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Fourteen prospect-laden minor-league rosters for Opening Day 2017

Welcome to the 2017 minor-league season. For prospect junkies, these are the affiliates to watch.

Charlotte Aerials Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Domenic Lanza and I spent the baseball offseason compiling our team-by-team, top-ten fantasy-prospects lists. Then, with the help of Ghoji Blackburn, we capped our 2016-17 coverage with the annual Fake Teams Consensus Top-100 Fantasy Prospects list. Now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, minor-league opening day is upon us.

Dynasty-leaguers tend to view the beginning of the minor-league season with as much anticipation as the major-league one, and even re-draft leaguers can benefit from a primer. Veteran fantasy players in all leagues understand the importance of tracking potential midseason call-ups. For those who wish to maximize their prospect viewing time, I have identified and ranked the top-fourteen, prospect-laden, minor-league rosters for MiLB’s 2017 opening day. Why fourteen? Because that is how many interesting rosters I found, because fourteen is more than ten, and because more is better when it comes to baseball.

To qualify for this list, rosters had to include some combination of elite prospects and intriguing depth. Two or three good players did not cut it. Rosters that feature multiple Top-100 prospects received serious consideration, but so did rosters that boast an impressive number of younger prospects who might be on the cusp of a breakthrough into the elite ranks.

Consensus Top-100 rankings appear in parentheses, along with my own personal Top-100 ranking, for each relevant player.

#14 - Lakewood BlueClaws (Philadelphia Phillies), Low-A South Atlantic League

Key prospects:

  • OF Mickey Moniak (#50 overall; my rank: 61)
  • RHP Sixto Sanchez
  • RHP Adonis Medina
  • 2B Daniel Brito

Moniak, the #1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft, is the obvious big name here, but the youngster Sanchez made the Phillies’ top-ten fantasy list (#10). Medina had some helium entering 2016 and still is only 20 years old. Brito might never be an elite fantasy prospect, but he should stick in the middle infield.

#13 - Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves), Low-A South Atlantic League

Key prospects:

  • RHP Ian Anderson (#92 overall; my rank: 92)
  • LHP Joey Wentz
  • RHP Bryse Wilson
  • SS Derian Cruz
  • OF Cristian Pache

Anderson, the #3 overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft, will front an interesting young rotation that includes Wentz (#8 on Braves’ top-ten fantasy list) and Wilson. Cruz and Pache have elite speed and will not turn 19 until the fall. Both would rank much higher in a system less stacked with talent than the Braves’.

#12 - Bowling Green Hot Rods (Tampa Bay Rays), Low-A Midwest League

Key prospects:

  • OF Josh Lowe
  • SS Adrian Rondon
  • SS Lucius Fox
  • OF Garrett Whitley
  • OF Jesus Sanchez

Lowe (4), Rondon (5), Fox (6), and Whitley (9) made the Rays’ top ten fantasy list, and Sanchez might be the fastest riser of them all. They have not yet cracked industry-wide top-100 lists, but there’s a ton of offensive potential in this group.

#11 - Chattanooga Lookouts (Minnesota Twins), Double-A Southern League

Key prospects:

  • LHP Tyler Jay (#56 overall; my rank: 66)
  • LHP Stephen Gonsalves (#81 overall; my rank: 79)
  • RHP Kohl Stewart
  • RHP Fernando Romero
  • RHP Felix Jorge

The jury remains out on whether any of these pitchers will advance into the elite ranks, but for quality depth it’s hard to beat the Lookouts’ rotation. Stewart (5) and Romero (6) made the Twins’ top-ten fantasy list. Jorge came in at #8 on Baseball America’s top-30 list for the organization.

#10 - Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh Pirates), High-A Florida State League

Key prospects:

  • RHP Mitch Keller (#51 overall; my rank: 36)
  • 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes (#89 overall; my rank: 74)
  • 3B Will Craig
  • SS Cole Tucker
  • RHP Gage Hinsz
  • LHP Taylor Hearn

Keller burst onto the scene in 2016 with a 131:18 K:BB ratio in 124 IP at Low-A West Virginia. He has the look of a top-20 overall talent. When healthy, Hayes can really hit. Craig (7) and Tucker (9) made the Pirates’ top-ten fantasy list. Hinsz and Hearn, the latter acquired from Washington in the Mark Melancon trade, have a chance to make the leap.

#9 - Florida Fire Frogs (Atlanta Braves), High-A Florida State League

Key prospects:

  • OF Ronald Acuna (#65 overall; my rank: 39)
  • LHP Luiz Gohara
  • RHP Touki Toussaint
  • 3B Austin Riley
  • OF Braxton Davidson

Fans of the brand-spankin’-new Fire Frogs organization will be treated to one of the great young outfield talents in Acuna. Gohara arrived during the offseason from Seattle, where he ranked third (3) on the Mariners’ top-ten list. Toussaint, a former first-round pick of the Diamondbacks, made the Braves’ top-ten fantasy list (9) and still boasts a pair of 70-grade pitches in his fastball and curveball. Riley has had more success thus far than Davidson, but both are still young for their level and could develop into impact hitters.

#8 - Trenton Thunder (New York Yankees), Double-A Eastern League

Key prospects:

  • SS Gleyber Torres (#17 overall; my rank: 15)
  • LHP Justus Sheffield (#83 overall; my rank: not ranked)
  • 3B Miguel Andujar
  • RHP Chance Adams
  • OF Billy McKinney

Torres has as much helium as any prospect in baseball right now and could be #1 overall when the midseason rankings updates appear. Sheffield, who came over from Cleveland in the Andrew Miller trade, should have made my top-100 list; that was an oversight. Andujar (9) did make the Yankees’ top-ten fantasy list. Adams came in at #8 on Baseball America’s top-30 list for the organization. McKinney is a former top prospect of the Cubs.

