I’ve spent the last few weeks wading through the outfields of every major league farm system and found six teams especially well stocked (prior to today’s “top ten”) .
*Los Angeles Dodgers (3) with Alex Verdugo (Draft Now), Jeren Kendall (#23) and Yusniel Diaz (#24)
*Miami Marlins (3) with Lewis Brinson (Draft Now), Monte Harrison (#15) and Magneuris Sierra (#28)
*Los Angeles Angels (2) with Jo Adell (#13) and Jahmai Jones (#18)
*Oakland Athletics (2) with Jorge Mateo (#16) and Dustin Fowler (#21)
*Philadelphia Phillies (2) with Adam Haseley (#19) and Mickey Moniak (#20)
*St. Louis Cardinals with (2) Tyler O’Neill (#22) and Harrison Bader (#26)
There have been several young players who continue to perform at high levels, making names for themselves, most notably Brent Rooker (#25, MIN), Tristen Lutz (#29, MIL), and Heliot Ramos (#12, SFO). The final 10 on our list are no exception, with many of them poised to break into their clubs’ every day line-ups in 2018.
#10 Anthony Alford (age 23), Toronto Blue Jays
Current Ranks: BA (60); PIPE (47); ETA: 2018
2017 (MiLB): 77 G, 43 R, 15 2B, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 19 SB, 0.299/ 0.390/ 0.406
2017 (MLB): 4 G, 8 AB, 1 H, 1 2B
At 6’1″, 215, Alford is built like an NFL running back and runs like a track star. He has elite speed that allows him to patrol center field getting to almost everything hit in his area code. Alford makes steady, solid contact but not gifted with loads of power. As he gets stronger, perhaps that power number will shift upwards, but as of today, we are looking at a 15 HR/ 40 SB guy who could be a great table-setter. Alford gets on base regularly because of a combination of solid contact plus excellent plate discipline. Coming off an injury-filled 2017 (losing half the season and only playing seven games between AAA and the MLB), I expect Alford to start 2018 in AAA and get the call in late-May.
#9 Leody Taveras (age 19), Texas Rangers
Current Ranks: BA (51); PIPE (34); ETA: 2020
2017: 134 G, 73 R, 20 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 50 RBI, 20 SB, 0.249/ 0.312/ 0.360
A switch hitter, Taveras has a smooth swing from both sides of the plate. Industry sentiment is that he is a better hitter from the left side of the dish, but the splits don’t demand he focus on one side … yet. Over the last two years, he has been an average 3.3 years younger than his league-wide competition, but he’s been generating solid batting numbers with decent walk to strikeout ratios. As he advances through the Rangers’ system and matures, his numbers will continue to improve, especially his steals. His 60-grade speed (on an 80-scale) allows him to more than adequately cover ground in center with his arm being plenty strong enough to make nearly every throw from either outfield position.
#8 Estevan Florial (age 20), New York Yankees
Current Ranks: BA (38); PIPE (44); ETA: 2020
2017: 110 G, 77 R, 23 2B, 7 3B, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 23 SB, 0.298/ 0.372/ 0.479
Florial is an absolute blazer, that actually can hit for power as well. He can run gap to gap and make all the throws from deep. However, there is a wrinkle in the sheets … while he makes hard contact, his overly aggressive plate approach leads to swings and misses. A lot of them. To the tune of 31.09% last year and 28.41% already in his brief 234-game minor league career. But all the things Florial CAN do has you hoping that he can overcome that gaudy strikeout percentage (I mean, Aaron Judge struckout 30.68% of the time last year). Raw left-handed power, with speed, and a cannon, playing in Yankee Stadium? All for the bargain signing of only $200,000 in 2015? What a steal.
#7 Kyle Tucker (age 21), Houston Astros
Current Ranks: BA (15); PIPE (16); ETA: 2018
2017: 120 G, 70 R, 33 2B, 5 3B, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 21 SB, 0.274/ 0.346/ 0.528
I am just not as high on Tucker as so many others. He has solid grades across the board (80 maximum-scale):
Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 45 | Overall: 60
“Overall 60” is a big number. Only 8 current prospects grade higher than that overall number. But something just does not scream *superstar* to me. While I believe he eventually will be a solid contributor in an Astro outfield, I’m just looking for *more* at the A+/ AA level from the number 15.5 prospect in baseball. Perhaps the issue has been that lower-level pitchers are notorious for having no idea where the strikezone is and Tucker should be lauded for his production. (And when he gets to AAA and subsequently the MLB, where pitchers are always around the plate, he’ll really show off his talents.) I hope that is the case. No doubt this kid is good, just not as good as the next six on the list.
#6 Taylor Trammell (age 20), Cincinnati Reds
Current Ranks: BA (48); PIPE (43); ETA: 2020
2017: 129 G, 80 R, 24 2B, 10 3B, 13 HR, 77 RBI, 41 SB, 0.281/ 0.368/ 0.450
Trammell could pour water on Billy Hamilton, sprint away, and not get caught. Okay, not quite true (Hamilton’s speed was graded as a 90 where Trammell is a 70), but a few zigs and zags and Trammell could at least keep Hamilton guessing for a moment. But Trammell brings something to the Reds’ outfield they haven’t seen since Eric Davis: a combination of speed and power. Already making improvements at the plate, in just one year, his discipline rates have moved in the right direction (walks up 3.4%, strikeouts down 0.86%) while still making hard contact and wreaking havoc when on the basepaths. As he develops strength, the home runs will continue to rise as well, leaving only his arm as his “weakest link.” With everything else being as great as it is, I’ll take the slightly below-average arm and call it a day, thank you very much.
