A year after making their full-season debuts, Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease dominated the Minor Leagues throughout 2018. Guerrero made a run at becoming the Minors' first .400 hitter in 29 years and Cease was unhittable for much of the season, especially down the stretch.
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Guerrero was a no-brainer choice as MLB Pipeline's Hitter of the Year, and Cease was nearly as obvious a pick as our Pitcher of the Year. They also headline our annual Prospect Team of the Year, which includes eight Top 100 prospects on the 12-player first team.
To be eligible for the Prospect Team of the Year, a player must have spent at least half of the season in the Minors and ranked on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Prospects list for his organization at some point.
C: Francisco Mejia
(Padres No. 3 prospect/MLB No. 21)
AAA: .293/.338/.471, 427 AB, 14 HR, 68 RBI
MLB: .286/.444/1.143, 7 AB, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Famous for his modern Minor League-record 50-game hitting streak in 2016, Mejia put up the best numbers of his pro career (.328/.364/.582) after the Indians traded him to the Padres for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber in July. Whether he'll receive well enough to stay behind the plate is still in question, but his bat easily would play on an outfield corner.
2018 Prospect Teams of the Week
1B: Peter Alonso
(Mets No. 2 prospect/MLB No. 61)
AA/AAA: .285/.395/.579, 478 AB, 36 HR, 119 RBI
Alonso homered three times in the last four games to tie Reds first baseman Ibandel Isabel for the Minor League lead, and he had wrapped up the RBI crown well before that. In his first injury-free season as a pro, he also ranked third in extra-base hits (68) and total bases (277), fifth in slugging and ninth in OPS (.975).
2B: Jeff McNeil
(graduated from Mets Top 30)
AA/AAA: .342/.411/.617, 339 AB, 19 HR, 71 RBI, 6 SB
MLB: .321/.385/.463, 134 AB, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 4 SB
As a 12th-round pick out of Long Beach State in 2013, McNeil lacks the prospect pedigree of most of the other hitters on the PTOY first team. But he holds his own statistically -- he came in second in the Minors in slugging and OPS (1.028), trailing only Guerrero -- and has continued to thrive in New York.
3B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
(Blue Jays No. 1 prospect//MLB No. 1)
R/A+/AA/AAA: .381/.437/.636, 357 AB, 20 HR, 78 RBI, 3 SB
The lone repeater from the 2017 Prospect Team of the Year, Guerrero topped the Minors in hitting, slugging and OPS (1.120) and finished third in on-base percentage. He also nearly walked as much as he struck out while reaching Triple-A at age 19.
Video: Guerrero Jr. named Pipeline Hitter of the Year
SS: Gavin Lux
(Dodgers No. 6 prospect)
A+/AA: .324/.399/.514, 463 AB, 15 HR, 57 RBI, 13 SB
The first shortstop selected (20th overall) in the 2016 Draft, Lux struggled at the outset of his first full pro season but rallied with a strong second half and built on that momentum this year. He ranked in the top three in the high Class A California League in hitting, slugging, OBP and OPS (.916) at age 20, then posted similar numbers during the final month in Double-A.
OF: Eloy Jimenez
(White Sox No. 1 prospect/MLB No. 3)
AA/AAA: .337/.384/.577, 416 AB, 22 HR, 75 RBI
Acquired from the Cubs along with Cease in a July 2017 trade for Jose Quintana that could be a steal for the White Sox, Jimenez is Guerrero's closest rival as the best offensive prospect in the game. Despite missing time with strains of his left pectoral and left adductor muscles, he still finished seventh in the Minors in slugging and eighth in batting while setting a career high in homers and tearing up Triple-A with a .996 OPS at age 21.
OF: Alex Kirilloff
(Twins No. 2 prospect/MLB No. 30)
Low Class A/High Class A: .348/.392/.578, 512 AB, 20 HR, 101 RBI
Coming back from Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2017 season, Kirilloff showed he may take over as baseball's best offensive prospect once Guerrero and Jimenez graduate to the big leagues next year. He led the Minors in doubles (44), extra-base hits (71) and total bases (296) and placed second in hits (178), third in batting, sixth in slugging and seventh in RBIs.
OF: Kyle Tucker
(Astros No. 2 prospect//MLB No. 8)
AAA: .332/.400/.590, 407 AB, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 20 SB
MLB: .154/.254/.212, 52 AB, 3 RBI
Just one of six 20-20 players in the Minors this season, Tucker also accomplished the feat in 2017, making him the first player to do so in consecutive years since fellow Astros outfielder Derek Fisher (2015-16). He led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in slugging and OPS (.989), ranking third in the Minors in both categories.
