2021 Top 100 Prospects

Below is my list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. The scouting summaries were compiled with information provided by available data and industry sources, as well as from my own observations.

As I’ve noted while publishing my team lists, because there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was learned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report if there were any. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in my opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on my lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher.

And now, a few important things to keep in mind as you’re perusing the Top 100. You’ll note that prospects are ranked by number but also lie within tiers demarcated by their Future Value grades. The FV grade is more important than the ordinal ranking. For example, the gap between prospect No. 3 on this list, Adley Rutschman, and prospect No. 29, Josiah Gray, is 26 spots, and there’s a substantial difference in talent between them. The gap between Heliot Ramos (No. 61) and Luis Matos (No. 87), meanwhile, is also 26 numerical places, but the difference in talent is relatively small. You may have noticed that there are more than 100 prospects in the table below, and more than 100 scouting summaries. That’s because I have also included 50 FV prospects whose ranking fell outside the 100; their reports appear below, under the “Other 50 FV Prospects” header. The same comparative principle applies to them.

You’ll also notice that there is a Future Value outcome distribution graph for each prospect on the list. This is an attempt to graphically represent how likely each FV outcome is for each prospect. Before his departure for ESPN, Kiley McDaniel used the great work of our former colleague Craig Edwards to find the base rates for each FV tier of prospect (separately for hitters and pitchers), and the likelihood of each FV outcome. For example, based on Craig’s research, the average 60 FV hitter on a list becomes a perennial 5-plus WAR player over his six controlled years 26% of the time, and has a 27% chance of accumulating, at most, a couple of WAR during his six controlled years. I started with those base rates for every player on this year’s list and then, with the help of Kevin Goldstein (who assisted with other elements of this list as well), manually tweaked them depending on our more specific opinions about the player. For instance, Jose Garcia and Trevor Larnach are both 55 FV prospects, but Garcia’s approach makes him very volatile, while Larnach is a surer bet to hit. At the same time, if Garcia ever develops a better approach, his power and ability to play a premium position give him a ceiling that Larnach can’t reasonably attain. My hope is that the distribution graphs reflect these kinds of differences.

For a further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, please read this. If you would like to read a book-length treatment on the subject, you can purchase the book I co-wrote with Kiley, Future Value.

I think arguments can be made as to how you might best line up the players in a given tier (and I had plenty of those arguments), but I arranged them as I did for a variety of reasons about which you can inquire in today’s chat, which begins at Noon ET.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to resolve language in Nate Pearson’s blurb that conflicted with his FV.

2021 Top 100 Prospects
Rk Name Team Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Wander Franco TBR 20.0 A+ SS 2022 80
2 MacKenzie Gore SDP 22.0 AA SP 2021 70
3 Adley Rutschman BAL 23.0 A C 2021 65
4 Randy Arozarena TBR 26.0 MLB LF 2021 60
5 Jarred Kelenic SEA 21.6 AA RF 2021 60
6 CJ Abrams SDP 20.4 A 2B 2023 60
7 Ke’Bryan Hayes PIT 24.1 MLB 3B 2021 60
8 Cristian Pache ATL 22.2 MLB CF 2021 60
9 Spencer Torkelson DET 21.5 R 1B 2022 60
10 Nate Pearson TOR 24.5 MLB SP 2021 60
11 Marco Luciano SFG 19.4 A- SS 2023 60
12 Luis Patiño TBR 21.3 MLB SP 2021 60
13 Ian Anderson ATL 22.8 MLB SP 2021 60
14 Andrew Vaughn CHW 22.9 A+ 1B 2021 60
15 Brandon Marsh LAA 23.2 AA CF 2021 60
16 Dylan Carlson STL 22.3 MLB LF 2021 60
17 Alex Kirilloff MIN 23.3 AA RF 2021 60
18 Matt Manning DET 23.1 AA SP 2021 60
19 Bobby Witt Jr. KCR 20.7 R SS 2023 60
20 Julio Rodríguez SEA 20.1 A+ RF 2022 60
Rk Name Team Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
21 Corbin Carroll ARI 20.5 A- CF 2023 60
22 Tarik Skubal DET 24.2 MLB SP 2021 60
23 Royce Lewis MIN 21.7 AA SS 2022 60
24 Vidal Bruján TBR 23.0 AA 2B 2021 60
25 Asa Lacy KCR 21.7 R SP 2022 55
26 Max Meyer MIA 21.9 R SP 2021 55
27 Luis Campusano SDP 22.4 MLB C 2022 55
28 Sixto Sánchez MIA 22.6 MLB SP 2021 55
29 Josiah Gray LAD 23.2 AA SP 2022 55
30 Grayson Rodriguez BAL 21.3 A SP 2023 55
31 Francisco Alvarez NYM 19.2 R C 2023 55
32 Casey Mize DET 23.8 MLB SP 2021 55
33 Spencer Howard PHI 24.6 MLB SP 2021 55
34 Michael Kopech CHW 24.8 MLB SP 2021 55
35 JJ Bleday MIA 23.3 A+ RF 2021 55
36 Trevor Larnach MIN 24.0 AA RF 2021 55
37 Logan Gilbert SEA 23.8 AA SP 2021 55
38 Riley Greene DET 20.4 A RF 2022 55
39 Nick Madrigal CHW 23.9 MLB 2B 2021 55
40 Nolan Gorman STL 20.8 A+ 3B 2021 55
Rk Name Team Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
41 Brennen Davis CHC 21.3 A CF 2023 55
42 Ronny Mauricio NYM 19.9 A SS 2023 55
43 Kristian Robinson ARI 20.2 A RF 2022 55
44 Austin Martin TOR 21.9 R CF 2022 55
45 Alek Thomas ARI 20.8 A+ LF 2022 55
46 Quinn Priester PIT 20.4 A- SP 2024 55
47 Drew Waters ATL 22.1 AAA CF 2021 55
48 Jazz Chisholm MIA 23.0 MLB SS 2021 55
49 Jose Garcia CIN 22.9 MLB SS 2021 55
50 Edward Cabrera MIA 22.8 AA SP 2021 55
51 Jasson Dominguez NYY 18.0 R CF 2025 50
52 Nolan Jones CLE 22.8 AA LF 2021 50
53 Jeter Downs BOS 22.6 AA 2B 2022 50
54 Triston Casas BOS 21.1 A+ 1B 2023 50
55 Joey Bart SFG 24.2 MLB C 2021 50
56 Josh Lowe TBR 23.0 AA CF 2022 50
57 Emerson Hancock SEA 21.7 R SP 2022 50
58 Triston McKenzie CLE 23.5 MLB SP 2021 50
59 Ryan Jeffers MIN 23.9 MLB C 2021 50
60 Deivi García NYY 21.7 MLB SP 2021 50
Rk Name Team Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
61 Heliot Ramos SFG 21.4 AA RF 2022 50
62 Daniel Lynch KCR 24.3 A+ SP 2022 50
63 George Valera CLE 20.3 A RF 2022 50
64 Ha-seong Kim SDP 25.3 R SS 2021 50
65 Ivan Herrera STL 20.7 AA C 2023 50
66 Jeremy Peña HOU 23.4 A+ SS 2022 50
67 Oswald Peraza NYY 20.7 A SS 2022 50
68 Geraldo Perdomo ARI 21.3 A+ SS 2021 50
69 Noelvi Marte SEA 19.3 R SS 2023 50
70 Zac Veen COL 19.2 R CF 2025 50
71 Robert Hassell III SDP 19.5 R CF 2023 50
72 Simeon Woods Richardson TOR 20.4 A+ SP 2023 50
73 Garrett Crochet CHW 21.7 MLB SIRP 2021 50
74 Alejandro Kirk TOR 22.3 MLB C 2022 50
75 Clarke Schmidt NYY 25.0 MLB SP 2021 50
76 George Kirby SEA 23.0 A- SP 2022 50
77 Jordan Groshans TOR 21.3 A 3B 2023 50
78 Tyler Stephenson CIN 24.5 MLB C 2021 50
79 Brayan Rocchio CLE 20.1 A- SS 2022 50
80 Keibert Ruiz LAD 22.6 MLB C 2021 50
Rk Name Team Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
81 Jordan Balazovic MIN 22.4 A+ SP 2021 50
82 Jhoan Duran MIN 23.1 AA SP 2021 50
83 DL Hall BAL 22.4 A+ MIRP 2022 50
84 Xavier Edwards TBR 21.5 A+ 2B 2023 50
85 Michael Busch LAD 23.3 A 2B 2021 50
86 Nick Gonzales PIT 21.7 R 2B 2023 50
87 Luis Matos SFG 19.1 R CF 2024 50
88 Tyler Freeman CLE 21.7 A+ 2B 2022 50
89 Orelvis Martinez TOR 19.2 R SS 2023 50
90 Jordyn Adams LAA 21.3 A+ CF 2023 50
91 Alexander Vargas NYY 19.3 R SS 2023 50
92 Daniel Espino CLE 20.1 A- SP 2022 50
93 Gabriel Moreno TOR 21.0 A C 2022 50
94 Ryan Mountcastle BAL 24.0 MLB LF 2021 50
95 Mick Abel PHI 19.5 R SP 2024 50
96 Matthew Allan NYM 19.8 A- SP 2023 50
97 Luis Medina NYY 21.8 A+ MIRP 2021 50
98 Gregory Santos SFG 21.5 A MIRP 2021 50
99 A.J. Puk OAK 25.8 MLB SP 2021 50
100 Tahnaj Thomas PIT 21.7 R SP 2022 50
Rk Name Team Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
101 Hunter Greene CIN 21.5 A SP 2022 50
102 Nick Lodolo CIN 23.0 A SP 2022 50
103 Heston Kjerstad BAL 22.0 R RF 2024 50
104 Trevor Rogers MIA 23.3 MLB SP 2021 50
105 Oneil Cruz PIT 22.4 AA SS 2021 50
106 Forrest Whitley HOU 23.4 AAA SP 2021 50
107 Shane Baz TBR 21.7 A SIRP 2022 50
108 Taylor Walls TBR 24.6 AA SS 2021 50
109 Josh Jung TEX 23.0 A 3B 2022 50
110 Slade Cecconi ARI 21.6 R SP 2024 50
111 Matthew Liberatore STL 21.3 A SP 2022 50
112 Liover Peguero PIT 20.1 A- SS 2022 50
113 Brailyn Marquez CHC 22.0 MLB SIRP 2021 50
114 Bo Naylor CLE 21.0 A C 2023 50
115 Corbin Martin ARI 25.1 MLB SP 2021 50
116 Miguel Yajure PIT 22.8 MLB SP 2021 50
117 Andy Pages LAD 20.2 R CF 2023 50
118 Jacob Amaya LAD 22.5 A+ SS 2022 50
119 Shane McClanahan TBR 23.8 AA MIRP 2022 50
120 Hunter Brown HOU 22.5 A- SP 2023 50
Rk Name Team Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
121 Leody Taveras TEX 22.4 MLB CF 2021 50
122 Seth Johnson TBR 22.4 R SP 2023 50
123 Brendan McKay TBR 25.2 MLB SP 2021 50
124 Yerry Rodriguez TEX 23.3 A SP 2021 50
125 Travis Swaggerty PIT 23.5 A+ CF 2022 50
126 Blake Hunt TBR 22.3 A C 2022 50
127 Aaron Ashby MIL 22.7 A+ MIRP 2022 50
128 Matt Canterino MIN 23.2 A MIRP 2022 50
129 Kevin Alcantara NYY 18.6 R CF 2024 50
130 Mark Vientos NYM 21.2 A 3B 2022 50
131 Heriberto Hernandez TBR 21.2 A- LF 2023 50
132 Ezequiel Duran NYY 21.7 A- 2B 2023 50
133 Reginald Preciado CHC 17.8 R 3B 2025 50
Reading Options
Detail Level
Data Only
TLDR
Full
Graphs Hidden
Team Filter
All
Position Filter
All

80 FV Prospects

1. Wander Franco, SS, TBR
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (TBR)
Age 20.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr S / R FV 80
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
60/80 55/55 45/60 60/60 50/55 55

Franco is as good as a prospect can get, checking every box on a performance, scouting, and analytical level.

Franco spent 2020 at the alternate site and then played just five games for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League before he was shut down due to biceps soreness, which had clearly affected his throwing, as he short-hopped several throws to first base on routine plays. It’s not expected to be a long-term issue, and Franco himself wanted to rest and return to action for Escogido (the left side of los Leones infield would have been him and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.), but the Rays prevented it as a precaution. I suppose there’s some chance that this issue, combined with the presence of other good shortstops in the org like Willy Adames and Taylor Walls (assuming either or both aren’t traded) creates a heightened chance that Franco debuts in the big leagues as a second baseman, but even if we knew that was going to be the case, he’d still easily be the best prospect in baseball.

In fact, last year Franco became the first 80 FV prospect of the Future Value era at FanGraphs, the best prospect on the planet, and the best I’ve evaluated during my tenure here at the site. Recall Franco’s statistical track record, which is better than Vladdy’s was at the same age and levels: He has played 175 career games, all at levels well above what is typical for a player his age (he doesn’t turn 20 until March). During those games, he hit .336/.405/.523 with 71 extra-base hits, 20 steals, and more walks than strikeouts. In fact, across two levels in 2019, Low- and Hi-A, Franco not only walked more than he struck out, but walked about twice as much. He has one of the lowest swinging strike rates in the minor leagues at a paltry 4.8%. Franco’s short levers and lightning-quick wrists make it nearly impossible to beat him with velocity, especially on the inner half. He is also especially adept at spoiling well-located back-foot breaking balls, and if you miss with one and catch even part of the zone, he can drop the bat head and yank it out to his pull side. Work away from him and he’ll extend his arms and pepper the opposite field gap with line drives, then use his speed to turn lots of those into doubles. He has impressive raw juice in BP, which he shows off because he makes such consistent contact (his 2019 Futures Game BP was better than Jo Adell‘s and Nolan Jones’ even though those guys have bigger raw power), but it’s possible Franco’s in-game power hasn’t fully actualized yet because he still hits the ball on the ground a lot (48% in 2019, with just a 9 degree average launch angle). And yet he’s still slugging like a physically mature Quad-A hitter. How about the TrackMan data? Franco’s exit velos and hard hit rate (which are on The Board) are both above the big league average, which is ridiculous for a teenager who’s playing against competition four and a half years older than he is.

He might not ever produce huge home run totals without a swing change (someone told me, “If that’s true, then imagine a Michael Brantley-type of hitter who switch-hits and plays shortstop”), but it’d be ridiculous to alter this guy’s swing considering how elite his performance has been, and I think the elite bat-to-ball skills will enable him to hit for more game power than his raw. Franco has been the best player his age on the planet since he was 14 years old. He looks like, and has performed like, a generational talent and annual MVP contender. (Alternate site, LIDOM)

Collapse arrow_drop_up

70 FV Prospects

2. MacKenzie Gore, SP, SDP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Whiteville HS (NC) (SDP)
Age 22.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 70
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 50/50 50/60 50/70 91-95 / 97

Gore is a premium on-mound athlete with a four-pitch mix that plays up due to command and deception.

This is where I had Gore last year and to move off of him at all would be to do so almost entirely because of an inference, albeit a fair one. Yes, the 2020 Padres needed pitching, and it was thought entering 2020 spring training that San Diego would not hesitate to promote either Gore or Luis Patiño if they pitched well enough in the minors. Patiño got the call, as did Ryan Weathers eventually, but even when their staff was decimated by injury and throwing bullpen game after bullpen game in the playoffs, Gore did not. Because the Padres’ taxi squad trained at the University of San Diego (where there’s no TrackMan unit) and the team did not opt in to alternate site video sharing, other clubs do not have a real idea of how Gore looked at the alt site. The Padres acknowledge he was struggling to synch his mechanics, which seems feasible given their complexity.

After 2020, Gore has now had bizarre issues in two of the last three seasons (he dealt with blisters throughout 2018), but sandwiched between them was one of the most dominant minor league seasons of the last several years, during which Gore was in the top five in minor league ERA, Swinging Strike Rate and Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. He made 15 starts in the Cal League and surrendered just nine runs. In the Cal League. Aside from the way his fastball plays (it averaged 93 in 2019, has carry and cut, and generated a 17% swinging strike rate, 16% overall), this is not a power pitcher. Gore has typically been athletic enough to maintain his very deceptive, intricate mechanics and execute his bevy of secondary pitches with consistency. His changeup has bat-missing action when it’s located but his curveball and slider rely on deception and location to miss bats, and Gore has typically been able to provide both. Ideally, at least one of his breaking balls will take a bit of a step forward, and it’s reasonable to hope one still might since this guy has still only had one full minor league season. I’m writing 2020 off as a developmental hiccup rather than one featuring a role-altering injury. If his stuff appears down or there’s more evidence of persistent mechanical trouble, that’s when I think it’ll be time to reassess. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down

65 FV Prospects

3. Adley Rutschman, C, BAL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Oregon State (BAL)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr S / R FV 65
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 60/60 45/55 40/35 60/70 60

A superlative defender at a premium position, Rutschman is also a fairly polished switch-hitter with power as well as an intense, charismatic team leader.

Rutschman is the total package, a physical monster who also has superlative baseball acumen and leadership qualities. From his sophomore season onward (and arguably starting in the Fall before that), he went wire-to-wire as the top prospect in his class, a complete player and the best draft prospect in half a decade. His entire profile is ideal. It’s rare for ambidextrous swingers to have polished swings from both sides of the plate, and even more so to have two nearly identical, rhythmic swings that produce power.

It’s more atypical still for that type of hitter to be a great defender at a premium position. Rutschman has a pickpocket’s sleight of hand and absolutely cons umpires into calling strikes on the edge of the zone, and resolute umpires end up hearing it from biased fans who are easier marks. Aside from two instances, all of my Rutschman pop times over three years of looks are between 1.86 and 1.95 seconds, comfortably plus times on throws often right on the bag. Rutschman has the physical tools to become the best catcher in baseball, provided he stays healthy (he had some shoulder/back stuff in college). He’s also an ultra-competitive, attentive, and vocal team leader who shepherds pitchers with measured but intense encouragement. It fires up his teammates and feels like it comes from a real place, rather than something he’s forcing. Aside from the questions that arose as teams scrutinized Rutschman’s medicals with a magnifying glass before the draft (it was described to me as “stuff consistent with catching and playing football”), he’s a perfect prospect subject only to the risk and attrition that all catchers face.

Because the 2020 minor league season was cancelled, we have no full-season looks nor data to alter or buttress this foundation, and Adley looked the same as ever in the Fall. I realize readers will have Matt Wieters flashbacks because Rutchsman’s frame and switch-hitting, upright stance are dead ringers for Wieters’, but this guy’s blood courses through his veins at a much different temperature. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down

60 FV Prospects

4. Randy Arozarena, LF, TBR
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (STL)
Age 26.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 60/60 55/60 50/50 45/45 55

2020’s Ruth-ian power surge is impossible to ignore despite the sample size, as everything points to Arozarena posting more middle-of-the-order production.

Yes, Arozarena was on last year’s pre-season Top 100 but he was evaluated as a well-rounded, tough-nosed everyday player rather than someone with impact power, which he developed by doing push ups all day in his hotel room during a COVID-19 quarantine. I think this is a real, relevant change and helped drive his debut season’s triple slash line, a star-like .281/.382/.641 in the regular season and God-like .500/.538/1.042 in the playoffs. A pertinent data point here is Arozarena’s max exit velo, which was 109 mph in 2019 and moved up to 113 mph in 2020. This is a measurable change in physical ability, the reason for which is well-publicized and which is supported by a visual evaluation of Arozarena’s physicality. And I’m not too worried about the sudden uptick in his strikeout rate because it not only occurred in a small sample but is way above his career norm of 18.5% (I’m avoiding recency bias), and the circumstances surrounding it (Arozarena rolled out of quarantine bed and faced big league pitching for the longest stretch of his life) are odd. We also got our first glimpse of how opponents are going to pitch to Arozarena now that he’s a certified masher, and I think that his walk rate and OBP are both going to take a pretty serious leap. His newfound physique might also bring about a change to his approach to contact (this guy once looked like a leadoff hitter) as he continues to get a feel for what it’s like to have this much juice, but I’m not sure how that will manifest on the field. I think the added weight has made him a worse defender and now have a 40 on him in left field, not that it matters. He’s likely to anchor the middle of the Rays order for the next half decade. It should be noted that Arozarena was involved in an altercation related to a custody dispute this offseason; he was released from custody after his former partner declined to press charges. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
5. Jarred Kelenic, RF, SEA
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Waukesha West HS (WI) (NYM)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 196 Bat / Thr L / L FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 60/60 50/60 50/45 45/45 60

There’s no overwhelming skill/tool, but everything in Kelenic’s package is plus.

Kelenic entered 2020 coming off a season during which he traversed three levels and reached Double-A at age 20 while hitting .291/.364/.540 with 23 dingers and 20 steals despite wrist and ankle injuries. He got regular big league at-bats during spring training ahead of the shutdown, then had some very high-profile homers during summer camp and at the alternate site, which you probably already know because the Mariners’ prospect PR machine is very strong. I wrote last year that even though Kelenic had become a maxed-out beefcake, it hadn’t detracted from his ability to play a fringe center field. More recent scout looks indicate that may no longer be the case, as several of them think Kelenic’s size at his age may eventually push him to the 1B/DH realm, or at least cause him to slow down and be below-average in an outfield corner.

I don’t think it matters. Kelenic rakes. His feel for contact, strength, and mature approach combine to make him a lethal offensive threat. He is short to the ball with power, and can rip his top hand through to catch fastballs at the top of the zone, which bodes well for him against a pitching population that is working up there with increasing frequency. He’s been the among the most polished hitters his age since he was 15 and has a track record of statistical success dating back to his underclass high school days…he’s just added upwards of 30 pounds of muscle to that foundation of skill. I expect him to come up in 2021 and be an immediate impact player. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
6. CJ Abrams, 2B, SDP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Blessed Trinity HS (GA) (SDP)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 182 Bat / Thr L / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/70 45/55 30/55 80/80 35/45 50

A slide to second base is likely but Abrams is a potentially special bat buoyed by burner-level speed and burgeoning power.

Abrams spent 2020 in the black box that was the Padres’ alternate site, then came to Arizona for Instructional League, where I saw him more than just about any hitter on the backfields. I thought it was an irresponsible comp when I first heard it, but Abrams does kind of swing like Kenny Lofton. The way Abrams’ bat traverses the zone and the way his head kicks back like the butt of a shotgun when he really lays into a ball are both evocative of Lofton, as is Abrams’ speed.

But my main takeaway from the 2020 Fall look was how much better of an infielder I thought Abrams had become. Over the last decade or so, infielders who have tended to be on the middle infield/center field line due to poor arm strength or utility (Billy Hamilton, Roman Quinn) have trended to the outfield, so I had been projecting Abrams there. Now I think he can make enough of the throws to play second base, though I also think it makes sense for the Padres to give him reps in center for the sake of versatility, and they might want to do it soon because Abrams’ bat is coming quickly. The .401/.442/.662 line he posted throughout the summer after he was drafted isn’t sustainable — players who run as well as he does are a nightmare for rookie-ball infields and Abrams posted a .425 BABIP — but Abrams can absolutely rake. His gaze appears to be laser-guided as he tracks pitches deep into the hitting zone, he has a knack for impacting the baseball in a way that creates hard contact even though his swing is currently pretty flat, and he can do so all over the strike zone. Of the trio of elite middle infield prospects who still aren’t yet old enough to drink (Abrams, Bobby Witt, and Marco Luciano), Abrams has the most polished hit tool and the most room left on his frame. Even without a swing change, he’s going to grow into more power through physical maturity, which is pretty scary considering his exit velos were already above the big league average in 2019 (though, again, AZL pitching wasn’t good that year). This is the best leadoff-hitting prospect in baseball. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
7. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Concordia Lutheran HS (TX) (PIT)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 50/50 45/50 60/55 70/70 60

Hayes is a potential Gold Glove defender who continues to progress offensively with an improved approach and more power.

We now have a reasonably-sized big league sample with which to help us answer the question of whether Hayes will be merely very good, or will hit for enough in-game power to have a Scott Rolen-ish career. The data does some pushing and pulling. In about a month, Hayes hit a whopping .376/.442/.682, ranked fourth among all hitters with a 195 wRC+, and led all NL rookies with 1.7 WAR even though he only played in 24 games. And Hayes was hitting the ball hard. His big league average exit velocity (just shy of 93 mph) and HardHit% (55%) were both above what he posted in the 2019 minors (91 mph, 48%) when he only hit 10 homers over a 100 games. But his .450 BABIP is unsustainable and, per Statcast, his xwOBA (.356) came in well below his actual wOBA (.464), indicating that he was also the beneficiary of some luck. There’s no accounting for how big league pitching might expose a weakness and begin to adjust to Hayes, even if it’s just to limit his power output rather than get him out. But his approach is responsive enough that I think he’ll target pitches he can drive and do enough damage to, when coupled with his world-class defense at third base, make him a multi-time All-Star. (Alternate Site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
8. Cristian Pache, CF, ATL
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (ATL)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 50/55 40/45 70/70 80/80 70

Pache is an elite defender in center with 20/20 potential on the offensive side.

