Each MLB Team's Top Prospect Making Early Waves in 2019 Spring Training
The best part of Major League Baseball's spring training? It's arguably the best chance to see the league's top prospects in action.
After roughly a week's worth of games, some of them are already standing out.
Early though it may be, we have a look at which prospect has thrust himself into the spotlight for all 30 MLB teams in spring training. These are the guys who are putting up numbers and/or earning the attention of the powers that be in other ways.
We'll go in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Jon Duplantier
Following the offseason departures of Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock, the Arizona Diamondbacks could some hope for the future.
Jon Duplantier is on it.
The right-hander, who we have ranked as Arizona's No. 1 prospect, made his spring debut count. He tossed two scoreless, hitless innings Monday against the Oakland Athletics, with two strikeouts and one walk.
According to Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com, the 24-year-old climbed as high as 97 mph with his fastball. That helped make an impression on D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, who said: "Duplantier stands out a little bit in my mind. He stepped on his stuff pretty good."
Before this, Duplantier was last seen pitching well (3.32 ERA and 32 strikeouts) in six starts in the Arizona Fall League. Clearly, his stock is on the way back up after biceps tendinitis limited him to 16 outings in the 2018 minor league season.
Atlanta Braves: RHP Kyle Wright
The Atlanta Braves had openings in their rotation even before Mike Foltynewicz, Kevin Gausman, Luiz Gohara and Mike Soroka started experiencing aches and pains.
This adds up to a huge opportunity for the many pitching prospects in Atlanta's No. 2 farm system. That includes Kyle Wright, who made a heck of an audition in his spring debut Wednesday.
The 23-year-old took on the Cardinals and gave up no runs on two hits and no walks in two innings, with three strikeouts.
"I was very impressed with him," Braves manager Brian Snitker said, per MLB.com's Steve Dorsey. "He's a kid with a really nice arm. It was a brief look last year, but I know people are really high on him."
Though Wright is the Braves' second-best pitching prospect after Ian Anderson, he's the more MLB-ready of the two. He wouldn't be misplaced in Atlanta's Opening Day rotation.
Baltimore Orioles: OF Yusniel Diaz
At least as far as the Baltimore Orioles are concerned, Yusniel Diaz was the centerpiece of the blockbuster trade that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July.
Though Diaz is known for his power, he's also thought of as a good hitter, period. To wit, his poise has already caught the attention of Baltimore's new manager, Brandon Hyde.
"Just to be able to see his presence at the plate and not be jumpy, I was really, really impressed," Hyde said, per Joe Trezza of MLB.com.
Diaz almost certainly won't crack the Orioles' Opening Day roster. But he could be seen at some point in 2019, which would constitute the first real look at what the Orioles hope is a bright future.
Boston Red Sox: 3B/1B Michael Chavis
The Boston Red Sox may be the reigning World Series champions, but they're sitting on MLB's worst farm system. At the start of the spring, whether they had even one top-100 prospect was debatable.
That debate is changing, however, because of Michael Chavis.
The 23-year-old has come out hitting everything in sight this spring, and hard. He's homered three times in five games, driving in nine runs in the process.
Then again, perhaps this isn't surprising. Though a performance-enhancing drug suspension that sidelined him for 80 games last season wrecked his stock, a .910 OPS and 31 homers came before that in 2017.
With Rafael Devers at third base and Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce at first base, Chavis doesn't have a clear avenue to playing time in Boston. But if he keeps hitting like this, the Red Sox will figure something out.
Chicago Cubs: INF Trent Giambrone
Three years after the Chicago Cubs' World Series triumph, their farm system isn't looking much better than Boston's.
But hey, at least it has Trent Giambrone.
Giambrone entered the spring as Chicago's No. 20 prospect at MLB.com, but he's playing himself into the spotlight in part with his bat, which has produced four hits (including a double and a homer) in five games.
