Trade deadline content is finally in the rearview mirror. Baseball America put out a spicy August update to their Top 100 rankings. So too did The Athletic’s Keith Law. We’ll talk about some of the biggest movers and discrepancies.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Jackson Chourio, 18, OF, MIL (A+)
72 PA, 2 HR, 2 SB, .270/.333/.429
Chourio began generating hype during extended Spring Training when it became apparent that he possessed all the traits teams look for in Statcast-era prospects. Baseball America recently ranked him as the game’s second-best prospect while Law tagged him third. Either way, it’s quite the climb for a player who was unranked prior to the season. He made short work of Low-A opponents (.324/.373/.600), albeit with an elevated strikeout rate. Upon promotion to High-A, he’s trimmed his strikeout rate while holding his own against much older competition. He’s currently on pace to reach the Majors as a 20-year-old and might even debut next season (unlikely). He’s already a big league caliber center fielder. We’re just waiting for his bat to prove it at each stop along the way.
Elly De La Cruz, 20, SS, CIN (AA)
84 PA, 5 HR, 7 SB, .304/.345/.620
After his 2021 breakout, which was built upon the twin pillars of loud Statcast measurables and enticing results in the lowest levels, De La Cruz has only improved upon his success. Thanks to his size (6’5″) and incredible athleticism, comparisons to Oneil Cruz are nearly unavoidable. Even Fernando Tatis Jr. comes to mind. That’s because, despite his youth, De La Cruz is clearly a man among boys. You can’t help but notice when he takes the field. Naysayers will point to poor discipline and hefty whiff rates. His proponents will break out the numbers. He has 25 home runs and 35 stolen bases across 390 plate appearances this season. His contact profile is best described as “laser show,” complete with a .389 BABIP. Nobody is even sure that he won’t develop discipline against actual competition. He’s yet to experience true adversity.
Law is sold, ranking de la Cruz eighth overall. The Baseball America crew – who were among the first to move on him last season – remain a bit more cautious. He’s 22nd on their list.
Kyle Harrison, 21, SP, SFG (AA)
57.1 IP, 13.19 K/9, 4.71 BB/9, 2.83 ERA
During the course of this season, both of the aforementioned list-makers bumped Harrison up from the back end of their Top 100 to within the Top 20. Harrison’s results speak for themselves. He’s dominated Double-A competition as a 20-year-old. (Today is his 21st birthday!) His slider is one of the most effective breaking pitches in the minors, in part due to a deceptive delivery. Said deceptiveness could factor into his elevated walk rate, which will be something to watch as he continues to ascend the ladder. He might be the kind of “wild” that plays better in the Majors than the minors (see Camilo Doval as an example). Harrison has a floor as a shutdown reliever, but he should comfortably stick in the rotation.
Ezequiel Tovar, 21, SS, COL (AA)
295 PA, 13 HR, 17 SB, .318/.386/.545
Per Baseball America, Tovar rated as the ninth-best prospect in the Rockies’ system entering this season. Given the general antipathy for Rockies prospects these days, it goes without saying he was unranked on leaguewide Top 100 lists. He’s improved upon a balanced approach as a hitter – both in the types of contact he makes and the directionality of his batted balls. Tovar’s even added a touch of plate discipline. While just about every hitter is better at Coors Field, Tovar is the sort of player who can take maximum advantage of the spacious venue.
Tovar is currently sidelined with a groin injury. He’s now 14th on the Baseball America list and 25th for The Athletic.
Ricky Tiedemann, 19, SP, TOR (AA)
(A+) 37.2 IP, 12.90 K/9, 2.87 BB/9, 2.39 ERA
Tiedemann, soon to turn 20, has pitched at three levels this season for a total of 70.2 innings. He recently debuted at Double-A with three near-flawless innings. Like Tovar, he entered the season as the ninth-ranked prospect in his organization’s system. Now, he’s 31st in the game for Baseball America and 41st for Law. If he maintains his results, he could soon be considered a Top 10 overall prospect. I get the sense publicly available reports haven’t yet caught up with Tiedemann. They certainly don’t match his results. There are references to below average command and a mix of three “above-average” offerings. If the command is truly minus and he doesn’t have at least one double-plus pitch, I would expect higher ERAs. Either he’s filling the zone with hittable pitches and getting away with it, or his stuff dominates in-zone, OR his command isn’t actually minus. A fourth alternative – he’s been a little lucky over some small samples.
In any event, Tiedemann’s rise is rapid. It’s telling that he wasn’t traded at the deadline.
Gunnar Henderson, BAL (21): Henderson has already been covered ad nauseum in this column. He’s the number one prospect per Baseball America. Law rates him as second best. While this is technically his age 21 season, his June 29 birthday means he’s a young 21. His advanced feel for hitting is all the more impressive.
Corbin Carroll, ARI (21): Carroll too has seen plenty of favorable words on these pages. He’s Law’s top prospect and ranks fifth for the BA staff. An interesting juxtaposition with Henderson, Carroll is an old 21-year-old. He’ll turn 22 in a little over a week. Of course, without the lost COVID year and a lengthy injury in 2021, Carroll would probably be in the Majors right now.
Noelvi Marte, CIN (20): I’ve had some interesting behind-the-scenes conversations about Marte. Earlier in the season, a source suggested to me that Marte might be overrated because he punished less physically developed opponents. The implication was that he might cool against more advanced competition. After relaying this detail, I received pushback from a separate source disputing that notion. This is what analysts mean when they say a prospect is contentious. In any event, Marte held serve on Law’s list, checking in at 12th. Baseball America places him 35th – a slight improvement over their last update. Since joining the Reds’ High-A affiliate, he’s batting .229/.282/.429 with two home runs and a steal in 39 plate appearances.
Evan Carter, TEX (19): Carter was making headway towards Top 100 lists in early 2021 before a season-ending injury left him stranded with just 146 plate appearances. He ascended to High-A this season and has hit like a champ; .285/.376/.484 with 10 home runs and 22 steals in 395 plate appearances. He has plate discipline and an advanced feel for contact. This is the starter kit for a polished and highly valuable hitter, non-superstar division. BA has him 43rd.
Josh Jung, TEX, (24): This last one isn’t about the rankings (roughly 50th on both lists). Jung is back in action, demonstrating power and discipline over 44 rehab plate appearances. He has three games in Triple-A and could soon reach the Majors. Remember, he was a candidate to make the Rangers out of Spring Training. While they could play service shenanigans to gain control of his age-31 season, it might behoove the club more to get his feet wet.
Editor’s Note: this post was inadvertently published under Steve Adams’ byline at first. Apologies to Brad.