Top 400 MLB Prospect Rankings Update

Top 400 MLB Prospect Rankings Update

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

For the past six weeks or so, I've been working almost exclusively on analyzing the 2022 draft class and working on fully overhauling the MLB top 400 prospects. That massive update went live Wednesday (July 27), and the team top 20s will be updated by the end of the day Friday (July 29). I will also be updating those team top 20s in real time on trade deadline day (Aug. 2). My hope is to have the dynasty rankings updated by the end of next week.

As will be the case on the final Thursday of every month, I'll be posting a written version of the Wednesday mailbag episode of the podcast.

You can listen to the RotoWire Prospect Podcast or subscribe on your podcast app by searching "RotoWire Prospect Podcast".

Mike Sheets: Even with his gaudy counting numbers, what's the level of concern that Elly De La Cruz is still striking out more than 30% of the time this season between High- and Double-A?

Yeah, with Elly, he'd be a top-five prospect and maybe a top-three prospect without the strikeout concerns, so those are factored in. If you want to sell high on De La Cruz, that's the safe play, but I don't think his current strikeout rate eliminates the possibility that he could be a first-round pick in redraft at peak. So much of this story has not been written yet.

Joe McHugh: Seems like more younger, further away guys than the offseason/early season list, especially at the

For the past six weeks or so, I've been working almost exclusively on analyzing the 2022 draft class and working on fully overhauling the MLB top 400 prospects. That massive update went live Wednesday (July 27), and the team top 20s will be updated by the end of the day Friday (July 29). I will also be updating those team top 20s in real time on trade deadline day (Aug. 2). My hope is to have the dynasty rankings updated by the end of next week.

As will be the case on the final Thursday of every month, I'll be posting a written version of the Wednesday mailbag episode of the podcast.

You can listen to the RotoWire Prospect Podcast or subscribe on your podcast app by searching "RotoWire Prospect Podcast".

Mike Sheets: Even with his gaudy counting numbers, what's the level of concern that Elly De La Cruz is still striking out more than 30% of the time this season between High- and Double-A?

Yeah, with Elly, he'd be a top-five prospect and maybe a top-three prospect without the strikeout concerns, so those are factored in. If you want to sell high on De La Cruz, that's the safe play, but I don't think his current strikeout rate eliminates the possibility that he could be a first-round pick in redraft at peak. So much of this story has not been written yet.

Joe McHugh: Seems like more younger, further away guys than the offseason/early season list, especially at the top. Is this more a result of more evaluation time for those players, the draft and graduations — or a conscious shift by you looking at upside vs. proximity. 

Definitely not a conscious shift, it's just a big wave of graduations and breakouts. We entered the year with almost an unprecedented amount of guys in the top-15 or so who were expected to debut this season, so naturally, with those guys graduating and the draftees getting added, it's a much more diverse top-25 in terms of ETA. I'd rather have super close ETA guys populating the entire top 10, but that's not the nature of the prospect pool right now. These things are cyclical. Usually about half the top-10 is guys who are in the majors or will be up shortly and half are guys who are year or more away, we just happen to be a low point in terms of premium prospects who are extremely close to helping fantasy teams.

Dan: Are there specific historic examples of guys who struck out at a 30% clip in the lower levels, who improved their K rate as they aged? I'm wondering what a 28.3 K% for Jackson Chourio and a 31.2 K% for Elly De La Cruz means for their long term ceilings.

We're talking about extremes here with both of those guys. You might not necessarily find a good example of a Chourio-level K-rate at Single-A other than Giancarlo Stanton (28.3 K% as an 18-year-old in 2008), but I also can't think of another high-end prospect who went from the Dominican Summer League to Single-A, completely skipping over the other short-season levels. With levels like the Pioneer and New York-Penn League getting eliminated, it's hard to rely on past precedence for this type of thing, as it's a different playing field than it used to be.

The Elly one is more straightforward — we're talking about almost unprecedented power/speed utilization and almost unprecedented K/BB issues for a player at age-appropriate levels. It's so tough because we're weighing one extreme vs. the other. Again, selling on Elly right now makes sense to me, as I've compared his developmental floor to Estevan Florial in the past. I wouldn't fault anyone for preferring some of the guys in the 10-25 range over Elly, especially if you'd rather play things a little safe.

