Farm Futures: The Top 400 Update

Farm Futures: The Top 400 Update

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

This has been a crazy offseason for prospect analysis, as I'm focusing in on reports and rumors from the fall instructional league -- a league I rarely referenced in past years -- and searching for players on Instagram to keep tabs on their swings and physiques. I think we're going to see some crazy shifts in prospect value over the first couple months of the minor-league season, as it will become clear that many players are completely different, for better or worse. 

I hope you are all enjoying last week's updated Top 400 prospect rankings. These took a ton of time and research and I was even fortunate enough to battle-test them in a high-stakes dynasty startup (that I'll be writing about next week) and multiple mock drafts that were put on by my friend Chris Welsh of In This League (I'll be on Welsh's podcast later this week). 

I wanted to take the time to go through and hit on some of the players I've been asked about and further explain my reasoning/process where I think it's most interesting. Don't hesitate to ask me questions in the comments or on Twitter (DMs open).

Contenders For The No. 1 Spot

This is not a year where there's an unquestioned No. 1 overall prospect, in part because most of the very best prospects aren't big-league ready. Here are the five contenders for the No. 1 overall spot and what they bring to the table:

1. Wander Franco: Franco still

This has been a crazy offseason for prospect analysis, as I'm focusing in on reports and rumors from the fall instructional league -- a league I rarely referenced in past years -- and searching for players on Instagram to keep tabs on their swings and physiques. I think we're going to see some crazy shifts in prospect value over the first couple months of the minor-league season, as it will become clear that many players are completely different, for better or worse. 

I hope you are all enjoying last week's updated Top 400 prospect rankings. These took a ton of time and research and I was even fortunate enough to battle-test them in a high-stakes dynasty startup (that I'll be writing about next week) and multiple mock drafts that were put on by my friend Chris Welsh of In This League (I'll be on Welsh's podcast later this week). 

I wanted to take the time to go through and hit on some of the players I've been asked about and further explain my reasoning/process where I think it's most interesting. Don't hesitate to ask me questions in the comments or on Twitter (DMs open).

Contenders For The No. 1 Spot

This is not a year where there's an unquestioned No. 1 overall prospect, in part because most of the very best prospects aren't big-league ready. Here are the five contenders for the No. 1 overall spot and what they bring to the table:

1. Wander Franco: Franco still has the best hit tool in the minors and could debut in 2021 as a 20-year-old. He won't be a 30-steal guy in the majors but should reliably steal double-digit bases during his prime seasons. My friends at Prospects Live have done a great job breaking down why Franco's swing isn't currently geared for 30-homer power. It's a similar situation to what we saw from Vladimir Guerrero in 2019 and 2020. I wouldn't pound the table for Franco at No. 1, but I'm comfortable betting on him making the necessary adjustments in the coming years.

2. Julio Rodriguez: Of all the players in the minors, J-Rod has my favorite combination of future hit and future power. I think he will hit .300 with 35 home runs during his prime seasons. I also think he can sneakily chip in 10-15 steals per year in his first few seasons. It's roughly a 50/50 proposition that he debuts in his age-20 season. If Rodriguez had the same ETA as his teammate, Jarred Kelenic, he'd be my No. 1 prospect.

3. Marco Luciano: Luciano has the best game-power projection in the minors. I think he will be a 40-homer shortstop at least once or twice — a lot needs to go right for most guys to hit 40 homers, but he's certainly got that type of power in there. He will contribute the fewest steals of these five prospects, and while I think he'll be an OBP stud, where his hit tool settles is TBD. We're probably looking at an early-2022 debut for Luciano if everything goes perfectly for him in 2021, but if he gets hurt or struggles at a level, a 2022 debut isn't guaranteed.

4. Jarred Kelenic: The most big-league ready of this quintet, Kelenic is the only one of these guys who I'd be willing to draft in a 15-team re-draft league. That's certainly a legitimate mark in his favor. I think he'll be a very good fantasy outfielder during his prime, but I'm less confident in him being elite at any one thing than I am with these other guys. Michael Conforto with 10-15 steals or THE BAT X's Dansby Swanson projection (.268/26/92/86/12) are in play as realistic low-end outcomes. He could hit .285, he could hit 35 homers, he could steal 18 bases — he could do all three of those things in the same season — I'm just not confident in how it will all unfold. While acknowledging his ceiling is very high, I think he has the lowest ceiling of these five. 

