Today marks the fourth 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
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. Adam Garland 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 Adam 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!
1. Eloy Jimenez (Chicago White Sox) Age: 22, Level: MLB
In any other year, Jimenez would be the big prospect that we’re all clamoring for in fantasy baseball. Perhaps being overshadowed by Guerrero Jr. some, Jimenez currently has an ADP of 116.8 and he could be a real difference maker at that point in drafts. He’s coming off of a 2018 season in which he slashed a dominant .337/.384/.577 with 22 HRs in just 456 PAs across AA and AAA while walking at a 7% rate and striking out just 15.1% of the time. That was worth a 168 wRC+, which ranked 5th best in the entire minors among those with at least 400+ PAs. That right there highlights an impressive combination of contact and power skills! For a guy who has long been known for legit top-of-the-scale 80-grade raw power and being able to produce elite exit velocities, his ability to make contact is what makes him special as a hitting prospect. While he did produce a slightly below average 12.5% swinging-strike rate last year in the minors, players with that much power generally produce much worse swinging-strike rates, and Jimenez’s plate coverage and aggressiveness allow him to limit strikeouts. He’s a legit middle of the order type of bat with easy .280/.330 with 30+ HRs potential in 2019 with .300+ and 40 HR type of upside going forward. Given that Jimenez just signed a historic six-year contract with the White Sox, ensuring that he will be on the roster with the team to start the 2019 season, he combines the best combination of upside and ETA on this list making him our #1 OF prospect.
ETA: March 2019. Prime Projection: .292 /.343, 36 HRs, 3 SBs
Do you like tools? I’m not talking about miter saws and impact wrenches, but power, bat speed, arm strength, and sprint speed. If you do, look no further than soon-to-be 20-year old Angels’ prospect Jo Adell. The 10th overall pick in 2017, Adell has rocketed through Los Angeles’ minor league system at a ferocious pace, decimating A-ball at the start of 2018 before capping off the season with an above average 71 plate appearances at AA Mobile. Adell, well built at a rangy 6’3″, 208lbs, possesses plus-plus, 70-grade power to all fields and the exit velocity skills needed to maintain a decent batting average. He also packs above-average speed that allowed him to swipe 15 bags in 18 attempts in 2018. However, strikeouts were a bit of an issue for Adell last year, as his long arms and pronounced leg kick were exposed by pitchers to the tune of a 24%+ strikeout rate at every level, including an unsightly 31% mark in AA. Some of these struggles were likely related to age and experience, as Adell was three to four years the junior to most of his opponents last year. Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered through similar strikeout issues upon his various minor league promotions but eventually stabilized at the MLB-level. I picture a similar future for Adell, who will likely start at AA in 2019 and rise to AAA by the start of the summer. His MLB ceiling profiles similarly to fellow-Angel Justin Upton, and if all goes well there’s a chance the two could share an outfield in late 2019, however early 2020 is the most likely ETA for Adell. Unfortunately, Adell injured his ankle and hamstring in a spring training game on March 9th and is out for 10-12 weeks, but this should not affect his value in dynasty leagues.
ETA: Outside shot in late 2019, but more likely 2020. Prime Projection: .276/.334, 32 HRs, 12 SB
The Washington Nationals have taken their time with Victor Robles over the years, slowly moving the speedy outfielder through their minor league system since his debut in rookie ball in 2014. As a result, some might have succumbed to prospect fatigue at this juncture, especially with Nationals teammate Juan Soto grabbing all the headlines with a historic 2019 season. Yet now is the time to have ownership shares in the 21-year old Robles since he’s likely to seize the Nationals starting center fielder role heading into 2019. Robles’ calling cards are a plus hit tool and blazing, 70-grade speed, positioning him for an above average batting average and 30+ steal potential at the MLB level. Fortunately, Robles will play for an organization and manager that is aggressive on the base paths, which will enable him to show off his 95th percentile sprint speed. Robles’ quick hands also point to latent power potential, as the .150-range ISOs he posted across the minor leagues could improve as his frame fills out and he gets a taste of the more offense-friendly MLB baseballs and ballparks. Robles probably has the highest overall upside of any prospect in baseball, with a high-end projection range of 25 HR and 45 SB, but it’s more likely he settles into a Starling Marte-like 20 HR / 30 SB range.
