TDG Roundtable: The Next Top Prospect (by the end of 2021)
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week’s roundtable topic is who will be the top prospect in baseball by the end of the 2021 season?
Marco Luciano, SS, San Francisco Giants
Prospect lists should look very different at the end of 2021. Wander Franco, Gavin Lux, Jo Adell plus many more should have graduated, but the best one that will remain will be Marco Luciano. Last year, he demolished the AZL as a 17-year-old, hitting .322/.438/.616. Not only does he have excellent bat-to-ball skills, but he also has plus power with great plate discipline. His max exit velocity of 109 MPH is impressive for someone so young. You rarely see this combination of plus-hit and plus-power. He is playing shortstop but I can easily see him move off the position and head towards the outfield. He should begin the 2021 season in Low-A and should move to High-A (and up to best prospect) by the end of the season.
Kristian Robinson, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Everyone loves power and speed, and Robinson has them both. The 19-year-old Diamondbacks prospect launched 14 homers and stole 17 bags in 69 nice games between two levels in 2019. On top of that Robinson can hit for average, hitting a combined .281 through the minors so far. He’s a true five-tool player and it’s a bummer we don’t get to see him play this season. Next year, though, assuming we’re back to some kind of normal, Robinson should be at Double-A in no time and on the precipice of a major league debut by the end of 2021. The one thing that could hold him back is his aggressive approach that leads to some swing and miss. He’s consistently had strikeout rates over 25% in the lower minors, so it’s worth keeping an eye on, but if he’s consistent or doesn’t see a huge increase in strikeouts he’s going to be hitting the snot out of the ball.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Detroit Tigers
Julio Rodriguez and Wander Franco would be wise picks here but they are unfortunately too good to be eligible; they will probably have eclipsed eligibility by the end of the 2021 season. If someone is going to make a run at the position, I think no better candidate exists than Spencer Torkelson. He put up the best age-relative numbers in the Pac-12 since 2013, substantially outperforming the league’s next best players, including Andrew Vaughn, Adley Rutschman, Michael Conforto, and Andrew Benintendi. I project him to peak as one of baseball’s best players, peaking with a .432 wOBA, with 15% BB, 23% K, and a .370 ISO. For reference, Andrew Vaughn was the 2nd best-projected Pac-12er since 2013, with a .407 peak wOBA, 16% K, 15% BB, and a .295 ISO. Of course, the scouting reports throughout the dynasty baseball community match up with the statistics on Torkelson–he’s already cracked the top 10 for Rotowire and Baseball Prospectus’ dynasty list–and the Tigers liked him enough to take him first overall. The most substantial risk here is he is simply too good to keep down in 2021 and eclipses his eligibility earlier in the season. Given he won’t have any minor league time this year, I don’t think he debuts until September 2021, and thus won’t eclipse eligibility until 2022. If your team is iffy this year and you aren’t optimistic about baseball’s chances of finishing the 2020 season, I would not hold it against you if you decided you’d rather dedicate your season to finding a socially acceptable way to t*nk for Tork.
Jasson Dominguez, OF, New York Yankees
Prospect fatigue is real. When it comes to prospect rankings, my criticism has long been that the more a player achieves, and the higher he climbs, the less interested a prospect hound becomes. Personally, I’d rather have the more proven Double or Triple-A guys over, let’s say, an 18-year-old flamethrower just out of high-school. But, in a way, the status quo makes sense. As a player gets closer to the MLB level, their ceiling also becomes more visible. Still, I maintain that what prospect hounds love more than a solid player is to dream on the “Next Big Thing,” often to one’s detriment. Regardless, let’s talk Jasson Dominguez, the 17-year-old former No.1 International Prospect, and “Next Big Thing” out of the Dominican. He’s an outfielder who is already drawing Mike Trout and Bo Jackson comparisons. No wonder ‘The Martian’ signed with the Yanks for $5.1 million. But Dominguez isn’t close to the majors. He wasn’t even considered for the 60-man player pool. As such, he will spend 2020 quietly refining his craft and building strength on his 5’10” frame. A hyped prospect like Dominguez can’t stay under the radar for long though, even during a pandemic. Reports continue leaking out and the Dominguez legend continues to grow. If and when we return to ‘normal,’ I expect him to annihilate the lower levels. These factors should swirl together into a massive hurricane of hype. And while I have no doubt that he will be a very good player, and hope to see him fulfill his potential, whether he does or not doesn’t matter. I think the myths around him, the immense upside scouts see, and a prodigious debut would work in his favor. Big time. There’s enough here to make him the top overall prospect for a couple of seasons. At least until he starts to sniff the majors.
