As Opening Day approaches, it’s become abundantly clear that there are several notable MLB franchises that are tanking in the hopes of bolstering their roster for the future to ultimately become World Series contenders. Considering what both the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros have done recently when it comes to acquiring and developing talented players, it makes all the sense in the world that teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Marlins would want to start from the ground up by allowing their top farm system athletes to play at the professional level. While this may not make for entertaining baseball initially, it is currently the best way for a given franchise to win consistently at some point in the future.
The following ten prospects could not only make an appearance in the majors this year but could also become the centerpieces for their respective teams that are looking to eventually establish themselves as championship contenders.
10. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros
After getting off to a slow start in the minor leagues in 2016, Forrest Whitley came on strong in 2017 as he quickly advanced through the single A and double AA minor league systems. With a fastball that regularly gets into the mid and sometimes upper 90’s, Whitley effectively utilizes his size and arm strength to frustrate opportunistic batters.
9. Bo Bichette, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays
With a keen eye for hitting the baseball and getting on base (.362 BA, .432 OBP in the minors), Bo Bichette will most likely be called up by the Blue Jays to contribute sooner rather than later. Although Bichette’s ideal in field position is as a shortstop, his athleticism and quickness could allow him to be situated as either a second baseman or a speedy left fielder.
8. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres
A tenacious slugger that can get on base consistently (posted an OPS of .877 in the minor leagues last season), Tatis is equally adept at stealing bases, an attribute which has been sorely lacking in the majors the last couple of years. Considering the Padres’ lack of notable talent in the majors currently, Tatis could be the spark that the ailing franchise needs to finally become relevant in the NL West.
7. Nick Senzel, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
If you can play third base as well as Nick Senzel can while posting exceptional numbers offensively (.321 BA,.391 OBP, .541 SLG), your chances of becoming a major league superstar would be bright. If he can decrease his elevated strikeout rate, Senzel could feasibly become the everyday third base starter for the Reds at some point this season.
6. Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals
If Victor Robles finishes out Spring Training on a high note, he could very well replace Michael Taylor at centerfield by Opening Day. Considering how strong his fielding skills are combined with his ability to get on base consistently (.395 OBP in minors last season), Robles appears destined to be apart of Washington’s new look outfield sooner rather than later.
5. Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees
Healthy and eager to make his MLB debut this season for the high powered New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres has the ideal arm strength and throwing accuracy to be an adept infielder. Posting a perfect fielding percentage during his time in AA Trenton in 2017, Torres has the tools both offensively and defensively to be the starting second baseman for the Yankees this season.
4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Posting a batting average of .316 and an on-base percentage of .409 in single-A Lansing in 2017, Guerrero Jr. has a keen eye when it comes to consistently making contact with the baseball. Although it’s doubtful that he’ll supplant Josh Donaldson at third base this year, all signs are pointing to the young corner infielder being a prominent part of the Blue Jays for the foreseeable future.
3. Eloy Jimenez, RF, Chicago White Sox
If this guy can post the same eye-popping numbers that he did in the minors last year, it’s hard to imagine the White Sox keeping Eloy Jimenez off of the Opening Day roster. Although Spring Training means little to nothing when projecting major league talent, it’s hard to ignore Jimenez’s stunning OPS of 2.381 over a four-game stretch thus far this spring.
2. Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
Winner of the Minor League Player of The Year Award in 2017, Acuna appears to be the real deal for a Braves organization that is looking to build around their youthful starting rotation. Hitting .325/.414/.639 during his time in the Arizona Fall League, Acuna should be all but assured a place as a starting outfielder for the Braves next year if not this year.
1. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Los Angeles Angels
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While the dual-threat wunderkind as not looked especially electric in Spring Training this year, Shohei Ohtani promises to be the most compelling athlete to join the majors in a long time. Although it’s unlikely that Ohtani will start the season as a pitcher for the Angles, he should be able to contribute immensely as a designated hitter for the Angels given his beautiful swing and underrated power-hitting abilities.