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Ranking World Series players as prospects

@JimCallisMLB
October 20, 2020

The Dodgers and Rays constructed World Series teams in different fashions, no surprise considering the disparity in financial resources available to the two organizations. Rather than leverage its wealth, however, Los Angeles used the Draft and international market to put together one of the most homegrown clubs in the playoffs.

The Dodgers and Rays constructed World Series teams in different fashions, no surprise considering the disparity in financial resources available to the two organizations. Rather than leverage its wealth, however, Los Angeles used the Draft and international market to put together one of the most homegrown clubs in the playoffs. Tampa Bay relied heavily on a series of astute trades.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 20 LAD 8, TB 3 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 21 TB 6, LAD 4 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 23 LAD 6, TB 2 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 24 TB 8, LAD 7 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 25 LAD 4, TB 2 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 27 LAD 3, TB 1 Watch

Key performers on both teams had humble beginnings and flew under the radar in the Minors. Justin Turner and Tony Gonsolin signed as college seniors, Mike Brosseau was a nondrafted free agent and Nick Anderson spent three years in the independent Frontier League at the start of his pro career.

While several of the players in this Fall Classic were top prospects when they rose through the Minors, there aren't as many of those as usual. Twenty of this year's 58 World Series participants made MLB.com Top 50 or Top 100 Prospects lists, down from 24 of 50 Astros and Nationals in 2019 and 22 of 50 Dodgers and Red Sox in 2018.

Below, we rank those 20 players in order of their prospect status when they first reached the big leagues.

1. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
First-round, 2012 (No. 18, North Carolina HS)

Rank at time of callup: No. 5

Seager's selection marked the first time in 10 Drafts that the Dodgers didn't spend their first pick on a pitcher. Though he briefly slumped in high Class A and the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2013, he rebounded to lead the Minors in hitting (.349) and doubles (50) in 2014 and was starting in the National League Championship Series the following year. In his first full season in Los Angeles, he was the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year and placed third in the MVP balloting.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 20 LAD 8, TB 3 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 21 TB 6, LAD 4 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 23 LAD 6, TB 2 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 24 TB 8, LAD 7 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 25 LAD 4, TB 2 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 27 LAD 3, TB 1 Watch

2. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers
First-round, 2006 (No. 18, Texas HS)

Rank at time of callup: No. 7

If 2005 supplemental first-rounder Luke Hochevar hadn't backed out of an agreement with Los Angeles, it wouldn't have landed Kershaw, the best high school prospect the next year. Hochevar re-entered the 2006 Draft and went No. 1 overall to the Royals, which helped push consensus top prospect Andrew Miller to No. 6 and the Tigers, who otherwise were locked in on Kershaw one pick ahead of the Dodgers. He reached Double-A in his first full pro season, excelled in his first big league camp in 2008 and was in the big leagues to stay that summer at age 20.

3. Julio Urías, LHP, Dodgers
Purchased from Mexico City Red Devils (Mexican League), 2012

Rank at time of callup: No. 2

The Dodgers discovered Urías during a trip to Mexico to scout Yasiel Puig and purchased him as part of a four-player package from the Mexico City Red Devils that also included Victor González. Urías dominated low Class A hitters as a 16-year-old, and even with Los Angeles handling him with extreme caution because of his youth, he still advanced to the Majors and succeeded there at age 19 in 2016. Eased back into the rotation after recovering from shoulder surgery in mid-2017, he became a full-time starter again this season and has won all four of his postseason appearances.

4. Cody Bellinger, OF, Dodgers
Fourth-round, 2013 (Arizona HS)

Rank at time of callup: No. 10

Because he hadn't grown into his lanky frame and employed a line-drive swing that detracted from his power potential, Bellinger lasted four rounds in the 2013 Draft -- though he was the biggest over-slot signing in Los Angeles' Draft class. He started driving the ball once he made adjustments to his approach after two pro seasons, becoming the top power prospect in the Minors before setting a National League rookie record with 39 homers in 2017.

5. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Rays
Fifth-round (Pirates), 2011 (California HS)

Rank at time of callup: No. 8

Glasnow fit the mold of projectable prep pitchers the Pirates targeted for much of this decade and received a well-over-slot bonus to give up a scholarship to Portland. He quickly blossomed into one of the game's best pitching prospects after dominating in the Minors (2.01 ERA, .173 opponent average, 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings) but struggled to throw strikes in multiple stints in Pittsburgh beginning in 2016. The Bucs banished him to their bullpen in 2018, then regrettably packaged him, Austin Meadows (see below) and pitching prospect Shane Baz to get Chris Archer from Tampa Bay that July.

6. Mookie Betts, OF, Dodgers
Fifth-round pick (Red Sox), 2011 (Tennessee HS)

Rank at time of callup: Red Sox No. 5

The industry consensus on Betts as a high schooler was that he was a good athlete who was undersized and possessed solid but not plus tools, and he also came with some signability concerns. He lasted 172 picks in the 2011 Draft -- going 20 selections after Glasnow -- and didn't hit his first pro home run or reach full-season ball until 2013. Then he raced to Boston by June 2014 and soon rivaled Mike Trout as the best all-around player in baseball.

7. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
First-round, 2015 (No. 24, Vanderbilt)
Rank at time of callup: No. 12

Buehler was in the running to become the first pitcher drafted in 2015, but elbow issues hurt his performance at Vanderbilt as well as his stock and eventually required Tommy John surgery after he slid to Los Angeles with the 24th overall choice. When he returned at the end of 2016, he had added 4-5 mph to his pitches without losing his ability to locate them, and he has thrived ever since. After a bullpen cameo in 2017, he was the Dodgers' best starter as a rookie the next year.

8. Blake Snell, LHP, Rays
Supplemental first-round, 2011 (Washington HS)
Rank at time of callup: No. 12

Tampa Bay had a record 10 picks before the second round of the loaded 2011 Draft but turned them into just four big leaguers, only one of whom qualifies as better than marginal. Home schooled until his senior year of high school, Snell was a projectable left-hander whom most clubs saw as more of a third- to fifth-rounder. His stuff improved as hoped but there were questions about whether he'd throw enough strikes to remain a starter until 2015, when he opened the year with 49 straight scoreless innings and led the Minors with a 1.41 ERA. He made his big league debut in 2016 and won the Cy Young Award in his first full season in the Majors in 2018.

9. Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers
11th-round, 2010 (California HS)
Rank at time of callup: No. 13

Los Angeles gave Pederson the second-highest bonus in its 2010 Draft to lure him away from playing baseball and walking on as a wide receiver in football at Southern California. Like Bellinger, he took a while to grow into his power before logging a 30-30 season in 2014 while winning Triple-A Pacific Coast League MVP honors and breaking in with the Dodgers.

10. Mike Zunino, C, Rays
First-round pick (Mariners), 2012 (No. 3, Florida)
Rank at time of callup: Mariners No. 3

Zunino was a candidate to go No. 1 overall in 2012, when he won the Golden Spikes Award as the top amateur player in the nation, and went third, the only catcher to go that high in 12 Drafts from 2006-17. The first position player from his class to reach the Majors, he opened 2013 in Triple-A and joined the Mariners that June. He hasn't become a star but has produced consistent power and solid defense.

11. Willy Adames, SS, Rays
International free agent (Tigers), 2012 (Dominican Republic)
Rank at time of callup: No. 22

The most expensive signing in the Tigers' 2012 international class, Adames earned a rare assignment for an 18-year-old making his U.S. debut when he headed to low Class A in 2014. He quickly asserted himself as Detroit's best prospect that spring and went to the Rays as the key to the three-team David Price trade that July. He developed into a more powerful hitter and better defender than originally projected, taking over as Tampa Bay's shortstop midway through 2018 at age 22.

12. Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers
Third-round, 2016 (Texas HS)
Rank at time of callup: No. 35

Los Angeles' 2016 Draft was one of this decade's best, already having produced eight big leaguers, including potential cornerstones in first-rounders Gavin Lux (who'd rank second on this list if he had made the World Series roster) and Will Smith (see below), May and ninth-rounder Gonsolin. A late bloomer in high school who impressed with his projectable 6-foot-6 frame and high spin rates, May proved more advanced than expected and rode his turbo sinker and electric cutter to the Majors by August 2019 at age 21.

