Ranking the Top Prospects for All 30 MLB Teams Entering 2019

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2019

Ranking the Top Prospects for All 30 MLB Teams Entering 2019

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    Every MLB franchise has a top prospect, but not all top prospects are created equal.

    As we wait for the remaining free-agent shoes to drop and for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training, let's rank each squad's best MiLB player entering 2019, beginning with No. 30 and ending with No. 1.

    A few things to keep in mind:

    • Every club gets one and only one entrant, regardless of how fertile or fallow their farm systems may be. 
    • Top prospects are defined by the latest rankings from Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter.
    • In ranking each top prospect, we considered potential, health, production and a dollop of informed gut feeling.

No. 30-No. 21

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    No. 30: LHP Taylor Hearn, Texas Rangers

    Command is the main concern with Texas Rangers lefty Taylor Hearn. But when he harnesses his stuff, he looks like the real thing.

    Hearn posted a 3.49 ERA with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings at Double-A last season behind a fastball that can touch triple digits. If he develops his slider, the 24-year-old could emerge as a viable starter or bat-missing late-inning reliever.


    No. 29: SS Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs

    Nico Hoerner hit .327/.450/.571 in 60 plate appearances between the rookie leagues and Single-A last season, then slashed .337/.362/.506 in 21 Arizona Fall League games.

    The No. 24 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft, the 21-year-old is a name to watch in a thin Chicago Cubs farm system.


    No. 28: 3B Nolan Gorman, St. Louis Cardinals

    Nolan Gorman advanced to Single-A in 2018 and finished with a .949 OPS and 17 homers in 63 minor league games.

    He whiffed 76 times in 237 at-bats, but he's also just 18 years old and possesses game-changing pop. Assuming he hones his defense at third base, he could be a fence-clearing corner infielder at the highest level. 


    No. 27: OF Victor Victor Mesa, Miami Marlins

    From a public-relations standpoint, the Miami Marlins' signing of Cuban standout Victor Victor Mesa (and his younger brother, 17-year-old Victor Mesa Jr.) was a rare bit of good news for Derek Jeter and the rest of the ownership group in South Beach.

    The elder Mesa turns 23 in July and may ascend rapidly through the Marlins system. His speed, defense and arm strength all profile as potentially elite, though there is some question regarding his power and on-base capabilities. 


    No. 26: RHP Jon Duplantier, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Jon Duplantier supplements a sinking, mid-90s fastball with a plus slider, solid curveball and emerging changeup that could give him a four-pitch repertoire. 

    He's missed time with elbow issues and arm fatigue (red flag alert) but under the best-case scenario, the 24-year-old profiles as a top-of-the-rotation starter.


    No. 25: 3B Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox

    An 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension sent Michael Chavis' stock tumbling, but the 23-year-old still possesses a quality hit tool.

    In 41 games spent mostly at Double-A (with a stint at Triple-A), Chavis hit .298 with a .919 OPS. Assuming he puts the PED baggage behind him, he's likely to see MLB action for Boston in 2019.


    No. 24: RHP Brady Singer, Kansas City Royals

    The Kansas City Royals snagged righty Brady Singer with the 18th pick in the 2018 amateur draft, and they might have gotten a steal.

    The 6'5", 210-pound righty sits in the mid-90s with a sinking fastball, and his slider profiles as a strong second offering. If he can develop his changeup as a reliable third weapon, Singer has the makings of a rotation-fronting starter for the rebuilding Royals. 


    No. 23: SS Andres Gimenez, New York Mets

    Andres Gimenez hit .281 with a .347 on-base percentage between High-A and Double-A in 2018. He won't turn 21 until September, but he appears to be on the fast track with the New York Mets.

    His power is still emerging, though he collected 40 extra-base hits in 122 MiLB games and has the defensive skills to stick at shortstop.


    No. 22: OF Yusniel Diaz, Baltimore Orioles

    Yusniel Diaz was the main chip in the trade that sent Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 2018 trade deadline. Expectations are understandably high.

    Overall, Diaz displayed the skills to meet said expectations with an .841 OPS, 11 homers and 12 stolen bases in 97 games at Double-A. He's got 20-20 potential with adequate defensive abilities at a corner outfield position.


    No. 21: OF Estevan Florial, New York Yankees

    The New York Yankees have promoted most of the top names from a farm system that was recently among the game's best.

    The glitziest remaining player in the Yanks' MiLB ranks is outfielder Estevan Florial. The 21-year-old slashed .283/.377/.422 and swiped 16 bases between the rookie leagues and High-A last season. He also struck out 92 times in 84 games. 