Pache played in two 2020 regular season games before he was thrust into the Braves’ NLCS lineup due to Adam Duvall’s oblique injury. Even though he hit .278/.340/.474 as a 20-year-old at Double-A Mississippi, there are still some level-headed, long-term questions about Pache’s offensive ability. He had a 17% swinging strike rate last year (if we 20-80’d swinging strike rates, that’d be a 30), and you might quibble with elements of the swing, most notably that the bat path only allows for power in certain parts of the zone, and that Pache’s pitch recognition is only okay. But the bat control to make a ton of contact and the hand speed and rotational ability to hit for power are all there, and he’s athletic enough to make adjustments in order to get to that power (selectivity might also be an issue), which, coupled with some of the flashiest, most acrobatic defense in pro baseball, gives Pache a cathedral ceiling.

Even though he’s already started to slow down a little bit, Pache’s reads in center, his contortionist’s ability to slide and dive at odd angles to make tough catches, and his arm strength combine to make him a premium defensive center fielder, and he’s a likely perennial Gold Glover barring an unexpected, precipitous physical regression. Even if he’s not posting All-Star offensive statlines, I think he’ll provide All-Star value overall because of the glove, and hit about 20 annual pull shots, perhaps with below average OBP. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
9. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, DET
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Arizona State (DET)
Age 21.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 65/70 35/65 40/40 40/40 40

Arguably the best college hitter in the last decade, Torkelson’s bat carries his value but it has elite potential.

Torkelson broke Barry Bonds‘ freshman home run record at Arizona State and the school moved the fences in for his sophomore season, so he had another great year and looked likely to break both the ASU and PAC-12 career marks as a junior before COVID-19 ended the season. Indeed, after he hit a combined .336/.445/.722 as a freshman and sophomore, Tork was off to a ridiculous .340/.598/.780 start to his final college season, and was leading the country in walks as opposing pitchers began to fearfully dump in more and more breaking balls against him. As the draft approached, he began to swing over the top of those breaking balls more than usual, which might have been because either he was pressing due to the looming draft, or because of the lack of an impact sidekick in ASU’s lineup since Hunter Bishop was no longer hitting behind him. Torkelson has sublime hitter’s timing, plus bat speed, and above-average barrel control and ball/strike recognition, really only struggling with those breaking balls located beneath the zone, which may be easy to remedy with a slightly longer stride to create more barrel depth. The Tigers announced him as a third baseman, and it makes sense for them to explore if he can be even a 35- or 40-grade defender there, though I don’t think he will end up at the hot corner; he body comps to Yankees first baseman Luke Voit and is a 1B/DH-only for me. It’s a tough profile, but his elite statistical track record and the visual evaluation of Torkelson’s hitting acumen align and serve to generate confidence that he’ll be a thumping, heart of the order hitter. And Detroit will probably allow him to move quickly since so much of their young pitching is now arriving in the big leagues. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
10. Nate Pearson, SP, TOR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Central Florida JC (FL) (TOR)
Age 24.5 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 245 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 65/70 45/45 40/55 45/50 95-100 / 102

Pearson is the rare 100-mph thrower who comes with a starter’s package. Don’t sleep on the low-to-mid 90s (that’s not a typo) slider and improving changeup.

After a healthy 2019, albeit one during which he was asked to work just four innings per start, Pearson once again had an injury hiccup in 2020. This time his malady, described as right elbow tightness, was actually arm-related after he had previously dealt with an intercostal strain and a fractured ulna caused by a comebacker. The Blue Jays shut him down for about a month, and when Pearson returned he did so as a reliever. Upon coming back, his fastball velocity was not only intact but he threw harder than he did as a starter before he was shut down (he averaged 99 mph after “only” throwing 96 as a starter). After just one post-injury regular season outing, Pearson came out of the bullpen in the final game of Toronto’s Wild Card round loss to the Rays, and absolutely paved over Tampa Bay hitters who had just shelled Hyun Jin Ryu 류현진. The question the industry hoped Pearson would answer in 2020 was, “Can this guy hold upper-90s cheese all year, every fifth day, as a starter?” I think the answer to that is probably no, and I also think that based on how difficult it’s been for him to build a starter’s inning count in the minors, Pearson might spend his first couple of big league seasons in some kind of truncated starter’s role or as a multi-inning relief weapon.

But he does have front-end stuff in his fastball and mid-80s slider, which is often a 70 on the scale. Pearson also walked a bunch of hitters during his 2020 debut but his in-zone location rate was about the big league average, and he pretty consistently executes his fastball and slider where they should be located, so I think it’s unlikely he moves to the ‘pen for command-related reasons. He also has a curveball and changeup that round out the starter-worthy repertoire, though he’s never really been able to throw that curveball for strikes and I’d speculate that the changeup ends up as the tertiary pitch here. His changeup flashes plus but his feel for locating it consistently isn’t great, and I think that pitch needs to develop if he’s going to max out as a starter. Because FV is a WAR-based prediction and Pearson’s innings are likely to be somewhat limited early in his career, perhaps I should have kept his FV in the 55 tier even though he returned from the elbow injury with his usual velocity. But I’m 60’ing him here because of his high-end outcomes, which I think also include a truly elite relief possibility. There’s a chance Toronto eventually does with him what the Reds did with Aroldis Chapman, where the team is competitive and Pearson is thriving in a relief role, so they just leave him there. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
11. Marco Luciano, SS, SFG
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (SFG)
Age 19.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/60 60/70 25/70 50/45 30/40 50

While he’s unlikely to stay at shortstop, it’s not going to matter, as Luciano is arguably the best teenage hitter in professional baseball.

There’s no change to Luciano’s blurb from last year, both because my thoughts on him haven’t changed after my Fall look and because, well, I can’t do better than this: The Giants’ dusty, tightly-confined backfields abut a gym with the sort of athleisure-wearing clientele you’d expect in Scottsdale. In January of 2019, when most baseball facilities across the country were dark, just feet away from oblivious Peloton riders and tennis-playing retirees, a few lucky scouts and media folks had a religious experience watching the sweetest-swinging teenager on Earth absolutely roast balls fed to his barrel by a high-speed pitching machine. Because of how close you can sit next to the field there, you can feel the sonic force of bat-to-ball impact radiate into your body. When Marco Luciano connects, you feel it to your core. He is not normal. To find bat speed comps you need to look toward Javier Báez, Eric Davis, or whoever the top of your mental catalog might be. And while he already generates plenty of it, Luciano’s square-shouldered frame indicates more power might be coming. The length created by Luciano’s natural, uppercut swing is offset by the explosiveness in his hands; he’s not particularly strikeout-prone and he doesn’t take out-of-control hacks. Unless something unforeseen is exposed about Luciano’s approach as he moves through the minors, all of this power seems likely to actualize. His AZL walk rate is encouraging early evidence that he’s unlikely to be so exposed.

As an athlete and infielder, Luciano is only fair. He might play a passable shortstop one day because his hands and actions are fine most of the time, but he can’t presently make strong, accurate throws from multiple platforms. It looks increasingly likely that he’ll move to the outfield, enough so that some scouts have him projected there, but it’s too early to cut bait and move him. He has elite hitting talent, he’s produced on paper, and he already has average exit velos and a hard-hit rate that grade as 65s on the scale. If he continues to perform, especially if he hits his way to the upper levels, then this time next year we’ll be talking about Marco Luciano as one of the best prospects in baseball, and if he does so while improving his infield defense, perhaps the best. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
12. Luis Patiño, SP, TBR
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (SDP)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 192 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 55/60 45/55 40/60 93-97 / 99

Patiño dishes premium stuff out of a smallish frame. His critics see a future reliever, but the majority sees a plus big-league starter.

Even though I don’t share it, I think it’s fair to say Patiño’s 2020 debut reinforced the doubt that some front office personnel have expressed each of the last two offseasons about his ability to start. Some of that doubt is the result of his size (I specifically don’t have these concerns), while the rest is the result of his sub-par control/command. Indeed Patiño’s BB/9 rose as he was promoted to each of his previous four minor league levels, culminating in a gnarly 16.5% walk rate during a small 2020 big league sample. For someone as short as Patiño is, his arm swing is actually quite long, and his tactile feel for release has seemingly regressed as he’s gotten more muscular. But remember that this is one of the better on-mound athletes in the minors, who is still only the age of a college prospect, and who hasn’t had elite velocity for very long. Since he signed, Patiño has gained about 40 pounds and added about 10 ticks of fastball velocity. More important context: Patiño is a converted infielder who has only been focused on pitching for about five years, and one of those was seriously disrupted by the pandemic. Certainly Patiño needs to find more mechanical consistency and his fastball location needs to move north. Plus, his changeup feel is still quite raw. But if this guy were at LSU or UCLA, we’d be talking about him as the odds-on favorite to go number one overall in this year’s draft. I still project Patiño as a multi-time All-Star starter. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
13. Ian Anderson, SP, ATL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Shenendowa HS (NY) (ATL)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/55 70/70 50/55 91-94 / 97

After announcing his presence with authority in the 2020 postseason, Anderson is primed to make a young, good Braves rotation even younger and better.

Anderson made a half-dozen regular season starts in 2020 and while he had some strike-throwing hiccups throughout, he struck out a ton of big league hitters and was nails when the lights were brightest in October. Everything he throws comes out of a very deceptive overhand slot that makes it difficult for hitters to parse his curveball from his fastball, and Anderson knows how to use each to set the other one up for a finishing blow. But Anderson’s best weapon is his changeup, which has a lethal combination of tail and dive. He’s no sniper, but Anderson can throw all three pitches for strikes and induce chases with all of them. He’s a high-probability mid-rotation starter and is likely to graduate from rookie status just a few weeks into the 2021 season. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
14. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, CHW
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Cal (CHW)
Age 22.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/70 60/60 50/60 30/30 40/40 40

Vaughn looks like a future three-hole fixture on the South Side, with well above average on-base and slugging skills.

Vaughn spent 2020 at the unscoutable alternate site, but his most telling at-bats were all very visible as they’re the ones he took off big league pitching, first during spring training and then during Chicago’s intrasquad preparation for the season. He hit .259/.394/.444 in the spring off of admittedly diluted pitching, then grinded out long, tough at-bats during the summer tune-up against a staff that would turn out to be quite good. He’s also one of the more decorated college hitters ever, slashing .374/.495/.688 at Cal.

He’s very likely to clear the high offensive bar at first base. He’s not a great feet-and-hands athlete on the infield but Vaughn’s swing is pretty athletic, and sweet. He doesn’t chase and seems to have a narrow early-count approach focused on pitches he can crush. He’s less able to damage well-executed breaking stuff away from him, but he often spoils those pitches or puts them in play and, again, typically doesn’t offer at them until he has to. There’s a clearer path to the big leagues for Vaughn now that Edwin Encarnacion and Nomar Mazara are no longer on the roster (I talk more about this in the System Overview), and he’ll likely play in the big leagues in 2021. He continues to project as an All-Star first baseman. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
15. Brandon Marsh, CF, LAA
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Buford HS (GA) (LAA)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 55/60 45/55 60/55 50/55 60

A plus-run, plus center fielder with an above-average arm, Marsh can hit and scouts think power will come from his 6-foot-4 frame.

There’s no change to Marsh’s report since he was at the alternate site all year and not at instructs. He only got three big league spring training at-bats before the shutdown, so there’s no way of knowing what kind of impact the swing changes it appeared Marsh made in the Fall of 2019 will have on his offensive output, though I expect we’ll soon find out. It’s possible the wait is over and that Marsh’s swing is now in a place that will enable him to hit for power more in line with the thump he shows in batting practice, but his in-season slugging performance (.428 in 2019, up from .385 the year before) is not the evidence for that. Marsh still hit the ball on the ground a lot during the regular season and only averaged about five degrees of launch angle, but by his 2019 Fall League stint, things clearly looked different. Like Jo Adell showed late in the Fall, Marsh’s hands loaded a little farther out away from his body and he had what some scouts called a “wrap” or “power tip,” where the bat head is angled toward the mound a bit, setting up more of a loop than a direct path to the ball. I thought he lifted the ball better during that six week stretch and did so without compromising his strong feel for contact. He could blow up this year. He’s also a clean fit in center field and his range out there might be better than Trout’s is at this point, though obviously the notion of moving Trout to a corner comes with other considerations. I think Marsh is an All-Star talent. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
16. Dylan Carlson, LF, STL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Elk Grove HS (CA) (STL)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr S / L FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 50/55 45/55 50/40 50/55 40

Carlson is a prototypical corner outfield prospect who is ready to step into everyday at-bats in St. Louis.

Carlson is balanced and coordinated while hitting from both sides of the plate, his left-handed swing has gorgeous lift and finish, and he has advanced bat control and rare on-field poise for a switch-hitter his age. He’s also athletic and moves well for his size. I still have some questions about his ultimate upside because I think he’s much more likely to end up in left field than in center. His instincts in center are okay, but I don’t think he has the long speed that is typical at the position. His 2019 minor league TrackMan data indicates his statline from that year was a bit of a caricature, but his Savant page indicates the opposite with regard to his 2020 debut struggles. I wonder if pro models are overrating Carlson due to his age because even though he’s only 22, he doesn’t have the physical projection you’d expect of a hitter that age. Of course, it’s not like Juan Soto still has physical projection, either. The league-average offensive production in left field has been lower than you might expect (good for a 100 wRC+ over the last five years) and Carlson might also be able to play a situational center field when the Cards are behind and need offense, as well as some first base. That versatility is valuable icing on a switch-hitting cake. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
17. Alex Kirilloff, RF, MIN
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Plum HS (PA) (MIN)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / L FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 60/60 50/60 30/30 40/40 60

Kirilloff has power and bat control, but be wary of corner guys with expansive approaches, and AK is trending toward first base.

I remember the remarkable consistency with which Kirilloff struck balls deep into the outfield during the 2016 PG All American Game Home Run Derby. His swing looked much different than all the other kids’. At the time I wasn’t sure whether that was good, or if I thought it would work in actual pro games. I’ve seen other high schoolers hit balls much harder and farther than he did at that age, but I still haven’t seen anyone scoop the ball in the air with that kind of consistency in a derby or BP setting. And now Kirilloff — despite missing 2017 due to Tommy John, and after dealing with recurring right wrist issues that tanked his offensive output in 2019 then being unable to rebound statistically in 2020 because of the pandemic — was asked to make his big league debut during the playoffs and is likely to be handed an everyday role in 2021. The departure of both Eddie Rosario and Nelson Cruz means the Twins need two more big league lineup cornerstones, and Kirilloff is the by far most likely internal candidate to be one right away.

Healthy Kirilloff is going to hit and hit for power. Part of why I was skeptical of his swing in high school is because he strides open, his front foot drifting way down the first base line rather than back toward the pitcher. This allows him to turn on balls most hitters are jammed by, but he still has the plate coverage and swing path to lift contact the other way when pitchers work away from him. Ironically, Eddie Rosario’s swing worked in a similar fashion, and the two are also similarly free-swingers. I was skeptical of Rosario’s at the time (incorrectly), and he doesn’t have the kind of power Kirilloff does. A thickening build has slowed Kirilloff down, and he’s now spent some time at first base after beginning his career in CF/RF. I think we’ll see him play a combination of first base, right field and DH depending on the starter the Twins are matched up against on a given day. Corner bats who like to swing as much as Kirilloff does can be pretty risky, but I have a high degree of confidence in this one because he tracks pitches well and sprays hard contact all over the place. I think he’s going to be a 3-ish annual WAR, middle-of-the-order anchor. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
18. Matt Manning, SP, DET
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Sheldon HS (CA) (DET)
Age 23.1 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 60/60 50/55 45/55 93-96 / 98

Manning is a power-pitching prototype built like an NBA wing player.

A large part of the reason Manning ranked first on last year’s Tigers list was because he had neither Casey Mize’s injury red flags nor Tarik Skubal’s relief risk. Then in late August, he was shut down with a forearm strain, the first real blemish on what had been an immaculate track record of arm health (his 2018 IL stint was due to an oblique injury). Manning has publicly downplayed the severity of that injury and has been healthy and throwing all offseason without issue. I’d rather he have been totally healthy, but this injury doesn’t seem severe enough to alter his stock.

All of the physical components that many front-end arms have while they’re in high school were present when Manning was an amateur — shooting guard frame, premium arm strength and athleticism, a breaking ball — and remain so today. He has pretty good feel for location and balance for a young 6-foot-6 guy who takes such a gargantuan stride off the mound, and that should continue improving with time and reps. Manning starts on the extreme first base side of the rubber and has a cross-bodied, drop-and-drive style delivery that creates flat angle on his fastball, which gets on hitters quickly. And Manning goes right at hitters with that fastball (60% in-zone rate in 2019), which has the cut/carry traits typical of a power pitcher’s fastball. His arm slot is much different now than it was in high school, a testament to Detroit’s dev group and Manning’s ability to make adjustments without a drop off in on-field performance. Since entering pro ball, his walks have come down, Manning’s changeup has gotten better, and he started working with two different fastballs and was clearly manipulating the shape of his spike curveball depending on the hitter and situation in 2019. Now he’s working on a second breaking ball. Assuming the forearm issues are behind him, Manning has front-end starter ceiling and will likely make his big league debut in 2021. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
19. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, KCR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Coleyville Heritage HS (TX) (KCR)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 60/65 25/60 60/60 50/60 70

A plus defender with an outstanding arm and above-average speed, Witt has 20 home run potential but a penchant for strikeouts, though special makeup helps his chances.

How much contact does Bobby Witt Jr. need to make to be a star? He swung and missed a lot during his showcase summer but Witt’s subsequent fall and spring were strong enough to make him the second overall pick of the 2019 draft class. His skillset compares quite closely to Trevor Story’s. There are going to be some strikeouts but Witt is a big, athletic specimen who is very likely to not only stay at shortstop but be quite good there. He also has a swing geared for pullside lift (he can bend at the waist to go down and yank balls away from him, too) and the power to hit balls out even when he swings a little flat-footed. He is the son of a former big leaguer and carries himself like one, which has endeared him to scouts and coaches during the course of a high-profile amateur career laden with very high expectations. His debut statline lacked power on the surface, but the batted ball data suggests we shouldn’t worry. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
20. Julio Rodríguez, RF, SEA
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (SEA)
Age 20.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/55 60/70 35/60 40/40 40/50 60

An athletic right fielder with plus-plus power and some feel to hit, Rodríguez is just a few approach tweaks away from stardom.

I think it makes more sense to draw conclusions from Rodríguez’s stint with Escogido rather than whatever he did at the Mariners’ alternate site after he returned from his broken wrist (suffered in mid-July, Julio’s second fracture in his left hand/wrist area), where he saw the same handful of pitchers over and over again in a non-competitive environment (I didn’t get an instructs look). His approach in Dominicana was bad, and his swing’s front foot variability, which I wrote about last year, was gone. Julio is now a bucket strider: he strides open like he’s trying to pull everything. Some hitters can do this and still manage to really get their arms extended to cover the outer half of the plate (Eddie Rosario, Kirilloff), and Rodríguez absolutely has the strength to do damage the other way if he turns out to be this kind of hitter. But he swung inside an awful lot of well-located sliders in LIDOM. Not nasty sliders — a bunch of fringe big leaguers and indy ball guys pitch in LIDOM — just well-located ones, something there’s no shortage of in the big leagues. He either needs to be in position to dive and spoil some of these, or just do a better job of laying off them entirely. The calling card power and makeup are still present, and Rodríguez’s 35-plus homer, All-Star slugger ceiling remain the same, but to me his 2020 was an indication that adjustments might slow his ascent through the system and that I was overconfident in stuffing him in last year’s top 10. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League, LIDOM)

Expand arrow_drop_down
21. Corbin Carroll, CF, ARI
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Lakeside HS (WA) (ARI)
Age 20.5 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr L / L FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/70 45/50 30/50 70/70 50/60 55

With a bunch of tools packed into a small frame, Carroll projects as an on-base machine with gap power and double-plus wheels.

Carroll’s 2020 Instructional League performance continued to fortify the notion that he is among the most skilled and advanced 20-year-olds in all of the minor leagues. His at-bats have a big league veteran quality, and this, combined with his constant energy and verve, make him a very dangerous leadoff hitter prospect. Though not likely to hit for significant over-the-fence power, mostly due to his approach rather than a lack of strength, Carroll whistles balls into the gaps and down both baselines, then kicks it into top gear very quickly and punishes outfielders slow to corral the ball by turning their lackadaisical fielding into extra bases. So exceptional are Carroll’s hand-eye coordination and barrel accuracy, especially for his age, that he now has among the best hit tool projections in the minors. It’s a skillset very similar to Brett Gardner‘s, except Carroll can play center field. There are players this age with a higher ceiling because of their potential power production, but Carroll is a very high-floor prospect who I expect will produce at an All-Star level for much of his career. (Alternate Site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
22. Tarik Skubal, SP, DET
Drafted: 9th Round, 2018 from Seattle (DET)
Age 24.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 60/60 45/45 45/50 35/45 93-96 / 97

One of the best strikeout artists in the minors, Skubal showed a weakness for the home run ball in his 2020 big league debut, but also continued to miss bats.

Skubal had recovered enough from Tommy John to throw a few bullpens for scouts toward the end of his junior year, but his camp thought he could do better than what was being offered, so he returned to school for his redshirt junior year. He was horrendous early the next season before he slowly began to throw more and more strikes as the draft approached. He’s dominated opposing hitters since signing, amassing 212 strikeouts in 145 minor league innings before his 2020 big league debut. Until he set foot in the big leagues, Skubal had some relief risk because he was working with his fastball at a bizarre rate in the minors. His delivery looks like a pterodactyl is trying to throw a baseball, and it forces hitters to deal with a very strange look and angle, as well as big velocity and carry at the top of the zone. So unhittable is Skubal’s heater that he’s struck out 37% of hitters during his minor league career (48% over the final few weeks over Double-A play in 2019) while throwing the pitch roughly 70% of the time. No current big leaguer with a fastball that plays at the top of the zone throws their fastball that much, and anyone close to 70% is a sinkerballer.

During his initial 2020 big league trial, Skubal was quite wild early on but, just as in his draft year, he slowly started to work more efficiently toward the end of the summer. His changeup (which has lateral action but almost no sink, which is sort of bizarre) and slider are now clearly his best non-fastball weapons, though he can only reliably throw the fastball for strikes. In addition to some of the visual command problems, Skubal’s release point is highly variable. Because he has such a nasty mix of stuff, and because he has shown a slow, but relevant command progression in the past and seems to be doing it again, I’m still inclined to project Skubal as a mid-rotation starter rather than the highest-ranked reliever on this list. He’ll generate amazing rate stats early in his career but probably won’t work deep into games, but he has top-of-the-rotation ceiling if he can develop better command. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
23. Royce Lewis, SS, MIN
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from JSerra HS (CA) (MIN)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/70 40/60 60/50 40/45 50

An aggressive approach creates some issues and his future position is TBD, but Lewis’ tool set rates with anyone in the minors.

One of the top-billed high schoolers during a superlative year for talent in Southern California, Lewis began garnering Derek Jeter comparisons while he was still an amateur. To a degree those remain reasonable, though they’re no longer applicable across nearly as much of Lewis’ skillset as they once were. Initially, those comps came from his penchant for on-field leadership, his swing’s finish (though he’s way more pull-oriented than Jeter was), his frame, and, less positively, his future as a defensive shortstop. The Twins took him first overall in 2017 and cut a below slot deal, as Lewis was seen as one of five options in a tightly-packed top tier of talent.

Throughout his first 18 months as a pro, Lewis had statistical success while being promoted aggressively before a developmental hiccup in 2019. His overall production has slowly come down at each subsequent level, and during a 2019 season split 3-to-1 at Hi- and Double-A, he had a .290 OBP. Then came a robust .353/.411/.565 Arizona Fall League line (he went to pick up reps after an oblique strain during the year) and League MVP award. But in Arizona Lewis still clearly had issues. His swing is cacophonous — the big leg kick, the messy, excessive movement in his hands — and it negatively impacts Lewis’ timing. He needs to start several elements of the swing early just to catch fastballs, and he’s often late anyway. This also causes him to lunge at breaking balls, which Lewis doesn’t seem to recognize very well. All of this is bizarre in context, as an advanced hit tool was a huge driver of his amateur profile, but Lewis now looks like a guess hitter. His mannerisms — Nomar-level batting glove tinkering; deep, heavy, deliberate breaths between pitches; constant uniform adjustment — are manic, and they seem to pull focus away from the task at hand rather than ground him in a ritualistic way, and the game often seems too fast for him.

His swing looked the same during 2020 spring training but, based on a little bit of video sent to me by an executive from another team, appears to have been tweaked at the alt site. He’s starting with an open stance now, and the angle of his bat as he sets up is also different (more north/south and away from his shoulder), but he still has that excessive leg kick and extraneous noise in the way his hands load. I don’t think the swing works as currently constituted — it’s a mechanical departure from when Lewis was successful in high school — but I think it’ll get dialed in eventually because of his athleticism and work habits. Plus, we now have evidence that he’s open and able to make adjustments.

As the org stated he would in mid-March, Lewis focused on playing shortstop at the alt site. Their public desire to move Jorge Polanco around as a super utility type perhaps opens the door for him to get big league reps at short next year unless the Twins sign a stopgap option. I still think Lewis’ eventual role will be that of a multi-positional rover who plays center field and a couple different infield spots. We won’t know anything about whether his new swing has had an impact on his hitting until we have a sufficient 2021 performance sample, but as I said last year, I’m betting big on Lewis’ makeup and physical talent. His BPs were the best in the entire Fall League. He is an exceptional teammate, leader, and worker, who did more early infield work than anyone else I saw in the AFL, willing himself to become a viable left side defender even though he lacks the traditional grace and fluidity for those positions. Even if some of the pitch recognition stuff proves to be a long-term issue, the floor here is that of a multi-positional role player who hits for considerable power. There may be an adjustment period similar to the one Javier Báez experienced early in his career because of the approach issues, but the star-level talent will eventually shine through. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
24. Vidal Bruján, 2B, TBR
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (TBR)
Age 23.0 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 189 Bat / Thr S / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/65 45/50 30/45 70/70 50/55 45

Bruján is an elite athlete with a chance to come into relevant power later in his twenties.

