Keston Hiura - Milwaukee Brewers 2018 spring training (Bill Mitchell)

Feature Photo: Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers

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).

Eastern League:

 Trenton Thunder (NYY) vs. New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Bo Bichette (#21), SS, New Hampshire Fisher Cats

The 20-year-old shortstop checked in at #21 overall on our Midseason Top 125 Prospect ListHe has made dramatic improvements  at shortstop since turning pro and it looks more likely he remains an up-the-middle defender early in his big league career. The offensive upside at a premium position makes Bichette one of baseball’s top prospects.

Top Pitching Prospect:
Hector Perez, RHP, New Hampshire Fisher Cats
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A key piece of the deal that brought RHP Roberto Osuna to Houston earlier this season, Perez is a 22-year-old righty with plus stuff and questions about his long-term profile. He has touched the high-90s in the past and has one of the best sliders I’ve seen at any minor league level this year. Perez has missed bats at an above-average rate (10.4 K/9 overall this season), though he’s also walked 64 in 114 innings across two levels. He will have to show he’s able to limit the free passes in order to remain a starter, but the fastball/slider combo will get him to the big leagues in some capacity. 

Other Top Prospects:
Trevor Stephan, RHP, Trenton Thunder
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The Yankees’ third-round pick in 2017 has made a quick ascent to Double-A. He dominated the Florida State League to start the season before being called up to Trenton in May, where he turned in a solid performance across 17 starts. Stephan enters the playoffs trending in the right direction, having posted a 2.14 ERA with 11.14 K/9 against 2.57 BB/9 his last four starts of the year, holding opponents to a .187 batting average. He throws from a low slot that hides the ball well from righties, touching 96 mph with heavy life and downhill angle. Stephan could probably get same-side hitters out in the big leagues right now in a ‘pen role, and while the ceiling is a #4 starter, he will have short stints as a fallback option if it doesn’t ultimately click in the rotation. 

Cavan Biggio, 2B, New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Toronto’s fifth-rounder in 2016, Biggio has anchored the New Hampshire lineup this year and is in the midst of what’s easily his best season as a pro. Named to the league all-star team, the 23-year-old infielder has slashed a healthy .252/.388/.499, showing patience (18-percent walk rate) and power (.247 ISO, 26 home runs) along the way, with 20 stolen bases to boot. Scouts are skeptical he will be able to keep up the pace at higher levels, and there’s disagreement about whether he’s a good enough defender to even hold down second base every day in the big leagues. Even so, Biggio’s performance this year has kept his prospect stock relevant; he will be knocking on the door of the big leagues by next season if he performs anywhere close to his 2018 levels at Triple-A.

T.J. Zeuch, RHP, New Hampshire Fisher Cats
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Zeuch has been a rotation mainstay all year for New Hampshire, making more than 20 starts for the team while posting solid ERA (3.08) and groundball (55%) totals. The #21 overall pick in 2016, he checks the boxes of a reliable #5 starter who can eat innings. Zeuch throws strikes and keeps the ball on the ground, but the stuff probably isn’t dynamic enough to profile higher than the back of a contending rotation. 

Keep an Eye On:

  • Domingo Acevedo, RHP, Trenton Thunder (Report | Video)
  • Kyle Holder, SS, Trenton Thunder (Video)
  • Mandy Alvarez, INF, Trenton Thunder
  • Brandon Wagner, 1B, Trenton Thunder (Video)
  • Jordan Romano, RHP, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Report Video)
  • Jon Harris, RHP, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Video)
  • Zach Jackson, RHP, New Hampshire Fisher Cats
  • Kirby Snead, LHP, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Report Video)
  • Forrest Wall, 2B/LF, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Spotlight Video)
  • Santiago Espinal, MIF, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Video)
  • Harold Ramirez, OF, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Video)


Altoona Curve (PIT) vs. Akron Rubber Ducks (CLE)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Ke’Bryan Hayes (#71), 3B, Altoona Curve

Hayes has steadily climbed Pittsburgh’s system since being selected with the 32nd overall pick in 2015. He was named to the 2018 Futures Game this July in the midst of his best season as a pro. He slashed .293/.375/.444 as a 21-year-old in Double-A, showing excellent contact ability and plate discipline to go along with above-average defensive tools at the hot corner. The question with Hayes is how much power he will hit for, having never cracked double-digit home runs in any pro season. I saw more raw thump than I expected during his Futures Game BP and, given his polished approach and line drive focus, there’s reason to project on Hayes’ future power output. He hit over 30 doubles this season –another positive indicator that more power is on the way. A safe bet to be at least an everyday player in the big leagues, Hayes could be a star if he’s able to crack the 25 home run threshold in peak seasons. Even if he settles in as a 15-20 home run type, the hit tool and defensive ability provide the foundation of an above-average regular at third base.

