Established stars drive a team's success at the MLB level and put fans in the seats, but we're always looking to the future.
Ahead is a look at the top 50 prospects in baseball at the quarter mark of the 2018 season.
The following factors helped determine where each player fell in these rankings:
- Potential: Potential trumps production a lot of the time, especially in the lower levels of the minors and with recent draft picks. Skill set and overall tools are often a better indication of what kind of player a guy will be in the future.
- Talent: As for guys in the higher levels of the minors who are close to breaking through at the big league level, production and current talent level are the determining factors, as these players are viewed as more complete products.
- Eligibility: A player must still maintain rookie-eligibility status to be considered for inclusion. That means 130 at-bats for position players, 50 innings pitched for pitchers or 45 days on the active roster prior to roster expansion in September.
Let's get to it.
Top 50 Prospects
1. LF Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves (Previous 1)
Legitimate five-tool standout who could be a generational talent. Began last season at High-A and is now in the majors, where he's posted an .848 OPS with six doubles and four home runs in his first 20 games. More than capable of playing center field but will man a corner spot as long as Ender Inciarte is around.
2. 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 2)
A deserving No. 1 overall prospect once Acuna exhausts his eligibility. Was given a true 80-grade hit tool by MLB.com and has backed it up with a ridiculous .415/.459/.696 line over his first 158 plate appearances at Double-A. Will need to watch his conditioning, but all signs point to a future superstar.
3. OF Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox (Previous: 4)
Best raw power in the minors right now. Imposing physique at 6'4", 205 pounds, though he's lost some of his athleticism as he's matured physically. Has made significant strides with his plate discipline and looks like a potential .300 hitter to go along with his over-the-fence production. Could debut in the second half.
4. CF Victor Robles, Washington Nationals (Previous: 5)
Speed is his best present skill but should be a legitimate five-tool contributor at his peak. Could develop into a .300 hitter with perennial 30/30 production once he establishes himself in the majors. Also has Gold Glove potential in center field, where his plus speed plays well and he has a terrific arm.
5. 2B Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees (Previous: 7)
Hasn't missed a beat since being called up, hitting .324/.372/.493 with three doubles and three home runs in 21 games. Power is still developing but could be a 20-homer threat at his peak to go along with 70-grade hit tool. Could handle shortstop or third base if needed.
6. 2B Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 6)
Polished hitter who has posted a .310/.389/.508 line in parts of three minor league seasons since going No. 2 overall in 2016. Played shortstop in college and spent most of his pro career to this point at third base but looks like he'll settle in at second base in the majors. Perennial batting title contender.
7. SS Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (Previous: 8)
Biggest breakout prospect of 2017. Posted an .877 OPS with 27 doubles, 22 home runs and 32 stolen bases while reaching Double-A as an 18-year-old. Loud raw tools but also showed advanced approach walking at a 13.4 percent clip last year. Could outgrow shortstop as 6'3" frame fills out.
8. RF Juan Soto, Washington Nationals (Previous: 30)
Red-hot start at Single-A (74 PA, 1.300 OPS, 13 XBH) and High-A (73 PA, 1.256 OPS, 11 XBH) earned a quick ticket to Double-A. Often overlooked in the same system as Robles but has a similarly high ceiling. With 60-grade hit and 60-grade power, he could be the prototypical offensive right fielder.
9. SS Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 9)
Looks like the steal of the 2016 draft, even after signing an above-slot $1.1 million bonus as a second-rounder. Hit .362/.423/.565 with 59 extra-base hits between Single-A and High-A last year and possesses a 70-grade hit tool. Power is still developing, and long-term defensive home is a bit of a question mark.
10. RHP Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox (Previous: 10)
Armed with a true 80-grade fastball that regularly touches triple digits and backs it with an electric slider and quality changeup. Struck out 172 batters in 134.1 innings in the upper levels of the minors last year. Still needs to refine his overall command. Makings of a legitimate ace.
11. RHP Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 11)
Might have gone No. 1 overall in 2015 if not for impending Tommy John surgery. Has returned to starting after pitching out of the bullpen last year to expedite MLB arrival. Has a 2.67 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 27 innings in five starts since joining a banged-up Dodgers rotation. Up for good.
12. RHP Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous: 12)
Injuries limited him to 47 innings in first two pro seasons before a breakout in 2016. Still refining his secondary stuff but has a chance to be a front-line starter thanks to plus command and heavy mid-90s fastball. Might have the highest floor among top-tier pitching prospects.
13. IF Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies (Previous: 13)
Higher offensive ceiling than fellow 2015 picks Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman. Hit .336/.373/.567 with 26 doubles and 18 home runs between High-A and Double-A as a 20-year-old. Free agency of DJ LeMahieu and progression of Trevor Story will likely determine where he lines up defensively in majors.
