Studying the Top National League Prospects
Now that the trade deadline is behind us and I can write this knowing nobody will be getting traded anytime soon, let’s take a look at the top prospects in the National League.
(Players have not yet debuted as of 9/1/20)
National League East
Atlanta Braves: OF Drew Waters and LHP Kyle Muller
Waters is next in line in what is going to be one of baseball’s top outfields in Atlanta. The 2017 second rounder is a hit over power switch hitter with a line drive swing. He laced 40 doubles in 2019 and scouts feel those will start turning into home runs as he matures. He’s a good defender with a strong arm and plus speed that is capable of playing all three outfield positions.
With Ian Anderson now up, Muller is the next in line. The 6’7” southpaw sits in the mid 90s and flashes a plus curveball. His changeup and control still need work and there’s a lot of moving parts in his delivery but the Braves have historically done a good in developing pitching and should take the necessary time for Muller to become a big league starter.
Miami Marlins: OF JJ Bleday and RHP Max Meyer
The Marlins are going to be exciting to watch in the coming years and Bleday and Meyer are two reasons why. Bleday, the No. 4 pick in 2019 from Vanderbilt, is an advanced left-handed hitting outfielder that should be relatively quick to the big leagues. He gets plus grades for his hit tool and his power. He has a strong arm and should fit the right field profile well.
Sixto Sanchez is off to an exciting start to his career, leaving Meyer as the next big thing to come for the Fish. The third pick in June out of Minnesota had arguably the best two-pitch mix in the draft with his upper 90s fastball and plus-plus slider that many believed to be the best overall pitch in the draft. He could be fast-tracked as a reliever if the Marlins find themselves in a playoff race but I think he’s got a good enough changeup and would rather him be developed into a frontline arm.
New York Mets: C Francisco Alvarez and RHP Matthew Allan
The Mets have an interesting core of bats in their system but I’ll take Alvarez as the best of the bunch. It’s so hard to find good catchers and I think Alvarez can be one of the best in baseball. He’s very advanced at the plate for an 18-year-old and should be a plus hitter with at least average power. He’s got a strong arm and is agile behind the plate despite his stocky frame. The ceiling here is an All-Star catcher and I pray the Mets don’t trade this guy because they are hard to come by.
Allan entered the 2019 Draft as the top prep arm in the class but fell to the third round, where he was over-slotted with a $2.5 million deal. His fastball and curveball are plus offerings and his changeup flashes above-average potential. He has solid command and while he’s pretty maxed out physically, his present stuff is plenty good and he could move quicker than most high school hurlers.
Philadelphia Phillies: SS Bryson Stott and RHP Mick Abel
Stott is a high floor shortstop that was a first rounder in 2019 out of UNLV. He has a plus hit tool and a line drive oriented approach at the plate. He’s an above-average runner with a strong arm and good actions at shortstop. His only below average tool is his power, but he could still project to be a 15 home run guy in the big leagues.
Abel was the top prep arm this summer and went 15th overall. He has an advanced arsenal and feel to pitch for a high schooler. His fastball sits in the mid 90s, his slider and changeup can be plus offerings, the curveball is his fourth pitch but it’s useable, and he throws a lot of strikes. He’s got a pretty high floor for a prep arm but also has considerable upside as he continues to grow and add velocity.
Washington Nationals: OF Jeremy De La Rosa and RHP Jackson Rutledge
With Luis Garcia surprisingly in the majors, this was not an easy call. De La Rosa was a 2018 international signee who projects to hit for solid average and power. He has enough speed to play center field but has the arm to fit in a corner, which will be his likely destination as he fills out. He’s only 18 so this is an upside play but the Nationals have had success with Dominican outfielders recently.
