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

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2019

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

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Not all MLB prospects are created equal.

    While it is true that oftentimes a player will go from being an early draft pick or a hyped international signing to being a staple on league-wide 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 2019 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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    Vidal Brujan
    Vidal BrujanMark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Baltimore Orioles: OF Ryan McKenna

    McKenna, 21, is the fastest-rising prospect in an improved Baltimore system.

    The 2015 fourth-round pick hit .315/.410/.457 with 41 extra-base hits between High-A and Double-A, then followed that up with an excellent showing in the Arizona Fall League.

    He has a chance to stick in center field defensively and has the on-base skills to be a table-setter near the top of the lineup. A strong start in Double-A could have him in Baltimore by midseason.

         

    Boston Red Sox: RHP Durbin Feltman

    After racking up 32 saves while posting a 2.03 ERA and 13.1 K/9 in three seasons closing games for TCU, Feltman was a third-round selection last June.

    He signed quickly and made 22 appearances over three minor league levels in his pro debut, posting a sterling 1.93 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and a 36-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23.1 innings.

    Armed with an upper-90s fastball and a wipeout slider, he has prototypical closer stuff, and that should allow him to move quickly toward a spot at the back of the Boston bullpen.

        

    New York Yankees: OF Antonio Cabello

    The Yankees gave Cabello a $1.35 million bonus last December with the money they had set aside for a run at Shohei Ohtani.

    He made his stateside debut at the age of 17 and hit .321/.426/.555 with 18 extra-base hits and 10 steals in 40 games at rookie ball.

    While speed is his best present tool, he has a chance to hit for solid average and power as his 5'10", 160-pound frame fills out. His jump to full-season ball will be among the most anticipated of 2019, and he could quickly vault to the top of the Yankees' prospect list with a strong showing.

            

    Tampa Bay Rays: 2B Vidal Brujan

    Brujan signed for just $15,000 in 2014, then spent three seasons in the lower levels of the minors before a breakout 2018 campaign.

    The 20-year-old hit .320/.403/.459 with 41 extra-base hits and 55 stolen bases, and he didn't miss a beat following a second-half promotion to High-A.

    He'll be more hit than power at the next level, but he has the speed, on-base ability and contact skills to be a top-of-the-lineup catalyst. His speed could play in center field if there's no clear path to second base once he's ready.

         

    Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Trent Thornton

    The Blue Jays acquired Thornton in the November trade that sent Aledmys Diaz to the Astros, and he has a chance to make an impact at the MLB-level in 2019.

    The 25-year-old right-hander posted a 4.42 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 122 strikeouts in 124.1 innings at Triple-A, and the rebuilding Blue Jays should give him a long look this spring.

    A funky delivery and good-not-great stuff could make him a multi-inning reliever long-term. For now, he'll continue to be developed in a starting role where he has middle-of-the-rotation upside.

AL Central

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    Chicago White Sox: OF Luis Gonzalez

    A standout two-way player at the University of New Mexico, Gonzalez was selected by the White Sox as an outfielder in the third round of the 2017 draft.

    His line-drive approach produced a .307/.368/.498 line with 40 doubles and 14 home runs between Single-A and High-A, and he also showed good wheels with 10 steals.

    He has the speed and instincts to play center field and the plus arm to play right field, which gives him a high floor as a versatile fourth outfielder. However, if he keeps hitting the way he has so far as a pro, he'll be destined for an everyday role.

         

    Cleveland Indians: RHP Luis Oviedo

    With a projectable frame and the makings of a dynamic four-pitch repertoire, Oviedo is quickly rising the ranks in the Cleveland system.

    The 19-year-old posted a 2.05 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and .190 opponents' batting average with 67 strikeouts in 57 innings last season while making his Single-A debut.

    MLB.com identified him as the Indians' hardest-throwing prospect, writing: "The 6-foot-4 right-hander has already added velocity, as he's grown into his projectable frame and currently operates with a mid-90s fastball that touches 97-98 mph with late life, which helps him get whiffs inside the strike zone."

             

    Detroit Tigers: SS Wenceel Perez

    Perez, 19, made his stateside debut in 2018 and hit .312/.363/.429 with 18 extra-base hits and 13 steals over three levels to reach Single-A.

    With the defensive tools to stick at shortstop long-term, his offensive production has quickly made him one of the most intriguing position-player prospects in a pitching-heavy Detroit system.

