MLB's Team-by-Team 2019 Spring Training Top Prospect Report

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2019

MLB's Team-by-Team 2019 Spring Training Top Prospect Report

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    We're deep enough into MLB's 2019 spring training schedule to make initial observations.

    Small-sample caveats apply, obviously. None of the exhibition stats posted thus far are necessarily predictive. 

    That said, it's worth checking on each club's top MiLB chip, per Joel Reuter's most recent prospect rankings for Bleacher Report. How are they faring in the exhibition slate (if they've played at all)? Are they close to making an impact at the highest level?

    Let's examine team-by-team. 

Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Jon Duplantier

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    Jon Duplantier has flashed a plus fastball and a four-pitch repertoire begetting a frontline MLB starter while striking out two in a pair of scoreless innings this spring. 

    The right-hander battled biceps tendinitis in 2018 but is looking to put those troubles behind him for a D-Backs squad that's in rebuild/retool mode.

    "Duplantier stands out a little bit in my mind," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. "He stepped on his stuff pretty good."

Atlanta Braves: RHP Ian Anderson

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    Ian Anderson almost surely won't crack the Atlanta Braves rotation out of spring training, but don't be surprised if he's plying his trade in Atlanta at some point in 2019.

    The 20-year-old has thrown three innings in a pair of spring appearances with two strikeouts, three hits, a walk and one earned run allowed.

    After rising as high as Double-A last season, he should get a bit more MiLB seasoning before a probable call-up by September or sooner.

Baltimore Orioles: OF Yusniel Diaz

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    Yusniel Diaz was the Baltimore Orioles' big prize in last season's trade that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Thus far, he's raking in the Grapefruit League with nine hits in 22 at-bats, including a booming home run to left-center field.

    "Just to be able to see his presence at the plate and not be jumpy, I was really, really impressed," Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde said, per MLB.com's Joe Trezza.

    He should begin 2019 in the minors for the rebuilding O's. But at this rate, it won't be long before he's making noise in Baltimore.

Boston Red Sox: INF Michael Chavis

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    Michael Chavis' prospect stock tumbled after an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension last April, but he's regained some helium this spring.

    In 21 spring at-bats, Chavis has swatted four home runs and tallied 10 RBI while making a strong case for a job on the Boston Red Sox's Opening Day roster.

    "He has a very good idea what he's doing. He prepares, he's paying attention to the game, you can see he works on his moves," manager Alex Cora said, per Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. "In batting practice, he understands what he wants to do. He can hit, he can hit."

Chicago Cubs: SS Nico Hoerner

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    Top Chicago Cubs infield prospect Nico Hoerner has taken just one at-bat in big league spring training, but he's got the potential to rise quickly in a relatively thin minor league system.

    Don't be surprised if he's calling Wrigley Field home at some point in 2019.

    "Not just as a player and how athletic he is and how dynamic he is, but also the person and teammate and the leader he is," Cubs director of player development Jaron Madison said of the 21-year-old, per NBC Sports Chicago's Tony Andracki. "He has a chance to be really special. He's on his way; he should be a pretty quick mover."

Chicago White Sox: OF Eloy Jimenez

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    Eloy Jimenez probably wasn't going to break camp with the Chicago White Sox no matter what he did this spring because of service-time shenanigans. But he hasn't helped his case in the early going, as he's 3-for-17 with six strikeouts.

    He did hit his first exhibition home run on Tuesday and remains an elite, new breed of high-contact slugger.

    The youthful, rebuilding ChiSox can take their time with him. As Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune noted, "The Sox retain Jimenez's services through 2025 if he remains in the minors for the first two-plus weeks of 2019. But if he starts out the season with the Sox, he'll become a free agent after 2024."

    It won't be long, however, before he's launching dingers on the South Side.

Cincinnati Reds: INF/OF Nick Senzel

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    Nick Senzel is trying his hand in center field as he fights for a spot on the Cincinnati Reds' Opening Day roster. A slight hamstring issue has put him on the shelf temporarily, but it doesn't sound like a major impediment to his inevitable ascent. 

    Thus far, Senzel has collected six hits, including three doubles, and looked the part of an MLB-ready player in 13 spring at-bats.

    A fractured index finger denied Senzel a chance to make his debut in The Show last season. Assuming injuries don't slow him again, he'll be in Cincinnati posthaste.

