Kiley McDaniel’s top 100 MLB prospects for 2022: Which of the big three is our No. 1?

This year’s list of the top 100 MLB prospects comes at a time when the status of the 2022 season is in limbo, but not to fear: The minor league season will start on time regardless of if they agree to a new CBA in the majors.

To give further context for the more casual prospect fan, I’ve added some new categories to simplify some of the lingo and tool grades. First, “type,” which categorizes a player for comparison among other players on the list and other years. I find I tend to round up on certain types (plus tools, plus makeup, middling stats) and round down on others (now velocity, teenaged right-handers) and you probably also have some preferred prospect types of your own.

The second is “reminds me of.” This isn’t a true comparison, because most players don’t have a one-for-one perfect analog. There’s also a lot of uncertainty with prospects, so it’s by default looking at the rosier potential outcomes compared to some current MLB players. I’m basically explaining a player’s ranking in a handful of simple words by saying they remind me of a current All-Star and have a high-risk every-day player upside, but you can also see why a lower-risk player might rank higher.

Combined, I think that’s just enough simple information to make your own conclusions — as a fan, aspiring future GM, fantasy team owner, card collector, etc.

Here is a quick overview on the 20-80 scale used extensively throughout the list and standard across the baseball industry. For the top tier of prospects, I present their tools as 45/60 meaning presently it’s a 45 and I project it to be a 60 at maturity. 50 is major league average (which is a really good present tool for a minor leaguer), 55 is above average, 45 is below average, 60 is called plus (one standard deviation above average), 70 is plus-plus (two standard deviations), and 80 (three) is the top of the scale, where just a handful of players in the big leagues reside.

Tools also scale to commonly used numbers. For game power, 50 equates to 15-18 homers per year, 55 is 19-22, 60 is about 25, 65 is about 30, etc. while run grades equate to specific times on a stopwatch, a 50 hit tool is about a .260 batting average, average fastball velocity is 92-93 depending on your role and handedness, and so on. Other tools like throwing for position players or off-speed pitches are more based on visual evaluations, but there are some objective figures to round your observation up or down.

A position player with all 50 grades, depending on position, is probably a very good reserve or weaker starter. This 20-80 scale also applies to the FV (future value) number I use to sum up a player’s overall value. A 50 PV (present value) is a 2.0 to 2.5 WAR player. FV of a prospect who is big league ready maps to this pretty well; the top tier (65 FV this year) of prospects are projected to have multiple peak seasons of 4-to-5 WAR. Last year’s top prospect Wander Franco was a 70 FV (the highest grade I’ve given out) and projects for multiple 5-6 WAR seasons, while the MVP winner is usually around 7-8 WAR. The further down in the minors you go, the more it’s just a weighted average of potential outcomes and becomes a tiered system of ranking prospects based on their trade value relative to top-tier prospects.

65 FV Tier

Age: 24 | Bats: Both | Throws: Right
Hit: 45/60, Game power: 45/60, Raw power: 60/60, Speed: 40/40, Fielding: 60/65, Throwing: 60/60
Type: Borderline-flawless future star
Reminds me of: Switch-hitting Buster Posey

When Rutschman joined Collegiate Team USA 11 months before the 2019 draft, it was quickly obvious that he was the best player on the field, vaulting him from likely top-10 pick to odds-on favorite to eventual No. 1 overall.

A hyped, top switch-hitting college catcher for the Orioles — the Matt Wieters comparisons are easy and that’s also the only real downside here. The rigors of catching make for less predictable development curves than any other position except for pitcher. If you’re looking for real holes, it’s nitpicking on Rutschman lacking a 70-grade tool or the age-versus-level math he could never make up for as a later-blooming, multisport athlete from a cold-weather state.

He’s a plus hitter with plus power, a plus arm, plus defensive skills and plus makeup — evidenced by real feel for the game to get the most out of his tools and also all of the intangibles necessary for a catcher. I wrote a similar “there aren’t really any weaknesses here” blurb for Wander Franco last year, but he was a 19-year-old shortstop who might have some 70-grade tools. So Rutschman isn’t quite at the “best prospect in recent memory” level, but it would almost be surprising if he isn’t the best catcher in baseball at some point in the next half-dozen years. There aren’t a ton of different flavors of this kind of player, but Posey is the closest version, even if I think Posey was a better natural hitter.

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 45/55, Game power: 50/65, Raw power: 70/70, Speed: 60/60, Fielding: 50/55, Throwing: 65/65
Type: Shortstop tools bonanza
Reminds me of: Carlos Correa or Trevor Story

Witt was a slam-dunk DUDE on the national stage as early as his sophomore year in high school, when he was playing with rising seniors at summer events, standing out to the eye on offense and defense and regularly posting the top exit velos in the games. The track record of his sort of talent is excellent and the second overall pick in the 2019 draft behind Rutschman has held serve.

The concern at draft time and after his first summer in pro ball was that he swung too much to the point that it might undermine his plus tools and makeup, a common problem for superlatively tooled-up youngsters — one that has sunk more than a few careers.

Precedent would say that Witt would spend 2020 in low-A and maybe high-A if he performed well, but the pandemic wiped out the whole minor league season, so Witt played simulated games all year. Would he start 2021 at high-A or an even more conservative low-A to be sure he got his feet under him after a long layoff? Neither! He torched big league spring training and opened at Double-A, then torched that league, went to Triple-A and torched that league even more. Even the most bullish public projections didn’t really consider this as a possibility and Witt is now being tossed in the “aggressive at the plate, but that’s just a style, not a problem” prospect bin that also included Ronald Acuña Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. Those kinds of tools allow for this.

High praise indeed, but it’s hard to draw comparisons for Witt’s game — at least potential plus offensive and defensive value — while checking literally every other aforementioned box without mentioning some of the greats. There’s still some risk here — some super prospects who swing too much have fizzled, like Jeff Francoeur or Delmon Young, and Luis Robert is genuinely limited by his approach. But I don’t think the issue is as worrisome for Witt. If the Rutschman blurb wasn’t cartoonish bulging-heart eyes enough for your taste, then Witt’s your guy.

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 45/50, Game power: 50/65, Raw power: 70/80, Speed: 60/55, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 60/60
Type: Right-field tools bonanza who swings a little too much
Reminds me of: Somewhere near the intersection of George Springer, Aaron Judge and Juan Gonzalez

The third of the top-tier-prospect triumvirate. We’ll start with the concerns on Rodriguez so you can calibrate your risk tolerance.

His swing decisions are a notch behind Witt’s and while Rodriguez has picked up some speed in recent years, he’s just OK in center field — he will settle in at right. Compared to Witt, there’s a little less upside (due to position) and a little more risk (due to approach). But you’re going to love the pros on his ledger. He has truly ridiculous raw power that might become a true top-of-the-scale 80, even a notch more than Witt’s. He gets into the 115 mph area in games, with even better bat control (i.e. bat-to-ball-ability) than Witt. He’s also posting some plus run times (though that’ll probably tail off as he matures) and has a plus arm.

Rodriguez’s offensive upside is the highest of this group, and he’s the youngest of the three. He has already torched Double-A. His offensive scouting report sounds pretty similar to Fernando Tatis Jr. at the same stage, but if a guy ranked all the way up here doesn’t live up to expectations, it’s usually due to a pitch-selection issue, and being a corner outfielder eats into his margin for error. If it works, just report back to the “Reminds me of” for the lofty names it’ll look like — but know Rodriguez is the most likely of this elite tier to give you heartburn.

60 FV Tier

Age: 21 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Hit: 50/65, Game power: 40/50, Raw power: 50/55, Speed: 80/80, Fielding: 40/45, Throwing: 50/50
Type: Elite speed/Hit tools with plenty of power/defense
Reminds me of: Kenny Lofton

Last year, Abrams broke his tibia and sprained his MCL in a collision on a ball up the middle on June 30, so after the missed 2020 season, he has played only 42 games in two years. Ranked fifth at the start of the 2021 season, he was ahead of Rodriguez (9th) and Witt (17th), with a number of graduated prospects and five who dropped in this year’s rankings between them. I still don’t think about Abrams any differently now than I did then, as he performed well in Double-A as expected, but Rodriguez and Witt got the full season to show progress and Abrams did not.

I still don’t think Abrams will be good enough at shortstop to start for most teams, but he could certainly play an average second base or center field. He’s also still a special hitter with a Lofton-like slash to his swing and he’s still growing into more raw power and will incorporate more in-game gap power to deposit more over the fence.

Age: 20 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Hit: 50/60, Game power: 50/60, Raw power: 60/60, Speed: 55/50, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Incredibly gifted hitter with above-average tools and feel
Reminds me of: Kyle Tucker

After Rutschman and Witt Jr. went 1-2 in the 2019 draft, there was a bit of a debate behind them. Greene and Abrams were the two prep hitters in that scrum, and they’ve now both clearly passed the third (Andrew Vaughn, who skipped Double-A and Triple-A and had a middling rookie year) and fourth (J.J. Bleday, back half of this list after a down 2021) overall picks, further underlining that stars at the top of the draft tend to come from the established-prep-hitter demographic.

Greene went from a fringe-average runner on the showcase circuit to an above-average runner in the spring and from a slam-dunk right fielder to a solid center fielder, both of which still stand today. I think he’ll probably settle as fringy/fine in center field and above average in right field. His hit/power combo has never been in question, and both tools will be a 55 or 60 depending on how this last step of development goes. His 60-to-65 grade raw power and some natural swing-and-miss puts a bit of an upper bound on his offensive output.

I chose Greene as my hitter pick to click on last year’s list — player who wasn’t in last year’s top 20 most likely to jump into the top 10 (he was 25th) — and even I didn’t think Greene would torch Double-A and Triple-A like he did, playing the whole season at age 20. The lesson is that the top-tier showcase standout high school hitter will rush to the big leagues just as fast as the top-tier college hitter.

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 30/55, Game power: 45/55, Raw power: 55/55, Speed: 50/50, Fielding: 50/55, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Well-rounded shortstop who is above average at everything
Reminds me of: Bo Bichette

Volpe has probably created the most prospect value with his 2021 performance of any player in the minor leagues. In the 2019 draft, he was best known as Jack Leiter’s prep teammate and a skills-over-tools shortstop with no true plus tool. I still don’t project him to have a true plus tool, but you could argue four of them could be and I wouldn’t disagree. The biggest change is his power development — in raw power, loft in his swing, and the in-game utility of it. Lots of offseason work and fine-tuning from the Yankees’ player development helped this happen, and the scouting department beat 29 other teams recognizing the elite makeup that could help ordinary tools develop into a potential star package. He now projects as top-10 shortstop, a 3-to-5 WAR, potential multi-time All-Star due to the broad number of ways he can add value. In high school, he looked nothing like Bo Bichette did in high school — they had almost opposite swings — but now Volpe kind of looks like the current version of Bichette.

7. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Detroit Tigers

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 50/55, Game power: 60/65, Raw power: 65/65, Speed: 35/35, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 45/45
Type: Right-handed first-base masher
Reminds me of: Somewhere in the Jose Abreu to Pete Alonso area

The bar to clear for a right-handed hitting first baseman is incredibly high. C.J. Cron was hitting .250 with 25-30 homers and getting non-tendered or settling for one-year deals. The difference between that and a true star first baseman who hits .280 with twice as many walks and 35 homers (think Paul Goldschmidt) is tough to notice in a swing, or even focused pro scouting observation for a few games. Luckily, we don’t have to rely on that with Torkelson. because he’s plus or better at basically every part of hitting, and this has been obvious since his freshman year at Arizona State, over both summers for Team USA with wood bats, and during his pro debut in 2021 across three levels, ending in Triple-A.

He can pick out his pitches, he can drive them, and he has the power to punish mistakes, just as he has proved over and over for scouts for years. He’s better than oft-compared fellow Pac-12 alum and Team USA teammate Andrew Vaughn, last winter’s No. 8 overall prospect, but not wildly so, and Torkelson has slipped only a couple of spots in this year’s list (he was No. 4 last year), because of some shocking breakout years from up-the-middle prospects who will start the year in Double-A or Triple-A. Torkelson held serve relative to expectations in 2021. And even though he spent time in Single and Double A as a third baseman, it’s probably best to just let him mash as a first baseman.

8. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Age: 22 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Velo: 96-99, Fastball: 65/70, Slider: 55/60, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 60/65, Command: 50/55
Type: Potential ace who’s above average to plus at almost everything (crosses fingers)
Reminds me of: Luis Castillo, but bigger and with a four-seam fastball instead of a sinker

There’s been a bit of a curse on the top pitching prospect of late — Sixto Sanchez (2021) suffered a shoulder injury after an impressive rookie debut that he hasn’t yet returned from; Jesus Luzardo (2020) regressed then was dumped to the Marlins for a rental of Starling Marte; Forrest Whitley (2019) was suspended for a stimulant, had lat, oblique and shoulder issues and then elbow surgery (with command issues sprinkled throughout); and finally, MacKenzie Gore, who ranked first for some publications in 2020, saw his pitchability (the knack for setting up and exploiting batters) dry up for long stretches.

Oh, and one more: 2018’s top pitching prospect was Shohei Ohtani. He’s been fantastic, but he did need elbow surgery in the interim, so maybe we can count him in this cursed territory. With that in mind, I landed on putting Rodriguez at the end of what I feel like are the slam dunk hitters; it gets much more speculative after this spot ,even though the FV grades are the same. (You can call prospects four through nine the 62.5 FV tier if you want.)

