Each MLB Team's Most Overrated Top Prospect Entering 2020

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2020

Each MLB Team's Most Overrated Top Prospect Entering 2020

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Whether it's an early pick who's failed to live up to his pedigree, a breakout star who isn't duplicating previous success or someone who faces other challenges, there's one prospect on each MLB team who could be deemed overrated.

    These guys are all still capable of turning into productive players, but their current developmental standing does not match expectations and perception.

    Ahead, we've highlighted one prospect from every MLB team who fell short of expectations in 2019, relative to where he ranked among his organization's top prospects entering the year.

    Included is a look at where each player checked in on the team and, in a few cases, the leaguewide Top 100 list from Baseball America at the start of last season.

    The goal was to select players who cracked their organizations' top 10 prospects in 2019 but have since slid down the rankings, though there were a few exceptions of prospects ranked a bit lower.

    Let's get to it.

AL East

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    Kevin Smith
    Kevin SmithMinas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

    Baltimore Orioles: OF Ryan McKennaNo. 8 BAL

    McKenna looked like a breakout candidate heading into last year after he followed up a strong 2018 campaign by hitting .344/.474/.590 with 10 extra-base hits in 17 games in the Arizona Fall League.

    Instead, he fell flat in his first full season at Double-A, hitting .232/.321/.365 as his strikeout rate jumped from 18.4 to 21.3 percent. The 22-year-old still has time to establish himself as the center fielder of the future in Baltimore, though.

           

    Boston Red Sox: SS Antoni FloresNo. 9 BOS

    The Red Sox gave Flores a $1.4 million bonus as part of the 2017 international class, and he hit .340/.435/.528 in 15 games during his pro debut the following year to create some hype heading into 2019.

    However, the 19-year-old hit just .193 with a 28.4 percent strikeout rate in 208 plate appearances at Low-A. He will enter his full-season debut with something to prove as one of the higher-ceiling prospects in a thin Boston system.

           

    New York Yankees: OF Antonio CabelloNo. 8 NYY

    The Yankees used $1.35 million of the money they had stockpiled for their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani to sign Cabello on Dec. 22, 2017.

    The outfielder showed an advanced approach in his pro debut, hitting .308/.427/.522 with 19 extra-base hits in 46 games to send his prospect stock soaring. He followed that performance with a .211/.280/.330 line and a 30.7 percent strikeout rate in rookie ball. The 19-year-old will need to show improved contact skills when he makes the jump to Single-A this spring.

          

    Tampa Bay Rays: OF Moises GomezNo. 10 TB

    Gomez went from breakout prospect in 2018 to unprotected and ultimately not selected in the Rule 5 draft this offseason.

    The 21-year-old posted an .831 OPS with 34 doubles and 19 home runs at Single-A to move into the top 10 in a deep Tampa Bay system, but he fell flat at High-A with a .698 OPS and an alarming 33.5 percent strikeout rate. His power is legit, but his hit tool is a significant question.

        

    Toronto Blue Jays: SS/3B Kevin SmithNo. 7 TOR, No. 91 MLB

    After a huge season between Single-A and High-A, where he hit .302/.358/.528 with 31 doubles, 25 home runs and 29 steals, Smith looked like a star on the rise for the Blue Jays. Those numbers helped him jump onto the top-100 prospect list heading into 2019.

    As is the case with many prospects, he struggled with the leap to Double-A. He hit just .209/.263/.402, and his strikeout rate soared from 23.1 to 32.3 percent against upper-level pitching. Power and defensive versatility now look like the 23-year-old's ticket to an MLB job.

AL Central

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    Seuly Matias
    Seuly MatiasPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Chicago White Sox: OF Luis GonzalezNo. 9 CWS

    After hitting .307 with an .866 OPS and 59 extra-base hits in 2018, Gonzalez began last season as the No. 9 prospect in a top-heavy White Sox system thanks to the potential in his smooth left-handed swing.

    Those numbers failed to carry over to Double-A level last year, where he hit .247/.316/.359. The 24-year-old will need to prove himself soon to carve out a role on the White Sox roster. He hit .260 with a .359 on-base percentage in 117 plate appearances over the final month of the season and will look to build on that in 2020.

