Written by: Adam Ehrenreich (@mel_reich)
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Most of the top 100+ prospect lists are geared towards dynasty fantasy leagues, and rightfully so. As a fantasy player and writer whose focus is redraft leagues, I’m more interested in lists of prospects that could make an impact for my squad at some point during the remainder of the season. In this list, I keep in mind minor league production, major league team outlook and roster fit. Some of these timetables may be more immediate, others may arrive when rosters expand. Either way, be aware of an expected role and workload for them upon promotion. There are a few players I was extremely high on when I began this article a few weeks ago, and before you knew it, there were a slew of call ups. For example, Willie Calhoun was originally ranked #1, and he was called up hours after I began the list. I then waited for the trade deadline because I figured there would be additional movement in the prospect world. Keston Hiura, for example, was on this list, but following the Brewers’ strange deadline moves, I no longer think he provides valuable stats ROS. Finally completed, here are my top 20 prospects for the remainder or 2018.
1. Francisco Mejia – The trade to the Padres only boosts his redraft value. The Padres have Austin Hedges at catcher (and he’s been great lately), but with the way the Indians have been grooming Mejia for positional flexibility, I can see him on the field sooner than later. The Padres have said they want him behind the plate, and with his elite hitting tool and recent surge in AAA, I can see San Diego giving him a shot to show his skills and get the fan base excited for the future. This leads me to #2.
2. Luis Urias – Urias has received comparisons to Ozzie Albies. Of course, Albies was very different in the minors than he is today. Urias is more like the former Albies, with a developing power stroke along with great defense (minus the speed). He recently hit his eighth home run of the season. I don’t see Jose Pirela or the slew of other fringe-major league infielders in San Diego blocking Urias for much longer. He has the potential to be a big asset for the Padres, and there is no reason for them to not show off his potential before the end of the regular season.
3. Vlad Guerrero Jr. – So two Padres to start the list, primarily due to the situation in San Diego. Now, if I don’t want to be abolished from #ProspectTwitter completely, the best prospect in baseball must be listed in this slot. Remember, this list is for 2018 contributions. If this was for the long haul, he would be the clear cut number one. VGJ is back from an injury and was welcomed back with a promotion to Triple-A. He’s already destroying the new-level pitching, and that’s after hitting over .400 in Double-A earlier this season. Josh Donaldson is hurt and could be waiver-trade bait, so it’s only a matter of time before the VGJ era begins in the MLB.
4. Eloy Jimenez – I thought they would wait until next season to move Jimenez to The Show, but the White Sox can’t contain the hype or the skills. Jimenez recently spent a week dealing with flu-like symptoms, but as he continues to mash, he should be on the field for the White Sox soon enough and for the foreseeable future.
5. Brendan Rodgers – I love Brendan Rodgers, especially because he is going to play in Coors and I think he’s a better hitter than Trevor Story. I compare him to Carlos Correa, elite bat, solid glove, and imposing frame. Rodgers might not be up until September and he might not play his natural position of shortstop at first, but he should become a fixture next season.
6. Victor Robles – People tend to forget about Robles because he hasn’t played most of the season due to injury. Well, he’s back in a big way. Since returning on July 29th, Robles has 15 steals in 31 games across his rehab games and AAA games. Robles is a better all-around player than Michael A. Taylor, and I think he’ll be up for good by September.
7. Christin Stewart – While Stewart may never be one to hit for average, the power numbers have been consistent at all levels. The Tigers are in the basement and Stewart is the future middle-of-the-lineup bat they can build around. Expect to see him soon.
8. Kolby Allard – Qhile he has struggled in his few opportunities on the mound for the Braves to date, I still believe Allard can pitch useful innings for the Braves before seasons end. The problem is there are so many pitching prospects in Atlanta that another poor outing could be his last for 2018.
9. Michael Kopech – The top pitching prospect should probably be higher on this list and on a dynasty list he would be. But in terms of getting big league starts this season, I can’t see the White Sox letting Kopech loose this year, so expect many strikeouts but minimal innings pitched once he receives the call.
