The 2018 Minor league baseball season is coming to a close and where some guys will be a late addition to their major league clubs, others will have to wait another year to get their chance. In this piece I will be looking at each team’s system and picking the one player I think will have the biggest impact on their club next season.
Baltimore Orioles- Ryan Mountcastle 3B- Mountcastle was the 36th overall pick in the 2015 draft and spent his 2018 season in Double-A Bowie. There, he posted a .297/.341/.464 slash line with 13 home runs. I don’t imagine the Baltimore call him straight up from Bowie, so I could see him starting the season with the Norfolk Tides and depending on how he does there he could see a call-up sometime around the all-star break. He could even be called up earlier because there really is no competition for the O’s third base job at the moment.
Boston Red Sox- Michael Chavis 3B- Chavis had a 2018 season that was plagued by injuries as he only played 46 games across 3 levels. The bulk of his season was spent at Double-A Portland where Chavis held a .303 batting average with 6 home runs in 33 games. Towards the end of the year, Chavis got to test the Triple-A waters where he hit 2 home runs and recorded 7 RBI’s in 33 at-bats. It will take Chavis some time to get to the big leagues next year but he can be able to take his time at Pawtucket because there is no need for him to be rushed to the big leagues.
New York Yankees- Justus Sheffield LHP- I see Sheffield making a larger impact with the Yankees next season whether that be working from the pen or being put into the starting rotation. The lefty posted a 2.48 ERA in 116 innings across 5 Double-A games and 20 Triple-A games. He struck out 123 batters while only walking 50. I look forward to seeing Sheffield in the Bronx for years to come.
Tampa Bay Rays- Brent Honeywell RHP- I would have had Honeywell as a guy to make an impact this season but back in February he suffered a right elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery. After a full year to recover, I fully expect Honeywell to be a part of the 2019 Tampa Bay Rays rotation. What is exciting about Honeywell is that he has 5 different pitches and he can execute them well. His most notable pitch being his screwball. Honeywell is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and I believe his performance net season will show that why.
Toronto Blue Jays- Vlad Guerrero Jr. 3B- Does this one really need an explanation? The number one prospect in baseball who flirted with a .400 batting average in the 2018 minor league baseball season. He hit 20 home runs in 95 games, there is one in particular that I remember because he hit a ball that hit a hotel. He also is good at taking his walks, 37 walks, and only 38 strikeouts. There was no doubt about his bat, having a perfect 80 grade for his hit tool on the 20-80 scale. I was one of the many fans who wanted to see Vlad in a Jays uniform this season. Unfortunately, the Jays are going to manipulate the service time and wait a few weeks into the 2019 season before they call him up.
Chicago White Sox- Eloy Jimenez- This is another one that could go without an explanation. Jimenez has been among the top prospects in baseball for a number of years and many thought that he would get his turn sometime this year. He started the year in Double-A Birmingham and spent the 2nd half of his year in Triple-A Charlotte. Jimenez at one point was just toying with the opposing pitcher. He launched 12 home runs and recorded 33 RBIs en route to a .355 batting average in 55 games. Jimenez will get his chance next year and will give the south side a cornerstone piece to help the franchise for years to come.
Cleveland Indians- Oscar Mercado OF- At first glance, I was tempted to choose Triston McKenzie, but part of me thinks he will spend the vast majority of the year at Triple-A Columbus. Going back to Mercado, whom the Indians acquired from St. Louis earlier in the season. In his 132 with two teams at the Triple-A level, he held a .278/.349/.390 slash line. Match that with his 37 stolen bases and his 60-grade field and you could have yourself a pretty decent everyday center fielder in a few years.
Detroit Tigers- Willi Castro SS- Castro was acquired from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Leonys Martin and Kyle Dowdy. Castro is a switch-hitting shortstop who spent the majority of his season with Double-A Akron before he was traded, he spent 26 games in Double-A Erie and was able to test the Triple-A waters with Toledo for a few games before seasons end. Once he arrived in Erie he made the most of his new location, posting .324/,366/.562 slash line and hit 4 home runs in his 105 plate appearances. Castro has also swiped 18 bags this season. I could see him starting the year with Toledo next year and if he produces like he was starting to then I could see a midseason promotion to a Detroit Tigers team who won’t be playing for much next year.
