Projecting the Top-50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects in 2021
Going stir crazy yet? My kids sure are. As we try to make it through this weird new reality of social distancing, toilet paper shortages, and no sports, everyone craves something new to distract them from the craziness or just keep them occupied. While our fantasy squads sit idle, our minds and thirst for content do not. So let’s feed our minds and jump into the future a bit to project the top-50 fantasy baseball prospects one year from now.
Now, I put together this list under the assumption that there will be a Major League season and a minor league season for at least 2-3 months. With a shortened season, that obviously means fewer prospect promotions to the Majors and not as much turnover as we’ve been accustomed to over the last several seasons. This is especially true for pitching prospects as the 50 innings pitched threshold usually takes longer to cross than 130 at-bats. Certain arms like Matt Manning, Casey Mize, and Forrest Whitley remain on the list below as I was anticipating them up mid-season or 2-3 months into the season. That’s now approximately when the season may or may not start, so exhausting their prospect status will be a tougher task.
Others like Jesus Luzardo, MacKenzie Gore, Nate Pearson, and A.J. Puk, however, will be in their team’s opening day rotations or shortly thereafter and have a much better chance of graduating from prospect status. Speaking of exhausting prospect status, these are the prospects in my current top-50 overall that I expect to cross the 130/50/45 benchmarks…
Jo Adell (2) | Luis Robert (3) | Gavin Lux (6) | MacKenzie Gore (7) | Dylan Carlson (13) | Jesus Luzardo (18) | Drew Waters (22) | Nate Pearson (23) | Carter Kieboom (26) | Alec Bohm (29) | Michael Kopech (33) | Joey Bart (34) | Spencer Howard (36) | Cristian Pache (40) | Brendan Rodgers (43)
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Projected Top-50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects in 2021
1. Wander Franco (SS – TBR): I know, going out on a limb right? Most (all) of us were hoping to see the wonder kid Wander Franco at the Major League level in 2020. That still can happen, but the chances of him getting 130-plus at-bats are slim with the delayed start to the season. We all know that the ceiling and floor with Franco are incredibly high with .320+/30+/15 upside and MVP potential. I’m not expecting that to change one stinking bit in 2020. As long as he’s still a prospect, Franco is the top dog.
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2. Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA): If you want to put J-Rod here, fine. This is basically 2a and 2b, but I’ll still give Kelenic the slight nod as I believe his speed advantage is slightly bigger than Rodriguez’s power advantage. With .300/25/30 upside and a .290/29/35 line in 173 professional games, Kelenic’s upside is off the charts and he’s proven to be a very advanced bat for his age. Expect more domination in 2020 as he inches close to Seattle.
3. Julio Rodriguez (OF – SEA): Rodriguez’s ascension to prospect stardom has been quick but warranted. The 19-year-old Dominican outfielder possesses 70-grade raw power, a plus hit tool, and is quicker than he gets credit for. What we’ve seen so far from him is just the tip of the iceberg, especially in the power department. This is a middle of the order force in the making.
4. Kristian Robinson (OF – ARI): Robinson is the epitome of an athlete. In his limited minir league time, K-Rob has displayed strength, speed, and a good feel for hitting for someone his age. With this type of all-around offensive potential, the sky is the limit for him in the fantasy world. And he’s already given us a taste of that with 21 home runs and 29 steals through his first 126 professional games.
5. Marco Luciano (SS – SFG): Luciano burst onto the scene in a big way last season as arguably the best hitter in the rookie-level Arizona League. The then 17-year-old Dominican shortstop slashed .322/.438/.616 with 10 home runs and eight steals in 38 games to earn a late-season promotion to the Northwest League (A-). While I’m not expecting a ton of speed moving forward, Luciano’s .280/35/15 potential warrants a spot in the top-5 here.
6. Jasson Dominguez (OF – NYY): People are already going bonkers over Jasson Dominguez before his first professional swing due to his power/speed blend and potential 55/60-grade hit tool. If he showcases his immense talent at all in rookie ball this season, you won’t see him outside of many top-10 lists for fantasy.
7. Andrew Vaughn (1B – CHW): He might not be as flashy as the names around him, but Andrew Vaughn is one of the most polished hitters in the minors with .300/30 upside and a fairly high floor as well. Even with the lack of speed, his combination of hit and power makes him one of the top offensive prospects in the game and one we should see in Chicago before the end of 2021.
8. CJ Abrams (SS – SDP): To be honest, it wouldn’t shock me if Abrams worked his way into the top-5 here next year. Arguably no player from the 2019 draft hit the ground running as well as Abrams did, and yes, I worded it like that due to his elite speed. Abrams has Trea Turner upside with 20/40 potential down the road if his power develops like I believe it will. This is one of the most exciting prospects in baseball today.
