MJ Melendez - Kansas City Royals 2018 spring training (Bill Mitchell)

Feature Photo: MJ Melendez, C, Kansas City Royals

The number in parentheses next to a player’s name is his ranking on our recent Midseason Top 125 Prospects. To be included in this piece, a player must meet MLB rookie eligibility guidelines and be on the active roster of a minor league team (eliminating injured players who will not be participating in the playoffs).

South Atlantic League:
Lakewood BlueClaws (PHI) vs. Kannapolis Intimidators (CWS)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Jhailyn Ortiz, OF/1B, Lakewood BlueClaws
Spotlight | Video

The 19-year-old slugger was challenged at times making the adjustment to his first full pro season, slashing .225/.297/.375 with 13 home runs, while striking out in over 30% of his plate appearances. At 6-foot-3 and a (generously) listed 215 pounds, Ortiz has the body type that always needs to be kept in check, and he’ll likely wind up at first base. He has 70-grade raw power with 25+ home-run potential if he’s able to tighten up his approach and cut down on the strikeouts.

Top Pitching Prospect:
Will Stewart, LHP, Lakewood BlueClaws
Report | Video

Stewart was among the most dominant pitchers in the Sally League this season, coming out of nowhere to put himself on the prospect radar. Smaller than his 6-foot-2,  175-pound listing, the diminutive lefty won’t blow hitters away, but gets outs with guile and pitchability. His fastball touches 93-to-94 mph at best but works mostly in the 89-to-91 mph range, showing advanced command. The go-to off-speed pitch is a changeup, a big-league quality pitch right now that speeds up his fastball considerably. Stewart’s ceiling is a #5 starter, but he will have to show that the fringy stuff will play against higher-level hitters.

Other Top Prospects:
Steele Walker, OF, Kannapolis Intimidators
Spotlight Video

The White Sox selected Walker with the 46th overall pick this June, and then promoted him aggressively to Class A Kannapolis. The 22-year-old struggled against full-season pitching in his pro debut, slashing .186/.246/.310. The tools are here to perform much better next year when he (likely) repeats the level, though Walker needs to improve against same-side pitching and cut down on the strikeouts.

Keep an Eye On:

  • Luis Curbelo, SS, Kannapolis Intimidators (Video)
  • Tate Blackman, 3B, Kannapolis Intimidators (Report Video)
  • Zach Lewis, RHP, Kannapolis Intimidators (Report | Video)
  • Craig Dedelow, OF, Kannapolis Intimidators (Report Video)
  • Spencer Howard, RHP, Lakewood BlueClaws (Spotlight Video)
  • Simon Muzziotti, OF, Lakewood BlueClaws
  • Jake Scheiner, 3B, Lakeood BlueClaws (Video)


Lexington Legends (KAN) vs. Rome Braves (ATL)

Top Hitting Prospect:
MJ Melendez (#76), C, Lexington Legends
Report | Video

Melendez had an excellent run through his first full season as a pro, showing plus power for a catcher, while impacting the game on defense. Playing the entire season as as 19-year-old, the lefty-swinger slashed .251/.322/.492 for a stacked Lexington team, and his 19 home runs were more than any teenage catcher in the minors. The receiving, blocking, and arm strength all show the potential to be above-average, and coaches rave about Melendez’ leadership and intangibles behind the plate. There’s always uncertainty with high school catchers, and his 30% strikeout rate hints a swing-happy approach, so he’ll need to quiet down at the higher levels. Despite the risk, Melendez ranked #76 on our Midseason Top 125 Prospect List for a reason — the ceiling is that of a plus defensive catcher with 20+ home-run potential. 

Top Pitching Prospect:
Jackson Kowar, RHP, Lexington Legends
Report | Video

Kowar was part of a loaded University of Florida rotation, and went to the Royals with 2018’s 33rd overall pick in June. He was immediately assigned to Class A Lexington, and despite some bumpy outings right after signing, Kowar found a second gear in August. He posted a 1.06 ERA in his last five starts of the season, striking out 29% of hitters and holding opponents to a .125 BAA. His fastball touches 97 mph and sits comfortably in the middle 90s. Kowar’s best off-speed pitch is a changeup, and he could have three above-average pitches if he finds consistency with his curveball. A nice mix of floor and upside, he’s a fairly safe bet to be a #4/#5 type starter, with the ceiling of a mid-rotation piece.

