The Stevedore Apprentice Program: Canton’s 2020 End of Season Top 25 Prospects

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Updated: January 9, 2015

The Stevedore Apprentice Program

Written by Stevedores_Fan_Bob, Special to The Record

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We last ranked the Longshoremen’s top 25 prospects a season ago, when the Longshoremen were coming off of their second 100 loss season in franchise history, and the fourth straight 90+-loss season.  Indeed, in the franchise’s 13-year history before 2020, there had been only 4 seasons where the franchise did not lose 90 games, and only 1 winning season. 2020 did nothing to change that, as the Longshoremen went 68-94, the 6th worst record in franchise history.  For the optimistic, however, it appears that the Longshoremen added some pieces from their farm system that can reasonably be expected to contribute at the major league level for a long time.  Will 2021 see more of the same accumulation of talent? Let’s find out belo

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As with the last list, this in-depth look at the Canton Longshoremen player development system is a joint effort of The (Canton) Record and StevedoresFan.com, the preeminent fan blog of your Canton Longshoremen. The rankings are the result of votes taken by an anonymous panel with members of the local and national press, scouts inside and outside of the organization, and performance analysts inside and outside the organization. The narrative description of each prospect and the projections and risks (for the top ten only) were provided by the StevedoresFan.com staff.

The Top 25

#1 SS Gonzalo Gonzalez (previously unranked) – Women want him, and men want to be him.  Straight from central casting, the 2nd overall pick in the 2020 draft is the unquestioned #1 prospect in the organization despite not having been in the organization for more than a half calendar year at this writing.  His first year of professional baseball was a 280/380/426 campaign at full season A-ball, playing against mostly older competition.

ETA – Opening Day 2022.

Upside – Middle of the order hitter, All-Leather SS, perennial All-Star; fringe Hall of Fame candidate.

Risks to projection – Aside from being named President by acclamation, or ascending into heaven on the wings of angels, it’s hard to see any.  Maybe if his power doesn’t develop he’s a mere All-Star and not a once-in-a-lifetime player.

#2 SP Kokei Yamashita (previously not in organization) – Acquired in a deadline trade from Nasa Shisa in exchange for closer Marcos Gonzalez, the 24-year old lefty immediately assumed the mantle of the organization’s top pitching prospect.  After struggling through 20 starts in the Japanese AAA league before the trade (4-10, 6.73 ERA, 101.6 IP, 59/91 BB/K), Yamashita dominated his 6 starts for AA Youngstown (5-0, 2.72 ERA, 36.3 IP, 11/42 BB/K). With a big fastball that sits at 96mph and can touch 98, a major-league ready curveball, and a good, but work-in-process curve, Yamashita has the arsenal to be a top starter in the league.  The organization has identified control and stamina as the biggest items on his development “To Do” list.

ETA – 2022

Upside – Groundball-inducing #2/#3 starter who could make some All-Star Game appearances.

Risks to projection – He never develops a repeatable delivery, or an out pitch that he can employ against right-handed hitters (who abused him to the tune of 397/481/640 in AAA in 2020).

#3 3B Jesús López (previously #14) – Lopez has done nothing but hit since being selected in the Supplemental Round of the 2018 draft, turning in OPS+s of 115 at SS-A in 2018, 116 at Hi-A in 2019, and 107 at AA in 2020. Given his relative youth (he turns 24 in January), he’ll likely be given another year at AA to consolidate his development gains after hitting a perfectly respectable 278/372/406 at the level as a precocious 23 year old.

ETA – 2023, as the Longshoremen appear committed to valuing development over a rush to the majors.

Upside – A plus-fielding 3B who can hit 20 doubles and 20 HRs at the PEBA level.

Risks to projection – He never develops the power that he exhibited in college, where he slugged .642 for his career for the Houston Shastas.  The surprisingly good batting eye that he has exhibited in the lower minors (12% walk rate) doesn’t translate to the high minors or PEBA.

