B/R's Top 50 MLB Prospects at the Start of the 2019 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2019

B/R's Top 50 MLB Prospects at the Start of the 2019 Season

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    With the MiLB season set to begin, it's time for Bleacher Report's top 50 prospects for the 2019 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 into the big leagues, 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 to be considered for inclusion. That means fewer than 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 start with 50 guys who fell just outside the rankings.

The Next 50

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    Yusei Kikuchi
    Yusei KikuchiMasterpress/Getty Images

    RHP: Michel Baez (SD), Griffin Canning (LAA), Deivi Garcia (NYY), Dakota Hudson (STL), Josh James (HOU), Corbin Martin (HOU), Dustin May (LAD), Eric Pardinho (TOR), Luis Patino (SD), Nate Pearson (TOR), Brady Singer (KC), Mike Soroka (ATL), Bryse Wilson (ATL)

    LHP: Logan Allen (SD), DL Hall (BAL), Taylor Hearn (TEX), Yusei Kikuchi (SEA), Matthew Liberatore (TB), Adrian Morejon (SD), A.J. Puk (OAK), Justus Sheffield (SEA)

    C: William Contreras (ATL), Ronaldo Hernandez (TB), Danny Jansen (TOR), MJ Melendez (KC), Keibert Ruiz (LAD)

    1B: Tyler Nevin (COL)

    2B: Brandon Lowe (TB)

    SS: Jazz Chisholm (ARI), Oneil Cruz (PIT), Xavier Edwards (SD), Luis Garcia (WAS), Jordan Groshans (TOR), Nico Hoerner (CHC), Nick Madrigal (CWS)

    3B: Alec Bohm (PHI), Nolan Gorman (STL), Jonathan India (CIN), Mark Vientos (NYM), Colton Welker (COL)

    OF: Yusniel Diaz (BAL), Estevan Florial (NYY), Jarred Kelenic (SEA), Khalil Lee (KC), Brandon Marsh (LAA), Victor Victor Mesa (MIA), Heliot Ramos (SF), Julio Rodriguez (SEA), Travis Swaggerty (PIT), Drew Waters (ATL)

Nos. 50-46

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    Pete Alonso
    Pete AlonsoChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    50. 1B Pete Alonso, New York Mets (MLB)

    Alonso crushed upper-level pitching to the tune of a .975 OPS and 36 home runs last season, followed by an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League and an excellent spring training that won him a spot on the Opening Day roster. His value is tied exclusively to his bat.


    49. OF Jesus Sanchez, Tampa Bay Rays

    Sanchez continues to steadily climb the minor league ranks after hitting .282/.324/.433 with 45 extra-base hits between High-A and Double-A last season. With a solidly built 6'3", 230-pound frame, the 21-year-old has serious middle-of-the-order potential.


    48. RHP Brusdar Graterol, Minnesota Twins

    Since returning from Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2016 season, Graterol has quickly ascended the prospect rankings. With a heavy fastball that can touch triple digits, an excellent slider and a developing curveball and changeup, he has front-line upside if the pieces fall into place.


    47. OF Kristian Robinson, Arizona Diamondbacks

    This an aggressive ranking for a teenager with just 57 professional games under his belt. At the same time, it could wind up being well short of where he finishes the 2019 season. Robinson made his stateside debut last year as a 17-year-old and hit .279/.363/.428 with 19 extra-base hits and 12 steals. There are few, if any, low-level position players with a higher ceiling.


    46. RHP Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds

    Greene will be a spectator for the 2019 season after news broke Monday that he'll undergo Tommy John surgery next week. The 19-year-old has one of the best fastballs in professional baseball and the potential for a pair of plus off-speed pitches. The lost year of development will hurt, though.

Nos. 45-41

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    Luis Robert
    Luis RobertRon Vesely/Getty Images

    45. RHP Jon Duplantier, Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB)

    Despite a shaky history of Rice pitchers at the pro level (Norm Charlton is the only one to ever make an All-Star Game), Duplantier looks poised to be a staple in the Diamondbacks rotation for a long time. The 6'4" right-hander has four playable pitches, including a live fastball that he can dial up to the upper 90s. The 24-year-old earned a save in his MLB debut on April 1, and he'll work out of the bullpen for the time being.


    44. C Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics

    Already a standout defender with a rocket arm, Murphy hit .285/.361/.489 with 37 extra-base hits in 73 games last season to establish himself as one of baseball's top catching prospects. A broken hamate bone cost him time last season and delayed his arrival in the majors, or else he might have been the Opening Day starter behind the plate. With good health, he'll push for the job by midseason.


    43. RHP Sixto Sanchez, Miami Marlins

    Sanchez immediately became the No. 1 prospect in the Miami system after he was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in the J.T. Realmuto trade. Injuries derailed his 2018 season after elbow inflammation ended his year after just eight starts. Healthy once again, he'll look to live up to lofty Pedro Martinez comparisons.


    42. OF Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros

    Alvarez was originally signed by the Dodgers for $2 million, but he was traded to the Astros for reliever Josh Fields before making his pro debut. Whoops. The hulking 6'5", 225-pound outfielder has quickly emerged as one of Houston's elite prospects, and he's still just scratching the surface of his power potential. The 21-year-old hit .293/.369/.534 with 21 doubles and 20 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season.


    41. OF Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox

    Robert has a lot to live up to after the White Sox handed him a $26 million bonus that came with a matching tax penalty. Injuries have limited him to just 78 games since signing on May 27, 2017, but he put on a show in the Arizona Fall League with a .324/.367/.432 line in 79 plate appearances. A big breakout season could be coming in 2019.

Nos. 40-36

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    Carter Kieboom
    Carter KieboomRich Schultz/Getty Images

    40. 3B Nolan Jones, Cleveland Indians

    Jones was a second-round pick in 2016, and elite on-base skills might end up being his ticket to an everyday job. The 20-year-old walked at a 17.1 percent clip last season en route to a .405 on-base percentage while splitting his time between Single-A and High-A. He also slugged 19 home runs, and there's still room for him to grow into his 6'4", 185-pound frame.


    39. SS Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals

    The fractured finger suffered by Trea Turner could open the door for Kieboom to make an early 2019 debut for the Nationals, similar to how an injury to Howie Kendrick paved the way for Juan Soto a year ago. Kieboom, 21, has a 60-grade hit tool, impressive bat speed and the defensive skills to be at least an average defender at shortstop.


    38. SS Andres Gimenez, New York Mets

    Like fellow middle infielder Amed Rosario, Gimenez has been pushed aggressively through the Mets system. The 20-year-old was promoted to Double-A last July after a strong start at High-A, hitting .277/.344/.358 with 10 extra-base hits and 10 steals over 37 games in his first action against upper-level competition. The presence of Rosario and offseason addition of Robinson Cano leaves him with an unclear path, but he should be MLB-ready in some capacity by 2020.


    37. RHP Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Indians

    The promise of further physical projection in McKenzie's lanky 6'5", 165-pound frame gives the 21-year-old one of the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect. While forearm soreness sidelined him until June last season, he was impressive upon returning, posting a 2.68 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and a .191 opponents' batting average in 90.2 innings at Double-A.


    36. 2B Luis Urias, San Diego Padres

    While a shaky spring (55 PA, .224 BA, 16 K) cost Urias a spot on the Opening Day roster, he won't be down for long. The 21-year-old is one of the best pure hitters in the minors with a 70-grade hit tool and a .306/.397/.405 career batting line. He should push veteran Ian Kinsler into a super-utility role by midseason.

Nos. 35-31

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    Cristian Pache
    Cristian PacheJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    35. RHP Matt Manning, Detroit Tigers

    Two-sport athletes often take off once they turn their full attention to one sport, and Manning is the perfect example. The 21-year-old was signed away from baseball and basketball scholarships at Loyola Marymount when he went No. 9 overall in the 2016 draft. Last season, he posted a 3.29 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while striking out 154 batters in 117.2 innings over three levels. He could be co-ace alongside Casey Mize as early as 2020.


    34. LHP/DH Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays

    The Rays continue to use McKay as a two-way player, and why not? That said, he was clearly better on the mound in 2018:

    • Hitter: 242 PA, .214/.368/.359, 8 2B, 6 HR, 39 RBI
    • Pitcher: 78.1 IP, 2.41 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 14 BB, 103 K

    At some point, he could shift his sole focus to pitching. For now, he's an interesting case study in two-way players being developed stateside.


    33. OF Cristian Pache, Atlanta Braves

    MLB.com wrote: "Pache might be the best defensive outfielder in the Minor Leagues at present and once he gets to the big leagues, he'll immediately join a list of elite-level center fielders."

    After hitting .279 with five extra-base hits and three steals in the Arizona Fall League, the 20-year-old is also providing some hope he can be an asset as a batter as well. A strong season at the plate in Double-A would send his stock soaring.


    32. 2B/SS Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers

    After a disappointing full-season debut in 2017, Lux was one of the breakout prospects of 2018, hitting .324/.399/.514 with 27 doubles, 15 home runs and 13 steals between High-A and Double-A. The 21-year-old has 20/20 potential and looks like the long-term answer at second base in Los Angeles.


    31. RHP Touki Toussaint, Atlanta Braves

    In a system loaded with pitching talent, Toussaint might have the highest ceiling of any of the Braves' young hurlers. The 22-year-old will go as far as his command allows, as he walked 21 batters in 29 innings during his MLB debut last season and carries a 4.3 BB/9 walk rate in the minors. When he's locating, his stuff can be absolutely electric.

Nos. 30-26

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    Joey Bart
    Joey BartRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

    30. C Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants

    The No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft and the best catching prospect in years, Bart wasted little time acquainting himself with the pro game, hitting .294/.364/.588 with 31 extra-base hits in 51 games after signing. He's polished enough both offensively and defensively that a 2020 debut is not out of the question. It will depend on how the Giants decide to handle an aging Buster Posey.


    29. 3B Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves

    Riley profiles as the prototypical run-producing third baseman with 60-grade raw power and the reaction time and plus arm to be an above-average defender at the hot corner. The 22-year-old hit .294/.360/.522 with 30 doubles, 19 home runs and 70 RBI last season while reaching Triple-A. The Josh Donaldson signing blocks him, but only temporarily.


    28. RHP Brent Honeywell, Tampa Bay Rays

    After missing the 2018 season to Tommy John recovery, Honeywell could be back in action by May. The 24-year-old has excellent command of his dynamic five-pitch repertoire that includes his plus-plus screwball. According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the front office approached Honeywell about a possible extension this offseason, which should tell you all you need to know about their confidence in his return from injury. 


    27. 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Hayes is the son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes. He has a great chance of eclipsing his father's 14-year, 10.5-WAR playing career, thanks to a 60-grade hit tool and budding raw power. After a strong showing last season at Double-A, he went 12-for-34 with four doubles and three home runs this spring. There's a good chance he'll be up after the All-Star break, if not sooner.


    26. C Francisco Mejia, San Diego Padres (MLB)

    Owner of a 50-game hitting streak during his time in the minors and a .293/.347/.452 batting line over six minor league seasons, Mejia can rake. The question is the defensive side of things, specifically his receiving skills, because he has a rocket arm. Assuming he can develop into an average defender, he could be a perennial All-Star and one of the premier offensive players at his position.

Nos. 25-21

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    Kyle Wright
    Kyle WrightJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    25. OF Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB)

    Verdugo had nothing left to prove in the minors after hitting .329/.391/.472 with 29 extra-base hits in 91 games at Triple-A last season. While the 22-year-old will never be a 30-homer threat, he has a 65-grade hit tool and enough gap power to go for 40-plus doubles. His floor is as high as any position-player prospect outside the upper echelon.


    24. RHP Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Despite a rocky spring, Keller still profiles as a future staple at or near the top of the Pittsburgh rotation. With an advanced fastball/curveball/changeup repertoire, a strong 6'2, 210-pound frame and success in the upper levels of the minors, he's as safe a bet as any pitching prospect for a lengthy MLB career.


    23. RHP Kyle Wright, Atlanta Braves (MLB)

    After going No. 5 overall in the 2017 draft, Wright shot through the minors to make his MLB debut on Sept. 4. With a 6'4", 200-pound frame and four plus pitches, it's easy to envision him as the future ace of the Atlanta staff. The 23-year-old earned a place on the Opening Day roster and will be given every chance to seize a rotation spot for the long haul. 


