Feature Photo: Wander Franco, 2B, Rays

Far away from the backfields of the complex and without any public video streams, the Appalachian League is the minors’ least visible circuit. Every summer, players who will be scattered across top prospect lists in 1-3 years pass through the Appy League, usually a mix of former J2 international bonus babies (bumped up from Extended Spring Training) and recently drafted domestic players.

Recent alums Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (#1 on our Midseason Top 125), Forrest Whitley (#10), Ian Anderson (#15), Alex Kirilloff (#34), Estevan Florial (#49), Drew Waters (#87), Brusdar Graterol (#109), and Seuly Matias (#112) have all moved on to bigger things since their Appy League days, but showed the first glimpses of what was to come in this league. So who are we following this year with the potential to be next in line to move up prospect lists in 2019? Our Senior Evaluator John Eshleman has covered the circuit thoroughly. –Adam McInturff

Feature Spotlights

Gilberto Celestino, CF, Twins (Rookie Elizabethton, Appalachian League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/170 lbs.       B/T: R/L              Age (as of July 1, 2018): 19y, 4m

The athletic Celestino joins the Twins via the Ryan Pressley (RHP, Astros) deadline deal from Houston. A highly-regarded amateur prospect, he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 for a hefty $2.5 b million bonus. I’ve seen him across two series this summer in the Appy League.

Lithe and athletic, Celestino has added good weight since last summer, while still maintaining his plus speed. The wheels show in center field, where he shows plus routes and glides well into both gaps. He projects as plus defender at the position, impressing with a catch against the wall in the pouring rain that he made look routine. His 50-grade arm solidifies him at the position. He projects to 50 raw/45 game power, and he shows feel at present to drive the gaps. An aggressive hitter, he hunts fastballs early in the count, and he has plus bat speed to go along with solid feel for the barrel. His early-count aggressiveness causes him to fall behind at times, expanding on good spin when he’s down to two strikes. It’s a future 50-grade hit tool, though it’s a deep-projection profile still numerous years away.

Led by his defensive value, Celestino projects to an everyday regular future in center field.  An aggressive step forward in his approach is due, giving him a solid hit/power combo that likely works well in the six or seven hole of an MLB lineup. His rawness and overall proximity add risk, but the defensive ability provides a solid floor in a bench role if the bat stalls higher up the ladder. -John Eshleman

Sherten Apostel, 3B, Rangers (*Seen with Rookie Bristol (PIT), Appalachian League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/213 lbs.      B/T: R/R              Age (as of July 1, 2018): 19y, 3m

A big teenage third baseman from Curacao, Apostal was recently acquired by Texas from Pittsburgh as a PTBNL in the Keone Kela (RHP, Pirates) trade-deadline deal. The Pirates originally signed Apostal in the 2015 J2 free-agent signing period as a projectable 16-year-old for $200,000. I saw Apostal in Bristol for four games the week of August 6th, immediately preceding his trade to Texas.

Apostel’s physicality stands out immediately, standing 6-foot-4 and looking every ounce of his 215-pound listed weight. Power is the calling card here, and he shows present 55-grade raw pop that should project to plus once he fills out. Apostel is a free swinger with an aggressive approach, but he shows solid zone awareness, and the ability to take a walk (22% walk rate in 175 PA’s) . With loose hands and average feel for the barrel, he’s able to punish both fastballs up, and average spin in the zone. His swing has length and violence, limiting the hit tool to future 40-grade that will pair with average game power.

Defensively, Apostel is currently average at the hot corner despite below-average foot speed.  He makes up for it with solid footwork for his size, as well as quality glovework and transfers, looking capable of sticking at the position. As he matures, he’s probably a fringy third base defender who has the hands to move across the infield to first base or give the corner outfield a try. His arm is plus, adding value and versatility if he’s ever needed in a utility role.

Apostel’s absolute best-case ceiling looks something like Nolan Jones (3B, Indians), right down to the potential move to first base, but I’m skeptical that he makes enough contact to profile as a regular. Apostel has power upside and some on-base ability, profiling as a Role 45 three-true-outcomes player, with the defensive utility to be a strong bench bat and occasional starter at three positions. -John Eshleman 

Luis Medina, RHP, Yankees (Rookie Pulaski, Appalachian League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/175 lbs.       B/T: R/R              Age (as of July 1, 2018): 19y, 2m

Loose and lean, the Yankees signed the 6-foot-1 righty out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 for $280,000. His electric arm speed is elite, and he can touch 100 mph as a starter. Unfortunately, that velocity yields 20-grade command and control, including an unsightly 11.5 BB/9. I saw Medina pitch August 22 and 27, 2018 in his second tour of the Appalachian League.

Medina’s fastball sat in the high 90’s with average life and ride, making it an above-average pitch despite the limited command/control. The fastball lacks plane, and it can be hit hard when he misses across the middle-third of the strike zone. His curveball flashes plus, with hard 11-to-5 break to the bottom of the zone to generate chase. It’s an inconsistent pitch that backs up on him often, though one that has the ingredients to be an above-average future offering. He throws a crude changeup in the 90-to-91 mph range that acts more like a two-seamer. In the increasingly likely scenario where he’s ultimately a ‘pen arm, he won’t rely on a third pitch as much.

It would take an extreme optimist to project Medina the rotation given how far away his control and pitchability are. No one can question the raw stuff, which projects well in the late innings out of the bullpen. A triple-digit fastball and swing-and-miss breaker sound like hallmarks of a future closer, but Medina’s wildness might make it hard to trust him with the 9th inning. Unless he really turns a corner in the location and consistency departments, a realistic ceiling is an 8th-inning set-up man. -John Eshleman


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