Players We Believe Could Make The 2021 Top 100
Every year after we release our annual preseason Top 100 Prospects list, one question invariably rolls in from social media: How close was (blank) to making the list?
Usually, we answer by listing every player who got a vote during the list-making process. This year, we’re taking it a step further by adding a list of players we expect to see squarely among the 2021 preseason Top 100 Prospects list.
The assignment was simple: Each member of the prospect team—J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Ben Badler, Kyle Glaser, Justin Coleman and Josh Norris—was asked to pick out a few players whose prospect stock should rise throughout the season. There were no limit to the number of players each writer could select, nor was there a limit on how many players per system.
As you can see by the answers below, we’re very bullish on the D-backs’ system, which already boasts five Top 100 prospects—Daulton Varsho, Geraldo Perdomo, Kristian Robinson, Alek Thomas and Corbin Carroll.
Multiple writers also nominated Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk, Marlins first baseman Lewin Diaz, Royals outfielder Erick Peña, Indians outfielder George Valera, Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson and Yankees righthander Luis Medina (who is also one of the toolsiest pitchers in the minors).
Without further ado, here are a few of the players who could shoot into the game’s elite with strong seasons in 2020.
Maximo Acosta, SS, Rangers: The top shortstop in the 2019 July 2 class draws comparisons with Gleyber Torres. He earns potential plus grades for his hitting, speed and throwing arm and is at least average or better when it comes to power and defense. If he makes the Top 100 in 2021, it means he’ll have started to tap into his considerable upside.
Jordyn Adams, OF, Angels: A two-sport athlete out of high school, Adams has plenty of raw tools that he’s working to turn into skills. If he succeeds, he has one of the higher upsides in the Angels’ system and could become one of the coveted players who provides both power and speed.
Matt Allan, RHP, Mets: Allan was the top prep arm in the 2019 draft and a solid first full season in the minors could catapult him onto the top 100 with his plus fastball and power curveball combination. He could make his full-season debut on Opening Day of 2021, much like the way the Mets handled the since-traded Simeon Woods Richardson.
Miguel Amaya, C, Cubs: A steadily productive hitter with straightaway power whose offense has been muted by pitchers’ parks in South Bend and Myrtle Beach. Amaya is still very young, and getting away from pitcher-friendly environments could give him an offensive boost and the corresponding breakout.
Seth Corry, LHP, Giants: Perhaps he was dominating competition he was too advanced for, but Corry seemed to figure it out in the second half with a 1.10 ERA and 2.6 BB/9 to go with 12.2 SO/9. The Giants are still looking for a little more refinement of his command, but Corry definitely has the stuff to land on the 2021 Top 100.
Hans Crouse, RHP, Rangers: Crouse pitched through elbow issues in 2019, which hampered his slider and resulted in a lower strikeout rate. If he returns health in 2020 and his stuff has the same zip it showed in 2018, he will jump back into Top 100 status.
Lewin Diaz, 1B, Marlins: Opened eyes with his defensive acumen and burgeoning power. He more than doubled his career total for home runs while playing in the Florida State and Southern leagues. Originally a Twins prospect, Diaz was dealt in 2019 as part of the package that sent reliever Sergio Romo to Minnesota.
Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox: Duran’s plus speed and above-average hit tool should help him adapt in the upper minors while continuing to patrol center field. He struggled early in his first stint at Double-A but rebounded with a strong August that showed hints of his talent.
Luis Frias, RHP, D-Backs: The lower levels of the Diamondbacks’ system are dripping with high-end arms, and Frias could have as much impact as any of them. The big righty can overpower hitters with his fastball-curveball combo and has the potential to be a rotation innings-eater or a dominant force at the back of a pen.
Ivan Herrera, C, Cardinals: Herrera is an advanced hitter for a 19-year-old catcher, with a calm, balanced swing that's short to the ball with good strike-zone discipline. He has a strong, athletic frame and an above-average arm, but he will need to tighten up a few things defensively as he goes up the ladder.
Kyle Isbel, OF, Royals: Isbel’s 2019 season was marred by a pair of injuries to his hamstring and hamate bone but he responded in the Arizona Fall League with a campaign that allowed his table-setter tools to re-emerge.
