2019 MLB Top Prospects: Ranking the rookies, sleepers to know in fantasy baseball leaguesSporting News — (Frank Neville)
Baseball’s youth movement has now been in full swing for a good five years and shows no sign of slowing down in 2019. Aggressively promoting young talent and relying on rookies to help win championships might have seemed like an anomaly or short-term trend a few years ago, but it’s now clearly a new operating model for big league clubs. While the Red Sox used a slightly more experienced roster to win in 2018 than did the Astros in '17 and Cubs in '16, Boston still got most of its league-leading offensive production from players under 25. As such, fantasy baseball owners are also finding refuge on top prospects who years ago would have only been on the radar in keeper or dynasty leagues.
NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. almost notched a 20-20 season (26 HRs, 16 SBs) and propelled Atlanta to a playoff appearance well before anyone expected the rebuilding Braves to be a postseason team. Seven other rookies hit at least 20 home runs, including Nationals 19-year-old outfielder Juan Soto, who was one of baseball’s best hitters, posting a .923 OPS with 22 long balls. Two-way player and AL Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani also hit 22 home runs and notched an equally-impressive .925 OPS while going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts as a pitcher. Dodgers righthander Walker Buehler was a key piece in the Dodgers playoff run as he went 8-5 with a sparkling 2.62 ERA and 151 strikeouts over 137.1 innings. Cardinals righthander Jack Flaherty logged 182 strikeouts and was one of six rookies to pitch at least 100 innings and post a sub-4.00 ERA.
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This year should see another wave of top rookies arrive in the majors, including more than half the players on this list. Some will compete for jobs in spring training while; will start the season in the high minors and wait for the unofficial Super Two deadline to pass in late May or early June before receiving a promotion. Still, others will get late-season auditions in the form of September call-ups as a preview for possible full-time roles in 2020. Regardless of how it plays out, there’s no doubt that prospects will continue to play a large role in the majors during the coming campaign.
2019 MLB Top Prospects
1. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B, Toronto – Vlad Jr. won’t turn 20 until just before the season starts, but he’s already knocking on the door of the majors. Guerrero has elite bat speed and great balance which generates impressive plus raw power. He also has excellent patience and pitch recognition, which has allowed him to log more walks than strikeouts as a pro. Guerrero was slowed by injury in 2018, but when healthy he was unstoppable. He demolished Double-A pitching to the tune of a .402 batting average and 14 home runs in only 61 games, then finished up at Triple-A where he hit .336 with six home runs and 15 walks versus only 10 strikeouts in 30 contests. He will probably begin the season back at Triple-A due to service time concerns, but he should be starting at third for Toronto no later than May. Long-term he’s a guy who could hit .300 and stroke 30-plus home runs a season.
2. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox – Jimenez could make a case for top prospect and has a similar offensive profile to Guerrero. Jimenez has plus bat speed and light-tower power that could be better than Guerrero’s raw pop. He also has good plate discipline and excellent hand-eye coordination, which should allow him to hit for average and draw plenty of walks. Jimenez dominated Triple-A last season to the tune of a .355 batting average with 12 home runs in 55 games. Like Vlad, he’ll probably open the season back in the minors in order to delay the start of his service time clock, but he should be starting in Chicago no later than midseason. Jimenez probably won’t hit .300 as a rookie, but he should be able to hit 20-plus home runs even in a partial season. Long-term he has the tools to hit for average, get on base, and club 30-plus home runs over a full season in the majors.
3. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston – Whitley missed time last season due to injuries and a drug-related suspension, but when he was on the field he dominated. He overpowered hitters in Double-A (34 strikeouts and only 15 hits allowed in 26.1 innings) and then capped off his season with a scintillating showing in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League. This year, he showed up to spring training in great shape and has been impressive in the early going. Whitley will almost certainly open the year in the minors, but if he continues to perform he’ll probably be in line for a call-up as early as midseason. Whitley’s lively mid-90s fastball, plus curve, and solid command profile him as a front-line starter. He’s improved his pitch execution from year to year and shown that he can make adjustments. In other words, he’s the best pitching prospect in baseball and isn’t far off from making his big league debut.
4. Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS, San Diego – Tatis was on his way to an impressive 20-20 campaign at Double-A last year before a fractured thumb ended his season in July. Only 20, he’ll certainly open the year in the minors, but he could be pushing for a big league promotion by midseason. Tatis saw his strikeouts soar in 2018 and he’ll need to tighten his plate discipline to succeed against advanced pitching, but he has the hand-eye coordination to hit for a solid average. At the plate, Tatis has plus bat speed and uses his lower body to generate plus power. In the field, he has the arm, range, and athleticism to be a solid big league shortstop. If he can improve his plate discipline, he could hit for average with 25-30 home runs and 15-20 stolen bases in the majors.
5. Nick Senzel, 3B/2B/OF, Cincinnati -- Senzel appeared to be a lock for the majors in 2018 but a series of injuries derailed his ascent. Now blocked at third by Eugenio Suarez and at second by Scooter Gennett, Senzel may make his big league debut as an outfielder. When I saw him in Phoenix at the beginning of spring training he was patrolling center field where his above-average speed is probably good enough to make him an average defender. Regardless of where he starts in the field, Senzel is a polished offensive player with the bat speed, plate discipline, and hand-eye coordination to hit for average as a rookie. He doesn’t have the swing plane to hit for power right now, but he has the strength to develop more pop as he matures. Long-term he should hit close to .300 and slug 20 home runs in the majors.
6. Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay – Franco turns 18 on March 1 and hasn’t yet played above rookie ball, but he’s such a precocious talent that he could be No. 1 overall on this list next year. Last season in the Appalachian League, Franco posted an eye-popping .351/.418/.587 line with 27 walks to only 19 strikeouts. The combination of power, patience, and contact ability is rare at any level, and when it comes in the package of a switch-hitting teenage shortstop, it’s even more valuable. Franco may outgrow shortstop and he’s a long way from the majors, but his skills and performance make him one of the most impressive prospects in baseball.
7. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Oakland – Luzardo got knocked around in four late-season starts at Triple-A last season, but otherwise he’s been pretty much untouchable (2.53 ERA, 177/35 K/BB with only 124 hits allowed in 152.2 pro innings). Only 21, Luzardo is already a polished hurler with excellent command of three quality pitches -- a plus fastball, plus change, and above-average breaking ball. He’s looked good early in big league camp, but he’ll probably begin the season back in the minors, where a hot start could quickly propel him to the bigs. If he can improve his pitch sequencing and tighten his curve, he’ll soon reach his potential as a front-line starter.
8. Francisco Mejia, C/OF, San Diego – Acquired from the Indians last year in a midseason trade, Mejia struggled in a late-season cameo as big league pitchers enticed him to chase pitches out of the strike zone. While Mejia’s bat is big league ready, where he plays in the field is a bit unclear, as he’s at best an average receiver and the Padres have a glut of outfielders. Still, if he performs to his ability this spring, it’ll be hard to keep him out of the lineup. Mejia seemed locked in from both sides of the plate when I saw him in spring training. His balance looked better and he showed his usual plus bat speed and above-average raw power. If he can just maintain the plate discipline he showed in the minors, he should eventually hit close to .300 with moderate 15-plus home run power in the bigs.
9. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Minnesota – Kirilloff missed all of 2017 due to injury, but he came back with a vengeance last year: .348 average and 20 home runs in a campaign split between Low-A and High-A. Kirilloff is a polished hitter with good pitch recognition and an ability to square up premium velocity. His excellent bat speed and smooth swing path generate plus power, and his great balance allows him to drive the ball to all fields. He’ll probably start the year back in High-A ,but he could be pushing for a big league promotion by the end of this season. Long-term, he’s a guy who should hit for both average and power while playing a solid corner outfield in the bigs.
10. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego – Gore battled blister issues in 2018 and never really showed his best stuff. When he’s healthy, he can be dominant. Despite his youth and size, Gore has a smooth, repeatable delivery that allows him to locate his pitches well. At his best, his fastball is a lively low- to mid-90s offering which he complements with a plus curve, above-average slider, and solid changeup. He’ll need to stay healthy in order to reach his potential, but he’s barely 20 and he’s already a polished hurler with a deep arsenal and good command. Long-term he profiles as a guy who can pitch at the front of a big league rotation.
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11. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Miami – Sanchez was dealt to the Marlins during the offseason in the J.T. Realmuto deal, and the Fish are counting on the young fireballer to be their future ace. Sanchez’s small stature belies his power stuff. With an electric fastball and plus command, he can overpower hitters. He complements his heater with an above-average curveball and a solid changeup. Elbow inflammation shortened his 2018 campaign, but he’s been pretty durable as a pro. He’ll need to stay healthy and continue to improve his secondary stuff to reach his full potential as a front-line starter, but he’s only 20 and is already a polished hurler with big upside.
12. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota – Only 19, Lewis is already a polished player on both sides of the ball. At the plate, his plus bat speed, advanced approach, and good contact skills have allowed him to hit for average as a pro. An above-average runner, he has shown the ability to steal 20-plus bags in a season. He struggled a bit in High-A last season, but he was the league’s youngest player and should adjust when he returns there to open 2019. Most impressively, he’s improved both his defense and power over the past year. A marginal defender when he was drafted, he now looks like he could be an average or better big league shortstop. On offense, he went from being a purely line-drive hitter to a guy who can hit the ball out of the park.Given his development trajectory and progress to date, Lewis could be a 20-20 power-speed threat in the bigs.
13. Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox – Kopech will miss the 2019 campaign while he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but he’s still one of the game’s top prospects. The flamethrower was overpowering in his first three big league appearances before tearing his elbow in his fourth start. When healthy, Kopech dominated hitters with an upper-90s fastball and plus slider. Once he returns to action in 2020, he’ll need to show that he can maintain the improved command that propelled his success last season. If he can pick up where he left off when he got injured, he’ll quickly assume his place as a frontline starter.
14. Victor Robles, OF, Washington – Robles has played well in two late-season cameos and should open the year as Washington’s starting center fielder. The athletic Robles is a plus defender with the speed to steal 20-plus bags. At the plate, he shows good strike zone discipline, plus bat speed and the hand-eye coordination to hit around .270. Right now, he doesn’t have the lower body balance or bat path to hit for power, but he’s strong and athletic enough to eventually develop 20-homer pop if he can adjust his swing mechanics.
15. Bo Bichette, SS/2B, Toronto Bichette draws mixed reports due to his aggressive swing mechanics and emotional demeanor. While he can be inconsistent and occasionally his swing will get out of control, Bichette is a skilled hitter who should be an above-average big-leaguer even if he has to shift from shortstop to second base. Bichette’s intensity masks a highly analytical approach to hitting, a strong work ethic, and an ability to make in-game adjustments. Despite his small stature, Bichette can drive the ball to all parts of the park with his explosive bat speed and good hand-eye coordination He may or may not get a big league look this year, but long-term he has the skills to hit for average, stroke 20-plus home runs, and steal 15-20 bags.
16, Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis – Reyes made his big league debut in 2016 and then missed most of the last two seasons due to elbow and lat injuries. Reyes has the stuff of a front-line starter, but his injury history makes him one of the riskiest guys on this list. When healthy, Reyes has electric stuff, including a high-90s fastball, sharp curve, and effective changeup. He may begin the season in a bullpen role in order to limit his workload or he could even open the year in Triple-A. If he can avoid injury, he’s almost certain to get a shot at the rotation sometime in '19.
17. Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay – The rebuilding Rays have no incentive to rush Honeywell’s return from Tommy John surgery, which means that the talented righthander is unlikely to spend significant time in the majors this year. Last spring, Honeywell was on the cusp of the big leagues before being felled by injury and missing the entire 2018 season. Prior to his injury, Honeywell had good command of five quality pitches, including a fastball that reaches the mid-90s, a plus change, and a nasty screwball that he used to keep hitters off balance. A poised, confident hurler who attacks hitters and shows good command, Honeywell has the stuff to be a No. 2 starter. If he can return to full health and regain his command, he could see a second-half call-up.
18. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston – The Astros’ signing of Michael Brantley almost certainly delays the permanent arrival of Tucker, who looked overmatched last year in 64 big league at-bats. Despite his struggles in Houston, Tucker has the tools to be an above-average big league hitter and doesn’t have much left to prove in the minors (.332 average with 24 HRs and 20 SBs in 100 Triple-A games last year). He may or may not get a full-time opportunity with the Astros this year, but he’s only 22 and has plenty of time to develop. At his best, Tucker is a polished hitter with good balance, solid plate discipline, and plus bat speed that generates good raw power. Long-term, he should hit .270 with 25-plus home runs over a full big league season.
19. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh – Keller will almost certainly open the season in Triple-A, but he should finish the year in the majors. Last season, Keller adjusted well to Triple-A after a rough beginning and posted a 2.86 ERA in his final six starts. The Pirates have questions at the back end of their rotation, which means that a hot start by Keller could result in an early promotion. Keller has plus stuff featuring good command of an electric mid-90s fastball, a plus curve, and above-average changeup. He’ll need to be more consistent to fully realize his potential as a No. 2 starter, but his present skills are good enough to ensure solid performance even as a rookie.
20. Jordan Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels – Adell is an impressive athlete who has worked hard to develop baseball skills to go with his raw tools. Adell won’t turn 20 until April, but he’s already poised and mature beyond his years. With plus bat speed and plus raw power, Adell has the ability to hit 30 home runs once he matures. He’s also a plus runner who can steal 20-plus bags and play an above-average center field. Adell is still a bit raw at the plate, but his tools and work ethic mean that he has a good chance of reaching his potential as an All-Star power-speed threat in the majors.
21. Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati – The 19-year-old Greene is an elite talent, but he’s also one of the riskiest guys on this list. A sprained ulnar collateral ligament ended his season last August after a campaign in which he was at times dominant and at times very hittable. His fastball reaches triple digits but it doesn’t have much life and doesn’t miss as many bats as the velocity would suggest. Most important, Greene’s slider and change can be inconsistent, turning him into a predictable fastball-dominant pitcher at times. He’ll need to improve his command and off-speed stuff to reach his ceiling as a front-line starter, but his raw stuff and youth mean that he has plenty of time to grow and develop.
22. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado – Rodgers has struggled every time he’s been promoted and last year was no exception (.232 average in 19 Triple-A games). He’s also performed well at every level once he’s settled in (.291 average in 350 pro games). It’s a good bet that he goes back to Triple-A to begin this season, and it’s a good bet that he continues to hit well once he’s there. The Rockies have a number of options at second base, so it might be later in 2019 before Rodgers gets a big-league look. He doesn’t look like the elite offensive player the Rockies envisioned when they drafted him. Nevertheless, he has the defensive tools to be a quality second baseman and the bat speed and raw power to eventually hit at .280 with 20-plus home runs in Colorado over a full season.
23. Taylor Trammell, OF, Cincinnati – For all his tools and prospect pedigree, Trammell is still a work in progress whose best days are still ahead. The athletic Trammell has plus bat speed, good balance and solid plate recognition, which should allow him to hit for average in the majors. His plus raw power should show up more in games as he gains experience. An above-average defender, he should be able to stick in center field. Trammell may take a few more years to fully develop, but if he does he has the potential to be a guy who bats .280 with 20-25 home runs and 20-plus stolen bases in the majors.
24. Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee – Hiura had a solid season last year, finishing at Double-A where he hit a respectable .272 after fading late. He regained his stroke in the Arizona Fall League where he opened eyes with .323 average and a .563 slugging percentage. The Brewers signing of Mike Moustakas probably means that Hiura spends most, if not all, of 2019 in the minors. While Hiura is a plus hitter with excellent bat speed and a compact swing path, he’s still inconsistent with his approach and could benefit from some additional seasoning. Once he gets his chance, expect an average near .300 with moderate power (12-15 home runs) that could increase as he matures.
25. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Tampa Bay – A stellar hitter and pitcher in college at Louisville, McKay is still playing both ways, but he has a career 2.29 ERA and a career .221 batting average. In other words, he’s looking more and more like a pitcher — a really good pitcher. Despite splitting time between pitching and hitting, McKay is very polished with a repeatable delivery and excellent command. His fastball has gotten better as a pro and now sits in the low- to mid-90s. His breaking ball and changeup are solid, but it plays up because he mixes well and locates with pinpoint accuracy. He doesn’t have the upside of some of the other pitchers on this list, but he has a high floor and profiles as a No. 3 starter in the bigs.
26. Luis Urias, 2B, San Diego – Urias struggled in a late-season call-up, but he should open 2019 as San Diego’s starting shortstop. Urias seemed a little anxious in his debut and looked a bit out of sync when I saw him in spring training, but I expect him to eventually settle in and become a quality big leaguer. Urias has great hand-eye coordination and good pitch recognition, which have allowed him to walk almost as much as he’s struck out in his pro career. He doesn’t have much power or speed, but his pure hitting tools and on-base skills mean he should hit for average and score runs while batting near the top of the Padres lineup.
27. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland – Only 21, McKenzie is already on the brink of making his big league debut. After posting a 2.68 ERA with 87 strikeouts and only 63 hits allowed in only 90.2 innings in Double-A, McKenzie will start this season in the minors but should be in line for a call up by midseason. McKenzie is rail-thin and there are concerns about whether he has the durability to remain a starter, but thus far he’s shown all the tools of a No. 2 starter with a plus fastball, plus curve, above-average change and good command.
28. Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers – Verdugo made his big league debut in 2017 and performed adequately in a brief call-up last year, but he faces a depth chart logjam in Los Angeles and may need a trade to get a chance to start. Wherever he goes, he’s a big league-ready hitter who should produce right away. His flat swing path limits his power, but he has the bat speed, plate discipline, and hand-eye coordination to hit close to .300 in the majors.
29. A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland – Puk missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but he’s back on the mound this spring and should see game action later this season. Before getting hurt last year, Puk looked like he was on the fast track to the majors. He had improved his command and sharpened his changeup while maintaining his electric fastball and wipeout slider. If he can throw consistent strikes when he returns, he might just remind you of a young Chris Sale.
30. Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox – Cease has a high-90s fastball and a plus curveball that he used to post eye-popping numbers in a 2018 campaign split between High-A and Double-A (2.40 ERA, 160 K’s, only 82 hits allowed in 124 innings). Cease has improved his command and streamlined his delivery, which bodes well for his continued development. If he can improve his changeup he could be a No. 2. Even with his current repertoire, he’s good enough to be a No. 3.
31. Keibert Ruiz, C, Los Angeles Dodgers – The switch-hitting Ruiz was merely average last year in Double-A, but he’s only 20 and was one of the youngest players in the league. Despite his age, Ruiz has already shown tremendous pitch recognition and great contact ability. He’s a much better hitter from the left side, but he’s serviceable as a righty. With plus bat speed and increasing strength, Ruiz should see his power numbers increase as he matures. Long-term, his patience, hand-eye coordination, and raw power potential should allow him to bat at least .270 and hit 20-plus home runs in the majors.