Top Pitching Prospect:
Triston McKenzie (#57), RHP, Akron Rubber Ducks
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The 21-year-old had a huge 2017 with High A Lynchburg and hasn’t slowed down this season in Double-A. He has very advanced control and secondary stuff, attributes that allow him to hold his own against much older competition. He will likely be ready for the big leagues late in 2019 (2020 at the latest), though I’d like to see him get back some of the velocity he has shown in the past before he faces big league hitters. McKenzie’s 6-foot-5 and 165-pound frame is athletic but lacks durability, and sharp declines in his strikeout and groundball rate upon moving to Double-A hint that he isn’t missing bats like a future above-average big league starter. McKenzie’s fastball has dipped into the 87-to-88 mph range recently as he tires later in starts. 

Other Top Prospects:
Cole Tucker, SS, Altoona Curve
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Tucker is a gifted athlete who checks the boxes of an above-average defender at short. There’s room to project on his frame getting stronger (and subsequently leading to a more impactful bat), though he will need to take strides offensively to reach his ceiling as an everyday shortstop in the big leagues. He posted a decent .259/.333/.356 line in Double-A this year, and Tucker’s 35 stolen bases demonstrate the excellent athleticism that gives him upside on both sides of the ball. He will likely need all of next season in the minors to keep adding strength and getting reps at the plate.

Keep an Eye On:

  • Will Craig, 1B, Altoona Curve (Video)
  • Bryan Reynolds, OF, Altoona Curve (Video)
  • James Marvel, RHP, Altoona Curve (Video)
  • Mark Mathias, 2B, Akron Rubber Ducks (Video)
  • James Karinchak, RHP, Akron Rubber Ducks
  • Andrew Calica, OF, Akron Rubber Ducks (Video)
  • Tyler Krieger, UTL, Akron Rubber Ducks (Report Video)
  • Mitch Brown, RHP, Akron Rubber Ducks (Video)
  • Argenis Angulo, RHP, Akron Rubber Ducks (Report Video)
  • Kyle Dowdy, RHP, Akron Rubber Ducks (Report | Video)
  • Jordan Milbrath, RHP, Akron Rubber Ducks (Video)


Texas League:

San Antonio Missions (SDP) vs. Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Josh Naylor, 1B, San Antonio Missions

Naylor has been a divisive prospect because of where he went in the draft (#12 overall in 2015) and the bat-only profile. As a 21-year-old in Double-A, he slashed .297/.383/.447 with excellent walk and strikeout rates. He handles same-side pitching much better than earlier in his career, and as a result, he has established himself as one of minor league baseball’s elite offensive talents. Naylor could hit is way to San Diego as soon as this time next year, and will get there by 2020 at the latest barring an unexpected setback.

Top Pitching Prospect:

*Whitley was on the DL when this piece was written and added to the active roster after publish.*

Forrest Whitley (#10), RHP, Corpus Christi Hooks

Whitley has only pitched 26.1 innings this season, though he has dominated when on the field. The 6-foot-7 righty has frontline upside, working off a high-90s fastball and two off-speed pitches that can miss bats. He battled minor lat issues later in the summer, though will be available to pitch for Corpus Christi in the playoffs. Whitley will pitch in the Arizona Fall League to make up innings, and a strong performance there could cement him as the game’s top right-handed pitching prospect. 

Michel Baez (#65), RHP, San Antonio Missions
Spotlight | Video

Baez was roughed up at times across four starts in Double-A to close the regular season, but I’m not looking to far into that. He is showing improved ability to keep his fastball around the plate, and that’s all he has to do with mid-90s heat coming downhill from a 6-foot-8 frame. Baez struck out more than a batter per inning in High A, which helped him post a 2.91 ERA despite a dangerously low ground ball rate in the hitter-friendly California League. This type of pitcher can take time to find himself at the big league level, but Baez’ ceiling is high enough that patience could be worth the wait.

Other Top Prospects:
Corbin Martin, RHP, Corpus Christi Hooks

Martin has done nothing but dominate since being selected with the 56th overall pick in 2017. He started the year in High A and didn’t allow an earned run though his first 19 innings, then posted a 2.97 ERA as a 22-year-old in Double-A the rest of the season. Martin is quietly moving into the picture for our off-season top prospect list. He might not debut until 2020 given the amount of pitching talent in Houston, but the polish he has shown down the stretch for Corpus Christi makes me think he could hold his own in the big leagues sometime next year if he had to.

