A reminder that this is strictly a list for 2019. Several of these prospects are among the best in baseball, but for the purpose of this series, it’s just measuring potential impact for the coming season. Also, a reminder that prospects who are on MLB rosters are not eligible for this list. You can view my top 100 prospects for 2019 and my top prospects by position in our Rotoworld MLB Season Pass.
Without further ado, here’s the top 10 fantasy prospects to open the 2019 season.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
2019 stats: 7G, .360/.448/.560, 1 HR, 1 SB, 3 BB, 2 SO at High-A Dunedin and Triple-A Buffalo.
Since being recalled to Triple-A Buffalo -- he began the season in High-A while he was dealing with his oblique injury -- Guerrero Jr. is hitting .500/.583/.900 in 10 at-bats. Can’t say I’m surprised. There are rumors that the 20-year-old could be called up soon, but so far they’re just that: rumors. That being said, it’s pretty clear that Guerrero Jr. is ready to tear up big-league pitching, and we don’t think the wait is going to be long. If he is somehow still available in your league, you should act now. Do not delay.
2. Nick Senzel, OF, Cincinnati Reds
2018 stats: 44 G, .310/.378/.509, 6 HR, 19 BB, 39 SO, 8 SB at Triple-A Louisville.
On Sunday, it was reported by president of baseball operations Dick Williams that Senzel could make his 2019 debut by mid-week. Kinda. He’s expected to head to extended spring training, where he’ll likely head and then begin a rehab assignment; possibly in the Florida State League where it’s nice and warm. Even if we won’t see Senzel until May -- at the earliest -- he remains my top fantasy prospect after Vlad Jr. because of his ability to contribute in all categories.
3. Kyle Wright, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2018 stats: 3 G, 14 IP, 7.07 ERA, 15 H, 10 BB, 11 SO at Atlanta.
After Vladdy Jr. and Senzel, this becomes a difficult list to rank, and became even more difficult with the promotions of Luis Urias and Touki Toussaint. Not that I’m complaining or anything. I put Wright third despite his struggles at the MLB level because I think he offers the highest ceiling of any of these next three pitching prospects. Let’s keep in mind that he not only was facing MLB pitching for the first time, but he faced some pretty solid lineups as well; lineups that made him work and put too many runners on via free pass. He’s still a hurler who can miss bats with four pitches, and I expect when we see him again, he’ll have much more success. That’s the hope, anyway.
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4. Justus Sheffield, LHP, Seattle Mariners
2019 stats: 2 G, 5.19 ERA, 8.2 IP, 8 H, 8 BB, 3 SO at Triple-A Tacoma.
With Wade LeBlanc (oblique) hitting the injured list, there was some talk that Sheffield could be coming up to Seattle. Instead, the Mariners went with Erik Swanson -- who I also like and is a candidate for this list at some point -- and it’s tough to argue, even with Sheffield’s talent. He was better in his second start on Friday; allowing just a run over four innings for the Rainiers, but he walked three, and has really struggled to get ahead of hitters to begin the year. He’s still a southpaw who can miss bats with three pitches, however, and there’s ample time for Sheffield to get on track and make plenty of starts with the Mariners this season.
5. Mike Soroka, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2019 stats: 2 G, 3.86 ERA, 9.1 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 10 SO at Triple-A Gwinnett.
After dominating in his first start in Triple-A, Soroka didn’t have nearly as much success against Louisville on Friday. He allowed four earned runs over 4 1/3 innings, and he walked one while striking out three. The important thing, however, is that Soroka is getting healthier, and looks like he’ll be able to join the Atlanta rotation shortly. The issue here -- same for Wright -- is that there’s some much quantity in this pitching staff that you can’t guarantee what his innings are going to look like with Atlanta. The fact he’s coming off a shoulder injury is just the opposite of icing on the cake, but there’s still certainly reason for optimism with Soroka in 2019.
6. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
2019 stats: 10 G, .111/.200/.100, 1 HR, 2 SB, 4 BB, 9 SO at Triple-A Round Rock.
A disappointing start to the season for Tucker, but this sample size is just way too small to take seriously. He’s walked in four of the last five games, so the approach is staying strong even as the hits aren’t dropping. Once again, the toughest part about ranking Tucker isn’t talent; he’s among the very best outfield prospects in all of baseball regardless of level. The hard part is that Tucker is clearly blocked, so what should be easily the third name on this list ranks sixth because there’s just no guarantee of playing time as long as he’s in the Houston organization. Not in 2019, anyway
7. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros
2018 stats: 1 G, 5 IP, 3.60 ERA, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 SO at Triple-A Round Rock.
Whitley finally made his 2019 season debut on Tuesday, and he did not disappoint as you can see from the statistics above. The 21-year-old is the top pitching prospect in all of baseball -- it’s not particularly close, if I’m being honest -- but like Tucker, there are some questions about whether the depth of the Houston pitching staff will relegate him to fantasy afterthought in 2019. I’m not going that far, but I do think there’s a chance that Whitley serves in a bullpen -- maybe opener? -- role in 2019, which limits the value. That being said, the stuff is so good that the Astros may give him a chance to pitch in a real starting role, and if he can, the fantasy potential is huge.
8. Brendan Rodgers, INF, Colorado Rockies
2019 stats: 10 G, .293/.396/.488, 2 HR, 0 SB, 6 BB, 9 SO at Triple-A Albuquerque.
After not picking up a walk in his first seven games, Rodgers was able to pick up six walks in the weekend series against Triple-A Tacoma, including five over the last two games. Some of that has to do with Tacoma starters struggling to throw strikes -- including Sheffield, unfortunately -- but it’s still nice to see. The ability to hit for average and power is unquestioned, and there is just enough speed here to project a decent total of steals, as well. Rodgers is just about ready to go, and while there’s no real obvious place to play for the 22-year-old, the Rockies could/should find a place for the former first-round pick to play relatively soon.
9. Keston Hiura, INF, Milwaukee Brewers
2019 stats: 11 G, .293/.310/.610, 3 HR, 0 SB, 1 BB, 18 SO at Triple-A San Antonio.
To the surprise of no one, Hiura has come out hot for the Missions, and he’s homered in three of his last six games. If there’s a negative to this start, it’s that Hiura has drawn just one walk while striking out 18 times, which isn’t an ideal ratio. Still, Hiura is a second baseman who can hit for average and power, and the bat looks ready to help the Brewers. It’s not going to be anytime soon barring an injury, but Hiura’s bat is ready to go, and he’d be a must-add if/when Milwaukee makes the call.
10. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
2019 stats: 10 G, .220/.256/.341, 1 HR, 0 SB, 2 BB, 7 SO at Triple-A Buffalo.
Bichette’s numbers aren’t overly impressive, but it’s worth pointing out that he’s seen his average raise well over 100 points in the past five games, and again, the sample size with all of these players is so small. A second-round pick out of Lakewood High School in Florida, Bichette is among the top shortstop prospects in baseball in large part due to his ability to make hard contact to all parts of the field. There’s also solid power in his right-handed bat, and while he’s not the fastest runner, he’s capable of giving you 20-plus steal seasons because he gets such good jumps off the bag. With the Blue Jays nowhere near contention, Bichette should get a chance to finish the year in Toronto, and he’s well worth an addition when that happens. A better long-term play, but a solid 2019 option, as well.
Also considered: Michael Chavis, INF, Boston Red Sox; Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates; Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox; Ke’Bryan Hayes,3B, Pittsburgh Pirates; Jon Duplantier, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks