Ray Butler’s 2018 Midseason Top 200 Prospects: #41-60

Written by: Ray Butler

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60. Alec Hansen, SP, CHW, Age: 23

Oh, boy. Hansen has only pitched 16.1 innings in Double-A so far this season due to a forearm injury that sidelined him for the first two months of the season. And although the sample is obviously small, it’s been far from pretty. Heck, it’s been quite disastrous. I’ll spare you the numbers, but know this: the fear with Hansen has always been the dreaded ‘he needs to develop a third pitch to be a viable big league starting pitcher’. If he can’t, it’s almost a certainty he’ll eventually be relegated to the bullpen. We’re certainly not to that point yet, but it feels like the remainder of the 2018 season will be important for his career outlook. I’m proceeding with caution.

59. Jorge Mateo, SS, OAK, Age: 23

Okay, so the first two names on this list are having awful 2018 seasons, but I promise things will get better as we go. Not only is Mateo not reaching base enough this season, but he’s also striking out at a ghastly 29.8%. I’ve always been a believer in some hidden pop in the shortstop’s bat, but I’m growing wary of the notion that the hit tool never develops to the point that allows the power to play to its potential. Keeping Mateo in my top 60 is probably a little optimistic, but I’m remaining mindful that the 23 year old is only one season removed from hitting 12 home runs and stealing 52 bases. I’m willing to wait until the end of the season to reevaluate.

58. Zack Collins, C, CHW, Age: 23

Full disclaimer that also serves as a reminder for those of you who already know: I rank position-player prospects from an OBP standpoint. Because I play in an OBP league, and you should too. Imagine not rewarding position players for not taking a walk. Anyways, I’m not a fan of Collins’ strikeout rate climbing all the way to 28.9% lately, but the .420 OBP for the season (thanks in large part to a 21.7% walk rate (!)) is awfully appetizing. I also think Collins will eventually tap in to some more in-game power, though I recognize he needs to make more contact in order for that to happen. From an OBP-league standpoint, my main concern is Collins not panning out as a catcher defensively, and there certainly seems to be at least a little risk there. For now, I’ll remain optimistic.

57. Tyler O’Neill, OF, STL, Age: 23

I went back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth debating whether to include O’Neill in this list. When I finalized the 200 names for the list, O’Neill appeared to be relegated comfortably in Triple-A Memphis. Of course, now that I’m releasing the group of prospects that includes O’Neill, he’s been with the Cardinals the past few days and his prospect status continues to wane. As far as an outlook goes, I know the horrifically-bad 43.5% strikeout rate in the major leagues is impossible to ignore, but I genuinely think he’ll be much better when (if?) he’s ever given consistent playing time. I’ll go as far to say the numbers he’s posted in Triple-A this season aren’t too far away from what he’s capable of compiling at the big league level.

56. Estevan Florial, OF, NYY, Age: 20

“Estevan Florial has the loudest tools in the minor leagues.” An evaluator who watched Florial in-person earlier this season told me this. It’s not a far-out thought—heck, most scouts and evaluators agree that Florial possesses some of the most jaw-dropping skills amongst all prospects in baseball. The conundrum is piecing the skills together to create a molded, complete baseball player. Florial obviously isn’t there yet, and a hamate injury that might sideline the outfielder until Fall Ball certainly won’t help. Despite what the numbers say, reports suggest that Florial was in the process of improving his plate approach before being injured. I know it’s hard to keep the faith when the 20 year old posted such poor numbers and is now out for perhaps the rest of the regular season, but I’m hoping you realized Florial was a project in the infantile stages of becoming a complete player when you acquired him. If I’m right, you’re in this for the long haul. I’ll be following Florial’s progress closely this fall before reevaluating his status as a top 60 prospect heading into next season. The 20 year old was featured in the Ramblings in May.

55. Ryan Mountcastle, IF, BAL, Age: 21

What I love to see: A position player with 55-hit and 55-raw power tools who’s doubled their walk rate this season. Although it’s just from 3.2% last season to 7.1% so far this season, the development seems important. If the willingness to take a walk is here to stay, I love Mountcastle’s offensive profile. And if I can rely on a ~7% walk rate (or better, hopefully) from here on out, my only question with the 21 year old is his defensive future. He hasn’t played a single game at shortstop so far this season (he’s manned the hot corner or DH’ed in all 51 games he’s played in), and I worry that he’ll blend in offensively as a third baseman. Knowing the Orioles are likely about to experience a fundamental and philosophical changing of the guard, I remain optimistic about Mountcastle’s outlook.

