25. Yoán Moncada — Chicago White Sox
The centerpiece of the Chris Sale trade in ’16, Moncada has not quite lived up to the hype thus far in Chicago. Last year — his first full season — was particularly rough for Moncada. He struck out an MLB-high 217 times. Despite hitting 17 homers and 32 doubles, Moncada’s strikeout total is by far the most glaring number from last year. After exclusively playing second base for the Sox, Moncada is making the switch to the hot corner. Moncada didn’t play well at second, so the organization is hoping that fielding a new position will come with success. Moncada is a big talent, but the organization would like to see a massive improvement this year.
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24. Shane Bieber — Cleveland Indians
When you are in a rotation that includes Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Mike Clevinger , it’s easy to be overlooked. Bieber doesn’t have the name recognition or dominant stuff that the rest of Cleveland’s rotation possesses, but he is well on his way to becoming a key figure for the Indians. Bieber finished his rookie year with an 11-5 record and 4.55 ERA — a misleading number if you watched him pitch. Bieber will be successful due to his great command. He only yielded 23 walks in 19 starts, after surrendering just 19 in 277 minor-league innings. Bieber’s repertoire consists mainly of a fastball, slider, and curve. Already averaging 9.3 SO9 without an elite pitch, Bieber has plenty of room to ascend.
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23. Josh Hader — Milwaukee Brewers
Josh Hader’s star-turn last season is well-documented. In 55 games, Hader posted a 2.43 ERA and allowed 36 hits. Though his performance dipped slightly down the stretch, Hader was dominant for most of the season. He struck out a staggering 15.8 batters per nine, and totaled 143 SO compared to only 30 walks. If there is one knock on Hader, it’s that he gives up too many home runs. Nonetheless, Hader’s electric arsenal and intimidating delivery will result in great results for Milwaukee’s top reliever.
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22. Miguel Andújar — New York Yankees
Andújar coming in at No. 19 may seem a tad disrespectful. And if we were solely judging players based off their offensive talent, it would be. However, when accounting for offense, defense, and everything in-between, Andújar has clear shortcomings. Andújar was highly impressive at the plate as a rookie. In addition to hitting 27 HR, the 24-year-old posted a .297/.328/.527 line. Defensively, however, Andújar was a nightmare. He committed 15 errors and the advanced metrics weren’t pretty — -25 Rdrs, -29 Rtot. His arm will never be a problem, but it’s not a stretch to say Andújar is the worst defensive third baseman in baseball.
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21. Rafael Devers — Boston Red Sox
Despite producing a uninspiring .240/.298/.433 line in ’18, the Rafael Devers hype appears to be real. Boston fans had been waiting for his arrival from the moment he signed with the club in ’15. The big third baseman tallied 21 HR and 66 RBI last season, but once again came up big in October. Devers was especially good in the ALCS. He hit .385 against the Astros, including one homer and six RBI. Devers has a .311 BA in four series. Much like his counterpart in New York, Devers has room to improve defensively. While the advanced metrics aren’t as ugly as Andújar’s, Boston’s top-choice third baseman struggles at times. This 22-year-old has a bright future.
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20. Jack Flaherty — St. Louis Cardinals
Flaherty and the Cardinals have a lot to be excited about entering the new season. Flaherty, 23, had a highly-impressive rookie season. In 28 starts for the Cardinals, the Burbank native went 8-9 with a 3.34 ERA en route to a fifth place finish for the NL Rookie of the Year. Flaherty averaged 10.8 SO9, and allowed only 59 runs. The young Cardinal sports an excellent slider — one that has a chance to be amongst the best pitches in baseball. One area that Flaherty needs to improve is his control. He allowed 3.5 BB9 in ’18, a number that St. Louis would like to see cut in half — at the very least. If Flaherty can throw more strikes, he will be an All-Star in short order.
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19. Willy Adames — Tampa Bay Rays
Called up twice during the course of the year ’18 season, Adames made the most out of his second chance. Following his second callup in late July, Adames slashed .305/.383/.435 — finishing the year with 10 homers and a .278 BA. Though he committed a few too many errors, Adames flashed his potential at short. He has above-average arm strength and great hands for the position. Though he isn’t overly quick, Adames’ skill-set makes up for his slight weakness. After an offseason dedicated to improving his strength and approach at the plate, Tampa fans should have high hopes for their young shortstop.
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18. Adalberto Mondesi — Kansas City Royals
The son of Raul Mondesi, Adalberto has progressed through the Minors having to deal with an unusual amount of scrutiny. In limited appearances throughout the ’16-17 seasons Mondesi struggled — to put it mildly. However, the 23-year-old began to live up to expectations last season. He hit 14 HR, stole 32 bases, and posted a .276/.306/.498 line. He also had his best defensive season to date, posting a 1.2 dWAR. Mondesi’s improvement at the plate was a welcomed sight for the Royals. Thanks to his game-changing speed, Mondesi should have a spot in Kansas City for the foreseeable future.