Recall Ketel Marte‘s progression, the underlying skills he had early in his big league career and his shortcomings. How could we have collectively anticipated that he’d transform from a light-hitting speedster shortstop into a multi-positional physical freak with a rare power/speed/patience combination? I submit that Bruján shares all of Marte’s pre-breakout traits (and has a lot in common with Ozzie Albies, too) and could take a similar leap in his mid-20s, as he progresses further into physical maturity. Like Marte, Bruján is a top-of-the-scale athlete and one of the most electric in-the-box rotators in all of the minor leagues. There are lots of other players whose measurable height and weight read as “small” who simply don’t have Bruján’s body composition (he’s angular, tapered at the waist rather than built like a stick), musculature (you can see his lats through his jersey), or explosiveness. I think he has room to add mass even though he’s short, and that he’s likely to because he’s a dedicated worker, which means some indeterminate amount of power will arrive with time.

I also think that he’ll continue to harness his hellacious swing, which, based on his contact rates, he already has abnormal control over. I’ve watched Bruján swing so hard that he corkscrewed himself to the ground, only to pop back up like a Russian folk dancer, but even though he swings that hard, he has good feel for contact and ball/strike recognition, enabling him to grind out tough at-bats and walk a bunch. Let’s re-examine the statistical case. Bruján split 2019 between Hi- and Double-A and while his walk rate took a bit of a dip at those levels, his on-paper performance was still well above league average (.277/.346/.389 with 48 bags in 61 attempts, and 28 extra-base hits in 100 games) for the Florida State and Southern Leagues. His exit velo data from 2019 is not great, but remember I’m betting on more of that arriving later. There are scouts who think he can play shortstop, but I think the arm is a little light for that and instead think he’ll be play a combination of second base and center field. As I’ve passed around the early iterations of my Top 100 list for industry feedback, most have told me I’m at least a little too high on Bruján, which I think is useful for readers to know, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one because I think he has a chance to be a star. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down

55 FV Prospects

25. Asa Lacy, SP, KCR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Texas A&M (KCR)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/65 60/70 50/55 45/50 30/45 93-96 / 97

Seen by many as the best pitching prospect in last year’s draft, Lacy’s improving command points to a quick future as an above-average starter.

There are folks in baseball who think Lacy had a strong argument to be the first overall pick in the 2020 Draft based on the way his stuff dominated SEC hitters for three years, with their thinking being that Lacy’s relief risk was about as scary as Torkelson’s need to rake to justify being a 1-1 first baseman. Though he struggled with walks after he moved into the Aggies rotation in 2019, Lacy whiffed 130 hitters in just 88 innings. He was less wild in his brief 2020 four-start jaunt prior to the shutdown, punctuating his pre-draft run with a 13-strikeout game against New Mexico State and fellow top five pick Nick Gonzales.

Lacy presents scouts with a non-traditional mechanical look that makes his delivery appear pretty violent about his head and shoulders, even though he has less of a head whack now than he did in high school and as an underclassman. While his delivery creates some perceived relief risk (he’d be one hell of a reliever), there is none regarding the pitch mix. Lacy’s arm slot creates backspin on the fastball that enables it to have big carry at the top of the zone, his slider has remarkable length for how hard it is, and when Lacy gets on top of his curveball, it has huge, bat-missing depth. The delivery also disorients hitters who take lots of bad, awkward swings at pitches that live in the middle of the zone. His changeup (which Lacy sets up with a two-seamer) occasionally looks good, and might be a real out pitch if it’s re-emphasized in pro ball; I thought it was his most polished secondary weapon when I saw him in high school, though I don’t have any delusions about it becoming his best weapon now since his breaking stuff is so good. Kansas City seems to have eyes on competing and they’ve pushed their college draftees lately, so it’s possible Lacy will move very quickly. His elite stuff and mediocre command give off a Blake Snell vibe. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
26. Max Meyer, SP, MIA
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Minnesota (MIA)
Age 21.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/70 65/70 45/55 30/45 94-98 / 101

Small but electric, Meyer’s upper 90s heat and devastating slider have left scouts drooling, but he’s not without some reliever risk.

I was too low on Meyer before the draft. I saw him up to 101 mph in his first start of the year when he threw a lot of well-located sliders in the 89-92 mph range as he struck out several Oregon Ducks, but his stuff and command waned later in the outing, which gave me relief-risk concern, though I should have realized the context for the look (it was his first outing of the season) was likely at play. He proceeded to dismantle TCU (10 K in 5.2 IP), North Carolina (CG, 1 BB, 14 K), and Utah (8 IP, 15 K) in the following three weeks before the shutdown, mostly with the fastball/slider combo, though he did flash a good changeup on occasion, too. Fold in some of the peripheral projection elements I like to bet on (Meyer was also an important offensive player in college, he’s a great on-mound athlete, and he’s coming from a cold weather school) and you can go nuts projecting on the things (mostly the changeup, command, and in-start stamina) that complete what could be a front-end profile. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
27. Luis Campusano, C, SDP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Cross Creek HS (GA) (SDP)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 55/60 30/50 40/40 40/45 60

Built like a linebacker, Campusano’s combination of power and contact skills is rare, and while he’s no Molina brother, he’s good enough to stay behind the plate.

Campusano played in one big league game in 2020 and DH’d, so there really isn’t much to glean from his season. In October, police pulled Campusano over and allege to have found 79 grams of marijuana in his car. That amount is a felony in Georgia, a misdemeanor in California, and a bitchin’ Saturday night at my cousin Beercan’s house. From last year’s list: Campusano was a bad-bodied catcher on the summer showcase circuit, but then he completely remade his body for his senior spring. He showed above-average power, some bat control, and improved agility behind the plate, boosting his stock to the late first/early second round of the draft. He didn’t catch much velocity in high school and struggled receiving pro arms at first, but that has improved to a place of acceptability. More importantly, he’s continued to hit. Though his Hi-A statline was aided by the Cal League’s hitting environment, Campusano’s 11% strikeout rate was the second best rate among qualified, full-season backstops in 2019 (Yohel Pozo was first) and his exit velos (89 mph on average) are great for a 20-year-old. He is rumored to have been the centerpiece of San Diego’s negotiations with Boston for Mookie Betts and while young catching has a tendency to take a beating and fall short of expectations on offense because of it, right now Campusano looks like a potential star offensive catcher. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
28. Sixto Sánchez, SP, MIA
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (PHI)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 234 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/50 60/70 50/55 95-99 / 101

Sánchez’s fastball gets hit more than expected due to his arm angle and the pitch’s lack of movement, but his changeup is awesome and he pounds the zone with power stuff.

Even though Sixto’s 2020 debut reinforced strong, previously-held scouting reports, we still don’t know exactly how he’ll look over a truly complete season of starter’s innings, which is largely the case across baseball after a lost/shortened year. Recall that Miami brought him back gingerly in 2019 after he had an injury-riddled 2018 (first neck/shoulder, then elbow, then neck/shoulder again). Some of my previously-held concerns about the playability of Sánchez’s fastball (it’s really hard, but only generated an 8% swinging strike rate on its own against 2019 minor leaguers; the big league average on all pitches is 11%) were allayed by him developing a second heater. He now has a pretty well-defined four- and two-seam variants, and good arm-side command of the two-seamer. In aggregate, he still missed bats at a rate just below league average, but he also generated a ton of weak groundballs with his fastballs, so I still consider the pitch to be plus.

His changeup, which had been one of the better ones in the minors for a while, will continue to be his primary out pitch. It has bat-missing, screwball action, so much that it dips beneath the barrel of right-handed hitters as well as away from lefties. Sánchez can also run it back over the glove-side corner of the plate for looking strikes. Though his slider has plus spin, the shape and quality of its movement are variable and location-dependent. Sánchez’s command, especially for someone who throws as hard as he does and who converted to pitching later than most others, is pretty advanced, and if he ends up with plus command of three good pitches (one of them great), he’ll likely make some All-Star teams, but he slides just a tad because of his injury history and because I don’t think his fastball can dominate consistently even though it has elite velocity. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
29. Josiah Gray, SP, LAD
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from LeMoyne (CIN)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 50/55 50/60 92-95 / 96

Absolutely stolen from the Reds, Gray is an ultra-athletic righty with three quality offerings he uses to pound the zone despite there being some funk to the delivery.

Gray is an athletic, undersized converted infielder with big time arm-acceleration. His arm action is a little stiff and long, but boy is it fast, and it generates a fastball in the 92-96 mph range (mostly 3s and 4s) with riding life. Gray’s size and the drop-and-drive nature of his delivery combine to create flat pitch approach angle that helps his fastball miss bats at the top of the zone. Thanks to his athleticism, Gray repeats his mechanics, and throws more strikes than is typical for someone who has this kind of nasty stuff but has only been pitching full-time since 2018, and he has an especially notable proclivity for locating his fastball to his arm side.

The slider can slurve out and even get kind of short and cuttery at times, but when it’s well-located and Gray is on top of the ball, it’s a plus pitch. His changeup, which he seldom used in 2019, induced some ugly swings during the Dodgers’ pre-season intrasquad games, so it appears that offering has made a leap. Gray has been making constant adjustments to his repertoire for the last couple of years and has not only succeeded but quickly became good enough to compete (in a practice environment) against the lineup that would eventually win the World Series. He projects as a mid-rotation stalwart. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
30. Grayson Rodriguez, SP, BAL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Central Heights HS (TX) (BAL)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr L / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/55 55/55 55/60 40/50 90-95 / 97

Rodriguez is thriving under the new Orioles regime’s pitching program, as he’s learned to refine the secondary offerings behind his plus-plus heater.

After sitting 90-95 and touching 97 in 2019, Rodriguez’s fastball averaged 95 at the alternate site. He has now been steadily improving since high school, when he was a big-framed, maxed-out, pitchability sort with average stuff. A physical transformation coincided with a senior spring breakthrough, which was then bettered by cogent repertoire work in pro ball. Rodriguez’s changeup, which was an afterthought back in high school, has screwball action and has become very good, very quickly; it’s now the main event. He’s now tracking to have a four-pitch mix full of above-average pitches: a mid-90s fastball; a lateral, mid-80s slider; a two-plane, upper-70s curveball; and the low-80s change. His delivery isn’t great — there’s a little bit of a head whack, and Rodriguez has a tightly-wound lower half — but he’s never been injured and has thrown an acceptable rate of strikes to this point. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
31. Francisco Alvarez, C, NYM
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (NYM)
Age 19.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 50/55 25/50 45/40 45/55 55

Alvarez has quickly become one of the better catching prospects in the game thanks to easy plus defense and an offensive profile driven by an advanced approach and feel for contact.

Throughout the last year, there is no prospect about whom I have received more “hey, move that guy up your list” feedback than Alvarez. Young catchers are notoriously slow to develop as they adjust to the physical and mental demands of the position, which often stymies their offensive production. But Alvarez’s first pro season was statistically impressive. He only played in 42 games, but he hit .312/.407/.510 (mostly in the Appy League) while playing very good defense and appearing more svelte and conditioned than he had as an amateur.

His swing (his front foot is down very early) could stand to be a little more athletic to take advantage of his movement skills, but he rotates hard anyway and his hitting posture enables him to lift pitches in various locations. The receiving, lateral mobility, and arm strength are all promising on the defensive side, too. Teen catchers are risky and often take forever to develop, but Alvarez’s track record of hitting extends back to amateur play. I was low on Alvarez last year, and he and Luis Campusano are in a talent tier of their own beneath Rutschman. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
32. Casey Mize, SP, DET
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Auburn (DET)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 208 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Splitter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 60/60 70/70 55/60 92-95 / 97

Multiple shoulder issues have resulted in some fair cause for concern, but Mize has three plus big league offerings, including a splitter some scouts put an 80 on.

There are pitchers ahead of Mize on this list who have worse stuff, or whose repertoires aren’t as deep, or who have a shorter track record of performance if we look back to Mize’s time at Auburn. But I’m sufficiently scared of Mize’s injury history (a strain that required a PRP injection in college, shoulder inflammation in 2019) to slide him behind players of a similar talent. If he stays healthy, then he’ll be a (WAR-based) No. 2 starter, capable of pitching at the top of a contender’s rotation, and likely have dominant stretches over the next half decade. Mize’s fastball doesn’t have bat-missing carry but when he’s totally healthy, it’s hard and he locates it as well as his plus-plus splitter. I don’t think his upper-80s “slider” has the length to miss bats and instead think it’ll eventually be used to induce weak contact rather than as a putaway pitch. His curveball, which Mize has better demarcated from his “slider” since entering pro ball, might emerge as the finishing weapon. There remains a large swath of the industry that is fearful of cutter/splitter guys, and I don’t know if that’s justified but it certainly impacts how teams internally line up the Tigers prospects. What I do think is that players who have been hurt in the past are the ones most likely to get hurt again, and while I know it’s begun to feel like every pitcher gets hurt at some point, there’s more smoke here than in most other cases. I have a Masahiro Tanaka comp on Mize. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
33. Spencer Howard, SP, PHI
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Cal Poly (PHI)
Age 24.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 55/55 60/60 40/45 93-97 / 98

With an elite frame and equally impressive stuff, the Phillies are yearning for Howard to turn into what they previously hoped Nick Pivetta would be.

Howard’s stuff was just not as crisp in 2020 as it was at the end of 2019. His fastball was sitting 93-97 deep into his best 2019 Fall League outings but only averaged 94 in 2020, and his command had backed up, too. I’m taking a longview here. Remember that we’re talking about a small school pop-up reliever who, due to a past shoulder injury and the pandemic, has just one full pro season as a starter. Howard has impact stuff. His changeup is plus, he can blow his fastball past lefties near their hands, his slider has big time action to his glove side, and his low-70s curveball is a nice look to present hitters the second and third time through the lineup. I wish Howard had a breaking ball with effective back foot angle against lefties, but his changeup is so good that I think he’ll be fine without one. It’s mid-rotation starter stuff that needs a full grade of command development to click. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
34. Michael Kopech, SP, CHW
Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Mt. Pleasant HS (TX) (BOS)
Age 24.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 55/60 50/55 40/45 40/45 94-98 / 101

Kopech has the raw stuff to rank considerably higher, but he has to stay healthy and prove he can throw enough strikes to remain a starter.

It sometimes feels foolish to “wait for things to click” with very talented but frustrating (and perhaps flawed) prospects, but that’s what it seemed like was actually happening for Kopech just before he blew out his elbow late in 2018. The surgery’s timing meant Kopech lost all of the 2019 regular season and began rehabbing in a game environment during Fall Instructional League. His first bolt was 99 mph. He settled in at 96-99, and threw several plus sliders. Kopech made his spring 2020 debut on March 10 and threw 11 pitches, six of which were 100 mph or more. It was his only inning of 2020, as Spring Training was shut down soon after, and Kopech would later opt out of the season amid the pandemic and other meaningful off-field considerations. As such, his evaluation is the same.

Kopech’s trademark heat and slider give him late-inning potential even if he can’t start, an outcome that seems more likely during the early part of his big league career now that he’s missed two seasons and may take time to build up an innings load. He’ll be able to start if he can command that slider to the back foot of left-handed hitters; he needs to have an out-pitch against lefties and some sort of viable third pitch, which I think will more likely be a second breaking ball than a split or a changeup. If he can do that, I think he’s a 3-to-4 WAR starter. (At-home dev)

Expand arrow_drop_down
35. JJ Bleday, RF, MIA
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Vanderbilt (MIA)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 55/55 45/55 45/40 50/60 60

2019’s NCAA home run champ was surprisingly aggressive in his pro debut, but Bleday supplies easy pop from the left side and could break out if he’s not in the Florida State League.

There’s no change to Bleday’s report: Part of Bleday’s 2019 breakout at Vanderbilt — he hit four homers as a sophomore and slugged .511, then hit 26 as a junior and slugged .717 — was because his 2018 power was hindered by a severe oblique injury that caused him to miss half of the season. Healthy Bleday was not only one of the more polished hitters in his draft class but one of the most physically gifted as well. In addition to having a superlative feel for the strike zone, Bleday is also short to the ball but still creates lift. He murders offspeed stuff, has all-fields ability, and can mishit balls with power — a complete offensive package. He’s also pretty fast, and his instincts in the outfield could make him a plus corner defender. I expect him to move pretty quickly and be an above-average everyday player. Even though it’s dictated by circumstance (the pandemic), it feels odd to write that about a 23-year-old who has played just 38 pro games. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
36. Trevor Larnach, RF, MIN
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Oregon State (MIN)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 223 Bat / Thr L / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 65/65 50/60 40/40 35/40 55

While he’s a bit of a lug, Larnach’s combo of power and patience seem sure to make him a fixture in right field, and his plus arm allows him to provide a bit of defensive value.

There’s not much new to say here since Larnach was at the alt site. He hit several balls in excess of 110 mph during Oregon State’s opening weekend his draft season, and he ended up slugging .652 that year while falling to the back of the first round amid concerns about his defensive ability. Larnach remains a sluggish, diffident outfielder, but he’s very likely to get to much of his titanic raw power in games thanks to the ease with which he generates the pop — Larnach doesn’t swing with violence or effort, it’s just there — and a refined approach. His swing is a little more compact now than it was in college but Larnach will really get extended on balls away from him and punch them the other way. I think he’s a 30-plus homer, high-OBP corner outfielder whose defensive ability drags his profile down a little bit. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
37. Logan Gilbert, SP, SEA
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Stetson (SEA)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 45/50 50/50 45/55 50/60 91-94 / 96

The Mariners put an early focus on Gilbert’s conditioning, and it has paid dividends as there’s now a power aspect to his stuff with no cost to his already-impressive command.

Last year I wrote about the possibility that Gilbert would experience a velo rebound in pro ball because I thought he had been overtaxed at Stetson. He was sitting 92-96 as a rising sophomore on the Cape, but often sat 90-94, and sometimes 88-91, throughout his starts the following spring. Last year, he was again up to 96 but sat 91-94, about the halfway mark between his peak and nadir as an amateur. Considering how readily pitchers lose velo in pro ball, that’s still a win for Seattle. Even though it only sits 93-94, Gilbert’s fastball is his best pitch, and the way he most effectively whiffs hitters, though maybe his changeup will show some late development. While all of Gilbert’s secondary pitches are average and flash above, I think his command will enable them to play above their raw grades, which, combined with what the innings count could be because of his frame and how efficiently he works, will still make him an above-average WAR generating starter. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
38. Riley Greene, RF, DET
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Hagerty HS (FL) (DET)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 50/55 35/55 50/45 45/50 55

A physical presence with a downright pretty swing from the left side, Greene’s dangerous bat should play just fine even if he has to move to a corner.

Advanced high school hitters are common on Florida’s diamonds, and while Greene constantly squared up top high school pitching as well as any of his peers, he also underwent a bit of a physical transformation that made at least some scouts more optimistic that he’ll be able to play an instincts-driven center field long-term. During his pre-draft summer, Greene was a little soft-bodied, his running gait was odd, and he seemed destined to play little more than an average outfield corner. The player scouts watched the following spring had a better physical composition, was more explosive and a better runner, and had as ripe a high school hit tool as was available in the draft. This was similar to how Jarred Kelenic’s skills were colored as he came out of high school.

Greene’s swing, curated by his father from an early age, is beautiful. He can clear his hips and turn on just about anything on the inner half, drop the bat head and lift balls with power, strike balls the other way with authority, and he tracked and whacked many high school benders. The bend and flexion in Greene’s front knee as his swing clears the point of impact is reminiscent of several Dodgers hitters. Though there are many examples of Greene having certain types of athleticism (he is a tremendous leaper, for instance), he’s not a runner and I don’t have him projected in center field. But I think he’ll hit enough that it doesn’t matter. Though he starts a string of high-upside early 20-somethings on this year’s top 100, his skills are more comparable to those of the polished college draftees in their mid-20s who are slightly ahead of him here because they’re further up the minor league ladder. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
39. Nick Madrigal, 2B, CHW
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Oregon State (CHW)
Age 23.9 Height 5′ 7″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
60/70 35/35 30/30 60/60 60/60 50

Already one of the best contact hitters in all of baseball, Madrigal looks like a .300 hitter, and he’ll have to be due to a lack of power and an early action approach.

Because he missed time with a separated shoulder (both of Madrigal’s major injuries — this one and a fractured wrist in college — were suffered sliding into a base), Madrigal didn’t play enough big league baseball to lose rookie eligibility, but he did play enough to generate a relevant amount of data. After posting the lowest swinging strike rate in all of the minor leagues in 2019, he had the third-lowest swinging strike rate in the big leagues in 2020 at 3.3%. The players who surround him on that leaderboard — Luis Arraez, Eric Sogard, and David Fletcher — are all similar offensive players who make elite rates of contact but have almost no power. More precisely, Madrigal is most like Arraez because of how opposite-field oriented their contact is. If you prorate Fletcher and Arraez’s performance over the past few years, they’re pretty well above-average players, and Madrigal is a better defensive player than Arraez and is a wash with Fletcher at second. I just think this reinforces the industry’s long-standing eyeball evaluation that even though he’s quite small and is not going to hit for power, Madrigal is a very good player. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
40. Nolan Gorman, 3B, STL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from O’Connor HS (AZ) (STL)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 65/70 25/60 40/40 40/45 50

While his overall game is based more on brute strength than athleticism, Gorman’s plus-plus power is what stands out.

There’s no change to Gorman’s report, as he was at the alt site all year, but the Arenado trade complicates his defensive future, which I’ll address toward the end: By torching the Appy League during his first pro summer, Gorman laid to rest any concerns that his whiff-prone pre-draft spring was anything more than a hiccup caused by the whiplash of going from facing elite, showcase high schoolers (who he crushed) to soft-tossing, Arizona varsity pitchers. He struck out a lot (again) during the 2018 stretch run, when St. Louis pushed him to Low-A Peoria because he wasn’t being challenged in Johnson City. Sent back to Peoria for the first half of 2019, Gorman adjusted to full-season pitching and roasted the Midwest League to the tune of a .241/.344/.448 line, cutting his strikeout rate by eight percentage points. He was promoted to the Florida State League for the second half, and while his walk rate halved and his strikeout rate crept above 30% again, Gorman still managed to post an above-average line for that league as a 19-year-old. His strikeout issues will only become a real concern for me once Gorman stops showing an ability to adjust over a long period of time.

His huge power, derived from his imposing physicality and explosive hand speed, is likely to play in games because of the lift in Gorman’s swing and his feel for impacting the ball in the air. Because we’re talking about a teenager of considerable size, there’s a chance he has to move off of third base at some point, and now that Nolan Arenado is in town, St. Louis will see how Gorman looks at second and in left field. I bet he’d be able to make routine plays on balls hit to him at the keystone, but I have no idea what he’ll look like operating around the bag. There are apt body comps to be made to either of the Seager brothers, while the offensive profile looks more like Miguel Sanó‘s. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
41. Brennen Davis, CF, CHC
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Basha HS (AZ) (CHC)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 55/60 35/55 60/55 45/55 60

Seen as a risky tools bet in the 2018 draft, Davis has quickly translated his athleticism into production and his ceiling is considerable.

Davis made an incredible leap during his first year in pro ball. Some area scouts thought he was so raw as a hitter, and that his stock had fallen enough due to a pre-draft hamstring issue, that he might be better off going to school. The Cubs took him in the second round, tweaked his swing, and skipped him over a level; he responded by hitting .305/.381/.525 at South Bend, and he may just be scratching the surface.

Davis was his conference’s Defensive POY on a 2016 state championship basketball team and he didn’t fully commit to baseball until his senior year of high school. He has a big, projectable frame that he’s already added a lot of muscle to over the last year and a half, and amateur scouts raved about Davis’ maturity as a student and a worker (often citing the odd hours he keeps taking care of a goat and the llamas at his family home), and all thought he’d be able to cope with likely early-career contact struggles and would work to improve his ability to hit. Watch out for the injuries here. In addition to the hamstring issue in high school, Davis was on the IL twice in 2019 for hand ailments. We only have a 50-game sample of stats, but it’s just evidence supporting the athletic/makeup foundation and reinforcing that the swing change worked. This is a risk/reward power/speed outfield prospect. Davis was listed on the Cubs instructs roster but I can only find scouts who saw him take BP in Arizona, so I’m not sure whether or not he played in games. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
42. Ronny Mauricio, SS, NYM
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (NYM)
Age 19.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 166 Bat / Thr S / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 45/55 20/50 50/50 45/50 60

A poor approach and rushed development have prevented Mauricio from putting up big numbers, but scouts are universal in their praise of his tools.

As an 18-year-old in 2019 full-season ball, Mauricio hit .283/.323/.381 before fading in August. He’s begun to pack noticeable mass onto the frame that had made him such an exciting amateur, the kind of prospect who could carry 30 more pounds and add power without losing the agility to play shortstop. Even though he’s clearly gotten stronger, Mauricio simply doesn’t have the pure explosiveness of someone like Marco Luciano or Bobby Witt Jr., and while he might continue to get bigger and stronger, and add power that way, I don’t think he’ll end up having thunderous raw. There’s still a pathway to stardom here; Mauricio is a switch-hitting shortstop with pretty good feel for contact after all. He’ll need to refine either his swing or approach to be an everyday player, and probably both to be an impact one. Because he’s so young, there’s time for that to happen. Even if he only ends up with an average hit/power combination, that’s a really valuable everyday shortstop. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
43. Kristian Robinson, RF, ARI
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Bahamas (ARI)
Age 20.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/70 30/60 60/55 45/50 60

Robinson’s tools provide big upside, and he’s already shown a good approach and considerable in-game power.

The pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the cogs of the entire planet, let alone the developmental trajectory of baseball prospects. Kristian Robinson is among the most talented and prominent of those affected. After parts of three years in the warmth and security of the complex, it was time for Robinson to go to full-season ball and perform, and start to reinforce the tools- and frame-based excitement he had generated as a teenager. Instead Robinson spent another year sequestered in Scottsdale, too green to be part of the D-backs official alternate site group until he was added later in the summer. By the time Fall Instructional League rolled around and scouts were able to see him, Robinson looked rusty. He took poor at-bats and struck out a lot while missing hittable pitches in the zone. But if any player, at any level were to struggle for a couple weeks, it’d easily be dismissed as a brief slump or tough-luck dry spell rather than a true regression, and that’s even before considering the individual player’s context. Robinson’s 2020 was supposed to be about making adjustments to full-season pitching and getting his swing to a place that would allow for more in-game power. Instead it meant an entire year away from competitive baseball, a whole year away from home, an unspoken indication from the org that he had been passed by Corbin Carroll (who was invited to the alt site group immediately), and more monotonous developmental ball during instructs.

Let’s not lose sight of the foundation here: Robinson is built like a young Larry Fitzgerald, and he entered pro ball without the same kind of performance track record as most of his Dominican peers but still received the fourth-largest bonus in his signing class because his tools are so huge. In 2019, he hit 50% of his balls in play with an exit velo of 95 mph or more, which is up in Joey Gallo/Nelson Cruz territory. It is not normal to see a person like this on a baseball field, and Robinson has uncommon potential because of it. The questions that need answering here are the same as last year: Can Kristian turn a suitable swing foundation into one with impact, and can he perform against more advanced pitching? He’ll hit 35-plus bombs every year if he can. For now, he fits in the Top 100 continuum near the 55/50 FV line, along with several other prospects of extreme variance and ceiling. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
44. Austin Martin, CF, TOR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Vanderbilt (TOR)
Age 21.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 45/50 35/50 50/50 35/45 45

The best bat in the 2020 draft, Martin features a big league approach, outstanding contact ability and average power. The Blue Jays will figure out his defensive home as he keeps on raking.

This is a good time to remind readers that present hit tool grades are standardized. Martin’s performance, especially late during his 2019 sophomore season, put him at or near the top of the 2020 draft class. He slashed .392/.486/.604 that year and, similar to but perhaps not as emphatically as Adley Rutschman the year before, asserted himself as his draft class’ top college hitter. Then Martin came out for the shortened 2020 campaign and though his numbers (against mostly non-conference pitching) were strong, he did not look elite from an eyeball scouting perspective. He wasn’t running as well as he had the year before, and he had issues throwing the ball from third to first base, necessitating a move to center field. The industry didn’t have much time to assess his routes and instincts there before the shutdown, and his average early-season speed created some skepticism. During his career at Vanderbilt, Martin mostly played third (61 games), but also saw time in center (25 games, half of those as a freshman), and at first (22) and both middle infield spots (14). He continued playing all over the field during his post-draft time at the Blue Jays’ alternate site. The low-end pre-draft opinions of Martin feared he’d end up in left field and that he’d be without enough power to support an everyday profile there. I think he’s likely to play a couple different positions at a passable level, at least one up the middle (either second or center), and the portion of his offense that drove his amateur stock, namely his elite plate discipline and feel for contact, will carry him to production on par with an above-average regular, à la Ben Zobrist. Martin’s swing decisions are fantastic, and the combination of selectivity and his gorgeous, natural swing loft give him an excellent chance of hitting for some power despite middling raw juice. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
45. Alek Thomas, LF, ARI
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Mount Carmel HS (IL) (ARI)
Age 20.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 50/55 40/55 60/60 50/55 40

Arguably more of a floor than a ceiling, Thomas is a baseball rat whose game is more refined than most equally experienced former college players.

There is a difference between a prospect being short and a prospect being small. Alek Thomas’ frame reads as Lilliputian on paper, but in reality, he’s quite strong and has one of the more athletic swings in all of the minors. Since he was drafted, Thomas’ swing has evolved to mirror the intensity of prospect-era Cody Bellinger‘s, and sometimes Thomas swings so hard that he looks like he’s going to corkscrew himself into the ground. His leg kick is a little bigger and slower now than it was when he was an amateur and first-year pro, and his stride is longer, which might help him avoid cutting down at the ball so much. The change to his swing and his approach — Thomas was once an all-fields spray sort of hitter but was trying to pull the ball constantly during my instructs look, though maybe he was just bored — could allow for more in-game power.

The foundation of Thomas’ prospectdom was his advanced baseball acumen and feel for contact, both of which were surprising for a cold weather prospect. But he was good enough to play in several upper-class events as an underclassman during his amateur career, and he performed in those consistently. He tracks pitches well and moves the bat head around the zone, and those underlying skills as well as Thomas’ athleticism and (unlike Bellinger) shorter levers help enable him to take these new, huge hacks without striking out a ton. Some underlying 2019 metrics indicate Thomas indeed needed a swing tweak to unlock some in-game pop. He averaged just shy of 90 mph off the bat in 2019 and about 48% of his balls in play came off at 95 mph or above, but he ran a groundball rate of nearly 55% and some proprietary, Statcast-y expected stats I’ve sourced indicate he overperformed on paper in 2019. But, as I tend to do, I’m betting on a) athleticism and b) feel to hit, both of which Thomas has shown for nearly a half-decade now. (Alternate Site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
46. Quinn Priester, SP, PIT
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Cary-Grove HS (IL) (PIT)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 70/80 40/50 30/45 94-97 / 99

Priester has come on more quickly than most Midwest prep arms thanks to his athleticism and plus makeup, lending greater confidence to a mid-rotation starter projection.

Priester looked so incredible during instructs that his name was often brought up unprompted during my early-offseason name-gathering for the Top 100. He showed up in Bradenton sitting 94-97, continuing the climbing velocity trend he began to exhibit throughout his senior spring in 2019. He went from showing a lot of 91-94 during his pre-draft summer to sitting comfortably in the mid-90s, then settled back into the 91-95 range the summer after Pittsburgh made him the first high school arm selected in 2019.

He added a considerable amount of strength over the last year and a half, and has also made some subtle mechanical changes. His glove has migrated north during his gather, his arm swing isn’t as long, he’s clearing his front side better, and he lands with more control and balance in his blocking leg. I’d understand some hesitancy to alter one’s evaluation of someone like this based on the context of the look, since Priester had most of the year off and came out throwing just a few innings at a time in a very controlled environment, but because the uptick in velocity has been coupled with physical and mechanical changes, I’m more inclined to believe it’s real. And perhaps I’ve buried the lede here: Priester has one of the nastier curveballs in the minors, and maybe in all of baseball. He had feel for creating shape on his breaking ball in high school but it wasn’t nearly as hard as it is now, nor was its movement as sharp, vertical, and vicious. It comes out of his hand high and then crests and drops with the curvature and angle of a waterfall of seams and leather. It has Adam Wainwright’s curveball’s shape but is harder, and Priester is going to use it to embarrass a lot of big league hitters. He had some changeup feel in high school and now that he’s wielding huge arm strength, that has backed up a little bit. I’m betting that will improve as he gets starter’s innings in 2021. His delivery is still somewhat violent and arm-y but it’s better now than in high school, and he has less command-based reliever risk than other pitchers toward the back of the Top 100. Those who read these lists consistently know that what I’m about to say is not often seen on these electronic pages: Priester has top-of-the-rotation ceiling. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
47. Drew Waters, CF, ATL
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Etowah HS (GA) (ATL)
Age 22.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr S / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/60 55/60 40/50 60/60 45/50 60

A true center fielder loaded with tools (other than power), there are concerns that Waters’ approach will catch up to him as he moves up, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Waters’ epicurean approach makes him a scary prospect. I watched him see a total of nine pitches in two games leading up to the 2019 Premier 12 tournament. It only became a problem during Waters’ late-2019 jump to Triple-A, when he was still only 20 years old. He also has 55-to-60 grade tools across the board and, until that month of struggles, had performed since high school.

His sweet lefty swing, bat speed, and underlying data indicate an elite ability to manipulate the bat as well as relevant power. One club told me his percentage of balls hit with a 95 mph-plus exit velo and a launch angle between 10 and 30 degrees (i.e. hard hit line drives and fly balls) was in the top 3% of the entire minor leagues. And, again, that came as a 20-year-old in the upper minors. The window dressing is plus speed and a plus arm. Some teams were and remain turned off by Waters’ loud personality, while others just see him as a colorful guy. The broad strokes skills comp here is a version of Starling Marte. The return of Marcel Ozuna makes Waters a potential mid-summer trade candidate. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
48. Jazz Chisholm, SS, MIA
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Bahamas (ARI)
Age 23.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 184 Bat / Thr L / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 55/55 45/55 60/60 50/55 60

Chisholm has the upside of a power/speed combination while playing a plus shortstop, but his big league debut showed that he has to curb the strikeouts.

Chisholm has whiffed in 30% of his career plate appearances, partially a product of a sophomoric approach to hitting and otherwise due to him arguably being too explosive for his own good. But that twitch and violence, Jazz’s awesome ability to uncoil his body from the ground up and rotate with incredible speed, the natural lift in his swing — many of the things that make him whiff-prone also make him exciting, and give him a chance to be an impact offensive player who also plays a premium defensive position. His skillset is somewhere on the Chris Taylor/Javier Báez continuum of strikeout/power offensive profiles at a premium defensive position, though the low-end of his potential outcomes looks like Freddy Galvis: a plus-gloved shortstop who hits for power, but with an OBP around .300. I wanted to see another year of plus walk rates (Chisholm walked 11% of the time in 2019, up from a career 8%) before declaring that to be a true part of the skillset, but the pandemic made that impossible. His power is real (a 91.4 mph average exit velo would put him in the top 40 of the majors, while 48% of his balls in play being over 95 mph would be in the top 30), the lift is there (he has a career groundball rate in the low 30% range and a 17 degree average launch angle according to a source), and Jazz is athletic enough to be a plus defender at shortstop. The contrast between Chisholm and the ultra-steady Miguel Rojas is very stark, and it will be interesting to see how Miami handles the dynamics there as they’re coming off a (diluted) taste of the postseason. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
49. Jose Garcia, SS, CIN
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (CIN)
Age 22.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 55/60 40/50 60/60 60/60 70

A much-hyped Cuban talent who signed for nearly $5 million, Garcia has premium tools highlighted by his defense and power potential, but he needs to curb his swing-at-everything approach.

The Reds weren’t getting much offense from their middle infield this year, so in late-August they decided to promote Garcia, who had a hot spring training but was still the age of a college player, and hadn’t seen pro time above A-ball (though I think you could classify his Fall League coming out party as such). Garcia struggled in his initial 24-game, 68-plate appearance big league trial, hitting just .194 and striking out 38% of the time. The issue that plagued him was the same one he had in the minors: an inability to recognize breaking stuff. He paid for it more consistently against big league pitchers, who can execute consistently and exploit such a weakness.

But let’s not lose sight of the pretty incredible collection of tools here. Garcia has above-average raw power right now and I think he has the frame to add another half grade as he enters his mid-20s. He’s also a fantastic shortstop defender despite middling speed and range (at least in 2020) because he has plus-plus hands, actions, and arm strength. He’s going to backhand balls in the hole and throw out guys few other shortstops in baseball would be able to hose. Also remember that Garcia is about the age of the college players who were just drafted, and it would be ridiculous to expect even someone like Spencer Torkelson to skip Double- and Triple-A and immediately succeed. I think Garcia is going to end up punishing mistakes on the inner half with power and swinging at inside breaking balls away from him en route to a power/defense-driven everyday role, and he has long-term All-Star ceiling if his approach improves. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
50. Edward Cabrera, SP, MIA
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (MIA)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 217 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 45/55 45/50 93-97 / 99

Once seen as a sure-fire reliever, Cabrera’s slider and changeup have made leaps and bounds to join his mid-90s fastball as part of a starter package.

The Marlins have been pretty cagey about what sort of “infection” ultimately ended Cabrera’s work at the 2020 alternate site. Before he was shut down, though, his alt site pitch data indicated his changeup might have become an elite weapon. There are already folks in baseball who prefer Cabrera to fellow Marlin Sixto Sánchez because his breaking ball has more two-plane sweep than Sixto’s lateral slider. Like Sánchez, Cabrera’s fastball spin axis resides in a bat-missing Bermuda Triangle and it doesn’t generate swings and misses even though it’s very hard. But there’s almost no strike-throwing relief risk here, and Cabrera has thrown really hard for several years in a row and has a legitimate out-pitch in his changeup. He’s likely to contribute to the big club in 2021 either as yet another young rotation piece or as a three-pitch relief weapon with huge stuff, which Miami sorely lacked at the back of last year’s bullpen. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down

50 FV Prospects

51. Jasson Dominguez, CF, NYY
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 18.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/55 70/70 25/60 70/70 45/55 60

The most hyped international prospect in years, Dominguez is still just hype after 2020’s lost season, but the bat speed and power are off the charts for a player this young.

At a certain point in time, before he began playing actual games, we only knew as much about Wander Franco as we currently do about Jasson Dominguez. At a certain point in time, the same was true of Kevin Maitan. That is the range of potential outcomes here, as we still only truly know about Dominguez’s showcase tools (what it’s like to watch him take BP and run, both of which are scintillating) and very little about how he’ll perform against pro pitching. Because of how early and how covertly the Yankees and Dominguez agreed to a deal (New York spent all but about $300k of its initial $5.4 million international pool on him), few scouts have seen him at all, and even fewer have seen him against quality live pitching, although that number has started to creep up as he participates in live BPs in the Dominican Republic. The mystery and intrigue, rare for elite, contemporary teenage athletes because of the prevalence of social media video, and those slick Yankees pinstripes have created a fever pitch of expectation for Dominguez in both the real world and the baseball card finance bro space.

Last year, when Dominguez was close to near the top of the 50 FV tier (where he’ll remain), one scouting director told me he is impossible to evaluate for a list like this, while a former GM told me he was too low. It’s hard to find switch-hitters with power like this, let alone ones who already have usable swings from both sides of the plate at this age. Dominguez got very jacked in 2020 and looked more like a Mr. Universe competitor than a baseball prospect. Not everyone digs this, and it’s discussed with the same tone of captivation and alarm as Zion Williamson’s size and explosion. There’s no precedent for someone this age being as big and strong as Dominguez already is, but nobody is sure what that means for his long-term athletic viability. I’m probably more comfortable ranking someone like this highly than a GM would be acquiring him for equivalent value, but it’s possible that, a year from now, Dominguez will have become unacquirable. He’s the highest-variance prospect in baseball, and maybe the highest-variance athlete in sports. (DR Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
52. Nolan Jones, LF, CLE
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Holy Ghost Prep HS (PA) (CLE)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 70/70 50/65 30/30 40/45 70

While evaluators would like to see Jones’ plus raw power play more in games, his patient approach should allow him to get there, and he’s worked himself into an acceptable defender at the hot corner.

A high school shortstop who has almost exclusively been a third baseman in pro ball, Jones played first base and both outfield corners during Fall instructs. Defensive versatility is valuable on its own, and this was also a logical trial given Cleveland’s situation at the corner spots. Carlos Santana has departed, the club’s outfield was below replacement level in 2020, and one of the better hitters on the planet is already the club’s third sacker. But regardless of the circumstance, there is a contingent of scouts who think Jones has already outgrown third base. He’s stretched two additional (listed) inches since high school and now stands in at a long-legged 6-foot-4. Though his ridiculous arm enables him to make some tough plays, Jones’ size has an impact on his defensive footwork and mobility.

But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter where Jones plays, because he has a special offensive skill set that will likely profile anywhere. Not only does he have big raw power, but Jones has perhaps the best strike zone discipline in the entire minor leagues. He ran a 20% walk rate across a 100-game sample as a 21-year-old at Hi-A, then posted a 14.7% rate at Double-A (he had turned 22 by then) to wrap up 2019. Jones has the highest walk rate (17.9%) the last two years among minor leaguers who have reached at least Double-A, and there are only five other hitters his age or younger who are within three percentage points of him. That patience combined with high-end raw power (he has the fourth-highest max exit velo among prospects on The Board) that Jones hasn’t yet totally tapped into should enable him to be a cleanup-hitting force.

There’s some platoon-y, strikeout risk here. Jones struck out a lot his short Double-A trial and then in the 2019 Arizona Fall League. He’s not good against left-handed pitching and will need to be dropped in the lineup against lefties, and sometimes come off the bench. But again, Jones has elite feel for the zone and huge power. His skillset is a scaled down version of Adam Dunn’s or Joey Gallo’s, and quite similar to Pat Burrell’s (other than the handedness). (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
53. Jeter Downs, 2B, BOS
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Monsignor Pace HS (FL) (CIN)
Age 22.6 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 50/50 40/45 45/45 45/50 50

Named after Derek Jeter, Downs brings similar 20/20 potential to the plate, but likely will end up doing it at second base as opposed to shortstop.

Downs has been a polished, advanced-for-his-age hitter dating back to high school and has a career .276/.362/.526 line in pro ball up through Hi-A (and an insignificant 12 game Double-A run). His hands work in a circle that enables him to turn on and lift pitches down-and-in, and helps him scoop breaking pitches with lift, but also in a way that causes his bat head to drag through the zone a bit. After watching Carter Kieboom struggle with a similar-looking swing, I’ve begun to wonder if Downs will be tied up by big league velocity in on his hands. But the closer to the bottom of the zone pitches are, the more Downs punishes them with pretty good pop to all fields. He’s going to pepper the gaps and do a fair amount of damage to right-center field.

Last year, I projected Downs to be a second baseman based on how thick his lower body already was at age 21, and there are folks in the industry who still think that’s the case, but at the alternate site, I thought he looked agile enough to stay at short and be passable in the same way Xander Bogaerts kind of has been, especially on balls in play to his left and in on the grass. I think Downs can be positioned defensively so that he’s making most of his plays in that direction rather than having to go into the hole and backhand balls, which he’s less able to do. His average exit velo was 88 mph in 2019, and there’s not a lot of room on the body, so that might be all, but he strikes the ball hard and with consistency, and that’s typically enough to be an everyday player at one of the middle infield spots. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
54. Triston Casas, 1B, BOS
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from American Heritage HS (FL) (BOS)
Age 21.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 252 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 65/70 35/60 30/20 35/40 55

One of the best high school bats in the 2018 draft, the extra-large Casas separates himself from most slugging first base prospects by bringing a plus hit tool to the table.

You get Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto vibes from Casas’ style of hitting as he tries to combat his lever length by choking up on the bat (even more so when he’s in a two-strike count). Like Votto, he has also played with the depth of his batting stance’s crouch; Casas became more upright throughout 2020 and now has a bigger, more athletic move forward in the box. And he does have a pretty advanced approach and ball/strike recognition for someone his age, and also has enough pure strength to hit balls with power even though his approach appears conservative on its face. Because he’s such a big guy with long, left tackle arms, his swing does have a hole up-and-in that will be difficult to close. But the overall package is still Top 100-strong even though Casas is a 1B/DH without a long, robust pro statistical track record (his 2019 exit velos are unexceptional) because he looks the part and has an unusually long amateur performance resume. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
55. Joey Bart, C, SFG
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Georgia Tech (SFG)
Age 24.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 238 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/60 50/60 35/30 65/70 55

2020’s big league struggles created some concerns as his approach disintegrated, but Bart’s overall track record is too good to just ignore.

Is Bart gonna Zunino? The synchronicity is uncanny. A college catcher, whose profile is driven by power and defense, goes in the top five but is rushed to the big leagues before his bat is ready, which has potential long-term consequences for his upside. Bart had only seen about a month’s worth of at-bats above A-ball before the Giants decided to promote him. He did very well in those 32 games, hitting for huge power at Double-A during the final few weeks of 2019, then for the first two weeks of the 2019 Fall League, until a fractured his right thumb ended his season. In that narrow window of health we saw glimpses of Bart’s power with physically fit phalanges. Whether he’ll get to his power in games is now in doubt since Bart struck out in 42% of his big league plate appearances in 2020. He was both chasing and missing in the zone at higher rates than the big league average. This comes after 550 minor league plate appearances with a paltry 6% walk rate. Should we have seen an approach red flag here? Bart walked at a 10% clip in college.

With new questions about his bat, Bart’s defensive tools become the foundation of his skillset. He’s Mike Alstott’s size but with the lateral quickness and ground game of a small-framed catcher. He’s quick out of his crouch and throws accurate lasers to second base. He also has field general qualities: he’s a rousing, vocal leader at times, a calming presence at others. Still likely to be an everyday catcher, Bart’s ceiling is now dictated entirely by how much of his power he can get to in games. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
56. Josh Lowe, CF, TBR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Pope HS (GA) (TBR)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/60 40/55 60/60 40/45 60

Lowe’s 2019 power breakthrough addressed the only thing missing from an otherwise well-rounded overall game.

There’s no change to Lowe’s report since he was sequestered at the alt site all year, which just wasn’t good at replicating an environment that can tell us about the things relevant for Lowe’s stock, including the balance of his walks and strikeouts, his defensive progression in center field, and if the shift in his batted ball profile that seemed to occur in 2019 (and that I’m betting is very meaningful) is real. From last year: Things may finally be starting to gel for Lowe, who has had tantalizing tools since high school. He was a power/speed prep bat without a clear position, but most of the amateur half of the industry assumed he’d be able to play center field if not shortstop or third base, where he played in high school. He quickly moved to the outfield and has played almost exclusively in center since 2017. He isn’t great there, but most of Lowe’s other abilities have been slow to develop, so it’s possible his feel for the position will come later, too. For instance, Lowe has big all-fields power but has been strikeout prone since his prep days. Once he began playing pro games and generating data, however, it became clear that, despite the whiffs, he had a great idea of the strike zone. The raw power didn’t really show up in games until Lowe’s batted ball profile began to shift in 2018. His groundball rates were in the mid-40% range until that year but slowly began shifting downward. Then Lowe had a breakout statistical 2019 as a 21-year-old at Double-A.

He’s always going to strike out, but he’s also probably going to keep walking a lot, especially now that the power is a real threat. It’s pretty important that he stay in center field to take some pressure off of the hit tool. If he can do that, he’ll be an everyday player. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
57. Emerson Hancock, SP, SEA
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Georgia (SEA)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 213 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/60 45/50 55/60 35/55 93-96 / 97

Some felt Hancock had the best pure stuff in the 2020 draft, as he consistently touches the upper 90s and adds a vicious slider. He just needs innings and consistency to turn into a star.

This is Hancock’s pre-draft report since most of his 2020 pro activity consisted of side sessions and bullpens. His first start of the 2020 college season was rocky, but Hancock’s trademark stuff was present all spring, a comforting fact after he missed some of 2019, including the whole summer, with arm soreness. He sits in the mid-90s and will flash a plus changeup and slider, both of which live in the 82-85 mph range. He has the prototypical power pitcher’s build, delivery, and stuff, he throws strikes and had a 30-to-2 strikeout to walk ratio in his final three starts of 2020 after that rough opener. He’s now in the hands of a Mariners dev group that has helped several of their recent high draft picks improve. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
58. Triston McKenzie, SP, CLE
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Royal Palm Beach HS (FL) (CLE)
Age 23.5 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 45/50 55/55 45/50 50/60 90-95 / 97

A 6-foot-5, 165 pound beanpole who dominated at times during his big league debut, McKenzie has the stuff to be a successful major league starter but needs to prove he has the physicality to handle the workload.

McKenzie’s big league debut was his first competitive game since 2018 due to multiple injuries (he missed the spring of 2018 with upper back issues, then did not pitch in 2019 due to lat and pec strains) and the global pandemic. Not only was he healthy, but he was throwing harder, at least for a little while. His fastball sat in the 90-93 range in 2018 and was 90-94 this spring as he prepared for the season. Then McKenzie was living in the 93-96 range in his first start and leaned on the fastball in big spots, often shaking off Roberto Pérez to get to it. Over the next few weeks, McKenzie’s velocity dropped in each subsequent start before it spiked again in a long relief role at the very end of the season. You could argue the injuries and fluctuating velocity are indications that the long-held industry apprehension regarding McKenzie’s durability has turned out to be correct. But it also would have been unreasonable to expect any pitcher to hold their velocity as they got deeper into their first extended action in quite a while. The action on McKenzie’s fastball also gives it some margin for error, velo-wise. And both his slider and changeup have evolved to complement the fastball/curveball combo that had headlined his arsenal as a younger prospect. Even though it’s still unclear exactly where his fastball velocity band will sit during the course of a whole season, I think McKenzie has the necessary other components to pitch in the middle of a rotation. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
59. Ryan Jeffers, C, MIN
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from UNC Wilmington (MIN)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 60/60 45/55 40/40 55/55 55

A physical beast with a power over hit offensive profile, Jeffers has the talent to be an everyday catcher but needs to improve his ability to control the running game.

