Back in August 2021, we predicted who would be each farm system’s No. 1 prospect entering 2023. Well, the time has come to review our work.
Generally, we did pretty well. Gunnar Henderson (Orioles), Francisco Álvarez (Mets), Jordan Walker (Cardinals), Anthony Volpe (Yankees) and Marcelo Mayer (Red Sox) were our selections then, and now they head into this season in the Top 10 of MLB Pipeline’s overall rankings. Similarly, we were on point about Diego Cartaya (Dodgers), Jackson Jobe (Tigers), Colson Montgomery (White Sox) and Tyler Soderstrom (Athletics). Some picks were more complicated. Michael Harris II (Braves) has graduated and won a Rookie of the Year Award. Robert Hassell III (Padres) was traded to the Nationals. Top 2021 picks like Henry Davis (Pirates), Jack Leiter (Rangers) and Kahlil Watson (Marlins) have seen their stocks slip.
It isn’t easy, this prospect prediction business.
But we’re giving it another go. These are the prospects we expect to be ranked first in each of the 30 farm systems come spring 2025.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Brandon Barriera, LHP
Toronto set forth a blueprint on how to develop a young left-handed pitcher last year with Ricky Tiedemann. Given his trajectory, he’ll likely graduate by the time 2025 rolls around. Barriera, who was 1 1/2 years younger than Tiedemann when he was drafted, will likely need more time in the Minors, but the pieces are in place for him to jump into the Top 100 over the next two seasons. More specifically, the 6-foot-2 southpaw already exhibits three above-average pitches in his fastball, slider and changeup, and his strike-throwing ability should aid his chances of hitting the ground running.
Orioles: Jackson Holliday (No. 12 on Top 100)
The No. 1 pick in the 2022 Draft, Holliday has the pure tools and polish to move more quickly than most high school bats, and he did post a .911 OPS in 20 games in reaching full-season ball during his pro debut last summer. He might be on the cusp of reaching Baltimore at the start of 2025, but he also could be the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball at the same time.
Rays: Carson Williams, SS (No. 72)
Taj Bradley and Curtis Mead will (or should) be well out of the prospect picture in two years, while 2021 first-round pick Williams could be just on the verge of graduation if all goes according to plan. Williams has looked like a stellar defender at a premium position, and his power already plays well coming off a 19-homer season at Single-A at age 19. The Rays are making a point to improve his chase and swing-and-miss rates, and those are the only missing ingredients from making the San Diego native more of a household name.
Red Sox: Miguel Bleis, OF (No. 93)
Boston's best international prospect since Rafael Devers, Bleis signed for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2021 and has exuded five-tool potential in center field ever since. He slashed .301/.353/.542 with 23 extra-base hits and 18 steals in 40 games in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League last summer.
Yankees: Spencer Jones, OF
One of the best two-way prospects in the 2019 Draft, Jones had Tommy John surgery at Vanderbilt in 2020, became a full-time outfielder and hit his way into the first round last July. He's very athletic for a 6-foot-7, 225-pounder, makes a lot of hard contact and slashed .344/.425/.538 with four homers and 12 steals in his 25-game pro debut, mostly in Single-A.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Chase DeLauter, OF (No. 82)
The first first-round pick in James Madison history, DeLauter offered the best combination of tools, plate discipline and performance in the 2022 college class. The pandemic and a broken left foot meant that he never got to play a full college season, but he slashed .402/.520/.715 in three years with the Dukes and proved himself with wood bats by leading the Cape Cod League in homers (nine) and slugging (.589) in the summer of 2021. He reinjured his foot after signing for $3.75 million, so he'll make his pro debut this year.
Royals: Gavin Cross, OF (No. 62)
There’s every chance the former Virginia Tech star could hit and run his way to Kansas City in short order. The 2022 first-rounder has five-tool potential, and he’s already proven his skills can translate to the pros after he slashed .293/.423/.596 with 14 extra-base hits in 26 Single-A games. The Royals have internally circled 2024 as their year to return to full-blown contention, but the bet here is that even if Cross reaches the Majors that summer, it’ll be as a late-season addition, preserving his prospect status for the following spring.
Tigers: Jackson Jobe, RHP (No. 63)
Pitching prospects need time to develop, especially those coming straight from the high-school ranks. Jobe proved that last season, and the 20-year-old right-hander’s results didn’t pop as necessarily expected (3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP in 77 1/3 innings), but the rigors of a first full season could help him in the long run. His 93-96 mph plus-plus slider could make him at least a No. 3 starter, and by 2025 -- with two more seasons under his belt -- that future will be closer in view.
