Written by: Ray Butler
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Opening Day is THIS week! What better way to celebrate than some bold predictions for the upcoming season? I’ll release the MLB version on Thursday. Until then, here’s six prospect bold predictions to wet your beak.
Luis Garcia (PHI) and Ronny Mauricio are both top-25 prospects at the end of 2019
Both Garcia and Mauricio made my 2019 prospect obsession list, and I’m confident both will make their presence felt in the prospect world this season. The 18-year-olds will debut in Low-A on MiLB Opening Day, an accomplishment in and of itself. For Mauricio (#111 in my latest top-200), it will be the emerging power/hit combination that leads to his quick ascension on prospect lists. Garcia’s (#110 in my latest top-200) power output likely won’t match that of Mauricio (though it might), but the former’s stolen base output will narrow any gap that a home run disparity might create (it should also be noted that Mauricio has been active on the base paths in MLB games this spring). Oh yeah, both teenagers will make notable strides offensively in 2019 while displaying exquisite defensive tools at shortstop. The arrow is pointing straight up for Garcia and Mauricio heading into the regular season, and you’ll be paying a premium price to acquire them in your dynasty league by the end of the year.
PS: The Phillies’ version of Luis Garcia is the better version of Luis Garcia.
Kyle Muller becomes the 2nd-ranked left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball
Let’s get specific: I think Muller’s K% meets or exceeds 28.0% this season, which would be a 5% increase from 2017 and 2018. I dove into the ‘why’ in my prospect obsession list, but I’ll make a long story short: for the first time in his career, the left-hander’s fastball will sit at 93-95 mph. He’ll pair the pitch with a plus changeup and an above average slider, both of which could take another step while supporting Muller’s improved heater. For what it’s worth, I think MacKenzie Gore will be the only southpaw ranked higher than Muller (#160 in my latest top-200) by the end of the 2019 season, meaning the 21-year-old will surpass A.J. Puk, Brendan McKay and Adrian Morejon amongst others throughout the regular season. I also think Muller plays an important role for the Braves at some point this season. (Graph courtesy of Minor Graphs)
Dylan Carlson and Brennen Davis both become top-100 prospects
Neither were included in my 2019 top-200, but VIP members read about them in the #201-250 portion. I included Carlson in my prospect obsession list, and I regret not including Davis. As you know, the Cardinals use dark magic in their farm system to seemingly create top-tier prospects out of thin air. This season, the voodoo will give us Carlson, a tooled-up, switch-hitting outfielder who’s on the cusp of a big offensive breakthrough. He’ll ascend prospect lists this season as a 20-year-old in Double-A, where his poor BABIP from last season should positively regress. Pair that with increased access to plus raw power, and Carlson becomes a legitimate prospect who could be ready to make a big league impact by sometime next season. (Graph courtesy of Minor Graphs)
Davis is at a much lower stage of development than Carlson, but he probably has more upside. Our Dylan Matthews is a big fan of Davis and profiled him in February. Then, Prospect Live’s Jason Pennini got a live look at Davis a couple of weeks ago and witnessed some astounding strides.
Brennen Davis – Huge swing improvements. Cubs player dev has done a masterful job. keeping weight back, front foot still in air at slot. improved lower 1/2 use & strong back leg. Better F/T. Hands closer to body -> shorter path. KE transfer thru hips. Thanks to @SoCalSteve9 for📹 pic.twitter.com/ooYwKiZ35U
— Jason Pennini (@JasonPennini) March 14, 2019
Full season ball should be in store for Davis on MiLB Opening Day, and he seems destined to really burst onto the scene in 2019.
Kristian Robinson ranks higher than Wander Franco by the end of 2019
The Bahamian teenager was my breakout prospect pick for the 2019 season, my 51st-ranked prospect in my latest top-200 and an obvious choice for this year’s prospect obsession list. Why? Because saying ‘the sky is the limit’ for Robinson might not be doing him justice. There’s a real chance the 18-year-old finishes the 2019 regular season in High-A (California League), which would culminate a campaign I suspect will be headlined by a .350 OBP/20 HR/25 SB line. That still might not be enough for Robinson to surpass Franco, who I’m not dissing whatsoever with this prediction. But when the dust settles, I think the former will rank slightly ahead of the latter. And if the strikeout rate dips below the 25.0% mark this season, there’s a real chance Robinson sniffs the #1 spot. Heck, Prospects Live’s Matt Thompson recently made that prediction.
Kevin Smith is this season’s Nick Gordon
The latter ranked 120th in my preseason rankings a year ago, but a disappointing campaign (.298 OBP and 83 wRC+ between Double-A and Triple-A) led to Gordon’s complete omission from my list this spring. He didn’t even make the VIP portion of the list (#201-250). It will look a lot different than Gordon’s lackluster 2018 season, but I could see a similar descent for Smith this season. I ranked the 22-year-old 95th in my recently-released top-200, though I already feel like it was quite the optimistic placement. Perhaps too much so. My fear with Smith is the strikeout rate, which could rise to a level against Double-A pitching that would certainly eat into his slash numbers and the dynamic power/speed combination. A 27.0 K%, 7.0 BB% output is certainly within the realm of possibility for the shortstop, which would likely keep the OBP near the .300 mark. And base running against increasingly-advanced pitchers and catchers, I don’t foresee Smith matching the 29 stolen bases he compiled last season. 15-20 swipes feels about right. 15-20 home runs, too. How valuable is a .320 OBP, 15 HR, 15 SB, 27.0 K% season from a 23-year-old shortstop prospect? It might be poor enough to keep him completely excluded from postseason top-200 lists.
Royce Lewis becomes the top overall prospect
How can saying this about my current 5th-ranked prospect be considered a bold prediction? You should see the dozens of DMs I’ve received this preseason in which followers/prospectors basically assume Wander Franco will be the top prospect in baseball by the end of the 2019 season. There’s a very real possibility that happens. As a matter of fact, Franco would probably be the Vegas favorite to land in the top spot by this fall, if not sooner. It’s crazy that a former #1 overall draft pick who posted a .352 OBP/14 HR/28 SB line as an 18-and-19-year-old in Low-A and High-A last season is considered somewhat of a long shot to reach the top of the mountain in the prospect world, but I’ll take Royce Lewis to accomplish that feat this season. A .350 OBP/18 HR/25 SB campaign between High-A and Double-A might make this dream come true, especially since the makeup and leadership qualities are reportedly off the charts. (Graph courtesy of Minor Graphs)
AL Rookie of the Year: Eloy Jimenez, who nears 30 home runs with a .330 OBP
NL Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles, who hits 15 home runs and steals 25 bases with a .340 OBP
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Featured image courtesy of Tom Hagerty and MiLB.com