2019 Pre-Season Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings – Top 30 1st Baseman
Today marks the third of our 2019 pre-season fantasy baseball prospect rankings series that is designed to help get you all caught up and informed on MLB prospects for your fantasy baseball leagues. The Dynasty Team here at Pitcher List are going to be releasing pre-season top prospect lists for every position, and we will release our lists on the following schedule:
- Top 20 Prospects for Re-draft Leagues in 2019.
- Top 30 Catchers.
- Top 30 1st Baseman.
- Top 30 2nd Baseman.
- Top 30 Shortstops.
- Top 30 3rd Baseman.
- Top 50 Outfielders.
- Top 150 Overall Pitchers.
- Top 150 Overall Prospects.
Before we get started, I feel it is important to mention that we will be using the official MLB guidelines to determine rookie eligibility which is defined as the following:
To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
The other factor at play in regards to this article is service time and how it can impact the potential call-up date of each prospect. This is important, as ideally, the most impactful prospects to own are the ones that combine high-end talent with a terrific playing time opportunity. I wrote an in-depth article on the subject of service time if you want to learn more, but the quick version is that MLB teams can strategically decide to call up a player at certain points in the season to either gain extra team control over the player before he reaches free agency, or delay a player’s salary arbitration process and therefore earning potential. Again, I highly recommend reading the article I wrote last August. It goes into much more depth but these are the basics that you need to know that relate to potential call-up dates of each prospect.
We have included a rough prime projection for each player as well as an estimated ETA. Note that we place an emphasis on upside, namely power and speed guys, while also prioritizing closeness to the majors when the value is close. Feel free to ask questions or drop a comment, we are always happy to discuss! Without further ado, onto the list!
No. 1: Pete Alonso (New York Mets), Age 24, AAA
Perhaps the best pure power-hitting prospect in the minor leagues, Alonso is coming off of a 2018 season in which he tied for the MiLB lead in HRs with 36 while hitting a cool .285/.395/.579 over 574 PAs across AA and AAA that was worth a 158 wRC+. He’s a big dude at 6 foot 3 and 245 lbs, and that’s where a lot of his top-of-the-scale 80-grade power comes from. Unlike most big power-hitting sluggers, Alonso combines both plus patience and contact skills, making him an extremely well-rounded hitter. Across both AA and AA in 2018, Alonso managed to see 4.19 pitches per plate appearance while posting a 9.5% swinging-strike rate. When you consider that the ever-patient Joey Votto posted a 4.02 pitches per plate appearance mark in 2018 and that the league average for swinging-strike rate in the majors in 2018 was 10.7%, you start to see how special of a hitting prospect Alonso is. With little left to prove in the minor leagues and just the unproven J.D. Davis in front of him on the Mets 1B pecking order, Alonso should be up and contributing to your fantasy team in short-order in 2019. Dynasty Team member Nick Gerli wrote this terrific article on Alonso if you want to know more!
ETA: Early 2019. Prime Projection: .273/.344, 34 HRs, 1 SB
No. 2: Yordan Alvarez (Houston Astros), Age 21, AAA
A former Cuban-defector that was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 Million in 2016, Yordan Alvarez was shipped to the Astros in a trade that sent Josh Fields to the Dodgers. Three years later, Alvarez is considered to be among the top slugging prospects in the minor leagues, combining above-average contact skills with massive raw power that generally receives 65 grades from scouts. His 2018 season was split between AA and AAA, where he hit a combined .293/.369/.534 with 20 HRs and 6 SBs over 379 PAs, which was worth 139 wRC+. He was especially dominant at the AA level, where he hit an impressive .325/.389/.615 over 190 PAs for a 168 wRC+. His combined 24.3% strikeout rate across both levels may look fairly elevated, but it’s in large part due to his 11.1% walk rate, as he posted above-average 8.5% and 9.2% swinging-strike rates at AA and AAA respectively in 2018. He’s been able to post above-average BABIPs throughout his minor league career and I expect that to continue when he reaches the major leagues, as he’s got a number of high BABIP traits including a very strong line-drive rate along with an all-fields approach that should make him difficult to plan for defensively. Unfortunately, he’s somewhat blocked in Houston with both Yuli Gurriel and Tyler White on the major league roster, but if Alvarez keeps raking in the minor leagues and one of them struggles or goes down with an injury, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Astros give Alvarez a chance to get his feet wet in the majors in 2019. Overall, he’s a potentially elite hitter with few weaknesses, and he should be valued highly in dynasty leagues.
