Projecting Each MLB Team's Top Prospect at the End of 2019

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2019

Projecting Each MLB Team's Top Prospect at the End of 2019

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Top MLB prospects such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez and Fernando Tatis Jr. will be the talk of the baseball world once they arrive in the majors.

    But their rises to the big leagues will leave behind opportunities for other prospects to step into the spotlight and take over as their organizations' No. 1 up-and-coming talents. With that in mind, we set out to project the top prospect in each MLB system when the 2019 season comes to a close.

    In other words, once all the big names on the cusp of the majors reach the big leagues, who will replace them as the headlining farmhands?

    In some cases, a team's current top prospect and projected top prospect at the end of 2019 are one and the same. In many others, a new face is set to emerge as a club's marquee young talent.

    Let's get to it.

AL East

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    Eric Pardinho
    Eric PardinhoAndre Penner/Associated Press

    Baltimore Orioles: LHP DL Hall

    The O's grabbed Hall with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2017 draft, and he's quickly proved himself a steal. The 20-year-old lefty spent last season in Single-A, where he posted a 2.10 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 94.1 innings. Even if Yusniel Diaz doesn't graduate to the majors, Hall has the stuff to overtake him as the No. 1 guy in Baltimore.

         

    Boston Red Sox: SS Antoni Flores

    The Red Sox have one of the thinnest systems in baseball, and the No. 1 spot should soon be up for grabs with Michael Chavis and Darwinzon Hernandez both likely to reach the majors this season. Flores, who signed for $1.4 million in 2017, made his stateside debut as a 17-year-old last year. With 50-grade (or better) tools across the board, he has a chance to become one of 2019's breakout prospects.

         

    New York Yankees: RHP Clarke Schmidt

    Schmidt went No. 16 overall in the 2017 draft despite undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier that year. He returned down the stretch last season to post a 3.09 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 23.1 innings, and his first full pro season could feature a Walker Buehler-type rise through the system. Meanwhile, another sub-par season from current No. 1 prospect Estevan Florial could cause his stock to slide.

         

    Tampa Bay Rays: SS Wander Franco

    Franco will be in the mix for the title of No. 1 prospect in baseball once Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Victor Robles move on to the big leagues. The 18-year-old hit .351/.418/.587 with 28 extra-base hits and 57 RBI in 61 games of rookie ball, and he won't turn 19 until next March.

          

    Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Eric Pardinho

    With Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette and Danny Jansen all likely to move on to the majors, this one is a toss-up between Nate Pearson and Pardinho. The latter pitched in the 2016 World Baseball Classic as a 15-year-old, and he posted a 2.88 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 64-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 50 innings in his pro debut last year.

AL Central

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    Royce Lewis
    Royce LewisBrace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Chicago White Sox: RHP Michael Kopech

    Armed with an 80-grade fastball and electric off-speed stuff, Kopech has a chance to be the future ace of the White Sox staff. He got his first taste of MLB action last season and would have played a prominent role this year, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in September and will spend the season recovering. Despite that injury, he'll be the No. 1 prospect once Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease move on to the majors.

         

    Cleveland Indians: 3B Nolan Jones

    A .283/.405/.466 line with 21 doubles and 19 home runs between Single-A and High-A vaulted Jones onto leaguewide top-100 lists. His plate discipline and developing power give him a chance to be an impact offensive player, and he's capable of overtaking Triston McKenzie as the top prospect in Cleveland even if the lanky right-hander doesn't debut in 2019.

         

    Detroit Tigers: RHP Casey Mize

    Mize went No. 1 overall last June, and he closed out 2018 with four starts at High-A Lakeland. He's clearly on the fast track, but the rebuilding Tigers have no reason to rush him to the big leagues. A 2019 debut seems unlikely. He backs a strong fastball/slider combination with a plus-plus splitter, and he commands his entire repertoire extremely well.

         

    Kansas City Royals: C MJ Melendez

    A second-round pick in 2017, Melendez hit .251/.322/.492 with 26 doubles, 19 home runs and 73 RBI at Single-A last season. The 20-year-old is already a good receiver with an above-average arm, so it's his bat that will ultimately determine how effective he can be at the next level. A similar showing in the upper levels of the minors could be enough for him to overtake Brady Singer in the Kansas City system.

         

    Minnesota Twins: SS Royce Lewis

    The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Lewis is quickly living up to the hype. The 19-year-old hit .292/.352/.451 with 29 doubles, 14 home runs and 28 steals between Single-A and High-A last year, and a 2020 debut is not out of the question. He's already one of the 10 best prospects in baseball.

