Orioles Prospects Dominate The Top 100. What's Next?
If there’s one thing that three decades of ranking the Top 100 Prospects in baseball makes clear, it’s that there is safety in numbers.
Prospects are volatile by nature. That’s why an organization with a high quantity of top minor league talent is more likely to produce high-quality big leaguers.
And no organization has a higher quantity of quality prospects this year than the Orioles. Shortstop Gunnar Henderson tops the Top 100 Prospects. Righthander Grayson Rodriguez ranks No. 6 and is the second-best pitching prospect in baseball. Shortstop Jackson Holliday, the No. 1 overall pick in 2022, checks in at No. 15.
That trio alone provides substantial future value to the Orioles, in addition to the contributions of franchise catcher Adley Rutschman, who was the No. 1 overall prospect in 2022 and shined as a rookie.
But Baltimore has five other Top 100 Prospects to go with its elite trio of Henderson, Rodriguez and Holliday, albeit not in the range where future stardom is assured or necessarily likely. Prospects are volatile by nature, after all.
Outfielder Colton Cowser checks in No. 41. Lefthander DL Hall and third baseman Jordan Westburg rank at Nos. 75 and 76. Second baseman Connor Norby and shortstop Joey Ortiz appear in the 90s.
Every one of Baltimore’s prospects in the Top 100, with the exception of the 19-year-old Holliday, has reached at least Triple-A. Henderson and Hall made their MLB debuts last season.
Baltimore has a high concentration of talent ready to impact the major leagues as soon as this season. Baseball America has been ranking the top 100 prospects in baseball for 34 seasons now, granting perspective on what that means for the future of the Orioles.
Borrowing a prospect valuation methodology introduced by Driveline, we assigned an expected dollar value to each member of each of the 34 Top 100 Prospects classes. Organizations receive the most projected value by having the highest concentrations of high-ranking prospects, especially those inside the top 25.
This year’s Orioles rank fourth on the list, meaning that the quantity of Top 100 talent possessed by Baltimore—and the magnitude of top prospects Henderson, Rodriguez and Holliday—projects to be among the most valuable concentrations of minor league talent since 1990.
Let’s take a look at how the other nine organizations in the top 10 fared. Keep in mind that this represents forecasted value heading into the highlighted season based on where prospects ranked in the Top 100. It is not intended as a retroactive summary of value.
(1) 2011 Royals
Top 100 Prospects (nine): #8 Eric Hosmer, 1B; #9 Mike Moustakas, 3B; #10 Wil Myers, OF; #18 John Lamb, LHP; #19 Mike Montgomery, LHP; #51 Christian Colon, SS; #68 Danny Duffy, LHP; #69 Jake Odorizzi, RHP; and #83 Chris Dwyer, LHP
Career value: 86 WAR
How it played out: The Royals “blue wave” lived up to the hype. Kansas City hit on multiple early-round picks in a short window—including Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Wil Myers (whom they traded to the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis) and Danny Duffy—and parlayed that fresh-faced talent into one of the most successful periods in franchise history. This Royals Top 100 Prospects group complemented a core that also included homegrown players such as Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Yordano Ventura. Kansas City won the AL pennant in 2014 and the World Series in 2015.
(2) 2006 D-backs
Top 100 Prospects (seven): #2 Justin Upton, SS; #5 Stephen Drew, SS; #17 Conor Jackson, 1B; #20 Carlos Quentin, OF; #23 Chris Young, OF; #32 Carlos Gonzalez, OF; and #67 Dustin Nippert, RHP
Career value: 105 WAR
How it played out: This group of D-backs prospects all realized varying degrees of MLB success, but none truly broke through to elite status. Justin Upton came closest. He was a consensus No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005 and reached Arizona as a 19-year-old in 2007. He had a strong career that included 325 home runs and four all-star nods, but he never quite found the next gear. The same was true of Stephen Drew, who had a lengthy MLB career but didn’t live up to offensive expectations. Arizona traded Carlos Gonzalez to the Athletics for Dan Haren before he reached the majors and didn’t benefit from his 25 WAR. The proof is in the pudding with this Top 100 Prospects class: the D-backs reached the NLCS in 2007 but failed to launch an extended window of contention.
(3) 2008 Rays
Top 100 Prospects (seven): #2 Evan Longoria, 3B; #10 David Price, LHP; #15 Jake McGee, LHP; #17 Wade Davis, RHP; #39 Reid Brignac, SS; #59 Desmond Jennings, OF; and #99 Jeff Niemann, RHP
Career value: 138 WAR
How it played out: First-round picks Evan Longoria and David Price are the headliners of a prospect class that delivered the goods. Those two players have compiled nearly 100 WAR between them, and every other member of this Rays Top 100 Prospects class, save for Reid Brignac, contributed value. The 2008 Rays won the AL pennant, with Longoria and Price contributing to a core that already included James Shields, Carl Crawford and BJ Upton. Many of the others in this Top 100 group were around—supplemented by new faces such as Wil Myers, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson—when the Rays returned to the postseason in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
(4) 2023 Orioles
Top 100 Prospects (eight): #1 Gunnar Henderson, SS; #6 Grayson Rodriguez, RHP; #15 Jackson Holliday, SS; #41 Colton Cowser, OF; #75 DL Hall, LHP; #76 Jordan Westburg, 3B; #93 Connor Norby, 2B; and #95 Joey Ortiz, SS
(5) 2015 Cubs
Top 100 Prospects (six): #1 Kris Bryant, 3B; #3 Addison Russell, SS; #12 Jorge Soler, OF; #19 Kyle Schwarber, C; #38 Carl Edwards Jr., RHP; and #83 Billy McKinney, OF
Career value: 66 WAR so far
How it played out: The Cubs built a lineup core through the draft, international signings and trades that included this class of Top 100 Prospects, notably Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber. Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras rounded out an offense that helped Chicago reach the NLCS in 2015 and 2017 and win the World Series in 2016.
