The Prospect Stock Watch is taking a tour around the minor leagues reviewing rising prospects. These are prospects that likely won’t be on Top 100 lists or on your fantasy rosters just yet but they will likely become targets in dynasty leagues over the next year or two. We began with the National League but switched over to the American League late last week with the east division. Today, we have a look at the central division.
Jhoan Duran, RHP (A+): The Twins traded Eduardo Escobar to the Diamondbacks during last year’s trade deadline and came away with a very interesting prize in Duran. The 21-year-old hurler has always shown good stuff but he’s spending more time in the upper reaches of his velocity range (93-98 mph) and is displaying improved secondaries. He has an impressive K-BB of 90-28 through 74 innings this year. Duran has also shown the ability to induce ground balls at a well-above-average rate. Jordan Balazovic has been a breakout pitcher for the Twins in 2019 and is earning much more press recently but Duran deserves a lot of attention, too. ETA: 2021
Griffin Jax, RHP (AA): Jax hasn’t been on many radars as a prospect despite being a third-round pick back in 2016 because of his previous commitment to the Air Force. That requirement kept him to just 40 innings over his first two pro seasons but he can now focus on baseball full time. Jax has moved swiftly through the minors despite his lack of innings and could soon find himself knocking on the big league door within a year. He might be best suited to relief with a solid fastball-changeup combo but lack of a reliable breaking ball. Jax is also said to have a bulldog mentality, which would suit him well in a shorter, high-leverage role. ETA: 2020
Ryan Jeffers, C (A+): The Twins have had a fair bit of luck lately in developing offensive-minded catchers with Mitch Garver and Willians Astudillo. Jeffers could be the next in line. He’s a big, strong catcher with 10 home runs in 79 games in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He has 20-homer potential if he can develop his hit tool enough to be an everyday guy. Jeffers is a good leader behind the plate and has developed enough defensively to stick behind the plate after entering pro ball with some question marks in that area.
Tarik Skubal, LHP (AA): The one strength of the improving Tigers’ minor league system is pitching. After Casey Mize and Matt Manning, Skubal might be the most interesting arm — especially with Franklin Perez unable to get healthy. The lefty was selected in the ninth round of the 2018 draft but also had his college career mostly derailed by Tommy John surgery and the subsequent recovery time so his numbers suffered and obscured his talent. He opened 2019 in High-A ball where he posted a K-BB of 97-19 in 80.1 innings. A recent promotion to Double-A has not slowed him down and he’s allowed just five hits and four walks in 16 innings. Skubal has the makings of a solid mid-rotation starter, if not more. ETA: 2020
Anthony Castro, RHP (AA): Castro is the type of pitcher that could really take off with a move to the bullpen. Signed way back in 2011, neither his command nor his control has never developed as hoped. But he survives on the strength of his mid-90s fastball and good changeup. He lacks a consistent breaking ball but has still struck out 84 batters in 69 Double-A innings. That, unfortunately, also goes with 45 walks. Even if his control doesn’t improve, he could see some success in shorter stints as a seventh-inning man. ETA: 2020
Chicago White Sox
Codi Heuer, RHP (AA): Tall pitchers often take longer to develop because it’s more challenging to develop muscle memory with longer limbs. The light seems to have gone on for Heuer this year as he’s shown much-improved control with just 11 walks in 52.1 innings combined between High-A and Double-A. He’s also doing an excellent job of keeping the ball down and has a ground-ball rate of more than double the major league average. Heuer has yet to allow a home run this year. With a mid-90s fastball and a good slider, he has the makings of a solid seventh- or eighth-inning reliever that could pick up some saves for the Sox. ETA: 2020
Kansas City Royals
Khalil Lee, OF (AA): The Royals system has received a lot of attention for its strong pitching depth thanks to an excellent 2018 draft so Lee’s development has flown under the radar a little bit. The 2016 third-rounder still strikes out a fair bit but he’s much improved from the 2017 season when he whiffed 171 times in 451 at-bats (32%). It’s down to 26% and is offset to a degree by his 13% walk rate, which is excellent. Extremely athletic, Lee combines that with good speed to cause havoc on the base paths. He’s developed into a very good base runner and has 40 steals in 47 tries. If he can continue to polish his hitting, he has a chance to develop into an everyday outfielder with stolen base abilities and raw power that he has yet to fully tap into on a regular basis. ETA: 2020
Oscar Gonzalez, OF (A+): Gonzalez is an interesting player. Just 21, he’s hitting .322 in 89 High-A games and isn’t afraid to use the whole field. But he also has a BABIP of .370. And he’s maintained a higher-than-average BABIP in each of the past four seasons. Gonzalez is also a very aggressive hitter and his walk rate sits at just 3.2% this year. That’s not as bad as it might seem because he’s gotten a lot better at putting balls in play and has seen his strikeout rate drop each season from 36.8 to 24.8 to 22.3 to a very reasonable 16.6% in 2019. He has just eight home runs this year but there is raw power available as he continues to develop. Gonzalez is a very unique prospect and likely has a high failure rate but he’s also extremely interesting given the improvements he continues to make as he moves up the ladder. ETA: 2021
Jean Carlos Mejia, RHP (A+): Mejia has pitched just 33 innings this year as he deals with a lingering abdominal strain. When healthy, he showed the ability to overpower hitters and had a K-BB of 36-9 with a strong ground-ball rate. He has the potential for three above-average offerings, including a 92-95 mph fastball. Standing 6-4, he has the frame to develop into an innings-eating, mid-rotation arm. ETA: 2021
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.