This guest post was written by Tom Skalkos! Enjoy! (He intentionally didn’t overlap my 19 Under 19 List)
If you are a MPGA reader, you are probably wondering why a 21 Under 21 List? I’m here to tell you why. Take a trip down memory lane and remember yourself at the age of 18. Some of us were embarking on a journey to college or starting our first job out of high school. Either way, those 3 years between 18 and 21 are when we all are faced with adversity through our various experiences and we start learning how to make adjustments. The guys on this list have collected some solid experience in professional baseball in the minor leagues and are on the cusp of making that leap to the highest level. Put these studs on your watch list and pay attention to where they stand in their organization’s pecking order.
- Victor Robles (High A-Potomac Nationals) Nationals (Turns 20 on 5/17/2017)
Plus defender with the ability to stroke the ball and swipe bags. Robles possesses some of the quick-twitch natural abilities that coaches and athletes alike dream about. If he can clean up his swing and adjust to better pitching the Nat’s will have to consider him especially with Adam Eaton sidelined for an extended period.
- Brendan Rodgers (High A-Lancaster JetHawks) Rockies (Turns 21 on 8/9/2017)
Rodgers is a great overall hitter with exceptional bat speed. With a polished plate approach, he will need to adjust to better off-speed pitches. As he develops so should his power and we all know what happens when big bats get to Coors.
- Gleyber Torres (AA-Trenton Thunder) Yankees (Turns 21 on 12/13/2017)
Gleyber has the soft hands, range and awareness to be a plus defender. Expect him to make his mark at the plate as well. Brian Cashman was apparently given the option of Torres or Eloy Jimenez in the trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs. Looks like Cashman liked the advance pitch recognition and plate discipline brought to the plate by Gleyber. Torres has a lot of upside at the dish and hitting in Yankee Stadium won’t hurt.
- Ronald Acuna (High A-Florida Fire Frogs) Braves (Turns 20 on 12/18/17)
With the ability to cover centerfield from gap to gap and make a solid dent at the plate Acuna should progress smoothly through the Braves system. His aggressive plate approached married with the above average bat speed will translate well to the big leagues.
- Rafael Devers (AA-Portland Sea Dogs) Red Sox (Turns 21 on 10/24/17)
An international splash signing from 2013, Devers has settled in at third base and will eventually be manning the hot corner for the Red Sox. This plus power hitter has the raw power potential to be a five or six hitter. His larger frame has risen concern on the base path however Rafael has surprised most this spring.
- Anderson Espinoza (High A-Lake Elsinore Storm) Padres (Turns 20 on 3/9/17)
A 98mph fastball is Anderson’s calling card but what really makes him dangerous are his secondary pitches. A mid 80s changepiece and an 11 to 5 curveball will give him the chance to become an ace by keeping hitters consistently off-balance. He needs to get healthy, pile up some innings in the minors and improve on his command before the Padres will deem him ready.
- Eloy Jimenez (High A-Myrtle Beach Pelicans) Cubs (Turns 21 on 11/27/2017)
Tearing his way through the Midwest League in South Bend last year Eloy piled up 40, yes 40 doubles. His average defensive abilities will be overshadowed by his power at the plate. Jimenez lifted a grand slam in his minor league debut this year after coming back from a shoulder injury. Keep tabs on this guy.
- Ozzie Albies (AAA-Gwinnett Braves) Braves (Turns 21 on 1/7/18)
A switch hitter that can drive the ball and draw walks. You won’t see Albies hitting many four baggers unless they are inside the park style. His speed makes him a great top of the order option for the Braves. Great natural instincts as an athlete in the field make him well rounded.
- Kyle Tucker (AA-Corpus Christi Hooks) Astros (Turns 21 on 1/17/18)
Tucker has power and hit tool potential. He needs to bulk up, continue to show plate discipline and work on hitting balls on the outer third of the plate. The Astros have quite a crowded outfield but this kid just got promoted to AA and is pushing the envelope. It will be some time before he gets his chance unless a trade happens.