5. CJ Abrams: I bumped Abrams up over Spencer Torkelson and Andrew Vaughn in this last update, in part because of this tweet I got from a subscriber. Yes, if I had to pick one prospect in all of baseball who will someday be the consensus No. 1 overall pick in redraft leagues, Abrams would be my pick. Think Trea Turner without the durability issues (we don't know Abrams will be more durable, but this whole thought exercise is hypothetical). Now, Abrams has a long way to go to get there — he is on a similar timetable as Luciano — and without Luciano's established power and walk rates, I'd still like to see Abrams show he can rake at High-A or Double-A before putting him in the No. 1 spot. That said, if someone told me they thought Abrams should already be at No. 1, I would totally get the case.

Valuing Pitching Prospects

I have learned a lot in my years ranking prospects for dynasty leagues, and I still have a lot to learn. There were years when I had a pitching prospect ranked in my top five or two pitching prospects ranked in my top 10. However, as I continue to get better at this, I've become more confident in my evaluations and more willing to diverge from the groupthink that's out there. It's not that pitching prospects are terrible and should be avoided at every turn, it's just that they shouldn't be ranked alongside the very best hitting prospects. All analysts know that hitting prospects are safer than pitching prospects, but we can trick ourselves into thinking the best pitching prospect is significantly safer than the 10th-best hitting prospect. There is no such thing as a pitching prospect who is "different" or "special". They're all pitchers, they're all extremely risky from a health standpoint, and they're riskier than we'd care to admit from a performance standpoint. A good exercise if you like making your own lists is to look at the prospect pool and list as many hitters as you can that you could make a case for over your favorite pitching prospect. Those hitters are the guys you should covet in a startup draft or in rebuilding trades. I might not always have 20-plus hitters ranked ahead of my top pitching prospect, as I do now, but I certainly don't envision having a pitcher ranked in my top 10 anytime soon. 

As I mentioned, you shouldn't avoid all pitching prospects at cost. It's about knowing where the value is. In that aforementioned startup draft, I walked away with 14 pitching prospects in a 59-round draft. Simeon Woods Richardson was the first pitching prospect I took with the 290th overall pick (he was the 20th pitching prospect off the board). There are dozens of pitching prospects I really like, and the beauty of pitching prospects is that there is no consensus. In a startup draft or first-year player draft, you can gobble up pitchers you really like while other managers are going after low-probability hitting prospects with uninspiring ceilings. Good pitching prospects also pop-up in season with more regularity than their hitting counterparts, and you shouldn't avoid snatching them up just because they're pitchers. At the same time, when you're trading in a dynasty league, you should be willing to trade any of your pitching prospects at any time if it's a deal that makes your team better. I advised many people to trade guys like MacKenzie Gore and Nate Pearson last offseason, not because I didn't think they were good, but because it seemed like a potential high point in their dynasty values. When I traded for Mookie Betts in P365XDL, the deal was going to be centered around Wander Franco and the other manager mentioned Nick Lodolo as a prospect he liked on my roster. I was pretty high on Lodolo at the time, but I wasn't going to think twice about including him as a throw-in in that type of a trade to make sure I got my guy.

The Myth About Safe Prospects

One thing I notice when advising people in prospect trades is that non-elite prospects regularly get overvalued. I think it stems from a failure to understand the value curve on a set of prospect rankings. For instance, 50 spots separate the No. 5 spot (Abrams) from the No. 55 spot (Woods Richardson) and another 50 spots separate the No. 55 spot from the No. 105 spot (Jordan Balazovic). If the rankings are viewed as linear, Woods Richardson is just as close to Abrams as he is to Balazovic, but from a valuation standpoint, Woods Richardson is MUCH, MUCH closer to Balazovic than he is to Abrams. I have them 50 spots apart, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if Balazovic had a better career than Woods Richardson, while I'd be stunned if Woods Richardson had a better career than Abrams. In fact, I'd say that outcome is nearly impossible. People understand this when it's framed this way, but too often I see people overvaluing a prospect who is in that middle of the top 100 range. There is a steep drop-off in prospect value as we move down the rankings. Barely anything separates my No. 130 prospect (Gunnar Henderson) from my No. 180 prospect (Taylor Walls), and barely anything separates my No. 250 prospect (Jeferson Espinal) from my No. 400 prospect (Jake McCarthy) or the hypothetical No. 500 prospect, for that matter. No matter who you think the No. 55 prospect is, he is not a safe prospect. He might have upside, but he could very easily fail to live up to expectations. I think you could even argue that the No. 55 prospect should be expected to underwhelm, on average. This is why trades where someone is trading the No. 35 prospect, the No. 55 prospect and the No. 70 prospect for the No. 10 prospect are terrible trades for the person getting the quantity. There are some safe prospects and there are some prospects whose upside is so staggering that they need to be ranked among those safe prospects, but there are much fewer safe prospects than most people think.

