Today, we begin a look at the Top 10 prospects for 2017 in each of the six leagues. The lists have been created by blending potential playing time, MLB-readiness and overall skill to take a stab at predicting the most valuable rookies for the coming season.
Top 10 Prospects for 2017: NL East
1. Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta: The former first overall pick of the 2015 amateur draft needed just 127 games of minor league seasoning to earn a shot at the Majors with the Braves. His first 38 games in the Majors produced close to one win in value. The 23-year-old infielder hit more than .300 but he struck out almost once per game and his .383 BABIP is likely going to normalize. He’ll play everyday for the Braves in 2017 but expect an up-and-down year. When the dust settles, I could see 10-15 home runs and a similar number of steals to go with a .270 batting average.
2. Koda Glover, RHP, Washington: I can understand the Nationals’ reluctance to hand the closer’s role over to a rookie. There aren’t many young pitchers that can handle such a stressful task — especially on a club with huge playoff expectations — but Glover’s stuff, moxie and spring performance suggests that the appointment is not far off. Even if he hangs out in a set-up role for ’17, he’ll be a valuable reliever due to his ability to miss bats. If you play in a fantasy league that rewards holds then you’ll really want to jump on this young, talented hurler.
3. Robert Gsellman, RHP, New York: Gsellman has largely flown under the radar as a prospect — no easy feat for a New York prospect — but he’s set to be a key contributor for the Mets in 2017 — even if he doesn’t earn the fifth starter’s gig to open the year. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff but it’s firm and he could eventually develop into a No. 3/4 starter. With 44.2 largely successful innings already under his belt at the big league level, Gsellman should be ready to produce at an average-or-better level for the coming year.
4. Nick Williams, OF, Philadelphia: With the oft-injured Michael Saunders ticketed to play “everyday” in right field, you know there is going to be an opportunity for someone else to man the position in 2017. And that man may very well be Williams. He’s always had an overly-aggressive approach that does not lend itself to high on-base rates but when he makes contact the ball goes a long way. He could be a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Phillies for many years if he can tone down his approach even a little bit and get himself some better pitches to hit.
5. Erick Fedde, RHP, Washington: The Nationals boast both a deep and a talented rotation. Fedde comes in about seventh on the starting pitching depth chart behind A.J. Cole but the latter arguably has a higher ceiling. He’s entering 2017 as an underrated asset after spending most of ’16 getting his feet back under him after Tommy John surgery. Fedde may return back to double-A after making just five starts there last year but he has the stuff to move quickly through the upper levels of the minors and could see The Show this summer.
6. Brian Anderson, 3B, Miami: Maybe a surprising name to see on this list but I’ve been a fan of this prospect since he was selected in the third round of the 2014 amateur draft. Anderson has had an absolutely scorching spring training and an injury to veteran third baseman Martin Prado could open the door for the prospect to see time in The Show in 2017. Like Prado, power is not a huge part of Anderson’s game but he is a solid all-around player who should hit double-digit homers and produce more than his fair share of extra base hits. His ability to play a number of positions also helps both his value to the Marlins and to fantasy owners.
7. Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia: Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp are solid baseball players but neither one can come close to sniffing the type of potential that Alfaro possesses — both offensively and defensively. The catching prospect — and former Rangers minor leaguer — has a cannon for an arm and the potential to slug 20+ homers if given regular playing time. The downside to Alfaro, though, is that his hit tool is still rough and he has had significant contact issues throughout his pro career. After showing well at double-A in 2016, he’ll be challenged with the move up to triple-A in 2017. If an injury pops up to either of the aforementioned MLB catchers, he could be in line for some regular at-bats at the big league level.
8. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia: Here we have yet another Phillies prospect on this list — which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the impressive quality of their system as well as the lack of quality veterans on their big league roster. Crawford will no doubt open the year in the minors but neither Freddy Galvis nor Andres Blanco will be able to keep the rookie down when he looks ready. The young shortstop prospect is an absolute whiz in the field and he’ll be a beast if/when his hitting catches up. He has a great eye at the plate (72-80 BB-K rate in 2016) and shows the potential to have an average-or-better hit tool.
9. Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia: I know the Phillies double-A stadium has a habit of making power hitters look good but I have a feeling about Hoskins. And I’m also not a Tommy Joseph believer. The first base prospect has looked good this spring with four of his five hits going for extra bases — and he’s walked six times next to just three strikeouts. Fellow slugging prospect Dylan Cozens gets more love because he’s arguably a more exciting player but my money is on Hoskins – who just keeps getting better.
10. Gavin Cecchini, SS, New York: Known more for his defence early in his career, Cecchini’s hitting has begun to shine more brightly. The young middle infielder will likely never start at shortstop for the Mets anyway with Amed Rosario likely to be ready to take over the position in 2018. That should push Cecchini over to second base where Neil Walker may depart after the ’17 season. The prospect isn’t flashy but he could be a .280 hitter with a solid BB-K rate and excellent defence at the keystone. With a full triple-A season already under hit belt, he could be called upon in the event of an injury to either Asdrubal Cabrera (SS) or Walker (2B).
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.