MLB Pipeline just ranked baseball’s Top 100 prospects. That’s a lot of prospects. Of course, we could have done a lot more because the game is so loaded.
We’ve broken down the Top 100 in a number of ways, including by best tools and by most loaded farm systems. But what about those who just missed the Top 100 mark? We could have easily added 25-50 names who received Top 100 consideration from ourselves and evaluators across the game. For now, here are 10 notable names on the outside looking in to begin 2022:
Aaron Ashby, LHP, Brewers
Your view of Ashby’s Top 100 chances depend on how you see his future role. His supporters point to three above-average pitches in his fastball, slider and changeup -- each of which already gets MLB whiffs -- and say he could move back to starting for Milwaukee. The mid-90s fastball and biting slider, in particular, make him one of the best left-handed pitching prospects going right now. His detractors would argue that command concerns are going to keep him coming out of the bullpen, as he did for part of last summer (including the postseason) with the Brewers. One thing’s for sure, he’s Major League-ready now, and he’s likely to graduate before we get a definitive answer on his future status.
Sam Bachman, RHP, Angels
The Halos seem to have struck gold with 2020 10th overall pick and No. 21 overall prospect Reid Detmers. They grabbed Bachman one selection earlier last July and have similar high hopes for the 6-foot-1 right-hander out of Miami (Ohio). Bachman sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and can touch triple-digits. His mid-80s slider is another possible plus-plus pitch, while the changeup shows potential to be above-average. We’re holding off on a Top 100 spot for now because his size and short arm action heighten his reliever risk in the pro ranks, but if he takes off as Detmers did -- and Bachman has notably already seen High-A -- he could easily move onto the list in his first full season.
Jordan Balazovic, RHP, Twins
The 2016 fifth-rounder out of Ontario has been in and out of the Top 100 since his breakout 2019 season, and with a mid-90s fastball, above-average slider and improved split-finger changeup, there’s a good argument he should still be in. An early shoulder issue limited him to 97 innings with Double-A Wichita in 2021, and it was notable that his strikeout rate dropped from 33.9 percent in 2019 to 23.8 once he reached the upper levels for the first time. Balazovic is 23 and headed to Triple-A for the first time. Consistent success and a few more whiffs there could get him into the Top 100, if not the Minnesota rotation first.
Curtis Mead, 3B/1B, Rays
A year ago, the Australia native, who was acquired in a minor November 2019 deal with the Phillies, appeared to be far down the depth chart of a loaded Rays system. Now, he’s one of its most prominent talents and arguably one of the best hitting infield prospects in all of baseball. Mead hit .321/.378/.533 with 55 extra-base hits in 104 games across three levels last season and looked much the same hitter as one of the youngest participants in the Arizona Fall League. Batting out of an upright stance with good bat control, Mead already makes good contact, and he should hit for more power as his doubles turn to homers with added experience. His defensive home remains in question. An average-at-best arm and range are tested at third base, and he saw significant time at first as well. The Rays may move him to second in time, or he could become the organization’s latest Swiss army knife. If Mead keeps hitting like this, everyone will be paying attention to his bat anyways in 2022 and beyond.
Ryne Nelson, RHP, D-backs
Arizona had several near-Top-100 candidates, including Drey Jameson and Geraldo Perdomo. We’ll focus on Nelson here for his mid-to-upper-90s fastball, above-average slider and curveball and promising control. To boot, he struck out 163 batters over 116 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A last season, and his 34.7 percent K rate was fourth-best among Minor Leaguers with at least 100 frames. Some early inconsistency with control at Double-A Amarillo is a cause for concern, though Nelson looked like he ironed that out as his first dip into the upper Minors progressed. The hitter’s haven that is Triple-A Reno will provide his next challenge.
Cristian Pache, OF, Athletics
Pache crashed out of the Top 100 from the No. 38 to a spot on this list. The 23-year-old remains one of the most defensively gifted center fielders in the Minors, earning 70-80 grades on his glove, arm and speed tools. His range and cannon would aide any Major League team right now. However, evaluators are beginning to question if Pache will ever hit enough to earn an everyday spot. He was overmatched in the Majors (7-for-63, 25 strikeouts) and was just average with the bat at Triple-A (.265/.330/.414, 100 wRC+). Also for a player with plus-plus speed, he isn’t much of a stolen-base threat, having gone just 9-for-16 in theft attempts with Gwinnett. Pache’s defensive gifts give him a tremendous floor, but leaving him off the Top 100 (for now) reflects the decreasing likelihood he’ll reach his once considerable ceiling.
Jeremy Peña, SS/2B, Astros
If not for an injured left wrist suffered in spring 2021, there’s a much better chance Peña would have cracked our version of the Top 100. As it stands, the 2018 third-rounder is known as a gifted defender up the middle, so much so that he could be Houston’s heir apparent to Carlos Correa at the six. Long-term questions about the bat drive our concerns, and 133 plate appearances at Triple-A weren’t quite enough to allay them. Adding strength since his days at the University of Maine has aided Peña's ability to impact the ball, as he showed with a .579 slugging percentage in his brief turn with Sugar Land in 2021. If that power carries into a larger sample in 2022, expect Peña to slide into the Top 100 and stay there until he graduates.
Drew Romo, C, Rockies
This might be the deepest group of catching prospects in recent memory. Twelve of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 make their livings behind the plate. Romo is quite close to making it a baker’s dozen. The 2020 35th overall pick is a no-doubt-plus defender behind the dish, earning strong reviews for his receiving, blocking and strong arm. He’s quicker and more athletic than your typical backstop and took advantage of Low-A rules to swipe 23 bases last season, second-most among Minor League catchers and accomplished in only 79 games. The switch-hitter makes a healthy amount of contact, leading to a .314 average with Fresno in 2021, so while he may not project for more than average power, he could hold his own offensively as well. There were questions about the 20-year-old’s bat coming out of the Texas prep ranks, and the more he proves he can hold his own at the plate, the more Top 100 attention he’ll command.
Jordan Westburg, SS/3B, Orioles
Baltimore already claims five Top 100 prospects, and it isn’t far from adding a sixth. The 2020 30th overall pick out of Mississippi State impressed in his first full season, hitting .285/.389/.479 with 15 homers and 17 steals over 112 games across three levels. He topped out at Double-A Bowie, no small feat for a player seeing the pros for the first time, and made loud contact almost everywhere he went. Though most of his starts came at shortstop, he projects more as a third baseman, where his above-average arm should play fine. There aren’t any 60s on Westburg’s scouting report, but there are ample enough 55s to project him being a regular infield contributor at some point.
Brandon Williamson, LHP, Reds
A 6-foot-6 left-hander with 153 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings? Yeah, that will get our attention. The 2019 second-rounder out of TCU had his first full season delayed due to the pandemic and made up for the lost time rather well at High-A and Double-A last season. He possesses a full four-pitch mix, highlighted by a plus fastball and above-average curve, and he threw a good number of strikes, especially for someone his size.