We’ve been planting our flags, hyping up sleepers and being aggressive on our lists all offseason long. Now let’s take it to another level. With the digital ink below, we’re looking at bold predictions for hitters. Theoretically, none of what you read below should be an easy slam dunk. It should be close to absurd but have juuuuust enough leeway to make you say “Maybe?”.
Kyle Lewis is a top 25 prospect by end of 2019
Health, y’all. It seems Kyle Lewis has it again and that’s the best thing we could ask of the former Golden Spikes winner. When the Mariners drafted him 11th overall in 2016, he was a specimen, lauded for his natural power, speed and discerning eye. JP saw him in spring training and came away impressed.
While spring results don’t matter, it was nice to see him go 9-for-21 with three doubles and three home runs. Injuries have deprived us from what could have been a truly explosive profile, but his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame is still full of potential. I don’t think there are any significant changes Lewis has to make to complete this prediction. I’m buying where I can. -Eddy Almaguer
Kristian Robinson is the number one prospect at the end of 2019
You wanted bold, right? This is no slight against Rays SS Wander Franco, but I love Robinson and am projecting him to rise to the top of the prospect mountain in 2019. He has it all. The power. The speed. The makeup. The body. Everything you’re looking for from a prospect. Anytime a “more athletic Eloy” is a possible outcome then its worth paying a little extra attention. Robinson should begin 2019 in the Midwest League but I don’t think he’s there very long before getting bumped to the Cal League. An absolute must add everywhere. -Matt Thompson
Nico Hoerner and Joey Bart both debut in July and exhaust their rookie eligibility.
I’m honestly convinced this will happen. We’ve seen the videos from Jason Pennini on Hoerner and Bart. We’ve seen the production against advanced competition already. Hoerner mashed during the Spring and in the AFL. Bart has been the talk of Giants camp winning the Barney Nugent award as the best performer in camp. They both look likely to start their first full professional seasons in the upper-minors, my guess is AA for both, and that likely puts them on the fast track if they perform. The Cubs are in win now with this window, and my suspicions are their choice of Hoerner was heavily influenced by his fast track to the majors. Though Hoerner’s emancipation from the Stanford philosophy has been eye-opening, so there were certainly plenty of other reasons to make the pick. The idea of an infield headed by Bryant, Baez, Rizzo, and Hoerner heading into the stretch run looks pretty fearsome.
As for Bart it’s a little more tricky as the Giants are expected to compete, but it the way he’s hung around camp the Giants might want Bart in the bigs sooner rather than later. He brings the sort of leadership and awareness typically not synonymous with catcher fresh from the draft. Bart seems bolder than Hoerner, but I just get the feeling we see 200+ PAs from both. - Ralph Lifshitz
Danny Jansen will be the top fantasy catcher in the American League and Top 3 overall
As the Jays start the rebuild, the first position player prospect to win a starting job is not Vlad or Bo. It isn’t Anthony Alford or Lourdes Gurriel. It’s Danny Jansen. Jansen took over the catching duties late last season, appearing in 31 games. Jansen held his own, showing the elite approach and bat control that he displayed in the upper levels of the minors. Even when pitchers get the best of Jansen, he still puts together tough at-bats, works deep into counts, and shows an ability to spoil pitchers pitches. In 2018, Jansen hit a career high 15 HR between Toronto and Buffalo. His feel for the barrel combined with hitting MLB baseballs in the Rogers Centre should make him a guy to target at the thinnest position in fantasy. Emerging power with elite bat-to-ball skills is exciting so I am bit befuddled that he still seems to be flying so far under-the-radar. I’m not predicting…I’m telling you that .275/.350/.480+ with 30 doubles and 20+ HR is happening this year. He is money in the bank. - Jason Woodell
Yusniel Diaz will win the American League Rookie of the Year
In a world, or at least a league, that currently revolves around Guerrero Jr and Eloy Jimenez, it’s Yusniel Diaz that will stand out in the American League. Rather than go into reasons why Guerrero won’t win the award (health/durability), I’d rather point out what it is that vaults Diaz to the top of the list.
The guy can do a little bit of everything. For a Baltimore team that will be lucky to win 65 games this season, Diaz is the guy that they can call upon regardless of what situation may arise.
If the club is in need of a guy that can get on base: he posted a .392 OBP last season. If they need a guy that can simply shore up an otherwise shaky defensive outfield: he takes over right field and creates a nice 1-2 punch with Cedric Mullins. Or, perhaps they need a guy that can find the gaps and drive in runs (Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo aren’t doing any of that): Diaz posted a 22% LD% while homering 11 times in 354 minor-league AB’s. Sure, he appeared to struggle a bit after the Dodgers traded him to Baltimore, but that was largely due to a .267 BABIP.
The fact remains that he had some bad luck while trying to adjust to a new league. Take a look at his Avg. FB Distance and you’ll see that he has the ability to drive the ball, and given his contact skills, that is what will force the Orioles to give him a shot in 2019. With an Ave. FB Distance near 325 feet, he should accumulate a fair amount of home runs in the hitter-friendly AL East. And ultimately, his 20/20 season earns him ROY honors. - Kris Dunn
Nick Senzel will win NL Rookie of the Year
The Reds made a series of moves in the off-season that were designed to help the team contend this season but despite that they still sent Nick Senzel to AAA to start 2019. This is likely to manipulate service time in the club’s favor, though the fact he only played 44 games last year due to injury may be playing a factor. However, the reality of the situation in Cincinnati is this: An outfield of Jesse Winker, Yasiel Puig, Scott Schebler, and Matt Kemp isn’t going to cut it for an elongated period. Despite the fact that he is learning a new position in centerfield, Senzel is a better option there than anyone on the big league roster.
If the Reds are serious about competing this year, Senzel’s stay in Louisville will be short a la Kris Bryant in 2015. If he gets called up by the third week of April and plays in at least 140 games this season, he might be a fantasy league winner. The walk rate (9.8%) and strikeout rate (20.2%) will need to improve from 2018 but the hit tool will play regardless of that. Being at full health and playing in the Great American Bandbox will help the power numbers reach his 60-GamePower ceiling. A suddenly formidable Reds lineup will boost the counting stats more than enough to pave the way for Senzel to be multi-category stud and beat out Victor Robles for NL Rookie of the Year. - Jason Kamlowsky