New York-Penn League Top 20 Prospects For 2019
The New York-Penn League was stacked with prospects this season, and Aberdeen catcher Adley Rutschman led the wave.
Two pitchers managed to shine brightly this season among the position-heavy group. Lowell righthander Noah Song, a fourth-round pick this year, lit up the radar gun and caught the attention of managers around the league. A graduate of the Naval Academy, Song may have military service requirements that could potentially slow down his progression to the big leagues.
Tri-City righthander Hunter Brown, a fifth-rounder out of Wayne State, also shined on the mound with plus stuff and arm strength but ultimately didn’t qualify for this list.
Brooklyn received a boost from 2019 draftees Brett Baty, Matt Allan and Jake Mangum, who helped the club defeat Lowell in the NYPL championship series. It was the Cyclones’ first league title since 2001.
1. Adley Rutschman, C, Aberdeen (Orioles)
Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 216. Drafted: Oregon State, 2019 (1).
After a quick tune-up in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, moved to the New York-Penn League and showed off plus tools across the board.
"He was a ‘wow’ for me," one rival NYPL manager said. "He can do everything and is super composed. His two-strike approach was incredible."
Rutschman spent just 20 games in the league and put together a 10-game hit streak that culminated in a 5-for-5 performance that earned him a promotion to low Class A Delmarva.
Rutschman is a plus hitter from both sides of the plate, offering elite plate discipline and developing power. He shows leadership qualities on the field and should stick behind the dish. He has athletic actions as a receiver with a plus, accurate arm.
The Orioles’ top prospect has all the skills to be the next face of the franchise, and he should advance through the farm system rather quickly with his advanced all-around skill set.
2. Riley Greene, OF, Connecticut (Tigers)
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-3. WT: 200. Drafted: HS—Oviedo, Fla., 2019 (1).
Greene was arguably the best overall high school hitter in the 2019 draft class and showed an advanced approach in his first stint in pro ball. He showed maturity at the plate during his time in the NYPL and impressed managers with the way he carried himself on the field.
Greene’s present offensive profile is hit-over-power, but his power should improve as his frame fills out because he knows the strike zone and barrels the ball consistently. He played mostly center field this season, but a move to the corner seems likely because of his below-average speed. His accurate arm and impact bat should help him profile as a corner outfielder.
Greene’s natural hitting ability, coupled with athleticism and projection, made him one of the NYPL’s top prospects and should place him as one of the best hitters in a pitching-rich Tigers farm system.
3. Greg Jones, SS, Hudson Valley (Rays)
Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Drafted: UNC Wilmington, 2019 (1).
Jones showed no signs of slowing down after the college season and was a dynamic offensive force for Hudson Valley. Among batters with at least 100 plate appearances, Jones ranked among the NYPL leaders in batting average (.335), on-base percentage (.413), stolen bases (19) and OPS (.874).
Jones was prone to swinging and missing in college but showed more feel to hit in the NYPL. His two-strike approach has helped him make more consistent contact. His power is below-average from both sides of the plate, but he makes the most of his top-of-the-scale speed to wreak havoc on the bases.
While Jones’ range is good at shortstop, evaluators are split on whether he should move to center field and take advantage of his above-average arm and plus-plus speed.
Jones’ athletic ability and feel to put the barrel on the ball should help him rise through the Rays’ system as a potential top-of-the-order hitter.
4. Gilberto Jimenez, OF, Lowell (Red Sox)
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017.
Jimenez signed for just $10,000 in the 2017 international period and continues to look the part of a future big leaguer. Boston skipped him over the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in favor of a more aggressive assignment to the typically college-heavy NYPL.
Jimenez mostly patrolled center field and led the league in batting average (.359). He was among the league leaders in on-base percentage (.393), slugging (.470) and OPS (.863) as well.
Jimenez has the ability to be an above-average hitter. Scouts believe his ability to drive the ball is present, but they aren’t sure if he will further tap into it as he matures. His 80-grade speed helps him routinely turn infield grounders into hits. With Jimenez’s athleticism and speed, center field feels like the most likely spot.
Jimenez has the upside of an everyday outfielder, although evaluators think he could be a backup if the power doesn’t develop.
5. Brayan Rocchio, SS/2B, Mahoning Valley (Indians)
Age: 18. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 150. Signed: Venezuela, 2017.
At 18 years old, Rocchio was one of the youngest players in the league and showed the ability to play a quality shortstop. While still young, he showed feel for the game and was one of the tougher hitters in the NYPL to strike out, fanning just under 14 percent of the time.
"It was the best defense at shortstop I’ve seen this season, no question," one rival manager said.
Rocchio has both feel and average arm strength, which will help him stay up the middle. Offensively, he has a sound swing that is geared for contact over power. Over time, evaluators believe he will learn to drive pitches with more authority.
Rocchio has a long way to go, but his elite defense and contact-oriented bat make him one of the Indians' most exciting prospects.
6. George Valera, OF, Mahoning Valley (Indians)
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017.
Valera’s bat speed and feel to barrel the ball with consistency stand out. He ranked among NYPL leaders in home runs (eight) and showed advanced feel to hit as an 18-year old. He hit for more pop on the road, where he collected 10 of his 16 extra-base hits, while getting on base at a higher clip during home games (.389).
Valera has a whip-like lefthanded swing and makes the most of his lower half. His profile is hit-over-power, and he tends to be pull-heavy for a younger player. His power should continue to develop, which should help him profile better in a corner, where his average arm and solid speed fit best.
As he learns to use the whole field with more authority, Valera’s bat should become more impactful. He received a promotion to low Class A Lake County, where he will return to start the 2020 season.
7. Ezequiel Duran, 2B, Staten Island (Yankees)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017.
After a tough 2018 campaign with Rookie-level Pulaski, Duran had a breakout season in the NYPL. His power potential started to show in games, and he ended up leading the NYPL in homers with 13. Duran was also among the league’s top 10 in slugging (.496), OPS (.824) and RBIs (37).
While his approach at the plate needs work, Duran’s ability to drive the ball has impressed scouts and managers alike. He has worked to use the whole field and makes loud contact when he connects. According to sources, his average exit velocity was 91.9 mph, which would rank him in the top 20 among major league hitters.
Duran is sturdy and strong, but it shouldn’t hinder him from sticking up the middle. His fielding is such that he can be penciled in at shortstop from time to time—though he didn’t play short for Staten Island—but he fits better at second base with a solid arm.
Duran’s plus bat speed, growing power and sheer athletic ability should help him to have success when he moves to full-season ball in 2020.
8. Jordan Diaz, 3B, Vermont (Athletics)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175. Signed: Colombia, 2016.
Diaz got his first crack at short-season ball after spending three seasons in Rookie-ball. He drove in runs consistently and ended up tied for the NYPL lead in RBIs (47). After hitting only one home run in the 2017 and 2018 seasons combined, Diaz collected three homers in each month of the summer.
Diaz’s 5-foot-10 frame doesn’t offer much projection, but evaluators believe more power is on the way. He has shown the ability to make consistent contact, but his hitting approach still needs work. Diaz has the ability to play a quality third base, showcasing solid range and a plus arm.
While the tools are present on defense, Diaz hasn’t turned them into consistent play in the field. If he reaches his potential, he could be blossom into an above-average defender at third base who hits for power.
9. Ethan Hankins, RHP, Mahoning Valley (Indians)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-6. WT: 200. Drafted: HS—Cumming, Ga., 2018 (1st supp).
Hankins made just nine appearances with Mahoning Valley, but he was so thoroughly dominant that he earned a promotion to low Class A Lake County. While he didn’t eclipse five innings in any one start, he was unscored upon in five of his nine outings.
Hankins’ fastball stuck out the most to managers around the league. He throws the pitch in the mid-90s with good life and is able to command it for strikes. He can spin a solid slider with some sweeping action to get swings and misses, while also featuring a curveball with sizable break. Hankins also throws a firm changeup but made strides as the season went along.
Hankins is still raw, but executives point to his sheer strength and plus arm speed as positives. His physicality and big arm should help him further develop his secondary offerings.