Other Top Prospects:
Nick Pratto, 1B, Lexington Legends
Report Video

The 14th overall pick in 2017, Pratto was billed as a polished prep hitter that could quickly handle a full-season assignment. He lived up to that reputation this year, slashing .280/.343/.443 with 14 home runs as a 19-year-old in the South Atlantic League. He finished strong, hitting .358/.430/.575 in August and centering the middle of Lexington’s lineup. There’s lots of pressure on the bat with this type of prospect, but Pratto’s blend of contact, approach, and burgeoning power give the ceiling of an above-average offensive player. 

Keep an Eye On:

  • Freddy Tarnok, RHP, Rome Braves (Spotlight Video)
  • Odalvi Javier, RHP, Rome Braves (Report Video)
  • Jefrey Ramos, OF, Rome Braves (Video)
  • Drew Lugbauer, C, Rome Braves (Report Video)
  • Derian Cruz, 2B, Rome Braves (Video)
  • Walter Borkovich, LHP, Rome Braves (Video)
  • Alan Rangel, RHP, Rome Braves (Report Video)
  • Kyle Isbel, OF, Lexington Legends (Video)
  • Charlie Neuweiler, RHP, Lexington Legends (Report)
  • Jeison Guzman, SS, Lexington Legends (Spotlight | Video)
  • Janser Lara, RHP, Lexington Legends
  • Yefri Del Rosario, RHP, Lexington Legends (Video)
  • Brewer Hicklen, OF, Lexington Legends


Midwest League:
Bowling Green Hot Rods (TAM) vs. Lansing Lugnuts (TOR)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Ronaldo Hernandez, C, Bowling Green Hot Rods
Spotlight Video

The 20-year-old Hernandez has rocketed up prospect lists after a breakout 2018, his first season spent above Rookie ball. He slashed .284/.339/.494 with 21 home runs for Bowling Green, hitting for power without striking out much (15% strikeout rate). A former third baseman who is converting to catcher, his glovework behind the plate isn’t as advanced as the stick. Hernandez will take time to develop defensively, but his ceiling of a bat-first everyday catcher is worth waiting on.

Top Pitching Prospect:
Tobias Myers, RHP, Bowling Green Hot Rods

Myers was the prospect Baltimore traded Tampa in 2017 for Tim Beckham (SS, Orioles)The 20-year-old righty is a bit undersized at 6-foot and 190 pounds, but knows how to pitch and pounds the zone with a three-pitch mix. He’s projectable, and could still see some gains in his stuff over the next few years. 

Keep an Eye On:

  • Resly Linares, LHP, Bowling Green Hot Rods
  • Austin Franklin, RHP, Bowling Green Hot Rods (Report Video)
  • Simon Rosenblum-Larson, RHP, Bowling Green Hot Rods (Video)
  • Taylor Walls, SS, Bowling Green Hot Rods (Spotlight Video)
  • Maximo Castillo, RHP, Lansing Lugnuts
  • Ryan Noda, 1B, Lansing Lugnuts (Spotlight Video)
  • Samad Taylor, 2B, Lansing Lugnuts
  • Kevin Vicuna, SS, Lansing Lugnuts (Spotlight Video)
  • Chavez Young, OF, Lansing Lugnuts (Spotlight Video)

Great Lakes Loons (LAD) vs. West Michigan Whitecaps (DET)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Jacob Amaya, SS, Great Lakes Loons

Amaya was the Dodgers’ 11th-round selection in 2017, and he surged up to Class A Great Lakes on August 1 after dominating the Pioneer League. After being held back in Extended Spring Training to start the year, Amaya slashed .346/.465/.535 in 32 games with Ogden before his promotion. He has hit .265/.390/.306 since joining the Loons. 

Top Pitching Prospect:
Elvin Rodriguez, RHP, West Michigan Whitecaps
Spotlight | Video

Rodriguez was one of two prospects the Tigers received from the Angels in 2017 for Justin Upton (OF, Angels). He’s an extra-projectable righty who needs to get stronger, but shows the foundation for a Role 50 ceiling and three big-league pitches. His fastball works in the low 90’s and it could finish up as a 92-to-95 mph type pitch with strength gains. A high-70’s curveball flashes solid action and bite, and while Rodriguez’ changeup is less advanced than his other two pitches, it could develop into a usable third offering.

