MLB Pipeline’s list of the top fantasy prospects a year ago featured Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr. in the top two spots, respectively. Ohtani, of course, garnered Rookie of the Year honors in the American League for his exploits as a two-way player, while Acuna took home the award in the NL after he helped propel the Braves into the postseason with a torrid second half.
Amazingly, this year’s rookie class comes with just as much, if not more, hype, with phenoms like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez ready to become instant stars and franchise cornerstones in the big leagues. However, they’re just two names on a long list of highly touted prospects that have the potential to contribute in the Majors and become fantasy assets in 2019.
Keep in mind that the rankings below are based solely on projected fantasy value for the upcoming season, where as MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospect rankings reflect long-term all-around value.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect (No. 1 overall)
The strained left oblique Guerrero suffered on March 10 put to bed any possibility of him breaking camp with the Blue Jays. In reality, though, he likely was ticketed for Triple-A Buffalo to begin the season anyway, so the injury, which will sideline him for three weeks, should only slightly push back his arrival in Toronto.
With his 80-grade bat, 70 game power (80 raw) and elite plate discipline, the 20-year-old third baseman is in a class of his own when it comes to his potential fantasy impact. He batted .402 and .336 at Double- and Triple-A, respectively, and ultimately led the Minors in hitting (.381), slugging (.636) and OPS (1.073) while hitting 20 homers in his age-19 campaign.
Once he finally gets the call, it shouldn’t be long before Guerrero establishes himself as one of baseball’s premier hitters (think peak Miguel Cabrera) and, in future seasons, a perennial MVP candidate. And don’t worry about his defensive home; whether he’s deployed at the hot corner, first base or designated hitter, the kid is going to hit a ton.
2. Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox No. 1 prospect (No. 3 overall)
Jimenez and the White Sox appear close to an agreement on a guaranteed six-year, $43 million extension -- with club options for years seven and eight. The deal, once finalized, would be the largest contract ever for a pre-MLB player and reflects the 22-year-old outfielder’s tremendous offensive ceiling. Though he was slowed by injuries at times last season, Jimenez still set career highs in all three slash categories (.337/.384/.577) and home runs (22). He absolutely torched Triple-A pitching, too, compiling a .355/.399/.597 line with 12 homers in 55 games.
Though not quite on Vlad Jr.’s level, Jimenez does own a nearly elite combination of hitting ability and power. He generates the latter with ease, producing tape-measure homers from line to line, and gets to it regularly because he’s an excellent hitter with an advanced approach that limits his number of strikeouts. While time will tell whether Jimenez’s extension will help him crack the Opening Day roster -- he had already been optioned to Triple-A -- it’s clear he’s going to be hitting in the heart of the White Sox lineup for much, if not all, of 2019.
3. Nick Senzel, 3B/2B/OF, Reds’ No. 1 prospect (No. 6 overall)
Senzel would likely have become an everyday guy for the Reds in 2018 if he hadn’t suffered a bout of vertigo in May followed by a fractured right index finger in June that required season-ending surgery. He ultimately logged only 44 games at the Triple-A level, but hit .310/.378/.509 with six homers in those contests. An infielder for the majority of his career, the 23-year-old has made a smooth transition this spring from the dirt to center field, seemingly the path of least resistance to playing time in the big leagues. With the upside of a .300-plus hitter who offers double-digit homers and stolen bases, Senzel’s defensive versatility enhances his value from a fantasy standpoint.
4. Victor Robles, OF, Nationals’ No. 1 prospect (No. 4 overall)
Robles appeared poised to spend much of 2018 in the big leagues before a hyperextended left elbow suffered while diving for a ball in center field at Triple-A Syracuse in early April landed him on the shelf for three months. He still reached the Majors late in the season, hitting .288 with three homers and three steals in 21 games. A plus hitter who earns near top-of-the-scale grades for his speed, defense and arm strength, Robles boasts one of the most dynamic set of tools among prospects. With that in mind, the 21-year-old center fielder projects as a consistent source of batting average and stolen bases for fantasy owners, and he very well could surprise with his power.
5. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres’ No. 1 prospect (No. 2 overall)
The future is now for the Padres, and the ultra-talented Tatis is a key part of it. As a 19-year-old last season in Double-A, Tatis produced a .286/.355/.507 slash line with 16 homers, 16 steals and 77 runs scored over 88 games before requiring season-ending surgery in July for a fractured thumb that he sustained on a head-first slide. As a shortstop who’s capable of hitting for average and power while also making an impact on the basepaths, Tatis will become a fantasy asset as an all-categories contributor when he finally arrives in the Majors.
6. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros’ No. 1 prospect (No. 7 overall)
The only thing separating Whitley from a spot in the Astros’ rotation right now is opportunity. Having dominated at every stage of his career, the 21-year-old right-hander, MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked pitching prospect, is absolutely ready for the Major Leagues and has confirmed that much this spring in big league camp, posting a 1.50 ERA, .119 BAA and 15/4 K/BB over 12 innings. He’ll start the season in the Minors but could be up by midseason, if not earlier, and has the combination of stuff -- each of his four pitches grade out as plus or better, and many consider his fastball-changeup pairing to be plus-plus -- and feel to be a true multi-category contributor as a starter.
7. Francisco Mejia, C, Padres’ No. 4 prospect (No. 26 overall)
The fact that the Padres are expected to break camp with a catching tandem of Austin Hedges and Mejia detracts from some of Mejia’s fantasy value. But it would be unwise for fantasy owners to disregard the 23-year-old switch-hitter for that reason alone, because there’s no catching prospect with as much impact potential in 2019. He’ll be a better source of average than power but should contribute in both departments.
8. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, A’s No. 1 prospect (No. 12 overall)
In his first full season, Luzardo ascended from Class A Advanced Stockton to Triple-A Nashville and nearly finished the year as a 20-year-old in the big leagues. Altogether, the left-hander posted a 2.88 ERA, .220 BAA and 129/30 K/BB in 109 1/3 innings (23 starts) across the three levels. He continued to carve up hitters this spring in big league camp and was set to crack the A’s Opening Day rotation before it was announced Thursday that the precocious southpaw will be sidelined with a left shoulder strain to open the 2019 season. While the injury of course is an unfortunate development, it could ultimately allow the A’s to better manage Luzardo’s workload over the course of the season, thus setting him up to become a significant fantasy contributor during the second half.
9. Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers’ No. 1 prospect (No. 20 overall)
The Brewers haven’t had a prospect with an offensive ceiling like Hiura’s since the Ryan Braun/Prince Fielder days, and it might not be long until he joins the former in Milwaukee’s lineup. With a gorgeous right-handed swing and knack for barreling the baseball, Hiura has the potential to offer major production from a premium position. And while he ostensibly faces a roadblock to big league playing time in Mike Moustakas, the Brewers, after finishing a game short of reaching the World Series in 2018, are not going to suppress Hiura’s potent bat in the Minors unnecessarily.
10. Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets’ No. 1 prospect (No. 51 overall)
Alonso has massive power from the right side of the plate, and he’s showing plenty of it in big league camp this spring after finishing tied for the Minor League lead with 36 homers last season. His chances of breaking camp with the Mets seems to hinge upon whether the team would be willing to carry both him and Dominic Smith, but Alonso should be in the big leagues during the first month of the season regardless of his Opening Day assignment. There’s little doubt among scouts that the 24-year-old’s power will translate at the highest level, though questions do remain about Alonso’s ability to get to it consistently against big league pitchers given his swing-and-miss tendencies and past struggles with advanced secondary pitches.
Best of the rest (listed alphabetically): Garrett Hampson, 2B/SS, Rockies; Austin Hays, OF, Orioles; Danny Jansen, C, Blue Jays; Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates; Brandon Lowe, 2B/OF, Rays; Chris Paddack, RHP, Padres; Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals; Brendan Rodgers, INF, Rockies; Justus Sheffield, LHP, Mariners; Mike Soroka, RHP, Braves; Christin Stewart, OF, Tigers; Touki Toussaint, RHP, Braves; Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros; Luis Urias, INF, Padres; Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers; Bryse Wilson, RHP, Braves
Keep an eye on: Yordan Alvarez, OF, Astros; Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays; Daz Cameron, OF, Tigers; Dylan Cease, RHP, White Sox; Yusniel Diaz, OF, Orioles; Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Dodgers; Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pirates; Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays; Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins; Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers; Victor Victor Mesa, OF, Marlins; A.J. Puk, LHP, A’s; Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.