Checking In On The Next Wave of Top Prospects: American League Edition

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In January, I selected and profiled one player from each American League team to be the next breakout prospect for their respective organizations (view article here). Six months later, I wanted to take the opportunity to check in on the status of each of these prospects and in certain cases, offer an alternate prospect or two in the organization who is grabbing headlines with their noteworthy performance this season.

Jhon Peluffo, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Peluffo has pitched across two levels to begin 2018, yielding lots of contact (51 H in 36.2 IP), while the 21 year old Colombian hurler has struggled with a 26 K to 23 BB ratio.

The Oriole prospect taking the scene by storm is OF Ryan McKenna, Peluffo’s teammate for the Frederick Keys (Carolina League, A+). McKenna is second in the league in hitting with a .375 BA to go along with a .466 OBP and .557 SLG. Of McKenna’s outstanding 95 hits in 66 games, he has 18 doubles, 2 triples, and 8 HR, while adding 5 SB. McKenna is quickly proving to be one of Baltimore’s top prospects. 

Lorenzo Cedrola, OF, Boston Red Sox

Currently playing for the Greenville Drive of the Sally League (A), Cedrola is making a push for a promotion to High A with his impressive play thus far in 2018. While only 7/14 in SB attempts, Cedrola’s .315 AVG is good for 11th overall in the league. Other Sally Leaguers Seuly Matias (KC), Chad Spanberger (COL), Drew Waters (ATL) Oneil Cruz and Cal Mitchell (PIT) are grabbing most of the attention, but Cedrola is still putting together a solid season atop the Drive lineup. Gifted with an overall athletic profile, Cedrola should have no problem ascending through the Red Sox minor league system. While Cedrola might not have the name recognition across the game just yet, he has all of the tools to become the next gem in the Red Sox organization.

Aaron Bummer, LHP, Chicago White Sox

Bummer has pitched in 26 big league games for the South Siders, putting together a solid ERA of 3.26. The WHIP of 1.71 tells a different story, as he has surrendered 27 hits in 19.1 IP. While the 6 BB haven’t proven to be problematic, and the 21 K during those innings has been positive, Bummer finds himself behind fellow lefty Jace Fry in the White Sox bullpen picture. 

Of the two lefties, the 24 year old Fry is emerging as the more reliable choice thus far, where his 0.7 WAR so far in 2018 ranks him above other quality RP’s such as Brad Peacock (HOU) and Kenley Jansen (LAD). 

Luke Wakamatsu, SS, Cleveland Indians

Wakamatsu hasn’t quite put it together with the bat this season for High A Lynchburg, but a tough April has skewed his otherwise productive May, which he hit .258 AVG to go along with a .356 OBP last month. The switch hitter remains a promising talent in the stacked Indians prospect pool. 

Outfielder Will Benson has grabbed more headlines this season so far in the Indians organization, swatting 11 HR. The 14th overall pick back in 2016, Benson has an intriguing blend of power and speed, with contact questions still to be answered (31% K rate in 2018 is a slight improvement on last year’s 34% K rate). Another outfield prospect, George Valera, is on the brink of being the next big thing, and has impressed everyone in Extended Spring Training.

Gregory Soto, LHP, Detroit Tigers

Pitching out of the rotation for Lakeland (High A), Soto’s 12 starts have not seen the progress of his secondary offerings (curveball and changeup) with as much consistency as to silence the future bullpen labels that have been attached to him to this point. While Soto can flat-out bring it with the fastball and he has given up less hits than innings pitched, the Tigers would like to see progress on his 44 BB in 51.1 IP. 

For the Tigers, outfielder Christin Stewart has demonstrated he is knocking on the door of a big league job with 13 HR and a .349 OBP for the AAA Toledo Mud Hens. The Tigers are hoping that Stewart will develop into a middle of the order bat, where he will carry an offense-first profile wherever he ultimately lands defensively.

Jorge Alcala, RHP, Houston Astros

Alcala began the year at High A, and his sterling performance there earned him a promotion to AA. Alcala put together dominant outings as a starter and during bullpen days, netting more K’s per inning in 70% of his appearances. He limited contact and demonstrated excellent control, allowing more than two walks only twice. His latest outing at AA: 5IP, 1H, 1BB, 5K showed the kind of impact starter Alcala can be for the Astros. As the Astros make a run at a repeat championship, Alcala will surely be a name that rival organizations inquire about as they look to put the finishing touches on a roster poised for a deep October run.

Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals

Lopez opened eyes during the Arizona Fall League by putting up a .383 AVG, and he picked up right where he left off this season. In 66 games at AA Northwest Arkansas (Texas League), Lopez has compiled a .327 AVG, good for 9th overall in the league, to go along with a .399 OBP. His 83 hits are good for tops among qualifiers. Lopez has knocked 7 doubles and 4 triples for extra base hits and is successful on 9/13 SB attempts. Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi look to be the future infielders up the middle for Kansas City as they rebuild their organization from within in the same mold as their 2014 AL Pennant run.