I point all of that out to explain why it’s taken this long for a pitcher to be mentioned, but also because, on a pure prospect resume, Rodriguez should be higher. He’s a potential ace who is basically plus at everything from stuff to feel to frame to analytics to makeup to demonstrated improvement. Some evaluators are skeptical of right-handers whose best off-speed pitch is a changeup, thinking that points to a potential weakness in a breaking ball and eventually trouble getting whiffs, but both of Rodriguez’s breaking balls are 55-or-60-grade pitches and his changeup is merely a 65-grade pitch that he uses slightly more often (20% changeup, 19% slider, 9% curveball).

Of that previous group of top pitchers, there are some similarities to Whitley at his prospect peak — a physical specimen with big arm speed and four above-average pitches. That’s not a coincidence, with as much of the Houston brain trust from that era that now works in Baltimore, using many similar pitch design concepts. I’d bet on a better outcome for Rodriguez as the underlying components are stronger. He was Greene’s counterpoint on my bet for most likely to move up to the 2022 top 10 — he was 30th last winter.

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 40/55, Game power: 45/60, Raw power: 65/65, Speed: 40/40, Fielding: 40/50, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Incredibly gifted hitter with above-average tools and feel
Reminds me of: A mix of Salvador Perez and Will Smith

Alvarez was an even bigger riser than Rodriguez, jumping from 82nd on last year’s list. As an evaluator who’s always wary of young catchers, I was caught by surprise that a teenaged backstop who had played 42 games in rookie ball in 2019, then missed all of 2020 because of the pandemic, could jump all the way to high-A and dominate the league in 2021. Alvarez jumped into the Top 100 last year as buzz grew that the tools that landed him $2.7 million as an amateur out of Venezuela were playing in games against older competition. There’s not really a notable concern here to keep an eye on, other than the risk that’s inherent to the position. The only real concern here is to watch how his frame, mobility, and defense continue to progress; automatic strike calling could help his case to stick behind the plate full time.

Age: 20 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Hit: 30/60, Game power: 30/60, Raw power: 60/65, Speed: 45/40, Fielding: 40/50, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Advanced hit/power combo catcher/corner
Reminds me of: Wil Myers as bat-over-defense catcher. Strictly at the plate, he’s in that Kyle Tucker/Riley Greene area as an advanced, elite, teenaged lefty stick.

The tools/type/”reminds me of” already paint a picture here: advanced hitter whose bat is so good that he might keep moving up this list. But the bat will be big league ready before the glove at this rate, so don’t be surprised to see him move to a corner spot if the bat keeps moving as expected. (Even before the draft, some teams wondered about moving him to third base after short looks at him there.) This happened with Wil Myers and also Bryce Harper, though Soderstrom is more at the Myers level of potential 60 hit/power rather than a potential all-timer like Harper.

In a debut season shortened by injury, Soderstrom hit and hit for power, with exit velos that put him in the conversation with the best power prospects in his age group, as his surface stats and eyeball scouting also suggest. He went down with that injury in late July, with an oblique issue tied to a foul ball. Oakland opted to play it safe and shut him down, but it hasn’t kept him from improving his arm and defense a grade since draft time. He is another player who would benefit from an automated strike-calling future, with his arm no longer in doubt and framing potentially becoming a non-issue. This ranking is aggressive — there aren’t the multiple summers of national track record that southeastern products Greene and Abrams had — but all of the markers are here suggesting Soderstrom is that kind of hitter, with the elite makeup to match.

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 50/60, Game Power: 45/45, Raw Power: 50/50, Speed: 50/50, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Hit-over-power catcher who’s good at everything
Reminds me of: There isn’t a great one, but there’s some mid-20s version of J.T. Realmuto in there

Moreno was 124th on last year’s list as he was one of the few minor leaguers clearly trending up, even with the cheesecloth noncompetitive games put over his performance. He took it to another level in 2021, crushing Double-A as a 21-year-old, then getting three games into a promotion at Triple-A before he broke his thumb. Moreno went to the Venezuelan Winter League in 2020 and he returned there this winter, along with playing in the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost reps, and he kept mashing there as well.

There are elements of Keibert Ruiz in the hit tool, with plus-plus bat control but an approach that undercuts that ability a bit. Like Ruiz, he has solid, but not fantastic power that his overall approach also undercuts a bit. I prefer him to Ruiz due to the overall feel for hitting and athletic ability, which make it much easier to project into the future. I mentioned in last year’s report that, before his offensive breakout, Moreno is solid behind the plate but could also handle some other positions. That won’t be an issue now as Moreno looks to be the best of a crowded group of 40-man roster potential catchers that includes Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Reese McGuire. These tool grades might not light you up, but if Moreno hits these projections, he’d be on the top five-to-seven catchers in the league, possibly as soon as next year.

12. Noelvi Marte, SS, Seattle Mariners

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 30/55, Game Power: 35/60, Raw Power: 60/65, Speed: 55/50, Fielding: 40/50, Throwing: 60/60
Type: Young shortstop/third base tweener who will mash
Reminds me of: On the spectrum of the 4-win version of Willy Adames, the 4-win version of Eugenio Suarez and Hanley Ramirez

Marte was one of the best players at the time of signing in the 2018 international signing class and he showed some of that promise in his pro debut in 2019. During the lost 2020 minor league season I was hearing that Marte was wowing M’s officials who were whispering the Hanley Ramirez comp. I didn’t have anything concrete to hold onto but bought what they were selling, ranking Marte 105th on last year’s list. By midseason, I had seen him in person and accordingly ranked him 14th on my updated prospect list.

I think there’s about a 1-in-3 shot that Marte figures out how to stick at shortstop and he’ll be a good third baseman if he doesn’t. I’ve got Marte’s hit tool somewhere from 50 to 60 depending more on how he wants to use it, and his raw power settling at a 65; these grades/age/level/production/exit velos are pretty similar to Orelvis Martinez, but Marte has a little better chance to play short, and a little more innate feel to hit.

Age: 23 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Hit: 45/50, Game Power: 55/70, Raw Power: 80/80, Speed: 60/50, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 80/80
Type: 6-foot-7 lefty-hitting possible shortstop with 40-homer potential
Reminds me of: An otherworldly being

My former editor at FanGraphs Meg Rowley insists that you cannot put a modifier in front of the word “unique.” Unique is already unique; something can’t be super unique. I argue that you can. A baby who can shoot 3-pointers is unique; a baby with 14 arms who can shoot 3s and also control your mind is incredibly unique. Those are different degrees of things and it needs to be noted. It is with this sense that we are in the correct headspace to consider the baseball scouting report of Oneil Cruz.

I first saw Cruz when he was 15 years old at a showcase in 2014 in Fort Lauderdale. He was about 6-foot-2 and otherwise a typical lefty-hitting shortstop July 2 prospect who alternates between looking a little goofy, like the bat is too heavy for him, and giving glimpses of an elite prospect. Cruz signed with the Dodgers for $950,000, outside of the top 20 bonuses in his signing class. The Dodgers then traded him at the 2017 deadline for reliever Tony Watson.

Over the two seasons after signing in 2015, Cruz shot up to 6-foot-7 and his tool grades shot up, too. He has top-of-the-scale 80-grade raw power that could produce 40+ homers; he has a 70- or 80-grade arm depending on whom you ask; he’s somehow still a plus runner; and he is still, let me emphasize this, still exclusively playing shortstop, even in his two-game big league debut. Even more incredible, he’s pretty good at it! He swings too much and probably always will, and that gives him fewer balls to hit that he can drive, but Cruz is — wait for it — the most unique player on this list.

In his first MLB game, he hit a ball 118.2 mph, the second-hardest ball hit all season by a left-handed batter, behind Shohei Ohtani. In his second big league game he did this:

The whole concept of plate discipline isn’t really relevant here. Picking a pitch you can drive? My man merely needs to be able to reach it with his boom mic-length arms. Javy Baez got $140 million this winter by swinging whenever he felt like it and turning playing defense into a joyful backyard game of tag.

Cruz probably won’t be a long-term big league shortstop, but he’s gonna be fun to watch. He might single-handedly make baseball the most popular sport in the country by becoming MLB’s version of Giannis Antetokounmpo, leading SportCenter every night while SVP makes a series of Chris Berman-esque noises over it.

We watch baseball for the promise of seeing something we’ve never seen before. That is Oneil Cruz.

Age: 21 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Hit: 50/55, Game Power: 50/55, Raw Power: 55/55, Speed: 60/60, Fielding: 50/55, Throwing: 45/45
Type: Compact, polished center fielder with above-average tools
Reminds me of: A lefty version of peak A.J. Pollock

Thomas was well-known to scouts, showing up to Team USA events as a prep underclassman along with players like Bobby Witt Jr. and Jarred Kelenic, who kept getting invited back because they were better than the older kids. His father, Allan, is the strength and conditioning coordinator for the White Sox, which both informs the kind of player he is and led to this delightful interaction in 2019 spring training:

In the slo-mo replay of the homer, you can see the explosive, compact swing of Thomas. He got a little too strength-oriented in his swing in 2019 and evaluators thought he’d be more of a .240-type hitter who might have to rely on his defense. Those questions melted away as Thomas started 2021 hot, torching Double-A as a 21-year-old, then getting promoted to Triple-A and performing even better, hitting 18 homers and slashing .313/.394/,559 while young for the league and playing a premium position.

Thomas slipped to the 63rd overall pick in the 2018 draft, about 30 picks after I thought he should’ve been picked (we ranked him 35th in the class at FanGraphs). I think there’s above-average contact, power, speed and defense here, with a chance a couple of those play as plus tools. Thomas has the makings of a dynamic, modern top-of-the-order hitter for a decade, which should start in 2022.

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Velo: 96-99, Fastball: 70/70, Slider: 55/60, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 50/55
Type: Power righty who’s above-average at everything
Reminds me of: Parallels with Walker Buehler, but no perfect comparison

Baz was the No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 draft out of a Texas high school. The Pirates traded him in their ill-fated 2018 Chris Archer deal. In high school, he flashed above average-to-plus ability across the board, but he couldn’t always corral his raw stuff and that was basically still the report after the 2019 season. Here’s a video I took from fall instructional league in 2018 of when it looked good. Buzz built in 2020 that Baz had improved behind the scenes, then in 2021 he came out of the chute hot: now a premium strike thrower with plus stuff that cut like a hot knife through the buttery hitters of Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues all the same.

As if that Archer trade could look any worse (Baz in addition to Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows!), or the Rays could look any more like a group of development miracle workers, Baz is the latest success for Tampa Bay. I slightly prefer Grayson Rodriguez as the top pitching prospect in the minors, but a vocal minority argued for Baz, who is certainly more big league ready, and I’m now at the point where it’s almost a coin flip.

16. Orelvis Martinez, SS, Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 30/50, Game Power: 35/65, Raw Power: 65/70, Speed: 50/45, Fielding: 35/45, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Young shortstop/third base tweener who will mash
Reminds me of: No perfect big league comparison, but there’s some Bo Bichette to how he hits

Martinez was in the top tier in the loaded 2018 international class, getting the top bonus of the 16-year-olds of the group at $3.5 million. The sales pitch was a shortstop/third baseman fit, outlandish bat speed, big power projection and some feel for hitting. Safe to say I underestimated the feel for in-game hitting given Martinez’s 2021 season. At age 19 the whole year, split across both A-ball levels, he hit 28 homers with a solid walk rate and a manageable mid-20s strikeout rate. And he was playing mostly shortstop the whole time, and the underlying stats like exit velo also back this up.

I looked up his low-A advanced data since it’s housed on a version of MLB’s site as the games happened on Hawk-Eye in spring training stadiums. There’s a number of 108-110 mph exit velos on fly balls, here’s a notable one (just sort the EV column) to see a homer that was 109.1 at a 36-degree launch angle. For context that is totally ridiculous in-game exit velo on a fly ball for a teenager, much less doing it regularly. There’s maybe a half-dozen players capable of doing that at that age who aren’t playing first base or corner outfield.

The shortstop thing probably won’t work, and in that event he’ll slide over to third base, where he’ll be at least average defensively, with an above-average arm. There are some risk points offensively as hitting for power is the hardest thing to do on a baseball field, particularly when the pitcher has circled your name on the lineup. Martinez’s profile is similar to Marco Luciano’s (see his blurb below*), so there are some similar risks, but I think Martinez has a little more feel to hit and clearly has more defensive ability, so I feel better that he can earn this spot or better next season.

Age: 19 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 30/55, Game Power: 45/65, Raw Power: 70/70, Speed: 45/40, Fielding: 40/45, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Right-handed corner bat with massive power
Reminds me of: Somewhere on the Austin Riley to Pete Alonso spectrum

Walker was a standout on the showcase circuit mostly for his big raw power but also for his ability to make contact, in a setting where many young power hitters struggle. He went 21st overall in the 2020 draft and probably would’ve gone higher with a full spring to let his hitting ability hold up to more scrutiny. A prep third baseman sliding to the back half of the first round for the Cardinals will sound familiar in the next blurb.

