With several of last year’s top prospects poised to move up to the big leagues next year, Bo Bichette could be pushing for a top ranking in 2019.
It’s no secret to Blue Jays fans who the top prospect in baseball is right now. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had an incredible 2018 season and deserves the ranking by any measure.
However, it’s all but certain that young Vlad will hit the big leagues in 2019, whether it’s on Opening Day or more likely about 3-4 weeks into the season. Regardless, he’s going to be a big leaguer sooner than later and he’s going to lose that prospect status, and the #1 ranking. I’m quite certain he’ll be fine with trading that in for a big league job, but it’s been fun for Blue Jays fans to brag about that fact while it’s lasted.
That said, it’s entirely possible that they could have another player vying for that top spot at some point in 2019, as Bo Bichette is already a top 10 prospect according to MLBpipeline.com’s mid-season rankings last year, and he’s expected to spend most or all of the 2019 season in the minor leagues, mostly likely in Triple-A Buffalo.
Between Guerrero and Bichette on that list are seven other talented youngsters, many of whom could push for a big league job this season as well. Let’s have a look:
#2) Fernando Tatis Jr. San Diego Padres (SS)
Tatis has a great deal of talent, and there’s a good chance he’ll be competing for a role with the Padres in spring training this year. The toolsy shortstop won’t have much blocking him in San Diego, but they may prefer to start the soon to be 20 year old in Triple-A to make sure he’s fully ready for the highest level, and to retain another year of service time as well. Either way, Tatis feels like a candidate to fall off the prospect eligibility list sooner than later.
#3) Eloy Jimenez – Chicago White Sox (OF)
If it weren’t for Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s ridiculous season in 2018, we’d probably be talking a lot more about Eloy Jimenez of the White Sox. The 22 year old slashed a ridiculous .337/.384/.577 in 108 combined games between AA and AAA, adding 22 home runs, 28 RBI, and 75 RBI. I’d say he’s ready for the highest level, and will likely follow the same fate that awaits Guerrero this spring.
#4) Nick Senzel– Cincinnati Reds (3B/2B)
If there’s one player that I expect Bichetteo grapple for the top spot on next year’s mid-season rankings, it might be Senzel. The 23 year old is immensely talented and slashed an impressive .310/.378/.509 with six home runs, 12 doubles, and 29 RBI in just 44 games in Triple-A. Unfortunately he sustained a torn ligament in his finger and had his season cut short. Because of that, I expect he’ll start the year in the minors, although with a recent move to learn the outfield as well as his infield chops, he could push for a job this spring as well.
#5) Victor Robles– Washington Nationals (OF)
He only played in 21 big league games last year, but Victor Robles was impressive and showed Nationals fans that there is talent beyond Bryce Harper in their outfield. If the Nationals do end up losing Harper this winter, and it looks like they will, I would expect Robles will end up with a full time job in the outfield in Washington. They may prefer to give him a little more seasoning in Triple-A, but the 21 year old looks ready.
#6) Brendan Rodgers– Colorado Rockies
The other significant challenger for Bichette next season might be a fellow middle infielder in Colorado. Rogers played last season split between AA and AAA, and slashed a combined .268/.330/.460 with 17 home runs, 27 doubles, and 67 RBI in 114 games played. Depending on what the Rockies do this offseason it’s possible he could challenge for the second base job, but with the team squarely in contention mode it’s likely they find a veteran to fill the void for at least one year.
#7) Forrest Whitley– Houston Astros
You may remember Whitley from last year’s top prospects lists, or from Arizona Fall League play. I wrote about his first encounter with Vlad Jr., and spoiler alert, the battle of the two top prospects went well for the Blue Jays.
That hardly matters in the big picture though, and there’s a good chance that Whitley will be fighting for a big league job next spring. The Astros are poised to lose Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and Lance McCullers Jr. from their Opening Day rotation, so they’ll need to fill those spots and they can’t all come from free agency or trade. My guess is Whitley gets the call.
#8) Kyle Tucker– Houston Astros
The last name between Guerrero and Bichette is the player with the most big league experience last season in Kyle Tucker. He got some experience with the Astros last year by playing in 28 games, but unfortunately it didn’t go as well as he would have hoped. He ended up slashing .141/.236/.203 in 64 at bats.
Forgetting that small sample size though, 2018 was a solid year for Tucker. He slashed .332/.400/.590 with 24 home runs, 27 doubles, 93 RBI, and 20 stolen bases in Triple-A. The Astros have designs on contending next year so they may be reluctant to hand the job to Tucker in spring training, but he’s going to get a shot at some point in the season, and I have a feeling he sticks sooner than later.
And then #9 would be Bichette, at least according to the MLB pipeline rankings. There are others that could factor into the equation for sure, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Bichette pushing for the top spot, especially if he gets off to a hot start.
It’s also equally possible that the Blue Jays could call him up at some point next season. My way-too-early prediction would be that he spends the full year in Triple-A, but a lot will depend on the performance of Devon Travis, Brandon Drury, Richard Urena, and even Lourdes Gurriel Jr. If any of the above are injured, badly underperform, or are traded, it’s possible that Bichette could be among the first considered for a big league call-up as well.
In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter if he’s never rated as the #1 prospect, but just as it was with Vlad Jr. in 2018, it would be a fun talking point. Gotta have something to throw back at Red Sox and Yankee fans.