Trent Deveaux, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Deveaux has yet to log official professional games outside of Extended Spring Training, yet all reports this season are that Deveaux excites scouts with his advanced approach at the plate, top notch speed, and defense in centerfield. Deveaux should quickly take to the field and explode with popularity once he gains a wider level of exposure.

The Angels, for the first time in a little while, have a solid crop of prospects at the top of their rankings. Jo Adell, hardly a secret in the prospect world, is looking every bit as talented as when the Angels invested the 10th overall pick on him in 2017. Jahmai Jones is handling a move back to 2B, the position where he was originally drafted, very well. But the big breakout in the organization has been from LHP Jose Suarez. Suarez created quite a scuttle as he put up a 51K:8BB ratio in 29.2 IP at AA this year. Now at AAA, Suarez is knocking on the door of making an impact for the Angels at just 20 years old. 

Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Graterol has quickly become more of a known commodity in 2018 due to a brilliant start for Cedar Rapids, sharing the field with high profile teammates Royce Lewis, Akil Baddoo, and Alex Kiriloff. Across 7 starts, Graterol has put together a 2.48 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, where he has limited walks (6) in 36.1 IP. Graterol has two starts with 9+ strikeouts so far this year, and looks destined for a consensus top 100 prospect billing by season’s end. 

Luis Medina, RHP, New York Yankees

The Yankees sit atop the AL East standings due in large part to the production they have received from the products of their farm system: Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Domingo German, and Jonathan Holder. Medina is on the brink of a 2018 debut for the Pulaski Yankees (Appalachian League, Rookie), after being limited to simulated game action so far. Scouts rave about his offerings and ability to miss bats, but command has been inconsistent to date. Medina has a ways to go, but a fast start to this season will surely vault him into the conversation along with other top Yankee prospect arms such as Albert Abreu and Chance Adams.

Will Toffey, 3B, Oakland Athletics

Toffey leads all qualifiers in the California League (High A) with a .455 OBP, where he has more BB’s (23) than K’s (22). Indeed, Toffey has lived up to the bill of an on-base machine so far in 2018 in a league scattered with bigger prospect names (Colton Welker, Connor Wong, Daulton Varsho, Gavin Lux, Evan White, Hudson Potts, and Heath Quinn among others). Toffey is one to continue to watch fly under the radar, while the A’s will be tremendously pleased that they have him as a productive bat to build towards a future big league spot. 

Mike Ford, 1B, New York Yankees (formerly Seattle Mariners at the time of the original article release)

Fresh off of a Rule 5 selection by the Mariners, Mike Ford was returned to the Yankees with the positional log jam at 1B in Seattle. Ford remains an intriguing on-base hitter but has struggled at the outset of 2018, where he has seen his K rate (20%) increase well above his MiLB career average of 14%, while simultaneously walking less (10.5% BB in 2018 versus a career average of 14.1%). Currently on the disabled list, Ford will need to see an uptick in productivity to be called up should Greg Bird continue to struggle or face injury. 

For Seattle, Seth Elledge has without doubt been a bright spot for the Mariners farm system, earning a Cal League All-Star nod by putting together a down right dominant campaign. In 27 IP, the reliever has allowed only 10 hits and 3 earned runs while amassing 39 K. 

Joe McCarthy, OF/1B, Tampa Bay Rays

McCarthy’s brother, Jake, was the 39th overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, Joe has held his own this season at AAA Durham, putting up the highest OPS of his career (.863). McCarthy has seen time at 1B, LF, and CF this season for the Bulls, and should get a call up to Tampa Bay sometime in 2018. 

Kyle Cody, RHP, Texas Rangers

Cody has yet to pitch this season due to injury, and the Rangers are rightly being cautious as they have seen fellow top pitching prospect Cole Ragans fall victim to Tommy John surgery earlier this year. Cody still has the makings of a mid rotation workhorse, and may begin the year in High A Down East (Carolina League), where he left off last season, before advancing to a bigger developmental test in AA. 

Edward Olivares, OF,  San Diego Padres (formerly Toronto Blue Jays at the time of the original article release)

Olivares was traded to San Diego in Toronto’s acquisition of Yangervis Solarte shortly after New Years. Olivares is off to a good start in High A, albeit overshadowed by louder performances from teammates Hudson Potts, Buddy Reed, and pitchers Chris Paddack and Adrian Morejon. Olivares’ 73 hits are good for 5th in the league, to go along with 16 doubles, 5 triples, and 5 HR. His 9 SB in 12 attempts has been a positive improvement as well this year. Difficult to stand out in the Padres’ loaded system, Olivares has nonetheless had a solid start in his new organization. 

In Toronto, the Blue Jays have seen breakout performances from two middle infield prospects: Cavan Biggio and Kevin Smith. Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig, has broken out on one of the most viewed minor league teams this year in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA), who feature Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Biggio in the middle of the lineup. In Smith, the Blue Jays had a hitter who produced a monstrous .355 AVG in Lansing (A) before being promoted to Dunedin (A+), where he has continued to hit everything thrown his way. The Blue Jays are boasting stud middle infielders at seemingly every level of their organization, and fill the fan base with optimism for perhaps a post-Josh Donadson era rebuild.

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