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If you are in a dynasty league, then the number one thing you likely focus on year-round are prospects. It's a never-ending hunt to find the best prospect and acquire them for the lowest cost possible. Not only are owners looking for the best prospect, they also have to discern whether or not they will make it to the major leagues and succeed. For example, will the top prospect that hit 43 home runs in a season end up like Kris Bryant or Brandon Wood? Numbers don't always translate from the minors to the majors, and owners must closely examine each player to figure out who is real and who isn't.

The AL Central is one of the more loaded divisions when it comes to prospects. Led by the top ranked White Sox system, there are many interesting prospects to keep an eye on in this division. It's hard to narrow this list down to only 10 players, and there are prospects that don't make this list that likely would have in any other division. Some of these players might be ranked too high, others too low, and some people may feel shouldn't have made this list in favor of other deserving candidates.

What there is no doubt about though, is all 10 of these prospects have the potential to become fantasy studs in the future. So without further ado, let's dive into this list.

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Top 10 Dynasty Prospects - AL Central

10. LHP Stephen Gonsalves — Minnesota

Over five years in the minors Gonsalves has shown himself to be a strikeout machine, compiling a career 9.7 K/9 while recording at least an 8.8 K/9 every season. Gonsalves also took a step forward in 2017 by improving his command, posting a career-low 2.5 BB/9 and 7.2 percent walk rates. The big question for Gonsalves in 2018 is how he will adjust to the next level of competition after he struggled upon promotion to Triple-A Rochester at the end of last year. Over 22.2 innings, Gonsalves had a 10.7 H/9 and 1.6 HR/9 rate along with a 5.56 ERA — all three of which were career-worsts at a single level. Gonsalves continued to struggle with surrendering hits in Spring Training, as he allowed six hits over 3.2 innings pitched. He will start off the year back in Triple-A where he will work to show that his struggles were simply a fluke as he adjusted to pitching at the next level. There's a lot to like about Gonsalves and his potential, but 2018 will be a big indicator as to what kind of a career is in his future.

9. RHP Matt Manning — Detroit

The No. 9 overall pick in the 2016 draft showed off his strikeout potential once again in 2017, posting a double-digit strikeout-per-nine-innings rate for the second year in a row. Over 51 innings between Single-A and Short-season-A ball, Manning recorded a 10.9 K/9 rate — bringing his career rate to 12.1 K/9 — while posting a 4-2 record with a 3.18 ERA over 14 starts. Manning's numbers took a dip after his promotion to the Midwest League — allowing eight earned runs while striking out four over 2.1 innings in his first two starts — but he finished strong in his last three starts where he allowed three earned runs over 15.1 innings while striking out 22. There's still a learning curve for the 20 year old, but as he continues to make adjustments, he can rise quickly through the Tigers' organization and be pitching in Detroit by 2020.

8. RHP Fernando Romero — Minnesota

In his second season back from Tommy John surgery, Romero was arguably the ace of the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts pitching staff, posting an 11-9 record with a 3.53 ERA and 8.6 K/9. He was fourth in K/9 in the Southern League among qualified pitchers, and his 22 percent strikeout rate and 13.8 percent strikeout-to-walk rate ranked him sixth and seventh respectively. Romero has consistently had at least an 8.0 K/9 rate every season in the minors except for 2014 when he underwent TJS, and he posted an 8.0 K/9 rate in Spring Training — albeit only over eight innings of work. He will start off his age 23 season back in Chattanooga, but he will very likely see a call-up to Triple-A soon after the season starts, and from there he will likely be one of the options called upon if Minnesota needs a spot start later this year.

7. OF Khalil Lee — Kansas City

Making his full season debut at age 19, Lee was a force to be reckoned with in the South Atlantic League. He led the Lexington Legends with 17 HR, 71 runs scored and six triples, and was second on the team with 20 stolen bases. Lee showed some promising plate discipline by finishing fifth in the league with a 12.2 percent walk rate, but he also had the second-worst strikeout rate in the league at 31.1 percent. Along with the high strikeout rate, Lee's batted ball percentages raise some question as to whether he can repeat his power output in 2018. Despite seeing a 5.7 percent drop in his fly ball rate from 2016, Lee's HR/FB rate increased from 13.6 percent to 20 percent. Lee will be 20 this year, and if his power is legitimate he could end up as a 20-20 player in the near future.

