25 Under-the-Radar Prospects to Watch in 2019: AL Central

In this investigation, I am looking to identify prospects worth monitoring in 2019. These are the types of guys who have garnered less attention on the national stage (don’t appear on prominent top 100 lists and have not exceeded 150 PAs or 30 IP in the MLB), often for a variety of reasons, including the following (note: all five don’t necessarily apply to each player):

  • One or more of their primary tools are unlikely to play at the major league level
  • They struggle defensively (no true home on the diamond)
  • Lack of proximity to the majors
  • Age relative to their competition
  • Too small of a sample size

*If a minor leaguer registered less than 75 PAs or less than 20 IP at a particular level, those stats will be excluded

*If a minor leaguer registered less than 75 PAs or less than 20 IPs at each level he played at, but he registered more than 75 PAs and/or 20 IPs (combining all levels) total, then an average of his stats will be used

Detroit Tigers

1. Willi Castro

Age: 21

Position: SS

Photo: Mike Janes, AP

2018 stats (per FanGraphs):

  • Indians AA
    • PA: 410
    • AVG: .245
    • OBP: .303
    • HR: 5
    • SB: 13
    • K%: 20.5
    • BB%: 6.8
  • Tigers AA
    • PA: 114
    • AVG: .324
    • OBP: .366
    • HR: 4
    • SB: 4
    • K%: 21.9
    • BB%: 5.3

Apparent areas for improvement: plate discipline and power

Scouting report:

If there’s suddenly more lift here then Castro could be a top 100 prospect by mid year. He’s going to stay at short (plus range, average hands, above-average arm) but the average big league shortstop had a 95 wRC+ last year and Castro is a very aggressive hitter likely to run below-average OBPs. If there’s been a swing change (his swing with Cleveland was not conducive of power) then extra pop might propel Castro toward regular playing time. If not, he’s a low-end everyday player or utility man.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

2. Jacob Robson

Age: 24

Position: CF

2018 stats:

  • AA
    • PA: 311
    • AVG: .286
    • OBP: .382
    • HR: 7
    • SB: 11
    • K%: 25.1
    • BB%: 12.5
  • AAA
    • PA: 245
    • AVG: .305
    • OBP: .369
    • HR: 4
    • SB: 7
    • K%: 25.3
    • BB%: 9.4

Apparent areas for improvement: Power and avoidance of swinging and missing

Scouting report: upside of that of a bench OF (Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs)

3. Kody Clemens

Age: 22

Position: 2B

Photo: Jay Markle/Bless You Boys

2018 stats:

  • A
    • PA: 174
    • AVG: .302
    • OBP: .387
    • HR: 4
    • SB: 3
    • K%: 15.5
    • BB%: 12.1
  • University of Texas (all college stats per D1baseball.com)
    • PA: 248
    • AVG: .351
    • OBP: .444
    • HR: 24
    • SB: 5
    • K: 50
    • BB: 41

Apparent areas for improvement: swing-and-miss game and defense

Scouting report:

At best, teams think he’ll be an inoffensive second baseman, with some projecting Clemens to third base or an outfield corner. One source compared him to current 50 FV prospect Shed Long. That type of outcome — a compact body with power, some issues against breaking stuff, below average defense but at a premium position — would be a good outcome for a third rounder.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

4. Ricardo Silva

Age: 18

Position: LHP

2018 stats:

  • R
    • G: 14
      • GS: 6
    • IP: 56.1
    • K/9: 9.11
    • BB/9: 0.48
    • HR/9: 0
    • ERA: 3.51
    • FIP: 1.74
    • xFIP: 2.12
    • WHIP: 1.14

Apparent areas for improvement: missing more bats (61 hits conceded in just under 60 IP)

Scouting report: N/A

5. Rodolfo Fajardo

Age: 19

Position: LHP

2018 stats:

  • R
    • G: 14
      • GS: 13
    • IP: 59.0
    • K/9: 10.22
    • BB/9: 1.53
    • HR/9: 0.31
    • ERA: 1.07
    • FIP: 2.38
    • xFIP: 2.43
    • WHIP: 0.83

No apparent areas for improvement: demonstrate the ability to throw more innings per start (and more innings in general)

Scouting report: N/A

Minnesota Twins

1. Brent Rooker

Age: 24

Position: 1B

Photo: Tom Hagerty

2018 stats:

