2020 MSB Farm System Rankings – Knocking on the Door

Arizona Koi 

          Graduates: Bo Bichette (SS), Cal Quantrill (SP), Michael Chavis (2B) 

          Risers: Sixto Sanchez (SP) 

          Top Prospects: 1. Forrest Whitley (SP), 2. Sixto Sanchez (SP), 3. A.J. Puk (SP), 4. Mitch Keller (SP), 5. Jesus Sanchez (OF), 6. Brett Baty (3B), 7. Triston McKenzie (SP), 8. Khalil Lee (OF), 9. Hans Cruse (SP), 10. Will Wilson (2B), 11. Mike Siani (OF) 

          Pitching is once again the strength of the Koi system, and what an enviable stable of arms Arizona has.  Forrest Whitley has dropped from his standing as the best pitching prospect in baseball due to nagging injuries and a 50 game drug suspension, but the quality of his stuff has not diminished.  He has an astounding five plus or better pitches, headlined by his 94-97 mph fastball that he can cut or sink.  His changeup rates as one of the best in the minors and has excellent fade and depth. Whitley also has three distinct breaking pitches in his 12-to-6 curve, mid-80’s slider and low-90’s cutter.  If he can maintain average command and control, Whitley’s superior stuff will make him a star.  Much the same as Whitley, the only thing holding Sixto Sanchez back has been injuries.  When healthy, Sanchez has perhaps the best combination of electric stuff, command, and feel for pitching in the minors.  He commands both a two seam sinking fastball that sits 95-99 mph and a four seam riding version that climbs into triple digits.  His best secondary is a changeup that dives at the plate and he also has good feel for his low-90’s slider that could grade as plus once he uses it enough.  Sanchez pounds the strike zone, keeping his BB numbers low from an easy, repeatable delivery that eases any durability concerns about his smaller frame.  Like Whitley, health permitting, Sanchez will be a star.  A.J. Puk has rebounded from Tommy John surgery, regaining his full arsenal of upper-90’s fastball, low-90’s wipeout slider, and changeup that flashes plus.  He has a useable curve that he throws just to upset hitters timing.  Prior to TJ surgery Puk’s strike throwing had improved, but rust showed once he returned and he will never have pinpoint command.  If he throws enough strikes though, he should be a worthy compliment the two aces ahead of him.  Fourth in this system, Mitch Keller would headline most pitching systems in the league.  Keller’s stuff is every bit as high quality as his three stable mates, featuring a 95-98 mph fastball with heavy sink, a knee-buckling 11-to-5 power curve, and a newer sharp breaking slider that he featured more often through the 2019 season.  Keller will have to solve two issues to reach his #2 ceiling; command and mastering his rudimentary changeup.  The change has potential to be an average pitch once he gains experience with it.  Command-wise, Keller needs to improve both his strike throwing and his quality of strikes within the zone.  Triston McKenzie and Hans Crouse add two more quality arms to the Koi system, each of them showing enough to jump prospect boards in short order.  On the position side, the Koi’s best is newly graduated shortstop Bo Bichette.  He possesses elite bat speed that few players at any level can match, leading to a plus hit tool and developing power.  Defensively he has put all questions about his long term ability to play short to rest.  He is learning to position himself to alleviate his lack of range, and his feel for the position, soft hands, quick release and strong arm will ensure he is better than average at the position. Add great instincts and work ethic to his skills and Bichette has the chance to eclipse his All-Star father, Dante.  Arizona’s top positional prospect on the farm is outfielder Jesus Sanchez.  Sanchez can do everything well on a baseball field, but he will have to learn patience and discipline in the box and generate some loft to his swing to reach his offensive ceiling.  Defensively he is a prototypical right fielder with good range and a strong arm. 

Lakeview Rougarou 

          Graduates: Yordan Alvarez (OF), Nate Lowe (OF), Luis Rengifo (MI), Josh Naylor (OF), Jonathan Loaisiga (SP) 

          Risers: Yordan Alvarez (OF), Nate Pearson (SP) 

          Top Prospects: 1. MacKenzie Gore (SP), 2. Nate Pearson (SP), 3. JJ Bleday (OF), 4. Josh Jung (3B), 5. Brady Singer (SP), 6. Brent Rooker (SP), 7. Luisangel Acuna (OF), 8. Joey Cantillo (SP), 9. Jason Groome (SP), 10. Noah Song (SP), 11. Alex Dejesus (SS), 12. Luis Alexander Basabe (OF), 13. Alex Faedo (SP) 

