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Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects Updated

Unlike the White Sox, where almost all the top talent is at double-A or higher, the Indians have a very thin system with most of the talent in A-ball or lower. With that said I loved their 2018 draft and feel it’s being under estimated for how impactful it could be in a few years with the right coaching/development and some luck with injuries.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Triston McKenzie | RHP | AA —> McKenzie is one of the better starting pitcher prospects left in the minors and if he were affiliated with New York, Boston or another big market team there would be a lot more hype here. McKenzie has a great frame with room to add strength (and fastball velo), athleticism and projects to eventually have three better-than-average offerings. He needs to get back to utilizing his height more effectively and generating more ground balls. One caution: He missed the start of the year with a forearm issue, which can often lead to Tommy John surgery.

2. Nolan Jones | 3B | A+ —> I’m a big fan of Jones. Despite some swing and miss to his game, he shows an advanced approach for someone that opened the year as a teenager. And he’s already starting to turn his raw power into over-the-fence pop. His willingness to take a walk also adds to his value and he should hit for average, power and produce above-average on-base totals. He should stick at third base and looks like a future middle-of-the-order run producer. Jones, 20, could very well reach double-A in 2019.

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Chicago White Sox Top 10 Prospects Updated

The Top 10 list for the Sox is top heavy with some studs but the system lacks depth, overall. Still, I’m a big fan of both Jimenez and Cease.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Eloy Jimenez | OF | AAA —> In the past, the Sox system was populated by a large group of grip-and-rip hitters with extremely poor plate discipline. Jimenez, although aggressive at the plate, makes a lot of contact — especially for a monster with plus power. Just 21, he hits the ball really hard and generates a lot of line drives, which suggests to me that his higher BABIP might be a little more sustainable than most. He should be ready to settle into a big league role at the beginning of 2019 as a strong-armed right-fielder with the ability to slug 30+ homers.

2. Dylan Cease | RHP | AAA —> Part of the return for Jose Quintana last year, the Cubs probably already regret this deal and Cease hasn’t even reached the Majors. The young right-hander has gotten stronger as the year has progressed and improved even more with a promotion from double-A to triple-A. He, like Jimenez, is ready to contribute at the big league level. Overall, he’s used his two plus offerings — fastball and curve — to strike out 140 batters in 112.1 innings. There are some injury concerns with Cease, who has a decent pitcher’s frame, but isn’t the tallest guy, and had Tommy John surgery in his past. There is frontline starter potential here, especially if the third offering continues to improve.

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Detroit Tigers Top 10 Prospects Updated

It used to be a drag writing about the Tigers system due to a lack of both depth and intriguing prospects. That is no longer the case and the Tigers have a solid Top 10 list and the depth is beginning to expand throughout the system.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Matt Manning | RHP | A+ —> I know the consensus has Mize ranked first but Manning has proven himself more — and at a higher level. His stuff also screams No. 2/3 starter if he can solidify an average third pitch, which will likely be the changeup. He has a great pitcher’s frame and should chew up lots of innings while flashing his mid-to-upper-90s heat and plus curveball. He’s also athletic and should eventually have better-than-average command and control.

2. Casey Mize | RHP | DNP —> Mize has the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation arm with his fastball, slider and splitter but his frame isn’t quite as ideal as Manning’s and he may have to watch his weight as he matures. There are also some injury concerns with Mize, including a previous forearm strain, which is often a precursor to Tommy John surgery (although he passed his physical with Detroit). Like Manning, Mize has shown athleticism and should move quickly.

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Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects Updated

Once known for having a strong pitching assembly line, the Twins organization now has a strong pipeline for hitters, while the pitching depth has diminished. The system also got stronger — with some pitching additions — at the trade deadline.

