Picks to Click: Who We Expect to Make the 2023 Top 100

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It’s common for our readers to ask 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 make the 2023 Top 100.

This is the fifth 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, but the other writers can. For instance, Eric picked Wilman Diaz last year, but he didn’t make the Top 100. Eric can’t select Diaz again, but Kevin and/or Tess could if they wanted, though they’ve opted not to. Last year, we decided to make this somewhat competitive to see which of us ends up being right about the most players. Below is 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 in the “Year” column to access that year’s list. Our initials began appearing next to our picks in 2021, with an asterisk denoting the players we both selected. (In the table, the format for that year’s results is “Kevin’s guys (mutual selection) Eric’s guys.”) We don’t count “click echoes,” guys who enter the 50 FV tier multiple years after they were Picks to Click, toward our totals. For example, MJ Melendez was a 2018 Pick to Click, but he didn’t enter the 50 FV tier until this offseason, so he doesn’t count. Here’s how we’ve fared in the past:

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 18(6)23 5(3)4 26%
2022 Goldstein/Longenhagen/Taruskin 46 TBD TBD

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 we have already covered this offseason, there is a link to the applicable team list where you can find a full scouting report on that player.

Promising Backstops
Drew Romo, C, Colorado Rockies (EL/KG) – Full Report
Endy Rodriguez, C, Pittsburgh Pirates (EL) – Full Report
Harry Ford, C, Seattle Mariners (TT)
Logan O’Hoppe, C, Philadelphia Phillies (TT) – Full Report

Romo has a huge arm and has performed better from a bat-to-ball standpoint than we thought he would coming out of high school, especially against right-handed pitching. Rodriguez could fit in several of the categories you’re about to explore since his feel to hit is his carrying tool. A 2021 first-rounder, Ford notched 16 hits in 19 games on the complex, 10 of which went for extra-bases. He’s got plus speed and might be a center fielder if he isn’t a catcher. O’Hoppe has elite makeup in addition to a well-rounded toolset.

Buying the Bat
Dustin Harris, 3B/1B, Texas Rangers (TT)
Zack Gelof, 3B, Oakland Athletics (TT) – Full Report
Trey Sweeney, 3B, New York Yankees (KG) – Full Report
Lawerence Butler, 1B, Oakland Athletics (KG) – Full Report
Jairo Pomares, OF, San Francisco Giants (TT) – Full Report
Kyle Stowers, OF, Baltimore Orioles (TT) – Full Report

This group is mostly comprised of well-rounded hitters who play corner positions, except for Butler and Stowers, who historically have been power-over-hit types. Of those two, Butler is the one more likely to find an extra gear through continued adjustment, while Stowers’ huge, fun hacks feel like a cemented style. Harris hit 10 bombs with an .872 OPS at Low-A before being promoted to High-A, where he hit 10 more (and posted a 1.073 OPS) in half the number of games. In 110 games across the two levels, he also racked up 25 stolen bases and 21 doubles, and only struck out 73 times. If he can polish his approach and stay at third base, he’s a good bet to be on next year’s list. Gelof and his odd swing had a great instructs, and he’s an excellent third base defender. Sweeney was 63rd on our 2021 Draft rankings, which was probably too low, as he covers the whole plate and has enough power to be dangerous.

Swing Change Breakout Candidates
Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF, Chicago Cubs (KG/EL) – Full Report
Deyvison De Los Santos, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks (EL) – Full Report
Johan Rojas, CF, Philadelphia Phillies (TT) – Full Report
Colt Keith, 3B, Detroit Tigers (KG) – Full Report

This group includes players who might already be solid big leaguers given their current abilities, but could become impact players if they can change the nature and quality of their contact. (This would also describe Garrett Mitchell, who Kevin picked last year and would have again if allowed.) Crow-Armstrong has already made a swing change, one that was evident in early-2022 backfield activity. The new swing looks like it might better enable him to catch fastballs at the top of the zone, but we won’t know until play begins. De Los Santos has amazing raw power for his age but drives the ball into the ground often, and his epicurean approach may be exposed at the upper levels.

The “This Is What They Look Like” Group
Jose Salas, SS, Miami Marlins (TT)
Roderick Arias, SS, New York Yankees (TT) – Full Report
Cristian Hernandez, SS, Chicago Cubs (TT) – Full Report
Masyn Winn, SS/RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (TT)
Jose Ramos, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers (EL)
Everson Pereira, CF, New York Yankees (KG) – Full Report
Andrew Painter, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (KG) – Full Report
Cristhian Vaquero, CF, Washington Nationals (KG)

Salas, who could also be in the “Just Missed” Group, is a physical, lefty-hitting shortstop with above-average bat speed and advanced feel for contact. Though his big 2021 SLG% is not emblematic of his actual raw power, he has a good looking swing and feel for the barrel, projecting to have a balanced offensive skillset while he stays at short. A two-way high schooler with an mid-90s fastball, Winn mostly played shortstop in 2021 and hit well enough for him to continue developing as a two-way player for now. He didn’t hit as well after a promotion to High-A, struggling with secondary stuff, and he might eventually end up exclusively on the mound, but for now he’s a 1-of-1 sort of prospect with one of the best infield arms in the game. Ramos torched extended spring training and Complex League ball in Arizona, where he was a little older than a lot of the other players. He was promoted to Rancho and kept hitting for huge power, but pitchers there started to get him to chase. The Dodgers fall instructs were packed with scouts (their group of players there was incredible, and they’re deadline buyers in perpetuity) and Ramos lit it up again, hitting huge, all-fields tanks. Keep in mind that he is Andy Pages‘ age but started 2021 two levels below him. Vaquero, Washington’s $5 million amateur signee from January, has the Vitruvian Center Fiedler’s build, can absolutely fly, and has big power for his age.

Epic Bounce Back
Osiris Johnson, 2B/CF, Miami Marlins (EL)
Noah Song, RHP, Boston Red Sox (EL)
Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (EL) – Full Report
Ty Madden, RHP, Detroit Tigers (KG) – Full Report
Nick Nastrini, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (EL)

Johnson had a terrible start at Low-A Jupiter, striking out in nearly half his at-bats during the first few weeks of the season. He was sent down and rebounded on the complex (he had a 32% barrel rate down there) and earned a trip back up to full-season ball. He hit a respectable .261/.339/.342 on his second try, pretty good for a 20-year-old who had missed 2019 and ’20. Johnson has huge bat speed, his swing is geared for lift, and he has experience at several up-the-middle positions. If he can be more selective, he could break out. Song had first round talent at Navy but his service commitment, and unfortunately-timed changes to rules around exemptions for military athletes, pushed him to the fourth round. He may have a path back into baseball this year and we wouldn’t be surprised if this guy has stayed in baseball shape. He could move very quickly through the Sox system in a late-inning bullpen role. Nastrini dealt with several amateur injuries, including TOS surgery as a freshman at UCLA, and he couldn’t get out of the first inning in either of his final two pre-draft collegiate starts, but he pitched very well in the California Collegiate League just before the 2021 draft. He flashed plus-plus stuff during the late summer and fall with the Dodgers but also had periods of wildness.

Well-Rounded Up-the-Middle Prospects
Aeverson Arteaga, SS, San Francisco Giants (KG/TT) – Full Report
Sal Frelick, CF, Milwaukee Brewers (TT/KG) – Full Report
Matt McLain, 2B, Cincinnati Reds (EL)
Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Colorado Rockies (EL) – Full Report

McLain (the Reds’ first rounder out of UCLA) and Tovar both have plus hit tools, fringy power, and play up the middle. McLain has experience in center field and might end up playing several positions and be best at second base, while Tovar is a plus glove at short.

Just Outside
Michael Harris II, CF, Atlanta Braves (EL)
Kyle Bradish, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (KG) – Full Report
Taj Bradley, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (TT)
Ryne Nelson, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (EL) – Full Report

This group was barely outside the current Top 100, and each of us thinks our picks here will check one last box and move onto the list later this year. Bradish and Nelson are on the starter/reliever line. Bradley, just 20, struck out more than 30% of the batters he faced in 2021 (Low- and High-A combined), with a more refined fastball shape than he had in years past and a good slider. He could end up the next in a long line of recent Rays pitching development success stories if he polishes his splitter. Cristian Pache and Drew Waters both plateaued at the upper levels in part because they have aggressive approaches. Harris is also in this vein. There are up-the-middle players with approaches like his, but we’ve begun to wait until they perform at the upper levels, rather than assume they will like we did with Pache and Waters.

Deep Cuts
Jarlin Susana, RHP, San Diego Padres (KG)
Marco Raya, RHP, Minnesota Twins (EL)
Xzavion Curry, RHP, Cleveland Guardians (EL)
Logan Allen, LHP, Cleveland Guardians (EL)
Carter Baumler, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (KG) – Full Report

Susana is a strapping 6-foot-6, 235 pounds and is just a little bit shy of his 18th birthday. He is already sitting in the mid-90s and has a nasty slider. Raya, an athletic over-slot high schooler the Twins selected in the 2020 draft, still hasn’t thrown a pitch in an affiliated game but he’s been sitting 95 mph in bullpens, has a potential plus-plus breaking ball, and won’t turn 20 until August. Curry commands a fastball that is impossible for hitters to get on top of, while Allen is a classic pitchability lefty. Both are potential low-variance 50s for next year.

Late-Inning Relievers
Peyton Battenfield, RHP, Cleveland Guardians (KG)
Ryan Pepiot, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (EL)
Hans Crouse, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (TT) – Full Report
Nick Mikolajchak, RHP, Cleveland Guardians (EL)
Jared Solomon, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (EL)
Ken Waldichuk, LHP, New York Yankees (EL) – Full Report

Several members of this group are currently starters but we think all of them could be high-leverage relievers at the drop of a hat. Battenfield has a vertically-oriented fastball/curveball attack, and his slider has distinct shape from his curve, looking like a cutter a lot of the time. He can also create action on his changeup. Sitting 92-93 mph as a starter, he could be a great multi-inning reliever very quickly. Pepiot has typical command-oriented relief risk, but an incredible changeup and a hard cutter/slider. Crouse’s funk and moxie fit in the bullpen. Mikolajchak has four pitches but leans heavily on his fastball (which has huge carry) and tilting slider. He is the lone relief-only name here. Solomon seemed poised to break out in 2020, but then he blew out and needed Tommy John. He has been in the mid-90s in the bullpen.

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2 years ago

Awesome list! Thanks!