50 Prospects to Watch for in MLB in 2019

Keston Hiura (AFL 2018) - photo credit forloveofbaseball on Flickr

As fantasy baseball draft season winds down and the MLB regular season really gets going on March 28th (yes we had 2 Japan games but all 28 other teams begin next week), Prospects1500 thought it would be a good idea to run through a list of prospects likely to see time in the major leagues in 2019.

These are players who can be nice assets for any dynasty league team, but they can also be rostered in redraft leagues which might only play for this season. Many of them are being selected in 50-round NFBC draft and holds. They are not ranked specifically from best to the bottom. We’ve listed them in unique categories to make it a little more interesting and enjoyable to read.

Unquestioned Day 1 Starter

1. Victor Robles

Of the highly anticipated offensive prospects, Robles may be the only sure-fire one to open the season in the starting lineup. And if all goes to plan, we will be seeing a lot more of these throughout the season:

The Super 2 Guys

2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Given all of the pre-season hype, anything short of a dominant season and runaway AL Rookie of the Year award will be disappointing. And you’ll have to spend draft capital to get him on your team, despite the fact that he may only get 120 games this year:

3. Eloy Jimenez

Fans from the south side will be waiting impatiently for Jimenez to make his appearance this year. Expect him to be called him up by mid-April or May, just like Baby Vlad.

4. Pete Alonso

The hitter formerly known as Peter may or may not get the Super 2 treatment given Mets’ GM Brodie Van Wagenen’s recent comments. However, my frontrunner to win the NL Rookie of the Year will most likely be in the minors, not Citi Field, when the season starts. If Todd Frazier‘s and Jed Lowrie‘s injuries extend into the regular season, though, Alonso’s chances go up.

5. Austin Hays

A number of Orioles fans were hoping to see Hays break camp with the team, but this one is not surprising. Unlike Guerrero, there was no consensus entering the season that Hays was 100% ready for MLB. And for a team like the Orioles, there is no incentive to push Hays.


Helium Alert

6. Pablo Reyes

Reyes has see some of the most upward movement of any hitter. I had to go back and confirm that he was indeed drafted in my January draft-and-hold–he was in the 50th round–and he’s been steadily climbing in my, and all, drafts.

7. Chris Paddack

Paddack has had perhaps the most helium based on spring training, propelling his ADP much higher than a couple months ago.


Closers in Waiting

8. Ty Buttrey

Current Closer: Cody Allen
Buttrey looked ready for the job last year: 28.6% strikeout rate, 7.1% walk rate, and 2.54 xFIP.
The Angels responded by signing Cody Allen to a $8.5 million show-me contract and, at the same time, relegated Buttrey to a setup role. If Allen falters, expect Buttrey to be next-in-line to pick up saves.

9. Ray Black

Current Closer: Will Smith / Mark Melancon
Ray Black is a longshot pick to get saves this year; not to mention that the wins for the Giants may be a little sparse.

That said, rostering a relief pitcher with a 34% strikeout rate (across only 23 innings) is quite fun even if he is not picking up saves.


10. Durbin Feltman and 11. Darwinzon Hernandez

Current Closer: Ghost of Craig Kimbrel
The Red Sox have chosen so far to not re-sign Kimbrel (and did not re-sign Joe Kelly), or sign any RP of note. This leaves them with a largely untested bunch for high leverage roles. Should there be some weak links comes mid-season, Dombrowski could turn to one, or both, of his young RP studs for relief.
I feel much better about these guys in Saves+Holds leagues, but there is no reason (aside from future arbitration) why one of Feltman/Hernandez can’t take the closer reins as early as this year.

12. Jose Castillo

Current Closer: Kirby Yates
Should Yates falter, or be traded, then Castillo would be excellent for the role. Like Buttrey, Castillo excelled last year in limited innings (38), which not only allowed him to maintain his rookie eligibility, but also gave us a small dose of what he is capable of: 38% strikeout rate, 8% walk rate, and 3.13 xFIP.
Note: Castillo is currently on the 60-day DL with a forearm injury. Monitor the situation, but he may still make for a good IR stash if your league has them.

Position Change

13. Nick Senzel

It’s looking more and more like Senzel will make the 25-man roster as a centerfielder. Call this one a successful position change that I thought would take more of the 2019 season to accomplish. And worst case he will get the Super 2 treatment and be back up in late-April to early-May.