    He could establish himself as the shortstop of the future with a strong full season at Single-A West Michigan, and it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see him jump onto the organizational top-10 prospect list by midseason.

         

    Kansas City Royals: LHP Daniel Lynch

    While Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar were the more hyped selections, left-hander Daniel Lynch had the better pro debut after going No. 34 overall out of Virginia.

    The 22-year-old logged a 1.58 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with a stellar 61/9 K/BB rate in 51.1 innings between rookie ball and Single-A.

    His velocity ticked up after signing with his fastball touching 97, and he backed it with a plus changeup, a power slider and a playable curveball. His big 6'6", 190-pound frame gives him a good downhill plane, and he's shown advanced pitchability. A strong first full pro season could land him atop the Kansas City prospect list.

         

    Minnesota Twins: RHP Jhoan Duran

    The Twins acquired Duran last July in the deal that sent Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    After three seasons in rookie ball, Duran made his Single-A debut in 2018, where he posted a 3.75 ERA and a .232 opponents' batting average with 115 strikeouts in 100.2 innings. His heavy fastball leads to a lot of groundball outs, and he backs it with a curveball and changeup that both show promise.

    MLB.com wrote: "It can take time for a young arm with this much upside to click, so patience will be the key. But Duran has the tools and the body to develop into a No. 3-type starter if everything comes together."

AL West

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    Taylor Hearn
    Taylor HearnMark Brown/Getty Images

    Houston Astros: RHP Bryan Abreu

    Abreu will turn 22 in April and has yet to pitch above the Single-A level, but his numbers are impossible to ignore.

    After four seasons in rookie ball, he worked 54.1 innings between Low-A and Single-A, posting a 1.49 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .175 opponents' batting average and an eye-popping 90 strikeouts.

    MLB.com wrote: "Abreu still is figuring out the nuances of pitching. His changeup is in the rudimentary stages, and while his control has improved, it still needs more work and his command requires even more refinement. He has the ceiling of a starter who could fit in the front half of a rotation but is still a long ways from reaching it."

        

    Los Angeles Angels: OF D'Shawn Knowles

    The Bahamas have become a prospect hotbed in recent years with the likes of Kristian Robinson, Jazz Chisholm and Lucius Fox making a name for themselves.

    Knowles, 17, looks destined to follow the path they've forged after hitting .311/.391/.464 with 21 extra-base hits and nine steals in 58 rookie-ball games.

    If everything goes right, he has the profile of an everyday center fielder who hits for a solid average, steals some bases and develops good gap power. The Angels will need to be patient, but he has the tools to prove worth the wait.

          

    Oakland Athletics: RHP Daulton Jefferies

    An injury-plagued junior season caused Jefferies to slip out of the first round of the 2016 draft, but the A's saw enough to grab him with the No. 37 overall pick.

    Alas, he made just two rookie ball starts before it was revealed that he needed Tommy John surgery, and he's logged just 20 total innings in three years as a pro.

    The 23-year-old is finally healthy, and with a solid three-pitch mix and plus command, he has a chance to emerge as the No. 3 pitching prospect in the Oakland system behind Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk.

               

    Seattle Mariners: C Cal Raleigh

    Raleigh hit .326/.447/.583 with 18 doubles, 13 home runs and 54 RBI in 62 games during his junior season at Florida State.

    That was enough to make the 22-year-old a third-round pick, and he immediately became the best catching prospect in the Seattle system.

    He'll never be more than an average defender, but with the offensive tools to be an everyday backstop at the MLB level, he could be on the fast track after hitting .288/.367/.534 with 19 extra-base hits in 38 games at Low-A.

         

    Texas Rangers: LHP Taylor Hearn

    The Rangers acquired Hearn last summer in the deal that sent Keone Kela to Pittsburgh, and he's one of the most promising arms in a farm system with plenty of high-ceiling pitching talent.

    The 6'5" left-hander has a 70-grade fastball and a good changeup, though his slider remains a work-in-progress and may ultimately determine whether he sticks as a starter.

    He'll look to build off an excellent 2018 season at Double-A where he posted a 3.49 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and .216 opponents' average with 140 strikeouts in 129 innings. His MLB debut could come sometime after the All-Star break.

NL East

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    Jordan Yamamoto
    Jordan YamamotoStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Atlanta Braves: RHP Freddy Tarnok

    Tarnok has flown under the radar in an Atlanta system loaded with top-tier pitching talent, but he was given a $1.445 million bonus as a third-round pick in 2017—more than double slot value—for a reason.

    The 20-year-old saw his draft stock soar after an uptick in velocity during his senior season of high school, and there's plenty of room for further physical projection. He was aggressively sent to Single-A last season, where he more than held his own with a 3.96 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 77.1 innings.

    MLB.com wrote: "A solid athlete who didn't pitch until his junior year, Tarnok still has a lot to learn, but that athleticism should allow him to find a repeatable delivery and to throw strikes. Based on the fact he is now focusing on pitching only for the first time and has so much room for added strength, Tarnok's ceiling is considerable."

         

    Miami Marlins: RHP Jordan Yamamoto

    Yamamoto was part of the prospect package the Marlins received last offseason in the trade that sent eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich to Milwaukee.

    While the 22-year-old lacks overpowering stuff, he has good command of his three-pitch mix, and the results over the past year speak for themselves.

    After pitching to a 1.83 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 68.2 innings while reaching Double-A, he put together a brilliant run in the Arizona Fall League with a 2.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 27 strikeouts in 26 innings. An early 2019 debut is not out of the question.

         

    New York Mets: SS Shervyen Newton

    Newton was signed for $50,000 out of the Netherlands in 2015. After a lackluster debut in the Dominican Summer League, he turned heads in a second go-around in 2017 when he hit .311/.433/.444 with 21 extra-base hits and 10 steals.

    He backed that up in his U.S. debut last year, posting a .280/.408/.449 line with 23 extra-base hits in the Appalachian League.

    Despite a 6'4" frame, the 19-year-old has shown all the requisite skills to stick at shortstop. If he continues on his current developmental path, he could eventually take over as the No. 1 prospect in the system once Andres Gimenez and Peter Alonso make the leap to the majors.

        

    Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Spencer Howard

    Howard saw his draft stock soar when he moved into the rotation as a draft-eligible sophomore at Cal Poly, and he punched out 40 batters in 28 innings during his pro debut.

    The 6'3", 205-pound right-hander continued to look like a future MLB starter in his full-season debut, posting a 3.78 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 147 strikeouts in 112 innings.

    The 22-year-old should get his first taste of the upper levels of the minors in 2019, and a 2020 debut could be in the cards if he continues to impress.

        

    Washington Nationals: C Israel Pineda

    Pineda was part of the same 2016 international class that included infielders Luis Garcia and Yasel Antuna, though he signed for a considerably more modest $450,000 compared to their seven-figure bonuses.

    Playing in Low-A as an 18-year-old, he hit .273/.341/.388 with 11 extra-base hits in 46 games before a broken hamate bone in his left wrist ended his season in August.

    With a strong throwing arm and good receiving skills, he has the defensive tools to be an everyday catcher if he continues to develop offensively.

NL Central

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    Chicago Cubs: RHP Paul Richan

    The Cubs took Richan with their second-round selection last June.

    The 21-year-old posted a brilliant 103/13 K/BB in 89.2 innings during his junior season at the University of San Diego, then continued to turn heads for Low-A Eugene in his pro debut with a 2.12 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 31 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.

    College arms have been a popular target by the Cubs in the first 10 rounds the past few years, and Richan has a chance to emerge as the best of the bunch.

        

    Cincinnati Reds: OF Michael Beltre

    After four years in rookie ball, Beltre turned in a less-than-stellar Single-A debut in 2017 when he hit .238/.323/.324 with 23 extra-base hits in 465 plate appearances at Single-A Dayton.

    He returned to the level last season with much better results, posting a .297/.404/.448 line with 14 extra-base hits in 200 plate appearances before earning a promotion to High-A.

    There's still a ton of untapped raw power in his 6'3", 220-pound frame, and he's always shown a solid approach at the plate. He may be a bit behind the developmental curve at 23 years old, but there's still a lot to like about his upside.

        

    Milwaukee Brewers: OF Je'Von Ward

    A 12th-round pick in the 2017 draft who was signed away from a commitment to USC with a $475,000 bonus, Ward already looks like a steal.