AL West

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    Jo Adell
    Jo AdellJamie Squire/Getty Images

    Houston Astros: RHP Bryan Abreu

    Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, Josh James and J.B. Bukauskas all look like reasonable bets to exhaust their prospect eligibility before the 2019 season is over, which will leave an opening at the top of the Houston system. Corbin Martin is the safe pick to take over as the team's new No. 1 prospect, but we'll go with Abreu. The 21-year-old posted a 1.49 ERA with an eye-popping 90 strikeouts in 54.1 innings last season and has a higher ceiling than Martin with top-of-the-rotation potential.

         

    Los Angeles Angels: OF Jo Adell

    Earlier, we mentioned Rays shortstop Wander Franco will be a candidate to take over as baseball's top prospect once Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Victor Robles move on to the big leagues. His biggest competition might be Adell, who has quickly transformed from raw athlete to true five-tool talent. The 19-year-old hit .290/.355/.543 with 56 extra-base hits and 15 steals last season while reaching Double-A.

        

    Oakland Athletics: OF Lazaro Armenteros

    Once Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk and Sean Murphy graduate to the big leagues, the Oakland system will be rather thin. This spot is a coin toss between Armenteros and fellow outfielder Austin Beck, who were both good but not great in 2018. Beck might be a little further along in his development, but Armenteros has the higher ceiling and could take a big step forward if he starts to tap into his plus raw power.

        

    Seattle Mariners: OF Julio Rodriguez

    Yusei Kikuchi is already on the MLB roster, and Justus Sheffield could be there before the All-Star break. That leaves Rodriguez to contend with newcomer Jarred Kelenic for the No. 1 spot in Seattle. Rodriguez, still only 18 years old, hit .315/.404/.525 with 27 extra-base hits over 59 games in the Dominican Summer League. His stateside debut is among the most anticipated of 2019, and it could put him on the elite prospect map.

         

    Texas Rangers: RHP Hans Crouse

    If Crouse can develop his changeup into even a passable third offering, he has a chance to be the future ace of the Texas staff. For now, the 20-year-old has a fastball that can touch 99 and a wipeout slider, and he used those two plus offerings to post a 2.47 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 62 strikeouts in 54.2 innings while seeing his first Single-A action last season.

NL East

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    Andres Gimenez
    Andres GimenezRich Schultz/Getty Images

    Atlanta Braves: RHP Ian Anderson

    The Braves have a deep stable of arms and some clear holes to fill on the staff, and a number of their top prospects saw MLB action down the stretch last year. Anderson was not part of that group, but he might have the highest ceiling among the club's pitching prospects. The 20-year-old posted a 2.49 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 142 strikeouts in 119.1 innings last year, closing out the season with four solid starts at Double-A.

        

    Miami Marlins: RHP Sixto Sanchez

    The Marlins gained a new No. 1 prospect when they acquired Sanchez from the Philadelphia Phillies in the J.T. Realmuto deal. The 20-year-old might already be knocking on the door if not for injury issues, including elbow inflammation that shut him down for the year last June. The Marlins will be extremely cautious with one of their most promising young assets, and that likely means another year in the minors.

         

    New York Mets: SS Andres Gimenez

    While Amed Rosario tries to establish himself as the long-term shortstop at the MLB level, Gimenez is rapidly climbing the organization ranks. The 20-year-old hit .281/.347/.409 with 40 extra-base hits and 38 steals last year, and he held his own following a promotion to Double-A. He won't turn 21 until September and has just 37 games at Double-A under his belt, so he's probably still at least a year away.

         

    Philadelphia Phillies: 3B Alec Bohm

    Intrigued by his tremendous raw power, the Phillies grabbed Bohm with the No. 3 overall pick last June. While the Wichita State standout hit just .252 with a .659 OPS and zero home runs in 40 games after signing, he's still capable of developing into a middle-of-the-order force. He'll likely head to Single-A for his first full pro season.

        

    Washington Nationals: SS Luis Garcia

    With Victor Robles on the Opening Day roster and Carter Kieboom likely coming along at some point, a top-heavy Nationals system will be without its top two prospects. The only other elite young talent down on the farm is Garcia, who won't turn 19 until May. With a 60-grade hit tool and the defensive skills to stick at shortstop, he could fly up leaguewide lists in 2019.