(6) 2018 Braves
Top 100 Prospects (eight): #1 Ronald Acuña Jr., OF; #23 Luiz Gohara, LHP; #27 Mike Soroka, RHP; #34 Kyle Wright, RHP; #42 Ian Anderson, RHP; #54 Austin Riley, 3B; #65 Kolby Allard, LHP; and #72 Max Fried, LHP
Career value: 61 WAR so far
How it played out: Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies graduated from prospect status in 2017, and the prospect class that succeeded them—particularly Ronald Acuña, Austin Riley and Max Fried—proved equally instrumental in Atlanta’s run of five straight NL East division titles and 2021 World Series championship. A trio of Braves first-round pitchers—Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson—have all tasted big league success in the rotation, if not for a sustained period of time yet. Swanson departed as a free agent, but the rest remain key parts of the 2023 core.
(7) 2016 Dodgers
Top 100 Prospects (seven): #1 Corey Seager, SS; #4 Julio Urias, LHP; #23 Jose De Leon, RHP; #50 Kenta Maeda, RHP; #54 Cody Bellinger, 1B; #72 Grant Holmes, RHP; and #100 Alex Verdugo, OF
Career value: 76 WAR so far
How it played out: This group of Dodgers prospects epitomizes what has made the organization so successful. Corey Seager and Julio Urias blossomed into all-stars who played key roles in capturing the 2020 World Series championship. Cody Bellinger had an epic first three seasons in Los Angeles, which included an MVP award in 2019 and NL pennants in 2017 and 2018. Jose De Leon and Grant Holmes busted, but Kenta Maeda turned in four good seasons before being traded for Brusdar Graterol. Alex Verdugo was a key part of the package sent to the Red Sox for Mookie Betts. All in all, this Top 100 Prospects class represented a gigantic win for the Dodgers.
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(8) 2002 Cubs
Top 100 Prospects (seven): #2 Mark Prior, RHP; #6 Juan Cruz, RHP; #40 Hee Seop Choi, 1B; #45 Dave Kelton, 3B; #49 Bobby Hill, 2B; #68 Nic Jackson, OF; and #80 Carlos Zambrano, RHP
Career value: 60 WAR
How it played out: Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano joined with Kerry Wood to front a rotation that got the 2003 Cubs to within one win of the World Series. It unraveled from there. Chicago improbably lost to the Marlins in the NLCS, and Prior never pitched another full season afterward, undone by a series of injuries. Zambrano had staying power and accounts for the bulk of this group’s WAR total. He also was part of future Cubs playoff teams in 2007 and 2008.
(9) 2019 Padres
Top 100 Prospects (nine): #2 Fernando Tatis Jr., SS; #28 MacKenzie Gore, LHP; #31 Luis Urias, 2B; #32 Francisco Mejia, C; #52 Adrian Morejon, LHP; #66 Chris Paddack, RHP; #67 Luis Patiño, RHP; #92 Logan Allen, LHP; and #99, Josh Naylor, 1B
Career value: 25 WAR so far
How it played out: Padres general manager AJ Preller built the best farm system in baseball in 2019 and then put it to use acquiring MLB talent in trades. Of this group of Top 100 Prospects, only Fernando Tatis has made an impact in San Diego, though he missed the 2022 playoff run while suspended. The rest of this prospect class was used in trades for players including Juan Soto, Blake Snell, Trent Grisham, Mike Clevinger and Taylor Rogers. The strategy has worked. The Padres have been competitive in the 2020s and return a strong team in 2023.
(10) 1992 Braves
Top 100 Prospects (seven): #4 Chipper Jones, SS; #8 Ryan Klesko, 1B; #13 Mark Wohlers, RHP; #19 Mike Kelly, OF; #56 David Nied, RHP; #78 Javy Lopez, C; and #89 Keith Mitchell, OF
Career value: 153 WAR
How it played out: The Braves were swimming in talent in the early 1990s. Atlanta won the NL pennant in 1991 with a rotation featuring Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery—none older than 25—and a lineup that included young standouts David Justice and Ron Gant. The Braves’ core was further fortified when this class of Top 100 Prospects reached the big leagues, particularly Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko and Javy Lopez, a trio that accounted for all but 8 WAR in the total above. Atlanta maintained its stranglehold on the NL East for the rest of the ’90s, reaching the World Series in 1992, 1996 and 1999 and winning it in 1995.