DH: Nathaniel Lowe
(Rays No. 13 prospect)
A+/AA/AAA: .330/.416/.568, 482 AB, 27 HR, 102 RBI
The Rays made Joshua Lowe the 13th overall choice in the 2016 Draft, then grabbed his older brother 12 rounds later. Nathaniel has shattered all expectations, hitting 27 homers this year after going deep just seven times the season before and finishing in the top 10 in the Minors in hits (fourth, 159), OPS (fifth, .985), total bases (fifth, 274), RBI (fifth), on-base percentage (eighth), runs (eighth, 93) and slugging (10th).
LHP: Jesus Luzardo
(Athletics No. 1 prospect/MLB No. 12)
A+/AA/AAA: 10-5, 2.88 ERA, 109 1/3 IP, 129 SO, .220 AVG, 1.09 WHIP
Both of our first-team starting pitchers blew out their elbows as high school seniors and required Tommy John surgery, still commanded seven-figure bonuses that look like prudent investments and got traded last summer. Dealt by the Nationals in a package for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, Luzardo rushed from high Class A to Triple-A a year later at age 20, including a streak of six straight Double-A starts without allowing an earned run.
RHP: Dylan Cease
(White Sox No. 5 prospect/MLB No. 44)
A+/AA: 12-2, 2.40 ERA, 124 IP, 160 SO, .189 AVG, 1.06 WHIP
Handled carefully after his 2014 elbow reconstruction, Cease didn't really get turned loose until this year, when he ranked fifth in the Minors in opponent average and eighth in strikeout rate (11.6 per nine innings). His numbers improved after his midseason promotion to Double-A, where he had a 1.72 ERA, 13.4 whiffs per nine innings and a .168 opponent average.
Video: Cease named Pipeline Pitcher of the Year
RP: Colin Poche
(Rays No. 24 prospect)
AA/AAA: 6-0, 0.82 ERA, 2 SV, 66 IP, 110 SO, .151 AVG, 0.79 WHIP
The lowest-drafted player (14th round, 2016) on the first team, Poche went from the Diamondbacks to the Rays in May as one of the players to be named for Steven Souza in a three-team trade three months before. Following a spectacular first full pro season in 2017 (1.25 ERA, 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings, .174 opponent average), he somehow managed to improve this year. Among full-season Minor Leaguers with as many as his 66 innings, he ranked first in ERA and strikeout rate (15.0), second in WHIP and third in opponent average.
C: Ronaldo Hernandez
(Rays No. 7 prospect)
A: .284/.339/.494, 405 AB,21 HR, 79 RBI, 10 SB
1B: Roberto Ramos
(Rockies No. 23 prospect)
A+/AA: .269/.368/.574, 413 AB, 32 HR, 77 RBI
2B: Brandon Lowe
(Rays No. 10 prospect)
AA/AAA: .297/.391/.558, 380 AB, 22 HR, 76 RBI, 8 SB
MLB: .258/.372/.439, 66 AB, 3 HR, 12 RBI
3B: Taylor Ward
(Angels No. 8 prospect)
AA/AAA: .349/.446/.531, 375 AB, 14 HR, 60 RBI, 18 SB
MLB: .211/.263/.366, 71 AB, 3 HR, 9 RBI
SS: Kevin Smith
(Blue Jays No. 6 prospect)
A/A+: .302/.358/.528, 523 AB, 25 HR, 93 RBI, 29 SB
OF: Jo Adell
(Angels No. 1 prospect/MLB No. 16)
A/A+/AAA: .290/.355/.543, 396 AB, 20 HR, 77 RBI, 15 SB
OF: Austin Dean
(Marlins No. 27 prospect)
AA/AAA: .345/.410/.511, 397 AB, 12 HR, 68 RBI
MLB: .206/.254/.397, 63 AB, 3 HR, 9 RBI
OF: Corey Ray
(Brewers No. 2 prospect)
AA: .239/.323/.477, 532 AB, 27 HR, 74 RBI, 37 SB
DH: J.D. Davis
(graduated from Astros Top 30)
AAA: .342/.406/.583, 333 AB, 17 HR, 81 RBI
MLB: .176/.247/.235, 85 AB, 1 HR, 5 RBI
LHP: Patrick Sandoval
(Angels No. 20 prospect)
A/A+/AAA: 11-1, 2.06 ERA, 122 1/3 IP, 145 SO, .196 AVG, 0.96 WHIP
RHP: Chris Paddack
(Padres No. 5 prospect//MLB No. 48)
A+/AA: 7-3, 2.10 ERA, 90 IP, 120 SO, .204 AVG, 0.82 WHIP
RP: Tyler Johnson
(White Sox No. 23 prospect)
A/AA: 9-0, 1.40 ERA, 14 SV, 58 IP, 89 SO, .172 AVG, 0.88 WHIP
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.