Twins: Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF (No. 88)
If it hadn’t been for a torn meniscus in his right knee that ended his season last June, there’s a good chance Rodriguez would already be much higher on the Top 100. He made a splash in his 47 games of full-season ball, with an OPS over 1.000, a more advanced approach (more walks than strikeouts) and an ability to start tapping into his considerable raw power.
White Sox: Noah Schultz, LHP
As a 6-foot-9 left-hander with a low arm angle, Schultz draws physical comparisons to Randy Johnson. The 26th overall pick in the 2022 Draft can't match the Hall of Famer's sheer power, but Schultz is much more advanced at the same stage of their careers, can run his fastball up to 97 mph and has the makings of a wipeout slider. He's set to make his pro debut this spring.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Edgar Quero, C
Quero’s year in the Single-A California League really put him on the map and has Angels fans excited to see what comes next. The switch-hitter posted a .965 OPS en route to Cal League MVP honors, showing a very good approach at the plate and developing skills behind it.
A’s: Luis Morales, RHP
Morales came in at No. 5 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 50 International Prospects list for this signing period, and the Cuban right-hander got $3 million from the A’s to sign. He has the makings of a legitimate four-pitch mix, led by a fastball that sits 94-97 mph. At 20-years-old, he could get to Oakland faster than the typical teenaged international signee.
Astros: Drew Gilbert, OF
Gilbert posted the best numbers (.362/.455/.673, 36 extra-base hits versus 32 strikeouts) on a Tennessee team that ranked No. 1 in college baseball for most of the 2022 season, propelling himself into the first round of the Draft. He has a take-no-prisoners approach at the plate, on the bases and in the field -- not to mention four solid to plus tools to go with perhaps average power. He played 10 pro games last summer, slashing .313/.405/.531 with two homers and six steals, before dislocating his left elbow after running into a center-field wall.
Mariners: Harry Ford, C (No. 49)
The Mariners’ first-round pick in 2021 shook off a rough start to his first full season and posted a .942 OPS from June 1 on in 2022. He’s super athletic and could be a true five-tool backstop, with the upside to develop into the top catching prospect in the game over the next couple of years.
Rangers: Brock Porter, RHP (No. 94)
Porter, MLB Pipeline's top-rated pitching prospect, slid to the 109th pick of the 2022 Draft and shattered the fourth-round bonus record ($3.7 million). Gatorade's national high school player of the year, he had the best fastball and one of the best changeups in last year's prep class. He'll make his pro debut this season.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Ambioris Tavarez, SS
Maybe the safe play would have been to go with one of the high school arms the Braves took early in the 2022 Draft, like Owen Murphy or JR Ritchie. But let’s roll the dice a little bit and go with Tavarez, who signed for $1.5 million in January 2021 and hasn’t been able to show off his considerable tools much -- first because the Braves didn’t have a Dominican Summer League team in 2021, and then because of injury in 2022. He could really start taking off this year.
Marlins: Yiddi Cappe, SS
Signed for $3.5 million in January 2021, two years after he left Cuba, Cappe has advanced feel for the barrel, at least 20-homer upside if he can add more muscle and plus arm strength. He slashed .290/.328/.438 with nine homers and 13 steals in 67 games at age 19 during his U.S. debut, split between Rookie ball and Single-A.
Mets: Kevin Parada, C (No. 36)
New York hopes Francisco Álvarez can become its long-term catcher as early as this summer, and they have another potential option in the pipeline in last year’s No. 11 overall pick. With his ability to hit for both average and power from a premium position, Parada could be a quick mover toward Queens, but like Álvarez, he’ll need time to prove he can be an adequate defensive catcher before he reaches The Show, meaning he’s a safe bet to top the Mets’ Top 30 in two years.
Nationals: Elijah Green, OF (No. 46)
Let’s have some fun here and say that James Wood’s combination of swing decisions, plus power and impressive speed get him to the big leagues by the end of 2024. That leaves the top spot for Green -- another tooled-up center fielder with plus-plus wheels and prodigious pop. Green has questions offensively when it comes to his swing-and-miss rates, and the Nationals are willing to be patient to get him the at-bats needed to improve. If it manages to click offensively, he has No. 1 overall prospect upside.
