Everyone loves an impressive showcase of athleticism on the baseball field. Whether it’s Byron Buxton improbably running down a ball in center field, Yasiel Puig uncorking a jaw-dropping throw from right or Cody Bellinger launching a tape-measure home run on what should be an unhittable pitch, there are eye-opening feats
Everyone loves an impressive showcase of athleticism on the baseball field. Whether it’s Byron Buxton improbably running down a ball in center field, Yasiel Puig uncorking a jaw-dropping throw from right or Cody Bellinger launching a tape-measure home run on what should be an unhittable pitch, there are eye-opening feats of athleticism across the Major Leagues on a daily basis.
Amidst our ongoing State of the System series, in which we provide an in-depth breakdown of all 30 teams’ systems, we’re using this week to highlight some of the premier athletes in the Minors -- guys who possess the type of high-end athleticism and tools comparable to the aforementioned big leaguers.
Specifically, 20 of the 30 prospects selected by MLB Pipeline for the article are outfielders, and, overall, position players occupy all but one spot on the list.
Blue Jays: Dasan Brown, OF (No. 18) - Brown was viewed as perhaps the best overall athlete in the 2019 MLB Draft before signing for $800,000 as Toronto’s third-round pick. At 6-foot, 185 pounds, Brown, who turned 18 in September, possesses top-of-the-scale speed that makes him a threat on the basepaths as well as in center field, where he has the potential to become an elite defender. Brown’s right-handed bat lags behind his raw physical tools, but with time and proper development, the Canadian-born outfielder could develop into a legitimate five-tool talent.
Orioles: Ryan McKenna, OF (No. 13) - A fourth-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft out of the New Hampshire prep ranks, McKenna, 22, can do a little bit of everything, though he stands out most because of the pure athleticism that makes him a plus defender in center field and a candidate to steal 20-plus bags in a given season. Offensively, McKenna has a hit-over-power profile, with the ability to both hit for average and get on base at a solid clip, and enough pull-side pop to produce double-digit home runs.
Rays: Greg Jones, SS (No. 8) - Jones was the Colonial Athletic Association's Player of the Year MVP and became the first player in UNC Wilmington history to be selected in the first round after the Rays took him with the No. 22 overall pick in 2019. He was widely viewed as one of the premier athletes in his class, possessing 80-grade, top-of-the-scale speed and basestealing chops that enable him to create havoc once on base. A switch-hitter with some bat speed and strength, Jones shows average raw power from both sides of the plate during batting practice. And though he’s currently a shortstop, some evaluators envision Jones eventually moving to center field on account of his wheels.
Red Sox: Jarren Duran, OF (No. 4) - Duran went from the seventh round of the 2018 MLB Draft to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in 2019, and he batted .303/.367/.408 with 46 steals while reaching Double-A. The fastest runner in the system, he also has more pop than the Red Sox expected and has transitioned from second base at Long Beach State to center field as a pro.
Yankees: Estevan Florial, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 82) - Though he has been slowed by injuries and swing-and-miss issues since signing out of Haiti in 2015, Florial has some of the best all-around tools in the Minor Leagues. His raw power, speed and arm strength all grade as well above average, and he projects as a plus defender in center field as well.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Daniel Johnson, OF (No. 16) - Johnson combines plus raw power and speed, as evidenced by his 49 homers and 69 steals in 411 pro games, and he also possesses the strongest arm (a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale) in the system. A Nationals fifth-round pick out of New Mexico State in 2016, he came to the Indians in a trade for Yan Gomes last December.
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS (No. 1/MLB No. 8) - The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft can do everything very well on the baseball field. He has 20-20 potential given his power and speed. That quickness also allows him to be a plus defender at shortstop with outstanding range and a cannon for an arm. As a bonus, his makeup and passion for the game allow his athleticism to play up.
Tigers: Parker Meadows, OF (No. 12) - The younger brother of Tampa Bay’s Austin Meadows, Parker signed for $2.5 million as a second-round pick (No. 44 overall) in 2019. Though he’s listed at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, the 20-year-old outfielder has impressive tools for his size, including plus raw left-handed power and plus speed that could make him a future 20-20 candidate. He has a real chance to stick in center field, too, and has the necessary arm strength to handle a corner spot if not.
Twins: Royce Lewis, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 9) - Through two full seasons of pro ball, Lewis had played all but a few of his games at shortstop, a position he certainly can handle long term. He showed just how athletic he was in the Arizona Fall League by playing third and center field and looking like a veteran at those spots en route to winning AFL MVP honors. His 70-grade speed makes him a basestealing threat and he has 20-20 potential.