The 2019 J-2 Class

There were some surprises landing spots for some of the top players from the 2019 J-2 class in this update, both on the positive and negative side, and I wanted to fully explain why each guy is where he is.

19. Jasson Dominguez: Nothing new to report. He's really tooled up and really big, and if he has a loud pro debut this year, he'll become one of the most untouchable prospects in the minors, if he isn't already.

31. Hedbert Perez: Only resoundingly positive reports have trickled out regarding Perez. This is important. It's also important that he was at the Brewers' alternate training site and played and had success in fall instructs. There will probably be some flaws, but there aren't any to report right now. He has five-tool potential and my only worry at this stage is just how well his plus speed will age, given his 5-foot-11, 180-pound listed frame. For instance, he might not be a plus runner when he is 26.

86. Maximo Acosta: Acosta wasn't at the Rangers' alternate site and, according to Baseball America, he was clocked as a below-average runner this summer. He still gets Gleyber Torres comps, and like with Torres, Acosta's bat will need to carry the profile. We can still dream on a four-category shortstop.

87. Erick Pena: Pena has added at least 30 pounds (up to 6-foot-3, 210 pounds) since his pre-signing measurements — I'd rather a 17-year-old outfielder be the 6-foot-3, 180 pounds he used to be listed at. He no longer has a chance to stick in center field, so it will be all about his bat. Pena has the talent to hit more than enough to play in a corner, but he struck out a decent amount during instructs, so it may not be strictly smooth sailing all the way to the majors.

156. Reginald Preciado: I wasn't a huge Preciado guy when he signed since he wasn't going to add value on the bases and I didn't love his swing, but his swing looked better during fall instructs and the Cubs obviously like him enough for him to headline the Yu Darvish return. Everything here is trending up, and the gap between Acosta and Preciado (infielders with four-category potential) isn't as big as it may appear.

169. Robert Puason: Puason looks great in batting practice and doing fielding drills, but there is little to no evidence/reports to suggest his bat is ready for an aggressive minor-league assignment for his pro debut. I could see him doing a little damage in the Dominican Summer League, but I'd have much less confidence in him having success in the AZL. He has a very high ceiling, but I'm projecting growing pains at the plate. 

170. Luis Rodriguez: This is probably the most interesting case. Here is what Baseball America's Kyle Glaser said of Rodriguez in his chat about the Dodgers' system (I would strongly recommend getting a Baseball America subscription if you don't already have one):

The reports out of the DR were that he went backward this year. Grew into some strength, which is good, but his approach went way backward. Got very pull-happy trying to yank everything over the left field fence and started swinging and missing a lot. Based on what they saw, Dodgers officials are concerned. It was a weird year and they're hopeful he can get back on track under more normal circumstances in 2021, but as of right now they expressed a lot of uncertainty whether he'll be even an average hitter based on the way things trended and what they saw from him this year.

I know the Prospects Live guys have received positive reports on Rodriguez and there are other reports out there on him that I don't necessarily agree with, so this is a very murky situation, and it's really a shame we have to try to rank guys like this through guesswork and reading the tea leaves, etc... It's easy to see why the Dodgers would try to pump up one of their prospects, but I struggle to see why they'd be openly critical of one of their prospects when they are really the only ones who have that info. As pretty as Rodriguez's swing is when he connects, Glaser's report was concerning enough that I moved him way down.

