B/R's Top 100 MLB Prospects at the Start of the 2021 Season
The 2021 MLB season is underway, and while we won't have any minor league action until next month, now is the perfect time to unveil our Top 100 prospect list for the start of the new baseball year.
The following factors helped determine where each player fell in our updated rankings:
- Potential: Potential trumps production a lot of the time, especially in the lower levels of the minors and with recent draft picks. Skill set and tools are often better indicators of what kind of player someone will be.
- Talent: For those in the higher levels of the minors who are close to breaking into the big leagues, production and talent level were the determining factors since the players are viewed as more complete products.
- Eligibility: A player must maintain rookie eligibility to be considered for inclusion. That means no more than 130 big league at-bats for position players, 50 innings for pitchers or 45 days on the active roster prior to roster expansion in September.
Let's start with 50 players who fell just outside the rankings.
RHP: Mick Abel (PHI), Adbert Alzolay (CHC), Nick Bitsko (TB), Cade Cavalli (WAS), Dane Dunning (TEX), Daniel Espino (CLE), Jared Kelley (CWS), Alek Manoah (TOR), Bobby Miller (LAD), Yerry Rodriguez (TEX), Joe Ryan (TB), Tahnaj Thomas (PIT), Forrest Whitley (HOU)
LHP: Seth Corry (SF), Brendan McKay (TB), Kyle Muller (ATL), A.J. Puk (OAK), Trevor Rogers (MIA), Blake Walston (ARI), Ryan Weathers (SD)
C: Miguel Amaya (CHC), William Contreras (ATL), Ivan Herrera (STL), Ryan Jeffers (MIN), Shea Langeliers (ATL), Cal Raleigh (SEA), Tyler Soderstrom (OAK)
IF: SS Nick Allen (OAK), 3B Brett Baty (NYM), SS Gunnar Henderson (BAL), SS Ed Howard (CHC), 2B Jonathan India (CIN), SS Jeremiah Jackson (LAA), SS Orelvis Martinez (TOR), 3B Isaac Paredes (DET), SS Liover Peguero (PIT), SS Robert Puason (OAK), SS Brayan Rocchio (CLE), SS Braden Shewmake (ATL), SS Bryson Stott (PHI), 2B Brice Turang (MIL), 3B Mark Vientos (NYM)
OF: Jordyn Adams (LAA), Hunter Bishop (SF), Jarren Duran (BOS), Josh Lowe (TB), Luis Matos (SF), Hedbert Perez (MIL), Leody Taveras (TEX), George Valera (CLE)
100. RHP Francisco Morales, PHI
99. 3B Kody Hoese, LAD
98. RHP Jordan Balazovic, MIN
97. RHP Jackson Kowar, KC
96. 2B Michael Busch, LAD
95. RHP Matthew Allan, NYM
94. RHP Jhoan Duran, MIN
93. 1B Bobby Dalbec, BOS
92. LHP Reid Detmers, LAA
91. OF Pedro Leon, HOU
The Astros hope they found their center fielder of the future in toolsy Cuban defector Pedro Leon. The 22-year-old signed for $4 million in January, and he could see the majors before 2021 is over.
Michael Busch and Kody Hoese were both first-round picks in 2019, and they could eventually replace Max Muncy and Justin Turner on the Los Angeles Dodgers infield.
Left-hander Reid Detmers could be one of the first pitchers from the 2020 draft class to reach the majors, Jhoan Duran and Jackson Kowar will both be knocking on the door by midseason, and 2019 breakout prospects Jordan Balazovic and Francisco Morales will try to pick up where they left off in the lower levels of the minors in 2019.
Slugger Bobby Dalbec will start the season as the everyday first baseman in Boston, and while he has 30-homer potential, he could also strikeout 200 times with regular at-bats.
With a durable 6'3" frame, a polished three-pitch arsenal and plus command, Matthew Allan could rank much higher on this list by the time the 2021 season comes to a close.
90. RHP Simeon Woods Richardson, TOR
89. SS Tyler Freeman, CLE
88. C Alejandro Kirk, TOR
87. OF Austin Hendrick, CIN
86. RHP George Kirby, SEA
85. 2B Xavier Edwards, TB
84. LHP Nick Lodolo, CIN
83. OF Heston Kjerstad, BAL
82. LHP Garrett Crochet, CWS
81. C Sam Huff, TEX
Flame-thrower Garrett Crochet jumped straight to the majors last year after going No. 11 overall in the 2020 draft, and he has a spot in the bullpen to start the 2021 season. There is some question whether he'll ever be a clean fit as a starter, but he's an impact arm regardless of role.