White Sox: Luis Robert, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 3) - Robert's loud tools earned him a $26 million bonus in May 2017 -- the White Sox paid a matching amount in penalty tax, for a total of $52 million -- and translated into a monster 2019 season that included a .328/.376/.624 line, 32 homers, 36 steals and a Minor League-best 314 total bases. He could have at least plus tools across the board when he's a finished product and owns some of the best raw power in the game.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
A’s: Jorge Mateo, SS/2B (No. 4) - Mateo’s had an up-and-down career, both with the Yankees and now the A’s, but his athleticism has never been in doubt. He has true 80 speed that should allow him to continue to steal bases, but he also has the physicality to drive the ball, as evidenced by the 29 doubles, 14 triples and 19 homers he hit in 2019 that led to a career-high .834 OPS.
Angels: Jo Adell, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 5) - There are several premium athletes to choose from in the Angels' system, including former high school football standouts Brandon Marsh and Jordyn Adams, but Adell’s combination of speed and physicality give him the edge. He has enough speed to man center field if needed, though he’ll fit in with the Angels nicely as a prototypical athletic, run-producing outfield corner with a plus arm in the very near future.
Astros: Jordan Brewer, OF (No. 7) - Big Ten Conference football powers such as Michigan and Wisconsin showed interest in Brewer as a wide receiver until he dislocated his shoulder as a high school senior. He stuck to baseball after that and led the Wolverines to the College World Series finals in 2019, when the Astros drafted him in the third round. His plus raw power and well-above-average speed give him at least 20-20 potential, and his quickness could make him a quality defender in center field.
Mariners: Jarred Kelenic, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 13) - Kelenic’s all-around tools were well-known leading into the 2018 MLB Draft; that’s why he went in the middle of the first round. But few predicted he’d put all of them to such consistent use during his first full season of pro ball coming out of the Wisconsin prep ranks. The outfielder played his way up to Double-A shortly after he turned 20 and finished with a 20-20 season in the process.
Rangers: Bubba Thompson, OF (No. 8) - Recruited by Southeastern Conference football programs as a quarterback, Thompson totaled 3,860 yards and 43 touchdowns while leading McGill-Toolen High (Mobile) to the Alabama state 7-A championship game in 2016. The Rangers made him the 26th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft on the basis of his well above-average speed, plus raw power and center-field skills, though injuries have slowed his progress.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Cristian Pache, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 11) - Pache earns 70 grades for his speed, arm and defense, and he’s an above-average hitter to boot with power that’s starting to show up. He’s still learning how to use that near top-of-the-scale speed to be a basestealing threat, but he uses it just fine to be an elite-level center fielder.
Marlins: Monte Harrison, OF (No. 5/MLB No. 83) - As a senior at Lee's Summit West High in 2013-14, Harrison accounted for 29 touchdowns on a Missouri Class 5 state champion football team and averaged 16.4 points per game on a basketball squad that finished third in the state. He also won the dunk contest at the Greater Kansas City All-Star Challenge and accepted a Nebraska football scholarship (wide receiver) before the Brewers signed him for $1.8 million as a second-round choice in 2014. One of best athletes and strongest players in the Minors, he's a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder with light-tower power, plus speed and a double-plus arm, which is why the Marlins sought him in the Christian Yelich trade.
Mets: Ronny Mauricio, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 80) - A loose, twitchy athlete, Mauricio flashed his five-tool upside last season as an 18-year-old at Class A Columbia, where the teenager impressed evaluators with his abilities at shortstop along with his overall offensive potential as a switch-hitter. He’s likely to lose a step as he grows into his incredibly projectable 6-foot-3, 166-pound frame -- some scouts compare his body type to Alfonso Soriano’s -- but the final product could be a player who hits for both average and power from a premium position.
Nationals: Sterling Sharp, RHP (No. 13) - A two-sport standout in high school who was recruited to play college basketball, Sharp's tremendous athleticism is obvious in watching him on the mound. The springy 6-foot-4 right-hander uses his athleticism to create extension to the plate that in turn drives the effectiveness of his exceptional sinker -- a low-90s pitch that nets him ground balls at an elite rate. Sharp’s athleticism also allows him to repeat his arm action and delivery with relative ease, and he’s consistently been around the zone with this three-pitch mix as a pro.
