After Wander, who's next No. 1 prospect?

June 23rd, 2021

In case this slipped under the radar, and it would be understandable given how little attention it’s been given, No. 1 prospect Wander Franco made his Major League debut on Tuesday night for the Rays at home in St. Petersburg against the Red Sox.

Assuming Franco sticks in the Rays lineup, and there’s nothing that says he shouldn’t, it does beg the question: Who’s next?

Not who might be next among top prospects to get called up to the big leagues, but rather who is likely to be the heir to the Top 100 throne, a spot Franco has held since he took the mantel from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on the midseason 2019 list, a run of four straight rankings.

If Franco stays healthy and doesn’t get sent down, he’d graduate on service time (45 active days on the roster) at some point in August, if he doesn’t get to 130 at-bats first. Who’s in line to replace Franco when that time comes? Let’s take a look at five candidates:

1. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles: This is the obvious choice, given the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 Draft is currently the No. 2 prospect behind Franco. After a bit of a slow start (He was hitting .205/.407/.455 on May 18), he’s now performing like a top prospect, bringing his season line in Double-A up to .293/.430/.531 with 10 homers and as many walks as strikeouts.

2. Spencer Torkelson, 3B/1B, Tigers: The current No. 3 prospect, Torkelson followed Rutschman as the top pick in the 2020 Draft, so he’s playing his first pro baseball now. Like Rutschman, Tork started slowly, with a .180/.368/.220 line after his game on May 20. He’s gone off since and has a .439/.537/.854 line in June and now has a .311/.425/.583 line for the year, much more befitting of someone considered to be a generational-type hitter in last year’s Draft class.

3. Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners: Yes, I’m skipping over Jarred Kelenic, who is currently ahead of J-Rod on the Top 100, mostly because I believe Kelenic will have graduated from the list himself by the time Franco is ready to come off. Fifth-ranked Rodríguez, meanwhile, is showing he needs a promotion to Double-A by hitting .325/.410/.581 at age 20 in High-A. That’s right in line with his career line of .322/.398/.542.

4. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals: Witt, who went No. 2 overall behind Rutschman in the 2019 Draft, served notice that it might not take him that long to be big league ready when his huge Spring Training showing had Royals fans pounding the table for his inclusion on the Opening Day roster. He just turned 21 and, currently No. 7 on the Top 100, is spending his first full season in Double-A. He's not only holding his own with a .280/.352/.561 line, he already has 11 homers and 11 steals in 38 games.

5. CJ Abrams, SS, Padres: It’s hard not to get excited about watching the Abrams vs. Witt young shortstop battle as time goes on. Abrams (now No. 8) went four picks after Witt in the 2019 Draft and has also made the big leap to Double-A in his first real full season. Just 20, he’s hit .296/.362/.415 so far this year with 10 steals and while he trails Witt in the power department, he also has a lower strikeout rate.