Welcome to this year’s ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball. I’ve been compiling and writing such rankings for 17 years now, and those of you who’ve read them before will find the format here similar to those from the recent past. My farm reports covering at least 20 prospects in each team’s system, and notes on prospects who might appear in the majors this year, or who might be breakout prospects for the 2025 rankings, will appear starting the week of Feb. 12.
This year’s list has more players from the most recent draft than any top-100 I’ve ever done (I think), with 20 percent of the list — that’s 20 players, if you’re struggling to do the math here — on this list being 2023 draftees. That’s a combination of what might be the best draft class of my career since I left the Blue Jays and a high degree of turnover from the 2023 top-100 list. We had a ton of graduations from last year’s list: seven of the top 10, plus 25 more from the rest of the list. And we had a few face-plants, too, including one guy who went from the top 10 last year to completely off the list this year, although, in my defense, he had it coming. Five others fell off the list due to injury or illness that either impacted their long-term outlook or hurt their performance so much that they were simply passed by other, healthy players.
To be eligible for this list, a player must still retain Rookie of the Year eligibility for 2024, and have no experience in NPB/KBO, as those are major leagues and calling, say, Yoshinobu Yamamoto a “prospect” is pretty silly (not to mention it takes up the space I’d rather use on an actual prospect). I also don’t include the international free agents who just signed in January, since in nearly all cases those guys haven’t been scouted by other teams in a year or more.
I tend to favor upside in prospects more than certainty, but there is value in both. A player who is all ceiling and no floor isn’t as valuable, in the trade market now or in considering his expected value in the long term, as one who has a somewhat lower ceiling but a much higher floor. I want players who might be stars, and after that I want players who might be above-average big leaguers — but I also try to keep in mind that many of these prospects won’t reach their ceilings, and to consider what other scenarios exist for their futures.
I use “seasonal age” for players (listed as “Age” on the player bios below), which is their age on July 1, 2024, the midpoint of the calendar. I use the 20-80 scale for tools (or 2-8 — same scale, different dialect), where 50 is average, 60 is plus, 40 is well below average, 80 is Ke’Bryan Hayes’ defense, and 20 is Yasmani Grandal’s foot speed. I try to discuss players’ tools, their frames, their level of athleticism and other physical attributes, as well as their skills, their aptitude, and other mental or intellectual attributes as well. This is comparable to how major-league teams evaluate players, although they will always have the advantage of access to more and better data than those of us on the outside can get. The least I can do is try to reflect how the industry thinks about players, and give you the most accurate possible picture of the prospects in these rankings through both the lens of my own evaluations and those of the people within the industry whom I most trust.
When referring to starters, I acknowledge that that role is still evolving and we don’t have 200-inning guys anymore, with a lot of “five-and-dive” (throw five innings and hit the showers) or twice-through-the-order guys, but I will still talk about league-average starters and sometimes refer to back-end (fourth or fifth) starters or above-average (ace, No. 2, and some No. 3) starters. Bear in mind that there is a range around any projection or prediction for a player — if I say I think someone’s a No. 4 starter, he might have a ceiling as a No. 3 or more, and the floor of a middle reliever or a bulk reliever, where the No. 4 starter projection is the most likely or median outcome I see.
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2023 Ranking: 19
Holliday went from “maybe he’s a first-rounder” in the fall of 2021, his senior year of high school, to “oh my God he’s the best prospect in baseball” by May of 2023, an unbelievable rise — you could say meteoric, but I prefer to avoid such clichés — that’s a testament to both his natural talent and his incredible feel for the game. He played at all four full-season levels of the minors in 2023, dominating the first three before a solid stint at Triple-A Norfolk to end the year, with a composite line of .323/.442/.499 on the season and 101 walks against 118 strikeouts. He has exceptional hand-eye coordination, so even when he’s fooled by a pitch he often manages to make contact with it, even hard contact. I do think major-league pitchers will force him to shorten up his swing sometimes, as he nearly always swings full bore and no one has given him any reason to do otherwise. He’s a 50/55 runner, likely to end up average once he fills out, a process that will begin as soon as he starts shaving every day. Holliday is a natural shortstop whose position wouldn’t be in doubt if the Orioles didn’t already have an incumbent there — and Holliday is a better defender than Gunnar Henderson at short — but he’s moved around the infield a little and could come up at third or second if Baltimore doesn’t want to dislodge the AL Rookie of the Year. He reminds me in several ways of Troy Tulowitzki, but has the advantage of the left-handed bat and has a better feel for the strike zone. I think he’ll hit .280-.300 with strong walk rates and 25+ homers a year to go with above-average defense at shortstop, and that’s a profile that can win an MVP award.
2023 Ranking: 3
Chourio came into the year as my No. 3 prospect, behind the two eventual Rookie of the Year winners, but then got off to a slow start when the Brewers started him in Double-A Biloxi despite just 31 games in High A and six in Double A the year before. Whether he was pressing or just adjusting to the tougher level, when the sun rose on June 1, Chourio was hitting .254/.308/.418 and had punched out in a quarter of his plate appearances. The rest of the season, he hit .297/.353/.492 with a 15 percent strikeout rate and spent the final week with Triple-A Nashville. That week went pretty well, as Chourio put 21 balls in play, eight of them with exit velocities of 100 mph or better, peaking at 107.2 mph, and just five below 91 mph. Chourio still finished fifth in the Double-A Southern League in steals and tied for fourth in homers, and has barely begun to fill out physically, getting to that power and hard contact with strong wrists and incredible bat speed. It’s a simple swing with just enough loft in that follow-through for line-drive power, and he projects to hit for high averages as well. He’s a plus runner and at least a 60 defender in center already, likely to end up more. You can make a case for him over Holliday, as Chourio also plays a position up the middle, offers plus defense, has more speed, and is overall a twitchier, more athletic player. I think Holliday has the higher floor, between his position and better feel right now for the strike zone, but, as with the top-two prospects Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll last year, I think both of these guys are superstars.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Salas signed last January when he was 16, was catching Joe Musgrove in a simulated game in spring training in March. He debuted in Low A on May 30, just two days before he turned 17, which, among other things, makes him the first player I’ve ever scouted who was younger than my daughter is. (This is extremely important information, to me, at least.) Salas went off in 48 games in the California League, hitting .267/.350/.487, so the Padres promoted him to High A for nine games, then to Double A to be with the bulk of their prospects for a playoff push for nine more games, after which a minor knee injury ended his season. Salas was born in Kissimmee, Fla., and is the younger brother of Twins farmhand Jose Salas, but spent parts of his childhood in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, so he’s bilingual and very advanced for his age on both sides of the ball. He’s a smooth catcher who has game-calling experience and is comfortable catching premium velocity already, with a plus arm and quick release, as well. At the plate, he’s surprisingly short to the ball for a 6-foot-2 hitter with easy power already. He has enough pitch recognition that he has an idea of when to reach back a little for a harder but longer swing. Catching’s tough on the body and mind, with prospects behind the dish essentially doing a double major, learning all of the skills for a backstop (receiving, blocking, framing, throwing, game-calling, being nice to umps) while also developing as a hitter. Salas is as advanced at the first major, being a catcher, as any 17 year old I can remember seeing, and he seems to be ready to at least survive in Double A as a hitter already. It’s a potential bat that would play at first base attached to a catcher who might be plus in every meaningful aspect of the position. If he keeps hitting, Krylon might put him in their commercials.
2023 Ranking: 9
Lawlar was the sixth pick in the 2021 draft out of a Dallas high school, but injured his shoulder on a swing — the same injury that befell Corbin Carroll before him and Druw Jones afterward, so I hope Tommy Troy has insurance — and played just two games after signing. Even without a real first summer, he’s raced up to the majors in two seasons, reaching Triple A just a few weeks after he turned 21. He’s got great instincts on both sides of the ball and has now improved his footwork and his throwing to the point where he might be a 55 defender at short, and no worse than average. On offense, he’ll show plus bat speed and should get to 15-20 homer power at his peak, although the 20 homers he hit last year were inflated by playing in two insane hitters’ parks in Amarillo and Reno. When he’s right, he’s very short to the ball but still makes solid contact because of that bat speed and wrist strength, with a swing path that will produce more low line drives than big flies. He’s an easy plus runner who’s a real base-stealing threat, with an 87 percent success rate in the minors. My one concern is that he can come out of his swing at times, lunging and over-rotating to try to force power that isn’t there, which can lead to whiffs or just poor contact, like topping the ball right into the ground. As long as he stays back and sticks to what’s worked so well for him, he should be a star somewhere on the infield, even if he moves off short for a superior defender.
2023 Ranking: 99
Acquired by the Rays in a trade that Guardians fans would prefer I never mention again, Caminero started 2023 in High A and finished it in the majors while getting regular at bats for a playoff team — and smoking the ball, too. Caminero’s a tremendous hitter, combining feel for the barrel, balance, and brute strength to produce a ton of hard contact, peaking at 112 mph in his brief stint in the majors. His swing is simple but still powerful between that upper body strength and his rapid hand acceleration, while he doesn’t chase much and doesn’t miss many pitches in the zone, with some vulnerability to breaking stuff down and away that’s typical for a lot of young hitters. Caminero has primarily played third base in the minors and worked himself into an average glove there, with some experience at short, second, and even first, although that last position shouldn’t be necessary given how much progress he’s made at the hot corner. He hit 31 homers in total last year in 117 games across three levels, and this kind of hard-contact skill and feel to hit should produce that kind of 30+ homer power in the majors too, with .300ish averages in the best outcomes, enough for him to be the impact bat the Rays have needed for ages.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Few draft players have had debuts as good as Langford’s, as he played at four levels last season, hitting .360/.480/.677 in 200 professional PA, and ended the year in Triple A, where he reached base 14 times in 26 trips to the plate. Langford was my preseason No. 1 prospect for the 2023 draft and was No. 2 on draft day after a ruptured testicle took him out for about two weeks in the spring, preventing him from answering scouts’ questions about his outfield defense. He’s an electric offensive player, a 70 runner underway who boasts a smooth, powerful right-handed swing where he stays very steady through contact, rotating his hips on time to transfer his weight without becoming unbalanced, putting the ball in the air with a lot of juice. He’s fast enough for center but played left in Florida, in part because they had a plus defender in center but more because Langford has yet to show even solid instincts in the outfield. That said, if what he did in a modest sample in pro ball is any indication, he could play sixth base or top field or anywhere else and still be an impact player, because he looks like he is really going to hit and put 25-30 balls in the seats, too.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Crews was already on scouts’ radar as a high school junior for his advanced hit tool and potential for power, but a rough start to his senior year followed by a global pandemic that ended the 2020 season and cut the draft short. Well, he ended up at LSU, and things worked out just fine, as he mashed for three years as a Tiger and ended up the second pick in the 2023 draft. Crews can really hit, going .426/.567/.713 last spring for LSU, then hitting .355/.423/.645 in 14 games in Low A after he signed, although an aggressive two-level promotion to Double A finally slowed him down. His swing is really simple and when he’s on time, it’s short and direct and the contact is loud. He’s an average to a tick above-average runner, but so far he’s looked very good in centerfield thanks to great reads, although he may end up pushed to a corner by a superior defender once he’s in the majors. When he was playing with Double-A Harrisburg, pitchers were able to mess with his timing by changing speeds, even getting him to cut through some fastballs in the upper half of the zone, so there are some adjustments for him to make before he races to the majors. It might slow his progress by a few weeks, but his ceiling as a hitter who’s among the league leaders in all three triple-slash categories while playing up the middle or playing plus defense in a corner is still there.
2023 Ranking: 11
Mayer was the fourth pick in the 2021 draft and No. 1 on my final draft board that year. His 2023 season didn’t go according to plan, as Boston’s top prospect hurt his shoulder in May, eventually going on the injured list for the impingement in early August, ending his season. When healthy, Mayer has a beautiful left-handed swing and projects to plus power in his peak years, with plenty of loft in his finish to put the ball over the fence, but he hasn’t been healthy all that often in his two full years in the minors, dealing with some wrist soreness in 2022, as well. He’s got the athleticism and first-step movement to be a plus defender at short, showing the ability to make difficult or distant plays, and needs to work more on consistency to become a 60 or better in the field. He’s a below-average runner and not likely to be a base-stealing threat in the majors. Mayer’s shoulder was already hurt when he got to Double A last year, so his dismal line there (.189/.254/.355, 26 percent K rate) is probably just noise. He needs a full season on the field now to show the huge upside that made him Boston’s first pick in 2021.