Outside of No. 1 pick Spencer Torkelson, the best raw power in the 2020 draft belonged to either Heston Kjerstad or Austin Hendrick, and both could make a big first impression in their pro debuts.
George Kirby and Simeon Woods Richardson are both high-ceiling arms capable of climbing this list, while Nick Lodolo has an extremely high floor and should settle into a spot in the middle of the MLB rotation in short order.
Xavier Edwards and Tyler Freeman are both currently blocked on their respective teams and could wind up as trade chips, but they are also talented enough to push their way into the long-term plans.
Offensive-minded catchers Sam Huff and Alejandro Kirk should both be MLB regulars by the end of the 2021 season, though they still have work to do refining their receiving skills.
80. RHP Clarke Schmidt, NYY
79. RHP Hunter Greene, CIN
78. OF Robert Hassell lll, SD
77. SS Jose Garcia, CIN
76. LHP DL Hall, BAL
75. SS Geraldo Perdomo, ARI
74. RHP Edward Cabrera, MIA
73. SS Noelvi Marte, SEA
72. SS Oneil Cruz, PIT
71. LHP Daniel Lynch, KC
The Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins both have a wealth of exciting young pitching talent, and Daniel Lynch and Edward Cabrera could be the next to make their marks in the big leagues this season. Left-hander DL Hall needs to refine his command before he can make the jump for the rebuilding Orioles.
Jose Garcia and Geraldo Perdomo both look like sure things to stick at shortstop, but their offensive games remain works in progress. The opposite is true of Noelvi Marte, who has the bat to shift to third base if needed. And who knows where 6'7" Oneil Cruz is going to play long-term, but he may wind up being a clean fit as a power-hitting right fielder.
If Clarke Schmidt and Hunter Greene can get and stay healthy, both pitchers have top-of-the-rotation potential. That's enough to keep them in the rankings for now, but they have a lot to prove.
The best pure hitter in the 2020 prep class, Robert Hassell lll has five-tool upside even if he profiles for more hit than power long-term.
70. SS Ronny Mauricio, NYM
69. LHP Brailyn Marquez, CHC
68. C Keibert Ruiz, LAD
67. 1B/OF Ryan Mountcastle, BAL
66. RHP Shane Baz, TB
65. OF Garrett Mitchell, MIL
64. OF Alek Thomas, ARI
63. RHP Deivi Garcia, NYY
62. OF Zac Veen, COL
61. 2B Nick Gonzales, PIT
The pro debuts of 2020 draft picks Nick Gonzales (No. 7 overall), Zac Veen (No. 9 overall) and Garrett Mitchell (No. 20 overall) could send all three soaring up these rankings and comfortably into the top 50. Alek Thomas is another prospect with significant upside as the presumptive center fielder of the future and potential leadoff hitter for the D-backs.
Right-hander Deivi Garcia and catcher Keibert Ruiz are among the most MLB-ready prospects in baseball, though both will start the year in the minors. Garcia will likely pitch some big innings for the Yankees before 2021 is over, but Ruiz might end up as a trade chip with Will Smith blocking his path.
One prospect squarely in the Opening Day picture is Ryan Mountcastle, who begins the year among the American League Rookie of the Year front-runners after posting a 140 OPS+ with five home runs and 23 RBI in 35 games.
Right-hander Shane Baz and left-hander Brailyn Marquez both have electric stuff but a wide range between floor and ceiling at this point in their careers. Shortstop Ronny Mauricio is ranked more on tools and potential than production at this point.
60. LHP Matthew Liberatore, STL
59. RHP Josiah Gray, LAD
58. C Francisco Alvarez, NYM
57. OF Trevor Larnach, MIN
56. 2B Jeter Downs, BOS
55. RHP Emerson Hancock, SEA
54. OF Brandon Marsh, LAA
53. OF Brennen Davis, CHC
52. RHP Quinn Priester, PIT
51. SS Royce Lewis, MIN
After a disappointing 2019 season and a lost year in 2020, Royce Lewis suffered a torn ACL this spring. He slides significantly down the rankings as a result.
Outfielders Brennen Davis and Brandon Marsh both have loud raw tools, while Trevor Larnach has one of the highest offensive floors of any prospect thanks to his polished hit tool and plus power.
It's only a matter of time before Jeter Downs is the starting second baseman in Boston with Enrique Hernandez shifting back to the utility role in which he has thrived for years.
"The work he did in 2020 on how and when to use all of his pitches and in sharpening all his offerings has as big of an up arrow next to his name as any pitching prospect in baseball," MLB.com wrote of Quinn Priester, who was the talk of the Pirates alternate site last year.
Left-hander Matthew Liberatore has the top-of-the-rotation upside to even the scales of the Randy Arozarena trade, right-hander Josiah Gray is now the top prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers system, and Emerson Hancock could easily wind up being the best pitcher from the 2020 draft class.
How high will Francisco Alvarez climb up these rankings in his full-season debut? The Mets' decision to sign James McCann to a long-term deal will allow the 19-year-old plenty of time to develop.
50. C Tyler Stephenson, CIN
49. 2B Jazz Chisholm, MIA
48. OF Corbin Carroll, ARI
47. 3B Josh Jung, TEX
46. RHP Triston McKenzie, CLE
45. SS Jordan Groshans, TOR
44. RHP Max Meyer, MIA
43. 1B Triston Casas, BOS
42. 2B Vidal Brujan, TB
41. OF Taylor Trammell, SEA
Taylor Trammell and Jazz Chisholm both emerged from spring training with unexpected starting roles. Trammell will hold down left field in Seattle while Jarred Kelenic starts the year in the minors, and Chisholm edged out Isan Diaz for the second base job in Miami.
Catcher Tyler Stephenson will split time with Tucker Barnhart on the MLB roster this year, and he could wind up receiving the bulk of the playing time with a strong start. Triston McKenzie is also on Cleveland's Opening Day roster, and it will be interesting to see how his lanky frame holds up to a starter's workload.
Expect to see Josh Jung in the majors by midseason as he's a big piece of the future puzzle in Texas. Jordan Groshans (No. 12 overall) and Triston Casas (No. 26 overall) could also be knocking on the door late in the season after being taken in the first round of the 2018 draft.
Speedy Vidal Brujan does not have a clear future home within the Tampa Bay infield, but his hit tool and base-stealing ability could force the team's hand. With one of the best hit tools in the minors, Corbin Carroll is another under-the-radar prospect who could make his case for an MLB roster spot sooner than expected.
Flame-thrower Max Meyer could close games in the majors right now, but the Marlins will develop him as a starter with top-of-the-staff upside.
40. 3B Nolan Gorman, STL
39. LHP Shane McClanahan, TB
38. OF Drew Waters, ATL
37. 2B Nick Madrigal, CWS
36. RHP Spencer Howard, PHI
35. 3B Nolan Jones, CLE
34. OF JJ Bleday, MIA
33. OF Jasson Dominguez, NYY
32. C Luis Campusano, SD
31. LHP Asa Lacy, KC
This could wind up being a comically low ranking for Jasson Dominguez, but until he plays his first professional game, it's hard to include him among the game's top prospects. Don't be surprised if he's No. 1 by season's end.
Asa Lacy and Shane McClanahan are both big, hard-throwing left-handers, and while Lacy has the higher floor thanks to plus command, McClanahan could make a significant impact in 2021 after debuting last October. Spencer Howard is another high-ceiling pitching prospect who made his MLB debut last year, though he'll start the year in the minors and will be on an innings limit this year.
Nolan Gorman is one of baseball's elite power prospects, Nolan Jones has the best batting eye of any player in the minors, and JJ Bleday could be the starting right fielder in Miami before the season is over despite his limited minor league action.
Outfielder Drew Waters has the tools and upside to be a top-tier prospect, but his 164 strikeouts over 134 games in 2019 are enough to raise a few eyebrows.
An already-loaded Padres roster could be even better if Luis Campusano seizes the starting catcher job, and he has the two-way potential to be a perennial All-Star.
He's never going to hit for power, but Nick Madrigal is already one of the best contact hitters in baseball, and he's a sneaky pick for American League Rookie of the Year honors with the everyday second base job for a contending White Sox team.