Cleveland Indians: RHP Triston McKenzie

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    Triston McKenzie hasn't logged any innings in big league camp, and the Cleveland Indians will surely be cautious with the lanky right-hander after he worked through forearm issues last season. 

    On the other hand, the 21-year-old boasts the three-pitch arsenal of a quality MLB starter and rose as high as Double-A in 2018.

    A September call-up is on the table, and he might feature prominently in Cleveland's plans by 2020.

Colorado Rockies: INF Brendan Rodgers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    A shoulder injury cost top Colorado Rockies prospect Brendan Rodgers a shot at a September call-up last season and kept him out of the Arizona Fall League. 

    He's now 5-for-20 (all singles) thus far in spring training and will likely begin the season at Triple-A.

    However, the departure of second baseman DJ LeMahieu via free agency opened a spot in the middle infield, and it's tough to imagine that Colorado would fail to give Rodgers a look—and an opportunity to win a long-term gig—at some point this season.

    "He can hit for power, he can hit for average, he can run, he can pretty much do anything on a baseball field," Rockies shortstop Trevor Story said, per Kyle Newman of the Denver Post. "His ability speaks for itself, and I think he has the potential to be one of the better players in the league."

Detroit Tigers: RHP Casey Mize

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    In a pair of spring innings, Detroit Tigers righty Casey Mize has struck out two and given up two walks, one hit and one earned run. Above all, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's amateur draft has looked like he belongs.

    "He's on a mission," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said of the 21-year-old, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. "He's going to push the envelope on our bosses here, because he's going to be a fast-track guy. He's got stuff. He's got major league stuff right now."

    Especially on a rebuilding squad like Detroit, Mize should get an MLB opportunity soon.

Houston Astros: RHP Forrest Whitley

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    Right-hander Forrest Whitley yielded five runs (one earned) in three innings during his first spring outing with the Houston Astros. 

    Chalk it up as a learning experience for the Astros' top prospect, who will likely begin the season in the minors but could crack the big league rotation, or at least sip an MLB cup of coffee, in 2019.

    "He took the bad inning, put it away, sat down for his half inning, came back out, dominated, came back out again and had a good inning," manager A.J. Hinch said of Whitley's shaky exhibition debut, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle

    Overall, Whitley has fanned five batters in five innings and held opposing hitters to a .158 average this spring.

Kansas City Royals: RHP Brady Singer

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    Brady Singer has yet to throw an inning in big league camp, but the 22-year-old will have every opportunity to rise with the rebuilding Kansas City Royals, who drafted him out of the University of Florida 18th overall in 2018.

    He augments his sinking mid-90s fastball with a plus slider and emerging changeup, and he could be in the big leagues by September.

    "I feel like I fill up the strike zone," Singer told reporters in July after the Royals officially signed him. "But I think the main thing is, I'm going to go out there and compete."

    Before long, he'll get his chance.

Los Angeles Angels: OF Jo Adell

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    In 17 spring at-bats, Jo Adell has six hits, including two doubles. The 19-year-old won't join Mike Trout in the Los Angeles Angels outfield on Opening Day, but the Halos may not hold him down much longer.

    Adell's five-tool potential has been on full display in the Cactus League after he posted an .897 OPS while rising as high as Double-A last season.

    He'll probably open at that level this year, but he could easily be in the majors when rosters expand in September and might be Trout's heir apparent if the superstar exits via free agency after the 2020 campaign. 

Los Angeles Dodgers: OF Alex Verdugo

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    Alex Verdugo has a chance to crack the Los Angeles Dodgers outfield with a strong spring. So far, so good.

    The 22-year-old is hitting .333 with a pair of doubles in 18 spring at-bats and has impressed with his instincts in the outfield and on the basepaths. 

    "There is nothing else he has to prove at the minor-league level, absolutely," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. "No one's going to argue that. But there's a lot of guys here that have performed at this level too. It's one of those things where you just have to encourage Alex to control what he can control."

Miami Marlins: RHP Sixto Sanchez

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    The key piece in the trade that sent catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Philadelphia Phillies, right-hander Sixto Sanchez brings both electric stuff and durability concerns to the Miami Marlins system.

    He dealt with elbow issues last season and hasn't thrown in a big league spring game, but the 20-year-old has the triple-digit heater and quality secondary offerings of a future ace.

    The rebuilding Marlins don't need to rush him. But provided he's healthy, they shouldn't hold him back for long.