Walker hit a number of balls over 115 and the hardest I found was 116.2 mph. Along with that, Walker had almost as many walks as strikeouts and hit .374 with six homers in 27 games as an 18-to-19-year-old in low-A before getting promoted to high-A. He came back down to earth strikeout-to-walk wise there, but was still respectable considering his age. He belted eight more homers in 55 games, hitting the crud out of the ball and producing better than league average at the plate.

The hitting ability is not a question here — it looks like he’ll be plus in the batter’s box — but in this area of the list, almost every player is playing an average third base or an up-the-middle position. Walker was below average at third last year, and the early spring look at his defense was a big reason he fell in the draft. He has some work to get it to playable. Since a plus offensive performer plays anywhere, the position alone isn’t super important, but if it turns out he’s corner outfield/first base only, it speaks to overall longevity and the amount of pressure evaluators put on the bat to perform. If Walker falls into that bucket, he’ll need to keep mashing to stay up this high, but there’s a bit of a tradition of scouts having a question about a big kid sticking at third and the good players tend to figure it out. Which leads us to …

18. Nolan Gorman, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 21 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Hit: 45/50, Game Power: 45/60, Raw Power: 70/70, Speed: 40/40, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Advanced hit/power combo infielder
Reminds me of: Max Muncy-ish

Gorman was one of my favorite players on the summer showcase circuit before the 2018 draft because he had a track record of hitting in national events, flashed 70-grade lefty raw power that showed up in games with exit velos to support it, and the makeup reviews were universally positive. Eric Longenhagen and I ranked him No. 7 in the 2018 draft class for FanGraphs and were dumbfounded (still am) on how he lasted until the 19th pick. I mentioned the makeup reviews because it was a key part of the Austin Riley evaluation and again for the Gorman eval. Both had some issues with swing-and-miss at times and their size/lateral mobility led to questions of if they could stick at third base or would have to move to first base or a corner outfield.

Plus makeup tends to solve those sorts of problems when you have an elite talent, and that’s basically what has happened with both players. While Riley still had trouble making enough contact in the upper minors and early in his MLB career until an age-24 breakout last year, Gorman fared a bit better last year, posting a 19% strikeout rate in Triple-A as a 21-year-old. There were some subtle improvements in pitch selection and overall offensive approach, but his natural skill set is a 45-to-50-grade hit, solid approach and 25+ homers (the exact number he hit last year). Gorman is now basically average defensively at both third base and second base, giving him a chance to break into the lineup while Nolan Arenado is healthy.

Age: 24 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Hit: 50/55, Game Power: 50/55, Raw Power: 55/55, Speed: 45/45, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Well-rounded third baseman with above-average tools
Reminds me of: Righty-hitting Kyle Seager

Jung was both an easy evaluation as a college hitter (he hit everywhere and had good tools) and tricky (he didn’t lift the ball in games and it was hard to suss out how easily he could learn to do that). The Rangers took him No. 9 overall in 2019 and in fall 2020 instructs and the spring of 2021, he proved that the easy part of the eval is still correct and the tricky part is not quite as tricky.

His fly ball rate spiked from the mid-20s to almost 40%, which fits the kind of hitter he should be. Jung has innate feel for the bat head and above-average raw power that was getting wasted with line drives and an inside-out approach that makes more sense for an underpowered speed merchant.

Jung is deceptively quick and nimble around third for a bigger guy, another manifestation of his innate feel for the game. I say a few times in this list that the sort of player I want to bet on most is the up-the-middle prep position player with a track record of hitting. No. 2 on that list is accomplished college hitters with good tools and great feel for making adjustments. Jung should slide in next to Corey Seager and Marcus Semien in a new-look Rangers infield whenever Texas deems him ready.

Age: 20 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Hit: 30/50, Game Power: 40/65, Raw Power: 60/70, Speed: 60/50, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Sweet lefty swing with big power and more to come
Reminds me of: Matt Olson

Veen’s look on the high school showcase circuit was excellent: a strong 6-foot-4 with above-average raw power, a strong approach, good performance and plus speed. His body is so projectable that some scouts saw a plus runner and thought he’d add so much bulk that he’d end up at first base, but I think he’ll be fine in right field. He’s obviously still quick enough at the moment as he stole 36 bases in low-A last year. The selling point here is Veen’s pitch selection, raw power and ability to get to that power in games. His raw power is plus now and will continue to increase, the pitch selection is still above average, and he’s lifting the ball better than some of his peers already; all the pieces are here and are moving in the right direction. The main concern is that Veen has longer levers (i.e. harder to get around to hard stuff on his hands while also covering the whole plate) and has always had good-not-great bat control (i.e. bat-to-ball skills). That seems to put a bit of a ceiling on things offensively, but it’s still early and he already has beat expectations a few times in his career, so I’ll stay on the bullish side.

21. Corbin Carroll, CF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Age: 21 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Hit: 50/60, Game Power: 30/50, Raw Power: 50/50, Speed: 65/65, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Explosive center-field spark plug
Reminds me of: A more center field-ish version of Jarred Kelenic

Carroll was one of the big winners of the lost minor league season, improving behind closed doors, quickly taking the big step forward that some saw coming when the D-backs stole Carroll at the No. 16 overall pick in 2019 (Eric Longenhagen and I had him ranked No. 9 in the draft class). Carroll looked to us like a plus-running, plus-hitting center fielder with a feel for the game but limited size (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) and a swing that would limit in-game power. Carroll hit well in 2019 after signing and showed better exit velos than expected, then in 2020, largely behind closed doors, showed improved bat and foot speed that took him to another level.

I aggressively moved him up to No. 27 on last year’s top 100 anticipating his 2021 breakout year. He started hot in high-A but had a season-ending shoulder injury after seven games. It’s still not clear whether shoulder surgery will affect him going forward, but an up-the-middle prep bat with tools, track record and an ability to make adjustments is the kind of player you bet on. Carroll also has the baseball rat, high-octane effort makeup that is a separator and makes you feel more secure when there’s a lack of statistical evidence.

Age: 19 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Hit: 30/60, Game Power: 25/55, Raw Power: 50/60, Speed: 50/45, Fielding: 45/50, Throwing: 55/55
Type: Incredibly gifted hitter with above-average tools
Reminds me of: Shades of Corey Seager and Christian Yelich, but it’s early

Mayer was the consensus best prospect in last year’s draft but ended up going third overall. In part, the perception that he’d want full slot value at the top pick in a year where a half-dozen players were very similar in talent meant that he was less likely to go first with a fixed amount of bonus money available to each team. Mayer isn’t a slam-dunk generational talent like many top prep position players in the draft are, but he could eventually become that.

He’s a lanky 6-foot-3 with a pretty left-handed swing and plenty of defensive ability to stick at shortstop. Mayer has a solid track record of making contact in games and having a good approach, but his current explosion, both in raw power and general bounciness on defense, doesn’t wow you to the eye.

I’m told that some more advanced metrics such as in-game exit velocity and force plate readings suggest there’s more there than you can see right now and there’s a line of thinking that the twitch will develop as he fills out and gets stronger (this happened in the later teens for a number of midtier international signings like Fernando Tatis Jr.). As is, he’s an advanced hitter who plays the most in-demand position well and is good at everything. If things really click over the next few years, he could hit .280 with 25 homers at short, though physically he’s probably never going to get as big as Corey Seager is. Christian Yelich is a little more the body type — but that outcome as a hitter is still very unlikely, while possible.

55 FV tier

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Rocket-armed potential frontline starter

If you’ve been reading these lists even casually over the years, you know the name of Hunter Greene. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft out of a SoCal high school, a golden-armed teen up to 100 mph who was also a top-two-rounds prospect as a shortstop. Early in pro ball, his fastball was more hittable than expected and his slider wasn’t as consistent as you’d like, but the frame, delivery, arm action and strikes were all there, and he kept hitting 100 mph. He needed Tommy John surgery before the 2019 season, like so many other triple-digit arms, then was set to return in 2020 when the minor league season was canceled. You could tell he missed competing because in 2021, Greene dominated Double-A, then got promoted to Triple-A and also did well there.

Greene’s average velocity for the season was 99.6 mph, hitting 101 or 102 in most outings. His slider (87-90) and changeup (90-91) are both on the firm side. The slider plays at least above average and plus in most situations, with the changeup also flashing 55, but was used less than 5% of the time last year. Cincinnati wants him to incorporate it more and not try to strike everyone out, but focus on going deeper in games. There isn’t much of a precedent for this type of talent, but it seems like a No. 2 or 3 starter is where he’ll land, with a nonzero chance that he’ll become an ace.

24. M.J. Melendez, C, Kansas City Royals

Age: 23 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Power-hitting catcher

The son of a prominent coach, Melendez appeared early on the national prep scene, with advanced tools and feel for the game. When he was drafted (52nd overall in 2017), he had above-average raw power, but contact came and went in part because his swing was a little busy. He was also a standout, very active defender with a plus arm. He had a terrible 2019 season in high-A at age 20, striking out 39% of the time, with that pre-draft report still accurate on all counts.

In the 2021 season, he came out on fire and stayed on fire at both Double-A and Triple-A, getting his strikeout rate down to 21%, boosting his walk rate by 5% and leading all of the minor leagues in homers with 41, more than the 32 he had hit in the previous three seasons combined. This was arguably the most shocking prospect turnaround in years. Melendez simplified his swing, added strength and power, and it all clicked at once. He’s now on the doorstep of the big leagues, and I think he’ll end up with a 45- or 50-grade hit tool, some walks and 25 homers in his good years.

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Above-average-at-everything shortstop

I ranked Peraza 102nd at this time last year, and his report started: “Peraza was obviously very close to making the Top 100 and is on the short list of players whose early-season performance could easily move them on the next version of the list.” By the midseason top 50 update*, he was ranked 42nd, so it’s fair to say he delivered on that promise. As a 21-year-old, he played at high-A and Double-A with a short visit to Triple-A to end the year, hitting well at every stop.

The thing I knew at this point last year was that Peraza was a plus runner and plus defender at short with contact skills, which describes about a half-dozen players lower on this list. There were signs, noted in last year’s report, that his exit velos were rising, but it hadn’t shown up in games fully yet. Peraza hit 18 homers and stole 38 bases across three levels, hitting at least .286 at each level. I think he’ll hit about .270 with an average-ish walk rate and 15-18 homers in his best years; that’s a roughly three-win player, and this one will start the year in Triple-A. Not bad for the guy who gets the third-most buzz in his own system, behind Anthony Volpe and the Martian (see No. 32 on this list).

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: The 2021 version of Salvador Perez

Cartaya was considered one of the best players ($2.5 million bonus) in a loaded 2018 international signing class that included Francisco Alvarez, Noelvi Marte, Orelvis Martinez, Marco Luciano and Luis Matos. The selling points then and now are his advanced offensive ability — particularly for a catcher — and his feel and tools behind the plate, projecting as average-to-above defensively. As the aforementioned names took big steps forward since signing, Cartaya was good in Rookie League ball in 2019 but was on another level in 2021 in low-A, posting a 1.023 OPS, though he was limited to 31 games due to back and hamstring injuries.

While catchers are notoriously hard to project because of the rigors of the position, and Cartaya hasn’t played much yet in pro ball, all the pieces are here for a 50 hit tool with a good amount of walks, 70 power (30+ homers) and at least average defense. For reference, the No. 1 player on this list is a catcher with a 60 in all three categories, so it’s not crazy to think that a full season tearing the cover off the ball in 2022 may put Cartaya into the top 10 of next year’s list.

Age: 23 | Bats: Both | Throws: Right
Type: Gifted hitter with some pop and defensive chops

Ruiz was traded from the Dodgers to the Nationals in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner bonanza last summer during a breakout year for the backstop. He had always run really high contact rates because of his elite bat control, but with modest in-game power — in large part because he was swinging too much, and his swing isn’t geared for homers. Ruiz has always been an advanced defender.

Last year, the in-game power showed up and he hit 24 homers across Triple-A and the big leagues, helped greatly by his ground ball rate dropping over 20%; his raw power is still just average-ish. He’s more of a mistake hitter, or a fastball-in-the-zone type, as his bat control can lead to a lot of singles and doubles on bad pitches he swings at, but not homers. I’d look for a .275 batting average, an okay walk rate and 12-20 homers depending on how hard he’s trying to hit the ball and what the league is giving him, along with at least average defensive contributions.

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Long-limbed elite physical skills with good feel

Davis has premium physical skills with premium makeup and has outperformed all pre-draft expectations, but finally ran into some resistance last spring with a ballooning strikeout rate at Double-A. Davis was a multisport standout in high school who was late to being a full-time baseball player. He’s a rangy 6-foot-4 with plus speed, a plus arm, good feel for defending in center field, along with plus raw power.

The strikeout rate issue is now the manifestation of concerns some had in high school that raw talent and ability to adjust had overcome. Having longer arms makes covering the whole plate more difficult and Davis may be fitting into a type — the rangy outfielder with below-average contact rate who is above average at everything else. If that’s what he is — say, .245 with some walks and 20-25 homers and fringe-to-average center-field defense — that’s an above-average everyday player who made the choice to lean into power rather than contact, when forced to pick one.

29. Jordan Lawlar, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

Age: 19 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Well-rounded shortstop with above-average tools

Lawlar has been one of the top players in the 2021 prep class for years and had a strong summer performance to stay in the conversation for the top pick leading into his draft spring. He had a slow start to his spring, with some swing-and-miss, but finished strong, giving scouts reason to believe his summer performance — with wood bats and against better competition — was still who he was. That report describes a gifted, all-fields hitter that either was or could be projected above average in all phases of hitting, along with plus speed, plus defense at shortstop and an above-average arm. After signing, he tore the labrum in his shoulder diving for a ball, but he should be ready for the 2022 season.