6. SS Royce Lewis — Minnesota

The first overall pick in last year's draft, Lewis made a splash in his pro ball debut by launching a home run in his first career at-bat. Lewis went on to hit four HR with a .279 average and .788 OPS, while also stealing 18 bases over 54 games between the Gulf Coast and Midwest Leagues. There's a lot of potential in Lewis, but there also isn't much of a sample to draw conclusions from. Lewis can end up being a fantasy star at a position that doesn't always have much depth, but he is several years away from getting the call to the majors. Getting a full season under his belt in 2018 should provide fantasy owners with a better picture of what Lewis can be in the future.

5. OF Luis Robert — Chicago

The teenage phenom from Cuba, Robert batted .310 with a 1.027 OPS and 12 stolen bases in his pro ball debut in 2017 playing in the Dominican Summer League. He showed impressive discipline at the plate for a 19 year old, drawing 22 walks while striking out 23 times in 114 plate appearances. Much like Lewis, there simply isn't much data to draw solid conclusions from on Robert. But again, there is a lot of potential here for Robert to become a star player.

4. RHP Dylan Cease — Chicago

One of the headlining players the White Sox received in the Jose Quintana trade, Cease followed up an impressive 2017 campaign with an equally impressive Spring Training before being reassigned to minor league camp. Over 6.1 innings this spring, Cease allowed no runs, three hits and three walks while striking out nine to give him a 12.8 K/9 rate. This came off the heels of a 1-10 season for the 22-year-old, where he posted a 3.28 ERA and 12.2 K/9 while setting a career-best with 4.2 BB/9. Cease will likely start off the season in Double-A, but he is not too far from reaching the majors. If Cease can put together another stellar performance in 2018, he could have a good shot at winning a spot in the starting rotation out of Spring Training next year.

3. RHP Triston McKenzie — Cleveland

The top pitching prospect in the Indians organization, McKenzie has been nothing short of dominant at every level since being drafted out of high school in 2015. In his first taste of full season ball, McKenzie led the Carolina League in nearly every category, including wins (12), strikeouts (186), K/9 (11.7) and strikeout-to-walk percentage (24.8). Over three seasons, McKenzie has averaged 100 strikeouts per year, and the worst K/9 rate of his career is only 11.2. There's no rush to promote the 20-year-old straight to Cleveland, but he isn't that far away from becoming the Indians' ace.

2. C Francisco Mejia — Cleveland

Out of all the players on this list, Mejia is probably the closest to regular playing time in the majors. Mejia hit 14 HR and 21 doubles in Double-A last season with a team-best .297 average and an .835 OPS. It was the second year in a row for Mejia with at least 100 hits, 10 HR and an .830 OPS, which earned him an invitation to Spring Training. Over 11 games this spring, Mejia hit .421 with two home runs and a 1.292 OPS while also taking some reps playing third base. The Indians have since decided to try Mejia in the outfield after they assigned him to Triple-A to begin the year. It is clear though that Cleveland is trying to get Mejia's bat into the major league lineup, and he could be back in the majors this year by the All-Star break.

1. OF Eloy Jimenez — Chicago

The White Sox acquired Jimenez along with Cease in the Jose Quintana trade last year, and he has quickly become the team's top prospect. In 89 games between the Southern and Carolina Leagues, Jimenez set career-highs with 19 HR, a .379 OBP and a .568 SLG, while also batting .312 with an 8.97 percent walk rate. After back-to-back seasons with a .900 OPS, Jimenez was invited to Spring Training where he slugged two home runs and hit .571 over four games. He has since been assigned to Double-A to start the year, but if he mashes his way to a hot start at Birmingham, he could break into the big leagues by August if not sooner.

 

More 2018 MLB Prospects Analysis





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