MLB Top International Prospects
Before Jose Abreu was mashing 91 homers in his first three MLB seasons, he was the most feared hitter in Cuba with a .453 batting average and truly unbelievable 1.583 OPS. Likewise, Julio Teheran was a well know ace in the making out of Columbia as a 15-year-old before he inevitably became a top 5 prospect, then a two-time all-star. Unfortunately, most dynasty owners didn’t know to draft either of these stars because they weren’t on any prospect lists.
My Top 400 Worldwide Prospect Rankings (premium) include 38 international players that are every bit as likely to make a fantasy impact as traditional MILB prospects. Today, I’m going to introduce you to the top five, but there are many more that MLB teams are dreaming upon signing some day soon.
5. Tetsuto Yamada (2B, Japan)
Every once in a while, some seemingly random youngster like Jose Altuve blitzes through the minor leagues almost unnoticed then becomes a superstar overnight. The same can be said of the 160 pound Yamada, who was met with doubt when he batted .324 with 29 homers and 15 stolen bases as a 21-year-old. He put the concerns to doubt, however, by batting well over .300 with 38 homers each of the past two seasons. If the “Derek Jeter of Japan” is posted, he will be expected to perform as well as Korean import, Jung Ho Kang, from day one.
4. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (OF/3B, Japan)
Once Japan’s top prospect, Tsutsugo seemed to be a bust after batting .241 and .218 in his first full seasons with limited power, then missing 2013 with an injury, but then he broke out in a big way, batting over .300 with an OPS above .900 in the pitcher friendly league. Last season, he took it several steps further, crushing 44 homers while batting .322 with a 1.110 OPS. The 25-year-old just re-signed with the BayStars so it will be at least another season before he joins the fray in America.
3. Luis Robert (OF, Cuba)
There is no doubt that the talent in Cuban baseball is currently depleted because so many of the stars left, but when a 19-year-old bats .393/.519/.674 in any league, you make sure to take notice. Each one of those numbers in the slash line is better than Yasiel Puig at the same age and even a 24-year-old Yoenis Cespedes. Scouts have been drooling over his power potential since he was a 15-year-old and now we should get to see it in action in America soon, as he has fled the country in aspiration to become a Big Leaguer in the coming years.
2. Shintaro Fujinami (SP, Japan)
If it weren’t for the best player on this list, people would be mentioning Fujinami in the same breathe as MLB star, Yu Darvish. As a 21-year-old two years ago, he struck out 221 in 199 innings with a 2.40 ERA. At the same age, Darvish struck out fewer batters despite pitching more innings. Now, Fujinami did take a small step backward in 2016, but knowing the ability is present for him to anchor an MLB rotation has to have MLB front offices licking their chops.
1. Shohei Otani (SP/OF, Japan)
What can you say about a batter who was better last season as 21-year-old than even Hideki Matsui was in Japan before he came over and let the MLB on fire? Then, consider that his 1.86 ERA, 11.2 K/9 and .174 batting average against is all light years ahead of where Yu Darvish was before he became an MLB Cy Young candidate overnight. Otani is clearly a very special player that should warrant a media feeding frenzy when he makes the announcement in three years, or perhaps even next year, that he is making the move to the big leagues. He should be added in every single dynasty league if your settings allow for it.
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