ETA: Late 2019. Prime Projection: .276/.352, 30 HRs, 3 SB
No. 3: Nathaniel Lowe (Tampa Bay Rays), Age 23, AAA
Another upper-level slugger in the same vein as Alonso and Alvarez, Nathaniel Lowe is perhaps the most under the radar and one that deserves more attention. I wrote an in-depth article on him earlier this off-season that you can read here! The short version of the article on Lowe is that short of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lowe was arguably the second-best hitter in the minor leagues last year, and he’s on the cusp of reaching the major leagues. Take a look at the top five hitters in MiLB in terms of wRC+:
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr (TOR)||A+/AA/AAA||19||408||.381||.437||.636||9.1||9.3||9.9||194|
|Nathaniel Lowe (TB)||A+/AA/AAA||22||555||.330||.416||.568||12.3||16.2||8.0||178|
|Michael Reed (MIL)||AA/AAA||25||404||.342||.453||.520||15.3||24.3||11.3||178|
|Alex Kirilloff (MIN)||A/A+||20||561||.348||.392||.578||6.8||15.3||11||172|
|Eloy Jimenez (CHW)||AA/AAA||21||456||.337||.384||.577||7.0||15.1||12.5||168|
Lowe interestingly posted the best swinging-strike rate of the group, and that’s notable considering Guerrero Jr is perhaps the best hitting prospect ever and has received 80-grade hit tool evaluations from scouts, which is unheard of. Alex Kirilloff is generally considered a plus hitter too, with a recent Prospects Live scouting report giving him a future 70 grade on the hit tool. This suggests that perhaps Lowe’s hit tool is being underrated. Some may suggest Lowe’s success came while being older compared to the likes Guerrero Jr., Kirilloff and Jimenez, and while that’s true, he was younger than league average at each level he played in 2018. He’s legit with plus contact skills, a terrific approach and easy 65 raw power, and you should remember his name in redraft leagues come mid-season when he’s likely to be called up to help the Tampa Bay Rays’ playoff chances. Dynasty league owners may have missed their chance already to buy him at an affordable cost.
ETA: June 2019. Prime Projection: .282/.351, 26 HRs, 1 SB
No. 4: Grant Lavigne (Colorado Rockies), Age 19, ROK
The 42nd overall selection in the 2018 MLB draft, the Colorado Rockies made Grant Lavigne the highest drafted high-school position player to be drafted out of the state of New Hampshire. He quickly rewarded them with a terrific professional debut season in which he tore apart the Pioneer Rookie League with a .350/.477/.519 batting line with 6 HRs and 12 SBs over 258 PAs. He showed a very advanced approach at the plate as he walked more than he struck out, and notably posted an impressive 7.8% swinging-strike rate. All told it was worth a 160 wRC+. Considering the lack of high-end competition in New Hampshire high-school baseball, along with his northeast demographic that limits year-round playing time, Lavigne’s smooth transition to professional baseball was highly impressive. When you add in that he’s a powerfully built 6 foot 4, 220 lbs slugger with legit 65-grade power already at just 19-years-old, you see how elite his potential upside is. Potentially playing his future home games at Coors Field does not hurt either! Those in dynasty leagues should value him highly. He’s got a chance to be an impact player.
ETA: 2022. Prime Projection: .273/.356, 27 HRs, 5 SBs
No. 5: Seth Beer (Houston Astros), Age 22, A+
Seth Beer had a terrific college career that included a .321/.489/.648 batting line over 3 years for the University of Clemson, and he notably won the Dick Howser Award as national player of the year back in 2016. Some slight concerns over his ability to hit with wood bats along with defensive limitations that suggested he was a 1B or DH only in the future led him to fall down to the 28th overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft, where the Houston Astros were happy to scoop him up. He responded by doing what he has always done…hit. Across A-, A, and A+ levels in 2018, Beer hit a combined .304/.389/.496 with 12 HRs and 1 SB in 297 PAs which was worth a 155 wRC+. He supported that batting line with an 8.4% walk rate along with a 16.5% strikeout rate while notably posting an above-average 8.8% swinging-strike rate. A 40.8% fly-ball rate suggests that he should get to most of his 70-raw power in games, and he looks to be a well-rounded slugging prospect with a high upside for fantasy baseball.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .260/.338, 27 HRs, 1 SB
No. 6: Evan White (Seattle Mariners), Age 22, A+
Evan White is perhaps underrated in many dynasty circles, and I think it’s because he was known to have a rather flat swing-plane entering professional baseball and therefore less than traditional power upside for the 1st base position. While that has been the case throughout much of his professional career so far, he made some changes mid-season in 2018 including lowering his hands and incorporating his lower-half better that has allowed him to get to his power more frequently. Take a look at the splits at High-A Modesto to see the impact of the changes:
Overall, he shows a well-rounded skillset—he has quality contact skills highlighted by a 19.1% K rate and a slightly above-average 9.8% swinging-strike rate at A+ this year, he can take a walk and shows a good eye at the plate, he’s got plus speed and can steal a few bases, plus he’s now tapping into his power potential. That’s the foundation for a real nice dynasty asset! Don’t sleep on him. 20 HRs with a quality average and a bit of speed is a valuable player, even at 1st base.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .273/.338, 18 HRs, 12 SBs