#4 SP/RF Juan Márquez (previously unranked, but ranked #5 in the 2019 list) – It’s safe to say that Marquez has become an organizational fetish.  The two-way player who was drafted as a power-hitting outfielder rewarded the organization for its faith in his pitching potential with a breakout 12-6 season in AA Youngstown in 21 starts. He walked only 26 and struck out 111 in 131.6 innings. At age 24, that’s impressive.  Couple that with a 269/410/429 batting line with 5 HR in 175 at bats, and that’s downright revolutionary.  He also had a +3.8 ZR in right field.  Add it all up and you get a 5.5 WAR player (4.0 on the bump and 1.5 as a right fielder/hitter).  The organization is split as to whether his best value is as a starting pitcher or corner outfielder.

ETA – You might as well throw a dart at a dartboard. 2023? 2022? Never?

Upside – Who knows? It depends on whether he is developed as a pitcher, or a hitter, or both, as is the case at the moment.  In a reasonable perfect world where he hits PEBA as both a hitter and a pitcher, Marquez is a number 3 or number 4 starter who can make 25 quality starts per season on the hill, 50-75 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter on days where he’s not the starting pitcher, and 30-40 starts in RF depending upon match-ups.  He may be the most fascinating prospect in baseball today.

Risks to projection – Myriad, as no two-way player has ever achieved the success that Marquez has in such a high level of the minors.

#5 SP Alfonso Romero (previously #7) – It’s about to get real for the 3rd overall pick in the 2019 draft:  the fireballer has proven himself as a capable starter at the AA level despite throwing just two pitches, as he went 7-5 as a 22 year old in 21 starts, compiling a 3.91 ERA in 117.3 innings, walking 39 and striking out 100.  He will be sent to winter ball to learn a third pitch, because you need that to start at AAA and beyond.

ETA – 2023

Upside – An ace-quality starter who doesn’t have the ability to go deep into games thanks to a lack of stamina.

Risks to projection – The third pitch doesn’t take, or he is rushed along too quickly to learn to truly dominate hitters.

#6 SP Quinton Field (previously #16) – A new poster child for the idea that peripherals are predictive, Field finally had run prevention catch up to his abilities to rack up strikeouts and avoid walks. In his first full season at AA, the 2018 2nd rounder broke out with a 3.38 ERA in 24 starts, striking out 149 in 146.3 innings while walking only 44.

ETA – 2023

Upside – A bottom of the rotation starter with the ability to dominate on any given night if he can keep the ball in the park.

Risks to projection – The “not a winner” label that dogged him through college (6.32 ERA in 50 starts) and the low minors swamps his technical skills.

#7 Cliff Mitchell (previously #19) – It’s hard to ignore a 1.028 OPS.  That’s what the formerly unheralded Mitchell did in 2020 in a return trip to short season A-ball.  Catchers are notorious for flaming out in the upper levels of the minors despite good hitting resumes in the lower minors, but Mitchell’s stats over the equivalent of one full season in his two campaigns for Akutan Island move him into the organization’s top 10 with a bullet: 329/448/526 with 28 HR in 156 games.  He even won a Glove Wizard Award as the circuit’s best catcher in 2020.

ETA – 2024

Upside – A league average catcher with pop for a few years.

Risks to projection – It’s a long way from the Aleutian Islands to Canton, Ohio. Scouts don’t love the 6th round pick, and despite the Glove Wizard Award he projects to be a merely adequate defensive catcher at best.

#8 Jim Hayden (previously #4) – It’s the third straight season in the top 10 for the much-maligned Hayden, who went from 6th to 4th to now 8th.  His introduction to AAA in 2020 didn’t go well, as Hayden went 10-10 in 27 starts, with a 5.02 ERA and nearly twice the walks that he had in his breakout 2019 season.  He was just 24, so struggling is understandable, although it is worth noting that the national scouts that have always loved him seem to think that the controversial #5 pick in the 2017 draft has regressed.

ETA – 2022

Upside – After a step back in 2020, it’s probably safest to assume he will be a durable but inconsistent back of the rotation starter who can dominate just often enough to frustrate fans for what he should be.

Risks to projection – The control problems from 2020 are a harbinger of a lower ceiling or, worse, indicating a serious arm injury.

