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A Top 100 Prospects Update

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We’re about a month and a half into the minor league season, a reasonable time for a Top 100 update, albeit one with a relatively light touch. The purpose of this update is to pluck the low-hanging fruit, to polish and reshape the list rather than tear down the one from February. Much of the country is chilly or rainy in April and early May, and it can take time for players (hitters especially) to get going. Young players are also changing all the time, which often includes adjustments to their first taste of failure.

You can see the updated list in its entirety here. Below, I’ve highlighted some individual players. I touch on how everyone who is a 60 FV prospect or better has performed so far this year, as well as which players have moved up the list in a meaningful way. There are many cases in which the order of the list changed but the player’s overall grade and evaluation did not. If a pitcher is hurt and slid to the back of their FV tier (as with River Ryan, Ricky Tiedemann, Kyle Hurt and Chase Hampton), or if guys are stacked differently due to syllogistic reasoning (such as former back-of-the-list starter Christian Scott racing past similar talents who are in, say, Double-A), then I don’t address that individual move.

How Does Each Top Prospect Look?

Jackson Holliday, SS, Baltimore Orioles

You’re probably familiar with the sequence of Holliday’s 2024. He and the entire Norfolk lineup began the season on a collective tear while the Orioles were getting little production from second base. Holliday was promoted, hit .059 during a two-week big league trial, was sent back down, and has only sort of bounced back. Holliday’s spray chart has shifted away from his pull side and moved toward left field and the third base line. For most of the last three weeks following his demotion, he’s been inside-outing lots of contact the opposite way, including pitches on the inner third of the plate that he typically turns on. He is swinging with a ton of effort and imprecision right now. The way Holliday’s body unwinds throughout his swing is still very exciting and athletic, but he may need to make an adjustment that simplifies things so he can be on time more consistently. Bryce Harper’s swing might be a good template. These early hiccups are not reason enough to come off of Holliday’s top prospect evaluation.

Wyatt Langford, OF, Texas Rangers

Langford went on a god-like Cactus League tear, broke camp as a heart-of-the-order hitter on the defending champions’ Opening Day roster, and then didn’t hit for power during a month of big league at-bats before he was shelved with a hamstring injury. Langford’s quality of contact was better than his surface-level slash line, and the things that made him the no. 2 overall prospect before the season started (huge tools and plate coverage) were still evident. He hit a lot of balls just shy of the wall in April. I still expect him to be an offensive star upon his return, and probably pretty quickly.

James Wood, OF, Washington Nationals

Wood, who entered the season as our fifth overall prospect, has cut his strikeout rate significantly early this year. Entering the season, it had been up around 30% since he was traded to Washington, but it’s a rock solid 19.1% so far in 2024, and Wood is getting to so much power that he has an OPS over 1.000 as of this writing. Wood’s wrists are remarkably quick and he has uncommon bat control for a hitter his size. For such a huge guy, the holes in his swing are relatively small, mostly up around his hands right now. It’s likely that big league velocity will sneak past him more often (the average Triple-A fastball is 91-92 mph so far in 2024), but the ceiling on Wood’s power is as big as anyone in the minors and he’s increasing collective confidence in his ability to get to it. His ranking on the preseason Top 100 was already very aggressive, but Wood’s grade has been boosted.

Paul Skenes, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

I wrote a long Skenes update here. From an FV grade standpoint, his new splitter/sinker and increased changeup usage and feel are meaningful developments, enough for Skenes to move up a FV tier into rarified air for a pitching prospect. Here are the pitchers who I’ve ever 65’d or better: Alex Reyes, Shohei Ohtani, MacKenzie Gore, Eury Pérez, Grayson Rodriguez, and now, Skenes.

Jackson Chourio, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

It became a virtual lock that Chourio would break camp with the big league team when he signed a contract extension this winter. In his offseason scouting report, I wrote about how the length of Chourio’s swing might make it tough for him to catch up to big league velocity, and that has so far been the case, as he’s got an OPS close to .600 against fastballs 93 mph and above, against which he basically has no pull-side airborne contact. He has enough power to be dangerous to the opposite field and his defense is going to give his offensive production quite a bit of margin for error, so while Chourio isn’t off to a great start, he’s still a super talented 20-year-old who should be an impact player over time.

