Johnnie’s Top 100 MLB Prospects: 1-20

Johnnie’s Top 100 MLB Prospects: 1-20

by March 17, 2022 5 comments

Here we are. The top 20. Not only are these players likely to do well at the major league level, but their organizations are also counting on them for success. The catching position is well-represented here with four backstops making it. The Mariners have three players here among the elite of the top 100.

A few teams have two: The Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Baltimore Orioles. While all of these players may not wind up in Cooperstown, one thing is for sure…most of them will be in the majors at some point this year.

More of the Top 100: #21-40 | #41-60 | #61-80 | #81-100

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1. Bobby Witt Jr., Shortstop, Kansas City Royals, 2nd pick in 2019 (Colleyville Heritage HS, TX)

DOB: 06/14/2000
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 200
Highest Level: AAA
B/T: R/R
Hit: 60
Power: 60
Run: 60
Arm: 60
Field: 60

Witt sits at the top of this list in all of major league baseball. He was drafted out of High School second overall in 2019 and is already dominating. Last year in 123 games between Double-A and Triple-A, Witt slashed .290/.361/.576. He also showed off his all-around ability hitting 33 home runs and stealing 29 bases.

Defensively, he made just eight errors in 102 games and is as sure-handed as they come as a 21-year-old. The Royals’ young star does everything well with no glaring weakness. He has made significant adjustments at the plate in a short time including cutting down on his strikeouts and driving the ball with more consistency. Witt will surely stick at shortstop as he has the combination of range, footwork, soft hands, and a strong arm.

He threw in the mid-90s off the mound in High School and that cannon will allow him to make throws from anywhere on the diamond. The kid is a good bet to become the face of the Royals franchise soon and will likely become the greatest shortstop in team history.

2. Adley Rutschman, Catcher, Baltimore Orioles, 1st pick in 2019 (Oregon State)

DOB: 02/06/1998
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 220
Highest Level: AAA
B/T: S/R
Hit: 60
Power: 65
Run: 30
Arm: 60
Field: 65

Rutschman was grabbed first overall by the O’s back in 2019. The young catcher began his career with the Orioles Rookie Team and quickly made an impression. In just five appearances the switch hitter drove in three RBIs with one home run. The Portland native progressed even more and completed his 2019 season with the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds.

After the canceled 2020 season, Rutchsman proved that the Orioles selection was worth the while. In 2021, the number two ranked prospect put on a show. He cranked 18 home runs with a .271 average with the Double-A Bowie Baysox. The youngster was then promoted to Triple-A to accommodate the Norfolk Tides. Down in Virginia, the catcher raked even more with 20 RBIs and a career-high .312 average.

The 23-year-old has a ton of pop on both sides of the dish with a cannon behind the plate. Rutschman has proved his potential for the MLB and seeks to make his debut shortly. It seems as Rutschman has a high chance to receive a big workload as starting backstop for the O’s. On the field and off, Rutschman can be a huge asset for Baltimore in 2022.

3. Julio Rodriguez, Outfield, Seattle Mariners, Signed July 2, 2017 (Dominican Republic)

DOB: 12/29/2000
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 180
Highest Level: AA
B/T: R/R
Hit: 60
Power: 65
Run: 50
Arm: 60
Field: 55

Rodriguez sits comfortably as a top-five prospect in the game, although it seems unlikely at the moment that he debuts in 2022. His magnificent talent propelled him up the prospect rankings in the past. Last year, Rodriguez’s production backed that up. Rodriguez, who turned 21 in December, split 2021 between High-A and Double-A. In 74 games combined, he hit 13 home runs with 21 stolen bases, a .347 average, .441 OBP, and a 1.001 OPS.

The thing that makes him so special is his lack of weaknesses. There is nothing this kid can’t do. Rodriguez is a five-tool player who, along with Kelenic, can transform the next decade of Mariners baseball. His counting numbers in the minor leagues were nothing outstanding but would look a lot better if you pro-rate them.

4. Grayson Rodriguez, Right-Handed Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles, 11th pick in 2018 (Central Heights HS, TX)

DOB: 11/16/1999
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 220
Highest Level: AA
Fastball: 65
Curveball: 50
Slider: 60
Changeup: 65
Control: 55

The first pitcher on the list, Rodriguez has a bright future ahead of him. The O’s took Rodriguez in the first round back in the 2018 draft. The right-hander went straight to the Orioles Rookie Team and made nine appearances with 1.40 ERA and 20 strikeouts. In 2019 with the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds, the youngster was electric. He blew by hitters with a career-high 129 strikeouts.

