TopTen Dominican Prospects American League

We begin our scan of the world identifying the top ten prospects from particular countries or areas. Some are much easier than others. The easiest is the Dominican Republic where prospects abound. We begin with those players in the American League.

Two prospects from last year’s list graduated. Willy Adames (4th) started for the Tampa Bay Rays. He should be the Rays starting shortstop for a number of years to come. The eighth ranked player was Miguel Andujar. He was second to the wonderman from Japan Shohei Ohtani in the Rookie of the year battle last year. There is some concern about his defense at third. When it was thought the Yankees would sign Manny Machado there were rumors Andujar would be traded. Those talks have quieted now.

Below is the list.

1. Vladimir Guerrero 3B (Toronto Blue Jays) - He was everyone’s minor league player of the year, replacing Eloy Jimenez who appeared on top of this list last year. The only down side to his year was his injury at mid season which influenced the Blue Jays not to call him up in September. That despite a .381 average through four different levels, 20 homeruns and an OPS of 1.073. There is no question that the bat will play. The big concern is whether his stocky build will eventually make Guerrero a liability at third. A move to first or DH would negate his fire power since players who can produce big time numbers play there. Based on ability alone he should break with the major league team out of spring training, but don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays hold him back for a month. Once called up the race for the Rookie of the Year award will begin. His father last year was voted to the Hall of Fame. Junior hopes to take a similar path in his baseball journey.

2. Wander Franco SS (Tampa Bay Rays) - Everyone is expecting him to be the breakout star for 2019, even though Wander kind of broke out last year with his .351 average in rookie ball. Only 19 to begin the 2019 season, this dude can hit for average and power. Last year his OPS was 1.005. His defense is not as strong as his offense and with Willy Adames, who appeared on this list last year, their current shortstop, a move to third may be likely. Fortunately the Rays have some time to watch him percolate up their minor league system. He could move quickly, beginning next year in the full season league at Low A with a promotion to High A if he continues to assault minor league pitching. Expect a major league arrival to be late in 2020.

3. Eloy Jimenez OF (Chicago White Sox) - The number one prospect from this list last year has not really dropped in talent. He has just been surpassed by two superstar prospects. Injuries have always cropped up through the season to prevent Eloy from putting up monster stats. Muscle pulls caused him to miss about a month of the 2018 season. Perhaps he is wound up a bit tight. The offense was there when he played, hitting .337 with 22 homeruns. His OPS fell just short of 1.000 (.961). Defensively, Eloy will be a liability, restricted to left field but possibly best used as a DH. The arm is not strong, the legs lack speed and his instincts for playing with the glove are lacking. Expect him to battle Guerrero for the rookie of the year award in 2019.

4. Jesus Sanchez OF (Tampa Bay Rays) - At this point there is a large drop off in talent, but Sanchez still would be considered a five tool player. He has the speed to play centerfield with the arm to move to right. His bat showed some pop in High A with a .462 slugging but that falls short of the three players above him. Jesus struggled a bit when promoted to AA hitting only .214. Despite his speed he has yet to achieve double digits in stolen bases. The expectation is he should hit 20 plus homeruns. If he can do that as a centerfielder that will be a big plus. As a rightfielder not so amazing. Expect Jesus to get another shot at AA with a mid-season promotion a possibility.

5. Jorge Mateo SS (Oakland Athletics) - Myworld loves his speed and quiet power potential. Sometimes that fascination with power gets Jorge in trouble. In 2017 he slugged 12 homeruns. Last year he dropped to three with a 29/139 walk to whiff ratio evidence of his impatience at the plate, dropping his average to .230. The stolen bases also do not come as frequently, with a high of 82 in 2015 dropping to 52 in 2017 and further dropping to 25 last year. There is also a quandary about the position Jorge will play. He appears to play a decent shortstop but the Athletics are deep there. Centerfield and second base are other possibilities. His ultimate role could be as a utility player. Expect Jorge to make his major league debut in 2019. Myworld still loves his tools.

6. Wander Javier SS (Minnesota Twins) - What are the odds of two Wanders appearing in the same list. The Twins shelled out $4 million to sign Javier in 2015. He may be another player wound up too tightly. Hamstring issues limited his playing time in 2015 and a torn labrum in his non-throwing soldier prevented him from playing in 2018. He is still a bit of a mystery. The injuries may have given Royce Lewis a head start at winning the shortstop job. The bat should contain enough pop to fit at third and his speed could make him an asset in centerfield. The Twins will keep him moving up the system at shortstop. Reps are what is needed most. Expect him to stay in extended spring training until the Twins are confident his shoulder is healthy.

7. Leody Taveras OF (Texas Rangers) - Leody may have the best glove among this group. His prowess in centerfield should result in numerous gold glove awards. The big concern among the Rangers is the bat may be a little light. Last year in High A he hit .246 with a .332 slugging average. This is consistent with his minor league career average entering the 2018 season (.257/.362). He is the cousin of Willy Taveras, another quality centerfielder who carried a light bat. At 6′2″ Leody needs to put on some muscle in his frame to assist him in driving pitches to the gaps. Last year just 28 of his 128 hits went for extra bases.

8. Julio Rodriguez OF (Seattle Mariners) - Julio was signed for $1.75 million in 2017. He made his professional debut last year, hitting .315 with a .525 slugging. His biggest tool is his potential for power. His lack of speed but a strong arm makes him a perfect fit for right field. The Mariners are in a rebuilding process so Julio should be an important piece in that transition. Expect him to begin the 2019 season in Low A.

9. Albert Abreu RHP (New York Yankees) - Finally a pitcher to fall in this group. Abreu has a juicy fastball that hits triple digits. A bad appendix delayed the start of his 2018 season and a tender elbow ended it earlier than he wanted. In between the numbers were not great (5.20 ERA). A lack of command puts him behind in the count too many times allowing the opposition to hit him at a decent .241 clip. He has four average to above average pitches to fit in a starting rotation, but if his command remains spotty his best use may be out of the bullpen. Abreu finished his 2018 season with five no hit innings in his only start in AA. That is where he will probably begin his 2019 season, with a callup to the bullpen happening when a need arises.

10. Seuly Matias OF (Kansas City Royals) - Seuly has an impressive power bat that slugged 31 homeruns last year. A 24/131 walk to whiff ratio depressed his batting average to .231. When you consider those homeruns came even after he missed the last month of the season because of a thumb injury makes his season incredibly impressive. He may have ended up winning the minor league homerun race, which was won by Peter Alonso with 36 homeruns if he could have stayed healthy. At 6′3″ with average speed and a plus arm makes him perfectly cloned for right field. He should start the 2019 season in High A. The higher up he advances the more adept pitchers will be to get him to chase pitches. If he hopes to achieve his potential he needs to improve his ability to make contact.

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