Yet it's the 25-year-old's defensive versatility that could be his ticket to the big leagues. According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago manager Joe Maddon has name-dropped Giambrone as a possible injury replacement for one of the club's core infielders.
In the meantime, Giambrone's hot spring start is a case of picking up where he left off. He previously starred in the Arizona Fall League to the tune of an .890 OPS and two homers in 12 games.
Chicago White Sox: OF Blake Rutherford
The most well-known outfielder in the Chicago White Sox's No. 4 farm system is Eloy Jimenez. After him, there's also Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, Luis Alexander Basabe and Luis Gonzalez.
And Blake Rutherford, who's becoming hard not to notice in more ways than one.
The 21-year-old showed up to White Sox camp as a prominent entry into the BSOHL Club. Take it from fellow prospect Nick Madrigal, per James Fegan of The Athletic: "Everyone is amazed at how big he got."
Rutherford has put his newfound mass to work early with four hits (including a double) in nine at-bats through four games.
Rutherford's stock has fallen quite a bit since he was the New York Yankees' No. 18 pick in the first round of the 2016 draft, in part because he's been slow to develop power. His spring play is a good first step toward changing that.
Cincinnati Reds: OF Taylor Trammell
At just 21 years old, Taylor Trammell is the youngest player in camp with the Cincinnati Reds. Nevertheless, he's fitting in just fine.
"He's impressed me on and off the field," Reds manager David Bell said of Trammell, per John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We've really enjoyed having him in camp. The interaction and conversations. He's really a pleasure to be around."
Meanwhile, Trammell has done a little bit of everything for the Reds through five spring games. He has two hits and three walks, and he's scored three runs.
Because he's only advanced as far as High-A, it's unlikely Trammell will reach the majors this season. He's nonetheless the No. 2 prospect in the Reds system, as well as the No. 16 overall prospect at MLB.com. If he stays on this trajectory, the hype only figures to increase.
Cleveland Indians: OF Daniel Johnson
Thanks to Daniel Johnson, there's suddenly a flicker of hope that the Cleveland Indians will win the Yan Gomes trade.
According to MLB.com, Johnson went into camp as the No. 22 prospect in Cleveland's system. The key tools—power, speed and arm strength—were all there, however, and Johnson has given the Indians a tantalizing glance at his upside.
Through six games, the 23-year-old has a double, a triple and a long homer, plus a pair of walks and a stolen base.
"He's a good outfielder," Tribe manager Terry Francona said Wednesday, per MLB.com's Mandy Bell. "He has a good arm. Good kid. We're just getting to know him, but, man, we sure are enjoying it."
This doesn't necessarily mean Johnson has a major league role in his immediate future. But in light of the talent void in Cleveland's outfield, such a role is a definite possibility.
Colorado Rockies: OF Sam Hilliard
The Colorado Rockies could use some long-term upside in their outfield. Sam Hilliard is hard at work showing that he might be the guy for it.
The 25-year-old has appeared in five games and cranked out three hits in 11 at-bats. The big one was a home run to right field that measured at 107.3 mph off the bat and 416 feet in distance.
In addition to power, Hilliard boasts good speed, a strong arm and good fielding skills. According to MLB.com, he occasionally draws comparisons to Rockies great Larry Walker.
As a .327 on-base percentage at Double-A in 2018 can attest, Hilliard's hitting tool works against the Walker comps. He did hit .328 with a .389 OBP in the Arizona Fall League, however, and now here he is mashing in spring training.
If he keeps this up, he may be seen in Coors Field this season.
Detroit Tigers: DH/OF Christin Stewart
The Detroit Tigers' No. 11 farm system is thick with pitching at the top, but Christin Stewart's bat's making the most noise this spring.
The 25-year-old has five hits in nine at-bats through his first three appearances. The more recent of his two dingers was a grand slam against the Yankees on Wednesday.
According to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, Stewart's slam clanked off the light tower in right field at Joker Marchant Stadium. That gets at the kind of power he's used to club 83 homers over the last three minor league seasons.
