The Prospects1500 crew has enjoyed bringing you all of the team Top 50 Prospects columns each day this month. We wanted to finish January with one final Top 50, although this is a collaboration of five staff writers. They put together their individual Top 10’s – each of them focusing on a different group of prospects. Enjoy! Look for our prospects and minor league coverage to continue each month moving forward.
Top 10 (#1) International hitting prospects, from Charles Tweed (@CharlesTweed)
Spending minor league picks on what amounts to mostly teenagers can be fool’s gold in fantasy baseball, but if those picks turn out to be stars like Juan Soto or Ronald Acuna a fantasy GM can go from zero to hero with one call-up. The downside is that projecting international prospects is extremely tricky due to their age. The upside, however, is that it usually doesn’t take a high pick to secure them — if you do it early in their stateside career. MLB.com puts together a list of the Top 30 international prospects each year. That list, however, is similar to other MLB.com rankings where the emphasis is on the real-life value of the player and isn’t geared toward the fantasy game.
In 2017, George Valera checked in at 22nd on MLB.com’s list. In 2016, Luis Garcia was 15th. In 2015, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was ranked seventh, Soto was ranked 25th and Fernando Tatis Jr. was ranked 30th. Oh, and as for Acuna who signed in 2014, he didn’t even crack the list during his signing period. Yes, hindsight is 20-20 and MLB.com does an incredible job of ranking prospects, but the truth is it’s difficult to project where these players will ultimately settle out. That uncertainty can create a buyer’s market for a savvy GM. Technological advancements and increased exposure have made it tough to gain an advantage in dynasty leagues when looking at prospects coming out of the draft. The international scene, however, still remains a bit of a mystery. Youth combined with a lack of exposure mean you can often nab a future Top 100 prospect in the later rounds a full year before the player starts getting any fantasy helium.
Here’s a look at the Top 10 international batting prospects, according to me, who put pen to paper during the most recent international signing period.
1. Marco Luciano, SS, SF
DOB: 09/10/2001; Ranked No. 3 by MLB.com
It was frustrating, albeit not surprising, to see the Giants land Luciano in July. Oracle Park is where fantasy baseball players go to die. That said, Luciano offers a plus bat with plus power. He should be one of the first international prospects taken off the board this year.
2. Orelvis Martinez, SS, TOR
DOB: 11/19/2001; No. 5
The Blue Jays were willing to give Martinez more than $3.5 million to fly north as a J2 signing. With an above average hit tool and ample pop, Martinez grades out as one of the better options for fantasy.
3. Malcom Nunez, 3B, STL
DOB: 3/9/2001; Not ranked
The Cardinals stole the Cuban national for $300,000 this year and all he did was lead the Dominican Summer League with a .415 AVG, 13 HRs and 59 RBI. If the DSL is any indication the kid can rake. He obviously won’t continue at this pace, but the time to buy is now.
4. Noelvi Marte, SS, SEA
DOB: 10/16/2001; No. 8
A power hitter, Marte didn’t land in the best spot for fantasy when he signed with Seattle for more than $1.5 million. Marte’s carrying tool is his power and if he makes enough contact he should be a middle-of-the-order bat for the Mariners.
5. Diego Cartaya, C, LAD
DOB: 09/07/2001; No. 2
The Dodgers signed Cartaya, a Venezuelan catcher, to a $2.5 million bonus – one of the largest bonuses in the 2018 class. Cartaya should have the skills to stick behind the plate and with an advanced approach and hit tool he is a desirable commodity in fantasy. Some scouts believe his power could tick up as he matures.
6. Victor Victor Mesa, OF, MIA
DOB: 7/20/1996; No. 1
Mesa should make contact but his power is still suspect. He’s a good runner who should be able to steal bases. I believe Mesa will be a better real-life baseball asset vs. fantasy; and, with this ranking, I doubt I get him in most leagues.
7. Alexander Vargas, SS, NYY
DOB: 10/29/2001; No. 9
A good athlete, most scouts grade Vargas out as an above average hitter who could grow into more power. The switch-hitter’s strength however should come on the base paths where he could swipe 25-30 bags per season with the Yankees.
8. Kevin Alcantara, OF, NYY
DOB: 07/12/2002; No. 12
The Yankees gave $1 million for the 6-foot-5 outfielder. If Alcantara continues to fill out, and given the Yankees penchant for cultivating talent, he could be the steal of the class.
9. Junior Sanquintin, SS, CLE
DOB: 1/8/2002; No. 14
Cleveland landed Sanquintin with a $1.25 million deal. A free swinger, Sanquintin will have to improve his approach in order to reach his potential and many believe he’ll end up at 2B or in the outfield.
10. Estanli Castillo, OF, TB
DOB: 10/07/2001; Not ranked
If you get a chance to check out his moon shots on Twitter, they’re impressive. This is me throwing a bit of a dart at the board. Castillo could fizzle but he’s projectable and can launch the ball. Plus, don’t you want to be the guy who can say you had him before anyone in your league knew who he was.
Think I missed someone? Don’t like my list? Or think I nailed it…continue the conversation on Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Top 10 (#2) – International pitching prospects, from Shelly Verougstraete (@ShellyV_643)
1. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP, SEA
The 27-year-old Kikuchi inked a 4-year deal with the Seattle Mariners this offseason. The former Seibu Lion had a breakout year in 2017 pitching 187.2 innings with a 1.97 ERA/0.91 WHIP with a 10.41 K/9. He’s a fastball/sinker pitcher and his fastball sits mid-nineties. Seattle has come out saying Kikuchi will be limited in his innings and will stick to his NPB pitching schedule for most of the upcoming season.
2. Richard Gallardo, RHP, CHC
The Cubs and Gallardo came to terms this July for $1,000,000 and was the best pitching prospect from Venezuela.. While he might not be the hardest thrower in the years class, scouts say he has the best combination of fastball and offspeed pitches with plus control. Top of the rotation potential.
3. Osiel Rodriguez, RHP, NYY
The Yankees signed Rodriguez for $600,000 this past July. He was the pitcher with the most electric arm/stuff in this year’s class. His fastball sits mid-nineties but has been clocked in the high nineties. He alters his arm slot frequently when throwing all his pitches which is not maintainable in the long term. The Yankees have a strong track record with pitchers, so he has a chance to hit his high ceiling.
4. Starlyn Castillo, RHP, PHI
The Phillies inked Castillo this past July for $1.6 million. He, like Rodriguez, throw extremely hard. Typically sits mid-nineties but has been clocked up to 98 mph. However, Castillo is small, under 6 feet, so scouts are unsure if his body will be able to handle a major league workload.
5. Sandy Gaston, RHP, TB
The Rays signed the Cuban who throws fire for $2.6 million in July. He moved up the Cuban baseball ranks quickly but there is concern with his K/BB ratio. There is a pronounced head whack which screams a reliever type profile. Gaston, again, sits mid-nineties but has been clocked up to 100 mph.
6. Jerming Rosario, RHP, LAD
The Dodgers picked up the top pitching prospect from the Dominican Republic for $850,000. Rosario has already shown a three-pitch mix and can really throw strikes. He sits low nineties with quick arm speed.
7. Fernando Ortega, RHP, PHI
The Phillies also signed Fernando Ortega during the July signing period. He sits high to low nineties. Scouts think he can add velocity as he grows into his 6’4 frame. His best pitch is is curveball that has good shape and sharp break
8. Abraham Calzadilla, RHP, ARI
The Diamondbacks signed Calzadilla for $500,000 in July. He is on the slender side at 6’1, 165 lbs, but scouts have raved on his ability to mix his pitches.
9. Diomedes Sierra, LHP, ARI
The Diamondbacks picked up another pitcher, this time a southpaw, for $550,000. Scouts have raved about the fastball and the offspeed show potential. He does have trouble throwing consistent strikes.
