Image credit: Brendan McKay
Want to make a bet?
Looking at the history of Baseball America Top 100 Prospects rankings, you can feel relatively confident the top five prospects will outperform the prospects ranked 10 through 20. The difference between ranking No. 1 and No. 20 on this list is relatively substantial.
But when you get to the back end of the list, the difference between the prospect ranked 80th and the prospect ranked 100th is a much smaller gap than that at the top of the list. It’s still 20 spots, but those 20 spots mean much less the further down the list one goes.
There is nothing linear about a Top 100 Prospects ranking. The difference between ranking 90th and 91st on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list is often infinitesimal, as the gap between No. 1 and No. 20 on the list is always larger than the gap between No. 75 and No. 125.
Cutting off the list at 100 is a nice round number and one that has served BA well since the first Top 100 rolled out in 1990. But it also leads to a logical question heard every year: who just missed the list?
Here are 10 players who were in consideration for the final spots in the Top 100, as well as a listing of everyone who ranked on at least one Baseball America staffer’s personal Top 150 (which is the building block by which BA puts together the Top 100).
Cade Cavalli, RHP, Nationals
Cavalli rarely dominated at Oklahoma in the way that one would expect for a righthander with his combination of a fastball that will pop the mitt at 95-99 mph and a hard, biting slider. Give him a 2021 pro season and he could quickly climb into the Top 100. He has more upside than many of the pitchers who made the list.
Shane Baz, RHP, Rays
The Rays came very close to having another trio of players on the Top 100. Baz carries plenty of reliever risk, but there is a shot he could continue to develop into a frontline starter. And even if he does end up in the pen, he has a chance to be a high-impact, high-leverage reliever.
Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays
McKay ranked in the top 50 on each of the past three preseason Top 100 lists. He just missed this year’s list because he’s coming off of labrum surgery. That surgery meant he missed the entire 2020 season and remains four outs away from graduating from prospect status. If McKay makes a full recovery, he has the stuff to be a solid MLB starter, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of margin for error if his stuff backs up.
Xavier Edwards, 2B/SS, Rays
The Rays are collecting an impressive group of middle infielders who rarely strike out and hit for average. Edwards, acquired from the Padres in the Tommy Pham trade last offseason, is following in the footsteps of Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan.
Taylor Trammell, OF, Mariners
With Kyle Lewis emerging as a long-term solution to the Mariners’ outfield woes and Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic not far behind, Trammell can get a little forgotten in the team’s crowded outfield picture. But his on-base skills and speed also fit in Seattle’s future plans.
George Kirby, RHP, Mariners
If Kirby can show his steps forward at the alternate training site will hold up in games, he won’t stay off the Top 100 for long. When the Mariners drafted Kirby he had exceptional control, but he didn’t really have a clear plus pitch. He’s added 4-5 mph since then and now can touch 99 mph. That improved arm speed has also helped his slider become more of a weapon. Kirby only has accumulated 23 pro innings so far, but his combination of polish and newfound power could help him move quickly once minor league games resume.
Jhoan Duran, RHP, Twins
Duran has a strong likelihood of doing his best work in the bullpen rather than the rotation long term, but wherever he ends up, his fastball, “splinker” and improved curveball make him a tough challenge for hitters.
Miguel Amaya, C, Cubs
The Cubs seem to be edging toward a rebuild as they have begun to trade or non-tender pieces of the team that has gone to the playoffs five of the past six seasons. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are all free agents after 2021. Getting solid production from Amaya, the team’s catcher of the future, will be a key part of the team’s attempt to build a new core of young talent.
A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics
Much like McKay, it’s injury concerns that keep Puk off of the Top 100. He’s shown flashes of the stuff that made him the sixth pick in the 2016 draft, but the 25-year-old has also had to endure elbow and shoulder surgery. The most recent shoulder surgery clouds his status for 2021 and beyond.
Sam Huff, C, Rangers
Huff is one of the best catching prospects in baseball, but that was not enough to get him a spot on the Top 100. His power stands out, but there are enough concerns about his glove to keep him among the list of the just-missed.
And here are all 88 players who received at least one vote in one staffer’s personal Top 150, organized by team.
Athletics: AJ Puk, Daulton Jefferies.
Cubs: Adbert Alzolay, Ed Howard.
Padres: Hudson Head.
Pirates: Liover Peguero.
Rockies: Ryan Rolison
Tigers: Isaac Paredes
White Sox: Jared Kelley