Don’t Overlook These Prospects: National League East
Atlanta Braves: Tucker Davidson, LHP: The Braves have so many pitching prospects it is possible to get lost in the shuffle. Be careful not to overlook lefty Tucker Davidson. Drafted in the 19th round in 2016 from Midland Junior College in Texas, he posted a 2.60 ERA in 104 innings in Low-A last season with a fine 101/30 K/BB and 1.59 GO/AO.
The 22-year-old is not a soft-tosser, clocked as high as 97 out of the bullpen and a solid 90-95 as a starter. Both his curveball and change-up developed rapidly last season. We need to see how his command holds at higher levels but power-armed lefties who throw strikes are always in demand. Don’t sleep on this one.
Miami Marlins: Brian Miller, OF: Miller is well-known to college baseball fans as a mainstay of the North Carolina Tar Heels lineup in 2016 and 2017. He was drafted by the Marlins in the compensation round last June, 36th overall, then proceeded to hit .332/.384/.416 with 21 steals in 57 games in his pro debut for Low-A Greensboro.
Miller didn’t get much attention outside of Marlins circles over the winter despite his amateur pedigree, draft status, strong debut, 65-speed, on-base ability, and defense. One of my pet theories is that players with generic names are sometimes overlooked. “Brian Miller” qualifies. While we need to see if the 22-year-old will show enough pop at higher levels, there’s certainly enough here to project that he can be more than a generic player.
New York Mets: Luis Guillorme, INF: Drafted by the Mets in the 10th round from a Florida high school in 2013, Guillorme stands out for his defensive ability. He’s an above-average defender at shortstop with a plus arm and excellent reactions and is downright superb when used at second base. He also hit .283 with a .376 OBP and an attractive 72/55 BB/K ratio in Double-A last year, playing the season at age 22.
Despite all that, there are a lot of skeptics about Guillorme due to his extreme lack of power: he’s hit just two homers in 1774 minor league at-bats. Everyone respects the glove but doubters about the hitting don’t see him as more than a utility infielder. That said, his superior eye for the strike zone is a big advantage and even a small gain in strength could give him enough gap pop to survive. If he can hit .260 with a decent OBP and some doubles, his defense is strong enough to keep in in the lineup for a long time.
Philadelphia Phillies: Arquimedes Gamboa, INF: The Phillies spent $900,000 to sign Gamboa out of Venezuela in 2014. After two poor showings in short-season ball he broke out in 2017, hitting .261/.328/.378 with 33 walks and 52 strikeouts in 307 at-bats for Low-A Lakewood. The key here is age: he did this in full season ball at age 19 and was especially hot late in the season, hitting .327 with a .531 SLG in his last 25 games.
Gamboa made significant improvements with his strike zone judgment in ‘17 and got stronger physically, resulting in across-the-board offensive gains. He already ran well and has 21 steals in 164 career games. His defense can be erratic but his arm and range are good enough for shortstop and he lowered his error rate as well. If he continues developing at this pace he could be a regular middle infielder who provides both power and speed contributions.
Washington Nationals: Daniel Johnson, OF: The Nationals drafted Johnson in the fifth round in 2016 from New Mexico State University. He split 2017 between Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac, playing well at both levels and hitting a combined .298/.356/.505 with 22 homers, 22 steals, 35 walks, and 100 whiffs in 497 at-bats.
Age 22, the left-handed hitter has the physical tools to back up the numbers, earning 55-60 grades with both speed and power and a 65-70 for his arm. He needs to refine his strike zone judgment. Like Brian Miller with Miami, Johnson has a nondescript name but his tools are anything but and the skills are coming around.