Execs prospect poll: Hitter, pitcher, underrated, IQ, breakout, more

January 9th, 2024

Part I of our 2024 MLB Pipeline Poll asked front office executives from across all 30 organizations for their picks for Rookie of the Year in each league in the coming season. Part II goes much deeper into the prospect world.

The series of questions we’re looking at now gives a more detailed portrait of what organizations value on both sides of the ball, looking at tools as well as intangibles. Let’s dig in.

Who is baseball's best hitting prospect?

Also received votes: Ben Rice, C, Yankees; Dalton Rushing, C, Dodgers

It's not too much of a surprise that Holliday received the most votes here -- he is the game’s No. 1 prospect. The fact that he ran away with the voting speaks to the astounding first full year of pro ball he had. His .323/.442/.499 line across four levels is impressive enough. He also was just one of eight players with more than 100 walks for the year, finishing with a 17.4 percent walk rate (vs. just a 20.3 percent K rate). He’s living up to every bit of his 70-grade hit tool.

It's the second straight year that Chourio has gotten multiple votes for this question, and the Brewers clearly were banking on his ability at the plate when they agreed to a record-setting contract with him in December. Langford and Crews were the two most advanced bats from the 2023 Draft class, and both could be in the big leagues this season. We all saw what “Full Count” Carter can do on a big stage, and Caminero had a career .316 average and .938 OPS in the Minors before his first callup to the big leagues late last year.

Who is baseball's best pitching prospect?

Also received votes: Tink Hence, RHP, Cardinals; Noble Meyer, RHP, Marlins; Drew Thorpe, RHP, Padres; Will Warren, RHP, Yankees

The No. 1 pick in last year’s Draft, many saw Skenes as the best pitching prospect in the Draft since Stephen Strasburg. He may follow the same path and make his big league debut sooner rather than later this year, a reason why he got some support in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Painter topped this list a year ago and it says something about his ability, not to mention confidence in a pitcher’s return from Tommy John surgery, that he still got solid support despite the elbow injury. Of course, he might have graduated from prospect status had he been healthy in 2023.

Horton has rushed up the Top 100 Prospects list and cemented himself as one of the best pitching prospects in the game with a strong first full season of pro ball that saw him reach Double-A. Harrison is the best left-handed pitching prospect in the game, one who should get a shot to impact San Francisco’s rotation after making his debut last year, while Jobe and Tiedemann helped put injuries behind them with strong showings in the Arizona Fall League.

Who is the best defensive prospect?

Also received votes: Ignacio Alvarez, SS/3B, Braves; Edwin Arroyo, SS, Reds; Evan Carter, OF, Rangers; Denzel Clarke, OF, A’s; Jackson Holliday, SS/2B, Orioles; Marcelo Mayer, SS, Red Sox; Ethan Salas, C, Padres; Victor Scott II, OF, Cardinals

PCA has been considered the top defensive player in the Minors for a while now, and Cubs fans got to see his work in center field in the big leagues for the first time last year. There should be some Gold Gloves in his future. Defense up the middle continues to be important to organizations as all 15 players who received a vote saw at least some time at shortstop, center field or behind the plate.

Who has the best baseball IQ?

28% - Jackson Holliday, SS/2B, Orioles
7% - Dylan Crews, OF, Nationals
7% - Jordan Lawlar, SS, D-backs
7% - Brooks Lee, SS, Twins
5% - Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers
5% - Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Cubs
5% - Termarr Johnson, 2B, Pirates
5% - Ethan Salas, C, Padres
5% - Jacob Wilson, SS, A’s

Also received votes: Ignacio Alvarez, 3B/SS, Braves; Roman Anthony, OF, Red Sox; Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Orioles; Jace Jung, 2B, Tigers; Joey Loperfido, OF/2B/1B, Astros; Rhett Lowder, RHP, Reds; Marcelo Mayer, SS, Red Sox; Robert Moore, 2B/SS, Phillies; Ben Rice, C, Yankees; Brayan Rocchio, SS/2B, Guardians; Victor Scott, OF, Cardinals; Cole Young, SS, Mariners

Lee and Holliday are the holdovers who got multiple votes last year, but Holliday has vaulted to the front of the line, with his plus plus instincts allowing his impressive tools to play up. MLB fans will be fortunate enough to potentially see the top six on this list make large contributions for their big league teams in 2024.

Who is the most underrated prospect?

Also received votes: Luke Adams, 3B/1B, Brewers; Adael Amador, SS, Rockies; Roman Anthony, OF, Red Sox; Tyler Black, 3B, Brewers; Max Clark, OF, Tigers; Chase DeLauter, OF, Guardians; Yanquiel Fernandez, OF, Rockies; Harry Ford, C, Mariners; Robert Gasser, LHP, Brewers; Darell Hernaiz, SS, A's; Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Guardians; Jakob Marsee, OF, Padres; Everson Pereira, OF, Yankees; Brock Porter, RHP, Tigers; Jeferson Quero, C Brewers; Ceddanne Rafaela, OF/SS, Red Sox; Marco Raya, RHP, Twins; Ben Rice, C, Yankees; Nolan Schanuel, 1B, Angels; Matt Shaw, SS, Cubs; Drew Thorpe, RHP, Padres; Zac Veen, OF, Rockies; Ralphy Velazquez, C/1B, Guardians; Jett Williams, SS, Mets; Owen White, RHP, Rangers; Masyn Winn, SS, Cardinals

A total of 35 players received consideration here, with Emerson, the Mariners’ first-round pick from 2023, leading the pack after hitting .374/.496/.550 over 24 games during his pro debut. He’s not on the Top 100… yet. A lot of people think Isaac is ready to explode on the scene. Last year, only one pitcher -- Gavin Stone -- received a vote. This time around, a pair of lefties -- Snelling and Whisenhunt -- got multiple votes.