2023 Ranking: 53
Carter’s ascent to the majors over the last two years rivals that of anyone other than perhaps Junior Caminero’s, and in some ways is more stunning given that Carter started the 2022 season with just 32 games played beyond high school. The Rangers’ second-round pick in 2020, much-maligned in these quarters as area scouts questioned his contact skills in high school, Carter has shown outstanding plate discipline at every level, including the majors, and the ability to manage an at bat like a major-league veteran. He’s a plus defender and runner who might end up with a 6 hit tool as well, which would make him an All-Star if so. There are some beige flags here; he’s never hit left-handed pitching in the minors or majors, his swing probably isn’t going to produce more than average pull power, and he’s shown more propensity to chase now that he’s facing better quality pitching. Brandon Nimmo didn’t hit lefties much at all until he was 25 or 26, and he’s already produced 21 WAR and made himself a ton of money, so the platoon split issue is far from fatal. Carter’s got a very high floor — the worst-case scenario would appear to be that he’s a high-average/OBP platoon outfielder with plus defense — with the ceiling of a star if he hits southpaws better and gets toward 20-ish homers a year.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Skenes was the first pick in last year’s draft, coming off a spring where he was nearly unhittable as the Friday night starter for the eventual national champion LSU Tigers, punching out 45 percent of batters he faced and pitching regularly at 96-102 mph with a wipeout slider. He’s a pitcher of unusual size, already 6-6 and probably 260 lbs or so, and hides the ball extremely well behind his body thanks to a compact arm action, allowing him to get away with some iffy fastball command and below-average life on the pitch. He offers ace ceiling, with size and arm strength you can’t teach, but has several adjustments to make to get there, including ramping up use of a changeup he never bothered to use in college (why would he do hitters the favor) and working on a two-seamer so hitters don’t cheat and sit on the straight four-seamer instead. His command is probably a 45 or so, although he throws the fastball for strikes enough that I’d be surprised if walks were an issue before he reaches Triple A, where they use the automated ball-strike system (ABS). He’ll need to take a few more steps forward to give the Pirates a real top-of-the-rotation solution, but Pirates fans can take heart in Skenes’ track record of improvements, as he went from a two-way player with an above-average fastball at Air Force in 2022 to the dominant starter we saw last spring at LSU. Look for him to reach Pittsburgh at some point this summer.
2023 Ranking: 12
The top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, Harrison had a rough go in his Triple-A debut last year, walking 16.3 percent of hitters — at least some of which was likely attributable to the automated ball-strike system that’s used in some Triple-A games — and missing a month with a hamstring injury, but he showed much better in his seven major-league starts, including throwing a lot more strikes than expected. Harrison comes from a low three-quarters arm slot that makes him very tough on left-handed hitters, working 92-97 mph with hard running life, along with a hard slurve that mostly breaks downward and a changeup that’s potentially plus and has good separation from the fastball. It’s not an easy delivery to repeat, so his command will probably always be a question, but the improved control in the majors was a great sign, and his sudden trouble with the longball (eight homers allowed in 34 2/3 major-league innings, four of them in a single start) seems fluky with three coming from left-handed batters. Everyone wants to make pitchers who throw like Harrison into Chris Sale, but I think that’s unfair to both guys; the White Sox gave Sale a new grip that turned his slider into a 70, while Harrison may end up relying much more on the fastball/changeup and saving his breaker for left-on-left crime. Regardless of how he puts it together, he looks like a No. 2 starter and has that ace upside if the command takes a leap or he can tighten up the slurve.
2023 Ranking: 45
Quero spent the entire 2023 season in Double A at age 20, the youngest catcher to get even 300 PA at either of the top two levels of the minors. He showed big progress across the board, including a massive improvement in his conditioning from 2022 to 2023. He’s in way better shape now to handle a full season of work behind the plate, so while he always had the hands and arm for the position, he’s a lot more consistent and could end up a 60 defender there all around. At the plate, he’s got great feel for the barrel, with a swing that’s short to the ball and long through contact, with future 20-homer seasons a possibility when he’s in his mid-20s. He can swing too hard at times but gets away with it because he has such good barrel control within the zone. He did have a reverse platoon split last year, struggling especially when lefties threw him changeups, while right-handers would attack him with spin down and away that he’s still learning to lay off. Other than running, he’s got the potential for above-average or better tools across the board, and he’s already advanced as a catcher for his age. The Brewers don’t need a catcher now, just like they don’t need a center fielder, but they have a future two-way star here in Quero.
2023 Ranking: 22
This is Rocchio’s fourth year on my top-100, and I presume his final one, as he debuted in the majors last year and the Guardians appear to have cleared the path for him to be their opening-day shortstop. Rocchio’s outstanding feel for the game was evident even when he signed at 16, while he’s developed into a plus defender at shortstop and improved his pitch recognition and swing decisions as he’s moved up the chain. He’s a true switch-hitter who hits from both sides of the plate, and he’s become extremely difficult to strike out, ranking in the top 4 percent of all full-season players (minimum 400 PA) last year in contact rate. He’s shown power in the past, with 33 homers in 2021-22 combined, and hits the ball hard for a smaller hitter, with top-end exit velocities higher than Alex Bregman’s were at ages 22-23, although I’d project a more conservative 15-18 homers a year for Rocchio. It’s plus defense, potentially elite plate discipline, quality contact already, and a track record of consistent improvements. Cleveland’s trade of Francisco Lindor should hurt a bit less now that his successor is here.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Clark could have been the first pick in many drafts, but the 2023 draft was loaded at the top, so Clark ended up going third to the Tigers. He’s an actual five-tool prospect, by which I mean he is or projects to be above-average or better in all five tools — hit, power, run, field, throw — not just a great prospect who gets called “five tool” because it sounds good. He’s a 70 runner who plays easy plus defense in center with a strong enough arm for right, and he’s got a pretty yet powerful left-handed swing that gets to plus power already. He starts with a wide base at the plate with just enough room left for a small step forward without much weight transfer, then starts his hands extremely quickly to generate that plus power. The only question about his tools is how good a hitter he is today, as he didn’t face any decent pitching among Indiana high schools; his pro debut included a lot of contact even when he was clearly gassed playing in Low A in September. He’s already strong for his age and size and doesn’t offer a ton of projection, but also doesn’t need it to profile as an above-average regular or better — a 30/30 guy who plays plus defense in center and at least has OBPs in the upper .300s.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Jenkins was the fifth pick last year and part of the quintet of prospects who could have gone first overall in a typical draft, so the Twins picked the right year to select fifth in the draft. Jenkins earns a lot of comparisons to Larry Walker for his size, athleticism, and sweet left-handed swing, leading to hopes he can be another power-hitting right fielder with strong on-base skills and some speed as well. It’s about as textbook a swing as you’ll see, with elite bat speed and great hip rotation for hard contact and what should end up as 25-30 homer power, if not more. He had zero issues in pro ball with contact or plate discipline, although he didn’t show much of the power, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he took a year or two to grow into that part of his game. He played center in every game when he played the field except for one in right, but given his size I think he’s going to end up in a corner, just like his namesake. It may not be a straight line to stardom but I believe Jenkins’ swing and bat speed will carry him for now while we wait for the power to arrive.
2023 Ranking: 46
Winn reached the majors last year at age 21 and just barely still qualifies for this list — one more day on the roster or nine more at bats would have cost him his ROY eligibility for 2024. He’s an elite defender at short with an 80 arm, registering 100.5 mph on a throw at the 2022 Futures Game that set a new Statcast record for velocity for a throw by any infielder. He has outstanding plate discipline for his age, across all dimensions of that term — his pitch selection, his pitch type recognition, and his ball/strike recognition are all above-average or better for someone who’s been young for every level he’s played at in pro ball. He’s also a 70 runner with an 88.4 percent success rate on 104 stolen base attempts in the minors. And he has outstanding bat speed on top of that, rarely missing even plus fastballs, although in his case his bat may be in and out of the zone too quickly for it to translate as plus power or even high exit velocities. That adds up to a pretty high floor: plus defense, high contact rates, solid to plus on-base percentages, added value on the bases, and you hope a little power. Unless his approach completely collapses in the majors, which I have a hard time imagining, he’ll be at least an average regular at short for a long time. The Cards appear to have cleared the way for him to win the job out of spring training, and I don’t think there’s any real benefit to sending him back to Triple A at this point anyway. Just let his defense carry him while he adjusts to big-league pitching and enjoy the show.
2023 Ranking: 49
Marte has always hit even though he’s been young for the level everywhere he’s played, reaching the majors last year at age 21 and hitting .316/.366/.456 in his cup of coffee with just a 20.3 percent strikeout rate and a peak exit velocity over 115 mph. Acquired in the big swap that sent Luis Castillo to Seattle for four players, Marte had fallen out of favor with the Mariners because he’d gotten so big there was — and still is — some question over whether he’ll stay on the dirt, and I think there is no real shot for him to stay at shortstop. To his credit, he’s maintained some of his athleticism and speed even as he’s filled out so quickly, and while he probably won’t be a rangy third baseman he should make all of the necessary plays to be at least average there. His bat isn’t a big question, as he has great instincts at the plate and uses the whole field well, with power from his pull side all the way over to right-center. Playing half his games in Cincinnati should get him to 20-25 homers a year, if not more. His ultimate offensive ceiling depends on his approach, which right now is appropriately aggressive — he doesn’t whiff much or walk much, but chases a little too often right now to project as a star at his peak, with more of a .280/.330/.500 sort of ceiling. That’s a very good regular who makes some All-Star teams, with the chance to become something more if he makes better swing decisions even independent of just walking more. He’s ready for a major-league job right now, and the Reds have one to give him at third; if he wins it, he’s a contender for Rookie of the Year.
2023 Ranking: 26
Crow-Armstrong hadn’t played above A-ball coming into 2023, but hit a combined .283/.365/.511 between Double A and Triple A to reach the majors in September, where then Cubs manager David Ross played him only when both of Earth’s moons were in Sagittarius, possibly contributing to the fact that Crow-Armstrong still has yet to get his first major-league hit. He’ll get that and more this year, as he should spend the season as the Cubs’ center fielder, providing plus defense and I hope some strong on-base skills. Crow-Armstrong might be a 70 defender in center and is certainly plus, enough to give him a high floor as a fourth outfielder in the unlikely event that his bat doesn’t pan out. One reason that might happen is that he’s come into more power than anticipated, and it’s affected his approach, as he sells out to get to that power sometimes, often cutting across the ball and slicing it to left field. He’s strong enough to hit 20 homers, as he did last year in the minors, and a good enough hitter overall to hit .300+, but he’s probably not going to be able to do both with his swing and his size. He’s better served going for contact and letting some power come naturally, in the 10-12 homer a year range, and perhaps in doing so he’ll see his walk rate and thus his OBP creep back up. After a tough, if very brief, stint in the majors, Crow-Armstrong has a little more reason to find that offensive middle ground, and added to the value he’ll provide on defense he could be a 5 WAR player for several years through his peak.
2023 Ranking: 16
Wood has turned out to be the jewel in the trade that sent Juan Soto to San Diego. Wood has shown several elite tools already and reached Double A last year at age 20, but also carries some real risks related primarily to the strike zone. Wood is an outstanding athlete with 70 speed and 80 raw power, and if anything he’s improved his conditioning in pro ball to get even more out of his physical gifts. He can play plus defense in center and I’ve gotten occasional run times from him that grade out at 80. He started last year in High-A Wilmington, generally a tough place for power, and hit .293/.392/.580; his eight homers in 42 games ended up second on the team for the season. When the Nats bumped him to Double-A Harrisburg, which is a better home run park, the power stayed but the sheer size of his strike zone and some of his pitch recognition both led to a big jump in his strikeout rate, from 27 percent to 34 percent, with fastballs up and sliders in the lower third both becoming issues for him. He’s every bit of 6-6, maybe even 6-7 at this point, and between his height and how hard he swings, he’s going to have some whiff; the challenge for him and the Nats will be cutting it down to a manageable level so he hits enough to get to that 40-homer power and isn’t an OBP liability. My guess is there isn’t much middle ground here; the ceiling is that middle-of-the-order offense in a plus right fielder or 50/55 centerfielder, while the floor is another guy who can’t cut his K rate below 30 percent and bounces around for years as teams hope to catch lightning in a tall bottle.
2023 Ranking: Sleeper
The Orioles refused to participate in the annual Latin American free-agent donnybrook for more than a decade, which continues to hurt their farm system even now that they’ve jumped back in because of the lag between when those players sign (typically at age 16) and when they emerge as prospects. Basallo was one of their first big signings in that market, earning a $1.3 million bonus in 2021. He debuted in full-season ball this year, hitting so well in Low A and then High A that he even got a four-game cup of coffee with Double-A Bowie to finish the season. Basallo turned 19 in August and his bat is already very advanced, with a very short but powerful swing and what appears to be very good pitch recognition. While his offense is ahead of his defense, he does project as a catcher, with a cannon of an arm and the hands and athleticism to handle the position; the risk is that his bat might be so advanced that it’s better to move him to another position so he can get to the majors, à la Bryce Harper, Wil Myers or Paul Konerko. The Orioles also have a pretty good young catcher ahead of Basallo, which might change Basallo’s trajectory, although it isn’t relevant for the purposes of this ranking — Basallo projects as a power-hitting catcher with a strong OBP and the ability to control the running game, making him one of the top catching prospects in all of baseball.