ETA: March 2019. Prime Projection: .284 /.345, 18 HRs, 34 SB
It’s difficult to find a prospect with a more impressive minor league resume than Astros’ corner outfielder Kyle Tucker, who has posted an ISO of at least .247 and a minimum wRC+ of 129 at every stop from high-A to the PCL over the last three years. Tucker is one of the most well-rounded hitting prospects in baseball, possessing a refined lefty stroke that allows him to post outsized power numbers while limiting strikeouts. Kyle absolutely decimated the PCL last season, with a .332 / .400 / .590 triple slash line in 465 plate appearances with 24 HRs and 20 SBs that was worth a 155 wRC+. Hidden in those figures was a poor April showing, as the underaged Tucker had difficulty adjusting to AAA pitching at first. But from June 1st onwards, Tucker posted an absurd .388 / .444 / .718 batting line, indicating an ability to adapt to and then dominate his competition. Tucker swiped 20 bags in back-to-back seasons in 2017 and 2018, however his poor foot speed likely means those steal totals decline at the MLB level. He struggled in an August cup of coffee with Houston but his xStats indicate that he was unlucky. Tucker’s near-term fantasy stock took at a hit when Houston signed left-fielder Michael Brantley to a two-year contract over the offseason, likely relegating the top prospect to AAA to start the 2019 season. However, Tucker would probably present an upgrade over incumbent right-fielder Josh Reddick, who is taking reps at first base in the spring. Don’t be surprised if Tucker seizes full-time at-bats in Houston, a premium offensive lineup laden with run and RBI opportunities, by May or June.
ETA: mid-2019. Prime Projection: .281 /.348, 28 HRs, 9 SB
5. Alex Kiriloff (Minnesota Twins) Age: 21, Level: MLB
Three minor league players in the last five years have posted a season that featured a .200+ ISO, sub-17.5% strikeout rate and 160+ wRC under the age of 22. Their names are Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez, and Alex Kiriloff. First off – what a time to be a baseball fan and prospect watcher. Secondly, that’s pretty good company for Kiriloff, who is the only outfield prospect that Baseball America graced with a 70 hit tool. The 15th overall pick in 2016 had a strong debut in rookie ball that season but missed all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He used the time off to come back sharper and stronger, dominating both A and high-A in 2018 to the tune of a combined .348 / .392 / .578 batting line with 20 HRs and 4 SBs that was worth a 172 wRC+. Kiriloff’s lefty batting stance, outside of a nervous bat waggle, features very little excess movement and he is short to the ball, allowing for a high-contact approach to all fields that could allow him to consistently flirt with a .300-.310 batting average at the MLB level. While Kiriloff showed strong power in 2018 with a .230 ISO, it’s likely that it will take a bit of time for his power potential to truly blossom in the upper minors and the pros, akin to fellow lefty and reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich. His 37.3% flyball rate last year across both levels indicates that he hits enough flyballs already to suggest he can get to his power in games going forward, but further physical maturity will help him turn some of the 44 doubles he hit last year into HRs. Overall, he has one of the highest floors of any prospect and is a near guarantee to be an above-average hitter in the Show. Kiriloff’s lone blemish is poor speed, which will limit his stolen base totals to under five per year. Expect him to start the season at AA in 2019 and to work his way up to AAA by season’s end, with an early 2020 MLB debut likely in the cards.
TA: Early 2020. Prime Projection: .305 /.356, 24 HRs, 4 SB
Like the aforementioned Adell, Taylor Trammell is a prospect that oozes tools. He has good size at 6’2″, 195lbs, he has plus-plus speed and power that could settle at 60 grade when things are all said and done. The Reds have been bringing Trammell along slowly, letting him accrue a full season of plate appearances in A-level Midwest League in 2017 and the high-A Florida State League in 2018. Trammell swiped an impressive 66 bags over the last two seasons while posting walk rates above 12.0% each year. Trammell’s plate discipline is rarely the first thing people talk about, but it’s a skill that gives him a higher MLB floor than many of the other upside speed guys later in this list. Trammel, a lefty, only posted a .128 ISO in 2018, however, the FSL is notorious for suppressing power. I would expect Trammel’s home run and slugging number to increase as he hits in more offense-friendly environments and fills out his frame. He certainly hits enough flyballs with a 38.5% mark in 2018 to suggest that he shouldn’t struggle to hit HRs going forward. He gave us a taste of what to expect at the Futures Game last season, bashing a 438-foot home run to right center in Nationals Park and also tacking on a triple for good measure. With an MLB roster stuffed with outfielders, both young and old, the Reds will not rush Trammell, likely letting him accrue a full season’s worth of plate appearances at AA Pensacola in 2019. He should start in AAA the following season and knock on the MLB door sometime in mid to late 2020.