The Twins were at the forefront of the now common style of catching from one knee (some teams have their receivers ditch it with two strikes and/or runners on base, others don’t), which seems to have a positive impact on called strikes while detracting from ball-blocking (which clubs consider to be less important), and, depending on the situation, pitch tipping. Jeffers took to this style and answered some of the defensive questions he faced in college, when it was unclear if he’d catch or end up at first base. Eyeball evaluations of his receiving are still mixed but according to my sources (and not just ones with Minnesota), the framing metrics in the minors were good, and they were very positive during his month-long stay in the big leagues last year when Jeffers was thrust into the lineup due to Mitch Garver‘s injury.

So long as he can stay back there, Jeffers is pretty easily an everyday player. He has average bat-to-balls skills, above-average thump, and the ability to hit the ball in the air consistently. He essentially made the leap from Hi-A to the big leagues in 2020 and hit .273/.355/.436. I think it’s fair to expect the Jeffers will experience a BABIP regression in 2021, but I think we’ll see his strikeout rate (which historically was close to 20% and was 30% in his initial big league trial) come down, too, which will help balance that out. His athleticism, breaking ball recognition, and, perhaps most importantly, plate coverage are all a tick below average, but I still think there’s enough offensive ability here for Jeffers to profile as an everyday catcher. Garver’s presence could impact Jeffers’ playing time, and since most of Jeffers’ defensive value is tied to his receiving, his overall career production might be front-loaded due to the looming possibility of electronic strike zones. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
60. Deivi García, SP, NYY
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 21.7 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 163 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 45/50 60/60 55/60 50/55 91-95 / 97

As with any arm that features a big stuff/small package combination, García needs to prove he can handle a starter’s workload, but there are no questions about the quality of the arsenal.

Any WAR-based analysis of pitching (including FV) is influenced by the innings total, and there are still questions about whether García can handle something close to a 180-inning workload because he’s only 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, and the pandemic made it impossible for García, or anyone like him, to answer those questions either way. I think it’s fair to wonder simply because García hasn’t done it yet, but I’m more inclined to dismiss arguments focused on his size. I wrote last year that, because part of the formula for torque (which could theoretically be used as a measure of stress on the elbow) is the distance from the fulcrum, that longer-armed, usually taller pitchers might actually be more of an injury risk than a little guy like Deivi. But having watched García go about his business at the big league level, I’m backpedaling his FV by a grade, since I think his power-pitcher’s approach will make it tough for him to work as efficiently as he’ll need to in order to log the aforementioned sort of innings total.

Marcus Stroman sets great precedent for smaller pitchers like this, but while García is really well-put together and athletic, he’s not quite the elite-level on-mound athlete that Stroman is, and Stroman’s stuff works in such a way that he gets one or two early-count grounders every inning, while García just doesn’t pitch like that. Instead, García’s tries to sneak 91-95 past hitters at the top of the zone. The angle and spin axis of his fastball helps it play up, but it isn’t a plus pitch. His 12-6 curveball is beautiful, but can be easy to identify out of his hands because of its rainbow shape, so even though it has what I’d consider plus-plus depth, and plus spin, it also plays more in the 50/55 range. García’s changeup, which has about 12 mph of velocity separation from his fastball, is likely to become his most effective secondary weapon, and he already has great feel for locating it. His slider’s shape is similar to his curveball’s, just with more velocity. The entire repertoire is either average or a shade above it, and I think García will end up working around 140 innings and generating 2-ish WAR annually. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
61. Heliot Ramos, RF, SFG
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Leadership Christian HS (PR) (SFG)
Age 21.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 55/55 45/55 55/50 45/50 60

Ramos has begun to add power and patience to his already impressive hit tool, and he’ll need it as physical maturity has necessitated a move to an outfield corner.

There’s no change to Ramos’ blurb. He was listed on San Francisco’s instructs roster but I did not run into him during the Fall. Ramos’ feel for opposite field contact developed out of necessity when his physical tools dipped in 2018. That turned out to be valuable when they returned in 2019 and half of his 16 homers were hit to the right of center field. Ramos’ bat head drags into the zone, which would cause most hitters to be late, but Ramos’ swing just scoops fly balls to right field, and his strength pushes them toward the heavens. Some of the strikeout issues (25% at Hi-A, 30% at Double-A) become less concerning when you remember Ramos was 19 years old all year, but they become a bit troubling again when you realize he’s destined for a corner.

Built like a boulder stacked on two Iberico hams, Ramos is already slowing down, and he was an average runner in the 2019 Fall League. It’s not great if he is suddenly a corner guy with whiff/discipline issues, though his plate discipline was much more palatable in 2019. Retaining that will be important or we’re just talking about a Randal Grichuk sequel. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
62. Daniel Lynch, SP, KCR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Virginia (KCR)
Age 24.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 50/50 45/50 45/50 50/60 91-95 / 97

A large-framed lefty with impressive control of a power arsenal, it’s a bit confusing as to why Lynch doesn’t miss more bats, but he still looks like a future rotation piece.

Lynch’s velocity has been climbing for most of the last two years. On the Cape and in the first half of his junior spring, Lynch looked like a solid third round prospect, a pitchability lefty sitting 88-92 mph with mostly average stuff. In the month or so leading up to the 2018 draft, Lynch’s velo ticked up, and down the stretch he sat 92-94, touching 95 mph deep into starts, with an assortment of offspeed pitches that all flashed above-average. He then sat 93-95 during the summer of 2019 and was often 94-97 during the 2019 Fall League, where he went to pick up innings after missing time with an arm injury.

He throws a cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup. They’re mostly average, but the slider flashes plus and I think the changeup has room for growth. There are some questions about his fastball’s playability but I think its velocity and the repertoire depth here make Lynch a very safe mid-rotation sort. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
63. George Valera, RF, CLE
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 20.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 55/60 35/60 50/45 45/45 55

While the strikeouts are a concern, Valera’s in-game power is rare for his age and he has a chance of staying up the middle.

A broken hamate and the pandemic have limited the performance sample by which to evaluate Valera. Since signing in 2017, he’s only played a total of 58 affiliated games and punched out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances. But let’s remember that he was one of the youngest players in the 2018 New York-Penn League (typically a league for college players — Valera was 18) season during which most of the strikeouts were accrued, and instead shift our focus to those who have seen Valera on the Arizona backfields, where he has easily spent the most time since signing.

There, including in the Fall of 2020, Valera has the best combination of feel for contact and power among his peers in this system. Among the other teenagers, Valera looks like a jazz bassist jamming with a group of teenagers who taught themselves the guitar using Blink-182 tabs. He has great in-the-box rhythm and timing, unloading on pitches with veteran anticipation. When Valera’s curt, all-fields uppercut swing connects just right, you’d swear you were watching a young Robinson Canó, and like Canó, Valera is going to hit some emphatic, picturesque dingers. While his swinging style will likely always cause him to whiff more than average, he has the most potent hit/power combination in this system and there are scouts who think he should be ranked first in the org. Because he has so little actual pro experience, he is likely to play a corner outfield spot — I liked Valera’s defensive instincts enough to keep him alive in center field on last year’s list, but folks who saw him this Fall only watched him in right, so center seems to less likely to me now –and due to his track record of swinging and missing, other scouts think he should slide behind the hit-first middle infielders ranked a few spots behind him here. It’s very important for Valera to have a full, healthy 2021 since he’s part of huge contingent of prospects who need to be added to the 40-man next offseason. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
64. Ha-seong Kim, SS, SDP
Signed: International Free Agent from the KBO (SDP)
Age 25.3 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 50/50 40/45 60/60 50/50 70

One of the best players in Korea since he was a teenager, Kim brings a plus run tool, an outstanding arm and double-digit home run power to wherever he ends up playing on the dirt.

Kim is an explosive, compact-bodied athlete with natural doubles power who frequently turns on pitches on the inner half and absolutely obliterates balls to his pull side. He took bigger hacks during the 2020 KBO season and hit more homers without impacting his contact rates, as he also had more walks than Ks. An everyday talent, it’s impossible to say whether Kim will be able to make the leap from Korean to MLB pitching seamlessly, but his KBO numbers are more favorable than other recent successful players, he’s younger, and his defensive ability gives him more margin for error in this regard. (KBO)

Expand arrow_drop_down
65. Ivan Herrera, C, STL
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Panama (STL)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 50/55 25/40 30/30 45/55 50

Herrera brings an impressive array of tools but is still learning how to translate them into offensive and defensive production.

No change here as Herrera was only at the alt site. When I began sourcing data on the Cardinals system in 2019, I wasn’t aware of a max exit velocity for a teenager in excess of 109 mph (Kristian Robinson, Marco Luciano, Luis Toribio) — until I learned of Herrera’s. It was surprising considering Herrera is physically quite modest, and looked sluggish at times during that year’s Fall League, but by that point he had played in three times as many games as he had the year before, and was likely exhausted. Regular season Herrera was a little leaner, twitchy, and athletic, and was an advanced defender with a mature approach at the plate. He also hit .286/.381/.423 as a 19-year-old catcher in the Midwest League. This guy checks all the proverbial boxes and looks like a well-rounded everyday catching prospect. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
66. Jeremy Peña, SS, HOU
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Maine (HOU)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 45/45 30/40 55/55 55/60 50

A plus defender with a good approach and rapidly growing power, Peña’s top-of-the-line makeup adds to an intriguing package.

Billed as the best collegiate defensive player in the 2018 Draft, Peña has since added 20 pounds of muscle and now has modest, but relevant power. After looking uncharacteristically mistake-prone during the 2019 Fall League, he was the Dominican Winter League’s best infield defender in 2020 and should be a plus big league defender at shortstop. While he isn’t as deft and precise with the barrel, Peña’s swing shares some common rotational elements with fellow Astro Yuli Gurriel. Peña can pull his hands in and get the fat part of the bat on pitches on the inner half, which should enable him to hit 12 to 15 annual pull shots, maybe a couple more because of the Crawford Boxes in Houston. But the profile foundation here is Peña’s on-base ability and plus glove at a premium position. He’s 23 and hasn’t played above A-ball, but is still a pretty stable prospect, in part thanks to his coming of age in LIDOM. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League, LIDOM)

Expand arrow_drop_down
67. Oswald Peraza, SS, NYY
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (NYY)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 176 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/60 40/45 30/45 60/60 55/60 55

An outstanding international find for $175,000, Peraza is a plus-run, plus-glove shortstop, and scouts see some untapped power potential.

Last year, Peraza emerged from a group of prospects I had initially evaluated as likely utility or second division regular types. He added strength to a contact/defense foundation and his exit velocities moved very close to major league average, which was impressive for a 19-year-old. Peraza got some reps early during big league spring training before heading home for the summer. He then played sparingly for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League. There he showed a modified stance and hand set-up, but he played so little that it’s hard to say how it might impact his quality of contact without more looks and/or data to support it. I do think he’d benefit from taking a longer stride, though. Either way, this is a contact-oriented shortstop who’ll likely be an above-average defender, maybe better than that. I have conviction in the hit tool due to Peraza’s curt, short swing, his visible barrel control and his track record of hitting as a young-for-the-level player so far. He may only ever hit for doubles power but on a good-gloved shortstop, that’s an everyday player. (Venezuelan Winter League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
68. Geraldo Perdomo, SS, ARI
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (ARI)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 184 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 45/50 30/45 55/55 45/55 55

An excellent defensive shortstop who can work the count and runs well, Perdomo makes up for his lack of power with many other aspects of his game.

The 50 FV tier is littered with rock solid, up-the-middle defenders who have enough offensive ability to play every day, even if they’re not impact hitters. A big part of how they’re layered throughout the tier is based on which ones I think are more likely to grow into some pop, which is why the 21-year-old Perdomo is near the top. Suitable range bolstered by his instincts, and plus feet, actions, and arm utility make him a potential plus defender at short. His feel for the strike zone and bat-to-ball ability from the left side of the plate (his right-handed swing is bad) will be sufficient for low-end everyday duty, but relevant power might be coming. Perdomo’s exit velos climbed throughout 2019. He averaged about 80 mph off the bat at Low-A, then about 82 mph after his promotion to Hi-A, and finally averaged 87 mph during a limited Fall League sample. His body has become more mature, and his left-handed swing has become more explosive and now features an overhead, helicopter finish similar to Miguel Andújar‘s even though Perdomo’s physicality really hasn’t changed at all. There’s still some room for improvement as it relates to his lower half usage in the swing, and it’s possible Perdomo scraps hitting right-handed altogether at some point. The skills/instincts foundation here is solid enough to project Perdomo as a low-end regular, and the burgeoning physical ability means he’s begun to look like more than that. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
69. Noelvi Marte, SS, SEA
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (SEA)
Age 19.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 50/60 25/60 60/55 40/50 60

One of the top prospects in the 2018 international class, Marte has few believers when it comes to his defensive ability, but the bat has impressed thanks to a good approach, a tendency to barrel up the ball, and real power potential.

I have a lot of high-ceiling, up-the-middle types sprinkled throughout the next 15 spots on the overall list, and I think you can make arguments to order them a few different ways. For Marte, that means weighing the certainty that he’ll have power (because he already does) against the possibility that his size, which is part of what provides that power, will eventually move him off of shortstop. My previous research into shortstop size has shown that most teenage prospects gain about 30 pounds between when they’re 18 and 21 years old, which puts Marte’s baseline body projection in the Willy Adames/Trevor Story realm, at about 210 pounds, assuming Marte’s current listed weight is correct. I’m inclined to think he’ll end up north of that just based on how big and imposing his frame has already become before he has turned 20. If only because of what improved defensive positioning allows, there’s Goldilocks Zone power/defensive spectrum potential here, as Marte already has enough raw juice to put balls out to all fields, and will probably have at least a full grade more at maturity. His TrackMan power metrics (they’re over on The Board) are in the 40/45 range right now because Marte’s swing elements are not always well-timed. They are, however, very athletic. The big leg kick (which Marte is balanced enough to utilize), the little bit of bat wrap to create some loop and lift, and the ability to move the barrel around the zone are all encouraging swing elements, but we really don’t know a lot about Marte’s bat-to-ball skills right now because he hasn’t really been seen or generated stats against good pitching yet. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
70. Zac Veen, CF, COL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Spruce Creek HS (COL)
Age 19.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 55/65 25/60 60/55 40/50 50

Already a physical presence as a teenager, Veen has big power potential and a pretty left-handed swing to go with a plus arm that should serve him well in right field.

Of the 2020 Draft’s high schoolers, Veen has the most obvious long-term power projection because of his huge, well-composed frame. His in-the-box actions are quiet and smooth up until the moment he decides to unleash hell on the baseball. He can clear his hips and crush balls in, and he can also extend his arms and crush pitches away from him to the opposite field gap. Because of the frame-based power potential, Veen was one of a handful of high schoolers who had a chance to really blow up during his senior spring and insert himself among the college prospects atop this draft, and because high school ball began in Florida before the COVID-19 pandemic, teams got to see some of that development and Veen separated himself from some of the other prep hitters. He’s a prototypical power-hitting high school prospect. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
71. Robert Hassell III, CF, SDP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Independence HS (TN) (SDP)
Age 19.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/60 45/50 20/45 55/55 40/50 60

No one doubts Hassell’s hit tool, but he’ll need to answer questions about his power potential and ability to stay in center field.

Hassell wielded the most advanced bat of all the 2020 Draft’s high school hitters, spraying contact to all fields against upper-echelon high school pitching during his pre-draft summer. It’s particularly impressive considering he was a two-way varsity player. Somewhat stiff in the lower half, Hassell is more of a long-striding glider in center field and lacks the pure speed to be an impact defender there. He has a good first step out there but isn’t always comfortable going back on balls. I thought he looked fine in center during 2020 instructs but some scouts think he’ll eventually move to right field. The big development during the Fall was Hassell’s power. He was striking the baseball with more authority than what I saw during his pre-draft summer. It was enough to slide him into the 50 FV tier. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Kempner HS (TX) (NYM)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/50 55/60 40/55 90-94 / 97

Woods Richardson hasn’t seen the velo bump many expected out of high school, but he’s refined an impressive four-pitch mix and knows how to locate.

Woods Richardson’s velocity was down at the alternate site, though from talking with a source outside the org, his pitch data indicates it was trending back up as his time there went on. Regardless, he was sitting 90-92 as opposed to the 92-94, touch 97 from the year before, and I slid him back a spot on this list because of it, though I didn’t change his FV in any way. In an alternate universe the thing I’d have hoped to glean from Woods Richardson’s 2020 season was whether he had improved his ability to spin his four-seamer with better seam uniformity, something he struggled with the last time FanGraphs captured his pitches on Slowmie, our high speed camera. SWR works with both four- and two-seam variants, and also has the screwball action changeup that’s now en vogue and a curveball that has good shape thanks to his arm slot but lacks power. An athletic two-way high schooler, Woods Richardson was lauded a little extra because he’s so competitive and works about as fast as any pitcher in the minors. There’s still a viable three-pitch mix here but I’d like to see the velocity bounce back in 2021. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
73. Garrett Crochet, SIRP, CHW
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Tennessee (CHW)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 218 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
80/80 65/70 30/40 30/40 99-101 / 102

A left-hander who sits at 100 mph, Crochet quickly went from the draft to the big leagues and is ready to dominate out of the Sox bullpen.

Crochet spent most of his college career in the bullpen, making just one pre-draft start in 2020 after missing the first few weeks of the college season with what the Volunteers claimed was shoulder soreness. (Major league teams were skeptical of that explanation and thought his absence had to do with an off-the-field matter.) In that lone appearance this spring, Crochet threw 3.1 innings and was absolutely electric, touching 99 with his fastball while flashing a 70-grade slider. How teams valued him leading up to the draft (the relief risk, the injury or makeup issues) was highly variable. Their confidence seemed to be determined by who in the org had seen him and when (many teams weren’t able to get a decision-maker to see him in person in 2020), but those that focused on his pitch data, which was shared among all the teams, thought he had among the best raw stuff in the entire draft class and was one of the few pitchers available who might pitch at the top of a rotation or in the back of a bullpen. Crochet was also among the high-octane college pitchers thought capable of going straight to the big leagues in a relief role, something more broadly considered by clubs due to the structure of the 2020 player pool. Out of Burl Carraway, Clayton Beeter, etc., only Crochet actually did.

After he tuned up at the alternate site for about two months, Crochet was added to the 40-man and sent to the big leagues in mid-September. He pitched six innings in five relief appearances, walked no one (though he was pretty wild if you put on the tape), allowed just three hits and no runs, and struck out eight big leaguers. He made the White Sox playoff roster but left his first career postseason outing with a flexor strain, which ended his season. He’s healthy now, training and throwing at the team’s complex in Arizona. Because he barely threw in 2020, he’s likely to be on a strict innings limit in 2021. The club is going to try to thread the needle here and use Crochet in a relief role while still trying to develop him as a long-term starter. Players in this situation tend to wind up in the bullpen, and that’s where I have Crochet projected based on his strike-throwing limitations, independent of his shortened developmental timeline. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
74. Alejandro Kirk, C, TOR
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Mexico (TOR)
Age 22.3 Height 5′ 8″ Weight 265 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 50/50 40/45 20/20 40/40 45

A bowling ball of a human who can really rake, Kirk still has plenty of questions to answer defensively but the bat should play anywhere.

Kirk has several elite statistical indicators, both in his surface-level on-field performance and in the background TrackMan data from his 2019 minor league campaign (in addition to what I have over on The Board, a source tells me his expected stats based on quality of contact are very similar to his 2019 Hi-A slash line of .288/.395/.446), and eyeball scouts acknowledge he’s a terrific offensive player.

But there is skepticism surrounding his long-term athletic viability because Kirk is a very husky guy (listed at 5-foot-8, 265) without a body comp precedent in baseball, or arguably across all of pro sports. Because Christian Vazquez is listed at 5-foot-9, 205 (which is either an embarrassing oversight or an intentional lie), the closest measurable comp to Kirk is José Molina at 5-foot-10, 250, but that’s from when Molina was nearly 40-years-old, whereas Kirk is only 22. It’s very difficult to anticipate what might happen to his frame as he enters his mid-20s, when many other players are thickening up as they reach maturity. All of this creates doubt surrounding whether or not Kirk can catch right now and/or long-term. But because he made his major league debut in 2020, we’ve gotten to see him do it a handful of times, and for a lot of different pitchers, at the big-league level. Kirk’s receiving and framing are okay. He catches on one knee even with runners on base, which makes him especially good at framing balls toward the bottom of the zone. He sets his target then lets his glove hand go slack and works back to the ball as it heads home, which magnifies issues with visual presentation to umpires when his pitcher misses his spot. In general, Kirk just has a slow-moving glove and doesn’t catch pitches at the top of the zone as cleanly as the softy sinkers at the bottom, and I wonder if he’ll have more obvious issues catching power arms, though he did fine in two outings as Robbie Ray‘s backstop. Kirk’s legs set up as wide as they can go when he’s in his modified crouch so he can try to block balls without actually having to move his whole body laterally, and it actually works okay. He’s not a great thrower despite an average arm because he’s so slow out of his crouch, and sometimes he’ll throw from one knee to circumvent this.

My visual evaluation is that he’s a passable defender, not a good one, and I think the Jays deep stable of catchers will dictate that he DHs sometimes and catches at others. The more 1B/DH Kirk has to play during his years of team control, the less valuable he’ll be. He has an all-fields, doubles-oriented approach that prioritizes contact and walks, which I think is great for a catcher but won’t be at first. He’s an everyday big league catcher right now, but he may have an abnormally early decline phase. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
75. Clarke Schmidt, SP, NYY
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from South Carolina (NYY)
Age 25.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 70/70 40/45 45/45 91-95 / 96

Schmidt stays in the zone and attacks hitters with a deep, plus trifecta of offerings, but he has a TJ in his rear view window and has had a bout of shoulder soreness since.

Schmidt’s breaking ball spin rates in 2020 were about 300 rpm higher than what I had on record from him in 2019 and he also threw substantially harder, though that might be because he was deployed in a couple of relief outings and a short start. He works with what amounts to four different pitches: a high-spin two-seamer that he works to his arm side, a four-seamer that he locates up and to his glove side, a nasty two-plane breaking ball, and a changeup. It’s a slam dunk starter’s repertoire in a vacuum, but Schmidt has one of the longer, gnarlier arm actions in baseball and already has one surgery under his belt. He also shows pretty significant release variation depending on pitch type, with his breaking balls coming from a lower, wider point while his fastballs, especially the four-seamer, comes from a vertical one. All of his release points viewed at once look more like a crescent rather than one tight, circular cluster. It’s possible hitters will be able to pick up on this, but it’s also possible Schmidt hides the ball so well that they won’t. It’s something we’ll just have to learn by watching big leaguers face him. The confluence of arm action length, release variance and injury history all create substantial relief risk here, but even if Schmidt ends up in a role of that sort, I think his repertoire depth will enable him to either close or work in a valuable multi-inning role. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
76. George Kirby, SP, SEA
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Elon (SEA)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 40/45 50/55 45/55 55/70 91-96 / 97

There isn’t a prospect in the minors better at throwing strikes than Kirby, who combines that ability with a deep, quality repertoire.

If you tally up Kirby’s three years at Elon, his summer on the Cape, and his brief pro debut, he has a 307-to-51 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 276 innings since 2017. That’s a 4% walk rate, and in Kirby’s most recent calendar year of innings, it has been a microscopic 1.3%. While his pre-draft velocity was strong (touching 97, often 93-95 early, 91-94 late in starts), his secondary stuff was very average. His slider and curveball (the latter is better) ran together a bit, and his changeup had inconsistent finish. But often elite command of what is a 55-grade pitch in a vacuum leads to elite results (see: Bieber, Shane), and I think that sort of secondary pitch effectiveness is possible for Kirby.

One of Seattle’s stated post-draft goals for the right-hander was to make him stronger. In 2020 spring bullpens, Kirby looked noticeably thicker and stronger, and he is indeed throwing harder, touching 99 mph several times in Peoria side sessions. Then Kirby sat 97-99 throughout his time at the alt site. The context of the look is important, but the velo bump coincided with a change in physicality, so I’m more inclined to believe it, or something approaching it, will hold. Even with fairly vanilla secondary stuff, mid-90s heat and Kirby’s potential for elite command gives him a mid-rotation ceiling. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
77. Jordan Groshans, 3B, TOR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Magnolia HS (TX) (TOR)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 60/70 35/60 55/50 45/50 60

Groshans was in the midst of a breakout full-season debut in 2019 before a foot injury cost him time. He’s more likely a third baseman in the end, but the bat should play.

Groshans hasn’t played in an actual game since May of 2019 because plantar fasciitis ended his first full pro season prematurely and kept him from baseball activities until the start of 2020. Then he went to the alternate site, which was certainly a huge leap in pitcher quality compared to what he faced in Low-A, but he was also seeing the same group of arms over and over again, and there’s no way of knowing how that impacted the performance reflected in data shared with other teams. The nearly two-year layoff hasn’t caused me to downgrade Groshans so much as he has just been passed by hitters in whom I have a higher degree of confidence. The tools package here, arguably a Josh Donaldson starter kit with similar swing mechanics, still gives Groshans a pretty huge ceiling if he can actually hit like he did for the first month of 2019. He’s a big-framed, well-made athlete with enough arm strength and mobility that some teams thought he could be tried at shortstop in pro ball. Part of that is because his arm strength might enable him to hide some of what he lacks in lateral range, and he did moonlight at shortstop at the alt site. I think he ends up as a power-hitting third baseman but the risk profile here has gone up due to the layoff. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
78. Tyler Stephenson, C, CIN
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Kennesaw Mountain HS (GA) (CIN)
Age 24.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 65/65 40/45 30/30 45/50 70

It’s been a slow burn for the 2015 first-rounder, but Stephenson’s power has started to show up in games and the defense behind the plate is plus.

