The Toolsiest MLB Prospects In The 2021 Top 100
Even after a season when virtually nothing was normal, Baseball America has assembled its annual list of the Top 100 Prospects in baseball. As usual, plenty of debate went into the final product, which was more difficult than normal because of the lack of a minor league season or scouting access at teams’ alternate training sites (and in some cases instructional leagues).
One constant between this list and one presented under normal circumstances, however, is that the final product contains plenty of players with extraordinarily loud sets of tools. Grades from 60 (plus) to 80 (elite) abound throughout, giving the prospects on the list a chance at extremely bright futures.
Even among the Top 100, however, there are echelons. Entering the 2020 season, for example, Wander Franco ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the game, but he wasn’t the prospect with the loudest tools. That title went to White Sox outfielder Luis Robert, who was projected as a 55-grade hitter with plus defense and double-plus power, speed and throwing arm.
Robert showed hints of all those gifts in his debut season, when he ranked in the 96th or better percentiles in sprint speed (29.1 feet per second) and outs above average (7) but also showed the same considerable swing-and-miss issues (32.2% strikeout rate) that he exhibited in the minor leagues.
Robert graduated from prospect consideration and finished second in the balloting for the American League Rookie of the Year award.
In 2021, Franco still reigns as the top prospect in the game, but three players—two hitters and a pitcher—have taken over Robert’s spot as the players in the Top 100 with the loudest tools. To determine the leaders, we took a simple average of each player’s tool grades (five for all position players and anywhere from four to six for pitchers depending on their repertoires.
Using this system, Robert’s grade entering 2020 was 65. This year, the three leaders each come in one tick short, at 64 each. The two hitters who cleared the threshold were the Braves’ Cristian Pache and the Yankees’ Jasson Dominguez. On the pitching side, the honor went to Marlins righthander Sixto Sanchez.
Pache and Sanchez each made their big league debuts in 2020 and saw time during their teams’ respective postseason runs. By contrast, Dominguez, who signed with the Yankees in 2019, still has yet to play an official game. He was not at the Yankees’ alternate training site, either, and didn’t back on the field in front of coaches until the team’s instructional league in the Dominican Republic.
Pache is one of the game’s premier defensive prospects—the average of his speed, arm, and fielding grades is 73.33, the best on the Top 100—but his continually developing offensive skills have helped push him among baseball’s elite. He’s also one of just seven players on the Top 100 who have three 70- or 80-grade tools.
Even without an official professional game on his ledger, Dominguez still sits atop the Yankees Top 30 prospects above two high-end righthanders—Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt—who debuted in 2020. He is a potentially plus hitter, fielder and thrower and earns double-plus marks for his power and speed.
Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. is the only other player in the Top 100 with 60s or better across the board. Beyond Pache, Dominguez and Witt, five more players in the Top 100 have average tool scores of 60 or better: outfielders Jo Adell (Angels), Garrett Mitchell (Brewers), Julio Rodriguez (Mariners), C.J. Abrams (Padres) and Adley Rutschman (Orioles)
Rutschman and Pache are the only two position players on the Top 100 with three tools which grade as 70 or better.
To break it down even further, we’ve created categories for Hit Grade (which is the average of each player’s hit and power tools), Hit+Run (the Hit Grade with a player’s speed grade added), Defense Grade (the average of a player’s fielding and arm grades) and Defense+Run (the Defense Grade with a player’s speed added).
When broken down that way, three players in the Top 100 have Hit Grades of 70: Franco, Rutschman and No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson. When speed is factored, the two top scorers are Dominguez and Abrams.
Measured by Defense Grade, Pache is the Top 100’s best fielder, with a score of 75. He’s followed by Rutschman, Ke’Bryan Hayes (Pirates) and Brandon Marsh (Angels), who each earn scores of 65. When speed is factored, Mitchell, the Brewers’ 2020 first-rounder jumps just behind Pache.
|RANK||NAME||POSITION||TEAM||HIT||POWER||RUN||FIELD||ARM||HIT GRADE||HIT+RUN||DEFENSE||DEFENSE+RUN||TOOLS AVERAGE|
|16||Bobby Witt Jr.||SS||Royals||60||60||60||60||60||60||60.00||60||60.00||60|
|90||Bobby Dalbec||3B/1B||Red Sox||40||70||45||50||70||55||51.67||60||55.00||55|
|34||Jordan Groshans||SS||Blue Jays||60||60||50||50||60||60||56.67||55||53.33||56|
|40||Nick Madrigal||2B||White Sox||60||30||60||50||50||45||50.00||50||53.33||50|
|19||Austin Martin||SS/OF||Blue Jays||70||55||55||50||50||62.5||60.00||50||51.67||56|
|71||Jeter Downs||2B/SS||Red Sox||55||55||50||50||50||55||53.33||50||50.00||52|
|47||Triston Casas||1B||Red Sox||55||65||40||55||50||60||53.33||52.5||48.33||53|
|96||Orelvis Martinez||SS||Blue Jays||60||60||45||40||60||60||55.00||50||48.33||53|
|21||Andrew Vaughn||1B||White Sox||60||60||30||50||50||60||50.00||50||43.33||50|
|70||Alejandro Kirk||C||Blue Jays||70||50||20||45||50||60||46.67||47.5||38.33||47|
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For Sanchez, 2021 marks the second straight year he’s held at least a share of the title of most tooled-up pitcher in the minors. His fastball ranks as a true 80—just one of five in the Top 100—and his changeup grades as a potential double-plus. Both grades are bumps up from 2020, when he entered the year with a 70 fastball and 60 changeup.
Sanchez’s slider also ticked up a half-grade, and he added a curveball that could potentially reach above-average as well. In fact, Sanchez’s only tool to remain static year over year was his control, which projects as plus.
Sanchez isn’t the only Marlin with a tantalizing set of tools, either. Max Meyer, Miami’s choice at No. 3 overall, ranks second among pitchers with an average tool grade of 62.5. His pitch mix includes a double-plus fastball and slider, a potentially above-average grades on his changeup and control.
Mathematically, Meyer’s lack of a fourth pitch helped him overtake Toronto righthander Nate Pearson by half a point. Pearson, who ranks No. 14 on the Top 100, mixes an 80-grade fastball with a double-plus slider, above-average changeup, average curveball and above-average control.
Pearson was inconsistent in his big league debut but finished the year with a dominant two-inning stint in the playoffs in which he struck out five hitters.
|14||Nate Pearson||RHP||Blue Jays||80||50||70||55||55||62.00|
|24||Michael Kopech||RHP||White Sox||80||50||60||50||50||58.00|
|74||Garrett Crochet||LHP||White Sox||80||60||40||50||57.50|
|69||Simeon Woods Richardson||RHP||Blue Jays||60||50||55||60||60||57.00|