Ranking prospects is a funny task. Given the same set of players and essentially the same guidelines on which to grade them, no two evaluators will produce the same list. In fact, as you’ll see below, the same player might draw a near-elite ranking on one list, while he’ll just sneak into the back end of another.
The beauty is in the subjectivity.
Every year around this time, we take the prospect rankings from six major outlets -- our own, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, FanGraphs, The Athletic and ESPN -- dump them into a spreadsheet and calculate a slew of data points to analyze the similarities and differences.
Our findings are below. Two notes: For consistency, only the top 100 players on each list were analyzed. Any players beyond that were assigned a value of 101 for calculation purposes. Also, some lists rank international professionals (Kodai Senga and Masataka Yoshida) and players who are no longer MLB rookie eligible by service time (Gabriel Moreno and Shane Baz). MLB Pipeline does not rank players in either category.
58 players made all six lists this year. The last time we did this exercise, prior to the 2020 season, that number was 65. It was 58 and 61 in the two years in between.
17 more players were on five of the six lists, while another 12 landed on four. That’s 87 players that the industry feels pretty good about -- nearly a top 100 of top 100-caliber players.
Four players cracked the top 10 on all six lists, listed here with their average rankings:
And then we can create a composite top 10 list. The consensus top four aligns exactly with our own, while Pérez (13) and Wood (17) were the only ones who ranked outside of our 10.
1 -- Gunnar Henderson, 3B/SS, Orioles (1.2)
2 -- Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs (2.5)
3t -- Francisco Álvarez, C, Mets (6.8)
3t -- Jordan Walker, OF/3B, Cardinals (6.8)
5t -- Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers (7.0)
5t -- Elly De La Cruz, SS, Reds (7.0)
7 -- Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees (8.0)
8t -- Andrew Painter, RHP, Phillies (8.5)
8t -- Eury Pérez, RHP, Marlins (8.5)
10 -- James Wood, OF, Nationals (10.5)
Guys we're high on
This is where we start to see the differences between lists. Here, we filtered the list for all players we ranked more than 10 spots above the average, then sorted them in order of the highest appearances on our list.
Daniel Espino, RHP, Guardians (16, 37.5)
Taj Bradley, RHP, Rays (20, 39.3)
Marco Luciano, SS, Giants (22, 41.0)
Zac Veen, OF, Rockies (27, 51.7)
Noelvi Marte, SS, Reds (29, 51.3)
Sal Frelick, OF, Brewers (30, 43.0)
Brooks Lee, SS, Twins (31, 41.3)
Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers (34, 53.0)
Robert Hassell III, OF, Nationals (35, 59.8)
Kevin Parada, C, Mets (36, 66.0)
It’s not really a surprise -- though simultaneously unfortunate -- to see Espino leading this group. Baseball America dropped him to 40 after the news that he’ll be shut down from throwing until mid-April, while FanGraphs’ list had that information already baked in and ranked him 93rd. For now, we’re staying put until we know more about his prognosis.
Players like Luciano and Hassell have injury concerns of their own, but we’ve placed bets on their youth and true talent level they’ve shown in the past. Lee and Parada have yet to fully showcase their skills in pro ball after being drafted last summer, while players like Bradley, Frelick and Jung should spend time in the Majors this year.
Guys we're low on
We can do the same exercise in the inverse. These players were more than 10 spots below the industry average, ranked by the lowest appearance on our list.
DL Hall, LHP, Orioles (97, 86.0)
Miguel Bleis, OF, Red Sox (93, 72.5)
Zach Neto, SS, Angels (89, 65.5)
Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Twins (88, 67.3)
Kevin Alcantara, OF, Cubs (87, 76.3)
Ceddanne Rafaela, OF, Red Sox (86, 69.5)
Tink Hence, RHP, Cardinals (77, 60.8)
Cam Collier, 3B, Reds (69, 54.3)
Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, D-backs (59, 42.3)
Endy Rodriguez, C/2B/OF, Pirates (55, 38.3)
Both Pfaadt (16) and Bleis (20) ranked among the top players on FanGraphs’ list, while our placements represented more cautious optimism after their strong 2022 seasons. Minnesota's Rodriguez ranked inside the top 50 on three lists, but we're in wait-and-see mode after he tore his meniscus last year. Our highest deviation from the average was Neto, who earned four rankings between 47 and 61 from other outlets.
We know that list makers aren’t going to agree on everything, but here’s where the evaluations get particularly divergent. These players appeared on at least three lists, ranked in order of the highest standard deviation.
Colton Cowser, OF, Orioles (High: 30, Low: NR, MLB: 40, SD: 33.1)
Marco Luciano, SS, Giants (High: 18, Low: 97, MLB: 22, SD: 30.2)
Coby Mayo, 3B, Orioles (High: 36, Low: NR, MLB: NR, SD: 29.5)
Daniel Espino, RHP, Guardians (High: 16, Low: 93, MLB: 16, SD: 28.7)
Kevin Parada, C, Mets (High: 36, Low: NR, MLB: 36, SD: 28.6)
Miguel Bleis, OF, Red Sox (High: 20, Low: 95, MLB: 93, SD: 28.1)
Brayan Rocchio, SS, Guardians (High: 22, Low: NR, MLB: 75, SD: 26.5)
George Valera, OF, Guardians (High: 27, Low: NR, MLB: 51, SD: 26.2)
Carson Williams, SS, Rays (High: 39, Low: NR, MLB: 72, SD: 26.1)
Elijah Green, OF, Nationals (High: 35, Low: NR, MLB: 46, SD: 25.8)
Bleis, Espino, Luciano, and Parada reappear on this list. Once you get past the Orioles’ big three, Cowser and Mayo are two of their more divisive prospects. Guardians teammates Rocchio and Valera may be suffering from a classic case of prospect fatigue, though they still certainly have their believers. Williams and Green -- last year’s fifth overall pick -- both earned rankings in the 30s and off lists entirely.
Ultimately, it means very little to have been the first outlet to recognize a player on the rise or predict a breakout. Associations between players and lists tend to be more negative, anyway.
However, these are the highest-ranked players from each outlet who appeared on that list only. In other words, these evaluators have planted their flag on them.
The Athletic: Jeferson Quero, C, Brewers (45)
FanGraphs: Spencer Steer, 3B, Reds (47)
Baseball Prospectus: Griff McGarry, RHP, Phillies (51)
ESPN: Jordan Wicks, LHP, Cubs (51)
MLB Pipeline: Jacob Berry, 3B, Marlins (61)
Baseball America: Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Cardinals (79)
Lowest deviation (outside top 10 players): Bobby Miller, RHP, Dodgers (High: 20, Low: 33, Avg: 26.2, SD: 4.4)
Just made the cut: Cristian Hernandez, SS, Cubs (100/FG); Bubba Chandler (100/TA)
Highest on most players: FanGraphs (32)