    While speed is his best present tool, there's a ton of power potential in his 6'5", 190-pound frame, and the development of his hit tool will determine how much of that he eventually taps into.

    The 19-year-old hit .307/.391/.403 with 17 extra-base hits and 13 steals in rookie ball while walking at an excellent 11.8 percent clip, demonstrating an advanced approach that belies his raw tools.

         

    Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Calvin Mitchell

    Mitchell was viewed as a first-round talent heading into his senior season at Rancho Bernardo High School, but a mediocre spring caused him to slip to the Pirates in the second round of the 2017 draft.

    After hitting .245 in rookie ball in his pro debut, he impressed at Single-A last season with a .280/.344/.427 line that included 29 doubles and 10 home runs.

    He's likely limited to left field defensively, which means his value will come from his offensive production. The Pirates have a good track record of developing outfielders, so he could be in the perfect place to unlock his full potential.

        

    St. Louis Cardinals: 3B Malcom Nunez

    Nunez might have had the best offensive season in all of professional baseball in 2018.

    Over 199 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League, he hit a ridiculous .415/.497/.774 with 16 doubles, 13 home runs and 59 RBI.

    He's physically advanced for a 17-year-old with a muscular 5'11", 205-pound frame, so there's reason to believe his in-game power is legit. He could shoot up top prospect lists with a strong stateside debut in 2019.

NL West

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    Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Kristian Robinson

    If you're not familiar with Robinson, get ready to see his name all over top-100 lists this spring.

    Making his U.S. debut as a 17-year-old, he hit .279/.363/.428 with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 41 RBI in 57 games spanning two different rookie-ball stops, and he's just scratching the surface.

    With the potential for 60-grade hit and power tools and the speed to steal double-digit bases and stick in center field defensively, he looks like a star in the making. His $2.5 million bonus as part of the 2017 international class could prove to be the best money the D-backs have ever spent.

        

    Colorado Rockies: RHP Justin Lawrence

    There are not many sidearm pitchers left in today's game, and Lawrence might be the hardest-throwing of that dying breed with a sinking fastball that touches 98 mph and a good splitter that keeps hitters honest.

    He was virtually unhittable at High-A with a .188 opponents' batting average and 62 strikeouts in 54.1 innings while saving 11 games, and he fanned another 13 batters in 10.2 innings in the Arizona Fall League.

    There's still room to improve his 4.5 BB/9 walk rate, but he's close to MLB-ready and should find his way into the Colorado bullpen before the 2019 season is over.

           

    Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Tony Gonsolin

    Gonsolin was taken in the ninth round of the 2016 draft and given a $2,500 bonus after a standout four-year career as a two-way player at St. Mary's.

    He worked exclusively as a reliever in his first two seasons, then moved into a starting role last year where he thrived. Splitting the season between High-A and Double-A, he posted a 2.60 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while finishing 19th in all of MiLB with 155 strikeouts in 128 innings.

    Gonsolin has a fastball that touches triple-digits, an excellent splitter and an above-average slider and curveball, delivered from a strong 6'2", 180-pound frame. His stuff would undoubtedly play up in a relief role, but he checks all the boxes of a future MLB starter.

         

    San Diego Padres: RHP Luis Patino

    In a stacked farm system that features the likes of MacKenzie Gore, Chris Paddack, Adrian Morejon, Logan Allen, Michel Baez, Cal Quantrill and Ryan Weathers on the pitching side of things, Patino has understandably flown under the radar.

    The 19-year-old made his Single-A debut last year, posting a 2.16 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 98 strikeouts in 83.1 innings while holding opponents to a .220 batting average.

    While his mechanics are a bit rough and he's undersized at 6'0", he's strong and athletic and shows the makings of a quality four-pitch mix. Don't be surprised if he shows up on more than a few league-wide top-100 lists this spring.

         

    San Francisco Giants: RHP Melvin Adon

    Adon, 24, has an electric arm with a fastball that touches 102 mph and a wipeout slider.

    While he was knocked around as a starter at High-A last seasonposting a 4.87 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and a .278 opponents' batting average—he thrived as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League. In 12.1 innings, he logged a brilliant 21/3 K/BB ratio while posting a 2.92 ERA and 0.81 WHIP.

    The big 6'3", 235-pound right-hander was always viewed as a reliever long-term, and a full-time move to the bullpen to kick off 2019 could put him in the majors by season's end.

            

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