The major league rosters are set, but we never stop looking at the future. Over the course of the season, we’ll take a look at the top 10 prospects in baseball who have a chance to make a helpful fantasy impact on your roster.
Without further ado, here’s the initial top 10 prospects for the 2017 season.
1. Yoan Moncada, IF, Chicago White Sox
2016 stats: .294/.407/.511, 15 HR, 62 RBI, 45 SB, 72 BB, 124 K for High-A Salem and Double-A Portland; .211/.250/.263, 0 HR, RBI, 0 SB, 1 BB, 12 K for Boston.
It wasn’t a huge upset that Moncada is starting the year in Triple-A, but with the White Sox in the midst of rebuilding there was some thought that he’d get the job. It certainly didn’t have anything to do with his spring training, as Moncada posted a 1.074 OPS with three homers in just over 41 at-bats. He is a truly talented prospect, and it’s a matter of when -- not if -- he becomes fantasy-relevant in 2017.
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Chicago White Sox
2016 stats: 22 GS, 115.1 IP, 2.97 ERA, 104 H, 116 SO for Low-A Hagerstown, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse; 4 GS, 21.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 26 H, 12 BB, 11 SO for Washington.
Giolito infamously made changes to his delivery last year, and the results were less-than-spectacular. After reverting back to the old mechanics, he was back to missing bats and showing the same stuff that made him the best pitching prospect in baseball. The results weren’t great during the spring, but scouts told me he looked fine. Even if he’s not the first prospect to come up from the newly minted White Sox staff, it’s his upside that makes him the top pitching prospect on our list.
3. Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves
2016 stats: .292/.358/.420, 6 HR, 53 RBI, 30 SB, 52 BB, 96 K for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett.
Albies was rehabbing an elbow injury this spring, but you wouldn’t have known it watching him play. Albies still has his quick, line-drive stroke that can spray the ball all over the park, and he’s strong enough to put the ball into the gaps as well. He’s also close to a plus-plus runner, so 20-30 stolen bases are certainly within the realm of possibilities. Atlanta does have Brandon Phillips manning second base, but considering how little financial obligation the Braves have there, he’s not going to stop Albies from taking over. Assuming he’s healthy, Albies can be a major contributor to your fantasy roster this year.
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4. Lewis Brinson, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
2016 stats: .268/.305/.468, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 17 SB, 21 BB, 87 K for Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Colorado Springs.
If Brinson’s numbers aren’t awe-inspiring, maybe you’ll be more impressed with his numbers after being traded to Milwaukee, where he hit .382 and slugged .618. He’s multi-talented, and despite possessing quite a bit of swing-and-miss, he can make an impact in every fantasy category. He’s also a terrific defender in the outfield, so as soon as he’s up, he’s a guy who is going to get plenty of playing time.
5. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
2016 stats: .266/.333/.536, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 17 SB, 33 BB, 67 K for Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
Meadows has as much talent as any offensive player on this list, it’s just a matter of him staying healthy enough to apply that talent on a consistent basis. He’s starting to grow into his raw power, and his smooth swing means he can hit for average as well. Add in above-average-to-plus speed and an improving approach at the plate and you have another multi-talented player. The other worry here is that the Pirates outfield is loaded, but the Pirates will find a way to get the bat in the lineup when he’s ready.
6. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Colorado Rockies
22 GS, 4.02 ERA, 118.2 IP, 117 H, 44 BB, 124 K at Triple-A Albuquerque; 6 GS, 31.1 IP, 4.88 ERA, 37 H, 17 BB, 22 K at Colorado.
Hoffman is a polarizing fantasy target, if only because he pitches in a place that no pitcher truly wants to pitch in, if they’re being honest. Still, Hoffman’s stuff is too good to ignore, with three pitches that can get you to swing and miss. The key for him is going to be keeping the ball down, because anything elevated when you’re pitching half or so of your games in Coors Field is a bad time. Assuming he throws well in Albuquerque, he should pile up the strikeouts -- if not the greatest ERA -- for the Rockies this summer.
7. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
2016 stats: .250/.349/.339, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 12 SB, 72 BB, 80 K at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
If those stats don’t scream “top 10 fantasy prospect,” I do understand. There’s no question that Crawford took some lumps in 2016. There’s also no question that he’s one of the best shortstop prospects in baseball. Even when the hits weren’t dropping, he still showed a quality approach at the plate, and he provided some value with the runs. As he gets more mature and stronger, you should see more hits start dropping; enough so that combined with his defense it will be impossible for the Phillies to leave him in Triple-A this summer. That’s the hope, anyway.
8. Jose De Leon, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
2016 stats: 16 GS, 2.92 ERA, 86.1 IP, 20 BB, 111 K at Triple-A Oklahoma City, 4 GS, 6.75 ERA, 17 IP, 19 H, 7 BB, 15 K at Los Angeles.
De Leon didn’t pitch well in an (extremely) limited time with the Dodgers, but he was outstanding in the PCL, and the Rays were thrilled to acquire him in the deal that sent Logan Forsythe to Los Angeles. He can get his fastball up to 96-97 mph when he reaches back for more, and he pounds the strike zone with that pitch and an excellent change. He’s going to have to show more consistency with his breaking ball, but if he can, he can be an exceptional starting pitcher at the big-league level.
9. Francis Martes, RHP Houston Astros
2016 stats: 25 GS, 3.30 ERA, 125.1 IP, 47 BB, 131 K at Double-A Corpus Christi
Martes got off to a terrible start, but rebounded nicely in the second-half of the season and is back to showing the stuff that made him such a highly-regarded prospect to begin last season. He’s one of very few pitchers who will show two plus-plus pitches in his fastball and curve, and he also has a competent slider and change. He’ll lose his release point at times, but for the most part he throws strikes with all four pitches. There’s no room at the inn just yet, but even if it’s in a relief role, Martes has the stuff to help fantasy teams in 2017 and beyond.
10. Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees
2016 stats: .270/.354/.421, 11 HR, 66 RBI, 21 SB, 58 BB, 110 K.
Of all the prospects on this list, Torres is the least likely to make his debut in 2017. Nevertheless, he’s way too talented to not earn a spot in the top 10, for now. Torres can do everything on the baseball field, and he wows scouts with his baseball acumen, which could and should lead to him moving quicker than your typical 20-year-old. The Yankees have no reason to rush him, but in a year that is unlikely to end with a playoff spot, you could see New York bring him up to see what they have. I think they’ll see what they have is pretty darn good.
Also considered: Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland; Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays; Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Chicago White Sox; Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers; Josh Hader, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers