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Which prospects have Hall of Fame potential?

@JonathanMayo
March 19, 2020

While we know there’s no baseball going on right now, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk baseball, right? That was the thought when I put out the call for Inbox questions this week. And we got some good ones that made me look at both the past and the future.

While we know there’s no baseball going on right now, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk baseball, right?

That was the thought when I put out the call for Inbox questions this week. And we got some good ones that made me look at both the past and the future. We’ll keep bringing you weekly Inboxes to keep the dialogue going and hopefully provide a little distraction for all of us.

Stay safe out there!

I checked in to make sure this was a question for Hall of Famers, not Hall of Gamers (which would also be interesting!) and that was, indeed a typo.

So, the easy thing here would be to just take the top 10 from our Top 100, but I’ll try to dig a little deeper by looking at younger guys with upside.

From that Top 10, I’d pluck:

1. Wander Franco, SS, Rays
4. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
5. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres
6. Jo Adell, OF, Angels
10. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals

Then, from the non-top 10 group, I’ll take:

18. Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners
35. Marco Luciano, SS, Giants (this should answer your question about his upside)
43. Kristian Robinson, OF, D-backs
54. Jasson Dominguez, OF, Yankees
63. Francisco Alvarez, C, Mets

A couple of take-aways on this. One is that projecting pitchers at that level of superstardom is hard these days. The limits on innings, etc., made it tough for me to pull the trigger on, say, Jesus Luzardo (who might be the 2nd pitcher I’d pick). The other thing to consider is that the path from top prospect to Hall of Famer isn’t followed that often. Look at the all-prospect roster I put together below. How many of those guys are headed to Cooperstown? Mauer, Trout, Verlander and Scherzer?

This is a fantastic thing to ponder for sure. Our first year of ranking prospects on this site was in 2004, so I’m going to use that as my starting point, if that’s OK with you.

I took a couple of things into account here. One, of course, was success in the big leagues. But I also looked at prospect status, so you’ll see some newer names on there. There are many ways you could slice this one up, but here’s what I ended up with.

C Joe Mauer (No. 1, 2004), 55.3 WAR
1B Ryan Zimmerman (No. 6, 2006), 38.5 WAR
2B Gleyber Torres (No. 3, 2017),6.7 WAR
3B Manny Machado (No 6, 2012), 36.7 WAR
SS Francisco Lindor (No. 4, 2015), 27.6 WAR
OF Mike Trout (No. 1, 2011), 72.8 WAR
OF Ronald Acuña Jr. (No. 2, 2018), 9.9 WAR
OF Bryce Harper (No. 2, 2012), 31.8 WAR
DH Christian Yelich (No. 13, 2013), 31.8 WAR

SP Justin Verlander (No. 5, 2006), 71.6 WAR
SP Clayton Kershaw (No. 4, 2008), 67.9 WAR
SP Max Scherzer (No. 35, 2008), 60.1 WAR
SP José Fernández (No. 7, 2013), 14.2 WAR
SP Stephen Strasburg (No. 2, 2010), 33.5 WAR

Among the "not quite ready to put on there" group, I’d include Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third and maybe Keston Hiura at second.

My first instinct for these questions is always to look at college pitching, either an advanced touch and feel starter or a reliever who has big league caliber stuff. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag over the last five years:

2018: Nico Hoerner, SS, Cubs
2017: Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves
2016: Austin Hays, OF, Orioles
2015: Carson Fulmer, RHP, White Sox
2014: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Royals

Finnegan was a rare case as a guy who made it to the big leagues the year he was drafted. Fulmer beat Alex Bregman by a few days from that ’15 Draft class. So as you can see, it can really depend. So I’ll give you a pitcher and two hitters I think can get there fast from the Class of 2019.

On the mound, I’m looking at Nick Lodolo, the Reds’ top pick (No. 7 overall). His advanced feel for pitching, combined with his excellent stuff make him an excellent candidate. I could see him going to Double-A for his first full season and being ready by the end of that year, kind of like Wright was.

Hitter-wise, I think either the No. 3 or 4 picks of the Draft are the best choices. The former is Andrew Vaughn of the White Sox; the latter is JJ Bleday with the Marlins. Both were advanced college hitters with the ability to hit for average and power. Both made it to Class A Advanced Leagues and could start their first full seasons in Double-A. Who gets there first might depend on opportunity on the big league roster.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.