Who will be the breakout prospect of the year?

Also received votes: Luke Adams, 3B/1B, Brewers; Kevin Alcántara, OF, Cubs; Denzel Clarke, OF, A’s; Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Cubs; Xavier Isaac, 1B, Rays; Walker Jenkins, OF, Twins; Jackson Jobe, RHP, Tigers; Termarr Johnson, 2B, Pirates; Brock Jones, OF, Yankees; Druw Jones, OF, D-backs; Colt Keith, 3B/2B, Tigers; Barrett Kent, RHP, Angels; Jordan Lawlar, SS, D-backs; Brooks Lee, SS, Twins; George Lombard Jr., SS, Yankees; Coby Mayo, 3B/1B, Orioles; Jefferson Rojas, SS, Cubs; Ethan Salas, C, Padres; Devin Saltiban, OF, Phillies; Robby Snelling, LHP, Padres; Sammy Stafura, SS, Reds; Zac Veen, OF, Rockies; Sebastian Walcott, SS, Rangers; Carson Williams, SS, Rays; Jett Williams, SS, Mets; Cole Young, SS, Mariners

“Breakout prospect” can be defined in a number of ways, and it’s clear our respondents had a broad range of interpretations. Lesko was the Padres’ first-round pick in 2022, but didn’t pitch competitively until last June because he had Tommy John surgery in April of his senior year of high school. With the surgery even more in his rearview, he could really take off in 2024. Some might claim Basallo broke out in 2023, with a .953 OPS across three levels, but considering he’ll still be 19 for most of 2024, there definitely could be more to come.

Which pitching prospect is the best future closer?

30% - Jacob Misiorowski, RHP, Brewers
14% - Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Braves
12% - Daniel Espino, RHP, Guardians
7% - Orion Kerkering, RHP, Phillies
5% - Jackson Jobe, RHP, Tigers
5% - Paul Skenes, RHP, Pirates
5% - Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Blue Jays

Also received votes: Yoniel Curet, RHP, Rays; Chase Dollander, RHP, Rockies; Nick Frasso, RHP, Dodgers; Wikelman Gonzalez, RHP, Red Sox; Jaden Hill, RHP, Rockies; Erik Miller, LHP, Giants; Mason Miller, RHP, A’s; Connor Phillips, RHP, Reds; Landon Sims, RHP, D-backs; Robby Snelling, LHP, Padres

Misiorowski has the pure stuff to start, with four at least above-average offerings, including a fastball that hits triple digits. But like with others getting multiple votes for this question, command (5.3 BB/9) is a question. Waldrep pitched his way to Triple-A during his pro debut and missed a ton of bats (12.6/9) while also walking a bunch (4.9). Espino was on this list last year, too, as someone with huge stuff but health concerns. Kerkering is the one pitcher who got multiple votes who is already a reliever.

Who is the best Minor League prospect you've ever seen?

14% - Mike Trout, OF, Angels
11% - Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Braves
9% - Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
7% - Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
7% - Alex Rodriguez, SS, Mariners

Also received votes: Yordan Alvarez, OF, Astros; Adrián Beltré, 3B, Dodgers; Junior Caminero, SS/3B, Rays; Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers; Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates; Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B, Reds; Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox; Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Mariners; Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B/1B, Blue Jays; Tim Lincecum, RHP, Giants; Jackson Merrill, SS, Padres; Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds; Albert Pujols, 3B, Cardinals; Hanley Ramirez, SS, Red Sox; Manny Ramirez, OF, Guardians; José Ramírez, SS/2B, Guardians; Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners; Juan Soto, OF, Nationals; Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals; Spencer Strider, RHP, Braves; Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Blue Jays; Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres; Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals

Players are listed with the franchises they were most likely seen as Minor League prospects. Trout hit a combined .341/.426/.516 in his time in the Minors while Acuña’s ridiculous 2017 season (.325/.374/.522 with 21 homers and 44 steals while reaching Triple-A as a teenager) certainly stands out. Rutschman, Harper and A-Rod were all hyped No. 1 overall picks who lived up to the billing.

Who is the best amateur prospect you've ever seen?

21% - Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
7% - Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals
5% - Pat Burrell, OF, Phillies
5% - Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
5% - Jackson Holliday, SS, Orioles
5% - Shohei Ohtani, LHP/DH, Angels
5% - Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
5% - Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals

Also received votes: Brady Aiken, LHP, Guardians; Javier Báez, SS, Cubs; Sam Basallo, C/1B, Orioles; Josh Beckett, RHP, Marlins; Dylan Crews, OF, Nationals; José Fernández, RHP, Marlins; Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers; Josh Hamilton, OF, Rays; Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers; Wyatt Langford, OF, Rangers; Royce Lewis, SS, Twins; Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers; Rick Porcello, RHP, Tigers; Buster Posey, C, Giants; Mark Prior, RHP, Cubs; Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers; Paul Skenes, RHP, Pirates; Mike Trout, OF, Angels; Justin Verlander, RHP, Tigers

Again, we’ve placed players with the organizations that drafted or signed them, and while Ohtani wasn’t technically an amateur when he came to the Angels, we’ll allow it. Harper, who was perhaps the most hyped amateur player in the Draft era, leads this polling for the second straight year.