Gwynn Chameleon: What's the comp for Jackson Chourio and what is it exactly tools wise that you're so awed about to have him jump into the top 10?

I think it's fairly self explanatory (in my mind). His production at Single-A for someone his age is almost unmatched in recent history. Part of the reason he was such a big riser is that my previous update from about six weeks ago was very early in the Chourio breakout, so I'm basically getting caught up with everything he's done since then. Those six weeks are by far the most relevant data from his entire pro career. I don't have a good comp right now, but basically 30-plus homers, 30 steals, hopefully a .275 average or better, that type of thing.

John Vaghi: Why no big bump for Adael Amador?

I knew some would be disappointed by Amador's ranking. I just don't get an impact vibe from him when I watch him. You'll sometimes see middle infield types show really impressive command of the zone in the lower levels and then things normalize a bit more when they get to Double-A and Triple-A. He has an 11.4 percent hard-hit rate, which is terrible, and I'm not really buying him being a .160 ISO guy against advanced pitching. Plus he won't be up until 2025.

Ulysses: Who makes it to the show first in 2023, Jordan Walker or Elly De La Cruz? In regards to Walker, he's 20 until May 2023 and at Double-A, batting above .300 with an OBP of almost .400. What is your assessment on him? Maybe a comp or expectation? 

100 percent Walker. I don't even have a 2023 ETA on Elly. I don't have a great comp on Walker, but I think some people have misevaluated him. The misconception some have with Walker is that this is what his eventual power output will look like. It's not. He's at least a 30-homer guy at peak unless something goes really wrong. He also won't be a 20-steal guy — at least you shouldn't be expecting that.

Mags: Does Druw Jones' rank account for shoulder injury news, or does that even matter given his MLB debut timeline is so far away? And related to that, can you discuss the thought process that goes into ranking a prospect aggressively prior to MiLB debut?

Yes, I initially had Jones eighth in between Chourio and De La Cruz and bumped him a couple spots due to the injury. Jones is my favorite prep prospect to come out of the draft since Byron Buxton in 2012. While the shoulder injury is pretty annoying, we don't have to look further than his org. mates Corbin Carroll and Jordan Lawlar to see examples of players coming back better than ever from untimely injuries.

Steve G: Is it time to drop Tyler Freeman in a 14-team dynasty? Can Bo Naylor be better than MJ Melendez?

You should definitely sync your league with the My Leagues feature and then apply your league on the top 400 page — that's half the value of the prospect rankings. Then you'll see how many free agents in your league are ranked ahead of Freeman. Naylor could be better than Melendez (different types of players), but I've gotten a sense that Melendez is extremely underrated by some right now. This has been a very successful rookie season for him, especially relative to the typical rookie season for a catcher. He has a 104 wRC+, a .194 ISO and a 25.4 K%. Those are all very encouraging marks, or at least they should be. Expecting any rookie catcher, save maybe Adley Rutschman, to hit for average and power is unrealistic. Even Adley is only hitting .240 with five home runs in 52 games.

Austin R: Do you think we see Corbin Carroll and Jordan Lawlar both in MLB by the end of 2023 season?

Nope, check the ETAs on the site. Carroll next year, Lawlar in 2024.

Fass: Do you see a spot for Spencer Horwitz this year? They've been moving him around the diamond, but it's pretty crowded in Toronto.

I don't really think he's up until 2023, barring an injury to a key guy. That said, Horwitz is a pretty interesting guy for next season. He's just a really solid all-around hitter.

Julie: Which Dodgers prospect pitcher has the most upside, Bobby Miller or Gavin Stone?

Stone. Miller's pure stuff might have graded out better on preseason scouting reports, although Stone's changeup is the best pitch either guy has. Stone is a starter all the way and has much better command. Going deep into games and deep into seasons is an underrated part of pitcher upside, and Stone destroys Miller in those factors. Here are their last 15 appearances:

 IPStrikeoutsWalksERAWHIP
Bobby Miller66.178284.751.31
Gavin Stone79.1104271.471.06

Joey DeClercq: What is it about Yiddi Cappe that justifies the huge leap into the top-50? Stats look good, but what's under the hood that stands out?