ETA: late 2020. Prime Projection: .268 /.341, 18 HRs, 27 SB
7. Jesus Sanchez (Tampa Bay Rays) Age: 21, Level: AA
The left-handed hitting Jesus Sanchez ascended the Rays’ minor league system rapidly since his 2014 signing, forcing the hand of an organization that is normally very conservative with prospect promotions. Sanchez decimated rookie ball in 2015 and 2016, hitting for both power and average at a very young age. He made his professional debut and spent the entire 2017 season with the Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods, clubbing 15 homers and hitting an impressive .305. Sanchez followed this up with an equally impressive showing in high-A last season, slashing .301 / .331 / .462 with 10 HRs and 6 SBs over 378 PAs. Sanchez, a lefty with a sweet stroke that sends the ball easily to all fields, owns an advanced hitting profile for his age, striking out at less than 20% at every professional minor league level to date. He also posted BABIPs consistently in the .350-range. And while there is big 65-grade raw power, it plays down in games due to a low-lying launch angle that is highlighted by a 50% GB rate at A+ in 2018. The Rays promoted the Sanchez, who was only 20 at the time, to AA Montgomery to finish the 2018 season. For the first time in his professional career, Sanchez struggled, hitting just .214 in 110 plate appearances. However, Sanchez did manage to continue limiting strikeouts to under 20%. He’ll likely start the season in AA again in 2019, with a decent shot at reaching AAA by season’s end.
ETA: mid-2020. Prime Projection: .279 / .318, 24 HRs, 8 SBs
8. Luis Robert (Chicago White Sox) Age: 21, Level: A+
When the White Sox signed Luis Robert out of Cuba in mid-2017 to an entry-level contract with a $26 million signing bonus, they likely expected that the five-tool prospect would have been further along in his development by March 2019. Unfortunately, a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness restricted Robert’s development in 2018, with a torn thumb ligament costing him the first several months of the season. Even though Robert returned to make his professional debut in A-ball in early June, the lingering effects of the thumb injury remained, sapping his power and resulting in a homerless season. But don’t be deterred by Robert’s slow start, as the physically imposing righty has one of the best skillsets in the minors, with plus-plus speed to go along with plus power and a developing hit tool. Robert has teased this potential in the Cactus League, swatting two home runs, two triples, and one double in 23 at-bats across 2018 and 2019 Spring Training. He also impressed against the game’s best prospects with a .324 / .367 / .432 batting line in the 2018 Arizona Fall League. The White Sox have no incentive to rush Robert given the raw nature of skills and their glut out outfield prospect depth, highlighted by Jimenez and Micker Adolfo. Expect Robert to begin 2019 at High-A Winston Salem with a promotion to AA Birmingham by mid-season if all goes well. Full-time MLB at-bats likely won’t come until late 2020 or early 2021, when Robert is 24, however, potential 25 /25 upside is worth the wait.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .263/.321, 23 HRs, 30 SB
It certainly seems like Verdugo, who has been on top prospect lists for ages, is older than 22. After rocketing up the Dodgers minor league system in 2015 and 2016, Verdugo has hit a bit of wall, accumulating 874 plate appearances in AAA over the last two seasons. Few top prospects spend more than half a season in AAA, yet Verdugo has nearly two full ones under his belt at the level. The Dodgers glut of MLB outfield talent is one contributing factor at play, while alleged attitude issues might be another reason Verdugo has been slow to earn a major league roster spot. Despite the prospect fatigue that has surely set in for some, Verdugo should still be high on the list for dynasty owners. The lefty owns a very advanced hit tool, highlighted by his career .3o9 minor league batting average along with a 12.4% strikeout rate at AAA in 2018. His all-fields, line drive approach has muted his power production a bit, and he notably produced an elevated 51.9% groundball rate in 2018 at AAA. However, the 22-year old has the hitting pedigree to learn to pull a couple more over the fence with age, strength, and maturity. Verdugo will begin the season on the MLB roster for the first time in his career in 2019, but his opportunities will be restricted by an outfield that already includes Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock, Joc Pederson, and Enrique Hernandez vying for at-bats. I hope and suspect that Verdugo is eventually traded to a team that will give him a full-time role, as that will likely be the only way he gets a near-term chance to realize his potential.