2023 Ranking: 32
Domínguez reached the majors last year, just four years removed from signing for a $5.1 million bonus and more hype than any Dominican amateur player since Miguel Sanó a decade earlier, only to have his season end prematurely when he needed Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. Before that, however, he showed why he was so highly touted, with plenty of hard contact in the majors and in Triple A, topping out around 110 mph and hammering fastballs of any velocity. He has outstanding bat speed and easy plus power, while he’s a 70 runner underway and looks like he’ll be a plus defender in center if he’s given the opportunity out there. He’s a true switch-hitter, although he’s better from the left side, with enough platoon split last year to at least bear watching. He’s improved his pitch recognition by leaps and bounds since he began his pro career in 2021, and while he reached the majors sooner than anyone expected, he wasn’t overmatched and his batted-ball data was even better than the stat line. He’ll probably miss at least the first third of the 2024 season, maybe half, based on typical recovery times for position players with TJ surgeries, and perhaps that gives the Yankees cover to let him go mash in Triple A for a month before he returns to the majors. Once he’s healthy, he offers 20/20 upside with strong batting averages as well and the potential for plus defense in center or, if he loses any throwing strength, maybe 65-70 defense in left. The hype may have died down a bit but he looks like he’s going to be a star right on schedule.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Anthony boasts one of the best-looking swings in the minors, making a number of adjustments between when the Red Sox took him in the second round in 2022 and the start of 2023, turning him into one of the game’s top offensive prospects. Those adjustments included freeing up his hands and helping him keep his lead arm looser through contact for more power, while also using his lower half more to produce harder contact — something Boston cited when promoting him out of Low A despite a mediocre stat line of .228/.376/.316 at the level. He responded by hitting .301/.422/.565 the rest of the way between High A and a 10-game stint in Double A, so, hey, sorry I doubted you guys! He struck out around 28 percent of the time after the promotion but doesn’t chase often at all until he gets to two strikes, so the approach is sound, and the power is already showing up with more to come as he fills out. He’s playing more center now and Boston is working with him to improve his routes and his first-step quickness to give him a chance to remain there, with plus defense in a corner another potential outcome if he has to move. The Red Sox previously had the Greek God of Walks; maybe soon they’ll have Roman, God of Swings.
2023 Ranking: 20
Otherwise known as Jackson Barrel because, well, it’s not because he likes cognac. Merrill transformed his body in the 2021-22 offseason and has spent the last two years making a ton of contact while playing excellent defense at short, working his way up to Double A before his 21st birthday. Only 14 minor-league hitters who played enough to qualify in full-season ball struck out less often than Merrill’s 12.1 percent rate last season, and he actually struck out slightly less in Double A than he had in High A — and way less than he did in 2022. He’s gotten quite a bit stronger since high school, but so far that hasn’t translated into hard contact or high BABIPs, as he was under .300 at both stops last year. Merrill’s typical swing is very short, allowing him to make contact at high rates but at a cost of some of that impact, so the Padres have worked to help him get his lower half involved more and stay back better so that he can at least start to show more pull power. If you look at the body, the swing path through contact, and the feel for the zone, you can project 20+ homers in time, especially if he can start driving the ball the other way as well as to his pull side. He’s a 55 defender at short now who’ll likely end up plus, while he’s fast enough to handle centerfield if that became an option and should have no trouble at third or second. He has a wide range of outcomes despite a high floor; at worst he’s a low-OBP utilityman who plays forever because he can put the ball in play and handle six or seven positions. If the power comes, though, he could be a shortstop with a bat that would profile in right field, hitting for average even with low walk rates and getting to that 20-25 home run upside.
2023 Ranking: 18
Johnson has real plate discipline and excellent feel to hit, leading the full-season minors in walk rate and finishing fifth in total walks drawn with 101. He has excellent pitch selection and developing power but some cracks in the approach and the defense that weren’t apparent before this year. Johnson cleared up the hitch he would flash in high school and his bat path is clean and lets him get to that emerging power, with 18 homers in 2023 after he hit just one in 23 games in his pro debut the year before. He doesn’t chase, a skill that was more evident after he was promoted out of the Florida State League, where the league uses automated ball-strike system for some games, which has produced higher walk rates when it’s in place. However, he’s shown more propensity to whiff in the zone, and a late load seems to be impairing his timing, so even if he picks up the pitch type he’s still showing some swing and miss. Defensively, he’s moved to second base and scouts are very mixed on whether that’s going to be a long-term solution for him, as his footwork isn’t great and he’s getting by on his incredible instincts and baseball IQ — which isn’t a bad thing, mind you, but might not keep him at the position unless his mechanics improve. His range of outcomes has widened in both directions since last offseason; he could be a high-OBP, 18-22 homer second baseman, making a lot of All-Star teams and playing for a long time, but he could also end up in left field and/or miss too much in the zone to get to the high averages and OBPs everyone foresaw in high school.
2023 Ranking: Sleeper
De Paula signed for just under $400,000 as an international free agent in January 2022, and he’s since shown incredible feel for the strike zone as a teenager in Low A along with some high-end exit velocities already that point to a very big OBP/power upside. Born in Brooklyn but signed out of the Dominican Republic, De Paula — who is cousins with Stephon Marbury (tastefully done) — has outstanding bat speed and really controls the zone, with both ball/strike and pitch recognition that led to walk and strikeout rates well above the Low-A average last year. The main concern with him is that he’s a well below-average runner already at age 18, and has so much projection left to his body that he might grow himself right into first base. The combination of bat speed, selectivity, present power, and big physical projection could make him among the best hitters in baseball at his peak, and if so, whether it’s at first base or in an outfield corner won’t really matter.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Shaw was No. 7 on my 2023 pre-draft rankings after a spring when he hit everything hard for the University of Maryland, barreling up balls for a .341/.445/.697 line with some of the best batted-ball data in the class. The Cubs were overjoyed when he fell to the 14th pick, and were aggressive with him after he signed, getting him to Double A in September after he hit .393/.427/.655 in his 20-game stint in High A. Shaw’s swing already puts the ball in the air on a line, in the range that maximizes power and production on contact, with an average launch angle of 26 degrees last spring. He’s also shown the ability to recognize balls and strikes and thus limit his chase rate. He played shortstop in college but struggled with some of the harder throws, so he was always expected to move to second base or maybe the outfield; the Cubs have a more critical need at third base now, so he’s likely to see a lot of time there this year as they try to see if he can provide them with a long-term solution. Wherever he plays, he seems very, very likely to hit, and to end up hitting for more game power than his raw power grades (I’d say 55) might indicate.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Mayo hits the ball really, really hard, and he also hits it pretty often, which is a great starting point for any bat-first prospect; he drew 93 walks last year between Double A and Triple A to go with 29 homers and a 24 percent strikeout rate, which I think demonstrates his floor as “just” a three true outcomes hitter already. He’s 6-5 and listed at 230 pounds, so he’s got a big strike zone and some innate length to the swing just from the size of his arms. To his credit, he’s developed his eye at the plate over the last three years, with help from the Orioles’ staff, allowing him to make better swing decisions and look more for pitches he can drive to take advantage of that natural strength. There may always be some swing and miss here, notably on breaking stuff in the zone, due to his size and his wide setup at the plate, but a team could live with it because what he does on contact is so good — he hits it hard, and in the air, and can go the other way a little bit even though his power is mostly to his pull side. He’s got a 70 arm that would allow him to play anywhere, but third base is probably an uphill battle because of his size — he’s athletic enough for it, but it’s hard for guys that tall to stay on the dirt and consistently get down for groundballs. He could certainly play first right now and I’d like to see him in right field. The left side of the Orioles’ infield is the most densely populated place in America, so a position switch might serve everyone’s needs anyway. He probably won’t add much value on defense, but won’t hurt you, and a 30-homer, 80-walks guy who posts high BABIPs because everything off the bat is 90 mph or better is an above-average regular who plays for every team.
2023 Ranking: 29
Alcántara was part of the return from the Yankees for Anthony Rizzo at the 2021 trade deadline. The trade came right after he turned 19, and turned him almost immediately into one of the Cubs’ top prospects despite his inexperience to that point and the amount of physical projection he still had remaining. He’s still got a fair amount of growth ahead of him, and his game overall remains inconsistent, but he has superstar-level tools and has days where he’s clearly the best player on the field. The ball flies off his bat already, with 20-25 homer power now and the potential for 35-40 when he fills out, while he’s also a plus runner who plays at least solid-average defense in center. After a rough start to last year (including a 21:1 strikeout to walk ratio in May), he hit .329/.404/.551 from June 1 onward around a stint on the injured list and a promotion to Double A for the final five games of his season. Despite his 6-6 frame and a swing that sometimes looks like it’s out of control, he’s kept his strikeout rate around 24 percent, an excellent sign for his long-term outlook given the sheer size of his strike zone. He’s not the Cubs’ No. 1 prospect because he offers so much risk, but he has 30/30 upside in the middle of the field and a lot of other ways he could develop that would still make him an above-average or better everyday player.
2023 Ranking: 82
Jobe missed the first half of 2023 with a back injury, but when he returned, he threw better than he had in all of 2022, throwing 64 innings across four levels, striking out 84, and walking just six batters. Jobe works at 94-98 mph with a four-pitch mix that features a plus changeup, an above-average curveball in the low 80s, and a hard but short slider at 89-92, with huge spin rates on the heater and breaking balls. I have the slower pitch as the better one now and think that if he focuses on it he can get it to plus, as it already has tight rotation and huge vertical break. His delivery has effort to it even though it’s compact, with some head-whack at release, and he whips through the delivery so quickly he might not be generating enough of that velocity from his lower half. He’s a very good athlete, however, and should be able to make some adjustments if the Tigers want to try to reduce the effort involved. It’s No. 1 starter stuff and he at least has shown the kind of control to pitch atop a rotation, as long as he can stay healthy.
2023 Ranking: Sleeper
Listed at just 5-6, 175, Williams had an outstanding full-season debut last year, hitting .263/.425/.451 across three levels while playing solid-ish defense at shortstop and showing plus speed on the bases. Williams has surprising power for his size, which I assume is more accurate than the claimed 5-8 when he was in high school, and hits the ball hard enough to keep his averages up and produce 10-15 homers a year. It’s a compact swing — how could it be otherwise? — that puts the ball in the air a ton, and he uses the whole field well. His shortstop defense gets mixed reviews, with some belief he’ll stay at the position, although it’s easy to imagine him sliding to second base if he can’t stay there.
2023 Ranking: 51
Lee was the eighth pick in the 2022 draft, a very advanced hitter who’d been on scouts’ radar as a top prospect since he was in high school. He confirmed that by going to Double A to start his first full pro season and hitting .292/.365/.476 there before an August promotion to Triple A, setting him up to reach the majors this year. He’s a switch-hitter with some effort to the swing, showing a big split last year between his production from the left side (.287/.366/.494) and right side (.231/.266/.337), with a history of high contact rates, especially on fastballs in the zone. He’s boosted his contact quality in the last year and hits a ton of line drives, as his swing finishes with enough loft to often put him in the ideal launch-angle range for line-drive contact. He’s mostly played shortstop in the minors, getting just seven starts at the hot corner last year, but his long-term position is more likely to be off shortstop — probably third base, as he has plenty of arm for the left side of the infield and soft enough hands for third. He should hit for a .280-.300 average with strong OBPs and homer totals in the teens, playing above-average or better defense at third or second base, or 45 defense at shortstop if he’s forced to stay there by injuries or other circumstances.
2023 Ranking: 37
Rafaela’s one of the most fascinating prospects in the minors, a 5-9 infielder/center fielder from Curaçao who hits the ball harder than you’d expect from someone his size, plays some of the best center-field defense anywhere in professional baseball, and might swing at a butterfly if it flew within 10 feet of him. He started his pro career at shortstop and third base, but he’s too inconsistent for short and ended up moving to second, where he’s plus, and center, where he might be an 80, with easy routes and at least 70 speed to cover huge tracts of land. As a hitter, he boasts great bat speed and can connect with a lot of pitches out of the strike zone, which worked well enough in the minors but was an area that major-league pitchers exploited during his 28-game MLB debut. He’ll probably never be much for the free pass, but if he just cuts down on the chase, he has the strength and the loft in his finish to at least hit for line-drive power — balls to the gaps that will become doubles and triples with his speed, plus probably 12-18 homers a year, although he did hit 22 last year across three levels. He’s not the sort of player I typically like with his undisciplined approach, but I think he has a chance to be the most valuable defensive outfielder in baseball, giving him a high floor and thus time to clean up the approach enough for the swing and speed to play.
2023 Ranking: Sleeper
A pitcher and infielder at UNC Pembroke when the Padres drafted him in the 11th round in 2021, Ryan came to the Dodgers in a trade that sent Matt Beaty to San Diego. Once in the Dodgers’ system, Ryan became a full-time pitcher. He’s taken off since then, reaching Triple A last year in his second pro season, striking out almost a quarter of the batters he faced, and throwing four pitches that all at least flash plus. He’s up to 99 mph and pitches at 94-97 with a hammer curveball, sweepy slider, and hard fading changeup, dominating right-handed batters last year while showing some platoon split, particularly in OBP (he allowed a .388 OBP to lefties last year due to a 13 percent walk rate against them). He’s a superb athlete, as you’d expect from a former middle infielder, and his body looks ready to step into a major-league rotation now. He needs reps, as he still has just 152 professional innings on his resume, and in those reps he needs to continue to work on command of all of his pitches as well as his feel for the changeup. Ryan could be a No. 2 starter, and while I don’t think he’s ready for a major-league role just yet, he’s advanced so quickly he could easily make another big leap this spring and see Chavez Ravine before September.
2023 Ranking: 13
I wrote last year that the only thing that could stop Painter’s march to the majors was his injury risk, which unfortunately turned out to be more true than I anticipated — I thought it was just a possibility given his age, how hard he throws, and some very minor mechanical issues, but he ended up missing the year with a torn UCL, undergoing Tommy John surgery in July that will probably keep him out until this fall. When healthy, Painter shows No. 1 starter stuff, bumping 99 mph and sitting 94-97 with a hammer to make Thor jealous in his curveball, along with an above-average changeup he hadn’t begun to use enough and a slider that’s probably an unnecessary fourth pitch right now. He comes from a high three-quarters arm slot that, combined with his 6-7 height, makes it a very uncomfortable look for hitters on both sides of the plate. He’d also shown better control in his time in A-ball than he had even as an amateur, along with the ability to separate those two breaking balls in the curve and slider and use them in different spots. There’s risk with TJ surgery, from the slight chance he loses some velocity to the somewhat greater chance that his curveball isn’t the same afterwards (Lucas Giolito and Jay Groome had this happen). If all goes well with his rehab, perhaps he can throw in instructs or — and I admit to some self-interest here — the Arizona Fall League, which would set him up to start 2025 on something approaching a regular schedule. The ace upside is still there, just with more unknowns until we see him back on a mound and at full strength.
2023 Ranking: Sleeper
Lesko was cruising towards being a top-10 pick in 2022, maybe even one of the top five, when he tore his UCL and underwent Tommy John surgery after an electric (but, alas, injury-shortened) outing at the NHSI tournament at the USA Baseball complex in Cary, NC. Lesko had been up to 97 mph with a grade-70 changeup and a much improved curveball with incredibly high spin rates, surprising for someone who came into the spring with serious questions about whether he’d ever have a usable breaking ball. He returned in the middle of 2023 and finished the year in High A, throwing 33 innings in total to set him up for a full season of work in 2024. He had most of his stuff back, working 94-98 in short outings with that 70 changeup, while the breaking ball was inconsistent but could flash plus with big depth and that tight rotation again. His delivery has always been repeatable and he should be able to throw strikes and get to above-average command in time, although in his first year back he wasn’t close to average in either category. You can dream on him a little and see an ace because of the three pitches, one a no-doubt swing-and-miss pitch, and a delivery that works for a starter. I’d just like to see what his stuff and command look like over a fuller season in 2023 before going that far, and I’m more comfortable saying he’s a mid-rotation guy with a chance to be a No. 2 starter if he stays healthy.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Keith was the Tigers’ fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft, meaning he was their last one, and he has a good chance to end up their best player from that class — even better than No. 1 pick Spencer Torkelson. Keith has great feel for the barrel and makes a ton of hard contact, improving his typical launch angle this past year to get the ball in the air more. That allowed him to go from 11 homers in 113 games in 2021-22 to 27 homers in 126 games last season. He’s topped 110 mph already despite a short swing that you might think would limit his impact. He’s turned himself into a capable third baseman, good enough to stay there, although he could also end up at second base to minimize any concerns about the arm strength not playing at the hot corner. I don’t think it matters much; even if he’s at first base, which now looks like a real worst-case scenario, he’ll hit enough to be at least a good regular with .280-.300 averages and 25-35 homer power. He’s athletic enough to be an average defender at second base with some work, though, and that could make him an easy 5-win player.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
There’s always at least one guy from every draft who goes out for a month or so after signing and makes people ask why he wasn’t drafted higher — Dalton Rushing was that guy in 2022, Zack Gelof in 2021 — and Emerson certainly did that last summer. The 22nd pick in 2023 went 15 for 28 in a week in the ACL and then hit .302/.436/.444 in 16 games in the Cal League when he was barely 18 years old, wowing scouts with his feel to hit for such a young player from an Ohio high school. Emerson has a loose, easy left-handed swing, favoring contact over power, without a lot of work coming from his lower half yet to drive the ball — something I imagine the Mariners will work on right away — although he already makes solid-average contact quality. He’s a 45 or barely 50 runner, not likely to stay at shortstop, and split time between there and second in his few weeks in the minors. Before the draft, I said he had the upside of a “high-average, 15 to 20-homer sort of hitter at second base,” and pro scouts and analysts seem to agree with that after his pro debut, but with more confidence than I had pre-draft that he’ll get there. It’s early days, but Seattle might have a steal on their hands.
2023 Ranking: Just missed
Williams was Tampa’s first-round pick in 2021, but at the time there were questions about multiple aspects of his game, including his power and even his running. He’s improved in just about every way since then, changing his gait to become a plus runner, building strength to hit 42 homers over the last two years, and developing into an easy plus defender at shortstop. What he does not do, however, is make enough contact, with a 31.4 percent strikeout rate during the regular season in 2023 and then a 36.5 percent rate in the hitter-friendly (and pitching-starved) Arizona Fall League. It’s a pitch recognition issue, as he really struggles against offspeed stuff even in the zone, yet doesn’t chase pitches all that often. When he makes contact, it’s generally high quality, so he doesn’t have to make a huge adjustment to become a star, just better distinguish non-fastballs and perhaps to stop swinging so hard at them. If he played on the other end of the defensive spectrum, he wouldn’t be on the top 100. As it is, though, he’s got four tools that are 6s or better, and if the hit tool just gets to 45, he’s going to be a very good big leaguer.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Jones was the Pirates’ second-round pick in the 2020 draft, a high school pitcher with arm strength and athleticism but a long way to go as a pitcher. Their patience is paying off, as he reached Triple A last year as a four-pitch guy who looks like he’ll at least be a league-average starter with more room to grow. He’s sitting mid-90s now, touching 100 mph, with a slider that’s gone from a 40 to presently close to a 60, getting into the low 90s with high spin and some sharp downward break. He throws all four pitches for strikes, with a changeup that’s good enough to keep lefties in check. His stuff did taper off as the season progressed, not excessively but enough to mention, and he may need to work on pacing himself in the earlier part of the year to stay strong through September in the longer big-league season. He’s the most polished of Pittsburgh’s upper-level pitching prospects and the most likely to come up and help in the majors this year. Whether his ceiling extends beyond that of a mid-rotation guy may come down to his in-season durability more than anything with his stuff or approach.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Signed last January for a $3.2 million bonus, Walcott, who born in The Bahamas, spent most of his first pro season in the U.S., earning huge raves from scouts who saw him launch seven homers in 35 games in the ACL as a 17-year-old. He’s got the potential for 70 power once he fills out, depending on how the hit tool develops from here. He swings very hard, producing the hard contact you’d expect from his swing, but he also struck out 32.3 percent of the time between rookie ball and four games in Low A (he also played nine games in the Dominican Summer League). Scouts felt like he made progress even within the summer in improving his swing decisions, and he did drop his strikeout rate significantly from July (49 percent) to August (22 percent), although that’s some pretty thin slicing there. He’s an average runner and definitely not a shortstop, even though he’ll probably play there a few more years until he outgrows it, with third base the most likely position long-term. There is the potential he gets so big he just ends up in an outfield corner. He’s the second-youngest player on the top 100, after Ethan Salas, and has the risk you’d expect from a teenager with so little experience. The fact that he did as well as he did is a great sign, however, and he has the strength and power to back up the hype.
2023 Ranking: 14
It’s been about as quick a fall from grace as you’ll see for Jones, who was the second pick in 2022 and No. 1 on many draft boards (including my own), but who required shoulder surgery before he even got into a pro game that summer and played just 41 games in 2023, struggling through much of it. Jones is a lot like his father, Andruw Jones, playing elite defense in center and showing plus power and speed on offense, but the comparison doesn’t help the son when the dad was already playing in the World Series at this age. Jones did hit the ball hard when he played last year, but too much of it was on the ground because his swing was a mess after the surgery and an offseason of rehab during which he couldn’t swing a bat. He didn’t look right in spring training, either in his mechanics or his conditioning, stepping in the bucket and barely getting his lower half involved at all. He played just 10 games in Low A in April before hurting his quad, and then hurt his hamstring while rehabbing in June, finally returning to Low-A Visalia on Aug. 15, 118 days after his last game at the level. He hit .296/.412/.437 in the last 19 games before he ran out of season, with a 23.5 percent strikeout rate, which came in a tiny sample but is a lot more consistent with the player everyone thought he’d be coming out of high school. I heard from scouts who buried him off their 2023 looks, and I can understand why. I also don’t think it’s reasonable to give up on a player who is this talented and was so good in high school when he had 14 months of injuries and never got extended playing time to correct what he was doing wrong at the plate. I’m inclined to call it a lost year and see how he looks this spring when he’s had a proper offseason to work on his body and swing.
2023 Ranking: 25
Montgomery missed the first half of 2023 with an oblique strain and then a strained muscle in his mid-back, finally returning to full-season ball on July 4 and to Double A (where he’d finished the previous season) on Aug. 1. He performed well at every level but never quite looked like he did in his torrid 2022 season, when he earned some comps to Corey Seager — another big shortstop who outlasted predictions that he’d move to third, including some from yours truly. Montgomery has a great approach at the plate, walking as much as he struck out last year, but the injury seemed to limit his flexibility and impacted his swing, making him much more dead-pull and causing him to roll over a lot of pitches he might have taken the other way in 2022. The consensus on his defense has shifted for the better, and it’s probably about even-money that he stays there in the eyes of the industry, with good reads and soft hands along with plenty of arm for that side of the dirt. I’m betting that the version Montgomery we saw last year, including the tight, slow look in the Arizona Fall League, is the result of rust and continued recovery. Given the chance to reset and come back as the high-contact, all-fields hitter we saw in his first full pro season, he should resume his march to Chicago and end up their everyday solution at short or third, with 4-5 WAR upside thanks to the hit tool and position.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Crawford was the Phillies’ first-round pick in 2022 out of a Las Vegas high school; he’s the son of Carl Crawford and cousin of J.P. Crawford. He’s a long way from being a finished product, but his tools are so good that he can outplay a lot of his deficiencies. He’s a 70 runner who can really play center field, while at the plate he’s already posted high exit velocities and can show big power the other way in BP that’s starting to emerge in games. He spent most of last year with Low-A Clearwater and hit .344/.399/.478 in 69 games with 40 steals before a late-season promotion to High A. He posted those solid numbers even with a lot of inconsistency in the swing that can cause him to get on top of the ball too often. He’s still got 10-15 pounds of room to fill out, which could make him a 20-homer, 50-steal guy who plays plus or better defense in center. He might be a level-a-year guy, though, as it takes time for him to fill out.
2023 Ranking: 95
Black is the sort of player you love if he’s on your team and hate if he’s in the other dugout, as he plays hard all the time, and will fight for every out and every ball or strike until the game ends. Drafted 33rd in 2021 out of Wright State, Black has real plate discipline and great feel for the barrel, with a .400+ OBP at High A, Double A, and Triple A over the last two seasons. His hands are quick and he’s short to the ball and through contact, so the swing is more conducive to low line drives and some groundballs than to power. He’s a 70 runner who should be able to play center and is adequate at second, although since shoulder surgery his arm hasn’t been great and the left side of the infield might be out of reach. It’s an unusual profile for first base, but I think he can produce a .400 OBP with 10-15 homers and a ton of value on the bases, which would be enough offense for the position even without huge power, and then the only real question would be if his height holds him back. His floor is a super-utility guy who still gets 400-500 PA a year playing all over the diamond, but I’m in the camp that says he’s a starter at second, in left or — if he’s not with Milwaukee — in center, and he’ll be a favorite of hometown fans once they see how he plays.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Acuña is the younger brother of reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. and went to the Mets as part of the return for Max Scherzer this past July. He’s only 5-8 but he’s ultra-twitchy and shows 60 raw power in BP and 65-70 running speed, although in games he can show more contact than power and might need a small swing adjustment to get to more than 12-15 homers a year. His contact quality improved from 2022 to 2023, which at least sets him up to be a high doubles guy and gives him a strong floor as a regular at some position up the middle. He’s a shortstop now and projects to stay there, with the speed and lateral range to handle it or move to center field if need be. As is, he’s probably a high-average, high-doubles shortstop who steals 40-50 bags a year, although I could see him trading some contact for more power and getting to 20 jacks. Either way, he’s got an above-average regular’s ceiling and a floor that should make Mets fans feel good about the trade.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Young was Seattle’s first-round pick in 2022, going 21st out of a Pittsburgh-area high school, and was their top prospect until Colt Emerson took the field in August. Young is also a left-handed-hitting middle infielder, but it’s a different profile, as Young’s a better athlete, better runner, and has a significantly better chance to stay at shortstop in the long run. He’s got a great feel for the barrel, with a strikeout rate last season under 15 percent. There were 13 minor leaguers who had 600+ plate appearances in 2023, and Young had the lowest strikeout rate of any of them, which is especially impressive since it was his first full pro season and he even moved up to High A after the All-Star break. He’s got a fairly simple swing and plenty of bat speed, although without a lot of loft in his finish he might peak around average power. It could be an elite hit tool, though, and even 8-12 homers a year would be plenty for a high-average, high-OBP shortstop to be an All-Star.
2023 Ranking: 48
Rodriguez missed about 2/3 of the 2022 season after a knee injury, but he impressed scouts with his power and approach in the limited time he played. He showed more of the same in a full season of work in 2023, moving to High A as a 20-year-old and hitting .240/.400/.463 with 92 walks in 99 games, although now it’s time for him to swing more often and convert those good counts into damage. He started out 2023 in horrific fashion, with a .163 average and 38.5 percent strikeout rate through the end of May, so the season line may not do him justice. He’s got a big leg kick, and when he swings, he swings pretty hard, with plus game power already and high exit velocities for his age, offering the possibility of a 30-homer corner bat with high walk totals. He’s a 55 runner who plays center now, with a body that’s probably going to slow down and push him to a corner as he gets into his 20s, with maybe average range up the middle as it is. He doesn’t chase much, with his high strikeout total more a function of running deep counts than poor recognition — he saw 4.29 pitches per PA last year, putting him in the top 5 percent of all minor leaguers with at least 400 PA, but needs to swing a little more at good strikes. There’s real upside with the bat if he translates the selectivity into more of the hard contact he’s already making when he does deign to swing.
