The American League Central doesn’t feature the strongest minor league systems but there are some interesting prospects littered throughout the teams.
The Indians always find a way to develop players in house — and the current system has some interesting players — but it lacks depth overall.
Triston McKenzie, for me, has a chance to be a No. 2 starter. He has a great frame, good stuff, projectability and a good head on his shoulders. Nolan Jones also has the raw potential to be an above-average regular. He’s got some swing-and-miss to his game but he’s still learning to utilize his long levers and keep his swing down. He just knows how to hit and peppers the ball all over the field. Interestingly, the majority of his homers come from the pull side where as his doubles are predominantly to the opposite field. He has 20+ homer potential. Bobby Bradley has potential but he’s got to get the ball in the air (and out of the infield) more consistently. Catcher Eric Haase has “Evan Gattis” type potential. He’s probably never going to be a great hitter but he has serious pop when he makes contact and can play a couple of positions. Young outfielder Johnathan Rodriguez is my guy to watch closely in the Indians system this year (although he’ll open the year in extended spring). He shows a willingness to take a walk but also has a lot of swing-and-miss to his game. But he will play all of 2018 at the age of 18.
And so begins the Tigers rebuild. The club smartly added some talent to their minor league system via some 2017 trades but the system still lacks the high-ceiling, can’t-miss types. The system is also very “pitching heavy” which always makes me nervous when you consider how volatile (and fragile) pitching is.
2020 and Beyond:
1. Matt Manning | SP | 2018 Level: A
2. Daz Cameron | CF | 2018 Level: A+
5. Alex Faedo | SP | 2018 Level: A
7. Kyle Funkhouser | SP | 2018 Level: A+
8. Isaac Paredes | SS | 2018 Level: A+
9. Gregory Soto | SP | 2018 Level: A+
As mentioned above, the majority of the clubs investment capital is tied up in young pitching. And a lot of them have question marks. Kyle Funkhouser and Alex Faedo come with some injury concerns. Beau Burrows may not have the depth in his repertoire to start at the big league level. Franklin Perez looks promising but his ceiling is probably a No. 3 starter. Matt Manning, for me, is the gem. Great pitcher’s frame, excellent stuff — but he’s raw. The kids’ gloves should come off in 2018 as he moved to full-season ball on a permanent basis. I also love Daz Cameron but his value takes a little hit for me by moving from Houston to Detroit. The Tigers just haven’t shown the ability to develop prospects, where as the Astros won a World Series by developing from within. The club has invested a ton of draft picks into trying to sign and develop catchers — with very little success to his point. To that end, the club went out and acquired Jake Rogers from the Astros in the Justin Verlander deal. He could be a solid option in a year or two but 2017 fifth rounder Sam McMillan also has a chance to be very good if can realize his full potential (and, again, I’m hesitant to believe that can happen in this system).
The Kansas City Royals partially delayed their rebuild by signing some decent free agents during the off-season and it makes sense for them to avoid a full tear down and rebuild. The club just doesn’t have the impact prospects in the minors to rebuild around — but it does have four of the top 39 selections in the 2018 draft. The club needs to score well with those picks. If I were the Royals, I’d ditch the traditional prep focus and instead zero in on strong college options, which could jump up to meet their (very) raw but high-ceiling prospects in the low minors.
2020 and Beyond:
1. Nick Pratto | 1B | 2018 Level: A
2. M.J. Melendez | C | 2018 Level: A
3. Khalil Lee | CF | 2018 Level: A+
6. Seuly Matias | RF | 2018 Level: A
7. Carlos Hernandez | SP | 2018 Level: A
The upper levels of the minors are littered with mostly complementary players. I’m not convinced Hunter Dozier will be an impact player but he could be a decent regular. Eric Skoglund should help the starting rotation — and could pitch some meaningful innings at the big league level in 2017 – but he has a modest ceiling as a potential No. 4 guy. The same can be said for Trevor Oaks. The names to get excited about (cautiously so, though) are going to be in A-ball this year. First-base prospect Nick Pratto looks an awful lot like former Royal Eric Hosmer, as a gut that should hit well but might produce inconsistent power numbers. I’m probably the high man on M.J. Melendez but I love his athleticism, which should help him both defensively and offensively. If the Royals can help him tone down his aggressiveness at the plate, he could be the heir apparent to Sal Perez. Both Khalil Lee and Seuly Matias have a lot of potential but they too need to trim the swing-and-miss tendencies to realize their full potentials. I don’t have Michael Gigliotti in the Top 10 but he could end up being a solid player for the Royals, and possibly hit near the top of the order if he can show a little more gap pop.
The Twins organization is a little light on pitching but it has an enviable collection of middle infielders.
9. Brent Rooker | OF/1B | 2018 Level: A+
2020 and Beyond:
1. Royce Lewis | SS | 2018 Level: A
2. Wander Javier | SS | 2018 Level: A
5. Alex Kirilloff | RF | 2018 Level: A
6. Brusdar Graterol | SP | 2018 Level: A
10. Akil Baddoo | OF | 2018 Level: A
Most of the high-ceiling talent is still a few years away. Nick Gordon will be the first shortstop to reach The Show but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to move Jorge Polanco off the position. He might end up at second base or the outfield. Royce Lewis looks like a star in the making but Wander Javier might end up being even more gifted with the bat. Yes, he has that kind of untapped potential. I’m also a really big fan of Akil Baddoo, who might open the year in full-season ball for the first time. He showed a great approach at the plate in 2017, has 20+ stolen base potential and more raw power than he’s given credit for. Fellow outfielder Alex Kirilloff is a bit of a forget guy after missing all of 2017 due to injury. If he rebounds to full strength, he could be at least an average hitter with a very well-rounded game at maturity. Another injured player in Tyler Jay will look for good health in 2018. He has high-leverage potential out of the bullpen from the left side.
The White Sox have some solid prospects but the system, for me, is being overrated by a lot of publications this spring. It’s just not that deep. I’m also not sold on the White Sox ability to develop prospects as they’ve had quite a few misses in recent years.
This system has good balance with waves of prospects coming each of the next few years. Eloy Jimenez should be a stud for years to come with his power potential. There’s going to be swing-and-miss to his game but it’s palatable if he produces 30+ homers. Michael Kopech is now looking like he’ll stick as a starter but it remains to be seen if he’s developed enough maturity to get the most out of his abilities. For me, Luis Robert is being overrated. He hasn’t really accomplished anything of significance in pro ball yet given his gaudy numbers in 2017 came in the Dominican Summer League where he was three to four years old for the competition. The loss of Jake Burger to a leg injury was a huge blow; he’s out for the year. I’m a big fan of both Alec Hansen (No. 3 starter ceiling) and Dane Dunning (No. 3/4 ceiling). The latter pitcher is probably a little underrated and he could be a solid (but unspectacular) contributor to the Sox rotation in short order.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.