ETA: March 2019. Prime Projection: .286 /.347, 18 HRs, 8 SBs
The New York Mets drafted Jarred Kelenic sixth overall in last year’s entry draft prior to shipping him to the Mariners as the key piece in the trade that brought Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano back to the Big Apple. The lefty, a center fielder by trade, was drafted directly out of high school and only participated in 251 relatively average plate appearances in rookie ball last season, so there isn’t much to go off of in terms of statistical performance. Kelenic’s best skill seems to be his bat control and hit tool, which rates as plus, as well as power that projects as above-average to plus once he fills out his frame and figures out his swing. Reports grade his speed as merely average, but Kelenic did steal 15 bases in 16 opportunities during his stretch in rookie ball. The 19-year old has a very high ceiling, capable of progressing into a 25 HR / 10 SB / .290 AVG player in the bigs. We’ll need to wait a while to see it, unfortunately, as mid-to-late 2021 looks like the earliest we can expect to see Kelenic in the majors. Expect him to follow a similar, gradual path as White Sox outfield prospect Blake Rutherford.
ETA: Late 2021. Prime Projection: .283/.344, 22 HRs, 12 SB
Selected as the 20th overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Oregon State, where he posted 19 home runs and gaudy 1.115 OPS in his junior season, Trevor Larnach wasted little time in acquitting himself to the professional circuit. The Twins debuted him in Rookie Ball, where he cruised to a .311 / .413 / .492 batting line in 61 at-bats prior to earning a promotion to low-A Cedar Rapids, which he made look just as easy with a .505 slugging percentage and 149 wRC+. Larnach’s pro debut showcased his well-rounded hitting approach, one that combines a proclivity for pull-side, flyball power with strong plate discipline and batting average. Larnach swings from the left side of the plate and possesses a similar approach to fellow Twins prospect Alex Kiriloff. Larnach will likely begin the season in high-A, but due to his advanced plate discipline and three-years of collegiate experience, don’t be surprised if he rises through the system quickly. Kiriloff will dominate the magazine covers and news headlines, but Larnach, who is seven months Kiriloff’s senior, has a chance to make an impact at the MLB level by sometime in mid to late 2020.
ETA: Late 2020. Prime Projection: .276/.343, 27 HRs, 5 SBs
A player like Christin Stewart is a prime example of why it’s important for fantasy managers to pay attention to lists like these rather than generic prospect rankings. Despite upper echelon minor league numbers, Stewart is absent from MLB.com’s top 100 list and given a lowly 45 overall grade by Baseball America, likely due to his poor defense and arm strength. But fantasy managers don’t really care about that. Stewart is a premium power bat, blasting 20+ home runs in three straight seasons with double-digit walk rates each year for good measure. His career minor league 144 wRC+ is upper echelon, which, combined with a BB/K ratio north of 0.50, indicates that he has a strong offensive floor at the major league level. Stewart is a lefty with a pull-happy, flyball-heavy approach, which will likely lead to suppressed BABIPs and batting averages at the MLB level. However, owners in OBP leagues will be intrigued by the .340 to .360 on-base percentages he is likely to attain, which should also juice his run totals. Encouragingly, Stewart was impressive in his 72 plate appearance debut with Detroit late last season, posting a 13.9% walk rate, 18.1% strikeout rate and a .375 OBP with a couple of homers sprinkled in. Stewart had a strong spring and was able to lock down the starting left field job out of camp making him a guy who can help you now.
ETA: March 2019. Prime Projection: .250/.350, 30 HRs, 2 SB
The Braves selected Drew Waters, a local product hailing from Woodstock, GA, in the second round of the 2017 draft. Waters, 18 at the time, was drafted right out of high school and fast-tracked to a professional debut in 2018. At 19, Waters immediately established himself as a top-flight prospect, displaying an impressive power and speed combination in A-ball with the Rome Braves. Waters slashed .303 / .353 / .513 while collecting nine home runs and 20 steals in 365 plate appearances in the South Atlantic League. His 145 wRC+ was third-best in the league, an impressive feat considering Waters was two to three years the junior of his competition. He did struggle in a brief call-up to high-A in late 2018, however, the season was an overall success considering that in mid-2017 he was facing high-school competition. A switch-hitter with a very natural swing from both sides of the plate, Waters profiles as the rare player that can hit for average and power while also terrorizing the base paths. He’ll likely start 2019 at high-A once again, but should see time in AA before the season’s end. Waters appears very advanced for his age, and the Braves seem content to push him up the ranks if his play justifies it, with an MLB debut by mid-2020 a possibility.
ETA: Mid-2020. Prime Projection: .281/.345, 24 HRs, 18 SB
Baseball fans have short memories. Twelve months ago, Austin Hays was one of the most talked about young hitters in the minors, garnering the 21st spot on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect list. The hype was well deserved, as Hays was coming off one of the best minor league seasons in recent memory for a young hitter. In 2017, at 21-22 years old, Hays smacked 32 home runs and 32 doubles, with a .593 slugging percentage, across 563 high-A and AA plate appearances. Even more impressively, Hays managed to post those gaudy power numbers with a contact-oriented approach, posting above-average strikeout rates in the 15%-range. But for as good as 2017 was for Hays, 2018 was equally as bad, with shoulder and ankle injuries de-railing his season and leading to an ugly .242 / .271 / .432 triple slash at AA. Now Hays is seemingly forgotten about, stricken from most top prospects lists. But reports out of Orioles spring training indicate that Hays, who dropped 15 pounds in the offseason, is looking fresh and rejuvenated. His performance on the field is following suit, with a tasty .750 slugging percentage in 28 spring training at-bats as of March 11th. Hays, who has still never faced AAA pitching, and will start the season in Norfolk to ease him back into the rigors of professional ball after an injury-laden 2018 season. However, don’t be surprised if he forces his way into the majors by May and becomes a darkhorse AL ROY contender.
ETA: May 2019. Prime Projection: .278/.331, 31 HRs, 6 SB
The crown jewel in the return from the Manny Machado trade, Yusniel Diaz is rated by many pundits as the best prospect in Baltimore’s increasingly deep system. The righties’ bat control and eye at the plate are his best traits, evidenced by an impressive 0.88 BB/K ratio in 416 AA plate appearances across multiple organizations in 2018. Diaz’s impressive command of the strike zone, along with an all-fields approach, will provide a solid floor to his batting average at the MLB-level. Like many young players with an advanced hit tool, Diaz is still learning how to engineer more power into his game, with the .150-range ISOs displayed across his minor league stops likely a low watermark for his potential in the more hitter-friendly big league environments. Diaz provided a taste of his latent power potential in the 2018 Futures Game, bashing two home runs, one to left-center and one to right-center. Diaz is not far from the majors, putting in a strong 2019 Spring Training performance before being re-assigned to minor league camp. Diaz will likely start the season in AAA Norfolk and could push the envelope to an MLB promotion by May or June if his performance dictates as such. However, Baltimore does possess significant MLB-quality outfield depth, highlighted by Hays, Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins, and DJ Stewart, so the Orioles might be content to let Diaz marinate in the minors for most of the season.
ETA: Late 2019. Prime Projection: .285/.347, 19 HRs, 6 SBs
The Pirates made Travis Swaggerty the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft based on his well-rounded skill set, highlighted by his plus speed and ability to hit for both power and average through his junior season at South Alabama. A lefty bat with below average size (5’11”, 185lbs), Swaggerty generates strong pull side power through a short, efficient swing, similar to that of Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians. Swaggerty acquitted himself well upon his debut in the New York Penn League, posting a 140 wRC+ in 158 plate appearances, however, he struggled in a brief promotion to single-A. Swaggerty’s strikeout rate topped 25% at both levels, well above the sub-15% levels he was accustomed to in college. Notably, he supported that elevated strikeout rate with below-average 12.5% and 12.6% swinging-strike rates at low-A and single-A respectively. There is a lot of risk to Swaggerty’s fantasy value given how little professional experience he has, so it will be interesting to see how he acquits himself to his first full season of professional ball in 2019. The Pirates typically let their prospects figure things out in the minors for an extended period, so if all goes well, expect Swaggerty to knock on the door in Pittsburgh in late 2021 or early 2022.
ETA: 2022. Prime Projection: .274/.345, 18 HRs, 18 SB
17. Georga Valera (Cleveland Indians) Age: 18, Level: A-
The Indians’ top signing in the 2017 international free agent class, George Valera is a toolsy outfielder that, despite being just 18 years old, is extremely advanced for his age. Originally hailing from New York before moving to the Dominican Republic at 13, Valera possesses a keen eye at the plate to go along with a compact, silky smooth lefty swing. He debuted in rookie ball in 2018 but was only limited to six games before succumbing to a broken hamate bone. But Valera dominated in those games, notching six hits and three walks to go against three strikeouts. He even went deep on one of the most effortless power swings you’ll ever see. Despite a limited professional resume, the hype around Valera is brewing, with Cleveland star Jose Ramirez declaring that Valera is “the next Indians superstar”. While there is risk due to his lack of pro experience, Valera puts off a Juan Soto, Wander Franco-esque vibe in terms of his maturity and upside potential. If he can acquit himself well in the low minors in 2019, a 2021 MLB ETA could be in the cards for Valera.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .284/.357, 27 HRs, 8 SB
While Jo Adell draws all the press coverage, center fielder Brandon Marsh might be the most athletically gifted player in the Angels’ system. At a rangy 6’4″, 210lbs, complete with plus speed, arm, and fielding tools, Marsh looks the part of a big league ballplayer. His inherent athleticism will expedite his ascent to the majors and ensure he stays there, at least as a fielding-first starter or bench option. Marsh’s true hitting capabilities are more in question. While the lefty does possess strong bat control and the ability to dot hits all around the field for a strong BABIP and average, his swing is long and clunky, leading to excess strikeouts. Marsh struck out over 27% of the time between A-ball and high-A last season, a figure that will be challenged even further in AA Mobile this season. The negative effect of the strikeouts was partially muted by Marsh’s advanced eye at the plate, enabling him to draw 12.0%+ walk rates at both stops in 2018 to go along with a season-ending OBP of .359. His power output to date has been decent, and scouts believe he has additional upside in that department given his size and strength along with the possibility of raising his launch angle in the future. Marsh definitely represents a “project”-type player with a high degree of variance in his potential at the plate, however, fantasy owners with deep squads might want to consider rostering him in case he puts it all together.
