13 Breakout MLB Prospects With Top 100 Potential
Once we finish our annual Top 100 prospects list, we start thinking about who could be on that list next year.
That's particularly true when it comes to the youngest prospects at the lowest levels, trying to identify the next wave of talent outside the Top 100 who could skyrocket in value within a year or two. Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez and Giants shortstop Marco Luciano did that in a big way last year—both are now top 20 overall prospects in baseball—while outfielder Kristian Robinson and shortstop Geraldo Perdomo of the D-backs, Orioles righthander Grayson Rodriguez and Mariners shortstop Noelvi Marte all entered 2019 as teenagers outside the Top 100 and jumped on to that list after the season.
These are 13 teenage prospects who are outside the Top 100 (and haven't been on that list before) but have the potential to become Top 100 prospects in the near future when games are able to resume.
Orelvis Martinez, SS, Blue Jays: Martinez signed in 2018 for $3.51 million, the biggest bonus for a 16-year-old international signing in his class. He rewarded the Blue Jays' faith in him with an outstanding pro debut, ranking as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last year. On the cusp of being a Top 100 prospect right now, Martinez syncs up the moving parts in his swing well to be on time, using his hands well and generating plenty of bat speed to drive the ball with plus power. A shortstop for now, Martinez has the hands and arm strength for the left side of the infield, but his first-step quickness and range probably will push him to third base.
Luis Rodriguez, OF, Dodgers: The top 2019 international prospect from Venezuela, Rodriguez combines high-level pure hitting ability for a 17-year-old with the ability to drive the ball for power in games. He has a calm, quiet swing that stays through the hitting zone for a long time, making frequent contact with the ability to use the whole field. His defensive instincts and reads give him a chance to stay in center field if he can retain his above-average speed.
Quinn Priester, RHP, Pirates: Priester checks a lot of boxes teams look for in teenage pitchers, with a promising mix of size, stuff and strike-throwing ability from a fairly easy, repeatable delivery. A first-round pick (18th overall) last year, Priester is 6-foot-3, 195 pounds with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 96 mph, pairing it with a hard curveball that flashes as an above-average pitch. The early returns were promising last summer, with Priester striking out more than a batter per inning in his pro debut.
Erick Peña, OF, Royals: Signed out of the Dominican Republic last year for $3,897,500, Peña has the attributes to develop into a premium offensive threat. He has a fairly compact lefthanded swing with good path, a disciplined approach for a 17-year-old and the ability to barrel balls at a high clip against both righties and lefties. At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Peña has fast bat speed, strong hands and has flashed above-average power, with the space to fill out and be a potential 30-plus home run threat.
Daniel Espino, RHP, Indians: Espino had some of the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the 2019 draft, where he went to the Indians with the No. 24 overall pick. His lively fastball reaches 99 mph and his breaking stuff has sharp, late movement to miss bats, while his changeup comes in firm but shows promise based on its action. Espino has a long arm stroke that gives some scouts pause about his future control, but if he's able to corral his stuff in the zone, he has the electric arsenal to pile up strikeouts.
Maximo Acosta, SS, Rangers: A smooth, instinctive player with a chance to develop an array of plus tools, Acosta was the top-ranked international shortstop signed in 2019. He's a high-contact hitter with a knack for being on time and barreling balls throughout the strike zone, combining his advanced pure hitting ability with power that grades out at least average now and should continue to climb. He has a thicker lower half than many shortstops at 17, but his speed and arm strength are both plus tools, with his internal clock and instincts at the position advanced beyond his years.
Luisangel Acuña, SS, Rangers: Acosta and Acuña, Venezuelan natives who have quickly become close friends, could climb through the Rangers' system together and form a potent middle infield. Acuña is small but skilled, with an aggressive, explosive swing and good hand-eye coordination to produce a high contact rate and a good eye for the strike zone, with more walks than strikeouts last year. He might end up at second base or center field, but he has a plus arm and did improve his defense last year.
Quinn Priester Seeks Self Improvement
The 2019 first-rounder has focused on improving his arsenal, including maintaining his fastball velocity.
Matt Allan, RHP, Mets: Allan was one of the top pitching prospects available in the 2019 draft, but the Mets got him in the third round and paid him $2.5 million, the second-highest bonus for a high school pitcher last year. At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Allan pitches off a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s, setting up a tight-spinning curveball with good shape to give him an out pitch with sound mechanics.
Luis Matos, OF, Giants: Marco Luciano is the star of the Giants' 2018 international signing class, but Matos—signed for $725,000 that year—has become an arrow-up player in the Giants' system as well. Matos doesn't have explosive tools, but he's an advanced hitter for his age who could have five average or better tools across the board. His 1.000 OPS ranked third in the Dominican Summer League, where he showed good bat speed, an advanced offensive approach for his age and surprising power, to the point where he might still have enough offensive impact to be an everyday player if he moves from center to right field down the road.
Liover Peguero, SS, Pirates: Peguero signed with the D-backs out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, ranked as the top prospect last year in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, then in January went to the Pirates with righthander Brennan Malone in exchange for Starling Marte. Peguero has a wiry, high-waist frame with significant physical upside, high-end athleticism and a good bat-to-ball skills. His strong wrists and hands help him generate plenty of bat speed and he uses them well in his swing, with a chance to grow into average or better power once he packs on strength. An above-average runner with a tick above-average arm, Peguero improve his fielding last year, though he still has to clean up more on the defensive side, though he has the tools and athleticism to still play in the middle of the diamond at second base or center field if he does have to move.
Luis Toribio, 3B, Giants: The Giants signed Toribio out of the Dominican Republic in 2017 for $300,000—the maximum bonus they could give that year—and he has developed into their No. 6 prospect thanks to his offensive upside. He has a short, sweet swing from the left side, combining a patient approach and power to give him high-OBP, high slug potential. Toribio has a strong arm, but his hands, footwork and mobility will need to improve to be able to stay at third base.
Aaron Bracho, 2B, Indians: Two Indians international signings from their 2017 class—outfielder George Valera and shortstop Brayan Rocchio—have already flirted with Top 100 prospect status. A third member of that class, Bracho, is also a top 10 prospect in the organization and could take a significant leap if he keeps hitting once he gets to the low Class A Midwest League. An offensive-oriented second baseman, Bracho has a short, fluid swing from both sides of the plate and strong contact skills. His plate discipline also sticks out—he walked more than he struck out last year in the Rookie-level Arizona League—and makes him a potential high OBP threat in the middle of the diamond.
Gilberto Jimenez, OF, Red Sox: Jimenez, 19, led the short-season New York-Penn League in hitting last year by batting .359/.393/.470 line in 59 games. It sounds strange to say for a player who just posted those numbers as a teenager in a college-heavy league, but there's still a fair amount of rawness with Jimenez, who is still scratching the surface of his potential. Signed for $10,000 in 2017 with limited baseball experience relative to his peers, Jimenez is an outstanding, bouncy athlete who earns plus-plus grades for his speed and arm strength, giving him the tools to be a standout defender in center field. His explosiveness shows up in his bat speed as well, though there's still some crudeness to his swing he will need to iron out as he faces better pitching rather than relying on his wheels to leg out hits.