Alejandro Kirk, C, Blue Jays: Built like a shorter version of Pablo Sandoval, Kirk is one of the best pure hitters in the minors, with a short stroke, good plate coverage and a sharp eye for the strike zone. His body raises big concerns about his ability to stay behind the plate, but scouts say he’s surprisingly mobile as a backstop.
Alek Manoah, RHP, Blue Jays: Manoah has an enormous frame and big stuff to match, with a fastball that can reach 98 mph and a slider that flashes plus. The 11th overall pick in the 2019 draft, Manoah should be able to build on a brief but dominant debut last year.
Bryan Mata, RHP, Red Sox: Mata stumbled in his first stint against upper minors competition, but his four-pitch mix still misses enough bats to bounce back in 2020. Mata will likely move to Triple-A as a 21-year-old and could make his big league debut in a relief role.
Luis Medina, RHP, Yankees: While his career has ultimately been an exercise in frustration, Medina harnessed his arsenal toward the end of 2019—he has the best raw stuff in the system—and earned a spot on the Yankees’ 40-man roster on potential alone.
Liover Peguero, SS, D-Backs: A boatload of 2019 draft picks and trade acquisitions helped revamp Arizona’s system, but steps forward from players like Peguero gave it a boost as well. The 19-year-old Peguero finished among the Top 20 prospects in two leagues and has potential value on both sides of the ball.
Erick Peña, OF, Royals: Peña is a 2019 international signing from the Dominican Republic with a mature approach and advanced hitting ability for his age and the strength projection to grow into exciting power potential from the left side.
Brayan Rocchio, SS, Indians: Nicknamed "The Professor," Rocchio combines a high baseball IQ with high bat-to-ball skills in the middle of the diamond. He ranked No. 5 among on BA’s annual list of the Top 20 Prospects in the New York-Penn League and showed a blend of excellent defense and a swing that is geared for contact now but could provide more power as he matures.
Luis Rodriguez, OF, Dodgers: The top 2019 signing out of Venezuela, Rodriguez has an exciting package of athleticism, hitting ability and power. He consistently performed against older competition as an amateur and has a swing that could produce 20-plus home runs per year as he matures.
Phillies Bolster Rotation In Deal For Kyle Gibson, Ian Kennedy From Rangers
The Phillies bolstered their pitching staff in a move that netted the Rangers one-time top prospect Spencer Howard.
Johan Rojas, OF, Phillies: Rojas was a pop-up prospect toward the latter stages of 2019 and made enough impact to be asked for in trades toward the end of the summer. He has the potential to be a plus defender with hittability and sprinkling of power.
Tyler Stephenson, C, Reds: Although he was never placed on the injured list, Stephenson played just 89 games in 2019. In that time, he showed continued on-base and contact skills as well as a raw power that could make him a riser in 2020.
Michael Toglia, 1B, Rockies: The type of power and patience to profile at a bat-first position; as a switch-hitter he is tougher to neutralize via relief matchups, provided he can bring up his production versus lefties. Hitting in the Rockies’ hitter-friendly Class A parks won’t hurt.
Brice Turang, SS, Brewers: The Brewers aggressively pushed Turang as a 19-year-old to high Class A Carolina, where he struggled in the second half. While he needs to show more ability to do damage on contact, his strike-zone discipline, barrel awareness and plus speed give him a potential high on-base skill set at a premium position.
George Valera, OF, Indians: Valera boasts a potentially plus hit tool and above-average power, an excellent starting point for a corner-outfield prospect. He showed hints of his gifts in the New York-Penn League and earned a late-season bump to low Class A. Injuries have held him back over his first two seasons, but Valera’s hit tool should continue to trend positively after showing power and the ability to get on-base in the NYPL as an 18-year-old.
Blake Walston, LHP, D-Backs: Walston ranked No. 40 on Baseball America’s annual ranking of the 500 best draft prospects and was the fourth-best lefthander on the board. Combine his raw materials—a mid-90s fastball, potentially plus curveball and plenty of remaining projection—with one of the more progressive development departments in the game and there’s a lot to like about Walston’s future.