TOP PROSPECT FOR AMERICAN LEAGUE TEAMS BY ADAM MEDEIROS – UPDATED 2/10/2020
On the heels of the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the 2020 World Series, it’s time to take an early look forward at each team and delve a little deeper into their top prospect. While Covid-19 has certainly thrown a wrench into the cogs of Minor League Baseball, we can still use what we know from the 2019 campaigns to project out some new and upcoming talents. During the shortened 2020 season, many of the high-profile prospects throughout the league were added to their respective team’s alternate sites. While at these alternate sites, players were able to play and train while minor league baseball was shutdown. The unfortunate part of all of it was we were unable to watch these prospects in game action. That being said, let’s take a look at who I believe is the top prospect as it stands right now for each American League organization.
TAMPA BAY RAYS – WANDER FRANCO, SS, 19 YEARS OLD
We begin our list with the consensus number 1 prospect in all of Major League Baseball, Wander Franco. Franco split time in 2019 between Low A and High A ball, where he dominated older competition. In High A ball, he hit .339 with a .408 OBP, and he walked more than the struck out by almost double (26:15)! Franco is a switch hitter who has elite bat-to-ball skills and doesn’t ever seem to strike out. He has a natural feel to hitting with exceptional hand-eye coordination. If there is a anything negative to say on Franco at all, it would be that he doesn’t have ground-breaking speed or elite defensive ability. However, his bat alone will be enough to get him an everyday spot at the top of the Rays lineup and produce at a high level for years to come. Expect to see him in a Rays uniform as early as the 2021 season, where he will make an immediate impact on a team already coming off a World Series appearance in 2020.
Honorable Mention: Brendan McKay, LHP, 24 years old NEW YORK YANKEES – JASSON DOMINGUEZ, OF, 17 YEARS OLD
ALL ABOARD! Welcome to the hype train that is Jasson Dominguez! Dominguez is only 17 years old… so why is he the top prospect for the New York Yankees? Scouts who have seen Dominguez in action have graded him to have elite power and elite speed. Jasson is a switch hitter with power from both sides of the plate and has excellent defensive skills. His name has been mentioned in comparisons with Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle from MLB general managers who have seen him play. Having said all of that, we haven’t seen him play a single game in the Yankees organization yet so all we have to go on is what’s reported. The Yankees certainly believe in him though, as they coughed up $5.1 million to sign Dominguez; nearly ALL of their $5.4 million international signing pool. Once Dominguez gets some game action with the Yankees organization, don’t be surprised to see Dominguez fly up the top prospect chart in the next year or two. Now it’s early, but if you buy into the hype, expect to see Dominguez manning an outfield spot at Yankee Stadium in 2-4 years.
BOSTON RED SOX – JETER DOWNS, 2B, 22 YEARS OLD
I struggled to single out any player as the clear-cut top prospect for the Boston Red Sox, but ultimately chose Jeter Downs over the power hitting first baseman, Triston Casas. In 2019, while with the Dodgers organization, Downs played the majority of his games in High-A ball in the California League before being promoted to Double-A Tulsa for a handful of games. Downs combined to hit 24 home runs and stole 24 bases showing his ability to drive the ball effectively and being an asset on the basepaths. Downs has played both shortstop and second base during his time in the minors, but seems to be a better fit for second base given his range and defensive ability. Following the 2019 season, the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers for a package which sent Downs over to Boston. The Red Sox have a glaring need at second base, so expect to see Downs eventually get the call-up sometime in the 2021 season.
