TOP PROSPECT FOR AMERICAN LEAGUE TEAMS BY ADAM MEDEIROS – UPDATED 2/10/2020  

On the heels of the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the 2020 World Series, it’s time  to take an early look forward at each team and delve a little deeper into their top  prospect. While Covid-19 has certainly thrown a wrench into the cogs of Minor  League Baseball, we can still use what we know from the 2019 campaigns to  project out some new and upcoming talents. During the shortened 2020 season,  many of the high-profile prospects throughout the league were added to their  respective team’s alternate sites. While at these alternate sites, players were able  to play and train while minor league baseball was shutdown. The unfortunate part  of all of it was we were unable to watch these prospects in game action. That  being said, let’s take a look at who I believe is the top prospect as it stands right  now for each American League organization.

TAMPA BAY RAYS – WANDER FRANCO, SS, 19 YEARS OLD 

  

We begin our list with the consensus number 1 prospect in all of Major  League Baseball, Wander Franco. Franco split time in 2019 between  Low A and High A ball, where he dominated older competition. In High A ball, he hit .339 with a .408 OBP, and he walked more than the struck out by almost double (26:15)! Franco is a switch hitter who has elite  bat-to-ball skills and doesn’t ever seem to strike out. He has a natural  feel to hitting with exceptional hand-eye coordination. If there is a  anything negative to say on Franco at all, it would be that he doesn’t  have ground-breaking speed or elite defensive ability. However, his bat  alone will be enough to get him an everyday spot at the top of the Rays  lineup and produce at a high level for years to come. Expect to see him  in a Rays uniform as early as the 2021 season, where he will make an  immediate impact on a team already coming off a World Series  appearance in 2020. 

Honorable Mention: Brendan McKay, LHP, 24 years old NEW YORK YANKEES – JASSON DOMINGUEZ, OF, 17 YEARS OLD

ALL ABOARD! Welcome to the hype train that is Jasson Dominguez!  Dominguez is only 17 years old… so why is he the top prospect for the  New York Yankees? Scouts who have seen Dominguez in action have  graded him to have elite power and elite speed. Jasson is a switch hitter  with power from both sides of the plate and has excellent defensive  skills. His name has been mentioned in comparisons with Mike Trout  and Mickey Mantle from MLB general managers who have seen him  play. Having said all of that, we haven’t seen him play a single game in  the Yankees organization yet so all we have to go on is what’s reported.  The Yankees certainly believe in him though, as they coughed up $5.1  million to sign Dominguez; nearly ALL of their $5.4 million international  signing pool. Once Dominguez gets some game action with the Yankees  organization, don’t be surprised to see Dominguez fly up the top  prospect chart in the next year or two. Now it’s early, but if you buy into  the hype, expect to see Dominguez manning an outfield spot at Yankee  Stadium in 2-4 years. 

BOSTON RED SOX – JETER DOWNS, 2B, 22 YEARS OLD

I struggled to single out any player as the clear-cut top prospect for the  Boston Red Sox, but ultimately chose Jeter Downs over the power hitting first baseman, Triston Casas. In 2019, while with the Dodgers  organization, Downs played the majority of his games in High-A ball in  the California League before being promoted to Double-A Tulsa for a  handful of games. Downs combined to hit 24 home runs and stole 24  bases showing his ability to drive the ball effectively and being an asset  on the basepaths. Downs has played both shortstop and second base  during his time in the minors, but seems to be a better fit for second  base given his range and defensive ability. Following the 2019 season,  the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers for a package which  sent Downs over to Boston. The Red Sox have a glaring need at second  base, so expect to see Downs eventually get the call-up sometime in the  2021 season. 

Honorable Mention: Triston Casas, 1B, 20 years old 

BALTIMORE ORIOLES – ADLEY RUTSCHMAN, C, 22 YEARS OLD

If you were designing an ideal catcher for your organization from  scratch, the end result would look something like Adley Rutschman.  Rutschman is a switch hitter with plus power from both sides of the  plate, elite defensive skills with a strong arm and a high baseball IQ.  Perhaps most importantly, Rutschman is a natural born leader.  Rutschman was drafted #1 overall in the 2019 MLB draft by the  Baltimore Orioles and will soon become the face of the franchise. We  haven’t seen much of Rutschman in the Orioles organization as of yet, as  he’s only played a total of 37 games, but expect to see Rutschman  behind the plate at Camden Yards as early as 2022. 

