A reminder: This is NOT a ranking of overall prospects; this is only based on potential production for 2021. Also, a reminder that this is only a list of players who are currently in the minors. And finally, this is a list that obviously has fantasy considerations.
Those caveats out of the way, here’s a look at the top 10 prospects for the 2021 season.
1. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners
2019 stats: 117 G, .291/.364/.540, 23 HR, 20 SB, 50 BB, 111 SO at High-A Modesto and Double-A Arkansas.
Unsurprisingly, Kelenic was assigned to Triple-A to begin the season. The question was never what minor league team, but how long he’ll wear a Tacoma jersey. With the ability to contribute in all five categories, Kelenic remains the top fantasy prospect for the 2021 season, and if he’s still available in your league, it would not be a mistake to add him right now.
2. Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
2019 stats: 114 G, .327/.394/.487, 9 HR, 18 SB, 56 BB, 35 SO at Low-A Charlotte and High-A Bowling Green.
Well, this is interesting. Franco is going to be skipping the Double-A level -- if you want to argue that last year’s alternate site was its equivalent, you can, but I’m going technical here -- and will begin the 2021 season at Triple-A Durham. The best prospect in baseball by a significant margin is now just one level away from playing Major League Baseball, and this writer did seriously consider moving him to the top spot ahead of Kelenic. I think it’s far more likely that Kelenic is up first, however, and you might get an extra month out of the outfielder. Either way, both are players I’m rostering right now.
3. Daniel Lynch, LHP, Kansas City Royals
2019 stats: 20 G, 96.1 IP, 2.99 ERA, 29 BB, 96 SO at High-A Burlington.
Ring the alarm. It was announced Sunday evening that Lynch will be joining the Royals on Monday and starting against Cleveland that evening. The 34th pick of the 2018 draft, Lynch has four pitches that can miss bats, but also can command them exceptionally well. He’s a better “real-life” pitcher than a fantasy one because he’s more about weak contact than missing bats, but he can certainly do the latter with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a plus slider. Cleveland’s lineup isn’t a cakewalk right now, but if you’re looking for a streamer, there aren’t likely more talented hurlers on the waiver wire than Lynch. Should be fun.
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4. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2019 stats: 26 G, 135 IP, 2.13 ERA, 33 BB, 165 SO at Low-A West Virginia, High-A Modesto and Double-A Arkansas.
Joining Kelenic in Triple-A will be Gilbert, to the surprise of absolutely no one. The Mariners recently had Ljay Newsome make a start in place of the injured Nick Margevicius, and it went about as poorly as it could go as he was rocked by the Angels on Saturday evening. Simply put, Logan Gilbert is a much more talented pitcher than Newsome is, and the Mariners just need him to make a couple of starts in Triple-A before calling him up to be a part of the rotation. It’s hard to fathom that isn’t the plan, anyway.
5. Deivi Garcia, RHP, New York Yankees
2021 stats: 1 G, 4 IP, 4.50 ERA, 3 BB, 4 SO at New York (AL).
Garcia made a spot start for the Yankees on Monday, and it went so-so. He gave up two runs -- both coming in the first two innings -- and while he dealt with some location issues, he bared down and was able to show off his swing-and-miss arsenal as well. Garcia is (in my eyes, anyway) unquestionably one of the most talented pitchers on the New York roster right now, and while the Yankees will have him get some work in Triple-A over the next few weeks, he ultimately should spend most of the summer with the big league club, and provide solid fantasy results in most of his outings.
6. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres
2019 stats: 20 G, 101 IP, 1.69 ERA, 28 BB, 135 SO at High-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A Amarillo.
Gore hasn’t been assigned to a minor league roster at the time of this writing, but it will assuredly be either Double-A Amarillo or Triple-A El Paso. Even if it were for some reason the former, it’s not something fantasy managers should freak out about. Gore is without question the best pitching prospect in baseball, and has the arsenal and command to be successful right away. The fact that he also should get a chance to pitch behind one of the best clubs in baseball is a nifty added bonus. Gore should help fantasy rosters in 2021.
7. Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2020 stats: 5 G, 18 IP, 6.00 ERA, 13 BB, 16 SO at Toronto.
Pearson was activated off the injured list last week by the Blue Jays, and then immediately optioned to their alternate site. He hasn’t been assigned a team just yet, but it’s hard to imagine he won’t begin the MiLB season in Triple-A. Pearson has outstanding stuff and has improved his command, and like Gore, there should be plenty of win opportunities for the right-hander. It’d be an upset if he wasn’t making starts for the Blue Jays by the end of May. Assuming good health, anyway.
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8. Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox
2019 stats: 132 G, .303/.367/.408, 5 HR, 46 SB, 46 BB, 128 SO at High-A Salem and Double-A Portland.
Let’s take another look at that Boston outfield, as we did last week. Alex Verdugo continues to rake, but Franchy Cordero is hitting .158 and slugging .193, and Hunter Renfroe is slashing a less-than-robust .191/.250/.309 thus far. Not great. Duran is the top prospect in the Boston system in the upper levels, and with the ability to hit for average, improving pop and plenty of speed, he has a chance to be a very good fantasy player in the coming years. It’s very plausible that 2021 is one of those years; there’s certainly opportunity here.
9. Heliot Ramos, OF, San Francisco Giants
2019 stats: 102 G, .290/.369/.481, 16 HR, 8 SB, 42 BB, 118 SO at High-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond.
It’s a little disappointing that Ramos is heading to Double-A. While there have obviously been players who have skipped Triple-A to make a contribution (see: Soto, Juan), it makes it a little less likely that he makes a contribution in the next few weeks. He still belongs on this list -- at least partially because the other options are a little lackluster, with due respect to them -- because of his potential to hit for both average and power while also helping a bit in the steals category.
10. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Miami Marlins
2020 stats: 20 G, 39 IP, 3.46 ERA, 3 HR, 11 BB, 33 SO at Miami.
Sanchez is “still a ways out” according to Marlins general manager Kim Ng. That’s the bad news. The good news is that he has extended his throwing to 60 feet from the 45 feet that was mentioned in the previous update. Miami has absolutely no reason to rush their best pitching prospect back to the mound, but until the Marlins says that Sanchez isn’t going to return this summer, I believe he’s worth a stash. The stuff is just too impressive for me to think he’s not worth rostering over mediocre options.
Next in line: Jeter Downs, INF, Boston Red Sox; Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves; Bobby Witt Jr., INF, Kansas City Royals; Matt Manning, RHP, Detroit Tigers; Trevor Larnach, OF, Minnesota Twins