30. OF Heliot Ramos, SF
29. SS/OF Austin Martin, TOR
28. RHP Michael Kopech, CWS
27. LHP Tarik Skubal, DET
26. RHP Logan Gilbert, SEA
25. C Joey Bart, SF
24. OF Kristian Robinson, ARI
23. RHP Grayson Rodriguez, BAL
22. OF Alex Kirilloff, MIN
21. OF Riley Greene, DET
The future is bright for the San Francisco Giants, and with significant roster turnover coming, catcher Joey Bart and center fielder Heliot Ramos look like cornerstone pieces of their next contender.
A healthy Michael Kopech is expected to be a dangerous multi-inning weapon out of the White Sox bullpen, though his future is still in the rotation.
In terms of raw hit tool and raw power tool, Riley Greene and Kristian Robinson stack up to any prospects in the minors. Greene has a higher floor thanks to his overall polish, but it's easy to envision Robinson as a middle-of-the-order force.
Grayson Rodriguez (No. 11 overall) and Logan Gilbert (No. 14 overall) were both taken in the first round of the 2018 draft, and both now look like the future ace of their respective teams.
Left-hander Tarik Skubal and outfielder Alex Kirilloff will be doing battle in the AL Central for years to come. Both players debuted in 2020, and both should settle into regular roles this season as they work toward their considerable upside.
With the best overall hit tool in the 2020 draft, Austin Martin could be on the fast track to the majors. However, the Blue Jays still need to figure out his long-term defensive home. While he'll start his career as a shortstop, a move to center field seems like the most likely outcome.
20. RHP Nate Pearson, TOR
19. RHP Luis Patino, TB
18. RHP Matt Manning, DET
17. SS Marco Luciano, SF
16. SS CJ Abrams, SD
15. RHP Casey Mize, DET
14. OF Dylan Carlson, STL
13. 1B/OF Andrew Vaughn, CWS
12. OF Cristian Pache, ATL
11. 1B/3B Spencer Torkelson, DET
Outfielders Cristian Pache, Dylan Carlson and Andrew Vaughn will all begin the season with starting roles for presumptive contenders, and they have to be counted among the Rookie of the Year contenders in their respective leagues. A first baseman by trade, Vaughn will be learning left field on the fly to help fill the Eloy Jimenez void.
Casey Mize and Nate Pearson both took their lumps in less-than-stellar debuts last year, but those early struggles have done nothing to tarnish their top-of-the-rotation potential. Luis Patino also saw MLB action pitching out of the San Diego bullpen before he was traded to Tampa Bay this winter in the Blake Snell blockbuster.
It wasn't long ago that Matt Manning was a two-sport standout committed to play baseball and basketball at Loyola Marymount, and he has come a long way since turning his full attention to the mound.
Speedy CJ Abrams has the hit tool to be a dynamic top-of-the-lineup weapon in San Diego, while Marco Luciano has the all-around ceiling to make a play for the No. 1 spot on this list in his full-season debut.
After going No. 1 overall in the 2020 draft, Spencer Torkelson is probably MLB-ready right now, but the Tigers have no reason to rush him to the majors. He'll try to add some defensive versatility by starting his pro career as a third baseman, but his bat is his ticket to stardom.
10. OF Randy Arozarena, TB
9. SS Bobby Witt Jr., KC
8. OF Julio Rodriguez, SEA
7. C Adley Rutschman, BAL
6. LHP MacKenzie Gore, SD
5. RHP Sixto Sanchez, MIA
4. RHP Ian Anderson, ATL
3. OF Jarred Kelenic, SEA
2. 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes, PIT
1. SS Wander Franco, TB
The future of the sport is in good hands.
Wander Franco is going to be a generational talent with an 80-grade hit tool, 60-grade power and the defensive tools to stick at shortstop.
Outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are poised to make the Seattle Mariners relevant again after two decades without a postseason berth.
Young right-handers Ian Anderson and Sixto Sanchez both threw the ball extremely well down the stretch last season and on into October. Expect their innings to be monitored closely this year, but they will be pivotal to their teams' success.
Third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes led all rookies with 1.9 WAR last year, and he only played 24 games. After hitting .431 with 10 extra-base hits in 54 plate appearances this spring, he's already the best player on the Pirates roster.
