the future in Oakland.
That being said, Nunez already began shifting positions this past season. He saw time at first base for the first time in his career and that could be where he settles in long term.
The 22-year-old had a forgettable season in Triple-A, but he's been one of the stars of the Venezuelan Winter League.
Nunez has hit .315/.396/.592 with six doubles, 10 home runs and 27 RBI in 130 at-bats for Tigres de Aragua and that could serve as a springboard into a big 2017 season.
If nothing else, it's probably fair to assume Yonder Alonso won't stand in his way once he's deemed ready.
Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Sixto Sanchez (Breakout Prospect)
Credit the Philadelphia Phillies scouting department for finding Sixto Sanchez, who was signed for a $35,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.
The Phillies brought him stateside this season as a 17-year-old and he was up to the challenge, leading the Gulf Coast League with a 0.50 ERA while posting a stellar 44-to-8 K/BB ratio over 54.0 innings.
An infielder just a few years ago, Sanchez doesn't have much projectability left in his 6'0", 185-pound frame, but it stands to reason that there's still room for significant improvement as he gets more comfortable on the mound.
And despite his somewhat undersized frame, "his strength and athleticism point to a future as a starter," according to MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
With a good feel for his three-pitch mix and impressive early results he'll be one to watch, even if he's still a long way from Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Pirates: IF/OF Alen Hanson (MLB Impact)
Alen Hanson has seen his prospect status decline in recent years after ranking as one of the league's top 100 prospects in both 2013 (No. 61) and 2014 (No. 76), according to Baseball America.
The 24-year-old is now out of minor league options. While he doesn't have a clear path to everyday at-bats, he could fill a significant role at the MLB level in 2017.
Veteran utility man Sean Rodriguez put together a fantastic season in 2016, posting an .859 OPS with 16 doubles, 18 home runs and 56 RBI in 342 plate appearances while playing everywhere but pitcher and catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
That earned him a two-year, $11.5 million deal from the Atlanta Braves and there's now a void to fill in the super utility role.
Hanson is the front-runner to fill that void. Even with David Freese and Adam Frazier both expected to see time at multiple positions as well, he could play his way into significant at-bats.
San Diego Padres: RHP Phil Maton (MLB Impact)
The buzz word for Phil Maton is the "spin rate" on his fastball.
Fox Sports explains:
When the Padres discuss Maton, a phrase that comes into play is “spin rate.” Pitches that spin tighter and faster as they travel to the plate appear faster to hitters and can even provide the illusion that they are rising. The more revolutions the ball makes, the more swinging strikes and fly balls a pitcher can induce. Maton has one of the highest spin rates in the organization.
His fastball might not reach the high 90s like many late-inning relievers, but it plays up and has allowed him to post some impressive numbers since making the move to the bullpen. That transition has also allowed him to scrap his changeup and focus on his two premium offerings.
"He pounds the zone and comes right at guys," Triple-A manager Lance Burkhart told Fox Sports. "He has a good fastball and slider that he can throw for strikes. Because he can throw both for strikes there is enough speed and plane differential that he is going to be very effective."
Despite making just five appearances above the High-A level, the 23-year-old is a strong candidate for an Opening Day bullpen spot with the rebuilding San Diego Padres.
San Francisco Giants: RF Heath Quinn (Breakout Prospect)
After a standout career at Samford University, Heath Quinn was one of the top collegiate bats in the 2016 draft.
However, concerns about the level of competition he faced in college and whether he would make enough consistent contact to tap into his power caused him to slip to the third round, where the San Francisco Giants made him the No. 95 overall pick.
That earned him the No. 1 spot when Bleacher Report's Rick Weiner ranked the 10 biggest steals of the draft. Quinn backed that up with a stellar showing over three minor league levels in his pro debut.
A .343/.452/.682 line with 17 doubles, 21 home runs and 77 RBI during his junior season at Samford earned him third-team All-American honors. Quinn could quickly ascend to the top of a relatively thin Giants system if he continues to hit like that as a pro.
He'll likely start the 2017 season at the High-A level and could be the answer for the Giants in left field by the second half of the 2018 campaign.
Seattle Mariners: OF Mitch Haniger (MLB Impact)
Taijuan Walker and Jean Segura were the headliners in a five-player trade between the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this offseason, but keep an eye on outfielder Mitch Haniger, who also joined the Mariners in that deal.
"Haniger could end up being the most important player in that trade," one opposing scout told Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times.
Assuming no other outfield additions arrive—which is a big assumption when you're talking about Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto—Haniger should have a real shot at winning the starting left field job this spring.
The 25-year-old is a .290/.370/.490 career hitter over five minor league seasons, but he had never tallied more than 13 home runs in a year prior to launching 25 in 2016.
That uptick in power is what has taken him from mid-level organizational prospect to potential impact MLB player. If he breaks camp with a starting gig, he'll be a dark horse for AL Rookie of the Year honors.
