Potential Candidates Close To Joining The Top 100 Prospects List

Image credit: Casey Schmitt (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

We just updated our Top 100 Prospects rankings for May, but as is often the case, we got a lot of questions about players who we left off. We do have a ready reserve of close-to-the-Top 100 players who very well could move on in the very near future. Here’s a look at some of the most notable names to keep an eye on, as they are making cases for Top 100 Prospects inclusion. 

Matt McLain, SS, Reds

McLain’s first 32 games this season are unimpeachably excellent. He’s hitting .333/.448/.667 with nine home runs and eight stolen bases while playing shortstop and second base for Triple-A Louisville. As a 2021 first-round pick with a lengthy track record, why isn’t he already in the Top 100? We’re holding off for at least a little longer, because the biggest question about McLain is whether he can hold up and keep hitting over the course of a lengthy season. Last year, McLain hit .273/.372/.591 for Double-A Chattanooga in April, and he hit seven home runs in May, racking up 10 home runs in his first 41 games. But as the season wore on, McLain hit a wall. He hit .221 over the remaining four months of the season, while his arm strength and range at shortstop seemed to tail off. McLain is not far off the Top 100 list again now, but there are still some concerns about his stamina and his ability to stick at shortstop if he’s asked to play it everyday. (JJ Cooper)

Casey Schmitt, 3B, Giants

Schmitt is the best third baseman in the minors and has progressively improved his swing to make more contact and tap into his latent raw power. He’s a potential Gold Glove defender at third base who can play shortstop as needed, and his continued offensive improvements give him a chance to be an impactful player on both sides of the ball. (Kyle Glaser)

Andrew Abbott, LHP, Reds

Abbott has been one of the best pitchers in the minors so far this year. He was unhittable at Double-A Chattanooga, and he’s been solid since he was promoted to Triple-A Louisville. But there are some concerns about whether Abbott’s outstanding start is completely sustainable. He was one of the pitchers who seemed to benefit the most from the pre-tacked baseball in the Southern League. The increased vertical movement he got on his fastball in Double-A turned it into a plus pitch despite its modest 92-94 mph velocity. He’s not getting as many swings and misses with it at Triple-A, but his ability to mix pitches and hit his spots still makes him a useful potential No. 4 starter, and likely the Reds’ best option for the starting rotation before long. (JC)

Cristian Mena, RHP, White Sox 

Mena’s combination of age, stuff and performance has made him one of the most intriguing prospects in Chicago’s system over the last two seasons. He opened 2023 as the second-youngest pitcher in the Southern League, behind only Marlins uber-prospect Eury Perez. The righthander has been outstanding this season, but the pitcher-friendly effects of the pre-tacked ball in play in the Southern League make it difficult to truly suss out his ultimate ceiling. Data from the SL clearly show that Mena’s fastball shape has taken a remarkable jump this season, which surely has contributed to him racking up 42 strikeouts in his first 25 innings. He’s throwing a ton of strikes this season (67% through his first five starts), which he did last year as well in his first taste of the upper levels as part of Chicago’s “Project Birmingham” program. None of Mena’s offspeeds is a true knockout, but a young pitcher pounding the strike zone at the upper levels is always an eye-opener. (Josh Norris) 

Juan Brito, 2B, Guardians 

After coming to Cleveland in the deal that sent Nolan Jones to Colorado, Brito adds to the Guardians’ stockpile of intriguing middle infielders. Brito has an intriguing combination of decent exit velocities (his 90th percentile rate hovers around 100 mph) for his size and a supreme knowledge of the strike zone, which has led to more walks (15) than strikeouts (10) in the early portion of the season as well as an overall miss rate of 14.4%. Those numbers are especially encouraging in the context of the Midwest League, which has curbed the output of plenty of talented hitters. He’s a decent second baseman as well, which should make for a player worth watching as he climbs the ladder in one of the better developmental systems in the sport. (JN) 

Osleivis Basabe, SS, Rays 

Basabe came over to the Rays from the Rangers in the deal that sent Nate Lowe to Texas and has been excellent over the last two seasons. He bullied the competition at both High-A and Double-A in 2022 and opened the 2023 season as one of the younger players in the International League. Basabe is an aggressive hitter who makes loud contact (his average and 90th percentile exit velocities were 89 and 102 mph, respectively, entering the month). His .343 average as of May 8 ranked seventh in the IL, though his .420 BABIP suggests there could be some regression in the offing. He sports low rates of in-zone and overall miss, however, which should serve him well as he matures, especially if he can lower his chase rate a touch. (JN) 

David Festa, RHP, Twins

Festa was pointed out in spring training as a player to watch for this season who might be on the verge of a breakout. His ERA is a bit inflated at this point, but there are plenty of positive indicators nonetheless. His four-seam fastball—which sits around 96 mph and has touched a couple of ticks higher—scores well on Stuff+ models and has excellent shape. Festa’s changeup and slider are each solid pitches in scouts’ eyes, but in the early part of the season it appears that he might need something more to attack lefties, who have hit both of the home runs he’s allowed. He’s throwing plenty of strikes, has mostly kept the ball in the park and has a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio as well. While he’s not a finished product, Festa still offers up-arrow traits.  (JN)

Yiddi Cappe, 2B/SS, Marlins 

Cappe entered the year as one of Miami’s most promising offensive prospects, and his early performance has done little to dispel that reputation. The 20-year-old opened the year as one of the youngest players in the Midwest League, where he is likely playing in the coldest conditions of his career—including snow during a recent game. Nevertheless, Cappe has put together solid numbers across the board, including a .793 OPS and 46 total bases, which puts him just five behind the league leader. Cappe has mostly played second base this season, which seems to be his likely landing spot once he reaches the big leagues. If that’s the case, there will be more pressure on his bat. So far, he looks like he’ll be able to profile at the position. (JN)

AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP, Braves

There’s a lot to like about Smith-Shawver, whom the Braves chose with their seventh-round pick in 2021. After a dominant run in the High-A South Atlantic League, he was bumped to Double-A, where he’s now one of the youngest pitchers on the circuit and will pitch all season at 20 years old. He’s also got some filthy stuff. His four-seam fastball and slider each grade out extremely well on Stuff+ models, and his changeup is OK as well. Each of Smith-Shawver’s three pitches has garnered chase rates of better than 23%. The righthander’s fastball is particularly nasty. The pitch sits in the mid 90s and has touched 97 mph. More than pure velocity, the fastball has an outstanding 20 inches of induced vertical break. That figure should jump in the Southern League, which is using a ball that has shown early signs of amplifying pitchers’ IVBs. (JN)

Drew Gilbert, OF, Astros 

With just a month under his belt Gilbert was promoted from High-A Asheville to Double-A Corpus Christi after hitting .360/421/.686 over 21 games. A center fielder with average or better skills across the board, Gilbert is a well-rounded prospect with a variety of strong attributes. Gilbert’s power has shown up, not only in his six home runs and eight doubles, but in the exit velocity metrics as well. His 90th percentile exit velocity is north of 106 mph and his average exit velocity is around 88 mph. Playing his home games within the friendly confines of Asheville’s McCormick Field has helped, but there’s underlying proof to at least above-average power production. His hit tool, which was graded as above-average, has shown true with above-average contact rates and chase rates and a low in-zone whiff rate. Overall, Gilbert has across-the-board skills that provide him not only a high floor but potentially an above-average regular ceiling. (Geoff Pontes)

Brady House, 3B, Nationals 

After a back injury halted House’s debut season as a professional, he returned to Low-A and has produced. House is hitting .277/.395/.492 with seven extra-base hits, including three home runs. The Nationals have been taking it slow, playing him four out of six games each series. He’s played in 18 out of 26 games for Fredericksburg and so far the plan has worked. Drafted as a shortstop, House has moved over to third base as his permanent position, seeing all 17 starts in the field at third base. The early signs of a return to form are there, as House is healthy and productive. The amateur pedigree is certainly there and if he sustains this sort of production House should move onto the Top 100. (GP)

Hunter Goodman, C, Rockies 

In 2022 Goodman slugged 36 home runs in his first full minor league season. He finished the season with Double-A Hartford and struggled over a dozen games. Returning to Dunkin’ Donuts Park this season, Goodman has taken off with the Yard Goats, hitting for power and showing improved approach and contact. Goodman is hitting .284/.360/.657 with 11 doubles and nine home runs over 26 games. He leads the Eastern League in home runs and RBIs, and his strikeout rate is around 25%. His contact rate is up, his chase rate is down and his in-zone whiff rate is down. The biggest question for Goodman is where does he play defensively? He’s seen time in left field, first base and his natural position of catcher. Regardless of where he ends up defensively, his power is going to drive his profile. (GP) 

Emmet Sheehan, RHP, Dodgers

Over his first six appearances spanning 24.1 innings, Sheehan has dominated Texas League competition. He’s struck out 43 batters across that stretch while walking just eight batters. His ERA sits at 2.59 while his xFIP sits at 3.02. Sheehan’s fastball has sat 95-96 mph with an outlier vertical approach angle of 3.8 degrees, generating over 19 inches on average of induced vertical break and nearly a foot of arm-side run. Sheehan may have a true plus-plus fastball, not that dissimilar from Mariners rookie Bryce Miller. He also uses a mid-80s gyro slider and a changeup with heavy arm-side run and good vertical separation off his fastball. The biggest question is how deep Sheehan can go into games as he’s gone five innings just twice this season. Despite the usage question marks, Sheehan has some unique attributes in his arsenal that make him a viable Top 100 Prospect. (GP) 

Gabriel Gonzalez, OF, Mariners 

After a strong 2022 season that saw Gonzalez hit .357/.421/.548 across 35 games in the Arizona Complex League and earn a late season promotion to Low-A Modesto, Gonzalez returned to Modesto to begin the 2023 campaign. Throughout his career the 19-year-old outfielder has shown a strong combination of contact and power. While Gonzalez has just a single home run this season, he’s hit the ball hard and limited his swing and miss. Gonzalez’s 11.5% strikeout rate is buoyed by a contact rate around 80% and an in-zone miss rate around 15%. Gonzalez has seen a substantial drop in his chase rate, cutting it by nearly a quarter to under 30%. The approach gains are a welcome sight, as chasing had been called out as a key area of improvement for Gonzalez. The in-game power should begin to surface, as Gonzalez is taking good at-bats and hitting the ball harder than last year. (GP)

Jonatan Clase, OF, Mariners 

It’s been a breakout spring for the Mariners outfield prospect. Clase has long been known for his 70-grade speed but now his bat is starting to carry his profile. Clase has shown substantial gains in contact rate, chase rate and in-zone miss rate. Clase has also seen a sharp increase to his in-game power and exit velocity data. He’s already collected 18 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, over his first 21 games and earned a promotion to Double-A last week. If Clase keeps this up he could join the Top 100 this summer. How Clase adjusts to Double-A will dictate how high he climbs the list. (GP)

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