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Prospect - Premium

Prospect Positional: OF

by Christopher Crawford
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The rankings are broken into two parts: the top 10 prospects in order and the next 10 prospects in alphabetical order. As always, these rankings are done from a scouting perspective but with fantasy baseball in mind, generally focusing on standard 5x5 league categories – though other statistics (e.g., OBP) are considered – and long-term, dynasty-league value.

 

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The Top 10:

 

1.    Victor Robles, Washington Nationals
2017 Stats: 109 G, .299/.383/.494, 71 R, 35 2B, 8 3B, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 24 SB, 36 BB, 83 SO

Choosing between Robles and Ronald Acuna was so tough that I ended up flipping a coin. Okay that’s not true, but they’re very comparable talents. He’s a plus-plus runner who is going to steal 30-plus bases as long as he’s playing every day, and scouts rave about his approach and line-drive stroke. He’s also starting to develop some power, and double-digit homer seasons are not only realistic, they’re likely. He’s a few years away, but if Robles maxes out his potential, he could be the best fantasy prospect in baseball at this point next year.
    
Impact stats: AVG, OBP, R, SB

2.    Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves
2017 Stats: 131 G, .309/.374/.527, 85 R, 30 2B, 8 3B, 20 HR, 77 RB, 42 SB, 41 BB, 137 SO

This certainly escalated quickly. Acuna was one of the more intriguing -- but unproven -- talents in baseball in 2016. Now, he’s either the top or second-best fantasy prospect. He has plus-plus speed, and he could be a 40-plus stolen base candidate if he gets on enough. Despite having loads of swing and miss, he makes plenty of hard contact, and there’s above-average power in his bat as well. He’s also just a teenager putting up these kind of numbers in the Southern League, which is ridiculous, for lack of a better word. Acuna has a real chance of being a Brave outfielder before the end of 2018.

Impact stats: AVG, R, HR, SB

3.    Eloy Jimenez, Pittsburgh Pirates
2016 Stats: 86 G, .314/.379/.578, 53 R, 22 2B, 3 3B, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 1 SB, 33 BB, 68 SO

With all due respect to Jose Quintana, who went over to the Cubs in exchange for Jimenez, this is a deal that the Cubs could regret someday, because boy oh boy can this young man hit the baseball. He’s one of the few outfield prospects who have a chance to hit for both power and average, and he can square up pitches on any parts of the plate and hit them with authority. He won’t steal many bases, but if he’s a high-average hitter with 25-plus homer seasons, you probably won’t mind too much.

Impact stats: AVG, HR, RBI

4.    Lewis Brinson, Milwaukee Brewers
2017 Stats: 76 G, .331/.400/.562, 66 R, 22 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 11  SB, 32 BB, 62 SO
    
Brinson got a call-up to Milwaukee this year, and it did not go well.  That’s frustrating, but the sample size is way too small -- and Brinson way too talented -- to be overly concerned. The numbers in Albuquerque are much more in line with the former Texas prospect’s ability. He can do a little bit of everything, including stealing bases. Is there some volatility here because of the swing and miss? Of course, but the reward far outweighs the risk.
    
Impact stats: R, HR, RBI, SB

5.    Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros
2017 Stats: 113 G, .270/.346/.518, 65 R, 29 2B, 5 3B, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 19 SB, 45 BB, 106 SO

Those are some darn impressive numbers for Tucker, and it hasn’t been done with smoke and mirrors. He has a swing that’s easy on the eyes, and it gives him a chance to hit for both average and power. He’s also a very smart baserunner who makes the most of his average speed to get great jumps on the bases. My only concern is that there’s a lot of strikeouts here, but it may not matter. Tucker is extremely talented and a must-get in dynasty leagues.

Impact stats: AVG, OBP, HR, SB

6.     Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates
2017 Stats: 81 G, .261/.323/.384, 53 R, 22 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 46  RBI, 11 SB, 28 BB, 55 SO

Those numbers above don’t suggest top-six outfield prospect, I know, and he’s missed significant time. Again. Meadows was the ninth overall pick by the Pirates in 2013, and when he’s been healthy, he’s flashed talent that makes you wonder how he could have fallen that low. When is the operative word, however, as he’s battled health issues essentially every year he’s been in the system.  He’s a smart hitter with excellent hand-eye coordination, and he’s a threat to steal any time he’s on base. There’s also solid-average power potential here, and if he can stay on the field, he has a chance to hit leadoff and score plenty of runs for Pittsburgh.  We need to see some consistency in 2018, though.
    
Impact stats: AVG, OBP, R, SB

7.    Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2017 Stats: 116 G, .315/.391/.437, 66 R, 26 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 9 SB, 52 BB, 49 SO

 

Verdugo’s numbers took a big hit with a poor second half, but the overall season is an unqualified success. A second-round pick that many actually preferred on the mound, Verdugo can really swing the bat, and sprays line drives to left, center and right. He also has some raw power, but his swing is much more conducive to contact than it is homers. He’s not fleet of foot, but he reads pitches well, and he can steal some bases. The Dodgers’ outfield is quite full, but at some point, they should find somewhere for Verdugo to play.

Impact stats: AVG, R

8.    Yusniel Diaz, Los Angeles Dodgers
2017 Stats: 108 G, .289/.354/.424, 51 R, 23 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 47 RBI, 9 SB, 44 BB, 100 SO

Diaz didn’t garner as much celebrity as some of the other big international signings over the last year, but he did get a $15.5 million bonus, and he has looked like he’s worth every penny. There’s no real weakness here, with the only talent not projecting above-average being his power. He’s not a dink-and-dunk hitter, however, and 15-plus homer seasons are certainly possible. He should run more going forward, and his smooth, line-drive stroke allows him to make hard contact to all parts of the field. The Dodgers are going to have to find somewhere for the 20-year-old outfielder to play in the next few seasons.

Impact stats: AVG, R, SB

9.    Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners
2017 Stats: 42 G, .258/.335/.434, 27 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 3 SB, 17 BB, 42 SO

Lewis was tearing the cover off the baseball after being drafted 11th last year, when a gruesome leg injury caused him to miss most of the 2016 season, and the first three months of this campaign. He’s still recovering, but for the most part, he’s looked like the same prospect. He can hit for average, hit for power, and when healthy, he shows above-average speed as well. He’s no longer a fast-track prospect, but the upside is unquestioned.

Impact stats: AVG, R, SB

10.  Blake Rutherford, New York Yankees
2017 Stats: 96 G, .269/.330/.361, 52 R, 25 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 35 RBI, 10 SB, 34  BB, 51 SO

Rutherford is the “other” outfielder acquired by the White Sox at the deadline, and while the numbers aren’t impressive, there’s a lot to like. He has a picturesque swing, and if he can add loft to it, he can hit for power. He’s also a solid runner, so stolen bases can come, too. He’ll have to have a much better 2018 season to stay in the top 10 on this list, but having watched him as a prep, there’s no doubt in this writer’s mind he can do just that.

Impact stats: AVG, OBP

Next 10 (alphabetical order):

Jordon Adell, Los Angeles Angels
Estevan Florial, New York Yankees
Austin Hays, Baltimore Orioles
Adam Haseley, Philadelphia Phillies
Jahmai Jones, Los Angeles Angels
Jerek Kendall, Los Angeles Dodgers
Mickey Moniak, Philadelphia Phillies
Corey Ray, Milwaukee Brewers
Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
Leody Taveras, Texas Rangers

Christopher Crawford

Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for NBC Sports Edge. Follow him on Twitter @Crawford_MILB.