Farm Futures: Top 10 Hitting Prospects Of The Decade

Farm Futures: Top 10 Hitting Prospects Of The Decade

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

These rankings are a reflection of how much I liked these specific players as prospects. There are players who I was lower on than I should have been, like Fernando Tatis Jr., or players who were much better in the majors than they were in the minors, like Francisco Lindor, who will be absent from this list. Essentially, if a hitting prospect was never ranked by me as at least a top two overall prospect, they won't have made this cut. Juan Soto, for instance, is a player you likely will have ended up with in dynasty leagues if you used my rankings, but he never climbed as high as No. 1 or No. 2 overall before he got the call in 2018.

1. Mike Trout

Best MiLB season: .326/.414/.544, 11 HR, 33 SB, 10.9 BB%, 18.4 K% in 91 games as a 19-year-old at Double-A

The definitive prospect and player of the decade, Trout always had the better pure prospect profile, even though Bryce Harper had been in the public consciousness for longer. I wasn't ranking prospects back then, so you'll have to take me at my word that I preferred Trout to Harper. If memory serves, Keith Law was the only national ranker who put Trout over Harper. Kevin Goldstein, then of Baseball Prospectus, put Matt Moore ahead of Trout and Harper, as did MLB.com.

2. Ronald Acuna

Best MiLB season: .325/.374/.522, 21 HR, 44 SB, 7.0 BB%, 23.5 K% in 139 games as a 19-year-old at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A

I often said when Acuna was our top prospect (I think we were the first site to rank him No. 1 overall) that he was the best prospect since Trout. His 2017 season was a tour de force the likes of which we haven't seen since. That pedigree has obviously translated into MLB stardom. 

3. Bryce Harper

Best MiLB season: .297/.392/.501, 17 HR, 26 SB, 13.1 BB%, 19.3 K% in 109 games as an 18-year-old at Low-A and Double-A

Harper was a very interesting test case in age/level. He dominated at Low-A and struggled as an 18-year-old at Double-A. While he was a big stolen-base threat in the minors, the expectation was always that he would slow down as he aged – I remember Jim Callis, then of Baseball America, once giving him an Adam Dunn comp.

4. Wander Franco

Best MiLB season: .327/.398/.487, 9 HR, 18 SB, 11.3 BB%, 7.1 K% in 114 games as an 18-year-old at Low-A and High-A

Franco hasn't been as prolific in home runs and stolen bases as the players ranked ahead of him were, but he has the best plate skills of the top four players on this list. A true generational talent, Franco could end up being the No. 1 overall prospect this offseason and next, otherwise he will make his MLB debut as a 19-year-old.

5. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Best MiLB season: .381/.437/.636, 20 HR, 3 SB, 9.1 BB%, 9.3 K% in 95 games as a 19-year-old at four levels, primarily Double-A and Triple-A

If we were ranking these prospects just based on minor-league hit tool, Vlad probably ranks first. He is the first four-category prospect on this list, and also the first to hit .400 at a level (.402 in 61 games at Double-A).

6. Kris Bryant

Best MiLB season: .325/.438/.661, 43 HR, 15 SB, 14.5 BB%, 27.3 K% in 138 games as a 22-year-old at Double-A and Triple-A

Bryant was such a noteworthy and memorable prospect that we still refer to guys getting "The Kris Bryant Treatment" when they are held down to start the year just for service-time manipulation. The strikeout rate as a 22-year-old was mildly concerning, relative to what we expect from a classic No. 1 overall prospect who won't be much of a threat on the bases, but his bat has been as advertised.

7. Jason Heyward

Best MiLB season: .323/.408/.555, 17 HR, 10 SB, 12.1 BB%, 12.1 K% in 99 games as a 19-year-old at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A

The top prospect heading into the 2010 season, Heyward is perhaps best known for making the MLB roster out of camp that year and thus, the Braves only had him under team control for six years instead of seven. He is the highest-ranked player on the list who has been a legitimate disappointment in fantasy relative to his status as a prospect.

8. Byron Buxton

Best MiLB season: .334/.424/.520, 12 HR, 55 SB, 13.2 BB%, 18.3 K% in 125 games as a 19-year-old at Low-A and High-A

I ranked him ahead of Corey Seager prior to 2016, and I stand by that ranking. Buxton's hit tool has been worse than I expected it to be in the big leagues, but I firmly believe he would not be seen as a "bust" by those who think of him that way, were it not for injury-plagued seasons every year after his legendary 2013 season in the lower levels. 

9. Oscar Taveras

Best MiLB season: .321/.380/.572, 23 HR, 10 SB, 7.9 BB%, 10.5 K% in 124 games at Double-A as a 20-year-old

I believe Taveras would have had a 70-grade hit tool and 70-grade power in the big leagues, but he died tragically in a car accident in October of 2014 with just 80 MLB games under his belt. His final prospect class (pre-2014) was the last one that I didn't rank professionally, but he would have been my No. 2 prospect for fantasy that year, behind Buxton.

10. Yoan Moncada

Best MiLB season: .294/.407/.511, 15 HR, 45 SB, 14.7 BB%, 25.3 K% in 106 games as a 21-year-old at High-A and Double-A

Moncada and Buxton are the biggest examples of top prospects where the hit tool was mildly in question, but the power/speed upside was such that the risk was worth the reward. Sadly, Moncada will probably never steal 20 bases in a season, but that didn't seem like a potential outcome when he was a prospect.

Honorable mentions:

Giancarlo Stanton, Eloy Jimenez, Eric Hosmer, Corey Seager, Manny Machado

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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