“So who on your list makes a big jump this year?” This question encapsulates a dynasty owner wanting to find an edge, and a list maker pushed to the edge of ill-advising. It’s tricky to go there, and you might not get a ticket back. Suffragette City (David Bowie, 1972)
As dynasty owners, we have to go there, right? So much of this dynasty/fantasy game is about being first to the punch, and large league owners with deep minor lists have to get the dirtiest. 2020 hid a year of development from players in the sweet spot of the developmental age arch. 2021 may present prospectors with an unprecedented reshuffling of ranks and opinions on young players answering big questions. In large leagues, we don’t have the luxury of rostering players without big questions. Hey Hey What Can I Do (Led Zeppelin, 1970)
My Pitcher List colleagues and I just completed our Top 50 lists for every organization, all of which contain a player who will ascend in 2021. Digging through, trying to identify who those might be, I search for skilled young prospects (the average age of players on this list is 19.8 years old), with some pro experience. The pro production has varied for those on this list, but every player is poised to try his hand at a higher level or capable of making a developmental stride in 2021. Revolution (Beatles, 1968)
The large majority of the names aren’t parts of many prospect conversations. There may be a few mid-grade names, but for the most part, they have not “broken out” or entered the consciousness of the mainstream dynasty owner. No one on this list slotted above 12th on our top 50s, and many aren’t going to be found on top 30s. Digging for these types of players is tedious work, so I tried to help. Aneurysm (Nirvana, 1991)
This is not going to be the most fruitful endeavor for us. A lot of B-side tunes aren’t worth flipping the album over for, but as we know, occasionally they become bigger hits than the A-sides. Here are some of my young exciting prospects at the top of my 2021 watchlist. There is talent here and a B-side or two ascending up the pop charts this year. Let’s try and get an edge on our opponents. We Will Rock You (Queen, 1977)
Israel Pineda C
Pineda is about as big a name we will get here. Currently owned in just one of my 30-team leagues. As Andy pointed out, a potential power-hitting catcher could be had here. Both sides of the ball are raw, he’s struggling with making contact, particularly with breaking balls, and learning behind the dish. Reports from instructs were encouraging he is on the right path defensively. A raw prospect at a position of slow growth, but with a low bar, Pineda may offer dynasty owners a little something to dream on, like home runs from the catcher spot. At just 20 years old, we have time to watch.
Vaughn Grissom IF
A 13th round pick in the 2019 draft out of high school and signed over slot, there are encouraging signs the 20-year-old infielder could have a fine pro career. As Hunter pointed out, Grissom doesn’t have the red flags often present in players his age, and contact skills at this young age are appealing. Grissom at 6’3″ 180 may fit better at second or third base than shortstop. Currently owned in half my 30-teamers, Grissom fits the mold we are after nicely.
Ivan Johnson MIF
The junior college prospect had a great pro debut, albeit a little old for the level. He followed 2019 up with a loud 2020 and the hit tool gained applause, per Baseball America. Defensively, Johnson is probably good enough to stick up the middle, probably second base. Johnson may offer some in way of steals and power as well, so a budding switch-hitting dynasty asset may be had here. At 22 years old, he’s old for our list, but a successful 2021 in AA will catapult his stock. Johnson remains unowned in all my large leagues and is a young switch-hitter worth watching as Vincent said.
Leonardo Jimenez IF
Zach shared with us an exciting all-around prospect in Jimenez. Perhaps over-shadowed in the Blue Jays’ young infield hierarchy, Jimenez is advanced for a 19-year-old. If 2021 brings upper-level success, Jimenez may be another name to add to Toronto’s future infield talent cluster. Instruct reports claim Jimenez has gotten noticeably stronger and there is power blooming (per Baseball America), which had been an absent part of his profile. Another attractive prospect currently unowned in my large leagues.
Tirso Ornelas OF
Ornelas is one of only four players on this list owned in all my large leagues, so he may be more of an idea for a throw-in trade piece. Ornelas is 6’4″ 200 lb, slightly limited athletically but with special raw ability. Pushed quickly by the Padres as a teenager playing up, reports claim a swing change has been in the works since 2019 and results were had this fall in Mexico. If Ornelas can get to the ball quicker and tap into the raw power, like he may be starting to do, a real offensive threat could be had. At only 20 years old and set for some upper-level experience, success will boost his stock significantly.
Ezequiel Tovar SS
As I wrote, I absolutely loved watching this kid play, and reports from instructs were positive, speaking of added strength. More than capable of playing shortstop in the majors, at 19 years old, it’s all about the bat. I will be watching closely in 2021. No one, other than myself, owns him in my leagues. He has hung alright at the plate thus far, but bigger challenges await in 2021. If he continues to hold his own, big time helium is coming, at least from me.
Adinso Reyes SS
Reyes is another player owned in all my 30-teamers. Reyes is a young bat-first shortstop (for now anyway, probably ends up at 3B) who proved the DSL was no match for him at the plate. As Hunter stated, he needs to prove the bat at higher levels but the Tigers seem quite impressed with the hit/power skill set. If Reyes’ bat shines in 2021, regardless of defensive development, he will ascend lists.
