Inbox: Who might be the top 3 prospects in 2025?

February 9th, 2024

It’s clear folks are still wanting to talk about our Top 100 prospects , guys on it, guys not on it, guys from the past lists and guys we missed. So let’s keep the chatter going with a Pipeline Inbox that’s chock full o’ Top 100 discourse.

Looking back at the prospect misses and who you were wrong about, which prospects did you overlook and turn out better than you expected? -- @StevieDAles97

As we’ve continued to slice and dice 20 years of prospect rankings, I’ve written about the biggest successes and the prospects who didn’t live up to expectations. It had dawned on me that we hadn’t looked at the guys we missed in the other direction, prospects we didn’t rank highly who have gone on to do amazing things in the big leagues. Then Stevie D’s question landed and it was kismet, so here are a few who stand out.

Paul Goldschmidt: In our defense, Goldschmidt took a lot of people by surprise after being an eighth-round pick out of Texas State University and was in the big leagues by 2011, two years after being drafted. He put up huge numbers in the California League in 2010 (.990 OPS), but who didn’t? The 2011 season was the first we did what was then the top 10 for each team rankings, and he was 10th on the D-backs list. He’s now No. 8 on the career active bWAR list (61.7).

Jose Altuve: Altuve is No. 13 on that active WAR list (49.3) and he has AL MVP honors, three batting titles and six Silver Slugger awards, among other accolades, on his résumé. You won’t find him anywhere on a list, but he was in the big leagues in 2011 after starting the year in High-A, so there wasn’t exactly a ton of time to rank him.

Josh Donaldson: No. 16 on the active WAR list (46.8), it took Donaldson a while to find his footing as a professional. While he lost his rookie status in 2012, he didn’t establish himself in the big leagues until the following year. He did not appear on the A’s top 10 in 2011.

Jose Ramirez: Although he did land in Cleveland’s top 10 in 2013 and 2014, he never appeared on a Top 100. He hit in the Minors (.304) but the power didn’t show up until he reached the big leagues, a reason why he was never ranked that high. He’s No. 18 on that WAR list now (45.6) with 216 homers and an OPS of .854.

Jacob deGrom: I’ll end with one arm no one really saw coming. A ninth-rounder in 2010, deGrom had Tommy John surgery the summer after he was drafted. He had a good year in 2012, but he was 24 and in A ball. He started the 2013 season in High-A and ended it in Triple-A before jumping on the big league scene as a 26-year-old Rookie of the Year winner in 2014. His 44.8 WAR is seventh among all pitchers still listed as active.

Using your crystal ball, who will be the top three prospects this time next year? -- @mattherr07

There is an expectation that many of our current top prospects on the Top 100 will graduate at some point in 2024. Eight of our top 10, in fact, have an ETA of 2024 and several of them could contend for Rookie of the Year honors in their respective leagues. So what does that leave us for 2025? The first thing I can do is to rule out any 2024 draftees from a top three. It just not the same kind of class as last year where we do have a representative in that top group (Paul Skenes), three others in the top 10 (Wyatt Langford, Dylan Crews, Walker Jenkins) and one not far off at No. 13 (Max Clark). Three of those five will likely graduate, but Jenkins and Clark are in the mix. I’ll go with:

1. Ethan Salas, C, Padres: I think we’ve all predicted the precocious backstop to ascend to the top spot by next year, haven’t we?

2. Walker Jenkins, OF, Twins: He had a terrific debut and there’s high confidence he’s going to put up numbers out of the gate.

3. Max Clark, OF, Tigers: Let the Jenkins vs. Clark debate continue to rage. Don’t bet against Clark’s ceiling.

This list, of course, does not account for any prospects who fly up the charts in a hurry, kind of like Salas did, so I reserve the right to amend this as we move forward.

Y'all graded Thomas Saggese as the fourth best 2B prospect in your rankings. Why did he not make the Top 100, and is he set to inherit a spot once some of these players graduate from prospect status? -- @stlcardscov

Where I come from, it’s “Yinz” and not “Y’all,” but I’ll allow it. Saggese certainly had the kind of year in 2023 that warranted a lot of consideration for the Top 100, finishing with a .903 OPS, 26 homers, 111 RBIs. As Sam Dykstra pointed out when putting him on a list of guys who just missed the Top 100, he led the Texas League in a whole bunch of categories before getting bumped up to Triple-A following his trade from the Rangers to the Cardinals. He didn’t quite make it because he’s a little too aggressive at the plate and it’s not 100 percent clear what his defensive home is. That said, assuming he comes out and rakes in Triple-A out of the gate this year, I think he will get added in the early going when we need replacements.

Is Druw Jones a bust? -- @THEaltBAE

That’s a bit harsh, I think. Has it been a disappointing start to the No. 2 pick in the 2022 Draft’s career? Absolutely. Are we concerned about the rash of injuries and the lack of production when he was on the field in 2023? Yes, and that’s why he’s down at No. 78 in the Top 100 now. (If he we thought he was a bust, he wouldn’t be on the list anymore.) But it’s way, way too early to draw this kind of conclusion. He’s missed important development time, both the summer after he signed and last year, when he managed just 41 games and 147 at-bats. But he still has ridiculous tools and will be just 20 years old for the 2024 season. The biggest thing we need to see is a healthy Jones roaming center field for an entire year. I think the tools will start showing up consistently then and any talk of him being a bust will be over.