#9 SP Su-Shun Yu (previously #5) – After dominating AA at the tender age of 18 and 19 and the first month of pitching as a 20 year old (19 starts, 2.05 ERA, 127 innings), Yu’s 20 year old season was mainly a rude introduction to the minor’s highest level.  In his 25 appearances (21 starts) for AAA Allentown, the Taiwanese amateur free agent signee went 10-7 with a 5.05 ERA.  Signed as a 16 year old, Yu has been on this prospect list every year of its existence. He will likely open the 2021 season in AAA.

ETA – 2023

Upside – Yu’s trying 2020 hasn’t affected his upside; his lack of endurance and an effective third pitch probably relegates him to a closer role, where he could excel.

Risks to projection – TINSTAPP, control.

#10 CL Don Barnes (previously unranked) – Sometimes prospects appear from thin air, and that’s the case with lefty closer Don Barnes.  Going into the 2020 season, he was on no one’s prospect radar.  Indeed, with a 2019 that saw him compile a 6.75 ERA at age 24 for AAA Youngstown after being relegated to the bullpen, Barnes was closer to being an unconditional release than to a 40-man roster and a major league spring training camp.  So striking out 121 AA batters in 81 innings in middle relief was a bolt from the clear blue sky.  Awarded with a stretch drive call up to be the closer for AAA Allentown, Barnes didn’t flinch, converting 5 of his 6 save opportunities with a 7/23 BB/K ration in 18.6 innings.

ETA – 2021

Upside – A solid major league closer or a lights out LOOGY.

Risks to projection – Barnes turns into a pumpkin, proving 2020’s video game numbers prove to be a fluke, and his gopherball tendencies return with a vengeance in the big leagues.

#11 1B Billy Mills (previously #17) – Better baseball through chemistry? You decide: Billy Mills hit 4 college HR in 185 at bats; that’s a 2.1% HR rate.  As a professional, he’s hit 50 in 1162 at bats, a 5.1% HR rate.  In 2020, he put up a 315/403/508 season in Hi-A Middle Bass, hitting 26 HR in 461 at bats.

#12 LF Bill Carter (previously #8) – Carter’s tumble out of the top 10 is about half his inability to get traction despite a 1st round (#18 overall pick) college hitter pedigree and about half the performance of the guysd that leap-frogged him in the organizational ranks.  He may repeat Hi-A for a third straight yar to see whether he can better his 2020 slash line of 237/314/442.

#13 RF Richard McGowan (previously #9) – The enigmatic McGowan, a 3rd round pick in the 2019 draft, will likely repeat short season-A ball for a third year after a disappointing 2020 that saw him hit 257/307/309.

#14 CF Jorge Rodríguez (previously not in the organization) – A September signing from the Dominican League waiver wire, the 17-year old Rodriguez was a #1 overall draft pick in that league who was inexplicably released without ever taking an at bat.  He’s raw and unrefined, but scouts think that he will eventually mature into a top of the order hitter with moderate power.  He already has a fluid swing and good contact skills, but very little appreciation for the strike zone.  He has tools that should translate well to the outfield, but needs to learn to take better routes to the ball.

#15 LF Joe Oliver (previously #13) – An organizational soldier, Oliver has built a career from humble beginnings after being selected in the 11th round of the 2015 draft.  He can play all corner positions (outfield and infield) reasonably well, and can fill in as a centerfielder in a pinch without embarrassing himself.  He hit 309/375/480 with 12 HR in 256 AB in AAA Allentown a year ago.  He will be given a puncher’s chance to make the team out of spring training, and figures to be the first outfielder called up during the season in the event of injury.

#16  Jesús Sandoval (previously #20) – 2020 was a good news/bad news year for Sandoval.  The good news was an All-Star selection in short season-A ball.  The 2019 second round pick performed admirably as a 19 year old in his second year as a pro, going 7-1 with a har luck 4.33 ERA (as compared to a 2.87 FIP).  The bad news was a season-ending torn labrum.  The Longshoremen medical staff decided to rehab the shoulder rather than perform surgery; Sandoval should be ready to pitch by the start of spring training, and may get a crack a full season-A ball.

