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Established stars drive a team’s success at the MLB level and put fans in the seats, but we’re always looking to the future.
Ahead is a look at the top 50 prospects in baseball at the quarter mark of the 2018 season.
The following factors helped determine where each player fell in these rankings:
- Potential: Potential trumps production a lot of the time, especially in the lower levels of the minors and with recent draft picks. Skill set and overall tools are often a better indication of what kind of player a guy will be in the future.
- Talent: As for guys in the higher levels of the minors who are close to breaking through at the big league level, production and current talent level are the determining factors, as these players are viewed as more complete products.
- Eligibility: A player must still maintain rookie-eligibility status to be considered for inclusion. That means 130 at-bats for position players, 50 innings pitched for pitchers or 45 days on the active roster prior to roster expansion in September.
Let’s get to it.
Top 50 Prospects
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1. LF Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves (Previous 1)
Legitimate five-tool standout who could be a generational talent. Began last season at High-A and is now in the majors, where he’s posted an .848 OPS with six doubles and four home runs in his first 20 games. More than capable of playing center field but will man a corner spot as long as Ender Inciarte is around.
2. 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 2)
A deserving No. 1 overall prospect once Acuna exhausts his eligibility. Was given a true 80-grade hit tool by MLB.com and has backed it up with a ridiculous .415/.459/.696 line over his first 158 plate appearances at Double-A. Will need to watch his conditioning, but all signs point to a future superstar.
3. OF Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox (Previous: 4)
Best raw power in the minors right now. Imposing physique at 6’4″, 205 pounds, though he’s lost some of his athleticism as he’s matured physically. Has made significant strides with his plate discipline and looks like a potential .300 hitter to go along with his over-the-fence production. Could debut in the second half.
4. CF Victor Robles, Washington Nationals (Previous: 5)
Speed is his best present skill but should be a legitimate five-tool contributor at his peak. Could develop into a .300 hitter with perennial 30/30 production once he establishes himself in the majors. Also has Gold Glove potential in center field, where his plus speed plays well and he has a terrific arm.
5. 2B Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees (Previous: 7)
Hasn’t missed a beat since being called up, hitting .324/.372/.493 with three doubles and three home runs in 21 games. Power is still developing but could be a 20-homer threat at his peak to go along with 70-grade hit tool. Could handle shortstop or third base if needed.
6. 2B Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 6)
Polished hitter who has posted a .310/.389/.508 line in parts of three minor league seasons since going No. 2 overall in 2016. Played shortstop in college and spent most of his pro career to this point at third base but looks like he’ll settle in at second base in the majors. Perennial batting title contender.
7. SS Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (Previous: 8)
Biggest breakout prospect of 2017. Posted an .877 OPS with 27 doubles, 22 home runs and 32 stolen bases while reaching Double-A as an 18-year-old. Loud raw tools but also showed advanced approach walking at a 13.4 percent clip last year. Could outgrow shortstop as 6’3″ frame fills out.
8. RF Juan Soto, Washington Nationals (Previous: 30)
Red-hot start at Single-A (74 PA, 1.300 OPS, 13 XBH) and High-A (73 PA, 1.256 OPS, 11 XBH) earned a quick ticket to Double-A. Often overlooked in the same system as Robles but has a similarly high ceiling. With 60-grade hit and 60-grade power, he could be the prototypical offensive right fielder.
9. SS Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 9)
Looks like the steal of the 2016 draft, even after signing an above-slot $1.1 million bonus as a second-rounder. Hit .362/.423/.565 with 59 extra-base hits between Single-A and High-A last year and possesses a 70-grade hit tool. Power is still developing, and long-term defensive home is a bit of a question mark.
10. RHP Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox (Previous: 10)
Armed with a true 80-grade fastball that regularly touches triple digits and backs it with an electric slider and quality changeup. Struck out 172 batters in 134.1 innings in the upper levels of the minors last year. Still needs to refine his overall command. Makings of a legitimate ace.
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11. RHP Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 11)
Might have gone No. 1 overall in 2015 if not for impending Tommy John surgery. Has returned to starting after pitching out of the bullpen last year to expedite MLB arrival. Has a 2.67 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 27 innings in five starts since joining a banged-up Dodgers rotation. Up for good.
12. RHP Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous: 12)
Injuries limited him to 47 innings in first two pro seasons before a breakout in 2016. Still refining his secondary stuff but has a chance to be a front-line starter thanks to plus command and heavy mid-90s fastball. Might have the highest floor among top-tier pitching prospects.
13. IF Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies (Previous: 13)
Higher offensive ceiling than fellow 2015 picks Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman. Hit .336/.373/.567 with 26 doubles and 18 home runs between High-A and Double-A as a 20-year-old. Free agency of DJ LeMahieu and progression of Trevor Story will likely determine where he lines up defensively in majors.
14. RHP Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros (Previous: 14)
A 50-game suspension for violating MiLB drug policy kept him from being No. 1 pitching prospect. Towering 6’7″ righty still has projection remaining and can already touch 97 with his fastball. Needs to stay consistent with mechanics and refine command to reach ceiling. Posted a 2.83 ERA with 143 s