No. 7: Tyler Nevin (Colorado Rockies), Age 21, A+
The son of former big-leaguer and NL All-Star Phil Nevin, Colorado Rockies 1B/3B prospect Tyler Nevin was the 38th overall draft pick in the 2015 MLB draft. After a couple of injury-riddled seasons to start his professional career, Nevin was able to play 100+ games for the first time in his career and he responded by hitting .328/.386/.503 at High-A Lancaster with 13 HRs and 4 SBs while managing an 8.2% walk rate along with an 18.5% strikeout rate. It is true that Lancaster is known as one of the very best hitting environments in all of the minor leagues and he did post a .929 OPS at home compared to a .851 OPS on the road, but Nevin actually posted a better batting average and on-base percentage on the road in 2018 and then went on to dominate at the prestigious Arizona Fall League. In fact, Nevin led the entire Arizona Fall League in batting, hitting .429/.535/.593 over 17 games. He’s a plus hitter with plus raw power, and that, along with the potential of playing his future home games at Coors Field, makes him a very intriguing dynasty asset.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .288/.344, 23 HRs, 3 SBs
No. 8: Josh Naylor (San Diego Padres), Age 21, AA
A product of the Canadian high-school ranks, Josh Naylor has the distinction of being the highest-drafted Canadian hitter in MLB draft history, as he went 12th overall to the Miami Marlins back in 2015. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in a deal that sent Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea to the Marlins. Naylor has long been known for elite 70-grade raw power. In fact, he made it to the finals of the Junior National HR derby in 2014, where he lost to now St. Louis Cardinals prospect Luken Baker, who you will see later on in this list. Unfortunately, Naylor doesn’t get to his power frequently in games due to a lower-lying launch angle that is highlighted by a 47.3% ground-ball rate in 2018. If he can improve upon his launch angle going forward, the profile really starts to take off as everything else is there for success. He’s got a strong approach that contributed to an 11.1% walk rate and he’s got terrific contact skills that led to a 12% strikeout rate along with an elite 6.9% swinging-strike rate. Despite the low launch angle, Naylor was able to post a .297/.383/.447 batting line with 17 HRs and 5 SBs over 574 PAs which was worth a 128 wRC+. He’s a safe, high-floor prospect that also has a high upside if he can ever improve his launch angle, and that’s worth investing in for dynasty leagues.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .278/.341, 19 HRs, 1 SB
No. 9: Brendan McKay (Tampa Bay Rays), Age 23, A+
A two-way player that dominated college both on the mound and at the plate leading to being awarded the Dick Houser Award as national player of the year in 2017, Brendan McKay went 4th overall in the 2017 MLB draft to the Tampa Bay Rays. While he’s more known for his success on the mound, McKay’s ability to make contact at a high level, an excellent batting eye and patience that lends itself to strong on-base percentages, and legit 65-grade raw power make him pretty interesting at the plate too. The raw numbers may not stand out, as he posted just a .214/.368/.359 batting line across three levels in 2018, but an 18.2% walk rate along with a 21.5% strikeout rate supported by a well above-average 7% swinging-strike rate is impressive. If he can improve upon his very high 52.9% ground-ball rate going forward and tap into more of his raw power, his profile at the plate could take off. While I view him as a more likely bet to provide dynasty league value with his pitching, his hitting peripherals could give him surplus-value making him a worthwhile dynasty league asset to invest in.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .251/.343, 18 HRs, 0 SBs
No. 10: Bobby Bradley (Cleveland Indians), Age 22, AA
It has been a slow and steady journey through the minor leagues for Bobby Bradley thus far after having been drafted in the 3rd round back in 2014. His 2018 season began with a return to AA Akron in the Eastern League, where he hit .214/.304/.477 with 24 HRs and 1 SB in 421 PAs which was worth a 111 wRC+. A pretty extreme pulled fly-ball approach that included a 50.6% pulled contact rate along with a 44.8% fly-ball rate likely limits his BABIP some and, therefore, his batting average, but it does help him frequently make use of his 65-grade raw power. He has featured below-average contact skills throughout his minor league career, and 2018 was no different, as he managed a 24.9% strikeout rate supported by a below-average 14% swinging-strike rate at AA. It didn’t get any better during his 32-game sample at AAA at the end of the year either, as he saw his strikeout rate ballooned to 33.6%. For those in leagues that use on-base percentage though, his 10.7% walk rate at the AA level in 2018 does likely make him more valuable. While the profile may not be perfect, he’s a proven upper-level three-true-outcome type of slugger that has averaged 26.5 HRs over the last 3 years. That’s worth something in most dynasty leagues.
ETA: Late 2019. Prime Projection: .236/.357, 24 HRs, 1 SB
No. 11: Matt Thaiss (Los Angeles Angels), Age 24, AAA
The 16th overall selection in the 2016 MLB draft, Matt Thaiss is coming off of a bit of a breakout 2018 season in which launch angle changes helped him reach new levels of power. Thaiss hit 9 HRs and had a .121 ISO in 2017 over 606 PAs across A+ and AA. In 2018, he hit 16 HRs and had a .187 ISO over 576 PAs across AA and AAA. This power growth was supported by his ground-ball rate going from 47.5% in 2017 to 36.7% in 2018. What makes it even more impressive is that he made these launch angle changes while maintaining his usual strong approach and contact skills. His combined 7.6% walk rate 17.9% strikeout rate at AA and AAA supported by an above-average 9.2% swinging-strike rate highlight this well. While he doesn’t offer elite power like some of the others on this list, Thaiss offers a well-rounded skill set and likely is a valuable high-floor option in deeper dynasty leagues.
ETA: Late 2019. Prime Projection: .273/.336, 18 HRs, 3 SBs
No. 12: Nick Pratto (Kansas City Royals), Age 20, A
Yet another former 1st-round draft pick to make the list, Nick Pratto was the 14th overall selection in the 2017 MLB draft. After disappointing some in his first taste of professional baseball after being drafted by managing just a 103 wRC+ in 2017, Pratto bounced back some in 2018 by posting a 123 wRC+ while playing in the single-A South Atlantic League. He hit .280/.343/.443 in 2018 with 14 HRs and 22 SBs over 537 PAs in 2018. While the raw numbers may look great, there are some concerns under the hood. First, he posted a 27.9% strikeout rate and supported it with a below-average 13.4% swinging-strike rate. He needed an elevated .375 BABIP, which was the 2nd-highest mark in the league, to hit .280, suggesting that when that BABIP comes down to more reasonable levels against better pitching and defense of higher levels, the batting average floor might be poor. His 43.9% ground-ball rate last year limited his power somewhat and he posted just a .163 ISO, so he’ll need to likely improve his launch angle to add value power wise at the position. Finally, he’s a 40-grade runner and the 20 SBs seems unsustainable going forward. Despite all this, he’s still just 20-years-old and notably, he was terrific down the stretch, hitting .364/.443/.650 over his last 39 games of the season for a 205 wRC+, making him one to watch in 2019.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .267/.335, 21 HRs, 5 SBs
No. 13: Pavin Smith (Arizona Diamondbacks), Age 23, A+
Pavin Smith had a terrific college career at the University of Virginia, highlighted by a junior season in which he slashed .342/.427/.570 while posting 13.9% walk rate along with a 4.4% strikeout rate. That ability to make contact at a high level and developing power led the Arizona Diamondbacks to select him 7th overall in the 2017 MLB draft. Things haven’t gone as smoothly as a professional though. While playing at the low-A level in 2017 after being drafted, he showed plus contact skills and approach, as he hit .318 with more walks than strikeouts over 223 PAs, but he failed to hit a single HR. In 2018 at high-A Visalia in the California League, his lack of power continued to be an issue, as he managed just a .137 ISO and hit 11 HRs in 504 PAs. The lack of power is largely a result of a lower-lying launch angle (48.8% ground-ball rate in 2018), as he has 60-grade raw power. His contact and approach remained strong, as his 11.3% walk rate and 12.9% strikeout rate suggest, but his below-average .275 BABIP led to a mediocre .255/.343/.393 batting line that was worth a 101 wRC+. If he can make changes to improve his launch angle going forward, he could become a really good fantasy asset as the rest of the package is quite good. Until then, he’s likely a deeper dynasty league option only that gets a bump up in OBP leagues.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .278/.362, 17 HRs, 3 SBs
No. 14: Triston Casas (Boston Red Sox), Age 19, ROK
St. Louis Cardinals prospect Nolan Gorman is perhaps the guy that gets the most hype for his elite power upside from the 2018 MLB draft, but Triston Casas, who was selected late in the first round, is special in his own right and shouldn’t be forgotten. He’s listed at 6 foot 4, 238 lbs, and the result is a ton of natural strength which, when coupled with above-average bat speed, leads to elite exit velocities and HR potential. Scouting reports put 70 grades on his raw power with the possibility of him achieving higher as he continues to physically mature. With that power, though, does come some swing-and-miss, but he’s got a long track record of hitting well in games, including the Under-18 World Cup tournament, where he won MVP honors, and most think he’ll a future 50-grade hitter. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen him play professional baseball very long, having just 2 games to his name so far, which makes him a fairly risky investment in dynasty leagues. The upside could be special though, and he has the potential to jump up these rankings quickly and be a top 100 fantasy baseball prospect as soon as mid-season.
