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. Brendan Rodgers, INF, Colorado Rockies
2019 stats: 29 G, .333/.398/.588, 6 HR, 0 SB, 12 BB, 20 SO at Triple-A Albuquerque.
We have a new number one. You shouldn't be surprised by that fact since Nick Senzel is now up with the Reds, but, you might be surprised by the name. The more I thought about it, however, the more Rodgers had to go at that top spot, for a variety of reasons. He's crushing Triple-A pitching, he's considered by many (me included) to be one of the top prospects in all of baseball, and if/when he gets the chance to hit, he's going to get to play his home games in Coors Field. The only reason why I almost put Rodgers in the second slot is that there are no guarantees when he'll be up. That being said, it wasn't a good enough reason to keep a shortstop with a plus hit/power grade from ranking first. Whenever Rodgers gets the call, he's going to help.
2. Luis Urias, INF, San Diego Padres
2019 stats: 16 G,.338/.420/.775, 7 HR, 1 SB, 8 BB, 18 SO at Triple-A El Paso; 11 G, .083/.241/.125, 0 HR, 0 SB, 4 BB, 11 SO at San Diego.
Urias has slowed down slightly over the last week or so, but only because he had to; he wasn't going to slug in the .900 range like he was at the last point we updated, and he's not going to slug in the .775 area he is now. That .338 average, however? That might be (close to) sustainable, at least in the minors. Urias still has one of the best hit tools in baseball despite his struggles in the majors, and his struggles -- as we've mentioned several times -- are an extremely small sample size. Expect Urias back with the Padres soon, and expect him to be much better when he actually gets a chance to show off the talent on a more consistent basis.
3. Keston Hiura, INF, Milwaukee Brewers
2019 stats: 30 G, .346/.393/.757, 7 HR, 1 SB, 4 BB, 27 SO at Triple-A San Antonio.
Ranking the order of Hiura, Urias and Rodgers is difficult. Hiura is just as capable of providing help in 2019 -- heck, maybe even more -- but ranks third on this list right now because he's the most difficult to project in the majors right now. Again, though, that doesn't mean there isn't a strong chance he's up with the Brewers at some point. The chance to hit for average and power is too great to say there isn't, and you just need to look at those numbers for (relative) proof. The Brewers are obvious contenders in the National League, and they are made better with Hiura playing in the lineup. Just a matter of figuring out how.
4. Dylan Cease, RHP Chicago White Sox
2019 stats: 5 G, 3.30 ERA, 24.1 IP, 21 H, 7 BB, 30 SO at Triple-A Charlotte.
Cease had his start on Sunday cut short due to rain but he makes a jump -- three spots -- on this list in large part because of how good he was on Tuesday against Gwinnett. He allowed five hits and two runs -- one earned -- while fanning 11 against the Stripers, and he walked just one. The one walk is key for Cease, because when he throws strikes, his stuff competes with any pitcher in the minors, and most of the pitchers in the big leagues. The White Sox have no reason to rush Cease, and he's a bit of a risky stash because of it. That being said, there's also good reason to think that his electric stuff will be up with the majors before the season ends.
5. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2019 stats: 2 G, 5.63 ERA, 8 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 4 SO at Triple-A Gwinnett; 3 G, 6.35 ERA, 11.1 IP, 14 H, 6 BB, 15 SO at Atlanta.
Toussaint was called up last week, but was sent down shortly after. The good news is that he pitched well in that appearance, allowing just one run over four relief innings for the Braves. The bad news is that while Toussaint certainly has the stuff to start, it appears possible that Atlanta might use Toussaint in this role again, and it just doesn't offer much fantasy relevance -- especially if he keeps going up and down from Gwinnett to Atlanta. I keep Toussaint in this spot because I still believe there's a strong chance he operates as a starter, and his swing-and-miss stuff makes him as fantasy relevant as any pitching prospect not including Cease. There is no doubt there's a ton of volatility here, however.