10. Leonardo Rodriguez, RHP, Aberdeen (Orioles)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 215. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
In a league that was more position player-heavy, Rodriguez stood out on the mound. He ranked among the league leaders in ERA (2.65), strikeouts (80), innings (71.1) and WHIP (1.01). It was the first season of his young career in which he struck out more than one batter per inning.
It’s tough to miss the 6-foot-7, 215-pound Rodriguez, who has the type of body that is built for innings. His fastball can touch into the mid-90s and has natural angle on it because of his height.
Managers were impressed with Rodriguez’s feel for how to pitch to hitters and work off his heater. His breaking ball is a true offspeed pitch that flashes above-average at times , but his third-pitch changeup is rather straight.
Rodriguez’s frame, arm strength and feel for pitching create plenty to dream on as he heads towards full-season ball.
11. Bryson Stott, SS, Williamsport (Phillies)
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: UNLV, 2019 (1)
The 14th overall pick in the 2019 draft spent more of his season in the NYPL after a cameo in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Stott showed off his athleticism and hitting ability. He started slow, but he hit .324/.405/.490 in August after he got acclimated to the new league.
Stott moves well in the middle of the diamond with athletic actions and plus arm strength. His glove work and arm should keep him on the left side of the infield long term. While his swing was not expected to be high-impact out of college, Stott showed enough power for scouts to project he'll end up being more know for his power than his hitting ability. Even with a fine offensive campaign, evaluators believe he still needs to work on making more adjustments for the hit tool to be impactful.
Stott is certainly athletic, but his hit tool will determine whether he can be an impact everyday regular or not.
12. Tyler Baum, RHP, Vermont (Athletics)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: North Carolina, 2019 (2).
After pitching 93 innings for North Carolina, Baum was taken in the second round and logged another 30.2 innings for short-season Vermont. The righthander worked exclusively as a starter, which was his primary role for the three seasons he spent with UNC.
Baum sports a three-pitch mix and managed to have good control in his first season of pro ball, an issue that had plagued him at times in college. His fastball can touch the mid-90s but sits comfortably in the 92-94 mph range and is an above-average offering with solid life. He frequently works with his breaking ball, a pitch that flashes plus with short break. His changeup is a less-developed third offering that he uses to get hitters off the fastball.
While his fastball-breaking ball combo could fast track him to a big league bullpen, Baum's three-pitch mix should fit at the back of a rotation down the road.
13. John Doxakis, LHP, Hudson Valley (Rays)
Age: 21. B-T: S-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Texas A&M, 2019 (2).
Doxakis was dominant before the draft and kept that positive momentum going into his time with short-season Hudson Valley. Not known for blowing pitches past hitters, Doxakis works with deception and a good feel for pitching. The lefthander had a strong month of August, allowing just two earned runs in 16 innings across his five appearances.
"This is a guy that is very advanced for his age and knows how to approach each hitter," one NYPL manager said.
The lefty works with a fastball that tops out at 94 mph. His best secondary pitch is his slider, which plays up due to his funky yet deceptive delivery in which he throws from a low. three-quarter arm slot. His changeup lags behind his other two offerings but shows signs of maybe developing into an average offering in the future.
Doxakis' feel to pitch and three-pitch mix make for a ceiling of a mid- to back-end starter.
14. Oswald Peraza, SS, Staten Island (Yankees)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 176. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.
Peraza's stat line doesn't jump off the page, but the athletic infielder had value up the middle for Staten Island. He only played in 19 games before the Yankees promoted him to low Class A Charleston on July 9.
Peraza has sound actions at shortstop and should stick there long term. He shows solid footwork and a good arm while also having the instinctual feel to play the position. While he is growing into more pop with the bat, his offensive game is contact over power. Peraza has quality swing mechanics with the ability to put the barrel on the ball.
Peraza checks off the boxes to be a shortstop whose hit tool could pay dividends in the near future.
15. Kendall Simmons, 2B, Williamsport (Phillies)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS--Macon, Ga., 2018 (6).
Simmons got off to a rough start in June, when he hit just .194/.244/.472 in 10 games. He kept making offensive adjustments and hit .278/.398/.646 with seven homers in the month of August. His power surge helped Simmons lead the league in slugging percentage (.520) and tie for second in homers (12).