54. Franklin Perez, SP, DET, Age: 20

You never want a prospect to suffer an injury, but I’m willing to wager the Tigers’ front office was quickly able to find some positives with Perez being on the disabled list until July. For starters, it helps limit the workload on a 20-year-old pitching prospect who’s never thrown 100 IP in a single season as a professional. It also pushes back the expected big league ETA for Perez; since the Tigers are nowhere close to legitimately competing, the delay is quietly-convenient from a front office standpoint. But where does Perez’s lat injury and late start to the season put us in the fantasy world? Remember: Perez hasn’t thrown a single inning in full-season ball as a member of the Tigers organization. The centerpiece of the return in the trade that sent Justin Verlander to Houston, Perez’s meteoric rise last season occurred entirely before he was traded to Detroit. With that being said, it’s important to be patient with a 20-year-old prospect in a new organization. The right-hander will likely experience some peaks and valleys while pitching for Double-A Lake Erie, and that’s okay. Even with Detroit’s impending patience with a prospect they consider a huge part of their future, Perez is still on the fast track to the big leagues and will likely (assuming good health and sustained performance) debut in his age 22 season. #Patience

53. Nick Madrigal, INF, CHW, Age: 21

If you had the honor of watching Madrigal play for Oregon State at some point this season, you understand the aura that surrounds the 5’7 prospect. College baseball is obviously not professional baseball, but Madrigal is easily one of the most advanced college hitters I’ve ever seen. He works counts. He hits the ball the other way when necessary. He beats out infield singles. He can play any position in the infield. He’s a player who will outperform each-and-every one of his tools. In today’s game, players with elite plate discipline seem more likely to reach their power potential than players who don’t, and I’m hopeful that’s the case with Madrigal. Even if he maxes out at 10 home runs, the combination of high batting average and stolen bases will make the 21 year old viable even in shallow redraft leagues.

52. Casey Mize, SP, DET, Age: 21

I imagine this will be a relatively-low ranking for Mize compared to other lists, but 1.1 has some work to do in order to become a sure-fire, top-of-the-line pitching prospect. I imagine the Tigers will tweak some of the right-hander’s mechanics (to develop repeatability), which means the results will be a work-in-progress until Mize becomes comfortable with the adjustments. At his best, I think the 21 year old is a top-tier #3 starting pitcher who will have stretches as a #2. Adaptation to mechanical alterations will be key in Mize’s development.

51. Heliot Ramos, OF, SF, Age: 18

Were you the guy who grew impatient with an 18 year old in Low-A and cut ties? Please tell me it wasn’t YOU! Ramos has been far from revolutionary for Low-A Augusta this season, but he’s actually posted a 102 wRC+ in a league in which he’s more than three years younger than the average competition. The hit tool has a ways to go, but it would be foolish and premature to discard 70-raw power and 60-speed after a half season. In Low-A. As an 18 year old.

50. Adrian Morejon, SP, SD, Age: 19

There hasn’t been much talk about it, but Morejon is currently on the disabled list with a flexor strain. The Padres are being super-cautious with the southpaw, but the hope is that the 19 year old is able to return to the mound for High-A Lake Elsinore later this month. I had questions regarding Morejon’s upside heading into this season, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the left-hander’s results. He’s struck out 27.3% of the batters he’s faced to pair with a 3.59 ERA, all while facing competition who, on average, is more than four years older than him. The slight build will always worry me, but for now I’ll maintain that Morejon has high-end #3 starting pitcher potential.

49. Corbin Burnes, SP, MIL, Age: 23

Colorado Springs is a living hell for pitchers. Complete honesty time: for the first time during the entire #MidseasonTop200 process, I checked my preseason rankings to see where I ranked Burnes. I had him 44th. The slight downgrade isn’t because his performance this season: the hilarious .352 BABIP against (for a pitcher who’s never exceeded a .280 BABIP against throughout his professional career) is simply a product of the Pacific Coast League. I am a little worried about the Brewers ‘temporarily’ transitioning Burnes to the bullpen in order for him to be a factor in the big leagues this season. From a real life standpoint, Burnes’ ‘stuff’ should play up fine in the bullpen. He’ll likely be an asset in Milwaukee later this season. From a fantasy standpoint, I worry he performs to the point that the Brewers are tempted to make him an official staple in their bullpen.

48. Colton Welker, 3B, COL, Age: 20

Anybody got any solid reading material on how much a blocked path impacts a prospect’s value? Because Colton Welker could be Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reincarnate and he’d still be blocked in Denver. The 20 year old is slashing .311/.378/.470 with 9 HR and a 21.6 K% this season in High-A. He’s taking more walks lately, which is absolutely lovely to see with the other facets of his offensive profile. Fundamentally, I’m of the belief that potentially-blocked paths to the big leagues tend to work themselves out. I’m happy to stick with that belief here, especially since Welker hasn’t advanced to the high-minors yet.