    22. RHP Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox

    Kopech made his MLB debut on Aug. 21 and allowed just one earned run in 11 innings over his first three starts. He came out with diminished velocity in his fourth start and was shelled before it was revealed that he would need Tommy John surgery. With an 80-grade fastball, wipeout slider and a chance at a good curveball and changeup to boot, he has obvious ace potential as long as he gets back to where he was.


    21. OF Taylor Trammell, Cincinnati Reds

    Trammell is a legitimate five-tool talent with the glove to stick in center field and the speed to serve as a table-setter atop the lineup while he continues to grow into his power. The 21-year-old hit .277/.375/.406 with 31 extra-base hits and 25 steals at High-A, and he won Futures Game MVP in July. He already has a strong 6'2", 215-pound frame, and there's room for him to fill out further and develop into more of a power threat.

Nos. 20-16

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    Keston Hiura
    Keston HiuraJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    20. RHP Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox

    An injury to Michael Kopech and a breakout 2018 season has made Cease the new No. 1 pitching prospect in the White Sox system. The 23-year-old used an upper 90s fastball and a curveball that's as good as any in the minors to post a 2.40 ERA with 160 strikeouts in 124 innings. Perhaps most importantly, he improved his walk rate from 4.2 to 3.6 BB/9. Look for him to debut sometime after the All-Star break.


    19. RHP Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves

    Anderson posted a 2.49 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 119.1 innings and a .199 average opponents' batting average while splitting the season between High-A and Double-A. Still just 20 years old, he has three plus offerings and solid command, with remaining projection in his 6'3", 170-pound frame. There's ace potential here.


    18. 2B Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers

    Hiura might be the best pure hitter in the minors not named Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and his advanced bat should reach the majors at some point in 2019. The No. 9 pick in the 2017 draft hit .293/.357/.464 with 52 extra-base hits between High-A and Double-A, then won Arizona Fall League MVP honors. Next stop, Milwaukee.


    17. 2B/SS Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies

    Taken No. 3 in the 2015 draft after fellow shortstops Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, Rodgers came from the high school ranks and has been on a slightly slower path as a result. That said, he's hit every step of the way, including a .790 OPS with 27 doubles and 17 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year. The Rockies infield is crowded, but he could force the issue very soon.


    16. RHP Casey Mize, Detroit Tigers

    Armed with a mid-90s fastball, plus slider and a devastating splitter, Mize was a layup choice as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. He reached High-A after signing and could be on the fast track given his present stuff and overall polish. All signs point to him being a workhorse atop the Detroit staff for years to come.

Nos. 15-11

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    Jesus Luzardo
    Jesus LuzardoCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    15. LHP MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres

    There are a lot of talented young arms in the San Diego system, and it's Gore who looks like the best bet to emerge as the future ace of the staff. The 6'3" 195-pound left-hander has four above-average pitches and plus command of his entire repertoire, which plays up thanks to a deceptive leg kick. He'll be 20 for the entire 2019 season, and he could reach Double-A by the All-Star break.


    14. OF Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins

    After missing the 2017 season with Tommy John surgery, Kirilloff returned with a vengeance to hit .348/.392/.578 with 44 doubles, 20 home runs and 101 RBI in 130 games between Single-A and High-A. Billed as one of the best pure hitters in the 2016 draft when he went No. 15 overall, he's quickly lived up to that to emerge as one of baseball's elite offensive prospects.


    13. OF Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros

    Tucker got his first taste of the majors last season and landed with a thud, hitting .141/.236/.203 with 13 strikeouts in 72 plate appearances. Bigger and better things lie ahead for a player who hit .332/.400/.590 with 27 doubles, 24 home runs and 20 steals in 100 games at Triple-A. With a 60-grade hit tool and 60-grade power, he has serious impact potential.


    12. LHP Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics

    After a strong 2017 campaign, Luzardo continued to climb the prospect ranks with a brilliant 2018 season. The 21-year-old went 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 129 strikeouts in 109.1 innings over three levels, closing out the season with four starts at Triple-A. It's only a matter of time before he gets the call, and he could be the ace of the Oakland staff by season's end.