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Electric, power-over-contact player, position TBA

Luciano was No. 7 on last year’s list thanks to his rare combination of bat speed, raw power and ability to get to the power in games. His defensive ability was a question, but one you didn’t really worry about. Luciano played shortstop all year, but he isn’t sticking there. I’m projecting him as a decent third baseman, but others think he’ll land in the corner outfield eventually.

On the offensive end of things, he crushed low-A as a 19-year-old and is still doing the goofy bat speed, power-and-patience thing well, but his 36 games in high-A were worrisome (his 37% strikeout rate, first and foremost). It was the end of the season and he was still a teenager at the time, so it’s not a red flag, but it points at what could be a problem he runs into at higher levels. All in all, the report isn’t that different now than it was last year. We just have a better idea of his limitations, as opposed to seeing him beat up on short-season pitching and imagining where things could go.

31. Robert Hassell, CF, San Diego Padres

Age: 20 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Type: Gifted hitter, mostly average tools otherwise

Hassell was on the national scene as a prep underclassman, showing an advanced bat and decent tools that then progressed in his senior year to include above-average speed and average power potential. That was enough to go No. 8 overall, relying mostly on his plus hit tool, solid approach and overall feel for the game. The hit tool shined through in his pro debut, when he hit .323 over 92 games in low-A as a teenager and earned a late-season promotion to high-A. Hassell’s power still plays below average in games, but his on-base ability may end up being elite given his approach and contact skills. Power is usually the last tool to come; it often comes to advanced hitters who are good athletes, and a number of scouts tagged Hassell pre-draft as having the best makeup in the draft class, so I’m not worried.

Some evaluators questioned his defensive ability at draft time (I thought he’d figure out a way to stick in center). There are fewer of those questions now, with some scouts projecting slightly above-average defense in center. He’s probably not a star, but he’s a quick-moving, safe, above-average every-day player at a premium position.

32. Jasson Dominguez, CF, New York Yankees

Age: 19 | Bats: Both | Throws: Right
Type: Refrigerator box filled with dynamite

If you’re reading this, there’s a good shot you’ve read Jeff Passan’s feature and you know the deal with Dominguez. He may even be the one player you are scrolling down to read before you click somewhere else.

All the scouty stuff you heard before Dominguez played is still true: He has borderline unbelievable tools (plus-plus raw power that may end up being a true 80, a plus-plus arm, plus-plus speed when he opens it up) even when not considering his age. If you pick any current MLB star who wasn’t the most hyped player in their age group as a teenager (so, not Bryce Harper, but basically everyone else), Dominguez was more advanced than them at the same stage, since he has amazing tools and none of those players had played real pro games at that point, so performance is barely a component of the comparison. So the clickbaity stuff you heard about him being better than Mike Trout (25th overall pick as a 17-year-old) at the same stage was technically true, but also meaningless because that’s technically true of about like 15 players at any time.

The way Dominguez was handled last year — playing in the Futures Game after playing seven games in Rookie ball, then then immediately being sent to low-A — was either a bad idea or a stress test to let him show if he was going to be one of those rare dudes to hit his way to the big leagues as a teenager. Trying to keep him on the schedule that other top international signings have been on doesn’t make any sense when a pandemic wiped out what would’ve been the first year before sending him to low-A. Reps are crucial at that age for every player, especially elite international position players who barely ever face their true-talent peers as amateurs. It appears Dominguez has the mental makeup to deal with these challenges, and once you adjust for those conditions and the runaway hype train, he actually produced pretty well; nothing we saw invalidated the amateur scouting report.

I could pile on and complain that he’s not yet kept pace with Vlad Jr., Tatis Jr., or Wander Franco (they crushed short-season at 17, then crushed low-A at 18) or take a step back and say we’re still basically where we were at this time last year, minus the smallish odds that Dominguez could’ve crushed low-A and stayed on the most elite of elite paths. Early buzz is that he’s debulked a bit and is down 10 to 15 pounds with a more simplified swing, addressing the two legitimate concerns pro scouts raised from his 2021 campaign. I’m holding my Martian stock and buying the dip; there’s your latest Dominguez clickbaity headline. For the record, I wasn’t who bought this.

Age: 22 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Fastball/slider-oriented potential front-line starter

I scouted Meyer last spring when he had a matchup with Hunter Greene and I thought Meyer was good, but a little different than he was in college. Meyer’s velo spiked in the shortened 2020 spring, hitting 100 mph and flashing an 80-grade spiked slider coming out of a Walker Buehler-ish aggressive delivery from a slighter built righty. In the game I saw, I graded him out with three 55-grade pitches, with the fastball/slider showing 60 grades at times, which I’m told was one of his weaker stuff showings of the year. Over a full season with shorter rest, 100 mph and an 80 slider wasn’t realistic, so there’s a bit of question around exactly where Meyer’s stuff will settle.

He’s already in Jupiter and pumping 97 mph, and he sat at 94.6 over last season. I think he’ll pitch in 2022 with a 60-grade fastball, 65-grade slider and 50-to-55-grade changeup while continuing to show the components for average, starter-grade command. Meyer was a bit of a late bloomer, not really engaging with his own analytics or pitching gurus, playing multiple sports, and now he’s learned a yearlong routine of a starter, something he hadn’t done before in his career. I like the raw talent, makeup and signals for more growth versus the average 22-year-old top-10 pick, so count me on the Meyer train.

34. George Kirby, RHP, Seattle Mariners

Age: 24 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Otherworldly command of above-average stuff

Kirby popped up in the fall before his draft year at Elon in 2019, before going 20th overall to Seattle. The selling point was advanced feel and strong starter traits of above-average stuff headlined by his fastball, with off-speed pitches mostly around average. Just after publishing last year’s lists, I reported that he hit 101-102 mph in a non-official game, and he averaged 97.3 mph on his heater over all of 2021’s regular-season games.

The swing-and-miss traits of his fastball aren’t great, so it plays down a bit from the velocity in that regard, but his command more than makes up for it, grading as an easy plus pitch. I have his slider, curve and changeup all between 50 and 55, but the difference-maker is his control and command, which some evaluators think is a 70 or even an 80. Some Mariners brass call him “robopitcher.” The strikeouts will probably never be that great, and I wouldn’t expect him to sit 96-99 mph forever, but he’s a really strong bet to be about mid-rotation good.

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Potential front-line power arm

I’ve been wrong about Espino so far. I don’t like high school righties whose current arm speed is most of the reason to like them. Espino was up to 100 mph a number of times before the draft and had two plus breaking balls that also relied on that arm speed. The risk that he loses a tick of arm speed or that the torque created leads to an injury are elevated, and then a bunch of guys who don’t throw as hard move ahead of him. Now, that’s still largely a decent idea as an overall stance on this sort of pitcher, but there will always be exceptions.

Right now, Espino looks like the exception. He’s exceptionally strong, which helps with flexibility, repeatability and thus health. He was also into analytics and optimizing his stuff before the draft, and the Guardians are one of the best teams to help nurture that approach. Espino has held his stuff and stayed healthy, and that optimization process has led to some great numbers when considering he was the age of a college sophomore last year. In 20 starts over both A-ball levels last year, he struck out 152 and walked 39. Both his changeup and command have improved in pro ball, and Espino is now in line to be unleashed on the upper levels. A decent comparable, White Sox RHP Dylan Cease, just had a breakthrough 2021 posting 4.4 WAR — and Espino is certainly ahead of Cease at the same stage with more upside.

36. Jack Leiter, RHP, Texas Rangers

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Quick-moving potential front-line starter

Leiter is the son of MLB great Al and was famous in high school because of to his last name, his own first-round-level talent, his bonus demands that ended pushing him to Vanderbilt, and being on the same team as the now superior prospect, Anthony Volpe. Leiter’s first season at Vandy was the shortened 2020 year, when he was already able to show some progress since high school, then he was sophomore-eligible in 2021 due to his age, ultimately making the most of the platform by dominating college baseball.

Leiter fits in the Walker Buehler school of Vandy-slash-data-influenced power starters with vertically oriented stuff. Think aggressive delivery that gets you down the mound to get extension and flat angle to the plate, “rising” power four-seam fastball at the top of the zone, high-spin curveball at the bottom of the zone, power slider to bridge the gap between the two, sparing use of a changeup and using above-average stuff for margin of error in throwing pitches to an advantageous area, leaning toward power rather than perfect precision.

Leiter sits in the mid-90s and tickles the upper-90s, his curveball is anywhere from a 60 to 70 pitch depending on the day, his slider is a 55 or 60, and his control (in the strike zone) is average to above, even if his command (hitting a spot) is a bit below at the moment. Leiter is an extreme competitor who has successfully made adjustments and is a good enough athlete to project average command. If that comes, he’s getting real close to breaking into that 8-12 pitchers who I deem aces at any given time, so there’s some real upward mobility once he gets to Double-A and posting numbers.

37. Brayan Rocchio, SS, Cleveland Guardians

Age: 21 | Bats: Both | Throws: Right
Type: Above-average-tooled shortstop, except for power

Rocchio was a lower-tier international signing ($125,000 bonus) in 2017 out of Venezuela in large part because he was smaller (5-foot-10) and thus didn’t have loud physical tools at age 16. He hit the ground running in pro ball, and the tool Cleveland could ID early (switch-hitter with feel for contact) was far better than it expected, the exact reason you bet on kids who can hit because it’s the most important tool. Rocchio looked set for a full-season breakout in 2020, which obviously didn’t happen, but just kept humming along as though it did, skipping low-A completely and splitting 2021 at high-A and Double-A as a 20-year-old while also showing a new part of his game by hitting 15 homers.

Rocchio’s package has now developed into him being a plus runner with at least an above-average glove at shortstop, plus contact skills, a solid approach, and a shot for as much as average in-game power, though it’ll probably play a bit below average. He’ll play 2022 in the upper levels, and he’s been added to the 40-man with a mess of totally fine to good big league options (Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Yu Chang, Owen Miller) and a mess of Top 100ish talent on the 40-man, playing in the upper minors and looking to take those jobs (Rocchio, Gabriel Arias, Tyler Freeman, Jose Tena). It’s a Rays-like problem that isn’t really a problem; there’s probably a couple of studs in the group, just play them when it’s clear who it is.

Age: 20 | Bats: Both | Throws: Left
Type: Still unfinished, but components for an All-Star

Harris drew mixed opinions in high school, with a number of teams turning him in as a pitcher while the Braves selected him in the 98th overall as a hitter, something that worked out for them years before with Austin Riley. Harris immediately beat the Braves’ expectations after signing, crushing rookie ball, then heading to low-A as an 18-year-old. The missed 2020 minor league season hurt him more than most given his lack of prep hitting track record, but the Braves had confidence, sending Harris to high-A for all of 2021.

Using my wet concrete principle for plate discipline (the fewer overall reps you have against good pitching, the easier it is to improve your pitch selection), Harris started the year (first month) with a 3% walk rate and 21% strikeout rate, then (second) 4% and 14%, then (third) 11% and 21%, and (fourth) 14% and 17%. This skill is pretty quick to stabilize, and the Braves think his swing decisions were improving throughout the year as these numbers suggest.

Harris posted much higher exit velos than I’d expected, suggesting there’s untapped upside here if he can use this newfound pitch selection and also lift the ball more; he had a 50% ground-ball rate while the MLB average is 43%. There’s a world where Harris has all five usable tools (hit, game power, speed, defense, arm) as 55 or better, which is incredibly rare, if this all clicks.

39. Henry Davis, C, Pittsburgh Pirates

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Cleanup-hitter bat; position is shrug emoji

Davis was a draftable high school player out of upstate New York but gave uneven looks offensively and was most notable for his 80-grade arm behind the plate — eventually pushing him to Louisville. He didn’t do much as a freshman, looked better in a COVID-shortened sophomore campaign, and then buzz started growing entering his junior year that he was stronger, had bigger raw power and was a more complete hitter. He went wild last spring and was securely in the muddled six-to-eight-player top tier, generally seen as second to fourth in that group, depending on whom you asked. The Pirates pounced on that perception, signing Davis as the No. 1 overall pick to the fifth-highest bonus in the draft.

Davis’ arm behind the plate hasn’t changed, and he’s still a below-average runner, but the rest has changed. He now has 70-grade raw power with the swing and approach to make the most of it, along with enough bat control and pitch selection to also post a solid OBP and get good pitches to hit. Defensively, he’s now a real work in progress, grading no better than a 30 or 40 for most scouts, deficient in basically every area except for arm strength.

The Pirates will hope to make progress here, but short of roboumps, the bat will move much faster than the glove. Some scouts have seen Davis take grounders at third in practices at Louisville and think that could work, but otherwise it’s probably first base. The defensive story isn’t over here, but I wouldn’t expect a ton; you’re getting a potentially special, Pete Alonso-level bat if it all clicks, and you hope you’ll get something other than an OK first baseman.