Simmons is an excellent athlete who flashes plus power at the plate. He doesn't make a lot of consistent contact, but he does show a knack for working walks to go with his home runs. He'll have to continue to mash to make up for the deficiencies of his hit tool. His athleticism should help him stick at second base, although evaluators think he is athletic enough to handle a corner outfield spot as well.
Simmons has a risky profile, but his power and ability to move around the diamond make for the ceiling of a fringe everyday player or solid utility guy.
16. Josh Smith, 2B, Staten Island (Yankees)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. HT: 5-10. WT: 172. Drafted: Louisiana State, 2019 (2).
Smith missed most of the 2018 season at Louisiana State with a stress reaction in his vertebrae, but the infielder bounced back and played 65 games before being selected in the 2019 draft. He collected plenty of clutch hits, sitting near the top for all three major offensive categories in the Yankees' offense.
Contact is Smith's strength at the plate, as he grinds out at-bats and puts good swings on pitches he can do damage to, but he doesn't project to ever hit for much power. His actions are good at shortstop, although evaluators and managers see him as a future second baseman simply because of a lack of tools.
Smith projects to be a backup player but could see plenty of at-bats around the diamond thanks to his feel for the game and advanced baseball IQ.
17. Korey Lee, C, Tri-City (Astros)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-2. WT: 205. Drafted: California, 2019 (1)
Lee played first base, third base and catcher at California before eventually becoming the Bears' everyday catcher as a junior. Lee's versatility was also apparent in his pro debut, as he played both left field and first base for Tri-City with catchers Nathan Perry and C.J. Stubbs also on the roster.
While he received high marks for his above-average power before the draft, scouts and managers view Lee's feel to hit as being better than his power potential. Lee has tinkered a bit with his swing, which has resulted in making more consistent contact. He is an athletic receiver who has plus arm strength, although he needs to improve his accuracy.
18. Aldo Ramirez, RHP, Lowell (Red Sox)
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 180. Signed: Mexico, 2018.
Ramirez turned 18 years old just before the season started and already has an advanced feel for how to pitch to hitters. He opened some eyes in the Dominican Summer League the year prior, posting a 0.39 ERA through 23 innings after leaving the Rieleros de Aguascalientes of the Mexican League and signing with the Red Sox.
The righthander works with a four-pitch mix from a sound delivery. He throws two different fastballs, a four-seamer and two-seamer, with the ability to dial it up to 95 mph. His best secondary offering is his curveball, which has 12-to-6 movement with sharp action down in the zone. Ramirez can throw his changeup for strikes with arm-side fade and sink, though the pitch doesn't offer much separation from his fastball.
His command is advanced for his age, and his arsenal should allow him to continue to develop as a back-end starter.
19. Dalvy Rosario, SS, Batavia (Marlins)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
Rosario saw most of his time at shortstop this season after starting in center field for 34 of the 67 games he played in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League last year. This year in the New York-Penn League, Rosario was among the league leaders in doubles (15) and triples (five) despite his pedestrian slash line.
Rosario shows twitchiness and athleticism, and he flashes plus power with a power-over-hit profile. He can play shortstop, but if Rosario continues to add weight as he matures, then third base may be his best fit. His plus arms and soft hands would fit fine at the hot corner.
Rosario is raw, but he has plenty of projection left in the bat. It's a very risky profile, but Rosario could end up being a high-ceiling player down the road.
20. Eliezer Alfonzo, C, Connecticut (Tigers)
Age: 20. B-T: S-R. HT: 5-10. WT: 155. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.
Alfonzo continued his impressive minor league career in the NYPL, posting his third straight season batting above .300. In addition to his solid defensive work behind the plate, Alfonzo was one of the tougher hitters to strike out in the NYPL this season. Among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, Alfonzo struck out just a smidge below nine percent of the time.
Alfonzo has a short, compact swing that helps him make consistent contact. He has knowledge of the strike zone but projects to have little power in the future. He is considered a solid receiver with a decent arm, but he doesn't have the overall defensive profile to project as an above-average everyday catcher.
If Alfonzo matures defensively and keeps his contact-first approach, he could profile as a future backup catcher at the major league level.