14. RHP Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros (Previous: 14)
A 50-game suspension for violating MiLB drug policy kept him from being No. 1 pitching prospect. Towering 6'7" righty still has projection remaining and can already touch 97 with his fastball. Needs to stay consistent with mechanics and refine command to reach ceiling. Posted a 2.83 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 92.1 innings while reaching Double-A as a 19-year-old.
15. C Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians (Previous: 15)
Enjoyed 50-game hitting streak in 2016 and then batted .297/.346/.490 with 37 extra-base hits at Double-A last year. Splitting time between catcher and left field this season. Has a rocket arm behind the plate, but receiving skills are a work in progress. Bat will carry him and plays anywhere.
16. RF Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros (Previous: 16)
Polished prep bat as No. 5 pick in 2015 with elite hit tool. Has grown into raw power, as home run total jumped from nine to 25 last season. Has average speed but great instincts on the bases, swiping 53 bases the past two seasons. Future All-Star right fielder in already-stacked Houston lineup.
17. RF Jesus Sanchez, Tampa Bay Rays (Previous: 47)
Proved standout rookie ball performance was for real with .305/.348/.478 line and 48 extra-base hits at Single-A. Continuing to hit this year with a .352 average, .900 OPS and 16 extra-base hits in 149 plate appearances at High-A. Plate discipline needs refining, but loud offensive tools demand attention.
18. LHP MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres (Previous: 17)
Higher floor than Hunter Greene and similarly high ceiling as top two 2017 prep arms. Posted 1.27 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 21.1 innings in pro debut. Has solid command of a standout four-pitch repertoire and should move quickly toward front-line ceiling in the majors.
19. RHP Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Indians (Previous: 19)
Breakout 2017 season saw him go 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 186 strikeouts in 143 innings as a teenager at High-A Lynchburg. Mix of current pitchability and remaining projection in his 6'5", 165-pound frame gives him a high ceiling. Durability is the only remaining question mark.
20. RHP Alex Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 21)
Missed entire 2017 season with Tommy John surgery. Has touched 100 with fastball while striking out 18 in 8.1 scoreless innings since starting a rehab assignment. Unclear what role he'll fill in the majors this season but still has ace-caliber future thanks to high-octane fastball and solid curveball/changeup mix.
21. SS Royce Lewis, Minnesota Twins (Previous: 22)
Deserving No. 1 overall pick last June despite not having as high a ceiling as Hunter Greene, the No. 2 pick. With a 60-grade hit tool, 70-grade speed, intriguing power potential and the tools to be a standout defender at shortstop or in center field, he looks like a future star.
22. RHP Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 23)
Potential to be a generational talent. Legitimate two-way prospect will focus on pitching as a pro. Has an 80-grade fastball that's backed by a slider/changeup pairing that remains a work in progress. A project as evidenced by his numbers in Single-A (9.88 ERA, 6.6 BB/9, .365 BAA) but should be worth the wait. Plus-plus makeup.
23. RHP Brent Honeywell, Tampa Bay Rays (Previous: 24)
Tommy John surgery will cost him the entire 2018 season. Would likely have joined MLB rotation by midseason if not for injury. Polished five-pitch mix is highlighted by a mid-90s fastball, plus changeup and the rare screwball—his best offering. Bulldog mentality to get the most out of his plus stuff.
24. RHP Sixto Sanchez, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous: 26)
Precocious right-hander posted a 3.03 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and an 84-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 95 innings of full-season ball as an 18-year-old. Has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez for his similar repertoire and undersized 6'0" frame. Could debut in 2019 and quickly join Aaron Nola atop the rotation.
25. SS Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays (Previous: 27)
Centerpiece of the deal that sent David Price to Detroit in 2014. Has been pushed aggressively through the system and hit .277/.360/.415 with an 11.2 percent walk rate at Triple-A last year. Might fit best at second base but should be able to handle shortstop at the next level. Bat gives him All-Star upside.
26. RHP Franklin Perez, Detroit Tigers (Previous: 28)
Emerged as top pitching prospect in a deep Houston system before being traded to Detroit in the Justin Verlander deal. Strikeouts per nine innings dropped from 10.1 to 8.1 against higher-level competition last year, but plus command and overall polish still give him a middle-of-the-rotation floor. Sidelined with a lat strain.
27. OF Estevan Florial, New York Yankees (Previous: 29)
Toolsy outfielder hit .298/.372/.479 with 43 extra-base hits and 23 stolen bases in a breakout season between Single-A and High-A as a teenager. Some concern over 31.1 percent strikeout rate, but present on-base skills give hope he can refine his approach. Hit tool will determine ceiling.