ETA: Late-2020. Prime Projection: .269/.341, 22 HRs, 12 SB
Macho grade power. That’s what the 6’3″, right-handed hitting Seuly Matias has. After offering brief glimpses in various instructional leagues in 2016 and 2017, the Dominican Republic-native came into his own as the minor league’s best power hitter in 2018, smashing 31 home runs in a mere 338 at-bats for low-A Lexington. If not for a freak mid-August thumb injury that derailed the rest of his season, Matias would have cruised to the minor league home run lead, with his .320 isolated slugging percentage pacing every minor league player outside of 28-year old Jabari Blash, who hit in the homer-friendly PCL. What’s even more impressive is that Matias accomplished these feats at a mere 19 years of age. But his lack of experience likely contributed to a raw overall approach, which led to an unsightly 34.8% strikeout rate supported by a very rough 22.6% swinging-strike rate, both of which were the worst in the South-Atlantic League. Fortunately, Matias made strides as the season progressed, cutting his strikeout rate to 28.9% over his final 20 games. There is a lot of risk to Matias, as strikeouts tend to increase with minor league promotions, not decrease. However, his lack of polish provides hope that he can learn to be more selective with age and experience. He could also stand to use more of the field, with only one of his 31 home runs going to right last year. A less pull-happy approach might allow him to cut down on the strikeouts and come closer to his Khris Davis-like MLB upside. Kansas City should be content to let Matias’ game marinate, with 2019 likely reserved for A and high-A, and 2020 for AA and potentially AAA. If all goes well, he might be knocking on the door to the Royals in spring training 2021.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .241/.313, 38 HRs, 6 SBs
20. Victor Victor Mesa (Miami Marlins) Age: 22, Level: A+
The Marlins scooped up Victor Victor Mesa, the top international free agent, by paying a hefty $5.25 million signing bonus to secure his rights over the 2018-19 offseason. The son of a former Cuban baseball legend and the older brother of another adept baseball player, Mesa clearly comes from strong bloodlines. While his 5’9″, 163lbs frame is undersized for a big league ballplayer, Mesa makes up for his lack of mass with 70-grade speed and arm strength, which will provide a strong MLB floor and low outright bust potential. However, there are questions about Mesa’s hit tool, while his power seems average at best. Mesa originally turned heads by posting a .939 OPS as a 20-year old in the Cuban National Series in 2016-17, however, injuries have kept him out of action for the last year. As a result, it’s difficult to get a read on how Mesa’s approach at the plate will translate to the big leagues. There is a Victor Robles-like outcome on Mesa’s development curve but his potential profiles more as an Ender Inciarte-type player. Mesa will likely start the season in high-A and could be in AA by his 23rd birthday in July. Expect an MLB ETA by mid-2020 if things go well, however, a late-2020 September call-up is more likely.
ETA: Late 2020. Prime Projection: .289/.338, 10 HRs, 29 SB
The Diamondbacks plucked the then 16-year old Kristian Robinson out of the Bahamas as an international free agent in late 2017. Arizona scout Craig Shipley, familiar with the talent pool in the country having signed SS Jazz Chisholm there nearly three years prior, was instrumental in the pursuit of Robinson. Like Chisholm and many of the other prospects originating from the Bahamas, Robinson is a very raw talent. At 6’3″, 190lbs, he has impressive size and strength, with some scouts anticipating Andruw Jones-like power potential. Robinson spent the entirety of 2018 in Arizona Rookie Ball, where he hit well with a .279 batting average and .363 on-base percentage. However, Robinson’s nearly 26% strikeout rate was a sight for sour eyes and an indicator of just how far off from MLB action he is. Robinson will likely end up at low-A at some point in 2019 but don’t expect him to travel far beyond there this year. If all goes well, Robinson will likely make his MLB debut in either late 2021 or early 2022 and has the potential of touching 30 home runs given his plus power from the right side of the plate.
ETA: Early 2022. Prime Projection: .264/.341, 27 HRs, 7 SB
Despite being selected fifth overall by the Brewers in the 2016 entry draft, Corey Ray is a prospect that doesn’t elicit the amount of discussion one would expect given his draft pedigree and extensive toolbox. A poor 2017 season, partially the result of knee surgery that Ray underwent in the prior offseason that messed up his swing mechanics, is largely to blame for subdued perception. But don’t sleep on Ray, who possesses one of the rarest power-speed combinations in the minors. He displayed this in a tantalizing 2018 season, amassing 27 home runs and 37 steals for the Brewers AA team in Biloxi. The left-handed hitting outfielder is small in stature at 5’11”, 185lbs, but is twitchy and well-built, enabling him to generate significant pull-side power. Ray does possess a significant amount of swing and miss, evidenced by a 31% strikeout rate in 2017 and 29% last year, and it’s unlikely that at 24 he will temper that aspect to his game significantly. But fantasy owners will be fine with elevated strikeouts if Ray blossoms into a perennial 25 HR/25 SB, top-of-the-order hitter. Think early-career Curtis Granderson in terms of his eventual upside. Ray will spend most of 2019 in AAA and there is a possibility for a late-season call-up if all goes well, however it’s likely that he doesn’t make a real MLB impact until 2020.