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1. Royce Lewis | SS | A+ —> There is a lot of pressure and expectation that comes with being selected first overall in the draft. Lewis, though, has both the skill and the make-up to handle the assignment — as he’s shown to date. Just 19, he’s blown through the lower levels of the minors and looks ready for a double-A assignment to begin the 2019 season, which would put him in the majors later that year or in 2020 at the age of 21. He has a mature approach at the plate with great coverage and should hit for average, power and rack up lots of steals.

2. Alex Kirilloff | OF | A+ —> For a lot of prospects, a missed year of development would be a huge hurdle to overcome. For Kirilloff, well, he barely batted an eye. After missing the 2017 season, he’s come back from injury to hit .347 while showing plus power potential. He doesn’t walk a ton because he makes such good, hard contact so that’s perhaps his biggest opportunity with the bat but he also doesn’t strike out a lot for someone that projects to hit 20-30 homers. Just 20, he should open 2019 in double-A.

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Kansas City Royals Top 10 Prospects Updated

A strong 2018 draft significantly improved the Royals system – which was light on arms. The focus on college arms gives the system a much needed rebalancing and should allow some prospects to move quickly. The Royals previously focused on raw, toolsy hitters and pitchers but just haven’t been able to find a winning formula for developing those types of players.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Brady Singer | RHP | DNP —> Those who believe in Singer, sees a top-of-the-rotation arm with the potential for three solid offerings. His fastball works in the mid-to-upper 90s and both his slider and changeup flash potential at times but are inconsistent. He also has the strong frame necessary to be an innings-eater but there are some minor injury concerns given his heavy college workload and a failed physical that wiped out an agreement the Jays had with Singer when he was drafted out of high school.

2. Jackson Kowar | RHP | A —> Kowar has an excellent fastball-changeup combo and an excellent pitchers frame. His breaking ball(s) needs improvement to be an average offering. A tall, thin pitcher, Kowar the makings of an excellent pitcher’s frame once he adds a little more weight/muscle. There is mid-rotation potential here — especially if he continues to mature and add some ticks to his heater while ironing out the breaking ball.

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Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects Updated

The Diamondbacks have a solid system with some interesting players within the top 10-15 prospects in the system. But overall, the organization lacks depth.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Jon Duplantier | RHP | AA —> There is no denying Duplantier’s potential but the checkered medical sheet is worrisome, and the big right-hander (who attended Rice University, which has a reputation for misusing pitchers) has missed a significant chunk of 2018 due to injury. When he’s right, Duplantier shows three above-average offerings, has a great pitcher’s frame and induces a ton of ground-ball outs. There is No. 2/3 starter potential here if he can stay on the field long enough to polish his skills.

2. Daulton Varsho | C | A+ —> I’ve been a huge fan of Daulton since the D-Backs nabbed him with the 68th overall selection in the 2017 draft. He doesn’t have the strongest arm for a catcher but he makes it work and should be able to stick behind the plate (He’s caught 34% of base stealers so far this year). At the plate, Varsho shows the ability to hit for both average and power — and displays his athleticism on the base paths with above-average base running (15 for 18 in steals). He could be ready for The Show in late 2019 or early 2020.

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Colorado Rockies Top 10 Prospects Updated

The Rockies system is strong, led by a collection of impressive infielders. The biggest weakness, though, is that lack of pitching depth.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Brendan Rodgers | SS | AA —> Selected in the first round back in 2015, Rodgers should be ready for his first taste of The Show in 2019. He’s having an OK year in double-A but his aggressiveness continues to limit his overall offensive value. He’s walking a little more but he still needs to wait for better pitches to drive at times. He’s showing good power, which should play nicely in Colorado and he has 17 home runs in 84 games (as well as 21 doubles). I don’t know if he’ll be a star but he should be a very productive player.

2. Colton Welker | 3B | A+ —> I’ve been a huge Welker fan since he was stolen in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. Just 20, he’s having a strong season in high-A. He’s shown the consistent ability to hit for average and he’s doing a good job of controlling the strike zone. He has raw power that he has yet to fully tap into, which will only further increase his value as he approaches the Majors. Currently blocked at third base by Nolan Arenado, Welker could eventually replace him, or perhaps move to right field where his strong arm would continue to be an asset.

