2019 Triple-A All Stars: PCL and International League

This is the Prospects Live All Stars series, where we settled on All Stars from all 17 professional leagues, giving credit where it was due. To be eligible for a list, a player must have played the majority of his season in said league and not exceeded 60 IP/300 PA in the majors. Players are listed under the position they played the most and stats shown pertain only to the listed league.

Double-A All Stars
High-A All Stars
A-Ball All Stars

Pacific Coast League

The change to the major league baseball in 2019 took the already heavy-offense environment of the Pacific Coast League and just drove offensive numbers out of any normal context. Entering the final week of the season, three players had a legit chance to top 40 home runs in the Pacific Coast League. For reference, the individual home run leader in the PCL hadn't hit more than 35 since 2011. - Ben Chase

Let's take a look around a hitter-friendly league:

C - David Freitas (Sea/Mil)

Stats: .381/.461/.561, 12 HR, .180 ISO, 12.2 BB%, 14.3 K%, 154 wRC+

Freitas opened his 2019 season with the Mariners, but the Brewers picked him up for catching depth at the Triple-A level in a trade and he went on an offensive tear that is beyond anything he's ever done before. He beat out an impressive season from Austin Allen that didn't quite meet the minimum plate appearances for consideration.

1B - Kevin Cron (ARI)

Stats: .344/.472/.485, 5 HR, 10 SB, .446 ISO, 16.2 BB%, 20.4 K%, 182 wRC+

In a season with incredible offensive performances, none stood out more than Kevin Cron. He hit his 20th home run in just his 42nd game of the season, but multiple trips back and forth to the majors along with some time missed due to injury led to his 30th minor league home run not coming until early August. He still nearly eclipsed 40 home runs in the minor leagues in 2019 and has 44 combined home runs at this writing and he did all of it while striking out barely over 20 percent of the time.

2B - Corban Joseph (OAK)

Stats: .371/.421/.585, 13 HR, .214 ISO, 7.8 BB%, 10.8 K%, 144 wRC+

Joseph is the first former longtime Yankee farmhand that is going to appear here, both in the same organization. The 30-year-old journeyman has found his way to a few other teams inbetween, including the Braves, Orioles, and Nationals, and while he's always been a gritty player with quality defense, his line drive production in 2019 allowed him to threaten .400 for much of the season.

3B - Ty France (SD)

Stats: .399/.477/.770, 27 HR, .372 ISO, 8.6 BB%, 14.7 K%, 196 wRC+

No matter the exploits of Mr. Cron, France would have been in consideration for PCL MVP before Fernando Tatis, Jr. suffered a season-ending injury and France was called up to take a permanent spot. France is an aggressive hitter, and major league pitchers could exploit that, but when he's on, that aggressive approach makes plenty of hard, barreled contact, as seen throughout the PCL in 2019.

SS - Luis Urias (SD)

Stats: .315/.398/.600, 19 HR, 7 SB, .285 ISO, 10.6 BB%, 18.3 K%, 137 wRC+

There were plenty who thought Urias could come out of spring camp with a job in San Diego, but after the Padres signed Manny Machado, he was going to need to wait on a chance to earn a spot. While he played shortstop through most of the 2019 season in Triple-A, his best defensive position in the majors is likely to be second base, where his high contact rate and surprising power could remind many of a certain undersized Houston second sacker.

OF - Kyle Tucker (HOU)

Stats: .266/.354/.555, 34 HR, 30 SB, .289 ISO, 11.2 BB%, 21.6 K%, 113 wRC+

Perhaps the best prospect who hasn't been turned loose in the major leagues the last two seasons, Tucker has been a top 10-15 consensus prospect the past few seasons and the Astros don't seem to find a place for his impressive skills. He put together his third straight 20/20 campaign in 2019, this time going for 30/30 and leading the PCL in stolen bases with 30. Perhaps seeing former teammate Yordan Alvarez tear up the major leagues will encourage the Astros to hand an outfield corner to Tucker in 2020.

