This has got to be my favorite portion of this year’s list. It is chock full of young guys! While age isn’t the only determining factor of value for dynasty leagues, you can’t argue with 15 of this section’s 25 players being younger than 23. Some of them have MLB experience, some of them have MiLB experience, and some of them are college players. Yes, we’ve finally reached the college player portion, and there are two bona fide stars ready for this year’s MLB draft. Again, if you want to read more about the process of selection, read the intro to the 1-25 portion of the list.
Let’s have some fun.
Let the gambling begin! We’ve gone from solid contributors in across the board (except a few high level prospects) in picks 1-50 to flawed young players with tremendous potential. That is the perfect description of Ozzie Albies, who was so good in both the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 that it was hard not imagine a world where he wasn’t a top-10 second baseman. And then August and September rolled around. Albies was so bad in the second half or 2018 (.226/.282/.342), it’s not a stretch to think that pitchers figured out something to which he was going to need to adjust. Even with a bad second half, though, Albies almost makes the top 50 because there is a very good chance he had a slump or he makes an adjustment before, ya know, he retires…
Keston Hiura and Albies could switch spots by the end of 2019. Something would have to happen to the current Brewers infield to make room for the impressive young hitter to get a shot that he deserves, but it is still possible. Earlier, I said that I always go with consistent hitting over speed potential, and Hiura represents the former. He’s got batting title potential with above-average power for a middle infielder. He’s also likely to put pressure on the Brewers for a promotion, as he’s hitting in the Pacific Coast League, and everybody hits in the PCL.
From a stuff and command standpoint, Casey Mize doesn’t have much further to grow. He has two plus pitches (fastball/cutter) and the best splitter in the minor leagues. His control is about as good as it’s likely to get, although I’m sure there will be some improvement. It’s hard to say when he’ll get a shot in the big leagues, but it’s not a stretch to think it will be in the next six months despite only playing in High-A so far. If Mize doesn’t get the call in 2019, he will be fighting for a rotation spot next spring.
54. Julio Urias, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers, Age: 22
Yes, Julio Urias is still only 22. It’s hard to believe, partially because of the long, injury-filled road he’s traveled to get to the Dodgers starting rotation to start this year, and he can do this:
At the end of 2018 and so far at the beginning of 2019, Urias has been filthy. There isn’t much to dislike about him except his height (6-0) and his injury history. He’s so young, however, that neither of these could really become a problem for a few years down the road. I am very high on Urias’ potential. The guy has four plus pitches and the control to put them where he wants … some of the time. The only thing that can stop him is Dodgeritis — and maybe pitching in Colorado. He’ll be on an innings limit for the next two years, but he’ll still be valuable so long as he’s healthy.
55. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, University of California, Age: 21
You can’t be much higher on Andrew Vaughn than I am. In fact, Andrew Vaughn might not be as high on Andrew Vaughn as I am. But there is a reason for that. The 2018 Golden Spikes winner has looked very much like he could be the first to win the award twice (although Hunter Bishop is giving him a run for his money). Right now he’s slugging .708, which would be impressive for him if he didn’t slug .819 in 2018. Even if he doesn’t win, Vaughn will have put together one of the best college careers ever when drafted in the top three this June. He’s the rare kind of hitter who could walk into the minors and have the best plate discipline of at any level. He has great power potential and the ability to hit .300-plus at the highest level.
Allaying some of the concerns about his bat, Victor Robles has been hitting since he was called up in 2018. His original 2017 cup of coffee was a disappointment, to say the least, but it appears he has shaken that off. Now what concerns me is his speed, which is blazing but so far has not resulted in stolen bases in the highest levels of the minors and the majors. I have no doubt there is 25 stolen base potential; I just can’t be sure how much more there is. What could offset that, however, is more power potential earlier in his career than I originally thought.
Speaking of speed, let’s move on to Adalberto Mondesi, who has started off 2019 so hot that even he can’t catch himself. Like many, I am still not sold on the bat, although I am convinced that he will hit enough to steal a ton of bases. The floor here isn’t Billy Hamilton — he’s far above that. I just don’t know how much better than .250 he will hit. One thing is for sure though: Mondesi is so fast that he can hit .250 and still steal 35 bases. He might have more power than we give him credit for too.