10. Joel Machado, LHP, CHC
The Cubs signed there second pitcher in Machado for $850,000. Machado throws mid to high eighties and is working on a pretty decent curve. Scouts have he is athletic with a good arm action. Fastball and curve have rate average to above average.
Top 10 (#3) – (Sort Of) Under the Radar Sleeper Prospects, from John Stewart (@jonance)
If you follow prospect websites and blogs closely and follow some of the best prospectors out there, most of these names will look familiar to you. Some of them have been featured by intrepid writers who have either seen them in person or noticed that they are undervalued or perhaps even ready to break out.
That said there are some fantasy baseball players who play in leagues that roster minors but they don’t follow every whisper and post about prospects on the rise or guys who might be ready to make a leap. Most of these names will not be on many Top 100 prospect lists, but they are all worthy of inclusion here in my Top 10 (Sort of) Under the Radar Sleeper Prospects List as players who I think could make a big leap in 2019. If you play in a league with minor league rosters, keep an eye on them or acquire the ones you like now before it’s too late.
10. Mariel Bautista, OF, CIN
Bautista spent all of last year in Rookie ball as a 20 year old posting a .330/.386/.541 triple slash and contributing 8 HR and 16 SB (19 attempts) in just 209 AB’s. He was a bit old for his level and it is a great hitting environment, but those numbers still jump out at you. He had a mere 12.4% K-rate and doubled his BB-rate from the previous year to a more palatable 6.9%. Presumably he’ll move up to the higher levels of the minors where we’ll be able to see if he will be exploited by better pitching, but there is definitely physical ability is there for a big jump if he can keep hitting.
9. Tirso Ornelas, OF, SDP
Ornelas was the second youngest player in the Midwest League last year, and he more than held his own with elite contact skills and a fantastic all-fields approach, especially given his age. At 6’3″ and 200 lbs, Ornelas has loads of raw power from the left side, but he doesn’t sell out for it. He only hit 8 HR in 309 AB’s last year, but should be able to tap into 25-30 HR power at peak. Although he hit just .252 last year, there is much more batting average upside here considering he did that at such a young age and has an advanced approach.
8. Cole Winn, RHP, TEX
Winn was drafted by the Rangers with the 15th overall pick in 2018 as a prep right-hander who sits in the low-mid 90s with his fastball. He has great command with both that pitch and a quality slider and change plus a big hook. While everyone is clammoring for Casey Mize, there have been some evaluators say that Winn may be the better (albeit much younger) bet.
7. Chavez Young, OF, TOR
My eyes were first opened to Chavez Young by Alex Jensen (@jensen_juicy), and now they are wide open. He posted a .285/.363/.445 line in the Midwest League, with 8 HR and 44 (44!!!) stolen bases in 470 AB. Young is a switch hitter, and he was able to strike out less and walk more against older competition. He uses all parts of the field and if he keeps hitting (and running) like he did last year, he may be one of the most talked about players in the minor leagues.
6. Ethan Hankins, RHP, CLE
Hankins was a sure bet to go much higher in the 2018 draft (Keith Law had him at #1 overall at one time), but slipped to number 35 due to a shoulder injury and signability concerns. That injury turned out to be minor but he didn’t immediately regain his velocity, which scared off enough teams to allow Cleveland to nab him late. He has electric stuff and the build (6’6″ – 200 lbs.) to gobble up innings at the big league level. Hankins has an explosive mid-90’s fastball with movement that is his best offering, coupled with an above average slider and great command that is advanced for his age. There’s a chance that once he regains full health and fills out a bit more he hits triple digits, which will make the 70-grade pitch with wicked life to it virtually unhittable. He has true ace upside and it probably won’t be long before he starts gaining helium in fantasy circles once there’s more footage of his nasty arsenal, so pounce now.
5. Sherten Apostel, 3B, TEX
The Rangers acquired Apostel in return for Keone Kela from Pittsburgh last year and put up great numbers in both Rookie and A ball in 2018. At 19, he is already 6’4″ and 213 lbs and should hit for plenty of power as he had 7 HR in 139 Rookie league AB. That said, he isn’t a one dimensional player as he had a manageable 20% K-rate and a huge 18% BB-rate across both levels. This is a player I want to acquire ASAP.