I just always had the sense that he was going to be an Alexei Ramirez type of glove-first shortstop, but after watching him this season I was blown away by how much better his body is and how electric his bat is. It's sacrilege to say stuff like this, but I honestly got young A-Rod vibes when I was watching Cappe. It's an eye test/massive upside gamble. Maybe it won't be as exciting as I think it could be, but Cappe has the tools to be a top-five prospect in a calendar year.

Gary: What are you seeing in Anthony Gutierrez to bump him up so high, and higher than other popup IFAs like Carlos Jorge, Gleider Figuereo?

Jorge wasn't a pop-up guy, but Figueroa and Gutierrez were. With Gutierrez, I'm seeing superstar tools on video and he's making the always sought after mid-season jump from the DSL to complex ball as a 17-year-old. I'm not sure if he will keep raking, but everyone is always looking for the next big thing and I think Gutierrez could be that. 

Max Wollner: If Michael Harris hadn't graduated from this list, where would you have had him given his recent performance in the bigs?

I'd lean toward Harris No. 1 in AVG leagues and Carroll No. 1 in OBP leagues.

DJ: Why no love for Cristhian Vaquero? What is Lazaro Montes' ceiling?

Vaquero was my No. 4 ranked guy from this J-15 class before the season and has been below expectations thus far. Montes was my No. 2 guy and has performed as well as could have been expected. The strikeouts need to come down, but he's just getting his feet wet and would probably benefit from being in a league where he couldn't dominate with his current approach. He could be a prototypical cleanup hitter if it all works out.

Jeff Kearney: Thoughts on Alec Burleson's numbers at Triple-A? Can he do the same in the bigs?

I don't think there's another prospect who has a bigger gap between how their stats look and how they look on video. Burleson is one of the least athletic looking baseball players I've ever seen, and I'm not just talking about his body, but his actions as well. It's worked for him so far, and the numbers have been great, but I just couldn't bring myself to rank him any higher than 128.

Chris Stephens: How is it that so many top picks from college have been big time flops lately? (Asa Lacy, Austin Martin, JJ Bleday, etc…)

I don't think this is anything new, necessarily. There have been huge busts in the top-five of the MLB draft for as long as I can remember. That said, the 2020 class is looking almost as bust-heavy as the infamous 2016 class.

Doug Bleszinski: Noticed the pitchers are not ranked as high. Eury Perez was the top pitcher at No. 13 and then Nick Lodolo/Grayson Rodriguez 29/30.  Do you feel that Eury is in his own tier and do you see big tiers at SP?

This is pretty much par for the course for my rankings. You'll typically see 1-5 pitchers in my top 30 and 2-3 in my top 25. And yes, this is me signaling that I think Perez is in a tier of his own when factoring in health, stuff, command, proximity, likelihood of being an impactful contributor in 2023.

Hoze: What are your thoughts on Justin Dirden? 11th in AA for wRC+ with power/speed blend (shades of Derek Fisher?). 2020 UDFA in only his second year as pro. He would seem to compliment the Astros' righty-heavy lineup and provide an upgrade in CF.

I like what I've seen, but he debuted near the back of the rankings due to his age (25) and lack of elite plate skills to make up for the age/level. He's a good sleeper, but more likely to be a Quad-A or bench guy than a regular.

Travis Pastore: What makes Robert Hassell such an elite prospect? Seems to not be a top-tier power or speed threat, so isn't a lot riding on the batting average?

I'd rather have an elite hit tool than elite power or elite speed. His opposite-field approach is breathtaking, and he's the type of guy like Christian Yelich who will eventually provide more power and speed than you'd expect just from his standard scouting report grades. He does have nine home runs and is 19-for-22 on SB attempts in 71 games as a 20-year-old, so it's not like we're talking about Tyler Freeman or Steven Kwan here.

Cale Loken: Why did Liover Peguero drop so much? He's still so young at Double A. Also, what is holding Alex Ramirez back from being top 30? He seems to have it all.