Phillies: Luke Williams, UTIL (NR) - While Williams’ bat has yet to show up consistently since the Phillies took him in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft, his athleticism has shown up on a regular basis in two main ways. The first is on the basepaths, with a 30-steal season in 2019 and an 80.9 percent stolen base success rate in his career. The other is defensively, as he’s shown an ability to play all over the diamond capably. Williams has actually played every position except catcher over the course of his career, and saw time in all eight spots in 2019 alone.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Corey Ray, OF (No. 4) - The Brewers made Ray the fifth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft after he hit 15 homers and swiped 44 bags as a Louisville junior, and after a shaky first full season, he showcased his power-speed combo by totaling 27 homers and 37 steals during a breakout 2018. Ray did struggle during an injury-plagued ’19 campaign, in turn raising further questions about his hitting ability, but the 25-year-old outfielder is still an exceptional athlete with loud tools, including plus left-handed power and speed that give him impact potential on the basepaths as well as in center field.
Cardinals: Trejyn Fletcher, OF (No. 17) - One of the better athletes available in the 2019 MLB Draft, Fletcher became the highest position player ever drafted out of the Maine high school ranks when the Cardinals took him in the second round. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound outfielder offers a tantalizing combination of plus raw power, speed and arm strength -- he ran his fastball up to 93 mph as a prep. It’s the profile of a potential 20-20 center fielder if everything comes together, but he's also going to require a lot of time and patience with his development.
Cubs: Brennen Davis, OF (No. 3) - Davis helped Basha High (Chandler) win the Arizona 6-A state basketball title in 2017, when he was named his region's defensive player of the year. He focused on baseball afterward, went in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft and showed 30-30 potential, a more advanced bat than expected and solid defensive ability during his first full pro season.
Reds: Jose Siri, OF (No. 15) - While Siri has struggled to make contact at the plate consistently to use all of his offensive tools, There’s a ton of raw pop in there to tap into if he can refine his approach at the plate and his 70 speed makes him a major threat on the basepaths as well as the best center fielder in the organization.
Pirates: Oneil Cruz, SS (No. 3/MLB No. 57) - Evaluators have been waiting for the now 6-foot-7 Cruz to need to move to another position. But it’s been a true sign of his athleticism that he’s kept improving at shortstop despite his size. He runs well and has tremendous raw power that he’s just beginning to learn to use in games. Even if he does move away from short, or even off the dirt, it’s easy to envision him being a super-athletic right fielder with one of the best arms in baseball.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Kristian Robinson, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 71) - Signed for $2.5 million out of the Bahamas in July 2017, the 18-year-old Robinson is truly a physical specimen, possessing a blend size, athleticism and tools that gives him the highest ceiling in Arizona’s system. At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Robinson generates massive raw power to all fields and already has shown that he can apply it during games, all while demonstrating qualities that could make him an average hitter. Robinson also has the speed, range and instincts to stick in center field, though, with so much physical projection remaining, there is a chance he'll outgrow the spot and move to an outfield corner.
Dodgers: Jeren Kendall, OF (unranked on Dodgers Top 30) - The consensus best athlete in the 2017 MLB Draft, Kendall drew some Jacoby Ellsbury comparisons with his deceptive strength, plus-plus speed and Gold Glove potential in center field. He has struggled mightily at the plate since signing for $2,897,500 as a first-round pick, batting .223/.309/.413 with a 32 percent strikeout rate.
Giants: Hunter Bishop, OF (No. 4/MLB No. 65) - Bishop originally committed to play wide receiver at Washington, then gave up football to play baseball at Arizona State and blossomed into the best college athlete in the 2019 MLB Draft, where he went 10th overall. He possesses huge raw power, plus speed and the tools to become at least a solid center fielder.
Padres: C.J. Abrams, SS (No. 4/MLB No. 45) - The 2019 Georgia Gatorade high school player of the year’s speed and athleticism set him apart from most others in the 2019 Draft, where he was also viewed as one of the better prep hitters in the class before signing with San Diego as the No. 6 overall pick. The teenager has game-changing speed, with the instincts to develop into a premium basestealer, and has drawn comparisons to Dee Gordon. Abrams’ advanced left-handed bat enables him to hit for both average and power, and he’s going to offer plenty of defensive value with his incredible wheels and range even if he’s forced to move off shortstop.
Rockies: Niko Decolati, OF (No. 21) - A shortstop at Loyola Marymount, Decolati made a smooth transition to right field during his pro debut while hitting 11 homers and swiping 17 bases as a Pioneer League All-Star. He didn’t begin his first full season until June in 2019 because of injury, but showed an ability to handle center field while continuing to have an intriguing power-speed combination.