4. Luis Garcia, SS, PHI
The first thing I need to say about Garcia is that he is NOT the Luis Garcia on the Nationals who moved up prospect lists last year. This Garcia did have a solid season though, and crept into the back of a few top 100 lists. He is likely more valuable in real life than fantasy, but he more than held his own in the GCL as a 17-year-old with a .369 average that led the league. He can run a bit (12/20 SB) and hardly ever strikes out. He may only get to 10-15 HR as he is on the small side, but he could contend for batting titles at the highest level if he is able to show the ability to hit more advanced pitching.
3. Marco Luciano, SS, SFG
He’s still very young, and he hasn’t even made his stateside debut, but Luciano has the potential to be an impact SS. A J2 signing last year, he could be the next power hitting SS prospect to rise up the ranks, although if he gets any bigger he’ll end up at 3B. He carries a ton of risk, but this is a chance to get in on the ground floor with an under-the-radar prospect with loads of raw power who could make his mark next year.
2. Deivi Garcia, RHP, NYY
Do I give a hoot that Garcia is just 5’10” and 163 lbs? Not really, because Garcia is a very advanced arm for his age possessing impeccable command and a veterans poise on the mound. Garcia sits around 94 mph with his fastball, and he also possesses a wicked 60 grade curveball that is a high-spin knee buckler. He has been young for his age at every level and has had no problem dominating hitters, striking out 105 batters in just 73 innings across 3 levels in 2018. Expect Garcia to start the year at AA again, where I fully expect he proves that his height and weight are just numbers and that his special arm and advanced pitchability should allow him the chance to be a high octane arm in a big league rotation.
1. Jordan Groshans, 3B, TOR
Groshans is another name that has popped up on a few lists as he was drafted 12th overall by the Jays in 2018. I’m not sure there’s quite enough love for a guy who came into the GCL as one of the youngest players in the league and slashed .331/.390/.500 over 142 AB. He walked plenty and rarely struck out an made a ton of contact to all fields. If he can tap into his plus power in games, he could be a high average corner infielder with 25+ HR power.
Top 10 (#4) – First Year Player Draft prospects, from Dave Eddy (@CorporalEddy)
Even in a dynasty league one of the best parts of the season is the First Year Player Draft. Whether you are rebuilding, chasing down a title or the defending champion, the draft is a chance to add some new blood to your roster. Watching these prospects grow and waiting for them to be the next big thing is a long but worthwhile wait.
Hitting a home run, see what I did there, with your 1st round pick can be difficult but it is important. Nobody wants to be the guy that is dropping their 1st round pick in a couple of years or owning a player that was over-hyped and then you can’t trade him for a bag of used balls.
With that being said here is my list of the top 10 FYPD dynasty league targets from the 2018 MLB Draft.
1. Nolan Gorman, 3B, STL
I will admit that I have a major prospect crush on him. Gorman has all the makings of a fantasy baseball superstar. He dominated in the short stint he had in the minors during the 2018 season. He has a legitimate shot to be a top 10 prospect at this time next year.
2. Trevor Larnach, OF, MIN
Again with what will be a trend of betting on high upside guys on this list. Larnach has the chance to be a very quick mover in the Twins system. He is a polished college bat that has the potential to be a solid middle of the order stick sooner than later. He offers you a blend of high upside with a relatively quick ETA.
3. Jonathan India, 3B, CIN
While India might never win an MVP trophy he is the type of player that if you own stock in you will likely end up being very happy. He might not have the ceiling of some of the other players that will be mentioned but his extremely high floor makes him a very attractive player to own. If you like high risk/high reward then you want to own Gorman. If you prefer to play it safe but are still looking to acquire a great player then India is more your cup of tea.
