Picks to Click: Who We Expect to Make the 2022 Top 100

It’s common for our readers to want to know which of the players who aren’t on this year’s Top 100 might grace next year’s. Who has a chance to really break out? This is the piece for those readers, our “Picks to Click,” the gut-feel guys we think can be on the 2022 Top 100.

This is the fourth year we’ve conducted this exercise at FanGraphs, and there are some rules. First, none of the players you see below will have ever been a 50 FV or better in any of our write-ups or rankings. Second, we can’t pick players who we’ve picked in prior years. The two of us have decided to make this somewhat competitive to see which of us will end up being right about the most players. Here’s a brief rundown of how the site’s writers have done since this piece became a part of Prospects Week. You can click the year to go to that year’s list.

Historical Picks to Click
Year Writer(s) Picks to Click Hits Click Rate
2018 Longenhagen/McDaniel 62 15 24%
2019 Longenhagen/McDaniel 55 16 29%
2020 Longenhagen 46 14 30%
2021 Goldstein/Longenhagen 47 ? ?

We’re altering the “one-time selection” rule so that it applies only to each of us individually. So, even though Eric still thinks Blake Walston will be on next year’s list, he can’t re-mention him here (though he just did), but Kevin can (he doesn’t) if he wants. Our initials appear in parentheses after our players. Players we both nominated have an asterisk next to their name.

At the end of the piece, we have a list of potential high-leverage relievers who might move through the minors quickly, because readers seem to dig that category. On past Picks to Click, these were not part of the 50+ FV forecasting (and thus are not part of the historical data above), but based on how we think pitching is starting to be valued, it should now be looked at more like the other categories.

We’ve separated the players into groups or “types” to make the list a little more digestible and to give you some idea of the demographics we think pop-up guys come from, which could help you identify some of your own using The Board. For players whose orgs Eric has already covered this offseason, there is a link to the applicable team list where you can find a full scouting report on that player.

This Guy Can Really Pitch
Yoendrys Gomez, SP, New York Yankees (EL) – full report
Reid Detmers, SP, Los Angeles Angels (KG)
Tanner Burns, SP, Cleveland (KG) – full report
Ethan Small, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (KG)
Drew Strotman, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (EL) – full report
Alec Marsh, SP, Kansas City Royals (EL)

KG: Tanner Burns brings big stuff out of a small package and has shown better pitchability than most in that profile. Reid Detmers might not have the most thrilling stuff, but he was one of the best performers in college baseball over the last two years while pitching in a major conference, and the command is plus or better. Yoendrys Gomez checks a lot of boxes. He’s got size, athleticism, a clean delivery, an ability to throw strikes, and the potential for three plus pitches with velocity that continues to rise. Alec Marsh is a sum-is-greater-than-the-parts type. I don’t see a weakness in his game, but I don’t see an overwhelming weapon in the arsenal either. Ethan Small doesn’t light up a radar gun, but in terms of spin and movement, his fastball is well above-average, and his command is sublime. Drew Strotman, a deep cut put here by Eric, checks a lot of boxes in terms of pitch data like many Rays arms do, but I’d like to see a better soft option and a full year of healthy performance before I’m convinced he’s a starter.

EL: Tanner Burns is a bet on Cleveland’s ability to develop pitching. His current FV is purely based on his talent in a vacuum, but here we’re anticipating growth, so I think it’s okay to make an org-based bet. I’ve always been a little lower on him due to his middling velocity and projectionless frame, but he executes his secondary stuff very consistently and Cleveland maxes those kind of guys out. Scouts love Detmers because he pitches like he’s double parked, and in-office folks love his on-paper performance and think his stuff is well-demarcated and plays even though he doesn’t throw hard. There aren’t many impact big leaguers who sit 88-91 though, so I want to see him stress-tested by pro hitting. Yoendrys Gomez already has some support (from outside the Yankees org) to be in the 100 since he grew into velocity and a more effective fastball while retaining his ability to locate. We’ll see if Alec Marsh can do the same after he exhibited a huge velo bump in 2020. I’ve compared Ethan Small’s delivery to Clayton Kershaw’s and it’s part of what helps his fastball play despite below-average velo. Changeup/command lefties often outperform expectations, and Small is exactly that. Strotman’s velocity was back to pre-surgery heights during 2020 instructs and he has a brand new cutter that’s already plus.

