Biggest breakout prospect for each NL East team
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
Atlanta: Drew Lugbauer, C/3B (No. 30 on Braves Top 30)
Lugbauer's strong junior season at Michigan, when he hit 12 homers, put him a bit on the 2017 Draft map. Then he went out and hit 13 more between the rookie-level Appalachian League and Class A South Atlantic League over 60 games during his pro debut last summer to land him at No. 30 on the Braves' top prospects list.
The power from the left side of the plate is legitimate. Where he plays defensively still remains somewhat in question. He played numerous positions at Michigan out of need, and he played first and third during his first summer with the Braves (in addition to behind the plate). In 2018, the Braves are committed to helping him develop as a backstop. "He's a big, strong, athletic kid behind the plate who can really throw," Braves farm director Dave Trembley said. "He has big power, too, to all fields. We think he's going to be something this year. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Drew; we really like him behind the plate."
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Miami: Edward Cabrera, RHP (No. 13 on Marlins Top 30)
Cabrera has emerged as the gem prospect of Miami's 2015-16 international efforts since he signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic. Cabrera's stuff and feel for pitching leapt forward in 2017 with Class A Short-Season Batavia, especially in terms of his velocity, as he reached 101 mph with his fastball while working anywhere from 95-100 mph.
In addition to his electric fastball, Cabrera also shows the makings of an above-average slider and average command, with a changeup that started to come along for him in 2017. Altogether, it gives the 19-year-old right-hander arguably the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect in Miami's system.
"He's got really good stuff. 19. 6-foot-4, great arm," Marlins director of player development Dick Scott said. "He has a great personality, he's bouncing around. Then he gets on the mound and he has a great mound demeanor for 19 years old. He hasn't filled out and it comes out really well. He and [Jorge] Guzman hang out together."
New York: Desmond Lindsay, OF (No. 7 on Mets Top 30)
Lindsay's raw tools have long tantalized the Mets front office; he's just had trouble staying on the field to refine them and turn them into production. Hamstring issues forced him to the second round of the 2015 Draft, a problem that persisted and kept him off the field for much of 2016. In 2017, it was an elbow injury, that required ulnar nerve surgery, that ended his season in the Class A South Atlantic League in July. Still, he's No. 8 on the Mets' Top 30 and there's cautious optimism in the player development department.
"He looks healthy, ready to go," Mets farm director Ian Levin said. "We're looking forward to what he can do now with a full professional season under his belt, think he's in a very good place. All the tools and ability are still there, we just need to keep getting him experience and let it all develop."
Philadelphia: Mickey Moniak, OF (No. 5 on Phillies Top 30; No. 88 on Top 100)
It might seem odd to consider a former No. 1 overall pick, especially one taken in 2016, as a breakout candidate. But after a rough first full season in the South Atlantic League in 2017, many jumped off the Moniak bandwagon. Especially as he faded in the second half, concerns about his lack of strength grew. MLB Pipeline was willing to give him a mulligan for a learning year, putting him fifth on the Phillies' Top 30 and No. 89 overall, but he definitely has something to prove. Count Phillies farm director Joe Jordan among those who think he's primed to do just that.
"He's going to have a good year; he looks terrific," Jordan said. You don't ever want guys to struggle, but I think last year was the best thing that could have happened to him, because he's tough enough to handle it.
"I think he made adjustments in instructs and added some more strength over the winter. I think the guy is going to have a super year. He got it handed to him a little bit during the second half in Lakewood last summer, but he handled it. Guys often need to struggle first to embrace change. I'm so optimistic, so bullish on him right now."
Washington: Yasel Antuna, SS/3B (No. 7 on Nats Top 30)
Impressed with Antuna's five-tool potential and overall feel for the game as a Dominican amateur, the Nationals signed him with $3.9 million bonus, a franchise record for an international amateur, at the outset of the 2016-17 international signing period. He proved every bit worth the high price tag during his pro debut in the Rookie Gulf Coast League, where he showed impact potential at the plate (.301/.382/.399 in 48 games) while playing multiple infield positions as part of a loaded Nats GCL squad.
The switch-hitting Antuna does most of his damage from the left side, where he exhibits preternatural barrel ability and consistently drives the ball with a leveraged swing. He shows present pop to the gaps, and ultimately could develop average over-the-fence power. Antuna also receives praise for his plate discipline as well as his pitch recognition, and he proved a raw but promosing defender at both shortstop and third base
"I think Antuna is the guy," Nationals assistant general manager Doug Harris said. "They just see a lot of maturity in a lot of things that he does. We're really excited to see where that takes us. He got some Major League at-bats and had some quality at-bats, not just in what the end result was, but how he went about it. He had a two-strike approach, hit a ball that probably should've been a home run, but blew foul with the wind down here. It's impressive."