These are the players myworld would rate as the top ten prospects in the Carolina League. A pretty impressive group at the top of the list with some impressive names at the lower end. These prospects have put up the numbers to earn a spot on this list and are not named for just potential.
1. Tristan McKenzie RHP (Indians/Lynchburg) - Myworld remembered when we watched the then 19 year old Clayton Kershaw pitch in an early spring training game at Vero Beach. That is the same kind of Wow we had watching Tristan pitch in a short season game at Williamsport last year. The supplemental first round pick in 2015 reminds me of a praying mantis, all arms and legs as his 6′5″ stick frame comes at you with a mid-90s fastball. There were a lot of swings and misses in that game. Those swings and misses continue in the Carolina League with 150 in 118.2 innings. While the opposition is hitting only .199 against him, some of those balls have gone a long way, with 13 homeruns given up. His command could use some improvement, but as his body fills out with maturity that fastball could be impressive if the secondary pitches improve with it.
2. Victor Robles OF (Nationals/Potomac) - Myworld likes Victor over Eloy because of his speed and ability to play a quality defense in centerfield. As he matures the power should increase. The Dominican has the five tools you look for in a superstar. The Nationals signed him for $225,000 in 2013. His speed allows him to cover a lot of ground in centerfield. A .289 average with a .872 OPS resulted in a promotion to AA. Currently his power is restricted to the gaps where he blasted 25 doubles and 7 triples. The 9 homeruns he has hit over the two levels is a career high. Expect him to fit into a crowded Nationals outfield sometime in September of next year.
3. Eloy Jimenez OF (White Sox/Winston Salem) - The Cubs signed the Dominican Eloy for a splashy $2.8 million in 2013, the same year they signed Gleyber Torres for $1.7 million. Now both have left the Cubs, Eloy traded to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade. Eloy has a power bat but his lack of blazing speed or a strong arm will restrict him to left field. The trade from the Cubs to the White Sox has seemed to give him a power surge. He batted .271 with 8 homeruns in 42 games for Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League. For the White Sox he is hitting .362 with 8 homeruns in 28 games. It may be too late in the season to promote him to AA, but Eloy appears to be ready for that level now.
4. Forrest Whitley RHP (Astros/Buies Creek) - The 2016 first round pick was called up from Low A after 10 starts. He has not had a lot of time in the Carolina League but in six starts he has struck out 50 in 31.1 innings. At 6′7″ with a mid to high 90s fastball he can dominate games with above average breaking pitches (curve and slider) and a decent change. Opponents still get some hits off him with a .243 opposition average between the two levels. Forrest has shown good command of his pitches, walking just 9 in his 31.1 innings. Drafted out of high school it will take him a couple more years before he reaches the Astros.
5. Austin Hays RF (Orioles/Frederick) - The third round 2016 pick did not last long in the Carolina League after hitting .328 with 16 homeruns. That batting average (.350) and power (12 homeruns) have improved since his promotion to AA. He did hit 16 homeruns for Jacksonville his junior year to lead the Atlantic Sun Conference in homeruns. After being drafted he slugged another four homeruns and hit .336 in the New York Penn League. The Orioles had him skip Low A to move to the Carolina League. Austin has a right fielders arm and decent enough speed to cover ground out in right field. That speed will not result in a lot of stolen bases. The way he is tearing up each league in the minors expect Austin to be with the Orioles sometime next year. They do not have a lot of players there right now to hold him back.
6. Michael Chavis 3B (Red Sox/Salem) - Michael was a first round pick of the Red Sox in 2014. It has been a disappointing first three years for Michael. The Red Sox have a need for a third baseman and if Michael had hit like he has this year perhaps he would get the call. It has been a breakout year for Michael with 17 homeruns in just 59 games with a .318 average and a 1.029 OPS in the Carolina League. His strikeouts are still prevalent, but they have been reduced from his first three years. In AA he has added 12 homeruns to give him 29 for the year. His defense at third is still a little suspect with 14 errors, which could result in a move to first base or left field.
7. Zack Collins C (White Sox/Winston Salem) - Zack was a first round pick of the White Sox in 2016. The 117 whiffs in 110 games has kept his average down at .220, but he does have 17 homeruns with 75 walks for a .362 OBP. His bat should always play but a thick lower half and plodding feet has resulted in 16 passed balls. He has thrown out 45 runners so he can sling it to second. The White Sox will be patient with him. The power will play well behind the plate, but if his defense remains weak he could move to first. It is still way too early for the White Sox to give up on his catching tools.
8. Alec Hansen RHP (White Sox/Winston Salem) - The White Sox drafted Alec in the second round of the 2016 draft. At 6′7″ with a mid to high 90s fastball he can dominate games, with frequent double digit strikeout outings. He started the season in Low A and after dominating there was promoted to High A, where he had back to back 12 K games. His secondary pitches need improvement (slider, curve and change) but that will come with time. The opposition hits him at a .210 clip with 155 whiffs in 119 innings.
9. Kyle Tucker OF (Astros/Buies Creek) - Kyle was a 2015 first round pick of the Astros. His brother Preston plays in AAA for the Astros Fresno affiliate. Kyle got the height (6′4″) while the shorter framed Preston inherited the Popeye arms. Kyle has the greater prospect potential. He has the speed to cover the ground necessary in centerfield and the arm and power to play right. He didn’t last long in the Carolina League, promoted to AA after hitting .288 with 9 homeruns and a .932 OPS in the Carolina League. AA has been a bit more of a struggle but expect Kyle to show case his outfield abilities at Minute Maid park some time next year.
10. Dane Dunning RHP (White Sox/Winston Salem) - The Nationals drafted Dunning in the first round of the 2016 draft, then traded him to the White Sox in the Adam Eaton trade. He was the lessor of Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito but in the long run he may turn out to be the greater. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can touch the mid 90s but his secondary pitches need improvement (slider/change). Dunning started his season in the South Atlantic League but needed only four starts to get his 0.35 ERA promoted to the Carolina League. His numbers (3.43 ERA) would be a little better if not for an 8 run outing in July when he coughed up four of his 12 homeruns. His command is good but a .260 opposition average could be indicative of being around the plate too much.
Other Players to Watch
Ryan Mountcastle SS (Orioles/Frederick) - We talked about him in the AA Eastern League top ten prospects. He was leading the Carolina League in batting average at .314 but after his promotion he will not carry enough at bats to win the title. He also slugged 15 homeruns. His eventual position may be third base but the Orioles will keep him at short until he proves he can’t play it.
Ademar Rifaela OF (Orioles/Frederick) - The native of Curacao leads the Frederick League in homeruns with 22. Last year he broke out with 13 homeruns but this year he could double that quantity. The batting average (.290) and homeruns are a career high. It will be interesting if he can continue to produce as he rises up the minor league ladder.
Chase Vallot C (Royals/Wilmington) - A lesser version of Zach Collins the supplemental first round pick does not hit for average (.231) but has some pop (12 homeruns). He also has the patience to draw walks (.380). His defense with 10 passed balls and 12 errors may force a move from catcher. He only has thrown out 13 baserunners.
Josh Ockimey 1b (Red Sox/Salem) - The 2014 fifth round pick has shown the ability to hit for power. After hitting .275 with 11 homeruns in 100 games he was promoted to AA. Josh is not afraid to draw walks (.388).
A.J. Puckett RHP (White Sox/Winston Salem) - A second round pick of the Royals in 2016, he was traded to the White Sox mid year in the Melky Cabrera trade. He has not had a great year in the Carolina League (4.01 ERA) with a .262 opposition average, but 102 whiffs in 112 innings shows a swing and miss quality.