Many were blown away and in 2021, Rodriguez got the call to Double-A. The 22-year old was electric with the Baysox and made his case for the big club. The Texas native has an outstanding repertoire. He has also worked hard on cleaning up his delivery which has led to improved command even within the zone.

Rodriguez has a complete arsenal starting with his upper-90s fastball which he locates well. He has added a cutter that sits low-90s and has good action on it. His slider is a little ahead of his curve, but both have distinct movement with horizontal sweep to the slider and hard downward drop to his curve. Rodriguez’s changeup gives him an even slower speed and the velo difference is elite off of his four-seamer. The AL East hitters should be on notice as the best pitching prospect should be up this year.

5. Riley Greene, Outfield, Detroit Tigers, 5th pick in 2019 (Paul J. Hagerty HS, FL)

DOB: 09/28/2000
Height: 6’3
Weight: 200
Highest Level: AAA
B/T: L/L
Hit: 60
Power: 60
Run: 50
Arm: 55
Field: 55

Greene is in the top five of the best prospects in all of baseball. He was drafted fifth overall in 2019 out of High School and while there were some early struggles, his talent showed through in 2021. Last year, the left-handed hitter played in 124 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He slashed an impressive .301/.387/.534 with 24 home runs. Greene also stole 16 bases and was only caught once.

The Florida native has gotten to his power in-game as he has filled out. His swing is smooth and he has an advanced approach at the plate although his strikeout total rose to 27.4 percent in 2021. While that isn’t alarming, Greene will have to work on making better decisions. Defensively, he looks like a centerfielder, at least at this point. Even if the 21-year-old has to move to a corner spot, his bat should play well and his arm is strong enough to handle left or right.

6. Spencer Torkelson, First Base/Third Base, Detroit Tigers, 1st pick in 2020 (Arizona State)

DOB: 08/26/1999
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 220
Highest Level: AAA
B/T: R/R
Hit: 60
Power: 70
Run: 40
Arm: 50
Field: 50

Torkelson is above Greene on some prospect lists. He sits right behind him on this one mainly due to Greene’s ability to play a premium position. However, after being drafted first overall in 2020, Torkelson was promoted aggressively, going from High-A all the way to Triple-A. The quick rise through the ranks hurt the power hitter just a bit. His OPS went from 1.009 to .933 to .881.

Of course, any team would love a 22-year-old to post those numbers. Torkelson can hit and the 30 HRs in 121 games still look good. The former Arizona State star may be a third baseman in the majors. He will never be a Gold Glove winner but could man the hot corner adequately. Even if he moves to first base, Torkelson’s bat is what will get him to and keep him with the Tigers. While there were some minor struggles last year, he will make the adjustments and start terrorizing pitchers again in 2022.

7. Josh Jung, Third Base, Texas Rangers, 8th pick in 2019 (Texas Tech)

DOB: 02/12/1998
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 215
Highest Level: AAA
B/T: R/R
Hit: 65
Power: 50
Run: 40
Arm: 60
Field: 55

Jung was one of the better hitters that came out of his draft class and is considered the best position player in Texas Tech baseball history. He was drafted eighth overall in the 2019 draft. Jung also has tremendous plate vision by recognizing pitches well and has a knack for battling pitchers in lengthy at-bats. In 2021, Jung spent his time in Frisco and Round Rock. He had a batting average of .326 and a slugging percentage of .592 over 342 plate appearances. He also had 99 hits, 61 runs batted in, 19 home runs, and one triple in 2021.

Jung started his minor league career in Hickory in 2019 with a .287 batting average, .389 slugging percentage, 45 hits, and one home run. The 6-foot-2 third basemen looks to make an impact with the Rangers sooner than later. Jung was most likely going to make his MLB debut this year. However, due to surgery on a torn labrum that was performed in February, Jung will have to wait until at least late August. Whether the Rangers are in contention or not may decide if he has to continue to wait until 2023.

8. Oneil Cruz, Shortstop, Pittsburgh Pirates, Signed July 2, 2015 (Dominican Republic)

DOB: 10/04/1998
Height: 6’7″
Weight: 220
Highest Level: MLB
B/T: L/R
Hit: 55
Power: 60
Run: 55
Arm: 70
Field: 50

The Dominican Republic native first broke into professional baseball in 2015, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for $950,000. A massive prospect in terms of height, Cruz has actually grown three inches since signing with the Dodgers. He now stands at an intimidating 6-foot-7, but his huge arm has allowed him to stick at shortstop. The Pirates acquired Cruz as the centerpiece of the Tony Watson trade in 2017 and he has been with the organization ever since.