The catch is that Stewart isn't so good at, well, catching the ball. Various reports (including from Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic) indicate that this isn't changing soon.
On the plus side, the Tigers have an opening at designated hitter if Stewart can't cut it in their outfield.
Houston Astros: RHP Forrest Whitley
In any case, he sure looked the part of something special in his spring debut Monday against the Mets. He pitched two innings and posted zeroes with three strikeouts.
"Whitley had a lot of poise, and he used all his pitches," Astros manager AJ Hinch said, per Alyson Footer of MLB.com. "His stuff is real, you can see that from the very beginning."
Whitley, 21, might already be a big leaguer had his 2018 season not gone awry. He was suspended 50 games for violating the minor league drug prevention program, and he missed additional time with injuries. He made only eight starts at Double-A.
Whitley did, however, preview his spring dominance with a 2.42 ERA and 36 strikeouts in six Arizona Fall League starts. If he stays on this track, he might just earn Houston's open rotation spot.
Kansas City Royals: OF Bubba Starling
Bubba Starling doesn't even rank among the Kansas City Royals' top 30 prospects for MLB.com. That's how far his stock has fallen since the Royals chose him at No. 5 in the 2011 draft.
Yet the 26-year-old is making it possible to ask, "Maybe?"
Through five games, the native of Gardner, Kansas, has collected six hits—including two homers that came in the same contest—in nine at-bats. He's also walked three times, the most recent of which was a walk-off job Thursday.
Understandably, nobody in Royals camp wants to get too worked up about Starling's hot start. That includes Starling himself, who told Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star: "It's way early in the spring."
Still, any player this hot can't be ignored outright. And in Starling's case, the Royals can be forgiven if they're privately dreaming their patience will be rewarded.
Los Angeles Angels: 1B Matt Thaiss
The Los Angeles Angels are only guaranteed to have Mike Trout through 2020, so they need to get to work on surrounding him with as much impact talent as possible.
Matt Thaiss clearly wants in.
Through four games, the 23-year-old is 7-for-10 with five extra-base hits. The most recent of those was a two-run triple against the Rockies on Wednesday that upped his spring RBI count to eight.
So it goes for Thaiss. He raised concerns about his power by clubbing only 68 extra-base hits in his first two minor league seasons. But then he produced 58 last year alone, and now he's hitting rockets in spring training.
The bad news for Thaiss is Albert Pujols and Justin Bour have dibs on the cold corner at the major league level. But if one or both of them gets hurt, he'll have an opening to take his developing power to The Show.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 1B/3B Matt Beaty
It's typically not easy to spot Matt Beaty amid a Los Angeles Dodgers organization that's thick with high-profile young talent at all levels.
Right now, however, it's hard to miss him.
Beaty co-leads the Dodgers with five hits in 11 at-bats through five spring games. One of his hits was a homer that fell in the middle of back-to-back-to-back jobs with fellow prospects Omar Estevez and DJ Peters.
The 25-year-old is coming off a year in which injuries limited him to 34 minor league games. That didn't help his standing among the Dodgers' top prospects. Indeed, he barely cracked the club's top 30 for MLB.com.
Yet it was only two years ago that Beaty was on the rise after he slashed .326/.378/.505 at Double-A. If his early results this spring are a sign that he's back on that track, his major league debut may not be far in the future.
Miami Marlins: RHP Sandy Alcantara
Now that J.T. Realmuto is gone, the onus on the Miami Marlins to develop young stars is that much greater.
Sandy Alcantara has the arm for it, and he showed it off in his spring debut Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals. He pitched two scoreless innings with a hit, a walk and three strikeouts.
"Today, I was aggressive with my fastball," Alcantara said afterward, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. "First pitch was 96. The others were 97-98. I am working a lot for that."
Alcantara wasn't nearly as sharp in his second outing Thursday against the Astros, who got to him for a pair of runs in an ugly first inning. But he did strike out Jose Altuve twice and George Springer once.
In any case, the 23-year-old is one of the Marlins' five best prospects. And given their shortage of better options, he has a clear shot at a rotation spot.
Milwaukee Brewers: OF Corey Ray
The Milwaukee Brewers went into the spring with only one top-100 prospect (Keston Hiura) in their No. 28 farm system, but that was liable to change if Corey Ray got hot.
Well, guess who's hot?
Milwaukee took Ray, 24, with the No. 5 pick in the 2016 draft, but he fell flat in the minors that year and in 2017. Albeit with only a .239 average and .323 OBP, he subsequently rebounded in 2018 by making frequent use of his power (27 homers) and speed (37 stolen bases).
The three strikeouts Ray has this spring indicate his approach still needs work. But the power and speed are clearly there, and the evidence is mounting that he can get results out of them despite his flaws.
Minnesota Twins: LHP Stephen Gonsalves
The Minnesota Twins technically have a full starting rotation, but the final spot doesn't look too secure in Martin Perez's hands.
That's a cue for Stephen Gonsalves to show the Twins what he can do. His spring debut was a good first step.
Gonsalves, 24, did give up three hits and a run in two innings against the Phillies on Wednesday, but he also struck out two and flashed surprisingly good stuff. Per Dan Hayes of The Athletic, the lefty was sitting at 93 with an 89 mph slider.
That's a big step forward for a guy who worked at only 90.2 mph with his fastball with the Twins in 2018. Provided he can keep the velocity coming, Gonsalves stands to re-establish himself as one of the organization's best prospects. For now, he's only the Twins' sixth-best guy.
After that, his next step might be into a rotation spot.
New York Mets: 1B Pete Alonso
Though they don't have a clear opening for him, the New York Mets can't keep Pete Alonso down forever. Especially if he keeps hitting like, well, this.
Alonso is 5-for-12 with a couple of walks through his first five spring games. One of his hits was a homer on the first pitch he saw, and even Braves right-hander Touki Toussaint was impressed by it.
"That's probably the hardest [hit] ball I've given up," the Braves righty said, per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. "I've seen him hit some balls, but that one was impressive."
Alonso's power had previously served him well amid a 2018 season in which he clubbed 36 homers at Double-A and Triple-A. He added six more in the Arizona Fall League.
If Alonso isn't the Mets' best prospect, he's at least their second-best. The obligatory disclaimer is that he's not much of a defender, but they won't mind that if he's eventually hitting them 40 homers a year at first base.
New York Yankees: RHP Jonathan Loaisiga
The New York Yankees have few, if any, openings in a pitching staff that's bursting at the seams with stars.
However, Jonathan Loaisiga will probably be the first man up if a spot opens, and he's looking ready to take advantage.
The 24-year-old's spring debut Sunday opposite the Tampa Bay Rays lasted only two innings, but he still impressed. He gave up neither a hit nor a run, and he struck out two. His curveball and changeup both looked to be in proverbial midseason shape.
"It wasn't a lot of pitches, but I felt really good out there today," Loaisiga said via an interpreter, according to Glenn Sattell of MLB.com.
Though Loaisiga is entering 2019 as New York's No. 3 prospect, he showed with 33 strikeouts in 24.2 innings last season that he's capable of getting out major league hitters. He just needs to be patient for a chance to do so again.
Oakland Athletics: LHP Jesus Luzardo
If the Oakland Athletics have an obvious weakness, it's a starting rotation that's made up of veteran spare parts.
Yet it's not much of a secret that the A's have Jesus Luzardo standing by, and he's raising the question of why they should even bother waiting to plug him in.
Through two appearances, the 21-year-old left-hander has allowed only an unearned run on two hits in three innings. He's struck out four with an arsenal that includes a mid-90s fastball, a good curveball and an utterly devastating changeup.
"In my opinion, this guy's going to be an elite pitcher," A's pitching coach Scott Emerson said after Luzardo took on the Dodgers on Wednesday, per Chris Haft of MLB.com.