Confidence in the Bat
Aaron Bracho, 2B, Cleveland (EL) – full report
Gunnar Henderson, 3B, Baltimore Orioles*
Michael Toglia, 1B, Colorado Rockies (EL)
Ed Howard, SS, Chicago Cubs*
Tyler Soderstrom, C, Oakland Athletics (KG)

EL: Aaron Bracho has an unusually strong hit/power combo for his age and he might play an up-the-middle position, though not very well. Gunnar Henderson also has fantastic feel for the barrel and hits the ball hard. He’s less likely to play a premium position but might be a good third base defender, and I’m not sure (all else equal) which of those two types of gloves I’d rather have. Michael Toglia is a well-rounded, switch-hitting first baseman who obviously needs to rake to profile at first. I don’t see Ed Howard as a high-upside, tools sort, and instead think he’s a very polished and instinctive defender and hitter with a high floor for a high school draftee. I don’t think Tyler Soderstrom can catch but he can really hit. Bat-first catchers with glove question marks often get moved so they can climb the system faster (Bryce Harper is the most obvious example of this) and that’s what I think will occur with Soderstrom.

KG: Bracho is an inspired choice by Eric. He’s not especially physical or toolsy, but there’s real hitting ability on display and the power for his size and age borders on shocking. I see him as a future offensive second baseman who produces out of the two hole. Henderson is a fascinating case study, as he doesn’t pass muster when it comes to modern theory on swing mechanics, but as scouts say, “Hitters hit” and he’s never given any evidence that he can’t. I like Toglia’s power and patience, but worry that the consistent deep counts and some whiff tendencies will keep the batting average middling. Howard could have gone in a few buckets here. I think he’s more likely to hit sixth or seventh as opposed to first or second, but he’s a slam dunk shortstop and one of the safest prep picks in recent memory. I agree with Eric’s concerns on Soderstrom’s defense, but at the same time, an electronic strike zone (it’s coming, it’s just a matter of when) could make bat-first everyday catchers a more common occurrence.

This Is What They Look Like
Cade Cavalli, SP, Washington Nationals (EL)
Wilman Diaz, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (EL)- full report
Kyren Paris, SS, Los Angeles Angels (EL)
Jordan Walker, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals (EL)
Garrett Mitchell, CF, Milwaukee Brewers (KG)
Hunter Bishop, RF, San Francisco Giants (KG)
Bayron Lora, RF, Texas Rangers (KG)
Erick Pena, CF, Kansas City Royals (KG)
Robert Puason, SS, Oakland Athletics (KG)
Greg Jones, SS, Tampa Bay Rays (KG)- full report
Nasim Nunez, SS, Miami Marlins (EL)
Jairo Solis, SP, Houston Astros (KG)

KG: This group is a dumping ground for players we couldn’t easily categorize, but it’s still packed with interesting players. Cade Cavalli is a top 100 guy right now if we measure solely by stuff, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy for a full pro season after a checkered amateur career when it comes to staying on the field. Wilman Diaz was arguably the best international prospect who signed last month. He’s the prototypical modern shortstop with size, athleticism, and plenty of swag. Kyren Paris is a risky pick by Eric. The tools are there, especially in terms of defense and speed, but we’ll have to wait and see on the bat. Garrett Mitchell had the best tool set in the 2020 draft, and it was shocking to watch him drop to 20th overall in June. If Milwaukee can get him to get the ball off the ground more and tap into his raw power, look out. Hunter Bishop will never hit for a high average, but a ton of walks and a ton of bombs can more than makeup for those shortcomings. I think there’s potential for an Adam Dunn type of talent, only with defensive value.

