We are a little more than a month away from real, actual baseball so let’s take a peek at which rookies look to be in the best shape for success in the 2018 Major League Baseball season.
Each rookie should at least be in contention to start 2018 with their respective big league club or expected to be called up prior to the All-Star break. Since the season hasn’t started and we can only speculate what teams will need their prospect’s help that early in the year, let’s look at the pre-spring training top 10.
#10- Jorge Alfaro, Phillies
I like Alfaro as the dark horse of the dark horses; the come-out-of-nowhere rookie that everyone wants to know about. The young 2018 Phillies team could end up having several top prospects in their clubhouse by the end of the season. Alfaro has the potential to be the bedrock of the coming years in Philadelphia. And while Mejia is the unanimous top catching prospect, Alfaro isn’t anyone to hand-wave. He’s destined to be the middle of the order hitter for the Phils but he’ll need to cut down on his whiffs and, at times, poor eye for contact. But he’s got a lot of power to showcase.
#9- Brent Honeywell, Rays
Now that Jake Odorizzi has been jettisoned, Honeywell has a spot in the Rays’ rotation that will be his to lose. Honeywell has a five-pitch arsenal which could all end up being plus-pitches for him. You may not need to remember his name because of the fact that he’s bringing back the screwball, which he stymied the best prospects in the game during the Arizona Fall League in 2017. Unless the Rays get desperate to push for the playoffs (it would be spectacularly stupid to trade him off), Honeywell could be the ace for years to come in Tampa.
#8- Jack Flaherty, Cardinals
There are a lot of great pitching prospects and Flaherty seems to always fly under the radar. With Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver are also slated to compete for a back of the rotation role, Flaherty will have his work cut out for him. I’m willing to bet that the Cardinals will need some pitching help in 2018, especially if Reyes needs time to adjust after Tommy John surgery and Adam Wainwright (or Michael Wacha) aren’t what they used to be. He’s an incredibly accurate pitcher who will force batters to beat him.
#7- Gleyber Torres, Yankees
Torres is one of the most complete players in the group. His ceiling is a consistent MVP candidate, especially playing in the Bronx. The only reason he’s not higher is the injury he suffered last season; one that could impact his performance in 2018 but how sustained that setback could be remains to be seen. Yes, we are being told it’s not an issue, but I’d like to see first hand how true that is. Regardless, Torres can be the next Carlos Correa. He’s got terrific hitting skills and the athleticism to play several positions.
#6- Michael Kopech, White Sox
Kopech isn’t quite ready for the big leagues and could see a later start than most on this list. However, the White Sox have almost no pitching and even less a shot at competing in 2018. Kopech’s skills are undeniable and could be the best pitching prospect in all of baseball; he can completely blow hitters away with his 105MPH fastball. The White Sox have a bright future but it’s still a few years away. Kopech could be the borer of that hole to brightness and be in the discussion for American Leauge RoY.
#5- Willy Adames, Rays
While the Rays also have SS/3B prospect Christian Arroyo, whom they acquired from the Giants in the Evan Longoria trade, Adames has the higher ceiling and is much more capable at shortstop. Adames hasn’t exactly lived up to his hype but is slowly improving. He’s got big-time power potential, and given the MLB HR rate increases, could make a big impact with the Rays if they are in the position to push for a Wild Card berth.
#4-Willie Calhoun, Rangers
Calhoun is somewhat polarizing among prospect evaluators, but his power and penchant for good contact are a perfect recipe for success in today’s MLB. His athleticism is called into question as he’s been moved from second base to left field, but he’ll have virtually no competition at the spot giving him plenty of time to grow into his hitting ability in 2018.
#3- Shohei Ohtani, Angeles
Yes, Ohtani is probably the safest bet of all on this list to be number one, but I have concerns about his adjustments. I think in the long run he’ll be a better hitter, but 2018 may not end up being his best year. He could start off hot but hitters will have time to adjust to him. Not only that, I still cannot see an MLB player excel while spreading himself between two positions. I hope he does it, but I’m still a skeptic.
#2- Victor Robles, Nationals
Robles and my number one prospect could be the next decade’s Mike Trout v. Bryce Harper debate. For the time being, he could be blocked by Michael Taylor. Robles might be the better defender in center, and Taylor may be resigned to a backup role for all outfield positions; I have doubts he’ll even come close to repeating his 3+ WAR in 2018. That being said, center field is ripe for Robles’ taking. He’s got plus-tools with a great eye and speed. It might take a month or so before you see him, but Robles is ready right now.
#1- Ronald Acuna, Braves
As a preface, I’ve got a summary of Acuna’s skills here. As close to a sure-thing as we can get for a player not from another professional league, Acuna will be a household name by 2020, if not earlier. He’s shown to get better as the competition gets stiffer. For a kid who just turned 20 in December, to win the Arizona Fall League MVP is a telling sign that Atlanta has struck gold. I wouldn’t be shocked if Acuna stays atop this list throughout the season and not only wins the NL RoY but makes a strong case for NL MVP.
If this ranking has caused you to break your keyboard, check back later in the season as the order will adjust according to performance, playing time, and 2018 starting level.