Phillies: Justin Crawford, OF
Carl’s kid was the Phillies’ first-rounder in 2022 and entered pro ball known mostly for his plus-plus speed and his knack for contact. The future center fielder is definitely hit-over-power, but he’s already added some strength and might surprise some people with his extra-base thump in his first full season.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Jeferson Quero, C
We had Quero down as the backstop on our 2023 All-Defense Team already, coming off an Arizona Fall League campaign in which he threw out 46 percent of attempted basestealers, so we’re already pretty high on him. He can hit pretty well, too, with a career .290 average, and he has enough power to be an average slugger in the big leagues. That’s even more valuable for a backstop prospect. Milwaukee is loaded with near-ready outfielders and Jackson Chourio’s climb should be complete by 2024 at the latest, leaving the door open for Quero to move into the top spot.
Cardinals: Cooper Hjerpe, LHP
The current state of the St. Louis system is loaded with near-ready names, and if you wanted to argue Tink Hence will still be around prospectdom in 2025, we wouldn’t argue too hard (though we think his stuff is so good he could rise quickly as he adds innings). That leaves Hjerpe, who could plug in well to the Cards’ development apparatus. His three-pitch mix out of a funky crossfire delivery could lead to some dominant early numbers and a prominent place in the Top 100 before he arrives in two years.
Cubs: Cristian Hernandez, SS
Some scouts considered Hernandez the best prospect in the 2020-21 international class, and he drew physical comparisons to Alex Rodriguez and Manny Machado before signing for $3 million out of the Dominican Republic in January 2021. He has the potential for solid to plus tools across the board at shortstop and slashed .261/.320/.357 in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League during his U.S. debut at age 18.
Pirates: Termarr Johnson, 2B (No. 26)
Johnson is one of the best high school hitters to come out of a Draft in a very long time, and that’s why he went No. 4 overall last year to the Pirates. He makes a ridiculous amount of loud contact, has good plate discipline and a lot more power than you’d think a 5-foot-10 middle infielder should have. His bat could carry him up the ladder quickly.
Reds: Edwin Arroyo, SS (No. 44)
The Mariners’ second-round pick in 2021 was having a breakout first full season in the Single-A California League when he was sent to the Reds in the Luis Castillo deal at last year’s Trade Deadline. He tried to do too much post-trade and there’s confidence he’ll rediscover his approach and continue to show surprising impact at the plate while playing outstanding defense at short.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Druw Jones, OF (No. 15)
We’ll soon get our first Minor League look at last year’s No. 2 overall pick after he suffered a left shoulder injury last year, and if everything goes as well in his return as expected, prepare to be wowed. The 19-year-old outfielder follows in his father Andruw’s footsteps as a Gold Glove-caliber defender in center, and he has the bat speed to hit for both average and power in time. Corbin Carroll should graduate quickly in 2023, but Jones will sustain the Arizona system for some time.
Dodgers: Dalton Rushing, C
Los Angeles' top pick (second round) in the 2022 Draft, Rushing broke into pro ball by slashing .424/.539/.778 with eight homers in 28 Single-A games. He has the ability to hit for power and average, his solid arm plays well behind the plate and he should become at least an adequate receiver with more experience.
Giants: Aeverson Arteaga, SS
Considered more of a defender than an impact hitter when he signed for $1 million out of Venezuela in 2019, Arteaga has played a slick shortstop while surprising with his bat. He slashed .270/.345/.431 with 14 homers and 11 steals in Single-A at age 19, leading the California League in hits (136) and doubles (35) a year after he topped the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League in RBI (43).
Padres: Dylan Lesko, RHP (No. 100)
We're feeling comfortable that Lesko will still be prospect-eligible by 2025 due to 2021 Tommy John surgery and the subsequent slow buildup that is coming on the tail of his rehab. The only question is if his stuff will return too. If it does, Lesko has the ceiling of one of the best pitching prospects in baseball because of his 92-95 mph fastball, plus-plus changeup and high-spin curveball. San Diego’s system might be down right now, but it does have an ace up its sleeve.
Rockies: Adael Amador, SS (No. 68)
It’s not often you see a teenager walk more than he strikes out in his full-season debut, but that’s exactly what Amador did with Single-A Fresno in 2022. He can swing it from both sides of the plate with an outstanding feel for the barrel and improved extra-base thump. Even if he moves off of shortstop, that bat is going to play.