Ronnie Dawson, CF, Corpus Christi Hooks
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The good news: Dawson is a slam dunk big league outfielder. The bad news: there are some reasons to be skeptical if he’s ready to jump into an everyday role. His first step in center field is average, though plus instincts show up defensively (good routes, efficient speed) and on the bases (35 steals). If he stays in center, the contact issues against same-side pitching won’t factor into getting everyday at-bats as much. Houston’s outfield is crowded and talented, which could relegate Dawson to a quality fourth outfielder role in the near future. That’s his absolutely floor in my opinion, and the ceiling is an everyday player in his prime seasons.

  • J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Corpus Christi Hooks
  • Brett Adcock, RHP, Corpus Christi Hooks
  • Brandon Bailey, RHP, Corpus Christi Hooks (Report Video)
  • Brandon Bielak, RHP, Corpus Christi Hooks
  • Stephen Wrenn, OF, Corpus Christi Hooks
  • Hudson Potts, 3B, San Antonio Missions (Spotlight | Video)
  • Michael Gettys, OF, San Antonio Missions (Video)
  • Austin Allen, C, San Antonio Missions
  • Jesse Scholtens, RHP, San Antonio Missions


Tulsa Drillers (LAD) vs. Arkansas Travelers (SEA)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Keibert Ruiz (#36), C, Tulsa Drillers
Spotlight | Video

It has been a good year for catchers in the minor leagues, and Ruiz has been a big part of that. He has a case for best catching prospect in baseball, and he’s definitely on the short list if he doesn’t rank first right now. An advanced defender who is a lock to remain behind the plate, the switch-hitter posted solid numbers in Double-A, playing most of the season as a 19-year-old. 

Top Pitching Prospect:
Dustin May (#81), RHP, Tulsa Drillers

May was a prep righty with late helium going into the 2016 Draft, selected with the 101st overall pick by the Dodgers. I first saw him in 2017 pitching in Class A before he popped on top prospect lists, so May is a bit of a personal cheeseball for me. He’s a sneaky plus athlete who pounds the zone, with natural deception from a wiry 6-foot-6 and 180-pound frame. His fastball (92-to-97 mph) and breaking ball have swing-and-miss potential. 

Other Top Prospects:
Yadier Alvarez (#101), RHP, Tulsa Drillers

A left groin strain slowed down Alvarez’ season in 2018. His elite fastball/breaking ball mix was what prompted him ranking on our Midseason Top 125 Prospect Listeven though continued control problems make it increasingly likely Alvarez winds up a reliever. He split time between the rotation and the ‘pen after returning in June, posting a 3.60 ERA with an above-average 27-percent strikeout rate. He also walked more than 14 percent of batters faced. Currently off the 40-Man Roster, Alvarez has another year before being eligible for the Rule V Draft. That buys him some time to figure it out in the rotation, but he will have to turn a corner soon.

Kyle Lewis, OF, Arkansas Travelers

Lewis is the top prospect in a thin Mariners system. He has battled injuries throughout his pro career, undergoing numerous knee procedures. Injuries to the same knee cost him time this season as well. Lewis has seen time in center field this year despite losing most of what used to be above-average speed as an amateur. He’s going to be a corner outfielder in the big leagues, which puts more pressure on the bat. Lewis has the power to fit an everyday corner profile, though he’ll need to improve against same-side pitching to avoid platoon status. 

Keep an Eye On:

  • DJ Peters, OF, Tulsa Drillers (Video)
  • Gavin Lux, SS, Tulsa Drillers (Report Video)
  • Mitchell White, RHP, Tulsa Drillers
  • Errol Robinson, SS/INF, Tulsa Drillers
  • Drew Jackson, INF, Tulsa Drillers
  • Braden Bishop, CF, Arkansas Travelers
  • Matt Festa, RHP, Arkansas Travelers
  • Anthony Misiewicz, LHP, Arkansas Travelers
  • Max Povse, RHP, Arkansas Travelers (Video)
  • Art Warren, RHP, Arkansas Travelers


Southern League:

Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) vs. Biloxi Shuckers (MIL)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Keston Hiura (#25), 2B, Biloxi Shuckers
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The ninth overall pick in 2017, Hiura’s offensive polish has been as advertised. He has reached Double-A in his first full pro season, and a .293/.357/.474 line across two levels has established him as one of baseball’s top offensive prospects. Hiura’s glove remains a question, but the ceiling is a player who hits enough to provide value regardless.

Top Pitching Prospect:
Tony Santillan (#85), RHP, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
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Santillan has morphed into a strikethrower over the last two years, making significant strides with his delivery and overall control. He has done this without sacrificing stuff, still able to touch the mid-90s with a heavy fastball and miss bats with a hard slider. Santillan had a very solid and consistent 2018 across two levels, looking like a potential mid-rotation mainstay in Cincinnati’s rotation of the future. 

