Pipeline Inbox: Toughest Top 100 prospect re-rank decisions

May 16th, 2024

We recently updated our Top 100 Prospects list to reflect what we’ve seen over the first month or so of the 2024 season, and that generated a ton of questions this week. I’ve opted to focus on those for this week’s Inbox, but be sure to check out the latest Pipeline Podcast because we tackled two questions about the Draft, looking at how to evaluate the offensive outburst in the college game, and which of those college players outside of what seems to be a fairly cemented top eight could sneak into the top of the Draft.

It’s always a challenge to figure out what to do in terms of this update. You want to make sure not to put too much stock in what is a relatively small sample size but you also can’t ignore it. When it’s part of a larger trend, then it really is something to take into account.

I provide this context only to prove that this is far from a scientific process and we end up having a good amount of back-and-forth on guys moving up, down, on and off the list. Any injured players provide a challenge. was very, very good at the start of the year, but then he got hurt. We decided he deserved a jump because of how dominant he was (and the fact that it wasn’t an arm-related injury helped). But we did move Ricky Tiedemann down 15 spots.

Then there are the guys who are struggling. How much do you dock Termarr Johnson for his slow start? Do you worry about Dylan Lesko or Mick Abel’s command issues? Those were enough of a red flag that we bumped them down some. Perhaps the hardest one was Adael Amador. We did end up moving the Rockies infielder down 10 spots, and he does have a .448 OPS so far this year. But he’s also just 21 and in Double-A, is still drawing walks and stealing bases. Some of us wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt given his past production, but he did also struggle in 10 games with Hartford, so we found a middle ground.

The easy choice for biggest surprise might be Christian Scott, who didn’t begin the year on the Top 100. We moved the Mets’ right-hander up 42 spots at the time of the update and he’s been really, really good this year, including in his first two big league starts.

And as for newcomers? It’s hard not to get excited about Lazaro Montes’ offensive upside. The Mariners’ young outfielder is still only 19 and is having an outstanding start to his season with Single-A Modesto. He’s hitting .317/.428/.540 and drawing a ton of walks. He’s cut his K rate down considerably over the last two years, too, giving more confidence he’s going to get to his plus plus raw power consistently.

Here in Pittsburgh, Kyle, we say "yinz," not "y’all" but I’ll allow it. I could have included in the answer above but since I got a separate question about him…

Yes, Salas has struggled this year, but he is one we have very strong belief in. Perhaps the Padres should have started him back with Single-A Lake Elsinore, but given his meteoric rise last year, it’s understandable that they sent him to High-A Fort Wayne. Even though he ended the 2024 season in Double-A, we have to remember he’s still only 17 (until June 1), so he’s WAY ahead of the curve here. He’s going to figure things out and even if he has to repeat a level, he’d still be young for the Midwest League in 2025. Additionally, there weren’t really great candidates to jump over him, other than , who moved up to No. 5, but it’s really more about confidence that Salas’ tools will start showing up.

How close is Caden Dana to the top 100 list? What other starting pitcher prospects are pushing toward the top 100? -- @Baseballplayaof

He’s definitely on our radar. The Angels’ No. 2 prospect currently is just 20 and is dominating Double-A so far. He was our entry for the Angels in this week’s story on one surprising development for each team. His last start wasn’t as good, but he still has a 2.20 ERA and .154 BAA over seven starts. We wouldn’t mind seeing him miss some more bats, but I think that’s going to come. He’s had good strikeout rates in the past and it’s encouraging to see him throwing more strikes. The stuff is plenty good enough, with a fastball averaging around 94 mph, touching 96 mph, and a low-80s slider with around a 39 percent miss rate so far. If he can continue on this track, I think you’ll see him get added at some point when we need replacements down the road.

As far as other starting pitchers who are on the cusp, one is the Twins’ , who struck out 10 over six shutout innings in Triple-A in his last start and is striking out 14.4 per nine so far this year. His fastball has touched triple digits and his slider and changeup have been very effective as well. Keep an eye on the Braves’ , too. Just 20 and in the High-A South Atlantic League, he’s leading the circuit in strikeouts (and K/9) as well as WHIP.

At least part of this question has to be because the Rockies now have a surprising six members of the Top 100, trailing only the Cubs in terms of organizational representation. But while I think this system has become sneaky good, and is probably better than the No. 21 ranking we gave them before the year began, I don’t think they quite have the depth to be a top 10 system yet.

One of the issues is, as usual, pitching. It is encouraging that , the one arm in the top 12 of the team’s top 30, is off to a very good start. You have to imagine he will earn a promotion to Double-A soon enough. In another question, Blah Blah asked about Sean Sullivan and Carson Palmquist becoming Top 100 guys in the future. I don’t think so, but the fact that you can even ask the question says something about how they’ve performed to date, with Palmquist excelling in Double-A an even better sign.

For an organization that has struggled to develop pitching, having a pair of lefties who look like they could potentially start in the big leagues is something worth celebrating, even if we have to see if Palmquist can hold up and Sullivan can have success at the upper levels. All of this points to a system with a bit of an up arrow next to it. Having the No. 3 pick in the Draft sure won’t hurt because the Rockies will add an impact, Top 100 type player to the organization, but I’m not sure one player makes them top 10… for now, I’ll hedge the bet and put them in the upper half of MLB.