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10 MLB Prospects Excelling Against Older Competition In 2021

Eury Perez Tomdipace
Eury Perez (Photo by Tom Dipace)

Two of the most important words in the world of prospect evaluation are age and context. If a player performs well among much older peers, it’s a great sign for his future. Conversely, if an older player overwhelms largely less experienced competition, it may be wise to dig deeper to see if the extra years of development are giving him a big leg up.

It’s also why Baseball America annually publishes our list of the youngest players in each league on Opening Day. Those assignments can provide a little context into which prospects teams believe are ready for a more advanced challenge.

With that in mind and the season winding down, here are 10 young prospects who played up to their competition.

Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners
Opening Day Assignment: High-A Everett
Opening Day Age: 20.34

Rodriguez has been outstanding from the first day of the season forward. He sandwiched a pair of stints with the Dominican Republic’s Olympic team in between stints terrorizing pitchers in the High-A West before moving to Double-A. After the promotion, Rodriguez hasn’t skipped a beat. He’s become the centerpiece of Arkansas’ lineup and is showing the hallmarks of a precocious, potential five-tool player.

Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals
Opening Day Assignment: Double-A Northwest Arkansas
Opening Day Age: 20.89

Under any circumstance, Witt’s season would be outstanding. Given the pandemic and the fact that Witt never played a game at a level higher than Rookie ball, his year is remarkable. Entering the season, Witt was billed as having the potential for five plus tools across the board. All season long, he’s proved those evaluations accurate. In a system bubbling with upper-level pitching, Witt’s offensive emergence (along with the mammoth rebounds from Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez) should help buttress Kansas City’s lineup for years to come.

Riley Greene, OF, Tigers
Opening Day Assignment: Double-A Erie
Opening Day Age: 20.6

Greene showed enough during the shutdown season to warrant a leap over High-A directly to his first upper-level test. So far, he’s passed with flying colors. He finished his turn in the Double-A Northeast ranked in the top five in all three triple-slash categories, including the second-place spot in batting average and third place in both slugging percentage and OPS. He hasn’t missed a beat since moving to Triple-A Toledo, where he’s slammed four home runs in his first 21 games.

Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds
Opening Day Assignment: Double-A Chattanooga
Opening Day Age: 21.74

After injury and underperformance marred the first years of his pro career, Greene came back with a vengeance in 2021. The righthander has paired his signature triple-digit fastball with a vicious slider and burgeoning changeup to strike out 136 hitters through his first 102.1 innings at the upper levels. He still has polish left to apply, but his rebound season—after two years between official games—has been a success.

Shane Baz, RHP, Rays
Opening Day Assignment: Double-A Montgomery
Opening Day Age: 21.88

With his work during 2020, Baz has elevated his ceiling. In the 2019 Arizona Fall League, he looked like a likely reliever who could blow hitters away at the end of a game. Now, thanks to improvements to his changeup, command and delivery, he looks the part of a valuable rotation piece. He’s walked just 12 hitters all season—with a stint with the Olympic team in the middle—while holding mid-90s fastball velocity into the middle innings of games.

George Valera, OF, Indians
Opening Day Assignment: High-A Lake County
Opening Day Age: 20.47

Valera’s first years as a pro were beset by injuries. This year, he’s made up for lost time in a big way. The 20-year-old has shown patience—his 61 walks entering Thursday were tied with fellow Top 100 Prospects Zac Veen (Rockies) and Robert Hassell III (Padres) for the sixth most in the minors among players 20 years old or younger—and power this season. His on-base percentage is fourth among his age group with 300 or more plate appearances.

Zac Veen, OF, Rockies
Opening Day Assignment:Low-A Fresno
Opening Day Age: 19.39

Veen, the Rockies’ first-rounder in the 2020 draft, has performed splendidly in his first taste of pro ball. The Florida high school product is one of three players with 400 or more plate appearances this season who have posted a slash line of .300/.400/.500. He’s paired those numbers with 36 stolen bases (though the rules changes at Low-A put those numbers in a different context), making for a smashing professional debut.

