Top 10 Prospects: March 29

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Christopher Crawford
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Is it that time already?

Here we go, folks. The top 10 prospects to open the 2021 season. A reminder: This is NOT a ranking of overall prospects, this is only based on potential protection for the upcoming season. Also, a reminder that this is only a list of players who are currently in the minors normally, but for this week’s list, we’re including players that have been told they’ll make the roster as well. And finally, this is a list with fantasy considerations.

Those caveats out of the way, here’s the first look at the top 10 prospects for the 2021 season.

1. Randy Arozarena, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

2020 stats: 23 G, .281/.382/.641, 7 HR, 4 SB, 6 BB, 22 SO at Tampa Bay.

It seems weird that Arozarena is considered a prospect still after his dominant -- and I do mean dominant -- performance in the postseason, but he is, and he’s easily the top name on this list. No, you shouldn’t expect the kind of numbers he put up in October because baseball is hard, but Arozarena should be a helper in every category while playing for a still good Tampa Bay club. There’s ceiling and there’s floor. Arozarena appears to offer a high combination of both. That’s good.

2. Ian Anderson, RHP, Atlanta Braves

2020 stats: 6 G, 32.1 IP, 1.95 ERA, 1 HR, 14 BB, 41 SO at Atlanta.

And speaking of dominant in the postseason. Anderson was sensational in his work in October, and as you can see from those numbers above -- same for Arozarena, for the record/before anyone yells at me -- he was darn good in his six starts with the Braves before the playoffs. He can miss bats with the best of them, and while there will be some walks that go along with the strikeouts, the WHIP shouldn’t be a problematic figure for fantasy players. Add in the fact that the Braves should be very good and give plenty of chances for wins, and you have an excellent fantasy pitching prospect for the short and long-term. We only care about the short-term for this, but, worth mentioning.

3. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

2020 stats: 24 G, .376/.442/.682, 5 HR, 1 SB, 9 BB, 20 SO at Pittsburgh.

Hayes didn’t get a chance to play in the postseason because Pittsburgh was awful, but his 24 games with the Pirates couldn’t have gone much better. He’s also ripped up spring training pitching with a 1.145 OPS, if that’s something you’re interested in. Hayes doesn’t have elite power, but he has a chance for a plus-plus hit tool, and he’s also got the speed to provide double digit steals from a position that you don’t see many reach that number. Hayes is immensely talented, and if he finished the season as the best rookie in both leagues, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

4. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Miami Marlins

2020 stats: 20 G, 39 IP, 3.46 ERA, 3 HR, 11 BB, 33 SO at Miami.

Sanchez may or may not begin the season in the starting rotation, which is one of the reasons why he’s below players like Anderson and Hayes (no one was competing with Arozarena for that top spot). Still, he’s deserving of a high ranking as a pitcher who more than held his own in the majors last season -- and also had an impressive postseason outing against the Cubs, for the record -- and has some of the best stuff of any young pitcher in baseball. He’ll miss bats, he will limit the self-inflicted damage and his rates should make him extremely fantasy relevant -- if there’s such a thing as extreme fantasy relevancy, anyway -- for the 2021 season.

5. Dylan Carlson, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

2020 stats: 35 G, .200/.252/.364, 3 HR, 1 SB, 8 BB, 35 SO at St. Louis.

Carlson struggled in his 110 at-bats with the Cardinals last year, but that’s a small sample that shouldn’t dissuade fantasy players from considering one of the best outfield prospects in baseball. He’s a 22-year-old switch-hitter who can hit for both average and power, and there’s enough speed to project a solid number of steals -- assuming St. Louis lets him run enough to to reach that goal. Carlson is locked in with a starting role to begin the year, and there’s plenty of reasons for optimism for the former first-round pick in 2021. The limited risk is worth the potential reward.

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6. Andrew Vaughn, 1B/OF, Chicago White Sox

2019 stats: 55 G, .278/.384/.449, 6 HR, 0 SB, 30 BB, 38 SO at short-season White Sox, Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem.