Peguero is just so aggressive at the plate (0.22 BB/K), I'm worried about how it will work in the majors. The Pirates won't give him everyday playing time if he is a .310 OBP guy at peak. Ramirez is also a little overly aggressive. I see a case for putting Ramirez higher, but I didn't think it was quite time for that. I'd be fine valuing Ramirez as a top-50 prospect if you're just focused on position players with upside.

Prospect Sauce: Love the Colson Montgomery rank. What exactly about his profile has you so high on him? How would you compare him to other infielders from last year's draft, like Marcelo Meyer?

Montgomery is really elite in terms of hard-hit rate (34.2%), plate skills and power projection. The big difference between him and Mayer is the strikeout rate (18.4 K% for Montgomery, 27.3 K% for Mayer) and the fact Montgomery is already at High-A and having success.

Jeff Kearney: Corbin Carroll ETA and expected HR and SB in his prime?

He should be up at the beginning of next season. 30-HR, 40-SB is the realistic ceiling.

Explorer: What, if any, impact SP are on the verge of a call-up to help redraft teams?

Kyle Muller seems to have finally made everything click from a command/control standpoint, but he has a broken non-throwing hand, so that might be out the window. I would have said DL Hall until his last outing. Caleb Kilian may be turning things around, Ryan Pepiot is a high-upside/low-floor possibility and Cody Morris is a dark horse. All that said, it's really going to be tough to find good starting pitching options on the wire.

Roacheater: Kahlil Watson. What would he need to do to recover his lost value? If you owned him, would you be selling low? If you could buy low, would you? I see he's raked in the mid 200's, is that how low you'd actually need to go to make a 1-1 swap?

I tried to tell people on Twitter to sell low on him a few weeks ago. 

I wouldn't touch him. Worst makeup I've heard of since I've been doing this and there are massive hit tool concerns to boot.

3-Putt Par: Any commentary around what's caused Jordan Groshans to fall so significantly?

He went from having one of the best hit tools and approaches relative to age at Triple-A despite not tapping into his raw power when I did the last update to now just being middle of the pack as a hitter and still not adding power. Too young and talented to give up on in deeper leagues, but he should be showing signs of something at this point.

Alex Washburn: What are your thoughts on the turnaround Will Benson has shown this past year? Seems like he's made big strides.

It's one of my favorite stories in the minors. Here is Benson's history on the top 400 (can be found halfway down any prospect's player page):

So he was top 100 in 2018, top 100 again in 2019, and now top 100 again in 2022. That's pretty remarkable. Of course, the reason he has had such a volatile ranking history is his propensity to strike out, and I don't think we're out of the woods necessarily despite his 22.7 K% at Triple-A. However, his combination of monster raw power, above-average speed, good patience and proximity makes him pretty appealing, especially in OBP leagues.

Taylor: What are the flaws keeping Edouard Julien out of the top 120? Seems to be doing everything you want to see.

That's fair. His bat probably warrants a ranking around 120. I'm a little worried that he might be too passive and that his poor defense will make it tough for him to break through on a Twins team that is loaded with young hitters with no obvious avenue to playing time. I'm essentially betting on Christian Encarnacion-Strand (more power) and Spencer Steer (more defensive versatility) factoring in more than Julien in the coming years.

Jock Thompson: Looks like you're completely out on Matt Brash and Josh Winder (injury-related?), or is this an MLB IP list graduation thing?

They both graduated due to 45-plus days on the active roster. I'm not completely out on either guy, but I'm worried about Brash's eventual role (prefer Andres Munoz in that bullpen and worried about Brash's command as a starter) and I'm worried about Winder's durability.

Bob May: Any big concerns with Tyler Soderstrom and Zack Gelof or is their drop more to do with the new additions to the list and Gelof's injury? 

You nailed it. They dropped due to new additions and Gelof's injury/missed time given his age. I still project them to be Oakland's starting corner infielders in 2024.

Dandy Chiggins: Why does George Valera get no love? He seems like he has a super high power/on-base profile and production. Maybe a 30-HR/.360-OBP guy? Also can you break down who you'd rather have and why between Curtis Mead and Bryson Stott?