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6. Yordan Alvarez, OF, Houston Astros
2019 stats: 27 G, .402/.496/.876, 12 HR, 0 SB, 17 BB, 21 SO at Triple-A Round Rock.
Even with an 0-for-2 effort on Sunday, Alvarez is 19-for-38 in his last 10 games, and he's homered twice and walked six times in the process. The 21-year-old has been flat-out dominant, and we (me) understated just how advanced he is with the bat at this point in time. There's no obvious place for him to play unless the Astros want to move him to first/give up on the Yuli Gurriel/Tyler White platoon, but, in all honesty, Alvarez offers more offensive upside than both. If he keeps this up -- even at a semblance of this level -- the Astros are going to have to find a way to get him in the lineup, and you should jump on it if/when that happens.
7. Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
2019 stats: 29 G, .345/.370/.546, 5 HR, 0 SB, 6 BB, 31 SO at Triple-A Norfolk.
We've got three newcomers to the list, although one has been here before. Mountcastle hasn't, but he was someone I've considered several times. He should feel honored. A former first-round pick, the 22-year-old has a swing that allows him to make hard contact to all parts of the plate, and his strong wrists and smooth plane make the ball jump off the bat. The power is only average right now, but he puts the ball in the gap as well as any hitter in the minors, and his doubles should turn into homers as he gets stronger. The concern with Mountcastle as a prospect is he's a below-average defender, but that won't hurt you in fantasy, especially this year. The Orioles are awful, and they should give Mountcastle a chance to play everyday. Soon.
8. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros
2018 stats: 5 G, 10.43 ERA, 14.2 IP, 18 H, 7 BB, 19 SO at Triple-A Round Rock.
Oh dear. Whitley was "shaky' in the appearance I wrote about last week. He was much, much worse than shaky on Friday, allowing five runs in 2/3 innings of relief. It appears the Astros are trying to groom the talented 21-year-old into a role in 2019, but he just hasn't pitched well enough to justify a call-up, and that's probably un understatement when your ERA needs two digits before you put the decimal. Whitley remains on this list because there is no more talented pitcher in baseball and because the struggles will mean nothing if/when he snaps out of this funk, but he's going to have to pitch better to justify this ranking; much more get a promotion to Houston. Long story short, don't panic just yet.
9. Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta Braves
2019 stats: 29 G, .301/.368/.646, 10 HR, 0 SB, 12 BB, 26 SO at Triple-A Gwinnett.
New name No. 2. Riley has been scorching hot for the Stripers as of late, hitting .474 with eight homers over his last 10 games, and drawing five walks in the process. The 22-year-old third baseman has plus power to all parts of the park, and while he will strike out, he has a chance to hit for a decent average because of his bat speed and willingness to go with the pitch to the opposite field when pitched that way. Riley does not have an obvious landing spot, but let's keep in mind that Josh Donaldson has not been a beacon of health, and the Braves could show some creativity to find a way to get his right-handed bat in the lineup even with Donaldson. He also could be used in a trade. Either way, Riley is deserving of a spot on this list right now.
10. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2019 stats: 6 G, 3.48 ERA, 31 IP, 34 H, 14 BB, 38 SO at Triple-A Indianapolis.
And the final newcomer. Keller got off to a rough start, but he's pitched exceptionally over his last three appearances for the Indianapolis club; allowing six runs and striking out 24 hitters over 22 innings. Keller is a better "real-life" prospect than a fantasy one, but with a 65-grade fastball and a 60-grade breaking-ball, he has a chance to miss plenty of bats and initiate enough weak contact to post a low ERA and WHIP in the process. The command still needs a bit of work, but he's just about ready to go. He should finish the year with the Pirates, and I like his chances of pitching well when he does make the jump.
Also considered: Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox; Ke’Bryan Hayes,3B, Pittsburgh Pirates; Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Oakland Athletics; Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros; Justus Sheffield, LHP, Seattle Mariners