10. Mitch Keller – Keller should be up before long, but it might be in relief barring injury or poor performance. Chris Archer was acquired and Joe Musgrove has been great since making his season debut. Nick Kingham exhausted his welcome and has been sent down, so Keller could get a shot before long.
11. Touki Toussaint – An impressive outing at the Futures Game catapulted Toussaint up many boards, and for good reason. With a swagger and elite stuff, Toussaint’s ratios paint a pretty picture but the 139 strikeouts in 117 innings is what excites me. He could leap over Allard in short times notice.
Note: After this article was submitted, it was officially announced that Toussaint will make his major league debut on Monday, August 12th.
12. Kyle Tucker – After failing to contribute in his first stint in the major, Tucker finds himself back in the minors. It’s never a truly fair comparison, but Mike Trout struggled in his first run at the major league level, was sent back down to regroup, and the rest is history. Tucker will be back and he’ll produce, it just might not be in a full time role until next season.
13. Peter Alonso – I’m not sure what the Mets are waiting for. Alonso has been a beast in AA and AAA this year amassing 28 homers and 103 RBI to date. His BA has dipped a bit since his promotion to Triple-A, but the Mets have no reason not to let Alonso play. He could have a Matt Olson type impact over the final month of the season.
14. Austin Riley – If not for Johan Camargo’s surge, I think Riley would already be up. Batting .297 on the year with 11 homers and 52 RBI from the hot corner, Riley is the future at third base in Atlanta. Meanwhile, the Braves acquired an impact bench bat in Adam Duvall leaving less of a reason to rush Riley, but a cup of coffee is possible in September.
15. Ryan Mountcastle – After the mass exodus from Baltimore, available at-bats abound. Jonathan Villar has been a bright spot since being traded to the Orioles, but Mountcastle should get a shot in the infield before long. A once highly-touted prospect whose outlook was always dampened by Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, those days are now in the rearview mirror. Batting over .300 in Double-A with great defense should be enough to see Mountcastle in an Orioles uniform sooner rather than later.
16. Dylan Cease – It might be too early to tell, but the song birds are starting to say that Cease is better than Kopech. I’m not there yet, but Cease has been phenomenal this year. This is my dark horse to pitch some fantasy valuable innings this season.
17. Anthony Alford – Another Blue Jay, I am excited for the years of Pillar, Hernandez, Alford in the outfield. While he hasn’t been as impressive as I thought he would be, there is still reason to believe Alford could be a useful fantasy asset thanks to his speed. I think we will see him in the majors soon, where he’ll join fellow notable-prospects Danny Jansen and Sean Reid-Foley.
18. Justus Sheffield – The wait continues, and I think it continues a little while longer for Sheffield. The Yankees haven’t yet pulled the trigger on Sheffield making his big league debut, and he’s been passed-over multiple times this season in favor of lower-tier pitching prospects. Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ make the 2018 outlook harder, so I don’t think Sheffield will contribute much in the majors this year barring an injury or two.
19. A.J. Reed – The former top prospect is having resurgence this season, batting .363 with 24 homers and 95 RBI in Triple-A. The Astros will need a bench bat when rosters expand, and Reed will almost-certainly be called up. Will he prosper or flounder in his next opportunity? That question is why he is so low on this list.
20. Alex Verdugo – Verdugo continues to be pushed out by the Dodgers. Cody Bellinger manning center field, Yasiel Puig in right field and Matt Kemp in left field is the probable-outlook for the Dodgers for the remainder of the season. Utilizing Kike Hernandez and Chris Taylor in utility roles with Joc Pederson being on the roster as well only makes it harder for Verdugo. Despite their unwillingness to play him regularly at the big league level, the Dodgers have reportedly refused to make Verdugo available in trade discussions with other organizations. I think he will be up as a bench bat in September, but the jury is out on any useful playing time. Still a name to keep in mind.
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Featured image courtesy of Minor League baseball and photographer Bobby Stevens