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17. José Peraza — Cincinnati Reds
A former top prospect, Peraza showed a great deal of improvement in his first campaign as Cincinnati’s starting shortstop. Saying Peraza is an aggressive hitter would be understatement. Despite his free-swinging ways, Peraza doesn’t strikeout in abundance. In ’18, Peraza set career-high’s in HR (14), RBI (58), and BB (29). He finished the year with 181 hits — leading the Majors in singles. Peraza must improve on defense if he wants to elevate his game even more, but his age and talent call for hope.
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16. Harrison Bader — St. Louis Cardinals
Harrison Bader made a huge impact as a rookie. While he didn’t have a stellar year at the plate — .264/.334/.422 with 12 HR — Bader was sensational in center. Bader possesses elite speed and makes more catches that he shouldn’t be able to, than just about any other outfielder. Bader will win multiple Gold Glove’s throughout his career. At the plate, the young CF needs to cut down on his strikeouts. In 379 official at-bats, Bader was K’d 125 times. If Bader is able to put more balls in play, he will find significantly more success. With top-end speed and a general knack for the game, we’d bet Bader is able to put it all together offensively sooner rather than later.
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15. Vlad Gurrero Jr. — Toronto Blue Jays
Vlad Gurrero Jr. is the top prospect in baseball. He is, by all accounts, ready to star in the Majors — unless you ask Toronto’s General Manager. Gurrero likely won’t be on the roster Opening Day, but he should be called up as soon as the team earns another year of control. Take a look at his stat line last year in the Minors — .381/.437/.636, 20 HR, 29 doubles, 37 BB, 38 SO. Gurrero has the ability to be one of the best hitters in baseball upon his arrival. He rarely misses when he swings, and barrels up seemingly every pitch. He possesses top-level contact and power skills. Most importantly, his control of the strike zone is elite. His fielding doesn’t come close to matching his offensive prowess despite having a plus arm. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Gurrero contending for multiple MVP’s.
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14. Matt Olson — Oakland Athletics
Matt Olson can do it all at first base. A Gold Glove winner in his first full season last year, Olson appears to be a future cornerstone in Oakland. The 6-foot-5 Olson announced his presence with authority in ’17, bashing 24 homers in just 59 games. Olson played all 162 games in ’18, producing a slash line of .247/.335/.453. His 29 HR and 84 RBI helped lead the A’s to the postseason. Excellent plate discipline, big power, and some of the best defensive skills of any first basemen…Olson is only going to get better.
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13. Gleyber Torres — New York Yankees
The Yankees have found a new franchise-caliber player in Gleyber Torres. Torres earned an invitation to the All-Star Game as a rookie in ’18. Torres needs to work on his defensive game if he wants to truly become one of the best players in baseball. While not bad, he is simply average at fielding his position at this point in his career. At the plate, there isn’t much to complain about. At 21 years old, Torres hit 24 HR and slashed .271/.340/.480. The one area the Yankees would like to see improvement is making more consistent contact. 122 strikeouts as a 21-year-old rookie isn’t awful, but it’s certainly not great.
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12. Ozzie Albies — Atlanta Braves
Albies will be a force in the National League for many, many, years to come. Entering his age-22 season, Albies is on track to being the best second baseman in baseball in short order. To start last year, Albies looked like an MVP player. The last two months of the season were a slog, but he showed the type of potential that any team would love to have. A switch-hitter, Albies fares much better against lefties — .335 vs. LHP, .231 vs. RHP. The young Brave also stood out as a defender. He finished the campaign with a .985 Fld%, a +4 Rtot, and +8 Rdrs.
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11. José Berríos — Minnesota Twins
Only entering his fourth season in the big leagues, Berríos is on the fast-track to stardom. Minnesota’s ace excelled in ’18. He set career-high’s in starts (32), innings (192.1), and strikeouts (202).
A member of the AL All-Star team, Berríos threw two complete games — including a CG shutout — and lowered both his WHIP and H9. Berríos is an elite talent. He possesses three plus-pitches — fastball, curveball, changeup — and has impressive control for a young pitcher. Berríos has increased his strikeout rate each year, while also lowering his walk rate. In a few years time, Berríos may be a top-10 pitcher in baseball.
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10. Andrew Benintendi — Boston Red Sox
If there is a player primed to make another jump this season, it’s Andrew Benintendi. The Red Sox leftfielder is coming off a great sophomore season in which he improved across the board. He is a talented hitter and has proved to be a good defender at a young age. Benintendi has a slashline of .280/.359/.444, 36 HR, and a +13 Rdrs while playing leftfield since ’17. Excluding home runs, Benintendi improved his offensive numbers across the board in his second full-year. In addition to raising his BA 19 points, Benintendi’s OPS increased by 54 points to .830. Another year of improved play would surely scare the rest of the American League.
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9. German Marquez — Colorado Rockies
Only a handful of teams in the big leagues have a one-two punch on par with the Rockies. Kyle Freeland (17-7, 2.85) and Marquez (14-11, 3.77) both burst onto the scene last year in Colorado. But for as great as Freeland was, Marquez gets a slight edge over the lefty.
