The Toolsiest MLB Prospects In The 2020 Top 100
By now, you know that we’ve crowned Rays shortstop Wander Franco as the No.1 talent on our preseason Top 100 Prospect list. The route to that decision wasn’t particularly difficult—he had a fantastic season as an 18-year-old at both Class A levels and was in the top spot on each of the six ballots submitted in the initial stages of compiling the list.
There’s a difference between the best prospect and the prospect with the loudest tools. Franco isn’t the most tooled-up player in the minor leagues, but you don’t have to go far down the list to find the player who fills that role.
The toolsiest player in the minor leagues is . . . White Sox outfielder Luis Robert, the No. 2 prospect on the list and the recent recipient of a major league contract that will get him to Chicago on Opening Day and pay him up to $88 million through the 2027 season.
The 22-year-old Cuban sensation boasts five above-average or better tools, including a 55-grade hit tool, 60-grade defense and 70-grade speed, throwing arm and power. Added together, Robert has an average tool grade of 65.
|Here are the 10 "toolsiest" pitchers in the Top 100 Prospects, as determined by an average of their pitch and control grades.|
|Nate Pearson||Blue Jays||RHP||80||45||60||55||55||59|
|And here are the 10 "toolsiest" hitters in the Top 100 Prospects, as determined by an average of their five tools.|
|Luis Robert||White Sox||OF||55||70||70||60||70||65|
|Bobby Witt Jr.||Royals||SS||55||60||60||70||60||61|
That formula gives Robert the top spot by a slight margin over outfielder Jasson Dominguez, whom the Yankees gave $5.1 million—the largest bonus in franchise history for an international free agent—in the most recent international signing period.
Tools-wise, the only difference between Robert and Dominguez is that Dominguez has a tick better hit tool (60 to 55) and Robert’s throwing arm is a full grade stronger than Dominguez’s (70 to 60).
Robert is also one of just three prospects with three tools on the card that grade as 70 or better. He is joined in that club by Braves outfielder Cristian Pache (70-grade speed, defense and throwing arm), Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez (70-grade hitting, power and throwing arm)
Franco is the only player among in the minors whose hit tool projects as a true 80, which stems from his combination of sublime bat-to-ball skills (swinging-strike rate of just 4.3 percent) and plate discipline (Franco was the only player in full-season ball with more than 50 walks and 35 or fewer strikeouts).
Overall, there were just eight positions whose tools grades averaged to 60 or better: Robert, Dominguez, Pache, Rodriguez, Angels outfielder Jo Adell, Padres shortstop C.J. Abrams, Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman.
Seven of those players can be found among the top 25 spots in the most recent Top 100. The only exception is Dominguez, who checked in at No. 38 before playing in an official game.
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On the mound, three pitchers are tied for the toolsiest repertoire: Athletics lefthander Jesus Luzardo, Marlins righty Sixto Sanchez and Yankees righty Luis Medina. Each pitcher’s repertoire and projected control average to 61.25. Medina is the only pitcher among that trio with two 70-grade or better pitches (80 fastball, 70 curveball) but his scattershot control has muted his mix for most of his career.
Luzardo, who was traded from the Nationals to the Athletics in 2017, made his big league debut in 2019 and proved so potent that the A’s carried him on their postseaon roster for the Wild Card Game. He struck out four in three shutout innings against the Rays, giving Oakland’s fans a glimpse of the future as their 2019 season was extinguished.
Besides Luzardo, Sanchez and Medina, seven more pitchers produced an average tools grade (pitches plus control) of 60 or better: Casey Mize (Tigers), Matthew Allan (Mets), A.J. Puk (Athletics), Luis Frias (D-backs), Brailyn Marquez (Cubs), Grayson Rodriguez (Orioles) and Hunter Greene (Reds).
Puk, who should team with Luzardo in Oakland to form one of the most potentially dominant one-two punches in the big leagues, is one of just three pitchers with two or more pitches that grade as 70 or better. He joins Rays fireballer Shane Baz (70 fastball and slider) the Phillies’ Francisco Morales (70 fastball and slider) in that select group. Of that trio, only Puk—who made his big league debut in 2019—has pitched above Class A.
The title of the most tooled-up system goes to the Mariners, whose system is led by two of the game’s best prospects: outfielders Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic. Of the 49 tools among their top 10 prospects, only one—Justin Dunn’s curveball—projects as lower than a 40-grade.
For an organization with the worst farm system in baseball two years ago, that represents extraordinarily rapid improvement and should give hope to the fan base of the team with the longest playoff drought in the big leagues.