Kansas City Royals- Nicky Lopez SS/2B- Lopez was a 5th round pick in the 2016 draft out of Creighton University. He already had a plus glove and his fast progressing bat allowed him to rise quickly through the Royals system. He started the year at Double-A Northwest Arkansas where in 73 games he put up a .331 batting average with 2 home runs and 9 stolen bases. Those numbers earned him a call-up to Triple-A Omaha for the final 57 games of his season. In those 57 games, he put up a .278 batting average but hit 7 home runs and stole 6 bags while nearly matching the RBI production. One of the underlying numbers that I like about Lopez is he walked 60 times this season and only struck out 52 times. While he most likely starts the season in Omaha I would not be surprised to see Lopez in a Royals uniform at any given point next season.
Minnesota Twins- Nick Gordon SS/2B- The Twins have something brewing up in their system with guys like Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, but we will not be seeing them in the 2019 season. Before either of those guys was with the organization Nick Gordon was the top guy in this system. Gordon was on pace to be called up this season but his numbers hit a stall when he reached Triple-A Rochester. He started the season strong with Double-A Chattanooga posting a .333/.381/.525 slash line with 5 home runs and 7 stolen bases. Those numbers earned him an early-season promotion to Triple-A where it looked as if Gordon forgot how to hit. I’m not ready to give up on the 2014 5th overall pick after a bad half-season, and I don’t think the Twins organization is going to give up either. Now that Gordon has Triple-A experience I highly expect him to be able to work on his game in the offseason and go back to his normal production which should in return lead to his big league debut next season.
Houston Astros- Kyle Tucker OF- While Tucker is getting a taste of the big leagues at the moment, his numbers aren’t blowing anyone away. He played 100 games with Triple-A Fresno and posted a .332/.400/.590 slash line. Tucker has a good mix of power and speed which is seen by his 24 home runs and 20 stolen bases. While in his 21 big league games he only has 8 hits in 53 at-bats there is no need to panic on the former 5th overall pick. This experience is good for Tucker’s development in the fact that he can experience big league pitching and address the areas that need work in the offseason. Look for Tucker to be a big part of the Astros offense next season.
Los Angeles Angels- Matt Thaiss 1B- Thaiss started his 2018 campaign the Double-A Mobile. A few months into the season he earned himself a promotion to Triple-A Salt Lake. Thaiss played 125 games this year and posted a .280/.335/.467 slash line. Thaiss is a former 2016 first-round pick out of the University of Virginia whose has an above average hit tool. There are concerns that he doesn’t have the power to fit the profile of a first baseman. I think Thaiss will spend at least the first half of the season back at Salt Lake to try and continue to develop his skills. If he produces at the pace he was this year, a big league call-up is not too far in his future.
Oakland Athletics- Sean Murphy C- Murphy only played 73 games this season as he was battling injuries. The bulk of his season was spent at Double-A Midland where he posted a .288/.358/.498 slash line. Murphy is considered one of the top catching prospects in baseball. He is one of the more defensively advanced catchers at the moment and he possesses plus arm strength and above average pop up times. Murphy will probably start the season with the A’s new Triple-A affiliate in the Las Vegas 51s where he should continue to develop his skills on both sides of the ball. Murphy should be the A’s starting catcher for the next 10 plus years if he continues to progress.
Seattle Mariners- Chuck Taylor OF- In a system so thin as the Seattle Mariners compared with the fact that the majority of their prospects are at least 2 years away from the big leagues add to the degree of difficulty to find someone who could make an impact with the club next year. Here I dig very deep to find Chuck Taylor who spent his 2018 season with Double-A Arkansas. Taylor was a 4th round pick in 2012 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. This year in the Mariners organization he posted some of the best numbers of his career. He posted a .297/.377/.376 slash line. Although Taylor may not be a highly valued prospect he can be a solid bench/utility guy.