Well, this escalated quickly. Vaughn has never played at the Double-A level, but all signs seem to be pointing to the 22-year-old -- 23 on Saturday -- making the White Sox roster. The third-overall pick of the 2019 draft makes hard contact to every part of the field, and there’s plenty of power in his right-handed bat as well. The only reason Vaughn ranks this “low” is because there is some risk that comes from his lack of experience, and he won’t provide any help in terms of stolen bases. Still, he can help everywhere, and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to me if this is a few spots too low when we look back.

7. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners

2019 stats: 117 G, .291/.364/.540, 23 HR, 20 SB, 50 BB, 111 SO at High-A Modesto and Double-A Arkansas.

Kelenic is the only position player on this list that isn’t going to open the season on an MLB roster, so next week’s list is going to look much, much different. You can probably guess who will be on that top spot. Kelenic won’t make his debut until late April or early May after an ankle injury and service-time shenanigans, but this is a five-category helper who has looked like one of the best prospects in baseball in Arizona. There’s a good reason for that, he is. There aren’t many prospects who are worth a hold in redraft formats. Kelenic is certainly one of them.

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8. Ryan Mountcastle, OF/1B, Baltimore Orioles

2020 stats: 35 G, .333/.386/.492, 5 HR, 0 SB, 11 BB, 30 SO at Baltimore.

Mountcastle finally got a chance to hit in Baltimore last year, and he was one of the best rookies in baseball; at least offensively. He would have made this list even if he had struggled in Florida, but a .630 slugging percentage as of Sunday in the Grapefruit League has helped show off his impressive power. The ball jumps off his bat and he keeps the strikeouts to a low roar, but if there’s a concern here it’s that he still has a long way to go in terms of patience. Still, the chance to hit for average and power while likely hitting around the middle of the Baltimore lineup make him a fantasy buy for 2021.

9. Nick Madrigal, 2B, Chicago White Sox

2020 stats: 29 G, .340/.376/.369, 0 HR, 2 SB, 4 BB, 7 SO at Chicago.

Madrigal is a divisive prospect, and it’s not hard to understand why. On one hand, he’s a middle infielder who is extremely difficult to strike out and can make contact regardless of the count -- he hit .321 with two strikes on him last year -- and his plus speed makes him a threat to steal 25-to-30 bases in a normal year. There’s also very little power in his bat -- although probably more than his slugging percentage suggests last year -- and asking for more than double digit homers is asking too much. If he was an outfielder Madrigal wouldn’t make this list, but because he’s at second base, he’s deserving of fantasy consideration.

10. Taylor Trammell, OF, Seattle Mariners

2019 stats: .234/.340/.349, 10 HR, 20 SB, 67 BB, 122 SO at Double-A Chattanooga and Double-A Amarillo.

There are a bunch of candidates for this final spot, including a few players that are going to be on MLB rosters and a few elite prospects that will not be. I go with Trammell in that final spot because he’s going to make the roster, and it’s hard not to be impressed with what he’s done in Arizona with a .302/.388/.628 slash with three homers and a couple of steals in 18 games. There’s above-average power potential in his left-handed bat, and he’s a smart hitter who should get on at a high mark as well; even if the patience will lead to some strikeouts. There’s a bit of an outfield logjam in Seattle especially when that Kelenic guy gets the call, but Trammell still has a good chance to help in redraft leagues in 2021.

Next in line: Leody Taveras, OF, Texas Rangers; Casey Mize, RHP, Detroit Tigers; Jonathan India, 2B, Cincinnati Reds; Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays; Tarik Skubal, LHP, Detroit Tigers; Alex Kirilloff, OF, Minnesota Twins; Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland; MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres; Jazz Chisholm, 2B, Miami Marlins; Cristian Pache, OF, Atlanta Braves; Deivi Garcia, RHP, New York Yankees