Image credit: Jeferson Quero (Danny Parker/Four Seam Images)
The initial 2024 Top 100 has been released, but it certainly won’t be the last version we put together in 2024. We’ll update the list each month as prospects rise, fall and graduate, and the list will look markedly different come September.
In 2023, players whose stock took huge jumps included Tampa Bay’s Junior Caminero, Boston’s Roman Anthony, Baltimore’s Samuel Basallo, the Cubs’ Cade Horton and Atlanta’s AJ Smith-Shawver. Caminero and Smith-Shawver both made their big league debuts and earned spots on their clubs’ postseason rosters.
As we celebrate the release of this year’s list, here are nine players we believe could make big moves up the board as the season plays out.
Jeferson Quero, C, Brewers (Current Rank: 33)
Elite defensive catchers tend to have bright futures, and Quero is one of the very best backstops in the minors. He earns double-plus grades for both his overall defense and arm strength, the latter of which helped him throw out 35% of runners in a season spent as one of the youngest players in the Southern League. If he were a pushover at the plate, his glovework alone might lead to a long big league career. He’s not. The 20-year-old Quero has plenty of juice and could raise his hit tool—which currently projects as below-average—by becoming a bit more selective. William Contreras is under team control until 2028, which should give Quero plenty of time to develop into Milwaukee’s catcher of the future.
Noah Schultz, LHP, White Sox (Current Rank: 40)
Schultz’s 2023 season began and ended with injuries. First, a flexor strain delayed his season debut until June. After 10 starts, he landed on the IL with a shoulder impingement. In between, with the exception of a lone disaster start, he was untouchable. Schultz posted nothing but zeroes in his other nine outings and used a combination of deception and stuff to manhandle opponents in short bursts. His sinker and slider each are potential plus offerings—the slider garnered an absurd whiff rate of 50%—and his changeup could get to above-average as well. He finished the year with 38 strikeouts in 27 innings. If he can stay healthy, he could vault into the conversation of the best pitching prospects in the sport.
Colt Emerson, SS, Mariners (Current Rank: 52)
The AL West struck gold in the first round of the most recent draft. Nolan Schanuel zoomed to the big leagues with the Angels, and Wyatt Langford brutalized the minors on the way to Triple-A and the Rangers’ postseason taxi squad. The Mariners took Emerson with the 22nd overall pick and then watched as he tore up the low levels. He earned big-time praise in the run-up to the Top 100’s release, and has the type of polish and upside that could make him a star in Seattle.
Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Twins (Current Rank: 53)
Much like Colt Emerson, Rodriguez got lots of love from evaluators around the sport who were bullish on Rodriguez’s future. They pointed to potentially elite power that could show up more frequently with tweaks to his approach. His average (90.2 mph), 90th-percentile (108) and maximum (117.2) mph were outstanding, but a combination of passivity and high whiff marks somewhat muted his abilities. Rodriguez has skills in the outfield, too, and could wind up being a true five-tool talent with further refinement.
Bubba Chandler, RHP, Pirates (Current Rank: 59)
Two-way talents (Shohei Ohtani notwithstanding) sometimes take a little longer to find their way. In the second half of the 2023 season, Chandler started scratching at his upside. In the first half, he struggled to command his arsenal and his offspeed offerings in particular. Improving that aspect of his game gave hitters more weapons to consider and allowed Chandler to dominate. He finished the year with five no-hit frames at Double-A Altoona that should provide a springboard into a breakout 2024.
Roderick Arias, SS, Yankees (Current Rank: 68)
New York’s team in the Florida Complex League was stuffed with talent in a way that veteran evaluators hadn’t seen in decades. The unquestioned best prospect on that squad was Arias, a potential five-tool shortstop who was the jewel of the Yankees’ 2022 international class. Before a thumb injury ended his season, Arias showed the skills to turn a game on both sides of the ball. He’s got huge power, feel to hit, the best infield arm in the system and a strong chance to be a shortstop long-term. Now, he needs to stay healthy.
Xavier Isaac, 1B, Rays (Current Rank: 69)
Isaac, who ranked No. 92 on the 2022 BA 500—was a bit of a surprising pick in the first round of that year’s draft, when Tampa Bay made him the 29th overall selection. In his first full year as a pro, the hulking first baseman showed off some of the biggest raw power in the minors. He slammed 19 home runs in 102 games between Low-A and High-A and produced a 90th-percentile exit velocity of 107.6 mph that far exceeded the marks produced by his peers. There are warts—his miss rates, particularly on pitches in the zone, were higher than desirable—but he has plenty of time to develop and his potential blend of hittability and power could help him shoot into the upper tier of the sport’s prospects.
Victor Scott II, OF, Cardinals (Current Rank: 83)
In a game increasingly centered around power, Scott makes his bones by slapping and dashing. The West Virginia alum stole 94 bags in 2023, which tied him for the minor league lead. He’s an 80-grade runner whose speed also helps his plus-plus defense in center field. If that were all he could do, those skills alone would give him a solid big league floor. At two stops in 2023—and then again in the Arizona Fall League—Scott also showed strong bat-to-ball skills and hints of power. In concert, his gifts could make him a very exciting piece of future St. Louis lineups.
Leodalis De Vries, SS, Padres (Current Rank: 99)
In 2023, Padres catcher Ethan Salas rose through the ranks of the minor leagues in a nearly unprecedented way for players his age. In 2024, De Vries could follow in those footsteps and blaze a quick trail from his first pro contract to the full-season minor leagues. He was arguably the most talented prospect available in the most recent international class and has a blend of contact and impact that’s shown up both in showcases and in games. He’s a strong defender at shortstop as well, and should fit right in with the line of high-upside prospects who have come through San Diego in recent years.