40. Kahlil Watson, SS, Miami Marlins

Age: 18 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Gifted hitter with real defensive value

Watson was a revelation two summers ago on the showcase circuit, when the largely Southeast-based prep events still happened while the Cape and other college leagues were largely dormant. Watson made the most of it, coming out of nowhere on a midtier travel team to show a plus bat, emerging raw power that’s at least above average, and a middle-infield fit along with solid average speed. There’s some question as to whether he’ll fit at shortstop or second and exactly how much of his power makes it in games, but he’s otherwise one of the most stable talents you can bet on in the lower minors: left-handed-hitting, hit-first middle infielder with some pop.

He was No. 5 on my draft board, and there were rumors he’d be an underslot option at a top-five pick moments before the draft, but he ended up sliding all the way to the No. 16 pick, signing for $4.54 million (roughly the 11th overall slot). The early returns with the Marlins are all positive (the stats have been great in a small sample), and I think the competition level in a pro environment, particularly with Derek Jeter around and engaged with Watson specifically, is exactly where he will thrive. This is the kind of player who ends up in the top 10 of this list in a year or two, and I think a number of teams will feel foolish for passing on him.

41. Brady House, SS, Washington Nationals

Age: 18 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Potential superstar shortstop, but with big risk

House was early on the national prep prospect scene, hitting tape-measure shots with wood bats in international competition after his freshman year in high school. He held serve as an elite prospect, showing his 70-grade raw power at a number of events and actually beating expectations defensively, with evaluators now thinking the broad-shouldered 6-foot-4, 215-pound House can stick at shortstop. House is built like a third baseman but continues to make plays at shortstop, surprising for a player who looks like a shrink ray was trained on Dwight Howard.

Clubs are now commonly using force plates to put a number on explosion and find it’s a good proxy for acceleration, very useful for quantifying defensive range. House obviously has fast-twitch hands — potential 80-grade raw power — plus bat speed, and a 70 arm that’s been in the mid-90s on the mound. But he gives roughly average to slightly above run times and, without a time, you’d guess from his physique that he was a below-average runner. Suffice it to say, by some accounts, House was the best number in this class, strongly suggesting that your eyes aren’t lying to you about his shortstop ability.

That’s the tantalizing upside, but there’s also a potentially concerning downside: House’s approach and swing. I went into depth on it last spring after a huge matchup where House squared up the best prep pitcher in this summer’s class. In short, he swings a lot (common for super-talented teenaged hitters who can make contact with almost anything), and he does some weird, possibly untenable things with his hands in his swing. The mechanical thing is obviously fixable (unclear how quickly; often, results will help the hitters fix it without a coach harping on it), and I think the approach part is fixable because we’re still early in House’s career, but some hitters never make that adjustment, and he’ll probably always be aggressive. House was on the happy side of things in his pro debut, crushing rookie ball in 16 games, but the key will be to see how House’s walk rate and in-game power develop, because a hyper-active approach and iffy swing mechanics, if they aren’t going to work, will show signs pretty quickly and most directly in those two numbers.

42. Luis Matos, CF, San Francisco Giants

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Lots of tools, strong performance, still early

Matos was in the second tier of prospects from the vaunted 2018 international class, signing for $725,000 out of Venezuela, but he quickly proved on the field he belonged in the top tier. As a 19-year-old in low-A, Matos walked 6% of the time and struck out only 12%, which helps tell the story of both a good-enough approach that can hopefully improve and elite contact skills, a nice starting point for someone who’s also young for the league.

On top of that, Matos has plus-plus bat speed, above-average raw power that’s still developing, strong exit velos especially for his age, an improving fly-ball rate to tap into it, plus speed, and he fits as an average defender in center field. He’s definitely not a finished product, but this is a premium ball of clay for the Giants to continue molding that’s already putting up solid numbers.

Age: 20 | Bats: Both | Throws: Right
Type: Potential star, if he improves his approach

Mauricio was one of the bigger names in his international signing class at age 16 and has impressed in a number of ways his entire pro career. His projectable 6-foot-3 frame will wow you in a workout setting as a switch hitter with a pretty swing, plus raw power, solid average speed, a plus arm and smooth actions at shortstop. He’s good there defensively now, and I think he’ll stick, but he’s on the spectrum where further added strength and power could sap enough quickness where a team could have a better defensive option and slide Mauricio to another infield spot.

The main issue here is his aggressive approach at the plate, more specifically below-average pitch selection. Hitters (unless they have Vlad Sr.-level bat control) can’t get to all of their raw power in games if they’re swinging at a bunch of pitches they can’t drive; it only gets harder as you climb the ladder developmentally. Since Mauricio has been so advanced physically, he’s been aggressively promoted, so his stat line hasn’t always reflected his advanced ability. 2022 will be a big year for Mauricio to show an ability to keep making adjustments and see if he gets a big league look late in the season en route to being a long-term infield answer and potential star. On the other hand, he may prove to be a prospect who needs to go a level per year as the command of pitchers in the upper minors is too much for him.

Age: 23 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Potential No. 2-3 starter, if he gets more aggressive

If Ryan Pepiot (No. 59 on this list) has the best changeup in the minors, Cabrera isn’t far behind him and is definitely in the top five. In addition, he’s listed at 6-foot-5, 217 pounds, sits 95-98 mph with his fastball, and has two above-average breaking balls and a history of strike-throwing. That wasn’t really around in 2021 for the first time, at Triple-A and the big leagues, when he was trying to get hitters to chase and started nibbling, soon finding that more advanced hitters would fall for that. He threw his heater less than 40% of the time as another measure of trying to be too cute. So, the adjustments are pretty simple to just trust your raw stuff a bit more, which he has proved he can do.

Age: 24 | Bats: Both | Throws: Right
Type: Above-average-tooled second baseman, except for power

Brujan is essentially Nick Yorke (No. 47) at the end of his developmental path: a plus hitter figuring out how much to integrate power into his game while playing second base. Brujan is a superior athlete with plus-plus speed and an above-average glove at second and he spent 2021 hitting well at Triple-A. There isn’t really star potential here, you’re probably looking at roughly league-average production in the batter’s box with above-average production in baserunning, defense and positional value; that adds up to a lot of 2.5 to 3.0 WAR seasons.

46. Triston Casas, 1B, Boston Red Sox

Age: 22 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Potential offensive machine

Casas was early on the national prep scene, showing massive raw power in his high school career, and he consistently hit in big events for years. He lasted until the 26th overall pick in 2018 because he was projected to be a first-base-only fit, and that’s now where things stand.

Casas has at least above-average contact skills, plus pitch selection, and plus-plus raw power, so he could be an offensive producer, something like .270, 30ish bombs and a healthy walk rate. That would put him in the Matt Olson, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto-type area if it all clicks, but first base notoriously has a small margin for error since it’s so bat-reliant; miss the mark by a bit and it’s more Rhys Hoskins or C.J. Cron and he’s just a solid regular.

47. Nick Yorke, 2B, Boston Red Sox

Age: 19 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Elite hit tool, average otherwise

Yorke was the shock pick of the 2020 first round, as a bat-first second baseman without a plus tool other than his bat. He didn’t have extensive years of summer performance in national events, but the Red Sox knew him well enough to be sold that the bat was plus and he didn’t need to have a second plus tool to be worthy of going No. 17 overall. The Red Sox took him there as the best talent and got a discount on his bonus since other teams weren’t valuing him like that.

Like the Red Sox drew it up, Yorke torched low-A and high-A in 2021, hitting over .320 at both levels and hitting 14 combined homers, a bit more than expected. Yorke is so advanced in all aspects of hitting, it isn’t impossible to expect average game power (15-18 homers) and possibly a 70-grade bat in the end, with fringe-to-average defense, speed and throwing tools, which is something like the (underrated) peak years of Whit Merrifield.

Age: 24 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Plus-gloved shortstop with emerging bat

Pena was a late bloomer in college, emerging in his draft spring at Maine and going in the third round in 2018 as a mid-major plus defender who needed some work offensively. He hit immediately in pro ball but got attention from other clubs as turning the corner late in 2019, when he mashed in high-A, helped by significant added strength. He was hurt by missing the 2020 season that was supposed to be his breakout in the upper level of the minors.

Right when was ready to play in 2021, he got hurt and needed wrist surgery that limited him to 37 games — but most of it was in Triple-A, and he hit 10 homers. His glove is still plus and his power can play average-to-above, with the questions mostly on his lack of reps and how much contact he’ll make trying to get his power. With Carlos Correa likely leaving, Pena has the inside track to the Opening Day shortstop job.

Age: 22 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Type: Steady, crafty mid-rotation starter

Detmers was a star at Louisville and the 10th overall pick in 2020, made his pro debut in 2021 and got called up to the big leagues after 13 starts in Double-A and Triple-A. He carved the minors, then ran into trouble in the majors.

Detmers isn’t a plus-stuff type and his command wasn’t precise in the big leagues, so his stuff became hittable. I’m not worried about his command after that five-start sample because he’s been a durable strike-throwing performer dating back to high school.

Some worried pre-draft that there wasn’t enough ceiling and graded his stuff more fringy than above-average, but he had a velo tick up after signing, so now he sits 92-94 mph instead of 89-93 in college, with more sharpness to his signature plus curveball. Detmers’ command is/will be a 55 or 60; this adds up to a steady mid-rotation starter and that seems where this is headed, after a little more seasoning.

50. Kyle Harrison, LHP, San Francisco Giants

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Left
Type: Emerging whiff-heavy starter

Harrison stood out on the high school showcase circuit for the 2020 draft class for his above-average feel and deception slinging solid-average stuff from a low slot. He didn’t have much buzz leading up to the draft when the Giants dropped $2.5 million in the third round to keep him from going to UCLA.

He struck out an absurd 157 batters in 98 2/3 innings in his 2021 pro debut, backing up the buzz from instructional league that his velo had spiked in the mid-90s (he sat 93-96 in the regular season) and helped his breaking-ball play just as well as his above-average-to-plus changeup and command. Coming through one of the best development systems in the game and having the craftiness and deception uncommon in young strikeout pitchers, Harrison is a pick to click for many in the industry again heading into the 2022 season.

50 FV Tier

51. Josh Lowe, RF, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 24 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Power-and-patience outfield tweener

Lowe has been a bit of a slow burn developmentally, chosen 13th overall in 2016 out of an Atlanta-area high school with one of the best two-way tool sets in a long time: at least 60 grades on power, speed and arm while offering mid-90s on the mound with an above-average breaking ball and a 6-foot-4 frame.

The issue offensively early on was the uphill nature of his power-focused swing; in 2019 he turned the corner and put the pieces together in Double-A. He looked ready to jump to Triple-A and the big leagues in 2020, but instead he didn’t play in a pro game due to the pandemic. Lowe spent 2021 in Triple-A, posting career-best walk and power numbers while getting a quick cup of coffee. He’s fine in center field and above average in both corners but is blocked by a full outfield in Tampa Bay, waiting for an opening that should come sometime in the first half.

52. Brett Baty, 3B, New York Mets

Age: 22 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Power-and-patience corner bat

Baty was a classic eyeballs versus draft models pick in the 2019 draft because he had one major flaw (being 19 years, 7 months old on draft day) and one minor flaw (being a fringy third baseman who might have to move to first base). The other stuff Baty had to offer — above-average athleticism for his size, plus-plus raw power, solid performances, defensive improvement — added up to be more impactful in my eyes (and at least the Mets’) than the former flaws. The main rubber-meets-the-road impact of those flaws is that he’d need to perform well, be promoted quickly and show defensive improvement, and all three have happened.

Baty reached Double-A at age 21 last year with solid power, patience and contact against his prospect-age peers, though he needs to lift the ball more to lean into his skill set. I think he’ll need to move off third base eventually, more in his late 20s rather than the next year or two, and left field (played 18 games there last year) is a midway point before first base along with another way to break into the big league lineup.

Age: 21 | Bats: | Right Throws: Right
Type: Well-rounded everyday shortstop

Peguero stood out early in pro ball as a midtier Diamondbacks international signee ($475,000 bonus) with a precocious feel for hitting and non-zero in game power. He was the headliner traded to Pittsburgh in the January 2020 trade that sent Starling Marte to Arizona. He played the whole 2021 season at high-A as a 20-year-old. He performed well and will flash five above-average tools (his raw power is just a bit above average) at times, but I’d guess he settles as a 55 bat with fringe power, above-average speed and a solid-average glove, somewhere in the J.P. Crawford or Dansby Swanson area. He’s advanced and among the safer prospects on this list to be a good big leaguer who hasn’t reached Double-A yet.

54. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Miami Marlins

Age: 23 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Potential front-line starter coming off shoulder surgery

You’re probably already familiar with Sanchez and likely have seen a few clips of his pitches (96-99 mph sinker, 70-grade changeup, above-average slider) darting all over the place. His career 1.0 WAR from seven career big league outings in 2020 will also eclipse the career totals of more than a few players on this list. All that said, he missed all of 2021 with a shoulder injury that led to surgery that he’s still recovering from. Expectations are he’ll be back on a mound and reasonably back to his old self sometime this year, but shoulders are much trickier to handicap than elbow surgeries.

There seemed to always be something negative from rival evaluators finding its way into my notes on Sanchez over the years: some minor arm soreness here, looking overweight there, never getting the level of whiffs his pure stuff suggests, etc. I’m forced to hedge on Sanchez and cross my fingers hoping he’s what those seven starts showed for the foreseeable future.

