Standout stats for 8 new Top 100 prospects

May 14th, 2024

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On Sunday, those of us in prospectdom waved goodbye to Jackson Chourio, Colt Keith and Jared Jones. Their Minor League reigns will be fondly remembered.

But as you may have already heard or noticed, we used their graduations (and many others from organizational Top 30 lists) to spruce up the MLB Pipeline Top 100 list. We re-voted on the Top 15 overall, moved some players up or down 10-plus spots, removed prospects we thought fell off Top 100 status and added some fresh names to the list altogether.

The big headlines might be James Wood’s jump into the No. 5 spot, Jackson Jobe’s rise to No. 2 among pitching prospects and Christian Scott’s 42-spot leap to No. 58 overall. But what I think gets me most excited about the process is that final bit -- putting a bunch of new talents onto the list at once to reward their early breakouts. Instead of waiting to go one-by-one as part of our normal process, we were able to place eight worthy players on the list at once.

To help explain why those eight made the cut in this round of market corrections, here is one standout stat from each of the new Top 100 prospects:

Lazaro Montes, OF, Mariners (No. 85): 16.0 percent K rate
We knew the 6-foot-3 left-handed hitter had power, as he was given a 65 grade for the tool in the preseason, and Montes has backed that up with six homers and a .533 slugging percentage. But he’s punishing the ball while also keeping his strikeouts low. That 16.0 percent K rate through 30 games for Single-A Modesto is a nice drop from his 25.2 percent mark over 70 games between there and the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League in 2023. Entering Monday, Montes is the only Single-A qualifier out of 215 to strike out less than 17 percent of the time and slug at least .530.

Zac Veen, OF, Rockies (No. 93): .593 slugging percentage
A previous Top 100 mainstay, Veen dropped off after a rough 2023 in which he slashed just .209/.303/.308 in 46 games for Double-A Hartford. He was hampered by left wrist issues during that stay and eventually underwent season-ending surgery last June. Healthy again for 2024, Veen is proving that the wrist may have been the primary thing holding him back. His SLG is up almost 300 points through 26 games back in the Eastern League, and his 11 total extra-base hits (including five homers) already equal his 2023 total in 95 fewer plate appearances. With nine steals in the bag, too, Veen looks back on track as an impact outfielder with a standout power-speed combo made for the modern game.

Moises Ballesteros, C/1B, Cubs (No. 94): 160 wRC+
There are only five qualified hitters aged 20 or younger at Double-A entering Monday, and the four besides Ballesteros are names you know: Roman Anthony, Samuel Basallo, Nelson Rada, Cole Young. The Cubs' backstop leads the group with his 160 wRC+, and it’s not particularly close. Anthony is second in the group at 109. Ballesteros’ .293/.371/.489 slash line through 105 plate appearances is strong across the board as he continues to marry an above-average hit tool with decent power, and even if the 5-foot-7 prospect needs to move off catcher, it’s looking more and more like his bat would play anywhere.

Cam Collier, 3B, Reds (No. 95): 41.9 percent ground-ball rate
The 2022 first-rounder played all of 2023 as an 18-year-old, and he looked like it with a .246/.349/.356 slash line and six homers through 111 games for Single-A Daytona. He’s already up to seven homers through 30 games for High-A Dayton this season, and his slugging percentage has jumped 140 points to .496, in part because he’s doing a better job of elevating the ball. Last year, 53 percent of Collier’s batted balls were on the ground. This season, the plurality are line drives or fly balls, and that’s allowed his power to play much better in-game.

Jaison Chourio, OF, Guardians (No. 96): 25 walks, 18 strikeouts
One Chourio came off the list, and another joined. But they have different profiles. The younger version is more fueled by his hit tool, specifically his discipline at the plate, and that’s playing exceptionally well during his age-19 season at Single-A Lynchburg. Chourio’s 1.4 BB/K ratio is the fourth best among Single-A qualifiers, and the three ahead of him are all at least four years older. The Cleveland outfielder brings above-average run, arm and fielding tools to the table too.

Edgar Quero, C, White Sox (No. 97): Six homers
Quero was famously pushed from Single-A to Double-A last season in the Angels' system before being dealt to the White Sox in the Lucas Giolito/Reynaldo López swap, and his power suffered with only six homers through 101 Southern League games. He’s back with Double-A Birmingham and has already matched that total in 72 fewer contests. The switch-hitter may not show more than average pop at full maturation, but he’s certainly well back on track in that department at a premium position.

Jefferson Rojas, SS, Cubs (No. 98): 17-game hitting streak
Chicago has been fairly aggressive with its $1 million signing since he joined the organization in January 2022, and he’s already up to High-A South Bend at just 19. He hit the ground running with a 17-game hitting streak from April 10 to May 2 -- the longest High-A hitting streak of the season and tied for the third longest in all of the Minors. The shortstop’s pitch recognition and barrel control give him an above-average hitting projection, and while he’s struggled a bit more of late, he has the tools to iron things out and be a consistent performer up the middle again.

Ralphy Velazquez, 1B, Guardians (No. 100): .207 ISO
Cleveland drafted Velazquez as a catcher with the 23rd overall pick last July but moved him to first base full-time this spring. That means he must hit for power, and he’s accomplishing that with aplomb in his first full season. The left-handed slugger’s .207 isolated slugging percentage is the third best among qualified Minor Leaguers age 19 or younger across all levels; the only two ahead of him are Collier (.231) and Montes (.225).