The first time I saw Bayron Lora, he was 14, and I’ve never seen a combination of power and size in a player so young. The fact that he’s not some power goof and actually quite athletic pushes him into this group for me. Erick Pena is kind of the outfield version of Diaz, but there’s some chance he keeps getting bigger and grows into a corner, which puts more pressure on the bat. The first time I saw Lora was at a workout where Robert Puason actually stole the show. He’s a big dude with big tools and will need to make up for lost time due to the pandemic. Speaking of tools, Greg Jones has all of them and his pro debut showed great advancements in converting those tools into production. There’s some sneaky pop in there to go with the burner-level speed and even if shortstop doesn’t work out, the back-up plan is a plus center fielder. Nasim Nunez is a plus or better defender who can really run, but I don’t share Eric’s optimism here as he’s a smallish guy with little power and big contact issues. Finally healthy, Jairo Solis was due for a breakout last season, and his power arsenal has the ability to produce a breakout campaign this summer.

EL: Cavalli makes all of the recent Oklahoma quarterback Heisman finalists look like the towel boy. He’s an Adonis with a huge arm but a very short track record of simultaneous performance and health. I think he needs to refine his slider, but it should be really good because of how hard it is. All I know of Diaz is what I’ve been told and what video I’ve seen, both online and via a source. He’s described as one of the more advanced infielders in this year’s international class (which I think means he’ll perform right away), but he’s also super loose and can really rotate, which I think portends power. I don’t know if Paris will stay at shortstop but he’s going to stay up the middle somewhere, he’s always had precocious feel for contact, and he’s worked his ass off in the gym to build the strength he lacked as an amateur.

Jordan Walker is a “reverse projection” candidate for me. I thought he had a shot to stay at short when he was an underclassman, then he got really big, really fast and suddenly RF/1B seemed in play. I think a pro strength and conditioning program could move him back up the defensive spectrum but retain the plus-plus long-term power projection. Mitchell and Bishop are both tooled-up college outfielders with questions about their bat. Mitchell’s swing doesn’t produce in-game power yet, and Bishop’s track record of production is still confined to a scorching hot six weeks in 2019. I think it’s possible Bayron Lora moves quickly at first because he’s just so much more physical than anyone his age, but Franmil Reyes ain’t a Top 100 guy, you know? Nunez is a bet on him landing somewhere close to where the Perdomo/Peraza/Peña group was on this year’s list, as he’s one of the better shortstop defenders in the minors. The rest of KG’s names in this category were on my Picks to Click list last year.

Behind The Dish
Diego Cartaya, C, Los Angeles Dodgers (KG)- full report
Patrick Bailey, C, San Francisco Giants*
Antonio Gomez, C, New York Yankees (EL)- full report
Shea Langeliers, C, Atlanta Braves (KG)
Cal Raleigh, C, Seattle Mariners (KG)

EL: I’ve never seen a teenager throw to the bases with as much confidence and accuracy as Diego Cartaya, and his exchange is ridiculously fast for how big he is. There is some hit tool risk there, though. Of this group, Patrick Bailey is the one most likely to hit, though perhaps not with power. That’s still fine for a catcher. Shae Langeliers and Antonio Gomez are the glove-first guys in this group. Gomez has the higher ceiling (mostly because we know less about his offensive talent and tend to fill in those gaps with positive projection) while Langeliers is a higher-probability prospect. Cal Raleigh has the most raw power of this group and has become a better framer in pro ball, though it’s unclear how much longer that skill will be useful.

KG: As Eric notes, Cartaya has the much-desired combination of plus arm and accuracy and combines it with a solid approach at the plate and gap power, while scouts and team officials rave about the makeup. I like Bailey’s power more than Eric, but might not believe in the pure hit tool as much. Still, it’s hard not to see the ultimate outcome as some kind of everyday backstop. Langeliers’ pro dubut left something to be desired in terms of the numbers, but he was pushed to full-season ball and there’s more power in there. Gomez has an arm that borders on special, but the bat is still very much in the to-be-determined bucket. Raleigh was seen as an offensive first catcher in the 2018 draft, but questions about his ultimate defensive home dropped him to the third round. He’s hit so far, and the defense has improved to an acceptable level behind the plate.

