The 2019 Minor League season isn’t even a week old, but already there are some big-name prospects doing impressive things on the field. The same can be said for the prospects that began the year in the big leagues.
But before getting too deep into the season, we thought we’d take a step back from the day-to-day grind and have some fun by laying out some prospect predictions.
While some of these prognostications are tied to specific statistical accomplishments, the majority focus on player trajectory and farm-system growth over the course of the season. All of them, we believe, are possible.
With that, here are 10 prospect predictions, some bolder than others, that could come true in 2019.
Christin Stewart leads all MLB rookies in home runs
The Tigers’ No. 8 prospect has hit at least 27 home runs in each of his three full-season campaigns since the Tigers took him in the first round of the 2015 Draft. His final two homers last year came in the big leagues, in a multi-homer game against the Royals, and he’s already gone deep twice in 10 games in 2019.
Yes, he faces some serious competition for the Rookie HR crown in Eloy Jimenez and Pete Alonso, both of whom, like Stewart, opened the season in the Majors, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. soon should be in the mix. But Stewart’s track record of socking dingers accurately reflects what he can do over a full year at any level, even if others aspects of his game still leave something to be desired.
Vlad Jr. and Bo combine for at least 30 big league homers
The Blue Jays have their sights set on the future and are already embracing a youth movement, giving many prospects a chance to prove their value early in this season before the organization’s next wave of young talent arrives. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prospect, will lead said wave, and Bo Bichette (No. 11) shouldn’t be far behind him. It makes sense for the Blue Jays to give the duo as much big league time together as possible, even if it costs the club a year of service time for each player.
Vlad and Bo are going to put on a show in the big leagues by hitting for average and power, and both appear poised to take a step forward in the latter department in 2019. Vlad, despite hitting 20 homers while batting .381 in the Minors last year, is only scraping his power potential, which, realistically, could translate to 35-plus homer campaigns in his prime. Bo, meanwhile, showed an uptick in power this spring in big league camp, hitting four homers in 39 at-bats after going deep 11 times last season as a 20-year-old in Double-A.
Luis Patino is a top five-ranked pitching prospect by season’s end
When the Padres signed Patino (Padres’ No. 6) for $130,000 out of Colombia in July 2016, the teenage right-hander was merely one of many names in a deep Padres’ international class on which they spent nearly $80 million, including penalties. But the 19-year-old has quickly proven to be the top prospect of that group, showing electric, front-of-the-rotation stuff and feel for his craft while excelling against older competition en route to the Top 100 (No. 47).
Padres No. 2 prospect MacKenzie Gore (No. 15 on the Top 100) is already one of the game’s top pitching prospects -- with an up arrow next to his name after a healthy start to his season -- and it might not be long until it becomes mandatory he and Patino are mentioned in the same breath.
Indians have a Top 10 farm system by season’s end
Cleveland has the youngest Top 30 Prospects list among all 30 teams, checking in with an average age of just over 21 on Opening Day. All but three prospects ranked in the Indians’ Top 10 are age-20 or younger, and overall they have 14 teenagers on the list, including at least a handful that are breakout candidates in 2019. That group includes 2018 first-rounder Bo Naylor (Indians’ No. 4), 19, as well as a pair of 18-year-olds in outfielder George Valera (No. 5) and shortstop Bryan Rocchio (No. 7). What’s more, a lot of the Tribe’s young prospects are of the high-ceiling variety and cover the entire position spectrum, thus giving the organization a well-rounded talent core to build around in the coming years.
Wander Franco homers in Futures Game, wins MVP
Other than Vlad Jr., perhaps no prospect made as much noise and generated as much hype last season than Franco, who at age 17, garnered Rookie-level Appalchian League MVP honors after slashing .351/.418/.587 with 11 homers in 61 games. Now in full-season ball, the Rays’ top prospect (No. 13 overall) could very well put up comparable numbers, especially as temperatures start to rise across the Midwest League, and he should be the main attraction on the World team’s roster in this year’s Futures Game.
Marco Luciano finishes as a Top 50 overall prospect
MLB Pipeline’s No. 3-ranked international prospect last summer before signing with San Francisco for $2.6 million, Luciano (Giants’ No. 3 prospect) has a gorgeous right-handed swing and was viewed by many scouts as the best pure hitter in his signing class. Like Franco, the 17-year-old has the type of offensive tools that should allow him to make an immediate impact in his pro debut this summer, likely in a stateside league.
Luis Robert goes 25-25
Injuries slowed Robert’s development early in his career, costing him at-bats that might have otherwise helped to accelerate his development. When healthy, however, the White Sox No. 4 prospect (No. 39 overall) has shown legitimate five-tool potential, with a power-speed combo that sets him apart from most other prospects. After failing to jump the yard in 50 games last season, mostly at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, Robert started tapping into his huge raw power in the Arizona Fall League and continued to do so this spring in big league camp.
His start to the regular season, meanwhile, has been hugely encouraging with the 21-year-old outfielder tallying four homers and three steals while posting multiple hits in five straight games. With that in mind, a 30-30 campaign could be a possibility for Robert, though an inevitable bump up to Double-A may slow his torrid pace. If Robert reaches 25-25, he'll become just the sixth Minor Leaguer to do it this decade. Milwaukee's Corey Ray (27-37) and Toronto's Kevin Smith (25-29) did it last year, while Phillies' Scott Kingery (26-29) achieved the feat in 2017, Dodgers' Joc Pederson (33-30) did it in '14 and Houston's George Springer (37-45) fell just short of a 40-40 season in '13.
Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin spend most of 2019 in Dodgers rotation
That May (Dodgers’ No. 3, No. 68 overall) and Gonsolin (Dodgers’ No. 5) both were among the Dodgers’ final spring cuts is a strong indicator that the two right-handers will be up early this season. Teams consistently have tried to pry away the two right-handers from LA in trades since the start of 2018, but the Dodgers haven’t budged, viewing them as impactful short-term depth pieces who have the potential to become rotation mainstays for years to come. Gonsolin should be the first to arrive, simply based on his current proximity to the Majors in Triple-A, but May won’t be far behind and generally is viewed as having the higher ceiling.
Carter Kieboom is Washington’s starting second baseman by the All-Star break
Kieboom was a spring standout in Nats camp, where he showcased his electric bat speed while delivering three home runs -- he took Justin Verlander deep twice in the same game -- and doubles a piece in 43 at-bats. The Nationals didn’t turn to their No. 2 prospect (No. 25 overall) for reinforcements immediately in the wake of Trea Turner’s finger injury, but the latter’s indefinite absence is going to expedite Kieboom’s arrival in the big leagues. And while it might seem as though the 21-year-old is being rushed, the reality is simply that Kieboom’s game is just coming together that quickly and allowing him to develop as linearly as any big-name prospect.
Yankees have at least three Top 100 pitching prospects by season’s end
While the Bombers’ farm system didn’t crack our preseason list of the Top 10 farm systems, it also didn’t miss by much. The Yankees’ Top 30 list features few, if any household names right now, but make no mistake -- their farm is absolutely loaded with high-ceiling arms.
Which three have the best chance of cracking the Top 100 this year? Well, take your pick, really, because there are plenty of candidates. Albert Abreu (No. 3) and Deivi Garcia (No. 4) arguably have the most name recognition, but there’s a growing list of others -- namely, Clarke Schmidt (No. 5), Roansy Contreras (No. 10), Luis Gil (No. 13) and Luis Medina (No. 14) -- on the rise and poised to help the organization push through a starting-rotation turnover.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.