#17 Jeff Summers (previously #6) – A 10-ranking drop is probably too harsh for a guy with a better than 50/50 chance of breaking camp with the big club.  As often happens with catchers, Summers’ offensive resume took a hit in AAA, where he hit 258/326/425 with 15 HR in 388 at bats.  The Longshoremen will take a hard look at Summers in spring training, thanks to his defensive prowess behind the plate, his switch-hitting ability, and his reputation as a tireless worker.  Most in the organization believe that Summers is what he’s going to be, and would not benefit from more time in the minors.

#18 John Barker (previously #11) – Barker keeps rising through the ranks thanks to his glove at SS, but he also quietly continues to get on base enough to remain in the Longshoremen’s middle infield picture.  Indeed, 2020 saw his best offensive performance (263/343/355 in AAA Allentown) since 2017.  The left-handed hitter developed an intriguing split in 2020, hitting a better-than-respectable 281/364/388 against right-handed pitchers.  He is likely to get a call to Canton at some point in 2021.

#19   Nicholas Carr (previously not in the organization) – Acquired in a trade from Duluth for SS Lawrence Jones just before these rankings went to press, Carr is a pure power prospect.  A plus defensive first baseman, Carr hit 286/372/422 in full season A-ball as a second year pro, albeit as a 23 year old.  So far his performance has not caught up to scout’s projections as he has hit a mere 28 HR in a season and a half’s worth of at bats.

#20 RF  Júlio Rodríguez (previously unranked) – Dynamite comes in a small package for the 5-10, 165 pound Rodriguez.  In an end of season cup of coffee with AA Youngstown afte spending most of the season in full-A ball, the second J-Rod on this list hit 346/410/575 in 127 at bats. The 6th round pick ios a plus defensive right fielder with a rifle arm.

#21 CL Colin Jameson (previously #21) – Jameson’s second year as a pro has helped vindicate the organization’s decision to turn the 11th round high school outfielder draftee into a minor league closer.  Jameson converted 18 of 19 save opportunities closing out games for SS-A Akutan Island. He had a 1-2 record and a 3.21 ERA in 33.6 innings.

#22 MR Anthony Gregory (previously not in the organization) – The 10th round draft choice helped Jameson make the back end of the Eagles’ bullpen a formidable puzzle for hitters to solve.  In his first taste of professional baseball, Gregory pitched 35.3 innings of 1.53 ERA baseball, walking 9 and striking out 38.

#23 SP Alan Wright (previously not in the organization) –  Despite being considered a shallow draft, the 2020 draft represents a healthy portion of the Longshoremen’s Top 25. Right-handed starter Alan Wright was an unheralded pitcher out of Michigan, resulting in an unexciting 7th round berth, but turned heads in short season-A Akutan Island, going 7-4 with a 3.35 ERA, 2.33 FIP, and good peripherals (16 BB and 84 K in 78 innings).

#24 CF Sean Peters (previously not in the organization) – The organization thought so highly of the 3rd round pick that he was sent straight to full season A-ball, skipping short season ball entirely.  He rewarded that confidence with a 299/352/479 half-season, with 6 HR in 143 at bats.

#25 CF Tong-Yeop Chang – The Cal grad made short work of short season A-ball, hitting 386/556/568 and earning a promotion to full season A-ball, where he hit 278/369/354. Many in the organization see the 5th round pick as a low ceiling, high floor prospect who could move quickly through the minors.

The Graduates

As we did before, let’s play the “Where Are They Now?” game with the last Top 25, which graduated a mere three players to the Longshoremen roster.  Unlike the 2018 list, however, which graduated 14 middling prospects, all three of the 2020 graduates project to be real contributors at the PEBA level in 2021.  That probably indicates a much more talent-laden major league roster at the start of 2020 as compared to the start of 2019. Of those 14 gents who graduated from the 2018 list, only 10 are still with the organization, and only 8 are expected to break camp with the Longshoremen in 2021.  By contrast, the 2020 list’s three graduates are comprised of the projected 2021 Opening Day starter in left field and two-fifths of the projected 2021 Opening Day starting rotation.

