The Good, the Vlad, and the Ugly

There is a crop of young talent in the MiLB that is waiting to be harvested. Some great prospects that are consistently perfecting their art in hopes of getting the call to the big leagues and who are itching to make some noise. I don’t think I remember a list that had the same surrounding hype as the 2019 prospect list since 2011’s top 50. That list included Mike Trout (#1), Bryce Harper (#2), Shelby Miller (#5), and Manny Machado (#10).  We have heard of some buzz around this year’s big names including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eloy Jimenez who are MLB’s top 3 rated protects.  But, I want to dig deeper and research a few prospects who I believe will or won’t make an impact this year solely based off of their prospect ranking. While doing my research, I broke it down into three categories:

The Good- Nick Senzel, MLB #6 ranked prospect.

This category was deemed for a prospect who I believe will be great, but isn’t getting the attention he should because of the players surrounding him. I could have taken the easy route here and said Eloy Jimenez, who I think will be fantastic. Eloy would have easily been the #1 prospect if it weren’t for Vlad. The analytics point to prominent success in the majors for Eloy while he was slashing .337/.384/.577 with 22 homeruns, 75 RBI, and 140 hits to go along with it. I also believe that he would have been drooled over as much as everyone as Vlad, but we can’t look at “what ifs” because Vlad isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So, instead of taking the easy way out, I went with one of my favorite prospects, Nick Senzel. This isn’t much of a gamble with his being ranked #6 according to MLB.com, but I don’t believe he is getting as much attention as he should be. He’s a great all round player with a swing built for Great American Ball Park as he hits all over the field. Senzel has one of the purest swings in the minors and is well balanced with a good source of average and power to go along with it. At age 23, Senzel hit .310 with 6 homeruns, 25 RBI, and 23 runs. As it doesn’t seem like much, due to being limited with injuries, projecting that over a full season looks like 20+ homeruns, 80 runs/RBI, batting over .300 with a 20+ steal potential. His slash line was .310/.378/.509 and to come up and learn from one of the best hitters of this generation, Joey Votto, gets me ecstatic 10 out of 10 times. There are questions that come along with Senzel about playing time and injury history, but I believe that the versatile prospect has the chance to shine bright if given the opportunity. 

The Vlad- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., MLB #1 ranked prospect.

We can’t publish an article discussing prospects without bringing up the name Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Vlad is one of the most well rounded and polished prospects that I can remember. I think he is 100% ready for the Majors and will burst out of the gates as an everyday player. He is talked about widely as he should be with bars and standards already set high for the guy without ever having one major league at-bat. That alone should speak volumes of how well regarded around the game he is. Vlad slashed .381/.437/.636 in AAA and those numbers bounce off the page. Researching Vlad, I wanted to compare him to a current star in the MLB and found an identical slash line of .312/.460/.628, which are Mike Trout’s 2018 numbers. Vlad is the only prospect to be given an 80 hit tool by scouts which is the highest grade you can receive and is already projected to bat .325, hit 24 homeruns, score 75 runs, and bring home 95 RBI, all at 19 years old. All of those expectations I can assume he will exceed as he has a clear path to playing time and no other variables in his way. There aren’t many questions with his performance if any, the only thing I can come up with is that Jays fans and all MLB will have to wait the two weeks while the super prospect starts the year at AAA ball, so the Blue Jays can play the financial game to gain more control of his time table similar to what we saw with Kris Bryant and the Cubs a few years back.

The Ugly- Kyle Tucker, MLB #8 ranked prospect.

This category is for the prospect with all the hype but one I don’t believe will reach it, at least not yet anyway. This is my most bold category and prediction, just for the simple fact that there is no way to guarantee that Kyle Tucker will be a bust. Before this year, I followed his career closely and had every high expectation for him. Tucker has been a well-regarded prospect over the past few years and in 2018 he got his share of at bats for the Astros. During his stint with the big club, he slashed .141/.236/.206. Although his time was limited to only 64 at-bats, numbers are numbers and they don’t lie. Tucker was supposed to be the next big thing, following all the other home-grown talent for the Astros. He was the #5 draft pick in the 2015 class just three spots after his teammate, Alex Bregman. It is quite possible that the majors were a bit too much for him and he needs more time to settle in. Referencing Bregman again, we saw the same result during the beginning of his career, going 0-for-17 in his first big league at-bats. Goring from 0-for-17 to one of the game’s best players is quite the leap forward and we are continuing to see him grow more and more each year, so hopefully, we can see the same result for Tucker. I’ve never been one to doubt the Astros because obviously, they know what they’re doing and for what they have accomplished. Tucker has a clear path to playing in that stacked line-up and no one standing in his way of an everyday role in the outfield. Injuries have never been a major issue in his career and hopefully, that continues. Tucker is destined to bounce back to the .332/.400/.596 slash that he had in the minors, but there also is the possibility of becoming a player that just can’t cut it in the MLB. Whether it be mentally or physically, I hope he gets over it because I would love to see that talent. Look, I never want the worst outcome for a player, especially one like this with all the talent and potential in the world. This is just a buyer beware if you’re expecting him to do something big anytime soon.

Bonus Category- Keston Hiura (MLB #20 ranked prospect)

Throughout this article I wanted to pick apart MLB’s Top 10 Ranked Prospects with research to understand the group a bit better. One bonus prospect to keep an eye on is Keston Hiura. Hiura is a prospect I believe will become a fantastic MLB player with the path and ability to do so. Similar comparisons have been made toward the Red Sox All-Star, Dustin Pedroia. The Brewers are mulling over their options at second base with the platoon of Cory Spangenberg and Hernán Pèrez after shopping the free agent class and coming out empty handed. Aside from that duo, they have the option of signing Mike Moustakas back and pushing Travis Shaw back over to second base which they did last year, or the option of calling upon Hiura who is laying in the weeds waiting for his shot. Hiura has always been a great hitter with the ability to hit around .300 with double-digit homer ability. He slashed .293/.357/.464 in 2018 at 22 years old. If you gave him every day at bats in Miller Park, I think you could easily expect fifteen home runs from him while contributing in other major categories and helping the Brewers back towards the post-season. Hiura, who is quick on his feet, has a 70-hit tool and was chosen as the Arizona Fall League MVP. He has all the ingredients to be a hidden gem for the Brewers.

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