NL Central

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    Taylor Trammell
    Taylor TrammellRob Tringali/Getty Images

    Chicago Cubs: SS Nico Hoerner

    Hoerner can hit. The 21-year-old batted .345/.391/.496 during his junior season at Stanford. He hit .327/.450/.571 with six extra-base hits in 14 games after signing last summer. Then he hit .337/.362/.506 with nine extra-base hits over 21 games in the Arizona Fall League. And then he went 8-for-15 with six extra-base hits in 18 plate appearances this spring. The guy can just flat-out hit.

          

    Cincinnati Reds: OF Taylor Trammell

    Nick Senzel will be in the big leagues before the All-Star break, leaving Taylor Trammell and Hunter Greene to battle for the No. 1 prospect spot. Greene will likely be on a short leash after dealing with an elbow strain last season, while Trammell should continue on the fast track. The 21-year-old hit .277/.375/.406 with 31 extra-base hits and 25 steals at High-A, and he's one of the best all-around athletes in the minors.

        

    Milwaukee Brewers: SS Brice Turang

    A candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft heading into his senior season of high school, Turang's stock slipped a bit after a lackluster spring. The Brewers scooped him up at No. 21 overall, and all the tools that made him such a highly regarded prospect are still there. He posted a .396 on-base percentage with nearly as many walks (31) as strikeouts (34) in 42 rookie league games after signing and could take off in his full-season debut.

         

    Pittsburgh Pirates: SS Oneil Cruz

    Mitch Keller and Ke'Bryan Hayes should find their way to the majors before 2019 comes to a close, which leaves the door open for Cruz to take over as the team's headlining prospect. The 20-year-old hit .286/.343/.488 with 25 doubles and 14 home runs at Single-A, and he's just starting to tap into his 60-grade power. The 6'6" shortstop will need to hold off 2018 first-round pick Travis Swaggerty for the top spot.

        

    St. Louis Cardinals: 3B Nolan Gorman

    Gorman had the most raw power of any prospect in the 2018 draft, and it was on full display in the 63 games he played after going No. 19 overall. The 18-year-old hit .291/.380/.570 with 13 doubles and 17 home runs in just 274 plate appearances, earning a glimpse of Single-A as a result. His full-season debut could vault him into the upper echelon of position-player prospects.

NL West

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    Joey Bart
    Joey BartRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Kristian Robinson

    Arizona signed Robinson for $2.5 million out of the Bahamas as part of the 2017 international free-agent class. He then played the entire 2018 season as a 17-year-old and hit .279/.363/.428 with 12 doubles and seven home runs in 57 games over two rookie league stops. His 6'3", 190-pound frame contains major power potential, and he has as high a ceiling as any position-player prospect currently in the lower levels of the minors. His Single-A debut will be closely monitored.

         

    Colorado Rockies: 3B Colton Welker

    After Nolan Arenado signed an eight-year extension this offseason, it's unclear exactly how Welker fits into Colorado's long-term picture. Whether he lands at a different position or winds up a trade chip, the 21-year-old appears to have a bright future. He hit .333/.383/.489 with 32 doubles and 13 home runs at High-A last year and went 10-for-19 with two home runs this spring.

         

    Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Dustin May

    Assuming Alex Verdugo becomes a full-time member of the outfield and Keibert Ruiz makes his debut at some point in the second half, the Dodgers' No. 1 spot will be up for grabs. Gavin Lux would be the easy pick, but don't bet against May taking a major step forward. The 6'6" right-hander has four quality offerings, and he posted a 3.39 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 122 strikeouts in 132.2 innings between High-A and Double-A last year. The 21-year-old could debut late and become a full-time member of the 2020 rotation.

        

    San Diego Padres: LHP MacKenzie Gore

    A wave of prospect talent is set to descend upon San Diego this season, led by shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and right-hander Chris Paddack. Second baseman Luis Urias, catcher Francisco Mejia and pitchers Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill should also carve out regular roles. When the dust settles, the 20-year-old Gore—already one of baseball's top pitching prospects—should be the unquestioned No. 1 prospect in the system.

        

    San Francisco Giants: C Joey Bart

    After he hit .359/.471/.632 with 16 home runs during his junior season at Georgia Tech, Bart went No. 2 overall last June. The 22-year-old has immediately become the top catching prospect in baseball, and he should be on the fast track after he laid waste to lower-level pitching to the tune of a .294/.364/.588 line with 15 doubles and 13 home runs in 2018. A 2020 debut seems well within the realm of possibility.

          

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.