A Last Pass at the Low-Hanging Fruit on the Top 100

Earlier this week, Kevin Goldstein and I took a pass at the low-hanging fruit in the 50 FV tier and above to move or add prospects we thought merited action before heading into the offseason. The new “Top 100” can be found here. There is an up or down arrow in the “trend” column next to the name of any player whose FV changed as a result of our discussions so they’re easy to identify on the list. I get into more detail — including on those players whose FVs haven’t changed but whose ordinal rankings have — below.

Shuffling the 60 FV Tier

There are no new names among this group but we did reorder them, with Bobby Witt Jr. moving into the second overall spot behind top-ranked Adley Rutschman. Witt usurps San Diego middle-infielder CJ Abrams because a) he’s been healthy while Abrams has been out since July with a fractured tibia, b) he has progressed a level beyond Abrams, and c) he has more power. Abrams has the superior feel to hit, and the gap between the two on defense — where a healthy Abrams improved while Witt sputtered — has closed. Witt’s range and hands have both regressed; he’s not a lost cause at shortstop but he does need polish.

Noelvi Marte moved ahead of Marco Luciano as they’re similar in many ways (age, level, performance at that level, hit/power combination) but Marte has a better chance to stay at shortstop.

Changes Among the 55s

Marcelo Mayer and Henry Davis moved from the very top of the 50s into this tier based largely on us asking ourselves if some of the 55 FV players previously ahead of them would really be first on our draft board, to which we answered “no.” Mayer has had a good summer in pro ball while Davis has been hurt (and is a rumored Fall League possibility), so this is essentially an admission that these two should have been in a tier of their own atop the draft rankings rather than ranked first and second in the same FV tier as a few other dudes.

Anthony Volpe moved from the 50 FV tier (near 90th overall) into the 55 FV tier (up to 18th overall) thanks to measurable changes to his exit velocities that reinforce the visual evaluation that this player has changed in a meaningful way. Both his average exit velos (86 mph in 2019, 89 mph in ’21) and max exit velos (102 to 108) are way up compared to 2019, and Volpe’s swing is not quite as stiff and upright as before, allowing him to go down and scoop balls with lift more consistently than when he was an amateur. Per a team source, he’s averaging 20 degrees of launch angle this year, which is up from the 10-to-12 degree range from 2019. We thought he belonged somewhere in the 18-to-25 range on the list.

Struggling/injured pitchers Nate Pearson, D.L. Hall, and Asa Lacy remained 55 FV prospects but slid to the back of this tier.

In the 50s

Reds prospect Elly De La Cruz has been added to the top 100. To call De La Cruz a boom or bust prospect is understating his range of outcomes. His 4% walk rate in full-season ball is a ruby red flag, near the bottom of the statistical barrel and hard evidence of an extremely aggressive approach that has been the undoing of several talented players before him. But if De La Cruz “booms,” it’ll be a boom so big it creates its own universe. The switch-hitter is among the toolsiest minor leaguers in baseball, a gigantic, projectable infielder with plus-plus speed, arm strength, and power potential. His lanky, shooting guard body has room for lots more strength and power (De La Cruz is listed at 6-foot-2, 150 pounds on his team’s site as of publication, but he’s actually 6-foot-5, 195), and already his max exit velocities (near 112 mph) are considerable for a hitter his age, let alone a potential shortstop. De La Cruz’s arm strength gives him some defensive margin for error, and the Reds should continue to develop him at short (he’s also seen time at second and third) to see if it works. His actions there are impressive for someone his size.

But a teenager this big, who has grown three inches since his last weigh-in, obviously has a wide array of potential defensive homes at maturity and it’s clear the cement on his frame is not yet totally dry. If things develop in the Goldilocks Zone, then De La Cruz will grow into a power-hitting force while staying up the middle of the diamond somewhere. If he falls to the bottom of the defensive spectrum, then we’re talking about a 1B/RF with scary plate discipline. Both realities are baked into the way we value De La Cruz, who is eerily similar to Pirates prospect Oneil Cruz in literally every way, and is therefore very close behind him on the top 100.

Nick Yorke also joined the top 100 in the 50 FV tier, close to Tyler Freeman and Xavier Edwards who are similar hit-first second base types.

Kevin and I discussed moving both Orelvis Martinez and Gabriel Moreno into the 55 FV tier, but ultimately left them where they were as there’s great variety in scout/team opinions regarding who in the Jays system is the best prospect.

MacKenzie Gore moved toward the back of the 50 FV tier. For a long while now he’s looked relievery in the same way guys like Aaron Ashby and Matt Canterino have, though his secondary stuff is not quite as nasty as theirs. His mechanical alterations were not a panacea, so we thought it was time to move him.

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.

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2 years ago

Thanks for your hard work as always! Love digging into the info you guys provide. One thing I noticed was that Volpe still projected with FV 35 game power. Compared to other top 100 guys w EV max of 108, he’s the only one under 50FV game power. Any particular reason for this?

2 years ago
Reply to  balfond

This question comes up occasionally and seems to have come up later in the comment section here too, but they don’t usually change in season tool grades.

2 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

That’s fair. Appreciate the response. It does look like they adjusted a couple (Adley hit 55->60, F. Alvarez G Pow 50 -> 60) so I’m surprised they didn’t touch Volpe given he jumped 72 spots with a power jump being the main driver. Also, good call out on Noelvi’s fielding in your other comment. 30 errors is horrendous and pretty concerning long-term as a Mariners fan.

Uncle Spikemember
2 years ago
Reply to  balfond

Yeah, I’ve noticed they don’t typically update these as well. I would think Gabriel Arias is due for a bump from his 35 hit tool grade.