The history of pitcher health in general says to be wary of fighting injury inertia; just read the hedging in last year’s rankings when I had Sanchez as the top pitching prospect in baseball (11th overall) coming off an electric MLB debut and I was still measured in my praise for the whole top tier of pitchers. In retrospect, only Ian Anderson of that group deserved more love, and he was more very good last year than amazing. Eventually, my top 100 will have just like five pitchers on it.

55. Eury Perez, RHP, Miami Marlins

Age: 18 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Massive teenaged front-line starter with advanced potential

If Volpe was the out-of-nowhere position player riser of the year, Perez qualifies for the pitcher version of that award. He was 23rd on last year’s Marlins list as an arrow-up sleeper to watch, but my short report was “6-9 and into the mid-90s with strikes.” That’s a great place to start and Perez really built on it in 2021. He’s now sitting 94-96 (early reports are he was throwing even harder earlier this month), his curveball is now solid average, and his changeup has turned into a 55-or-60-grade out pitch. Even then, with his stuff progressing and keeping his strike-throwing tendencies, the expectation for a normal 18-year-old with this ability would be to pitch in rookie ball, maybe get a few starts in low-A and run into some problems against advanced hitters at times. Instead, Perez carved both low-A and high-A (108 strikeouts, 26 walks) over 78.0 innings, while his domestic peers were facing high school and rookie ball competition.

If you’ve read me for a while, you’ll know that I tend to round down on velocity-reliant teenaged righties and my second least-favorite type is massive righties. The massive righty (let’s say 6-foot-7 and up) has longer arms and more strength and will get velocity early (mixing a bit with that first group) but then often has trouble throwing strikes and becomes somewhat injury prone as he physically matures. There just aren’t many massive starting pitchers in baseball because of these heavy headwinds.

Perez has a solid-average physical ability, so he’s not the worst version of what I’m talking about, and he also has the most attractive résumé an 18-year-old pitcher can have. At some point, I have to value what is there and what’s been proven on the field and not try to fit players into buckets. To complicate things further, my third least-favorite type of pitcher is the potential front-line starter whose changeup is better than his solid-average-at-best breaking ball, and Perez is at least a little bit in that bucket, too. I point all this out to say that Perez and his teammate Sixto Sanchez, the previous player on this list, are very different types, but are both very talented, very accomplished and very risky to me, for very different reasons. Some players on this list are straightforward and somewhat boring evaluations that largely rank themselves, ranking in the same range on every public list. These two are tough for me and I hope I’m wrong about both.

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Premium physical tools with feel and bad luck

Lewis was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft on the strength of his plus power/speed/physical skills/makeup combo, along with plenty of hit tool and real defensive value — even if the position wasn’t clear. The offensive performance has been underwhelming amid some tinkering with his swing and aggressive promotions, while his defensive home was still in question between center field or the infield. 2020 looked to be an important year for him to consolidate gains in the upper minors to springboard into a 2021 MLB debut, but the 2020 minor league season was canceled and Lewis tore his ACL just before the 2021 season started. Now, some moderate offensive and defensive questions are magnified as he hasn’t played a competitive game since 2019 Arizona Fall League, where he raked and seemingly started to turn the corner.

Lewis got live at-bats during and after fall instructs but hasn’t run the bases yet and can’t go to early camp since he’s on the 40-man roster. Given the long-term extension to Byron Buxton, a home in center field is now less likely, so Lewis will spend most if not all of 2022 in the upper minors, playing mostly shortstop but also likely playing some third and second base.

Offensively, Lewis’ pitch selection is below average, his mechanics have changed and he has missed tons of reps — so ideally 2022 can be a year to solve all of these relatively minor issues to springboard into the big league career envisioned years ago. The most likely outcome here is a super-utility player every good team needs — not the no-hit shortstop — the multiposition guy who can hit, like Ben Zobrist, Enrique Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez, Chris Taylor et al — with some chance Lewis can land higher than that.

57. Austin Martin, 2B, Minnesota Twins

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Gifted hitter with solid secondary tools

Martin has some real questions on both offense and defense, but I’m still buying because he’s good at all the right things, including making adjustments. He has been a plus hitter since his freshman year at Vanderbilt and until his 2020 draft spring. Martin’s also a plus pitch selection guy and he has average raw power, so the ingredients are here for a solid everyday bat at any position — but he had trouble getting to his raw power in games last season. This in part led to Toronto cutting bait with the No. 5 overall pick from the 2020 draft in a package for Jose Berrios at the trade deadline. The Twins are proactively working with Martin, as they successfully have with some other prospects, to tap into his power more often, but the downside is a plus hitter with below-average power. Even that is still a low-end everyday player.

Martin was solid defensively at second base, third base and center field while in college, with 2020 the year he was going to get a chance to play shortstop, but never really did. He now looks to be a bit overmatched at shortstop and will be on an upper-minors Twins utility merry-go-round with Royce Lewis, Jose Miranda and Spencer Steer. As noted in Lewis’ blurb, center field looks like a no-go zone for long-term fits given the Buxton extension (not to mention Kepler, Larnach and Kirilloff), while second, short and third are much more open to competition. I think second base is Martin’s best long-term fit, but he also will likely always play multiple positions.

58. Jackson Jobe, RHP, Detroit Tigers

Age: 19 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Teenage potential ace, but it’s early

The Tigers have some distinct types they prefer in the draft — power-armed pitchers, SEC performers — so when rumors circulated around April that they were very heavily in on Jobe for the No. 3 overall pick, it passed the smell test. Taking a prep pitcher of any sort in the top 10 picks is a hard no for a number of organizations, with some real empirical heft behind that opinion, but the Tigers certainly aren’t one of them.

Jobe was generally seen in the middle to the back of the consensus top tier of six to eight players, but not because he was deficient in any way. It was because now-velocity prep right-handers are the riskiest bet in all of baseball. The reason teams still do it is because that is where Lucas Giolito, Max Fried and Jameson Taillon came from, but notice I didn’t add an “et al” after those three. Those pitchers were drafted in 2010 and 2012; it’s been all hope and (relative) busts since then at the top of the prep pitcher class.

Jobe, the son of PGA golfer Brandt, has been up to 100 mph, has a 70-flashing breaking ball with insane spin rates, a plus-flashing changeup, plus talent (he was a real prospect as an infielder) and the components to project at least average command. Some more traditional evaluators would nitpick if forced and say they wished he was taller than 6-foot-2, but opinions are shifting in the industry to more compact pitchers having an easier time repeating their deliveries. You just want them to be big enough to hold up for 180-plus innings, which Jobe either is or can reasonably be. It’s basically impossible to have this level of stuff at this age and also have above-average command (go look at Clayton Kershaw‘s early pro stats), so the only real critique to have on Jobe is that other pitchers of this quality have largely faltered and/or gotten hurt, so he’s risky only by proxy right now.

59. Ryan Pepiot, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 24 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Changeup machine with a mid-90s heater

Speaking of changeup-over-breaking ball righties (if you jumped here from No. 55), we come to Pepiot, who probably has the best changeup in the whole minor leagues, an at least 70-grade Bugs Bunny-type offering. He’s more than just a trick-shot artist, sitting 94-97 mph with some lift to his four-seam fastball, and he mixes in a solid-average cutter/slider. His precision in executing his non-changeup pitches is just all right, though he is in the Dodgers’ development clutches and was a late bloomer, getting on the early-round radar in only his 2019 draft spring as a junior at Butler. Due to these extremes, Pepiot is another pitcher whose components are unusual enough to where it’s unclear if he’ll be a multi-inning multiple-role weapon, Eric Gagne/Fernando Rodney 2.0, or just a unique flavor of an otherwise boring 180-inning, mid-rotation starter.

60. Cole Winn, RHP, Texas Rangers

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Well-rounded potential mid-rotation starter

Winn was a notable draft prospect entering his senior year, so he transferred from a Colorado high school to southern California powerhouse Orange Lutheran. He faced strong competition and stood out in front of over 100 scouts at a national tournament, eventually going No. 15 overall in the 2018 draft.

The scouting report now is still pretty similar to what it was then: 93-95 mph heater that plays above it’s velocity, four pitch mix and starter traits all solid average or better headlined by plus low-80’s curveball. He pitched in Double-A and briefly in Triple-A last year as a 21-year-old, so he’s on the fast track with a solid chance to become a mid-rotation starter with a good shot at a 2022 MLB debut.

61. Bobby Miller, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 22 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Power-over-feel starting pitcher

Just like the Rays with middle infielders, or Cleveland with college pitchers, the Dodgers just keep doing it with pitchers, to the point where my early calls on their systems start with “OK, which guy did something I didn’t believe he would as an amateur?” I was so-so on Miller at Louisville, thinking he relied too much on power and couldn’t pitch more than a couple innings at a time while still commanding the ball. My opinion started shifting when I dug deeper right before the draft and heard the teams most interested in him were the best pitching orgs in the game; the Dodgers scooped him up with the 29th overall pick in the 2020 draft.

Miller still has plenty of power sitting at 95-98 mph, and his slider has improved, grading as a 55 now but flashing 60-grade quality. His command and changeup have also improved pretty quickly. It’s unfair to compare Miller to the best pitchers in baseball, who happen to also pitch for the Dodgers, but there’s effort and aggression to his operation like Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer to give you an idea of what he looks like. When pitchers have plus stuff, aggression and aptitude, along with enough command and health, not to mention a good development org, I’ll just get on board for whatever it ends up being.

62. Greg Jones, SS, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 23 | Bats: Both | Throws: Right
Type: Semi-sleeper up-the-middle toolshed

Jones is another of my picks to click, long a scout favorite due to his ridiculous tools, premium physical skills and plus makeup, with signs he may be turning the corner in arguably the best system for middle infielders to actualize their talent. Jones has NFL wide receiver-level tools, with at least 70-grade speed in a 6-foot-2 frame, and above-average raw power from both sides of the plate, along with a 55-grade arm. The questions are around which up-the-middle position he’ll play and exactly how well his hitting tools will play in games.

Jones’ pure hitting performance-age-level metrics aren’t top 100-worthy, but they point to later-blooming upside (power, patience, stolen bases, high strikeout rate), though missing the reps of the 2020 season hurt Jones more than most prospects. Jones’ range and arm are good enough for shortstop, but his hands are just OK, so center field is a natural landing spot if things don’t work in the infield. There are metrics indicating Jones’ underlying swing decisions should lead to better strikeout and walk rates than he posted, and there’s probably another grade of raw power that isn’t showing up in games, though he hit 14 homers in 72 games last year, so it’s already there in some form. This is one ranking that the analytic models will think is too aggressive, but Jones is about to blow (up lists), then the models will all value him.

63. Ivan Herrera, C, St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Solid average across the board everyday catcher

There have already been a few Cardinals catcher-of-the-post-Yadier-Molina-future who haven’t worked out, like the since-traded Carson Kelly and stalled-out Andrew Knizner. Now that Tom Brady has retired, we can once again believe Molina will at some point and Herrera is a strong bet to be next in line.

He’s the age of the recent college draftees and he hit above league average in Double-A last season, with big league projections at basically that level. Defensively, he’s better than average, with a solid-average arm. Again, many of the position players in the upper minors in this part of the list don’t have a true plus tool or realistic star upside, but there’s tremendous value in being a strong regular at a premium position being paid the league minimum for three years.

64. Curtis Mead, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Gifted hitter with some defensive value

Mead wasn’t on the prospect radar when he signed with the Phillies for $200,000 out of Australia in 2017 but got on the fringes of it when he performed well in Rookie ball in 2019 as an 18-year-old. As they do, the Rays swooped in and traded Cristopher Sanchez for Mead late in 2019 to clear space around 40-man protection time. Even then, the Rays thought they grabbed a rising bat-first, find-a-position-later sort of player, the type they’ve excelled with in the past.

Mead crushed both A-Ball levels in 2021 while also improving enough defensively to look average at third base (and passable at second base), giving some Brandon Lowe vibes as a prospect. I gave Mead a 55 hit/game power grades, but he’s the kind of player who makes enough hard contact to beat that projection. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man after the season and with another strong season could find himself near the front of the Rays perpetually muddled really-good-infielders-other-than-Wander-Franco glut. Yandy Diaz: you’re on notice.

65. Cade Cavalli, RHP, Washington Nationals

Age: 23 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Durable, inconsistent starter with plus stuff

Cavalli was a talented two-way prep with a high enough price tag to push him to Oklahoma. His promise on the mound shined through in his draft year en route to going No. 22 overall to the Nats in 2020. His plus raw stuff (95-98 mph at the top of the zone, slider/curve/change all 84-90 mph and all at least above average), clean delivery, and 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame fit in the top 10 picks in most cases, but Cavalli’s command and overall polish wasn’t present as a 21-year-old and is still in progress now — even though he pitched his way to Triple-A in his first pro season.

The pieces are here for a durable, 180+ inning No. 2-3 starter if it all clicks, but most evaluators think he’ll just always be a power-over-feel type who will frustrate you at times, falling a bit short of his upside.

Age: 24 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Solid-average across the board everyday shortstop

Stott flew under the radar in high school, then popped as an underclassman at UNLV and starred for Team USA the summer before going in the middle of the 2019 first round. He’s deceptively good defensively at shortstop given his 6-foot-3 height and lack of flashy movement, but he probably won’t be much better than average. Stott has grown into solid-average raw power from the left side and made up for a lost 2020 by moving quickly to Triple-A in 2021 and then playing in the Arizona Fall League, hitting well at every stop.