    He's raw, but he's loaded with five-tool potential.

No. 20-No. 11

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    No. 20: Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Indians

    Triston McKenzie posted a 2.68 ERA in 90.2 innings at Double-A last season while holding opposing hitters to a .191 average.

    He has an excellent feel for his mid-90s fastball and supplements it with a curveball and changeup that are both plus offerings. 

    His lanky frame (6'5", 165 pounds) raises durability questions, but he profiles as a frontline starter.


    No. 19: RHP Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves

    The Atlanta Braves can be patient with top prospect Ian Anderson in a system that features a number of intriguing pitchers. That said, Anderson looked like a prospect on the rise in 2018 as he posted a 2.49 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 119.1 innings between High-A and Double-A.

    If he hones a developing curveball and changeup in addition to his effective mid-90s fastball, the 20-year-old could soon be knocking on the MLB door.


    No. 18: LHP Justus Sheffield, Seattle Mariners

    Justus Sheffield got his feet wet at the MLB level with the New York Yankees in 2018 before the Yanks flipped him to the Seattle Mariners this winter in the James Paxton trade.

    The 22-year-old lefty posted a 2.48 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 116 minor league frames and complements his mid-90s fastball with a bat-missing slider and work-in-progress changeup. If all proceeds as expected, he should be in the Mariners rotation soon.


    No. 17: 2B Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers

    A consummate contact artist, Keston Hiura slashed .293/.357/.464 last season between High-A and Double-A. With solid speed, a compact swing and the ability to spray the ball to all fields, Hiura projects as a classic No. 2 hitter in a big league lineup.

    Add serviceable defense at second base, and Hiura should either rocket through the Milwaukee Brewers system or become a valuable trade piece come July.


    No. 16: RHP Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates

    With a fastball that tickles the high-90s and a drop-the-hammer curveball, Mitch Keller has the makings of an MLB ace.

    He needs a quality third pitch, which could come in the form of an emerging changeup. If he develops that, the 22-year-old will soon be plying his trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates after advancing as high as Triple-A last season.


    No. 15: OF Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers

    After raking at Triple-A to the tune of a .329 average and .863 OPS, Alex Verdugo made his big league debut in 2018.

    His power remains a question mark, but he's got the innate hitting ability and plus arm of a corner outfielder. Unless he's traded, Verdugo should feature heavily into the Los Angeles Dodgers' outfield mix, especially after the club traded veterans Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Cincinnati Reds.


    No. 14: RHP Sixto Sanchez, Philadelphia Phillies

    Sixto Sanchez is the definition of a high-ceiling/low-floor prospect. 

    On the high-ceiling side, he hits triple digits with his fastball, is working on a plus slider and throws like an ace in the offing when he's healthy.

    On the low-floor side, he was shut down last June with elbow inflammation and has the red-flag trappings of an injury-prone flameout. The Philadelphia Phillies should proceed with caution, but they should also reserve maximum optimism.


    No. 13: C Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants

    When it comes to drafting catchers with Georgia connections, the San Francisco Giants have a decent track record. See: Posey, Gerald Dempsey "Buster" III. 

    Is Joey Bart the next in line? The Georgia Tech alum acquitted himself well after going No. 2 overall to the Giants in the 2018 draft, as he posted a .952 OPS in 51 minor league games.

    He's got the arm and emerging receiving skills to stick behind the dish, and his hit tool could indeed make him the next Posey. No pressure, kid.


    No. 12: RHP Casey Mize, Detroit Tigers

    The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft, right-hander Casey Mize posted a 3.95 ERA and fanned 14 in 13.2 pro innings with the Detroit Tigers.

    His fastball touches the high-90s, and his splitter is devastating. If his slider emerges as a plus third offering, the 21-year-old could reach the big leagues by 2020 and headline the rebuilding Tigers rotation by 2021.


    No. 11: SS Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays

    Keep your eyes on Wander Franco.

    The Tampa Bay Rays prospect played 61 rookie league games at the tender age of 17 and hit .351 with a 1.004 OPS. 

    Obviously we need to see what he does against stiffer competition before we anoint him the next big thing, but based on those results as well as the defensive capabilities to stick at shortstop...wow.

No. 10: LHP Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics

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    Jesus Luzardo posted a 2.88 ERA and struck out 129 batters in 109.1 innings in the Oakland Athletics system last season.

