clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Under the radar prospects to pay close attention to in 2018

They might not be top 100 prospects, but they are worth paying attention to in 2018.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds-Media Day
Blandino cut his swinging strike to a near-elite level last season, so he may be ready to take the next step this season.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is an odd sport, as sometimes the top players in the game end up being guys that may have never made a top 100 list coming up through the minors. Jose Altuve, Jose Ramirez, Tommy Pham, Daniel Murphy and Charlie Blackmon were fantasy stars last year, and yet never made a single top 100 list while they were in the minors. Being a top 100 prospect doesn’t mean that you will become an All-Star caliber player, and the same goes for those who aren’t ranked as top 100 prospects. Not being a top 100 prospect doesn’t mean that you have no chance of breaking out in the major leagues and becoming a fantasy star, so here are a couple players who are being widely overlooked due to their lack of prospect shine.

I tried to make sure to stay away from anyone who might be ranked as a top 100 prospect on any of the major baseball sites out there. I also tried to stay away from any player like Brusdar Graterol who may not be on any of the top 100 lists I have seen but due to all the press he has gotten this season, he is not really under the radar.

Most of the players on this list had good peripherals last season, and fantasy owners should keep an eye on them as the season progresses. That doesn’t mean these are must add prospects, they are players you need to watch. Some of these players aren’t even on their team’s top 30 prospects list, so they should be available on your waiver wire this season.

Alex Blandino, 2B, Cincinnati Reds

Hit: 50, Power: 45, Speed: 40, Arm: 50, Field: 50, Overall: 45

27th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

After some up and down seasons, Blandino may have finally put it together last year. With a 4.7 swinging strike rate last season and excellent plate discipline, he has the potential to post a high walk rate while also having a strikeout rate close to the 15.6% he had at AAA last season. Although he doesn't have elite power, his batted ball profile suggests that a .270 batting average with 20 home runs is not out of the picture. It is likely Blandino reaches the major leagues this season and is used primarily as a utility player. With his defense drawing some questions from scouts, it is likely he sees most his playing time at second base. With Scooter Gennett hitting free agency after the 2019 season, we could see Blandino having a starting job in the Reds' infield by the start of the 2020 season.

Billy McKinney, OF, New York Yankees

Hit: 55, Power: 45, Speed: 40, Arm:40, Field: 50, Overall: 45

23rd Top Prospect according to Baseball America

McKinney has an average plate vision, which should lead to a 20.0% strikeout rate with about an 8.0% walk rate. He hits enough line drives to have a batting average above .260, but with a hitter-friendly park and a large number of fly balls, Mckinney could hit over 20 home runs at the major league level. The only problem is he is currently being blocked by a loaded Yankees outfield. Even if it’s not in New York, McKinney should be a steal if he can grab a spot in a starting lineup somewhere.

Brad Keller, RHP, Kansas City Royals

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

22nd Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Keller was taken in this offseason’s Rule 5 Draft by the Reds but was immediately traded to the Royals not long after that. He has been a master at inducing groundballs as last season he posted a groundball rate of 49.6%, and that was lowest groundball rate he has posted in the past four seasons. Not only does he limit the number of fly balls against him, but his line drive rates have never been above 20.0% his whole minor league career. He doesn't have much strikeout potential, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him post a strikeout rate above 20.0% at the major league level. Keller will most likely start the season coming out of the Royals' bullpen, but he is just 22-years-old, so he still has time to mature and fine tune his game.

Drew Ellis, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

9th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Ellis was taken by the Diamondbacks in the second round of last year's draft. With a good amount of raw power and a 47.7% fly ball rate last season, Ellis is already showing 30 homer potential. With a 9.0% swinging strike rate and 21.5% line drive rate in 2017, he could put up a batting average above the .250 mark, but with his disciplined approach at the plate, he will most likely give up some hits to draw more walks. Ellis should be a good source of power while also not being a burden on your batting average once he reaches the big leagues, and could have comparable batting statistics to Brian Dozier.

Garrett Whitley, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Hit: 40, Power: 55, Speed: 60: Arm: 55, Field: 50

9th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Whitley is one of many prospects who has 20/20 potential, but that upside may come with a subpar batting average. With a 12.6% swinging strike rate, 28.6% strikeout rate and 27.0% infield fly ball rate, it is not shocking that he had a batting average of .249 last season. If can maintain that 21.2% line drive rate and cut down on the strikeouts, then he may be able to put up a batting average somewhere around .260. He is only going to be 21-years-old to start the season, so we have yet to see anything close to Whitley's full potential.

