Today at the Prospect Stock Watch we take a trip through the minors league systems of the Nationals, Diamondbacks, Padres and Astros.
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals: With 20-year-old outfielder Ronald Acuna now in the Majors with the Braves, Soto is now the most exciting outfield prospect in the game — surpassing his better known org mate Victor Robles. The 19-year-old outfielder is an exceptionally gifted hitter who has an extremely mature approach at the plate that is somewhat similar to Toronto’s phenom, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Soto might actually be in double-A by now had he not lost most of last year to injury. There really isn’t much that he doesn’t do well. He has a .367 career average and is hitting .380 in 2018 split between two A-ball levels. He’s shown an exceptional eye with 24 walks and 17 strikeouts in 28 games. And he’s no singles hitter; 11 of his 41 hits have gone over the outfield fence — and he has a total of 23 extra base hits. He also hits left-handed pitching with four homers and a batting average just shy of .500 in 31 at-bats this year. If Bryce Harper leaves Washington after this year, this is the player that’s going to soften the blow.
Daulton Varsho, C, Diamondbacks: I am a big fan of Varsho and feel the Diamondbacks got a real steal with the 68th overall selection in the 2017 draft (making up for Pavin Smith at seventh overall, whom I’m not a big fan of). The young catcher has shown an excellent offensive attack that includes power, the ability to hit for a solid average, a strong on-base rate and even smart base running (nine steals in 11 tries). The 20 strikeouts are a bit of a concern but he helps offset the swing-and-miss tendencies with 13 walks in 25 games. He’s even handled southpaws well in a limited sampling. The big knock on Varsho has been his defence — or more specifically his throwing. He’s clearly put in the work to get better because he’s just shy of 50% throwing out base runners throughout the first month of the season. If he can keep that up, he suddenly becomes very, very interesting as a guy that can hit well and stick behind the plate.
Luis Urias, 2B, Padres: If you’re looking for the next Jose Altuve, the closest thing might be Urias — although he doesn’t project to have the same power output. The modestly-sized Padres prospect is a plus hitter with a great eye at the plate — and he’s at triple-A at 20 years old. His .431 on-base average is driven by a .300 batting average and 19 walks (and 18 strikeouts) in 25 games. He employs a line-drive swing, hits the ball hard, and uses the whole field. His approach is very advanced for his age and he could eventually develop into an all-star player. Defensively, he can handle shortstop but is better suited to second base, where he is an above-average fielder. With Carlos Asuaje scuffling at second base for the Padres, Urias may not be far from making his big league debut.
Corbin Martin, RHP, Astros: The Houston Astros nabbed Martin in the second round of the 2017 draft and I was actually much more of a fan of this pick than I was of the club’s first round selection of J.B. Bukauskas. Both were college right-handers with questions around their abilities to stick in the starting rotation; Bukauskas is a little more electric while Martin has a deeper repertoire and a better overall size (ie. projected durability). And so far, the professional results favor Martin. He opened 2018 in high-A ball and, after, four appearances, moved up to double-A (where he got bombed in his first appearance). In high-A, he allowed just four hits and struck out 26 batters in 19 innings. On the downside, control issues crept up a bit and he walked seven. With a firm mid-90s heater, plus curve and two other average-or-better offerings to round out his repertoire, Martin has the makings of a No. 2 or 3 starter if his command/control can be even average.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.