The 2020 J-2 Class

The main value of this big update was showing how my rankings have shifted after I was able to do deep dives on the top 250 or so prospects when writing their outlooks for the magazine and the website. The other main aspect of this update was incorporating the international prospects who signed on Jan. 15. (I don't rank international free agents who are 25 or older when they sign, which is why Ha-seong Kim is unranked, but he is ranked on the FYPD rankings.) With these players I'm working mostly off the limited video available on Instagram and Baseball America, as well as factoring in Ben Badler's writeups on Baseball America. This is a high-variance sector of the prospect pool, but this is your chance to roster the top guys. You can pass on them in favor of high school or college players, most of whom are also very risky or lack exciting fantasy tools, but this is your chance. If they hit in their pro debut, you can pay through the nose in a trade to acquire them. If they don't hit, you won't want them anyway.

43. Wilman Diaz: He's the top guy for me, and I've grown more comfortable with the idea of him being on his own island in this class. His 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame is ideal. His bat speed is majestic, and the game comes very easy to him on both sides of the ball. He has that Ronald Acuna/Hanley Ramirez way of making it seem like he's not trying very hard while at the same time doing things very few humans have ever been able to do. His speed is TBD, but I think he can be a 10-20 steal guy as well.

68. Carlos Colmenarez: At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Colmenarez has the worst body of the elite teenagers in this class, but his left-handed swing is ridiculous. He generates so much torque that he has easy plus power to all fields and he's still just 17. You never know how a player his age is going to mature physically, but if his movements don't get compromised as he ages, he could develop into one of the best hitting infielders in baseball.

70. Cristian Hernandez: Hernandez might be the toolsiest of this trio at the top, but I like his swing the least, although that's more of a testament to how aesthetically pleasing Diaz and Colmenarez's swings are. He should hit for power and chip in double-digit steals, it's just a matter of how the hit tool develops.

78. Pedro Leon: People are rightfully skeptical of guys in Leon's age range (22) who sign after having not played professionally in a couple years, but the tape I've seen suggests he will be masher. He may need a full year in the minors to adjust to high minors pitching, or he could hit the ground running and reach the majors this year — that's all up in the air — but I think the Astros knew what they were doing with this one.

135. Pedro Pineda: Pineda is super tooled up, but there are questions about how much he will hit. If he does well this summer, he could be in the top 100 by year's end.

146. Manuel Beltre: Beltre probably has the most rock solid hit tool from this class. I'm not sure how much power he'll hit for or what type of a runner he will be when he's big-league ready, but I'm confident he will hit, which is obviously a huge part of the equation.

Maikol Hernandez, Daniel Vazquez, Ambioris Tavarez and Denzer Guzman lead a pack of talented guys from this class who are just outside the top 200. 

Rays Prospects

I moved Vidal Brujan (93), Xavier Edwards (174) and Greg Jones (175) down and moved Taylor Walls (180) up on this update. If any of the four got traded, they'd move up. There's simply a math problem here. The Rays have too many players for too few spots. This will result in players getting platooned who deserve to play every day and it will result in players getting very short auditions to take on a bigger role. Part of the problem is that, with all this depth, no player's job is safe from year to year. Austin Meadows wasn't guaranteed everyday at-bats going into last season, and Randy Arozarena isn't guaranteed everyday at-bats this season. Brandon Lowe needed to be one of the 10 best hitters in the American League to eventually wrangle everyday at-bats. 

Carlos Colmenarez is ranked ahead of Brujan/Edwards/Jones/Walls because he has All-Star upside and could be a top-20 prospect in a year or two. Josh Lowe is ranked ahead of them because he has 25/25 upside and is big-league ready. Heriberto Hernandez is ranked ahead of most of these guys because he could be the team's cleanup hitter in three years. The super-utility, up-the-middle types are the ones whose value and playing time is so tough to peg from year to year.

Young Hitters To Target Outside The Top 100

Here are the outlooks I wrote on some of my favorite young hitters to target outside the Top 100:

Rece Hinds: Hinds, the No. 49 overall pick in 2019, has played just three official games in pro ball, but he impressed evaluators during the fall instructional league, so his dynasty stock is trending up. A quad injury limited the 6-foot-4 third baseman after he was drafted out of high school, but he was invited to the Reds' alternate training site before having a mini coming out party at instructs. Hinds has massive raw power and should be highly regarded by anyone who values max exit velocity (117 mph at instructs), but his surprisingly adequate hit tool is what really upped his stock. Strikeouts will always be a part of his game, but if he can keep his strikeout rate in the 25-30 percent range, he would have 40-homer upside in the majors. Hinds is big, yet athletic, and his cannon of an arm would profile just fine in right field if he has to move off of third base. He should head to Low-A for his age-20 season.

