1 bold prospect prediction for every team

Wander in the bigs this month? Our experts can see it happening

May 7th, 2021

Covering prospects is a predictive business. Ranking players and talking to the folks whose job it is to project what they’ll become, namely scouts and player development staff, is really all about prognostication.

So we’re not really going too far out of our comfort zone this week by providing a prospect-specific prediction for each team. Some might seem like no-brainers, some might be going out on a limb, but all are in line with what we believe the top prospects are capable of in 2021.


Blue Jays: Austin Martin, SS/OF (No. 2/MLB No. 18)
Martin was a .368 hitter over his three years at Vanderbilt, prompting him to earn a 65 grade on his hitting tool. The prediction here is that he bats at least .315 in his first taste of the Minors. Doesn’t pop enough? Consider that only 24 batters received 400 plate appearances and reached an average that high in 2019. Also, Martin is jumping straight to Double-A out of college, upping the difficulty. His bat is good enough to be among the Minors’ best quickly in 2021.

Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C (No. 1/MLB No. 2)
The fact that Rutschman began his first full season in Double-A makes this a little less of a huge leap, but the prediction (and hope) is that the No. 1 pick in the 2019 Draft will make quick work of that level (he picked up his first hit and RBI in his second game of the year on Wednesday and homered on Thursday), get some time in at Triple-A and then join the Orioles in the second half of the 2021 season, thus officially beginning his reign as the face of the franchise.

Rays: Wander Franco, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 1)
Is there a prediction too aggressive for Franco? Let’s go with this. MLB Pipeline’s top overall prospect is with the Major League club by the end of May. Yes, he’s 20 years old. Yes, he jumped from Class A Advanced in 2019 to Triple-A. But also, yes, the hit tool is that good, as he’s shown early with Durham. The Rays, playing in a packed AL East, can’t afford to go too long without Franco’s bat. Whether he plays short, third or second, the switch-hitter could see St. Petersburg very soon.

Red Sox: Triston Casas, 1B (No. 1/MLB No. 36)
When we last saw Casas in game action, he finished second in extra-base hits (49), third in homers (19) and fourth in slugging (.472) in the Low-A South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old in 2019. He has gotten bigger and stronger since then, and he'll bash 32 homers between Double-A and Triple-A this season to rank in the top five in the Minors.

Yankees: Jasson Dominguez, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 27)
The most hyped and tooled-up international prospect in quite a while, Dominguez will break into pro ball by tearing up the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League for six weeks. Then he'll head to Low-A and be one of the best hitters in the Southeast League at age 18.


Indians: Daniel Espino, RHP (No. 6)
Espino had the most electric arm in the 2019 high school class, and it got him drafted 24th overall and earned him a $2.5 million bonus. Armed with a lively mid-90s fastball and a sharp low-80s slider, he'll lead the Low-A East League in strikeouts (157 in 108 innings) in his full-season debut.

Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS (No. 1, MLB No. 7)
The Royals made it clear this spring that they wanted Witt close to Kansas City in some fashion, even sending him to the alternate training site in April in case they needed infield help. Starting Witt out at Double-A Northwest Arkansas won't preclude him from making that jump soon. In fact, the prediction here is that the 2019 No. 2 overall pick shows enough tools to make the Majors by the All-Star break and helps the Royals stay in surprise contention in the AL Central.

Tigers: Spencer Torkelson (No. 1, MLB No. 3)
The top pick in last year’s Draft will hit 30 homers in his first Minor League season. It will be reminiscent (though a lighter version) of Kris Bryant’s debut campaign in 2014, when he went deep 43 times to lead the Minors. Working against Torkelson will be his opening assignment at High-A West Michigan, which plays in a park not known for longballs. But this is a slugger who set all sorts of records at Arizona State (alma mater of Barry Bonds), and the power is there for Torkelson to take off in season one.

Twins: Jhoan Duran, RHP (No. 5/MLB No. 90)
We, and the Twins, view Duran as a starting pitcher long-term. He has some of the nastiest stuff in the Minor Leagues currently, and he could even get the chance to start some games in the bigs this year if the need arises. He is in Triple-A, after all. But the 6-foot-5 right-hander might spend much of the year making up for lost innings as a starter with St. Paul then come up as a reliever, throwing 100 mph with his nasty splinker in late-inning stints to help Minnesota compete.

