A reminder: This is NOT a ranking of overall prospects; this is only based on potential production for the upcoming season. 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.
We're just a little over two weeks from the minor league season starting. The Mariners seem convinced to have Kelenic get some time in the minors before promoting him for the long haul; some of those reasons that have to do with on the field, mostly for reasons that don't. Even with Kyle Lewis coming off the injured list, there are opportunities to be found in the Seattle outfield, and Kelenic has the talent to make an instant impact once the Mariners give him that chance. Be patient. Sorry you have to be patient, but be patient.
2. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Minnesota Twins
2019 stats: 94 G, .283/.343/.413, 9 HR, 7 SB, 29 BB, 76 SO at Double-A Pensacola.
Kirilloff did get a brief opportunity with the Twins and made his regular season MLB debut -- remember that his first plate appearances didn't come until the playoffs last year, last year was weird -- and he went hitless in three at-bats. Please don't be the person who judges a prospect on three at-bats. Minnesota is also currently dealing with COVID-19 issues that saw their last two games postponed and another coming on Monday. If Kirilloff gets a promotion, he's worth a roster add for sure. He's worth a roster add, anyway, in this writer's somewhat humble estimation.
3. 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.
Just a matter of when, folks. Just a matter of when. There's nothing clever to add here because there's no MiLB games going on. But it's just a matter of when. He's the best prospect in baseball and it's really not all that close.
4. Deivi Garcia, RHP, New York Yankees
2020 stats: 6 G, 34.1 IP, 4.98 ERA, 6 BB, 33 SO at New York.
Fun with numbers: 4.24, 6.10, 7.56, 9.00, 10.80. Any clue what those numbers represent? Those are the ERAs of pitchers who have started games for the Yankees that aren't named Gerrit Cole. Yikes. The Yankees will want to manager Garcia's innings while also getting him a couple of starts in Triple-A before a promotion, but Garcia is ready to roll and has the stuff to be successful in 2021.
Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our MLB Season Tools - available in our EDGE+ Roto tier for $3.99/mo. (annually) or $9.99/mo. (monthly) - that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don't forget to use promo code WELCOME10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!
5. 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.
The Mariners are currently going with a six-person rotation. One of those six starters is Nick Margevicius, who has taken the place of James Paxton after his injury. With all due respect to Margevicius, Gilbert is better, and a much more important part of Seattle’s future plans. With swing-and-miss stuff and the ability to locate it for strikes, the Mariners are going to find room for him when they deem him worthy. A couple of minor league starts should do just that.
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.
Everything written about Franco is true about Gore, only one is a shortstop and one is a pitcher. You learned something today. Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove are mainstays in the rotation and as long as they're healthy they're not going anywhere else. Chris Paddack has been inconsistent at best, however, and Ryan Weathers doesn't appear to be built up to handle a true starting rotation spot at this point. Again, Gore is going to get minor league starts, but if those go well -- and they should -- San Diego is going to turn to the best prospect in baseball. Just a matter of when.
7. Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2020 stats: 5 G, 18 IP, 6.00 ERA, 13 BB, 16 SO at Toronto.
Could Pearson be the closer for the Blue Jays when he returns? The Blue Jays bullpen is absolutely decimated with injuries and now have lost Jordan Romano, although the hurler is expected to miss minimal time with an elbow injury. The answer to the question is probably not, but Pearson certainly has the stuff to be an elite -- elite might be underselling it -- reliever. More than likely, however, the right-hander will be a starter when he comes back from his groin injury. Probably a good one, too.
Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news and updates. Plus, it allows you to easily track your favorite players. Get it here!
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.
Those of you who listened to the podcast with Keith Law on Thursday (thanks to Keith and thanks to you for listening, by the way) knew this was coming. Durran is a prospect I've written a lot about, but I must admit that it was a mistake to not have him listed here the previous three iterations. He's really improved his power, and he can make hard contact to all parts of the field. Add that to the speed to steal 30 bases? Yeah, that'll work. The Red Sox outfield appears to have openings, too, so Duran could get a call in the next month or so. Better to be too early than too late.
9. Sam Huff, C, Texas Rangers
2020 stats: 10 G, .355/.394/.742, 3 HR, 0 SB, 2 BB, 11 SO at Texas.
An update on the catching situation in Texas. Jose Trevino is currently hitting .341, and is obviously Mike Piazza. Now that you're done laughing, yeah, that's not sustainable, and Jonah Heim is hitting just .176 in his 17 at-bats. This is yet another injured prospect -- and not the last -- but when Huff is healthy, he has a good chance of being a regular with Texas, and the positional value along with his power makes him fantasy relevant.
10. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Miami Marlins
2020 stats: 20 G, 39 IP, 3.46 ERA, 3 HR, 11 BB, 33 SO at Miami.
Sanchez has begun throwing from 45 feet away, and appears to be making steady progress with the shoulder inflammation. If not for his extreme upside -- and to be honest, a bit of a dearth of quality prospects that seem like they're going to be promoted anytime soon, with all due respect to the names listed below -- Sanchez wouldn't be on this list. But those things are real, so he is. He's still worth hanging onto in redraft leagues, but it's understandable why that isn't the consensus.
Next in line: Jeter Downs, INF, Boston Red Sox; Daniel Lynch, LHP, Kansas City Royals; Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves; Spencer Howard, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies; Trevor Larnach, OF, Minnesota Twins