14. Ryan Mountcastle

The Orioles seem determined to get Mountcastle’s bat to the majors sooner than later. To accomplish that, they have him taking reps at first in the Grapefruit league. This adds to his primary position of 3B (and his moved-off position of SS). And if the Orioles didn’t have such a crowded outfield, it would not have been surprising seeing him in the grass some as well.

One Injury Away

15. Rowdy Tellez

Injury Waiting to Happen: Kendrys Morales or Justin Smoak
Tellez has nothing left to prove in the minors, but unfortunately he is blocked by the dynamic duo of Smoak (1B) and Morales (DH). It’s unlikely Tellez will push either for playing time, so for now, we are stuck waiting on an injury.
Suggestion is to monitor the news and pounce on Tellez should an injury occur. He can give you solid power, but he also needs to watch the strikeouts (28.8% rate in a brief MLB stint during 2018 season)

16. Luis Rengifo

Injury Waiting to Happen: Zack Cozart
Rengifo’s natural position is the middle infield, so an injury to either Andrelton Simmons or David Fletcher could open the door. But given Cozart’s injuries last year (and already nursing a minor injury this spring training), a Cozart injury seems the most likely path to playing time.
Rengifo doesn’t offer much power, but he can be a cheap source of steals later in the year.

Honorable Mention: Taylor Ward, who is just barely not prospect-eligible, is another possible replacement should Cozart go down.

17. Kyle Tucker

Injury Waiting to Happen: Michael Brantley or Josh Reddick
It seems plausible that Tucker would get the call if Reddick were injured, but much more so if Brantley’s injury problems from last year re-surface.

Tucker’s statistics from his debut last year in no way impress, but there are reasons to be optimistic: low strikeout rate, reasonable walk rate, and .176 BABIP. Oh yeah, he was only 21 years old.

Personally, I am banking on about a half-season’s worth of production. My only concern is that it may be more as a 4th outfield role, which may affect his rosterability in weekly leagues.

18. Austin Riley

Injury Waiting to Happen: Josh Donaldson
Will Donaldson get hurt this year? No one can say for sure, but it seems a reasonable bet. Riley’s playing time still wouldn’t be guaranteed, though, due to Johan Carmago’s presence.

It’s Colorado, so Who Knows

19. Brendan Rodgers

20. Garrett Hampson

Honorary Member: Ryan McMahon


21. Yusei Kikuchi

No matter how well Kikuchi does this year, I am looking forward to some filthy curveballs.


22. Merrill Kelly

Kelly will do his best Mike Mikolas impersonation this year. And there are reasons to expect a quality year out of the Diamondback. Drafters so far are not fully embracing (going around pick 400) the upside he offers, but he’s a nice target late in drafts.

Impact SP

23. Jesus Luzardo

RIP beginning of the season. We’re in wait-and-see mode on his injury.

24. Justus Sheffield

25. Sandy Alcantara

My favorite, along with Caleb Smith, of the Marlins arms this year.

26. Brent Honeywell

Hoping we finally get to see a healthy Honeywell at some point this season.

27. Dylan Cease

My favorite to exceed ADP value.

28. Mitch Keller

Keller needs to outpace Nick Kingham, Jordan Lyles, and Steven Brault in order to solidify a rotation spot.

29. Triston McKenzie

Injury setback during spring training may affect his MLB 2019 appearances. Or maybe not. But I have seen his ADP drop in casual NFBC drafts by 4-5 rounds.

Desparate for Stolen Bases

30. Oscar Mercado

The Cleveland Indians consolidated two semi-interesting prospects for the shortstop-turned-centerfielder Oscar Mercado. The Indians outfield situation, even with the recent Carlos Gonzalez, isn’t too imposing for Mercado if he can find some more bat to go with his wheels.

31. Myles Straw

Straw is the epitome of a dart throw, but one we saw briefly last season (2 stolen bases in 10 ABs). Even if he does get the Terrance Gore treatment this year during September callups, Straw is the type of one-dimensional threat that can turn a category (whether roto or H2H) around.
And he can do this:

Astros 6th Starter

32. Josh James

James’ untimely spring training injury may have cost him the opportunity to start this year, unless the Astros are willing to send him down during the season to stretch back out. We’ll have to see if Houston keeps him up with the team when camp breaks.

