MLB Pipeline's recent track record with No. 1 prospects on our overall Top 100 is pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. Going back to the 2018 preseason, our three previous No. 1s were: Shohei Ohtani, who's having the best two-way season ever; Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who leads the Majors in OPS while making a run at the American League triple crown; and Wander Franco, who came up in June and has reached base in his past 38 games, breaking Mickey Mantle's AL record for players 20 or younger and climbing within five of Frank Robinson's all-time mark.
Next in line is our current No. 1, Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman. As a switch-hitter who hits for average and power while controlling the strike zone and showing Gold Glove potential behind the plate, he could be another generational talent. For more on Rutschman, check out Joe Trezza's feature on the rising star.
Another of the game's best catching prospects factors into the lead question in this week's Inbox ...
Which prospects could you see being moved via trade in the offseason?
Jonathan Mayo and I tackled this question in the latest Pipeline Podcast, and the two names that immediately came to mind were Giants catcher Joey Bart and Rays outfielder/second baseman Vidal Brujan. It's not that we've heard that either club is shopping those guys, but they're contenders with no obvious place to play the youngsters, who would command a lot in a trade.
While San Francisco drafted Bart No. 2 overall in 2018, Buster Posey's resurgence means that the veteran could hold onto the catching job for a while. The Giants also have plenty of catching depth in 2020 first-rounder Patrick Bailey and international signees Ricardo Genoves and Adrian Sugastey, so they could deal Bart to make a significant addition to the big league club and still have Posey's eventual successor in the system.
Brujan doesn't have anything left to prove in Triple-A and is capable of playing six different positions, but there's no obvious spot for him in Tampa Bay's stacked lineup. Though he'd have value in a super-utility role, he's at a point where he needs to play every day in the Majors and the Rays might get more use out of him in a trade.
In honor of Josh Lowe call up today, what is you analysis of him?
I'm not sure how the Rays are going to get Lowe regular at-bats either, but they did promote the No. 13 overall choice in the 2016 Draft Wednesday and started him in right field against the Red Sox. He walked and singled in two plate appearances and also stole a base.
The younger brother of Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe, Josh didn't hit for much power in his first three years as a pro but started to break out in Double-A and the Arizona Fall League in 2019. After the 2020 Minor League season got canceled, he returned to rake in Triple-A this year, hitting .282/369/.540 with 21 homers and 24 steals in 98 games.
No. 76 on the Top 100 Prospects list, Lowe is an athletic outfielder who could have solid or better tools across the board now that his bat has developed. With his plus speed and arm strength, he can handle all three outfield spots. He looks like a quality everyday player with a high floor as a versatile fourth outfielder.
Would it shock you if DeLauter is in the conversation for first overall?
James Madison outfielder Chase DeLauter ranked sixth on our new college Top 20 prospects list for next year's Draft but he definitely could factor in the discussion for the top pick (which belongs to the Diamondbacks as of now). There's no clear frontrunner to go No. 1 overall and he has a lot to offer.
DeLauter is a physical athlete with a 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame, well above-average left-handed raw power, solid speed and arm strength. He also has one of the most disciplined approaches among the best prospects in the 2022 Draft. After hitting .386/.508/.723 in 26 games during the spring, he switched to wood bats this summer and topped the Cape Cod League in slugging (.589) while tying for the home run lead (nine in 34 games).
The highest picks in Dukes history are left-handers Brian McNichol (1995) and Dan Meyer (2002), who both went 34th overall en route to reaching the big leagues. DeLauter should surpass both of them and become the first James Madison first-rounder ever next spring.
Will Reggie Crawford play both positions like Shohei or purely do one at the next level? He’s very capable of doing both.
Connecticut first baseman/left-hander Reggie Crawford is one of the most intriguing players in the 2022 Draft. He swatted 13 homers for the Huskies while pitching just 7 2/3 innings this spring, but he's a better prospect on the mound. He played both ways this summer with the U.S. collegiate national team and in the Cape League, averaging 96 mph and hitting 100 with his fastball while pushing his power slider to 88 mph.
Ohtani aside, it's extremely difficult to succeed as either a hitter or a pitcher in the Majors, let alone do both. Crawford has a much higher ceiling as a frontline starter, so whoever drafts him likely will have him concentrate on the mound. With his lack of innings, he needs to focus on pitching to reach his potential.