Jasiah Dixon OF
Dixon has an electric set of tools geared toward giving him a longer leash to figure things out at the plate where the raw skills aren’t shabby either. He’s a burner with a cannon, a fast bat, and an eye at the plate. Currently owned in half of my 30-teamers, Dixon is a prospect I’m not going to let hang out there for long. At 6′ 180 lbs, there is a frame to add some pop, and a 5-tool player if it comes together. Still raw, with growing pains most likely ahead, this is a hard package of raw skills to find.
Jorge Barrosa OF
Vincent shared an important quality I look for in young prospects like these; age vs. age of competition. Barrosa (20) is one of many on this list having played young compared to their counterparts. Barrosa is listed at 5’9″, but that may be generous. Power will most likely never be a part of his game, but his contact skills are advanced for his age and I expect his .251 AVG to take a jump in 2021 even with a promotion. Barrosa is currently unowned in all my leagues, but that may not last long. He may offer some speed to dynasty owners as well.
Wilmin Candelario SS
At one point writing the Royals’ top 50, Trevor Hooth wondered if I had the young switch-hitter underrated on my list. I don’t recall if I pushed him up or not, but my point is, there’s already a feeling among prospect hounds Candelario could be on the rise in 2021. Candelario is currently unowned in all my leagues, but if you partake in first-year-player drafts including unowned prospects, Candelario is a guy I will be grabbing before some of the highly touted new international signees. Candelario hints at 5-tool upside and I’m anxious to see him stateside.
Jose Bonilla SS
As Jack said, there are the raw makings of a nice hit-tool here. Bonilla may also have budding strength in his swing grooved for hitting home runs. Bonilla didn’t partake in team organized instructs this fall. I don’t know what that says about where he will be in 2021, but I’ll be checking in on this unowned prospect in my leagues.
Elio Prado OF
Prado is a young hitter yet to come stateside, but he has two things going for him I like to pay attention to. He almost walked as much as he struck out as a 17-year-old, and a team traded away an MLB veteran for him. Prado and Noelberth Romero were sent by the Mets for Andrew Cashner. As Hunter pointed out, Prado had a nice DSL pro debut and I wanna see him in 2021.
Johnabiell Laureano OF
As Vincent noted, Laureano really flipped the script his second year of DSL ball. Considering he was a late 2017 signing and, I believe, transitioned from pitching, the 2019 .358 with 6 HR is even more impressive. I’m a White Sox fan who has not heard much on Laureano, nor has my contact in the organization, so this is a mysterious prospect to me, but he is set to make his stateside debut in 2021, and I’m getting my eyes on him first chance I get.
Jhonkensy Noel 1B
Now here’s a prospect some owners are already excited about, but is still B-side caliber. Owned in all my 30-teamers, but primed for a jump in 2021. In addition to what Kyle wrote, what impressed me with Noel is his production increased coming stateside. This is typically a rough transition for a teenager moving to a new country, but it didn’t affect Noel’s production, quite the contrary. Big kid. Lots of pop. Still a ton of questions, but if the answers start coming, look out.
Osleivis Basabe SS
Basabe is already a well-known name for prospectors, but I wanted to sneak him on here for different reasons than others. He has an enticing skill package for dynasty owners, but I feel the trade to the Rays buried him a little deeper whilst transitioning him to a system lauded for development, not knocked for it like the Rangers. Basabe has a more well-rounded skill set with more avenues to the bigs than his trade mate Heriberto Hernandez and an old list mate in Luisangel Acuna. At 20 years old, he is still raw with plenty of questions, just like the two players mentioned. I’m excited to see what the Tampa Bay Basabe looks like in 2021 and if there are improvements made. As Natan said, he feels a jump could come. So do I. Owned in all my big leagues, I may try nabbing a share or two if the opportunity arises, whereas I am cashing in my Hernandez shares feeling his path to an everyday role is much narrower than it already was now with Tampa.
Zion Bannister OF
Bannister stuck out for me when putting together the Rangers. I asked around trying to find out more but came up empty. He did participate in instructs but didn’t hear anything on him. He has only 6 pro games under his belt but I’m excited to see where this potential power/speed project winds up playing in 2021. Albeit not much, the nuggets I’ve gotten from those with the Rangers have been positive. Bannister is currently unowned in my 30-teamers, but I imagine I’ll get a speculative share or two.
Omar Estévez DH/2B
Estévez is one of the oldest B-sides here, he’ll be 23 when the season starts, but he may be a player whose stock gets a bump if the NL DH sticks for good. As Natan stated, he’s an all bat prospect more than capable, and if the need to play the field goes away, there could be a play here for dynasty owners. He’s already experienced upper-level success and has always been younger than his peers. A bat only prospect is tough, but is the only attribute keeping him from A-side calibre. Owned in only one of my 30-team leagues, he feels more desirable than that.