#1 LF Gabriel Martínez

What we said: 2019 Minor League Hitter of the Year. . . rocketed to AAA after #7 overall in 2018 draft. . .  punished righthanders. . . far from helpless against southpaws. . . defense above-average in left field. . . slightly less comfortable in right field. . . strong spring could see Martinez in Opening Day lineup. . . Upside – Perennial All-Star corner outfielder with. . . high batting average, 40 2B/25 HR/20 SB. . . Risks to projection –rushed to the majors and never develops.

What happened: Martinez was called up in May thanks to an injury to Cory Pierce, and seized the LF job, never to give it up again.  He alternated scorching months (May/July/September OPS of 869/898/1143) with ‘meh’ months (June/August OPS of 722/618) to finish his rookie season at 301/354/474 with 11 HR and 69 RBI in 365 AB.  He finished 5th in the Sovereign League’s Wunderkind Award voting and is penciled into the 3-hole in the lineup for years to come in Canton.

#2 SP Carlos Pérez

What we said:  More than held his own at every minor league level despite being rushed up the ladder. . . ranking based more on proximity. . .  than upside. . .  5.5 WAR as 23 year old at highest level of minors is eye-popping. . . peripherals are underwhelming. . . succeeds by keeping ball in ballpark and letting defense work. . .  gave up only 7 HR in 174 AAA innings. . . never had minor league BABIP over .289, or ERA over 3.63. . . Upside – Pitch-to-contact mid-rotation starter. . . innings eater. . . could ride a stellar defense to All-Star appearances. . . Risks to projection – Inability to miss bats or challenge hitters.

What happened:  Perez parlayed a hot AAA start (3-0, 2.03 ERA in 6 starts) and injuries at the big league level into a May call-up.  He made 20 starts for the Longshoremen before a strict innings limit sent him to the bullpen for the season’s last month and a half.  He continued his hot pitching in Canton for a month, winning a Sovereign League Pitcher of the Week Award, before hitting the rookie wall and registering three ever-worse months in June, July, and August.  He rallied when sent to the bullpen in September, turning in a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings.  Going forward, Perez is a hard cat to figure – on the one hand he kept the ball in the park (9 HR in 125.7 IP) as well as he ever did in the minors, but on the other hand, he walked more (75) than he struck out (69).  If hitters continue to lay off of his split-fingered fastball and make him come into the strike zone, Perez may be a quadruple-A pitcher at best.

#3 SP António Murillo

What we said: Lofty ranking may be a stretch. . . yet to rediscover consistent excellence he tasted before succumbing to torn elbow ligament. . . scouts still love his stuff, but 2020 an important season. . . Upside – top of the rotation starter. . . Risks to projection – Murillo never recovers from the horrific arm injury.

What happened: Injuries and impatience vaulted Murillo to the big league staff after the 25-year old spun 4 solid spring training starts.  In retrospect, Murillo probably would have benefitted from another campaign in AAA.  After a solid April (4 starts, 3.42 ERA), Murillo labored until being deposited in the bullpen for a September renaissance (6 relief appearances and 13.3 innings of 2.03 ERA pitching).  One season is too small a sample size in the big leagues to tell whether Murillo’s Tommy John surgery robbed the young fireballer of all of his promise, but 2021 will be an important season to determine whether he can improve on a major league debut that soured quickly.

OLD BELOW HERE

 

Voted Off The Island

This is a long list, as eight of last year’s Top 25 were supplanted.  Unlike last year’s review, with one exception, all of these guys are still in baseball, and indeed, still in the organization:

#10 CF Greyson Roe

What we said:  scouts have never liked . . .  All Roe has done is hit. . . statistical resume is impressive: 305/371/439 AA batting line. . .  340/367/574 AAA. . .  two minor league Gold Glove awards in center field. . . ETA – 2022. . . Upside – perennial All-Leather Award winner. . . .

What happened: Roe’s 47 at bat small sample size success in AAA proved to be fools’ gold.  He began 2020 in AA, and hit well (300/345/414), but struggled in his second, longer try at AAA to the tune of a 238/276/366 performance.  The scouts still don’t like him, and look like they may be right. He was left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft and was not taken.  Still, at 25 his defense could earn him a modest PEBA living.