#5 Austin Hays (age 22), Baltimore Orioles
Current Ranks: BA (21); PIPE (23); ETA: 2018
2017 (MiLB): 128 G, 81 R, 32 2B, 32 HR, 95 RBI, 0.329/ 0.365/ 0.593
2017 (MLB): 20 G, 4 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 0.217/ 0.238/ 0.317
In just his second season of pro ball, Hays exploded onto the prospect scene in 2017 with a phenomenal season in the Orioles’ minor league system. Nearly identical splits between 64 games at High-A Frederick ad 64 games at Double-A Bowie earned Hays a September cup of coffee with the Orioles. And it was not a disaster, but it did crater his statistical profile. Many players have successfully made the jump from AA to the MLB, but generally, they’re pitchers. Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter that ever lived, once said this: “The hardest thing to do in baseball is hit a round ball with a round bat … squarely.” Because it IS so difficult, give Hays the time he needs to develop and maintain the confidence he’s established from a career of successes at the minor league level, which includes a career 0.330 average with 36 HR in 166 games. If the Orioles are not patient with this kid, I just pray for his sake that the damage isn’t career altering, because he is a dynamite talent.
#4 Juan Soto (age 19), Washington Nationals
Current Ranks: BA (56); PIPE (29); ETA: 2020
2017: 32 G, 18 R, 6 2B, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 0.351/ 0.415/ 0.505
Soto was sidelined throughout much of 2017 with a laundry list of injuries, but still managed to get in about 5-6 weeks of play. All he did was walk more than he struckout and score (18) as many as he drove in (18 as he got his first taste of full-season pro ball. An average fielder, his bat is what will carry him through the minors to the majors. As he matures, he’ll add more strength to his 6’1″ frame, further increasing his power. The Nationals are flat out loaded in the outfield with their current MLB roster and Soto and a minor league mate (see #1!) waiting in the wings.
#3 Luis Robert (age 20), Chicago White Sox
Current Ranks: BA (58); PIPE (28); ETA: 2020
2017: 28 G, 17 R, 8 2B, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 0.310/ 0.491/ 0.536
Robert’s debut stateside came on a near-record IFA signing with the White Sox for $26.0M. He didn’t play the entire season at the Rookie level because of knee and ankle injuries, but he did manage to get into 28 games and rake, supporting the productivity he experienced in Cuba’s highest league in 2016. Robert possesses power and speed, a terrific combination to pair with his above-average arm and defending. Once promoted, he could easily stick as the White Sox CF for the next decade. White Sox Nation is eager to see how their prized-Cuban outfielder does in his first season of American pro ball.
#2 Eloy Jimenez (age 21), Chicago White Sox
Current Ranks: BA (56); PIPE (29); ETA: 2018
2017: 89 G, 54 R, 22 2B, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 0.312/ 0.379/ 0.568
When Jiminez isn’t destroying light towers in batting practice displays, he’s destroying opponent’s pitching. Arguably one of the preeminent power hitters lurking in the minor leagues in 2018, Jimenez is nearly ready for everyday-MLB at bats. My concern is again that jump from AA to MLB, as Jimenez has zero career at bats above AA, although he does exhibit excellent plate discipline with improving seasonal walk rates and a career strikeout rate under 20.0%. That skill generally does travel, so maybe I’m a Nervous Nellie for nothing. My thoughts here are that the White Sox are not competing for a title in 2018, so there’s no reason to rush Jimenez’s progression. Give him half (or even the whole) season at AAA and let him mash. Let him force his way into the White Sox big league lineup because his skill set says, “… I’m ready. Now.”
#1 Victor Robles (age 20), Washington Nationals
Current Ranks: BA (5); PIPE (6); ETA: 2018
2017 (MiLB): 114 G, 73 R, 37 2B, 8, 3B, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 27 SB, 0.300/ 0.382/ 0.493
2017 (MLB): 13 G, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 4 RBI, 0.250/ 0.308/ 0.458
Believe it or not, Robles has no home in the Nationals’ outfield at present. That’s actually a good thing! Yet another dynamic prospect who made the AA-to-MLB leap this past season. (I swear that was as contagious as the flu last year.) Robles has lights-out speed, defense, and arm-strength which would allow him to play anywhere the Nationals need him in their outfield. Anywhere. He’s a have bat /will travel sort BUT with an unusual accompanying carry-on for such a young player: the ability to put the ball in play. He does need to walk more (minor league career 6.99% walk rate), but only a career 14.93% strikeout rate exhibits an exceptional ratio for 2018 free swingers. Because this is a kid that needs to be on base, whether he hits himself on (which he is highly capable of doing) or draws the walk. Like few in the game, Robles has the ability to quickly move from first to third before the batter behind him has up in the count 2-0. Hopefully, the Nationals realize there’s no urgency and send Robles to Syracuse (AAA) to terrorize AAA pitching for at least half the season. Give him more confidence there and then set him free and watch him fly.
After spending countless hours pouring through every roster, I know that I’m ready to begin working the phones with my fellow Dynasty League GMs to accumulate as many of these top 35 outfielders. I hope that you’ve found this helpful as I’ve attempted to identify many that may be also be outside the standard ranking lists (and why).
Stay tuned for the next couple weeks as we explore Draft Results looking for some ADP Gems.
Major Fantasy Basbeall Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 8th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #104 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guests this week are Todd Zola and Joe Iannone. Todd is the owner of mastersball.com. He is also a well known and respected man in the fantasy baseball community. Joe is a tenured writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Click on his name to see his portfolio of writing. His main focus is in the pitching arena and his articles publish every Sunday morning at 7am EST.