Picks to Click: Who We Expect to Make the 2024 Top 100 by Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin February 24, 2023 Frank Becerra Jr. / The Journal News / USA TODAY NETWORK Prospect Week 2023 Updating the 2023 Draft Prospect RankingsCardinals Scouting Director Randy Flores on Drafting the Team's Top ProspectsUpdating the International Player RankingsThe New LSU, Part 2: Paul Skenes Is on a New HeadingDiamondbacks Farm Director Josh Barfield Talks Development and Comps2023 Top 100 ProspectsBrewers Prospect Sal Frelick on Being a Pure Hitter2023 Top 100 Prospects ChatFantasy Update: 2023 Re-Draft Top 25/Dynasty Top 120ZiPS 2023 Top 100 ProspectsPicks to Click: Who We Expect to Make the 2024 Top 100Let’s Identify Some Hitter Sleeper Candidates 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 edition. 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 2024 Top 100. This is the sixth 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 prospect 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, Tess picked Harry Ford last year, but he didn’t make the Top 100. Tess can’t select him again, but Eric could if he wanted (and he did). A few years ago, 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 Prospect 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. In the table, the format for that year’s results is “Eric’s guys (Eric and Kevin mutual selections) Kevin’s guys (Kevin and Tess mutuals) Tess’ guys.” That makes sense, right? We don’t count “click echoes” toward our totals, guys who enter the 50 FV tier multiple years after they were Picks to Click. However, we do count “click meteors,” players who pass through the Top 100 during the season but then graduate, like Michael Harris II last year (though it’s hard to feel good about only having him as a Pick to Click at this time last year). Here’s how we’ve fared in the past: Historical Picks to Click Results 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 Longenhagen/Golstein/Taruskin 18(2)11(2)13 6(2)2(1)5 35% 2023 Longenhagen/Taruskin 23/14 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 Dalton Rushing, C, Los Angeles Dodgers (TT) – Full Report Harry Ford, C, Seattle Mariners (EL) Jeferson Quero, C, Milwaukee Brewers (TT) – Full Report Samuel Basallo, C, Baltimore Orioles(EL) – Full Report Antonio Gomez, C, New York Yankees (TT) The top of this year’s minor leagues felt a little light on catching, especially prospects who feel like a sure bet to stay back there. Ford, who has plus power and speed, and plus-plus arm strength, is one of a few players who would have made it onto the Top 100 (Austin Wells is another) had we thought his defense was in position for him to stick back there. Aside from his incredible arm, it is not as of yet. He has tweaked some aspects of his defense (he’s now catching on one knee — his crouch in high school was comically upright), so clearly there’s adjustment happening, which is a good sign, but he’s simply too raw as a receiver to feel comfortable projecting him as a catcher right now. Ford’s power gives him impact potential if he can improve, and his speed would make him a unique weapon back there. Gomez is almost the exact opposite. A surefire plus glove, Gomez threw out 41 baserunners in 2022, but his offensive stats don’t exactly jump off the page. His underlying metrics reveal reasons to be optimistic, however. Roughly a third of his contact came off his bat at more than 95 mph. There’s some pop here, but it has been offset by a groundball rate that’s just shy of 52% and an unacceptable number of in-zone whiffs. If he can put just one offensive piece together, with defense like this, he’s a primary catcher. Strike Throwers Cade Povich, LHP, Baltimore Orioles (EL) – Full Report David Festa, RHP, Minnesota Twins (EL) Dax Fulton, LHP, Miami Marlins (TT) River Ryan, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (EL) – Full Report Robert Gasser, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers (EL) – Full Report Mason Montgomery, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (EL) – Full Report Major league-ready fourth starters tend to make the back of the Top 100, and this group of strike-throwers is poised to be in that position a year from now. The soon-to-be 23-year-old Festa spent most of 2022 at High-A, where he had a 2.71 ERA. When he was drafted out of Seton Hall, Festa’s frame (he’s a lanky 6-foot-6) and general athleticism created hope he might throw harder in pro ball, and that has begun to happen. He would peak in the 94-95 mph range in 2021, but he sat there last year, and his changeup and slider are both above-average offerings. Another human whooping crane, Fulton’s fastball hangs out in the low 90s, but he pairs it