ETA: 2022. Prime Projection: .258/.334, 30 HRs, 2 SBs
No. 15: Luken Baker (St. Louis Cardinals), Age 21, A
The former Texas Christian University star dealt with a number of injuries throughout his college career which led him to fall to 75th overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft, where the St. Louis Cardinals were happy to scoop him up. Luken Baker‘s talent level likely exceeds that draft position, and he proved that by showing a lot of intriguing skills in his small sample at single-A Peoria in the Midwest League upon being drafted. Over 37 games at the level, he hit .288/.359/.417 with 3 HRs, which was worth a 123 wRC+. His 19.9% strikeout rate supported by an above-average 8.9% swinging-strike rate suggests his contact skills are quite good, and he clearly has a quality approach as well, as he posted a 10.3% walk rate. There is big raw power here too. He generally receives 70-grades from scouts, but he didn’t get to all of it in games due to a 44.7% ground-ball rate. Those in deeper dynasty leagues should consider Baker, as he has a lot of valuable skills and he could breakout now that he’s finally healthy.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .256/.332, 23 HRs, 0 SBs
No. 16: Edwin Rios (Los Angeles Dodgers), Age 24, AAA
A 6th round draft pick out of Florida International University in 2015, Edwin Rios has exceeded expectations as a professional. Over 1,496 PAs in the minors, he has hit .302/.351/.528 and is now on the doorstep of the major leagues. Despite missing 2 months of the 2018 season with an oblique injury, Rios managed a .304/.355/.482 batting line with 10 HRs over 341 PAs at AAA Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League. Notably, his strikeout rate ballooned to 32.3% in 2018 and it was supported by a rough 16.7% swinging-strike rate. I don’t expect that to continue, as he’s never had contact issues this extreme before. It should be noted that Rios has consistently produced below-average swinging-strike rates in his minor league career, but his aggressive approach at the plate has helped him manage his strikeout rate thus far. An all-fields batted ball profile helps him make the most of his contact and post strong batting averages. There’s upside here in the realm of a .280 hitter with 25 HRs in the major leagues, and as an upper-level performer, he’s close to achieving it.
ETA: Late 2019. Prime Projection: .270/.318, 21 HRs, 0 SBs
No. 17: Ryan Noda (Toronto Blue Jays), Age 22, A
Ryan Noda was a 15th round draft pick out of the University of Cincinnati in 2017, and perhaps he took a few cues from watching the Cincinnati Reds star Joey Votto when it comes to his approach at the plate while he was there. Noda has shown extreme patience thus far in his minor league career, and that was especially true in 2018, as he posted a ridiculous 20.7% walk rate and supported it with an impressive 4.30 pitches per plate appearance mark. While that walk rate is fantastic, it’s likely that he won’t be able to carry that extreme level forward as more advanced pitching will be able to challenge him more consistently and command their arsenal better. With that extreme patience comes an elevated 25.6% strikeout rate, but a below-average 12.8% swinging-strike rate suggests that his strikeout rate isn’t solely patience related. He also has plus raw power, and his 37.8% ground-ball rate indicates he gets to a lot of in games. The result, all told, was a .256/.421/.484 batting line with 20 HRs and 14 SBs that was worth a 160 wRC+. He’s got the look of a potentially valuable three-true-outcome slugger, but I do have some questions about how his profile will translate going forward.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .234/.346, 23 HRs, 4 SBs
No. 18: Rowdy Tellez (Toronto Blue Jays), Age 23, AAA
Perhaps the owner of the best name on this list, Rowdy Tellez has risen from being a 30th-round pick from the 2013 MLB draft to now being on the cusp of a consistent major league role. He initially broke out back in 2016 at AA New Hampshire when he hit .297/.387/.530 with 23 HRs and 4 SBs while managing a quality 12.3% walk rate and 17.9% strikeout rate over 514 PAs which was worth a 152 wRC+. Things haven’t gone as smoothly since. He posted a rough 73 wRC+ at AAA in 2017, and then improved in 2018 to a 115 wRC+ in 2018 on the back of a strong 2nd-half of the season, where he hit .306/.360/.497 with 7 HRs while walking at a 7.3% rate and striking out at an 18.3% rate in 164 PAs. Many suggest that some of Tellez’s struggles can be attributed to some off-the-field family issues related to his mother’s fight with brain cancer, which is understandable. Notably, his MLB debut came just two weeks after his mother Lori lost her two-year battle with brain cancer, and Tellez made the most of his debut:
He’s very likely to go back to AAA to start the 2019 season, as Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales are current mainstays on the roster, but Tellez should be up with the big club receiving playing time in the 2nd half of the year. For dynasty leagues, Tellez has shown an ability to make contact at an above-average rate each of the last 3 years, he has plus raw power to all fields and has a keen batting eye that allows him to manage the strike zone well. His batted-ball profile should allow him to get to a fair bit of his power in games, and yet his all-fields approach should help him to achieve reasonable BABIPs. He may not offer elite upside at the position, but he has a safer floor than many on this list and could be a sneaky valuable dynasty asset.