#7 - Lake Elsinore Storm (San Diego Padres), High-A California League

Key prospects:

  • RHP Anderson Espinoza (#15 overall; my rank: 10)
  • RHP Cal Quantrill (#98 overall; my rank: not ranked)
  • 1B Josh Naylor
  • OF Michael Gettys
  • LHP Eric Lauer
  • SS Javier Guerra

Espinoza is the obvious headliner here, with 2016 first-round picks Quantrill and Lauer rounding out an impressive rotation. Naylor (6), a former Marlins farmhand with power potential, and Gettys (7), whose all-around offensive tools are beginning to show up in games, made the Padres’ top-ten fantasy list. Guerra fell off a cliff in 2016 but once was a top prospect of the Red Sox.

#6 - Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays), Triple-A International League

Key prospects:

  • SS Willy Adames (#33 overall; my rank: 48)
  • RHP Jose De Leon (#36 overall; my rank: 41)
  • OF Jake Bauers (#75 overall; my rank: 70)
  • 1B Casey Gillaspie
  • RHP Chih-Wei Hu

Durham is the second of two affiliates from the Rays’ underrated system to appear on this list. Adames came over from the Tigers in the 2014 David Price trade and projects as Tampa’s shortstop of the very near future. De Leon, acquired this past offseason from the Dodgers in exchange for Logan Forsythe, will force his way into the Rays’ rotation before long. Bauers and Gillaspie (#7 on Rays’ top-ten fantasy list) could hit in the middle of the Rays’ order as early as 2018. Hu came in at #5 on Baseball America’s top-30 list for the organization.

#5 - Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee Brewers), High-A Carolina League

Key prospects:

  • SS Isan Diaz (#58 overall; my rank: 47)
  • OF Trent Clark (#73 overall; my rank: 73)
  • RHP Phil Bickford (#91 overall; my rank: not ranked)
  • RHP Marcos Diplan (not ranked overall; my rank: 91)
  • 3B Lucas Erceg

Diaz and Clark boast impressive, all-around, offensive tools. Bickford’s 50-game suspension for banned substances clouds his future, but there is no doubt about his talent, or Diplan’s, who is more than a year younger. Erceg, a 2016 second-round pick, made a splash with an .895 OPS, 9 HR, and 9 SB in only 68 games.

#4 - Mississippi Braves (Atlanta Braves), Double-A Southern League

Key prospects:

  • LHP Kolby Allard (#46 overall; my rank: 42)
  • RHP Mike Soroka (#72 overall; my rank: 53)
  • 2B Travis Demeritte
  • LHP Max Fried
  • RHP Patrick Weigel

Mississippi gives us the third of three Braves affiliates on this list. With Allard, Soroka, Fried, and Weigel, all of whom cracked Baseball America’s top ten prospects in this absolutely loaded system, Mississippi could have the minors’ deepest and most formidable rotation. The offensive talent is not quite as strong, but Demeritte did make the Braves’ top-ten fantasy prospects list (10) thanks to his enormous power potential (28 HR in 2016) in the middle infield.

#3 - Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Philadelphia Phillies), Triple-A International League

Key prospects:

  • SS J.P. Crawford (#9 overall; my rank: 17)
  • C Jorge Alfaro (#53 overall; my rank: 69)
  • OF Nick Williams (#66 overall; my rank: 76)
  • OF Roman Quinn
  • OF Dylan Cozens
  • 1B Rhys Hoskins

The IronPigs, second of two Philadelphia affiliates to make this list, feature perhaps the best combination of impact-talent and depth, at least on the offensive side. Crawford and Alfaro will provide solid production at premium positions. Williams has the tools to be an above-average regular. Quinn (7) and Cozens (9) made the Phillies’ top-ten fantasy prospects list. In 2016, Cozens and Hoskins combined for 78 HR at Double-A Reading. If everything goes as planned, all six of these players could help the 2017 Phillies at some point.

#2 - Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Milwaukee Brewers), Triple-A Pacific Coast League

Key prospects:

  • OF Lewis Brinson (#12 overall; my rank: 21)
  • LHP Josh Hader (#26 overall; my rank: 20)
  • OF Brett Phillips (#90 overall; my rank: not ranked)
  • OF Ryan Cordell

Here we have the second of two Brewers affiliates to make the list. The depth at Colorado Springs is not as impressive as it is elsewhere, but Brinson and Hader could make significant fantasy impacts as early as 2017. Brinson has elite power-speed potential, and Hader will rack up the strikeouts. The industry is down on Phillips, but he’s not far removed from being a top prospect. Cordell offers a good deal of defensive versatility and an intriguing set of offensive tools.

#1 - Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox), Triple-A International League

Key prospects:

  • 3B Yoan Moncada (#1 overall; my rank: 1)
  • RHP Lucas Giolito (#3 overall; my rank: 8)
  • RHP Reynaldo Lopez (#31 overall; my rank: 31)
  • RHP Carson Fulmer (#63 overall; my rank: 82)
  • RHP Zack Burdi

What a treat for Charlotte baseball fans. Moncada, the game’s consensus #1 overall prospect, came over from Boston this offseason in the blockbuster Chris Sale trade. Meanwhile, Giolito and Lopez arrived from Washington as part of the Adam Eaton trade. Fulmer, a 2015 first-round pick, gives the Knights three top-100 prospects in their rotation. Burdi (7) cracked the top-ten fantasy list and gives the White Sox one of the minors’ top relief prospects.