#12 MR Will Montero

What we said: waiver claim. . .former 2nd round draft pick. . . will never be a starter. . . could spend a lot of years as a reliable bullpen contributor. . . control specialist. . . only walked 50 batters in nearly 280 minor league innings. . .

What happened: Montero was what we thought he was, and was exposed as a starter to the tune of 8-12, and a 4.87 ERA.  Still just 23, those stats aren’t shameful, but Montero will never be more than an adequate bullpen inhabitant at the PEBA level.

#15 Lionello Macciocchi (previously #18) –

What we said:  ill-advised promotion to AAA in 2018 (5.99 ERA, 100 IP, 71 BB, 76 K). . . righted his prospect ship with return trip to AA Youngstown in 2019, going 9-7 with a 3.89 ERA. . . still throws hard, but has started to harness his stuff.

What happened: A mostly superficially poorer season masked a small step forward for Macchiocchi in 2020.  Moved to the bullpen to try to leverage his stuff, the 25 year old again struck out better than a batter per inning.  His control looked like it took a step back, as he walked more batters per inning, but thanks to poor batted ball luck (.328 BABIP vs. .278 BABIP the season before) it was actually a wash.  The organization has not written off the Michigan product, and believes that his future at the PEBA level is in the bullpen rather than the rotation.

#18 CL Jason Campbell (previously not in the organization) –

What we said: last round of the 2017 draft. . . full–fledged bullpen prospect. . .racked up 15 saves in 54 innings at full season A Middle Bass. . .struck out 71 and walked 39.

What happened: Nothing bad, he was just passed up by brighter, shinier objects.  Campbell returned to Hi-A Middle Bass, earned a mid-season promotion thanks to a 48 inning, 3.72 ERA, 26 walk, 62 strikeout performance, and acquitted himself well in AA with 25.3 innings of 4.26 ERA baseball in which he walked only 9 and struck out 27. Scouts think he will taste a PEBA bullpen someday, as he throws his slider 97 miles per hour and his cutter at 99.

#22 C Michael Wilkinson

What we said: scouts don’t love former 8th round pick. . . crowded depth chart has meant a slower promotion track. . . 800 plus professional plate appearances / OBP of well over .400. . .defensive reputation less than sterling. . . will need to continue to impress with his bat and eye at the upper levels.

What happened: Perhaps bored repeating Hi-A thanks to that organizational logjam of catchers, Wilkinson had his worst season as a professional, hitting 282/364/387. The upstream blockage has begun to thin, so Wilkinson should get the chance to catch full-time at AA in 2021 and get his prospect status back on track.

#23 SP Nelson Encarnacion

What we said: Signed as undrafted free agent. . .  will have to prove himself at upper minors. . .  torrid four months at Middle Bass led to respectable end of year stat line of 5-3, 3.26 ERA, with 40 walks and 77 strikeouts in 88 innings.

What happened:  Put simply, Encarnacion turned back into a pumpkin. Undrafted 25 year olds who put up a 6.55 ERA in A-ball get released as Encarnacion did in October.  He has yet to catch on with another organization.

#24 SS Roberto Castaneda (previously unranked) –

What we said:  Patience hallmark of Castaneda’s prospectdom. . .glove first SS with on-base skills. . .poor man’s version of John Barker hit 273/350/353 in full season A-ball. . . 296/349/398 end of season call-up to AA Youngstown.

What happened: Sent back to AA Youngstown for a full season, Castaneda failed to impress with the bat, with a 242/329/287 campaign.  With Gonzalo Gonzalez rocketing through the organization, it may be hard for Castaneda to find at bats in 2021.

#25 1B Matt George

What we said: hit 5 home runs in pedestrian college career, but 6 home runs in short season A ball. . . hit 343/417/452.

What happened: George hit well for Akutan Island (296/379/420), but struggled when promoted to Middle Bass (220/278/313). He’s still just 22, but first basemen who don’t hit for power aren’t top prospects.