2023 Ranking: 100
Chandler finally gave up trying to be a two-way player, and it’s probably not surprising that he made much more progress in 2023 just trying to pitch than he had the year before. Chandler has an incredible fastball, 94-98 mph with huge induced vertical, a pitch that, when he stops trying to be too fine in locating it, will be a wipeout offering. He pairs it with a 70 changeup and can spin two distinct breaking balls, although landing either of them is still a work in progress. As you might expect from a former shortstop/pitcher and high school quarterback, he’s an outstanding athlete and his delivery doesn’t have a ton of effort for the velocity it generates. He had some control issues early in the year, but finished strongly — his final nine starts, one of which came in Double A, had him throwing 48 2/3 innings with 51 strikeouts, 13 walks, and a 1.66 ERA. He’s got the highest ceiling of the Pirates’ trio of starter prospects (not named Paul Skenes) along with Jared Jones and lefty Anthony Solometo.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
In 2022, Horton was about as late a pop-up guy as you’ll ever find in the draft; he missed 2021 with Tommy John surgery, didn’t join the University of Oklahoma’s rotation until partway through the spring, and changed his breaking ball right before their postseason, turning into one of the best pitchers in the NCAA tournament field. The Cubs took him with the seventh-overall pick, a selection I thought was very risky given his scant track record of success, but he’s kept improving since they signed him and right now the pick looks brilliant. Horton was a two-pitch guy in college without anything for lefties, relying on an out-pitch slider up to 89 mph that had very sharp, late downward break, while touching 98 with the fastball. The Cubs helped him dust off his seldom-used changeup, and with more reps it’s become a plus pitch for him and can allow him to get by with a fastball that doesn’t have tremendous movement. He’ll have to work more on fastball command, but the fact that he finished his first full pro year in Double A, just 16 months after his season ERA for Oklahoma hit 7.94 when he got crushed in the Big 10 Tournament, is quite a story for him and for the Cubs. He looks like a mid-rotation starter, although with the speed of his development so far I might still be selling him short.
2023 Ranking: 17
Collier was the 18th pick in the 2022 draft out of Chipola College, where he’d played as a 17-year-old after graduating early from high school and moving to the junior college to enter the draft a year sooner. The son of former big leaguer Lou Collier, Cam is already pushing 6-3 and past his listed 210 pounds, enough that he’ll probably have to work on conditioning now rather than gaining strength so he can stay at third base. He’s a bat-first guy and projects to hit for average and power, showing good feel for the strike zone despite his youth and very rarely missing on pitches in the zone last year (with the caveat that the Florida State League has the ABS in place). After a slow start as one of the youngest players anywhere in full-season ball, Collier picked it up in the second half, hitting .290/.389/.395 with plenty of hard contact, topping out over 110 mph. He’s younger than five of the 11 high school position players taken in the first 30 picks of the 2023 draft, yet already has a full year of pro ball experience. He can still cut through the ball too often, hitting it on the ground way more than he should last year (53 percent in Low A) as he made contact on some pitches he should have let go by, and he has to avoid getting any bigger so he doesn’t end up moving to the outfield. He makes more than enough hard contact to project 25+ homers and strong batting averages as long as he continues to make adjustments as he faces better pitching up the ladder.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Luis hadn’t played in the U.S. before 2023 but finished his season in Low A, hitting four homers in 36 games for Visalia with a .257/.310/.417 line as a true 18 year old. He already shows tremendous bat speed and makes strong contact for his age and size, as he’s about 6 feet and still lean, with plus or better power projection when he fills out. He’s got a great swing for both average and power from both sides of the plate, showing solid swing decisions for his age with room for improvement as he gets older, especially as he faces better offspeed stuff. He’s a shortstop now, probably a 45 defender there when it’s all said and done and better off moving to second base, where he still has All-Star upside because of the bat.
2023 Ranking: 47
Tiedemann threw just 44 innings in the regular season around injuries to his left shoulder and biceps, making four starts in the AFL to try to make up for some of the lost time. He did regain the velocity that had been missing at the end of 2022, bumping 98 mph and pitching at 93-96 in the outing I saw in the desert, with a plus changeup and a big-breaking slider that wasn’t up to its past standard that day. The slider’s pretty high spin and has good tilt, giving him two real weapons, one for lefties and one for righties, which also helps as his fastball doesn’t have a ton of life or movement and hitters square it up more than the velocity might imply. His delivery isn’t ideal for durability, as his shoulder stays open late, with some sling to the arm stroke, and that might be putting undue pressure on the joint. You have to start a guy with these weapons, and if he stays healthy enough for it he’s a mid-rotation starter or better depending on the control (maybe 45 now, but he’s shown better) and command (40). Two years of missed time and suboptimal mechanics give him a lot of reliever risk, though.
2023 Ranking: 84
House was the Nats’ first-round pick in 2021, then he missed more than half of his first full pro season with a back injury and COVID-19, so this past season was more of a proper debut for the slugging third baseman. He hit .297 or better at three different levels, from Low A to Double A, and struck out less than a quarter of the time on the season as he showed much better offspeed recognition than he had previously. He even flashed some power, with 12 homers in 88 games, although I think the expectation for him is even higher than that. Unfortunately, House is over-aggressive at the plate, swinging first and asking questions later, walking less than 5 percent of the time between High A and Double A, so his batting average, while not empty, was also less than full: he hit .312/.365/.497 on the year. He’s awkward at third base at times because he’s so big, but he’s got plenty of arm and when I’ve seen him he’s made the routine plays. He doesn’t have to become a high-walk guy to be an above-average regular — stay at third and up the in-game power and he’ll get there even with a 5 percent walk rate, because he already hits the ball pretty hard and can get the ball in the air, if sometimes too much. There are a number of paths to success here as long as he can tighten up the pitch recognition.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Teel was the best catcher in the 2023 draft class, a three-year starter at UVA who probably would have gotten first-round money out of high school had the pandemic not wiped out his senior season in New Jersey. He’s an unusually good athlete and runner for a backstop, with excellent bat speed and a swing that produces line drives to the gaps with occasional over-the-fence power, although in college he did much more damage against right-handers, with softer contact versus southpaws. He was a solid-average defender in college, very active behind the plate with a plus arm, but was not good in Double A when Boston sent him there at the end of the season — quite likely tired from a long season but also showing he needs to simplify his movements back there to catch better quality stuff than he had to handle in Charlottesville. He could come into some pull-side power with a few small adjustments at the plate, depending on how Boston wants to develop him; a catcher who hits a ton of line drives and is at least an average receiver is good enough to make some All-Star teams, and he’d solve a problem the Red Sox have had for years at that position.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Scott played three years at West Virginia, hitting a composite .254/.368/.419 and never hitting .300 in any of his seasons there, which is probably how an 80 runner at a major-conference school ends up a fifth-round pick. He took off in his full-season debut last year, hitting for a higher average at High A, Double A, and in the Arizona Fall League than he did in any season for the Mountaineers, while also stealing 94 bags to tie for the professional lead. He’s a plus defender in center, closer to a 70 than a 60, and he’s been very hard to strike out in the minors, with just a 15.6 percent strikeout rate between High A and Double A, something that particularly matters when you can turn almost any groundball into a hit. He’s small, but not feeble like a lot of guys who run like he does, and über-athletic, which is part of how he’s been able to make such quick adjustments on both sides of the ball. The floor here seems very high — a plus defender in center who adds this kind of value on the bases would have to be positively anemic with the bat to have no real value — while he could have a long, long run as an everyday guy even with just 8-12-homer-a-year power, which I think is already within reach.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
The Rays took Taylor with the 19th pick in the 2023 draft after a solid year at TCU where he hit a career-high 23 homers but slumped some in the middle of the spring, perhaps pushing him down in a draft loaded with college position players. He has a beautiful left-handed swing with excellent loft in his finish, so he barrels a lot of balls and projects to get to above-average power at his peak. He’s a solid-average defender at third right now and might have a 60 arm, while he’s athletic enough to improve there with work or move to second base. He’s an average runner but a smart base stealer who hasn’t been caught stealing since 2021, going 36 for 36 across college, summer ball, and the minors in the last two calendar years. His low BABIP last spring in college (.307) seemed very fluky based on his hard contact rates and typical launch angles, so it’s possible, even likely, that the Rays landed a top-10 talent here because he had an unlucky spring. I see an average regular who gets to the majors pretty quickly, with the potential to be a 55 or more if the defense improves and he reaches his 20-25 homer ceiling.
2023 Ranking: Just missed
The Jays challenged Martinez with an assignment to Double A to start 2022 when he was just 20 years old and had only 27 games of High-A experience, so it wasn’t a huge shock that he struggled, hitting .203/.286/.446 with a 28.4 percent strikeout rate. The Jays returned him to Double-A New Hampshire in 2023 and he looked like a different guy, improving his swing decisions across the board, posting the best walk rate of his career and his lowest strikeout rate since Rookie ball. He’s always had the raw power, with 86 homers across the last three seasons, but needed to hit enough to get to it, so improving not just the raw contact and walk numbers but getting into better counts and choosing better pitches to attack was and still is the key for him to be more than an extra guy in the majors. He can handle shortstop if need be but at best he’ll be an average defender there; I’ve seen him at third and think he can be above-average at the hot corner, while some scouts think second base will be his eventual home. A 30-homer, .320-330 OBP hitter at either spot is an everyday player on just about any club, and that’s his upside if he keeps working on his approach.
2023 Ranking: 94
Before he was traded to the Brewers in the Corbin Burnes deal last week, I wrote that Ortiz should be someone’s starting shortstop now, but he has the misfortune to play in an organization that has shortstops coming out of its ears — which should make him a very valuable player for hot stove purposes, as he can step into a big-league role right away. He’s a plus defender at short with a strong and accurate arm and he remade his swing and his body during the pandemic, returning much stronger and with a swing that drives the ball effectively to the gaps and gives him a chance for 15-20 homers a year. His exit velocity peaked around 115 mph in Triple A last year, and he makes contact at consistently high rates, under 20 percent strikeout rates everywhere he’s played except for his 34 scattered PA in the majors. A .280/.340/.450-ish hitter who adds 5 or so runs of value on defense is a pretty valuable player, I think, and while there’s no further ceiling or projection here, that ought to be enough to get him a starting job.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Nimmala was one of the youngest players in the 2023 draft class, turning 18 this past October; he fell to the 20th pick, where the Blue Jays were ecstatic to get a player I’d ranked as a top-10 talent. Nimmala offers the upside of a true shortstop with 25+ homer power, with good actions at short and a plus arm, while he can show a powerful and efficient right-handed swing that should launch balls as he fills out. He’s still physically immature, hardly surprising for his age, and as he gets stronger he might start to run a little better and drive the ball harder while also getting more consistent around the bag at short. He showed a little swing and miss in high school, but in a brief stint in the complex league he actually displayed more patience and very little tendency to chase. He’s going to be younger this season than some guys in the upcoming draft, and there’s no rush to send him right to full-season ball. Now that commissioner Rob Manfred has axed the short-season level between Low A and the complexes, there isn’t an ideal spot for a guy like Nimmala, but I hope the Jays play it conservatively given his age and his upside.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Lowder was the second pitcher taken in the 2023 draft, going seventh to the Reds after a tremendous spring for Wake Forest where he finished fourth in Division I with 143 strikeouts. He’s got a funky, deceptive delivery and shows three average or better pitches, with a fastball that can be plus but will probably be more 55 when he’s working on five days’ rest, a 70 changeup that was among the best in the class, and a solid-average slider. Hitters don’t see the ball well out of his hand, so his stuff plays up, and he also was able to get away with 45 command at best in the amateur ranks. There’s a limit to how far he can go with that delivery, as it’s going to be hard for him to be a good command guy and he might see his very low walk rates creep up as he gets to Double A and above, but he should also get to the majors quickly and could pitch for a decade or more as a No. 3 or 4 starter who soaks up innings.
2023 Ranking: 65
The Mariners have had a great run of first-round picks the last six years; starting in 2018, they took Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Emerson Hancock, Ford, Cole Young, and Colt Emerson, so that’s two above-average big-league starters and three guys currently on this top-100. Ford has always been a work-in-progress as a catcher, as he’s super athletic but was really rough at the position as an amateur. He’s made enough progress that it seems like he could stay at the position, although he’s probably still on the low side of average when it comes to receiving and blocking. He may also hit his way off the position, as he shows elite strike zone judgment, ranking third in the minors in walks last year with 103 and striking out less than 20 percent of the time — although even that is surprising given how infrequently he chases. He might be better off sacrificing some contact for more power, as he’s strong enough to at least be a 40 doubles/15 homers guy, but his swing is incredibly short to the ball and right now it’s below-average game power as a result. He hits a lot like he’s always trying to keep his hands inside the ball, which is a great skill to have but not useful for all pitches in all locations. There are multiple paths for Ford to become a big-league starter — he could just improve his defense to the point where he stays there, and then the bat will play immediately; he could move to somewhere on the infield, where the bat would play but you’d like a little more power; or he could take his athleticism and speed to the outfield, easing the defensive concerns and strain on his body but then almost requiring more in-game power. I’ll bet on an athlete who knows the strike zone, though.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Kjerstad reached the majors last year in just his second pro season, and I don’t think enough attention has been paid to how tough a road he had from draft day to the big leagues. Kjerstad developed myocarditis after a bout with COVID-19 in 2020, missing all of 2021 while recovering from the condition, and when he returned in 2022 he looked rusty and had trouble catching up to good velocity — nothing like the player he was at Arkansas in 2019-20. Last year, he was all the way back and then some, making consistent hard contact and more of it than before; when the O’s picked him second in 2020, his high strikeout rates against SEC pitching stood out as a red flag, but last year he showed the best two-strike approach of his career and kept his season strikeout rate under 20 percent until he reached the majors. There’s still more chase than you’d like to see in a corner outfielder whose value is mostly in the bat, and lefties are going to attack him with spin until he shows he can lay off it. Because he hits the ball so hard, so often, I think he can be an above-average hitter even if his strikeout rate drifts north of 25 percent, probably getting to 20-25 homers a year and a high BABIP as well. And maybe then I’ll stop joking about how his name sounds like the lead singer of a melodic death metal band or a storage unit you’d buy at IKEA.
2023 Ranking: 85
Pereira wasn’t ready for the majors last year, but that doesn’t dim his long-term outlook as a potential regular for someone, maybe as a center fielder who can get to 30 homers once his approach catches up with his tools. He has outstanding bat speed, producing a ton of hard contact with a swing that should produce plus power over time and is very short to the ball but explosive once he begins, then with good loft in his finish for some big flies. He’s a 55 runner now with a plus arm and can play center field, although it’s possible that he’ll be pushed to a corner if he loses some speed as he finishes filling out. He struggled with offspeed recognition even in the minors, notably changeups, and that caused him further trouble in the big leagues, as did his habit of expanding the zone too quickly. The Juan Soto trade might be the best thing for him, as it’ll give him plenty of time in Triple A to work on his plan at the plate, laying off more of those pitches out of the zone and better identifying non-fastballs. There’s risk here but if he both stays up the middle and gets to his power peak, he’ll be an All-Star.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Bradfield is an 80 runner and either a 70 or 80 defender in center, depending on who you ask and perhaps when you see him, not that it matters that much in the end — he’s got two top-end tools, and that gives him a high floor and a lot of runway to work on the other aspects of his game. Bradfield seemed like a lock for a top-10 pick after his freshman year at Vanderbilt, when he hit .336/.451/.414 as a 19-year-old in the SEC, stealing 47 bases in 53 attempts, but somewhere, someone convinced him to change his swing to try to hit for power, and while he did go from 1 homer as a freshman to hitting 14 the next two seasons, his overall hitting went backward and I think helped Baltimore land him at pick 15 last season. (It did not help that Bradfield constantly tried to bunt for hits, putting himself behind in the count and doing nothing to right his swing. I have a lot of feelings about this.) He’s not a power hitter, but he’s not powerless, if that makes sense — he is capable of putting 5-10 balls in the seats a year, but the more he tries to do so, the worse he’ll be as a hitter. Last spring, he was loading his hands extremely deep, taking a huge stride, opening his hips way too early, then collapsing his back side to try to lift — or will — the ball out of the park. He needs a simpler approach, like the one he had as a freshman, that focuses on putting the ball in play, as he’ll end up with a lot of extra bases thanks to his speed, and he does have enough strength to drive balls to the gaps and catch up to major-league fastballs. I don’t change players’ rankings or evaluations based on their parent organizations, since that could change at any time, but I think Bradfield is in an organization that will figure out what to do with him very quickly. At worst, you’ve got an elite fourth outfielder/pinch runner, while the ceiling here is huge defensive impact with an average bat.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Troy was the 12th pick in 2023 after a strong junior year at Stanford where he hit .394/.478/.699 as the Cardinal’s primary third baseman — and he did it playing most of the season with a broken bone in his foot that he didn’t get fixed until the fall. He’s an advanced hitter who showed strong exit velocities this spring, although he needed to get the ball in the air more often (again, bearing in mind the broken foot). His bigger question is his ultimate position; he’s athletic enough for the infield, third base or second most likely, but his footwork isn’t great and he may end up in the outfield. The bat should profile anywhere, although he’s quite a bit more valuable if he can just be a 45 defender at second base than he would be in left field.
2023 Ranking: 80
Manzardo was the Rays’ second-round pick in 2021 out of Washington State, where he showed outstanding feel to hit but didn’t put the ball over the fence as much as you’d expect for his size or want for his lack of defensive value. Traded to Cleveland this past July for Aaron Civale, Manzardo started turning on the ball a lot more after he came off the injured list (for a shoulder issue) in August, with six homers in 21 games for Triple-A Columbus and six more in 22 games in the Arizona Fall League. He’s an extremely disciplined hitter who doesn’t chase much and almost never misses on fastballs, destroying right-handed pitching with some trouble with lefties — he makes enough contact but had a .195 BABIP against them last year, which feels fluky given how hard he typically hits the ball. His best position is in the batter’s box and you’ll have to live with some limited defense at first base, which caps his ceiling somewhat, but if he closes that platoon split (or if it turns out to be at least partly bad luck) he’s got a .380-.400 OBP, 30 homer ceiling that will play anywhere.
2023 Ranking: 92
Quero went from the Angels to the White Sox in the Lucas Giolito trade, giving Chicago a bona fide catching prospect for the first time since … Josh Phegley, maybe? It’s been a minute, but they landed a good one in Quero, who has shown exceptional zone awareness for his age and has very real bat-to-ball skills already. He’s a true switch-hitter with high walk and contact rates from both sides, flashing a little pull power but probably maxing out at 10-15 homers a year. He put on a little too much lower-body weight last year, possibly an effort to get him more juice at the plate, but it seemed to slow him down a little defensively. He’s a solid-average catcher overall, improving a little each year and capable of becoming a 55 or better if he continues to work on consistency in receiving and blocking. He has just an average arm, which might be the only drawback to his game. Otherwise, you can project an everyday catcher with 50-55 defense, an OBP north of .350, and a little pop, which is a starter on the majority of MLB teams.
2023 Ranking: 74
Busch is the oldest guy on the list this year and just barely still qualifies — one more day on an MLB roster would have put him over the rookie-eligibility limit — but he’s ready for everyday duty in the majors right now, and after this winter’s trade to the Cubs, it looks like he’ll get that opportunity. He’s hit pretty much everywhere he’s played, showing power and hard contact over the last three seasons between Double A and Triple A, while cutting his K-rate significantly while repeating Triple A this past year (26 percent to 19 percent). Even with 61 homers over the last two years, though, he doesn’t project as a 25-30 homer guy in the majors, with a swing that’s more geared towards low line drives. In his 81 PA with the Dodgers last year, that swing resulted in an uncharacteristically high ground-ball rate (58.7 percent, compared to 38.5 percent in his Triple-A time). He’s played first, second, third, and left field in pro ball, looking rough at third but playable at second, while first base is his best position and, fortunately, it’s where the Cubs will ask him to play. I think he’ll end up with an OBP in the .340-350 range and 18-22 homers a year with 30+ doubles, which would make him a solid to above-average regular at first as long as his defense is right around average.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Ramos missed most of the first two months of the 2023 season with a lower abdomen injury and took a little while to get rolling, but ended up with a .271/.369/.457 line as a 21-year-old in Double A. He hit 14 homers in 77 Double-A games, peaking at 111 mph with consistently hard contact. He swings one way, hard, and it’s very rotational, so that might be how the ab injury happened in the first place. Maintaining that core strength will be key for him going forward; he might naturally come into a little more power but he’s strong enough now for 25 homers, so developing the rest of his game is more important. His approach is solid for his age, as he doesn’t expand the zone too easily and kept his strikeout rate in Double A to just under 22 percent, even though he does swing hard pretty much all the time. He’s also a solid-average defender at third with a 55 arm, and could move to second if need be. Ramos could end up doing a little of everything, hitting for average with a 10 percent walk rate and 20-25 homers, and if the version from late in the Arizona Fall League — using the whole field while looking for pitches to pull — carries over, he might be more of a 30-homer guy who cracks some All-Star teams.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Thompson was Colorado’s second pick in the 2022 draft at No. 31. He arrived in pro ball as an advanced hitter from the University of Florida with an uncertain positional profile. The Rockies have moved him around the diamond a bunch, trying him at third and second while giving him some time in the outfield, although in the end it’s his bat that will carry him. Thompson might have a true plus hit tool already, with a pretty simple swing and excellent bat speed, rotating his hips enough to get to at least average power, and he’s shown he can hit left-handed pitching so far in pro ball. He’s best in an outfield corner who has shown he can make the routine plays at second or third to give him some versatility and open up more paths to the majors. There was concern when he was an amateur that he’d have to play first base and might not have the power to profile there; I don’t think either of those things is true at this point, especially not the positional questions, as he’s fine in the outfield and looks like he’ll at least have the average/doubles power to be a strong regular there. He should see the majors at some point this year and could very quickly become the Rockies’ best hitter for average.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Wilken was the Brewers’ first-round pick in 2023 from a loaded Wake Forest team that had two first-rounders and three more guys taken in the second/third rounds last year, and that might have as many as five first-rounders this upcoming year. Even with a big slump in the middle of last spring, Wilken still hit 31 homers for the Deacons — whose home park is homer-friendly — and shows 55 power right now, with excellent balance and hip rotation that point to the potential for more down the road. He’s a hitter first with very high barrel rates in college and solid ball/strike recognition, so he’s comfortable running deep counts. I’m not saying he’s Jeff Bagwell, but that’s the archetype of the young hitter who hits the ball pretty hard, knows the strike zone, and has to grow into more power, so I could see Wilken becoming a 25-homer guy who still posts high OBPs. He’s a solid-average defender at third with a 55 arm, capable of making some difficult plays but needing more consistency on routine ones, with some concern that as the game speeds up he might have trouble maintaining the glove. Even at first base, where the Brewers do have a long-term need anyway, his bat should still make him a solid regular or more.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Snelling was the 39th pick in the 2022 draft, a pitcher-quarterback-linebacker who enticed scouts with his size, athleticism, and arm strength. He made his full-season debut last year and showed superb control at Low A and High A before a late promotion to Double A, where he walked more guys but remained hard to hit. He’s a very strong, physical kid, not overly muscled up although he’ll have to work to remain that way, working 92-96 mph most of the time with a 55 slider and 55 changeup, but nothing clearly plus right now. There’s some effort to his delivery and head-jerk at release, while he can slow his arm down when he’s not throwing his fastball, something hitters will pick up sooner rather than later. He’s also barely 20 and split his time in high school between two sports, so he should have more room to grow than the typical second-year pitcher would. There’s reliever risk, but a No. 2 or 3 starter ceiling, with the median outcome probably more around a fourth starter who’s got some above-average years and some below-average ones.
2023 Ranking: 63
Hence was a slight 17-year-old when the Cardinals drafted him in the second round in 2020 — the same draft class that landed them Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, and Alec Burleson. He pitched just eight innings in 2021 around some minor injury stuff and general workload management, but he took off in 2022 and followed that up with a career-high 96 innings in 2023. Hence is an excellent athlete and has a lightning-quick arm, although it hasn’t translated into a plus breaking ball of any sort yet. He sits 94-96 mph and can reach 98, with a plus or plus-plus changeup already and a slurvy low-80s breaker that’s effective now but that he doesn’t command or finish that well. He’s extremely athletic and has continued to fill out and get stronger to hold his stuff and work deeper into games, so there’s hope he can find a better third pitch, but so far he hasn’t shown much ability to spin or manipulate the ball and the slurve works in part because the fastball/changeup discombobulate hitters (except at the Milwaukee airport). Hence has a very high floor in relief, as he has great arm speed on the changeup and it falls right off the table as it approaches the plate, so he has the two pitches to dominate in short bursts. The hope is he can tighten up the breaking ball or try another one, even a cutter, to give him enough of a third weapon to turn a lineup over three times and be a mid-rotation guy.
2023 Ranking: 71
Cavalli reached the majors at the end of 2022, making one start before hitting the injured list and eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery last March that wiped out his 2023 season. Prior to the injury, he showed size, stuff, athleticism, and the need to work on command and sequencing, things that you hope would come with more repetitions. He’s got easy plus velocity on the fastball and works with a four-pitch mix highlighted by a curveball that has power and depth and moves in a different direction than his other pitches, allowing him to play more with sequencing to change hitters’ eye levels and expectations. He has a solid changeup that he uses primarily against left-handed batters, with almost no platoon split in 2022, and a short slider that’s hard and cutter-like in shape and function. Once he returns at some point this spring, he’ll be working to regain his feel, but also to pound the zone more and work on mixing his pitches more effectively. He still has that mid-rotation, innings-eater upside, assuming anyone even remembers what that means at this point.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Seldom has there been a better fit between a player in the draft and the team that took him. Dollander was the best pitcher in college baseball as a sophomore, with a 2.39 ERA for Tennessee that was built on a 35 percent strikeout rate, 4 percent walk rate, and a wipeout slider that looked like it would put him in play for the first pick in 2023. Alas, he changed his grip on the slider to try to make it more of a sweeper — I have heard he did it, Tennessee’s coaches did it, some third party told him to do it, and don’t really know the truth — making it not just worse but often ineffective, as he’d go entire starts without getting a swing and miss on it. The good news is that he’s aware of it and, with the Rockies’ help, the plan is to restore his 2022 slider, which would make him a steal — the sort of high-end starter the team needs, someone who’s probably a No. 2 starter with some small but non-zero chance of becoming an ace. He’s 93-97 mph and fills up the zone with it, touching 99, and if there’s a silver lining to the loss of his slider last year it’s that he used his changeup more, improving his feel to the point where it’s a solid-average third pitch for him. The slider was a legit 70 in 2022, with very tight rotation and late downward break, the opposite of sweep — and hey, I know the “sweeper” is all the rage right now, but traditional sliders are people too, right? I’m very hopeful that he’ll go out to High A to start the year and dominate between that out pitch and the control he’d shown prior to 2023, getting to Double-A Hartford by midyear and banging on the door of the big leagues.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Nastrini went to the White Sox in the trade that sent Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly to the Dodgers, a tremendous deal for the Sox that also netted them power-armed relief prospect Jordan Leasure. Nastrini was the Dodgers’ fourth-round pick in 2021 off a spring at UCLA where he walked 38 guys in 31 innings, a hell of a job by Los Angeles’ amateur scouting group, as he’s improved a ton since the moment he signed and projects as a fourth starter or better depending on how much further his command and control develop. He works with four pitches, sitting 93-96 mph with a plus changeup and plus slider. He has a pretty consistent delivery and traditional three-quarters arm slot that doesn’t give him a ton of deception; he gives up a lot of contact in the air, so there’s a risk he becomes homer-prone or at least prone to extra-base hits as he moves up the ladder. The fastball might be his worst pitch, but he has three other weapons to use, with the changeup possibly a 70 given how much trouble hitters have with it. It doesn’t have terrific action, but it looks just like the heater coming out of his hand, and hitters missed it more than half the time they swung at it last year. There’s still some relief risk as he walked about 11 percent of batters he faced last year and will have to work to limit hard contact. His 2023 season had more positives than negatives, however, and the odds of him remaining a starter went over 50 percent for the first time.