Marcus Lee Sang OF
Sang was a prep prospect who caught my attention when I saw a report claiming 100 mph exit velocity and 93 mph from his arm in center field as a 16 year-old. I’m not going to put too much weight into a northern prep prospect’s lackluster numbers during a pro debut. The Phillies seem set on developing him in the outfield, and I’m anxious to see where the left-hand bat stands in 2021. Sang was part of fall instructs, but I did not hear anything on him. Currently unowned in my 30-teamers.
Yohendrick Pinango OF
The Cubs have a plethora of B-Side caliber prospects, but Joe’s report perked my ears, particularly the more walks than strikeouts part. Not to put too much weight into that, as the pitchers are young and potentially wild, but I want to see more of Pinango. He did participate in fall instructs and is currently unowned in all my 30-teamers, but he may possess some tools hard to find in young prospects.
Ceddanne Rafaela MIF/CF
Like Shelly said, the dream may be capped with Rafaela, but he is an exciting player who has accomplished a lot already. Rafaela makes a lot of contact and may have more pop than his size suggests. Unowned in all my leagues and on all my watchlists as he will be playing stateside in 2021.
Patrick Romeri OF
Romeri may have been overshadowed in high school, and he just feels like a Cardinal to me, in that they turn over a lot of rocks to find talent, and have turned less touted talent into plus MLB assets. The 6 HR as an 18 year old in the GCL stands out to me. I want to see more of this young player with loud tools in 2021. Currently unowned in all my 30-team leagues.
Eduarqui Fernandez OF
Fernandez is the last player on our list owned in any of my leagues. He is owned in one 30-teamer. Fernandez has been on my watchlist since 2018 first-year-player-draft season and I contemplated some bling swings on him as a potential power/speed threat. As Andy pointed out, there are several players with this kind of profile in the Brewers’ system, and Fernandez is far from polished. He will continue to stay on my watchlists, at least until we get a stateside look at him, which should be coming in 2021.
Diowill Burgos OF
Traded by the Cardinals for Austin Dean last winter after, like Zach said, putting up some ridiculous number in the DSL, I’m not putting too much into the poor production during the teenager’s first 20 games in the States. Some more power/speed talent here, with plenty of development to be had. The Marlins coveted him, and I want to see how this plays out.
Lester Madden OF
One of our older B-sides at 22, Madden offers some flashy tools and is physically impressive like Jack said. An older Cuban signee further along the age arc than I’m typically seeking in a B-side, but I want to take a peek in 2021 before writing him off, again not wanting to put too much weight in a Latin player’s first stateside run.
Milkar Perez 3B
Albeit a long shot, Andy did admit there could be an everyday player in Perez. Limited defensively, there is a hit tool to dream on and an arm from the hot corner. Perez’ stateside debut was delayed, but he did attend instructs in the fall, so we will probably get a look at him in the AZL this year.
Yorlis Rodriguez 2B
Adam wouldn’t be shocked to see Rodriguez rise in 2021, so I’m interested. Another old for our list Cuban signee at 21, there should be some full-season ball to be had in 2021. Reports are power and contact skills are there for Rodriguez. I’ll be watching.
Jacob Sanford OF
The Yankees have turned some older prospects into more than viable big league options lately, a la Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, and Luke Voit. Sanford isn’t like them in that he wasn’t plucked from another system, but as Zack stated, he feels a jump could be coming in 2021. The former third-round pick has a quick bat and power potential. The pro debut left much to be desired, especially in the strikeout department, but the Yankees may have done more with less recently and I’ll be watching Sanford in 2021.
Jeferson Morales C
Morales has been on my watchlist for a long time…since 2016 when I read an article on young catchers in Venezuala and their training habits. (I have scoured for this piece and cannot find it, my apologies.) 2021 will offer us our first good stateside look at Morales, who participated in instructs this fall. As Kyle wrote, there could be some exciting skills here for dynasty owners. Twins have had a good run at developing offensive catchers of late; Ryan Jeffers and Mitch Garver come to mind. I don’t want to miss out if Morales starts heading down that path.
Kenedy Corona OF
Corona, along with Blake Taylor, was traded for Jake Marisnick last winter. A 2019 signing of the Mets who played stateside during his pro debut and put up impressive numbers in the GCL; .311/.401/.483 with 5 HR in 151 AB. He also went 7 for 22 including a HR in the Venezuelan winter league while almost 8 years young for the league. Corona was not a highly touted international signing, but it appears maybe he should have been. Corona is the biggest pop-up name for me from the 2019 J2 class. Very under the radar, as some outlets don’t even have his position correct, I want to see more in 2021.
Blaine McIntosh OF
McIntosh interested me as a prep prospect headed to Vanderbilt. I added him to my college watchlist but he surprisingly ended up drafted and signing with the Mets. McIntosh is not owned in my 30-teamers, and justifiably so. McIntosh is a very raw player, as Kyle noted, and there are a lot of questions he needs to answer offensively. But there is athleticism and a true centerfielder here to perhaps pull a project bat along. I will wait until some offense comes around, but I want to know how that progresses before my league mates do.
Photo by Rdikeman/English Wikipedia | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)