There isn’t true impact ability, but contributing league-average-to-slightly-above offense and defense at shortstop with a lefty stick is massively valuable. The Phils have Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura in the last guaranteed years of their deals as their middle infield, so I’d expect Stott to get some big league time in 2022 so that he can slide in next to Alec Bohm on the left side of the infield for years to come, starting full time in 2023.

Age: 23 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: MLB-ready offensive-oriented catcher

He hasn’t hit well in his 12 MLB games, but in the minors, Campy has mashed, showing off above average raw power and contact skills. He’s markedly improved behind the plate, where he’s fringe-to-average now with a plus arm — a package that will play even better in a possible robo ump future. Campusano has made big strides in remaking his body late in high school and learning how to catch, plus velocity, which he didn’t do much before turning pro. This demonstrates an aptitude to make adjustments. There’s enough short-term offensive upside here that having a DH spot in the lineup would be a good reason to carry him as a third catcher, to see if he can get on track at the plate and give him time with the big league pitching staff.

68. Andy Pages, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Powerful right fielder with a strong arm

Pages jumped onto the prospect map in 2018 and 2019, hitting 29 homers over 115 short-season games after getting $300,000 as a lower-profile international signing. He has plus-plus raw power and arm strength as a prototypical right fielder, but figured to be hurt by the canceled 2020 minor league season. Still, he kept humming along, skipping low-A altogether last year and hitting 31 homers in 120 games at high-A as a 20-year-old. He’ll probably always strike out more than league average but has enough contact skills and patience to keep his OBP in a good spot, while his in-game power ability is his real calling card. He might end up settling in as a Jorge Soler type down the line, but he’s good enough right now to play center field if needed.

69. Everson Pereira, CF, New York Yankees

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Emerging power-and-patience toolshed

Pereira was one of the top position players in the 2017 international signing class. His tools were present, if not improving, in his 2018 and 2019 short-season campaigns, but his swing got too uphill and he whiffed too much, so he stayed as a wait-and-see at least midway down Yankees prospect lists. Things started turning around in 2020 largely behind closed doors and his 2021 was his breakout year. It lasted only 49 games because of starting in extended/rookie ball to make sure he had his feet beneath him, but he hit 20 homers with a double-digit walk rate as a 20-year-old, mostly in high-A, all while playing center field and maxing out in the 112-115 mph exit velo range.

He’s probably always going to have a 20-30% strikeout rate given his power-based approach, and he’s fringy in center field right now, so he could slide over to right field eventually. His raw tools — 55 speed, 55 arm strength, at least 60 raw power, 70 bat speed — are among the better ones on this list. His approach, in-game use of power, defensive instincts and stat line as an extremely young prospect for his level show his potential, too. His breakout was in a limited sample, but this rocket could be ready for takeoff in 2022.

70. Nick Gonzales, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Power-over-hit Second Baseman

Gonzales popped up as a sophomore at New Mexico State due to his ridiculous numbers, something common for a mid-major player at altitude with a small home park, but became a real prospect that summer when he raked on the Cape. 2020 was his draft year, so he only got a couple weeks into his draft spring (with mixed results), making that short-ish sample on the Cape a huge part of why the Pirates took him No. 5 overall.

Gonzales is an average defensive second baseman with 55 raw power, but the pre-draft selling point was an advanced, 60-grade bat. His pro debut in high-A at age 22 told a slightly different story, as he struck out 27% of the time with 18 homers in 80 games, a markedly different line than many were expecting – more like a young Dan Uggla.

71. Peyton Burdick, RF, Miami Marlins

Age: 24 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Tyler O’Neill-ish compact, explosive outfielder

Burdick has one of the weirder career paths of anyone in the top 100. He was a relatively anonymous college player until his draft spring at Wright State when the Marlins took him in the third round. He was 22 when this happened since he redshirted a year recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The selling points at draft time were clear (huge power, right-field tools, performance), but his age, level of competition and maxed-out frame scared off teams. He just kept mashing his way through the minors and is now good enough to play a solid center field, which might be the thing that gets him called up to the big leagues in 2022. The headliner here is his 70-grade power, which comes with walks, strikeouts, solid defense, premium makeup and massive forearms, for the full Tyler O’Neill experience.

72. Joey Bart, C, San Francisco Giants

Age: 25 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Above-average power/defense/leadership with contact concerns

Bart has been a standout defender dating to high school, and he has plenty of arm, along with all the intangibles you’d ask for in a catcher. He has easy plus raw power and you’ll notice I didn’t mention how much contact he makes because that’s the problem here. When he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, the expectation was a 45-ish bat where he’d hit .250 with a 20-25% strikeout rate and 25 homers with plus everything else as a quick mover who becomes a top 5-7 catcher in the game.

That’s still on the table, but he’s 25, and was drafted by a prior regime. The next year the new regime took a college catcher with its first pick (Patrick Bailey, who just missed this list) and Bart has been bad in his limited 35-game sample in the big leagues. At Triple-A and in MLB, his pitch selection, the biggest risk point on his amateur report, has been a huge issue. The risk is this issue doesn’t get fixed and he’s a .230-.240 hitter with 15-18 homers and solid defense, which is a low-end regular/good backup. This is his last season where that amateur background can still give him the benefit of the doubt.

73. Gabriel Arias, SS, Cleveland Guardians

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Solid all-around everyday shortstop

Arias was a top international signing ($1.9 million bonus) by the Padres in 2016 and started to turn the corner offensively in 2019, quickly becoming the centerpiece of Cleveland’s six-player return for Mike Clevinger at the deadline in 2020. Given his tools and makeup, San Diego moved Arias aggressively through the minors, at least a level ahead of even most top prospects, so he spent 2021 in Triple-A at age 21, an age at which the next guy on this list was playing at Sam Houston State.

Arias had dialed in his plate discipline to be roughly average and to get to at least some of his plus raw power in games. The strongest part of his game for years has been his above-average glove at shortstop and plus-plus arm. There’s some risk that his offense settles below average in the big leagues, but his defense would still make him a decent regular (the 50 that he’s graded as right now), but he’s on the 40-man and should get a big league look in 2022, so the risk of bust (less than a 45) is getting very unlikely.

74. Colton Cowser, CF, Baltimore Orioles

Age: 21 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Advanced hitter who’s good at everything

Cowser entered the national scouting scene during the summer after a loud freshman year at Sam Houston State, when he was arguably the best hitter on Team USA with the best rising college juniors in the country. At that point he was a strong hitter with below-average power (that played down due to a line-drive approach) and fit best in right field, so he seemed like a second- to third-round prospect. By his junior year last spring, he had grown into better tools, flashing fringe-to-average raw power, a tick more speed and a tick better defensive jumps, turning him into a potential regular in center field with a standout bat.

He generally was seen as a fit at picks 10-15 in last summer’s draft, but the Orioles thought he fit on talent at the No. 5 overall pick, scooping him up for roughly the slot value of the No. 9 overall pick. He performed even better than expected with more walks than strikeouts in low-A after the draft (a big step up from the WAC in competition level), so this ranking reflects some upward momentum since the draft, but if it turns out he’s a rare 70-grade hit/approach type, he’ll be in the top third of this list next year.

75. George Valera, RF, Cleveland Guardians

Age: 21 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Type: Sweet-swinging power-and-patience corner outfielder

Valera had the prettiest swing and was arguably the top hit/power combo in the 2017 July 2 class at signing: Julio Rodriguez, Kristian Robinson and Everson Pereira were the other leading candidates; Rodriguez is the clear answer now.

With some injuries, short-season assignments and the lost 2020 minor league season, Valera has played only 144 career games, but he has performed everywhere. He’s a solid average defender in a corner outfield spot, more than his raw speed would suggest, he has plus raw power that plays well in games with a late-count, patient approach and enough contact skills to get to his power in games. There are some relatively minor concerns around durability, lack of a 70-grade tool, performance vs. tough lefties and exactly how his contact/approach will play at higher levels.

He’s basically a lock big leaguer, but the question is if he’s a platoon option or strong regular. Valera getting to Double-A at age 20 and hitting 19 homers versus much older competition last year has me leaning heavily to strong regular.

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: MLB-ready multi-inning power arm

Contreras was signed by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, then was traded in the Jameson Taillon deal before the 2021 season, which served as Contreras’ breakout from solid pitching prospect to potential midrotation starter who already has made a big league start. His best pitch is a heater that sits 95-98 with above-average life, an easy plus pitch that was up a few ticks from his Yankees days (somewhat coincidentally).

He uses a distinct above-average-to-plus slider and curveball that both are a little crisper now with the added arm speed. His changeup is a distant fourth, offering in quality and frequency. It’s more common for a righty starter to sparingly use a changeup, but normally it’s a starter that goes three-to-five innings at best or has above-average command of breaking stuff in specific locations that I’m not sure Contreras has right now. He made only 14 starts last year due to a forearm strain, so this might end up being a multiple-inning pitcher of above-average quality, but not the 180-inning-plus true starter that every team is looking for. Regardless, he’s big league ready and useful for sure.

77. Quinn Priester, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Big Upside Power Arm Still Putting It Together

Priester was the No. 18 overall pick in 2019 out of an Illinois high school and had all the makings — frame, delivery, later-developing premium arm speed, above-average breaking ball — of a classic cold-weather projection pitcher who popped a little later than some of his Sun Belt peers. Like more than a few prep arms on this list, he’s largely held serve in pro ball, which is somewhat expected and not surprising.

Priester hasn’t blown away expectations, but he has stayed healthy and made incremental improvements, with the markers all still there for everything to click and hit his No. 2 or 3 starter projection. He has hit 100 mph but sits 93-95 mph with both four- and two-seam fastballs, a true plus (or more) curveball, an above-average slider and an improving but still fringy changeup along with starter command.

78. Nick Pratto, 1B, Kansas City Royals

Age: 23 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Type: Power-and-patience first baseman with a slick glove

Pratto first impressed on the amateur scene as a two-way talent early in his high school career and held serve to become a mid-first-round pick, but as a hitter only. He had Todd Helton vibes as an advanced hitter with burgeoning power and a slick glove at first base.

Like a few touted Royals picks, he struggled mightily with the bat in 2019, but he then bounced back massively. From 2019 to 2021 (while also going up two levels), Pratto added 5% to his walk rate, cut 5% from his strikeout rate and more than tripled his isolated power (9 homers in 472 plate appearances in 2019 to 36 in 545 in 2021). It’s easier to take these adjustments to his hitting approach and swing for real when it’s roughly (but still better than) what was expected for the last few years, but I also don’t want to minimize the marked improvement by the player in concert with his coaches. Pratto should be making his big league debut in 2022.

79. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Cincinnati Reds

Age: 24 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Type: Steady fastball/curveball-heavy starter

The 6-foot-6 Lodolo was an unsigned first-round pick out of a SoCal high school, then went No. 7 overall out of TCU in 2019. He only pitched 18⅓ innings after signing, then didn’t pitch in the nonexistent 2020 minor league season, so 2021 was his real pro debut. His numbers were excellent over a mere 50⅔ innings (cut short by shoulder fatigue in August) in Double-A and Triple-A, striking out 78 and walking 11. He sits 93-95 mph with some life (throwing both a sinker and four-seamer), and his curveball is above average; these two/three pitches were 89% of his pitches thrown in 2021.

Analytic models that every team uses grade his changeup as a plus pitch due to movement, but it plays closer to a 55 to the eye and he threw it only 9% of the time. Regardless, Lodolo at times has shown three 60-grade pitches and average or better command in his best outings, leading to top-10 pick and frontline starter projections, but he looks a little more like a third/fourth starter now, though some analytics would say that’s light.

80. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres

Age: 22 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Type: Left-handed athlete who is (normally) above average at everything

Gore has gone on a journey from projectable athlete as a prep underclassman to top-five pick as a prep senior (2017), to arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball two-and-a-half years later (before the 2020 season), to a wild last two seasons of command problems and delivery adjustments. He was passed by Luis Patino (since traded to Tampa Bay in the Blake Snell package) and Ryan Weathers for big league looks when the team needed pitching late in 2020, and never got things synced again. His mechanics aren’t simple: His leg kick has varied in the past two years while looking for the right answer, so he still hasn’t made his big league debut and was added to the 40-man roster in November when it was required.

This year could be the year his above-average stuff and plus command return and he showcases it in the big leagues in whatever role the Padres need, but I’m mostly leaning on the long history of being excellent prepandemic and not overly focusing on the specific troubles of 2020 and 2021. If Gore was a second-round pick and fringe top-100 prospect at his height, it would be easy to toss him in the “shrug, weird things happen to pitchers” bucket and bury him in the 45 FV tier, but it’s hard to just walk away from a talent like this, so here he is, ranked with other potential/likely No. 3 and No. 4 starters or riskier bets to be No. 2 starters.

81. Shea Langeliers, C, Atlanta Braves

Age: 24 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Big arm/power catcher with advanced defense

Langeliers emerged as an offensive threat at Baylor and has slowly added in-game power to his contact-and-defense skill set, to the point where his plus raw power is now alongside his arm strength as his best tool and his in-game power projects to be above average. His contact skills are still fine — good enough to get to his power in games and give him offensive upside as an everyday catcher, since he’s always been an above-average receiver.

