It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
First, a reminder that this is strictly a list for 2018. Several of these prospects are among the best in baseball, but for the purpose of these lists, it’s just measuring potential impact for the coming season. Starting next week we won’t include players that are on major league rosters/exhaust eligibility as rookie-eligible, but for now, we’re including all prospects whether they’re already on the 25-man roster or not.
Without further ado, here’s the top 10 fantasy prospects for the 2018 season.
1. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Los Angeles Angels
2017 stats: 5 G, 25.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 19 BB, 29 SO; 65 G, .332/.403/.540, 8 HR, 0 SB, 24 BB, 63 SO
Ohtani isn’t your prototypical prospect, but, then again, Ohtani isn’t your prototypical baseball player. You shouldn’t take any player’s spring training stats too seriously, but Ohtani’s seem to have concerned some. Not me. This is a pitcher with three swing-and-miss pitches, and a hitter with power and speed. Is he going to be a superstar right away? Maybe not, but I’d be on solid rates while pitching, and he should provide some homers and maybe some steals if the Angels let him run. He’s the best fantasy prospect in baseball.
2. Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
2017 stats: 139 G, .325/.374/.522, 21 HR, 44 SB, 43 BB, 144 SO
Assuming the Braves don’t change their minds about Acuna or he doesn’t sign a contract extension before Thursday -- more on that in a second -- this will be your top fantasy prospect next week, and with good reason. Acuna can hit for average despite piling up the strikeouts because of how much loud contact he makes, and his impressive bat speed and launch angle allows him to hit for plenty of power as well. Add in the fact that he could be among the league leader in steals, and you have a special fantasy prospect. It’s just a matter of when he gets the call.
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3. Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
2017 stats: 132 G, .304/.359/.530, 26 HR, 29 SB, 41 BB, 109 SO
Kingery certainly would have made this list even before Sunday’s news of his six-year, $24 million extension with three options. The fact that he’s going to spend all of 2018 -- assuming everything goes well -- with the Phillies certainly raises his stock, however. He had a breakout season in 2017, and he crushed the ball in the Grapefruit League. The only question about Kingery is how much he’s going to play, but with above-average power, plus speed and the ability to hit the ball hard all over the park, he’s well worth a fantasy pickup.
4. Nick Senzel, 2B, Cincinnati Reds2017 stats:
119 G, .321/.391/.514, 14 HR, 14 SB, 49 BB, 97 SO
Senzel was going to be a strong fantasy prospect even if he was at the hot corner, but his reported move to second base just escalates his timeline. The second-overall pick in the 2016 draft, Senzel sprays line drives to all parts of the park, and while his power isn’t elite, it certainly plays in the middle of the infield. He also has an impressive approach at the plate, and he’s a stolen base threat once he’s on base. Expect to see Senzel hitting near the top of the Cincinnati lineup everyday by the end of May.
5. Lewis Brinson, OF, Miami Marlins
2017 stats: 76 G, .331/.400/.562, 13 HR, 11 SB, 32 BB, 62 SO
Brinson is the third -- and not last -- player who won’t make next week’s list, as he’s been told he’ll be on the big-league roster to begin the season. A former Ranger and Brewer prospect, Brinson hasn’t always shown consistency, but when he’s operating at his best, he’s among the best outfield prospects in baseball. He’s improved his approach and cut down the strikeouts, and there’s easy plus power from the right side. He also is a threat to steal 25-plus bases every year, although he didn’t run as much in 2017 due to leg injuries. There’s a lot of volatility here, but the reward outweighs the risk.
6.Ryan McMahon, 1B, Colorado Rockies
2017 stats: 119 G, .355/.403/.583, 20 HR, 11 SB, 41 BB, 92 SO
McMahon is ready to go, but the Rockies are going to play the service time game with the 23-year-old infielder, and he’ll start the year in Albuquerque. The left-handed hitting McMahon has a smooth, line-drive swing, but his strength gives him above-average power from the left side that will play up in the utopia for hitter that is Coors Field. While not a speed demon, he’s a smart runner, and double-digit steals are well within reach. He’s a must add whenever Colorado decided to bring him back to the fold.
7. Gleyber Torres, INF, New York Yankees
2017 stats: 55 G, .287/.383/.480, 7 HR, 7 SB, 30 BB, 47 SO
Torres struggled with the Yankees this spring, which was slightly disappointing considering his immense talent. Let’s keep in mind that he missed over half of last year after a freak collision forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery. Let’s also remember that he was well on his way to being an everyday player for the Yankees before the injury, and he’s still immensely talented. He uses the whole field and has no problem drawing walks, and there’s “sneaky” power in his right-handed bat. He’s the most volatile prospect here in terms of playing time, but it would be an upset if he didn’t get significant run with the Yankees in 2018.
8. Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox
2017 stats: 25 G, 134.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 6 HR, 65 BB, 172 SO
Kopech was acquired in the Chris Sale trade, and while there were a few ups-and-downs during his 2017 season, for the most part, he looked like the best pitching prospect in the game. His fastball can get over 100 mph with ease, and he complements that pitch with a plus-plus slider and a useable change to keep hitters off-balance. The key for Kopech will be throwing more strikes, but his command has made strides over the past two seasons. The White Sox rotation is full -- for now -- but Kopech has the stuff to force his way onto the pitching staff.
9. Francisco Mejia, C/OF, Cleveland Indians
2017 stats: 92 G, .297/.346/.490, 14 HR, 7 SB, 24 BB, 53 SO
We’ll offer Mejia’s fantasy value one slight caveat: If he’s not behind the plate or catcher-eligible in your league for 2018, his value drops somewhat precipitously. Even as an outfielder -- which he’ll reportedly be working on at Triple-A Columbus-- he’s still well worth a fantasy addition. He rarely strikes out, and the switch-hitter screams bullets all over the park. He’s also beginning to tap into his power from both sides of the plate, and is the rare catcher who could give you double-digit steal seasons. He’s a good player as an outfielder; he’s a star if he’s behind the plate.
10. Jack Flaherty, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2017 stats: 25 G, 148.2 IP, 2.18 ERA, 12HR, 35 BB, 147 SO
Flaherty wouldn’t have made this list before Sunday, but since Flaherty is taking Adam Wainwright’s spot in the rotation after Wainwright came down with a hamstring injury, he’s deserving. While he struggled in his time with the Cardinals last summer, the sample size is too small to take seriously, and his numbers above are much more indicative of his talent. He throws four pitches for strikes -- three of them above-average -- and his command is nearly as good as his control. He won’t miss as many bats as some of the other hurlers in the minor leagues, but he’ll generate enough weak contact to be worth a spot on a fantasy roster.
Just missed: Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers; Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals; Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays; Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox; Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles