2021 Top MLB Prospects At Each Minor League Level
While Minor League Top 10 Prospects rankings aren’t the last word on future stars, they were the first prospect rankings to appear in Baseball America when it launched 40 years ago.
Founding editor Allan Simpson had a network of minor league correspondents in place from the beginning in 1981. That October, in the 10th issue of BA ever printed, the first league-by-league prospect rankings appeared.
Those rankings included scouting reports for the top 10 prospects in every full-season minor league, gleaned primarily from conversations with league managers and scouts. Short-season leagues were incorporated into the coverage in 1982.
The first volume of rankings in 1981 included future Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, then at Triple-A. That issue also featured Darryl Strawberry and Don Mattingly as ranked prospects, a few years before they became two of the biggest stars in the Big Apple.
Fast-forward to 2021. Minor League Top 10 Prospects rankings return in the 40th anniversary year of BA. They have never been more welcome after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season.
This year’s Minor League Top 10 Prospects rankings are the same but different. That’s because the minor leagues look different in 2021 than they did in 2019.
The biggest change was a product of Major League Baseball assuming complete control of the minor leagues last offseason, following the expiration of the Professional Baseball Agreement between MLB and the minors.
MLB restructured the minor leagues to better suit its 30 organizations, both in terms of better facility standards and reduced travel expenditures. It reclassified a number of minor league affiliates—while dropping others—and even eliminated the short-season level between Rookie ball and Low-A.
As a result, the number of domestic minor leagues shrank from 16 to 13. The leagues themselves took on bland, unfamiliar names. A new schedule format of six-game series, followed by an off day, was introduced at all levels.
Even Opening Day was different, pushed back a month to May 4 by the lingering pandemic. Most minor leagues dropped from 140 scheduled games to 120, and for the first time the regular season extended far past Labor Day. Most leagues completed their schedules on Sept. 19, while Triple-A stretched to Oct. 3, shadowing the MLB season.
Despite the changes, Baseball America’s aim remains the same. We strive to identify the most promising prospects in all domestic minor leagues.
How Players Qualify
• All players who entered the season as prospects are eligible for these rankings. That includes all players who had not exceeded 130 MLB at-bats or 50 MLB innings prior to 2021.
• This year we introduced uniform qualifying thresholds for each league that equate to players spending roughly one-third of the season in a league. Players in full-season leagues require 120 plate appearances or 40 innings in that league. Those in the Rookie-level Arizona or Florida complex leagues require 50 PAs or 15 IP.
ˆLEAGUE PROSPECT RANKINGS
- Florida Complex League
- Arizona Complex League
- Low-A East
- Low-A Southeast
- Low-A West
- High-A East
- High-A Central
- High-A West
- Double-A Central
- Double-A Northeast
- Double-A South
- Triple-A East
- Triple-A West