 Keep an Eye On:

  •  Wenceel Perez, SS, West Michigan Whitecaps (Report Video)
  • Will Vest, RHP, West Michigan Whitecaps (Spotlight)
  • Reynaldo Rivera, 1B, West Michigan Whitecaps
  • Joey Morgan, C, West Michigan Whitecaps
  • John Rooney, LHP, Great Lakes Loons
  • Gerardo Carrillo, RHP, Great Lakes Loons


Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) vs. Peoria Chiefs (STL)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Nolan Gorman, 3B, Peoria Chiefs
Report | Video

The Cardinals sent their 2018 first-round pick (#19 overall) straight to the Appy League, and Gorman put up video game numbers for the Johnson City Cardinals just a few months removed from facing high school pitching. He slashed .350/.443/.664 with 11 home runs before moving up to Class A Peoria, where the 18-year-old third baseman has come back to earth a bit. Still, it’s impressive enough that he’s played his way to the Midwest League already, and Gorman’s pro debut has pushed him into the Top 125 discussion for 2019.

Top Pitching Prospect:
Bryan Abreu, RHP, Quad Cities River Bandits

It took a few years for Abreu to get out of Rookie ball, but he’s turning heads and getting some attention now that he has reached Class A. The 21-year-old righty was even held back in Extended Spring Training to start 2018 before pitching to a dominant 1.49 ERA with a 14.9 SO/9 between two levels this summer. Undersized at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Abreu generates plus velocity because of his armspeed and athleticism. His fastball touches 96 mph as a starter, backed up by a hard, mid-80’s slurve and a power changuep. 

Keep an Eye On:

  • Luken Baker, 1B, Peoria Chiefs
  • Nick Dunn, 2B, Peoria Chiefs (Video)
  • Johan Oviedo, RHP, Peoria Chiefs
  • Alvaro Seijas, RHP, Peoria Chiefs
  • Alex McKenna, CF, Quad Cities River Bandits
  • Jairo Solis, RHP, Quad Cities River Bandits


Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) vs. Beloit Snapers (OAK)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Austin Beck (#96), OF, Beloit Snappers

Beck held his own as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, slashing .296/.335/.383 with two home runs. The lack of pop was surprising, but his 29 doubles hint that more power is on the way. Very raw as an amateur before entering pro ball, his  .296 batting average and reasonable 22% strikeout rate were encouraging signs that he’s improving as a hitter. 

Top Pitching Prospect:
Jhoan Duran, RHP, Cedar Rapids Kernels

Duran came to the Twins this July as one of three prospects Arizona gave up for Eduardo Escobar (3B, Diamondbacks). He dominated for the Kernels after the trade, pitching to a 2.00 ERA over six starts with 44 strikeouts in 36 innings. His ceiling is sky high, working with a fastball that touches 98 mph and a power, low-80s curveball. Both pitches have swing-and-miss potential, and Duran’s developments in the control department give him a chance to remain a starter. 

Other Top Prospects:
Lazaro Armenteros (#97), OF, Beloit Snappers

Armenteros didn’t debut with Beloit until May, but posted solid numbers with the Snappers as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League. The athletic outfielder has a dynamic power/speed toolset, though his arm limits him from playing right field. 

Nick Allen (#123), SS, Beloit Snappers

Allen’s glove was as advertised at shortstop, but the diminutive infielder struggled offensively in his first full pro season, slashing just .239/.301/.302. He doesn’t strike out much (16% in 2018) but there’s virtually no power in the profile right now. Allen didn’t hit a home run in 512 plate appearances, and nearly 50% of his contact was on the ground.   Still just 19 years old, there’s time to develop as a hitter, though he’s unlikely to develop much pop. Allen’s excellent glovework at shortstop will get him to the big leagues, but he’ll need to turn a corner offensively to get consistent everyday at-bats.

Trevor Larnach, OF, Cedar Rapids Kernels
Report Video

Larnach checks the boxes of a big-league corner outfielder, a physical 6-foot-4 frame with left-handed power. Minnesota’s first-round selection in the 2018 Draft (#20 0verall), he has had a strong pro debut across two levels, slashing .303/.390/.500 and showing no issues with the stick versus same-side pitching.

Keep an Eye On:

  • Akil Baddoo, OF, Cedar Rapids Kernels
  • Gabriel Maciel, OF, Cedar Rapids Kernels
  • Blayne Enlow, RHP, Cedar Rapids Kernels (Video)
  • Tyler Watson, LHP, Cedar Rapids Kernels (Video)
  • Ryan Jeffers, C, Cedar Rapids Kernels
  • Wandisson Charles, RHP, Beloit Snappers (Spotlight Video)