         

    Cleveland Indians: LHP Sam HentgesNo. 6 CLE

    A strong 2018 season saw Hentges emerge as one of the top pitching prospects in the Cleveland system. The 2014 fourth-round pick posted a 3.27 ERA with 122 strikeouts in 118.1 innings at High-A.

    However, behind that solid ERA and strong strikeout rate was a walk rate of 4.0 per nine innings, and that climbed to 4.5 BB/9 with the jump to Double-A. The southpaw's command issues led to a 5.11 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 128.2 innings last year, and he has seen his stock take a hit as a result.

           

    Detroit Tigers: OF Parker MeadowsNo. 7 DET

    The Tigers gave Meadows an above-slot bonus of $2.5 million as a second-round pick in 2018, and he impressed in his pro debut with a .290/.377/.473 line in 28 games.

    The organization aggressively assigned him to Single-A for his first full season. He proved to be in over his head with a .221/.296/.312 line and just 24 extra-base hits in 504 plate appearances. The 20-20 potential remains, but his stock is down.

           

    Kansas City Royals: OF Seuly MatiasNo. 8 KC

    Matias has some of the best raw power of any prospect, and it was on full display when he slugged 31 home runs in 94 games at Single-A. However, a 34.8 percent strikeout rate accompanied that home run total.

    His swing-and-miss issues reached new levels last year when he whiffed a staggering 98 times in 221 plate appearances for a 44.3 percent strikeout rate. The 21-year-old has a long way to go before his power is playable against MLB pitching.

          

    Minnesota Twins: SS Wander JavierNo. 4 MIN

    The Twins shelled out $4 million to sign Javier during the 2015 international signing period, but he has yet to live up to the hype that came with that payday.

    The 21-year-old has hit just .224/.319/.389 in three minor league seasons, including an ugly .177/.278/.323 line in 80 games at Single-A. His defense still plays at shortstop, and he showed decent pop with 11 home runs last year, but his hit tool has a long way to go.

AL West

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    Justus Sheffield
    Justus SheffieldG Fiume/Getty Images

    Houston Astros: RHP Forrest WhitleyNo. 1 HOU, No. 5 MLB

    In terms of pure stuff, Whitley remains one of baseball's elite pitching prospects. With a lively upper-90s fastball and an off-speed arsenal that includes a changeup, slider and curveball that all grade out as plus, he still has clear No. 1 starter upside.

    That said, there's no ignoring his 7.99 ERA and 1.73 WHIP over 59.2 innings in an injury-plagued and confounding 2019 season. A strong showing in the Arizona Fall League (25 IP, 2.88 ERA, 32 K) has provided some reason for optimism, but he has a lot to prove.

          

    Los Angeles Angels: 2B Jahmai JonesNo. 5 LAA

    A Top 100 prospect heading into the 2018 season, Jones has seen his stock trend steadily downward over the past two years.

    His on-field production bottomed out in 2019 when he logged a punchless .234/.308/.324 line in 130 games at Double-A, and it's fair to wonder if he still profiles as an everyday player at the next level. He has good speed and knows how to work a walk, but he needs to make more consistent hard contact to live up to his potential.

        

    Oakland Athletics: OF Lazaro ArmenterosNo. 6 OAK

    A lot of hype surrounded Armenteros when he secured a $3 million bonus as one of the top prospects in the 2016 international class.

    In his full-season debut, he hit a solid .277/.374/.401 with 18 extra-base hits in 79 games, albeit with a 33.8 percent strikeout rate. His swing-and-miss issues became much more pronounced with the jump to High-A, and he struck out a staggering 227 times at a 42.2 percent rate. His loud raw tools are a moot point if he can't cut that number down significantly.

          

    Seattle Mariners: LHP Justus SheffieldNo. 1 SEA, No. 27 MLB

    The prospect centerpiece of the deal that sent James Paxton from the Mariners to the Yankees last offseason, Sheffield began the season as one of baseball's top pitching prospects.

    Expected to compete for a rotation spot out of spring training, he instead spent most of the season in the upper levels of the minors where he posted a middling 4.13 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 133 innings. The 23-year-old had a 4.71 FIP and 1.72 WHIP in 36 innings in the majors, and he has a lot to prove this spring.

          

    Texas Rangers: OF Julio Pablo MartinezNo. 2 TEX

    The Rangers gave Martinez a $2.8 million bonus in 2018 after failing in their attempts to sign Shohei Ohtani, and he began his stateside career with considerable expectations after shining in the Cuban National Series.