Jackson Merrill, SS, San Diego Padres

I wrote about Merrill’s transition to center field and its impact on his prospectdom here. In short, he looks like he’s going to stick out there and that’s a big deal.

Jordan Lawlar, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

In late March, Lawlar suffered a torn UCL in his thumb that required surgery and, according to the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro, was to keep him out for at least all of April and May. Lawlar is rehabbing in Arizona and making frequent cameos at Chase Field.

Junior Caminero, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

Caminero is hitting well (he has an OPS north of .900 as a 20-year-old at Triple-A as of this writing) and included in this update is a more bullish forecast for his defense. It’s still plausible at his size that he’ll eventually need to move to the outfield, but for now, what Caminero lacks in hands he makes up for with a lightning fast exchange and plus arm. The concerns about his swing that I outlined in his full scouting report are still present, but he continues to perform in a superlative way despite them.

Samuel Basallo, C, Baltimore Orioles

Basallo has a slightly below-average wRC+ so far in 2024, but he’s a 19-year-old catcher at Double-A, so that’s fine. He looks good behind the plate (his receiving has improved, and his arm is still great), but he is more often playing first base and DH’ing than he is catching. Especially with his offense slowing down somewhat, I think it makes sense for the Orioles to revisit focus on the catching position. He’s going to have enormous power at maturity and has rare ceiling for a catcher, and there isn’t an immediate need on offense at the big league level. It’s possible this isn’t an indication that the Orioles are effectively moving on from Basallo as a catcher and instead are just trying to preserve his body with a lighter load. If I thought Bassallo was going to move off of catcher entirely, I would slide him into the 55 FV tier of the list, right around the corner thumpers like org-mate Coby Mayo.

Dylan Crews, CF, Washington Nationals

Here we have another upper-echelon prospect whose pre-existing swing issues have been exposed and are going to force an adjustment. I wrote in Crews’ Top 100 blurb from the offseason that he’s often late against fastballs and really only able to pull softer stuff on the inner third with any kind of power. This has been an issue in the early portion of 2024, as he’s striking out nearly 30% of the time while getting to enough of his power to be productive anyway. He and the Nationals need to find a way for him to cover the inner half of the zone.

Ethan Salas, C, San Diego Padres

Salas, who turns 18 at the beginning of June, is struggling to hit at High-A Fort Wayne. It’s common for hitters to struggle during the frigid first month of the Midwest League, and there’s very little precedent for a prospect this young being at High-A. Salas is still an incredibly advanced defender for his age and he can move the barrel around the zone. He isn’t making flush contact right now and he’s swinging through a ton of high fastballs, but he’s also making contact with many of them. It’s too early to move off him at all.

Andrew Painter, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Painter entered 2023 spring training looking like he might break camp in the Phillies rotation and give the then-defending NL champs another high-end starter. He began to have elbow issues before the regular season and the Phillies took a relatively conservative approach to his rehab in the hopes he’d respond to a PRP injection and be able to pitch at some point last year. It didn’t work and he had TJ at a time that will likely cost him all of 2024. He looked like a potential top-of-the-rotation starter at the end of 2022.

Moving Up

Xavier Isaac, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays

Issac’s rotational explosion for a hitter his size is very special, and while he is going to swing and miss at an elevated rate, he also has ridiculous power all over the strike zone. He’s drastically overhauled his conditioning since he was drafted and looks like a future middle-of-the-order anchor. He has a 150 wRC+ at High-A Bowling Green as of this update, and in terms of hard-hit rate and peak exit velocities, Isaac is performing at the very top of the scale. If you’re in a dynasty league or collect prospect’s cards, you need to get this guy now, because if he continues on this pace against Double-A pitching in the second half of the year, he is going to finish the season as a top five or 10 overall prospect. Tip of the hat to the Rays, who drafted Isaac even though he wasn’t a famous showcase prospect. The pick was initially met with confusion, even derision, but like the Evan Carter Rangers pick, it looks like it’s going to have a meaningful impact on this franchise even though Isaac is still obscure enough that the photo service we use for header art doesn’t even have a picture of him in its database yet.

Marcelo Mayer, SS, Boston Red Sox

Speaking of changes in conditioning, Mayer looks more svelte than last year, his range on defense is better, and he’s changed the way he throws, now getting rid of the baseball as quickly as possible even if it means throwing three- and four-hoppers to first base. I’m still apprehensive about his ability to contact soft stuff in the bottom of the strike zone, but he’s raised his chances of staying at short. His FV grade hasn’t changed, but he’s moved up enough that I wanted to mention it.

