I won’t bore you with some intro paragraph, so here’s the list. But keep in mind that today’s top 5 prospects (Acuna, Guerrero Jr., Robles, Jimenez, Torres) were once teens themselves with nothing more than some promising tools and a lot of refining to do. Today, they look like the future of Major League Baseball.
#1: Kevin Maitan, 3B, ATL
So Maitain was an easy choice for #1 on this list, and it wasn’t particularly close. He still projects as a plus hitter for some and has gotten Miggy comps in the past. But I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. He has gained a lot of bad weight since moving to the states and it’s taken a little shine off of his profile. He now has an extremely thick lower half, hasn’t made much progress defensively, and now does not run very well. For reference, here’s a video from just 14 months back. And while an initial weight gain isn’t abnormal for teenage prospects in their first year in the United States, Maitan went from a shortstop who may need to move to 3B to a 3B prospect who is getting dangerously close to being projected as 1B only. An overweight, good offensive 3B/1B prospect can still easily be a very good prospect (see: Vlad Guerrero Jr.). But that puts a lot of pressure on the bat, and isn’t far from profiling similarly to other 1B only prospects (see: Josh Naylor). He’ll need to maintain his body as he develops. It will be the difference between being a future Baby Impaler or a future Josh Naylor.
#2: Luis Garcia, 2B/SS, WAS
Described as “one of the best pure hitters of the [2016 IFA] class” by Baseball America, Garcia had a good debut season in the GCL, hitting .300 with 12 XBH and 11 SB in 50 games while being 2.5 years younger than average at the level. He isn’t without his flaws, like all teenage prospects, but it’s easy to see the offensive potential. His plus speed could and should evaporate a bit as he grows, but his defense has been looking quite good at both 2B and SS. Between Reynaldo Lopez, Victor Robles, Juan Soto, and more, Washington has found recent success in finding great talent in Latin America. Garcia is no exception.
#3: Wander Franco, SS, TB
Franco was bar none the best hitter in this year’s international free agent crop, making him frequently regarded the top overall talent. Franco is extremely advanced for his age in all aspects of hitting. He has a beautiful swing, advanced control of the barrell, and very strong wrists which fuel his power; he reminds me a ton of a young Gleyber Torres in 2014, only a few inches shorter. Franco doesn’t have the typical, skinny, international shortstop build, however. He is already quite strong, and unlike Torres, some project him to move to 2B eventually, but it shouldn’t matter as the bat could profile anywhere.
#4: Mark Vientos, SS/3B, NYM
Vientos, who was one of the youngest players in the 2017 draft, was taken 59th overall by the Mets this past June. Take a look at that video; Vientos swing is absolutely gorgeous, and with his frame, it’s easy to see plus power potential possible down the line. He played mostly SS this season post draft, but his size and actions most likely put him at 3B long term. His bat should profile at the hot corner just fine. He’s a long term project, but one that could pay huge dividends for the Mets.
#5: Jairo Solis, RHP, HOU
Video: None, sadly.
Since being signed out of Venezuela in 2016, Solis has grown a bit to 6’3” and bumped his fastball velocity up nearly 5 mph to a high of 96 (though he’ll sit low 90s during starts). Solis has a quality breaker and changeup which are both progressing nicely, and although he is still mostly projection, he has the initial ingredients to continue developing as a starter. Ben Badler at Baseball America called Solis “more polished than Franklin Perez was at the same age”. He’s already come a long, long way since signing, and should only continue to get better.
#6: Ronny Mauricio, SS, NYM
Wander Franco is currently a much better prospect than Mauricio, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that Mauricio could have the highest upside of the entire 2017 J2 class. He is going to grow into a monster, physically, and there’s room for a large amount of good weight. I also love the look of his swing; it’s smooth and there’s plenty of loft. With the swing and the future strength, it isn’t hard to see a very good offensive profile in Mauricio. Defensively, there are some warts, and the concerns that he could outgrow shortstop are valid, but there are positive evaluations here and there.
#7: Freudis Nova, SS, HOU
At this point in time, Nova may be the rawest prospect on this list. There’s isn’t much polish on Nova’s profile; the swing (and hit tool) need a lot of work. But even with very little refinement to his game, Nova was still considered a top prospect in the 2016 J2 group, thanks to a lot of other tools. He has huge power, which you can see in BP, he has 60 speed, and and a good arm for the left side of the infield. With lots of loud tools and a decent chance to stick at shortstop, Nova will just need to hit, which is often easier said than done.
#8: Alexander Campos, SS, SEA
Out of all the international free agents signed in July 2016, very few, if any, have made the strides that Campos has made since then. He’s grown a bit, and now stands closer to 6’0”. He has developed very nicely at shortstop and went from being a question mark there to a definite SS long term; I’ve seen 60 FV grades on both the glove and the arm. He has plus speed and the growth has allowed him to unleash some of the gap power he now possesses. He hit .290/.413/.367 in 59 Dominican Summer League games, while walking more than he struck out. Campos isn’t the flashiest of prospects, but he has a very well rounded skillset and is a sure thing to stick at SS should his body permit. He was barely a top 50 IFA prospect back in 2016, but his stock continues to rise.
#9: Gabriel Arias, SS, SD
Arias and Campos actually trained in the same program in Venezuela, training with Ciro Barrios. Barrios is one of the best, formerly training other top prospects such as the Yankees Gleyber Torres and Athletics Franklin Barreto, so maybe Mr. Barrios is doing something right. Like Campos (and Torres and Barreto), Arias has an extremely good balance of tools at his disposal. He plays a beautiful shortstop, something many have noted is much better than when he signed. Arias has room to fill out into a bigger SS, but it shouldn’t require a move to 3B. The arm is already plus. The swing isn’t great; it’s noisy and there are a lot of different parts moving as you can see in the video. It could and should lead to quite a few strikeouts as he develops, but he has good bat speed and decent barrell control, which is a positive first step in getting his offensive profile on par with his defensive one.
#10: Michell Miliano, RHP, SD
This spot could have easily been taken but other SD teens like Tirso Ornelas or Jordy Barley, but I wanted to squeeze another arm on here, so Miliano gets the nod. Baseball America’s #48 international prospect of 2016 apparently gained 20 lbs. coming into 2017 and now is much, much bigger than his listed size of 6’3” 185 lbs; he’s now closer to 6’4”, 205. I have a weird, weird infatuation with Miliano. You should never take just one look at face value, but the video above is really a genuine microcosm of what Miliano has to offer. His first two strikes (both FB) on Kobie Taylor at 3:14 and 3:25 showed decent velocity, good plane, and good location, but had a tendency to lose control at other times. He also shredded Marcus Mack with a backdoor curve for a called third strike at 2:44, but his very next one to Taylor at 3:38 was wild. But he knows how to spin it, and the depth is visible, something not often seen at 17 years old. He’s a long way away, but both the fastball and curve are 6’s if it all comes together.
Next 5, no particular order:
Tirso Ornelas (SD), Jordy Barley (SD), Everson Periera (NYY), Julio Rodriguez (SEA), Eric Pardinho (TOR)
(Photo credit: Cliff Welch / MiLB.com)