2023 Ranking: 24
A funny thing happened while Mead was working his way to the majors last year: The guy the Rays traded to acquire him, lefty Cristopher Sánchez, moved into the rotation and threw up a 2.2 WAR season for the Phillies, so now that trade doesn’t look as lopsided as it did when the Phillies dealt a top-100 prospect for a fringy reliever. Mead was hit by a pitch on his wrist at the end of April in Triple A, so while he did debut in the majors later in the year he didn’t show the consistent contact quality he’d shown in previous years, although his exit velocity did still peak at 108 mph in the majors. He looked rough defensively at third and second in the majors but didn’t grade out as badly as you’d expect by defensive metrics; I doubt he’ll ever be more than fringy at third, but if he’s just adequate there — no worse than 2-3 runs below average a year — the bat should play. Expect solid averages with a ton of doubles, low walk and strikeout rates, and probably more complaints about his defense than it actually merits.
2023 Ranking: 58
Arroyo had a so-so campaign as a 19-year-old in High A last season, hitting .248/.321/.427 in 119 games with a lot of contact (21 percent strikeout rate) but without any real progress in the quality of contact or his game power over 2022. He’s a bat-first prospect who can handle shortstop, flashing above-average range but grading out around average overall by other teams’ analysts, offering true switch-hit potential and the upside of 15 or so homers a year if he fills out as expected. He’s got a live bat with quick hands and handles fastballs well for someone who isn’t that strong yet, but he has trouble with spin on both sides of the plate, especially when he’s batting left-handed — that is, the more important side. He’s an above-average runner who has good instincts on the bases and should rack up 30 steals a year in the majors. It’s a lot more projection today than it seemed like a year ago, after the Reds added him in the Luis Castillo trade and he hit well in two stops in Low A. He needs to get stronger, to pick up breaking pitches more easily, and to at least get more consistency on defense. He’s also just 20 years old and ready to go to Double A, so his performance looks a lot better in context. The upside of an everyday shortstop and switch-hitter with a little pop is still there; I think he’s just further away from it than I thought he was last offseason.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Schultz was Chicago’s first-round pick in 2022, a local kid who’d missed much of that spring with mono but offered a ton of projection on velocity and his slider — not to mention the upside of a 6-9 lefty with great extension. The projection started to show up in 2023 as he often worked 93-96 mph with huge sink and tail along with a plus slider that, from his lower arm slot, makes him deadly to left-handed batters, with obvious comparisons to Chris Sale, who changed his hand position on his slider after signing and became, well, Chris Sale. There’s a ton of risk here between Schultz’s injury history and his size, so it’s maybe 50/50 whether he remains a starter. Schultz’s 2023 season ended in late August when he suffered a shoulder impingement, although he should be ready to go for spring training, and the history of 6-9 or taller pitchers in general is not great for health or command. You can see No. 1 starter upside, or top-end reliever potential, depending on his health and how his coordination improves as he fills out his huge frame.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Waldrep’s splitter was one of the best pitches in the draft last year, helping him rank third in Division I with 156 strikeouts, but he used the pitch too often and his overall line suffered a little, which may be how a guy who touched 99 mph with a bona fide out-pitch slid to the 24th pick in the draft. Atlanta grabbed him and, bucking every industry trend, had him throw 29 1/3 innings in pro ball in his debut, finishing with a single start in Triple A. The splitter is just sick — it looks like a fastball out of his hand, has good velo separation from the heater at 85-89, and has huge bottom to it, yanked downward by some invisible zombie hand coming out of the ground like in the “Thriller” video. It also finishes out of the zone too often to be his go-to pitch — it’s a chase pitch, and a great one, but that’s all, and he’ll need to use all four pitches together to be a big-league starter. He has a curve and slider, either of which would likely improve with use, as in college he wouldn’t finish them out front, while his fastball sits 95 but doesn’t have great ride or life. He may never have more than average control, so he’ll really have to mix the four pitches to keep hitters off balance and generate more swings and misses. If not, he’s an easy guy to move to the bullpen, where he could junk one of the breaking balls and would be fine using the splitter at a higher rate than he can as a starter.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Delauter missed 15 months with a broken foot he suffered in college in 2022, re-aggravating the injury while rehabbing. He didn’t make his pro debut until a year after the Guardians took him with the 16th pick in the 2022 draft. He’s only played in 57 pro games, plus 23 more in the AFL, but to his credit he’s hit at every level up through a six-game stint in Double A, even with an ugly swing that doesn’t look like it’ll produce power or even let him be consistently on time. He’s an excellent athlete who might be a plus runner at full health and definitely has a plus arm, with the potential for big defensive value in right field. He’s shown great feel for the strike zone everywhere he’s ever played, including his time at James Madison and a summer on Cape Cod, where he was one of just four regulars to walk more than he struck out. It is a really unfortunate swing, though; he opens his hips early and all but drags the bat to the zone that makes it look like he’s trying to scoop the ball with the bat head and poke it to right field. He hasn’t seen much velocity yet in pro ball, so he may not be tested until this year when he’s playing in Double A or Triple A. There’s real upside here with his defense and the contact skills he’s demonstrated, but the bad swing and injury history point to the downside risk that he’s just an extra outfielder. He reminds me some of Brett Jackson, another first-rounder with an awkward swing but great athleticism who hit everywhere he played until the majors.
2023 Ranking: Sleeper
Fernandez destroyed High A last year in just his second season in the U.S., as the Cuban outfielder signed in 2019 and debuted in 2021 in the DSL, finally seeing full-season ball in 2022 in the Cal League. In 2023, he hit .319/.355/.605 for High-A Spokane in 58 games, then struggled after a promotion to Double A, hitting .206/.262/.362 in the more pitcher-friendly Eastern League. He makes very hard contact and projects to 30-homer power in a neutral environment, while he has the easy plus arm to handle right field, although his range will probably be 45ish in either corner. It comes down to discipline, as he chases too many pitches out of the zone, and Double-A arms were able to exploit this with breaking stuff where A-ball guys weren’t. He’s a good enough bad-ball hitter to get away with expanding the zone a little, just not to the extent that he did after his promotion. There’s too much power and strength here to ignore, and the environments he’ll face in Triple A and the majors will help him even if he never gets past 45 plate discipline, with .300+ averages and 30 homers quite possible with Coors Field as his home park.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Lin barely cracked my top-20 Diamondbacks prospects last year, as he wasn’t throwing that hard (around 89-90 mph) and got inexperienced hitters out because he had such good offspeed stuff. He topped out in 2023 at 94, and the secondaries are still there, while he keeps adding and tinkering with his arsenal, throwing a true screwball (which already makes me a fan), a plus changeup, a curve, a slider, and now a cutter as well. He’s very athletic and fiercely competitive, fielding his position extremely well, and now that he’s got a big-league fastball it’s a lot easier to see him staying in the rotation. He doesn’t walk guys because he’s aggressive when he gets to 3-ball counts, but it’s 45 control right now as he gets a lot of chases on the secondaries. He dominated High A and moved up to Double-A Amarillo — an extreme hitter’s park — midseason, becoming homer-prone at home (6 HRA in 34 2/3 innings) but not on the road (1 HRA in 26 1/3 innings). Lin is going to face a lot of bias because he’s small (listed at 5-11, 160, but height don’t measure heart … or changeups) and because he’s from Taiwan, which so far has produced only two successful MLB starters, Chien-Ming Wang and Wei-Yin Chen. Neither of those is a real issue here — he’s got the weapons, the poise, the competitiveness, and the athleticism to start, and if he holds this stuff while improving his command and control, he has mid-rotation potential.
2023 Ranking: 21
Luciano started the year on the IL while recovering from a stress fracture in his lower back, finally got rolling after some time in Double A, then ended up in the big leagues and was mostly overmatched. He did hit the ball very hard in the majors, as he’s done everywhere when healthy, and he’s able to keep up with fastballs, but offspeed stuff was an issue even in Double A, and killed him at the next two stops — he went from a 30 percent strikeout rate in Double A to 35 percent in Triple A to 37 percent in the big leagues, which is all an argument that he should have stayed at Double A until he showed better non-fastball recognition. He’s also not a shortstop, and I think moving him to left field might allow him to focus more on developing the bat while also perhaps keeping him healthy. He’s still quite young, just 22 all season with barely 300 professional games on his resume, and he’s got a strong swing that’s geared for 25-30 homers. I never bought him as a shortstop, or really even a second baseman, but I thought the bat would be more advanced than this. He can still be an above-average regular if the Giants give him the time to develop his pitch recognition.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Eldridge was a two-way prospect in high school who was 91-95 mph off the mound but without an average second pitch, so his future always seemed to be in the batter’s box. He’s 6-7 and can show you the huge power that you associate with those taller guys, but unlike most hitters his size, he has a very short swing and there’s reason to hope he’ll be an outlier among his peers when it comes to contact rate. His technique is geared toward putting the ball in play rather than a dead-pull approach to show off his power, so he goes the other way comfortably and hits the ball very hard when he does so. He was bothered by an ankle injury for the latter half of the spring and wasn’t running that well even over the summer when the Giants moved him to right field from his high school position of first base, although I’d reserve judgment on his outfield defense until this season when we see him at full go. There’s definitely risk here, as the history of hitters 6-7 and up is not great because their size typically means they swing and miss too often; the exceptions have done it with huge power, like Aaron Judge and the late Frank Howard. Eldridge’s ceiling is one where the power comes, but he also maintains a higher contact rate than other lowercase-g giants because of the shape of his swing.
2023 Ranking: 62
Rushing was the Dodgers’ second-round pick in 2022, when they didn’t have a first-round selection. After signing, he hit .424/.539/.778 in 28 games in Low A — a small sample, sure, but early reports from pro scouts were of the “how did the Dodgers get this guy in the second round?” variety. The University of Louisville alum’s full-season debut was more of a mixed bag, as he moved to High A and hit .228/.404/.452 in 89 games, playing average defense with an average arm and working well with pitchers. The low average is a surprise for an ACC product in High A, as he wasn’t young for the level, and some of the concerns from his college days that he had trouble hitting velocity popped back up last year — he didn’t see a ton of big velo, but struggled against it when he did. On the plus side, he has a very disciplined approach with strong ball/strike recognition and a commensurately low chase rate, and he makes hard enough contact that his .276 BABIP may include some bad luck. The bar is low for an everyday catcher; if you can hit 20 homers and draw a bunch of walks with average defense, you may be able to start in the big leagues. I’m just a little more concerned about Rushing’s bat than I was a year ago.
2023 Ranking: 56
Jung was the 12th pick in the 2022 draft after two fantastic years hitting for Texas Tech. He did bring questions about his position and his unorthodox setup at the plate to pro ball, one of which I think has been answered. Jung starts with his hands way back and above his rear shoulder, which you’d expect to cause timing problems, but so far he’s at least shown he can make hard contact, with 28 homers between High A and Double A last year with solid (but not elite) exit velocities. He did show some holes after he moved to Double A, particularly missing fastballs up in the zone and sliders in and below it, which reawakened those concerns about his hand setup and timing, although the Tigers have some positive experience helping hitters simplify their swings (notably Parker Meadows) to reduce those concerns. Of more import is Jung’s need for a position — he’s heavy-footed, far more so than his brother Josh, and while his defense at second graded out well by some team metrics, he’s not very mobile and I don’t think he’ll ever offer much range. If he’s a 45 defender at second with this sort of 60-70 extra-base-hits-a-year profile, he’s an above-average regular. He still has those same two questions to answer this year in Double A, however.