with two secondaries that generated above-average whiff rates in 2022 and he delivers the whole slew from a funky lefty arm slot. Now more than three years removed from Tommy John surgery, the 6-foot-7 southpaw packed on some extra muscle in 2022 and earned a late-August call-up to Double-A. In four games there to finish the season, he racked up 30 strikeouts against just seven walks in 21 innings while posting a 64% groundball rate. This Is What They Look Like Jaison Chourio, CF, Cleveland Guardians (EL) – Full Report Dyan Jorge, SS, Colorado Rockies (EL) Hendry Mendez, LF, Milwaukee Brewers (EL) – Full Report Yordany De Los Santos, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates (TT) – Full Report Cristian Vaquero, CF, Washington Nationals (EL) Grant McCray, CF, San Francisco Giants (TT) Josue De Paula, LF, Los Angeles Dodgers (EL) – Full Report This is the prospect phenotype comprised of the high-variance players, risky toolsheds who are far away from the big leagues but who have gigantic ceilings. Jorge was a high-profile amateur signee, a Cuban shortstop with speed and power projection, who had a strong DSL debut in 2022. He was a little old for the DSL at age 19, but it isn’t unusual for Cuban players to spend their first pro season down there. Speed and power projection drove his amateur scouting report, but Jorge also showed advanced feel for the barrel in the D.R., which was an exciting surprise. He wasn’t a lock to stay at shortstop as an amateur and we won’t have any new information on that part of his game until he gets going in Arizona this spring, but he might be a more complete offensive player than was projected when he was an amateur. Vaquero is the Platonic Ideal of this prospect category, an uber-projectable outfielder built like Justin Jefferson who stands a chance to break out at basically any time. McCray’s past life as a multi-sport athlete (football and track) is evidenced by his stellar center field defense. In 2022, he broke out at the plate as well, having made noticeable adjustments to his swing – loading lower and shortening his path to the ball – leading to a combined .289/.383/.514 line between Low- and High-A. The persistent concern is his in-zone swing-and-miss (and the inflated strikeout rate that goes with it), but he’s shown an ability to make an adjustment and Tess is betting that he makes more. Buying The Bat Trey Sweeney, SS, New York Yankees (EL) Lawrence Butler, RF, Oakland Athletics (TT) Warming Bernabel, 3B, Colorado Rockies (TT) Dustin Harris, LF, Texas Rangers (EL) Whether or not Sweeney can play shortstop is still up for debate, but he looks like the kind of well-rounded lefty stick who ends up playing a very significant role on the infield at any position. At points during the Top 100 process he was grouped with the Michael Busch, Miguel Vargas, and Kyle Manzardos of the world, but it isn’t as if Sweeney killed it in A-ball last year. His relative proximity to the majors slid him to the back of that group and off the 100, but we bet that a year from now he’ll have hit his way to the doorstep and entered the Top 100 fray. Butler has a penchant for hitting the ball very hard and quite often at an ideal launch angle, but tons of in-zone swing-and-miss have clouded his outlook, and he still isn’t a very good outfielder. He missed time in 2022 due to injury and when he returned in late August, he showed a more mature approach, bringing down what had historically been an inflated strikeout rate. He continued that during a very promising showing in the AFL, where he struck out at just a 20% clip and matched that rate in walks. Those are two small samples, but if Butler’s flirtation with a better approach blossoms into full-blown romance, it will be a major difference-maker. Bernabel is a 20-year-old third baseman who performed above the league average at both High- and Double-A in 2022. His ability to put the bat on the ball is his carrying trait, but akin to Josh Vitters, Bernabel tends to think he can hit everything and swings too often. So far he’s has been good enough to make this work. His gorgeous swing and bat speed inspire confidence it will continue, but ideally we’ll see an adjustment to his approach. Harris didn’t make “The Leap” in 2022 but still has incredible ball-striking power for how compact his stroke is. He already has a good hit/power combo and still looks like he has room on his frame for more strength even though he’s now in his mid-20. He’s running very well and will probably be fine in an outfield corner. Young, High-Variance Pitchers Noah Schultz, LHP, Chicago White Sox (TT) – Full Report Chase Petty, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (TT) – Full Report Jordy Vargas, RHP, Colorado