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.
The Mariners are currently one of the better surprises in baseball right now, and they’re competing for first place in the AL West despite a lineup that has zero length. Kelenic could certainly help, and continues to get glowing reviews at the alternate site. That being said, general manager Jerry Dipoto recently noted that a call-up for the top outfield prospect in baseball is not imminent. Still, it’s hard to imagine that the month of May goes by without seeing Kelenic promoted to Seattle, and it’s even harder to imagine there are players on the waiver wire with more upside. Add him now if you can.
2. Deivi Garcia, RHP, New York Yankees
2020 stats: 6 G, 34.1 IP, 4.98 ERA, 6 BB, 33 SO at New York.
Gerrit Cole is awesome. The rest of the Yankees starters have not been. So far, the only starter for New York outside of Cole who has an ERA below 5 is Jordan Montgomery, and his mark is a not-so-sparkling 4.57. And so, Garcia will make his 2021 debut on Monday against the Orioles. With an arsenal that can miss bats and (usually) decent command of those pitches, Garcia has the stuff to succeed right now, and he has a good chance for early success while pitching against a decent -- but beatable -- Baltimore lineup.
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.
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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.
The Mariners are currently still going with a six-man rotation, but one of those members -- Nick Margevicius -- is likely heading to the injured list after leaving Sunday’s start against the Red Sox with shoulder fatigue. The likely replacement for Margevicius is Ljay Newsome, but the long-term answer here is Gilbert, and that’d be true even if Margevicius was healthy. The Mariners are determined to get him some work in Triple-A, but assuming that goes well, it should be a short stint in the Pacific Coast League for one of the team’s best pitching prospects -- arguably the best, with apologies to Emerson Hancock.
5. 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.
Even with the San Diego rotation in a bit of flummox -- well, more flummox than we expected, anyway -- Gore is still waiting in the wings. Ryan Weathers has started a pair of games against the Dodgers, and he’s more than held his own in both starts. Long story short, Weathers has earned a few more turns in the rotation, so he’s not going anywhere. Still, Gore is the best pitching prospect in baseball and by a relatively decent margin, and it would be a major upset if he didn’t get a chance to pitch MLB games for the Padres before the end of the summer.
6. Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2020 stats: 5 G, 18 IP, 6.00 ERA, 13 BB, 16 SO at Toronto.
Last week, I speculated that it might make sense for Pearson to move into the bullpen for the Blue Jays when he’s 100 percent -- possibly as the closer. That’s not going to happen, as it’s been confirmed that Pearson will continue to be built up as a starter, and he apparently threw well in an intersquad game on Friday. Pearson has some command issues, but he has as good of stuff as any pitcher on this list outside of maybe Gore, and that Toronto lineup is going to give him an awful lot of run support, you’d have to think. He should be starting games for Toronto before the end of May.
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7. 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.
The Boston outfield situation is interesting. Interesting might be too nice of a word right now. Franchy Cordero has an OPS of .510, Hunter Renfroe’s is even worse at .496, and Marwin Gonzalez is at .646. Alex Verdugo has been very good (.908) but he sat out Sunday’s game against the Mariners and might not be able to play the opener against the Mets. All this to say that the outfield of the Red Sox doesn’t seem like a completed project, and if Duran hits Triple-A pitching well, he could be an answer for a Boston team that’s better than expected.
8. 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.
A quick little update for those of you wondering where Sam Huff went. Huff underwent surgery on his knee last week, and he’s expected to miss eight weeks. There’s certainly a chance Huff can still contribute, but not enough to place him on this list. Now, on to Ramos. Ramos is one of the most talented outfield prospects in baseball with easy plus power, and while there’s certainly some swing-and-miss in his profile, he should make enough hard contact to hit for a decent average, as well. Ramos continues to get positive reviews at the alternate site, and it would not be an upset at all if he received a promotion before the end of the summer. Definitely a name to keep an eye on for not just the long-term but 2021 as well.
9. Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves
2019 stats: 134 G, .309/.360/.459, 7 HR, 16 SB, 39 BB, 164 SO at Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett.
Three new names this week, two outfielders. Waters is one of the top prospects in the Atlanta system, and probably the best that isn’t on the major league roster at this point. The negatives are pretty obvious; he strikes out a ton and those punch outs are concerning even before you consider this isn’t a power hitter. He is, however, a switch-hitter who makes hard contact to all parts of the field, and he also has plus speed that makes him a stolen base threat. Atlanta has disappointed offensively thus far -- you may have seen they had one hit in 14 innings on Sunday -- and Waters looks like he’s just about ready to contribute.
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; Daniel Lynch, LHP, Kansas City Royals; Bobby Witt Jr., INF, Kansas City Royals; Matt Manning, RHP, Detroit Tigers; Trevor Larnach, OF, Minnesota Twins