You're right about Valera's upside, but his lack of speed and lack of a plus hit tool gives him little margin for error. He could easily end up hitting for a .240 AVG with 25 home runs at peak, which is fine, but not ideal. 

Give me Mead over Stott all day. Mead is three years younger than Stott and I'd give him the edge in power projection and hit tool. Stott's only advantage is his team context.

Baseball Pods: Vaughn Grissom is a BIG mover. Why? What do you expect from him long term? Is there a place for him on Atlanta?

I think he's proven he's one of the best hitters in the minors at this point, same idea as Miguel Vargas and Curtis Mead (proximity, plus hit tool, potential for plus power). He's Dansby Swanson insurance if he leaves in free agency, but even if Swanson stays, they could use the DH to move guys around.

E. Vill: Why is no one talking about Brayan Rocchio?

Great question. Rocchio is hitting .304/.374/.500 with eight home runs and a 15.7 K% in 43 games over the past two months. I am a little concerned about the fact he has only attempted five steals over that stretch, however.

Ross Redcay: Big drop for Joey Wiemer.  We all knew there were concerns with the hit tool coming into the year.  Is this move a sign that you're now pretty confident that the hit tool isn't coming around?

He's getting worse, not better, as he makes his way through his first year at Double-A. Wiemer is hitting .190/.277/.294 with 59 strikeouts over his last 40 games. I'd hoped he'd adjust to the pitching and cut the strikeouts a little, but it seems like the pitchers are the ones who have adjusted.

Reid6450: Why is Logan Allen so low?

As a command/control specialist who lacks premium stuff (other than the changeup), he needs to be locating his stuff with the best of them. Allen has 12 walks in his last 13.1 innings at Triple-A, which tells me that he doesn't trust his stuff in the zone. There's a very thin margin for error with guys like this.

Matthew King: Do you think Bryce Ball will ever be Top 400 material? He's the one guy I'm holding that is not on your list.

I wouldn't rule it out, but when we're talking about older 1B/DH types, they need to be destroying levels. Ball did that in rookie ball and at Low-A, but he's only been slightly better than league average at High-A and Double-A, which isn't good enough given his defensive limitations and age.

Matt: Who are some under the radar pitching prospects making noise with big stuff but need to refine command? Also thoughts on Bubba Chandler?

Since you said under the radar, I'll go outside my top 200. Emmet Sheehan, Jarlin Susana, Nick Nastrini, Norge Vera, AJ Smith-Shawver all come to mind. Nick Frasso is another good one, although his command is pretty solid. 

As for Chandler, it's kind of annoying that they're developing him as a two-way player. I think he's got a super high ceiling as a hitter or as a pitcher, but the odds of him developing well on both sides are slim. Masyn Winn is a good example of how this can really work out well once a team turns a guy loose at what he is best at. Chandler probably has a better chance as a starting pitcher.

Pimp C: Is there hope for Drew Waters with KC? He just homered off Jacob deGrom (which obviously means very little, but still).

There's more hope that he'll actually get a look in the majors. That wasn't happening in Atlanta. Maybe he can be a mid-20s post-hype guy due to his power/speed combo, but I don't buy the hit tool.

MSki22: Can you discuss some former top prospects who are injury prone and if any of them are worth stashing (i.e. Forrest Whitley, Brent Honeywell)

Well, I'd recommend not looking for injury-prone pitchers. The ship has sailed on Honeywell. It's almost sailed on Whitley, but I'm not quite ready to give up on him completely.

Matt: Is it time to jump off Nick Yorke, or just a result of injuries?

I'm betting on it being an injury-plagued lost year for Yorke and him returning with a vengeance next year. In shallower leagues (less than 70 prospects rostered) maybe you churn that spot and scoop him back up if I'm right.

Stefan Wasylko: James Wood had a huge rise in the rankings. Can he possibly be a top-five guy this time next year?

Yeah, absolutely. He could be top five before July 2023 if all goes well, as Carroll, Henderson, Vargas, Walker and Volpe could all graduate before then. Wood has that it factor we look for in future top-three prospects. He's really good at everything until he proves otherwise.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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