Predicting Each MLB Team's Top Prospect at the End of the 2021 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2021

Predicting Each MLB Team's Top Prospect at the End of the 2021 Season

0 of 6

    Jasson Dominguez
    Jasson DominguezCliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Top MLB prospects Wander Franco, Adley Rutschman, Jarred Kelenic, MacKenzie Gore and Bobby Witt Jr. could all take the league by storm during the upcoming season.

    Their rise to the big leagues will create opportunities for other prospects to step into the spotlight and become their respective organization's No. 1 up-and-coming young player. With that in mind, we set out to project the top prospect in each MLB system when the 2021 season comes to a close.

    In other words, once all the big names get called up to the majors, who will replace them on top prospect lists?

    In some cases, a team's current top prospect and projected top prospect at the end of 2021 are one and the same. In many others, a new face is set to emerge as a club's marquee young talent.

    Let's get to it.

AL East

1 of 6

    Triston Casas
    Triston CasasMichael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Baltimore Orioles: RHP Grayson Rodriguez (Age: 21)

    Assuming catcher Adley Rutschman gets the call to the majors at some point in 2021, Rodriguez is poised to take over as the No. 1 guy in the Baltimore farm system. The 6'5" right-hander has prototypical power stuff, and he's been dominant to this point with a 2.46 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 113.1 innings.


    Boston Red Sox: 1B Triston Casas (Age: 21)

    The Red Sox might have a good problem on their hands in the near future if Bobby Dalbec continues to impress at first base and Casas delivers on the hype. The No. 26 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Casas posted an .830 OPS with 26 doubles, 20 home runs and 81 RBI in 120 games in 2019.


    New York Yankees: OF Jasson Dominguez (Age: 18)

    Already the top prospect in the Yankees farm system before ever playing a professional game, Dominguez has as high a ceiling as any prospect in recent memory. He has drawn comparisons to Mickey Mantle, Bo Jackson and Mike Trout, and even if he struggles in his pro debut, his ceiling will be enough to keep him in the top slot.


    Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Shane Baz (Age: 21)

    There's a good chance Wander Franco, Luis Patino and Randy Arozarena will all exhaust their prospect status early in the 2021 season, leaving an opening at the top of a deep Tampa Bay system. Baz has seen his stock trend steadily upward since joining the Rays organization as part of the lopsided Chris Archer blockbuster, and he has top-of-the-rotation potential if he can continue to improve his overall command.


    Toronto Blue Jays: SS/OF Austin Martin (Age: 21)

    The best pure hitter in the 2020 draft class, Martin should move quickly through the minor league ranks, but a 2021 debut is unlikely while Toronto tries to sort out his long-term defensive home. Don't sleep on teenage shortstop Orelvis Martinez as a top prospect on the rise.

AL Central

2 of 6

    Riley Greene
    Riley GreenePaul Sancya/Associated Press

    Chicago White Sox: RHP Jared Kelley (Age: 19)

    With Andrew Vaughn, Nick Madrigal, Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet all likely to be on the MLB roster by midseason, if not sooner, there's a changing of the guard coming in the White Sox farm system. With a physically mature 6'3", 230-pound frame, three plus pitches and good command, Kelley is more of a finished product than most prep pitchers, and he could quickly shoot to the top of the system after being taken in the second round of the 2020 draft.


    Cleveland: OF George Valera (Age: 20)

    Assuming Nolan Jones makes his MLB debut in 2021 and Triston McKenzie exhausts his prospect status shortly after Opening Day, Cleveland will almost certainly have a new top prospect before the upcoming season is over. With a 60-grade hit tool and 55-grade power, Valera has the highest offensive ceiling in the system, and he could be ready to break out in a big way.


    Detroit Tigers: OF Riley Greene (Age: 20)

    Regardless of whether Spencer Torkelson reaches the majors this season, expect Greene to give him a serious run for his money for the No. 1 spot in the Detroit system. One of the best pure hitters to come along in years, Greene turned heads last spring and was the talk of Detroit's alternate site with his smooth left-handed swing and budding power. He could be a top-10 prospect in baseball when 2021 concludes.


    Kansas City Royals: LHP Asa Lacy (Age: 21)

    With Bobby Witt Jr. pushing up his MLB timeline with an eye-opening spring, look for Lacy to assume the top prospect slot by midseason. The 6'4" left-hander was the best all-around pitching prospect in the 2020 draft, and the Royals happily added him to a strong collection of young arms with the No. 4 overall pick. He could be the future ace of the staff.