I am generally pro quick prospect advancement, but even I was confounded by the Padres’ decision to have Baby Tatis skip Triple-A after just barely cracking 100 games in Double-A. It’s not as if he was dominant there like his same-age counterparts: Vladito/Soto/Acuna. The only thing that made Tatis’ minors performance very good was how young he was. I specifically say very good because he wasn’t great, really, at any level in the minors. If you were to look at his numbers his 2018 numbers (.286/.355/.862), without knowing his age, you wouldn’t be suggesting Tatis should be on the ultra-fast track, especially with a 28% strikeout rate. You’d say he should be in Triple-A, even if it’s just for a half a season. I think the early promotion is going to do exactly the opposite of what the Padres hope. By that I mean I don’t think it will accelerate his progression and could even hinder it. This isn’t because I don’t like Tatis — I just don’t like the mix of factors surrounding him. If it were just contact issues alone, I wouldn’t be as concerned considering the exceptional power he has demonstrated at such a young age. If it were just that he’s playing in notoriously pitcher-friendly Petco Park, I wouldn’t be as concerned, again because of the power. If it were just the skipping of Triple-A alone, I wouldn’t be as concerned because he is much better than your average offensive 20-year-old. But all three of these things merging together looks like a perfect storm to me. I still very much like his upside; I’m just not sure he reaches it as quickly.
59. Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland A’s, Age: 25
There is something weird about Matt Chapman. You feel like because he has molded himself into an elite fielder, somehow that will transfer over to his hitting. That usually isn’t the case, (think Kevin Kiermaier, Jackie Bradley, jr., Andrelton Simmons, etc.) but with Chapman, it might be. Considering where he was as a hitter when first getting called up in 2017, Chapman is now so improved in both discipline and contact that he looks like a completely different hitter. It makes me think it’s possible he could be one of these guys who keeps improving until he’s 30 before finally tapering off.
60. Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State, Age: 21
Don’t look now but Adley Rutschman is doing his best Buster Posey impression in Corvallis. Just like Posey was in college, Rutschman is plus at everything but speed. He may be a borderline plus at power, but like Posey, that seems to be coming on strong in his junior year. He is only one home run away from matching his career high with 60% of the games still remaining on his schedule. His receiving, blocking, and arm are all good enough to be above average in the majors. He might not be a defensive savant like Posey is, but he won’t be far off either. He’s going to be the first pick in this year’s draft, and he’s already the best catching prospect out there. Unlike all other catchers in the minors right now, Rutschman is a finished product. I’d have reservations putting him in an MLB uniform today, but I think he’s close enough to one of those elite catchers (Posey, Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Kendall) who rise quickly through the minors and acclimate almost instantly.
61. Vidal Brujan, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays, Age: 21
Vidal Brujan is a very close second in the second base prospect rankings. The little guy in Tampa’s system draws comparisons to Jose Altuve because of his advanced approach at the plate, his speed, and his late-blooming power. Between Single-A and High-A last season, Brujan slashed .320/.403/.459 with nine bombs and 55 stolen bases in just 122 games. He’s back in High-A to start 2019 as the Rays are trying to slow him down, but he’s already raking and could force their hand to an early Double-A promotion in a month or two, making Triple-A a possibility by the end of the season. This is a guy you want for the future.
Very rarely do you get a combination of the best at something and the youngest — which is why Diaz isn’t both. But he’s as close as we’ll get to that at any position. Roberto Osuna is the youngest closer, followed by Jose Leclerc, but neither one of them are as dominant as Diaz. Osuna is close, but he doesn’t stack up the strikeouts, which makes a big difference.
63. Jesus Luzardo, SP, Oakland A’s, Age: 21
While Jesus Luzardo’s injury may be troubling for redraft leagues, it does nothing to deter his dynasty value. As soon as he comes back, the A’s will put Luzardo in the rotation. It’s only a matter of time before he’s their No. 1. He may not have the size of A.J. Puk, but he’s got the velocity and the control to keep him high in the rotation for a good six years barring injury. After that, it’s hard to say because pitchers shorter than 6’0″ do not have a good track record of longevity.
I’d be surprised if Bo Bichette was an everyday shortstop in the majors, but I was also surprised to see him slash .417/.417/.833 with four home runs in 18 games this spring against near major league opponents. Bichette keeps surprising me. I thought this year would see a slight improvement over 2018 in Triple-A with a call-up in August. The way this kid can hit, he could get called up in June.
All I can say is $120 million is a lot for a middle infielder who has never hit 25 home runs, doesn’t really steal bases, and is a mediocre fielder at best. Do you think I like Xander Bogaerts? I cannot deny that he’s been usable in two out of the past three years, but he is not the phenom that was promised. And I don’t think he ever will be. If I did, he’d be 30 spots higher. I also don’t think he’s a shortstop in two years. He really shouldn’t be a shortstop now. As far as defensive runs saved goes, he was worse than Manny Machado in 2018. The most frustrating thing about it is that he could be really good, but he likes to shade more up the middle, keeping him from making plays in the hole — where the best shortstops make them. Why does this matter in fantasy? Because as a third baseman, Bogaerts is extremely average. He goes from being a top 10 SS to being a top 15-20 3B. As a 3B, he’s a backup in a 10-team league. Maybe even in a 16-team league. If he moves to 2B, there is still hope for him, but I’m not betting on it.