          The Rougarou have steadily climbed the rankings the past few seasons and this year find themselves with one of the highest quality combinations of prospects in the league between their graduates and farm.  The jewel of their graduates is slugger Yordan Alvarez.  With an efficient, easy swing and a muscled 6’5” frame, Alvarez generates light tower power.  He is willing and capable of using the whole field and hitting 400’ homers to any field.  Patient and selective, he should continue to be a feared middle of the order run producer for Lakeview.  The farm starts with two near ready top of the rotation arms; lefty MacKenzie Gore and righty Nate Pearson.  Gore features a mid-90’s fastball that looks even harder due to his windup and excellent extension off the mound, and compliments that with a mid-70’s curve, a harder slider, and an emerging changeup.  All three off speed offerings come and go from start to start, but once he learns to consistently harness them, Gore will have four easy plus pitches.  He shows good command, has a bulldog attitude on the mound, and has the aptitude to make adjustments within the game when needed, all leading to true ace potential.  Righty Nate Pearson shook off a broken forearm suffered on a comebacker that ended his 2018 season after just 1 2/3 innings to ascend faster and higher than just about anyone in the minors.  Showing no rust after a stint in the AFL the previous fall, Pearson rose three levels and posted a 2.30 ERA and 0.89 WHIP while holding hitters to a .176 averaged and walking just 27 in 25 starts in 2019.  He has refined his off speed pitches, a curveball and change, to average or better to compliment his 98-101 heater and wipeout slider.  At 6’6”, Pearson throws downhill and pounds the bottom of the zone with quality strikes.  Both profiling as true #1’s, there is no better 1-2 rotation punch in any system in the league than Gore and Pearson.  No system can have too many quality arms, and adding depth on the pitching side are Brady Singer, Brent Rooker, Joey Cantillo, Jason Groome, Noah Song and Alex Faedo.  Outfielder JJ Bleday owns a prototypical right field profile.  He has the instincts and arm strength to make an impact defensively even with fringy speed.  Known as an advanced hitter with a smooth, quick swing and a disciplined all-fields approach, Bleday showed the bat speed, strength, and leverage to reach more power as he matured but no one thought it would be this early.  Bleday led the D1 college level in homers and total bases leading up to the draft and now profiles for plus power along with his plus hit tool.  Third baseman Josh Jung is another pure hitter who could grow into more power as he matures, and he has good hands and a strong arm at third base. Teenage left side infielders Luisangel Acuna and Alex De Jesus showed plenty of promise in their first tastes of pro ball.  Acuna, a little fireplug of a player, has 20-20 potential and could wind up at any one of the three up the middle defensive positions.  De Jesus has less speed but more power than Acuna, and will have to learn better discipline and patience.  He could play either left side position on the infield with good instincts and a strong arm.  How much speed, and therefore range, he loses will probably be the ultimate factor. 

Motor City Madmen 

          Graduates: Kyle Tucker (OF), Cavan Biggio (2B), Adam Haseley (OF), Alex Young (SP), Zack Littell (RP) 

          Risers: Alex Young (SP), Evan White (1B) 

          Top Prospects: 1. Jordon Adell (OF), 2. Riley Greene (OF), 3. Evan White (1B), 4. Brennen Davis (OF), 5. Matthew Liberatore (SP), 6. Bobby Dalbec (3B), 7. Kyle Muller (SP), 8. Alexander Canario (OF), 9. Francisco Morales (SP), 10. Sean Hjelle (SP), 11. J.B. Bukauskas (P), 12. Jarren Duran (OF) 

          After graduating five to their major league roster, holding steady in the rankings for a third straight year is a testament to the ability of the Motor City front office to unearth quality talent.  That trend continued in 2019 as all six players selected in the MiL draft by Motor City check in to the teams top 12.  Leading the system this season is outfielder Jordon Adell.  Drafted on pure athletic talent, Adell came with plus speed, developing raw power, a strong arm, excellent defensive instincts, and a questionable hit tool.  The hit tool concern has largely been answered and now Adell sits as one of the most skilled five-tool prospects in baseball.  He does have some swing and miss to his game, but even with that he has proven to be an above-average hitter with elite bat speed and good pitch recognition skills.  Adell has tapped his considerable power and there should be more to come as he matures.  He handles center field very well, but might end up fitting better in a corner spot.  2019 1st rounder Riley Greene was considered the best pure high school hitter in his draft, boasting a balanced, fluid and very explosive swing.  With a projectable frame still to mature fully, Greene’s impressive raw power should begin to manifest itself in games as he matures and gains pro experience, but contact and line drives are his calling card.  He already has a very advanced approach and is capable of recognizing and hitting any type of pitch.  Defensively he handled centerfield in high school, but profiles better in a corner spot in pro ball with his average speed and arm.  Showcasing an almost identical offensive profile to Greene is first baseman Evan White.  A pure hitter with a compact, line drive swing, White shows a bit more patience than Greene and boasts slightly better on base skills but does not have quite the power potential.  No matter, with the high average, high on base profile, White looks the part of a prototypical #2 hitter.  Defensively, White has no peers in the minors at first base, and is considered by some to be the best defensive player in the minor leagues, period.  Athletic, fluid, and instinctual, White has plus range, outstanding footwork, soft hands, and a strong arm, there are some who believe he deserves an 80 fielding grade.  Almost overlooked after the top three in this system, centerfielder Brennen Davis deserves more accolades than the gets.  After leading his team to the state basketball title and winning defensive player of the year, Davis switched to baseball fulltime and has begun to shoot up prospect rankings quickly.  Blessed with plus-plus speed, Davis is still learning the skills of baseball both offensively and defensively.  At present he can outrun any mistakes he may make defensively, but once he hones his routes and positioning he will be an easy Gold Glove contender.  Offensively Davis has already tightened his swing and made strides in pitch recognition and his hit tool and developing power should continue to improve with more experience and coaching.  Davis has 20/20 and maybe even 30/30 potential if he can fully tap his considerable athletic ability.  On the pitching side there is plenty of promise in Matthew Liberatore, Kyle Muller, Francisco Morales, Sean Hjelle, and J.B. Bukauskas, any who could breakout in 2020.