Here's the 411 on best prospects in the game

January 25th, 2020

A year ago at this time, MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list was unveiled with one of the greatest hitting prospects in memory, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the clear No. 1 prospect. Now it’s time for this year’s Top 100, and once again it boasts one of the greatest hitting prospects in recent memory in the top spot.

The 2020 Top 100 starts with Rays phenom Wander Franco, who ascended into the top spot in 2019 and gives us a second straight 80-grade hitter (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) to kick things off. Every year, players go straight from this list to impacting the big leagues and winning Rookie of the Year Awards, so dig in.

Those on the list must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or have accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club(s) during the 25-player-limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service. The rankings continue to follow the guidelines laid out by the Collective Bargaining Agreement in terms of who falls under the international pool money rules. Players who are at least 25 years old and have played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.

The Top 100 is put together by myself, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, with input from industry sources, including scouts and front-office executives. It is based on analysis of players' upsides, tools and potential Major League impact.

The Top 10

  1. Wander Franco, SS, Rays
  2. Gavin Lux, SS/2B, Dodgers
  3. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
  4. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
  5. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres
  6. Jo Adell, OF, Angels
  7. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers
  8. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays
  9. Royce Lewis, SS, Twins
  10. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals

The newcomers

When we talk about newcomers, we’re not including the 2019 Draft or international signing class. They’re included in this year’s Top 100, but obviously weren’t eligible a year ago. But there are plenty of new names on this list beyond that group who were eligible a year ago but didn’t make it. There are 35 newbies in total, led by two outfielders now in the top 20. The Cardinals’ Dylan Carlson didn’t make our preseason list a year ago after an OK, but not great, 2018 season that saw him start the year by repeating the Midwest League. But it all clicked in 2019 as he made it to Triple-A at age 20.

Right behind him is Julio Rodriguez of the Mariners, who hadn’t played in the United States before the 2019 season, but hit his way across two levels of A-ball despite missing time early with an injury, then more than holding his own at age 18 in the Arizona Fall League.

Highest risers

A number of players who made our 2019 preseason list went on to have big seasons, took huge steps towards reaching their ceilings and, as a result, skyrocketed up the list. This group is led by Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux and Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearson. A year ago at this time, Lux was No. 70 overall. He’s now all the way up at No. 2. Pearson was No. 76 on the 2019 preseason list and jumped the same 68 spots up to No. 8 overall. Braves outfielder Drew Waters (No. 86 to 26), Cubs infielder Nico Hoerner (100 to 51), Dodgers right-hander Dustin May (69 to 23) and Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic (56 to 11) are the other prospects who vaulted more than 40 spots up.

Farthest falls

A total of 25 prospects who were on the 2019 preseason Top 100 have fallen off. Indians right-hander Triston McKenzie took the largest fall, going from No. 23 to the land of the unranked. Lefties Adrian Morejon of the Padres and Justus Sheffield of the Mariners both landed beyond the Top 100 this year after beginning the 2019 season in the top 50. Among those who fell, but stayed on the list, Rays injured right-hander Brent Honeywell took the farthest tumble, going from No. 28 down to No. 91. A pair of traded outfielders, Jesus Sanchez, now with the Marlins, and the Padres’ Taylor Trammell, both dropped just over 40 spots.

The graduates

There were 25 players from last year’s Top 100 who left their prospect status behind in 2019 thanks to enough at-bats, innings pitched or service time for them to lose rookie status. That includes both Rookies of the Year: The Astros’ Yordan Alvarez was No. 44 and the Mets’ Pete Alonso was No. 51. Our Nos. 1 and 3 prospects from last year, the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez of the White Sox, also graduated and got AL Rookie of the Year votes, while No. 2 Fernando Tatis from the Padres and the Braves’ Mike Soroka (No. 24) finished behind Alonso in the NL voting.

Positional breakdown

If you’re looking for young pitching, the Top 100 is the place to go. There are 47 pitchers on the list, the same amount as the 2019 edition, with 36 right-handers and 11 lefties. By comparison, there were 42 pitchers in 2017 and 39 in 2016.

Outfielders have the next highest representation, with 21, followed closely by a deep shortstop class of 18. This might be the best crop of catchers we’ve had, with 10 backstops hitting the Top 100. While third basemen (six), second basemen and first basemen (four each) round out the list.

Feeling the Draft

Adding members of last year’s Draft class is one of the best parts of putting out a new Top 100. This year, we’ve added 11 players from the 2019 Draft, all first-rounders. That crop is led by last June’s No. 1 overall pick, Adley Rutschman, who comes in at No. 4 overall. Bobby Witt Jr., taken No. 2 by the Royals, joins Rutschman in the top 10, followed by No. 3 pick Andrew Vaughn of the White Sox, who is No. 16 on the Top 100. The Padres’ CJ Abrams and the Marlins’ JJ Bleday are both early first-round picks who landed in our top 30. There are a total of 14 players from the Class of 2019 on the Top 100, all first-rounders. There are 76 former draftees on the list overall.

International flavor

That means there are 24 international signees (players from Canada are on the Draft list) and they represent six countries. The Dominican Republic is the clear leader, with 15 representatives on the Top 100. Venezuela has four and the Bahamas is the only other nation with multiple prospects on the list with two. Colombia, Cuba and Panama each have one player on the list.