(Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire)
Hey! Have you heard? Baseball is back! And with the return of baseball, we can start talking about arguably the most fun aspect of the game: Prospects! This season we have quite a few top prospects who cracked the Opening Day rosters, and there are several more big names just waiting to be called up from the minors. For our first prospect recap of the season, we will focus exclusively on those who are starting out the year in the majors, but going forward you can also expect to hear about the hottest prospects from every level of the minor leagues.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s talk prospects!
RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani—Los Angeles Angels
The two-way star from Japan, Ohtani has shown more success on the mound than at the plate so far in this young season. Ohtani was the designated hitter in the Angels’ Opening Day match-up against the Athletics, and after hitting a single in his first at-bat he went 0-for-4 the rest of the game with a strikeout. So far that has been his only time at the plate, but he should be back in the lineup later this week. Meanwhile, Ohtani made his first start on the mound Sunday against Oakland where he earned his first career win. Over six innings of work, he allowed only three runs on three hits and a walk while striking out six. His six strikeouts are the most on the Angels rotation, and tied for the most on the entire staff through the first four games of the year. Ohtani is currently lined up to face off against the Athletics again in his next start, which will likely be on Saturday.
DH Dan Vogelbach—Seattle Mariners
After tying for the MLB lead with seven Spring Training home runs and a .926 slugging percentage, Vogelbach has not seen his spring numbers translate over into the regular season just yet. The 25-year-old has appeared in two games so far, where he has gone 0-for-5 at the plate with three strikeouts. Vogelbach is now 7-for-45 with one extra-base hit (a double) in 26 career games at the major league level over three years. There is some power and a good average in Vogelbach’s bat — he has averaged 16 home runs and a .282 batting average over the last four years in the minors — and if he can shake off the slow start he could be a decent corner infielder in fantasy this year.
3B Colin Moran—Pittsburgh Pirates
While he only has two hits through three games, Moran has done a good job of displaying his power potential with a double and a grand slam home run — the first grand slam of his career. Acquired in the Gerrit Cole trade, Moran has won the starting third base job in Pittsburgh after hitting .362 with a .832 OPS in Spring Training. Moran is a potential fantasy star in the making at third base, as he has increased his home run totals each year in the minors and was on pace for 26 homers last season at Triple-A. While the average isn’t great to start 2018, Moran has yet to strike out and has a walk over 13 plate appearances. If he can improve his contact and show good plate discipline, he could end up as one of the top rookies of 2018.
LHP Joey Lucchesi—San Diego Padres
After Dinelson Lamet suffered an elbow injury in the Padres’ final Spring Training game, Lucchesi was called on to fill in as San Diego’s No. 2 starter and take the mound against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was a somewhat lackluster Major League debut for Lucchesi, as he allowed three runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings with one strikeout. Lucchesi is one of the top pitching prospects in San Diego’s system, so while the numbers weren’t great there’s no need to panic yet. He put up solid performances over Spring Training, recording a 1.54 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over 11 2/3 innings with a 6.9 K/9 rate. As it stands, Lucchesi is in line to start April 5 against the Colorado Rockies. It’s unclear just how long Lucchesi will remain in San Diego, but for now this is good experience for the 24-year-old as he works towards a long-term spot in the rotation.
2B Scott Kingery—Philadelphia Phillies
Before Opening Day even arrived, the Phillies locked up Kingery with a six-year, $24 million deal to guarantee his spot on the 25-man roster. With that job security locked up, Kingery has gone out and started the season 4-for-9 at the plate with two doubles and one strikeout. Despite not drawing a walk yet Kingery has shown good plate discipline in his first taste of the majors, with his 5.3 swinging strike percentage the lowest among Phillies position players. The future is bright for the 23-year-old, and his potential to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases makes him one of the top prospects in all of baseball right now.
3B Brian Anderson—Miami Marlins
After getting his first taste of the big leagues last season, Anderson has cemented himself as the starting third baseman in Miami for 2018. Through the Marlins first five games of the season, Anderson has gone 7-for-21 at the plate with a home run and a team-best six RBI. Anderson also leads Miami with a .524 slugging percentage and .985 on-base plus slugging percentage. This hot start comes after a solid spring, where he hit .275 and tied for the team-high with four home runs and 11 RBI. Miami is committed to their rebuild this year, so there is no reason why Anderson won’t hold on to his starting job for the entire season. With consistent playing time, Anderson should have no problem showing off his 20 home run potential in 2018.
OF Lewis Brinson—Miami Marlins
The center-piece of the Christian Yelich trade, Brinson is yet another Miami prospect who will benefit from extended playing time during the Marlins’ rebuilding process. After leading the Marlins with 19 hits during Spring Training, Brinson has gone 7-for-25 at the plate with three runs and an RBI over the first five games of the year. His .280 average is currently fourth-best on the team, and he is tied for third with seven total bases. With the starting center field job locked down, Brinson should have little trouble this year displaying his double-digit home run and steal potential he has shown throughout his six-year minor league career.
RHP Jordan Hicks—St. Louis Cardinals
The 21-year-old reliever has gotten off to a great start in his major league career, as he has surrendered only one hit and one walk while striking out three over his first 3 1/3 innings in St. Louis. Hicks has not shown any problem bringing the heat, as his fastball is currently averaging 99 miles per hour so far this year. While he is currently working out of the bullpen, Hicks has spent the past two seasons in the minors as primarily a starter. Over 31 starts in the minors, Hicks has compiled a 14-5 record with a 2.91 ERA and 7.2 K/9. While Cardinals prospects Alex Reyes and Jack Flaherty have gotten more attention for their bodies of work, Hicks is an exciting prospect that should be stashed in dynasty leagues while he can still be acquired for cheap. Whether he ends up as a starter or a closer for St. Louis, Hicks is primed to be one of the best pitchers for the Cardinals for a long time.