47. Christin Stewart, OF, DET, Age: 24

Make no mistake about it: if the Tigers were contending and had a need in their outfield, Stewart would be an everyday player in Detroit. Instead, Stewart is my top-ranked prospect in an organization simply biding time until their contention window reopens. Freely able to finagle with the service time of their MLB-ready prospects to their liking, the Tigers *might* promote Stewart to the big leagues for the final month or so of the regular season (depending on when the outfielder is activated from the disabled list with a calf injury). With a .269/.351/.504 slash, Stewart’s fantasy value will always fluctuate depending on whether you play in an AVG or OBP league. My favorite part of Stewart’s current offensive profile is the strikeout rate being more than five percent lower this season compared to last season, a trend I hope continues. I wrote more about Stewart in the Ramblings in May.

46. Jahmai Jones, 2B, LAA, Age: 20

Another ledge. If I compiled my rankings from an AVG standpoint, Jones would likely be outside my top 50. But I’m a sucker for the 12.3 BB% that’s pushed the 20-year-old’s slash to .241/.341/.392 this season. As a 60-speed prospect, Jones is certainly due for some positive regression in the AVG compartment. I also think the raw power is 55, which makes Jones a 55-hit, 55-raw power, 60-speed second baseman. The 20 year old shifted to second base at the start of the regular season, and I suspect that’s the primary reason he’s still in High-A. I’d assume a promotion is on its way sometime relatively soon. There might always be some volatility depending on your league format, but Jones’ ceiling is that of a 20 HR/20 SB second baseman. I rest my case. Interested in more? Jones was a featured prospect in the Ramblings last month.

45. Andres Gimenez, SS, NYM, Age: 19

As soon as I get excited about emerging raw power, the gaudy hit tool begins to show some holes. It’s likely nothing more than somewhat of a prolonged slump for Gimenez, but I’m still a little disappointed in the shortstop’s current .261/.337/.405 slash in High-A. Thinking big picture, I see a 55-hit, 55-raw power, 55-speed shortstop who will be in Double-A next season as a 20 year old. I think there’s a decent chance Gimenez flirts with 20 HR/20 SB seasons at his peak in the big leagues.

44. Dylan Cease, SP, CHW, Age: 22

This is me taking a stance. I’m a believer in Cease’s new, cleaner, more repeatable mechanics. I’m a believer in Cease’s developing changeup that he’s now throwing 15-20 times per start. And honestly, if you do believe in those things, how can you not be bullish on Cease? The right-hander is certainly far from a finished product, but in my eyes, he’s certainly made some strides this season to not only remain a starting pitcher throughout his professional career, but to have an impact in fantasy rotations. Cease was promoted to Double-A Birmingham two weeks ago, and it’ll be the 22 year old’s biggest challenge in the minor leagues. As long as Cease remains healthy, I really think the prospect community as a whole will come around on the right-hander before the end of the regular season. A guy can dream, can’t he? I wrote more on Cease in the Ramblings back in May.

43. Khalil Lee, OF, KC, Age: 20

Back-to-back prospects I’m sticking my neck out on, but I’m a big believer in Khalil Lee. Despite just turning 20 years old, Lee was recently promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he’ll put his seemingly-improved plate approach and contact skills to the real test. Lee slashed .270/.402/.406 with 4 HR and 14 SB in 301 plate appearances this season in High-A. You may point out that the center fielder’s home run total is down this season, and I’ll remind you that High-A Wilmington is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the minor leagues. Unless Double-A pitching overwhelms Lee (there may be a temporary learning-curve as a 20 year old), I expect there to be more power output between now and the end of the regular season. I’ve evaluated Lee as a 50-hit, 60-raw power, 55-speed prospect. If he can duplicate the 15.9 BB% he posted in High-A before being promoted while keeping the strikeout rate south of 25%, he could be a 55/60/55 prospect heading into his AGE 21 SEASON IN DOUBLE-A. Lee is the real deal and severely underrated in the world of players approaching the top-tier of prospects in baseball. I debated Lee versus fellow-Royal farmhand Seuly Matias last month.

42. Dane Dunning, SP, CHW, Age: 23

I still get really sad every time I remember Dunning will probably miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury. The right-hander cemented himself as one of the best pitching prospects in the game this season, striking out 100 batters while posting a 2.71 ERA between stops at High-A Winston Salem and Double-A Birmingham. While Michael Kopech certainly offers upside worth dreaming about, Dunning is almost certainly the safest arm in the White Sox system. The 23 year old was the #CoverBoy in the Ramblings last month. Let’s just hope the next news we see regarding Dunning is good news………………………….

41. Kyle Wright, SP, ATL, Age: 22

The numbers haven’t been overly amazing this season thanks in large part to some eery home/road splits, but I truly get the sense that Wright is in the process of becoming a professional pitcher while tidying up some of the finer points. I’m a little surprised with the 3.9 BB/9, but I love the 55.0 GB% and home run suppression. Trusting the walk rate will descend and the strange splits will normalize eventually, I’m still supremely confident that Wright is a future big league #3 starting pitcher. It’ll be interesting to see if the Braves are willing to deal him at the deadline……

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Featured image courtesy of the Orange County Register

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