The left-handed hitter produced extraordinarily well at the plate in 2021, splitting time between three levels. In 62 games at Double-A Altoona, Cruz slashed .292/.346/.536 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs. Late in the season, the shortstop was called up to Triple-A Indianapolis and terrorized opposing pitchers. In just six games, he hit .524/.655/1.286, and five of his 11 hits were homers. This earned Cruz a quick promotion to the Major League club to end his age-22 campaign. Cruz played in just two games for the Pirates in 2021 but still had some impressive moments.

When he made his first start, he became the tallest shortstop to start a game in league history. Also, in his debut, he roped a ball 118.2 mph, the hardest-hit ball in Pittsburgh history since the Statcast era began. The 23-year-old has huge offensive potential and clearly barrels up the ball very well. Time will tell if he one-day shifts to third base, but he has shown enough to stay at shortstop for now.

9. Shane Baz, Right-Handed Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays, 12th pick in 2017 (Concordia Lutheran HS, TX)

DOB: 06/17/1999
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 190
Highest Level: MLB
Fastball: 70
Curveball: 40
Slider: 65
Changeup: 50
Control: 55

Baz made his much-anticipated debut this year. After dominating the minors at two stops to the tune of a 2.06 ERA and 113 strikeouts to just 13 walks, the right-hander started the September 20 matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays. He made three total starts and didn’t miss a beat striking out 18 in just 13.1 innings while walking just three. While he did allow three solo home runs, there are plenty of pitchers who have given up bombs to Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Anthony Rizzo.

Baz brings a lethal fastball-slider mix. He throws a four-seamer that can hit triple digits as well as a biting slider that is arguably the best in the minors. Baz plays his changeup off them well and has had little use for his curveball other than being a show-me pitch. He cleaned up his delivery and it has become more repeatable. It is the main reason Baz has improved his command since joining the Rays organization when he came over with Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow in the Chris Archer deal (sorry Pirate fans). Baz has all the makings to be a true ace for the Rays.

10. Anthony Volpe, Shortstop, New York Yankees, 30th pick in 2019 (Delbarton School, NJ)

DOB: 04/28/2001
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 180
Highest Level: A+
B/T: R/R
Hit: 60
Power: 55
Run: 55
Arm: 50
Field: 55

Drafted 30th overall out of a New Jersey High School in 2019, Volpe was nothing out of the ordinary, except that he was a hometown kid. That seemingly proved to be true when his professional career started with a rookie ball OPS slightly over .700. Whatever he did since then has worked. He blasted back onto the scene in 2021, splitting time between Single-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley. Volpe was one of the minor league’s best players last year, as he hit 27 home runs with 33 stolen bases, a .294 average, and a 1.027 OPS as a 20-year-old, much younger than the average age for his level.

Volpe was so impressive, that he may have taken the Yankees out of the serious running for top free agent shortstops Carlos Correa or Trevor Story following the lockout’s end. Of course, that wouldn’t be good for the franchise but does show Volpe’s talent. He has shot up the prospect ranking, becoming a top-10 prospect in all of baseball.

11. MJ Melendez, Catcher, Kansas City Royals, 52nd pick in 2017 (Westminster Christian School, FL)

DOB: 11/29/1998
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 190
Highest Level: AAA
B/T: L/R
Hit: 50
Power: 60
Run: 40
Arm: 60
Field: 60

The heir-apparent to Salvador Perez in Kansas City, Melendez is making a name for himself. He cranked out 41 home runs between two stops in the minors last season while slashing .288/.386/.625. He only struck out 21.7 percent of the time and walked an impressive 14.1 percent. Both numbers are immense improvements over his 2019 season at Wilmington where he whiffed 39.4 percent to just a 10.5 percent walk rate.

The bat is certainly there and Melendez may have the most raw power in the system. Defensively, he has worked hard to improve his blocking and receiving. The kid from Florida already has a cannon for an arm. A little more time working on the nuances of catching and Melendez will be behind the plate for the Royals permanently.

12. CJ Abrams, Shortstop, San Diego Padres, 6th pick in 2019 (Blessed Trinity HS, GA)

DOB: 10/03/2000
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 185
Highest Level: AA
B/T: L/R
Hit: 60
Power: 50
Run: 80
Arm: 55
Field: 55

The Padres selected Abrams with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft after he earned Georgia’s Gatorade High School Player of the Year as a senior. The now 21-year-old followed that up by winning the Rookie Arizona League MVP Award after batting .401 with 23 extra-base hits and 14 steals in 32 games. The Padres rewarded him with a promotion to Class A Fort Worth in his pro debut season. In 2020, he played at the alternate site and showed strides with the bat and defense.

The Georgia native already has pure hitting ability and can hit the ball hard to all fields. He was pushed to Double-A San Antonio last season, but a sprained left MCL and fractured left tibia ended his season in early July. Abrams has game-changing speed that helps on the basepaths and gives him tremendous range in the field. After missing a majority of the 2021 season, he will likely pick back up in Double-A, where he had recorded a .783 OPS and 13 stolen bases in 42 games.

A move off shortstop might be in the cards unless the Padres decide to move Tatis Jr. elsewhere. Nonetheless, Abrams has the range, arm strength, and hands to make the move to center field or second base seamlessly. He has one of the highest ceilings and floors of any prospect in the minors. 

13. Gabriel Moreno, Catcher, Toronto Blue Jays, Signed August 3, 2016 (Venezuela)

DOB: 02/14/2000
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 175
Highest Level: AAA
B/T: R/R
Hit: 60
Power: 55
Run: 40
Arm: 55
Field: 55

Moreno signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2016. He has developed into an excellent catcher and pounded the ball at every stop in the minors. He posted a slash of .373/.441/.651 with eight home runs in 32 games at Double-A New Hampshire last year. Moreno has excellent bat-to-ball skills and makes solid contact. His power has come around as he filled out his stocky 5-foot-11 frame.

Defensively, the 21-year-old has a strong arm and gets the ball out quickly. His receiving skills have improved and the Blue Jays feel his defense could be an asset. Toronto catchers have rarely been good going back to when they came into the league in 1977 as Ernie Whitt sits as the gold standard in their history. Moreno has the ability to be a franchise backstop but may need one more year to hone his skills on a daily basis in Triple-A.

14. George Kirby, Right-Handed Pitcher, Seattle Mariners, 20th pick in 2019 (Elon University)

DOB: 02/04/1998
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 215
Highest Level: AA
Fastball: 60
Curveball: 55
Slider: 55
Changeup: 55
Control: 70

Kirby spent his 2021 season divided between High-A and Double-A. Selected by Seattle 20th overall in 2019, the 24-year-old started his professional career in Low-A that year, not walking a batter and only allowing one home run in 23 innings. His 2021 season was just as impressive. In 15 starts, Kirby posted a 2.53 ERA along with 80 strikeouts in 67.2 innings. He walked 15 batters while only allowing one home run all season.

If Kirby can continue to limit the long ball in today’s game, then that could be a massive strength of his going forward. Look for him and fellow Mariner right-hander Emerson Hancock to join forces with 2021 rookie Logan Gilbert and Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray to create a strong rotation in the future.

15. Francisco Alvarez, Catcher, New York Mets, Signed July 2, 2018 (Venezuela)

DOB: 11/19/2001
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 230
Highest Level: A+
B/T: R/R
Hit: 55
Power: 60
Run: 40
Arm: 60
Field: 55

Alvarez, 20, was the Mets’ prized signing in 2019. He garnered a $2.7 million signing bonus at the time as the second-best catcher in the 2019 signing period. The 5-foot-10, 233-pounder mashed his way through Rookie ball as a 17-year-old and earned a spot on the top prospect lists. Alvarez then caught some major league players like Jacob deGrom and David Peterson in the Mets’ alternate site in 2020 at just 18 years old. In 2021, as a 19-year-old, Alvarez showcased his enormous power with 24 home runs in just 99 games.

Alvarez’s poise and quick hands help him on both sides of the ball. As a catcher, his quick instincts make him a good blocker. His arm is one of his strong points as well. The Venezuelan’s pitch framing is noticed by many scouts as being advanced beyond his age. He has enormous raw power with a contact-oriented approach that helps him launch the ball. He has already shown out with many long home runs even as a youngster in Low-A and High-A ball. In Alvarez, the Mets have one of the best catching prospects in a while and one of the best overall prospects in the league.

16. Alek Thomas, Outfielder, Arizona Diamondbacks, 63rd pick in 2018 (Mount Carmel HS, IL)

DOB: 04/28/2000
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 180
Highest Level: AAA
B/T: L/L
Hit: 65
Power: 55
Run: 60
Arm: 45
Field: 60

Thomas has improved his profile since being drafted in the second round out of High School in 2018. The 21-year-old has hit at every stop on the way up through Arizona’s system. In 106 games last season between Double-A and Triple-A, the centerfielder slashed .313/.394/.559 with 29 doubles, 12 triples, 18 home runs, and 13 stolen bases. He also posted a solid 10.5 percent walk rate with a 20 percent strikeout rate. For a left-handed hitter Thomas has a quick compact swing that yields hard contact all over the field. Combined with an advanced approach at the plate and a good eye, he has the highest floor in the system in terms of offensive profile.