- Kolby Allard (AA-Mississippi Braves) Braves (Turns 20 on 8/13/17)
A Stress reaction in his back caused Allard to miss sometime during his senior year of high school. He has more than made up for it by cruising to AA this year. Kolby does a great job keeping the ball down in the zone and pairs that with a power curveball. He is a strong candidate to be a number two or three starter for the Braves as early as 2018.
- Blake Rutherford (A-Charleston River Dogs) Yankees (Turns 21 on 5/2/2018)
As if the Yankees needed another athletic outfielder with power and hit tool potential. Rutherford received the second-highest bonus for a draftee in franchise history (that’s saying something). A below-average arm could land him in left. His smooth swing is what will pave his path to the show.
- Riley Pint (A-Asheville Tourists) Rockies (Turns 20 on 11/6/2017)
The excitement is building around Pint as he is likely three or so years away from hitting the mound at Coors. A flame thrower with a triple digit fastball and a changeup with movement is a devastating combo.
- Brady Aiken (A-Lake County Captains) Indians (Turns 21 on 8/16/2017)
Tommy John surgery back in 2015 has lowered the velocity on his fastball from 97 to 91 (there is still the opportunity to get a few mph back). If he can adjust with a plus curve and change then he may recover. This year will be crucial for Brady to redevelop his arsenal.
- Braxton Garrett (A-Batavia Muckdogs) Marlins (Turns 20 on 8/5/2017)
Braxton, a master of control, uses pitch placement and a nasty curve to wipe out his opponents. Rated as one of the best curves in the 2016 draft he uses this pitch for both a strike and a chase pitch. He has the frame and skill to be a top end starter if he develops and stays healthy.
- Matt Manning (Rookie-GCL Tiger West) Tigers (Turns 20 on 1/28/2018)
Lengthy young kid that has a fastball range of 93 to 97, he trends mostly towards the lower end of that spectrum. A 6 foot 6 basketball talent Manning has the length to get on top hitters quick. Watch for his change and curve to develop before moving on to higher minor league levels.
- Triston Mckenzie (High A-Lynchburg Hillcats) Indians (Turns 20 on 8/2/2017)
At 6 foot 5 and 165 Mckenzie is challenging Chris Sale for the “most starved athlete” award. The Indians will look to improve his strength and hope to add to what is already an exciting fastball that tops out at 95. Another down in the zone pitcher who controls his stuff. Improving on the change and curve will be his next big steps.
- Ian Anderson (A-Rome Braves) Braves (Turns 20 on 5/2/2018)
Surgical in the strike zone, another man who knows how to wrangle snakes. Mr. Anderson has three cards up his sleeve with his fastball, big curveball and mid 80s change. His development will be fun to watch alongside Allard (#10).
- Trent Clark (High A-Carolina Mudcats) Brewers (Turns 21 on 11/1/ 2017)
If Clark can keep his hamstring together his compact lefty swing should help him regain attention. Additions like Brinson and Brother Eric (Thames that is) will give him plenty of time to work on his skills in the minors.
- Alex Kirilloff (Rookie-Elizabethton Twins) Twins (Turns 20 on 11/9/2017)
MVP of the Appalachian League this silky lefty was spraying the ball to all fields. He was shut down late in the season due to some elbow inflammation and had to go under the knife. Kirilloff is said to strike the ball well with plus power.
- Mike Soroka (AA-Mississippi Braves) Braves (Turns 20 on 8/4/2017)
Soroka, a witty Canadian, uses a sinking fastball at 90 to 92 to lull batters into hitting ground balls. The former hockey player checks-in with great command and mental toughness. Projected as a mid-rotation starter, the ceiling could be higher if he improves his other offerings.
- Franklin Perez (High A-Buies Creek Astros) Astros (Turns 20 on 12/6/2017)
Perez is a four-pitch mix monster at 6 foot 3 and tips the scales at 222. Perez is a young gun that controls his pitches, throwing 66 percent for strikes last year in the Midwest League. A name to watch as the year goes on, his ceiling is a potential top pitching prospect if his development continues.