Eury Perez, RHP, Marlins
Opening Day Assignment: Low-A Jupiter
Opening Day Age: 18.05

Perez was the youngest player in all the minors on Opening Day, just days past his 18th birthday. Despite the inexperience, Perez made relatively easy work of the Low-A Southeast. Perhaps the most impressive part about Perez is the way he controls his massive body. He stands 6-foot-8 and as yet has not shown the control or command problems that usually come with someone that tall, especially considering his youth. He needs to sharpen his breaking ball, but his fastball and changeup each look like weapons already.

Nick Yorke, 2B, Red Sox
Opening Day Assignment:Low-A Salem
Opening Day Age: 19.09

Yorke’s selection was one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 draft. So far, the gamble has paid off handsomely for the Red Sox. Yorke is one of three minor leaguers with more than 400 plate appearances who are slashing .300/.400/.500 for the season and has looked like the consummate professional hitter. In particular, evaluators have noted his uncanny knack for making hard contact on fastballs and staying back on breaking balls.

Alek Thomas, OF, D-backs
Opening Day Assignment: Double-A Amarillo
Opening Day Age: 21.02

Thomas has long had a reputation as one of the best pure center field defenders in the minor leagues. This year, his offense has risen to another level. Among players 21 or younger at the upper levels with 350 or more plate appearances, Thomas’ .890 OPS places third, behind just Bobby Witt Jr. and Riley Greene, both of whom rank among the top five of BA’s Top 100 Prospects. There is an element of inflation because his home parks this season (Amarillo, Reno) are both extremely hitter-friendly, but Thomas’ blend of offense and defense makes for a very promising future.

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Nick Yorke: Red Sox 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year

The reason the Red Sox valued Yorke so highly in the 2020 draft became apparent in 2021 as he turned in an elite hitting performance.

LeaguePlayerPositionOrganizationAgeGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLGOPS
Low-A EastEvan CarterOFTEX18.68321062225812123428124.236.438.387.825
Low-A EastYohendrick PinangoOFCHC18.999737654104192432296782.277.330.370.700
Low-A EastNick Yorke2BBOS19.09883416911418412544860129.334.423.516.939
Low-A EastBryan Ramos3BCWS19.151053935392212125345107122.234.337.389.726
Low-A EastLuisangel AcuñaSSTEX19.15101377701021531068441014211.271.347.406.752
Low-A EastGabriel RodriguezSSCLE19.28733539791512312010423.236.281.304.586
Low-A EastEd HowardSSCHC19.2670267285882428178761.217.273.307.580
Low-A EastAngel MartinezSSCLE19.278934755872066433777126.251.323.395.718
Low-A EastOmar HernandezCKC19.465231214092319146430.173.225.268.493
Low-A SoutheastAlexander Mojica3BPIT18.75802633656100740407910.213.329.331.660
Low-A SoutheastJose De La CruzOFDET18.8483301356112252527132138.203.290.306.596
Low-A SoutheastMaikol EscottoSSPIT18.9279284576810173653106214.239.367.356.723
Low-A SoutheastJordan Walker3BSTL18.9573289559323310393172122.322.394.526.920
Low-A SoutheastSergio CampanaOFPIT19.1782424549771263795194.202.318.302.620
Low-A SoutheastPete Crow-ArmstrongOFNYM19.1162461020047623.417.563.5001.063
Low-A SoutheastMasyn WinnSSSTL19.129135972851755444693305.237.325.354.679
Low-A WestRobert PuasonSSOAK18.648528242591213262213231.209.277.291.567
Low-A WestBrayan BuelvasCFOAK18.979313507110413433383147.227.312.409.721
Low-A WestEuribiel Angeles2BSD18.9893389741332464603466186.342.397.465.862
Low-A WestJose BonillaSSLAA19.0958203244280323117250.207.260.291.551
Low-A WestAlex De Jesus2BLAD19.1291330669024112716512110.273.390.461.851
Low-A WestLuis MatosOFSF19.261004196812530112751960214.298.333.461.793
Low-A WestZac VeenOFCOL19.39101379791152541574611183616.303.402.509.911
Low-A WestTyler SoderstromCOAK19.445722239682011249276121.306.390.568.957
Low-A WestKyren ParisSSLAA19.48421513640664243053214.265.400.464.864
Low-A WestNoelvi MarteSSSEA19.5510041787114242177158107237.273.369.463.832
High-A CentralJoe Naranjo1BCLE19.989833738771216484010161.228.318.323.641
High-A CentralAaron BrachoSSCLE20.0365226264190726298012.181.272.314.586
High-A CentralJose TenaSSCLE20.129636854105222155626103105.285.339.478.817
High-A CentralMalcom Nunez3BSTL20.15803104077152937286263.248.319.397.716
High-A CentralBrayan RocchioSSCLE20.3973927110622415583294189.270.344.462.806
High-A CentralAndy PagesRFLAD20.41094028810724126797111763.266.394.525.918
High-A CentralCarlos RodriguezOFMIL20.418530639831641363470146.271.344.359.704
High-A CentralGeorge ValeraCFCLE20.477524547623417546176105.253.411.506.918
High-A EastRonny MauricioSSNYM20.089838554941451963239797.244.291.455.746
High-A EastMichael HarrisOFATL20.1693342491022137593171243.298.363.439.802
High-A EastPedro MartinezSSTB20.26853384972123639301182017.213.285.320.604
High-A EastLiover PegueroSSPIT20.3481334639117214432995236.272.333.461.794
High-A EastColin BarberOFHOU20.411642109103792211.214.365.452.818
High-A EastOswald PerazaSSNYY20.88973966511725214493196346.295.356.475.831
High-A WestJulio RodriguezRFSEA20.3463245518415210383960163.343.445.543.988
High-A WestCorbin CarrollCFARI20.772391012256731.435.552.9131.465
High-A WestLivan SotoSSLAA20.8798383508014873842107145.209.287.342.629
High-A WestLeodany Perez2BARI20.97752222349510212871243.221.318.252.570
High-A WestEddy DiazSSCOL21.22963847510214413333825714.266.343.331.673
High-A WestDrevian Williams-NelsonLFLAA21.312673913201453121.178.259.247.506
High-A WestJordyn AdamsCFLAA21.546625835587252726102163.225.295.326.620
Double-A CentralC.J. AbramsSSSD20.584216226481402231536132.296.363.420.782
Double-A CentralBobby Witt Jr.SSKC20.89105425851273142887411132310.299.364.588.952
Double-A CentralIvan HerreraCSTL20.929132943711101556598722.216.342.386.728
Double-A CentralNolan Gorman3BSTL20.981014116511817122673310170.287.341.494.835
Double-A CentralAlek ThomasCFARI21.02883556510322913514481125.290.377.513.890
Double-A CentralGeraldo PerdomoSSARI21.5372245435374426447254.216.347.327.673
Double-A CentralEguy Rosario2BSD21.6910338161109293105542972813.286.362.457.818
Double-A CentralSherten Apostel3BTEX22.156823836561301034278900.235.321.416.737
Double-A NERiley GreeneOFDET20.610440675120197217451128141.296.380.532.912
Double-A NEBo NaylorCCLE21.278279375011110433510060.179.277.333.610
Double-A NEGabriel MorenoCTOR21.2232126294791845142212.373.441.6511.092
Double-A NETriston Casas3BBOS21.3692474970921248405562.283.387.482.869
Double-A NEMark Vientos3BNYM21.47227443771602259268701.281.346.580.927
Double-A SouthJhonnys CabreraCMIL18.91123025200321200.167.219.233.452
Double-A SouthDaniel CastilloSSMIL20.2743114182431118164390.211.321.281.602
Double-A SouthBrice TurangSSMIL21.45102385521012036504371158.262.336.377.712
Double-A SouthChristopher Morel3BCHC21.86923375472154165836112152.214.289.424.714
Triple-A EastWander FrancoSSTB20.18391623051116735122154.315.367.586.954
Triple-A EastLuis GarciaSSWAS20.97371422643301325152611.303.371.599.970
Triple-A EastGabriel AriasSSCLE21.18100377531042321144369841.276.343.435.778
Triple-A EastRafael MarchanCPHI22.1958204253950015204010.191.272.216.488
Triple-A EastIsaac Paredes3BDET22.2169241356292937524300.257.388.423.811
Triple-A EastDrew WatersCFATL22.3485329597618183143124247.231.330.365.695
Triple-A EastMario FelicianoCMIL22.453210715255121842600.234.282.355.637
Triple-A EastJonathan ArauzSSBOS22.7558195254541628274120.231.319.354.672
Triple-A WestRamses MalaveCARI20.59561942444131934209211.227.309.443.752
Triple-A WestRoimer BolivarCFLAD21.4268617208041783120.233.337.465.802
Triple-A WestTucupita Marcano2BSD21.6377294537493732474695.252.352.374.726
Triple-A WestJarred KelenicCFSEA21.830125294091928152261.320.392.6241.016
Triple-A WestJo AdellCFLAA22.077331157901742369229982.289.342.592.934
Triple-A WestRyan ViladeSSCOL22.2199400711152456393178123.288.336.418.754
Triple-A WestLuis CampusanoCSD22.68129247862131545276610.295.365.541.906
Triple-A WestLeody TaverasCFTEX22.6587322577919217554995135.245.343.475.818