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San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects Updated

This continues to be a stacked system with both high upside prospects and lots of depth. The organization is building from the ground up and seem to have a strong plan in place.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

*Amendment: This post was written and submitted prior to the Francisco Mejia deal (and I was on vacation). He would have fallen fifth on the list behind Luis Urias. Mejia could easily be a No. 1 prospect in some organizations but not San Diego, which is stacked with talent. The downside to this prospect is that he may not be a catcher in the long run and, while he doesn’t strike out a ton, he’s too aggressive at times and doesn’t always give himself the best pitch to hit or the best count to hit from. If he can make adjustments there, he will hit for average in the Majors and has 15-20 home run potential.

1. Fernando Tatis Jr. | SS | AA —> Much like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with Toronto, Tatis Jr. is a legacy prospect who is very advanced for his age. While the former possesses a plus-plus hit tool with modest future projections on his body and defence, the latter is known more for his plus power with an athletic frame and strong defensive potential. I like Tatis Jr. a little better long term but the swing-and-miss tendencies are a little worrisome but further maturation could temper that to a more reasonable level. There is all-star upside here.

2. MacKenzie Gore | LHP | A —> If he were pitching in the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox system, Gore would probably be a better known name as one of the Top 5 arms in the game. He’s a lefty with the potential for four above-average offerings and he has great size. Command and control both have the potential to be plus. He also receives strong marks for makeup. There is No. 1 starter potential here if he can stay healthy — and the organization has so far been handling him with kids’ gloves.

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San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects Updated

The Giants minor league system entered the year as one of the weakest due to the absence of impact talent and an overall lack of depth. And things have only gotten worse with quite a few disappointing performances. The one real bright spot was acquiring a strong talent in the draft with the club’s first round selection.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Joey Bart | C | SS —> Bart has transitioned OK to pro ball. After spending a little time in rookie ball, he moved up to the more age-appropriate short-season Northwest League where six of his 11 hits have gone for over the fence for a home run. On the down side, his BB-K or 2-17 in pro ball leaves something to be desired. He’ll need to tighten up his approach as he moves up the organizational ladder.

2. Heliot Ramos | OF | A —> Ramos had an outstanding debut as a 17 year old in 2017 but he’s struggled in low-A ball due to an inconsistent approach at the plate. Even his bat speed has looked slower at times. The good news is that he’s still just 18 so he has lots of time to develop further. He was a hot commodity as a trade target in the off-season but the Giants considered him all but untouchable.

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Los Angeles Dodgers Top 10 Prospects Updated

The Dodgers are said to be big players for Baltimore’s Manny Machado but this system isn’t as deep as it used to be due to promotions, trades, etc. A couple of so-so drafts in a row have not helped, either.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Alex Verdugo | OF | AAA —> With most organizations, Verdugo would be a starting outfielder — and would have been since the beginning of the year. With the Dodgers, though, he’s a handy player to have at triple-A to fill in for injuries. He’s an extremely advanced hitter for his age, as witnessed by his .352 average, and he rarely gives away an at-bat. The biggest knock on him is the modest power output (which is more a result of his all-fields approach than a lack of strength).

2. Keibert Ruiz | C | AA —> I’ve been leading the bandwagon on Ruiz for a couple of years now but, as he finally starts to get the attention he deserves, he’s having a down year with the bat. Now to be fair, he’s 19 and playing in double-A. Even with being a little overmatched he’s only struck out 20 times in 251 at-bats. Like Verdugo above, this switch-hitter has an uncanny knack for making contact, which can sometimes work against him if he doesn’t wait for a good pitch to hit (as he’s learning right now). Defensively, he needs some polish but should be able to stick behind the plate.

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