    He posted an .835 OPS with 25 extra-base hits and 13 steals in 67 games in his pro debut to soar up the organizational prospect rankings. The 23-year-old showed a good mix of power (42 XBH, 15 HR) and speed (32 SB) in 2019, but he hit just .248 with a 31.2 percent strikeout rate, raising some long-term questions.

NL East

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    Victor Victor Mesa
    Victor Victor MesaJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Atlanta Braves: OF Greyson JenistaNo. 15 ATL

    In a pitching-rich Atlanta system, Jenista entered last season as one of the club's more promising position-player prospects after he being selected in the second round of the 2018 draft.

    The 23-year-old was aggressively assigned to High-A to begin his first full season and promoted to Double-A at midseason despite middling production. He finished with a .233/.318/.349 line and showed a less polished approach than expected with a 29.3 percent strikeout rate. The 2020 season will be a telling one for his long-term outlook.

         

    Miami Marlins: OF Victor Victor MesaNo. 2 MIA, No. 60 MLB

    The Marlins gave Mesa a $5.25 million bonus in 2018, and he immediately jumped onto a number of leaguewide top-100 prospect lists. However, even then there were question marks.

    MLB.com wrote: "Mesa's speed and defense are big-league ready right now. ... Scouts are less certain about Mesa's offensive upside. He makes consistent contact, but he doesn't drive the ball much with a relatively flat right-handed swing, and he puts the bat on the ball so easily that he doesn't walk much."

    The 23-year-old finished 2019 with an ugly .235/.274/.263 line, managing just 10 extra-base hits and zero home runs in 503 plate appearances. At the very least, he's not as MLB-ready as originally thought.

          

    New York Mets: SS Shervyen NewtonNo. 7 NYM

    Newton announced himself to the prospect world with a big season in the Dominican Summer League in 2017. He backed it up by hitting .280/.408/.449 with 23 extra-base hits in 56 games in his stateside debut the following year.

    The jump to Single-A proved to be a significant hurdle, and he hit just .209/.283/.330 with a 32.9 percent strikeout rate. The Mets then left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, and he was not selected. A second go-around in the South Atlantic League could be all he needs to right the ship.

        

    Philadelphia Phillies: LHP JoJo RomeroNo. 5 PHI

    Once viewed as one of the better pitching prospects in the Philadelphia system, Romero was knocked around in the upper levels of the minors last season.

    Despite middling numbers at Double-A, he was bumped up to Triple-A at midseason. That proved to be a mistake as he was shelled to the tune of a 6.88 ERA and 1.92 WHIP in 13 starts. The most troubling development was the 35 walks he allowed in 53.2 innings. Those command issues have sent him tumbling down prospect lists.

        

    Washington Nationals: LHP Seth RomeroNo. 10 WAS

    Despite some off-field concerns, the Nationals rolled the dice on Romero with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2017 draft. He had the talent to be a top-10 pick, but character concerns caused him to fall to the back of the first round.

    Sure enough, he was sent home from spring training in 2018 for violating team rules, and he didn't make his season debut until June as a result. He made just seven appearances upon returning before elbow issues popped up, and he wound up needing Tommy John surgery. After missing the entire 2019 season recovering, he has a lot of work to do rebuilding his stock.

NL Central

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    Justin Steele
    Justin SteeleJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Chicago Cubs: LHP Justin SteeleNo. 9 CHC

    After undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2017, Steele returned strong the following July to post a 2.31 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with a 53-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46.2 innings, emerging as one of the Cubs' top pitching prospects.

    But his command evaporated at Double-A last year, and he logged a 5.59 ERA while allowing 45 hits and 20 walks in 38.2 innings for a 1.68 WHIP. The 24-year-old has an advanced three-pitch mix and a well-built 6'2", 205-pound frame. It's just a matter of sorting out his control issues.

          

    Cincinnati Reds: OF Jose SiriNo. 9 CIN

    Siri came out of nowhere in 2017 to post an .871 OPS with 24 doubles, 11 triples, 24 home runs and 46 steals at Single-A, but he has failed to duplicate that level of production.