Rockies (EL) Bubba Chandler, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (TT) – Full Report Vargas already has average velocity, and his frame is so loose and projectable that he’s likely to throw harder as he matures. His curveball is incredible and you can go nuts projecting on virtually every element of his skill set because of Vargas’ on mound athleticism and elegant delivery. His fastball shape isn’t great, but otherwise, he’s a complete pitching prospect with huge ceiling. High-Contact Up-the-Middle Bats Cristofer Torin, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks (EL) Juan Brito, 2B, Cleveland Guardians (EL) – Full Report Cole Young, SS, Seattle Mariners (TT) Connor Norby, 2B, Baltimore Orioles (TT) – Full Report Mikey Romero, 2B, Boston Red Sox (TT) Emmanuel Rodriguez, CF, Minnesota Twins (EL) Torin barely ever swung and missed in the 2022 DSL and stole 21 bases, but he didn’t hit a single homer down there. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, those measurables and a glance at his stats probably paint a picture in your mind of a speedy, slap-and-dash middle infield prospect. That is not what this guy looks like. Torin’s body unwinds from the ground up with beautiful connectivity, and there’s considerable strength and pull side power here already. His swing-and-miss rates are so absurdly low that if that skill translates at all and mixes with the power, he’s going to be a potent offensive player. Young is a contact-oriented lefty stick who was drafted as an old-for-his-grade high schooler in the first round of the 2022 draft. His brief post-draft entrée into pro ball was impressive: He walked as often as he struck out on the complex, then kept that up after his promotion to Low-A, where he slashed .385/.422/.538 over 10 games. He even knocked out a couple of homers in A-ball despite not projecting for long-term power as a draft prospect, which honestly might turn out to be wrong pretty quickly. A scouting source thinks Young has already become meaningfully stronger. If he manages to sustain any semblance of pop, it’ll be a welcome boost to an already-solid profile. Romero is a similar player. He’s less likely than Young to stay at short, but wields one of the more advanced hit tools from the recent high school draft class. It’s a smooth, efficient lefty swing capable of all-fields doubles pop right now. We’d like to see him become more selective in his first full season of pro ball. Rodriguez is a compact, lefty-hitting center field prospect who slugged .551 in 47 Low-A games before he was shut down with a knee injury that required surgery. It was a pretty amazing performance in a small sample, but the combination of Rodriguez’s meniscus tear and 26% strikeout rate was enough for us to omit him from the top 100 for now. If he shows center field-worthy speed post-op and anything even close to his 2022 performance with the bat early in the 2023 season, he’ll move onto the list. Relief Risk Group Will Warren, RHP, New York Yankees (EL) Mason Black, RHP, San Francisco Giants (EL) Adam Macko, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays (EL) Ben Brown, RHP, Chicago Cubs (EL) Bryan Woo, RHP, Seattle Mariners (EL) The Yankees have helped Warren develop a plus-plus sweeper slider, a clone of Blake Treinen’s nasty breaking ball. His delivery is violent, but his frame is sculpted, strong, and seemingly built for durability, and Warren started throwing harder throughout 2022, ending in the 94-95 mph range. He has a couple of other pitches (cutter, changeup) that are fine, enough to be a starter assuming he holds up physically. Black is one of a number of Giants arms who could pop (Keaton Winn was also considered), as he sits 92-95 with uphill angle and tailing action and has a vicious slider. Strikes are still a bit on an issue right now. Macko, who was traded for Teoscar Hernández, is another lower-slot lefty with an upshot fastball and huge secondary stuff, most significantly a plus low-80s changeup and most hilariously a 68-mph rainbow curveball, the slower of Macko’s two breakers. The curveball’s depth is so ridiculous that it might flummox big league hitters despite its speed. Brown, who was traded from Philly to Chicago at the deadline, has a more traditional power pitcher’s look, with a mid-90s fastball and two nasty breaking balls. The breaking balls have distinct enough shape that he has a starter’s complement of pitches. Woo was drafted as a one-pitch guy — his fastball had all kinds of exciting underlying characteristics, and Woo’s frame and athleticism made scouts and analysts hopeful he could develop the rest of his repertoire. That looks like it’s happening, as Woo’s slider has started to trend closer to average.