Milwaukee Brewers: 2B Keston Hiura

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    A polished contact hitter with the ability to spray the ball to all fields, Keston Hiura profiles as a classic No. 2 hitter.

    The Milwaukee Brewers' top prospect is 3-for-17 so far this spring and almost assuredly won't open the season with the defending National League Central champs. 

    But his advanced approach could still earn him an audition in 2019—possibly even a regular role if injuries or underperformance create a spot in the Brew Crew's infield. 

Minnesota Twins: SS Royce Lewis

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    Top Minnesota Twins prospect Royce Lewis has yet to get into spring action because of an oblique strain. Once he recovers, Twinkies fans will get a look at a significant piece of the future.

    The top overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft, Lewis posted an .803 OPS between Single-A and High-A last season.

    The 19-year-old should earn another MiLB promotion this season. A September call-up is even possible. And given his skill set and pedigree, a spot in Minnesota's starting lineup by 2020 is in play. 

New York Mets: SS Andres Gimenez

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    In 12 spring at-bats, top New York Mets prospect Andres Gimenez has notched two hits, including a double.

    The 20-year-old Venezuelan posted a .281/.347/.409 slash line while rising to Double-A last season and appears to have momentum in a so-so Mets system.

    A crack at Triple-A and a possible late-season call-up could be in the cards for 2019, though he's blocked at shortstop by former top prospect Amed Rosario and could become summer trade bait. 

New York Yankees: OF Estevan Florial

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    A broken hamate bone in his right hand curtailed his 2018 season, but Estevan Florial is making up for lost time in New York Yankees camp.

    The 21-year-old is 5-for-16 with two doubles and three stolen bases in the Grapefruit League. The Yankees outfield doesn't have room for him at the moment, but that could change soon if Florial stays healthy and keeps turning heads.

    "He's just athletic," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, per Pete Caldera of northjersey.com. "He's raw and he's missed some development time clearly because of the injury. But he's got exciting tools. He looks the part, he plays the part. It's nice to see him have some success after missing some time."

Oakland Athletics: LHP Jesus Luzardo

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    To say Jesus Luzardo has looked impressive this spring is an understatement.

    The Oakland Athletics left-hander has tossed 5.2 innings, struck out 10 and allowed zero earned runs. If he isn't big league-ready now, he will be soon.

    "He's so aware of what he wants to do, and you like to see that," manager Bob Melvin said of the 21-year-old, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's a big part that impresses me, but so does his stuff and each time he's out there, he looks more and more comfortable."

Philadelphia Phillies: 3B Alec Bohm

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    After the Phillies sent Sixto Sanchez to the Marlins, third baseman Alec Bohm emerged as their new top prospect.

    The 22-year-old hasn't taken an at-bat in big league camp and hit just .224 in 28 games at Low-A in 2018, which suggests he's a long way off in his development.

    Yet while Philadelphia fans revel in the recent signing of superstar Bryce Harper and allow visions of Mike Trout to dance in their heads, he remains a name to watch. 

Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Mitch Keller

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    In two spring innings, right-hander Mitch Keller has yielded six hits and six earned runs—not exactly an auspicious exhibition start for the Pittsburgh Pirates' top prospect. 

    The 22-year-old clearly needs further development and refinement in the minors before he earns a spot in the Bucs rotation.

    "It's just execution of my pitches, a little bit of sequencing here and not falling into too many fastballs," Keller said of his spring struggles, per Kevin Gorman of TribLIVE.com. "I think that's always been my out pitch. If you can't throw something else, they're going to sniff that out and really take advantage of you."

San Diego Padres: INF Fernando Tatis Jr.

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    Fernando Tatis Jr. won't make the San Diego Padres' Opening Day roster, much as Pads fans may wish he could. He's only 20 years old, and the Friars surely aren't ready to start his service clock just yet.

    Still, Tatis is teasing big things this spring with five hits in 18 at-bats, including a pair of home runs.

    Manny Machado is slotted at third base after signing a 10-year, $300 million deal. Soon, Tatis should join him to form a potent left side of the infield.

    As for Machado's assessment of Tatis? Per Dennis Lin of The Athletic, he's "an absolute beast."

San Francisco Giants: C Joey Bart

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    Franchise icon Buster Posey is the San Francisco Giants catcher until further notice. But the Joey Bart era might be rapidly approaching.

    San Francisco's No. 2 overall pick in 2018, Bart is 4-for-8 this spring with a home run, and he looks close to MLB-ready.