9. Royce Lewis (SS – MIN): While Lewis didn’t dominate in 2019 as expected, he still possesses immense offensive potential with an above-average to plus hit tool, plus speed, and at least average power. While many were tired from the long season, Lewis tore up the Arizona Fall League and looks to rebound in 2020. His inclusion here at #9 hints that I believe the rebound will most definitely happen.
10. Noelvi Marte (SS – SEA): His defense might be tough to watch, but nobody can deny the offensive potential Noelvi Marte possesses. With plus or better power and speed, Marte could be on the verge of entering the prospect elite if his hit tool comes along. I can’t stress this enough, go get Marte in dynasty leagues.
11. Bobby Witt Jr. (SS – KCR): Honestly, Marte and Witt are very similar offensively. Like Marte, Witt has a big power/speed blend with some questions about his hit tool long-term. But on the flip-side, Witt has a better chance of staying at the coveted shortstop position longterm. Flip a coin.
12. Forrest Whitley (RHP – HOU): His 2019 season might scare some off, but don’t be one of those scardy cats. Whitley rivals MacKenzie Gore when it comes to pure upside with the potential for four 55-grade of better offerings. If he can get his command back in check, expect Whitley to begin dominating again and recapture the title of best pitching prospect in baseball once Gore graduates to the Majors.
13. Spencer Torkelson (1B – NCAA): Our first NCAA player of the list. Torkelson is one of the favorites to go #1 overall in the 2020 draft and has massive offensive potential. His upside isn’t far off from Vaughn’s overall with the ability to hit for a solid average and plenty of power. NCAA pitchers feared Tork and minor league pitchers soon will as well. He’s my current #1 for 2020 FYPD.
14. Vidal Brujan (2B – TBR): There’s no second base prospect I’d rather have in dynasty right now than Vidal Brujan. His elite speed is going to be a weapon in the fantasy world and he’s proven his worth with the lumber as well. At peak, I believe we’re looking at a .280-.290 hitter with 40 steals and double-digit home runs.
15. Matt Manning (RHP – DET): I originally expect Manning to exhaust his prospect status this season but the coronavirus delay makes that less likely. Manning has ascended to the pitching prospect elite with his lethal fastball/curveball combination and improved changeup and command. There’s frontline potential here and a good chance we see Manning’s name near the top of the strikeout leaderboard annually.
16. Alek Thomas (OF – ARI): Admittedly, I’m higher on Thomas than most, but I love the hit/speed potential and believe there’s a bit more power in his bat. Thomas has a quick left-handed swing and can scald the ball to all fields with innate barrel control. If he adds a bit of bulk to his frame and loft to his swing, watch out.
17. Adley Rutschman (C – BAL): This is the best catching prospect in the game, hands down. I’m high on Joey Bart but he can’t match the hit/power combination that Rutschman has. Catcher or not, Rutschman is a middle of the order force in the making and could be the top fantasy catcher in the game within the next few seasons.
18. Alex Kirilloff (1B/OF – MIN): The 2019 season was a slight disappointment for Kirilloff but a wrist injury had a lot to do with that. Once he was fully healthy near the end of the season, Kirilloff was back to his old ways, hitting .311 with five homers in 26 August games. The upside here is a plus hit, plus power corner outfielder or first baseman with .300/25 potential. If you can buy low on him in dynasty, I’d recommend doing so.
19. Casey Mize (RHP – DET): Like with Manning, a full 2020 season likely means the end of Casey Mize’s prospect status. Mize might not have the sexy strikeout upside, but he’s a safe bet for low ratios and around a strikeout per inning with a dynamic FB/SL/SP arsenal. That splitter is absolutely filthy too.
20. Jordan Groshans (SS – TOR): Although we’ve only gotten 71 professional games from Groshans, he’s proven in that time that his bat has a chance to be special. Groshans has ridiculous bat speed from the right side and hammers the ball all over the field. There’s not much speed potential here, but the offensive upside is a plus-hit, plus-power shortstop that could put up some .300/30 seasons at peak. Get him now before he skyrockets further up prospect rankings.
21. Luis Patino (RHP – SD): While Patino has been the Robin to Gore’s Batman, that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s one of the 10 best pitching prospects in the game today. Patino possesses #2 starter upside with four Major League average or better offerings and two of those grading as plus or better. His ascension to this lofty ranking is warranted and it shouldn’t shock anyone if he’s considered the best pitching prospect in the game in 2021.
22. Austin Martin (3B/SS): Meet the best pure hitter in the 2020 MLB draft class. In his two and a quarter seasons at Vanderbilt, Martin has hit .368 with 14 homers and 43 steals in 140 games and was hitting .377 this season before the season was shut down due to COVID-19. Now, I wouldn’t expect big speed numbers like that moving forward, but Martin has batting title upside and could put up some 20/20 seasons in his career.