    Last year, he hit .237/.300/.357 with just 11 home runs in 517 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A, striking out at a 31.9 percent rate. As a member of the 40-man roster, Siri will need to improve his performance, or he could fall victim to a roster crunch.

          

    Milwaukee Brewers: OF Corey RayNo. 4 MIL

    The No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 draft and the No. 42 prospect in baseball at the start of the 2017 season, Ray has not developed as hoped since his standout junior season at Louisville.

    After showing a good mix of power (32 2B, 27 HR) and speed (37 SB) at Double-A in 2018 while posting an .801 OPS, the wheels fell off last year. He hit just .218/.291/.363 and struck out 106 times in 292 plate appearances (36.3 K%) while missing significant time with a finger injury.

          

    Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Jason MartinNo. 10 PIT

    As an Astros prospect, Martin hit .278/.332/.487 with 35 doubles and 18 home runs between High-A and Double-A in 2017. Houston then traded him to Pittsburgh in the Gerrit Cole blockbuster.

    While he raked at Double-A to start the 2018 season, he has struggled mightily at Triple-A in 160 games' worth of action the past two years. He owns a .242/.297/.383 line in 640 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors. At 24 years old, he's now on the older end of the prospect scale.

          

    St. Louis Cardinals: 3B Malcom NunezNo. 9 STL

    In 199 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League in 2018, Nunez hit an absurd .415/.497/.774 with 16 doubles and 13 home runs.

    That sent the 18-year-old from Cuba soaring up the organizational prospect rankings, but his stateside debut proved to be a rude awakening. He hit just .229/.305/.318 with 14 extra-base hits in 223 plate appearances between rookie ball and Single-A, and his prospect stock has crashed back to earth.

NL West

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    Dennis Santana
    Dennis SantanaYong Teck Lim/Getty Images

    Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Taylor WidenerNo. 9 ARI

    Widener put himself in the top-100 prospect conversation in 2018 when he posted a 2.75 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with an eye-popping 176 strikeouts in 137.1 innings at Double-A. That was his first season with the Diamondbacks after coming over from the Yankees in a three-team trade.

    However, the jump to Triple-A did not go smoothly this past year. He scuffled to an unsightly 8.10 ERA in 100 innings while his walk rate climbed (2.8 to 3.7 BB/9) and his strikeout rate fell (11.5 to 9.8 K/9). Entering his age-25 season, he's running out of time to prove he can be a long-term rotation piece.

       

    Colorado Rockies: RHP Riley PintNo. 8 COL

    The No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Pint has been unable to rein in his electric stuff in four minor league seasons.

    He's pitched just 156 innings as a pro, logging a 5.71 ERA and 1.80 WHIP with a ghastly 7.2 BB/9 walk rate and 20 hit batters. At a certain point, potential alone is no longer enough to consider a player a viable prospect, and that's the point Pint has reached.

        

    Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Dennis SantanaNo. 7 LAD

    After posting a 2.54 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 65 strikeouts in 49.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A to start the 2018 season, Santana made his MLB debut June 1, 2018. Unfortunately, he only had one appearance before a rotator cuff strain shelved him for the remainder of the year.

    He returned last season to post a 6.94 ERA and 1.76 WHIP with a 105-53 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 93.1 innings at Triple-A. Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin have both leapfrogged him onto the MLB roster, and he'll need to play his way back to the majors.

        

    San Diego Padres: RHP Anderson EspinozaNo. 12 SD

    Espinoza, 21, has not taken the mound in a regular-season game since Aug. 31, 2016, shortly after he was traded from Boston to San Diego for Drew Pomeranz.

    He underwent his second Tommy John surgery in April, and it remains to be seen when he will take the mound again. It's been a disappointing fall for a pitcher who ranked among the top 25 prospects in baseball prior to the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

        

    San Francisco Giants: OF Heath QuinnNo. 15 SF

    In a San Francisco farm system on the rise, it took a bit of digging to find a disappointment from last year's top prospects, as Quinn ranked outside the team's top 10 prospects at No. 15.

    A third-round pick in 2016, he hit .300/.376/.485 with 24 doubles and 14 home runs in 407 plate appearances in his second season at High-A in 2018. That production failed to translate to Double-A, though, where he hit just .206/.301/.330 with two home runs in 113 plate appearances. He's falling down the organizational depth chart with some high-ceiling prospects on the way.

          

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