A reminder: This is NOT a ranking of overall prospects, this is only based on potential protection for the upcoming season. Also, a reminder that this is only a list of players who are currently in the minors normally, but for this week’s list, we’re including players that have been told they’ll make the roster as well. And finally, this is a list with 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.
So, being honest with you, this week’s list was hard. Eight of the top ten from last week were promoted, and one of the prospects that wasn’t promoted has an injury. More on him later. The one easy decision was playing Kelenic at the top of this list. He’s not only one of the top prospects in baseball, but everything he showed in the Cactus League -- along with the reports last year at the alternate training site -- suggests that he’s ready to go. Kelenic may not be up for another couple of weeks or so, but he’s absolutely worth holding onto. He’s a potential five-category helper.
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 just missed making last week’s list, but gets the nod as prospect two because of all of the promotions last week. The outfielder didn’t have a great spring training with a slash of .129/.182/.258, but it’s hard to hold 33 plate appearances against him. With a smooth line-drive stroke from the left side of the plate, he should hit for average without a ton of swing-and-miss, and his power gets better every year. When you add in his talent and proximity to the bigs -- keep in mind Kirilloff made his debut in the postseason last October -- it’s an easy call for him to make this spot, and he’s worthy of a bench spot in most formats.
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.
It’s time. The only reason Franco ranks this low is because there’s just no way to tell how long he’s going to be in the minors. He can hit for average, he can hit for power, he can steal bases -- although keep in mind that he doesn’t always get the best jumps -- and if he’s hitting at or near the top of the lineup, he should score a boatload of runs. This is a special prospect -- maybe the best prospect since Mike Trout -- and fantasy managers should absolutely consider keeping him on their bench right now. You’re just not going to find that kind of potential offensively from players that are currently available.
4. A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics
2019 stats: 10 G, 11.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 5 BB, 13 SO at Oakland.
And here comes a pitcher run. The truth of the matter is that there just aren’t many top hitting prospects that are either not on an MLB roster or are close to being on some. Wish that wasn’t the case, but, it is what it is. That out of the way, Puk pitched decently in his final couple of Cactus League outings, but the A’s did not make him their fifth starter to begin the year. The 25-year-old has some of the best stuff in their organization, however, and while he’s had significant health concerns, he appears to be next in line in the A’s rotation. There’s risk in Puk, but with that risk comes a great deal of potential reward.
5. Deivi Garcia, RHP, New York Yankees
2020 stats: 6 G, 34.1 IP, 4.98 ERA, 6 BB, 33 SO at New York.
Garcia was given a “chance” to win a spot in the Yankees rotation this spring, but it was always likely that he was going to spend the first couple of weeks in the minors. The right-hander had some quality outings for New York last year, and the best is yet to come for the 21-year-old (22 in May). The right-hander has some concerns about his size at 5-foot-9, 163-pound; but he can miss bats with three pitches and throws another for strikes as well. Don’t expect elite fantasy numbers from Garcia, but he should get plenty of win chances behind the Yankees’ lineup, and the strikeouts should be there, as well.
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.
Not only is the best prospect in baseball on this list, but the best pitching prospect in the game in Gore. The southpaw was dominant in 2019, and while he apparently had some mechanical issues in 2020, the results were far more positive this spring. Gore isn’t overpowering, but he can touch the mid-90s and has four more pitches that get plus grades on the 20-60 scouting scale. His command has actually taken a small tick down, but throwing strikes shouldn’t be a problem, and he gets rave reviews for his poise on the mound. There’s no room just yet in the Padres’ rotation, but if Gore pitches well in the minors -- and it’s hard to imagine he won’t -- San Diego is going to find a way for the 22-year-old to pitch.
7. Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2020 stats: 5 G, 18 IP, 6.00 ERA, 13 BB, 16 SO at Toronto.
Ranking Pearson is tough. He looked like he was a lock for the top five to begin the year, but actually didn’t make my initial list because of how many quality prospects were eligible, and also because he’s currently on the shelf with a groin injury. He deserves a spot, however, in part because fantasy players can place him on the injured list right now. With two elite pitches in his fastball and slider along with improving command, Pearson has everything it takes to help rosters this year. It’s just a matter of when he’s going to get a chance to do so.
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8. 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.
Stetson has given baseball a pair of the best of the last decade in Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber. Gilbert doesn’t have quite that level of stuff, but he has a chance to be the next ace from the Florida school. He throws four pitches for strikes, and he can get his fastball into the high 90s with good life while finishing hitters off with that pitch or his slider, curve or change. The Mariners are employing a six-person rotation in 2021, and while Gilbert is down on the farm for now, the rebuilding Seattle club is assuredly going to bring him up before 2021 comes to an end. Fantasy managers should be ready to strike when that takes place.
9. Sam Huff, C, Texas Rangers
2020 stats: 10 G, .355/.394/.742, 3 HR, 0 SB, 2 BB, 11 SO at Texas.
Hey, someone who isn’t a pitcher. Huff is currently out with a strained hamstring, but it’d be a surprise if he wasn’t up with Texas in the next couple of months -- if not sooner. A former Futures Game MVP, those stats above tell you how impressive Huff was in his brief sample with the Rangers, and it wasn’t smoke and mirrors. There is easy plus-plus power in his right-handed bat, and while it’s unlikely he’ll be a big contributor in the average category, he makes enough hard contact to not make that a hindrance. The positional value helps, but Huff can flat-out hit.
10. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Miami Marlins
2020 stats: 20 G, 39 IP, 3.46 ERA, 3 HR, 11 BB, 33 SO at Miami.
The Pearson ranking was tricky. This one’s almost impossible. While it was not a foregone conclusion that Sanchez would begin the year on the Miami roster, it was also announced that an MRI revealed mild inflammation in the back of his right shoulder. The Marlins have said they expect Sanchez back, but there also obviously not going to rush one of the most important players to their future. Sanchez is worth holding onto with a spot on the injured list, but until we get more clarity on the plan going forward, it’s difficult to justify ranking him above anyone else right now. Stay tuned and hope for good news.
Next in line: Daniel Lynch, LHP, Kansas City Royals; Jeter Downs, SS, Boston Red Sox; Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves; Spencer Howard, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies; Trevor Larnach, OF, Minnesota Twins