  • AA (4/5/18 – 5/14/18)
    • PA: 140
    • AVG: .220
    • OBP: .257
    • HR: 3
    • 2B: 7
    • SB: 1
    • K%: 28.6%
    • BB%: 4.3
  • AA (5/15/18 – 9/3/18)
    • PA: 428
    • AVG: .267
    • OBP: .357
    • HR: 19
    • 2B: 25
    • SB: 5
    • K%: 25.7
    • BB%: 11.7

Apparent areas for improvement: avoidance of swinging and missing (making more contact on a consistent basis

Scouting report:

Rooker have below-average speed and arm strength, and fits best long-term at first base, though he plays some left field, as well. His swing has some stiffness to it and his swing/approach create additional swing and miss, so he needs to maintain at least average pitch selection to get to his power in games consistently enough to profile as an everyday player.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

2. Victor Heredia

Age: 18

Position: 1B

2018 stats:

  • R
    • PA: 260
    • AVG: .330
    • OBP: .369
    • HR: 8
    • SB: 1
    • K%: 15.4
    • BB%: 5.4

Apparent areas for improvement: Plate discipline

Scouting report: NA

3. Jeferson Morales

Age: 19

Position: C

2018 stats:

  • R
    • PA: 232
    • AVG: .303
    • OBP: .466
    • HR: 1
    • SB: 17
    • K%: 12.5
    • BB%: 17.7

Apparent areas for improvement: Power

Scouting report: N/A

4. Jhoan Duran

Age: 21

Position: RHP

Photo: Sean King / The Beacon-News

2018 stats:

  • Diamondbacks A
    • G: 15
      • GS: 15
    • IP: 64.2
    • K/9: 9.88
    • BB/9: 3.90
    • HR/9: 0.84
    • ERA: 4.73
    • FIP: 3.93
    • xFIP: 3.53
    • WHIP: 1.50
    • GB%: 49.7
  • Twins A
    • G: 6
      • GS: 6
    • IP: 36.0
    • K/9: 11.00
    • BB/9: 2.50
    • HR/9: 0.50
    • ERA: 2.00
    • FIP: 2.68
    • xFIP: 2.56
    • WHIP: 0.81
    • GB%: 65.4

Apparent areas for improvement: Command and maintaining high level performance (from his recent torrid run with the Twins [his new team])

Scouting report:

Mid-90s with tail, flashes plus change and breaking ball. Consistency issues.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

5. Andrew Vasquez

Age: 25

Position: LHP

2018 stats:

  • A+
    • G: 19
      • GS: 0
    • IP: 32.2
    • K/9: 10.19
    • BB/9: 3.58
    • HR/9: 0.28
    • ERA: 1.38
    • FIP: 2.90
    • xFIP: 3.12
    • WHIP: 1.13
    • GB%: 58.8
  • AA
    • G: 17
      • GS: 1
    • IP: 31.0
    • K/9: 17.13
    • BB/9: 1.16
    • HR/9: 0.29
    • ERA: 1.16
    • FIP: 0.66
    • xFIP: 0.64
    • WHIP: 0.81
    • GB%: 48.9

Scouting report: N/A

Cleveland Indians

1. Richard Palacios

Age: 21

Position: 2B

Photo: Mathew Carper

2018 stats:

  • A-
    • PA: 86
    • AVG: .411
    • OBP: .477
    • HR: 2
    • SB: 2
    • K%: 14.0
    • BB%: 12.8
  • A
    • PA: 82
    • AVG: .300
    • OBP: .317
    • HR: 2
    • SB: 3
    • K%: 15.9
    • BB%: 2.4

Apparent areas for improvement: consistency

Scouting report:

Palacios is the only college prospect listed [on Picks to Click: Who We Expect to Make the 2020 Top 100]. He had three times as many walks as strikeouts at Towson last year.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

2. Nick Sandlin

Age: 22

Position: RHP

Photo: Joseph Cobliz

2018 stats (R, A, A+, and AA):

  • IP: 24
  • K/9: 13.5
  • BB/9: 1.13
  • HR/9: 0
  • ERA: 3.00
  • FIP: 1.12
  • xFIP: 1.78
  • WHIP: 1.00

No apparent areas for improvement

Scouting report:

I said Southern Miss sidearm RHP Nick Sandlin would reach MLB first from the 2018 draft. Cleveland popped him 67th overall for a below slot bonus

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

3. ^Ben Taylor

Age: 26

Position: RHP

Photo: Associated Press

2018 stats:

  • AAA
    • IP: 57.1
    • K/9: 10.99
    • BB/9: 1.41
    • HR/9: 0.78
    • ERA: 2.51
    • FIP: 2.60
    • xFIP: 2.49
    • WHIP: 0.89

No apparent areas for improvement

Scouting Report:

Taylor regularly misses bats with his low- to mid-90s fastball up above the strike zone. It’s a comfortably plus fastball and Taylor fills the zone with it. He also has a fringey slider with inconsistent shape and bite, but it flashes average and could get there with reps and big-league coaching.

Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs

^ = recently designated for assignment

4. James Karinchak

Age: 23

Position: RHP

2018 stats:

  • A+
    • IP: 27.0
    • K/9: 15.00
    • BB/9: 5.67
    • HR/9: 0.33
    • ERA: 1.00
    • FIP: 2.39
    • xFIP: 2.63
    • WHIP: 1.15

Apparent areas for improvement: control

Scouting Report: N/A

5. Eli Morgan

Age: 22

Position: RHP

Photo: Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review

2018 stats:

  • A
    • G: 8
      • GS: 8
    • IP: 44.1
    • K/9: 11.37
    • BB/9: 1.62
    • HR/9: 0.41
    • ERA: 1.83
    • FIP: 2.22
    • xFIP: 2.41
    • WHIP: 0.88
    • GB%: 41.2
  • A+
    • G: 19
      • GS: 19
    • IP: 99.0
    • K/9: 9.09
    • BB/9: 2.36
    • HR/9: 1.00
    • ERA: 3.91
    • FIP: 3.75
    • xFIP: 3.42
    • WHIP: 1.20
    • GB%: 39.5

Apparent areas for improvement: Limiting baserunners and the long ball

Scouting report:

Morgan throws three pitches. Fastball (FB), slider (SL), and a change-up (CH). His mechanics are pretty clean and he has great feel for his off-speed. His arm action is short and fast. Morgan excels at maintaining arm speed throwing the SL and CH which adds to his deception and allows his FB to play up. Speaking of the FB, Morgan generated 5 swing and miss strikes on his FB in a 3 inning start. He elevates the 4-seamer with 2 strikes and will change eye level while working both corners.

Jason Woodell of Baseball Farm

Kansas City Royals

1. Nicky Lopez

Age: 24

Position: 2B/SS

Photo: Bradford Glazier and the Wilmington Blue Rocks

2018 stats:

  • AA
    • PA: 325
    • AVG: .331
    • OBP: .397
    • HR: 2
    • SB: 9
    • K%: 7.1
    • BB%: 10.2
  • AAA
    • PA: 256
    • AVG: .278
    • OBP: .364
    • HR: 7
    • SB: 6
    • K%: 11.3
    • BB%: 10.5

Apparent areas for improvement: power

Scouting report:

A diminutive baseball player, Lopez possesses very little pop but he knows how to hit. The 2016 fifth rounder has zoomed through the minors and is MLB ready. Splitting the year between double-A and triple-A, he’s hitting .330 with a BB-K of 47-37. He also has enough speed and skill to steal 15-20 bases while playing solid defence up the middle.

Marc Hulet of RotoGraphs

2. Heribert Garcia

Age: 19

Position: RHP

2018 stats:

  • R
    • IP: 47.2
    • G: 11
      • GS: 10
    • K/9: 8.31
    • BB/9: 1.32
    • HR/9: 0.19
    • ERA: 0.94
    • FIP: 2.49
    • xFIP: 2.54
    • WHIP: 0.55
    • GB%: 52.7

No apparent areas for improvement: start to throw more innings per start

Scouting Report: N/A

3. Garrett Suchey

Age: 24

Position: RHP

2018 stats:

  • A
    • IP: 33.0
    • G: 21
      • GS: 0
    • K/9: 8.18
    • BB/9: 1.09
    • HR/9: 0.55
    • ERA: 1.36
    • FIP: 2.89
    • xFIP: 3.40
    • WHIP: 0.94

Apparent areas for improvement: more strikeouts

Scouting Report: N/A

4. Richard Lovelady

Age: 23

Position: LHP

Photo: BRIAN WESTERHOLT AP

2018 stats:

