Next Wave: Position Players who Just Missed our 2015 Midseason Top 30

After we publish each of our twice-annual Top Prospects lists, we publish a pair of follow-up articles we call the “Next Wave.” One covers position players (which is this one), the other covers pitchers (coming soon). These are prospects who didn’t make our most recent top 30, but who are nonetheless worth keeping an eye on.

You may be asking yourself, “Are there really prospects worth watching who aren’t even among a single team’s top thirty guys?” If you are, I’ll answer with an illustration.

Looking at position players, among the 11 we covered just six months ago, four are now on the Top 30 list, and another two received Top 30 votes but just missed. Going back to the list we made before last season, a couple of them have even reached the majors. In other words, at any given time, there are a handful of players in the system that aren’t on anyone’s top prospects list that show up on the radar as the year goes on, and some even end up helping the Major League club.

Who will jump out from under the radar this time? Here are nine possibilities, in no particular order:

Antonio Rodriguez (OF): One among the first wave of new talent out of Latin America in the new spending era, this 2012 signee has big raw power, a strong outfield arm and some speed. After his 2014 season in the AZL at age 19, Rodriguez has improved his power a little (adding about .040 to his Iso) and his contact rate a lot (K/PA from 26.3% to 13.9%) with Great Falls this year. That is an unusual and welcome combination. He’s playing all around the outfield but is probably a corner guy going forward, and should be in full season ball for his age 20/21 season next year.

Omar Narvaez (C): Narvaez has just missed our top 30 each of the last two cycles. The 23-year-old has possibly the best plate discipline in the system, having more walks than strikeouts in each of the past two seasons. Defensively he’s athletic and has a strong arm, which he likes to show off throwing behind runners at first. There’s no power there and he’s developing slowly, but he’s got a potential backup catcher profile who hits RHP well.

Landon Lassiter (OF): While he was a 21st round pick, he’d been projected much higher after an outstanding freshman year at UNC. But less stellar numbers his last season, coupled with missing the last few games of the season for off-field conduct, allowed him to fall down the draft board. With his talent and turning 22 during the season you’d expect Lassiter to do well in rookie ball, and that he has thus far in Great Falls (.913 OPS, nearly as many BB as K). He’s got speed, strong bat to ball skills and a history of patience at the plate, but we’ll know a lot more next year in full season ball.

Maiker Feliz (3B): One of the higher profile signings the club has made in the past few years ($450,000 in 2013), Feliz is tearing up the DSL as a 17-year-old. Usual caveats for DSL stats apply, but even with those, a .349/.455/.446 line with a substantial walk rate and decent contact rate are impressive at that age. Remember, too, that Feliz was more noted for his defense than his hitting when he was signed. This third baseman was just promoted to the AZL club yesterday and made his stateside debut.

Mason Robbins (OF): Robbins is the perfect example of a prospect you like a lot more watching him than just looking at stat lines. He doesn’t steal bases, but we clocked him at 11.7 seconds from home to third on a triple, which is 60- to 70-grade speed. He’s only hit 3 home runs, but he pounds the ball into the gaps regularly despite selling out leverage for extension in his swing, just flicking the ball with his wrists. He plays good corner D in the outfield with a decent arm. Robbins is a 22-year-old with a sub-par stat line in A-ball, but he’s a small hitting adjustment away from being a legitimate outfield prospect.

Jhoandro Alfaro (C): Another example of when not to look at stats, Alfaro has been over-matched by AZL pitching thus far in 2015 (.363 OPS in 19 games). But he skipped DSL and this is his first taste of professional baseball, and he’s still a teenager. When he was signed, it was the natural defensive skills that got attention, and it is unusual to find that in a young catching prospect. This Colombian is the brother of Jorge Alfaro, a top catching prospect who was included in the Cole Hamels trade at the deadline. 2016, when he should repeat rookie ball, will tell us more about what the White Sox have here.

Carlos Perez (C): Another recently signed catcher from Latin America, this one is 18 years old in his second season in the DSL, and he’s mashing there. Again, DSL stats should be taken at generalized levels and with a pretty big pile of salt, but he’s hitting .307 with 17 walks and just 5 strikeouts in 160 plate appearances. A 3.1% K/PA, even at Boca Chica, is striking. The Venezuelan has been talked up by Baseball America as a steal for $50,000, and he’s also considered a good receiver. Look for Perez and Alfaro to both be on stateside rookie ball teams in 2016.

Seby Zavala (C): One more catcher, this one taken in the 12th round in this year’s draft. Zavala has been tearing the cover off the ball for AZL: .340/.414/.660, with decent contact and walk rates. White Sox Scouting Director Nick Hostetler mentioned him specifically as a strong performer when we spoke with him recently offline, adding to the interest level in this 21-year-old from San Diego State. Not much information out there on his defense yet, which will be key to his future success, but the hitting, power and front office call-out make him a backstop to watch.

Jackson Glines (OF): Like Zavala, Hostetler went out of his way to compliment Glines in our recent interview with him. This 10th round pick out of Michigan scuffled at first, but he’s turned it on lately at the plate (.419/.486/.613 in his last 10 games), and he’s got 9 BB against just 8 K in 105 plate appearances thus far in Great Falls. Hostetler referred to him as a guy who grinds out at-bats and makes the most of his tools, adding good center field defense and a little speed to the mix.

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