Gilberto Jimenez: A switch-hitting center fielder with 70-grade speed and good contact skill, Jimenez is pretty tooled up, but groundball rates north of 60% in 2018 and 2019 made it hard to fully buy into him becoming an impact big leaguer. He has added muscle and worked on tapping into some power during the fall instructional league. His hand-eye coordination is lauded, as he only picked up switch hitting a couple years ago, and he has a chance to be a plus defender in center field thanks to a plus arm to go with his wheels. A realistic ceiling seems to be something along the lines of a switch-hitting Lorenzo Cain, but he is still just 20 and hasn't played full-season ball, so it's too early to feel confident about where his batting average and power will end up against advanced pitchers. Even with the uncertain offensive profile, his speed gives him a high ceiling in fantasy. He will shoot up lists if he hits at Low-A.

Gunnar Henderson: By all accounts, Henderson was the most pleasant surprise this past summer at the Orioles' alternate training site and in the fall instructional league. A 6-foot-3, 195-pound shortstop who bats left-handed, Henderson was selected out of high school with the No. 42 overall pick in 2019 and held his own (103 wRC+) in the Gulf Coast League after signing. There were some mechanical adjustments made last year to Henderson's lower half that allowed him to have success over the summer as the youngest player at the alternate site. He is only an average runner and could slow down before he reaches the majors, so the hope is that he will hit for average and power to make up for the fact that he won't be a major source of stolen bases. He will likely head to Low-A, and if he is as good as advertised, he could get a bump to High-A before his 20th birthday in late June.

Wilderd Patino: Patino is the big sleeper in an organization loaded with quality outfield prospects. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound center fielder is at least a plus runner and his raw tools give him a chance to be a five-tool player, but that outcome is still all about projection. He received just under $1 million when he signed out of Venezuela in 2017 and showed well in 2019, playing primarily as a newly turned 18-year-old in the AZL. Despite his success, it was clear that he would need to overhaul his swing to tap into his raw power, and it sounds like that happened during the shutdown period, with him showing more pop in the fall instructional league. Given his age, relatively high strikeout rates, and lack of data from 2020, Patino is still incredibly risky, but he has the tools to climb well inside the top 100 prospects if he puts everything together.

Keoni Cavaco: For those searching for a hitting prospect with a very high fantasy ceiling and an affordable acquisition cost, Cavaco should be one of the first considerations. While he was a pop-up prospect as a senior in high school, the Twins selected him with the No. 13 overall pick in 2019, so he is not an unknown, he just struggled mightily in his brief pro debut in the Gulf Coast League (.172 AVG, 38.0 K% in 92 PA). It was a big jump in competition, as he had not been on the showcase circuit as an amateur. However, he remains an elite athlete and a swing adjustment led to a mini breakout during the fall instructional league. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound shortstop has plus raw power and plus speed and won't turn 20 until June, so there is plenty of time for him to flip the script. Batting average figures to be his worst fantasy category, but he has the tools to go 30/20, which few prospects can claim.

Benyamin Bailey: Ideally it would have happened several months earlier, but Bailey made his stateside debut during the fall instructional league and was one of the most impressive White Sox prospects on the circuit. The Panamanian corner outfielder is known in dynasty leagues at this point for the offensive onslaught he put forth (166 wRC+) in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, so it is encouraging to see that he is still trending in the right direction, albeit without any statistical confirmation. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, the 19-year-old's body could trend in the wrong direction, or he could put in the necessary work to stay in the outfield mix -- right now he is the same size as Kyle Lewis. His ability to walk more than he struck out in the DSL and hold his own against much more advanced pitchers during instructs suggests he could hit for average and get on base at strong clips to go with at least plus power.