  • AAA
    • IP: 73.0
    • G: 46
      • GS: 0
    • K/9: 8.75
    • BB/9: 2.59
    • HR/9: 0.37
    • ERA: 2.47
    • FIP: 3.28
    • xFIP: 3.87
    • WHIP: 1.01
    • GB%: 49.7

Apparent areas for improvement: more strikeouts

Scouting Report:

Lovelady has posted video-game numbers since entering pro ball. He has a career ERA under 2.00 and WHIP under 1.00 in 100 career pro innings and was utterly dominant at High-A and Double-A in 2017. His fastball sits 93-95, touches 98, and his whippy, low-slot delivery makes it tough for hitters of both hands to pick up the ball out of his hand. His secondary stuff plays up because of this, as well…

Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs

5. Jacob Condra-Bogan

Age: 24

Position: RHP

Photo: CLINTON RIDDLE

2018 stats:

  • A
    • IP: 26.0
    • G: 16
      • GS: 0
    • K/9: 13.5
    • BB/9: 0.69
    • HR/9: 0.69
    • ERA: 2.08
    • FIP: 1.70
    • xFIP: 1.69
    • WHIP: 0.77
    • GB%: 39.2

Apparent areas for improvement: more ground balls

Scouting Report:

Indy ball signee up to 99. Is throwing strikes in low levels, already 23.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

Chicago White Sox

1. Caleb Frare

Age: 25

Position: LHP

Photo: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

2018 stats:

  • Yankees AA
    • IP: 43.2
    • G: 31
      • GS: 0
    • K/9: 11.75
    • BB/9: 3.09
    • HR/9: 0.21
    • ERA: 0.62
    • FIP: 2.25
    • xFIP: 2.95
    • WHIP: 0.92

Apparent areas for improvement: control

Scouting Report:

Indy ball signee up to 99. Is throwing strikes in low levels, already 23.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

2. Tyler Johnson

Age: 23

Position: RHP

Photo: Chris Gillespie/GamecockCentral.com

2018 stats:

  • A
    • G: 20
      • GS: 0
    • IP: 27.0
    • K/9: 15.33
    • BB/9: 3.33
    • HR/9: 0.33
    • ERA: 1.33
    • FIP: 1.88
    • xFIP: 2.06
    • WHIP: 0.96
    • GB%: 53.3
  • A+
    • G: 21
      • GS: 0
    • IP: 31.0
    • K/9: 12.48
    • BB/9: 1.74
    • HR/9: 0.29
    • ERA: 1.45
    • FIP: 1.58
    • xFIP: 1.94
    • WHIP: 0.81
    • GB%: 40.9

Apparent areas for improvement: control

Scouting report:

Johnson has three average or better pitches and runs his heater into the high-90s but has delivery issues and was overused at South Carolina, which led to arm issues. 

 Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

3. Taylor Varnell

Age: 23

Position: LHP

2018 stats:

  • R
    • IP: 45.2
    • G: 10
      • GS: 10
    • K/9: 12.02
    • BB/9: 1.97
    • HR/9: 0.39
    • ERA: 1.97
    • FIP: 2.76
    • xFIP: 2.63
    • WHIP: 0.88
    • GB%: 52.9

Apparent areas for improvement: getting deeper into games (more innings per start)

Scouting Report: N/A

4. Luis Gonzalez

Age: 23

Position: RF

Photo: Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images

2018 stats:

  • A
    • PA: 255
    • AVG: .300
    • OBP: .358
    • HR: 8
    • SB: 7
    • K%: 22.4
    • BB%: 8.2
  • A+
    • PA: 288
    • AVG: .313
    • OBP: .376
    • HR: 6
    • SB: 3
    • K%: 16.0
    • BB%: 9.4

Apparent areas for improvement: power and plate discipline

Scouting report:

Gonzalez doesn’t have huge tools. With the exception of a 55 on the bat, everything else gets average grades across the board from scouts. He profiles as an outfield tweener who can play all three spots but doesn’t have the traditional everyday profile for any of those same three spots. Gonzalez has above-average bat control and pitch selection but more of a line-drive approach that doesn’t tap into all of his raw power, so he fits more as a solid platoon/role-player type than a true everyday player.

Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs

5. Yermin Mercedes

Age: 26

Position: C

2018 stats:

  • A+
    • PA: 410
    • AVG: .289
    • OBP: .362
    • HR: 14
    • SB: 4
    • K%: 16.3
    • BB%: 9.8

No apparent areas for improvement

Scouting report: N/A

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