White Sox: Jake Burger, 3B (No. 15)
The star-crossed 2017 first-round pick missed all of 2018 after rupturing his left Achilles tendon and tearing it again during rehab, all of 2019 with a severely bruised left heel, then saw the coronavirus pandemic cancel the 2020 season. He'll stay healthy throughout this year and celebrate by slamming 23 homers at Triple-A Charlotte.


A’s: Tyler Soderstrom, C (No. 1/MLB No. 93)
Getting through a first full season as a high school hitter from the previous Draft, especially while learning the nuances of catching, would be enough. But we believe in Soderstrom’s advanced bat (he’s off to a 3-for-8 start through his first two games) enough to believe he’s going to hit over .300 with 20 homers during his debut, hitting his way across two levels of A ball.

Angels: Jordyn Adams, OF (No. 3)
There are those who still undersell Adams in terms of his feel for hitting. That will end in 2021, as he splits the year between High-A, where he already has a triple and a home run, and Double-A. Look for the speedy center fielder to make highlight-reel plays in the outfield, steal at least 20 bases and hit 20 homers while skyrocketing up the Top 100.

Astros: Pedro Leon, OF/SS (No. 2)
The biggest bonus baby ($4 million) in the 2020-21 international class, Leon will kick off his career at Double-A Corpus Christi. Once he gets acclimated at the plate, he'll be one of nine Minor Leaguers to produce a 20-homer, 20-steal season in 2021.

Mariners: Julio Rodríguez, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 5)
It took some of us by surprise that the Mariners chose to have Rodríguez start the year in High-A rather than Double-A. But no matter. Look for Rodríguez to use that as more fuel for what already is a huge fire to succeed and hit, mash, rake his way across three levels and up in Seattle, where we’ll finally get to see him play alongside Jarred Kelenic, before the year is over.

Rangers: Cole Winn, RHP (No. 3)
Scouts considered Winn the most polished high school right-hander in the 2018 Draft, and this will be the year he establishes himself as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He thrived down the stretch during his 2019 pro debut, competed well against veterans at Texas' alternate site last summer and has the potential for four solid or better pitches with control to match.


Braves: Drew Waters, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 29)
The big thing to watch this year will be Waters’ overall approach as he’s been able to make a beeline to the top rung of the Minors while still showing there’s work to be done on his pitch recognition and his K/BB ratio. He focused on that last summer and it’s going to show up this year, allowing him to get to his raw power more and turn in a 20-20 season (He’s already stolen 20-plus bags in a season in his career.).

Marlins: Peyton Burdick, OF (No. 12)
Though Burdick was a 22-year-old redshirt junior who didn't hail from a major college program, he went in the third round of the 2019 Draft out of Wright State and proceeded to hit .308/.407/.542 with 11 homers and 64 RBIs in his 69-game pro debut while leading Clinton to the Midwest League Finals. He's making the jump to Double-A this year and will prove that his power and on-base ability are real.

Mets: Matt Allan, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 65)
The Mets and external evaluators alike have raved about Allan’s mid-90s fastball and plus curveball since he entered pro ball. The 20-year-old right-hander also really took to a changeup during his alt-site work in 2020, and that third pitch solidified his place as a Top 100 prospect. The prediction here is that he puts the whole package together and strikes out 30 percent of the batters he faces in 2021. Only 21 of the 436 Minor League pitchers (none of them a Met) to throw 100 innings two years ago hit that mark. Allan very much has the potential to join that group.

Note: It was announced after publishing this story that Allan would undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2021 season.

Nationals: Matt Cronin, LHP (No. 10)
Washington grabbed Cronin in the fourth round of the 2019 Draft out of Arkansas as a potential quick-rising reliever, and the Nats have held onto that evaluation since. The 23-year-old southpaw, who throws a mid-90s fastball and a 12-to-6 curve, starts out at High-A Wilmington in 2021, and our prediction is that he sees at least three levels in his first full Minor League season. One of those levels could be the Majors if the Nats need a left-handed bullpen arm in the second half, but either way, three clubs in one season would be the organization sticking by its word.

Phillies: Mick Abel, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 57)
His first pro start didn’t go so well, but never fear. Abel, the top prep arm in the 2020 Draft class who has an exciting combination of stuff and feel for pitching, is going to make adjustments quickly with Low-A Clearwater. That should allow the 6-foot-5 teenager to miss a ton of bats, the prediction here is better than 10 per nine innings, while earning a promotion up to High-A at some point in 2021.


