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Brendan Tuma’s Week 1 Prospect Report (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

I touched on this in my Top 20 Rookies article that debuted last week, but prospect lists are in a weird place right now. The shortened 2020 season threw a lot of things off, rookie eligibility included. Therefore, players who spent a large portion of last summer in the majors, such as Randy Arozarena and Ian Anderson, are still considered prospects. While I separated these players into two separate groups in the aforementioned article, I won’t be doing so below. The prospects who already have a lot of big league experience will quickly lose eligibility this season and a new crop will emerge.

This is going to be a weekly piece and moving forward it’ll always come out on Wednesdays. The idea is to give a definitive, top-20 prospect list for fantasy baseball purposes. The rankings will be done for keeper/dynasty leagues, but redraft players will be able to find value here as well. I’ll be sure to touch on prospects who are getting close to the majors since this will have big implications in both formats. In addition to reading the actual rankings, be sure to check out all the notes underneath as well. And don’t forget to reach with questions on Twitter anytime – @toomuchtuma.

1 Wander Franco SS TB The consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball has a good shot at debuting this season. The Rays aren’t known for aggressively promoting their prospects, though.
2 Jarred Kelenic OF SEA For me, Kelenic is the clear-cut No. 2 prospect after Franco. A hyper-competitive, five-tool stud with a chance to be up before May.
3 Julio Rodriguez OF SEA J-Rod likely won’t debut until 2022, but his studly hit tool keeps him in the top-3 of dynasty prospect rankings.
4 Spencer Torkelson 1B DET Another premium hitter who I don’t expect to see in ’21, Tork’s bat made him an easy No. 1 pick in first year player drafts this spring.
5 Bobby Witt SS KC Witt’s big spring places him above Luciano for me.
6 Marco Luciano SS SF Luciano struggled against the same competition Witt was dominating. Still, he’s just 19 years old. I’m not worried.
7 Andrew Vaughn 1B CWS Vaughn was must-have in redraft leagues this month. We’ll see how the outfield experiment goes but the bat will play.
8 CJ Abrams SS SD Abrams’ future position remains up in the air, but a move to center field might suit the speedster best. Don’t expect him this year.
9 Ke’Bryan Hayes 3B PIT My choice for NL ROY, Hayes was always a glove-first prospect who has taken major leaps offensively.
10 Adley Rutschman C BAL Easily the top catching prospect in the sport. Your evaluation of him in dynasty leagues probably ties to how strongly you value high-end backstops.
11 Ian Anderson SP ATL Anderson’s changeup was deadly last summer. A high walk rate and a likely innings limit are the only things to be worried about for ’21.
12 Sixto Sanchez SP MIA Sanchez will need to do one of two things to justify this rank – either increase his strikeout rate or continue inducing weak contact.
13 MacKenzie Gore SP SD Gore still has ace upside but there have been some control/delivery issues dating back to the alternate training site last summer.
14 Alex Kirilloff OF MIN The lefty slugger was recently optioned to the minors but his hit tool keeps him in play as an end-of-bench stash in redraft.
15 Austin Martin 3B, SS TOR I’m going to try and remain higher than the consensus on Martin. The flood of Toronto position players doesn’t worry me. He’ll hit wherever he plays.
16 Randy Arozarena OF TB He’s the toughest player to rank for obvious reasons. I think he’ll be good, but I’d trade him in dynasty for any of my top-15.
17 Dylan Carlson OF STL Carlson’s tools aren’t loud, but they’re solid. He was better in his second cup of coffee last summer, and he’ll open with a starting role.
18 Jasson Dominguez OF NYY Dominguez has yet to play a professional game. If he’s legit he’ll be top-10 in a hurry. I’m willing to be higher on him now in an attempt to cash in early.
19 Nate Pearson SP TOR Injuries continue to haunt him. I’m unsure if he’ll remain a starter long term.
20 Jo Adell OF LAA Adell had a strong Cactus League showing after a disastrous first stint in the majors last year.


Honorable Mentions

SP Logan Gilbert, SEA: Tall right-hander showed an uptick in “stuff” at the alternate site last summer. If he can maintain those gains over a full season there’s ace upside.

SP Tarik Skubal, DET: Set to open 2021 in Detroit’s rotation with a goal of emphasizing his secondary offerings more.

2B Nick Madrigal, CWS: Not a ton of upside due to a nonexistent power profile, but Madrigal is a late-round in roto leagues for contributing in both batting average and possibly steals.

1B/OF Ryan Mountcastle, BAL: Defense has always killed his “real life” prospect ranking, but he continues to hit whenever we see him, which is what matters most for fantasy purposes.

SP Spencer Howard, PHI: The Phillies recently said that Howard isn’t being viewed as a traditional starter this year, which hurts his fantasy value in redraft formats.

On the Rise

OF Jarren Duran, BOS: I wrote about Duran a lot this offseason. The 24-year-old isn’t considered a top-100 prospect by most sites, but there’s been a ton of development since this time last year. Most notably, Duran met with swing guru Doug Latta entering 2020.

We didn’t have minor league stats to pick up on last year, but Duran’s new swing was on full display at the alternate training site. He carried that improvement into the Carribean series this past winter before maintaining it throughout spring training. Combine these new batted-ball skills with his blazing speed, which was always his calling card, and there’s plenty of fantasy upside here. I’m anticipating a mid-summer debut, which means Duran needs to be rostered in dynasty formats of all sizes right now.

On the Way Down

SP Casey Mize, DET: The 2018 No. 1 overall pick has been awarded a spot in the Tigers’ Opening Day rotation, but he’s coming off a rough summer and an even worse spring. Mize is talented, and he talked openly about using technology to try and improve the verticality of his pitches entering this year, but another rough start could really begin to tank his dynasty value.

Stat of the Week

Wander Franco enters the 2021 season with a truly absurd 83:54 BB:K ratio in the minors. His approach/hit tool/swing remains off the charts!

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Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.

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