ETA: Mid-2019. Prime Projection: .261/.333, 22 HRs, 2 SBs
No. 19: Brent Rooker (Minnesota Twins), Age 24, AA
The Minnesota Twins initially drafted Brent Rooker in the 38th round in 2016, but he did not sign. He went back to Mississippi State University for his redshirt junior year, where he dominated to the tune of .387/.495/.810 with 23 HRs over 248 ABs, which pushed Rooker up draft rankings and ultimately led the Twins to select him 35th overall in the 2017 MLB draft. He’s coming off a 2018 season at AA Chattanooga in the Southern League where he hit .254/.333/.465 with 22 HRs and 6 SBs while posting a 9.9% walk rate and a 26.4% strikeout rate over 568 PAs. All told, it was worth a 124 wRC+. The 26.4% strikeout rate was supported by a below-average 13.6% swinging-strike rate, which does give me some concerns about his ability to make contact at the major league level going forward. When he does make contact though, it’s very often high-quality airborne contact. In fact, his 34.3% ground-ball rate was the 6th lowest mark in the Southern League. The result is a lot of line-drive and fly-ball contact, which helps him get to his 65-grade raw power in games while also helping him to support a reasonable BABIP. For dynasty league owners, Rooker’s value will come down to how much contact he can make going forward, as he’s got the 30 HR potential along with a quality BABIP to profile well at 1st base.
ETA: Late 2019. Prime Projection: .243/.322, 26 HRs, 3 SBs
No. 20: Chad Spanberger (Toronto Blue Jays), Age 23, A+
Chad Spanberger has been a consistent performer since he was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 MLB draft. He was hitting .315/.363/.579 with 22 HRs and 16 SBs over 380 PAs at Single-A Asheville in the South-Atlantic League for the Colorado Rockies organization before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays as part of the Seunghwan Oh deal. Post-trade, he spent most of his time at A+ Dunedin in the Florida State League, where he posted a .231/.348/.372 with 3 HRs while managing a 15.2% walk rate along with an 18.5% strikeout rate. Similar to others in this list, Spanberger has big raw power, often receiving 70 grades from scouts, and he gets to plenty of it in games with a launch angle that resulted in a 44% fly-ball rate over the entire 2018 season. Like most big power sluggers, Spanberger has some swing-and-miss to his game, as he managed a below-average 12% swinging-strike rate. If he can maintain reasonable contact rates going forward, he could become a valuable dynasty asset, as he has the type of power that profiles well in all dynasty leagues.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .247/.309, 26 HRs, 4 SBs
No. 21: Gavin Sheets (Chicago White Sox), Age 22, A+
The son of former big league outfielder Larry Sheets, Gavin Sheets was a 2nd round draft pick out of Wake Forest University in 2017. After hitting 21 HRs in his final season of college baseball, he’s managed to hit just 10 HRs over 732 PAs as a professional. He’s a big and strong player, listed at 6 foot 4, 230 lbs, and that contributes to big 70-grade raw power. His ground-ball rates are slightly high, but not terrible by any means, as he posted a 45.5% mark in 2018 at A+, so it is slightly curious why he isn’t hitting for much power at all as a professional. Still, Sheets makes plenty of contact highlighted by a 16.3% strikeout rate and supported by a slightly above-average 9.8% swinging-strike rate. He also has a quality approach with a 10.5% walk rate and a 3.80 pitches-per-plate-appearance mark. The end result in 2018 was a .293/.368/.407 batting line with 6 HRs and 1 SBs over 497 PAs at A+ Winston-Salem, which was worth a 123 wRC+. Overall, there are some valuable skills here that could make Sheets a solid fantasy contributor, but his current lack of power limits his ceiling at the moment.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .270/.336, 17 HRs, 1 SB
No. 22: Lewin Diaz (Minnesota Twins), Age 22, A+
Lewin Diaz had some sleeper buzz during the 2017 off-season after he managed a .293/.329/.444 batting line over 508 PAs in the single-A Midwest League in 2017 that was worth a 114 wRC+. Supporting that batting line, Diaz combined a quality launch angle (34.9% ground-ball rate) with above-average contact metrics, including a 15.7% strikeout rate and 9.7% swinging-strike rate, which some projected a breakout upon. 2018 did not go nearly as well as anticipated for Diaz, as he competed in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League and struggled to a .224/.255/.344 batting line with just 6 HRs and 1 SBs over 310 PAs for an ugly 68 wRC+. He continued to elevate the baseball well, posting a 33.9% ground-ball rate, and also maintained a solid 18.1% strikeout rate supported by an average 10.5% swinging-strike rate. So what was the issue? Well, his lack of plate discipline highlighted by a 3.2% walk rate and 3.37 pitches per plate appearance mark allowed opposing pitchers to let Diaz get himself out by chasing pitches off the plate. If he can improve his plate discipline and force pitchers to throw him strikes, his profile could take off, as he has above-average contact skills and plus raw power. Those in deep dynasty leagues should consider him a potential buy-low candidate if you believe he can make strides plate discipline-wise.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .268/.301, 21 HRs, 1 SB
