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Christopher Crawford

Prospect Roundup

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Most Improved Prospects: 2018

Monday, September 10, 2018


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

Alex Kirilloff, OF, Minnesota Twins-- Kirilloff was far frm an unknown prospect coming into the 2018 season, as he was a first-round pick in 2016. To say that his stock improved after his insanely strong campaign, however, is an understatement. He hit .348 at the Low-A and High-A levels, and he also hit 20 homers and 44 doubles. He has a sweet stroke from the left side, and his power has a chance to be plus as well. He's not a great defender and he's not going to pile up the steals, but he doesn't have to be. Kirilloff can really, really hit, and he has a chance to be an impact player at the next level. -- ETA: 2020



Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays -- Franco was given big money by the Rays coming out of the Dominican Republic, but even the Rays have to be surprised by how quickly his skills have translated. He posted a 1.004 OPS in his time with short-season Princeton, and he hit 11 homers in his 62 games at the level. The 17-year-old has a chance to be plus at every tool, and the hit has a chance to be plus-plus if everything goes well. Franco has a chance to be a star, and the only reason he doesn't rank as a top ten prospect right now is because of the volatility that comes with his age.  -- ETA: 2021

Sean Murphy, C, Oakland Athletics -- There were never defensive questions with Murphy, as he remains one of the most impressive defensive backstops in the minor leagues. The reason Murphy ranks as one of the most improved prospects in baseball is because the offense took a big jump forward in 2018. He hit .285/.361/.489 in his various stops, and he was able to add eight homers in his 73 games. He was limited at the end of the year with injuries, but nothing is considered to be a long-term concern. Murphy won't be an elite fantasy prospect, but because he plays a premium position, his average offensive potential improves exponentially. He should be Oakland's catcher at some point next season.  -- ETA: 2019


Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates -- Sometimes, it just takes time. Hayes was a first-round pick  in 2015, but struggled with consistency, and the b-word (Bust) was starting to get thrown around by some in the industry. Then he posted an .819 OPS with 12 stolen bases while playing quality defense at the hot corner. He's not going to hit for a ton of power, but his hit tool projects plus, and he could be a 15-to-20 steals player at the next level. There's still some work to be done, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if Hayes was the starting third baseman for the Pirates at this point next season.  -- ETA: 2019


Pitchers 

Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves -- Toussaint always flashed big-time ability, but the 22-year-old finally put it together in 2018, and now projects as one of the best prospects in all of baseball while helping the Braves compete for a playoff spot. He gets his fastball into the high 90s, and his curveball is a true out pitch. The big improvement, however, has been in the command. Too often Toussaint didn't know where the ball was going. He still has bouts of control issues, but it's vastly improved. Toussaint should be a part of the rotation in 2019 all year. -- ETA:  debuted in 2018

Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Oakland Athletics -- Luzardo came over with Blake Treinen in the trade of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, and the A's might be thanking the Nationals for a long time. Luzardo has struggled in his starts with Triple-A Nashville (7.31 ERA) but the sample size is too small to be concerned. He has three out pitches in his fastball, curve and change, and he throws all of them for strikes from his easy to repeat delivery. Luzardo won't help the A's this year, but it'd be a surprise if he wasn't a part of their rotation in the 2019 season. -- ETA: 2019

Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox -- Cease was the "other" prospect acquired by the White Sox in the deal for Jose Quintana, and while he doesn't project to have the impact Eloy Jimenez does -- very few have the potential to have the impact Eloy Jimenez does -- he is a darned good prospect in his own right. He has touched triple-digits with his fastball, and his curveball can give hitters fits. He's also improved his change, but it's more of a "show me" pitch at this point. That's all it has to be with those two pitches giving hitters fits, and the command has gotten better -- though far from perfect -- as well. Assuming the White Sox don't play the financial game with the right-hander, he should get starts for them in 2019. -- ETA: 2019

Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Minnesota Twins -- First of all, yes, this is a fantastic name. The pitching  ability is even better. Graterol has a plus-plus fastball, and he complements it with a plus slider and a curveball that will flash above-average as well. He will also mix in a change, but like Cease, it's mostly for appearances. He throws strikes with all four pitches, and he generally puts the ball where he wants to, with some exceptions you'd expect from a right-hander who won't turn 21 until next August. Graterol has ace upside, and should be helping the Twins before the end of the decade. -- ETA: 2020



Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for Rotoworld. Follow him on Twitter @Crawford_MILB.
Email :Christopher Crawford



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