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Dylan Cozens
For the moment, all eyes are on another, more well-known and slightly richer slugger who's agreed to join the Philadelphia Phillies. But Dylan Cozens deserves his share of the spotlight, too.
Through five games, the 24-year-old has walked four times and gone 6-for-7 with four extra-base hits, including two homers. The longer of those measured out at 478 feet.
Clobbering the ever-loving heck out of the ball is nothing new for Cozens. He's a 6'6", 235-pound behemoth who's clubbed 88 homers over the last three minor league seasons.
Typically, Cozens' issue has been that he swings and misses a lot in between long balls. The problem was especially bad last year, when he struck out in 35.6 percent of his Triple-A plate appearances.
But so far this spring, he's struck out only once. If that's a sign that he's figured something out, he could soon have a job hitting bombs at Citizens Bank Park.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes
It's hard to pick just one standout prospect from Pittsburgh Pirates camp. Among those who have grabbed attention are outfielders Jason Martin and Bryan Reynolds and right-hander Nick Burdi.
The Pirates themselves, however, seemed to be most enthused with Ke'Bryan Hayes.
The 22-year-old entered the spring as the No. 2 prospect in the Pirates system. Though he might best be known for his defensive prowess, his bat did the talking in a two-homer game Sunday against the Marlins that he capped with a walk-off grand slam.
"He's not going to miss an opportunity to do something that he believes he can do—and do well," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, per Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The Pirates have a crowd at third base that includes Colin Moran and Jung Ho Kang, so Hayes will need to be patient for his shot. But the more he stands out, the harder it will be for Pittsburgh to keep him down.
San Diego Padres: SS Fernando Tatis Jr.
There might come a day when Fernando Tatis Jr. isn't front and center in an update on San Diego Padres prospects, but it is not this day.
Tatis, 20, is the No. 1 prospect in MLB's best farm system. This partially has to do with how he profiles as a do-it-all shortstop, and it's partially because of how proficient he is at translating his ability into results.
Case in point: Tatis has homered twice in five games this spring, the most recent of which was a game-tying tater in the bottom of the ninth of Wednesday's tilt against the Diamondbacks.
"It's electric all the way around," Padres hitting coach Johnny Washington said, according to MLB.com's AJ Cassavell. "Offensively, the package is unbelievable. The power, [the swing] is clean. It's an impact bat. The sky's the limit."
The only question is when Tatis will line up alongside $300 million man Manny Machado in San Diego's infield. By all accounts, the answer is "soon."
San Francisco Giants: C Joey Bart
It's time for the San Francisco Giants to start thinking about their post-Buster Posey future at catcher. This would be a sad occasion if Joey Bart weren't so darn exciting.
The Giants took Bart with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft. He was an immediate star with a .952 OPS and 13 homers in the low levels of the minors. Now he's 4-for-7 with a homer through four games this spring.
Perhaps just as importantly, Bart has the Giants feeling good about his defense.
"Very good mechanics. He has a strong arm, and I think he has a good setup behind the plate," manager Bruce Bochy said, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports. "He's a physical guy and you see the size of him, so there's no question he's going to be able to handle the workload behind the plate for a long season."
The 6'3", 220-pound Bart, who's San Francisco's top prospect, still needs plenty of conditioning before he can supplant Posey. But rest assured, that day is coming.
Seattle Mariners: OF Kyle Lewis
If nothing else, Kyle Lewis is the biggest feel-good story at Seattle Mariners camp.
The Mariners drafted Lewis No. 11 overall in 2016, but he promptly suffered a serious knee injury in a collision at home plate a month later. An arduous recovery has limited him to 135 minor league games over the last two seasons.
Lewis is looking pretty good now, however. The 23-year-old has two homers among his four hits, including a loud homer against the Reds on Monday.
"The fact he's never, ever played a spring training game in the minor leagues or the big leagues, I'd say it was a pretty big day," Mariners skipper Scott Servais said afterward, per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times.