28. OF Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox (Previous: 31)
Given a hefty $26 million bonus last May after leaving Cuba. Hit .401/.526/.687 in 232 plate appearances as an 18-year-old in Cuba's top league. Exception athlete with a chiseled 6'3", 185-pound frame and significant five-tool upside. Could move quickly.
29. OF Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 33)
Best collection of raw tools in the 2017 draft. Hit .325/.376/.532 with 24 extra-base hits in 49 games in pro debut and hasn't missed a beat making the jump to Single-A this year. Some swing-and-miss to his game and will need to show the ability to make adjustments. Could be a perennial All-Star.
30. LHP Justus Sheffield, New York Yankees (Previous: 34)
Turned heads in Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 3.10 ERA and had a 22/3 K/BB ratio in 20.1 innings of work. Plus athleticism and proven durability alleviate concerns over his undersized 6'0" frame. Lively mid-90s fastball and tight slider are already plus pitches. Development of changeup is the key.
31. 3B Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves (Previous: HM)
Third baseman of the future in Atlanta, and that future could come soon. Earned a quick promotion to Triple-A earlier this month. Hitting .333/.396/.659 with 11 doubles, nine home runs and 30 RBI in 36 games overall on the year. MLB.com compared him to Troy Glaus.
32. LHP/1B Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays (Previous: 35)
Will be given every chance to be the next Shohei Ohtani. Performance on the mound (12 GS, 3-0, 1.41 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 61 K, 44.2 IP) has trumped production at the plate (249 PA, .234/.390/.350, 5 HR, 38 RBI) so far as a pro. Should move quickly regardless of his future role.
33. OF Taylor Trammell, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 36)
Best athlete in the 2016 draft already looks like a steal as the No. 35 overall pick. Two-sport standout has been more polished than expected on the diamond. His 70-grade speed is best present tool but has some legitimate power potential and could be a 30/30 threat if everything clicks.
34. LHP Luiz Gohara, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 37)
As electric as any left-handed pitching prospect in baseball. Fastball uptick has him touching triple digits, and he backs it with a wipeout slider. Changeup lags behind those two pitches. Still looks like a starter long-term, but stuff would play up in relief. Missed time early with an ankle injury.
35. RHP Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 38)
Nothing left to prove in the minors after going 14-4 with a 2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 147 strikeouts in 148.2 innings in the upper levels last year. Profiles more as a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse than a future ace but plenty of value in that. Great command of four-pitch mix despite no elite offering.
36. OF Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 39)
Pure hitter with a .304/.361/.440 line in parts of five minor league seasons. Will always be more hit than power; could have a similar career to Nick Markakis. Two-way prospect in high school with a rocket arm that fits well in right field. Little left to prove in the minors.
37. RHP Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 40)
Second prep pitcher from the 2015 draft class to reach majors—only reliever Jordan Hicks debuted earlier. Prototypical workhorse frame at 6'5" and 225 pounds. Highest floor of any pitching prospect in a loaded Atlanta system. Might peak as a No. 3 starter but could fill that role for the next 10 years.
38. 2B Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers (Previous: 41)
Best pure hitter in the 2017 draft backed it up with a .371/.422/.611 line while reaching Single-A in his pro debut. Short stroke and line-drive ability should make him a perennial .300 hitter, albeit with limited over-the-fence power. Passable defender at second base who could also fit in left field.
39. OF Leody Taveras, Texas Rangers (Previous: 42)
Signed for $2.1 million as one of the headliners of the 2015 international free-agent crop. Held his own as an 18-year-old in full-season ball last year and off to a strong start at High-A with a .273/.370/.385 line and seven stolen bases. Profiles as a future leadoff hitter and standout defender in center field.
40. RHP Fernando Romero, Minnesota Twins (Previous: 43)
Tossed eight no-hit innings over four appearances in spring training. Earned a quick call-up to the majors and has gone 2-0 with a 0.54 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 16.2 innings over three starts. Durability is the biggest question, as he's dealt with injuries in the past and never thrown more than 125 innings in a season.
41. LHP Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics (Previous: HM)
Acquired from the Nationals last summer in the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade. First-round talent slipped to the third round in 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Impressive rookie ball showing has put him on the fast track, and polished three-pitch mix gives him significant upside.
42. LF Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers (Previous: 44)
Hitter without a home defensively. Began career as a second baseman but now looks like he'll be limited to left field and DH duties. Can flat-out hit. Had a .300/.355/.572 line with 31 home runs and 93 RBI at Triple-A last year. Only a matter of time before he gets the call.
43. LHP A.J. Puk, Oakland Athletics (Previous: 32)
Underwent Tommy John surgery in April, hence the slide in the rankings relative to his Opening Day position. Talented enough to go No. 1 overall in 2016 but slipped to No. 6 after inconsistent spring. Has shown better all-around command as a pro and racked up 184 strikeouts in 125 innings last season. Repeating his delivery will be crucial with a big 6'7" frame.