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .244 / .318, 26 HRs, 21 SBs
Estevan Florial is another gem unearthed by the Yankees Carribean scouting department, signing with the team for $300,000 in 2015 at 18 years old. New York brought Florial slowly, allowing him two seasons in rookie ball before starting his professional career in single-A in 2017. Florial displayed his five-tool talent immediately, raking in the pitcher-friendly South Atlantic League to the tune of a 146 wRC+ while swiping 17 bags in 91 games. He then earned a late-season promotion to high-A and continued mashing with a .303 / .368 / .461 triple slash in 76 at-bats. Unfortunately, like Baltimore outfielder Austin Hays, Florial’s 2018 season was marred by injuries and middling performance, dusting the veneer of his prospect pedigree. Things didn’t get much better for Florial in 2019, recently fracturing his right wrist for the second time in the last 12 months, an injury that will sideline him for at least 30 days. When Florial heals up he’ll likely report to AA, where his already elevated 27.2% career minor league strikeout rate will be stressed even further against more advanced pitching. Florial’s ultimate upside will be determined by if he can smooth out his lanky swing and cut down on strikeouts. If he does, a player with 20 / 20 upside a .285 average at the MLB is in the cards. Despite his plus speed, Florial will also need to take better reads on the base paths, as his 64% stolen base success rate in the minors won’t fly in The Show.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .271/.327, 23 HRs, 19 SBs
Few prospects are Monte Harrison’s equal in terms of physical tools. The 6’3″, 220lbs outfielder is built like an NFL strong safety and owns 60-grade talent in power, speed, fielding, and arm strength. These attributes allowed Harrison to accrue a combined 40 home runs and 44 steals over his last two minor league seasons. Unfortunately, Harrison’s bat control and plate discipline significantly lag the rest of his abilities, culminating in an unsightly 36.9% strikeout rate in AA last season. That type of figure is fairly unprecedented in the minors, as Harrisons’ 215 strikeouts actually led all minor league players in 2018. Harrison made strides by altering his exaggerated leg kick into a toe tap, which helped result in a tolerable 23% strikeout rate and .383 OBP in the 2018 Arizona Fall League. Unfortunately, the results haven’t carried over into 2019 Spring Training, with Harrison sent down on strikes 12 times in 26 plate appearances. Harrison is one of the more fascinating prospects in baseball and is a total wild card from a development perspective. He will need to make significant strides regarding his swing and miss deficiencies in AAA this season in order to have a shot at making an MLB impact. The upshot is that if he does, Harrison’s strength and affinity for hard contact will turn a lot of those would-be strikeouts into doubles and home runs.
ETA: Late 2019 or Early 2020. Prime Projection: .242/.314, 25 HRs, 18 SBs
A two-sport athlete in high school, Bubba Thompson spurned Division I scholarship offers at Quarterback to sign with the Texas Rangers after they selected him in the late first round in 2017. Like former Athletics prospect and future NFL star Kyler Murray, Thompson is a pure athlete. Thompson’s speed is 70-grade, which enabled him to swipe 32 bases in a mere 84 games for Class A Hickory in 2018. That speed will also allow him to serve as a plus fielder as he develops more first-step and route polish in center field. Thompson’s approach as the plate is still raw, likely the result of him splitting his focus between two sports in high school. Impressively, he managed a .344 on-base percentage and 125 wRC+ for Hickory last year, but buried within those figures was an elevated 28.7% strikeout rate. Thompson also possesses a quick twitch bat that could allow him to develop into a 20-home run hitter at the MLB level. If Thompson can get a handle on the strikeouts, he has major fantasy upside, with the potential of putting up 50 HR+SB on an annual basis.
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .267/.331, 18 HRs, 31 SB
28. Christian Pache (Atlanta Braves), Age: 20, Level: AA
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .269/.314, 14 HRs, 11 SBs
33. Julio Pablo Martinez (Texas Rangers), Age: 23, Level: A+
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .248/.341, 14 HRs, 18 SBs
36. Akil Badoo (Minnesota Twins), Age: 20, Level: AA
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .263/.352, 16 HRs, 18 SBs
39. Leody Tavares (Texas Rangers), Age: 20, Level: AA
ETA: 2020. Prime Projection: .269/.317, 13 HRs, 14 SBs
43. Austin Beck (Oakland Athletics), Age: 20, Level: A+
ETA: 2021. Prime Projection: .256/.308, 21 HRs, 6 SBs