Breakout Prospects for 2019: American League West
With the National League divisions all wrapped up, we switch over to the land of designated hitters, Evil Empires, and the 2018 World Champions. We’ll get to that loaded AL East next week, but today we head back west to go over breakout prospects on the rise in the AL West Division. And believe me, there are a ton of them. As I mention below, Houston’s system wreaks of upside and Seattle’s is firmly on the rise after some offseason wheeling and dealing from GM Jerry Dipoto. I probably could’ve listed 10-12 more guys below than I did, but I limited it to the prospects I see making the biggest jumps in 2019.
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Breakout MLB Prospects – AL West
Note: I did not include anyone already in my overall top-50.
Bryan Abreu, RHP, Houston Astros
2018 Stats (A-/A): 54.1 IP, 1.49 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9, 14.9 K/9, .175 AVG
There are a ton of high upside arms in this system. Some are already becoming household names like Forrest Whitley and Josh James. Give it another few months and I have a hunch that Bryan Abreu enters that discussion as a potential top-100 overall prospect. The arsenal here is dynamic with three plus offerings that give opposing batters fits. So what’s the problem? Command. Yup, didn’t see that one coming, did you? When Abreu is locating his pitches, he looks like a future No. 2 starter with incredibly high strikeout upside. The problem is, his spotty command limits the frequency that we see that. He made some strides with his command in 2018 and will likely shoot way up prospect rankings if he can continue that trend in 2019.
Current Rank: 211 | Projected 2020 Rank: 125-150
Freudis Nova, SS, Houston Astros
2018 Stats (RK): .308/.331/.466/.797, 3 2B, 6 HR, 9 SB, 3.8 BB%, 13.4 K%, 146 AB
To be totally honest, I felt bad ranking Nova as low in my top-250 as I did. On both sides of the ball, he looks like a future star and the 2018 season was a small glimpse of that enticing offensive upside. Defensively, he’s exhibited exceptional rage at short with a rocket arm that would fit in at third as well. With the presence of Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman on the left side of Houston’s infield, it’s uncertain how Nova fits into future plans. But one thing is for certain, his offensive potential will fit in anywhere.
Nova is able to generate consistent hard contact from the right side with exceptional bat speed and some natural loft. He doesn’t walk that much, but he also has been able to keep his strikeouts low. Taking a more patient approach could benefit Nova even more and really allow him to sit back and look for a pitch to drive. There’s legit 20/25 upside here with a high .200 batting average to go along with it. Expect to see Nova well within my top-100 next spring if he continues to exhibit these tools and hit this well.
Current Rank: 190 | Projected 2020 Rank: 60-80
Luis Santana, 2B, Houston Astros
2018 Stats (RK): .348/.446/.471/.917, 13 2B, 4 HR, 8 SB, 11.2 BB%, 9.5 K%, 204 AB
This Houston system wreaks of upside, both on the mound and at the plate. We already talked about Freudis Nova, a potential offensive star at shortstop, and now we have a recent acquisition from the Mets in the JD Davis trade, Luis Santana. A 2017 J2 signing, Santana is a hit-first second baseman with plus contact skills and some above-average speed to go with it. He’s now gotten in over 500 at-bats in Rookie ball and has walked more times than he’s struck out, recording a tidy 8.5% strikeout rate and 10.5% walk rate. He hasn’t exhibited much raw power and is fairly close to Dustin Pedroia in size, but Santana’s contact skills, advanced plate approach, and speed should provide plenty of value as he moves forward to Single-A and beyond.
Current Rank: 200 | Projected 2020 Rank: 125-150
Jordyn Adams, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2018 Stats (RK): .267/.361/.381/.742, 6 2B, 0 HR, 5 SB, 11.5 BB%, 24.6 K%, 105 AB
This one is a meatball. A hanging thigh-high curveball over the heart of the plate, if you will. Jordyn Adams is a walking toolshed with immense offensive upside. Many months ago I threw around a right-handed Carl Crawford comp, and to add to that, Adams has more raw power than Crawford did. And I’m talking prime Crawford in the Tampa Bay days, not the lesser Red Sox/Dodgers versions. The speed is truly elite and should annually have him near the top of the stolen base leaderboard, with the potential for some stolen base crowns.