    The 21-year-old advanced as high as Triple-A and could soon be toiling in Oakland's rotation, especially if he perfects a curveball that augments his high-90s fastball and plus changeup. 

    The small-market A's are never afraid to promote, and Luzardo is a prime candidate.

No. 9: OF Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels

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    The Los Angeles Angels have worked to rebuild a once-moribund farm system. Their crown jewel? Jo Adell.

    In 99 games between Single-A, High-A and Double-A, Adell hit .290 with 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases and flashed the defensive instincts and arm strength of a legitimate MLB right fielder.

    If Mike Trout exits Anaheim via free agency following the 2020 season, Adell could be the heir apparent.

No. 8: INF Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies

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    Brendan Rodgers cracked 17 homers with an .835 OPS in 95 games at Double-A last season and advanced to Triple-A. He doesn't have much left to prove for a Colorado Rockies franchise that could use help in the middle infield. 

    Whether he profiles as a shortstop or second baseman or slots at third base in the event Nolan Arenado bails via free agency after the 2019 season, Rodgers has many paths to the big leagues in the not-too-distant future.

No. 7: RHP Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros

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    You could make an argument for outfielder Kyle Tucker as the Houston Astros' top prospect. But it's tough to make an argument against right-hander Forrest Whitley.

    The 21-year-old hit a bump in the road with a 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension, but he returned to strike out 34 hitters in 26.1 innings at Double-A while flashing a high-90s fastball, bat-missing curveball, power slider and plus changeup befitting an emerging ace.

    If the PED noise is permanently relegated to the rearview, Whitley could soon be the Astros' resident stud.

No. 6: SS Royce Lewis, Minnesota Twins

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    A consummate athlete, Royce Lewis hit .292 with an .803 OPS between Single-A and High-A last season. That's especially impressive when you consider the Minnesota Twins prospect won't turn 20 years old until June.

    Lewis' power should progress as he ages, and he's got the range, hands and arm to remain at shortstop or transition to center field.

    Either way, the Twinkies have a versatile future star in their system.

No. 5: 3B Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds

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    Nick Senzel is on the doorstep of MLB stardom. The 23-year-old hit .310 with an .887 OPS at Triple-A before a fractured right index finger ended his season.

    Freak injury aside, Senzel is a polished hitter with all the tools to succeed at the highest level. 

    He's presently blocked on the Reds' infield depth chart by second baseman Scooter Gennett and third baseman Eugenio Suarez. But as soon as a trade or injury opens a spot, expect Senzel to carve his role in The Show and stay there.

No. 4: OF Victor Robles, Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals may soon wave goodbye to the Bryce Harper era, assuming the franchise icon signs with another club.

    If so, the Nats can pivot to up-and-coming talent, including outfielders Juan Soto and Victor Robles. Soto exceeded his rookie limits in 2018, but Robles is technically a prospect. 

    An elbow injury slowed Robles last season. But the 21-year-old finished with 13 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases in 52 minor league contests before hitting .288 in 21 MLB games, and he boasts the explosive speed and defensive prowess to play a superlative center field.

No. 3: OF Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox

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    Eloy Jimenez hit .317 with a .925 OPS in 53 games at Double-A last season, then hit .355 with a .996 OPS in 55 games at Triple-A.

    Add it up, and you've got the makings of an MLB breakout.

    Jimenez is average at best defensively and projects as an adequate left fielder or designated hitter. But his hit tool is good enough to outweigh those factors, especially for an American League club.

    He's 22 years old and displayed game-changing pop in the upper minors. What more do the rebuilding Chicago White Sox need to hear?

No. 2: SS Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres

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    Fernando Tatis Jr. slashed .286/.355/.507 with 22 doubles, 16 home runs and 16 steals as a 19-year-old at Double-A. 

    He won't begin the 2019 season as a member of the San Diego Padres, but the Friars can't keep him down for long.

    Given his height (6'3") and prodigious arm strength, Tatis could ultimately slide to third base. Then again, considering his range and athletic ability, he could be an oversized shortstop in the Carlos Correa mold.

    Either way, the Pads should be licking their chops.

No. 1: 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

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    Like Tatis, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a second-generation star streaking across the MLB firmament. 

    The son of Vlad rose from the rookie leagues to Triple-A in 2018 and combined for a .381 average and 1.073 OPS at the age of 19.

    He's got the bat speed and pure strength of his dad, and he could be a 40-homer force for the rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays in the near term.

    At the least, Guerrero should make his MLB debut in 2019. Here's betting he'll swing it well enough to stay around for the long haul.


    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.