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. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
2018 stats: 95 G, .381/.437/.636, 20 HR, 3 SB, 37 BB, 38 SO at High-A Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo.
Guerrero Jr. is currently dealing with a Grade 1 left oblique strain, but reports are that the 20-year-old is ahead of schedule, and Mark Shapiro recently said that he’ll “absolutely” be up with the team when he’s healthy. When exactly that’ll be is not yet known, but it’d be an upset if Guerrero Jr. wasn’t playing for Toronto before the end of April. Once up, he’s going to hit for average and power. He’s easily the best fantasy prospect in baseball -- and yes, that includes the recent call-ups.
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2. Nick Senzel, OF, Cincinnati Reds
2018 stats: 44 G, .310/.378/.509, 6 HR, 19 BB, 39 SO, 8 SB at Triple-A Louisville.
If not for a fractured finger, Senzel would have made his debut last year and wouldn’t qualify for that list. He’s just as ready offensively as any of the prospects who were called up, but you can at least sort of justify him starting the year in Triple-A because he’s moving to center field. Unfortunately, Senzel suffered another injury that will keep him in a walking boot for up to two weeks, and there's no timetable as to when he'll be ready to return. With a plus-plus hit tool, quality speed and deceptive power, he should be ready for MLB pitching as soon as he's healthy, and he should be among the best rookies in the National League in 2019.
3. Luis Urias, 2B, San Diego Padres
2018 stats: 120 G, .296/.398/.447, 8 HR, 2 SB, 67 BB, 109 SO at Triple-A El Paso; 12 G, .208/.264/.354, 2 HR, 1 SB, 3 BB, 10 SO at San Diego.
If there was a surprising omission of prospects who didn’t make MLB rosters, it was Urias. He was projected to be the starting shortstop, but Fernando Tatis Jr. got the call instead, and you certainly can’t blame San Diego for going that route. Urias should still get a chance to participate quite often in 2019, as his plus-plus hit tool and improving power make him a valuable fantasy prospect for this year and beyond. Assuming he gets off to a good start in Triple-A El Paso, he should be back with the Padres in a very short time.
4. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2018 stats: 24 G, 2.38 ERA, 101 H, 53 BB, 163 SO at Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett; 7 G, 4.03 ERA, 29 IP, 18 H, 21 BB, 32 SO at Atlanta.
It was also a bit of a surprise to see Toussaint not make the Braves’ rotation to begin the 2019 season, as Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson both pitched in the weekend series against the Phillies. Unfortunately for the Braves -- and maybe fortunately for Toussaint’s chances of joining the rotation quickly -- both pitchers didn’t pitch well against the tough Philadelphia lineup. Toussaint has serious swing-and-miss stuff, and while it comes with some less-than-spectacular control, it’s good enough for the right-hander to be an effective starter who should miss plenty of bats for Atlanta in 2019.
5. Justus Sheffield, LHP, Seattle Mariners
2018 stats: 25 G, 2.48 ERA, 82 H, 50 BB, 123 SO at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; 3 G, 2.2 IP, 10.12 ERA, 4 H, 3 BB, 0 SO at New York.
The Mariners acquired Justus Sheffield in the deal that sent James Paxton to the Yankees, and the southpaw immediately became the best prospect in the Seattle system. There are three swing-and-miss pitches in Sheffield’s arsenal, including a fastball that gets into the high 90s and a slider that can be devastating when he’s ahead in the count. The command went backwards in 2019, but he should throw enough strikes to remain in the rotation. With Seattle’s rotation shaky -- and shaky is putting it kindly, in all likelihood -- there’s no reason to think that Sheffield won’t pile up the starts in 2019.
6. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
2018 stats: 100 G, .332/.400/590, 24 HR, 20 SB, 48 BB, 84 SO at Triple-A Fresno; 28 G, .141/.236/.203, 0 HR, 1 SB, 6 BB, 13 SO at Houston.
If Tucker was on virtually any other roster, he’d be significantly higher on this list. Of course, if Tucker played for another team, he probably wouldn’t be eligible. Yes, the 22-year-old did struggle in his time with the Astros last year, but that sample size was too small, and Tucker too talented, to take it seriously. He has a chance to provide a high average and quality power totals, and he also is a strong base-runner who could pile up the steals, as well. At some point, the Astros are going to have to find a way to get Tucker in the lineup in 2019. It’s also possible he could be used in a deal, and that would absolutely help his fantasy value.
7. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros
2018 stats: 8 G, 26.1 IP, 3.76 ERA, 15 H, 11 BB, 34 SO at Double-A Corpus Christi.
Whitley is the best pitching prospect in baseball. There are four pitches here that can miss bats, and miss bats at an elite level. He also throws them for strikes -- for the most part -- and he’s going to begin the year at Triple-A. So, why so low? Because of the lack of an obvious opportunity for 2019, and there’s been some talk that the Astros could call Whitley up to be a member of the bullpen. He can help in that role, but without saves, wins or a high inning total, the value for 2019 is somewhat limited. If he does get a chance to start, however, the upside is palpable.
8. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2018 stats: 25 G, 3.48 ERA, 142.1 IP, 130 H, 55 BB, 135 SO at High-A Bradenton, Double-A Altoona, and Triple-A Indianapolis.
Keller has quickly developed into one of the best right-handed pitching prospects in baseball, and has a strong chance of earning time with the Pirates in 2019. Potentially soon. The 22-year-old won’t miss bats at the same level of some of the other “elite” starting prospects, but he does have a sinking fastball that can get up to 98 mph, and he complements that with a plus curveball. He throws those pitches and a curveball for strikes, and the command isn’t that far behind. Keller is just about ready to go, and with the Pirates having some holes in the rotation, there’s opportunity here.
9. Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
2018 stats: 123 G, .293/.357/.464, 13 HR, 15 SB, 36 BB, 103 SO at High-A Carolina and Double-A Biloxi.
Ranking Hiura -- and the player below him -- is tricky, as there’s no obvious player to put on this list below Keller. Heck, there’s no obvious player to contribute in 2019 behind Sheffield. But I digress. Hiura has one of the best hit tools in all of baseball, and the power isn’t far behind. Like Tucker, he’s only an average runner, but also like Tucker he makes the most of it and could provide 15-plus steals, as well. The issue with Hiura is that there’s no obvious spot for him to play right now, but again, talent usually wins out. Hiura has a great chance of reaching Milwaukee because of it.
10. Brendan Rodgers, INF, Colorado Rockies
2018 stats: 114 G, .268/.330/.460, 17 HR, 12 SB, 31 BB, 62 SO at Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque.
Another tricky one. Rodgers is clearly one of the best prospects in baseball, and the fact that he’s in Triple-A makes him a candidate to see playing time with the Rockies in 2019. Or does it? Trevor Story isn’t going anywhere, and Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson are both ahead of Rodgers on the depth chart. The injury to Daniel Murphy could open things up, but no guarantees, here. Still, everything we say about Hiura is true about Rodgers, only with more power and less speed. If Rodgers does get a call to Colorado, he’s a must-add.
Also considered: Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays; Mike Soroka, RHP, Atlanta Braves; Michael Chavis, INF, Boston Red Sox; Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Baltimore Orioles; Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP, New York Yankees