These Top 100 rankings are generating buzz

February 1st, 2023

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The 2023 Top 100 Prospects list is out. If you haven’t caught it yet, put down this email for a few minutes, and go explore the full group of scouting reports, grades, video breakdowns, etc. for this year’s class. It’s a massive undertaking every year and one we’re always excited to share with the world after many discussions with ourselves and people within the industry.

Readers naturally jump in with questions about why certain players ranked where they did. Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and I answered a few of them in a Twitter Q&A on Monday, and in fielding those Q’s, there have been a few names that have popped up in questions more than others. Sure, there are the obvious top three in Gunnar Henderson, Corbin Carroll and Francisco Álvarez, but let’s use this newsletter space to tackle some of the Top 100 rankings that seem to be drawing the most attention headed into the spring:

Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B, Reds (No. 10): Based on four of the five tools, you could make a case for De La Cruz in the top five, even the top three. He’s a switch-hitter with at least plus power. He has plus-plus speed and the arm for shortstop, third or center. So what gives? A 30.8 percent strikeout rate at High-A and Double-A last season. The 21-year-old could well mash his way to a decent enough average because of his exceptional exit velocities, but history tells us hitters who struggle with contact will find the going even tougher as they climb the ladder, so that gave us enough pause to put De La Cruz at the 10th spot.

James Wood, OF, Nationals (No. 17): In the Q&A, @colefitzpatrick asked for my pick to go “supernova” in the style of Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto and Julio Rodríguez. My pick was Wood -- a 6-foot-7 center fielder with plus speed and legit plus-plus raw power who also happens to show an advanced approach with good swing decisions already. That jumped him into the Top 20 for the first time. The 20-year-old was just finding his footing at Single-A last year in the San Diego and Washington systems, so we didn’t get him much above that at No. 17, but now that he’s settled, I could see him playing at three levels in 2023 and contending for the No. 1 spot by midseason.

Endy Rodriguez/Henry Davis, C, Pirates (No. 55, 57): Grouping these two Bucs together, Rodriguez jumped past the 2021 No. 1 overall pick after a breakout season in which he hit .323 with 25 homers and a .997 OPS across the top three levels of the Minors. Rodriguez is a superior athlete to Davis -- part of why he’s seen time at second base and the outfield -- and looks a better bet to stick behind the plate. Davis continues to have plus power, and his pitch recognition should help him hit for average too. Various wrist injuries did him no favors in 2022, but the fact that many still believe he’ll eventually move out of catcher was enough for him to drop at this stage.

Jack Leiter, RHP, Rangers (No. 78): This time last year, there was a hope that Leiter could develop into the game’s top pitching prospect with time and experience. That isn’t what’s happened. In fact, there was a case that Leiter shouldn’t be on the Top 100 after he tripped up with a 5.54 ERA and 56 walks in 92 2/3 innings at Double-A, in part because he lost the command and more impressive fastball metrics he’d shown at Vanderbilt. In the end, we decided to keep Leiter around, giving him credit for being given an aggressive assignment out of college and believing there’s a chance he could still find his ace-level stuff from 2021. Anything close to a repeat, however, and he’ll drop further.

Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Twins (No. 88): The reports coming out of Rodriguez’s time in the Florida State League were impressive. Bat speed, plate discipline, loud contact, enough speed for center. Unfortunately, a torn meniscus ended his season in June, and the Minnesota prospect heads into his age-20 season with only 84 games of Minor League experience. We’re acting a little more trepidatious until we see the tools play over a larger sample and that the speed has returned after such a major knee injury. By comparison, fellow Twin Royce Lewis is also coming back from a major knee problem but had upper-level success and even more speed than Rodriguez, thus his placement 43 spots higher.

Miguel Bleis, OF, Red Sox (No. 93): As of this week, only four 18-year-olds appear on our Top 100. One is Jackson Chourio. Two are 2022 first-round picks (Cam Collier, Termarr Johnson). The final one is Bleis, a $1.5 million signing by Boston out of the Dominican Republic in January 2021. He has above-average tools across the board, save for maybe some questions about how he’ll hit long term because of a pull-heavy approach, but lacks any full-season experience or the chance to show off across showcases like Drafted players. Because of those concerns, he didn’t jump into our Top 90 just yet, but this also feels like the player we’d been more hesitant with in the past. Bleis could easily jump 70 spots with similar production in a full season, and his placement on the Top 100 puts us ever so slightly ahead of that curve.