2023 Ranking: 72
It was a lost year for Bleis in 2023, as he hit .230/.282/.325 in his first taste of Low A, but hurt his shoulder after 31 games and underwent season-ending surgery. He’d had previous subluxations in that shoulder, so the hope is the surgery will clear that issue up permanently and let him get back to hitting. He’ll show five tools, with 60 raw power and 55 speed that would allow him to stay in center long-term if he doesn’t lose speed as he fills out, and he has great bat speed that’s undermined by a poor approach and some extra movement before he gets the barrel going toward the zone. He’s looking fastball too often, so he struggled with pitch and ball/strike recognition in 2022 and his brief stint in 2023, chasing secondary stuff out of the zone more than he should, but that’s the sort of thing that only improves with playing time. I wrote last year that I wouldn’t “be shocked or too dismayed if he struggles early in Low A as an inexperienced 19-year-old,” and that did happen, but he never got a chance to make adjustments. There’s still high-average/25-homer potential in a center fielder here. Depending on his shoulder strength — he’s supposed to be full go for spring training, at least — and how much time he needs to shake off the rust, however, any progress might not come until later in the year.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Miller had a chance to go in the top half of the first round in 2023, but a broken hamate bone took him out for almost the entire spring, so he had to make up some ground in pre-draft workouts and ended up going to the Phillies at pick No. 27. He has big power already even with a fairly simple swing, impressing multiple teams in those workouts with how the power played in big-league stadiums, although the sense is that the power tool may be ahead of the hit tool. He likes the ball middle-away so he can get his arms extended, and he had difficulty with pitches on the inner-third when he was playing in games the previous summer. He played shortstop in 18 games after the Phillies signed him, but he’s going to be a third baseman, as he doesn’t have close to the agility or range for short while his hands and arm would play well at third. By spring training he’ll be a year off the hamate injury and should have his full strength back, at which point we’ll see if the Phillies got a steal — maybe an everyday third baseman with 25-30 homer power.
2023 Ranking: Sleeper
I don’t typically put pure relief prospects on my top 100; the exceptions have been, well, exceptional, most recently Josh Hader, who has produced over 11 WAR in six-plus seasons in the majors. Misiorowski is working as a starter now and should continue to do so, but the delivery screams reliever, as he can’t repeat it and won’t get close to average command the way it all works now. He also boasts one of the best two-pitch combinations in baseball, with his fastball and slider at least 7s and you could make an argument either or both is an 8. He can touch 100 mph and regularly works in the upper 90s with high spin and excellent carry on the pitch. The slider has tilt, angle, depth, and tight rotation, running 84-90 when I saw him in a start in May. He doesn’t have a viable pitch for lefties yet, and the delivery, with visible effort, a high elbow, and a head-whack at release, is not conducive to strike-throwing or durability; he walked more than 13 percent of batters on the whole in 2023, including 15 percent in his final stop in Double A. The Brewers are handling him carefully, as he didn’t face more than 20 batters or throw more than 97 pitches in any outing last year. That is the right approach even if you think his future is in the bullpen, as he still needs to work on throwing strikes, figuring out the right weapon for lefties and maybe not throwing 100 percent on every pitch because his stuff moves so well. Multi-inning relief work is coming back into fashion, finally, and Misiorowski certainly has the potential to be a very good reliever in that role. I could see him posting a couple of 3-WAR seasons that way if his control improves.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
Schanuel was the 11th pick in the 2023 draft and became the first player from that draft to reach the majors when the Angels called him up on Aug. 18. He acquitted himself quite well in his major-league debut with a .275/.402/.330 line and more walks than strikeouts. Schanuel’s plate discipline is real, as he rarely chases out of the zone and hammers fastballs, so the question is whether he can get to more power from such a big frame. His hands start high above his head, but that doesn’t inhibit his timing, and he seems to get his hips and legs involved in his swing enough, yet so far it hasn’t resulted in either big in-game power or high exit velocities. He’s probably limited to first base as well, so he could have a Dave Magadan-like career even without more power output (Magadan produced 21.1 WAR and played 16 seasons), but if I’m the Angels I’m all about trying to get a 6-4, 220+ pound hitter to hit like one.
2023 Ranking: Ineligible
The worst thing you can say about Meyer is that he was a high school pitcher taken in the first round, and if you’ve read anything I’ve written in the last 10 years you probably know I’m going to say that is about as high-risk a category as you’ll find in the draft. He’s still just 19 and has to stay healthy the next few years even though he’s already throwing quite hard, but the pure stuff here is pretty impressive, with four pitches that you might grade out as plus depending on when you see him. He hit 101 mph in high school and worked up to 96 in his brief time in pro ball, showing a very high-spin breaking ball that’s his best pitch now along with a tight slider and a changeup that showed very well in the minors after he barely used it in the spring. He comes from a little below three-quarters and his fastball can ride flat up in the zone, so he’ll have to work more with his offspeed stuff and/or tighten up his command significantly. He’s still young and looks like he’s barely begun to mature physically, while on the mound he’s been able to out-stuff hitters and has to work on the other aspects of pitching, from command to sequencing to ancillary things like fielding his position. I had a scout call it a “top of the rotation look,” which sums him up well: This is what a future top-of-the-rotation starter might look like at age 19, although guys who look like Meyer does at age 19 do not always end up top-of-the-rotation starters.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Stewart was one of only two teenagers to walk more than he struck out in full-season ball last year — the other, Pittsburgh’s Jesus Castillo, slugged .251 on the season. Stewart was the Reds’ second pick, 32nd in the 2022 draft, a polished high school first baseman who needed to get stronger for more in-game power. The Reds moved him to third base, where the results have been passable, enough to think he can be a 45 defender there, although his value is still going to reside in his bat. He’s got real plate discipline, picking up balls/strikes as well as recognizing pitch types, and he’s hitting the ball harder already, topping 106 mph in the Florida State League with five of his 12 homers on the season going to the opposite field. He’s very selective, even when ahead in the count, hunting specifically for stuff middle-up he can drive, and he can get away with that because he so rarely whiffs with two strikes. If Stewart keeps getting stronger, and perhaps tries to pull a few more pitches, he’ll be an easy 20-homer guy with high OBPs, which makes him a solid regular at first and a borderline star if he can just stay at third base.
2023 Ranking: 86
Mauricio tore his ACL in winter ball, so he is likely to miss most, if not all, of the 2024 season, which is a shame on two levels — he had a shot at regular playing time in Queens, and he needs at-bats to keep developing. Even though he reached the majors last year, he remains an unfinished product on both sides of the ball. The ball comes off Mauricio’s bat much harder than you’d expect from his frame, but he has very strong wrists and generates a ton of bat speed, hitting a ball 117 mph in the majors and averaging just over 90 mph on his batted balls at the level. If he had any sort of plate discipline, he’d be a top-10 prospect, but he chases stuff out of the zone, especially offspeed, way too often, and can’t make up for it even with a decent rate of contact on those pitches. Major-league pitchers who can throw stuff just off the plate or just above/below the zone will have a field day with him until he tightens up his command of the zone — and that will only happen with more time in the batter’s box. He’s a natural shortstop but too erratic to play there in the majors. He looked promising at second base in the majors, and he could probably handle third if he got more time there, with only 22 professional games, a third between the minors and winter ball, in his career. He always had some volatility because of the lack of polish in his game, and now he’s losing up to a year of playing time, but I still hold out hope he can be an above-average regular at his peak — maybe just later than we’d otherwise thought.
2023 Ranking: 39
It was not the MLB debut Stone or the Dodgers were hoping for, as the team’s fifth-round pick from 2020 was hit hard in 31 innings, with major-league hitters all over his fastball and his supposed out pitch, his changeup, which was extremely effective all the way up through Triple A. The changeup wasn’t quite as devastating as it had been in the minors, but it appears he was tipping the pitch as well, allowing a 45 percent hard-hit rate with the pitch in the big-league stint. That in turn allowed hitters to look fastball, and his four-seamer, which was 93-95 mph but has never had a ton of movement, was close to useless. He’s a lot better than that, by his stuff and by his minor-league results, where his changeup would generate whiff rates near 50 percent or better at every level. He’s got at least an average fastball and slider with a changeup that looked like it’d be a 70 before major-league hitters deemed it somewhat unworthy of that grade. His debut was concerning, but I’m not giving up on his promise after such a small sample.
2023 Ranking: Just missed
Gonzalez went to the Twins in the January trade that sent Jorge Polanco to Seattle, the one significant prospect heading to Minnesota in that swap. Gonzalez offers some real upside with the bat if he can stop swinging at everything within a half-mile of the strike zone. He’s up there to do damage and has such good hand-eye coordination and feel for the barrel that he can hit pitches anywhere in the zone and, to some extent, just outside of it, so he swings early and often. He mashed in Low A, hitting .348/.403/.530 with just a 13.7 percent strikeout rate. When he reached High A, however, pitchers exploited his tendency to chase outside the zone, and he slipped to .215/.290/.387 — still showing power and hard contact, but also swinging at more than a third of non-strikes he saw. His contact quality improved last year over 2022, and he did hit for more power (ISO .147 to .178), although that has to continue to improve so he can get to that 25+ homer range, as he’s a below-average runner and will be limited to a corner outfield spot. There’s above-average upside here given the pure hit ability and potential for 60 or better power; with his defensive limitations and the odds that he’ll never walk 50 times in a season, though, he has to get there to be more than an extra outfielder.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Meadows reached the majors last year and gave a pretty good indication of the kind of player he’ll be in a larger sample — plus defense in center, plus speed, some power, some walks, enough swing and miss to keep him from being a star. A second-round pick in 2018, Meadows — the younger brother of former Tigers outfielder Austin Meadows — had big tools as a high schooler but had a huge hitch in his swing that made it hard for him to get to the ball on time, and he had OBPs below .300 for his first three seasons in pro ball. The Tigers helped him get rid of the big hitch before 2022 and he’s been a different hitter since then, with a .340 OBP across the past two seasons thanks to much better results on balls in play along with a small bump in his walk rates. He’s every bit of 6-5 and has a big strike zone, so there’s going to be some swing and miss, but he doesn’t chase excessively and he makes enough contact in-zone to get to a .240ish average and 15-20 homers a year. His glove and arm were worth 5 runs above average by Statcast last year in less than a quarter of a season, and I believe he’s going to be worth +10 or more if he gets to play 150 games out there this year. Big velocity might end up his main weakness and the obstacle to him becoming a 4+ win player; the defense gives him a great foundation and even if he punches out 30 percent of the time, something he’s never done in the minors, he’d still be a soft regular with the other tools he brings to the table.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
The Yankees signed Arias in January 2022 for a $4 million bonus, their largest bonus since they signed Jasson Domínguez in 2019 for $5.1 million, which was the largest bonus the team has ever given to an international amateur free agent. Arias may not be from Mars, but he turned in a very strong stateside debut last year, hitting .267/.423/.505 in the Florida Complex League last year as an 18-year-old with a 22 percent strikeout rate, well below the league average of 27 percent. It’s outstanding bat speed for an 18-year-old, especially from the left side, where his hands go from 0 to 60 in a flash, although I worry that he’s got a bit of a grooved, uphill swing that’s going to prevent him from squaring up the ball as often as he should. He’s an easy plus runner who should stay at shortstop, with a plus arm that plays up even above that because he’s got such a quick transfer and release; there’s some question of whether his body will stay lithe enough for the position, although the consensus leans toward not just remaining at short but becoming an above-average one. He’s farther from the majors than some of the Yanks’ more famous prospects, but other than Domínguez he may offer the most upside between offense and defense of anyone in the system.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
I guess it wouldn’t be a top-100 without at least two Dodgers catching prospects on it. Liranzo is their latest phenom behind the plate, a switch-hitter who hit .273/.400/.562 in Low A last year with a 26.7 percent strikeout rate, better from the left side, with power either way. He’s got a big frame with plus bat speed already. He’s likely to end up with 30+ homer power as he gets ever stronger. He will have to work to stay agile enough behind the plate, where right now he’s a work in progress, showing enough aptitude even though he’s not very fluid in his actions when receiving or blocking. If he were a sure-thing catcher, he might be a top-50 prospect because the power is real and he’s got an idea at the plate. He’ll move to High-A Great Lakes this year, and the Midwest League is a lesser hitters’ environment than the Cal League, so we’ll get a better read on how advanced his approach is along with seeing how the catching progresses. The high-walks, high-power upside in a switch-hitting catcher could make him shoot up this list in a year.
2023 Ranking: Unranked
Gilbert was Houston’s first-round pick in 2022 out of the University of Tennessee, then headed to the Mets in the Justin Verlander trade this past July along with power-hitting prospect Ryan Clifford. Gilbert’s the more advanced player of the two and took off after the trade, hitting .325/.423/.561 for Double-A Binghamton after scuffling for the Astros’ Double-A affiliate, Corpus Christi, the previous two months. Those struggles are probably just noise but did end up changing how his season looked overall — especially against lefties, where he had a decent platoon split in the first half but ended the year with a slightly higher OPS against southpaws. Gilbert’s a 55 or 60 defender in center, depending on who you ask, with an easy plus arm — he was a two-way player in high school — that would allow him to move to right, where he should be a 65 or 70 defender if he has to do it. He’s a hitter with a little pop, the opposite of the trend towards power-over-hit guys, and that’s even with his occasional tendency to try to pull pitches he should just go with rather than sacrificing some hit for power. He’s been a fan favorite already in the minors for his all-out style of play, which I expect to carry over to the majors when they see his 5-9 frame flying all over the field. At worst, he’s a fourth/platoon outfielder who can play all three spots, but after that strong finish I feel much better about him hitting lefties enough to play every day and hit .280-.300 with a walk rate over 10 percent and 15ish homers a year, whether that’s as an above-average defender in center or an easy plus one in right.
(Photo illustration by Sean Reilly / The Athletic: From left to right Paul Skenes / Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images; Jackson Holliday / Justin Berl / Getty Images; Jackson Chourio / David Durochik / Diamond Images via Getty Images; Ethan Salas / Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins / Getty Images)