Looks Weird, Huge Stuff
Bobby Miller, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (EL)- full report
Drey Jameson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks*
Jared Kelly, SP, Chicago White Sox (KG)- full report
Zack Hess, SIRP, Detroit Tigers (EL)
Alek Manoah, SP, Toronto Blue Jays*- full report
Dax Fulton, SP, Miami Marlins (EL)
JJ Goss, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (EL)- full report

EL: Several of these guys have full scouting reports on their team lists and The Board. Bobby Miller was electric in the Fall (until his last outing, which was the one I saw) and I bet some scouts would Top 100 him already if not for his longer arm action. Drey Jameson is all arm, legs, and violence but he has a nasty, deep pitch mix and might be on next year’s Top 100 where Matt Canterino and Aaron Ashby are right now. Jared Kelly is a name KG brought up for this section who I’m a little scared of because of the track record of projectionless prep arms in recent years, but his changeup is incredible and that might be enough. Speaking of changeups, as soon as Alek Manoah has one, he’ll move into the 50 FV tier. Pitchers not only typically recover from TJ but sometimes, if they have a disciplined rehab, they come back throwing harder. Dax Fulton is a candidate for that, and I thought his pre-surgery stuff played. He’s unusually athletic for his size. JJ Goss could go in this group or the “they can really pitch group” if you like.

KG: Miller has a frame built for innings and can get into the upper 90s, but the rest of the arsenal is driven more by velocity than break, and the command is spotty. It’s big stuff, but the refinement needs to come. I’m with Eric on his description of Jameson, but much of my optimism is based around just how incredibly athletic he is, which can make up for plenty of flaws. Kelly might have some bias-on-view for me, as my last look was watching him carve up some of the best hitters in the country at the Under Armor game in Chicago. I don’t share the same worries about projection, as the combination of power and precision is already very advanced for his age. I thought Manoah was the best pitcher in the 2019 draft, and frankly it wasn’t close. He would have been my breakout choice for 2020, and I’ll stick with it this season. I’m not as high as Eric is on Fulton. The surgery creates it’s usual questions, but he needs innings to convert from thrower to pitcher and I wish there was more power to his game. Goss had one of the better breaking balls in the 2019 draft, a rare thing for a prep arm, and could move quickly.

Deep Cuts
Bailey Falter, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (EL)
Charlis Aquino, SS, San Diego Padres (EL)
Bryce Ball, 1B, Atlanta Braves (KG)
Jonathan Bowlan, SP, Kansas City Royals (KG)

EL: A few years ago on The Phillies list I wrote that they had so many interesting sleeper arms in the 35+ FV tier (wild relievers with huge stuff, deception arms, guys with unique underlying pitch characteristics) that it was likely one or two of them would eventually break out, and it sounds like Bailey Falter did in the Fall. His 2019 ended with an elbow strain but still there were rumors teams kicked the tires on him prior to the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. He was back for 2020 instructs and his velocity was up (89-92, touch 94 in 2019, 93-95 in 2020) and Philly was compelled to 40-man him. Now he’s a hard-throwing lefty with a plus changeup.

Charlis Aquino is the next Padres shortstop prospect with a chance to pop. He has advanced baseball feel and instincts and a very, very projectable frame. He looked like he was starting to fill out during my Fall 2020 look, especially in the shoulders (I’ll throw a Dennis Schroder body comp out there) and I think he might arrive to 2021 minor league camp with a whole lot more power. Bryce Ball has objectively big power and needs to hit at an age-appropriate level to be in the mix of 50 FV corner bats typically on the list. Jonathan Bowlan needs to show consistent velocity over the course of a whole season, though his early-career track of record of missing bats while throwing strikes is very encouraging.