33. Forrest Whitley

Based on March ADP, drafters feel like it is a dead heat between Whitley and James for the right to take over when the Miley experiment fails (or injury occurs). Personally, my bets are on James being used as a dominant reliever and Whitley getting the call should the Astros need a starting pitcher in 2019.

34. Framber Valdez

Valdez seems like the odd man out no matter what the Houston front office decides to do.

Cardinals 5th Starter

35. Dakota Hudson

Roster Resource is currently giving Hudson the nod as the 5th starter, and that seems reasonable.

If you play in shallower leagues, then you can safely ignore this situation. But, if you play in deeper leagues Hudson is a nice upside target.

Editor’s Note: This was written just prior to announcement that Hudson would be named 5th starter.

36. Daniel PonceDeLeon

PonceDeLeon can largely be ignored outside of the deepest leagues. However, if you are playing in leagues with a minors draft, he could be a lottery ticket: Cardinals pitchers should make for good wins targets this year.

Braves Rotation

37. Mike Soroka

Expect the Braves to be cautious with Soroka who ended the 2018 season with injury. A late April return is expected but could easily see him going down to the minors.

38. Touki Toussaint

Touki is currently getting the nod in the rotation over at Roster Resource, but I have a personal bias against pitchers with such high walk rates. And while giving credence to spring training stats is a fool’s errand, nothing there gives me confidence Toussaint’s approach will change. Considering Toussaint’s bullpen usage last year (albeit with even more starting pitcher competition) and control issues, Toussaint could easily find himself the odd man out.

39. Luiz Gohara

Shoulder soreness heading into the season may keep Gohara from the rotation

40. Kyle Wright

If other Braves SP options continue to have injury concerns, Wright could find himself with opportunities this year.

Honorable Mention: Kolby Allard, Bryse Wilson, and Ian Anderson

Rule 5 Pick

41. Richie Martin

It’s spring training, so no one should get excited about anything, but Martin has looked like someone who can hold a roster spot with the Orioles this year. Yes, that is damning with faint praise.

We Need Better Catchers

42. Francisco Mejia

Fantasy baseball players and the Padres are both hoping to see Mejia build on the promise he has shown in Triple-A the past two years. It remains to be seen just how the Padres will handle their catching situation with incumbent Austin Hedges still providing power from the backstop position and not demonstrating noticeable splits.

43. Willians Astudillo

Astudillo will get a shot to crack the starting lineup, but as Sano’s replacement and not as a catcher. Even if that does not happen on a full-time basis, Astudillo should get plenty of at-bats through the first 4-6 weeks of the season.

1B Prospects

44. Matt Thaiss

Thaiss is not your protypical first base prospect. He’s not going to amaze you with a powerful swing. What he does do is get on base, using his eyes and/or his bat to do so.
If you’re looking for 2019 production, Thaiss may not get the opportunity until September callups due to the Angels signing of Bour (another lefty 1B).

45. Christian Walker

Walker, on the other hand, is your typical first base prospect. Walker came over from the Orioles and has done nothing but mash home runs in the minors, while also maintaining respectable walk and strikeout rates. Remains to be seen whether he can leverage his approach successfully in the majors.

He will most likely get his chance right away, serving as the occasional platoon bat for Jake Lamb against RHP.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Cron, 3B: Another power-hitting corner infielder, Cron could also see time should the Diamondbacks have injuries and particularly if out-of-options Walker ends up somewhere else.

46. Sam Travis

Having moved on from the Hanley Experience, the Red Sox look prepared to use a combination of Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce at 1B. In two short stints during the 2017 and 2018 season, Travis did not impress at all. A more extended MLB experience, though, would be nice to see as Travis enters his age-25 season.

47. Dan Vogelbach

For the briefest of moments Seattle fans thought Vogelbach would get the opportunity to prove he is not just another AAAA guy. That ended with Edwin Encarnacion coming to town. Between Ryon Healy and Encarnacion, Seattle has the 1B/DH slots occupied. Should injury happen, Vogelbach seems like the first guy up but until then he will be hanging out elsewhere.

Brewers Prospects

The Brewers deserved a special section since they have several guys sitting on the top 50 that could (and should) make appearances during the MLB season. But with the Brewers set to compete in the NL Central, all prospect playing time will be fully earned by either besting the incumbents, which requires success in the minors coupled with failure by the starters in the majors; or injuries to the starters.

48. Keston Hiura

49. Corbin Burnes

50. Mauricio Dubon

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