Today marks the first of an 11 article special that is designed to help get you all caught up and informed on MLB prospects for your fantasy baseball leagues. My colleague Brennen Gorman and I are going to be releasing mid-season top prospect lists for every position and we will release our lists on the following schedule:
Top 30 Catchers
Top 30 1st Baseman
Top 30 2nd Baseman
Top 30 Shortstops
Top 30 3rd Baseman
Top 25 Outfielders
Top 50 Outfielders
Top 150 Overall Hitters
Top 150 Overall Pitchers
Adam’s Disagreements – July 23th
Brennen’s Disagreements – July 24th
We have included a rough prime projection for each player as well as an estimated ETA. We tried not to include players that have cemented roles in the majors at the time of this writing, so guys like Juan Soto and Mike Soroka will not be included. 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.||Francisco Mejia||San Diego Padres||AAA||22||.287/.339, 18 HRs, 2 SBs||Late 2018|
|2.||Danny Jansen||Toronto Blue Jays||AAA||23||.282/.368, 15 HRs, 2 SBs||Late 2018|
|3.||Keibert Ruiz||Los Angeles Dodgers||AA||19||.283/.322, 16 HRs, 2 SBs||2020|
|4.||Zack Collins||Chicago White Sox||AA||23||.246/.377, 24 HRs, 1 SB||Late 2019|
|5.||Daulton Varsho||Arizona Diamondbacks||A+||21||.271/.333, 16 HRs, 11 SBs||2021|
|6.||Joey Bart||San Francisco Giants||ROK||21||.251/.337, 21 HRs, 2 SBs||2021|
|7.||Sean Murphy||Oakland Athletics||AA||23||.255/.309, 14 HRs, 2 SBs||Late 2019|
|8.||Tyler Stephenson||Cincinnati Reds||A+||21||.248/.328, 18 HRs, 2 SBs||2021|
|9.||Austin Allen||San Diego Padres||AA||24||.267/.328, 20 HRs, 0 SBs||Late 2019|
|10.||Andrew Knizer||St. Louis Cardinals||AAA||23||.277/.330, 11 HRs, 0 SBs||Mid 2019|
|11.||Will Smith||Los Angeles Dodgers||AA||23||.242/.332, 18 HRs, 3 SBs||Late 2019|
|12.||Ronaldo Hernandez||Tampa Bay Rays||A||20||.264/.311, 17 HRs, 3 SBs||2021|
|13.||Connor Wong||Los Angeles Dodgers||A+||22||.255/.313, 16 HRs, 4 SBs||2020|
|14.||MJ Melendez||Kansas City Royals||A||19||.239/.290, 22 HRs, 3 SBs||2022|
|15.||William Contreras||Atlanta Braves||A||20||.257/.312, 16 HRs, 1 SB||2021|
|16.||Miguel Amaya||Chicago Cubs||A||19||.261/.319, 14 HRs, 1 SB||2021|
|17.||Seby Zavala||Chicago White Sox||AAA||24||.240/.317, 18 HRs, 1 SB||Mid-2019|
|18.||Garrett Stubbs||Houston Astros||AAA||25||.266/.334, 8 HRs, 5 SBs||Late 2018|
|19.||Brett Cumberland||Atlanta Braves||A+||23||.244/.327, 15 HRs, 0 SBs||2020|
|20.||Luis Campusano||San Diego Padres||A||19||.256/.325, 16 HRs, 1 SB||2021|
|21.||Ryan Jeffers||Minnesota Twins||ROK||21||.254/.333, 16 HRs, 2 SBs||2021|
|22.||Anthony Seigler||New York Yankees||ROK||19||.266/.338, 13 HRs, 3 SBs||2022|
|23.||Eric Haase||Cleveland Indians||AAA||25||.226/.283, 21 HRs, 2 SBs||Late 2019|
|24.||Reese McGuire||Toronto Blue Jays||AAA||23||.263/.336, 7 HRs, 3 SBs||Late 2019|
|25.||Alex Jackson||Atlanta Braves||AA||22||.227/.279, 20 HRs, 1 SB||Late 2019|
|26.||Jake Rogers||Detroit Tigers||AA||23||.235/.322, 15 HRs, 4 SBs||Late 2019|
|27.||Thomas Nido||New York Mets||AA||24||.242/.285, 13 HRs, 0 SBs||Late 2018|
|28.||Hendrik Clementina||Cincinnati Reds||A||21||.241/.320, 17 HRs, 1 SB||2021|
|29.||Blake Hunt||San Diego Padres||A-||19||.251/.330, 14 HRs, 1 SB||2022|
|30.||Andy Yerzy||Arizona Diamondbacks||A-||19||.249/.312, 14 HRs, 0 SBs||2022|
– Francisco Mejia over Danny Jansen for #1 was fairly tough to commit to as Jansen has actually out-hit Mejia both in 2017 and 2018 in numerous important metrics including wOBA and wRC+ of which Jansen ranks in a tie for first in the entire International League this year. I recently wrote an article on Danny Jansen here that explains why he should be on your radar. Mejia’s recent hot streak and better scouting grades including more game power help him retain his top catching prospect throne over Jansen for now, but it’s close. Both players should see time in the majors this year at some point.
– Zack Collins and Austin Allen both are catchers that aren’t well regarded for their defensive abilities and may be ticketed for 1st base long-term and that knocks them both down in these rankings. Overall defense shouldn’t be taken into account much in fantasy baseball rankings like these, but both players may not be able to return value at the catcher position without eligibility to play there in the future and so you have to account for that in positional rankings.
