When we unveiled our Top 100 Prospects list last month, there was significant fervor around who wasn’t included among the game’s best of the best. Alas, only 100 players could make the list -- for now. As graduations occur and performances fluctuate, that group will see some significant shuffling as the year goes on.
On the MLB Pipeline Podcast, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo (joined by co-host Jason Ratliff) broke down a handful of players who made an impressive case. To listen to a full breakdown, check out this week’s episode.
Here are 10 prospects who came tantalizing close to making the cut this time around:
Cade Horton, RHP -- Cubs
To say that Horton’s stock rose meteorically prior to the 2022 Draft would be no understatement: the righty was a two-way player at Oklahoma in his lone collegiate campaign, posting a 7.94 ERA during the regular season. But with an uptick in velocity -- peaking at 98 mph -- that coincided with recovery from Tommy John surgery, the Sooner State native went on a College World Series run that propelled him to becoming the seventh overall pick.
While Chicago was conservative in its decision to rein in Horton after the Draft, Callis thinks the North Siders found themselves a soon-to-be Top 100 prospect.
“I thought he was the best college pitcher in last year’s Draft,” he said. “I think he’s going to shoot into the prospect consciousness pretty quickly this spring when he gets the chance to start pitching in pro games.”
Connor Norby, 2B/OF -- Orioles
The Orioles already lead the field with eight Top 100 prospects, yet some evaluators believe Norby should have increased their lead even further. Having swatted a Baltimore farm system-high 29 homers last year, the 2021 second-rounder finds himself on the precipice of the big leagues on the back of his ample power potential.
Yainer Diaz, C/1B -- Astros
Diaz’s first full season in the Astros’ system saw him earn a SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game invite along with making sizable progression behind the dish, all while he mashed 25 homers and collected 96 RBIs across two levels en route to a big league callup. While Houston focused on trying to add offensive thump at the catcher spot at last year's Trade Deadline, they have an internal option as soon as Day 1 of the 2023 year.
“I wouldn’t be shocked if at some point this year -- maybe even Opening Day -- to have an offense/defense platoon with the Astros with Diaz and Martín Maldonado,” Callis said.
Cole Young, SS -- Mariners
Small sample sizes can be tempting to overhype, particularly when it comes to first-round selections such as Young. But the 21st overall selection in the 2022 Draft hit in droves last summer between Rookie-level and Single-A competition at just 19 years old, collecting 22 knocks in 17 games.
“I think he’s going to play his way into the Top 100 at some point during this season."
Junior Caminero, 3B/SS -- Rays
Unearthing prospect gems has been the name of the Rays’ game for the better part of the past decade and Caminero could be the latest proverbial diamond in the rough.
Acquired in November 2021 from Cleveland, Caminero played his way into an affiliate-ball debut just after turning 19 years old this past season. After posting a 137 wRC+ in a 26-game stint with Single-A Charleston, the Dominican native went down under to Australia for winter ball and clubbed 14 homers in 39 contests, while plating 37 runs and posting a .981 OPS.
Edouard Julien, 2B -- Twins
While a standout performance in the Arizona Fall League didn’t propel Julien to Top 100 preseason prospect status, earning Breakout Player of the Year honors on the fall circuit made the Canadian’s stock rise in a way few prospects enjoyed over the past six months.
There are few questions about the bat: Julien posted a .925 OPS in 113 games at Double-A Wichita this year, and his 208 walks over the past two seasons leads the Minors. Where there is a pause is on his defensive home. Second base is likely Julien’s quickest path to The Show, which could come as soon as the early part of the 2023 campaign.
Dalton Rushing, C -- Dodgers
While the Dodgers already enjoy one catcher among the Top 100 prospects in Diego Cartaya (No. 14 overall), another is on the horizon via their 2022 Draft class. Despite being bumped back 10 selections due to exceeding luxury tax rules, L.A. added to its stout system with Rushing, a Louisville backstop whose collegiate playing time was stunted by waiting behind Henry Davis, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2021 Draft.
“I think the industry slept on him a little bit,” Callis said of Rushing. “Area scouts who covered both guys believe he’s a better receiver than Davis.”
Rushing hit the ground running last summer, slashing a gaudy .424/.539/.778 with 19 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs in just 28 games with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. More production anywhere near that level will assuredly put the 21-year-old in the Top 100 conversation.
Edgar Quero, C -- Angels
Few batters at any level had as impressive a 2022 year as Quero did in his full-season debut for Single-A Inland Empire. During his age-19 campaign, the Cuban slashed .312/.435/.530 and led all qualified California League batters with a .439 wOBA and 150 wRC+. Maybe most impressive was that Quero delivered all that production while handling the rigors of catching on an everyday basis.
“All the ingredients are there for him to be a really good all-around catcher, even if it is bat over glove,” Mayo said. “It looks like he should be able to stick behind there and hit plenty."
Dax Fulton, LHP -- Marlins
“We could conceivably be seeing plus fastball, plus curveball, plus slider,” Callis said of Fulton’s repertoire. “I could see him being a guy who really takes a big step forward in 2023.”
Fulton’s curveball grades out as one of the premier individual pitches in all of prospectdom, having helped the southpaw accrue 150 strikeouts in 118 1/3 innings this past season. The 6-foot-7 hurler was the premier prep lefty in the 2020 Draft class, but Tommy John surgery slid him to the second round, where the Marlins pounced; they’ll be banking on his oodles of upside as he continues to get his feet wet in pro ball.
Matthew Liberatore, LHP -- Cardinals
The lone member of this group to have previously been a Top 100 prospect, the southpaw has undergone (likely unfairly) something mirroring prospect fatigue. Having debuted as the No. 68 prospect after he was chosen in the first round by Tampa Bay in 2018, Liberatore topped out at No. 37 prior to the 2021 year, a season after St. Louis acquired him in a swap for Randy Arozarena.
While Liberatore battled his command in a brief nine-game Major League debut (4.7 walks per nine) last season, the ceiling remains high for the Arizona native.