MLB Prospects That Could Be #1 in 2021
In the prospect world, we’re always trying to look ahead to the next big thing. When Vladimir Guerrero Jr was ruling the land, that next big thing was Wander Franco. Now it’s Wander’s time to shine and our time to find the next Wander. Now, let me say that Franco is a generational talent and filling his shoes will not be easy. It might not even be fully possible. However, the prospects below all possess the tools and upside needed to become the #1 overall prospect in the next 12-18 months or so. These are the MLB prospects I’d go all-in on in dynasty formats. Take that pile of chips and push it out into the pot.
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MLB Prospects That Could Be #1 in 2021
Marco Luciano, SS, San Francisco Giants
Usually on lists, I’ll go in reverse order with the #1 player at the end. Not this time. If you made me pick one prospect to be the next top dog after Wander Franco, my choice would be Marco Luciano. After the Giants signed Luciano to a big contract out of the Dominican Republic last summer, all he’s done is dominate. In 34 games in the Arizona Rookie League this season, Luciano is slashing .336/.453/.664/1.117 with 21 extra-base hits, 10 home runs, eight steals, 34 RBI, and 43 runs scored in 131 at-bats. Pretty good right?
Ever since I first caught wind of Luciano over a year ago, I’ve been thoroughly impressed. The bat speed this kid generates is phenomenal and he does so with incredible barrel control. His combination of hit tool and raw power is almost unheard of at his age and is already making him one of the brightest young stars in the minors. Add in another 12-18 months of development and we very well could be looking at the new #1 overall prospect.
Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Chicago White Sox
If you take a gander at my 2019 FYPD rankings, you’ll see Andrew Vaughn’s name listed below no one. No disrespect to Adley Rutschman or Bobby Witt Jr, but ranking him #1 was a very easy decision too. Making MLB comps is something I often struggle with, but with Vaughn, I can’t help but see the next J.D. Martinez. I’m not talking early-career Martinez either. I’m talking the Martinez that can hit .300 with plenty of power. Vaughn’s easy plus hit tool and power give him massive four-category upside and a fairly high floor as well. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a locked-in top-10 prospect by 2021 with a chance to take over the top overall spot. He’s also advanced enough that he might make it up to Chicago by the end of 2020. Vaughn is that good.
Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Kansas City Royals
To put it simply, the upside Bobby Witt Jr. possesses is off the charts. Dare I say he has a higher fantasy ceiling than Andrew Vaughn. And you all know how high I am on Vaughn at this point. The reason for that is the drool-inducing power/speed blend that Witt brings to the table. When Witt makes contact, it’s generally of the loud variety. For that reason, if you’re going to watch him play, I suggest you get there early to see him take BP. The bat speed and plus-plus raw power that Witt generates is truly a spectacle to behold. He’s not nearly the pure hitter that Vaughn is, but there’s legit 30/30 upside here.
Even if he hits .250, the power and speed will give him plenty of value. But if Witt can develop as a hitter and improve his approach, watch out. Witt with a better hit tool/approach is a dynamite #1 overall pick candidate.
Nolan Gorman, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
“Of course Eric put Nolan Gorman on this list.” — Everyone reading this, probably.
You’re damn right I did! Listen, I know there are some swing and miss tendencies here. Just because he’s one of my prospect crushes doesn’t mean I ignore the “areas of opportunity” as some businesses call them in your annual performance review. And doesn’t it always seem like that section is longer than your strengths section? I digress. However, one tool that is squarely in the strengths section of Gorman’s review is indeed his strength, also known as his prestigious raw power.
That power is likely going to carry him to some 40-homer seasons down the road. But the biggest question surrounding Gorman is how high of a batting average accompanies it. If Gorman can inprove his plate approach and cut back on his free-swinging ways a bit, I believe he can be a .260-.280 type of hitter. That average, plus monster HR+RBI+R upside, would put him in the discussion for the top overall prospect in baseball.
Jasson Dominguez, OF, New York Yankees
Might as well add some international flair to this piece. If any player from the 2019 J2 crop has a chance of making a major rise over the next couple of seasons, it’s Jasson Dominguez. The Martian, as he’s called, possesses plus tools as far as the eye can see, both offensively and defensively. Obviously, we care most about the offensive upside here and that upside is a 30/30 threat with an average north of .270. He’s basically the Bobby Witt Jr of the outfield with the potential for a better hit tool. If he can get off to a good start in the minors, expect to see Dominguez launch up prospect rankings towards the top-10 at least.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, NCAA
Many have compared Spencer Torkelson to Andrew Vaughn. Honestly, I tend to agree with 90% of that. In terms of overall upside, the two sluggers are quite similar, albeit, in a slightly different way. Basically, Torkelson has the power edge and Vaughn the hit tool edge. Another good comp for Torkelson would be the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner, Pete Alonso. The raw power is off the charts and Torkelson has the bat speed, contact skills, and natural loft in his swing to become one of the most dangerous power bats in baseball before too long. He’s in the running for the #1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft and an equally as high ranking on prospect lists shortly after that.
Who wants some more Spencer Torkelson video? Better question: Who *doesn't* want some more Spencer Torkelson video? pic.twitter.com/zTPVYdKcCY
Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners
If Jarred Kelenic is still a prospect come 2021, which I believe he will be, this discussion will likely include him. Kelenic has already been putting his plus hit tool, plus speed, and above-average raw power on full display and I think we could see even a little more power out of him with 30/30 not out of the question. This is one of the best all-around offensive prospects in the game who’s still getting better. Through his first 147 games, Kelenic has racked up 67 extra-base hits, 22 home runs, and 31 steals with a .290/.371/.504/.876 slash line.
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners
Potentially joining Kelenic on that lofty perch is the toolsy Julio Rodriguez. With a plus hit tool and potentially double-plus raw power, Rodriguez isn’t that far off from Luciano and is a more polished product. The Mariners aggressively bumped Rodriguez up from the Dominican Summer League to the Single-A Midwest League to start 2019 which is a testament to Rodriguez profound offensive skillset. He’s been more than up to the task, slashing .275/.344/.473/.817 as one of the youngest players in the league. If he continues to develop as he has, there’s major four-category upside here with Rodriguez and enough speed to sneak into some double-digit stolen base seasons.
Photo/Video Credit: Josh Norris, Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire, Jason Pennini,
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) and a contributor in the best-selling Fantasy Baseball Black Book. For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.