    He won't make the Opening Day roster and might not even get a September call-up this year. But he's soaking up the experience, according to skipper and former catcher Bruce Bochy.

    "It's different," Bochy said, per Andre Simms of Baseball America. "This is a guy that's always been 'the guy,' but he's here to learn."

Seattle Mariners: LHP Justus Sheffield

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    Justus Sheffield has looked strong this spring while missing bats with his fastball and work-in-progress changeup.

    In four innings, the 22-year-old lefty has struck out six and allowed zero runs, one hit and one walk. He's got a chance to make the Mariners' Opening Day rotation and will certainly be in Seattle at some point in 2019.

    "Continue to attack, that has been the motto over here," Sheffield said of his exhibition mindset, per Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Seattle. "In the past I have been known to try and make the perfect pitch, which then I would fall behind in the count. I am just looking at every count as 0-0 and wanting to go after guys and stay ahead. Stay in attack, stay ahead."

St. Louis Cardinals: 3B Nolan Gorman

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    Nolan Gorman is still just 18 years old (he'll turn 19 in May) and hasn't taken an at-bat in big league camp.

    But the teenage infielder earned top-prospect status in the St. Louis Cardinals system after hitting .291 with a .949 OPS in 63 games between the rookie leagues and Single-A last season. 

    Gorman should open 2019 with Single-A Peoria but could advance quickly if he keeps flashing his hit tool. Given his present trajectory, a 2020 MLB debut isn't out of the question.

Tampa Bay Rays: SS Wander Franco

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    Wander Franco is 18 years old and hasn't graced big league camp with a single spring swing. Yet his star is on the rise after he hit .351 with a 1.004 OPS in 61 rookie league games.

    He's a switch-hitter with the skills to stick at shortstop. The small-market Tampa Bay Rays won't be afraid to put him on the lightning-fast track, either.

    "He can really hit," Rays farm system director Mitch Lukevics said, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "There are not many players that I've come across in my career that hit like Wander Franco, especially at a young age. He has a really good bat-to-ball ratio. He just has the ability to hit a baseball. It's special."

Texas Rangers: LHP Taylor Hearn

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    Taylor Hearn rose to Double-A last season, where he posted a 3.49 ERA and averaged 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. The 24-year-old southpaw could make his big league debut with the retooling Texas Rangers this season.

    He's hit some bumps this spring, allowing a pair of earned runs in two innings, which suggests further MiLB seasoning is needed.

    "I'm honestly my biggest critic. I've always been hard on myself," Hearn said on the Shan & RJ show on 105.3 The Fan (via SportsDayDFW.com). "I've kind of toned back a little bit on that because baseball is a game where you can only control what you can control. It's kind of like calf roping, as well, when you throw the baseball and let it go, you have no idea what's going to happen."

Toronto Blue Jays: 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

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    One of the most hyped prospects in any big league camp, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has collected four hits, including two doubles, in 16 at-bats for the Toronto Blue Jays.

    The Jays will keep the 19-year-old in the minors for legitimate developmental reasons (he's played just 30 games at Triple-A) and service-time considerations. Bank on it.

    But if the son of Vlad keeps raking, Toronto will soon give him a chance to torment big league pitching during the regular season. 

    Questions about his conditioning and weight (6'2", 250 lbs) have surfaced. But Guerrero doesn't seem fazed, per ESPN.com's Marly Rivera:

    "That weight is normal for me; that's what I weighed last year. But this spring training, getting in better shape is part of my job too. Part of the work I am focused on this spring training is to strengthen my body and be as healthy as possible. I am not killing myself to lose weight but it is my job to be in the best shape possible for when the season starts."

Washington Nationals: OF Victor Robles

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    With the Bryce Harper era officially over in Washington, the Victor Robles era might be close to beginning in earnest.

    Robles is pushing veteran Michael A. Taylor for the starting center field job with the Nationals. Thus far, the 21-year-old is hitting .333 in 18 at-bats with a home run, a double and three stolen bases. Taylor is 8-for-14 with three doubles and a homer, so keep an eye on that battle.

    No matter what, Robles' time in the nation's capital is coming soon. He's already played 34 big league games over the last two years and got a taste of the postseason with the Nats in 2017. 

    He's got little to prove in the minor leagues and everything to prove in The Show.

       

    All statistics current entering play Wednesday and courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball Reference