    Minnesota Twins: OF Misael Urbina (Age: 18)

    Every year, a handful of high-priced international players soar up prospect lists after impressing in their stateside debuts. Urbina, who signed for $2.75 million in 2018 and hit well in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, has the loud raw tools to be one of those pop-up prospects.

AL West

3 of 6

    Robert Puason
    Robert PuasonMichael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

    Houston Astros: OF Pedro Leon (Age: 22)

    Forrest Whitley still has an extremely high ceiling, even with Tommy John surgery set to sideline him for the entire 2021 season, but his stranglehold on the No. 1 spot in the Houston system has loosened. The Astros handed Leon a $4 million bonus in January and view him as the future in center field. He hit .383/.467/.789 with 15 home runs in 33 games in Cuba during the 2018-19 season and could be the Opening Day center fielder in 2022.


    Los Angeles Angels: OF Jordyn Adams (Age: 21)

    With Jo Adell moving out of the prospect picture, outfielder Brandon Marsh is the logical choice to move into the No. 1 spot on the Angels prospect list. However, he could also be in the majors before 2021 is over. Instead, we'll turn our attention to Adams, who has true 80-grade speed and the potential for an above-average hit tool and plus power. The experience he gained at the alternate site last year could be a springboard for a big season.


    Oakland Athletics: SS Robert Puason (Age: 18)

    The other elite prospect on the 2019 international market, Puason was given the exact same $5.1 million bonus that the Yankees handed to Jasson Dominguez. A potential Gold Glove defender at shortstop who is a work-in-progress offensively, he still has a ton of physical projection with a lanky 6'3", 165-pound frame.


    Seattle Mariners: RHP Emerson Hancock (Age: 21)

    Will Julio Rodriguez reach the majors in 2021? It's a safe bet Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert will be on the MLB roster by midseason, and we're betting on J-Rod getting the call shortly thereafter for a Mariners team that could be sniffing around a wild-card spot. That leaves Hancock as the new top dog after he was selected No. 6 overall in the 2020 draft, and his ceiling is as high as any college arm in last year's class.


    Texas Rangers: SS Maximo Acosta (Age: 18)

    Signed for $1.65 million in 2019 after drawing comparisons to Gleyber Torres as an amateur, Acosta has the offensive polish to make a splash in his pro debut. He could eventually slide down the defensive spectrum to third base, but his bat should play anywhere. This pick is assuming Josh Jung and Sam Huff are both MLB regulars before the season is over.

NL East

4 of 6

    Drew Waters
    Drew WatersJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    Atlanta Braves: OF Drew Waters (Age: 22)

    With Marcell Ozuna, Cristian Pache and Ronald Acuna Jr. penciled in across the outfield and Ender Inciarte serving as a high-priced fourth outfielder, it's hard to see how Waters fits into Atlanta's immediate plans. That's probably for the best, as he still has work to do on his approach at the plate after racking up 164 strikeouts in 134 games in 2019.


    Miami Marlins: RHP Max Meyer (Age: 22)

    Provided the Marlins are committed to developing him as a starter, Meyer will likely spend the next few seasons in the minors honing his craft. Otherwise, he could make an impact at the back of the MLB bullpen right now with his high-octane fastball-slider combination. Outfielder JJ Bleday could be the everyday right fielder by June, or he'd be the guy to replace Sixto Sanchez at the top.


    New York Mets: C Francisco Alvarez (Age: 19)

    There are only a few catching prospects around baseball who profile as potential franchise cornerstones. While Adley Rutschman, Joey Bart, Luis Campusano and Tyler Stephenson are the only lay-up answers, Alvarez is on the cusp of joining that elite group. He hit .312/.407/.510 with 17 extra-base hits in 42 games at rookie ball in 2019, and his full-season debut will be among the most anticipated of 2021.


    Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Francisco Morales (Age: 21)

    With a 60-grade fastball and 65-grade slider, Morales already has two MLB-ready pitches, and he has made strides with his changeup and his overall command in recent years while filling out his 6'4" frame. He had a 3.82 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 96.2 innings in 2019, and he could be one of the breakout prospects of 2021 as he takes aim at upper-level competition.