No. 23: Chris Shaw (San Francisco Giants), Age 25, AAA
Chris Shaw was the 31st overall selection in the 2015 MLB draft, and he has moved steadily through the San Francisco Giants system since. His 2018 season was largely spent at AAA Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League, where he posted a .259/.308/.505 batting line with 24 HRs, which was worth a 107 wRC+. A 5% walk rate supported by a 3.71 pitches per plate appearance mark shows a fairly aggressive approach at the plate, and yet the aggressiveness hasn’t helped him limit strikeouts, as he posted a rough 34.1% strikeout rate last year. That 34.1% strikeout rate ranked 2nd worst in the Pacific Coast League, and his 19.3% swinging-strike rate ranked last. When you consider that Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers and Chris Davis of the Orioles were the only MLB hitters to produce a strikeout rate worse than 34.1% in the majors last year and that no MLBer posted a swinging-strike rate worse than 18.5%, you can really see how rough Shaw’s contact skills are and how risky of a profile he has. He has 70-grade raw power though, and could provide some power upside for those in deeper dynasty leagues.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .225/.277, 25 HRs, 0 SB
No. 24: Roberto Ramos (Colorado Rockies), Age 24, AA
Roberto Ramos was drafted in the 16th round of the 2014 MLB draft, and after some early-career injuries that limited him to just 42 games played per season in his first 3 years in the minors, he finally broke out in 2018. Over 483 PAs in 2018 across both A+ and AA, he hit a combined .269/.368/.574 with 32 HRs and 5 SBs, highlighting a patient approach along with a big power upside. Now it should be noted that a lot of that success came at High-A Lancaster which is incredibly hitter-friendly. In fact, he hit .304/.411/.640 at the level with 17 HRs over 255 PAs for a 175 wRC+ compared to .231/.320/.503 with 15 HRs at AA New Hampshire for a 125 wRC+. The good news is that his power continued to show itself after the promotion to AA, and the power upside is very real. He’s a big and strong individual listed at 6 foot 5, 220 lbs, and he gets to most of that power in games due to a 44.4% fly-ball rate along with a 44.6% pulled contact rate. With that power comes some swing and miss, and Ramos has a lot in his game at the moment. He posted a 15.2% swinging-strike rate at High-A and then an 18% swinging-strike rate at AA in 2018, both of which are well below average. The ability to make contact will likely dictate Ramos’ ultimate upside. As it stands now, he’s a potential three-true-outcome slugger who could eventually play his home games at Coors Field, and that’s worth the investment in deeper dynasty leagues.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .236/.308, 28 HRs, 2 SBs
No. 25: Ibandel Isabel (Cincinnati Reds), Age 23, A+
When it comes to pure raw power in the minor leagues, Ibandel Isabel beats near everyone. He’s listed at 6 foot 4, 224 lbs and he has true strength driven 80-grade raw power that helped him pop 35 HRs in 2018 at High-A Daytona in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (FSL) in just 104 games. With that power, though, comes some major contact issues, as Isabel posted a 36.2% strikeout rate and supported it with a very rough 20.2% swinging-strike rate. These contact issues are extreme, especially when you consider that Isabel was actually 0.6 years older than league average playing in the FSL. Still, the power is special, and if he can make enough contact at all as he progresses forward, he could be fantasy relevant. He ended up posting a .258/.333/.566 batting line with those 35 HRs over 420 PAs which was worth a 153 wRC+. He’s about as extreme of a high-risk/high-upside asset as you’ll find in dynasty leagues.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .204/.266, 33 HRs, 1 SB
No. 26: Christian Walker (Arizona Diamondbacks), Age 27, AAA
Christian Walker has spent the last two years dominating the AAA Pacific Coast League while being blocked at the major league level by Paul Goldschmidt. In 2017, he posted a .309/.382/.597 batting line with 32 HRs and 5 SBs over 592 PAs for a 147 wRC+. He returned to the level again in 2018 and posted a .299/.354./568 with 18 HRs and 1 SB over 359 PAs for a 135 wRC+. He is clearly ready for a new challenge and deserves a chance to prove himself at the major league level, and with Goldschmidt now out of the picture in Arizona, access to playing time is more available. In fact, Roster Resource lists Walker as the small side of the 1st base platoon for the Diamondbacks with Jake Lamb. Walker also has some recent LF experience and could fill in there on off days for David Peralta, who himself has some slight issues against lefties.
The opportunity for playing time is there short-term, and Walker has a track record to suggest that he could work himself into a meaningful role that’s worth a pickup in deeper leagues, especially those with daily roster settings. With plus raw power and a launch angle that allowed him to produce a crazy 26.6% ground-ball rate in 2018 at AAA, he has 30 HR type of upside. When you consider that he has limited his strikeout rate to just 20% at AAA over 950 PAs the last two years, you can see that he’s a pretty well-rounded hitter that has the ability to make an impact for fantasy teams.