4. Casey Mize, RHP, DET
Speaking of a polished college player that offers you a high upside and a relatively quick ETA, I present to you Casey Mize. Nicknamed 1.1 by his teammates, Mize has ace potential. If Detroit was in a different situation you could see Mize as soon as 2019. But with their rebuild they are in no rush to hasten his development. Alas, do not worry, Mize will still be a quick riser and could be the ace of your fantasy squad in short order. I don’t normally advocate high investments on pitchers but with how close Mize already is to the big leagues he is someone you could draft with a fair amount of confidence.
5. Jarred Kelenic, OF, SEA
Already a victim of being traded away from the MLB team that drafted him, Kelenic has some ridiculous upside. A lefty with a serious blend of what Dynasty owners crave, power and speed. Kelenic has the making of a 20/30 type player. While he was drafted as a prep bat, he has the chance to move very quickly, relatively speaking.
6. Jordan Groshans, 3B, TOR
Again, this ranking is all about upside. While Groshans might not have the type of power today that will make you drool, he has the potential to be a 30 HR guy that doesn’t hurt you in average. I could see him developing into a .270 hitter. Match that with his power profile and you have the making of a solid everyday bat to slot into your lineup.
7. Nick Madrigal, SS, CWS
An oddity on this list because his ranking is not so much about his upside as it is his incredible likelihood to succeed. When I think about Madrigal I think about Jose Altuve, without the power. His hit tool is outlandish and already the best outside of some dude named Vlad. Throw 20-25 stolen bases in with a guy that does not strike out and you have the making of the safest player in this entire draft.
8. Nico Hoerner, 3B, CHC
Not the most upside on this list but a guy that is supremely polished and likely to be the first in this class to get the call to the show. He doesn’t have a real hole in his game and I think his ceiling is a lot higher than some people give him credit for. If you have a good team and are drafting later in the first round, Hoerner would be a smart guy to target.
9. Jordyn Adams, OF, LAA
This ranking is all about potential, shocker right ! I will be the first to admit that his swing needs some work, well a lot of work. But when you combine his plus plus speed and impressive raw power, you have the material to make a dynamic player that could really push a team over the edge. Similar to Gorman, this is a high risk/high reward player. But if you are drafting late in the first round you may find Adams to be an absolute steal a couple of years down the road.
10. Joey Bart, C, SF
The only position I like less than Pitcher in dynasty is Catcher. The fact that I am even including Bart on this list speaks to the skill set he is likely to provide. Offensively you get above average contact and a powerful bat that will stick behind the plate. He brings a high upside (for a catcher) that also comes with a high ceiling. If your major weakness is at catcher and you can afford to pass up on more valuable dynasty positions, then Bart is a solid pick.
Top 10 (#5) – Dynasty league prospects you should own NOW that other owners may not know about, from Scott Greene (@Scotty_Ballgame)
This will be short and sweet. I give you 5 hitters and 5 pitchers whom you should be able to add in many of your dynasty leagues.
1. Luis Rengifo, 2B, LAA – 6th on Andrew Rhodes’ Angels Top 50
All Rengifo did last year was rise through 3 levels (High-A, AA and AAA), hit, and run! Almost a lock to see time in Los Angeles this season. The 2B hit .299 with 7 HR, 64 RBI and 41 SB. If he’s unowned, grab him now!
2. Taylor Widener, RHP, ARI – 8th on Matt Hammerling’s Diamondbacks Top 50
Widener was one of our 2018 SP Prospects of the Year nominees. As a perfect example of how Win-Loss record doesn’t tell the story, in Double-A Jackson he was 5-8 with a 2.75 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 176 K in 137.1 IP (11.5 K/9). In 10-12 team leagues with MiLB rosters of 25 or less he’s probably not owned. If you’re in a very deep league with 15-30 teams and minors rosters of 50+, there’s a good possibility that he’s already owned, but go check right now!
3. Dean Kremer, RHP, BAL – 11th on Tim Smith’s Orioles Top 50
Kremer came to Baltimore with Yusniel Diaz, Breyvic Valera, Zach Pop and Rylan Bannon in the Manny Machado trade last year. All he did was lead the minor leagues in strikeouts (178). I personally spoke with MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo last week and asked him about Kremer. Is he the real deal? Mayo gave me an affirmative “Yes” and that’s good enough for me. I’ve either claimed him or drafted him in most of my Diamond Duos dynasty leagues.