This was a close call between Rutledge and Cade Cavalli. Their stuff is similar but I went with Rutledge because he had a nice pro debut last summer and Cavalli has a lengthy injury history. Rutledge is a massive 6’8” and throws cheddar, sitting 96 and touching 99. The slider plays well off his fastball with its depth and late bite. The curveball and changeup are his third and fourth offerings and his command needs work. There’s a wide range of outcomes here: frontline starter or power bullpen arm.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: OF Brennen Davis and LHP Brailyn Marquez
Davis was the Cubs second round pick in 2018 out of high school in Arizona. He has the potential to be a true five-tool center fielder. He’s made adjustments at the plate enabling him to use the entire field and he’s got good bat speed and leverage in his swing allowing him to drive the ball. He has plus speed that he uses on the bases and in center field, but has the arm to profile in a corner as well.
A 2015 international signing, Marquez has one of the best fastballs among left-handed pitching prospects. It’s an 80 grade offering that sits in the upper 90s. His slider shows signs of becoming a plus offering and has dominated lefties with those two pitches, but he’ll need to work on his changeup to neutralize righties. He’s a potential frontline starter if he improves his off-speed stuff and his command.
Cincinnati Reds: OF Austin Hendrick and LHP Nick Lodolo
Hendrick went 12th overall in June and was one of the top prep power bats in the class. This is thanks to quick hands and elite bat speed along with an advanced feel to loft the baseball. He comes with some swing and miss concerns but the power potential is special. Defensively, he has a strong arm and will fit the right field profile well.
Lodolo was the first pitcher taken in 2019 at No. 7 overall out of TCU. The southpaw has three above-average pitches with plus command and should come quickly as a mid-rotation starter.
Milwaukee Brewers: OF Garrett Mitchell and LHP Ethan Small
The Brewers lucked out when Mitchell fell to No. 20 in June’s Draft. He’s a definite center fielder with plus-plus speed, a strong arm and a contact oriented approach at the plate. People wonder about his power and how his Type 1 diabetes could affect durability over a long season, but he’s been able to keep that in check to this point in his career. How much in-game power he’s going to have is the bigger question, but I think he’s going to be a well-rounded player even if the power doesn’t come.
Small is a high-floor college pitcher from Mississippi State taken in the first round in 2019. He has four pitches with solid command and a crossfire delivery that makes him tough to square up. He projects as a back-end starter.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 2B Nick Gonzales and RHP Quinn Priester
All Gonzales has ever done is rake. One of the top college bats this June, the Pirates were thrilled to take him at No. 7 and add him to what is becoming an intriguing farm system. He fits better for me at second base and he is going to hit. He has a great feel for the barrel and an advanced approach at the plate. He should come relatively quickly and man the keystone in the steel city for quite some time.
Priester was the top prep arm taken in the 2019 draft out of the Chicago suburbs. The 6’3” right-hander has a ton of upside coming from a cold weather environment. His fastball sits in the low 90s and tops out at 97 and his curveball has good depth and projects as a plus swing and miss pitch. The changeup is behind the other two offerings but he displays an advanced feel to pitch, giving him a better chance to reach his high ceiling.
St. Louis Cardinals: 3B Nolan Gorman and LHP Matthew Liberatore
Imagine playing pro ball in the same organization with your best childhood friend. That’s what we have here in Gorman in Liberatore, who grew up together and went to rival high schools in Arizona before being first round picks in 2018. Gorman went 19th overall as one of the top high school power bats in the country. He is power over hit but the Cardinals will give him time to develop the hit tool. He has a strong arm that plays well at the hot corner but there is some questions if he will remain there long-term.
Liberatore was seen at the top prep arm in the class but slid to No. 16, where the Rays scooped him up then traded him for Jose Martinez last winter, re-uniting the childhood buddies. He is very polished for a high school arm and has a nice balance of floor and ceiling because he has an advanced feel for pitching for his age yet could still add velocity and increase his ceiling. He’s going to be at least a No. 4 starter with the potential for a lot more if the stuff improves.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Kristian Robinson and RHP Bryce Jarvis
The Diamondbacks have a number of young outfielders in their system and Robinson is the best of the bunch. A 2017 signee out of the Bahamas, Robinson displays plus raw power and is power over hit, but he has an advanced feel to hit for his age. He has the defensive ability, speed and arm to play in center field right now but he’ll fit nicely in a corner if he slows down.