    Washington Nationals: RHP Andry Lara (Age: 18)

    First-round picks Mason Denaburg, Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli are all capable of taking a step forward, but we'll instead turn our attention to a teenager with tantalizing potential. Signed for $1.25 million in 2019, Lara has the potential for three plus pitches, including a fastball that already sits in the mid-90s. There is significant projection remaining in his 6'4", 180-pound frame, and he could quickly become the top guy in a thin system.

NL Central

5 of 6

    Garrett Mitchell
    Garrett MitchellAshley Landis/Associated Press

    Chicago Cubs: OF Brennen Davis (Age: 21)

    Even if hard-throwing Brailyn Marquez does not claim a spot on the MLB roster, expect Davis to be the No. 1 guy in the Cubs system before 2021 wraps up. The five-tool outfielder hit .305/.381/.525 with 20 extra-base hits in 204 plate appearances as a teenager at Single-A in 2019, and he has bona fide 30/30 potential with the glove to stick in center field.


    Cincinnati Reds: OF Austin Hendrick (Age: 19)

    With the loudest raw power of anyone in the 2020 draft class not named Spencer Torkelson, Hendrick is going to make a lot of noise in the lower levels of the minors. His swing can get a bit long at times and he does have some swing-and-miss to his game, but he's a polished enough hitter to feast on lower-level pitching.


    Milwaukee Brewers: OF Garrett Mitchell (Age: 22)

    Questions about his in-game power production caused Mitchell to slip to No. 20 overall in the 2020 draft, but there is plenty of power potential packed into his strong 6'3", 215-pound frame. At the very least, the rest of his toolbox gives him an extremely high floor as a solid average, plus speed, future center fielder. He immediately jumped to the top of a thin system the second his name was called last June.


    Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Quinn Priester (Age: 20)

    A bit of a wild card in the 2019 draft as a cold-weather prep prospect out of Illinois, Priester has consistently impressed since beginning his pro career, and he was the talk of the Pirates' alternate site last year. The 6'3", 210-pound right-hander has an elite fastball-curveball combination, good command and elite athleticism that translates well to the mound. His arrow is pointing straight up.


    St. Louis Cardinals: 3B Nolan Gorman (Age: 20)

    Don't sleep on catcher Ivan Herrera moving into the No. 1 spot in the St. Louis system, but for now, we're still buying the power potential of Gorman. He was exposed a bit in 2019 by upper-level pitching, striking out 73 times in 58 games at High-A, but his plus-plus power and improved defensive profile at third base still give him a tremendously high ceiling.

NL West

6 of 6

    CJ Abrams
    CJ AbramsCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Kristian Robinson (Age: 20)

    No one in a deep Arizona system has a higher ceiling than Robinson, who hit .282/.368/.514 with 13 doubles, 14 home runs and 51 RBI as an 18-year-old between Low-A and Single-A in 2019. With 60-grade power and 60-grade speed, he has dynamic offensive potential, and he is already well ahead of the developmental curve.


    Colorado Rockies: OF Zac Veen (Age: 19)

    With a smooth lefty swing and a 60-grade hit tool, Veen is more polished than the average high school hitter, and he could wind up being a steal as the No. 9 overall pick in the 2020 draft. He already flashes plus power, and there is room to add significant muscle to his 6'4", 180-pound frame. He could develop into a prototypical right fielder.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Josiah Gray (Age: 23)

    On almost any other team, Gray would be knocking on the door for a spot on the MLB roster after going 11-2 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 147 strikeouts in 130 innings while reaching Double-A in 2019. For a pitching-rich Dodgers team that doesn't even have a spot on the starting staff for Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, there's a good chance he'll spend another dominant year in the minors.


    San Diego Padres: SS CJ Abrams (Age: 20)

    Abrams can absolutely fly with top-of-the-scale speed, but he's more than just a burner. He hit .393/.436/.647 with 24 extra-base hits and 15 steals in 165 plate appearances in his pro debut after going No. 6 overall in the 2019 draft. He'll have to move to second base or center field with Fernando Tatis Jr. blocking his path, but he could be a game-changing leadoff hitter in a few years.


    San Francisco Giants: SS Marco Luciano (Age: 19)

    Luciano could well be the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball when the 2021 season concludes. "His bat makes him a potential superstar anywhere he plays," wrote. After hitting .302/.417/.564 with 10 home runs in 47 games while getting a taste of Low-A ball at the age of 17 in 2019, his full-season debut could vault him to the upper echelon of young talent in the sport.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.