32. Mike Soroka, RHP, Atlanta – Soroka performed well last year in five big league starts before a shoulder issue derailed his 2018 campaign and then flared up again this spring. The Braves have plenty of rotation depth so they can afford to be cautious with the 21-year-old Soroka and let him recover fully before starting his season in the minors. When healthy, Soroka shows good command of three above-average pitches. He doesn’t have elite stuff, but he locates well, mixes his pitches, and keeps hitters off balance. His consistency and command give him a high floor, but he’ll need to stay healthy to reach his potential as a No. 3 starter in the bigs.
33. Justus Sheffield, LHP, Seattle – Sheffield, acquired from the Yankees in an offseason trade, will probably open the season in Triple-A, but he’s likely to get a shot in Seattle by midseason. Sheffield has a plus fastball/slider combination that can be overpowering when he repeats his delivery. However, his release point can wander, leading his stuff to flatten out. This spring, his changeup seems sharper and his command has been better. If he can maintain his improved command and use his change effectively he has the stuff to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
34. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta – Toussaint gave a solid performance in seven late-season appearances with the Braves (4.03 ERA) and will compete for a rotation spot this spring. On the plus side, Toussaint has a big fastball, plus curve, lots of upside, and showed that he could be successful against big league hitters (32 Ks and only 18 hits allowed in 29 innings). The downside is his command, while improved, is still a work in progress (21 walks allowed in those same 29 innings). With better command, he could be a No. 2. With his present skills he’s probably at least a back-end guy who will occasionally dominate.
35. Joey Bart, C, San Francisco – Bart was the most complete offensive player in the 2018 draft and wasted no time in making an impact as a pro (.294 with 13 home runs in 51 games in short-season ball). Early in spring training he had already impressed the Giants’ leadership with his maturity and defensive skills. Bart will need to sharpen his pitch recognition and gain more experience against advanced pitching, but he profiles as a guy who will hit for average and show plus power in the bigs.
36. Adrian Morejon, LHP, San Diego – Morejon is barely 20, but he’s already an advanced pitcher with a plus fastball, above-average change, quality breaking ball, and very good command. He showed well in the hitter-friendly Cal League last year (3.30 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 62.2 innings) before missing time due to forearm and triceps inflammation. He’ll need to stay healthy and show he can succeed against advanced hitters, but he has the stuff and command to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
37. Kyle Wright, RHP, Atlanta – Wright got a brief look in the Braves bullpen in late 2018 and his future could be that of a late-inning guy. However, for now he’s a starter with No. 2 upside. At his best, Wright has four quality pitches, including a plus fastball. Given Atlanta’s pitching depth, he’ll have the chance to work on his command at Triple-A, but he would be in line for a call-up if injuries were to strike the Braves rotation.
38. Yusniel Diaz, OF, Baltimore – Diaz was acquired from the Dodgers last season in the trade that sent Manny Machado to Los Angeles. After an impressive first half in Double-A — .314 average with 41 walks and only 39 strikeouts — Diaz seemingly let the pressure of a new environment get to him and struggled with his new club. At his best, Diaz has the pitch recognition, bat speed, and hand-eye coordination to hit for average. His bat path is currently too flat to hit for much power, but he has the strength to eventually develop 20-HR pop.
39. Josh James. RHP, Houston – If the Astros don’t re-sign Dallas Keuchel, the hard-throwing James could be the main beneficiary. James showed well last year in a late-season call-up — 2.35 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 23 innings — and has the stuff — mid-90s fastball, above-average change; above-average slider — to profile as a mid-rotation starter. He’ll need to improve his command and consistency to reach his potential, but his stuff is electric enough that he doesn’t have to be perfectly precise to miss bats.
40. Chris Paddack, RHP, San Diego – Paddack used his devastating fastball-change combination to dominate hitters in a 2018 season split between High-A and Double-A (2.10 ERA and 120 strikeouts to only eight walks in 90 innings). His mid-90s heater and sinking change are so good that he may not need a third pitch to succeed in the bigs. With exceptional command and an aggressive approach, he profiles as a quality No. 3 major league starter. If his curveball develops, watch out.
41. Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox – Injuries have slowed Robert’s development — he has played only 78 games in two seasons since signing out of Cuba — but he’s an elite talent who could quickly move up this list if he can stay healthy. Robert is an electric athlete with plus raw power and plus speed. He needs to use his lower half better to fully tap into his power, but he has the strength and bat speed to be a 20-plus HR guy who can play center field and steal 20-30 bags.
42. Dane Dunning, RHP, Chicago White Sox – Dunning had some injury hiccups in 2018, but when he was on the mound he produced —2.71 ERA, 100/26 K/BB and only 77 hits allowed in 86.1 innings between High-A and Double-A. Dunning has four quality pitches, featuring a heavy sinking fastball which generates lots of ground balls (only two home runs allowed last year). With solid command and a track record of success at every level, he profiles as a mid-rotation guy.
43. Yordan Alvarez, 1B, Houston – A crowded Houston roster means that Alvarez will almost certainly open the season back in the minors. While Alvarez struggled a bit during a late-season stint in Triple-A, he’s close to big league ready and could get a call-up if injuries were to strike one of the Astros starters. Alvarez has the body of a first-baseman (6-5, 225 pounds), but shows enough athleticism to play the outfield. Last season, Alvarez added loft to his swing plane and slugged 20 home runs in only 88 games. With continued development he could eventually hit .270 with 25-plus home runs in the bigs.
44. Carter Kieboom, SS, Washington – Kieboom broke out last year when he logged a .280 average with 16 homers and nine stolen bases in a season split between High-A and Double-A. A short bat path, good plate discipline, and above-average bat speed allow Kieboom to spray line drives from gap to gap and portend future average power as he matures. He’ll need to show he can handle advanced pitching and he may have to switch to second base, but overall he profiles as an above-average big league middle infielder.
45. Ian Anderson, RHP, Atlanta – Anderson is another of Atlanta’s outstanding pitching prospects. With three above-average pitches, including a fastball that flashes plus, Anderson logged a good 2018 campaign spent mostly at High-A (2.49 ERA, 142 strikeouts and only 87 hits allowed in 119.1 innings). He doesn’t have elite upside, but it’s hard not to see him reach his potential as a mid-rotation starter in the bigs.
46. Nick Madrigal, 2B, Chicago White Sox – Madrigal was one of the best hitters in the 2018 draft and showed his elite skills in a 43-game pro debut during which he reached High-A and batted .303 with only five strikeouts in 155 at bats. He doesn’t have any power, but he has above-average speed and shows the pure hitting skills to hit close to .300 in the majors.
47. Peter Alonso, 1B, New York Mets – The additions of J.D. Davis, Jed Lowrie and Robinson Cano cloud the picture for Alonso in New York, but the Mets roster is old, fragile, and lacking in righthanded power. Alonso’s bat is big league ready, and an injury to one of the Mets veterans could create an opportunity for the powerful youngster. At the same time, the defensively challenged Alonso might be best served as an AL designated hitter and could end up as trade bait. When he does get a big league chance he probably won’t hit for average, but his plus raw power and elite bat speed are good enough to produce 25-30 home runs in a full season.
48. Danny Jansen, C, Toronto – With Russell Martin’s departure, Jansen could open the season as the Blue Jays primary backstop. A flat swing path will dampen his power, but good pitch recognition and quick hands should allow him to hit for average. At a position which doesn’t generate much offense, his .270 average and 10-15 home runs will have value.
49. Jared Kelenic, OF, Seattle – Kelenic is a long way from the majors, but he’s a polished hitter with plus raw power and good control of the strike zone. After seeing him in spring training camp this year, I think he’s a guy who has the maturity and advanced skills to move quickly in 2019.
50. Gavin Lux, SS/2B, Los Angeles Dodgers – Lux may not stick at short, but there’s no doubt that his bat will play. Right now, he’s a line-drive hitter with the bat speed and plate discipline to hit for average.If he can use his lower half more, he has the raw tools to hit for moderate (15-20 HR) power as he matures.