Noelvi Marte, SS, Seattle Mariners
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Mariners have a prospect capable of being number one overall. I’m not referring to Kelenic or J-Rod, rather the next name in the wave of elite prospects Seattle is churning out these days: Noelvi Marte, who has all the tools to be the top prospect in baseball. The 6’1’’ righty signed out of the Dominican for $1.5 million in 2018 and already looks the part of a future star. As a 17-year-old, he dominated the DSL over 65 games to a tune of .309 average, with nine home runs, 17 stolen bases, and a .371 on-base percentage. He possesses above-average speed and is expected to grow into his power as he physically fills outs. Although he’s only 18, Marte received an invite to join the taxi squad this season, which is telling as to how much the Mariners like him. He still needs a few more years of seasoning before he’s ready for the majors (current ETA 2023) but with a big 2021 minor league season, we may be looking at the next number one prospect in baseball.
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners
This is not just a spicy take for fun; I truly believe that Julio Rodriguez will be the number one prospect in baseball by the end of the 2021 season. At 6’3” and 180 pounds at 19 years old, Rodriguez looks the part of one of baseball’s future stars. He has at least average or better tools across the board. He displays lightning-fast bat speed which contributes to his potential future double-plus power. Rodriguez does this without selling out at the plate. He makes consistently hard contact, exhibits plate discipline well beyond his years, runs the bases well, and profiles as a future corner outfielder. In 84 games at Low-A and High-A last season, Rodriguez had a slash line of .326/.390/.540 with 12 home runs, 69 runs batted in, and 26 doubles. If I were confident that Wander Franco would not be in the MLB by the end of next season he would most likely be the consensus pick here but JRod makes an excellent consolation prize. If you do not own him in dynasty leagues by now, good luck acquiring him. The price tag is going to seem unreasonably high for a teenager but it is with good reason.
CJ Abrams, SS, San Diego Padres
As I thought about who to put on this list, it has to be a guy that is on the 60-man roster, right? Covid-19 has taken out one team for at least a week or two and has taken out players left and right; regular injuries and the possibility of doubleheaders as well means a lot of guys who would not see the majors very well could and a guy with speed has an even better chance. Let’s say Abrams comes up and hits a couple of homers, a few triples, steals a handful of bags…does he not vault to (near) the top of the list? Currently the number 21 prospect on our most recent Dynasty prospect list, the 2019 sixth overall pick has plus-plus speed to go with power and average; what’s not to love? Abrams turns 20 in October (where hopefully he will make a big hit to get the Padres a playoff win) and in a small sample in rookie ball in 2019, his slash line was .401/.442/.662 with three homers, 40 runs scored, 22 RBI and 14 steals. For Dynasty purposes he should be an immediate target. Tell his owners, “he’s prospect blocked by Tatis Jr.,” make a fair offer and go get him.
Austin Martin, CF/2B/3B, Toronto Blue Jays
This might catch some people off guard, but I think any skepticism will wane once we see Austin Martin take the field as a pro. Martin will be a true 5-category contributor for your fantasy squad and he could debut as early as 2021. He has an elite pedigree (5th overall pick out of Vandy), elite contact skills, great approach, solid power, and is an above-average runner. Combine those skills with the potential to play a premium defensive position (CF or 2B, potentially 3B) and hit at the top of what will be a very potent Blue Jays lineup and I’m all in on Austin Martin. The cherry on top? Martin’s terrific contact skills and loft in his swing could help his power-play up in the majors if they’re still using the happy-fun ball (I think they will be).
Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Kansas City Royals
There will need to be some graduations for Witt to ascend to the top of the 2021 season-ending prospect rankings. Witt would be sitting much higher on the list now if it were not for his pro debut in 2019. He did not put up the gaudy numbers that are expected from the second overall pick in the draft. He has said that it was an adjustment for him and that he was glad he struggled a bit. He has a great support system with his father (MLB veteran pitcher Bobby Witt Sr.) who still throws him BP and spent the offseason and quarantine period training with other MLB players. He has it all, power, speed, and the ability to stick at shortstop. If he hits, he’ll move up the list quickly, if he hits well, he’ll be your number one.
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