  

TORONTO BLUE JAYS – NATE PEARSON, RHP, 24 YEARS OLD

Drafted 28th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft, Nate Pearson has 3 pitches  in his arsenal which all grade as plus offerings. Pearson’s fastball can  reach triple digits consistently to go along with a plus slider and  developing changeup. Pearson has all the tools to become the ace of  the Toronto Blue Jays for years to come. The only red flag on Pearson  moving forward will be his control, which he will need to refine. In 2019,  he spent the bulk of the season in Double A with the New Hampshire  Fisher Cats and posted a 3.02 BB/9 in 62 innings. During a brief stint  with the Blue Jays during the 2020 season, he walked 13 batters in 18  innings. If Pearson can consistently find the strike zone, he will be a  force at the major league level. 

Honorable Mention: Austin Martin, SS, 21 years old  

  

  

CHICAGO WHITE SOX – ANDREW VAUGHN, 1B, 22 YEARS OLD

Andrew Vaughn was drafted #3 overall in the 2019 MLB draft. Vaughn  has an elite approach to hitting which should allow him to thrive in the  majors. From 2017-2019 (160 games) with the California Golden Bears,  Vaughn hit 50 home runs with 163 RBIs with a triple slash line of  .375/.495/.688. Vaughn will likely begin 2021 in Double A but is likely on  the fast track to the majors given his massive hitting potential. The issue  facing Vaughn at this point is Jose Abreu, who is currently manning his  position with the White Sox. Vaughn’s emergence could lead to a shift  to DH for Abreu and Vaughn might force their hand as early as this  upcoming season.  

  

CLEVELAND INDIANS – NOLAN JONES, 3B, 22 YEARS OLD  

  

 

Nolan Jones was drafted in the second round, 55th overall, in the 2016  MLB draft and thus far is proving that he was a steal. Jones is one of the  most disciplined hitters in the minor leagues where he led all of minor  league baseball in walks for 2019. In 49 games with Double A in 2019,  Jones slashed .253/.370/.466. Jones is only an average defender, but  should be able to hit well enough to keep a spot in the lineup. With Jose  Ramirez currently manning the hot corner for Cleveland, we may see a  position change for Jones who could easily make a shift to the outfield.  The Indians are currently in a re-tooling phase and I look for Jones to be  a huge part of the Indians rebuild.  

  

  

KANSAS CITY ROYALS – BOBBY WITT JR., SS, 20 YEARS OLD  

 

Bobby Witt Jr., son of former Major Leaguer Bobby Witt, was drafted #2  overall in the 2019 MLB draft. Witt Jr. has an excellent combination of  athleticism, baseball IQ, and pure talent. He has plus speed, plus power,  plus baserunning ability, and plus defensive ability which should  translate into the young shortstop becoming a building block for the  Royals. Coming into the 2019 draft, many scouts viewed Witt Jr. as a  potential 30-30 player, with 20-20 being the more likely scenario. We  only got to see Witt Jr. play in 37 games of Rookie ball in 2019 and he  spent all of 2020 at the Royals alternate site. With a few years to  develop, Witt Jr. will have the opportunity to become a mainstay atop  the Royals lineup.  

  

MINNESOTA TWINS – ALEX KIRILLOFF, 1B/OF, 23 YEARS OLD  

  

Alex Kirilloff may have been one of the best hitters to come through all  of Minor League Baseball if not for some injury trouble. Kirilloff missed  the entirety of the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery  but came back in 2018 to slash .348/.392/.578 across 2 levels of A ball.  After a call-up to Double-A in 2019, he missed time with a pair of wrist  

injuries but still managed to hit .283 with a .343 on-base percentage.  Alex is a sweet-swinging left-handed bat who projects to hit around 20  home runs a year while maintaining a .280-.300 average. He can play  good defense in the outfield, but the Twins may also have him in the mix 

to start games at first base to keep his bat in the lineup. Kirilloff made  his Major League debut in 2020 when he started a playoff game against  the Astros, becoming the first major league player ever to do so. The  confidence the Twins have shown in him leads me to believe he is a  major part of their plans heading into 2021.  

Honorable Mention: Royce Lewis, SS, 21 years old  

  

  

Detroit Tigers – Spencer Torkelson, 1B/3B, 21 years old   

 

Perhaps my favorite prospect on this entire list, Spencer Torkelson is a  true star in the making. The Tigers drafted him #1 overall in the 2020  MLB draft and with good reason. Torkelson is a middle-of-the-order bat  with the potential to become an elite hitter with massive power at the  Major League level. Torkelson dominated college competition while at  Arizona State where he hit 54 home runs in 129 games amassing a  .337/.463/.729 slash line. In the Cape Cod Baseball League, he put up a  similar line of .340/.484/.745 showing a measure of consistency and  production across all levels. While he’s played 1B almost exclusively  throughout his career, the Tigers announced him as a 3B when they  drafted him. Whether he plays either corner position, expect Torkelson  to be a major part of the Tigers future.  