St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Sandy Alcantara (Breakout Prospect)
A 70-grade fastball that sits at 95 and can touch 101 was enough to put Sandy Alcantara on the prospect radar, but middling secondary stuff and a lack of command kept him from being one of the St. Louis Cardinals' top prospects.
Control remains an issue as he walked batters at a 4.3 BB/9 rate, but he continued to overpower hitters in his full-season debut with 153 strikeouts in 122.1 innings.
The 21-year-old also responded very well to a late-season promotion to High-A Palm Beach, posting a 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and a 34-to-14 K/BB ratio in 32.1 innings.
There's still room for Alcantara to fill out his 6'4", 170-pound frame, and his changeup and curveball have both improved since he was signed in 2013.
Alcantara may soon be the highest-ceiling arm in the system with Alex Reyes set to lose his prospect eligibility shortly after the start of the 2017 season.
Tampa Bay Rays: OF Jesus Sanchez (Breakout Prospect)
Jesus Sanchez was far enough off the top prospect radar entering the 2016 season that he didn't even appear among the Tampa Bay Rays' top 30 prospect in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
It no doubt came as a surprise to more than a few fans then when he checked in as the team's No. 7 prospect when Baseball America released this year's organizational top 10.
"I think his bat gives him a chance to develop into a really good prospect," wrote Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America in a follow-up chat on the aforementioned rankings.
"If Sanchez’s bat plays at a full-season affiliate in 2017, I can see him making a case for top 100 consideration after that, yes. He’ll also have to improve his defense, too. The reports on him are really exciting."
Those nine walks over 226 plate appearances are a good indication that the 19-year-old's approach at the plate is going to need some refining as he takes on higher-level pitching.
Still, there's a lot to like about a 6'2", 185-pound teenager who has already flashed good in-game power and a strong hit tool against pro competition.
Texas Rangers: CF Leody Taveras (Breakout Prospect)
Over the past two seasons, the Texas Rangers have traded away several players that ranked among the top 10 prospects in the organization, per Baseball America:
- 2015: SP Jake Thompson (No. 2), C Jorge Alfaro (No. 3), OF Nick Williams (No. 5) and SS Luis Sardinas (No. 7)
- 2016: OF Lewis Brinson (No. 2), SP Luis Ortiz (No. 4) and SP Dillon Tate (No. 5)
Those trades, coupled with Nomar Mazara carving out a role with the big league club and Joey Gallo exhausting his rookie eligibility, leave the team without a clear-cut top prospect heading into the 2017 season.
Outfielder Leody Taveras claimed the No. 1 spot in the system from Baseball America and his full-season debut will be watched closely.
With a Sept. 8 birthday, Taveras will play the bulk of the upcoming season at the age of 18. All signs point to him joining the Single-A ranks by midseason if he's not aggressively promoted there to start the year.
The Dominican native landed a $2.1 million bonus as one of the top prospects in the 2015 international class. If he can tack on a bit more muscle and add some over-the-fence pop he'll have the potential for five above-average-to-plus tools.
Toronto Blue Jays: 1B Rowdy Tellez (Breakout Prospect)
It takes a lot for a first-base-only player to earn a spot among the league's top prospects.
Case in point, there was only one first baseman—A.J. Reed of the Houston Astros—who checked in among the top 50 prospects in the league at the start of last season, per Baseball America.
Don't be surprised if Rowdy Tellez emerges as one of the rare exceptions.
A 30th-round pick who was handed an $850,000 bonus in 2013, Tellez was an intriguing prep prospect due to his impressive raw power and he's developed into a better all-around hitter than expected.
He slugged 29 doubles and 23 home runs in a full season with Double-A New Hampshire last year, while also ranking third in the Eastern League in walks (63) and backing that with a very manageable 17.9 percent strikeout rate.
The departures of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista could leave the Blue Jays searching for a power source, and Tellez might be the answer as soon as the second half of the upcoming season.
Washington Nationals: RHP Koda Glover (MLB Impact)
Koda Glover is one of just two pitchers from the 2015 draft class to already make his MLB debut, with the other being Chicago White Sox right-hander Carson Fulmer.
Unlike Fulmer, who was taken with the No. 8 overall pick, Glover was not a highly touted prospect and the Washington Nationals took him in the eighth round after a stellar junior season at Oklahoma State.
Glover has the prototypical late-inning arsenal with a mid-90s fastball that he can dial up to 98 and a wipeout slider that serves as his out-pitch.
The 23-year-old has legitimate closer upside and he could find himself in that role sooner than later.
Considering the Nationals have yet to replace Mark Melancon, it's not inconceivable to think Glover could be closing games at some point in 2017.
Veteran Shawn Kelley will likely get the first crack at the job, but Glover is on the short list if he falters.