23. Corbin Carroll (OF – ARI): With a plus hit tool, elite speed, and advanced plate approach, Corbin Carroll has top of the order written all over him. His .290/40 upside gives him considerable fantasy upside as well. Any power he provides will be gravy. And for the record, I believe there’s enough power here to approach double-digit homers annually.
24. Brennen Davis (OF – CHC): Despite his big power/speed blend, Brennen Davis still doesn’t get as much love as he should in the fantasy world. I mean, come on people. Davis has 25/25 upside and has shown that he can hit for average, work plenty of walks, and keep his strikeouts in check. Expect him to rise a ton over the next year or so.
25. Trevor Larnach (OF – MIN): Honestly, Trevor Larnach is closer to Lewis/Kirilloff that he gets credit for. He’s always hit for a high average and has really taken off in the power department starting in his final collegiate season at Oregon State. You might only see 13 homers in 127 games last season on the stat line, but there’s plus raw power here to pair with a plus hit tool. He’s a middle of the order bat in the making that should reach Minnesota fairly soon.
26. Riley Greene (OF – DET): Greene is one of the more advanced high school bats in the last few drafts. He often gets passed over for the sexier options that bring speed to the table, but with .300/25 upside, Greene has what it takes to make a significant fantasy impact. A good future comp for him is Michael Brantley.
27. Triston Casas (1B – BOS): I’ve been talking up Triston Casas ever since the Red Sox drafted him in the first round back in 2018. The hulking first baseman has displayed borderline double-plus raw power and doesn’t sell out for that power either. He should hit for a solid batting average in the .270 range to pair with 35-plus homers annually.
28. Nolan Gorman (3B – STL): Every ounce of my being wants to rank Gorman higher, but I just can’t right now. The power is elite and gives him a shot at 40-homers down the road, but there are contact and swing and miss concerns that will need to be ironed out before he hits St. Louis.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) March 4, 2020
29. Pedro Leon (OF – INTL): This might seem a tad lofty, but everything I’ve seen from Pedro Leon on video has impressed me. There’s the potential for plus power and plus speed here. If he proves he can hit minor league pitching, which I believe he will, Leon should quickly become a highly-desirable prospect in dynasty leagues.
30. Matthew Liberatore (LHP – STL): A pitching prospect leaving the Tampa Bay system might seem like a downgrade to some, but Liberatore is a very polished pitching prospect with four Major League average or better pitches including a plus fastball and plus curveball from the left side. There’s #2 starter upside here and a solid floor as well.
31. Jeter Downs (2B/SS – BOS): Downs has been one of the fastest rising players in prospect rankings over the last 12-18 months and was a key component in the return package for Mookie Betts this offseason. While he doesn’t excel in any one area, Downs has above-average to plus speed and developing power. Some .270/20/25 seasons aren’t out of the question at the Major League level.
32. Emerson Hancock (RHP – NCAA): If Spencer Torkelson doesn’t go #1 to Detroit, Emerson Hancock might be the reason why. Detroit already has a plethora of pitching talent in the minors but it’s hard to pass up a power arm like Hancock that could wind up with four 55-grade or better offerings to pair with above-average to plus command and control. There’s frontline starter potential here and a high fantasy ceiling.
33. Hudson Head (OF – SDP): Damn straight! The more video I watch of Hudson Head, the more impressed I am with his offensive abilities. Head has lightning-quick bat speed from the left side with phenomenal barrel control. The guy just seems to square everything up and has a budding power stroke. With .280/25/20 potential, Head has what it takes to make a massive leap up prospect rankings in 2020.
34. Orelvis Martinez (SS – TOR): Orelvis Martinez is a dude. The 2018 J2 signing possesses easy plus raw power and could have an above-average hit tool when his development is done. Add in enough speed to reach/approach double-digit steals and you have a well-rounded fantasy threat in the making with .275/30/10 upside.
35. Erick Pena (OF – KCR): Pena has yet to take his first professional swing outside of fall instructs, but everything I’ve seen from him to date has me impressed. He’s a beast with solid athleticism and mammoth raw power. If the hit tool develops top 50 or 55-grade, I believe we’re looking at a future middle of the order bat and tantalizing fantasy talent.
36. Grayson Rodriguez (RHP – BAL): Baltimore hasn’t had the greatest track record developing pitching but I’m expecting Grayson Rodriguez to buck that trend. The big 6’5 right-hander and his dynamic four-pitch arsenal, headlined by a plus or better fastball and slider, has dominated the lower levels of the minors and likely will continue that domination at Class-A Advanced and Double-A in 2020.