Blessed with incredible stuff, Marquez went 8-2 over the final three months of ’18. In addition to hitting the mid-90s with his fastball, Marquez added a devastating slider to his arsenal. The results were immediate. Over the final three months, Marquez struck out 128 batters. He finished the season with a total of 230 SO — good for 10.6 SO9 — and only yielded 57 free passes. Marquez has the potential to be a Cy Young pitcher down the road.
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8. Shohei Ohtani — Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
A potentially transcendent talent, Shohei Ohtani will unfortunately be limited to hitting this season. As he works his way back from Tommy John surgery, Ohtani will progress through his throwing program with the hopes of being ready to pitch in 2020. While disappointing, it’s not as if Ohtani is a slouch in the box. In 104 games last year, Ohtani slashed .285/.361/.564 with 22 HR and 21 doubles. In his 10 starts prior to being shutdown, Ohtani compiled a 4-2 record, 3.31 ERA, and struck out 11 batters per nine. You could make an argument that a healthy Ohtani deserves to be leading this list.
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7. Cody Bellinger — Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers view Bellinger as a franchise cornerstone. After winning the Rookie of the Year in ’17 on the strength of a 39 HR campaign, Bellinger regressed last season. He looked lost at the plate most of the year and was used sporadically down the stretch. That being said, he still slugged 25 HR and played excellent defense. The 23-year-old dedicated his offseason to fixing his swing, and has showed signs throughout Spring Training that his approach is closer to the one he displayed in ’17 as opposed to last year. Bellinger has MVP potential given his ability to hit, defend, and run, but if he wants to separate himself from his peers he will need to find a consistent approach.
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6. Carlos Correa — Houston Astros
By his standards, Carlos Correa had an awful season. A year removed from posting a .315/.391/.550 line, Correa saw his numbers dip to .239/.323/.405. Part of his downfall was surely his bad back, but the Astros can’t afford another lost season. Correa has missed 105 games since the start of 2017. When healthy, Correa is an MVP-caliber player. He is a force at the plate and a good defender as well. This will be a big season for Correa to prove he can remain in the elite category of shortstops.
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5. Corey Seager — Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers may have lost Machado to the Padres, but they essentially picked up their own MVP candidate with the return of Corey Seager. Seager played in only 26 games in ’18 before being shut down. The 24-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in May and a minor hip procedure in August. Projected to be ready by Opening Day, Seager is a huge part of the Dodgers’ season. Seager is without a doubt one of the most talented players in the game. He has two Silver Slugger’s under his belt, and finished third for the NL MVP as a rookie in ’16. He has played well defensively for most of his career, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts to both surgeries.
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4. Walker Buehler — Los Angeles Dodgers
One of the true breakout stars of last season, Walker Buehler may be close to surpassing Clayton Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace. Despite pitching last year with an innings limit hanging over him, Buehler displayed dominant stuff from the beginning. Sporting a fastball in the upper-90s, a slider, and curve, Buehler was only touched for 43 runs in 24 games. A 2.62 ERA coupled with 9.9 SO9 is pretty encouraging for any pitcher — let alone a 23-year-old. The soon-to-be ace picked up his game in the playoffs. In two NLCS starts, Buehler struck out 15 batters and walked only one. In Game 3 of the World Series, Buehler went 7.0 innings, allowed two hits, and struck out seven. Barring good health, Buehler has Cy Young potential.
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3. Juan Soto — Washington Nationals
Washington is in good hands when it comes to their outfield. 20-year-old Juan Soto is a future MVP. As a 19-year-old rookie, Soto slashed .292/.406/.517 with 22 HR and 79 BB. Soto, who will not turn 21 until October, immediately becomes Washington’s top draw next to Max Scherzer. If he continues to play the way he did as a 19-year-old, Soto will quickly become one of the faces of baseball. If Soto can improve defensively, he may be considered a top-20 player overall after this season.
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2. Alex Bregman — Houston Astros
Bregman has had quite a start to his career. He jumped onto the scene in ’17, slashing .284/.352/.475 with 19 homers and 39 doubles en route to helping Houston claim the World Series crown. Bregman followed that up by improving his numbers across the board last season. He led baseball with 51 doubles, hit 31 homers, and tallied 103 RBI. Most impressively, Bregman drew 96 walks while striking out 85 times — one-of-four players to accomplish the feat in ’18. He isn’t outstanding defensively to this point, but he proved to be more than capable of playing shortstop as well as third.
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1. Ronald Acuña Jr. — Atlanta Braves
The ’18 NL Rookie of the Year, Acuña tallied 56 XBH and slashed .293/.366/.552 as a 20-year-old. With great athleticism accompanying a plus-hit tool, Acuña’s potential is unlimited. His defense and baserunning left plenty to be desired as a rookie, but he shouldn’t have any problem reaching the level at which he should play. After a tame start to the year, Acuña was unbelievable after the break. In 68 games, Acuña slugged 19 homers and posted a 1.028 OPS. You can’t go wrong with any of the top-10 players, but give me the 20-year-old Brave who has already proved he’s a star.
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