KG: Falter is a nice pick by Eric if the velo bump holds up. If not, he’s a guy with a fringy fastball depending on deception and command. What’s next? Another tooled out Latin American infielder with the Padres? What a shocking development! That’s just what Acquino is, and if Eric’s physical growth notes pan out into power, that addresses the only weakness in his game. Ball is a personal favorite. There are tons of gargantuan, big power, bat-only prospects out there, but he has potentially special power to go with a very good approach and an impressive feel for contact for a long-levered slugger. As Eric notes, Bowlan’s velo can be a bit of a roller coaster (it was in college as well), but the plus command is always there.

Power Relievers
Burl Carraway, MIRP, Chicago Cubs*
Lucas Gilbreath, SIRP, Colorado Rockies (EL)
Brandon Williamson, MIRP, Seattle Mariners (EL)
Demarcus Evans, SIRP, Texas Rangers (EL)
Julian Merryweather, SIRP, Toronto Blue Jays (EL)- full report
Ryne Nelson, SIRP, Arizona Diamondbacks (KG)
Will Vest, SIRP, Seattle Mariners (EL)
Zach Pop, SIRP, Miami Marlins (EL)

KG: Burl Carraway has some of the best TrackMan/HawkEye data on the planet. It’s an exceptionally vertical attack with a massively rising fastball and ultra-deep breaker. Some command refinements and proving he can land his curveball in the zone could lead to a very short minor league career. Lucas Gilbreath is a hell of a deep cut from Eric, as he’s never had an ERA below five at any level, but scouts have always seen him as a reliever, and now that the Rockies look like they are moving him to that role, the plus-plus velocity has a chance to shine. I personally scouted Brandon Williamson in his draft year as a pop-up JUCO transfer at TCU with big stuff, and walked away impressed. His fastball checked all the boxes in terms of both velocity and shape, and there’s potential for a plus breaker as well. He could move quickly as a reliever, but I don’t think Seattle should rule out a future in the rotation just yet.

Demarcus Evans is a wide-bodied pure ‘pen arm, and while his mid-90s velo is merely good, in checks a lot of boxes in terms of spin and life. He’ll need to throw more strikes to avoid a career spent frustrating pitching coaches. Julian Merryweather provided his share of frustrations as a starter with his stuff never quite turning into performance, but he suddenly shined in a bullpen role with an upper-90s fastball and a velocity-driven slider that I think he should throw more of. Ryne Nelson has phenomenal stuff and incredible bouts of inconsistency. He couldn’t establish himself as a starter in college, and Arizona should stop trying and just let the upper-90s heater and devastating power breaker play up in short stints. Will Vest is a Rule 5 pick to watch thanks to upper-90s heat and a very impressive changeup, but a quick jump to the big league might be a bit too much for him. I want Zach Pop in the big leagues based on name alone, but I have trouble seeing him getting into a Top 100. Despite the big velocity, he’s more of a weak-contact producer than a pure bat missed, so it’s hard to see him in an end-of-game role.

EL: Carraway could be a lefty version of James Karinchak. Gilbreath was 95-97 with big life in the Fall of 2020 and Colorado had to 40-man him. If he holds that next year, he’ll be their eighth or ninth inning guy by mid-summer. Williamson had trouble holding his stuff deep into games the few times I saw him at TCU, but both of his breaking balls are really good, and I think his repertoire depth will allow him to get four to six outs at a time. Evans and Merryweather both have big fastball life. Merryweather’s secondaries are much better, but he’s older and has been hurt a ton. Evans pulled a lat over the winter and will start camp late, per Levi Weaver of The Athletic. Vest had a big 2019 and then showed up to 2020 instructs with way more velocity. He and Pop, who is coming off injury, were both Rule 5 picks.

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3 years ago

I think a good secondary piece of information to track would be how many guys who were eligible for this list but were not selected also get bumped up into the 50+ FV bucket the following year. A little compare and contrast analysis, perhaps.