Jarvis, the 18th pick in June’s draft, is fascinating to me. He was not a Day One prospect before this season because his fastball sat in the upper 80s. But he added velocity over the winter and came into the spring sitting in the mid 90s which put him on the radar. His best pitch was his changeup, which is still a plus offering. The curveball and slider also took big strides and flash above-average and he throws a ton of strikes. He had to learn to pitch before finding his velocity and that makes him a very intriguing prospect going forward as someone with a high floor, but an interesting ceiling.
Colorado Rockies: OF Zac Veen and LHP Ryan Rolison
Veen was the top prep bat in the draft and was selected ninth overall by the Rockies, who were elated to find him available. He oozes potential in a lanky 6’4” frame that can add strength, but he already has a sweet left-handed swing with excellent bat speed. He is more hit over power right now, but he knows how to leverage the ball and puts on shows in batting practice. Veen draws comps to Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, two prep bats that were pure hitters before growing into massive power, and it would not be surprising at all to see Veen develop into a similar player.
Rolison is a high floor college lefty with four at least average pitches, with the curveball his best offering. He throws strikes and keeps hitters off balance and should come quickly as a mid-rotation starter.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 3B Kody Hoese and RHP Josiah Gray
Hoese had a breakout junior season at Tulane, leading D1 with 23 homers and parlaying that into a first round selection in 2019. His bat is his calling card and brings a lot of power to the plate, but has a good approach that should allow him to hit for solid average. He has a strong arm but he’s not a great defender and may need to move to first base, but he has the bat to profile at either infield corner.
The Dodgers fleeced the Reds in the Kemp/Puig/Wood/Farmer trade in landing Jeter Downs, who they turned into Mookie Betts and Gray, who was drafted in 2018 out of DII Le Moyne College. He’s blossomed with the Dodgers with a plus fastball and slider combination. His curveball and changeup are his third and fourth pitches but he throws strikes and is very athletic thanks to his history at shortstop. He should be a mid-rotation starter in the next year and has a ceiling for more because he’s still new to pitching.
San Diego Padres: SS CJ Abrams and LHP MacKenzie Gore
Abrams was the sixth pick in 2019 out of the Georgia high school ranks and he is one of the top athletes in the sport. He’s a plus-plus runner that is a force on the bases and in the field, where he’s capable of playing short, second base or center field. Offensively, he’s got an excellent approach that consistently finds the barrel and sprays line drives across the field. This is one of a number of potential star players the Padres have in their organization.
Gore is the top pitching prospect in baseball and I’m surprised he’s not up yet given the Padres are contending this year. He’s a lefty with four plus pitches and plus command. He’s got a funky delivery where his hands come up high but he repeats it well and finishes strong. This is going to be one of baseball’s best pitchers soon that will be contending for Cy Young Awards.
San Francisco Giants: SS Marco Luciano and LHP Seth Corry
Luciano was one of the top international prospects in the 2018 class and the Giants signed him for $2.6 million. He has a massive ceiling and has one of the better hit-power combinations in the minors. He has a plus arm but has limited range at short, so his long-term home could be at the hot corner. But he will certainly have the bat to profile there. He should make his highly anticipated full season debut next spring and there’s already some buzz about him becoming the next top overall prospect in the game.
Corry was an over-slot sign in the third round in 2017 out of the Utah prep ranks and he pitched to a 1.76 ERA in his full season debut last summer. His best pitch is a high-spin curveball which he commands better than his low 90s fastball. His changeup took big strides last year and that’s going to be key going forward as he looks to reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter.
(Cover Photo: Hector Vivas/Getty Images)