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Four non-Top 50 prospects who could vie for ROY

January 23, 2019

We're only two days away from unveiling MLB Pipeline's 2019 Top 100 Prospects list. Jonathan Mayo and I will team with MLB Network's Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds to break down the best of the best in a one-hour show that will air Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on the

We're only two days away from unveiling MLB Pipeline's 2019 Top 100 Prospects list. Jonathan Mayo and I will team with MLB Network's Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds to break down the best of the best in a one-hour show that will air Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on the Network, as well as on
We've led up to the Top 100 reveal by ranking the top 10 prospects at each position, culminating today with a loaded outfielders list headlined by the White Sox Eloy Jimenez. After the Top 100 goes live this weekend, we'll have several more related features next week.

Instead of using the current Top 100 Prospects list, which we formulated in July and tweaked in September, I'm going to base this answer on the 2019 edition (without giving away any player's ranking). Though it's possible that the first two guys on our Top 100 win the Rookie of the Year Awards -- you'll have to wait until Saturday to find out who they are -- there are several prime candidates from the bottom half of the list.
In the American League, Josh James has a spot in the Astros' rotation waiting for him after a 2018 season in which he led the Minors in strikeout rate (13.5 per nine innings) and pitched his way onto Houston's postseason roster. Danny Jansen projects as the Blue Jays' starting catcher and has the tools to hit .280 with 15-20 homers.
The Mets have more infielders than they have spots to play them and a lot of uncertainty at first base, but Peter Alonso could claim that job after topping the Minors (36) and Arizona Fall League (six) in homers. Another National League candidate is Garrett Hampson, who faces a similar infield logjam with the Rockies, but could emerge at second base thanks to his hitting ability, speed and defense.
Do you envision there will be repercussions made by A's ownership against executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane if Kyler Murray chooses to play professional football over baseball? Small-market teams can't exactly afford to gamble with the No. 9 overall pick in the Draft. There were other similarly talented players whom Beane could have chosen, including Brady Singer, Nolan Gorman and Travis Swaggerty. The A's could have drafted one of those players instead, and hoped Murray slid to their next pick at No. 50. I am upset at Beane for wasting a lottery pick.
-- Jason L., Pleasant Hill, Calif.

I don't think the A's made a reckless gamble at all when they took Murray. There were teams ahead of Oakland that considered him, and he wouldn't have gotten past the middle of the first round. An electric athlete who made dramatic progress in his first prolonged baseball stint in three years during the spring at Oklahoma, he has a package of tools similar to those of a young Andrew McCutchen.
Murray wouldn't have signed with the A's, not even for the $4.66 million bonus he received, without being allowed to play one season at quarterback for the Sooners. Every team knew that. Arguably the best quarterback in the storied history of Texas high school football, he had waited three years for the chance to show what he could do in college and wasn't going to pass that up.

At the time, no one -- and I mean no one -- projected Murray as a potential NFL first-round pick. He would be the smallest quarterback (by height and weight) in recent NFL history, and his size led baseball and football teams alike (as well as Murray) to believe that he had a brighter professional future on the diamond. But he was so spectacular while winning the Heisman Trophy that he now looks like he'll go in the first 10 selections in April's NFL Draft.
Murray was sincere about his desire to play baseball when he signed with Oakland, but football is his passion. That has been evident since he pulled himself out of the 2015 MLB Draft, in which he was the best athlete available and could have commanded a bonus in the neighborhood of $4 million. Now that he's going to get the chance to quarterback an NFL team, I don't believe we'll ever see him play a game of professional baseball.

Gavin Lux led all Minor League shortstops in all three slash categories last year with a .324/.399/.514 line, reaching Double-A at age 20 and thriving there in August and during the Texas League playoffs. A 2020 ETA in Los Angeles is more realistic, but the Dodgers are all in to win now, and it's possible that he could be their best second-base option by the end of this season.

Lux has had issues with throwing accuracy at shortstop, and several scouts project him to wind up at second base, where he has played 60 games in the last two years. He's much steadier at second and makes repeated hard contact at the plate, so he has the potential to contribute as Los Angeles tries to go one step further and win the World Series.

In terms of prospects on our current Cubs Top 30, right-hander Richard Gallardo will jump from No. 27 to close to the Top 10. While Gallardo is 17 and has yet to appear in a pro game, he was the best pitcher on the international amateur market last summer and signed for $1 million out of Venezuela. He obviously has everything to prove, but he has the potential for three plus pitches and precocious feel for a teenager, so I like him more than most of Chicago's muddled group of righties.
As for prospects not featured on the current list, right-handers Tyson Miller and Yovanny Cruz will push into the back of the Top 20. Both posted strikeout-to-walk ratios around 4/1 in 2018 with solid if not spectacular stuff. Cruz's repertoire grades slightly better than Miller's, though Miller starred in Class A Advanced last year and Cruz has yet to reach full-season ball.

Jim Callis is a reporter for Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.