82. Jose Miranda, 3B, Minnesota Twins

Age: 23 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Gifted all-around bat, fits in a corner

Miranda has migrated from a primary second baseman as an amateur to now fitting best at either third base (where he’s fringe-average) or first base (where he’ll go if he regresses at third base). One reason this has happened is that he’s a bat-first player for whom the glove was never really the selling point, but he has also added strength and steadily added in-game power. Last year, he hit 30 homers across Double-A and Triple-A with exit velos better than the first basemen ranked around him while being age-appropriate for a prospect at those levels, with roughly average walk rates and much-better-than-average contact rates.

Age: 23 | Bats: Right | Throws: Left
Type: Whiff machine who can go multiple innings

Ashby was a draft sleeper, known for his breaking ball out of a Missouri junior college, taken in the fourth round in 2018. His velo ticked up after signing, and he improved quickly, getting to the big leagues and throwing 31.2 innings last year, mostly out of the bullpen. Milwaukee has had success breaking Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta into the big leagues via bullpen outings, then eventually moving them into the rotation. That seems to be on the menu again for Ashby, or at least multiple innings and a different role for 2022. Ashby’s three plus pitches (fastball, two-plane slider, changeup) will play in any role, and with Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta, Josh Hader and Devin Williams, Milwaukee has proven that it can optimize talented young arms when they bubble up from their farm system.

84. Matt Brash, RHP, Seattle Mariners

Age: 23 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Whiff machine who can go multiple innings

Brash was stolen by Seattle from the Padres in an under-the-radar 2020 trade deadline deal for Taylor Williams (designated for assignment last summer, now a free agent). Brash had some profile as a fourth-round pick in 2019. He was a later-blooming Canadian pitcher at Niagara, but you may now know him for his cartoonish breaking ball (and also his notable changeup) made famous by Pitching Ninja.

He sits 95-98 mph, his two-plane breaker is a 70-grade pitch and his changeup will flash above average at times. Brash’s command is a little below average, and he probably isn’t a 180-200 inning pitcher given his durability. You may be thinking of Lance McCullers — he is a good representation of an optimistic outcome, but also gives you a good idea of the type of pitcher Brash is.

85. Drew Romo, C, Colorado Rockies

Age: 20 | Bats: Switch | Throws: Right
Type: Toolsy catcher with advanced feel

I’ve always been hesitant to rank prep catchers or right-handed pitchers high and continue to be skeptical early in their pro careers. I think it’s generally been a net positive, but there are outlier instances where I try to quickly realize the exception to my rule. It looks like Romo may join Daniel Espino in making me turn a 180 within a year or two. Romo was a showcase stalwart with a plus arm and above-average defensive ability to go with above-average raw power. His contact ability ran hot and cold, but it seemed like he’d be at least solid offensively, not enough for me to think he’d separate from the competition. I was wrong. In his 2021 pro debut at low-A, at age 19, he hit .314 with a 6% walk rate and a 15% strikeout rate. His power metrics were below average (you can’t have it all) but the raw power is in there already, and he’s advanced in all defensive phases, so the pieces are in place for another breakout.

86. Dillon Dingler, C, Detroit Tigers

Age: 23 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Big arm/power catcher with above-average physical skills

Dingler emerged in the fall before his junior year at Ohio State as a former center fielder with a limited track record who suddenly had grown into power and the catcher position. He came blazing out of the gates in 2020 and had scouts rushing in to evaluate him as a potential first-round pick when the shutdown occurred. There was some risk given his position, but he had all the tools, so it just seemed like a matter of time before he brought everything together. He also had all the tools to hit and hit for power, but his approach could be too aggressive (and his swing a little too uphill), so he slid to the top of the second round on draft day.

Once again, he came out of the gates blazing in 2021, crushing high-A and getting a quick promotion to Double-A, where his contact/approach issues emerged. He also broke his thumb and was in the midst of his longest season behind the plate of his career. There’s enough room here to toss out much of his season’s second half and focus on the first half, but the truth is probably somewhere in between. Something like a 40 bat with above-average raw power and athleticism, at least average defense and a plus arm is an every-day package, with the risk being that his bat plays closer to a 30 and he becomes a backup.

87. Michael Busch, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 24 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Solid every-day corner bat

The Dodgers have toyed with Busch playing second base, and there was a flirtation with left field in college, but first base is probably still Busch’s best position in the long term. Given Busch’s mature hit/power combo and first base/second base fit for the Dodgers, the Max Muncy comps are inevitable, but I don’t think there’s that much potential offensive impact. He will be on the list for a potential big league debut in 2022 and can passably fit at six spots in the lineup (second base, DH, all four corners), like most Dodgers position players.

88. Hunter Brown, RHP, Houston Astros

Age: 23 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Late-blooming starting pitcher with a hammer


Brown was a fifth-round pick out of a Division II college in 2019, with his selection coming later than the pre-draft buzz, which had him in the second to third round, predicted after a breakout spring. The buzz the moment he got into pro ball was even a notch higher than the pre-draft expectations, and Brown has accordingly shot through the system. He’s now ahead of schedule, thriving in Triple-A at age 22. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, and his plus (maybe plus-plus) curveball is the calling card here. He has the feel to start and should be a big league factor in 2022.

89. Mick Abel, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Big-upside power arm still putting it together

Abel was identified as one of the top arms in his prep class as a freshman and held serve until draft day, when he became the first prep arm off the board in the 2020 draft. He sits in the mid-90s and will flirt with 100 mph at times, his slider flashes plus and he broadly checks all the boxes when it comes to frame, delivery and feel. He only threw 44.2 innings in 2021 as he missed time with shoulder tendonitis. He could rocket up this list if/when everything clicks, but prep pitchers usually need a year or two of pro ball to make adjustments in style and workload.

Age: 22 | Bats: Switch | Throws: Right
Type: Well-rounded everyday shortstop with below-average pop

This general type of player had been underrated by the industry for over a decade, but given the emergence of the shorter infielder with late-blooming power, it’s probably properly valued now. Perdomo got a taste of the big leagues last year but will likely play predominantly in Triple-A this year. He’ll make regular contact and draw some walks, add value on the basepaths with plus speed and play an above-average shortstop. You’ll notice I ignored his power because it might never be better than a 40 (8-10 homers), and that would limit his upside to merely a solid regular.

91. J.J. Bleday, RF, Miami Marlins

Age: 24 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Type: Well-rounded solid everyday right fielder

If you’re looking for explosive upside, Bleday isn’t for you. He’s also coming off a down year, but going from the SEC in 2019 to no competitive games in 2020 to Double-A in 2021 was a big ask for a number of players who largely struggled. I tend to move more slowly on hitters with long track records, and more drastically move hitters with short track records, where each piece of information means more. I believe in Bleday’s bat and indications are that he has bulked up so more power will be coming this year. His best-case scenario is 60 hit/power and I’d expect a notch below that, but a solid everyday right fielder in the upper levels with a long track record is worthy of the back end of the list, even if it isn’t exciting per se.

Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Power-over-hit corner bat

Normally, a 21-year-old (Vientos turned 22 this offseason) third baseman crushing Double-A would be someone in the top tier of this list, but some of the secondary facts are concerns with Vientos. There’s real 30-homer power and 2021 was a breakout year, but it may be more left field/first base long term than third base, and he looks like he might always be over 25% strikeouts and under 10% walks due to his pitch selection being just OK and his swing being geared for power. For Mets fans, this probably sounds similar to J.D. Davis because it is, but Vientos just turned 22, so there’s still a little more time to break out above that.

93. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 22 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Type: Crafty lefty with above-average stuff

Liberatore jumped on the amateur scene early with a silky smooth delivery, big physical projection, and above-average stuff that flashed plus at times. He hasn’t jumped to the top of the list as some may have hoped, but is solidly average across the board, sitting at 93 mph with two- and four-seam fastballs. His signature curveball is still his best pitch, and his slider, changeup, and command all grade out above average.

He has moved quickly since being traded from the Rays and should make his MLB debut in 2022.

94. DL Hall, LHP, Baltimore Orioles

Age: 23 | Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Type: Lefty whiff machine who can go multiple innings

Hall’s scouting report has basically been the same from the summer before his senior year in high school on: plus stuff (fastball/curve/change) and fringy feel for pitching. He threw only 31⅔ innings in 2021 due to a stress reaction in his elbow, but all signs are he’ll pick up in 2022 where he left off: in the upper levels of the minors with otherworldly K rates. I expect him to fit best in as a multi-inning reliever or with a quicker-hook as a starter, but the stuff is plenty to turn over a lineup multiple times.

95. Taj Bradley, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Emerging well-rounded starter

Bradley was a late-rising, young-for-the-class prep arm out of the Atlanta area in 2018 the Rays grabbed late for about $750,000. He flashed solid-average stuff at times, but was generally pretty crude as an amateur. The 2021 season was his coming-out party, steamrolling both levels of A-ball as a 20-year-old helped by his now-plus fastball/slider combo. His physical skills, command and mound presence are all above average to where he looks better than all of the college arms in the 2022 draft (his age peers) at the moment and he’ll pitch in Double-A this spring.

96. Gunnar Henderson, SS, Baltimore Orioles

Age: 20 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Type: Shortstop/third base tweener with power/patience skill set

Henderson was in the second tier of prep bats in the 2019 draft and slid a little further than expected to the No. 42 overall pick over questions about his ability to make consistent contact and play shortstop long term. Those are both still questions, but more the details to his scouting report than big concerns.

I think he’ll slide over to third base and be at least above average there and although his strikeout rates were high last year, he got to Double-A as a 20-year-old and hit 17 homers with a double-digit walk rate. Something like a 45 bat, 55 power, a solid average walk rate, and above-average defense at the hot corner with a lefty stick is a solid everyday player. He’s on the quick-moving timetable to lend credence to that outcome.

97. Harry Ford, C, Seattle Mariners

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Hit-over-defense catcher who may move

Ford was the No. 12 overall pick in last summer’s draft out of an Atlanta-area high school. He has plus raw power, pitch selection and speed along with good contact skills. His swing, mainly his setup, has changed over the last year or two and probably still needs some fine-tuning. He’s extremely flexible and should be fine behind the plate, but if the bat moves as quickly as it could third base or the outfield might make more sense. It’s still early after 19 pro games, but this type (showcase performer with plus offensive traits and defensive value) has been a fruitful one to bet on, so he could move into the middle of this list by midseason with a hot spring.

98. Coby Mayo, 3B, Baltimore Orioles

Age: 20 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Long-levered power-over-hit third baseman

I was skeptical of Mayo on the showcase circuit because he had a different setup to his swing every time I saw him and at 6-foot-5, his arms were long enough that he had to have plus athletic ability and sound swing mechanics to make it work. This sort of player goes to college and is at best a coin flip to figure this out. His draft spring in South Florida was cut short by the pandemic and he was relegated to asking for seven figures in the later rounds of the draft, hoping a team saw his upside. The Orioles cut a deal with the second overall pick and spread the savings around, giving Mayo $1.75 million in the fourth round. The O’s worked with Mayo and he hit 9 homers in 53 pro games, the majority in low-A and as a 19-year-old. He had a solid contact rate, above-average walk rate and showed defensive improvement that was helped by his 70-grade arm. With a full draft spring, I think Mayo would’ve just gone in the top 50 picks like teammate and fellow top 100 prospect Gunnar Henderson, but they’ve landed in about the same spot regardless.

99. Johan Rojas, CF, Philadelphia Phillies

Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Dynamic toolshed turning the corner offensively

Rojas may have the most impressive physical tool grades in the minors leagues: a 70 runner, 70 defender in center field, a 60 arm, projecting for 55 maybe even 60 raw power, at least plus bat speed, and at least average contact skills. There’s some game playability of these tools via the defensive instincts and a strong 17-game showing at high-A while still 20 years old.

Rojas needs to curtail some chase out of the zone and lift the ball more in games to get to his raw power. He has already made improvements to this end and 2022 will be a big year to prove if he’ll stay on the fast track to the big league lineup or be more of a slower burn defensive specialist that tantalizes with his upside. This skill set is very similar to Cristian Pache, who still hasn’t turned the corner offensively (now 23); odds are one of them figures it out at the plate and I’m very slightly leaning to Rojas now.

100. Elly De La Cruz, SS, Cincinnati Reds

Age: 20 | Bats: Switch | Throws: Right
Type: Toolshed with a problematic approach

De La Cruz is so confounding of an evaluation that the player on this list most likely to be tagged unique is probably his best comparison: Oneil Cruz. Oneil is a 6-foot-7, lefty-hitting “shortstop” with the raw power of Aaron Judge: he sounds like a fable. Cruz has already played in the big leagues and is No. 16 on this list, so he’s unique but has been known for years. De La Cruz is the new version on the block: a lanky 6-5 switch-hitter who just turned 20 years old, also a shortstop, but it’s early enough in his physical development that he might stay there.

Now to the tools: De La Cruz grades as a 60 or 70 in raw power, speed and arm strength (and 70 in all three for some), a winner of any workout you could conceive of for an NFL-draft-style baseball combine. The only reason he’s ranked at the end of this list is he swings way too much right now — so much so that you have to have tools and a body like he does to get anywhere near the list with his current approach. Next season, he’ll either be in the top 25 of this list and be a name every fantasy drafter will want to take in the minor league portion of their draft, or I’ll be shrugging and explaining why he’s 25th on the Reds team list.

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