— The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) August 1, 2018
While the speed cannot be questioned, his upside with the bat is not quite as concrete. As of now, the hit tool is below average to average and I would still like to see him settle down some moving parts to his swing. Adams has a tendency to use a deeper hand coil, making his swing a tad longer at times while also getting a little out of balance during his swing. If he can make strides at the plate, we could be looking at a .270-.280 hitter with 15-20 homers and a ton of stolen bases. As I said previously, Adams has a chance to be one of the most exciting players in the game.
Current Rank: 119 | Projected 2020 Rank: 40-60
D’Shawn Knowles, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2018 Stats (RK): .311/.391/.464/.855, 13 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 9 SB, 11.1 BB%, 25.7 K%, 222 AB
This Angels system is loaded with outfield talent. Jo Adell is one of the top outfield prospects in the game and we just went over the tantalizing upside of Jordyn Adams. But it doesn’t stop with just that star-studded duo. Signed out of the Bahamas during the 2017 J2 period, Knowles began breaking out in 2018 with strong showings in the Arizona League and Pioneer League. He displayed above-average contact skills from both sides of the plate, routinely generating hard contact into the gaps with most of his power coming from the left side of the plate. The power is likely capped around 15 homers, but those homers should come with a strong batting average and 25-plus steals if he can improve as a base stealer.
Current Rank: 213 | Projected 2020 Rank: 125-150
Austin Beck, OF, Oakland Athletics
2018 Stats (A): .296/.335/.383/.718, 29 2B, 2 HR, 8 SB, 5.6 BB%, 21.9 K%, 493 AB
After being selected with the 6th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Beck had a strong showing in Single-A during his first full professional season, hitting .296 with 29 doubles and eight steals in 493 at-bats. That’s just the beginning. While he only hit two homers last season, there’s plenty of additional power upside in Beck’s bat and I’m expecting that to start showing up more in games this season. He doesn’t need to sell out for power either. With the exceptional bat speed and torque Beck creates, hard contact is commonplace, and with plus contact skills, Beck should be able to continue to post high averages to go along with the additional power upside. Throw in the fact that he’s a great athlete with plenty of speed, and we have an outfielder with a strong chance of making some noise in 2019 and fly up prospect lists.
Current Rank: 125 | Projected 2020 Rank: 50-75
Working on a few things…….👀👀👀👀👀 pic.twitter.com/sujX7Q96V1
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners
2018 Stats (RK): .315/.404/.525/.929, 13 2B, 9 3B, 5 HR, 10 SB, 11.8 BB%, 15.7 K%, 219 AB
Fellow international outfield prospect, Kristian Robinson, is blowing up in prospect circles lately, and for good reason. Well, give it a few months and Julio Rodriguez will likely be the next hot commodity skyrocketing towards top-25 overall status. After signing for $1.75 million in the 2017 J2 period, “J-Rod” began his professional career with a very strong showing in the Dominican Summer League last season, flashing his immense offensive upside. The approach and contact skills are above-average and there’s plenty of additional untapped raw power as well. Rodriguez isn’t likely to maintain a 30-steal pace moving forward, but has all the tools to hit for both average and 30-plus homers. This is a dynasty stock firmly on the rise.
Current Rank: 105 | Projected 2020 Rank: 25-50
Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners
2018 Stats (A+/AA): .244/.306/.405/.711, 26 2B, 9 HR, 1 SB, 7.7 BB%, 24.0 K%, 328 AB
Remember him? One mediocre season has basically thrown his prospect star in the toilet. But not so fast. There was a reason why Kyle Lewis was a top-100 prospect on many lists last spring, including my own. Was he a little overhyped and ranked too highly then? Obviously. But, there are still reasons to be excited about owning Lewis in dynasty leagues, especially now when you can probably acquire him for 80 cents on the dollar. The plus raw power still remains and Lewis improved his walk and strikeout rates to 11.2% and 21.1% respectively after getting called up to Double-A. While he might never be an elite asset like we once though, the tools are still there to become a .260+ hitter with 30 homer upside. Expect a nice bounce-back season from Mr. Lewis in 2019 and subsequent rise back up the rankings.
