Top 10 AL Central Prospects for 2017

Today, we wrap up our look at the Top 10 prospects for 2017 in each of the six leagues. The lists were created by blending potential playing time, MLB-readiness and overall skill to take a stab at predicting the most valuable rookies for the coming season.

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NL Central
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AL East

Top 10 Prospects for 2017: AL Central

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Chicago: Giolito’s value is down right now – along with his velocity — but he’s still one of the most promising near-MLB-ready arms in the minors. I will admit, though, that I doubt the White Sox’s ability to develop prospects and I’d feel a lot better if the right-hander was still in the Nationals system. When he’s going well, Giolito has both a plus fastball and a plus curveball. His changeup, when it’s on, can also be an above-average offering, meaning he has more than enough weapons to dominate big league hitters. With a pretty thin starting rotation at the big league level, the wheels will really have to fall off of Giolito’s bandwagon for him to not see a big league mound by the summer.

2. JaCoby Jones, CF, Detroit:  There was a lot of debate around Jones’ big-league readiness as spring training wore down but the freshman outfielder won a spot on the opening day roster nonetheless. He’s been inconsistent in the early going but he has a lot of athleticism and that should help him keep his head above water until he polishes his skill set. Yeah, he might strike out 25-30% of the time but his defence in center is good, he takes his fair share of walks and he could be a 15-15 (HR-SB) threat. The only problem is that he might lose playing time to Tyler Collins when J.D. Martinez comes back from injury.

3. Bradley Zimmer, CF, Cleveland: One obstacle has already been removed for Zimmer with the recent demotion of 2016’s breakout rookie outfielder Tyler Naquin to triple-A. And the big league club is currently trotting out the likes of Lonnie Chisenhall (yes, the former third baseman), Austin Jackson and Abraham Almonte in an effort to find a reliable center-fielder. The organization’s best option – likely both offensively and defensively – would be to give Zimmer a try, and that may very well happen by the end of June. He may never hit for a great average because of all the swing-and-miss to his game but he gets on base, produces pop and runs the bases well. 

4. Yoan Moncada, 2B, Chicago: Moncada was the key offseason acquisition for the White Sox and came from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale deal. He got a strong look in the spring but opened the year in triple-A where he’s produced some big numbers early on. However, he’s also struck out more than 30% of the time and his .308 batting average is coming on the heels of a .435 BABIP. In fact, Moncada’s success throughout the minors has followed a similar trend and it’s hard to imagine him maintaining a .375+ BABIP in the majors – even with great bat speed and blistering line drives. If he can iron out his approach to strikeout in the 22-25% ranger, Moncada could be a beast with his on-base/power/speed combination.

5. Zack Burdi, RHP, Chicago: Burdi’s game is pretty simple: Bring the heat. His heater can hit 100 mph with ease and he also possesses a wipeout slider. Unfortunately, he needs to polish both the command and control of those offerings. Once he shows some consistency at the triple-A level, Chicago will no doubt bring Burdi to the majors. Just 22, he was the 26th overall selection in the amateur draft and he needed just 22 innings in the lower minors to reach the triple-A level so that should give you some indication of just how overpowering he can be – even with below-average control. Burdi is definitely the White Sox closer of the future, but he won’t unseat David Robertson this year. 

6. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Chicago: The White Sox have some depth in the starting rotation but it’s short on high-ceiling arms so the club may be willing to go to some youthful contributions soon. Lopez should be one of the first arms recalled but he’s been inconsistent this year and Lucas Giolito is also lurking in triple-A. However, if he can harness his stuff, Lopez has a chance to be an impact arm with a heater than sits in the mid-90s and a potentially-plus breaking ball. If his command/control doesn’t improve enough for him to realize his ceiling of No. 2/3 starter then he could be a dominant arm out of the ‘pen.

7. Matt Strahm, LHP, Kansas City: Yeah, I know. Strahm was absolutely crushed early in the season and earned a quick demotion to the minors. But it’s a long season and with some adjustments, he could be back up in The Show before you know it — possibly even as a starter. He’s got a solid fastball for a lefty but he needs to rely on his secondary stuff a little more after going to his heater more than 80% in the early goings of 2017. Stretching him out as a starter in triple-A could help him work on those offerings while making him a more versatile weapon for the Royals. 

8. Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City: It’s been an ugly in the early going for Kansas City outfielders not named Lorenzo Cain. The eventual return of Jorge Soler could help – but his production is also no sure thing. As a result, the club may look to Bonifacio to provide a spark in the near future. He’s off to a good start already this season and had a solid full year in triple-A last year. Bonifacio is a threat to produce a solid on-base average and average-to-slightly-above-average pop for a corner outfielder.  

9. Joe Jimenez, RHP, Detroit: The Tigers always seem able to produce hard-throwing relievers and Jimenez is the next in line. He already received a cup of coffee in The Show this year and should be provided a more extended shot later in the year. His fastball-slider combination gives him the ability to pile up strikeouts but he needs more consistent command of his stuff to be entrusted with high-leverage situations at this point.

10. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Minnesota: The Twins’ starting rotation is far from inspiring so you know there are going to be some changes throughout the year. Gonsalves is perhaps the most intriguing option in the upper minors but he’s currently sidelined with a sore shoulder – although it’s not considered serious. The young lefty has some swing-and-miss stuff although he’s less overpowering and more of a command/control guy with a four-pitch repertoire at his disposal. He has solid No. 3-4 starter potential.





Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Indiana Bob
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Indiana Bob

No Zach Collins C White Sox? Too far away?

JoseAbreusRaft
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JoseAbreusRaft

They want him to stick at catcher I’m sure, so he should at the least spend this entire season in the minors to polish up on some catching traits. Probably receives a promotion to AAA to finish out the minor league season.