Remember last week, when I suggested that the Hotpage would move back to covering the minor leagues, going back to the Florida State League after covering the Carolina League a couple of weeks back?
Not that I intended to mislead, but, The 19th Annual Creativesports Top 250 Prospect List is done, so this week we’re covering the top 10. In the next few weeks we’ll look at a cluster of sleepers identified on the list who appear to have a bright future but are still lower in their respective organizations.
Ideally, we will then move back to the FSL and then the Midwest League, although there are still Winter Meetings and then Rule 5 drafts picks looming. If we are distracted from the minor league directive, that would be the reason.
Creativesports has always been proud of The Top 250 (which did start out as a Top 100), with a solid history of pointing out future contributors way ahead of the curve, as well as revealing a few gems the traditional scouting sites dismissed or overlooked.
If you are new to this, I look a a few basic skills, among them command over the strike zone and power within the zone. Then I factor those skills in with level of play and age. A 19-year old hitting .250 at AA, but with a .390 OBP and half his hits going for extra bases will score higher than a 24-year old at AAA with a .320 average but .330 OBP with 20 homers but not much else. Since I correlate strikeouts to walks for both hitters and pitchers, all the stats for either offense or defense have a balance, allowing me to rank both types of players collectively and on even ground.
One other consideration: The Top 250 List does indeed identify the likes of Cody Bellinger (#38 in 2017 with the comment, “.271-26-71 at two levels, Bellinger could be fast-tracked to Dodger Stadium”) but the list digs deep, focusing as much on who to hide on your reserve list for the future as it tries to reveal who is solid and ready soon. In context, though, remember that we look at 6,000 minor leaguers and the difference in ranking between #1 and #250 is a mere 3.85 ranking points.
You can purchase the 2018 Top 250 Prospect List on the Subscribe Page for just $6.95 or, as part of the full Creativesports 2.0 Package, $8.95 before Spring Training starts ($12.95 thereafter). Additionally, the bulk of daily articles and some DFS picks will become part of our subscription service effective January 1, 2018. If you already subscribe, go to the Subscription Account page and you will be able to download from there.
So, here goes:
- Vladimir Guerrero, Jr (18, 3B, Blue Jays): Anyone who desires proof of the impact of heredity and environment need look no further than Vlady II, who at 18 went .323-13-76 covering two levels with an incredible .425 OBP (76 BB to 62 K) and eight swipes. The sky seems to be the limit for Guerrero, who will try his hand at AA next. Bearing in mind Jr. does not turn 19 till Spring Training begins, the Jays will likely be patient with their treasure this year. But if he shows he can hit and play at AA, I would not be surprised to see him advanced aggressively.
- Ronald Acuna (19, OF, Braves): A Venezuelan import, Acuna turns 20 in a few weeks but nevertheless did it all last year, first at High-A (.287-3-19 over 28 games) then Double-A Mississippi (.326-9-30 over 57 games), finishing with 54 Triple-A contests where the youngster posted a .344-9-43 line for an aggregate .325-21-82 with 31 doubles and 44 steals. There is not much stopping Acuna, who will probably get his chance with the big club this year.
- Forrest Whitley (20, P, Astros): Whitely, who was a #1 high school pick in 2016, is 6-foot-7 and weighs 240 pounds. That suggests, first, more power in his body when Whitley finishes growing, and the height means downward angle when pitching, which can be a big advantage long as the hurler can learn some control. Whitley began his first full season with 10 starts at Low-A (2-3, 2.91), then moved to High-A (3-1, 3.16) and finishing at AA (0-0, 1.84 over 14.6 IP), making for 92.3 IP with 143 whiffs and a 5-4, 2.83 line with a 1.21 WHIP. Whitley will begin the year at Corpus Christie, but who knows where he finishes?
- Fernando Tatis, Jr. (18, SS, Padres): Again, the progeny of a former major leaguer shows the impact of the gene pool with Tatis, Jr., who turns 19 come the first of the year. Tatis played the bulk of ’17 at Fort Wayne, hitting .281-21-69 for the Tin Cups over 117 games before finishing with San Antonio (.255-1-6 over 14 games). Double-A should prove home to start for the young shortstop, who with 27 doubles and eight triples banged 57 (42 percent) of his hits for extra bases last year, an excellent indicator.
- Alex Verdugo (21, OF, Dodgers): Verdugo, a 2016 second-round selection, went .314-6-62 with nine swipes and a terrific 52 BB to 50 K (.389) before making a Dodger Stadium debut (.174-1-). The flychaser, who turns 22 next May, is ready for The Show, so there will likely be some outfield trade activity in Dodger-town this winter. I would expect, however, Verdugo to stay put.
- Triston McKenzie (20, P, Indians): At 6-foot-5, McKenzie is another tall hurler albeit with just 160 pounds, meaning if he fills out to what would still be a slender 190, that is 30 pounds of mass to add to potential velocity. A right-hander, McKenzie was 12-6, 3.46 over two levels in 2017, whiffing 186 over 143 innings with a 1.05 WHIP. McKenzie turns 21 next August and will be ready for AA come 2018.
- Mike Soroka (20, P, Braves): Yet another tall (6-foot-5) arm, Soroka scored #5 on the Top 250 last year following a season where the right-hander was 9-9, 3.02 at Full Season-A, and responded to the jump to AA Mississippi with an 11-8, 2.75 mark over 153.6 IP with 125 strikeouts. Soroka, who similarly turned 20 last August, has 330.6 IP as a minor leaguer with a 20-19, 2.91 mark with 287 strikeouts and a 1.12 WHIP. Sun Trust looms.
- Luis Urias (20, SS, Padres): The Pads have some kind of wealth in young middle infielders, and Urias, who does not turn 21 until June, went .296-3-38 at San Antonio with 77 runs and 20 doubles. Urias, at 5-foot-9 is not an imposing fellow, but he crushed a ball out of Salt River Fields during the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars game in November. Urias managed 68 walks to 65 strikeouts (.398 OBP).
- Sixto Sanchez (P, 19, Phillies): The Dominican Republic import pushed through both levels of A, going a cumulative 5-7, 3.03 over 95 frames, with just 18 walks (0.96 WHIP). The right-hander will start 2018 at AA, but he is another player on a young rebuilding franchise and should be able to contribute soon.
- Bo Bichette (19, SS, Jays): Between Guerrero, Jr. and Bichette, the Jays have to be feeling pretty good about the left side of their infield. Bichette, who turns 20 early in Spring Training, is yet another MLB offspring — the son of Dante was a #2 pick in 2016. Bichette slugged his way through A-ball, hitting .384-10-51 at Lansing, earning a promotion to Dunedin for 40 games, then hitting .323-4-23 over 40 games, giving Bichette a line of .362-14-74 with 41 doubles, 22 steals, and a .988 OPS.
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