    11. SS Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays

    It speaks to his past production and the expectations it has created that Bichette hit .286/.343/.453 with 43 doubles, 11 home runs and 32 steals as a 20-year-old at Double-A and it was considered a mild disappointment. Along with his obvious offensive potential, he's made strides defensively at shortstop and still has a chance to stick there long-term.

Nos. 10-6

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    Chris Paddack
    Chris PaddackMatt York/Associated Press

    10. SS Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays

    Franco will play the entire 2019 season at the age of 18, and he already made his stateside debut last year when he posted a brilliant .351/.418/.587 line that included 28 extra-base hits in 61 games in the Appalachian League. His full-season debut is among the most anticipated in recent memory, and he could make a push for the No. 1 prospect spot by the end of the year.


    9. RHP Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres (MLB)

    Paddack returned from Tommy John surgery to post a 2.10 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 120 strikeouts in 90 innings between High-A and Double-A. The 23-year-old then pitched his way into the San Diego rotation this spring with a 1.76 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 15.1 frames this spring. He threw five strong innings in his MLB debut and looks like a legitimate NL Rookie of the Year contender.


    8. IF/OF Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds

    A bout of vertigo in May and a season-ending fractured index finger in June limited Senzel to just 44 games last season, or he would likely already have a place on the MLB roster. Whether he debuts in a utility role or steps in as the everyday center fielder, his bat is big league-ready, and he has the tools to be a perennial batting title contender.


    7. RHP Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros

    With an imposing 6'7" frame, an electric fastball, and three plus off-speed pitches, Whitley checks all the boxes. He served a 50-game suspension for violating the MiLB drug prevention and treatment program last year and then dealt with some minor injuries, all of which limited him to just eight starts. Luckily, the 21-year-old is already so far ahead of the developmental curve that those setbacks did nothing to derail his trajectory. He should be pitching alongside Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole by midseason.


    6. OF Victor Robles, Washington Nationals (MLB)

    The departure of Bryce Harper opened the door for Robles to break camp with a starting spot in the Nationals outfield after he hit .288/.348/.525 with three doubles, three home runs and three steals in 66 plate appearances last season. Speed is his best current tool, and it's an asset both offensively and defensively. There's five-tool potential here as his game matures.

Nos. 5-1

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    Fernando Tatis Jr.
    Fernando Tatis Jr.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    5. SS Royce Lewis, Minnesota Twins

    Lewis has put himself on the fast track since going No. 1 overall in the 2017 draft. With a 60-grade hit tool and 70-grade speed, he hit .292/.352/.451 with 46 extra-base hits and 28 steals while reaching High-A last season. He's still a work in progress defensively, but the tools are there from him to be a good defensive shortstop. Otherwise, his speed and instincts would play well in center field. It looks like his bat will play anywhere.


    4. OF Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels

    Adell quickly went from "best athlete" in the 2017 draft to one of the best prospects in all of baseball. In fact, with the three guys ahead of him all likely to exhaust their prospect eligibility by the next update, he could take over as the No. 1 prospect in baseball in short order. The 19-year-old has five plus tools, and he's been more polished than expected on the diamond. He hit .290/.355/.543 with 32 doubles, 20 home runs and 15 steals while reaching Double-A last year, and a 2019 debut is not out of the question.


    3. OF Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox (MLB)

    Jimenez has the best raw power of any prospect, and he's more than just an all-or-nothing slugger with a 65-grade hit tool and a .355/.399/.597 line at Triple-A last year. The White Sox believe strongly enough in his future that he was given a six-year, $43 million extension before making his MLB debut. And why not? Everything about this guy says dynamic middle-of-the-order run producer.


    2. SS Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (MLB)

    To the surprise and delight of MLB fans everywhere, Tatis was part of the Padres' Opening Day roster. He'll be 20 for the entire 2019 season, and there will be some inevitable growing pains, but he has the makings of a future superstar on both sides of the ball. A left side of the infield of Tatis and Manny Machado will be the cornerstone that the Padres build around.


    1. 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

    Guerrero could win the AL batting title. Not eventually—he could win it this season. The 20-year-old hit .381/.437/.636 with 29 doubles, 20 home runs and 78 RBI in 95 games over three levels last season, closing out the year in Triple-A. He'll be in the majors as soon as the Blue Jays gain an extra year of team control, and he has all the makings of a generational talent.


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


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