Jason Martin, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

26th Top Prospect according to Baseball America (Astros)

Martin was part of the return the Pirates got from the trade that sent Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros. With a good amount of power and speed, Martin has a chance to be a 20/20 player at the major league level. Throughout his career, he has been a player who has posted a line drive rate around 18.0%, but last season he had a 24.3% line drive rate.This was due to the ridiculous 28.0% line drive rate he had in his 320 plate appearances at AA. This helped him maintain a .273 batting average at AA, even with a 25.6% strikeout rate. He did have a 9..8% swinging strike rate, so there is a chance we see that strikeout rate regress a little bit in 2018. With the signing of Corey Dickerson, we are most likely not going to see Martin break camp with the club in 2018, but he has the potential to become a fantasy baseball star.

I mean just look at that swing.

Joey Lucchesi, LHP, San Diego Padres

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

9th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Lucchesi is being grossly overlooked in a loaded San Diego Padres farm system. The lefty showed good command last season with a 2.14 BB, while also posting a 9.58 K/9 and 12.6% swinging strike rate. He held opposing batters to a 13.1% line drive rate, which was the seventh best among starters with at least 100 innings pitched in the minors last season. With a low number of line drives and a high strikeout rate, Lucchesi should hold batters to a low batting average. When you add in his low walk rates, then Lucchesi could be someone who boasts a very impressive WHIP.

Jonathan Hernandez, RHP, Texas Rangers

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

17th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

As a 20-year-old last season, Hernandez posted a 13.6% swinging strike rate with a 45.9% groundball rate. He does have decent control of his pitches for his age but could see opponents have a relatively high batting average due to his 22.2% line drive rate he posted last season. With the Rangers'' rotation having a lot of question marks this season, there is a chance we could see Hernandez force himself into the majors if he has a strong start to the season.

Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Fastball: 70, Slider: 55, Changeup: 60, Command: 45

14th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Jordan is very similar to his brother Justice in stuff, age, and size. The difference is Justice is much more sought after than his older brother. With three plus pitches and a 12.1% swinging strike rate last season, Sheffield has the potential to strikeout more than a batter an inning. His ability to limit line drives should also play a significant role in his success as it should constrict the number of hits against him. He has struggled with command in the past and gives up his fair share of fly balls, but there is no denying the potential of this 22-year-old right-hander.

Logan Shore, RHP, Oakland Athletics

Fastball: 45, Slider: 45, Changeup: 70, Command: 60

10th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

With Logan Shore, A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo waiting in the minors, it looks like the Athletics have three solid options for their future rotation. Shore's command and changeup are his biggest appeal. His command is evident by the 1.79 BB/9 he posted last season. He does have some strikeout potential as he had a 12.6% swinging strike rate last season and 9.71 K/9. However, without an established breaking ball, his strikeout rate will most likely drop once he reaches the majors.

Shore’s batted ball profile was also quite impressive as his 10.6% line drive rate should help him keep opponents batting averages low, and the 1.42 GB/FB should help him have somewhere around an average home run rate. Although he may not have the highest ceiling in the minors, Shore's floor seems pretty high for a 23-year-old.

Matt Krook, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Fastball: 60, Slider: 60, Curveball: 60, Changeup: 50, Command: 40

19th Top Prospect according to Baseball America (Giants)

Krook was taken in the fourth round of the 2016 draft by the San Francisco Giants but saw himself get traded this offseason as part of the Evan Longoria deal. With three plus pitches and a 14.7% swinging strike rate, Krook has some serious strikeout potential. Like many other young strikeout artists, he struggles with his command, which is evident by the 6.50 BB/9 he had last season. He does have a good batted ball profile as he held batter to an 11.4% line drive rate and 64.0% groundball rate last season, so if he can work on his control, then he could be a top of the rotation option.

Mike Ford, 1B, Seattle Mariners

No Frangraphs Prospect Grades

22nd Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Ford was taken in the Rule 5 Draft by the Seattle Mariners this offseason. With elite plate discipline, a 20.2% line drive rate and a 6.0% swinging strike rate last season, Ford should be an on-base machine. He doesn't have a lot of raw power, but he did put up 20 home runs between AA and AAA in just 532 plate appearances. Ford deserves some attention as he continues his journey to the big leagues as he is a rare bread of player who has the potential to walk more than he strikeouts.

Nick Green, RHP, New York Yankees

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

Outside the Top 30 according to Baseball America

It is easy to overlook Green as the Yankees have a loaded farm system, but seventh-round pick has done nothing but impress his past two seasons with the club. It is rare that you get a pitcher who has strikeout potential, good control, and a spectacular batted ball profile and isn't ranked in any top 100 lists. Green is the one exception to this rule.

Green was brought over to the Yankees in the 2016 deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Rangers. He had a 2.78 BB/9 last season while also posting an 11.2% swinging strike rate. While that alone would usually be good enough to catch some eyes, he also posted a 3.09 GB/FB and held batters to a minuscule 15.3% line drive rate. He is currently outside the Yankees' top 30 prospects on most sites, so I would pick the 22-year-old off waivers in a dynasty league before anyone else does.

Sterling Sharp, RHP, Washington Nationals

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

Outside the Top 30 according to Baseball America

After doing my research, Sterling Sharp has become my favorite minor league prospect to watch, but my research was short lived as no one is talking about this 22nd round pick from the 2016 draft. For a guy who held batters to a 5.0% walk rate, 14.9% swinging strike rate, 15.6% line drive rate and 2.08 GB/FB last season, I feel like there should be at least something written about this 22-year-old on the internet. Since there's not, I guess I'll give this overlooked prospect some recognition he deserves.

Sharp was rated as the pitcher with the best control in the Nationals' farm system in 2017 by Baseball America, and his swinging strike rate was the ninth best in the minors last season among starters with at least 100 innings pitched. If he can learn to pitch around the zone more often then he could be a true strikeout threat, but this could lead to a higher walk rate. His infield fly ball rate was at 9.3% last season which was the third worst among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched, so he is not without flaws. If he can continue to miss bats and show good command, then he could be a genuine diamond in the rough.

Tony Santillan, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Fastball: 70, Slider: 60, Changeup: 45, Command: 40

6th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Santillan has two plus pitches with his fastball and slider, which helped him post a 12.3% swinging strike rate and 9.00 K/9 last season. His command does need some work as he walked nearly four batters every nine innings. Luckily, with a 15.7% line drive rate last season, he should limit the number of hits against him. This should at least help his WHIP if he continues to struggle with command in 2018.

Trevor Richards, RHP, Miami Marlins

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

22nd Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Richards does not have wipe out stuff, but his underlying numbers look great. He has exceptional command as he walked less than two batters every nine innings last season. With this great command also comes some strikeout potential as he posted a 15.2% swinging strike rate and a 26.5% strikeout rate last season. With a 16.0% line drive rate and 54.5% ground ball rate, Richards should limit the amount of hits and home runs against him. He is going to be 24 to start the season and has yet to pitch above AA, but we could see him reach the majors as soon as 2018 due to the intense rebuild the Marlins have gone through.

Tyler Stephenson, C, Cincinnati Reds

Hit: 40, Power: 55, Speed: 30, Arm: 70, Field: 45

10th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Stephenson was a pretty sought after prospect going into the 2015 draft, but he saw his prospect stock drop after a disappointing 2016. His horrible numbers in 2016 were mostly due to the 30% strikeout rate he posted, but he came back in 2017 and nearly cut that in half. By making more contact and raising his line drive rate, he increased his batting average by .060 points. With an all-around improved approach at the plate, Stephenson may be becoming the prospect we always thought he could be back when the Reds took him with the 11th overall pick.

Tyler Wells, RHP, Minnesota Twins

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

Outside the Top 30 according to Baseball America

Wells has some serious potential as he posted a 15.8% swinging strike rate, 29.4% strikeout rate, and a 7.3% walk rate last season. Last season batters only hit 8.5% of their batted balls against Wells as line drives, which when added to his high strikeout rate should lead to a low batting average for opposing hitters. He did have a 55.8% fly ball rate last season, so he could give up a fair amount of home runs. Even with a higher home run rate, Wells still has the potential to be a dominant starter once he reaches the majors.

Will Benson, OF, Cleveland Indians

Hit: 40, Power: 65, Speed: 40, Arm: 80, Field: 55

10th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

If you are looking for an underrated power prospect, then Benson is your guy. Fangraphs gives his raw power a grade of 55/70. He is only going to be 19-years-old to start the season and had a 50.8% fly ball rate last season, so he could be a potential 40 home run threat once he matures. With a 33.9% strikeout rate, expect his contact numbers to take a hit. For those of you who play in OBP leagues, Benson should one prospect you keep a close eye on due to his 13.1% walk rate.

Yonny Chirinos, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

23rd Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Chirinos is a curious case going into 2018. With the injury of Brent Honeywell, there is a chance we see him as part of the Rays rotation as soon as April. His major skill through the minors has been his control. Between AA and AAA Chirinos had a spectacular 1.39 BB/9 last season. He is also very good at inducing ground balls, which should help him limit the number of home runs against him. Although he has never had a K/9 above 8, Chirinos is a deep sleeper for strikeouts. With a 13.6% swinging strike rate last season, he could post an above average strikeout rate at the major league level. Doing so may hurt his walk rate as it would most likely take him avoiding the zone more often, but would ultimately help his fantasy value if it came to fruition.

Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota Twins

No Fangraphs Prospect Grades

27th Top Prospect according to Baseball America

Granite is a player who could be fantasy relevant as soon this season.t. If you add Granites ability to get on base and his elite speed, then you have someone with the potential to steal upwards of 30 bases. He also had a decent line drive rate last season and a 3.4% swinging strike rate in the minors, so he should be a plus in the batting average department as well. The only downside is he lacks power in an era that has seen a rise in home runs. We could be looking at someone with the same potential as a Dee Gordon except with a better on-base percentage.