— Luke_Siler (@The_Luke_Siler) August 24, 2019
37. Austin Hendrick (OF – High School): Without question, the most potent high school bat in the 2020 draft class belongs to Pennsylvania outfielder, Austin Hendrick. The 6′ left-swinging Hendrick already has easy plus raw power with a swing that generates natural loft. If he continues to add bulk, 35-homers is a distinct possibility to pair with 10-15 steals. It will all be up to the development of Hendrick’s hit tool to determine how truly special of an offensive talent he can be.
38. Robert Puason (SS – OAK): The more I look into Robert Puason, the more I like him. There’s 25/25 upside here from the shortstop position and a likely .270+ batting average to go along with it. Jasson Dominguez is the unquestioned #1 from the 2019 J2 crop, but Puason is right there with Erick Pena for #2 overall and plays a more desirable position in fantasy.
39. Xavier Edwards (2B/SS – TBR): His lack of power limits his upside a tad, but when you have a plus hit tool and double-plus speed, you can most certainly carve out some nice fantasy value. If you can stomach five homers or so, you’ll likely be quite pleased with Edward’s .300/30+ upside.
40. George Valera (OF – CLE): A .217 average took some of the helium out of Valera’s prospect status, but this is still a very talented outfielder that has the tools to hit for average and power while posting a high OBP and adding in a touch of speed. He’s a great buy-low target in dynasty leagues right now.
41. Garrett Mitchell (OF – NCAA): Mitchell is a toolsy outfielder from UCLA with a real chance to contribute handsomely in the AVG, HR, and SB departments. He’s flashed an above-average to plus hit tool, plus or better speed, and I believe there’s the potential for above-average to plus raw power here too.
42. Oneil Cruz (SS – PIT): The 7’7 (kidding, he’s only 6’7… for now) Cruz garners plnty of attention for his height, but that’s not the only reason why he’s a buzzy prospect. The big shortstop has borderline double-plus raw power, at least an average hit tool, and can move well for his size too.
43. Michael Toglia (1B – COL): Mammoth raw power and Coors Field are a beautiful combination. There’s still some work to be done improving his contact skills and swing and miss tendencies, but the end result could be a .260/40 first baseman.
44. Taylor Trammell (OF – SDP): Yes, 2019 was a disappointing season for Taylor Trammell, but this is still a plus athlete with a nice set of offensive skills. His .280/15/30 potetial keeps him in the top-50 and don’t be surprised if he posts a big bounceback season in 2020.
45. Nick Gonzales (2B – NCAA): This little 5’10/190 second baseman can really tear the cover off the ball. Gonzales finishes his collegiate career batting .399 overall with 37 homers in 128 games including a ridiculous 12 in 16 games this season before the season ended early. Long-term, this could be a .300/20+/15 contributor from the keystone.
46. Shane Baz (RHP – TBR): A PTBNL for the ages, Shane Baz has the electric stuff to ascend to the elite ranks of pitching prospects. His fastball/slider combination is already lethal and his stock would really take off with improved command and futher development of his changeup and curveball.
47. Daniel Espino (RHP – CLE): In terms of pure upside, Daniel Espino is my favorite arm from the 2019 draft class. The right-hander has three potential plus pitches and immense strikeout potential. As long as he can develop his changeup and command, the sky is the limit here.
48. Jazz Chisholm (SS – MIA): Although there are still many questions about his contact skills and approach at the plate, Jazz Chisholm is incredibly toolsy with a big power/speed blend. If he can make improvements at the plate and keep his average respectable, Chisholms 25/20 upside will allow him to carve out plenty of fantasy value down the road.
49. George Kirby (RHP – SEA): While I’d take a few other pitchers from the 2019 draft over him long-term, Kirby’s combination of ceiling, floor, and polish give him a chance to rise up prospect rankings in a hurry.
50. Alexfri Planez (OF – CLE): Rounding out this projected top-50 in 2021 is 18-year-old Venezuelan outfielder, Alexfri Planez. With the potential for an above-average hit tool, plus or better raw power, and double-digit steals annually, Planez could really vault up rankings in 2020 after limited action in 2019.
Honorable Mentions: Alexander Canario (OF – SFG) | Greg Jones (SS – TBR) | Sixto Sanchez (RHP – MIA) | Ronny Mauricio (SS – NYM) | Nolan Jones (3B – CLE) | J.J. Bleday (OF – MIA) | Tarik Skubal (LHP – DET) | Brailyn Marquez (LHP – CHC) | Hunter Bishop (OF – SFG) | Misael Urbina (OF – MIN) | Kody Hoese (3B – LAD) | Gilberto Jimenez (OF – BOS) | Luis Matos (OF – SFG) | Ethan Hankins (RHP – CLE) | Jose Garcia (SS – CIN) | Luisangel Acuna (MIF – TEX) | Maximo Acosta (SS – TEX) | Jeferson Espinal (OF – ARI)
Media Credit: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire, Luke Siler, St. Louis Cardinals.
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