Dynasty Dugout: Remaining Top MLB Prospects to Debut in 2018
So, here we are nearing the one-third mark of the season. Top MLB prospects like Ronald Acuña, Walker Buehler, Gleyber Torres, and most recently Juan Soto, have already gotten the call to the Major Leagues. When these type of prospects get the call, fantasy owners fight over them like a crazy mob of parents on Black Friday trying to get the hot new toy that their kid will forget about and stop playing with by February. The difference between top prospects and Christmas toys are that we are a bit less likely to forget about top prospect, especially if they’re performing well.
Unfortunately, there’s only one Acuna, one Torres, and one Soto to go around. Trust me, I’d love to go all Dr. Frankenstein and conjure up more of these guys, but human cloning hasn’t quite been figured out yet. Maybe in another 20 years. Who knows. Unless you’re on your toes, you likely lost out on at least some of these top MLB prospects.
But fear not, all is not lost. Let Uncle Eric clue you in on a little secret. There are plenty of high-upside top MLB prospects still in the minors inching closer and closer to the Major Leagues and fantasy stardom. So, while you might have missed out on the big names so far, this is the time to regroup and make sure you nab one of the next 10 prospects on or before their call-up.
Note: This is not a top prospects rankings list, but rather top prospects set to debut later this season.
So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance
All of the above possess high upside, but have slim odds on making fantasy impacts this season. Back in the spring, Forrest Whitley and Fernando Tatis Jr. looked like strong bets to debut this season before poor play (Tatis) and suspension (Whitley) have altered those plans. Peter Alonso is one of the hottest hitters in the minors, but he is unlikely to get more than a cup of coffee in September with the Mets.
If this were a top-20 list, these are the names you’d see included. Francisco Mejia is the top catching prospect in the game, but he has struggled mightily in Triple-A this season. Christin Stewart is a Khris Davis-type of slugger that should crack the Tigers’ outfield sometime this summer.
Top MLB Prospects Who Could Get the Call
10. Willy Adames (SS – TB)
Willy Adames isn’t the sexiest fantasy prospect around. However, the 22-year-old shortstop does a lot of things well that will allow him to carve out some decent fantasy value both in 2018 and beyond. Adames makes a lot of contact and has shown strong plate coverage and discipline throughout his minor league career, leading to a .366 OBP. Those on-base skills will land Adames somewhere near the top of the Rays lineup upon his call-up. I know it’s just the Rays we’re talking about, but hitting first or second will be a major boost for Adames’ fantasy value. Average and runs will likely be the strong points of Adame’s fantasy profile, with power and speed lagging behind. ETA: Early-June.
Okay, I’m cheating here by pairing up
Justin Shane Bieber and Kolby Allard in one spot. But the more I think of it, their potential fantasy impacts for the 2018 season are very similar. One is a righty and the other a southpaw, but that’s where the big differences come to an end. Allard might not be as much of a control freak as Bieber, but he limits baserunners just as well. Through eight starts, Allard has posted a 2.02 ERA, 1.8 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, and 6.6 K/9. I know what you’re thinking. That strikeout rate stinks. Who does he think he is? Mark Buehrle? Don’t be too turned off by that 6.6 mark, though, as Allard had an 8.7 K/9 entering this season.
Bieber is a player I’ve gone over time and time again since the calendar turned to 2018. I ranked him 4th in the Indians system before the season and had him as one of my top breakout pitching prospects for this season. Why? He has the best control in the minor leagues, and frankly, it’s not even close. He’s walked just 15 batters in 255.2 innings for a 0.5 BB/9. Like Allard, Bieber will never post high-strikeout totals, but a K/9 around 8.0 with strong ratios should be expected. ETA: Late-June for both.
8. Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX)
Coming into the season, Willie Calhoun was being drafted right around pick 250 and viewed as one of the top MLB prospects ready to help this year. Picks that late have little to no risk, but with Calhoun’s offensive profile, I think it’s safe to say fantasy owners are a little disappointed with Calhoun’s demotion to Triple-A and subsequent mediocre play.
Calhoun has gotten better as the season progresses but is still sitting at .265 with only four home runs in 166 at-bats. He’s going to need to show more than this to get the call to Arlington. Don’t expect Calhoun until later this season, but the pint-sized slugger has the upside to give fantasy owners a boost down the stretch in batting average and home runs. ETA: Mid-July.
7. Brendan Rodgers (2B – COL)
I’ll keep this brief due to the fact that I’m scouting Rodgers live later tonight and will have a full write up of him (and Garrett Hampson) within the next couple days. Rodgers has moved to second base this season, and his high-upside bat will play just as well there as it did at shortstop. Rodgers has .280/30 upside and will have Coors Field to boost his stats as well. ETA: August.
6. Austin Riley (3B – ATL)
The Braves have cycled through countless men at the hot corner in the 5-plus seasons since Chipper Jones retired, even giving Jose Bautista a brief cameo earlier this season before cutting him last week. Luckily, that revolving door is about to be slammed shut by slugging third base prospect, Austin Riley.