For now, Lewis is only Seattle's No. 8 prospect. But with good health on his side for the first time in a long time, he can change that in no time.
St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Ryan Helsley
Because of Carlos Martinez's achy right shoulder, there's suddenly an opening in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation.
Though the competition for it isn't lacking in candidates, don't count out Ryan Helsley.
The 24-year-old had a shoulder problem of his own that cut short his 2018 season, but he's starting strong in making up for that lost time this spring. He has struck out four and allowed zero hits through three innings in two games. Notably, his fastball hit 100 mph Saturday against the Miami Marlins.
"He clearly executed," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said, according to Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I liked his fastball, he had some nice life on it, he had quality pitches down, elevated later in counts."
At the moment, Helsley ranks behind Alex Reyes and Dakota Hudson among St. Louis' top pitching prospects. But the faster he throws, the faster he might climb the ranks.
Tampa Bay Rays: INF Brandon Lowe
Pick a Lowe, any Lowe.
On the whole, though, Brandon Lowe's been more visible this spring. The 24-year-old is 4-for-9 with a pair of doubles through three games, and he's getting comfortable at first base.
"I feel good out there," Lowe said, per Juan Toribio of MLB.com. "Hopefully I get put in as many different situations as possible just to get them all under my belt and get the experience in what I'm supposed to do in those situations."
Of course, Lowe is only here because he came one major league at-bat short of losing his prospect eligibility last season (130 ABs). But a prospect is a prospect is a prospect, and he's looking like one the Rays can use in 2019.
Texas Rangers: LHP Brock Burke
The Texas Rangers finished 2018 with MLB's third-worst ERA at 4.92. Anyone who can help avoid a repeat of that should be welcome in 2019.
Though he's only made one appearance this spring, Brock Burke looks like he's up to it.
Burke, who the Rangers got from the Rays in December's Jurickson Profar trade, struck out the side in one inning of work Monday against the Indians. Those strikeouts came on nine total pitches. The only other pitch he threw in the inning (hit for a single by Greg Allen) was also in the strike zone.
For now, the 22-year-old is Texas' No. 9 prospect. But with a hard fastball/slider combination and good control working for him, he had a degree of MLB-readiness going for him even before he made a statement in his Rangers debut.
Chances are he will be in Texas at some point in 2019.
Toronto Blue Jays: SS Bo Bichette
This is the spot where Vladimir Guerrero Jr. should go, but the 19-year-old wonder has been quiet in the two spring games he's played.
In his stead, one of the Toronto Blue Jays' other sons of a famous father will have to do.
No, not Craig Biggio's son, Cavan. Dante Bichette's son, Bo. Though he's struck out four times in eight at-bats, he's also collected three hits, a walk and two runs scored.
Bichette tends to get lost in Guerrero's shadow, but he's a heck of a prospect in his own right. He's ranked No. 11 overall by MLB.com, and optimistic projections for his bat are backed up by a .328/.385/.521 career batting line in the minors.
Granted, the 20-year-old isn't banging on the door as loudly as Guerrero. Nevertheless, he should be manning shortstop in Toronto soon.
Washington Nationals: INF Jake Noll
The Washington Nationals have some good-looking young players in their farm system, such as Victor Robles, Carter Kieboom and...(checks notes)...Jake Noll?
Noll has appeared in five games and collected six hits in eight at-bats with three walks and five runs scored. His big hit was a long homer Sunday against the Cardinals.
This is good stuff for a guy who was largely anonymous at the start of spring. He's not counted among Washington's top prospects here or seemingly anywhere else.
Yet it's not exactly anything new. Noll slashed .291/.341/.412 at High-A and Double-A last season, and then he hit a couple of homers in the Arizona Fall League. He also boasts the versatility to play second base, third base and first base.
It's hard to spot a place for him on the Nationals' major league roster, but perhaps it bodes well that the team looks at him and sees a young Ryan Zimmerman.