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12 prospects to watch in short-season leagues

June 21, 2017

In most places, the 2017 season has been in full swing for a while now. But every June, a number of short-season and Rookie-level leagues begin play. Some have already started, while others will begin their seasons in the coming days.These leagues will be filled with many 2017 draftees getting

In most places, the 2017 season has been in full swing for a while now. But every June, a number of short-season and Rookie-level leagues begin play. Some have already started, while others will begin their seasons in the coming days.
These leagues will be filled with many 2017 draftees getting their professional careers started, along with other young players who were working in extended spring camps waiting for an assignment, either because they weren't ready for full-season ball or they were rehabbing an injury.
There are eight leagues getting started. The more advanced ones are the New York-Penn League and Northwest League, where many college players from the 2017 Draft will head. A notch below are a pair of rookie circuits, the Pioneer and Appalachian Leagues. Draftees go there as well, including some high schoolers, along with some young players who possibly got their feet wet last year in what is known as the "complex leagues." That's the Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues, which play in Spring Training facilities, generally without fans. Those rookie levels are usually home to high school draftees and international prospects making their United States debuts. For international prospects not quite ready for the U.S., they can play in the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues.
There are a number of exciting prospects playing across these leagues. Here's a short list of who to watch out for, with many more intriguing names to come as more 2017 draftees sign.
1. Luis Robert, OF, DSL White Sox
The White Sox signed the Cuban prospect to a $26 million deal and he's already out and playing in the Dominican Summer League. The 19-year-old center fielder, ranked No. 3 on the White Sox Top 30 Prospects list and No. 25 overall, has power and speed and has already shown an advanced approach, with more walks than strikeouts over his first seven games.

2. Kevin Maitan, SS, GCL Braves
Though just 17, the Braves are letting Maitan, Atlanta's No. 2 prospect (No. 26 on the Top 100), make his pro debut in the U.S. and the Gulf Coast League. The Venezuelan who signed for $4.25 million last July will get to show his offensive potential for the first time and if the early comps to Chipper Jones and Jose Cabrera are warranted.

3. Kyle Wright, RHP, GCL Braves
He'll get to be Maitan's teammate, at least for a little while. Don't expect the No. 5 pick in the Draft to pitch that much after a long junior season at Vanderbilt, but this is the first opportunity to see the big right-hander in action.

4. Royce Lewis, SS, GCL Twins
The No. 1 pick in the Draft, Lewis signed quickly for $6.725 million and should be ready to go when the GCL begins on Monday. He has tremendous hitting skills and plus speed, with some power to come.

5. Austin Beck, OF, AZL A's
Beck, the No. 6 pick in the 2017 Draft, was a bit of a pop-up guy this spring because he missed last summer and fall because of a left knee injury. Back healthy, he showed five-tool potential, which will now be on display in the Arizona League.

6. Jo Adell, OF, AZL Angels
The AZL will be a fun place to watch toolsy outfielders. Adell, taken No. 10 overall, seemed to sign almost immediately, eager to get his career started. Yes, there are some swing-and-miss concerns, but the power-speed combination should be fun to watch in Arizona.

7. Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers (Connecticut Tigers, NY-Penn League)
Last year's No. 9 pick overall, Manning is the Tigers' top prospect and baseball's No. 63 overall prospect. With top-of-the-rotation potential, Manning wasted no time to impress, striking out nine in 4 1/3 innings during his NYPL debut this week.

8. Delvin Perez, SS, Cardinals (Johnson City Cardinals, Appalachian League)
Perez, ranked No. 4 on the Cards' Top 30 Prospects list and No. 79 overall, dropped to the Cardinals in the bottom third of the 2016 Draft's first round because of a failed test for performance-enhancing drugs. He handled his first assignment in the GCL last summer very well and will take his speed and defensive skills up a half-step to the Appy League.

9. Adrian Morejon, LHP, Padres (Tri-City Dust Devils, Northwest League)
The Cuban lefty, ranked No. 3 on the Padres' Top 30 Prospects list and No. 91 overall, signed for $11 million last July and is making his professional debut, at age 18, up in the Northwest League. He's already put his stuff, polish and command to use, giving up a run over three innings while striking out one during his pro debut this week.

10. Will Benson, OF, Indians (Mahoning Valley Scrappers, NY-Penn League)
Big, strong and athletic, Benson, the Indians' No. 7 prospect, was Cleveland's first pick in the 2016 Draft. He showed his intriguing combination of power and speed during his pro debut last summer and while he does swing and miss, he also draws walks.

11. Nolan Jones, 3B, Indians (Mahoning Valley Scrappers, NY-Penn League)
Why not head to Mahoning Valley and get two for the price of one? Watching Jones, the Indians' No. 6 prospect, along with Benson will be worth it. A high school shortstop who has moved over to third, Jones has a smooth swing and plenty of bat speed from the left side of the plate.

12. Brayan Hernandez, OF, Mariners (Everett AquaSox, Northwest League)
Just 19, the raw and toolsy Hernandez, ranked No. 6 on the Mariners' Top 30 Prospects list, played his way from the Dominican Summer League to the AZL last summer and is now up a step in Everett. He flashes all five tools, with the speed to stay in center and power to come as he matures.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.