MLB Top Prospect Update: AL Central

MLB Top Prospect Update: AL Central

by June 3, 2021 1 comment

Welcome back to our MLB top prospect update. Today we check in on the prospects for the American League Central teams.

Chicago White Sox

1. Andrew Vaughn – 1B/OF

The 2019 third overall pick out of the University of California has gotten full-time playing time for the White Sox this season. Vaughn has played a majority of his games in the outfield in order to get in the lineup – 38 in left, 2 in right, and six at first. The results haven’t been at the level that he or the club would like, but the underlying stats are promising. He has hit the ball hard with a 50 percent hard-hit rate and his BABIP is currently .290, which is around the league average.

Stock: Drops Off – Graduated

2. Garrett Crochet – LHP

The southpaw from the University of Tennesse has already made a big impact on the major league club after being drafted 11th overall in last year’s draft. Crochet struck out eight and walked none over six scoreless innings in five appearances last season. This year, he has given up just one earned run on 13 hits and nine walks while striking out 17 in 15 2/3 innings over 15 appearances.

Stock: Drops Off – Graduated

3. Nick Madrigal – 2B

The 2018 first-round pick out of Oregon State University is off to a decent 2021 campaign. Madrigal makes a lot of contact and doesn’t strike out much – 8.2 percent K-rate – but he also doesn’t make a lot of hard contact. He currently has a 106 OPS+ and is tied for the American League lead in triples with four three-baggers.

Stock: Drops Off – Graduated

4. Michael Kopech – RHP

The former Boston Red Sox prospect, who was traded to the White Sox in the Chris Sale trade, is off to a phenomenal start this season. Kopech has an elite 36 percent strikeout rate as he has struck out 45 in 31 1/3 innings. His xwOBA (.239), xERA (2.24), xBA (.178), and xSLG (.293) are all in the 95th percentile and above. If he is still on the waiver wire in your fantasy leagues, pick him up yesterday.

Stock: Drops Off – Graduated

5. Jonathan Stiever – RHP

The White Sox drafted Stiever in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. The right-hander made one appearance in the big leagues but didn’t record an out, as he gave up four hits and three runs. In five appearances for Triple-A Charlotte, he holds a 6.00 ERA while striking out 18 and walking 10 in 15 innings.

Stock: +

New Top 5: Jared Kelley, Yoelqui Cespedes, Matthew Thompson, Stiever, Gavin Sheets

There are four new names on the top five as the White Sox are playing their youngsters. Kelley was drafted in the second round last year and is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts in four starts. The White Sox signed Cespedes, the younger brother of Yoenis, this winter. He has tremendous bat speed, raw power, speed on the bases and in the outfield, and just as strong or stronger arm than his brother. Thompson was drafted in the second round of the 2019 draft and has struck out 18 in 17 2/3 innings for the Low-A Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. Sheets has a lot of raw power and has shown it off a bit this year in Triple-A with four homers and an .860 OPS in 94 at-bats.

Cleveland Indians

1. Nolan Jones – 3B/OF

The 2016 second-round pick is off to a very slow start to this season. Jones is hitting just .179/.326/.282 with one homer in Triple-A Columbus. His patience at the plate has really fallen off as he has struck out 41 times and walked just 16 times.

Stock: —

2. George Valera – OF

Valera was signed by the Indians in July 2017 and has also been off to a slow start to the season. He has only played in seven games, however, and he has stolen three bases for High-A Lake County. The more selective approach he focused on at the alternate site seems to be working as well, as he has walked four times to seven strikeouts.

Stock: –

3. Tyler Freeman – SS

The Indians drafted Freeman in 2017 and he has been raising his stock in the system since. After an impressive 2019 season between Low-A and High-A, he started out this season for Double-A Akron. Freeman has started off hot, as he is slashing .372/.432/.500 with 8 extra-base hits (one homer) and three stolen bases.

Stock: +

4. Daniel Espino – RHP

The 24th overall pick in 2019, Espino has pitched well for Low-A Lynchburg to start the season. In five starts, the right-hander has struck out 30 and walked 11 in 22 1/3 innings while allowing a .256 average.

