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Minors | General | 12/17/2018

PG in the Pros: AL West

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Jo Adell (Perfect Game)

As part of Perfect Game's recurring PG in the Pros series David Rawnsley will take a look at some of the top prospects in minor league baseball and their impact on the sport prior to their professional careers. This will be done in a six-part series, one feature for each division in Major League Baseball while identifying one of the top prospects for each team. Links are provided below to past installments of the PG in the Pros series for other reports on prospects, both past and present.

Previous 2018-19 PG in the Pros features: AL Central | NL Central
 | NL East | AL East | NL West

Houston Astros

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz, Lance McCullers
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Brett Phillips, Colin Moran
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Alex Bregman
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Derek Fisher
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Kyle Tucker

Forrest Whitley, RHP

Whitley's path to being perhaps the top pitching prospect in baseball today was likely very difficult in execution but very simple in its method.

The summer before his senior year, Whitley checked in at 6-foot-7, 250-pounds and it wasn't good weight. He was up to 95 mph on his fastball and his slider was sharp and big and he threw it often. However, this scout wrote this in his notes from the 2015 USA Baseball Tournament of Stars: “Below average command and it is hard to project it with his athleticism and size, impossible to avoid future reliever projections."

Whitley did make the USA 18u National Team out of the Tournament of Stars and struck out 18 in 10 innings in four outings to go with a 1-1, 0.87 record.

During the fall and winter Whitley dedicated himself to losing weight and increasing his athleticism and Texas area scouts were amazed when they first saw Whitley, minus about 30 pounds, in early season scrimmages. He missed time early in his senior year with a broken left hand but picked up right where he left off with a much-improved delivery, tremendously different athleticism and four pitches for strikes, including a fastball that was touching 97 mph consistently.

Perfect Game had Whitley ranked 15th in the final class rankings and Whitley went 17th overall to the Astros, signing for a $3,148,000 to buy him out of a Florida State scholarship. Whitley, who is now listed at a slender 6-foot-7, 195-pounds, may have served as an example for 2018 first round pick and fellow righthander Grayson Rodriguez from Nacogdoches, Texas, who improved his body and stuff in similar manner last year and went from a potential non-draft to 11th overall.

Los Angeles Angels

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Kaleb Cowart, Randal Grichuk
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Nick Tropeano, Cam Bedrosian
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Joe Gatto
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Matt Thaiss
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Jahmai Jones

Jo Adell, OF

Jordon "Jo" Adell was one of the most polarizing high school prospects to come along in the last generation. On one side of the coin, he was an exceptional baseball athlete, one of the best raw athletes one can imagine stepping on a baseball field. Adell's 6-foot-3, 205-build was wiry and strong and projectable all at the same time. He ran a 6.19-second 60-yard dash at the 2016 PG National Showcase and could throw 96 mph off the mound and 97 mph from the outfield, which he patrolled with easy grace. Adell's raw power from the right side was easily top of the scale.

On the other side of the coin was the huge question of whether Adell would ever hit. He was frequently mistimed at the plate, struck out often and didn't make much hard contact save for his world class batting practice displays. During the middle of the summer, one particularly meticulous scout remarked "Adell is now 1-for-41 in his career in my presence." This scout couldn't argue the statement, as I had only seen him get one hit in about a dozen games myself and it was probably the same hit.

Adell's report from the 2016 PG National Showcase summarized it as follows:

Tall, long-limbed athletic build, has good strength with room for more. Extraordinary athlete, can do all the physical things on the baseball field with easy plus speed and explosion. 6.19 runner, best speed after a couple of steps. Easy outfield actions with outstanding raw arm strength, pure center field tools and the arm strength will just be a plus at that position. Righthanded hitter with a big leg lift load, really torques his lower half to create bat speed, easy plus bat speed with huge raw power, can hit the ball places that his peers can't reach and put on a BP show. Also threw one inning and topped out at 95 mph, some effort to his delivery with a long arm action, flashed four pitches in a short outing, curveball has tight spin when not overthrown and cutter was interesting as well. The big key will be the hit tool and how it develops but the rest of the tools are top of the scale. Plays with enthusiasm and likes to be on the field.

That performance led to him being an easy selection for the 2016 PG All-American Classic. And with that honor Adell had a much stronger August, as many young hitters do, as pitchers are getting tired and they are beginning to make adjustments. He hit a line drive 400-foot home run that was the swing every scout had been waiting for all summer and one of the loudest and most violent collisions between ball and bat this scout has ever seen. Almost predictably, Adell's next at-bat was another laser for a hit. The light switch had gone on.

Adell's senior year was superlative, one of the best ever by a high school hitter. In 35 games for Ballard High School, Adell hit .562-25-61, with 21 stolen bases. He drew 35 walks and only struck out 10 times. There were still some cynics in the scouting community but they were more and more a whisper amongst the shouting.

Perfect Game had Adell second behind righthander Hunter Greene in the final class rankings. The Angels selected Adell with the 10th overall pick and signed him to a $4,376,800 bonus.