Left-hander MacKenzie Gore and catcher Adley Rutschman should both be knocking on the door by midseason, and Bobby Witt Jr. has pushed up his timeline with a stellar spring performance that nearly earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster at age 20.
Randy Arozarena hit .377 with 10 home runs in 20 games last October to help lead the Rays to the World Series, but he maintains rookie eligibility with just 99 regular-season plate appearances.
Are your 2021 AL and NL Rookie of the Year winners both listed above?
ARI (4): OF Kristian Robinson (24), OF Corbin Carroll (48), OF Alek Thomas (64), SS Geraldo Perdomo (75)
ATL (3): RHP Ian Anderson (4), OF Cristian Pache (12), OF Drew Waters (38)
BAL (5): C Adley Rutschman (7), RHP Grayson Rodriguez (23), 1B/OF Ryan Mountcastle (67), LHP DL Hall (76), OF Heston Kjerstad (83)
BOS (3): 1B Triston Casas (43), 2B Jeter Downs (56), 1B/3B Bobby Dalbec (93)
CHC (2): OF Brennen Davis (53), LHP Brailyn Marquez (69)
CWS (4): 1B Andrew Vaughn (13), RHP Michael Kopech (28), 2B Nick Madrigal (37), LHP Garrett Crochet (82)
CIN (5): C Tyler Stephenson (50), SS Jose Garcia (77), RHP Hunter Greene (79), LHP Nick Lodolo (84), OF Austin Hendrick (87)
CLE (3): 3B Nolan Jones (35), RHP Triston McKenzie (46), SS Tyler Freeman (89)
COL (1): OF Zac Veen (62)
DET (5): 1B/3B Spencer Torkelson (11), RHP Casey Mize (15), RHP Matt Manning (18), OF Riley Greene (21), LHP Tarik Skubal (27)
HOU (1): OF Pedro Leon (91)
KC (4): SS Bobby Witt Jr. (9), LHP Asa Lacy (31), LHP Daniel Lynch (71), RHP Jackson Kowar (97)
LAA (2): OF Brandon Marsh (54), LHP Reid Detmers (92)
LAD (4): RHP Josiah Gray (59), C Keibert Ruiz (68), 2B Michael Busch (96), 3B Kody Hoese (99)
MIA (5): RHP Sixto Sanchez (5), OF JJ Bleday (34), RHP Max Meyer (44), SS Jazz Chisholm (49), RHP Edward Cabrera (74)
MIL (1): OF Garrett Mitchell (65)
MIN (5): OF Alex Kirilloff (22), SS Royce Lewis (51), OF Trevor Larnach (57), RHP Jhoan Duran (94), RHP Jordan Balazovic (98)
NYM (3): C Francisco Alvarez (58), SS Ronny Mauricio (70), RHP Matthew Allan (95)
NYY (3): OF Jasson Dominguez (33), RHP Deivi Garcia (63), RHP Clarke Schmidt (80)
PHI (2): RHP Spencer Howard (36), RHP Francisco Morales (100)
PIT (4): 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes (2), RHP Quinn Priester (52), 2B Nick Gonzales (61), SS Oneil Cruz (72)
SD (4): LHP MacKenzie Gore (6), SS CJ Abrams (16), C Luis Campusano (32), OF Robert Hassell lll (78)
SF (3): SS Marco Luciano (17), C Joey Bart (25), OF Heliot Ramos (30)
SEA (7): OF Jarred Kelenic (3), OF Julio Rodriguez (8), RHP Logan Gilbert (26), OF Taylor Trammell (41), RHP Emerson Hancock (55), SS Noelvi Marte (73), RHP George Kirby (86)
STL (3): OF Dylan Carlson (14), 3B Nolan Gorman (40), LHP Matthew Liberatore (60)
TB (7): SS Wander Franco (1), OF Randy Arozarena (10), RHP Luis Patino (19), LHP Shane McClanahan (39), 2B Vidal Brujan (42), RHP Shane Baz (66), 2B Xavier Edwards (85)
TEX (2): 3B Josh Jung (47), C Sam Huff (81)
TOR (5): RHP Nate Pearson (20), SS/OF Austin Martin (29), 3B Jordan Groshans (45), C Alejandro Kirk (88), RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (90)