Ranking the Rookies: 2021 Tiers Vol. 1.0

Ranking the Rookies: 2021 Tiers Vol. 1.0

This article is part of our Baseball Draft Kit series.

This article will appear in the 2021 RotoWire Baseball Magazine and will receive updates throughout the offseason as the news warrants. Buy the magazine here.

The top-400 prospect rankings are for dynasty leagues. This resource is for owners who play in single-season leagues, or in keeper leagues where prospects are rarely kept. These tiers serve as a way to rank prospects based on their fantasy potential for 2020. The rankings are not perfect — there are players I would take over a player or two in the tier(s) above them — but the tiered system is a nice way to get a feel for the type of prospect in whom you are investing.

TIER ONE - Top-40 Starting Pitchers

1. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins

2. Ian Anderson, RHP, Atlanta

This is the first time in the history of this article that I have led things off with pitching. It speaks to the state of the top of the prospect ranks — eight of my top-10 prospects are hitters who probably won't debut within the first couple months of this season. It also speaks to the state of the pitching inventory in redraft leagues. Sanchez and Anderson feel like guys you would be able to get after the first 10 rounds of a 15-team league in a normal season, but the starting pitching pool dries up so fast that Anderson has been going at the 6/7 turn in 15-teamers while Sanchez has been going around the 8/9 turn. Sanchez has three pitches (four-seamer, sinker, changeup) that are as good as Anderson's lone plus pitch (changeup) and Sanchez has a better track record of commanding his pitches.

TIER TWO - Hitters With Impact Potential

3. Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays

4. Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pirates

5. Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals

6. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners

7. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins

8. Leody Taveras, OF, Rangers

9. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/OF, Orioles

10. Andrew Vaughn, 1B/DH, White Sox

In a roto league, I'd take Arozarena over the pitchers in Tier One, but I'd take the pitchers over the rest of these hitters. Kelenic, Kirilloff and Vaughn, all three of whom are top-11 overall prospects, might not open the year on the MLB roster, but they should be up within the first month of the season. The rest will open the year in the majors and with a spot in the top half of their team's lineup. Kirilloff, Mountcastle and Vaughn are the only hitters in this tier who are unlikely to help with stolen bases. For what it's worth, Andres Gimenez, Ha-seong Kim and Jo Adell don't qualify for my prospect rankings, but if they did, they'd be in this tier.

TIER THREE - Mixed-League Pitchers

11. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland

12. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres

13. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays

14. Spencer Howard, RHP, Phillies

15. Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox

16. Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers

17. Deivi Garcia, RHP, Yankees

18. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers

19. Trevor Rogers, LHP, Marlins

20. A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics

21. Tanner Houck, RHP, Red Sox

22. Dane Dunning, RHP, Rangers

Most pitchers in this tier will open the year in their team's rotation. McKenzie has the most impressive MLB track record, but he is extremely risky from a durability/innings standpoint. Gore has the highest ceiling in this tier and could shoot up draft boards with an impressive spring. Pearson, Howard, Skubal and Mize are better than they showed last season, but obviously the floor is very low with all four. I can't get a good read for how many innings we'll get out of Kopech or Garcia, and I'm unsure if either guy will throw enough strikes, but they are quite talented. Rodgers and Houck are my favorite sleepers from this tier. Puk has the talent to be the best pitcher in this tier, but the injury risk is through the roof. Dunning is fine, but I don't think he should have an ADP inside the top 300.

TIER FOUR - Flawed Mixed-League Hitters

23. Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox

24. Bobby Dalbec, 1B, Red Sox

25. Cristian Pache, OF, Atlanta

These three hitters could open the year as everyday big leaguers, but all three project to be huge negatives in at least two roto categories. Madrigal (shoulder) may not be ready for Opening Day, and he and Pache could hit at the bottom of their respective lineups.

TIER FIVE - Pitchers For Watch Lists

26. Clarke Schmidt, RHP, Yankees

27. Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers

28. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Mariners

29. Edward Cabrera, RHP, Marlins

30. Daniel Lynch, LHP, Royals

31. Luis Patino, RHP, Rays

32. Jackson Kowar, RHP, Royals

33. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros

34. Josiah Gray, RHP, Dodgers

35. Ryan Weathers, LHP, Padres

36. Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays

37. Reid Detmers, LHP, Angels

38. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, Athletics

39. Corbin Martin, RHP, Diamondbacks

40. George Kirby, RHP, Mariners

41. Luis Garcia, RHP, Astros

42. Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays

43. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, Blue Jays

44. Braxton Garrett, LHP, Marlins

All of these pitchers project to either open the year in the minors or on the injured list (McKay, shoulder). Most of the pitchers in the top half of this tier are highly ranked on the top 400 and have a decent chance of debuting in the first half. Of the top-100 prospects in this tier, Kirby and Woods-Richardson are the least likely to debut early in the season. Manning, Cabrera and Whitley dealt with arm injuries last season that didn't lead to surgeries, which makes them riskier in the short term. Patino and McClanahan may be used in hybrid roles in Tampa Bay. Gray is ready, but buried on a loaded Dodgers depth chart.

