Christopher Crawford

Prospect Roundup

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Most Improved Prospects: 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017


One of the most rewarding aspects of following prospects is that every once in a while, a player comes out of nowhere to go from fringe big-leaguer -- if that -- to potential star. This year was no exception, and saw several hitters and pitchers see their stock soar.

Here’s a look at the most improved prospects of 2017.

 

Hitters

Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves -- This is an obvious one, but we should sing his praises again. Acuna was certainly not an unknown name, but a player that once looked like a raw-but-talented outfielder now ranks as one of the best prospects in baseball. He can hit for average, he can hit for power, he can steal bases and he can play excellent defense in centerfield. He hit .344 in Triple-A, and he’s still a teenager until December. Acuna has a real chance to be a fantasy star that could play every day for the Braves at some point next year.
-- ETA, 2018

Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies -- Kingery was a second-round pick out of the University of Arizona who was a scout’s favorite, but even his biggest supporters have to be impressed with his season (.304/.359/.530, 26 HR, 29 SB). He has a quick, line-drive stroke, but he’s added loft, and now could have above-average hitting and power skills when all is said and done. He’s also a plus runner, so 15 to 20 steal seasons are a lock if he gets on enough, and he should. Kingery could be an everyday player for the Phillies next summer.
-- ETA, 2018

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Ryan McMahon, IF, Colorado Rockies -- McMahon was borderline written off after his poor 2016 season. It’s important to keep in mind he was just 21-years-old, and he also had to spend basically the entire year on the road. To say he’s rebounded is an understatement, with a .355/.403/.583 line and 20 homers in his time at Double and Triple-A. There’s no obvious defensive position here, but McMahon can flat-out hit, and he’ll get to spend (most of) 2018 in Coors Field.
-- ETA, Debuted in 2017

Fernando Tatis, Jr, SS, San Diego Padres -- This improvement really started in the late summer of 2016, but we’re going to cheat, and Tatis made huge strides in 2017. The son of former big-leaguer Fernando Tatis has shown plus power from the right side, and he has an impressive approach at the plate. He’s also a smart runner who makes the most of his average speed, and he stole 32 bases this year. Add in a strong arm and the flair for dramatic on defense, and you have one of the best shortstop prospects in all of baseball.
-- ETA 2019


Pitchers

Chance Adams, RHP, New York Yankees -- Adams was seen as a reliever by many when he was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Funny what a 2.45 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 150 ⅓ innings will do for perception. Adams has a complete arsenal of pitching, with four pitches flashing above-average, starting with his 94-95 mph fastball. The command needs a little work, but if it even can be average, he’s a mid-rotation starter, maybe more.
-- ETA 2018

Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland Indians -- McKenzie has flashed excellent stuff since he was drafted with the 42nd pick in the 2015 draft, but really put it all together this year. He struck out 186 hitters in 143 innings, and posted a respectful 3.46 ERA in High-A as a 20-year-old. He’s wafer-thin, but he’s able to get his fastball in the mid-90s, and his curveball and change are both plus pitches. He also pounds the strike zone with an easy to repeat delivery. The build is a bit of a concern, but the stuff suggests he can pitch at or near the top of a rotation.
-- ETA 2019

Shane Bieber, RHP, Cleveland Indians -- Bieber has struck out 162 hitters and walked 10 in 173 ⅓ innings. Yes, you are reading that right, and that’s all I should have to tell you. There are no plus pitches in his repertoire, but the 2016 fourth-round pick commands his stuff as well as you can. He’s not just a “throw a strike and hope they hit it to my guy” pitcher, either. He locates, and there’s deception in his delivery. There’s not a huge ceiling here, but his ability to limit self-inflicted damage makes his floor extremely high.
-- ETA, 2018

Jon Duplantier, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Duplantier had one of the best statistical years of any pitcher in baseball -- minors or majors -- with a 1.39 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 136 innings. Not too shabby for a pitcher that scouts were hesitant to call a starter. The improved command made a big difference, but he also showed more consistent velocity with his mid-90s fastball, and a curveball that was more plus than average. If the change can be a third average pitch, he’s a starter. If not, he could be downright nasty in relief.  
-- ETA 2019

Foster Griffin, LHP, Kansas City Royals -- Griffin was absolutely terrible in 2016, posting a 5.43 ERA, struggling to miss bats and walking 53 batters in 105 innings. Saying he was better in 2017 is an understatement, as he posted a 3.35 ERA, 141 strikeouts and the same number of walks in just under 162 innings. He’s not a hard-thrower, but Griffin has two plus pitches in his curveball and change, and his fastball command made significant improvement. He could be a mid-rotation starter for the Royals in the next few years.
-- ETA 2018



Christopher Crawford is a prospect writer for Rotoworld. He's scouted and covered prospects since 2009 and resides in Coronado, Calif. Follow him on Twitter @Crawford_MILB.
Email :Christopher Crawford



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