Initially called up when Tucker Barnhart went on the Paternity List, Stephenson got an eight-game cup of coffee in the big leagues, but only a three-game shot of espresso at catcher. It’d be foolish to construct a new opinion of his offense from an eight-game statistical sample but it was instructive to watch him catch most of a big league staff during those three games behind the plate.

Stephenson catches on one knee with the bases empty, then from a crouch with runners on. For most fastballs, his glove works from the middle of the plate outward, and for breaking balls he typically works from beneath the zone, up. The latter is more effective from a pitch-framing perspective, but both approaches are fine from a receiving standpoint, which was an issue for Stephenson as a younger prospect. So, too, was ball-blocking. Stephenson is 6-foot-4 and his wickets are pretty big. His legs often get down late when he has to block a ball, but they’re so long that he ends up having good lateral range by using his length to slide around. Even then, Stephenson mostly tries to use his glove to pick balls in the dirt rather than get his knees down and pads over the ball, which may affect pitcher confidence in his ability to block balls. Stephenson avoids tipping pitches with runners on base. His legs bow out wide when a breaking ball is coming, but it happens too late for the baserunner to signal the hitter. I suppose we don’t know how well he will be able to block the nastiest of breaking balls, but I think he clearly looks capable of catching and will be at least an average defender with a big time arm.

Offensively, Stephenson puts on quite a show during batting practice but has a contact-oriented approach in games. Per a source, he had one of the better in-zone contact rates in the 2019 minors, which is quite the opposite of how most of the amateur side of the industry thought he would develop as a pro. It’s possible he eventually makes an adjustment that unlocks more in-game power, but I think a contact-first approach that derives power from Stephenson’s strength is still plenty for him to profile as a good, everyday catcher. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
79. Brayan Rocchio, SS, CLE
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 20.1 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 30/40 30/40 60/60 60/70 50

Rocchio’s feel for contact and his defensive ability drive a high-probability everyday profile.

There’s been no change to Rocchio’s evaluation since he neither played at the alternate site nor at instructs due to travel limitations going to and from Venezuela. I did update some of his tool grades based on continued discussion with scouts, including those who saw a bit of him before the March 2020 shutdown. Even though he’s only 20, I consider Rocchio a high-probability everyday big leaguer by virtue of his advanced feel for contact and exceptional shortstop defense. So fundamentally sound is Rocchio that Cleveland was willing to give him some big league spring training reps each of the last two years, when he was still just a teenager with mostly backfield experience. He looked comfortable, both in the field and at the plate, in that handful of games. He has great range, hands, footwork, and just enough arm strength for the left side of the infield, since it’s enabled by the quickness of his actions. Rocchio’s 2019 triple slash line at Mahoning Valley (.250/.310/.373) is not all that impressive at first glance, but it was enough for a 107 wRC+ at the level, and he was just 18. The physical development that might lead to a real breakout (and his ascension up the top 100) has not yet materialized, and because Rocchio is a smaller-framed young man, it may never come. But even if it doesn’t, switch-hitting shortstops with bat-to-ball chops like this tend to play every day. (At-home development)

Expand arrow_drop_down
80. Keibert Ruiz, C, LAD
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (LAD)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 45/45 30/30 20/20 50/50 50

While his prospect status has dipped a bit since being rushed to the upper levels, Ruiz has maintained his elite contact skills, though the expected power gain remains missing in action.

Ruiz is a slow-twitch, skills-over-tools catcher who projects to be a good everyday player. He has much better feel for contact than all but a few players in the minors, let alone the catchers. It has allowed Ruiz to get away with an overly-expansive approach. He swings at far too many pitches outside the zone, but he is so often able to get the barrel there that it hasn’t mattered, and he’s a .299 career hitter in spite of this. While Ruiz makes remarkably consistent contact, it’s not all that hard, and he’s unlikely to hit for more than doubles power in the big leagues. But I think even a one-dimensional, contact-only offensive profile like Keibert’s is enough to catch everyday, and while I consider him a capable defender, it’s worth noting that some clubs do not.

Ruiz has baby soft hands and is a great pitch-framer and receiver, but he’s a casual, low-effort ball-blocker who’d much rather rely on his hands to pick balls in the dirt than be mobile and throw his body in front of the baseball. I think his hands are so good that he’ll get away with this, but others think it impacts his pitchers’ conviction in throwing breaking balls that finish in the dirt. Arm-wise, Ruiz’s slow exchange drags his pop times down, but he’s very accurate and I’m starting to think that so long as one has sufficient arm strength, accuracy might matter more than the pop time. But again, this is not a universally-held belief. I’ve got an everyday grade on Ruiz, but unless the Dodgers want to carry three catchers, I think he is the odd man out and a potential trade centerpiece this offseason. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
81. Jordan Balazovic, SP, MIN
Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from St. Martin HS (CAN) (MIN)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 55/55 40/45 45/55 91-94 / 96

While still a work in progress after being drafted in 2016 as a raw product from Canada, Balazovic’s fastball checks all the boxes in terms of velocity, spin attributes, and command, though he’s still refining his secondary pitches.

After a breakout 2018, Balazovic spent most of 2019 dominating the Florida State League as a 20-year-old. Perhaps the most important takeaway was that he retained his stuff amid an innings increase. My hope was that he’d endure another 20-inning uptick in 2020 and continue tracking toward a traditional, innings-eating starter’s workload. But, uh, he didn’t get a chance to do that. Instead, Balazovic arrived at the alt site in September and looked his usual self, sitting 92-96 there, which is the top end of his velo band from 2019.

He throws strikes with four pitches, several of which either project to miss bats or do so right now. Chief among them is his fastball, which is tough for hitters to pick up out of Balazovic’s hand as they’re misdirected by his limbs flying all over the place during the delivery. Even with a somewhat lower arm slot, Balazovic’s heater plays at the top of the zone. He can vary the shape of his breaking balls — the slider is the out pitch, the curveball gets dropped in for strikes — and both play up against righties because of the mechanics. And while Balazovic’s glove-side slider command should be enough for him to deal with lefties eventually anyway, his change improved in 2019. He throws an unusually high number of strikes for such a young, lanky, cold-weather arm with a somewhat violent delivery, and he’s had no health or control issues thus far. He pretty firmly projects as a No. 4 starter right now. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
82. Jhoan Duran, SP, MIN
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (ARI)
Age 23.1 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Splitter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/55 45/50 60/60 40/45 95-99 / 101

Duran is 6-foot-5, can throw 101 mph, and can really spin it. There’s all sorts of refinement necessary from there, but it’s a hell of a starting point.

Often exciting, and sometimes frustrating during his inconsistent early career with Arizona, both Duran and his stuff have matured since Minnesota acquired him as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal. His frame filled out and his velocity became more consistent start to start, resting in the 95-99 range and touching 101 throughout 2019. Duran also worked with better angle after the Twins acquired him, a change that improved the playability of his breaking ball without detracting from his changeup’s movement, though that pitch seemed to be de-emphasized in 2019 even though it looked promising to my eye while he was with Arizona. His curveball will have more obvious humpback movement when he throws it for a strike, and has more two-plane tilt when he’s trying to bury it down and away from righties.

I’m doing something a little different with Duran’s pitch data over on The Board since I’ve become aware that he has two very different types of fastballs, a four- and two-seamer with an unusual spin difference between the two. Duran works downhill rather than with flat angle, so I think the two-seamer (the org calls it a “splinker”, as in splitter/sinker, and I have this pitch graded in the splitter column on The Board) will be his better fastball, and even though that pitch has the lower spin rate, it’s the one you’ll see represented on The Board. That amount of demarcation in spin and movement makes Duran a four-pitch starter prospect with elite velocity and fastball characteristics that will lead to less swing-and-miss than you’d expect given his velocity, similar to what Sixto Sánchez and Brusdar Graterol have exhibited during their respective big league tenures. Duran’s delivery is very upright and kind of stiff, and he doesn’t have pinpoint feel for location, instead just living in and around the strike zone enough to start. I think he’s going to bully hitters with velo and sink en route to a fourth starter (2-ish WAR) outcome. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
83. DL Hall, MIRP, BAL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Valdosta HS (GA) (BAL)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/55 50/55 30/40 93-96 / 98

Hall’s stuff keeps improving and he now has one of the better left-handed pitch mixes in the minors, but he’s yet to cross the 100-inning plateau in a season and the command needs work.

Ultra-competitive, athletic southpaws with this kind of stuff are very rare. Here’s the list of lefty big league starters who throw harder than Hall, who averaged 94.9 mph on his fastball in 2019: Jesús Luzardo, Blake Snell. That’s it.

Because Hall’s release is inconsistent, not only did his walk rate regress in 2019, but the quality of his secondary stuff was also less consistent than it was during his very dominant mid-summer stretch in 2018, when his changeup clearly took a leap. Both of his secondaries are often plus; Hall simply has a higher misfire rate than most big league starters. He’s still just 21 and has All-Star upside if he starts locating better, which may not come until after he has a couple big league seasons under his belt. I have him projected as a multi-inning reliever. It’s a role I think he’d thrive in immediately, one that can impact the ballclub (Hall’s on-mound demeanor fits nicely in leveraged situations), provide him with enough in-game reps to try to hone starter’s control, and give him a foundation of innings to make a starter leap if he does. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
84. Xavier Edwards, 2B, TBR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from North Broward Prep HS (FL) (SDP)
Age 21.5 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 40/40 20/30 80/80 45/50 45

A callback to the infielders of past generations, Edwards will never have power, but he’s a contact machine who understands the strike zone and can impact the game with his wheels.

As seems to be the case with lots of players whose exit velos are toward the bottom of the big league scale, Edwards is somewhat divisive throughout the industry. Up until this year, it had typically been the in-office analyst types whose Edwards opinions were more tepid, as scouts (especially on the amateur side) loved his speed/contact blend and how hard he played. But his lack of impact contact was, for the first time, noted as a real problem by scouts who saw him in the Fall of 2020. As with Nick Madrigal, Luis Arraez and other players like them, I think hitters with a complete lack of power can still be good everyday players provided that they make a nearly elite amount of contact, and to this point Edwards has. Like Franco, Edwards’ 2019 swinging strike rate was just 4.8% (he just doesn’t put the ball in play as hard) and his track record of hitting in games extends way back to his underclass high school days. At one point, I thought Edwards could be a slash-and-dash Luis Castillo clone, but he doesn’t have the samurai-level feel for contact Castillo did. I still have a high degree of confidence in his bat. All of Edwards’ extra-base damage will be done down either baseline, as he’ll sneak grounders past the corner infielders and be at second base in the blink of an eye. The Rays plan to deploy him as a multi-positional catalyst, a speedy, Chone Figgins-style player. Like Figgins, Edwards has elite speed and scouts prefer X at positions other than shortstop, but he can play there in a pinch. He’ll be a super utility type who provides value commensurate with an everyday player because of the strength of his hit tool. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
85. Michael Busch, 2B, LAD
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from North Carolina (LAD)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 207 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 60/60 35/55 50/45 30/35 40

A walk-machine with a solid hit tool and a bit of power, Busch will provide offense, which he’ll need to as he finds a defensive home on the wrong side of the spectrum.

It’s been hard to get a concrete feel for where Busch will end up playing defense because he’s missed game reps due to the pandemic and a 2019 hand injury. It makes sense for the Dodgers to keep working with him at second base, just in case he can get good enough to actually play there some of the time. I did not have an extended look at him in the Fall but the scouts who did think he could eventually be passable there, but definitely not good, much like Tommy La Stella. Busch played the keystone for an extended stretch on the Cape in 2018 but spent his career at North Carolina playing mostly first base and some corner outfield, and those are the two positions pro scouts think he’ll move to if second doesn’t work out.

But most importantly, Busch really hits, and is probably an everyday player even if he ends up mostly playing left field. He’s patient, tracks pitches well, and has big, strength-driven power. I consider Busch a high-probability big leaguer who could have some years of star-level WAR output if he can play second semi-regularly. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
86. Nick Gonzales, 2B, PIT
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from New Mexico State (PIT)
Age 21.7 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 55/55 35/50 40/40 40/45 45

Gonzales put up silly numbers (1.249 OPS in 128 games) at New Mexico State and looks like a .300 hitter, but the power is fringy and he’ll need to slide over to second base as a pro.

Scouts and executives who really liked Gonzales pre-draft compared his profile to that of pre-draft Keston Hiura. They have similar builds, their hitting hands work in a similar, aesthetically-pleasing loop, and like Hiura, Gonzales also faced questions about his ultimate defensive fit, albeit for different reasons. The altitude at New Mexico State (Las Cruces is 3,900 feet above sea level) aided his offensive output there (he had a .399/.502/.747 career line), but his 2019 Cape Cod line (.351/.451/.630 with wood bats against great pitching) carried a ton of weight in draft rooms, and it certainly didn’t hurt that in the weeks leading up to the COVID shutdown, Gonzales went on an epic heater and homered 12 times in 16 games.

Despite the huge power output, Gonzales’ offensive skill set is more well-rounded, and he’s also been described to me as “a good hitter with some power” rather than a middle-of-the order force of some kind. I don’t think he has the barrel accuracy or striking power of Hiura, but Gonzales is really difficult to beat with velocity in the strike zone and has the strength and plate coverage to drive fastballs the opposite way. He’ll also scoop and yank hanging breaking balls toward the left field seats, but the home run pop here is more mistake-dependent than it is a constant worry for opposing pitchers. He’ll need to become more fundamentally sound around the bag at second to stay there (I think he’ll initially play shortstop in pro ball but move to the keystone relatively soon), but if he can then Gonzales pretty comfortably profiles as a solid everyday player. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
87. Luis Matos, CF, SFG
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (SFG)
Age 19.1 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 50/60 20/50 60/60 45/50 50

After signing for just under $1 million, Matos had a monster pro debut in the DSL in 2019, showing contact ability and power potential, and surprising many observers with his defense in center.

Matos has a freaky ability to rotate and can move the barrel all over the hitting zone. He doesn’t have the typical, big-framed body projection that a lot of power/speed teenage outfielders do, but in some ways that’s a positive, as I think it makes him less likely to outgrow center field. It’s possible he has underlying issues (breaking ball recognition, an expansive approach, or any number of other things) that we just don’t know about yet because rookie-level pitching isn’t capable of shedding light on them and we lost a bigger, more relevant 2020 sample with which to unearth that stuff. But I thought he looked fantastic against advanced Fall Instructional League pitching and his tools are a clip above most elite high schoolers about his age. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
88. Tyler Freeman, 2B, CLE
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Etiwanda HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/70 40/45 20/30 55/50 45/50 45

Few can match Freeman’s ability to make contact, as he laces doubles all over the diamond, but he’s a skills over tools player who will likely end up at second base.

I slid Freeman behind Rocchio (he ranked ahead of him last year) based on scouts’ looks at him this year, which indicated to them that he’s likely to play second base long-term, rather than shortstop. Ultimately, the carrying tool here is Freeman’s bat. He tracks pitches like a hawk tracks prey from a half mile in the sky and guides the bat head to them with rare consistency. For such a short-levered hitter, Freeman has great plate coverage. He’s able to dive and get the bat head to pitches out away from him, and he’s typically willing to hit the ball where it’s pitched in a refreshing, 20th-century way. He had the 16th-lowest swinging strike rate in the minors in 2019, one of four Cleveland hitters hovering around the 4% mark. Though unlikely to hit for power (based both on his lack of present power and limited physical projection), a potential plus-plus hitter who plays the middle of the diamond is an everyday player. They may need a one-year stopgap, but Freeman is likely to get the first shot to replace Cesar Hernandez at second. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
89. Orelvis Martinez, SS, TOR
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (TOR)
Age 19.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 50/60 25/50 45/40 30/45 55

One of the most significant talents in the 2018 international class, Martinez projects as a prototypical power-hitting third baseman.

Martinez was one of the most explosive talents in the 2018 July 2 class, getting the second highest bonus at $3.5 million, behind only 22-year-old Marlins center fielder Víctor Víctor Mesa. At the time, he ranked (at least here at FG) behind a number of players in his class because of concerns about his contact skills, and those concerns remain due to wild variation in the way Martinez’s lower half works during his swing. His footwork is all over the place and he takes a lot of ugly hacks. But the bat speed, and Martinez’s ability to rotate, is pretty special and rare for a potential middle infielder. He projects to have at least 60 raw power, and he should stick somewhere in the infield, but this is a kid with a high-variance hit tool who is therefore high-variance. (Alternate site for a couple weeks, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
90. Jordyn Adams, CF, LAA
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Green Hope HS (NC) (LAA)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 50/60 30/50 80/80 45/60 50

One of the best athletes in all of professional baseball, Adams is extremely raw but his .703 OPS in the Midwest League in 2019 actually exceeded expectations and showcased an ability to make adjustments.

Adams was seen as a lock to matriculate to North Carolina and play wide receiver until late March of 2018, when he had a coming out party at the heavily-scouted NHSI tournament near his high school. Multiple scouts from all 30 teams watched him face a strong group of high school pitching and look much more comfortable than expected given his level of experience. A few months later, the Angels made him their first round pick. Adams didn’t play much during that first pro summer, but the Angels surprisingly skipped him over the Pioneer League and sent him right to full-season ball the following season (2019), even though he’d only been solely focused on baseball for a year. Adams kept his head above water and posted a slightly above-average statline there, which is incredible for someone who only just picked up a bat. He is built like you probably expect a D-I wide receiver recruit to be, he’s an 80 runner, and while the swing foundation isn’t great, the Angels are one of the most proactive swing-changing orgs. Adams’ rare physical gifts make him a potential star. He has an enormous range of potential outcomes. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
91. Alexander Vargas, SS, NYY
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Cuba (NYY)
Age 19.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 155 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 35/50 20/45 60/60 45/60 60

Unlikely to ever hit for power, Vargas nonetheless has a chance to be a plus-plus defender at baseball’s most demanding position and he can really run.

There’s no real change to Vargas’ write-up. Most teams had multi-million dollar evaluations on Vargas while he was an amateur based on how he looked in workouts. He ran a 6.4 60-yard dash, had electric infield actions and a plus arm, as well as surprising ability to hit despite his stature, at the time weighing just 143 pounds. He was twitchy, projectable, looked fantastic at shortstop, and was old enough to sign immediately. The Reds were interested but needed Vargas to wait until the following signing period to get the deal done, so the Yankees swooped in with comparable money and got it done sooner.

Vargas’ name was often the first one out of the mouths of scouts who saw New York’s talented group in the 2019 DSL, and he was one of several the Yankees promoted stateside during that summer. While he doesn’t have the strength and physicality of Dominguez, I’m betting on Vargas’ athleticism, his ability to rotate with ferocity in the batter’s box, and his underlying body composition, and project that he’ll eventually have some power. I think he has star-level ceiling but, due to proximity from the big leagues, a lot of risk, too. (DR Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
92. Daniel Espino, SP, CLE
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Premier Academy HS (GA) (CLE)
Age 20.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 55/60 50/55 45/55 30/50 94-97 / 99

Many thought Espino had the best fastball in the 2019 draft. He can touch 99 mph and executes his secondary stuff.

We still don’t know whether Espino can hold his prodigious velocity for an entire season’s worth of starter innings because the pandemic put a premature end to what would have been his first full slate. Instead he pitched manicured innings at the alternate site, then did some remote development before instructs, where Espino did not throw in games due to a minor shoulder injury. This comes after he was only allowed to throw one or two frames per outing for his first several pro appearances, then three to four for his final few — Espino sat 94-97 and touched 99 with two plus breaking balls and starter’s command during those. Whether he retains that level of heat over an entire season’s worth of innings on regular rest (he was 92-97 in longer starts before the draft) we simply don’t know, but there’s no reason to think he is any more of an injury risk than other teenage pitchers unless you twist your brain into knots and conclude that his velocity is somehow a negative, or that he strength trains excessively.

His arm action is atypical and quite long, similar to Madison Bumgarner‘s, but it works for Espino. If, like Bumgarner, Espino loses some velocity even before he reaches the majors, be it due to a pro workload or injury, I think he has a command-centric, four-pitch strike-thrower outcome. His changeup is much better than I gave it credit for last year, and realizing that during calls with scouts to prep for this list is why Espino is moving up a FV tier even tough he was kept at the alt site all year. He’s an All-Star talent with a risky profile. (Alternate site, at-home dev)

Expand arrow_drop_down
93. Gabriel Moreno, C, TOR
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (TOR)
Age 21.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 45/50 30/45 45/40 40/45 50

Moreno was always a solid defensive catcher with a feel for contact, but his power has come on quicker and more strongly than expected.

Lansing is the most hitter-friendly park in the Midwest League and it aided Moreno’s 2019 power output. You can’t fake an 11% strikeout rate, though, which was especially impressive considering he made that much contact as a teenager in full-season ball. Even though he is young, I thought it was unlikely Moreno would develop much more raw power, both because catching takes such a physical toll on the body that it often dilutes offensive production, and because Moreno is a smaller-framed young man. But his max exit velos at the 2020 alt site were up above what they were in 2019, which appears to be the result of added mass rather than a swing alteration. It’s an encouraging sign and part of a pretty impressive 2020 for Moreono during which he was seen on alt site video, during instructs, and then later in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he hit .373/.471/.508. I think the length of his year is as close as any catching prospect has come to being forced to replicate an actual full season behind the dish in 2020. Defensively, he catches on one knee until there are runners on or there are two strikes, then sets up really wide in his crouch regardless of the pitch coming, which prevents runners from being able to signal pitch type to the hitter. He can sometimes be preoccupied with framing and whiff on a pitch he should be able to handle, but he’s a capable if unspectacular defender and framer. Even with the little extra juice, Moreno’s offensive profile is still all about hand-eye/bat-to-ball, punching airborne contact to all fields. He does enough of that to project as an everyday catcher. The Jays were compelled to add him to their 40-man this offseason, and he’s one of five catchers they have rostered, making Moreno a potential trade chip if the competitive Blue Jays want to add to their roster. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional league, Venezuelan Winter League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
94. Ryan Mountcastle, LF, BAL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Hagerty HS (FL) (BAL)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 60/60 45/55 45/45 30/30 30

As demonstrated by his 2020 big league showing, Mountcastle can really hit and he’s going to have to because he has zero defensive value.

Now that he’s coming off about a month of hitting .333/.386/.492 in the big leagues, I feel a little more safe projecting Mountcastle as a 50 even though he’s a free-swinging corner bat. He has great plate coverage and hits with power to all fields. His swing is gorgeous. He has a 4.5% career walk rate (it was about 7% in his small big league sample) and it’s rare for DH/LF sorts to walk that little and be star-level performers. DH types with OBPs in the .310-.320 range typically max out in the 2-3 WAR range, which is where I expect Mountcastle to peak. But his contact quality is quite good, and the visual evaluation of the hit tool and the on-paper performance have been strong for several years, so the degree of confidence that Mountcastle will hit is relatively high for a prospect with plate discipline issues. There are Nick Castellanos similarities in Mountcastle’s profile, frame, and swing aesthetic, and Castellanos was a back loaded 50. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
95. Mick Abel, SP, PHI
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Jesuit HS (OR) (PHI)
Age 19.5 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/60 50/60 45/55 25/55 92-94 / 97

The 15th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Abel is a bit of a projection bet, but his low-to-mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider are an excellent starting point.

Abel has been the best pitching prospect his age since his sophomore year of high school and he’s the youngest pitching prospect in the 50 FV tier or above. He has the prototypical starter’s frame at a broad-shouldered 6-foot-4, already throws hard and should be able to hold that kind of velocity for a whole season as his frame fills out, has a strong natural proclivity for spinning his breaking stuff, and will also flash a really good changeup once in a while. While Abel’s sitting fastball velocity slipped throughout his showcase summer, he was still reaching back for 97 early in outings and the rest of his profile was more complete than other prep arms, so even though his senior season was cancelled because of COVID-19, he was the first high school pitcher selected in the 2020 Draft. Then, aside from some remote live BP work during the summer, he rested until Instructional League where he once again showed big, mid-90s gas. He’s got star-level ceiling if he can execute his secondary stuff consistently. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
96. Matthew Allan, SP, NYM
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Seminole HS (FL) (NYM)
Age 19.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/65 45/55 20/45 93-96 / 97

The Mets sacrificed much of their 2019 draft to sign Allan for $2.5 million in the fourth round, and while he needs innings, he’s a highly advanced arm for his age and could quickly make up for lost time.

The Mets put a lot of their 2019 Draft eggs into a few high-upside baskets, and one of them was Matthew Allan, who had huge stuff in high school — plus velocity, a plus breaking ball, and a plus changeup now and then — but was often pretty wild. The Mets made a $2.5 million bet on him in the third round, one of several multi-million dollar bonuses they gave to high schoolers that year. It meant the Mets had to target signable seniors earlier than other teams, but that also meant they got the best ones. Allan signed, went to the GCL, and was 92-95 in his early work there. He cleaned up his frame (which I think gives him a better chance to repeat his delivery more consistently) and was parked well into the mid-90s at both the alt site and instructs. I’ve grown a little more skeptical of pitchers with rainbow breakers like Allan’s, but if it turns out to be a problem, I think he has the feel for spin to quickly add a slider. His physical transformation is an indicator to me that he’ll work to make that adjustment when asked. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
97. Luis Medina, MIRP, NYY
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 21.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/70 60/70 45/55 30/40 94-98 / 101

Medina consistently touched triple-digits this winter while flashing plus secondaries. He’s not big, and the command is messy, but the upside is considerable.