OF - Mark Payton (OAK)

Stats: .334/.400/.653, 30 HR, 7 SB, .319 ISO, 10.1 BB%, 17 K%, 148 wRC+

Payton struggled through injury issues while part of the Yankees farm system, but after signing as a minor league free agent with the A's in the offseason had his best season by far. Payton, who turns 28 in December, is a quality corner defender, so if he can convince a team his big year is real, he could work as the left side of a platoon at the very least and finally make his major league debut.

OF - Taylor Ward (LAA)

Stats: .306/.427/.584, 27 HR, 11 SB, .278 ISO, 15.6 BB%, 19.7 K%, 145 wRC+

First, he was a catcher. Then, he was a third baseman. Now, Taylor Ward is making headway with his gifted bat skills after working in the offseason to develop his glovework in the outfield. With a minor league line that was nearly .300/.400 coming into this season, developing his power and finding a defensive home were keys. Now that he's shown that, perhaps he can be the bridge for the Angels to elite prospects they have coming for the outfield in the near future.

Honorable mentions - Jared Walsh (LAA); Sam Hilliard (COL), Seth Brown (OAK), Yadiel Hernandez (WAS); Yonathan Daza (COL)

In doing this, the outfield and first base positions were absolutely loaded due to the offensive explosion across the league this season, so it was difficult to ignore some of the top performers in all of the minors this season on a league All-Star team. Each of these mentioned had huge seasons at the plate, but due to their position were left off the list above.

SP - Zac Gallen (MIA)

Stats: 91 1/3 IP, 1.77 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 5.1 BB%, 33.6 K%, .152 BAA

Technically, Gallen is now with the Arizona organization, but he only pitched in the minors with the Marlins this year. Seen as a mid-rotation upside arm coming into the season, Gallen put up incredible numbers, especially considering context, before the Marlins brought him up for good and then traded him at the deadline for Jazz Chisholm. His numbers were good enough to still finish in the top 10 in strikeouts among PCL pitchers.

SP - Jake Woodford (STL)

Stats: 151 2/3 IP, 4.15 ERA, 5.54 FIP, 11.7 BB%, 20.4 K%, .220 BAA

A guy who was viewed more as a backend arm coming into the season, Woodford nonetheless was one of the youngest full-time starters in the PCL in 2019 at 22, and he danced around a rough walk rate many times to keep his ERA respectable. While his flyball tendencies certainly did him no favors, he got a good audition for potential work in the back of the Cardinals rotation.

SP - Hector Noesi (MIA)

Stats: 125 IP, 3.82 ERA, 5.32 FIP, 5.9 BB%, 26.1 K%, .236 BAA

With all the top prospect arms struggling in the league in 2019, leave it to a 32-year-old journeyman arm to put up the best overall numbers from the rotation in the PCL. His FIP may look ugly, but among qualified pitchers, that number ranks sixth, and he led the circuit in ERA and finished second in strikeouts on the season.

RP - Deolis Guerra (MIL)

Stats: 45 G, 66 2/3 IP, 1.89 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 6.3 BB%, 34.4 K%, .181 BAA

Only making one appearance in the majors in 2019, Guerra has been incredibly impressive in an offensive juggernaut league. In fact, if you lower the requirements to 60 innings pitched, Guerra is the only pitcher who had a FIP under 3.00 on the season. The Brewers certainly will have an eye on his work as they make a push toward the playoffs for a potential additional arm.

MVP - Kevin Cron

He tied Bryan LaHair's mark in 2011 as the top individual home run total in the PCL over the last 15 years, and the most incredible part is that he missed a big chunk of the season. What he could have done with a full season at the pace he was hitting is impressive to consider. More than that, he's established himself as a legit option for the Diamondbacks with enough athleticism to handle third base and the outfield to get his bat into the lineup.

