The AL East is loaded with talent at both the big league and minor league levels. And the minor league talent is well-distributed throughout each club’s system from top to bottom. Most clubs, with Boston potentially being the anomaly, could receive significant impacts from their systems in 2018.
2020 and Beyond:
2. Brendan McKay | 1B/SP | 2018 Level: A
3. Jesus Sanchez | OF | 2018 Level: A+
6. Joshua Lowe | OF | 2018 Level: A+
8. Lucius Fox | SS | 2018 Level: A+
10. Austin Franklin | SP | 2018 Level: A
A slow start to the season by Matt Duffy could earn Willy Adames a shot with the big league club. Adames is highly regarded but I think he’s more likely to be a solid big league third baseman rather than a true star. I’ve been quite bullish on Jake Bauers for years and I’m really hoping 2018 is the season that he gets a chance to show his worth. He should produce decent power and some excellent on-base numbers. Justin Williams is a name you may not be familiar with but he’s a solid prospect who can really hit. And he’s just starting to understand the value of being more patient. Nick Solak doesn’t have a huge ceiling but he could end up being a really good grab from the Yankees system. He’s another player that can really hit and he does a little bit of everything well. He shouldn’t spend much time at double-A in 2018 and could even get a taste of The Show late in the year. Not bad, for a second-round pick from 2016. Another talented outfielder in the system, Jesus Sanchez, has perhaps the highest ceiling in the system. He’s hit more than .300 at every level he’s played at, he’s starting to grow into his raw power and he’s becoming more selective at the plate. I don’t think Brendan McKay can actually pull a Shohei Ohtani but it will be fun to watch his development in 2018 as he tries to develop as both a pitcher and a hitter. His development is already being stunted a bit by this experiment, though, with him opening the year in low-A ball. His bat is probably high-A ready. Keep an eye on Ronaldo Hernandez; his bat looks like it could be good.
The Orioles system lacks depth but it has some talented that’s just about ready to impact the big league level. Catcher Chance Sisco is going to get a shot at securing a big league job and he could develop into a solid big league catcher. A 2016 draft pick, Austin Hays is surprisingly back at double-A to begin the year despite appearing in 20 big league games last year. It might just be a depth move but it could also be a sign that the Orioles saw something in the spring that they didn’t like. Either way, Hays will need to start mashing again to get a fair shot in 2018. He’ll face competition from teammate Cedric Mullins for the next opportunity in The Show. Tanner Scott may not be in triple-A for long if he can show the ability to control his 100-mph heater. He walked 46 batters in 69 double-A innings last year but can be overpowering when he’s near the plate. The normally-conservative Orioles are being somewhat aggressive with former No. 1 draft pick Hunter Harvey. Despite throwing less than 40 innings due to injuries since 2014, he was assigned to double-A to open the year and will look to earn a shot at the majors before his arm falls completely off.
2020 and Beyond:
3. Jay Groome | SP | 2018 Level: A
5. Bryan Mata | SP | 2018 Level: A+
8. Darwinzon Hernandez | SP | 2018 Level: A+
9. Cole Brannen | OF | 2018 Level: A
10. Alex Scherff | SP | 2018 Level: A
Other Names to Know:
Sleeper: Pedro Castellanos, 1B
Beyond the Top 10 Help in 2018: Chad de la Guerra, IF
The Sox system has fallen on hard times in terms of depth but there are still a few interesting names in full-season ball — although the loss of Michael Chavis to a drug suspension hurts. First baseman Sam Travis would probably be in the majors right now for a lot of clubs but Boston’s depth at first base keeps him at triple-A. He’s not a star-in-the-making but he could be a solid contributor on both sides of the ball for the Sox. Opinions on Tanner Houck’s ultimate ceiling are all over the board but I think he has a chance to be a very good starter for the Sox. Bryan Mata, just 18, will open the year in high-A ball. He had success in 2017 against a lot of hitters much older than him and he could really be interesting once he fully fills out and gets more experience. Alex Scherff could develop into a solid innings-eating, mid-rotation arm if he can find a consistent breaking ball. The club will need to be patient with former No. 1 pick Jay Groome, who has already battled a variety of ailments and will open the year on the disabled list. Tall starters often need extra time to polish their command and control so the lost development time really doesn’t help.
2. Gleyber Torres | SS | 2018 Level: AAA
3. Miguel Andujar | 3B | 2018 Level: AAA
5. Chance Adams | SP | 2018 Level: AAA
6. Justus Sheffield | SP | 2018 Level: AAA
10. Thairo Estrada | IF | 2018 Level: AAA
8. Domingo Acevedo | SP | 2018 Level: AA
The Yankees organization has one of the deepest systems in the game thanks to its shrewd trades, eye for talent and willingness to invest heavily in the international market. I’ve already gone on record a few times saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if Miguel Andujar ends up being a better long-term player than Gleyber Torres. The former is loaded with boom-or-bust tools including a rocket arm and raw power to spare. And he’s slowly becoming a smarter hitter. Torres is well rounded but I just don’t see the collection of plus tools to make him a star. The best chance at impact talent on the hitting side is probably Estevan Florial. He has a chance to be a multi-tool stud but he needs to tighten up his approach at the plate as he currently features too much swing-and-miss to his game. Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield could both help chew up some innings in the Yankees rotation in 2018 but probably have ceilings that top out as No. 3 starters, if everything breaks right for them. Domingo Acevado could be a very good arm for the Yankees but I think he’ll really take off if he’s moved into the bullpen. Freicer Perez could be a huge Luis-Severino-like stud for the Yankees, if he can stay healthy. Matt Sauer is a name to watch in 2018. I think he could be one of their top arms by the end of the year, although the club is being cautious with him and holding him back in extended spring training.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. | 3B | 2018 Level: AA
2. Bo Bichette | SS | 2018 Level: AA
3. Nate Pearson | SP | 2018 Level: A+
6. T.J. Zeuch | SP | 2018 Level: AA
10. Thomas Pannone | SP | 2018 Level: AA
The Jays system features some well-documented, high-ceiling hitting talent at the double-A level in second generation studs Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. I expect the former to be ready for The Show a little sooner than the latter. Both have ceilings of above-average regulars or better. Beyond those two, outfielder Anthony Alford also has a shot at being an above-average regular for the Jays but his propensity for hitting the DL (and history of concussions) makes him a much bigger risk. Catcher Danny Jansen looks like a solid all-around catcher and he could be the back-up to Russell Martin in 2019. Injuries could give him a shot in ’18, though. On the pitching side, Ryan Borucki has the ceiling of a No. 3/4 starter. The lefty features a change-up that could eventually rival Marco Estrada’s. Nate Pearson looks like the steal of the 2017 draft and he’ll open 2018 in high-A ball (although he’s been slowed by a minor back injury). He has an upper-90s fastball that can hit 100 mph and a wipeout slider. Maximo Castillo, just 18, opens the year in low-A ball and is a pitcher to keep an eye on as a future No. 3 starter. If T.J. Zeuch can keep the ball down consistently as he climbs the organizational ladder, and avoid the homers, he could be an innings-eating No. 3/4 arm. The Jays did a great job in turning middle reliever Joe Smith into two intriguing prospects at last year’s trade deadline. Thomas Pannone will miss a good chunk of the year due to a drug suspension but he has No. 4 starter potential and was close to being MLB ready. Samad Taylor is a ways away but he could be a solid offensive-minded second baseman. Just 19, he’s opening the year in low-A ball.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.