Some prospects are highly touted heading into a season and then live up to advanced billing. Others are a bit more under the radar, either because they are coming off of injuries, haven't performed up to expectations or perhaps are just getting started on their pro careers. MLB Pipeline selected
Some prospects are highly touted heading into a season and then live up to advanced billing. Others are a bit more under the radar, either because they are coming off of injuries, haven't performed up to expectations or perhaps are just getting started on their pro careers. MLB Pipeline selected one of these type of prospects from each organization as a 2018 breakout candidate. We might not be talking much about the prospects below now, but they could jump on the scene in a big way this season.
• Impact prospects by division: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West
Chicago:Luis Alexander Basabe, OF (No. 14 on White Sox Top 30)
While Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech were the definite headliners in the four-prospect package the Red Sox sent to the White Sox for Chris Sale at the 2016 Winter Meetings, Basabe also came to Chicago with a ton of upside. Signed for $450,000 out of Venezuela in 2012 -- Boston also signed his identical twin Luis Alejandro to an identical bonus on the same day -- he's a switch-hitting center fielder with five-tool potential. An injury to his left knee hampered him in his first season with his new organization, during which he batted .221/.320/.320 in low Class A, but he's primed for a better 2018 after surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Basabe has impressive bat speed and strong hands and wrists, and the White Sox are trying to help him tap into his raw power by getting him to take a more direct path to the ball. He's still learning to recognize pitches and manage the strike zone, the biggest keys to his development. With his plus speed and arm strength, he's a basestealing threat and an asset anywhere in the outfield.
"He's a great kid with a good swing, speed and arm strength," White Sox farm director Chris Getz said. "He didn't complain about his knee but it affected him at the plate. His performance just didn't make sense."
Cleveland: Nolan Jones, OF (No. 4 on Indians Top 30)
The recipient of a nearly twice-slot-value signing bonus as the Indians' second-round pick in 2016, Jones made his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League before advancing to the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League in 2017 and leading the circuit in on-base percentage (.430) and OPS (.912), with a .317 average that paced all Indians farmhands.
Beyond his impressive left-handed hitting ability, Jones also boasts advanced plate discipline and an age-defying approach that helped him lead the NYPL in both walks (43) and OBP as a teenager. His raw power has yet to translate during games, but scouts do expect him to develop the above-average power befitting of a big league third baseman.
"He has all of the raw natural tools to be one of the best third-base prospects in the Minor Leagues," said Indians farm director James Harris. "He's 19 years old and still putting it all together. We're really excited about where he is now. He's a strong kid who works hard and sees the ball well. He's making a good transition from shortstop to third base in pro ball. He's a tall kid who played hockey and we're teaching him the athletic moves at third base. There's more in there. His body has a lot of places it can go from an athletic standpoint."
Detroit: Jake Robson, OF (No. 27 on Tigers Top 30)
In some ways Robson, the Tigers' eighth-round pick in the 2016 Draft after an injury-riddled career at Mississippi State, broke out in 2017. He finished third in the system in batting average and fifth in stolen bases while playing across two levels of A ball. But he's still not on most radars, coming in at No. 27 on the Tigers' Top 30 list. His all-out style of play should gain him more fans as he moves up the ladder and he could make a big jump up this list if he keeps hitting while reaching the upper levels.
"There's something in there with Jake," Tigers farm director Dave Owen said. "He's a ballplayer, someone who gets dirty and grinds."
MILB Video - Title: Watch: Robson goes yard - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1316942883
Kansas City: Michael Gigliotti, OF (No. 5 on Royals Top 30)
Gigliotti positioned himself a first-round pick in the 2017 Draft when he excelled in the Cape Cod League the previous summer, when scouts voted him the circuit's top prospect and Jeff Trundy, his manager at Falmouth, said he was more advanced than Jacoby Ellsbury was when he played for the Commodores. But Gigliotti slumped early in his junior season at Lipscomb and dropped to the Royals in the fourth round despite finishing strong. He had no difficulty adapting to pro ball, batting .320/.420/.456 with 22 steals in 64 games while reaching low Class A.
Gigliotti's ability at the plate and his well above-average speed could make him an on-base machine. He strokes line drives to all fields, controls the strike zone and can bunt for hits. He's also a serious basestealing threat and one of the best center fielders in an organization that places a premium on speed and defense.
"That was a good job by our scouts," Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo said. "He has great makeup and he's a leader. He can hit, bunt, steal bases, play center field. He could go to high Class A or Double-A this year. He's our Nicky Lopez of 2017, the same personality. They're both winners."
A fifth-round pick as a shortstop out of Creighton in 2016, Lopez advanced to Double-A and starred in the Arizona Fall League during his first full pro season.
Minnesota: Ryley Widell, LHP
Widell was ranked No. 190 on MLB Pipeline's Top 200 Draft prospects heading into the 2017 Draft and the Twins saw enough in the junior college (Central Arizona) left-hander to take him in the seventh round and sign him for an above-pick value $400,000 bonus. He pitched well in his pro debut in the Appalachian League, including a strong relief outing in the playoffs. There's upside here, and the Twins think he's going to take a big step toward reaching it in his first full season.
"He has feel to spin and can run it up there pretty good," Twins farm director Jeremy Zoll said. "We're excited to see him continue to take steps forward as he tries to get a little more consistent and really pound the zone and make some strides in the strike-throwing department. The delivery is clean and it's just a matter of him building up that consistency. He did miss some bats in Elizabethton, but the walks were high and that's probably the biggest thing he needs to improve on."