Who will be No. 1 prospect at end of next season?

October 1st, 2022

Just when you thought the season was almost over and there couldn’t possibly be another impact callup ...

No. 1 prospect Francisco Álvarez has been brought up by the Mets in time for a big weekend series against the Braves and the final three games against the Nationals to close out the season. This, of course, starts his clock. Here at MLB Pipeline, that doesn’t mean his clock for arbitration or eventual free agency. We’re talking about his graduation from prospect rankings.

As has been our rule for quite some time, when a player surpasses rookie status -- more than 130 at-bats or 45 days of service time (which now includes September) -- he comes off our lists forever. Álvarez obviously isn’t going to get there any time soon -- assuming he’s in the big leagues for good and will be on the Mets’ Opening Day roster, that points to a graduation at some point next May -- but that doesn’t mean we can’t start thinking about his successor.

Figuring out who the next No. 1 prospect will be when that happens is not as simple as sliding the No. 2 or No. 3 prospect up into the top spot. That’s because both the Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson (No. 2) and the D-backs’ Corbin Carroll (No. 3) beat Álvarez to the big leagues and will likely have over 100 at-bats and a lot more service time heading into the 2023 season, meaning they’re going to graduate well before the Mets catcher does.

Let’s not just look at who will take over the top spot right when he graduates. That would likely heavily rely on our Nos. 4-8 prospects: Orioles right-hander Grayson Rodriguez -- who should be up early next year and will graduate from prospect status not that long after Álvarez -- Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe, Cardinals third baseman/outfielder Jordan Walker, Red Sox shortstop Marcelo Mayer, Dodgers catcher Diego Cartaya.

Instead, let’s dive into who is most likely to ascend to the throne by this point next year. Here are 10 candidates:

1. Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees (No. 5 on Top 100): The current Nos. 4-8 aren’t exempt from this, and even though Volpe had a rougher 2022, he still produced a 20-50 season. There is a chance he’ll graduate by this time in 2023 but could spend some time at No. 1 before that happens at least.

2. Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals (No. 6): Another potential graduate, Walker should be an outfielder-only who will continue to put up very good offensive numbers at a very young age in Triple-A next year.

3. Marcelo Mayer, SS, Red Sox (No. 7): He had a quietly solid first full season of pro ball, producing double digit homers and steals across two levels of A ball, at age 19. He’s just scratching the surface.

4. Jackson Holliday, SS, Orioles (No. 13): This year’s No. 1 overall pick had a .911 OPS in 20 games during his brief pro debut, and he should give the Orioles another top five prospect soon enough.

5. Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers (No. 10): The sky is the limit for this teenager who reached Double-A at age 18 and went from unranked to our top 10 during an extraordinary season.

6. Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B, Reds (No. 14): Yes, we’d all love to see EDLC in the big leagues, and that could happen, but imagine the numbers he might put up should the Reds want to allow him to work on is approach at the upper levels for all of 2023.

7. Druw Jones, OF, D-backs (No. 11): He’s getting knocked down a tiny bit, perhaps unfairly, because of the injury he suffered before he started playing this year, but he was the top talent on our Draft ranking this year.

8. Jordan Lawlar, SS, D-backs (No. 12): Good things are happening in the D-backs' system, and last year’s No. 6 overall pick reached Double-A in his first full season.

9. Andrew Painter, RHP, Phillies and 10. Eury Perez, RHP, Marlins: I’m grouping these two teenaged right-handers together, both of whom reached Double-A at a ridiculously young age. Both could be in the big leagues and we haven’t had many pitchers in the top spot over the years (Shohei Ohtani was the last, and that shouldn’t even count).