ETA: Opening Day 2019. Prime Projection: .259/.318, 25 HRs, 1 SB
No. 27: Will Craig (Pittsburgh Pirates), Age 24, AA
Considered to be among the top college hitters in the 2016 MLB draft class, Will Craig was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates 22nd overall and has moved steadily up the minor league ladder since. Craig has long been known for his ability to make contact and get on base, but he made a launch angle change in 2018 that allowed him to tap into more of his 55-grade raw power and the result was a career-best 20 HRs this past season. Craig hit .248/.321/.448 at AA Altoona in the Eastern League while posting a 7.7% walk rate along with a 23.3% strike rate. I mentioned his launch angle change, well in 2017 Craig posted a 45.8% groundball rate, and in 2018 it fell to 29.7%. The result was an extreme flyball approach, and when coupled with a heavy pulled contact rate of 47.3%, you can see why Craig’s BABIP fell to a career low .288 mark. Not only that, but his contact rates fell due to the launch angle change. After posting above-average swinging-strike rates of 6.5% and 8.8% in 2016 and 2017 respectively, he posted a below-average 12.8% mark in 2018. He perhaps went too far in his goal of raising his launch angle, and some of his previous strengths like his hit tool suffered. There likely is a happy medium for Craig to find, one in which he makes contact at an average or better rate while being a consistent 20 HR threat. Until he shows it though, it’s best to consider him as more of a deep dynasty league option.
ETA: Late 2019. Prime Projection: .252/.324, 21 HRs, 1 SB
No. 28: Frank Schwindel (Kansas City Royals), Age 26, AAA
Frank Schwindel has moved slowly though the Royals system since being drafted in the 18th round of the 2013 MLB draft. He popped into a lot of radars in 2017 when he hit .329/.349/.541 with 23 HRs while posting just a 15.4% strikeout rate over 553 PAs split between AA and AAA. His 2.9% walk rate along with a 3.58 pitches-per-plate-appearance mark led to some to wonder if his lack of patience was going to allow for major league pitchers to take advantage of him.
A return to AAA in 2018 resulted in a .286/.336/.506 batting line with 24 HRs, which was worth a 111 wRC+. While his walk rate rose to 6.1%, he actually saw less pitches per plate appearance in 2018 than in 2017, which suggests that he hasn’t made big strides with his patience. He’s a free swinger with plus raw power and contact skills including a 12.8% strikeout rate in 2018. The issue is that the lack of plate discipline likely means both skills play down somewhat, and he’s also going to be playing his home games at Kauffman Stadium, which is pitcher-friendly, therefore limiting his power upside. Add in the fact that he’s blocked in Kansas City with Ryan O’Hearn as the likely Opening Day 1st baseman and Schwindel seems like a long shot to make an impact, despite possessing some intriguing skills for fantasy.
ETA: Mid-2019. Prime Projection: .273/.315, 23 HRs, 1 SB
No. 29: Reynaldo Rivera (Detroit Tigers), Age 21, A
Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 MLB draft, Reynaldo Rivera is a large human listed at 6 foot 6, 250 lbs and with that comes big power potential. Scouts often give his raw power 70 grades, and yet he hasn’t put up the numbers to support it as a professional as of yet. His 2018 season was spent at single-A West Michigan in the Midwest League, where he hit .237/.295/.390 with 9 HRs and 3 SBs over 454 PAs for a 93 wRC+. In support of that batting line, he posted a 7.9% walk rate along with a 26.2% strikeout rate, which aren’t terrible by any means. A 36.6% ground-ball rate indicates he makes plenty of airborne contact (24.7% line-drive rate and 38.6% fly-ball rate in 2018), and he notably uses an all-fields approach, highlighted by a 39.5% pulled contact rate and 34.8% opposite-field contact rate. Those peripherals are strong and usually contribute to HR power while maintaining a quality BABIP. This is what makes his lack of success so far somewhat puzzling. There may be a breakout coming, and given his raw power, the potential is high.
ETA: 2022. Prime Projection: .239/.294, 27 HRs, 2 SB
No. 30: Tyreque Reed (Texas Rangers), Age 21, A
An 8th round selection in the 2017 MLB draft out of Itawamba Community College, Tyreque Reed entered professional baseball as a raw bat-only prospect with big power potential. He immediately put his name on the prospect map by putting up a .350/.455/.617 slash line with 5 HRs and 3 SBs over 145 plate appearances in the Arizona Rookie League. That batting line came with a 15.2% walk rate along with a 17.9% strikeout rate and all told, his professional debut in 2017 was worth 183 wRC+.
Moving up to single-A Hickory in the South Atlantic League in 2018, Reed struggled initially with an OPS hovering around 700 at the end of June. He found his game though from then on, slashing a cool .302/.389/.582 while posting a 10.2% walk rate and a 22.2% strikeout rate over 216 PAs which all contributed to a 174 wRC+.
He’s listed at 6 foot 2, 260 lbs, and has big raw power that scouts generally put 65 or 70 grades on. He’s got a quality approach that included a 3.84 pitches per plate appearance mark in 2018. His ultimate value in dynasty leagues will be tied to his ability to make contact going forward. He’s worthy of a pickup in deep dynasty leagues as a speculative upside player.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .243/.322, 25 HRs, 1 SB