13. Manuel Margot, OF, Rays
International free agent (Red Sox), 2011 (Dominican Republic)
Rank at time of callup: Padres No. 2

One of the top athletes on the 2011 international amateur market, Margot rose quickly through the Red Sox system, getting to high Class A at age 19 in 2014 and opening the next season without striking out in his first 62 at-bats. He was the headline prospect in the four-player package sent to the Padres for Craig Kimbrel after the 2015 season and debuted in San Diego in September 2016. Though he showcased three plus tools (hitting ability, speed, defense) in the Minors, they haven't played that way at the big leagues.

14. Austin Meadows, OF, Rays
First-round (Pirates), 2013 (No. 9, Georgia HS)
Rank at time of callup: No. 42

When the Pirates failed to sign Mark Appel as the No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, they received the No. 9 choice in 2013 as compensation and turned that into Meadows. He was productive but repeatedly hampered by hamstring injuries in the Minors, never hitting more than 12 homers in a season. He finally arrived in Pittsburgh in May 2018, only to get included in the ill-fated Archer deal two months later, then broke out with 33 homers in his first full big league season in 2019.

15. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Rays
First-round (Padres), 2013 (No. 13, Mississippi State)
Rank at time of callup: No.39

After homering just four times in his first two college seasons, Renfroe tied for the Southeastern Conference lead with 16 and carried Mississippi State to the College World Series finals in 2013. He hit for power everywhere he went in the Minors, winning Pacific Coast League MVP honors and tying for the Triple-A circuit's home run lead with 30 in 2016. He went deep four times after a late September callup before belting a Padres rookie-record 26 homers in 2017.

16. Will Smith, C, Dodgers
First-round, 2016 (No. 32, Louisville)
Rank at time of callup: Dodgers No. 5

The first catcher taken in the first round by the Dodgers since Paul Konerko in 1993, Smith was one of four Atlantic Coast Conference backstops selected in the top 43 picks of the 2016 Draft. He immediately stood out with his defense in pro ball but was inconsistent at the plate as he learned to tap into his power, then posted a .984 OPS with 20 homers in 62 Triple-A games in 2019 and tied a big league record with 12 homers in his first 28 contests.

17. Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Dodgers
International free agent (Twins), 2014 (Venezuela)
Rank at time of callup: No. 54

Graterol didn't generate much early hype, landing the seventh-largest bonus in the Twins' 2014 international class and having Tommy John surgery in 2016 before making his U.S. debut a year later. He broke out as one of the hardest-throwing starters in the Minors in 2018 and overcame shoulder problems to earn a September callup and a spot on Minnesota's playoff roster in 2019. Originally headed to the Red Sox as part of a three-team Mookie Betts trade in February, he instead joined Betts in Los Angeles and provided immediate impact in the bullpen.

18. Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays
First-round, 2018 (No. 31, South Florida)
Rank at time of callup: No. 99

McClanahan had the best college fastball (up to 100 mph) in the 2018 class and ranked second in NCAA Division I strikeout rate (14.2 per nine innings) that spring, but he lasted longer than expected in the Draft and Tampa Bay grabbed him with the second of its three first-round choices. He improved his command while advancing three levels during his first full pro season in 2019 before making history this October as the first pitcher ever to make his big league debut in the postseason.

19. Jake McGee, LHP, Dodgers
Fifth-round (Rays), 2004 (Nevada HS)
Rank at time of callup: Unranked

A live-armed lefty who required a lot of polish when the Rays made him a fifth-round pick out of high school, McGee developed nicely and ranked as MLB.com's No. 20 prospect entering 2008. He blew out his elbow that June, however, and had Tommy John surgery a month later. Tampa Bay moved him to the bullpen when he got to Triple-A in August 2010, and he launched a long run as one of the Majors' better southpaw relievers a month later.

20. Brett Phillips, OF, Rays
Sixth-round pick (Astros), 2012 (Florida HS)
Rank at time of callup: Unranked

After spending most of his first two seasons as a pro in Rookie ball, Phillips asserted himself at two Class A levels in 2014 and 2015 before going to the Brewers in a package for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers. He ranked as high as No. 32 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 entering 2016, but dropped off the list after a rough season in Double-A. He made his big league debut the following May and has bounced to the Royals and Rays and between Triple-A and the Majors since then.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.