Texas Rangers- Scott Heineman OF- Here we continue the deep dig into dart prospects but after looking at Heineman’s number from this past season there is room to hope. He was an 11th round pick in 2015 out of Oregon University. He started this season with Double-A Frisco and while he only played 7 games he managed to get 12 hits in 23 at-bats. He was then called up to Triple-A Round Rock where he spent the rest of the season. In his 107 games there, he posted a .295/.355/.429 slash line with 11 home runs and 16 stolen bases. He has always had steady offensive production. He profiles as a reserve, but who knows, if he continues to put up numbers like that, he could find himself a steady role with the Rangers next year.
Atlanta Braves- Austin Riley 3B- The Braves have a large number of prospects who could make an impact next year. Most of them are pitchers who already tasted big league ball this year. Austin Riley was a guy that many thought would be called up this season due to the presumed hole at the third base position. Riley played 108 games this year between Double-A and Triple-A with a few rehab games in rookie ball. He posted a .294/.360/.522 slash line with 19 home runs. Riley has the glove to stay at the hot corner and should be with the Braves at some point in the 2019 season.
Miami Marlins- Nick Neidert RHP- The Marlins acquired Neidert when they traded away Dee Gordon last December. He spent the season at Double-A Jacksonville where he posted a 3.24 ERA in 26 starts. He averaged just over a strikeout per inning with 154 punch outs in 152.2 innings pitched. Neidert should start the season in Triple-A New Orleans and if he puts up similar number to those he put up this year I could see the Marlins giving the soon to be 22-year-old a big league call-up.
New York Mets- Peter Alonso 1B- There was an argument to be mad that Alonso should have been called up this year. He more than earned it to be fair. In 65 games with Double-A Binghamton, he hit 15 home runs while holding a .314 batting average. He was then promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas where in 67 games he launched 21 home runs to give him 36 home runs in 132 games played. Alonso was a 2nd round pick in 2016 out of the University of Florida and his best tool is probably his raw power which was shown by this seasons home run total. With the state the Mets organization is in, I am not sure why they would not want to bring Alonso up this season, but Alonso will definitely start the season with the Mets new Triple-A team that plays in Syracuse. Soon after that, he should see some time with the Mets, where he could make a splash.
Philadelphia Phillies- Adam Haseley OF- There is a big chance that Haseley will not get a call up next year but, with the way he’s been raking in the minors, it is definitely a possibility if he continues to put up similar numbers. In 2018 he spent 79 games High-A Clearwater and 39 games in Double-A Reading. In his 118 games this year he compiled a .305/.361/.433 slash line. He is an above average defender and a plus hitter. If he doesn’t get the call up next season he will definitely be part of this Phillies team in 2020.
Washington Nationals- Victor Robles OF- Robles is already getting a taste of big league ball at the moment with the Nationals. Robles has been sidelined the majority of the season due to injury. In his limited time with Triple-A Syracuse he held a .278 batting average and swiped 14 bags in only 40 games. With the much-anticipated departure of star Bryce Harper, you can fully expect Robles to step into an everyday role alongside Adam Eaton and fellow youngster Juan Soto.
Chicago Cubs- Dakota Mekkes RHP- Talk about digging deep into a system, Mekkes is not even in the Cubs top 30 prospect list from MLB Pipeline, but in all reality, he should be. In 41 relief appearances this year across Double-A and Triple-A he put up a 1.17 ERA in 53 ⅔ innings. To add to the tremendous year he had, in those 53 ⅔ innings he managed to record 71 punch outs. Mekkes is a name that only a select number of Cubs fans will know, but next year Mekkes could be one of the more dominant arms in the Cubs pen especially if he can translate what he did in the minors to what he is can do in the big leagues.
Cincinnati Reds- Nick Senzel 3B/2B- Senzel was in line to receive a call-up a few weeks into the season. He played 44 games before being sidelined for the rest of the year due to injury. In those 44 games, he posted a .310 batting average and launched 6 home runs. And even managed to swipe 8 bags. With the emergence of Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez, Senzel is in a bit of a roadblock, but his talents are too good to be sitting in Triple-A. He might stay there for the first few weeks of the season and get a call-up around May.
Milwaukee Brewers- Keston Hiura 2B- When the Brewers drafted Hiura with the 9th overall pick in 2017 they thought they were getting the best pure hitter in the draft, and that is exactly what they got. After Hiura signed his pro contract all he did was rake in 2017. This year he continued to rake across High-A and Double-A, he posted a .293 batting average with 13 home runs in 123 games. Hiura will most likely start the season with Triple-A San Antonio and if he is not used as the centerpiece in a trade for pitching the Brewers would love his bat in their lineup.
Pittsburgh Pirates- Mitch Keller RHP- In the 2018 season Keller pitched in 25 games across 3 levels. He posted a 3.48 ERA in those 25 starts and struck out 135 batters in 142 ⅓ innings pitched. Keller is one of the top prospects in baseball and a top 3 RHP prospect. Keller will most likely start the 2019 season in Triple-A Indianapolis and Keller should be the first to get a call if the Pirates need a spot start.
St. Louis Cardinals- Alex Reyes RHP- For me, it is sad to say that Alex Reyes is still considered a prospect. He made his big league debut back in 2016, He missed the 2017 season after having Tommy John surgery. He rehabbed his way back this year and made his first start. In which he pitched 4 scoreless innings. After that start, it was reported that Reyes would undergo surgery for a torn tendon that would sideline him the rest of 2018. There are a couple of guys I could have picked for the Cardinals, but the talent of Reyes is just too good to be unrecognized. To put his skills into perspective, he made 5 starts across 5 levels. He pitched a total of 23 innings, struck out an astounding 44 batters all while managing to give up a grand total of zero runs. ZERO! Reyes has been a highly regarded prospect in the Cardinals organization along with Major League Baseball. If Reyes stays healthy he will very quickly become a household name not just in the St. Louis area.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Jon Duplantier RHP- Duplantier spent the 2018 season in Double-A Jackson where he pitched in 14 games. In those 14 games, he managed just over a strikout per inning with 68 punch outs in 67 innings pitched. He also managed to post a 2.69 ERA in those 14 starts. With the way he pitched at Jackson I could envision him starting the season with Triple-A Reno. If he dominates Triple-A like he did in Double-A I am sure the Diamondbacks would love to have him up with the big league club.
Colorado Rockies- Brendan Rodgers SS- Rodgers was taken with the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 draft behind guys like Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman. He spent the majority of his season with Double-A Hartford where he had a .275 batting average and launched 17 home runs. He earned himself a promotion to Triple-A and the few weeks he spent there can be chalked up as a learning experience. Rodgers is still a top 10 prospect in baseball and will definitely get a boost for playing half his games at Coors Field. Rodgers might have a chance to crack the opening day roster depending on the severity of Trevor Story’s injury. Regardless if Story is healthy or not I would be shocked if Rodgers is not wearing a Rockies uniform sometime next season.
Los Angeles Dodgers- Alex Verdugo OF- Verdugo is getting a good bit of MLB experience with the Dodgers this season. In his 31 games he’s batting .254 which although is not great it’s not awful, and once he completely settles in he can definitely give those numbers a boost. We know what he’s capable of based on his Triple-A numbers. A .329 batting average paired with 10 home runs and 8 stolen bases with Triple-A Oklahoma CIty. Verdugo could have spent the whole year with the club but the Dodgers currently have a very crowded outfield. Wait to see Verdugo next season hopefully with a more important role.
San Diego Padres- Fernando Tatis Jr. SS- Tatis is another guy that really doesn’t need much of an explanation. Tatis was an international free agent signing by the White Sox back in 2015. He was part of a trade that saw James Shields going to the South side. In that deal, the Padres found themselves a gem. Tatis is currently the number 2 prospect in all of baseball and all his tools are there to prove it. Tatis started the year off slow but then ended his year with a .286 batting average with 16 home runs and 16 stolen bases. There was speculation that Tatis would get a call-up this year, but those speculations went away because Tatis suffered a season-ending injury a few months ago. Tatis will probably start the year in Triple-A and should soon earn himself a call-up to San Diego.
San Francisco Giants- Aramis Garcia C/1B- The Giants don’t have many prospects that are near big league ready. Garcia, however, has 10 games under his belt with the Giants this season. In those 10 games, he’s collected 10 hits in 30 at-bats with 3 home runs. Not too shabby. He spent the year between Double-A and Triple-A where his numbers didn’t look that promising. He is progressing into becoming a better catcher defensively and based on what he has shown so far this year he might have earned himself another go with the Giants next season.