Top tools among Top 100 prospects

March 19th, 2022

We've spotlighted the players with the absolute best tools on our annual Top 100 Prospects list since 2014 and the selections tend to hold up well, if we do say so ourselves.

Five years ago for instance, our Best Hitter was Corey Seager, who has batted .297 in the big leagues while winning a pair of Silver Sluggers as well as National League Championship Series and World Series MVP awards. Best Power went to Joey Gallo, who has three seasons with 38 or more homers to his credit, and Best Defender belonged to Byron Buxton, who owns just one Gold Glove only because he has been fully healthy for just one full season.

Though Lucas Giolito claimed both Best Fastball and Best Curveball, he didn't become one of the game's top starters until 2019, when his changeup became an out pitch and his slider became more reliable than his curve. Julio Urías (Best Changeup) and José Berríos (Best Control) have ridden those attributes to stardom.

Below, we break down the best individual tools on MLB Pipeline's new 2022 Top 100 Prospects list. The standout in each category is graded on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 represents big league average.

Best Hitter: Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners (70)
A career .331/.412/.543 hitter, Rodríguez topped those numbers last season as a 20-year-old in High-A and Double-A when he wasn't leading the Dominican Republic to a bronze medal at the Olympics. With advanced pitch-recognition skills and a relatively compact but still mighty right-handed swing, he makes hard contact to all parts of the ballpark. His power rivals his pure hitting ability and he has the highest offensive ceiling of any player on the Top 100.

Also in the running: Nick Gonzales, 2B, Pirates; Nick Yorke, 2B, Red Sox; Tyler Freeman, INF, Guardians.

Best Power: Spencer Torkelson, 1B/3B, Tigers (70)
Overlooked in high school, Torkelson immediately made an impression with his prodigious power at Arizona State in 2018, when he eclipsed Barry Bonds' school freshman record with 25 homers. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft creates at least plus-plus raw pop with his bat speed, strength and the loft in his right-handed stroke, and his feel for the barrel as well as the strike zone allow him to get to all of it. He smashed 30 homers while reaching Triple-A in his pro debut last year and don't be surprised if he matches that total in the big leagues in 2022.

Also in the running: Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates; Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners; Bobby Witt Jr., SS/3B, Royals.

Fastest Runner: C.J. Abrams, SS, Padres (80)
Abrams flies from the left side of home plate to first base in less than four seconds and maximizes his speed to get the most out of his well-rounded toolset. His quickness helps him get on base (career .398 OBP) and creates havoc once he does (28 steals in 76 pro games). He covers plenty of ground at shortstop and should do so in center field as well if the presence of Fernando Tatis Jr. in San Diego should dictate a position change for Abrams.

Also in the running: Vidal Bruján, OF/2B/SS, Rays; Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks; Greg Jones, SS, Rays. 

Best Arm: Gabriel Arias, INF, Guardians (75)
Arias is more tooled up than most shortstops, featuring at least plus raw power, average to solid speed and plus defensive skills. His most obvious attribute is his arm, which earns top-of-the-scale 80 grades from some evaluators and allows him to make any conceivable throw from shortstop.

Also in the running: Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates; Henry Davis, C, Pirates; Joey Wiemer, OF, Brewers.

Best Defender: Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles (70)
Rutschman went No. 1 overall in 2019 in large part because of his rare all-around offensive ability for a catcher, but he also quickly has established himself as one of the best defensive prospects in the game. He displays quality receiving, framing and blocking skills as well as plus arm strength. He also is notable for his ability to call a game and run a pitching staff, not to mention his overall leadership and charisma.

Also in the running: Shea Langeliers, C, Athletics; Oswald Peraza, SS, Yankees; Nick Pratto, 1B, Royals.

Best Fastball: Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds (80)
Greene may generate triple-digit velocity as smoothly as any pitcher in baseball history, utilizing his quick arm and impressive athleticism to reach as high as 104 mph while sitting in the upper 90s. In his first full season back from 2019 Tommy John surgery, he advanced to Triple-A in mid-June and averaged 99 mph with his heater over the final three months. Besides his sheer velocity, he also shows the ability to command his fastball, a necessity because it straightens out at times.

Also in the running: Shane Baz, RHP, Rays; Cade Cavalli, RHP, Nationals; Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles.

Best Curveball: Reid Detmers, LHP, Angels (65)
Detmers had arguably the best curveball in the 2020 Draft and he rode it to the big leagues after just 13 starts in the Minors. His bender doesn't stand out for its power, parking at 72-75 mph, but it features quality depth and atypical horizontal movement, making it effective against both same-side hitters as well as right-handers. His feel for spin also extends to a lesser-used mid-80s slider that was his most effective pitch in his five starts with the Angels.

Also in the running: Jack Leiter, RHP, Rangers; Quinn Priester, RHP, Pirates; Blake Walston, LHP, Diamondbacks.

Best Slider: Max Meyer, RHP, Marlins (65)
Meyer's slider was the consensus best pitch in the 2020 Draft and a major reason why he went third overall and zoomed straight to Double-A for his pro debut last season. While it wasn't quite as dominant last summer as it was at the University of Minnesota, his slide piece still graded as a well above-average offering while ranging from 85-89 mph with outstanding horizontal break and some depth as well.

Also in the running: Matt Brash, RHP, Mariners; Daniel Espino, RHP, Guardians; Jackson Jobe, RHP, Tigers.

Best Changeup: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles (70)
Rodriguez ranks as the game's best pitching prospect because he has four pitches that can grade as plus or better, not to mention control to match, and his changeup edges his 95-101 mph fastball as his best offering. His cambio operates in the low 80s, giving it huge velocity separation from his heater, with its tremendous combination of fade and depth baffling lefties and righties alike.

Also in the running: Edward Cabrera, RHP, Marlins; Eury Perez, RHP, Marlins; Sixto Sánchez, RHP, Marlins.

Best Control: George Kirby, RHP, Mariners (65)
Kirby topped NCAA Division I in strikeout/walk ratio (17.8) and walk rate (0.6 per nine innings) at Elon in 2019 and has continued to pound the strike zone as a pro. He not only has totaled 105 whiffs versus just 15 free passes in 90 2/3 pro innings, but he also has upgraded his stuff and now features a fastball that sits at 96-98 mph and a pair of sharper breaking pitches.

Also in the running: Nick Lodolo, LHP, Reds; Joe Ryan, RHP, Twins; Sixto Sánchez, RHP, Marlins.