Jonatan Clase: Clase had an impressive pro debut as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, hitting .300/.434/.444 (147 wRC+) with two home runs and 31 steals (on 41 attempts) in 63 games. He was dealing with an undisclosed injury during most of the fall instructional league in 2020, but the Mariners say he was able to hit and that his hit tool and power appear to be real. That power is a new and important development. Clase, who was listed at 5-foot-8, 150 pounds when he signed in 2018, was listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds at instructs. He is the fastest player in Seattle's farm system (at least a plus runner), and now it seems that Clase is has a chance to be a five-category fantasy contributor. Since we're still awaiting his official stateside debut, it's hard to say exactly where his offensive skills are now, but he has the physical tools to jump 100 spots on the prospect rankings this season.

Yasel Antuna: When Antuna and Luis Garcia headlined the Nationals' 2016 J-2 international signing class, Antuna was seen as the hitter with a higher offensive ceiling. That is still the case, despite the fact Garcia debuted in his age-20 season and Antuna has yet to play above Low-A. Injuries, specifically Tommy John surgery in 2018, have interfered with his development. However, 2020 was something of a coming out party for the switch-hitting infielder, as he was the team's most impressive hitter at the alternate training site and in the fall instructional league. Being the top hitting prospect in a very weak and pitching-heavy Nationals farm system is hardly a major feat, but he was added to the 40-man roster and clearly figures into the team's long-term plans. He has plus power to all fields and a smooth swing. His defense is less advanced, but second base and third base are possibilities.

Luis Toribio: He is too far away from the majors for this to be a forgone conclusion, but Toribio is as good a bet as anyone to be the Giants' third baseman of the future. He raked in two rookie leagues and continued to make a positive impression this past summer at the alternate training site and in the fall instructional league. The 6-foot-1 Toribio's .209 ISO in the Dominican Summer League and .162 ISO in the AZL were solid marks, but the Giants believe there is another level of his power to unlock, which was his primary offensive focus in 2020. He is already lauded for his ability to work the count and draw walks, logging a BB% of at least 15% at every stop thus far. A rare third baseman who bats left-handed, Toribio has enough arm for the hot corner and his bat should profile there as well. He should head to Low-A for his age-20 season and could see High-A before the end of the year.

Angel Martinez: The top data point for Martinez is still the impressive 56-game run he had in the Dominican Summer League in 2019. However, reports from the fall instructional league were positive and it seems like this could be a prospect with few flaws. The switch-hitting shortstop walked as much as he struck out in the DSL, showing a strong hit tool and plus speed on the bases. He is well built and athletic, so he won't get the bat knocked out of his hands in the upper levels, yet his speed should age well. We have yet to see the 6-foot Martinez tap into notable over-the-fence power, but he could start showing double-digit homer pop by the time he gets to Double-A or Triple-A. If everything breaks right, Martinez could play every day up the middle while batting first or second in Cleveland's lineup. He is three-plus years away from the majors.

Jeremy De La Rosa: One of the nice things about being a good prospect in an organization with a terrible farm system is that you get more national attention and more opportunities within the organization than you might in another org. De La Rosa, one of Washington's top international signees in 2018, got such an opportunity last summer, as he was invited to the alternate training site despite having never played above the Gulf Coast League -- he was aggressively assigned to the GCL for his pro debut in 2019 and was better than league average (108 wRC+). He showcased impressive power to all fields while at the alternate training site, and power figures to be his top tool as he moves up the ladder. He is also a great athlete with above-average speed, so there is a lot to like here in dynasty leagues. De La Rosa, 19, has been given challenging assignments at every turn, and has yet to fall flat. He should head to Low-A in 2021.

My Favorite Cheap Pitching Prospects

Matthew Allan is no longer cheap, but he is awesome and I don't hate the idea of buying high on him prior to his 2021 season. The same can be said of Chris Rodriguez, Ryan Weathers, Alek Manoah, Cade Cavalli and Slade Cecconi. However, here are some pitching prospects I like that you can probably still acquire for free or without giving up a ton:

Trevor Rogers: Rogers' 6.11 ERA wasn't pretty, but he still shot up prospect lists thanks to increased fastball velocity and an improved slider that helped lead to a 30.0 K%. He used to sit 90-93 mph with his high-spin four-seamer, but it averaged 94 mph while touching 96 mph last season. Rogers' slider improved from below-average to average, and his changeup, which drops off the table, has all the traits of a future plus offering. The 6-foot-6 southpaw's 3.49 xERA and 3.67 xFIP portend better results with normal luck, but he can also improve skills wise. His 10.0 BB% was the highest mark of his career, which is understandable for a 22-year-old jumping over Triple-A completely. He should be able to improve his command and control going forward. Despite being a first-round pick in 2017, Rogers doesn't come with a ton of prospect hype, and his bloated 2020 ERA allows for him to be available in the mixed-league end game.