Oakland Athletics

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Addison Russell, Michael Choice, Bobby Wahl, Daniel Robertson
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Matt Olson, Chad Pinder
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Casey Meisner
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Jharel Cotton
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – A.J. Puk

Jesus Luzardo, LHP

Luzardo, both of whose parents were born and raised in Venezuela, was one of the more polished pitchers on the 2015 summer circuit. A physically mature 6-foot-1, 205-pound southpaw with three solid pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup, to go with a sound and repeatable delivery, Luzardo wasn't especially easy to project but it was very easy as a scout to appreciate his present skills and tools. His report from the 2015 PG National Showcase read:

Large, well-built athletic frame. Simple delivery with good balance, arm action showed quickness from a high three-quarters slot. Fastball in the upper-80s to low-90s topping at 93 showed good arm-side run when down in zone. Creates good angle to plate from release point. Solid three-pitch mix within strike zone. Curveball has great 1-to-7 shape with big depth, had quality feel for changeup with fading life. Pounded the zone with all pitches.

Luzardo, who had pitched through the fall the previous two seasons, decided to spend the fall of his senior year working out and the results were immediately obvious at the start of the following spring. Instead of working 89-91 mph and occasionally touching higher, Luzardo was consistently throwing in the 93-97 mph range. With his already established three-pitch mix and ability to throw strikes, he quickly moved into first round territory after just a few starts.

Unfortunately, Luzardo's elbow popped early in his fourth start of the season and he almost immediately went on to have TJ surgery. Stoneman-Douglas High School, behind his teammate and fellow top prospect Colton Welker, impressively won the Florida 9-A state title even without their ace lefthander.

While teams have shown little hesitance in picking college pitchers coming off TJ surgery in recent years, they generally haven't shared the same approach with high school pitchers. The Nationals, seeing the chance to get a first round value in the third round, decided to take a chance on Luzardo's return to health, signing him with the 94th overall pick for a well over slot $1.4 million bonus.

Seattle Mariners

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Taijuan Walker, Edwin Diaz, Tyler Marlette
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – D.J. Peterson, Austin Wilson
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Drew Jackson
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Tyler O'Neill
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Kyle Lewis

Joe Rizzo, 3B

Rizzo was the 2015 Virginia 4-A Player of the Year after hitting .606 with seven home runs and had a textbook summer circuit in 2015 prior to his senior year at Oakton High School in Virginia. He started it off with a strong Perfect Game National Showcase, spent July playing for Canes Baseball, including appearances at the 17u WWBA National Championships and 17u PG World Series, then hit up the East Coast Pro and Area Code Games before ending up in San Diego at the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

A strong and mature 5-foot-11 lefthanded hitter, Rizzo was one of the top hitters on the circuit, consistently producing quality at-bats and hard contact against the top high school pitchers in the country all summer. His PG National report read:

Strong and compact athletic build, fairly mature physically. Lefthanded hitter, very polished and mature at the plate, big leg raise trigger but gets his foot down in time and shows consistent quality time. Short and quick swing with very good strength at contact, drives normal ground balls through the infield with top spin and bat speed, has natural lift and loft out front for gap power, will hit to all fields and is balanced enough to drive the ball the opposite way, high end hitting prospect. 6.96 runner, active feet at third base, has quickness and lateral range, good raw arm strength with carry, smooth hands at the ball, no reason athletically he couldn't play second base at the next level. Baseball player who has played lots and plays with energy.

Scouts appreciated Rizzo's lefthanded bat and his mature approach to hitting along with his dirtbag, high energy style of play but also spent plenty of time pondering his future position. He was closer to 5-foot-9 than his listed 5-foot-11 and scouts hoped that he could play second base at the professional level, while others even brought up the possibility of moving behind the plate.

Rizzo, who was signed with South Carolina, eventually went in the second round, 50th overall, to the Mariners and signed for a $1,750,000 bonus.

Texas Rangers

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Roughned Odor, Luis Sardinas, Nick Williams, Joey Gallo
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Alex Gonzalez, Lewis Brinson, Travis Demeritte
PG in the Pros, 2015-16
– Luis Ortiz
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Josh Morgan
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Willie Calhoun

Bubba Thompson, OF

Thompson, whose given first name is Leslie, was a primary football player in high school as a quarterback and was recruited by numerous SEC schools as a 3-Star recruit to play football, although he eventually signed with Alabama for baseball. He threw for 3,173 yards and 38 touchdowns and rushed for 507 more as a senior.

Thompson was very active during his junior summer, participating in the PG National Showcase along with the East Coast Pro and Area Code Games and giving scouts more confidence that he was going to pursue a baseball career after high school. His athleticism was obvious, including 6.35 speed in the 60-yard dash but his righthanded hitting approach was not as developed. Thompson hit from a very still start with a short, downward upper body swing and any projection of his offensive game had to include plenty of mechanical adjustments. He did show patience at the plate and the ability to handle the barrel against 90-plus mph pitching as two strengths to build on moving forward.

More strength combined with some mechanical changes put Thompson in position for a big senior year at the plate and he followed through, hitting .429-11-35 to go with 18 stolen bases while being named Alabama's Mr. Baseball and 7A Player of the Year.

Not considered a potential first round pick prior to the spring, Thompson quickly rose up scouting boards in the months leading up to the draft with the Texas Rangers picking him with the 26th overall selection and signing him for a $2.1 million bonus.

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