By: Noah Wright
Tons of prospects make their debut every MLB season, and 2019 will be no different. Many top, and unknown prospects come up, and see if they can land a spot on the MLB Team, and I wanted to go over one fairly unhearaled prospects at each position. So with that being said, let’s get right into it (NOTE: Don’t expect to see Vlad Jr., or Tatis Jr. This is a list of prospects who are not super high ranked).
Catcher: Andrew Knizner (STL.)
Knizner was one of the reasons the Cards traded Carson Kelly in the Goldschmidt trade. One being Kelly not ever really performing in the majors, and two being Knizner over took Kelly in the depth chart. Last year, Andrew Knizner batted .313/.368/.430 with 7 home runs and 45 RBI’s in 374 plate appearances (313 in AA and 61 in AAA). He didn’t really take a drop off when he was moved to Triple-A as well, with his slugging % dropping from .434 to.407, but his OBP did jump from .365 to .385. Defensively, he’s about average, as he caught 27% of runners trying to steal off of him, but at only 23 years old and the Cards still wanting to stick with Yadier Molina, Knizner still has time to improve his game.
First Base: Matt Thaiss (LAA)
Matt Thaiss put up a solid season between the Double-A and Triple-A affiliate of the Angels. In 576 PA’s (400 in AAA, 176 AA), Thaiss batted .280/.335/.467 with 16 home runs. His power is also decent with a .187 ISO. Fielding wise, he’s one of the higher end with the leather. Fangraphs ranks his glove a 50/50, as well as mlb.com. Thaiss isn’t even ranked within the top 100, but is ranked #5th on the Angels top 30 list, and 5th on the top 1B prospect list.
Second Base: Garrett Hampson (COL)
The Rockies have raised yet another impressive infield prospect. Garrett Hampson batted great between AA (172 PA’s) and AAA (332 PA’s). In total, Hampson hit .322/.382/.462. His on base skills plus his speed (36 stolen bases in 2018, 65 run according to mlb.com) make him a dangerous batter. His speed gives him range, but is just a good fielder overall. Last season, Hampson did make his MLB debut, and he batted .275/.396/.400 in 48 plate appearances, showing good OBP skills. However, he will likely be blocked at second base. Currently, Daniel Murphy is slotted at second base until Brendan Rodgers comes to the MLB. Then Murphy is likely to shift over to first base, while Rodgers takes over second base. Plus, Nolan Arenado is glued down at third base. Hampson can play multiple positions though. He has experience at shortstop, and center field as well. The Rockies have many avenues they could go down with Hampson. One, they could wait until Arenado is a free agent, and shift him to third base, or shift Trevor Story or Brendan Rodgers over to the hot corner and let Hampson get regular playing time up the middle, use Hampson in a utility role, make Hampson a regular outfielder with them likely not to resign either Carlos Gonzalez, and Gerardo Parra, or trade him to fix other holes on the team.
Shortstop: Oneil Cruz (PIT)
Oneil Cruz is one of the prospects the Pirates acquired in the trade that sent Tony Watson to the Dodgers, and so far it’s been a good trade for the Bucs. Last season, Cruz batted .286/.343/.488 with 14 home runs, and 11 stolen bases in 443 PA’s. Also, his wRC+ was 134, all in Single-A. Though he’s a very good batter for a shortstop, his fielding is so-so. Mlb.com gives Cruz a 55 fielding and 60 arm, but (even though I don’t think errors are a good reflection of a player’s fielding ability) he did make 33 errors at short.
Third Base: Colton Welker (COL)
Yet another Colorado prospect. This time, the team’s second best prospect Colton Welker. Last year, Welker batted .333/.383/.489 with 13 home runs, and 134 wRC+. His power is also decent with a .156 ISO. That came in all 509 plate appearances at the High-A level. MLB.com also ranks Welker with an above average glove, having 55 ratings for both his glove and throwing arm. Welker just barely made the top 100 list, ranking at 94th.
Outfield: Christin Stewart (DET)
The former first round pick for the Tigers looks to be a future asset to the MLB team, and for a good reason. Last season, Stewart batted .264/.364/.480 with 23 home runs. Plus, he should be a future power hitter for the Tigers as well. He hit 23 home runs, had a 138 wRC+, and .216 ISO in 522 PA’s in AAA. While he may never be a great fielder, given his low ratings by MLB.com and Fangraphs, he should still be an asset with his bat.
Outfield: Myles Straw (HOU)
Straw is one of the best base stealers currently held by any team in the minors. Overall, Straw is similar to Hampson. Sure, he may never hit for power, but his hitting, and on base skills, combined with his speed make him very valuable. Last season between AA and AAA (time nearly split evenly between both levels), Straw batted .291/.381/.353 with 70 stolen bases. Straw also brings a very good defensive glove in center field, and an even better outfield arm. Last season, Straw made 17 outfield assists with 15 coming from center field. Myles made his MLB debut last season, and in his limited 10 plate appearance sample, he batted .333/.400/.667. The 23 year old should see more time next season. Though Josh Reddick, and George Springer are likely locks for 2 of the 3 outfield spots, new signee Michael Brantley will likely see time mostly as a left fielder, but also might see some games at first base as well. Afterall, Brantley has stated that he would be willing to play the infield corner position. Straw could also see more outfield time if they move Jake Marisnick.
Outfield: Dom Thompson-Williams (SEA)
The Mariners got a hidden gem in the James Paxton swap. While most were focused on Justus Sheffield, many overlooked outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams. Last year, the talented young outfielder spent most of his time in High-A (375 PA’s), but also spent 40 PA’s in Mid-A. Across the 2 leagues, Williams batted .299/.363/.546 with a 147 wRC+ in High-A ball. He also brings a speed/power combo to the game, with 22 home runs, and 20 stolen bases last year. Defensively, he can easily be relied on to produce above average numbers in the grass, and also throw out a runner here and there. With the Mariners current situation, Dom could be looking to crack the MLB roster by the end of the year or even sooner if he can keep up similar production through the minors next season.
RHP: Josh James (HOU)
Though the Astros don’t have one of the best farm systems in the MLB, they do have a fairly deep one in terms of quality. Among those not so recognized prospects in their system is the hard throwing Josh James. Last season, James pitched for a 3.23 ERA, 2.58 FIP, and 1.120 WHIP. That’s in 114.1 innings (92.2 in AAA, 21.1 in AA). Plus, while he does throw hard, he’s not effectively wild. He walked batters at a 3.9 per 9 rate, and struck them out at a 13.5 per 9 rate, while only giving up 9 home runs. When he came to the majors, he flashed that talent he showed in the minors. In 23 MLB innings, James had a 2.35 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and .957 WHIP. He also seemed to have improved his control, walking just 2.7 batters per 9, while keeping his high K/9 rate (11.3). MLB.com ranks James at only 95 out of 100.
LHP: Cole Irvin (PHI)
Cole Irvin, 24 soon to be 25, led the International Triple-A league in ERA, and somehow didn’t reach the top 100. The 24 year old pitched to an impressive 2.57 ERA, 3.30 FIP, and 1.054 WHIP in 161 and a third innings. Irvin is more of a control and finesse pitcher. Sure, he only struck out 7.3 batters per 9, but he walked batters at a very low 2.0 per 9, and gave up just 6 home runs. With the Phillies current situation, he could be a future asset in their rotation. With only 2 truly proven pitchers, he could gun for a rotation spot among candidates Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, along with fellow prospect Enyel De Los Santos.