Adam Kloffenstein: Most top prospects spent the summer at alternate training sites, but Kloffenstein took a road less traveled. He played indy ball in a four-team league in Texas -- the continent's highest level of organized baseball outside of MLB in 2020. At 19, he was the youngest player in the league by four years, often facing Triple-A and Quad-A hitters. His pitching coach was none other than the league's founder, Roger Clemens. He was limited to three-inning stints and logged almost a strikeout per inning while firing scoreless outings in five of his last eight appearances. Perhaps most importantly, Kloffenstein's five-pitch mix is now headlined by a four-seamer that touches 99 mph and a sinker that touches 97. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound righty's slider is a third plus pitch, and he's working on getting his curveball and changeup there as well. Harnessing his command will be his top priority in his full-season debut.

Tanner Houck: Few prospects covered more developmental ground at their team's alternate training site than Houck, who cleaned up his crossfire delivery to the point that he may be able to stick in the rotation. His gains were rewarded with a three-start run to close the year, during which he dominated the Braves, Yankees and Marlins. He utilizes a four-seamer and a sinking two-seamer, both of which sit in the low-90s and touch 95 mph. Houck threw his wipeout mid-80s slider 94 times (35% usage), recording 10 strikeouts with the pitch while surrendering zero hits. Houck's fastball/slider combo is effective enough that he might be able to get by without a viable third pitch, but the development of his splitter would go a long way toward him sticking in Boston's rotation for years to come. He should get a pretty long leash in 2021, given the Red Sox's lack of rotation depth.

Antoine Kelly: Of all the prospects at the Brewers' alternate training site, Kelly may have taken the biggest leap forward this past summer. He was selected in the second round of the 2019 draft out of a junior college because he is 6-foot-6, left-handed, athletic, and armed with a mid-90s fastball (touches 98). Those traits alone allowed him to have success in the AZL after signing. However, this past summer was when he developed a slider and changeup, using new-age developmental tools. Once he developed those offerings on the side, he began missing bats with them right away at the alternate site. This year will pose a new challenge, as he will look to put his new pitches to work in the upper levels of the minors against hitters from other organizations, all while building up his workload. Kelly remains quite risky, but he has the tools to establish himself as one of the game's best lefty pitching prospects this season.

Seth Johnson: Johnson is following a similar path to Dodgers top pitching prospect Josiah Gray. Both were amateur shortstops who moved to the mound in effort to advance their baseball careers. Johnson, whom the Rays selected with the No. 40 overall pick in 2019, had a low-to-mid-90s fastball with late life when he was drafted, and he was touching 99 mph during the fall instructional league. Like Gray, he seems to be making exponential improvements as he gets further removed from being a position player. Johnson's slider is a second plus pitch and he has shown more feel for a changeup than the typical conversion project. The 6-foot-1 righty has an athletic delivery and projects for at least average command and control. He should spend his age-22 season at High-A with a chance to see Double-A if he impresses.

Alexander Vizcaino: Vizcaino is a good breaking ball away from being a top-100 prospect. The 6-foot-1, 172-pound righty has the best changeup in the Yankees' farm system and one of the best in the entire minors. He also boasts a mid-90s fastball that can touch 98 mph. He reached High-A in 2019 and got the invite to the alternate training site this past summer, where the main focus was the development of his slider. In many ways Vizcaino is not too dissimilar to the prospect version of Luis Castillo. After all, Castillo was never ranked as a top-100 prospect due to the fact he was seen as a two-pitch guy. The Yankees think Vizcaino's slider has improved to become a 50-grade pitch, and if that is the case, he should have immediate success at Double-A. A good athlete, the expectation is that Vizcaino will throw enough strikes to start. He turns 24 in May and is on the 40-man roster, so he could move quickly.

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James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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