Inbox: Teenagers knocking on the door of The Show

September 22nd, 2023

Sure, the 2023 season is wrapping up, but the prospect news keeps on coming. The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced on Friday, with 10 Top 100 prospects slated to head to the desert. The Rays decided to call up their top prospect, Junior Caminero, for the stretch run. The Minor League playoffs, chock full o’ top prospect performances, roll on.

So it’s not surprising that folks still had plenty of questions for this week’s MLB Pipeline Inbox. Let’s get to it.

Now that they both have over a full season of MLB ABs under their belt, would you still rank Gunnar 1 and Carroll 2, or would you flip them? -- @bgreen484

We tackled this question on this week’s MLB Pipeline Podcast, so be sure to check that out for a more in depth response. But both Sam Dykstra and I agreed we would likely leave it in the same order we had it when the season began: Gunnar Henderson in the top spot; Corbin Carroll at No. 2.

Truth be told, there wasn’t all that much separating the two of them back then and an argument could have been made in either direction. I don’t think anyone involved on our end would have been vehemently opposed to Carroll being the No. 1 guy.

And while there’s little question that Carroll has had a superior season in most measurables, Henderson hasn’t exactly been a slouch, and his bWAR (5.9) is actually a touch higher than Carroll’s (5.3). (For what it’s worth FanGraphs has Carroll in the WAR lead, 5.7 to 4.5.

On the pod, we went into some metrics that could point to Henderson being a better overall hitter, though Carroll has already shown more pop than expected. This is also a good time to remind folks that our rankings are based on long-term projections and I’ll still say that in five, six years, I’d put Gunnar slightly ahead of Corbin, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to track and compare over those years, isn’t it?

With how aggressive prospect promotions have become, how likely is it we see a teenager make their debut in the coming years/which prospects could potentially make that leap? -- @NeilBMills

Very likely. And there’s an obvious answer to this question: Padres catching phenom Ethan Salas. San Diego put the No. 5 prospect on the super fast track as he finished the year in Double-A… at age 17. Assuming he goes back to Double-A to start the 2024 season, even if we want to be conservative and give him plenty of time, we’re looking at a 2025 arrival to the big leagues, and he doesn’t turn 20 until June of 2026.

There are several other teenagers in our Top 100 and on team top 30 lists, including our top two prospects in Jackson Holliday and Jackson Chourio. Both of them are in Triple-A, but both will turn 20 before the 2024 season begins, though I expect we’ll see the Jacksons in the big leagues next year at some point early.

There are two other Top 100 guys who could be teen-aged big leaguers in 2024. The first is Holliday’s organization-mate Samuel Basallo. The catching prospect finished with a torrid stretch in Double-A and he doesn’t turn 20 until next August. Then there’s Red Sox outfielder Roman Anthony, who also made it up to Double-A and raked there, albeit in a small sample size. It’s a long shot, but he doesn’t turn 20 until May of next year, so if he comes out of the gate swinging it like he did as this year went on… never say never.

The one other current Top 100 guy I’d keep an eye on is Rangers shortstop Sebastian Walcott. He just signed this past January and will play all of next year at age 18, but I wonder if it’s a hint of a faster track that the Rangers pushed him from the Dominican Summer League, to the Arizona Complex League and then up to High-A Hickory to finish the year. If that’s his starting spot in 2024, then he could get there before he turns 20 in March of 2026 (These still don’t sound like real years to me.).

Where does Samuel Basallo best fit defensively long term? O's have Rutschman behind the plate, so would he be a second catcher or a full time first baseman? -- @88OriolesFan88

Speaking of Basallo… I think the Orioles would file this under “a good problem to have.” Basallo was one of the first big international signings by the Orioles as they returned to the market in 2021 for the first time in a long time. They gave the left-handed hitting backstop what was then an organizational record $1.3 million bonus for an international prospect. It’s looking like it might be a bargain.

The 19-year old finished the year with a .313/.402/.551 line and 20 homers in 114 games across three levels. His defense has been rapidly improving; he’s always had a hose for an arm. He also has the aptitude and work ethic to be a catcher long-term.

So what do the Orioles do? Basallo is capable of playing first and I would love to see a catching tandem that would be the envy of every other team, where you could still get Rutschman and Basallo into the lineup nearly every day. They don’t have to make that decision just yet, but it sure would be fun to see the organization ease Basallo into a big league lineup next year at some point, learning from Rutschman and helping them continue to win games with his potent left-handed bat.