Stock: —

5. Ethan Hankins – RHP

Hankins was a competitive balance pick in the 2018 draft by the Indians. The righty has yet to pitch this season as he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Stock: —

New Top 5: Jones, Freeman, Valera, Espino, Hankins

Detroit Tigers

1. Spencer Torkelson – 1B/3B

The first overall pick in the 2020 draft, Torkelson is swinging the stick pretty well so far in High-A West Michigan. He has mashed three homers in 75 at-bats and has a .385 on-base percentage along with three stolen bases.

Stock: —

2. Riley Greene – OF

Another top-five selection, Greene was taken by the Tigers fifth overall in the 2019 draft. Working his way up from rookie ball to Low-A in 2019, the Florida native is now mashing for Double-A Erie. He is slashing .276/.379/.480 with five homers and six stolen bases.

Stock: —

3. Matt Manning – RHP

The right-hander was the ninth pick in 2016 and is struggling a bit out of the gate for Triple-A Toledo. Manning holds a 7.94 ERA but has struck out 23 in 22 2/3 innings.

Stock: —

4. Dillon Dingler – C

Dingler was the Tigers’ second pick last year, following Torkelson. His pro debut season is off to a great start for High-A West Michigan, as he has a .955 OPS with six homers in 82 at-bats and 22 games.

Stock: —

5. Joey Wentz – LHP

A 2016 draft pick by the Atlanta Braves, the Tigers acquired Wentz as part of the Shane Greene trade, in July 2019. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, Wentz made his season debut on May 25 and has started two games in Low-A. He is slowly getting back into it as he went four innings in his second start. In that start, he allowed just one hit and struck out five.

Stock: —

Kansas City Royals

1. Bobby Witt Jr. – SS

The 2019 second overall pick has bashed eight bombs and stolen six bases for Double-A Northwest Arkansas this season. Witt Jr. should find himself in Triple-A and even the big leagues by the end of the season.

Stock: —

2. Daniel Lynch – LHP

Lynch has made three for Kansas City and struggled as he gave up 14 runs in eight innings. He has been good for Triple-A Omaha, though, as he has struck out 20 and just walked six in 16 2/3 innings.

Stock: —

3. Asa Lacy – LHP

The fourth overall pick last year, Lacy has started five games for High-A Quad Cities in his pro debut season. He has struck out 23 in in 14 2/3 innings and allowed a .212 average against.

Stock: —

4. Jackson Kowar – RHP

Kowar has been the most dominant pitching prospect for the Royals so far. The 2018 33rd overall pick has struck out 41, walked 10, allowed a .165 batting average, and given up just three runs in 31 2/3 innings. A call-up to the show could be coming soon, as he has been pitching like this in Triple-A.

Stock: —

5. Erick Pena – OF

Pena has yet to make his official pro debut, but he was a non-roster invitee in spring training. When he begins his professional career, it will likely be in rookie ball.

Stock: —

Minnesota Twins

*Disclaimer* Royce Lewis is missing the 2021 season with a torn ACL and is not listed on our rankings

1. Alex Kirilloff – OF/1B

The 15th pick in 2016, Kirilloff has played in 24 games for the Twins this season. In 91 at-bats he has hit .242/.278/.440 with four homers. Pretty soon, he will be an official graduate from the prospect list.

Stock: —

2. Trevor Larnach – OF

Larnach, the 20th pick in the 2018 draft, was called up to Minnesota on May 8. Since then, he has hit three home runs along with an .845 OPS.

Stock: —

3. Jordan Balazovic – RHP

After suffering a back injury in spring training, Balazovic is expected to return this weekend for Double-A Wichita. He pitched to a 0.98 WHIP and struck out 129 over 93 2/3 innings in 2019.

Stock: —

4. Jhoan Duran – RHP

Duran has started two games and has struck out 14 while walking three in seven innings for Triple-A St. Paul.

Stock: —

5. Ryan Jeffers – C

Jeffers mashed his first major league homer of the season on Wednesday night after hitting three in his first season last year. The catcher from the University of NC Wilmington has been up and down between Minnesota and Triple-A. Overall, he has six homers in 117 at-bats.

Stock: Drops Off – Graduated

New Top 5: Kirilloff, Larnach, Balazovic, Duran, Aaron Sabato

Sabato joins the top five after being drafted 27th overall last year. Through 25 games in Low-A Fort Myers, the first baseman from North Carolina is only hitting .159 and has hit two bombs.

Stay tuned for the AL West prospect update next.

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