LeaguePlayerPositionOrganizationAgeWLERAGGSIPHRERHRBBSOAVGWHIP
Low-A EastJoey EstesRHPATL19.57362.91202099663932729127.1840.96
Low-A SoutheastEury PerezRHPMIA18.05241.70181869382013524100.1570.90
Low-A SoutheastRafael OhashiRHPTOR18.57234.9614632.224241822645.2001.53
Low-A SoutheastStarlyn CastilloRHPPHI19.19024.356320.217101011020.2181.31
Triple-A EastMatthew LiberatoreLHPSTL21.49694.491816104.110961521925101.2671.28
High-A CentralEdgar MartinezRHPSD20.18017.36337.11266166.3532.45
High-A CentralNathanael HerediaLHPSTL20.65135.6627449.142353115362.2311.93
High-A EastMatt AllanRHPNYM20.05102.616510.110330514.2501.45
High-A EastQuinn PriesterRHPPIT20.63732.6718189172332783393.2161.15
High-A EastVictor SantosRHPPHI20.81732.44201177.169252181576.2341.09
High-A EastRonny HenriquezRHPTEX20.87574.54191483.1674642132593.2141.10
High-A WestAdam KloffensteinRHPTOR20.69766.0321219184656195897.2391.56
High-A WestHelcris OlivarezLHPCOL20.74496.32201989.28668631062102.2611.65
High-A WestJuan ThenRHPSEA21.24236.55121245.153343391849.2881.57
Double-A CentralCole WinnRHPTEX21.44332.5017177234212062689.1400.83
Double-A CentralYefri Del RosarioRHPKC21.61225.78241062.1694240113172.2801.60
Double-A NESimeon Woods RichardsonRHPTOR20.6245.59121246.242332952969.2401.52
Double-A NEElvis LucianoRHPTOR21.22013.1612123735161341834.2541.43
Double-A NEJoey CantilloLHPCLE21.38002.254186220511.2071.38
Double-A NERoansy ContrerasRHPPIT21.49312.2911115134181341172.1830.88
Double-A NEFrancisco MoralesRHPPHI21.523137.382119787572641159101.2501.72
Double-A SouthVictor VodnikRHPATL21.57145.35111133.232202052241.2521.60
Double-A SouthHunter GreeneRHPCIN21.741073.342020102.18241381238136.2181.17
Double-A SouthReid DetmersLHPLAA21.82343.151313604824211018106.2151.10
Double-A SouthShane BazRHPTB21.88442.11161672.2471817812103.1840.81
Double-A SouthMax MeyerRHPMIA22.15612.3018189072272373899.2221.22
Double-A SouthFaustino CarreraLHPTB22.15223.2116647.238191741432.2161.09
Triple-A EastDeivi GarciaRHPNYY21.96277.09212080876763196389.2771.88
Triple-A WestJose MartinezRHPLAD22.03645.22221589.2118705292562.3111.59
Triple-A WestMacKenzie GoreLHPSD22.19134.14101041.140231932045.2521.45

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