Other Top Prospects:
Corey Ray, CF, Biloxi Shuckers
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Ray’s athleticism, speed, and power potential were never in question, but his ability to hit enough to get to it weren’t a sure thing going into 2018. There are still reasons to be skeptical–like his nearly 30-percent strikeout rate this year–but a .241/.325/.479 line shows the type of impact Ray’s dynamic toolset brings to the table. He has the ceiling of a consistent 20 home run/20 stolen base type over a full season, and nearly went 30/30 in Double-A this year (27 home runs, 37 steals).

Shed Long, 2B, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Reports Video

A personal favorite of our Senior Evaluator John Eshleman, Long is a sum-of-the-parts player who does a bit of everything. A lefty-swinger, the second baseman put up a .261/.353/.412 line with some pop (12 homeruns, 22 doubles), patience (11-percent walk rate) and speed (19 steals) at Double-A. The ceiling is an everyday big leaguer, and his well-rounded game gives a floor no lower than a quality utilty type.

Keep an Eye On:

  • Zach Brown, RHP, Biloxi Shuckers (Report Video)
  • Trent Grisham, OF, Biloxi Shuckers (Spotlight Video)
  • Troy Stokes Jr., OF, Biloxi Shuckers (Spotlight | Video)
  • Marcos Diplan, RHP, Biloxi Shuckers
  • Cody Ponce, RHP, Biloxi Shuckers (Video)
  • Trey Supak, RHP, Biloxi Shuckers (Video)
  • Braden Webb, RHP, Biloxi Shuckers (Video)
  • Nate Griep, RHP, Biloxi Shuckers (Spotlight | Video)
  • Jose Siri, OF, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Reports Video)
  • Chris Okey, C, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Video)
  • Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Report | Video)
  • Aristedes Aquino, OF, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Spotlight Video)
  • TJ Friedl, OF, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Report Spotlight Video)


Montgomery Biscuits (TAM) vs. Jackson Generals (ARI)

Top Hitting Prospect:
Jesus Sanchez (# 48), OF, Montgomery Biscuits
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Sanchez’s left-handed power and strong arm fit on an outfield corner. He has a swing-happy approach that doesn’t walk much, though he makes a lot of contact despite present length. He shows plus bat-to-ball skill, which allows him to get away with doing some things mechanically that a less talented player could not. Still just 20 years old, Sanchez scuffled through his first 110 plate appearances at Double-A at the end of the year. That aside, his .301/.331/.462 line in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League before the promotion gives a glimpse of his offensive potential. 

Top Pitching Prospect:
Jon Duplantier, RHP, Jackson Generals

Duplantier has battled injuries throughout his career, missing time in college and again this season. When healthy, he has done nothing but dominate a a pro. His fastball and slider have above-average potential, and the raw stuff fits a mid-rotation profile. Duplantier has a noisy delivery, and given the injury history, durability is the biggest hurdle to him reaching his ceiling as a starter. He put up big numbers once again in 2018 and has a chance to jump into our Top 125 this off-season. 

Other Top Prospects:
Yoan Lopez, RHP, Jackson Generals
Spotlight Video

Lopez has taken to the bullpen and shown that his High A performance was no fluke, putting up dominant numbers once again in 2018. He posted a 2.92 ERA this season as a reliever for Double-A Jackson, striking out 34-percent of hitters while holding opponents to a .170 average-against. He will always be associated with the huge bonus the Diamondbacks spent on him and, while a leverage reliever isn’t exactly what the club was hoping for when he signed, Lopez looks like he will reach the big leagues as a reliever with the stuff to pitch late in games.

Keep an Eye On:

  • Nick Solak, 2B/OF, Montgomery Biscuits (Report | Video)
  • Brock Burke, LHP, Montgomery Biscuits (Report | Video)
  • Ryan Boldt, Montgomery Biscuits
  • Lucius Fox, SS, Montgomery Biscuits (Video)
  • Sam McWilliams, RHP, Montgomery Biscuits (Report | Spotlight | Video)
  • Curtis Taylor, RHP, Montgomery Biscuits (Report | Video)
  • Matt Krook, LHP, Montgomery Biscuits (Spotlight Video)
  • Blake Bivens, RHP, Montgomery Biscuits (Video)
  • Domingo Leyba, 2B, Jackson Generals (Spotlight | Video)
  • Bo Takahashi, RHP, Jackson Generals (Video)
  • Emilio Vargas, RHP, Jackson Generals (Video)
  • Taylor Widener, RHP, Jackson Generals (Video)