Before I get crucified, I think you and I know this is meant to be more of a fun exercise where we get to dream on the hype of some of the biggest names in minor league baseball.
Everyone is obsessed with knowing who’s the best at any given moment. It’s not enough to know who’s the top prospect right now. What about a year from now? Two years from now? Three?
I decided to take a look and make my best guesses for which prospects will be the best in each of the next four years. I’m drawing from current production relative to league and future grades for each prospect. Each prediction assumes the player is still a prospect in March of each year.
Top Prospect in 2018: Brendan Rodgers, SS (COL)
Just promoted to AA, Brendan Rodgers has several things going for him:
- He’ll play in Coors Field
- He has both a 60 hit and power tool
- He’ll play shortstop
Before being promoted to AA earlier this month, Rodgers was slashing .400/.419/.700 in 48 games with 12 HR in High-A. He was striking out at just a 14% clip. A slightly concerning trend is his decreasing walk rate (9.4% in 2015, 7.1% in 2016, 2% in 2017). He has only six walks in 250 PA this year, but at the very least his K rate has fallen each year as well.
Remember the Troy Tulowitzki days from the early part of this decade? That’s what I expect from Rodgers once he hits his stride in the majors.
Potential challenger: Victor Robles, OF (WAS). I don’t think Yoan Moncada or Rafael Devers will be rookie eligible in March.
Top Prospect in 2019: Ronald Acuna, OF (ATL)
The only reason I’m a little cautious about this selection is not because Acuna might fall off, but because he’s ripping through the minor league at such a fast pace that there’s an outside chance he makes his debut mid-to-late 2018 and loses eligibility in March 2019.
Acuna’s hype began late last year after he returned from a thumb injury and raked in A ball as an 18 year old. Now 19, the Braves decided 28 games of high-A ball is all they needed to see to promote him to AA. In 192 PA with the Mississippi Braves, he has a .316/.370/.471 slash line with 5 HR and 16 SB. On the year he has 8 HR and 30 SB, good for fourth in all of the minors.
The scary thing about Acuna is that despite his size (he’s listed as 6 feet, 180 pounds but scouts think 6 feet is generous), scouting reports expect him to tap into 20 HR power as he continues to physically mature thanks to impressive hand and wrist strength. A potential 20/30 stud with a great slash line, Acuna should already be owned in every dynasty league and if he continues on this pace, Braves fans may have a new superstar by late next year.
Potential challenger: Victor Robles, OF (WAS), Eloy Jimenez, OF (CHC)
Top Prospect in 2020: Vlad Guerrero Jr., 3B (TOR)
We’re starting to get into the territory where it becomes primary projection relying on what we’re seeing now. Vlad Guerrero Jr just turned 18 in March and is crushing single-A. He’s hitting .309/.398/.457 with 5 HR and 6 SB against competition much older. The most impressive thing? He’s walked 33 times to 31 strikeouts. He has an 11.8 K% in 560 professional plate appearances, an extremely good sign of things to come.
In the preseason, at best he was ranked as a fringe back-end top 100 prospect on several publications. Now, I think he crosses into the top 50 and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he cracks some top 25s.
With three plus tools (hit, power, arm), elite bat speed, 30 HR potential and the potential to play the hot corner for the first few years of his career, Vlad Jr. is a force to be reckoned with.
Potential challengers: Leody Taveras, OF (TEX), Juan Soto, OF (WAS), Jay Groome, SP (BOS), Hunter Greene, SP (CIN), Bo Bichette, SS (TOR)
Top Prospect in 2021: Kevin Maitan, 3B (ATL)
Let’s talk about the guy who might have more ceiling than any of the above, but easily carries the most risk. Maitan, born after Y2K, is pure projection right now. He’s been scouted since he was 13 and heralded as the next Miguel Cabrera. While it’s far-fetched to assume he’s already a Hall of Fame player, scouts agree the switch hitter is the biggest July 2 signee since Miguel Sano.
Maitan has yet to debut for the GCL Braves because of a slight hamstring strain, thus we don’t have a single professional at bat from which to dream on. In his workouts, scouts have slapped a future 60 hit and power tool (from both sides of the plate) with the athleticism to play 3B.
The bust rate for someone this far away from the majors is very high, but so too is the reward. If he follows the ideal developmental trajectory path, we could be looking at a monster in the making in a couple of years time.
Potential challengers: Delvin Perez, SS (STL), Cristian Pache, OF (ATL), Fernando Tatis Jr., SS (SD)