International League

In the juiced ball era of the International League it’s hard to know what’s good. Seriously, what is good? Pitchers with 5.00 FIPs are the norm and guys with 10 career homers across seven minor league seasons have 17 home runs and 26 doubles. Players with bat speed, strength and leverage, or just raw power rule the landscape. I’ve often viewed Triple-A as a waiting room, a type of baseball purgatory between the development ladder and the show. This year it was more like zombie land as every left for dead prospect with any pop had a statistical renaissance. Through sometimes exhausting first hand account I bring you my International League All-Star team. This is in no way a list of the best prospects to play in this league, this is simply a look at the top performers that spent a majority of their time on the circuit. - Ralph Lifshitz

C - Zack Collins (CWS) 

.285/.403/.553, 19 HR, .268 ISO, 26.2 K%, 16.6 BB%

When Collins went 10th overall few anticipated he’d stick at catcher, but three years later he’s known no other position. Making the most of the major league ball, Collins smashed his way to a .553 SLG. His plate approach teeters between passive and aggressive, collecting walks while also seeing his fair share of swings and misses. It’s a three true outcome profile, with the defense still a question. 

1B - Nate Lowe (TB) 

.305/.378/.543, 16 HR, 1 SB, .238 ISO, 20.2 K%, 17.7 BB%

We anticipated Lowe having a bigger impact at the major league level, but the early emergence of both Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, and Ji-Man Choi made that less of a reality. Lowe did nothing in his 93 Triple-A games to dissuade our feelings that he’s one of the top first base prospects in the game. A great balance of hit tool, approach, and power. 

2B - Breyvic Valera (NYY)

.319/.392/.523, 14 HR, 10 SB, .205 ISO, 10 K%, 9.7 BB%

Not a household name by any stretch, but Valera has hung around the periphery of relevancy for a few seasons. He made his major league debut in 2017 with the Cardinals and has been a member of four organizations since. Blessed with an above average feel to hit and strong pitch recognition skills, Valera has always hit but he’s lacked pop. The juiced ball era of Triple-A baseball has lifted his slugging to above .500 levels for the first time in his career. Bench role ceiling at 27 seems lofty. 

3B - Michael Brosseau (TB) 

.306/.397/.562, 16 HR, 2 SB, .257 ISO, 18.7 K%, 11 BB%

Before Brosseau experiences his bout of “Devil Ray Magic” he was crushing International League pitching. An undrafted free agent out of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, Brosseau climbed the ranks remarkably quick for someone of his pedigree. He’ll be 26 entering 2020 with a shot at a 25 man roster spot somewhere in the majors. 

SS - Jake Cronenworth (TB)

.339/.434/.528, 10 HR, 12 SB .189 ISO, 15.5 K%, 12.2 BB%

You’ve probably glanced at the Triple-A leaderboard once or twice over the course of the 2019 season and seen Croneworth’s name. But did you know that he’s a two-way player as well? Cronenworth actually threw seven innings this season without allowing an earned run, but that’s not why he’s here. He’s here because of his line drive heavy spray approach that led to loads of singles. Mix in his advanced approach and you have an on base machine. The power is below average obvious by the low ISO in such a homer happy climate. 

OF - Aristides Aquino (CIN)

.299/.356/.636, 28 HR, 5 SB, .337 ISO, 25.1 K%, 7.1 BB%

The Punisher! After opening up his stance and getting a hold of the new balls, Aquino found another level. He’s spent the last month plus starring at the highest level, hitting homers and skyrocketing to the top of statcast leader boards. Aquino’s contact has improve with the changes to his setup and it’s led to improved pitch recognition. He’s still all power, and the approach is aggressive, but in the current environment players that hit the ball hard and far are in demand. 