Honorable Mention: Casey Mize, RHP, 23 years old  

  

  

LOS ANGELES ANGELS – BRANDON MARSH, OF, 22 YEARS OLD    

  

Jo Adell is widely regarded as the Angels top prospect but due to a rule  change in response to the shortened 2020 season, Adell no longer 

qualifies as a prospect. I’ve decided to focus on Brandon Marsh who  now takes over as the Angels top prospect. Marsh spent the majority of  his 2019 season in Double A where he had an excellent showing at the  plate slashing .300/.383/.428. Marsh has good speed and is a capable  defender, as he projects to settle down into a corner outfield position in  the big leagues. With 33-year-old Justin Upton currently occupying LF  for the Angels, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Marsh take over at some  point in 2021 or 2022 at the latest.  

  

  

SEATTLE MARINERS – JULIO RODRIGUEZ, OF, 19 YEARS OLD  

 

The Seattle Mariners struck gold when they signed Julio Rodriguez as an  international free agent in 2017 and he’s done nothing but impress since  joining the organization. Rodriguez can flat out hit. With plus power to  all fields and the ability to hit for a high average, Rodriguez is on the fast  track to reach the majors. In 2019, Rodriguez hit .462 in 17 games with  Modesto in the California League all at age 18. At only 19 years old, he  may have been in line to make his MLB debut sometime in 2020 had it  not been for the shortened season. He has a strong arm but only grades  as an average defender making his most likely landing spot in RF.  Rodriguez grades as an average runner and won’t provide much speed  on the basepaths, but his loud bat should provide Seattle with some  much-needed middle-of-the-order power for years to come.    

  

OAKLAND ATHLETICS – A.J. PUK, LHP, 25 YEARS OLD 

The Athletics drafted Puk in the 1st round, 6th overall, in the 2016 MLB  draft. Armed with an electric fastball which sits in the upper 90’s and a  devastating slider, Puk made it to Double-A by 2017. Although he  underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2018 season, the  Athletics felt confident enough to promote him to the big-league club in  2019 after only throwing 25.1 innings in the minor leagues that year. He  pitched only 11 innings out of the bullpen in 2019, but he put up a 3.18  ERA. Entering the 2020 season, the Athletics made the decision to shut  down Puk after he experienced some shoulder soreness. Rather than  rush him back into the fold, Puk missed the entire shortened season  with eyes on a rotation spot in 2021.  

Honorable Mention: Tyler Soderstrom, C, 19 years old  

  

  

TEXAS RANGERS – JOSH JUNG, 3B, 22 YEARS OLD 

Coming out of Texas Tech, Josh Jung was considered to be one of the  best bats available in the 2019 MLB draft. The Rangers pounced on Jung  with the 8th overall pick that year with hopes that Jung would develop  into a power hitting third baseman. Playing in Low-A ball in 2019, Jung  posted a .287/.363/.389 line in 40 games. Although the batting average  and on-base percentage were good, he surprisingly only hit 1 home run  that year. The Rangers certainly hope that Jung will be able to hit  anywhere from 25-30 home runs consistently at the big-league level. I  feel that would be Jung’s ceiling, and is more likely to be a 15-20 home  run hitter who posts a solid average and is able to drive the gaps. Jung  has yet to leave Low-A ball, but I expect he will begin the 2021 season  with the Rangers High-A club, possibly ending the year with Double-A.   

  

HOUSTON ASTROS – FORREST WHITLEY, RHP, 23 YEARS OLD  

 

The Houston Astros drafted Forrest Whitley with the 17th pick in the  2016 MLB draft with hopes that he could end up as a top of the rotation  starter for the big club. By the end of the 2017 season, Whitley used his  5-pitch arsenal and impressed enough to earn a promotion all the way  through Double A in just his second full season. However, in February of  2018, Whitley was suspended 50 games for violating the league’s drug  program. The 2019 season was when the wheels came off the track for  Houston’s top prospect on the field. Whitley began the season in Triple  A, where he was absolutely shelled to the tune of a 12.21 ERA in 8  appearances. He was sent back down to Double A to work on some  control issues where he fared slightly better with a 5.56 ERA in 6 starts.  The once promising prospect is now fighting to right the ship as he tries  to make his way to the big club. There’s still hope for Whitley, who has a  great array of pitches, to succeed in the big leagues.