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Don’t overlook these prospects: National League Central

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MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves
Cole Tucker
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t Overlook This Prospect: National League Central

Here are some prospects who were not listed on the Minor League Ball Top 175 who are certainly still worthy of your attention.

These players have all received some measure of press notice and are not “sleepers.” Worry not, the true sleepers who are more obscure will be written up in a different article.

We will begin with the National League Central Division.

Chicago Cubs: David Bote, INF-OF: An 18th round pick in 2012 from Neosho Community College in Kansas, Bote emerged in 2016 by hitting .337/.410/.518 in High-A and followed up with a solid 2017 campaign in Double-A at .272/.353/.438. Age 24, he is a versatile defender with experience at every position except catcher and can pitch in an emergency. His raw speed and power are average but he’s shown good pop at times and could be a fine multi-role bench asset.

Cincinnati Reds: Shed Long, 2B: A 12th round pick in 2013 from high school in Jacksonville, Alabama, Long broke out in ‘16 with a .293/.371/.471 campaign in Low-A/High-A, then confirmed his progress in ‘17 with a .281/.358/.477 line in High-A/Double-A. Although he hit just .227 in 42 Double-A games while fighting a wrist injury, he was hot late. Long has a potent switch-hitting bat, provides good-enough defense at second, and is still just 22 years old.

Milwaukee Brewers: Tristen Lutz, OF: Lutz really deserves more notice than he’s received and I’m as guilty of that as anyone, having left him off my Top 175 prospects list. A compensation round pick in 2017 from high school in Arlington, Texas, Lutz had a sharp pro debut with a .311/.398/.559 line in rookie ball. With 60-grade power, a 60-arm, and at least 50 speed, he profiles well as a power-mashing right fielder with a good glove. We need to see how his plate discipline holds at higher levels but his upside cannot be overlooked.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Cole Tucker, SS: Pittsburgh’s first round pick in 2014 from high school in Phoenix, Tucker is another player who just missed the Top 175. The 21-year-old switch-hitter held his own against older competition last year, hitting .275/.358/.408 in High-A/Double-A while stealing 45 bases. He has the tools and reliability to stay at shortstop and has shown more gap power as he’s matured physically to go with his speed.

St. Louis Cardinals: Oscar Mercado, OF: A second round pick in 2013 from high school in Tampa, Florida, Mercado is another guy who could have ranked towards the back of the Top 175. A weak-hitting shortstop for the early part of his career, he converted to the outfield and exploded offensively in 2017, hitting .287/.341/.428 with 13 homers and 38 steals in Double-A. The Cardinals have plenty of outfielders and Mercado may ultimately be trade bait but his tools are interesting and he’s now flashing some skills.