44. LHP Kolby Allard, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 45)
First high school pitcher selected in 2015 at No. 14 overall. Fastball sits in the low 90s but has plus-plus command and does a good job keeping hitters off-balance with three-pitch arsenal. Similar profile to Soroka as more of a middle-of-the-rotation starter with a similarly high probability of delivering on that potential.
45. 2B Luis Urias, San Diego Padres (Previous: 46)
Might have the best contact skills of any prospect. A .307/.397/.392 career hitter in the minors who has recorded more walks (180) than strikeouts (162). Capable of playing on both sides of second-base bag defensively. Might never pop more than 10 home runs but a legitimate 70-grade hit tool.
46. C Keibert Ruiz, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: HM)
Best catching prospect in a Dodgers system that has several of interest. Moving unusually quickly for a catcher. Hit .316/.361/.452 with 33 extra-base hits between Single-A and High-A as an 18-year-old last season. Good receiving skills but has work to do on his footwork and throwing. A lot to like here.
47. RHP Kyle Wright, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 48)
Signed to an above-slot $7 million bonus as the No. 5 overall pick last June. Entire four-pitch repertoire can flash plus at times. Offers more projectability in his 6'4", 200-pound frame than most pitchers who come out of the college ranks. Ace upside if the pieces fall into place.
48. LHP Adrian Morejon, San Diego Padres (Previous: HM)
As much polish and pitchability as any teenage pitching prospect in recent memory. Will play the entire 2018 season at age of 19. Looks to be well worth the $11 million bonus it cost the Padres to sign him out of Cuba in 2016. Should move quickly toward No. 2 starter ceiling.
49. OF Anthony Alford, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 49)
Former college football player who didn't turn his full attention to baseball until 2015. Has had a hard time staying healthy, including last season when a broken hamate bone limited him to 77 games and earlier this year when he dealt with a hamstring strain. When healthy, he has the full box of tools at his disposal.
50. RHP Michel Baez, San Diego Padres (Previous: 50)
Dominated younger hitters last year, posting a 2.54 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 63.2 innings between rookie ball and Single-A as a 21-year-old. Will need to back that up against better competition. With a 70-grade fastball and a strong 6'8" frame, it's easy to dream about his long-term potential, but he still has work to do.
The Next 50
- Albert Abreu (NYY)
- Chance Adams (NYY)
- Yadier Alvarez (LAD)
- Ian Anderson (ATL)
- Shane Baz (PIT)
- Shane Bieber (CLE)
- J.B. Bukauskas (HOU)
- Corbin Burnes (MIL)
- Beau Burrows (DET)
- Dylan Cease (CWS)
- Dane Dunning (CWS)
- Jon Duplantier (ARI)
- Alex Faedo (DET)
- Max Fried (ATL)
- Stephen Gonsalves (MIN)
- Alec Hansen (CWS)
- Matt Manning (DET)
- Adonis Medina (PHI)
- Nate Pearson (TOR)
- Cal Quantrill (SD)
- Tony Santillan (CIN)
- Mitchell White (LAD)
- 1B Peter Alonso (NYM)
- 2B Franklin Barreto (OAK)
- 1B Jake Bauers (TB)
- 3B Michael Chavis (BOS)
- SS Nick Gordon (MIN)
- SS Wander Javier (MIN)
- 2B Jahmai Jones (LAA)
- SS Carter Kieboom (WAS)
- SS Jorge Mateo (OAK)
- 1B Ryan McMahon (COL)
- 3B Ryan Mountcastle (BAL)
- C Sean Murphy (OAK)
- 1B Josh Naylor (SD)
- 1B Pavin Smith (ARI)
- 3B Colton Welker (COL)
- Yordan Alvarez (HOU)
- Yusniel Diaz (LAD)
- Monte Harrison (MIA)
- Austin Hays (BAL)
- Kyle Lewis (SEA)
- Brandon Marsh (LAA)
- Julio Pablo Martinez (TEX)
- Seuly Matias (KC)
- Austin Meadows (PIT)
- Tyler O'Neill (STL)
- Jhailyn Ortiz (PHI)
- Heliot Ramos (SF)
- Blake Rutherford (CWS)
Graduated since Opening Day rankings
- 3. RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani (LAA)
- 18. 2B Scott Kingery (PHI)
- 20. SS J.P. Crawford (PHI)
- 25. OF Lewis Brinson (MIA)
- Next 50: 3B Miguel Andujar (NYY)
- Next 50: C Carson Kelly (STL)
- Next 50: SP Tyler Mahle (CIN)
- Next 50: C Chance Sisco (BAL)