Moving In

Aidan Miller, SS/3B, Philadelphia Phillies

It’s definitely important to keep Miller’s performance in context. He was an older high school pick and he’s just about to turn 20, which is a little old for Low-A. He also shares swing elements that make me fearful of eventual swing-and-miss, which you can read about in his report. But so far, none of those issues have manifested in Clearwater, Miller has a 90% in-zone contact rate, and he isn’t showing any vulnerability to fastballs at the top of the zone. You can also watch Miller swing and be reminded of Nico Hoerner, and it’s plausible Miller could end up with a similar profile, albeit one with more power.

Josue De Paula, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

De Paula was left out of the Top 100 during the offseason because I wanted to see him actually hit for power (he is a corner defender, after all), which has started to happen. He didn’t have a home run until a few days before this update, but his underlying exit velos have been sensational. His 94 mph average exit velo so far this season is elite, up eight ticks from last year, while his 114 mph max is up four.

Andy Pages, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Another guy who remade his physique during the offseason, Pages had season-ending shoulder surgery in 2023 and came back this year with a totally different body and level of athleticism. He is swinging with more athletic verve than ever before (he was a Top 100 guy before his injury), and it raises the ceiling on his defense to have better speed.

Cade Povich, LHP, Baltimore Orioles

Povich was left off the offseason Top 100 because I thought that at his level of velocity, he’d need better command than he has for his fastball to play. He seems to have leveled up in this regard and is having a better go of Triple-A than he did last year.

Others Who Received Consideration

Owen Murphy, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Murphy was a Pick to Click and he’s off to a fantastic start at High-A Rome, but he hasn’t yet shown a consistently good slider. His vertical fastball and curveball combo is very promising on its own, and Murphy’s arm action is the sort generally well-suited for changeup development, but he and the Braves seem focused on developing that slider right now, and it’s still only okay.

Jacob Melton, OF, Houston Astros

Melton’s swinging strike rate is surprisingly low considering what I expected of him coming out of Oregon State. His head is still flying around a lot throughout his swing and he tends to spray a lot of contact to the opposite field. I’m just not comfortable projecting that this is the offensive skill set of an everyday outfielder.

Joey Loperfido, 1B, Houston Astros

Lopefrido was on a homer-hitting tear at Triple-A Sugarland prior to his big league promotion, but he was also striking out 30% of the time. Last list cycle’s grade still feels sufficiently high on him. He’s a fine corner role player more than he is a true everyday player.

Lazaro Montes, OF, Seattle Mariners

Montes is a gigantic outfield prospect who has a ridiculous Cal League slash line so far this year. Surprisingly, his hard-hit rate has been a relatively modest 30% so far, while his contact rates (in-zone and out) are hovering in the 70-74% range, which is comfortably below the big league average. There’s indeed big power-hitting ceiling here, but I’m not comfortable projecting the long-term offensive success needed for him to be an impact player at the positions Montes will be able to play.

Brandon Young, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Young has had a little velocity bump and has been utterly dominant at Double-A Bowie. His fastball has always had big vertical break, but now it’s more often 93-94 mph, up from 91-92. He has a well-defined four-pitch mix and plus command, though only his changeup is generating a plus rate of swing-and-miss and Young locates that pitch in the zone much more often than is typical of a big league pitcher. He’s a near-ready starter but let’s see him sustain the velo bump all year before considering him a mid-rotation prospect.

Luke Keaschall, 2B/CF, Minnesota Twins

As we approach work on the Twins list from top to bottom, we checked on Keaschall, who has done nothing but rake since entering pro ball, albeit in a relatively small sample. He’s shown feel for the zone, bat control, and modest power. Keaschall has never been a very good infield defender and the Twins have been experimenting with him in center field. He is very much still learning to play out there.

Rubel Cespedes, 3B, Minnesota Twins

Cespedes is a potential plus third base defender with a 70 arm, capable of hosing guys from deep in the corner. His swing is similar to Cam Collier’s and draft prospect Bryce Rainer’s — there’s big bat speed and low-ball lift but real vulnerability at the top of the strike zone.


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