Dynasty managers are never satisfied. The moment a new prospects breaks out, we’re already moving on wondering who’s next in line. I’ve already seen an inquiry about who can be the next Kristian Robinson. And while that’s comical, I get it. I always want to be the first to beat my leaguemates to the punch and reap the rewards.
But it takes a special type of prospect to really possess the upside and skill to become the number one prospect in baseball. Below I’ve laid out nine prospects that have the ability to become baseball’s top prospect. Minor leaguers have a big bust rate as is, so it’s near a fool’s errand to pinpoint who can be the top prospect, but this is a fun exercise that lets us hypothesize what needs to go right for players.
This article was inspired by CBS Sports’ Chris Towers’ similarly constructed article but on major leaguers who could eventually become the number one overall fantasy pick.
It Might Happen in 2020
Wander Franco, SS (TB)
How He Becomes #1: Just wait for Vlad Jr, Eloy Jimenez, Victor Robles and Fernando Tatis Jr. to graduate this season? Franco is the logical pick to become baseball’s next top prospect. He’s already top 10 around different publications and inside the top five in many of them, including ours. That’s quite the statement for someone who just turned 18 earlier this month. Premium position, plus-plus hit tool, potential plus power and speed. He has it all and he just needs to keep doing it.
Why He Won’t: For all the success he had in rookie ball, it was still rookie ball. Franco has yet to face upper level pitchers who know how to sequence and have better secondaries. To put it into perspective, the best pitching prospects in the Appy League last year, at least by industry status, were Eric Pardinho, Shane Baz, and Luis Gil. That’s it. Franco shouldn’t have much trouble if he starts in either Hudson Valley or Bowling Green, but it’s simply a matter of repeating and showing he can handle better pitching.
Royce Lewis, SS (MIN)
How He Becomes #1: Continue developing his plus hit tool with the hopes he gets it to a 70. That’d allow him to tap into a little more power thanks to his great bat speed and hand-eye coordination. Not unlike Franco, with Lewis it’s just a lot of the status quo.
Why He Won’t: Lewis doesn’t currently possess an elite tool, with his speed currently grading out as his best asset. If his hit tool maxes out at “just” plus and his power remains the same, that’ll still be a really good profile, but one that hangs outside the top five for the duration of his minor league seasons.
Jo Adell, OF (LAA)
How He Becomes #1: Take his pitch recognition to the next level. After torching A-ball, Adell jumped to High-A and later Double-A, all as a 19-year-old. But in the latter two stops he combined for a 25 K% and 6 BB%. The next big step for him is continuing to develop his eye which will in turn make him more selective and that leads to tapping into his 70 raw in games. These steps will turn him into the 30/20 monster ceiling we envision.
Why He Won’t: He never takes that step forward and remains league average in walk rate and hovers around a 25-28 K%, capping his upside. I don’t envsion a scenario where his power ever diminishes because he’s that strong, but as he continues growing, he might gain mass at a quicker rate and drop to average speed rather than plus. We ultimately end up with the single-digit SB version of Justin Upton.
Dark Horse Candidates
Vidal Brujan, SS (TB)
How He Becomes #1: Develop the power and keep the speed. When you have a strong feel for the barrel and a pristine eye at the plate (68/63 K/BB in 2018), I think you’re primed for more power than you’re given credit for. The industry is no longer sleeping on the power of small, plus hit tool players and Brujan fits that mold. He already has some loft in his swing, it’s now about putting on some muscle, becoming a regular ‘teens home run guy and morph into the next Trea Turner.
Why He Won’t: Well, a 5’9”, 155-pound frame is going to need a fair amount of filling out if he’s to reach 15 home runs or more and he’ll have to do that without losing a step if he wants a shot to be number one overall. Staying on the dirt is a must as well, but something tells me the Rays might eventually move him to the outfield thanks to their crowded infield.
Jazz Chisholm, SS (ARI)
How He Becomes #1: Cut down on the aggressiveness and pull-heavy tendency and add more power. He already has the twitchiness and athleticism to remain at the six, as well as a lofted swing that can downright eat when he connects. Regularly utilizing an all-fields approach as well as lowering the strikeout rate into the low 20s will shoot Chisholm way up, especially if he shows he’s a regular 20-home run hitter.
Why He Won’t: Pitch recognition and swing-and-miss issues are hard to completely overhaul, and Chisholm’s issues in those areas are red flags. Right now you have to really squint to see his hit tool as a 50 and you’re not sniffing a #1 spot with anything below that.
Kristian Robinson, OF (ARI)
How He Becomes #1: He uses his huge athleticism to refine his skillset, tapping into plus game power while retaining at least plus speed and flashes an average hit tool all while tearing through Kane County. Robinson is the dynasty industry’s hottest helium ticket, rising a ton already (we ranked him 28 in our Fantasy Top 100).
Why He Won’t: In 256 PA in rookie ball he had a 24 K% and while the slash lines looked great, keep in mind he ran about a .370 BABIP on the season. Like Chisholm, this is a red flag right now, indicating that full-season numbers might be a lot less exciting than we’re anticipating. He also has a pull-heavy approach that he’ll need to get away from. In other words, whatever Chisholm does to rectify his problems, just make sure Robinson is in the same room.
Luis Robert, OF (CHW)
How He Becomes #1: He finally puts the injuries behind him and gets enough reps to improve his hit tool to above-average from its current fringe/fringe-average stage. The power gets a half-grade boost and he maintains his plus speed, finally delivering on the dynamic prospect hype we were promised.
Why He Won’t: Hit tool matters and it’s unclear right now if it can ever manage to reach 50, . Without it, his game power might not get past 55 and we’re left looking at a good overall profile with great flashes but a lack of consistency. In his top 30 White Sox post, Lance noted that there’s a lack of lower body usage and looking at spring training clips, I still see that. That’ll cap his power because unlike future teammate Eloy, he’s not that strong.
Marco Luciano, SS (SF)
How He Becomes #1: Fills out his frame to get into his plus raw power in games and shows he can be an all-fields threat able to hit for average and power. He’s got natural loft and good bat speed, and spring training looks have only served to elevate his status even more, showcasing that he’s gotten a little more meat on his bones, along with a wonderfully fluid swing that has almost no wasted motion. All while staying at shortstop.
Why He Won’t: Luciano hasn’t had enough time to showcase flaws in his game because he hasn’t played a professional game. So why he won’t he be number one? Well, similar to all international guys or rookie ball players, he hasn’t faced good pitching yet and we don’t know if there are holes in his swing waiting to be exposed.
Cristian Pache, OF (ATL)
How He Becomes #1: He takes another step forward in power, proving his can be an upper ‘teens home run player with a chance at 20, and he goes back to successfully stealing bases, a part of his game that was missing entirely in 2018. Now that he isn’t focusing on power, he can refine his plate discipline and become league-average in walk rates, eliminating concerns about overaggressiveness.
Why He Won’t: That was a lot of “ifs”, huh? I don’t think Pache has a chance at being the top prospect if he keeps getting exposed on the outer part of the plate and lets his overaggressiveness get the best of him, limiting his walks and ability to barrel the ball with consistency, which would cap his numbers. But we’ve seen his ability to make big strides in a season, so while I’m probably the lowest Prospects Live member on him, there’s a reason he makes this list.
If I Had To Choose A Pitcher