Remember that when we last saw Medina for an extended stretch, his ability to throw strikes seemed to be improving very quickly. In his first nine starts of 2019, he tossed 35 innings, walked 41 batters, and threw 53% of his pitches for strikes. His next five starts included 23 innings, 14 walks, and 57% strikes. His final eight starts were incredible: 45 innings, 63 strikeouts, and just 15 walks. 60% of those pitches were strikes. Mixed into the back half of his season were still some clunky four and five walk outings. Then Medina spent 2020 at the alternate site before the Yankees turned him loose on the Clemente League in Puerto Rico during the winter. He won the league’s Pitcher of the Year award, striking out 32 hitters in 16 innings while walking just six.

Medina’s stuff is fantastic and has been for a while. He was up to 96 mph as a 15-year-old amateur, eventually going unsigned on July 2 due in part to his horrendous command. Then he hit 100 mph as an amateur with improved feel, which is when the Yankee scooped him up for $300,000. He still sits 94-98, has hit 101 mph (he was supposedly up to 103 in 2020 but I can’t confirm it), has a dominant power curveball that projects as a plus-plus pitch, and his sinking changeup moves enough to miss bats when it’s located competitively. He loses mechanical consistency late in outings, but remember that Medina is still just 21, he’s super loose and athletic, and held premium stuff throughout a huge inning increase in 2019. There’s enough relief risk here that I’d go so far as to say the bullpen is the likely outcome, but Medina is going to have three impact pitches, so his outcome there might be elite. (Alternate site, LigaPR)

Expand arrow_drop_down
98. Gregory Santos, MIRP, SFG
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (BOS)
Age 21.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 60/70 45/50 30/45 93-98 / 100

Santos can touch 100 mph and has some feel for spin, but he needs to refine his overall game and prove he can stay healthy after some bouts of shoulder soreness.

Three months and about three miles per hour of velocity separate Santos and Kumar Rocker. If a college arm were to come out of the gate with stuff as good as Santos showed during Instructional League, they’d be the early-season favorite to go first in the draft. Santos worked 97-99 and touched 100 while incorporating both a changeup and slider capable of missing bats, and his sliders are often double-plus. His body is big and maxed out but it’s not “bad,” and while his delivery looks a little clunky, it’s never prevented him from throwing strikes. He’s not a touch-and-feel starter type with pinpoint control, but Santos is going to bully the strike zone with plus stuff that tails and bends in different directions. This is not all new from Santos, either, as he’s been 93-96 with a plus slider and above-average changeup in the past. The instructs velocity is an indication he’s healthy. He looked incredible in the spring of 2019 but two IL stints, including one for a shoulder injury, derailed what could have been a breakout year. There’s considerable relief risk here because of the injury history. You can swap him and Medina if you’d prefer your monster stuff 21-year-old to have been hurt to someone who has been wild. The Giants acquired Santos from Boston as part of the Eduardo Núñez trade. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
99. A.J. Puk, SP, OAK
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Florida (OAK)
Age 25.8 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 60/60 50/55 55/60 45/50 94-97 / 99

Puk’s raw stuff is incredible, but the numbers never met expectations in college and a variety of maladies have limited him to fewer than 40 combined innings over the last three seasons.

Puk has now missed the better part of the last three seasons due to a Tommy John surgery (2018), subsequent rehab (most of 2019), and persistent shoulder problems (2020) that culminated in a September surgery. Because it was not a reconstructive surgery (he had a labral and rotator cuff debridement and bursitis cleanup), the A’s and Puk’s doctor (Neal ElAttrache) are optimistic the left-hander will be able to be an impact part of the pitching staff in 2021. Long a softer-bodied guy, Puk spent the offseason training at Cressey Sports Performance in Florida and now looks lean and cut. A return to form would mean Puk is sitting 94-97 (harder out of the bullpen, if that’s how he’s used) with a plus slider, above-average changeup, and a curveball that was re-introduced to his repertoire in pro ball after it had been shelved in college. He still hasn’t been able to work deep enough in games for his repertoire depth to matter, and the long layoff may cause Oakland to ease him back into an innings load by way of a limited role in 2021. This is the first time Puk has appeared on a FanGraphs list and not been a 55 FV prospect. (Alternate Site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
100. Tahnaj Thomas, SP, PIT
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Bahamas (CLE)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/80 45/55 30/40 35/60 93-98 / 100

Thomas didn’t take to pitching until signing a pro contract out of the Bahamas, but he’s gained considerable velocity every year, now touches 100 mph, and throws a shocking number of strikes.

Acquired from Cleveland for Jordan Luplow, Thomas is a converted infielder with the Vitruvian Pitcher’s build at a strapping 6-foot-4. His arm action is very similar to Shane Bieber‘s, and it’s very short for a pitcher with Thomas’ shooting guard build. While his frame, athleticism and arm strength all remain elite, Thomas’ breaking stuff remains inconsistent and unremarkable, and he still lacks any modicum of changeup feel. I’m still confident Thomas will end up with a good breaking ball, even if it only gets there because of either his ability to command it so consistently or through sheer velocity if he ends up in the bullpen, which will happen if he can’t find a third pitch. He may need to experiment with a split if there’s going to be one since the action changeup grip and release didn’t seem to suit him in the Fall. A bullpen projection means Thomas would need to slide south on this list closer to Brailyn Marquez, who’s closer to the big leagues. There remains huge upside here, in part because Thomas still hasn’t pitched all that much, and the pandemic prevented him from doing so. At one point Jacob deGrom was also nothing but arm strength and an elite pitcher’s frame, but Tahnaj has been hovering in that area for a little over a year now. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down

Other 50 FV Prospects

101. Hunter Greene, SP, CIN
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Notre Dame HS (CA) (CIN)
Age 21.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
60/65 50/55 45/55 50/55 35/60 95-98 / 103

Greene can touch 102, but is still an unrefined hurler who will need to make up for lost time after missing the last two seasons due to Tommy John surgery and a global pandemic.

A Greene recap, for the uninitiated: Greene was an amazing two-way high schooler who sat in the mid-to-upper 90s on the mound, played a slick shortstop, and hit huge tanks in BP. He went wire to wire as one of the best prep prospects in his class from basically his sophomore year on. He was drafted second in the 2017 class as a pitcher, and he began dominating in his first full season (especially with his fastball) as he was allowed to go deeper into Low-A games in May and June of 2018, which culminated in a seven-inning shutout (2 H, 0 BB, 10 K, and all in just 69 pitches) on July 2 against Cleveland’s affiliate, and then a legendary Futures Game appearance during which he sat 99-102 in front of the whole world. Eleven days later, Greene’s season was over. He had a PRP injection and rehabbed, but he ended up having surgery in April of 2019 and did not pitch in a live setting again until he was at the Reds’ alternate site during the pandemic.

Perhaps the individual baseball timelines least-impacted by the pandemic were those of injured pitchers whose years were already going to take a predictable shape in a rehab and development-focused environment. By throwing in California and then at the alternate site, Greene performed some facsimile of what he would have otherwise done in 2020. But it will still be nearly two years between when he last threw a pitch in a minor league game and when he will again, delaying and complicating the arc of a very talented prospect. Here’s another complication: Greene’s arm slot is now lower than it was before he got hurt. Significantly lower. His arm slot now looks more like it did when he was in high school, creating tailing action rather than carry on his fastball. It might impact how well his fastball plays, even though he was throwing really hard at the alt site, but we won’t really know until he’s made some 2021 minor league starts. The new-ish slot has also aided the action on Greene’s breaking stuff. He’s added a former cutter/slider to his original, slurvy breaker. The layoff and change in mechanics add degrees of variance (and probably added relief risk) to a profile that already included a lot of it, but I ultimately have faith in Greene’s combination of elite ability and seemingly strong desire to be really good, so I continue to project that he will be. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
102. Nick Lodolo, SP, CIN
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from TCU (CIN)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 55/55 50/55 45/55 91-94 / 96

While sinker/slider types aren’t exactly in vogue these days, Lodolo’s exquisite command gives him a good chance to find success with an old school approach.

Drafted and unsigned by the Pirates as a 2016 first rounder, Lodolo took a bit of a circuitous route to the top of the 2019 class. He had iffy freshman and sophomore seasons but flashed a tantalizing blend of stuff and feel at times, keeping him in the first round mix despite inconsistent performance. As a junior, everything clicked for him during a heavily-scouted, early-season college tournament in Houston, where Lodolo worked in the mid-90s with a plus breaking ball and changeup and struck out 13 Houston Cougars in seven innings. He’d end up posting career-best numbers across the board and was drafted seventh overall in 2019. After the draft, Lodolo pitched a total of 18 innings between Billings and Dayton, his fastball resting in the 92-94 range.

Lodolo threw in one pre-shutdown spring training game and in one summer camp tuneup, and neither went well. He showed up to summer camp looking kind of soft and with diminished velocity, and he paid for it early on in a scrimmage against the Tigers during which he surrendered back to back to back homers and couldn’t make it out of the second inning. Lodolo slowly began rebuilding arm strength throughout the summer and was back into his usual range by the end of his run at the alt site. His arm slot is abnormally low for a starter but when he’s throwing well, he has great east/west command of his fastball and can back door his curveball for strikes on the arm-side corner of the plate. He still needs to more consistently bury that curveball in the dirt for swings and misses; to my eye it looks like it should present tough angle for righty hitters when it’s located to their back foot. While Lodolo would sometimes go entire outings without throwing many changeups as an amateur, there were stretches when it was his best pitch, and the cambio was a developmental focus at the alt site. The entire package reads like a suitable fourth starter. When Lodolo is in shape, his frame is ideal, his delivery elegant and repeatable. The stuff isn’t dominant, but some teams are still projecting on it because of how big and lean Lodolo’s frame is, which makes them think it might be eventually. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
103. Heston Kjerstad, RF, BAL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Arkansas (BAL)
Age 22.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 55/60 35/60 50/45 45/50 50

A reach as the second overall pick last June (Baltimore spread their draft pool out in the lower rounds), Kjerstad has massive juice in his bat, but a lengthy and complicated swing could lead to swing-and-miss issues as a pro.

Kjerstad performed against the best pitching in the country since the moment he set foot in Fayetteville, and in 150 career games with Arkansas hit .343/.421/.590, including a white hot .448/.513/.791 in 2020, during which Kjerstad hit in all 16 games he played. He’s kept his big, 6-foot-3 frame lean and speedy during that time, relevant for the corner-only prospect because Kjerstad puts a lot of balls in play down both baselines and runs well enough to turn them all into extra bases. He can drop the bat head and lift balls at his knees, and also get on top of pitches at the top of the zone. It’s plus bat control on a somewhat odd-looking swing. If there are concerns about Kjerstad’s cut, I’m not hearing them, as they’ve been drowned out by how well he’s performed. I considered him part of a deep 50 FV tier in the lead up to draft day and the Orioles were able to cut a below-slot deal with him since he didn’t have any likely suitors until closer to the back of the top 10. He was absent from the alternate site and instructs due to an extended bout of myocarditis, a heart condition that’s often a side effect of viral infection (though Kjerstad isn’t known to have tested positive for COVID-19), and can impact long-term heart health. (At-home dev, injury)

Expand arrow_drop_down
104. Trevor Rogers, SP, MIA
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Carlsbad HS (NM) (MIA)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 40/40 55/60 50/60 91-96 / 97

A big lefty who can touch 97 mph and pound the strike zone, Rogers is still looking for a more consistent breaking ball.

I don’t think Rogers will ever have a good breaking ball, but I do think his arm slot will help it play enough against left-handed hitters to be a viable third offering against them. All the other components — rare lefty velocity, a plus changeup, plus command, an elite frame suggesting athletic longevity — are here in a low-slot package that gives hitters fits. He was up to 97 last year, with his velocity climbing a bit in each successive outing. Once a very risky, old-for-the-class high schooler, Rogers is now a stable 2 WAR starter prospect. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
105. Oneil Cruz, SS, PIT
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (LAD)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 70/80 40/60 60/45 40/45 80

A physical outlier as a 6-foot-7 shortstop with a chance to stay at the position, Cruz has massive power potential, but is also likely to always rack up strikeouts as well.

Cruz was at the wheel during a fatal car accident in the Dominican Republic last fall and was subsequently arrested for suspicion of drunk driving and released on bail. Cruz’s legal representation and the Pirates have denied that alcohol was involved. Reporting from Jason Mackey at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette indicates, “According to a spokeswoman at the district attorney’s office in the Dominican Republic, Oneil Cruz smelled of alcohol. However, due to what she described as a ‘procedural error,’ no on-site sobriety test was performed.” It’s a tragic and murky situation hanging over one of the more interesting prospects in the sport. Cruz slides from last year’s ranking because his approach remains a real problem. He has elite raw power and arm strength, and unusual athleticism for someone his size, but he won’t hit unless he makes better swing decisions than he has for the last 18 months. Cruz is among the most gifted players in the sport, and has a penthouse ceiling but a subterranean floor. He could be Aaron Judge or Jairo Beras. (Alternate site, LIDOM)

Expand arrow_drop_down
106. Forrest Whitley, SP, HOU
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Alamo Heights HS (TX) (HOU)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 238 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/55 60/60 60/60 55/55 30/40 93-97 / 99

Whitley has No. 1 starter potential when graded on pure stuff, but his inability to consistently take the bump every five days has earned him a well-deserved “injury prone” tag.

As enigmatic as any pitcher in the minors, Whitley’s 2020 alternate site performance added to what has been a consistently inconsistent career dating back to high school. He transformed from a soft-bodied pitchability high schooler to a svelte, five-pitch, fire-breathing dragon in the span of about 18 months, then had a 2018 stimulant suspension plus lat and oblique issues, before 2019 brought shoulder fatigue, control problems, and what looked like a conditioning regression. His fastball velocity was anywhere between 91-98 at the 2020 alternate site, depending on the day. It’s possible we’ll once again see Whitley sitting 94-97 with a bevy of elite secondary offerings, but I’d be surprised if he was able to do that year after year for a half decade. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
107. Shane Baz, SIRP, TBR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Concordia Lutheran HS (TX) (PIT)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
60/70 55/60 40/40 55/60 30/40 92-97 / 100

In possession of one of the quickest arms in the minors, Baz can touch triple digits with his fastball but the rest of his game is unrefined.

Fastball velocities were down about a tick and a half on average across all of the alternate sites, which makes sense considering it was a non-competitive environment. Recall that the last we saw Baz, he was parked at 95-99 and touching 101 in the 2019 Fall League, working out of the bullpen with his fastball, curveball, and cutter/slider. He did not throw during Feb/March spring training and instead joined the team at the summer tuneup camp and then at the alternate site in Port Charlotte, where his velocity (according to a source not with the Rays) was more in the 93-96 range, which is where he pitched as a starter during the 2019 regular season. This could be because he was working as a starter at the alt site (he was back to throwing four pitches there, as the changeup came back) or because he was told to dial it down and throw more strikes, or because adrenaline doesn’t really flow when nothing is on the line, or some combination of these factors. I’m not inclined to move Baz in light of this (obviously) because he’s still only 21 and probably had a weird year like the rest of us. I’m still betting on his frame, athleticism, and stuff. Maturity will likely come with age, though I’m not sure better tactile feel for release and location will, so I still have Baz projected in a high-leverage relief role. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
108. Taylor Walls, SS, TBR
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Florida State (TBR)
Age 24.6 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 35/35 30/30 50/50 60/60 50

While his glove is his top tool, Walls’ ability to work the count, make contact and flash gap power are enough to project him as an everyday player.

So polished is Walls defensively that, were WIlly Adames to go down with injury or leave via trade, he’s the most likely internal candidate to get everyday reps. Both the dev staff and the analytics group in Tampa Bay love him at shortstop, and this comes after he only looked okay to the eye in college. From a minor league defensive data perspective, Clay Davenport had him as being worth six runs at shortstop in 2019. His first step, internal clock, and situational awareness, combined with suitable foot speed, actions, and arm strength, not only make him viable at short, but actually really good there.

Offensively, Walls is a switch-hitter with great feel for the strike zone and for squaring balls all over it. He’s kinda stiff and really doesn’t have much power because his swing is so simplistic, instead punching a lot of liner singles over the heads of infielders. It’s not a sexy skillset but it is a great general profile — a switch-hitting shortstop with on base skills — with enough physical tools to compete with big leaguers. I have him as a low-variance 50 FV player based on the strength of his defense at a premium position. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
109. Josh Jung, 3B, TEX
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Texas Tech (TEX)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 55/55 35/50 45/40 50/55 55

While nobody doubts Jung’s pure hit tool and ability to stick at the hot corner, questions about his ultimate power output remain.

Last year, I wrote that if Jung (pronounced like “young”) was going to get to all of his considerable raw power in games, he probably needed a swing change that would enable him to pull the ball more consistently, and that he’d move into the 50 FV tier once and if that occurred. Well, it did. I saw Jung a few times in college and again after he was drafted, and while he struck balls with authority, he was inside-outing everything to center or right-center field and couldn’t really get around the baseball to pull it, even during batting practice. While Jung’s strength and feel to hit enabled a high quality of contact despite this atypical style, there are just times when it’s best for hitters to turn on middle-in mistakes and park them in the left field seats or rip them down the line for a double, and I finally saw Jung start to do that in the Fall of 2020. He was a .346/.452/.562 career hitter at Tech and had more walks than strikeouts during his last two years with the Red Raiders. Originally thought to be a risk to move to first base, Jung has not only allayed those concerns but also played a passable college shortstop and deserves an extended look at second base in pro ball to see if he can do it. He’s 23 and still hasn’t played above A-ball, but I think Jung has a long enough offensive track record to be confident that he’ll hit enough to profile at third base, and if he can pass at second, then he’ll rocket up this list toward the top of the 50 FV tier, at least. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
110. Slade Cecconi, SP, ARI
Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Miami (ARI)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/60 50/55 40/45 35/50 92-96 / 97

While Cecconi’s stuff over performance profile gave some teams concerns last June, he’s a classic power pitcher with a starter look who can get up to 97 mph with an impressive slider.

Cecconi was sitting 94-97 in the summer before his senior year of high school, then missed most of the following spring with an oblique issue. He came back just before the draft, sat in the low-90s, and his stock couldn’t recover, so he went to school. Over two years at Miami (he was a draft-eligible sophomore), his arm strength returned, and Cecconi was once again living in the mid-90s while incorporating a slider with variable shape (it has very nasty two-plane break when it’s well-located), and a lesser (but viable) change and cutter during the very brief 2020 college season. Either time or pro development unlocked yet nastier stuff during Cecconi’s summer and Fall instructs outings. Sources from both inside and outside Arizona’s org saw Cecconi sitting 94-96 and touching 98 with two breaking balls that were more-consistent looking than they were when he was in college; he had feel for both of them. A prospect who looked like that likely would have gone somewhere between picks 10 and 15 rather than in the sandwich round. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
111. Matthew Liberatore, SP, STL
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Mountain Ridge HS (AZ) (TBR)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 45/55 60/60 50/55 35/55 92-95 / 97

Liberatore has arm strength and gets big spin on a plus curve, but his fastball traits beyond the velocity leave something to be desired.

Liberatore throws at a Phoenix-area facility called Fuel Factory and was cruising in the low-90s during offseason bullpens, then was 90-93 in a heavily-scouted live BP exhibition just about a week before this list was published. Because Liberatore’s fastball has sinker movement, the growth of his changeup is going to be the most important aspect of his development, since those two pitches have similar movement and will theoretically tunnel better. That pitch has indeed improved and will likely be his putaway offering in the big leagues. That may surprise readers aware of his curveball’s reputation. Indeed, Liberatore’s curveball has all-world depth, but I think its results may suffer because he doesn’t have an up-in-the-zone four-seamer to pair with it. Instead it’s the sort of pitch I think he’ll use to get ahead of hitters late in outings, dumping that curveball into the zone for strike one. It’s the type of pitch that’s hard to hit even if you know it’s coming, but might be easy to lay off of when Libby tries to bury it in the dirt, because its Loch Ness Monster hump is easy to identify out of the hand. All of the advanced pitchability stuff — Libby started learning a slider during his senior year of high school, he varies his timing home, and he’s likely to pitch backwards with his breaking balls — is here, too, and that’ll be important given the lack of a bat-missing fastball. The slider isn’t there quite yet but, based on Liberatore’s natural ability to spin the ball, I bet it will be eventually. He profiles as an innings-eating, 2-ish WAR starter. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
112. Liover Peguero, SS, PIT
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (ARI)
Age 20.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 45/50 35/40 60/55 45/55 55

While his future defensive home is undefined (other than it being on the infield), Peguero has a present plus bat tool and developing pop.

Peguero’s profile is driven largely by his defense and feel for contact. He is remarkably short back to the baseball; his barrel enters the hitting zone in the blink of an eye, giving him an extra beat to decide whether or not to swing. It also makes it hard for pitchers to beat him with velocity, since he’s rarely late on anything and has quick enough hands to get on top of pitches near the top of the strike zone. He’s also remarkably strong in the hands and wrists for someone his age, and in 2019 produced exit velos above the big league average. Peguero cuts down at the ball and is currently groundball prone. His swing may get longer as his attack angle changes. I think he’ll end up a 55 bat with mostly doubles power. The physicality for more than that is here, I just can’t see teasing it out of the swing. At shortstop, that should be fine. Peguero is a plus athlete with above-average hands and arm strength, and projects as an above-average defender at short. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
113. Brailyn Marquez, SIRP, CHC
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CHC)
Age 22.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/80 50/50 50/55 30/40 93-97 / 100

Marquez brings triple-digit velocity from the left side, but a low arm angle, unathletic delivery, and inconsistent command produce considerable relief risk.

There’s very little to be gleaned from Marquez’s horrendous big league debut except to say that the lack of mechanical consistency he displayed in that outing is the sort of thing I’ve seen from him pretty often on the backfields, and is a large part of why I have him projected as a single-inning reliever. Elite velocity carries Marquez’s profile. His heater averaged 95.6 mph in 2019 and was parked at 97.8 in 2020, and there are only a half-dozen lefties on the planet who throw that hard. Marquez walked 13% of Low-A hitters over 17 starts in 2019 but was promoted to Hi-A anyway because he was just bullying hitters with heat and not really refining anything else. The Cubs have tried to get his lower- and upper-halves to synch better in the hopes that it will help him pepper the zone more consistently, and there have been fits and starts where it looks like things have clicked only to regress, similar to the way Phillipe Aumont’s consistency did during his prospect peak. Marquez’s changeup has bat-missing action and his arm slot makes his slider tough on lefties, though it’s not a good pitch in a vacuum and both of his secondary offerings are typically dependent on location. There really aren’t big league starters with this kind of build (especially at this age) and lack of athleticism, but there also aren’t many pitchers who throw this hard. Still just 22, I expect Marquez will eventually find a consistent second pitch and work in a high-leverage relief role. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
114. Bo Naylor, C, CLE
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from St. Joan of Arc HS (CAN) (CLE)
Age 21.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 55/60 30/50 50/40 40/45 55

While Naylor has improved defensively, his bat might come too quickly for him to become a real catcher. He needs to make more contact, though when he does now, it’s of the very hard variety.

Naylor is tracking like a power-hitting everyday catcher. Still just the age of a junior college player, he has thus far kept what scouts thought might be a high-maintenance body in check. In fact, Naylor looked as lean and twitchy as ever in the Fall. While remaining agile, he also showed he could produce on offense while dealing with the physical grind of catching, slashing .243/.313/.421 (good for a 110 wRC+) in the 2019 Midwest League while catching 80 games.

His swing’s a little grooved, but it is electric and produces big power for anyone, let alone a catcher. If he gets to most of it in games, and he has so far (he had strong amateur statistical performance, as well), there’s plenty of room for him to profile even if he ends up as a 40 bat, which I think is possible considering the lack of barrel variability. If he performs against Hi-A pitching early in 2021 and reinforces confidence in his ability to hit, he’ll move onto the Top 100. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
115. Corbin Martin, SP, ARI
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Texas A&M (HOU)
Age 25.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 55/55 55/55 50/55 45/55 93-95 / 98

Martin looked like a sure mid-rotation starter before 2019 Tommy John surgery, and even after the surgery, is still likely to emerge as the best of the players acquired by Arizona in the Greinke deal.

TrackMan-focused teams were all on Martin the summer after his sophomore year, as he showed three data-friendly plus pitches and starter traits while he closed games on Cape Cod. Due to a deep veteran staff at Texas A&M and his own inconsistency, Martin only really pitched for part of one season as a starter while he was in college. A lot of teams thought he was just going to be a reliever. The Astros popped him in the second round of the 2017 draft, hoping to tease out the traits they saw on the Cape, and in the two years he was in the org, they did it. Martin was a top 100 prospect before his elbow blew out in June of 2019, and he was included as part of the trade for Zack Greinke during his rehab.

Healthy Martin sits in the mid-90s, mixes in a hard, upper-80s slider, has an above-average power changeup, a more vertically-oriented curveball, and has at least average command. The timing of his surgery made it hard for him to return during the 2020 regular season, and instead he pitched toward the end of the alt site run and during instructs, sitting 92-95 in those outings. That’s a shade beneath where he was pre-injury, when Martin sat 93-96 and was touching 98, and even at that velocity it was only playing like an average pitch. Folks in baseball consider Martin the sort of cat who’s going to get the most out of himself, and with a return to his normal velocity, I think that will be a 2 WAR starter. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
116. Miguel Yajure, SP, PIT
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (NYY)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/50 50/55 55/60 50/60 91-95 / 97

While he lacks overwhelming stuff, Yajure has seen a velo bump of late while continuing to show outstanding command and pitchability.