4. Ty France, 3B/1B, SD – 43rd on Eric Killian’s Padres Top 50
France tore up AA and AAA in 2018 and as of the end of January, RosterResource.com is projecting him to be San Diego’s starting 3B in 2019. He put up 17 HR and 77 RBI in 112 games at AA San Antonio, and then continued mashing at AAA El Paso. There he added 5 HR and 19 RBI in only 25 games. Christian Villanueva made a splash in MLB last year. This could be France’s year.
5. David Parkinson, LHP, PHI – 31st on Tony Bps’s Phillies Top 50
Even though Parkinson earned Phillies’ organization Pitcher of the Year, it’s a good bet that many of the other owners in your dynasty leagues do not have him on their radar. He should be on yours. He’s an instance when low ERA and excellent control did positively affect Win-Loss record. Parkinson went 11-1 across two levels (A and A+), with 141 K in 124.1 IP to go along with a microscopic 1.45 ERA and a stellar 1.01 WHIP.
6. Ramon Rosso, RHP, PHI – 27th on Tony Bps’s Phillies Top 50
Rosso was basically on the same track in the same organization as Parkinson last season, splitting time between Lakewood (A) and Clearwater (A+). He’s another SP who was lights out and could be heading to the Brotherly Love city in the next year or two. Don’t sleep on these numbers from 2018: 11-3, 2.04 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 139 K in 123.1 innings pitched, good for a 10.1 K/9 rate.
7. Tyler Phillips, RHP, TEX – 13th on Jake Berry’s Rangers Top 50
Another A/A+ pitcher in 2018, Phillips isn’t owned by many in my Diamond Duos league and we have MiLB rosters of 60 or more. He’s likely available in your league and worth an add. In 23 games started last season (only one in High-A) he was 12-5, with a great ERA (2.64) and WHIP (1.02) and a K/9 just under 9 (8.6). His K/BB rate was a stellar 7.94 and that’s a stat I love to look at when it comes to minor league pitchers.
8. Josh Rojas, 3B, HOU – 37th on Brandon Lute’s Astros Top 50
He’s not a household name, and sure, there’s another young 3B manning the hot corner in Houston right now that’ll probably be there for a while. But come on now, you never know what kind of opportunity could arise. Rojas, Houston’s 26th round pick in 2017, did nothing but impress in High-A (for Buies Creek at the time) and then in Double-A with Corpus Christi. Overall he swiped 38 bags to go along with a respectable .263/.351/.408 slashline, adding 8 HR and 55 RBI. Not an impact everyday MLB bat, but potentially a very nice reserve bat.
9. Taylor Walls, SS/2B, TB – 27th on Jake Wiener’s Rays Top 50
Tampa’s 3rd round pick in 2017 spent that season in Hudson Valley (A-) but played in 120 games with Bowling Green (A) this past season. Walls notched 200 total bases, slashing .304/.393/.428/.821, he was 31 for 43 in stolen base attempts, and showed a little pop with 6 HR but tallied 57 RBI and 87 runs scored. If you’re looking for a solid spark plug type of player, Walls should be available in most leagues.
10. Austin Listi, 1B/OF, PHI – 21st on Tony Bps’s Phillies Top 50
Maybe a bit old for A+ and AA, but 2018 was a season Listi started to put it all together. Even so, most of your league mates won’t know the name. I saw him early in the season in April when I took in a Stone Crabs/Threshers game in Port Charlotte. He just looked so confident at the plate and I loved how the ball sounded coming off the bat. I know that’s not how you decide if you want to add a player to your dynasty league minors roster, but trust me. I know Jason Woodell (@JasonAtTheGame) is a Listi fan too. Don’t ignore this awesome slash! .312/.412/.502/.915. Plus he smashed 18 HR, knocked in 84 runs, and only struck out 18.5% of the time. Not bad.