Current Rank: 241 | Projected 2020 Rank: 125-150
Jake Fraley, OF, Seattle Mariners
2018 Stats (A+): .347/.415/.547/.962, 19 2B, 4 HR, 11 SB, 10.0 BB%, 16.9 K%, 225 AB
Some prospects take a little longer than others to get going. Fraley is one of those prospects. After lackluster 2016 and 2017 seasons, Fraley put up a strong performance last offseason over in Australia and carried that over to the Florida State League (A+) in 2018. He was a little old for the level at 23, but Fraley’s above-average contact skills, plate approach, and plus speed are putting him on the map as a prospect and snuck him into the back end of my top-250 at #245 overall. He’ll likely start off at Double-A this season and has a real chance to ascend into the top-150 range if he continues to put those tools I mentioned on full display in the Texas League.
Current Rank: 245 | Projected 2020 Rank: 150-175
Cal Raleigh, C, Seattle Mariners
2018 Stats (A-): .288/.367/.534/.901, 10 2B, 8 HR, 1 SB, 10.8 BB%, 17.4 K%, 146 AB
What can I say, catchers that hit for power and a respectable batting average are always okay in my book. They’re a rare, dying breed that needs to be appreciated for the majestical creatures that they are. Maybe I’m taking it a bit far, but you get the idea. As a switch-hitter, Raleigh has displayed a good feel for hitting and above-average to plus raw power from both sides of the plate. There’s some natural loft to his swing as well, leading me to project him as a 20-25 homer threat down the road. And like I mentioned, the contact skills are good enough to keep his batting average north of .250, potentially settling in as a .260-.270 hitter. When talking about the best catching prospects in the game, Raleigh’s name hasn’t joined the conversation yet, but it likely soon will.
Current Rank: NR | Projected 2020 Rank: 175-200
Joey Gerber, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2018 Stats (A-/A): 25.2 IP, 2.10 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 15.1 K/9, .202 AVG
When Edwin Diaz left town, the post of “Closer of the Future” opened up and Joey Gerber looks poised to snatch it. An 8th-rounder in 2018, Gerber’s plus fastball and slider give him the looks of a future closer with high strikeout upside. He just needs to refine his command a bit and tone down his high effort delivery. Don’t be surprised if he’s up with Seattle by the end of the season and a key late-inning member of the Mariners bullpen in 2020, potentially as a closer or set-up guy.
Current Rank: NR | Projected 2020 Rank: Approaching top-250
Cole Winn, RHP, Texas Rangers
2018 Stats: Did Not Pitch
Cole Winn hasn’t even pitched in the minors yet and I don’t freaking care. This is an arm people are going to be talking about as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball next spring. You can quote me on that, I’m not worried one single iota. Why? Because this isn’t your typical prep arm. Winn attacks hitters with a beautiful four-pitch mix with all four of those pitches either being plus or having plus potential. On top of that, the command is rock-solid, adding to the effectiveness of those plus pitches. Check out a two-pitch sequence from fall instructs last October.
How about these two pitches from Cole Winn last night? pic.twitter.com/pd1n19IqU3
If you see him pitch, you’ll likely come away thinking you just saw a veteran Major Leaguer. Winn should move quickly through the Rangers system and blossom into one of the top pitching prospects in the game in short order. The window to acquire him for any type of reasonable price is about to be slammed shut.
Current Rank: 93 | Projected 2020 Rank: 25-40
Sherten Apostel, 3B, Texas Rangers
2018 Stats (RK/A-): .278/.420/.460/.880, 8 2B, 8 HR, 3 SB, 18.3 BB%, 22.3 K%, 176 AB
There are normal PTBNL prospects, and then there’s Sherten Apostel. Why Pittsburgh let him go remains a mystery to me, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just didn’t realize the special type of player they had in Apostel. The contact skills are still a work in progress and he’ll need to shorten his swing caused by a deeper hand coil, but those are mechanical adjustments that can be worked on and improved. Apostel has already shown he can work the count and draw plenty of walks, so the OBP should be solid even if he settles in as a .260ish hitter longterm. With some mechanical adjustments, I believe Apostel could flourish as a .280 hitter with plenty of power upside to go along with it. We’re potentially looking at an above-average offensive performer at an offensive-minded position.
Current Rank: 159 | Projected 2020 Rank: 50-70
Photo/Video Credit: Chris Welsh, Josh Norris,
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) and a contributor in the best-selling Fantasy Baseball Black Book. For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.
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