Brewers: Garrett Mitchell (No. 1/MLB No. 56)
For someone with 70-grade speed, Mitchell wasn’t a prolific base stealer in college, swiping 28 bags in his 121 games at UCLA. He was more aggressive this spring and has shown a willingness to get going in the early days at High-A Wisconsin as well. So, we’ll put him down for 30 stolen bags in 2021 and at least a .300 average as well, given the way he’ll earn a few extra hits with his legs.

Cardinals: Nolan Gorman, 3B (No. 2/MLB No. 32)
No one doubts Gorman’s pop from the left side. It’s what makes him a Top 40 prospect, and it’s why the Cardinals are willing to move him around defensively to get him out of Nolan Arenado’s shadow. However, Gorman slugged only .439 between two Class A stops in 2019, in part because of league and park factors. That changes in 2021. Gorman will slug at least .500 in the Minors this season, starting out at Double-A Springfield and perhaps with some time at Triple-A Memphis mixed in. Dylan Carlson slugged .518 at Double-A in 2019, and expect Gorman to compete with that, if not outright beat it.

Cubs: Cristian Hernandez, SS (No. 4)
The Cubs signed Hernandez out of the Dominican Republic for $3 million in January and say he has a higher ceiling than any international player they've signed recently -- including Eloy Jiménez and Gleyber Torres in 2013. He'll destroy Rookie-level Dominican Summer League pitching in his pro debut this summer and serve notice that he'll rank as the organization's No. 1 prospect at some point in 2022.

Pirates: Liover Peguero, SS (No. 5)
Because the Pirates got Peguero in the Starling Marte trade with the D-backs before the 2020 season began, he didn’t get to play in a real game before this season. He opened a lot of eyes as the youngest player at the Pirates alternate site last summer and he’s already homered twice in 2021. That’s going to continue and he’s going to make a huge leap into the Top 100 and be considered one of the top shortstop prospects in the game, all before he turns 21.

Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 61)
Greene basically sat at around 100 mph for his Double-A debut, and his first time on the mound in the regular season since 2018 following Tommy John surgery. He struck out eight and walked none over five innings of scoreless ball, and proving that Double-A isn’t enough of a challenge for him is feasible. The Reds might want to proceed a bit cautiously given the lack of workload, but look for the former No. 2 overall pick to reach Triple-A and then bang down the big league door to get his feet wet coming out of the bullpen before the year is over.


D-backs: Corbin Carroll, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 39)
The 2019 first-rounder has moved to the head of a talented pack of Arizona Top 100 prospects, in part because of his plus-plus speed. Carroll wasn’t shy on the basepaths in 2019, stealing 18 bags in 42 games, and he shouldn’t be in his move to High-A Hillsboro either. Expect the 20-year-old to finish among the Minors’ top 10 in steals this season. By 2019 standards, that would put him around 45 thefts, so let’s go with that number as well.

Dodgers: Bobby Miller, RHP (No. 5)
A first-rounder out of Louisville last June, Miller is making his pro debut in High-A but will rocket to Triple-A by season's end and make people wonder why he lasted 29 picks a year ago. His fastball and slider are power pitches that miss bats and he continues to improve his feel for his changeup and for throwing strikes.

Giants: Marco Luciano, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 14)
Luciano is the Giants' best international prospect in decades and lived up to that billing in 2019, when he batted .302/.417/.564 in his pro debut while reaching the short-season Northwest League at age 17. He's opening this year in Low-A and will make it to High-A before he turns 20 in September, with his electric bat speed producing a total of 30 homers between the two stops.

Padres: CJ Abrams, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 8)
The Padres have been aggressive with their most talented position-player prospect in 2021, getting him 53 plate appearances in the Cactus League this spring before sending him to Double-A at only 20 years old. They know what they have in Abrams -- a talented hitter from the left side with elite speed and the potential to play multiple marquee positions. So if the Padres are as gung-ho as they appear to be on going for a World Series title this year, they will bring up Abrams to the Majors for a role by season’s end, whether it be as a basestealing threat off the bench or legit double-play partner with Fernando Tatis Jr. at second.

Rockies: Ryan Vilade, OF (No. 4)
In 2019, Vilade racked up 49 extra-base hits in the California League. He’s done nothing but improve as a hitter and add strength since then. That, combined with calling Triple-A Albuquerque home, should allow him to reach the 30-homer plateau and pay his first visit to Coors Field.