Yajure looked like a pitchability backend starter until he enjoyed a 2019 velo spike and bumped some 97s late in the summer as he climbed all the way to Double-A. He throws one more pitch than I had evaluated last year and deploys a five-pitch mix (fastball, cutter, changeup, curveball, slider) even though he’s barely 22. Yajure’s fastball rests in the 90-95 range with cut and carry, a velocity band he only began working in as he built strength during rehab from a 2017 Tommy John surgery. His best secondary pitch is his changeup, which Yajure did not have great feel for out of the bullpen during his brief 2020 big league debut, but which was his best bat-missing weapon during his 2019 breakout. He also has a nasty-looking 12-to-6 curveball that has serious bite and depth, but I’m not sure if big league hitters will be flummoxed by it since it comes out of his hand with such a big arc and might be easy to identify. The slider and cutter are fine, but rely on Yajure’s ability to execute them to his glove side consistently, and while he’s been able to do that in the minors, he just could not find release consistency during his big league outings. I’m chalking up his initial major league struggles to age and relative inexperience coming out of the bullpen, and still have Yajure projected as a big league-ready, 2-ish WAR starter. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
117. Andy Pages, CF, LAD
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (LAD)
Age 20.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/60 35/65 50/50 45/50 45

A compactly built Cuban player with big raw and a rocket launcher for an arm, Pages need to calm his swing and reduce the Ks as he learns that he just needs to let his natural strength play.

Pages’ average launch angle in 2019 was a whopping 25 degrees, which would have been the highest among major league players that year (Rhys Hoskins averaged 24 degrees), and would have been second among qualified 2020 hitters behind only Joey Gallo.

As you would probably expect from a hitter with such a steep swing (this is about as steep as one can get without it becoming a problem), Pages swings and misses quite a bit and instead has a power-driven profile. He can hit balls out with a flick of the wrist, even when he hasn’t taken his best swing. His speed under way and defensive instincts give him a chance to stay in center field, which would obviously give Pages a little more margin for error as a hitter. If he stays in center, he has a star-level ceiling. If not, then he has a whiff-prone, traditional right field profile driven by obvious impact power. Even if the latter occurs, it’s very likely Pages not only gets to all of his raw power, but might outperform it because of how often he’s able to lift the baseball. He’s a launch angle unicorn with the thump to take advantage of it and a non-zero chance of staying at a premium defensive spot, though I don’t think it’s likely. He’ll be toward the back of this offseason’s overall top 100 list. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
118. Jacob Amaya, SS, LAD
Drafted: 11th Round, 2017 from South Hills HS (CA) (LAD)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 40/45 30/40 55/55 45/55 50

One of the more polished bats in the minors in terms of his approach and ability to make contact, Amaya is also likely to stay on the middle infield.

A $250,000 11th rounder from a high school east of Los Angeles, Amaya is a diminutive infielder with excellent secondary skills. Though not especially rangy at shortstop, he has plus hands and actions, and enough arm strength to stay on the left side of the infield. Amaya comes off as a utility guy during a quick glance because of a lack of BP power and physical projection, but he has a great eye for the strike zone, as well as an idea of which pitches he can drive. He’s got a short, punchy swing you can’t just beat with velo. He’ll hit a bunch of doubles. Instinctive and fundamentally sound, I have Amaya projected as an everyday shortstop. (Alternate site (later), Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
119. Shane McClanahan, MIRP, TBR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from USF (TBR)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 55/60 40/45 35/40 93-97 / 100

McClanahan can touch 100 and features a nasty power breaker, but his smallish frame, violent arm action (with related injury history), and issues locating point to a future in the ‘pen.

Throughout his late high school and early college careers (the latter of which was paused by a Tommy John), McClanahan’s stuff climbed from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. In the first start of his draft year, he hit 100 mph and flashed above average secondary stuff, which put him among the draft’s top prospects right out of the gate. But things started to unravel from there. A finger injury, bad weather, fluctuating stuff, frustrating control, and questions about his maturity all contributed to a draft-day tumble to pick No. 31 and the hometown Rays.

A year later, those concerns seemed trite. A more consistent, balanced delivery enabled McClanahan to throw more strikes and he absolutely carved A-ball. He got especially hot over a nine-game stretch at Hi-A, where he walked just eight over 49 innings. He ended up with 154 K in 120.2 innings, and reached Double-A. Then, after he had pitched at the alternate site all year, the Rays decided to foist McClanahan onto their playoff roster, and he made his big league debut in the playoffs. It did not go well, with McClanahan giving up a lot of really hard contact, but everyone got to see how hard he throws and how nasty his breaking stuff can be. I still have McClanahan evaluated as a power reliever. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
120. Hunter Brown, SP, HOU
Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from Wayne State (HOU)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 203 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 60/70 40/50 35/45 92-95 / 97

Already armed with plus-plus velocity after coming out of a D-II school in Michigan, Brown has added a plus-plus curve since turning pro and could enjoy a rapid rise with more pitch efficiency.

Brown is another of the several pitchers who blew up during Fall Instructional League in Florida. He was often up to 99 at the alt site and sat in the mid-90s during instructs while incorporating a consistently-plus slider and a rebooted curveball, which Brown shelved in college and has now been reintroduced in pro ball. Both breaking balls have impact potential. The reports read a little bit like those on Walker Buehler’s stuff when he first returned from Tommy John. Brown’s uptick in stuff has coincided with a change in his physicality and he’s clearly taking advantage of pro strength programs and facilities (remember, this guy comes out of a Division II school). The change in physique lends credence to the uptick in stuff, though there’s still relief risk here because we haven’t seen Brown hold it for a whole season as a starter. He has a chance to take yet another leap in 2021, especially in an org that is very good at developing pitchers. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
121. Leody Taveras, CF, TEX
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (TEX)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 171 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 50/50 30/35 70/70 70/70 60

Taveras is an elite defender, but a lack of power and patience limits his offensive potential.

Taveras’ surface level stats during his 2020 big league debut are encouraging after he failed to produce on paper over the last few years, and scouts sometimes described him as aloof or bored. His speed and center field defense are both excellent, which creates a floor of sorts, but scout opinions regarding how much Taveras will hit have varied, and the positive ones diverged from stat-based analysis until Taveras came out of the gate hot in 2020 and performed for the first time. I think Leody has above-average feel for contact as a left-handed hitter and that his right-handed swing is almost unusable, but his 2020 splits reflect the opposite of that. He has many table-setting qualities but is likely to be a low-end, glove-first regular for the first few years of his career. He’s produced at about a 95 wRC+ clip throughout his pro career, which is on par with Harrison Bader and Jackie Bradley Jr., who have a power-over-hit version of this sort of profile. There’s a chance he becomes a plus-hitting leadoff man later. (Alternate site, MLB)

Expand arrow_drop_down
122. Seth Johnson, SP, TBR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Campbell (TBR)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/60 45/50 40/45 30/50 92-97 / 99

Johnson’s stuff always impressed more than the results during his tenure at Campbell, but the Rays might be the perfect team to weaponize his plus stuff.

Though it hasn’t coincided with the same kind of dramatic physical development, Johnson’s trajectory is very similar to Luis Patiño’s. He is also a converted infielder who only began pitching recently, in Johnson’s case during his sophomore season at Louisburg College (the Hurricanes), where he threw just six innings with a fastball that mostly sat in the upper-80s. He then transferred to Campbell, and it was during Fall practices there that his fastball touched the mid-90s and he flashed a plus breaking ball, instantly making him a high-priority look for the following spring (2019) when he was draft-eligible. His stock and performance peaked in late-March of his draft year, then dipped closer to the draft when he failed to get through five or more innings in five of his last eight starts. The Rays took him in the sandwich round and Johnson was only sitting 91-95 in 30-pitch outings after he signed, but remember that he had barely thrown the year before and was pitching more than ever before.

The pre-draft dip left room for questions about his season-long durability, and those remain relevant after there was no opportunity for Johnson to answer them during a real 2020 minor league season. But he did show up at instructs sitting 92-98 (including entire outings toward the upper end of that range) and touching 99 with three secondaries that grade out well from a pitch data perspective. We don’t yet know how Johnson will respond to a full season of innings as a starter, but he does have starter-quality repertoire depth. His slider (which sat 85-88 at instructs) and curveball both have plus raw spin (his slider’s spin rate spiked once the Rays got hold of him), and Johnson has natural feel for killing spin and creating sink on his mid-80s changeup. There’s some relief risk created by his delivery (his arm action is still long, and the Rays haven’t tweaked his college mechanics at all) and lack of mechanical consistency, but he is a plus on-mound athlete who, again, has barely pitched. I’m comfortable projecting pretty heavily on Johnson’s secondaries and command because of the context here. Certainly the relief risk causes Johnson to slide below where he’d rank based purely on his Fall stuff, but his relief outcome isn’t all that different than Baz or McClanahan’s. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
123. Brendan McKay, SP, TBR
Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Louisville (TBR)
Age 25.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 55/55 50/55 50/55 55/70 91-95 / 96

He needs to stay healthy and arguably focus exclusively on pitching, but McKay has solid stuff than plays up due to outstanding command.

Nobody knows exactly how to adjust where McKay falls on the overall prospect continuum after his August 2020 shoulder surgery. He was just 1.1 innings shy of graduating off prospect lists entirely in 2019, and would have graduated in 2020 had he stepped on a mound even once, but a bout with COVID delayed his activity at the alternate site, and then shoulder discomfort, which had plagued him the year before, resurfaced once he began to throw bullpens. The situation is similar to Cardinals righty Alex Reyes‘, who accrued 46 big league innings before he needed Tommy John, which derailed his ability to pitch out of the rotation early in his career due to the rehab timeline. This injury is especially scary for McKay since part of the reason he peaked as a 60 FV was because he projected to throw a ton of innings and generate 3-plus annual WAR on the strength of his durability. Now it sounds like he won’t be ready for the start of camp.

His fastball only sits 90-94 and touches 96, which is pretty average, but McKay keeps it away from the middle of the zone where it can really be hammered and often ties hitters up with it because he locates so well; his swinging strike rate on the heater was close to 17% in the minors, so I think it’ll play. His cutter command is arguably even better, and he peppers the glove side of the plate with it at will. Changeup usage was scarce in his 49-inning big league sample but I think it will be one of the focal points of his repertoire, perhaps usurping the curveball, which has a stronger visual evaluation than it does if you look at the spin data. It’s a repertoire/command profile similar to that of a lot of good lefties (Hyun Jin Ryu, Mike Minor, Cole Hamels), though most of them are more reliant on the cambio than McKay has been to this point. He now fits in with other major league-ready, strike-throwing 2 WAR starters toward the back of the top 100, though he needs to slide behind the ones who will be ready for the start of the season, and the ones who are coming off an elbow injury rather than a shoulder. (Alternate site, Injured)

Expand arrow_drop_down
124. Yerry Rodriguez, SP, TEX
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (TEX)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 45/55 55/60 45/55 92-96 / 98

Rodriguez has big stuff in terms of velocity and spin, and throws a ton of strikes, but he needs to show it over a full season.

Rodriguez was a 50 FV prospect last year despite missing the back half of 2019 with an elbow injury, the latest in a long line of Rangers pitching prospects to have one. Rodriguez amassed 167 K and 29 BB over the 136.2 innings he had thrown in two seasons leading up to that point, and did so by relying heavily on his ability to locate a quality fastball and changeup. In the Fall of 2020, back on a mound and competing in a live setting for the first time in over a year, Rodriguez was once again up to 98, and sat anywhere from 92-98 during his instructs/intrasquad outings. That was enough for Texas to add him to their 40-man roster during the offseason. His arm action is still quite long even though Rodriguez is a short-armed guy, and his arm slot presents an almost sidearm look but without the same cross-bodied delivery typical of side-armers. Its approach angle and spin (both axis and rate) give it an odd combination of ride and tail that makes it pretty tough to hit, and it’s weaponized by Rodriguez’s east/west command. His changeup has arm-side movement and bat-missing tumble. Yerry’s arm angle makes it really hard for him to get on top of his breaking ball, so even though it has plus raw spin, it’s a blunt, below-average pitch at present.

I think a fully-formed Rodriguez has a different breaking ball than this one, so in this instance I’m making an abstract projection based on his talent for spinning the baseball. He needs something he can work inside on lefties, either a cutter or a more traditional breaking ball with better back foot angle. I think his arm slot and ability to execute location will enable it to play against righties. His presence on the 40-man might alter his early-career big league role but I think he’ll eventually be a two-win rotation piece, provided he can stay healthy. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
125. Travis Swaggerty, CF, PIT
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from South Alabama (PIT)
Age 23.5 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 60/60 30/45 65/65 55/60 60

A plus center fielder with on-base skills and a solid approach at the plate, Swaggerty hasn’t developed the power many expected, but the rest of his game remains strong.

Swaggerty remains in the 50 FV tier largely thanks to his center field defense, which is easily plus. He does hit the ball hard but not with relevant angle, and this has been the case for him since he was a college underclassman. If the swing ever gets dialed in, Swaggerty will be an impact player; if not, then I expect he’ll produce more like Manuel Margot or a less-erratic Leonys Martin. Those guys are 45 FV types, but Swaggerty’s handedness and the possibility of him developing power during the latter years of team control (kind of like Lorenzo Cain did) have me holding onto him as a 50 FV prospect. (Alternate site)

Expand arrow_drop_down
126. Blake Hunt, C, TBR
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Mater Dei HS (CA) (SDP)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 55/60 35/50 40/30 45/50 60

Arriving in Tampa via the Blake Snell deal, Hunt is an athletic catcher with a plus arm, and he showed more power thanks to a new swing in the Fall.

Hunt was so crowded out by other prospects (Danner, Greene, Lewis, Pratto, Crouse, Estrada, Allen, Ward, etc) that he didn’t even make the SoCal Area Code team (a regional, draft and scout-driven All-Star team) the summer before his senior year, and I didn’t know about him until the following spring when he played well at a heavily-attended Boras tournament. Hunt got a $1.6 million bonus to keep him from going to Pepperdine, then put forth three solid, if unspectacular offensive seasons (.258/.341/.384) before having a huge breakout during 2020 Instructional League, during which he was suddenly hitting for much more in-game power. As a young pro, Hunt had a conservative in-game swing swing. He’d show you average raw power during BP but deploy a contact-oriented approach in games. His swing had virtually no stride, and he relied on strength to drive balls into the gaps for doubles, but that was it. Last Fall, Hunt’s swing had more lower body movement and that, combined with another year of added body/strength maturation, makes him a much more dangerous hitter. I watched him park one halfway into the left-center field seats at Chase Field and he took Mason Thompson (who sat 96-99 that day) deep later that week, his second loud extra-base hit that day. He was one of a few buzzy Padres prospects (some of the others have also been traded) from the Fall, and he performed against a quality cross-section of pitching.

Hunt’s defense has backed up a little bit. He was catching on one knee, even with runners on base, and his footwork coming out of his crouch was inconsistent, which lead to inconsistent throwing accuracy. I’ve also seen him pop as low as 1.88 on throws to second and, despite his size, he’s agile enough and has sufficiently good hands to receive and frame big league stuff. I think the style with which Hunt catches will probably grow and change, especially as he shifts to an org that seems less inclined to put their catchers on one knee with runners on, and ultimately he’ll be good back there. The thing to focus on here, though, is the potential power production from behind the plate, which now compels me to project him as an everyday player. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
127. Aaron Ashby, MIRP, MIL
Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Crowder JC (MO) (MIL)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 181 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/55 55/60 45/50 35/40 90-94 / 96

While he can struggle with his command and his fastball is more good than great, Ashby has one of the better sliders around and knows how to use it.

Ashby showed up at instructs sitting 94-97 (I saw him twice), with two routinely plus breaking balls, and flashed a firm, diving changeup on occasion. It’s fair to wonder whether the context of the look impacted how hard Ashby was throwing (it’s not as if he’d been throwing every fifth day for several months, though it was toward the end of instructs) and he isn’t exactly a precise strike-thrower, but his fastball velocity has been trending up for a few consecutive years now, and all three of his secondary pitches have bat-missing action. I think he’ll either end up in a strikeout-heavy, five-and-dive role or become a vicious multi-inning reliever. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
128. Matt Canterino, MIRP, MIN
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Rice (MIN)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 222 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 55/60 50/55 55/60 40/45 90-93 / 95

While he doesn’t light up radar guns, Canterino’s fastball has the rising qualities teams look for, and though he lacks big upside, he has the polish to move quickly.

Canterino sure looks like a reliever. He doesn’t have the usual trim starter’s build, nor the statuesque posture, nor the mechanical ease and grace of a typical starter’s delivery. He sure as hell has starter-quality stuff, though. He arrived at the Twins alt site later than their initial group (which was tailored to provide big league depth rather than develop prospects) and came in throwing 92-96 with two plus breaking balls, all of which is pretty standard for Canterino. But he also began to develop a changeup in the cross-faced style of Devin Williams, and that pitch took a huge leap in quality during his 2020 development. Of course, it’s the Twins who initially tipped me to this development. But because they opted into sharing data from their alternate site, I was able to confirm with sources outside the organization that Canterino’s cambio has improved, and now has better velocity separation from his fastball, as well as impact tail and fade. So now this guy has four impact pitches, and remember, he’s always been able to locate his fastball consistently despite his R-rated delivery. Does that make him a starter? I think some of the superficial elements that make it appear he is not slide Canterino behind pitchers with comparable stuff but a more obvious starter body and delivery. But he has four potential impact pitches and hasn’t had strike-throwing issues since his freshman year in college, so you can’t just bucket him in relief. He’ll be toward the back of the top 100 with other mid-rotation starter types. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
129. Kevin Alcantara, CF, NYY
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 18.6 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 50/70 20/60 60/55 45/55 55

Long, lanky and loaded with tools and projection, Alcantara has massive potential but still has plenty to prove.

I’ve made no change to Alcantara’s FV from last year since I can’t find anyone from outside the Yankees org who has seen him, though his ranking among the 50 FV prospects in the system has changed based on continued conversations about him with front office personnel from other clubs. For context, Alcantara was fourth on my international list in 2018, and was one of the players the Yankees promoted from the DSL to the GCL in the middle of the summer of 2019. He was part of New York’s DR instructs in the Fall. Athletic 6-foot-6 outfielders who can rotate like Alcantara can are rare, and this young man might grow into elite power at maturity. He is loose and fluid in the box but does have some swing-and-miss issues, though it’s not because lever length is causing him to be late — it’s more of a barrel accuracy issue right now. This is one of the higher ceiling teenagers in the minors, but of course Alcantara might either take forever to develop or never develop at all. (DR Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
130. Mark Vientos, 3B, NYM
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from American Heritage HS (FL) (NYM)
Age 21.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/70 35/60 40/35 35/40 60

Vientos has huge raw power, but a see-ball, hit-ball approach prevents him from tapping into it, and his defensive ceiling is that of a below-average third baseman.

Vientos arrived at the Mets’ alternate site in September, then played during Fall Instructional League, before being signed by Escogido in the Dominican Winter League (which also rosters Wander Franco, Vlad Jr., and Julio Rodríguez); he did some pre-season training with the team but didn’t play. He’s undergone a few minor swing changes since entering pro ball, and the latest iteration features a wider stance and toned-down leg kick, and is a close bedfellow to Spencer Torkelson’s swing. Long-levered, corner-only prospects like Vientos are extremely risky, and the way his strikeout/walk rates trended in 2019 combined with the possibility that he might outgrow third base has led to some industry trepidation regarding his inclusion on the Top 100. But I like that he’s been able to make swing adjustments, and Vientos also put up an above-average statline in full-season ball as a teenager and has some of the most exciting, frame-based power projection in all the minors. He torched balls in 2019, averaging just over 91 mph off the bat and putting 47% of them in play at 95 mph or above, which, for context, is a 65 on the scale. And he still has room for another 20 pounds on the frame. Proprietary metrics sourced for this list indicate that even though he only slugged .411 in 2019, his expected SLG based on the quality of his contact was closer to .480. I’ve seen Vientos get on top of elevated fastballs and drive stuff the other way with authority in a way that’s uncommon for a hitter with levers this long. He’s quite risky, but is also a potential middle-of-the-order anchor. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
131. Heriberto Hernandez, LF, TBR
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (TEX)
Age 21.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 55/65 35/60 30/30 30/40 45

Hernandez has done nothing but hit and hit for power since signing in 2017, but he’ll need to keep it up as he transitions to full-season ball as a bat-only prospect.

Even though the Rays have seemingly made a concerted effort to acquire catching depth this offseason and Hernandez caught during his early pro career, I think it’s likely they put him to an outfield corner or at first base and just let him hit and climb the minor league ladder as fast as his bat will take him. And that could be a very fast climb. Hernandez was perhaps the most dominant lower-level hitter in 2019, slashing .344/.433/.646 during the AZL regular season before going on an Arozarena-esque tear in the AZL and then Northwest League postseasons after he was promoted for the last week of Spokane’s season. He slugged over .900 during his final few weeks in the org. The Rangers invited Hernandez to their alternate site in mid-September and he tuned up against advanced pitching there before getting most of his 2020 run at Fall Instructional League. Then the Rangers traded him as part of a deal centered around Nate Lowe early in the offseason.

Heuristically, this is not the sort of prospect I like. Heriberto is a positionless righty hitter (and thus is often at a platoon disadvantage) far from the big leagues. But his on-paper stats, underlying TrackMan data, and my multi-year in-person visual evaluation give me a high degree of confidence that this might be a very special hitter whose hit and power combination will clear the high offensive bar in left field or first base. His little T-Rex arms enable Heriberto to be short to the baseball, but he’s so strong and rotates with such ferocity that he still hits for power. I’ve seen him make mid-at-bat adjustments to quality offspeed stuff, swinging over a particularly good splitter only to recognize the next one, located in the same spot, and rope it into the left field corner for a double. He covers the whole plate (something that’s gotten better since my first looks in 2018) but is tough to beat on the inner half because his levers are so short. Because he isn’t an up-the-middle player, Hernandez is not the type of prospect with an elite-level WAR ceiling, but he has the talent to anchor the middle of an order as a hit/power combo bat. (Rangers alternate site and Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
132. Ezequiel Duran, 2B, NYY
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 21.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 55/60 35/60 40/35 30/35 45

A little second baseman with shocking power for his size, Duran will need to prove he’s more than just an aggressive, one-dimensional slugger as he moves up.

Duran bounced back after his horrendous 2018 and hit for power (.256/.329/.496) in the 2019 Penn League as a 20-year-old. He looked comfortable in a handful of 2020 big league spring training at-bats before the pandemic, then picked up at-bats in the DR during the Fall. He’s a stocky guy who only really fits at second base, and isn’t very good there. As he continues to age he’ll likely only be able to stay there with the aid of good defensive positioning, and even then Duran’s hands need to improve. But boy, does he have power. His long, slow, aggressive leg kick helps him generate big pop, and he can move the bat head around the zone. The titanic hacks he takes create some swing-and-miss but this isn’t a guy with a grooved swing, and there’s impact bat-to-ball/power interplay going on here. This is a site that tends to avoid prospect comps unless they’re flush to the prospect’s profile, and Duran’s is a dead ringer for Dan Uggla’s. (DR Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down
133. Reginald Preciado, 3B, CHC
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Panama (SDP)
Age 17.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/55 40/60 20/50 40/40 40/50 55

The best prospect to come back from San Diego in the Yu Darvish deal, Preciado checks all sorts of scouting boxes but has yet to make his professional debut.

The Padres gave Preciado a $1.3 million bonus in 2019, a record for a Panamanian prospect because he had the overt physical traits that teams have traditionally coveted on the international market. He’s a big-framed (about 6-foot-4) switch-hitter who is athletic enough to stay on the infield. Players like this have a wide range of potential outcomes, with one being that their body develops in the Goldilocks Zone where they remain agile enough to stay at shortstop, and also become big and strong enough to hit for impact power. Though some teams have shown evidence of a philosophical shift in this area, prospects like Preciado are the ones who typically get paid the most money on the international market.

When Preciado came to the States for 2019 instructs, he looked like you’d expect a 16-year-old his size to look: raw and uncoordinated. He still had not gained athletic dominion over his frame, and he looked much more like a third base defender than a shortstop. Fast forward a year (because there was no minor league season) to the Fall of 2020 and Preciado now has a batting stance and swing that look an awful lot like Corey Seager’s. It allows him to be relatively short to the baseball despite his lever length, and whether it had to do with the swing change or not, he looked much more comfortable in the box this Fall than he did last year. Because of the missing minor league season, most teams in Arizona brought an older contingent of player to instructs than they usually would, and still Preciado (who is still just 17) was striking the ball with precision and power from both sides of the plate when he made contact. He had real issues recognizing breaking balls during the Fall and his ability to adjust to those will be key moving forward, but I’m willing to bet it was a symptom of him being 17 and facing unusually advanced pitching after not having seen any live pitching at all for much of the year. I still think he ends up at third, but there’s rare hit/power combination potential here and it just takes confidence in one’s eyes to see it might already have arrived. He was the best prospect the Cubs acquired for Yu Darvish. (Fall Instructional League)

Expand arrow_drop_down





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

newest oldest most voted
stefansanderson
Member
Member
stefansanderson

BEST DAY OF THE YEAR!! Thank you Eric for your tremendous contributions once again!!

tz
Member

Same here.

Now get some sleep! 🙂

willl
Member
willl

Not if you’re a Nationals fan… 🙁

gtagomori
Member
Member
gtagomori

Agreed