Thomas started tapping into some power this year. While he may never be a true slugger, his athleticism and baseball intelligence may make him a regular 20-20 guy at the big league level. The Chicago native has nothing else to prove in the minors and should be fighting for a starting spot in Arizona’s outfield when we get to spring training.

17. Corbin Carroll, Outfielder, Arizona Diamondbacks, 16th pick in 2019 (Lakeside School, WA)

DOB: 08/21/2000
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 165
Highest Level: A+
B/T: L/L
Hit: 60
Power: 45
Run: 70
Arm: 55
Field: 60

One of the best High School athletes in 2019, the Diamondbacks took Carroll with the 16th overall pick, signing him away from his commitment to UCLA. He was on the same track as Thomas and started off 2021 10-for-23 in seven games before a shoulder injury that required surgery sidelined him for the remainder of the year. He has shown the ability to get on base with a 16.3 walk rate in his minor league career.

Carroll makes solid contact and can spray the ball to all fields with some authority. He is stronger than his 5-foot-10 frame may seem and has a chance to tap into some raw power that could yield double-digit homers. Speed is the name of his game though. Carroll gets to full speed quickly and can steal a base at any time. Those wheels also allow him to cover a ton of ground in centerfield where he will likely stay. He should start the season at Double-A but could move up if he shows he is fully recovered.

18. Noelvi Marte, Shortstop, Seattle Mariners, Signed July 2, 2018 (Dominican Republic)

DOB: 10/16/2001
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 185
Highest Level: A+
B/T: R/R
Hit: 50
Power: 60
Run: 60
Arm: 55
Field: 50

The third Mariner in the top 20, Marte is in that talent range of Rodriguez, although he has yet to have that outstanding minor league season that sets him apart from the rest. That is not to say that Marte has struggled in the low minors. As a 19-year-old in his second minor league season, he spent most of the season at Single-A Modesto. He hit 17 home runs with 23 stolen bases, a .368 OBP, and an OPS of .831 in 99 games.

Just like Rodriguez, Marte also has the pro-rated numbers that propel him. Given his young age and inexperience beyond Single-A, it will be a good amount of time until we see Marte on the big club. For now, he will be the constant at the top of the Seattle prospect board as others graduate.

19. Hunter Greene, Right-Handed Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds, 2nd pick in 2017 (Notre Dame HS, CA)

DOB: 08/06/1999
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 230
Highest Level: AAA
Fastball: 80
Cutter: 50
Slider: 60
Changeup: 50
Control: 55

The flamethrowing right-hander was only 17 years old when he was selected second overall in 2017. He made a few starts that year and was looking at a full season at Single-A Dayton in 2018 when he suffered an elbow injury after 18 starts that required Tommy John Surgery. Greene missed all of 2019 and only pitched at the Reds’ alternate site last year gaining valuable experience. This season he was back to lighting up the radar gun and graduated to Triple-A Louisville after seven starts at Double-A Chattanooga. Between those two stops, Greene had a 3.30 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 106.1 innings proving he is fully recovered from his surgery.

His fastball is elite as he throws it consistently 98-102 mph. He has learned to spot it well also using it all over the strike zone keeping hitters from zeroing in on a certain area. Greene pairs the heater with a plus slider that has good late movement down in the zone. His cutter and changeup are both works in progress but already show signs of being at least average offerings. Greene’s stuff is certainly there. If he refines his command a bit and improves to where a third pitch is above average, he could be an ace for years to come.

20. Josh Lowe, Outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays, 13th pick in 2016 (Pope HS, GA)

DOB: 02/02/1998
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 205
Highest Level: MLB
B/T: L/R
Hit: 50
Power: 55
Run: 55
Arm: 60
Field: 60

Well, Lowe should just retire now with his 1.000/1.000/1.000 slash. Just kidding of course. He had two plate appearances last year and if his year at Triple-A Durham is any indication, Lowe is going to be an important piece for the Rays. The former first-round pick out of Pope HS in Georgia slashed .291/.381/.535 with 22 homers and 26 stolen bases and committed just two errors in 104 games in the outfield.

Lowe has the ability to stay in centerfield as his glove, range, and arm were ahead of his bat originally. He is an athletic 6-foot-4, 205-pound lefty whose hitting has certainly caught up to his other tools. If he can continue to cut down on the swing and miss at the next level, Lowe will be taking Kevin Kiermaier‘s job for Tampa Bay.


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