When I first started this list, Andujar was healthy. His potential season-ending shoulder surgery has drastically changed his position. If it turns out that he doesn’t need the surgery, he shoots up this list. If he does need surgery, he’s still a top-100 asset, but with shoulder surgery, you’re looking at two years before he’s back to normal. The Yankees might not wait that long if his power is zapped in 2020. You should. If you have him in your dynasty league, hold on to him with an IL spot. If someone drops him, you should swoop in and stash him. Don’t be deterred by temporarily low power numbers.
Nick Castellanos is the kind of guy who you might have on your team for five years and forget he’s there. Why? Because he is exceptionally above average and nothing more. What’s so great about that? Every fantasy championship team needs three or four Castellanos’ around the diamond to quietly put up .290/.340/.815 and 24 homers to keep the offense moving while guys like Aaron Judge are slumping. He’s a decent second outfielder and a great third outfielder — and will remain so for another three years.
Zack Wheeler barely made it onto this list because of his age. Despite being 29, Wheeler hasn’t thrown many innings in his career, so it is possible he experiences a late prime that started in 2018 at age 28 and will continue for another three to four years. I am a believer in this, especially because he has one of the most effective fastballs in the league. He hasn’t started well, but I’m not concerned with the first handful of starts. If problems persist into June, then considering his age, I might have to reconsider.
Alex Kirilloff has one of the best hit tools in the minors. That should be almost all you need to know, but I’ll say a little more. The lefty was recently taken out of the outfield and moved to first base, which I think actually increases his value because of the lack of first base options in the minors. His power is above average, and it appears that the Twins are not going to baby him. He will be up in about a year.
70. Mackenzie Gore, SP, San Diego Padres, Age: 20
At 20, Mackenzie Gore is the only left-handed or right-handed pitcher with real experience in the minor leagues at Rookie Ball, Single-A or higher who hasn’t recently had Tommy John surgery. He’s one of only five or six prospects with a reasonable chance to end up as a No. 1 starter in the majors. Sure, there are others who can and probably will become an ace, they just need to make larger strides to get there. Gore is the youngest of these potential aces, and he’s on the list because he has the potential for four plus pitches.
Keibert Ruiz is just 20 years old and already holding his own in Double-A. In 2018, he slashed a respectable .268/..328/.401 with 12 home runs in 101 games. What is special about Ruiz is he could actually be the starting catcher for the Dodgers by 22. His bat, which has the potential to be a 70, is almost good enough, and his receiving/defense is just about ready too.
72. Jo Adell, OF, Anaheim Angels, Age: 19
Just recently dubbed the future of baseball by ESPN, Jo Adell will hit this season — somewhere around .265/.335/.450 with about 15 home runs because of his inexperience and early season injuries that may keep him out until May. Unfortunately, because he’s going to miss almost two months I doubt he does enough to get promoted. There is no reason for the Angels to fast track him to the majors if he isn’t absolutely dominating at any single level. It’s best for him to refine his approach (which, at a 31% strikeout rate, absolutely needs to happen) before facing better competition.
It’s hard to believe Rafael Devers is just 22. After bursting onto the scene in 2017, Devers has regressed. Even though it was only 58 games, Devers’ .820 OPS as a 20-year-old was only matched by some of the best hall of famers. Unfortunately, he just has not followed that up. It’s funny, everybody outside New York wants to see this kid succeed — even me. But there are adjustments that need to be made and so far the young stud has yet to make them. His power potential is undeniable, and he could surprise with how well he can hit for average. But it’s also clear he’s not there yet.
Pete Alonso is basement-or-penthouse kind of guy. Lots of power, but nobody knows how much contact he’s going to make. His ceiling is a .265/.355/.900 guy with 35 home runs — that kind of potential is valuable in any league. And even though his Triple-A strikeout rate was a high but still usable 26%, it increased considerably from 18% in Double-A. Another large increase, and we’re looking at a Quadruple-A swingman. It’s nice to see such a great start from him, but even when things are going great the warning signs are still there (30% K rate).
Danny Jansen‘s potential represents something rare: a catcher who doesn’t hurt you in anything — and has a starting job. The average starting MLB catcher is 29. Just the fact that he is starting and young alone is valuable. Meanwhile, Jansen has the capacity to hit .280 with 15 to 20 home runs in a Toronto lineup packed full of hitters — or at least it will be soon. Turning 24 in just a week or so, Jansen showed tremendous plate discipline with just a 17.8% strikeout rate.
(Photo by John Peterson/Icon Sportswire)