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Top 30 Impact Rookies for Redraft Fantasy Leagues (Preseason)

It’s no secret that teams are relying more and more heavily on young hitters and pitchers to not only fill out the 25-man rosters but to be key, impactful members of the club. That, in turn, means that prospect watching and analysis plays an increasingly important part of fantasy baseball. Jumping on the promising, raw power hitter or strong-armed starting pitcher at just the right moment can make or break a fantasy baseball season.

Did you know there were 11 rookie hitters in 2018 that produced at least 2.0 fWAR? Or that 12 rookie hitters slugged at least 15 homers? Did you know that five rookie pitchers were good for at least 2.0 fWAR — including one reliever? Need strikeouts on your pitching staff? A whopping 31 rookie pitchers (minimum 30 IP) had strikeout rates of greater than 10 Ks per nine innings. The number jumps to almost 50 is you lower the threshold to an average of one per inning.

The numbers don’t lie. Rookies rock.  

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Top 30 Impact Rookies for 2019 Redraft Leagues

With that in mind, RotoBaller is excited to roll out the first edition of an ongoing series that will be with you all season long. We’re here to help you figure out who might be the next player ready for The Show.

We have removed players that are expected to open the year with their big league clubs. And the rankings are based on a blend of talent and expected playing time opportunities for 2019 only. To be clear, this list is not the top 30 prospects in baseball. This is a list of the top 30 prospects who are likely going to rise to the major leagues and provide fantasy baseball value this season. The qualifications are simple: a player must not be on an active roster, they must have a clear path to the majors, and while they may have played in seasons prior to 2019, they must still have rookie eligibility. If a player is moved to the active roster of their team, they will be removed from this power rankings list and replaced.

Players projected to open the year in the Majors and therefore not considered for this list: Eloy JimenezVictor Robles, Fernando Tatis Jr., Garrett Hampson, Peter Alonso, Corbin Burnes, Chris Paddack, Alex Reyes, Dakota Hudson, Danny Jansen, Kyle Wright, Brandon LoweChristin Stewart, Sandy Alcantara, Francisco Mejia, Alex Verdugo, Josh James, Christian Walker, Framber Valdez, Billy McKinney, Trent Thornton, Tyler O'Neill, Bryse Wilson, and Grayson Greiner.

Yusei Kikuchi and Merrill Kelly are not considered rookies due to their pro experience in foreign leagues.


The Top 10 - Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays (AAA) (ETA: May)

Pretty much every projection system around is suggesting Guerrero Jr. would be good for 3-5 WAR if he were to play a full season in the Majors in 2019. And that’s pretty crazy considering he just turned 20 less than two weeks ago. But there was pretty much no chance that he was going to play the entire year in the Majors due to service time considerations and an injured oblique will quite possibly keep him in the minors even longer than expected. Guerrero Jr. should be a very good big league player pretty much from the moment he hits The Show (and will have even more value in fantasy leagues that count walks) but you have to be a little concerned with the fact he didn’t exactly come into camp in the best shape.

2. Luis Urias, 2B/SS, Padres (AAA) (ETA: May)

Fernando Tatis Jr.'s gain was Urias' loss. The former received the late, surprising news that he would be making the 25-man roster at the expense of the latter. Urias hit just .224 with a whack of strikeouts but showed unexpected pop with three home runs. The numbers were actually fairly similar to Tatis Jr.'s. Don't expect the young middle infielder to be down for long. He's shown he can handle Triple-A already, despite being just 21-years-old, although this additional development time could help him improve the contact issues that have crept up in recent years with his swift movement through the minors. Urias is at his best when he's focusing on getting on base and peppering line drives all over the field.

3. Nick Senzel, 2B/OF, Reds (AAA) (ETA: May)

It’s already been a rough year for Senzel. He entered camp as a favorite to win a spot on the Reds but was sent down to the minors nonetheless. The club then lost their starting second baseman for a couple of months… but Reds management insisted Senzel would not be the man to fill the hole. And then he rolled his ankle in minor league camp and is likely headed for the disabled list. Once he hits The Show, Senzel should hit well and may even offer up some defensive versatility.  

4. Justus Sheffield, RHP, Mariners (AAA) (ETA: June)

The key piece in the questionable deal (from the Mariners perspective) that saw James Paxton gifted to the Yankees, Sheffield will open the year in the minors but he’s likely to be one of the first arms recalled. He’s a good pitching prospect but may very well top out as a No. 3 starter given his command/control issues, durability concerns as a smallish pitcher, and solid (but not outstanding) stuff.

5. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, Rays (AAA)  (ETA: June)

Lowe enjoyed a breakout 2018 season but he followed that up with a dud of a spring training that saw him hit just .143 with 17 strikeouts and one walk in 16 games. The good news for him is that neither Ji-Man Choi nor Yandy Diaz is much of a long-term threat to steal the first base job. If Lowe gets off to a quick start in Triple-A, he could be up before the summer.

6. Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays (AAA) (ETA: June)

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Bichette will have a bigger impact on the 2019 Jays over his good friend Vladdy. Bichette came into the spring in great shape, with a great mindset and incredibly motivated to reach the Majors in 2019. He just turned 21 less than a month ago and already has a full season of Double-A experience under his belt. Although he doesn’t have blazing speed, he’s a smart base runner who stole 32 bases last year and those 43 doubles hint towards future over-the-fence pop.

7. Cal Quantrill, RHP, Padres (AAA) (ETA: May)

As of the writing of this piece, the Padres had yet to announce their opening day roster and Quantrill had a shot at breaking camp with the big club. A former first-round pick, he has a solid fastball-changeup combo but may need a little more seasoning to polish his breaking ball. With good-but-not-great fastball velocity, Quantrill will need to continue to throw strikes and keep the ball down to be effective. He’ll likely see a lot of balls put in play so he’ll need a good defense behind him.

8. Mike Soroka, RHP, Braves (AAA) (ETA: May)

Soroka was on a collision course with the Braves’ opening day roster until shoulder woes derailed that hope. The injury, although not deemed serious, is ultimately worrisome because he ended 2018 with the same problem. When healthy, the 21-year-old Canadian hurler shows above-average command/control, the potential for three above-average offerings, and above-average ground-ball tendencies.

9. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros (AAA) (ETA: July)

Based on pure skill alone, Whitley would be much higher on this list. But he plays in a very deep Astros organization that will rely on veterans Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh, and Wade Miley to help fill the starting rotation void -- at least early on in the season. Just 21, a lack of previous innings is the biggest obstacle to Whitley being an MLB impact arm in 2019. Injuries and a suspension saw him held to 52.1 innings between Double-A and the Arizona Fall League last year. His previous high was in 2017 when he threw 92.1 innings. As a result, the Astros will be cautious with Whitley, who is arguably the best overall pitching prospect in baseball with the potential to have four plus pitches.  


The Middle 10 - Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings

10. Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP, Yankees (AAA) (ETA: April)

Loaisiga is expected to arrive in the Majors within the first or second week of the season and could be a swingman for the Yankees through the 2019 season. There are durability concerns for the slight-of-frame right-hander with last year’s total of 80.2 innings representing a career high. So don’t expect more than about 100 innings this season from Loaisiga. Still, he has the stuff to be a dominant force in the Majors.

11. Luiz Gohara, LHP, Braves (AAA) (ETA: May)

Gohara, who’s always battled his conditioning, came into camp in much better shape. He had a wide open opportunity to secure a spot in the Braves rotation this spring but his shoulder acted up again and he never had a chance to prove himself. He’ll look to build up strength in the minors with an eye on filling in once one of the other young arms stumbles or an injury occurs.

12. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Braves (AAA) (ETA: April)

Like Gohara above, Toussaint opened the year looking like a lock to break camp with the Braves. He has electric stuff but command issues continue to haunt him and he threw far too many hittable pitches, which resulted in an 8.62 ERA. On the positive side, Toussaint produced a BB-K rate of 3-20. He’ll head out to Triple-A to work on commanding the ball more consistently.

