MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2018 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.If history is an indicator of potential, there could be several future Most
MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2018 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
If history is an indicator of potential, there could be several future Most Valuable Player Award winners to emerge from MLB Pipeline's list of the Top 10 outfield prospects for 2018.
Slugger Giancarlo Stanton led the Majors with 59 home runs in 2017 en route to winning the National League MVP Award. It marked the fifth straight year in which an outfielder had garnered MVP honors, following Michael Trout (2014, '16), Bryce Harper ('15) and Andrew McCutchen ('13), each of whom ranked among baseball's top prospects, if not the best during his respective time in the Minors.
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This year's crop of outfield talent ultimately could rival that group. The top four players on the list, Ronald Acuna (Braves), Eloy Jimenez (White Sox), Victor Robles (Nationals) and Shohei Ohtani (Angels), all hail from the international ranks and are among the best prospects in the sport. As a whole, the average age of players on the list is 21 years old, and no player will be older than 23 to begin 2018.
This is the eighth and final installment in the series of MLB Pipeline's Top 10 Prospects list. Our overall Top 100 Prospects list on will be unveiled Saturday during an MLB Network special (simulcast on MLB.com) at 8 p.m. ET.
1. Ronald Acuna, Braves More »
- Eloy Jimenez, White Sox More »
- Victor Robles, Nationals More »
- Shohei Ohtani, Angels More »
- Kyle Tucker, Astros More »
- Austin Hays, Orioles More »
- Lewis Brinson, Brewers More »
- Luis Robert, White Sox More »
- Juan Soto, Nationals More »
- Alex Verdugo, Dodgers More »
Hit: 60 -- Acuna, Jimenez, Robles, Hays, Soto, Verdugo
That half of the players on this list boast a plus hitting grade speaks to the overall offensive potential of the group. Among them, Robles, a career .304 hitter over four Minor League seasons, arguably has the most advanced bat. His hitting ability stems from a combination of bat speed, bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline, while Robles' top-of-the-scale speed enables him to create hits and turn singles into extra bases.
Power: 70 -- Jimenez, Ohtani
Jimenez's robust power has been his calling card since he signed with the Cubs for $2.8 million in August 2013. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder's massive raw pop, generated with impressive bat speed and leverage from the right side of the plate, produced 19 homers in 89 games in 2017 and earns him comparisons to Stanton. Ohtani, meanwhile, showcased his power potential in 2016, when he connected on 22 homers in 104 games for the Nippon Ham Fighters in his age-21 season.
Run: 75 -- Robles
There are many impressive runners in this group, though none can burn quite like Robles, who posts elite run times to first base, knows how to use his speed on the basepaths and runs down everything hit his way in center field. In his four professional seasons the 20-year-old Robles has stolen 22, 24, 37 and 27 bases, respectively.
Arm: 80 -- Ohtani
Ohtani is one of three right-handed pitchers to earn an 80 fastball grade this year, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the 23-year-old two-way star also owns the best outfield arm. However, it's yet to be seen how often Ohtani will get to show off his cannon arm in the Majors, as he's expected to see considerable time as the Angels' designated hitter when he's not on the mound.
Field: 70 -- Robles
As previously noted, Robles is an elite defender in center field, so much so that some MLB executives view him as one of the Minor's premier defensive players. There's zero doubt about his ability to remain up the middle, and it's that defensive prowess which could also earn him time at both outfield corners should the need arise.
Highest ceiling: Acuna
Acuna has the best all-around toolset of players on this list, with all five of his tools grading as plus (60) or better. Those tools were on full display during his breakout 2017 campaign, when, at age 19, Acuna posted a .325/.374/.522 slash line with 21 homers, 60 extra-base hits and 44 steals across three levels en route to MLB Pipeline's Hitter of the Year award. Following the regular season, Acuna took home the Arizona Fall League MVP Award after pacing the circuit in home runs (seven) and runs (22) and finishing second in slugging (.639) and OPS (1.053).
Highest floor: Robles
With pure hitting ability and on-base skills as well as elite speed and defense, Robles has all the ingredients to be an impactful player in the Major Leagues. He offered a taste of that potential in 2017 when he raced through the Minors, going straight from Double-A to Washington in September before earning a spot on the Nats' playoff roster.
Rookie of the Year candidate: Ohtani
Revered as Japan's Babe Ruth during his time in Nippon Professional Baseball, Ohtani has to be the early favorite to take home a ROY award. He could have plenty of competition, though, as Robles, Hays, Brinson and Verdugo all enter 2018 with big league experience. Similarly, it'd be unwise to discount both Acuna and Jimenez after their respective performances in 2017.
Highest riser: Hays
Hays was on few radars heading into 2017 despite his impressive pro debut in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League. That wasn't the case for long, however, as the 22-year-old outfielder erupted to hit .329 with 32 home runs and 32 doubles between Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie to earn a September callup. The first hitter from his Draft class to reach the Majors, Hays appeared in 20 games for the Orioles during the final month-plus of the regular season.
Humblest beginnings: Acuna
It's looking more and more like the Braves' signing of Acuna for $100,000 out of Venezuela in July 2014 will go down as one of the biggest international steals in recent memory. The same can be said about Robles, whom the Nationals landed for just $225,000 out of the Dominican in July 2013. Among Draftees, Hays signed for $665,800 as a third-round pick in 2016.
Most to prove: Brinson
Brinson's prospect stock cooled somewhat in 2017 as he missed time with two separate injuries -- he suffered a dislocated left pinkie finger early in the season and then had his campaign cut short by a hamstring injury in August -- and struggled to produce during his two stints with Milwaukee. He ultimately batted .106/.236/.277 with a 30.9 percent strikeout rate over 21 big league games after posting a .331/.400/.562 slash line with 13 homers and an 18.2 percent whiff rate in Triple-A.
Keep an eye on: Heliot Ramos, San Francisco Giants
Ramos offered one of the best power/speed combinations available in the 2017 Draft, which prompted the Giants to draft him 19th overall and sign him for $3,101,700. His loud tools -- four of which grade as above-average or better -- translated as hoped during his pro debut, when Ramos, at age 17, paced the Rookie-level Arizona League in slugging (.645) and finished second in batting (.348) and OPS (1.049).
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.