Honorable Mention: Triston Casas, 1B, 20 years old
BALTIMORE ORIOLES – ADLEY RUTSCHMAN, C, 22 YEARS OLD
If you were designing an ideal catcher for your organization from scratch, the end result would look something like Adley Rutschman. Rutschman is a switch hitter with plus power from both sides of the plate, elite defensive skills with a strong arm and a high baseball IQ. Perhaps most importantly, Rutschman is a natural born leader. Rutschman was drafted #1 overall in the 2019 MLB draft by the Baltimore Orioles and will soon become the face of the franchise. We haven’t seen much of Rutschman in the Orioles organization as of yet, as he’s only played a total of 37 games, but expect to see Rutschman behind the plate at Camden Yards as early as 2022.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS – NATE PEARSON, RHP, 24 YEARS OLD
Drafted 28th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft, Nate Pearson has 3 pitches in his arsenal which all grade as plus offerings. Pearson’s fastball can reach triple digits consistently to go along with a plus slider and developing changeup. Pearson has all the tools to become the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays for years to come. The only red flag on Pearson moving forward will be his control, which he will need to refine. In 2019, he spent the bulk of the season in Double A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and posted a 3.02 BB/9 in 62 innings. During a brief stint with the Blue Jays during the 2020 season, he walked 13 batters in 18 innings. If Pearson can consistently find the strike zone, he will be a force at the major league level.
Honorable Mention: Austin Martin, SS, 21 years old
CHICAGO WHITE SOX – ANDREW VAUGHN, 1B, 22 YEARS OLD
Andrew Vaughn was drafted #3 overall in the 2019 MLB draft. Vaughn has an elite approach to hitting which should allow him to thrive in the majors. From 2017-2019 (160 games) with the California Golden Bears, Vaughn hit 50 home runs with 163 RBIs with a triple slash line of .375/.495/.688. Vaughn will likely begin 2021 in Double A but is likely on the fast track to the majors given his massive hitting potential. The issue facing Vaughn at this point is Jose Abreu, who is currently manning his position with the White Sox. Vaughn’s emergence could lead to a shift to DH for Abreu and Vaughn might force their hand as early as this upcoming season.
CLEVELAND INDIANS – NOLAN JONES, 3B, 22 YEARS OLD
Nolan Jones was drafted in the second round, 55th overall, in the 2016 MLB draft and thus far is proving that he was a steal. Jones is one of the most disciplined hitters in the minor leagues where he led all of minor league baseball in walks for 2019. In 49 games with Double A in 2019, Jones slashed .253/.370/.466. Jones is only an average defender, but should be able to hit well enough to keep a spot in the lineup. With Jose Ramirez currently manning the hot corner for Cleveland, we may see a position change for Jones who could easily make a shift to the outfield. The Indians are currently in a re-tooling phase and I look for Jones to be a huge part of the Indians rebuild.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS – BOBBY WITT JR., SS, 20 YEARS OLD
Bobby Witt Jr., son of former Major Leaguer Bobby Witt, was drafted #2 overall in the 2019 MLB draft. Witt Jr. has an excellent combination of athleticism, baseball IQ, and pure talent. He has plus speed, plus power, plus baserunning ability, and plus defensive ability which should translate into the young shortstop becoming a building block for the Royals. Coming into the 2019 draft, many scouts viewed Witt Jr. as a potential 30-30 player, with 20-20 being the more likely scenario. We only got to see Witt Jr. play in 37 games of Rookie ball in 2019 and he spent all of 2020 at the Royals alternate site. With a few years to develop, Witt Jr. will have the opportunity to become a mainstay atop the Royals lineup.
MINNESOTA TWINS – ALEX KIRILLOFF, 1B/OF, 23 YEARS OLD
Alex Kirilloff may have been one of the best hitters to come through all of Minor League Baseball if not for some injury trouble. Kirilloff missed the entirety of the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery but came back in 2018 to slash .348/.392/.578 across 2 levels of A ball. After a call-up to Double-A in 2019, he missed time with a pair of wrist
injuries but still managed to hit .283 with a .343 on-base percentage. Alex is a sweet-swinging left-handed bat who projects to hit around 20 home runs a year while maintaining a .280-.300 average. He can play good defense in the outfield, but the Twins may also have him in the mix
to start games at first base to keep his bat in the lineup. Kirilloff made his Major League debut in 2020 when he started a playoff game against the Astros, b