3️⃣ home runs, 8️⃣ RBI
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) May 14, 2018
Riley has really flourished this season in the upper levels of the minors. In 151 combined Double-A and Triple-A at-bats, Riley is hitting .325 with 11 doubles, nine home runs, and 33 RBI. Speed has never been and likely never will be a part of Riley’s game, but his contributions in the other four standard offensive categories will more than make up for that. This Braves team is going to be a ton of fun to watch over the next several seasons, and Riley is going to be a big part of the reason why offensively. The hot corner is wide open in Atlanta. Keep a close eye on him and get ready to pounce. ETA: Late-June.
5. Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU)
Missing: Kyle Tucker’s power. If found, please return to Kyle immediately. After slugging 25 homers with a .528 SLG in 2017, Tucker has mustered only four in 2018 with a .447 SLG. The .292 AVG and .361 OBP are both career-highs, but the power outage is a massive let down fantasy owners that stashed him in hopes of an early-season call-up.
Houston has already called up a couple of hitters from the minors, but unfortunately, Tucker has not been one of them. Obviously, Eric. He wouldn’t be in this article if he had already gotten the call. Right you are, reader. Even with the power shortage, Tucker is still likely to get the call at some point later this summer, especially if guys like Evan Gattis, Marwin Gonzalez, and others remain dangerously close to the Mendoza line. ETA: August.
4. Michael Kopech (SP – CHW)
At the time of the blockbuster Chris Sale trade, Yoan Moncada was thought of as the centerpiece in Chicago’s return package. Not so much anymore. Moncada still has tantalizing upside, but Michael Kopech is showing that he has fantasy ace upside written all over him. His current 4.02 ERA doesn’t jump out of the screen and smack you in the face or anything, but if you take out one disastrous start against Durham (3.1 IP, 8 ER), that ERA would sit at 2.41. Yeah, much more friendly on the eyes.
None of the top MLB prospects left in the minors on the pitching side that match Kopech’s upside. Sure, you can make an argument for Forrest Whitley, but Kopech is the top dog of pitching prospects as it stands today. His triple-digit heater and wipeout slider and a deadly, strikeout inducing combination, and his change-up and control continue to improve, albeit, at a snail’s pace. Kopech is a safe bet for a decent ERA and elite strikeout numbers, even if his control leads to a higher WHIP. ETA: Mid-June.
3. Nick Senzel (2B/3B – CIN)
Hello, hello (hola),
I’m at a place called Vertigo,
It’s everything I wish I didn’t know…
Vertigo is a great song by U2, but not as enjoyable if you have it personally, or own a fantasy player who has it. With that being said, vertigo in no way diminishes the value and long-term fantasy upside of Nick Senzel. It’s just delaying his promotion to Cincinnati a little bit. Before exiting the game on May 3, Senzel was heating up at the plate, hitting .306 with two home runs over his last 10 games. That hot stretch raised his average 30 points from .241 to .271 on the season.
Basically, this bout of Vertigo couldn’t have come at a worse time. If Senzel’s hot stretch continued, there’s a chance we’d be seeing him in Cincinnati’s lineup by now. Not a certainty, but a chance. Senzel is likely due back by the end of the month, and if he continues to hit well, we should see him with the Reds before the All-Star break in mid-July. Once he does get the call, Senzel has the offensive upside to be a top-100 fantasy asset right away due to his blend of power, speed, and contact skills. ETA: Late-June.
2. Eloy Jimenez (OF – CHW)
Let’s be real for a second. The moment Eloy Jimenez gets the call to Chicago, he immediately becomes the White Sox’s most fantasy relevant outfielder. Jimenez has arguably the most raw power in the minor leagues and has a 60-grade hit tool to go along with it. Watching him take batting practice is a spectacle, and that immense raw power is beginning to show up more consistently in games.
After a delayed start to the season, Jimenez has already cranked seven dingers and 11 doubles in his first 121 at-bats for Double-A Birmingham. On top of that, his slash line has been even more impressive at .331/.364/.595/.959. Jimenez’s stay in Double-A likely isn’t going to last much longer, and if he continues to mash at this rate, his Triple-A stint will be fairly brief as well. He’s still likely a couple of months away from getting promoted to Chicago, but this is the kind of bat that can be a true difference maker down the stretch run of the fantasy baseball season. ETA: Early-August.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B – TOR)
Who else did you think was going to be No. 1 on this list of top MLB prospects? If you’re making that thinking face, stop before smoke comes out of your ears. There’s not one single prospect left in the minors that is better than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He’s hitting .421, for crying out loud. Speaking of crying, if you listen closely, you can hear the baseball crying after getting clobbered by the mighty Vladimus Maximus. Believe me, I heard it when I scouted him live in New Hampshire last month.
There’s truly nothing this kid can’t do at the plate. I know the Blue Jays don’t want to rush him, but there’s obviously nothing left for Guerrero to prove at the plate. In addition to that .421 average, Vladdy has eight home runs, 16 doubles, 45 RBI, and 35 runs scored in 152 at-bats. The Jays might have Josh Donaldson manning the hot corner, but his troublesome shoulder is better suited at DH, which is where he’ll slide to once the Blue Jays stop teasing us and call Guerrero up. The window to stash Vladdy is closing quickly. ETA: Mid-July.
Thank you for reading another edition of Dynasty Dugout here on Fantrax. Got a question that I didn’t cover here? Ask below or follow me on Twitter and ask there