OF - Ryan McBroom (NYY/KC)

.315/.402/.574, 26 HR, 2 SB, .259 ISO, 20.7 K%, 12 BB%

Traded to the Royals just days before writing this, McBroom is what you might call a Quad-A type. After four seasons in the upper minors McBroom broke out in 2019, translating his raw power into games. I’d sound like a broken record bringing up the ball again, but it’s hard to ignore. It’s certainly more than the ball in McBroom’s case as he significantly improved his approach, nearly doubling his walk rate. It was more than just pitchers avoiding him, he legitimately committed to picking up and avoiding spin. He crushes fastballs and that plays in the juiced ball era. 

OF - Travis Demeritte (ATL/DET) 

.286/.387/.558, 20 HR, 4 SB, .271 ISO, 26.6 K%, 12.8 BB%

After a trade deadline deal that sent Demeritte and Joey Wentz to the Tigers, the former has spent all of his time at the majors since. From April to July Demeritte was one of the best hitters in the International League, tapping into power he hadn’t seen since his 2016 high-A campaign at High Desert. Demeritte has long been an on-base machine with power and under the radar athleticism. What’s longed plagued him, and still does is his ability to make contact consistently.

SP - Mitch Keller, RHP (PIT)

103.2 IP 3.56 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 28.2 K%, 8 BB%, .239 BAA

It’s been an up and down couple of years for Keller, as the results have mostly been good, but in many aspects uninspiring. Questions regarding his ability to miss bats and limit weak contact were answered to some extent in 2019, as he was the owner of the lowest FIP among pitchers with 100 innings pitched or more. At the major league level he’s been terrible despite some solid underlying peripherals. He’s long been fastball/curveball/changeup but began to work in a slider and it’s become his go to secondary. With the development of a third offering, Keller’s much maligned changeup is no longer a part of the equation. A strong campaign for Keller in a ruthless environment. 

SP - Bryse Wilson, RHP (ATL) 

121 IP, 3.42 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 23.4 K%, 5.2 BB%, .253 BAA

Another arm that’s taken his lumps in the bigs this year, Wilson was the youngest qualified starter in the International League by nearly two years, and one of four pitchers under 22. He finished second in the league in ERA, FIP, WHIP, and wins among pitchers with 100 or more innings. While finishing sixth in strikeouts. There’s still some question as to if Wilson’s stuff will ultimately play better in the bullpen, but he’s at least earned a shot. Wilson’s reliance on mid-90s heat has taken him this far this fast, it’s a matter of one of his secondaries catching up. 

SP - Devin Smeltzer, LHP (MIN)

74.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 23.2 K %, 6.2 BB%, .239 BAA 

For this final spot I considered a few different names, Kyle Hart, LHP from Pawtucket, T.J. Zeuch, RHP from Buffalo, Keegan Akin, LHP from Norfolk and a few others. Ultimately I went with Smeltzer because he pitched well every time I saw him, and that was no easy task in 2019 Triple-A. He won’t overpower you, but he changes speeds, throws two average secondaries and he throws strikes. It’s a role 30 profile, but that’s a win.

RP - Stephen Nogosek, RHP (NYM) 

30.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 27 K%, 9.9 BB%, .111 BAA

Drafted by the Red Sox in the 6th round back in 2016 out of Oregon, Nogosek made his major league debut for the Mets in late June and has shuttled back and forth a few times. He’s not here because of unbelievable stuff and huge K rates, he’s here because he did the remarkable. He pitched 30.1 innings in juiced ball the International League and he didn’t allow a run. Call it luck, which it likely is, it’s hard to argue against the guy who did the impossible. Outside the streak Nogosek works mostly fastball/slider with his heat sitting mid-90s. At 24 with major league experience Nogosek has a chance to carve out a middle relief role for a bunch of years.

Most Valuable Player: Aristides Aquino

The Punisher not only was the top breakout bat from the International League in 2019, he’s one of the few power surges that has legitimacy. The changes made to Aquino’s setup has completely changed the trajectory of his outlook long term, and for that he deserves the MVP. And, yeah, the .992 OPS doesn’t hurt either.