– 3 recent draftees make the top 30 list, including Joey Bart who was taken 2nd overall by the San Francisco Giants, Anthony Seigler who was taken 23rd overall by the New York Yankees, and Ryan Jeffers who was taken 59th overall by the Minnesota Twins after a standout career and UNC Wilmington in which he hit .323/.445/.620 for his NCAA career (3 seasons).
– There is a very interesting mix of younger catchers at the A-ball level that are all young and full of promise. Ronaldo Hernandez is perhaps the most interesting as he’s consistently shown a quality bat (current 149 wRC+ in 2018) and has the defensive skills to catch long-term. MJ Melendez is known as a quality defender and has plus raw power but may be limited by contact concerns. William Contreras is the younger brother of Willson Contreras who plays for the Chicago Cubs and he has consistently been above-average in his minor league career at the plate (current 123 wRC+ in 2018). Lastly, Miguel Amaya who has been one of the bigger breakout stories of the Chicago Cubs system with Amaya getting to his power more frequently while maintaining quality contact skills. It will be interesting to see how they all develop going forward!
– Garrett Stubbs has had a very nice bounce-back year at AAA as he’s currently slashing .339/.400/.474 that has been worth a 130 wRC+. The power isn’t there still, and that may always limit him but his contact skills are strong with an above-average 14.6% strikeout rate and 8.5% swinging-strike rate. He also notably has cut into his groundball rate as he’s managing a career-low 25.4% which may suggest that more power is coming.
– Alex Jackson is another notable name after being a top pick (6th overall) of the Seattle Mariners back in 2014. His 2018 season has seen him really struggle to make contact with a 30.5% strikeout rate that is supported by a very much below-average 17.6% swinging-strike rate at the AA level. He does possess impressive power upside, but contact concerns are beginning to really limit his ability to be a valuable offensive catcher.
When do we see Danny Jansen in the majors?
I think he’s ready for a role in the majors now, but the Jays don’t have an available spot for him at the moment with Russell Martin and Luke Maile still on the Jays roster. I think Jansen receives a call-up in the event of an injury to one of Martin or Maile, or one of those players could be traded at the deadline as well. At worst, I think the Jays will call up Jansen in September to get him some MLB experience to better prepare him for next year.
Thanks for this! It is extremely valuable for us fantasy grinders. Although Allen has played first base this year, his defense has seemed to have improved significantly, no? He has allowed 46 SB but has thrown out 28. He also has 1 error in 52 games. If his defense really is improving and he continues to show this progression, and his hitting stays consistently above average, doesn’t he move up significantly. He really has no one blocking his progression in the Padres organization.
Glad to hear you find it valuable! Great question! I agree that if Austin Allen is capable of playing catcher, his overall value and ranking on lists like this will rise quickly as he’s already showing a strong bat with a current .307/.367/.554 at AA with 15 HRs and reasonable walk and strikeout rates. His swinging-strike rate is also pretty solid at 11.2% and overall he’s been worth a 142 wRC+ this year. His bat has easy top 5 upside at the catcher position for fantasy baseball, the question is will he be able to stick behind the plate. Scouting reports suggest that despite his improvement in CS% (up to 38% this year) and his Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) grade being a positive grade for the first time in his career, that he’s still not a good receiver of the baseball and that he’s likely not good enough to catch every day. I did have one scout tell me that he thinks that Allen could have an Evan Gattis type career where he catches a couple times a week and also gets some time at 1B (DH too in the event of a trade to the AL). The Padres value defense at the catcher position though so it likely requires a trade for Allen to reach his potential.
I considered him, but ultimately he didn’t make the cut for me due to both his contact issues and just okay defensive value behind the plate. He’s currently hitting .306/.366/.563 with 9 HRs at AAA Colorado Springs which is one of the most hitter-friendly hitting environments in all of North American professional baseball. His OPS drops about 200 points on the road this year at AAA. His 30.3% K rate and well below-average 13.8% swinging-strike rate (for reference MLB average this year is currently 10.7%) at AAA highlight the contact concerns and give him a low floor that his plus raw power may not be able to overcome to be a valuable offensive player. In addition, he’s never been known as a truly valuable defender, often receiving about average grades (current 0.2 Fielding Runs Above Average at AAA this year) and the combination of that along with contact concerns has me thinking he has an uphill climb to be fantasy relevant in all but the deepest of fantasy baseball leagues.
Royals mj melendez eta 2022….i disagree on that, wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a September call up next season and be the starting catcher in 2020…he will pushed through the minors after this season :)
Interesting perspective! That would be a very very aggressive timeline for a player drafted out of high-school, especially for a catcher as they generally take longer than other positions due to the many defensive responsibilities and demanding workload that the position requires among other things. I realize that he’s likely more advanced than most catchers his age defensively due to being a coaches son, but there’s still lots to learn on that side of the ball. Melendez also hasn’t proven himself ready at the plate yet for aggressive promotions at this point, he looks to have some contact concerns with a current 30% K rate which is supported by a very much below-average 16.9% swinging-strike rate. He’s made the profile work thanks to plus power which is what I have him projected to do above, but there’s clearly work to be done in terms of recognizing breaking balls and shortening the swing to better handle velocity and make more contact. I think rushing him up the ladder against more advanced competition wouldn’t be doing him any favors in closing those gaps. I stand by the 2022 ETA but would be pleased for him and the Royals if he is able to handle more aggressive timeline.
Adam when the Twins took Ryan Jeffers in the second round commentary from the pundits was not kind and your projection doesn’t look very kind either. So far Jeffers has absolutely been destroying minor league pitching. I haven’t got a report about how well he is handling his catching duties so can’t comment on that. If you were to re-rank this list would you move Jeffers up a bit?