TIER SIX - The Catchers

45. Alejandro Kirk, C, Blue Jays

46. Ryan Jeffers, C, Twins

47. Tyler Stephenson, C, Reds

48. Joey Bart, C, Giants

49. Sam Huff, C, Rangers

50. Jonah Heim, C, Athletics

51. Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers

52. Luis Campusano, DH/C, Padres

53. William Contreras, C, Atlanta

54. Cal Raleigh, C, Mariners

I like Kirk and Jeffers in two-catcher leagues and I like Heim in draft-and-hold formats, but I'm probably not rostering anyone else in this tier. I expect Bart, Ruiz, Campusano, Contreras and Raleigh to open the year in the minors, and Stephenson could as well. Campusano won't enter the season eligible at catcher in most leagues. Huff and Raleigh could be net negatives due to how bad their hit tools are.

TIER SEVEN - Hitters For Watch Lists

55. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS, Red Sox

56. Jazz Chisholm, 2B/SS, Marlins

57. Jared Oliva, OF, Pirates

58. Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta

59. Royce Lewis, SS, Twins

60. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles

61. Wander Franco, 2B/SS/3B, Rays

62. Trevor Larnach, OF/DH, Twins

63. Josh Lowe, OF, Rays

64. Seth Beer, 1B/DH, Diamondbacks

65. Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners

66. Brandon Marsh, OF, Angels

67. JJ Bleday, OF, Marlins

68. Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers

69. Tyler Freeman, 2B/SS, Cleveland

70. Vidal Brujan, 2B/OF, Rays

71. Nolan Jones, OF/3B/1B, Cleveland

72. Heliot Ramos, OF, Giants

73. Bobby Witt, SS/3B, Royals

74. Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox

75. Kyle Isbel, OF, Royals

Most, if not all, of these guys will open the year in the upper levels of the minors. There are five top-10 prospects in this tier (Franco, Rodriguez, Lewis, Witt, Rutschman) and the vast majority are top-100 prospects. Most will debut at some point this season. Franco's short-term value has taken a hit this offseason, as questions have arisen about how much power he will tap into with his current launch angle, and he is dealing with biceps and shoulder inflammation. I'm betting on 2022 being the better year to have Franco shares in redraft leagues. Rutschman, Larnach, Beer, Bleday, Jung and Jones are the only players in this tier who don't have notable speed, while Oliva, Brujan, Duran and Isbel are in this tier solely because of their speed.

TIER EIGHT - Relievers

76. Garrett Crochet, LHP, White Sox

77. Sam Delaplane, RHP, Mariners

78. Emmanuel Clase, RHP, Cleveland

79. Julian Merryweather, RHP, Blue Jays

80. Demarcus Evans, RHP, Rangers

Crochet's dominance out of the bullpen and ensuing forearm strain seem to point to a long-term bullpen role. He is a major health risk in the short term. Delaplane could be the Mariners' closer of the future, but is not a lock to break camp in the majors. Clase could be next up in Cleveland if James Karinchak doesn't throw enough strikes or gets hurt. Merryweather looked like a potential long-term rotation option for Toronto, but after ending the year hurt again, it might make sense to let him blow hitters away in the late innings. Evans looks like the Rangers' closer of the future, but that may not happen until 2022.

TIER NINE - SP Streamers

81. Adbert Alzolay, RHP, Cubs

82. Keegan Akin, RHP, Orioles

83. Dean Kremer, RHP, Orioles

84. Josh Fleming, LHP, Rays

These guys aren't great, but in the right matchup they could be used in even 12- or 15-team mixers. Alzolay gets some love on prospect lists, but I think he'll be beaten up pretty badly by lefty-heavy lineups.

TIER TEN - Hitters For Deep Leagues

85. Daniel Johnson, OF, Cleveland

86. Anderson Tejeda, 2B/SS, Rangers

87. Zach McKinstry, 2B/OF/DH, Dodgers

88. Isaac Paredes, 3B, Tigers

89. Jesus Sanchez, OF, Marlins

90. Monte Harrison, OF, Marlins

91. Lewin Diaz, 1B, Marlins

92. Daz Cameron, OF, Tigers

93. Jose Garcia, SS, Reds

94. Pavin Smith, 1B, Diamondbacks

95. Sherten Apostel, 1B/3B, Rangers

96. Jake Fraley, OF, Mariners

97. Brent Rooker, OF, Twins

98. Luis Barrera, OF, Athletics

99. Rylan Bannon, 2B/3B, Orioles

100. Ka'ai Tom, OF, Athletics

101. Ryan Vilade, SS/3B/OF, Rockies

102. Taylor Walls, SS/2B/3B, Rays

103. Yusniel Diaz, OF, Orioles

104. Andy Young, 2B, Diamondbacks

105. Jaylin Davis, OF, Giants

106. Khalil Lee, OF, Royals

107. Owen Miller, 2B/3B, Cleveland

108. Bobby Bradley, DH/1B, Cleveland

109. Kevin Padlo, 3B/1B, Rays

110. Jonathan India, 3B/2B, Reds

111. Jorge Ona, OF, Padres

112. Taylor Jones, 1B, Astros

113. Colton Welker, 1B/DH, Rockies

114. Sheldon Neuse, 3B/2B/DH, Athletics

There are zero top-100 prospects in this tier and more players in this tier who are unranked than who are ranked in the top 200. Most of the players in this tier aren't very good but could get opportunities. Johnson, Tejeda, Harrison, Cameron, Garcia, Fraley, Barrera, Walls and Lee have enough speed to steal double-digit bases, but they are unlikely to hit enough or play enough to get there this season.

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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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