13. Harold Ramirez, OF, Marlins (AAA) (ETA: May)

Perhaps the first name you weren’t expecting to see on this list, Ramirez has been a mainstay on organization’s Top 30 prospects lists for quite a few years now but he finally solved Double-A after his third shot at the level in 2018. He started to hit the ball with more authority as he started to lift the ball and hit fewer on the ground. A highly-sought-after minor-league free agent, Ramirez moved on from the Blue Jays to the Marlins due to the depth issues in the latter organization. And he almost broke camp with Miami but will instead head down to Triple-A with an eye to being one of the first bats recalled.    

14. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins (AA) (ETA: July)

Kirilloff might seem like a curious name here after splitting 2018 between two A-ball levels but he also hit .362 in 65 High-A games. He also absolutely stung the ball with a line-drive rate near 30% and struck out just 14% of the time. Oh, and this is after the 21-year-old outfielder missed all of 2017 due to injury. Kirilloff is the best outfield prospect no one is talking about -- yet.

15. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies (AAA) (ETA: July)

Rodgers would be higher on this list if not for the presence of fellow young infield prospects Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson -- not to mention a couple of guys named Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. The Rockies are absolutely stacked in the infield, which is why Hampson is getting looks in the outfield, too. This enviable depth leaves Rodgers on the outside looking in -- for now -- but a strong early showing in Triple-A could force the Rockies’ hand.  

16. Logan Allen, LHP, Padres (AAA) (ETA: April)

Like with Quantrill above, Allen’s fate was not known when this piece went for editing. But going off spring numbers (12.54 ERA, 17 hits in 9.1 innings), it looked like the burly lefty was headed for some additional seasoning in Triple-A. Allen has a nice fastball-changeup combo but needs more reliability from his breaking balls. He’s more solid than spectacular and projects as an innings-eating No. 4 starter.  

17. Daz Cameron, OF, Tigers (AAA) (ETA: June)

When Cameron was originally signed, he was considered a promising but raw athlete who would need time to develop his baseball skills. Things began to really click for him in 2018 and that carried over into a promising spring performance. The Tigers sent him to the minors to continue to polish his game but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him in The Show before the summer. He’s still learning to consistently tap into the raw power but there is 20-20 (HR-SB) potential here -- albeit it with a high number of strikeouts.

18. Zac Gallen, RHP, Marlins (AAA) (ETA: May)

If there is one thing that the Cardinals can do, it’s draft and develop college players selected outside the top rounds. Although he’s since been traded to the Marlins, Gallen is the next in line to reach the Majors and the former third-rounder is being underrated by many. He doesn’t possess a blazing fastball but it’s good enough when you also toss in a promising cutter, solid control, and a deceptive delivery. With all this said, he might have a higher ceiling as a multi-inning reliever.

19. Anthony Alford, OF, Blue Jays (AAA)  (ETA: June)

A former football college player, Alford spent a few years splitting his focus between the two sports but ultimately committed to baseball and had a breakout 2017 season. Injuries and inconsistencies wiped out last year and caused him to slide down the prospect rankings. Alford looked much better this spring and made better contact, although there may always be some swing and miss to his game. Even so, the power/speed combo remains intriguing. The biggest obstacle Alford faces is the lengthy injury history (including multiple concussions).  


The Last 10 - Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings

20. Austin Hays, OF, Orioles (AAA) (ETA: July)

Like Alford, Hays had a breakout 2017 season but lost traction in ‘18 due to injuries. He came into the spring looking good but it wasn’t quite enough to earn him a spot on the opening day roster. He then injured his thumb in minor league camp and could miss time due to the injury. On the plus side, the Orioles depth is thin in both the Majors and the minors so he’ll eventually earn another shot.

21. Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros (AAA) (ETA: July)

Tucker had a dominating performance at Triple-A as a 21-year-old in 2018 -- .332 average, 24 homers, 20 steals -- but the Astros have a very deep system and stacked big league roster. Veteran right-fielder Josh Reddick is a clear weak link in the playing time equation but he’s also promised quite a bit of coin so he’s not going anywhere right now. Tucker’s best hope for a recall to the Majors is an injury to an outfielder or even first baseman Yuli Gurriel.

22. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates (AAA) (ETA: June)

A rough spring showing doomed Keller’s hopes of breaking camp with the Pirates. Instead, he’ll head back down to Triple-A for some additional seasoning. A strong start could move him ahead of Nick Kingham in the quest to be the first starting pitcher recalled from the minors with Jordan Lyles looking like the club’s No. 5 starter.  

23. Jon Duplantier, RHP, Diamondbacks (AAA) (ETA: May)

The fight to be the first starter up from the minors may be between DuPlantier and fellow prospect Taylor Widener. The former has arguably the more electric stuff but he also comes with a worrisome history of health woes. If he can stay on the mound and show improved command, DuPlantier could impact the big league club in the second half of the year.

24. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays (AAA) (ETA: June)

It’s been a long road for this former second-round pick but he reached the Majors in late 2018 and made 7 starts. Command/control issues popped up again this spring so Reid-Foley will once again head to Triple-A to work on his craft (mainly consistency). With this young hurler, it’s more about the mental side of the game than anything else as he possesses good stuff but tends to meltdown in high-pressure situations.

25. Griffin Canning, RHP, Angels (AAA)  (ETA: June)

A poor showing in the spring has likely caused Canning to slide down the depth chart. On the plus side, the Angels’ pitching is neither deep nor overly impressive so the young pitcher should get another shot at The Show as long as he continues to pitch as he did in 2018. He pitched at three levels and reached Triple-A in his first full year in pro ball.

26. Yordan Alvarez, 1B/OF, Astros (AAA) (ETA: July)

Like Kyle Tucker above, Alvarez must deal with the impressive organizational depth that the Astros possess. However, this Cuban-born slugger could push aside the likes of A.J. Reed and Tyler White to take a stranglehold on the designated hitter’s spot if he gets off to a hot start and stays healthy. Just 21, he’s 6-5, 225 and possesses the raw power to hit 30 or more home runs. And he already has 45 games of Triple-A experience under his belt.

27. Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers (AAA) (ETA: July)

Ruiz is another player that would be higher on the list based on talent alone. But the Dodgers have the underrated Austin Barnes and veteran Russell Martin as the opening day tandem. Ruis spent all of 2018 in Double-A as a 19-year-old and has an advanced hitting approach for his age. He is a solid defender and projects as a plus-hitting catcher who may eventually add more power to his repertoire. He’ll likely spend a good portion of the year in Triple-A and has another promising catching prospect, Will Smith, playing at the same level.

28. A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics (AAA) (ETA: August)

A couple of promising starting pitchers are due back from Tommy John surgery in early 2019, the Rays’ Brent Honeywell and Puk. The former had surgery first but he’s also in an organization that’s ultra-conservative with its pitchers so I’m expecting the latter to have a leg up on reaching the Majors. Puk has overpowering stuff and three above-average offerings with a fourth one not far off. And with another outstanding pitching prospect, Jesus Luzardo, now dealing with a serious shoulder injury, the A’s may be desperate for pitching help in the second half of the year.

29. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS, Indians (AAA)  (ETA: June)

The Indians’ infield depth has taken a hit this spring with injuries to Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Jason Kipnis. The organization has already sought outside help with the signing of Brad Miller but Chang should eventually earn a shot. He’s not going to hit for much of an average but he has above-average power and the ability to play both positions on the left side of the infield.

30. Sean Murphy, C, Athletics (AAA) (ETA: July)

The A's will open the season with a modest tandem behind the plate in Nick Hundley and Josh Phegley. Murphy will be waiting in the wings after a strong 2018 campaign in Double-A which saw him break out with the bat. This year he'll be just a phone call away in Triple-A while looking to show the offensive awakening was for real. Murphy, 24, has shown the ability to hit for power, produce solid on-base numbers and also hit pretty well for average (especially for a catcher).

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