Top 10 Prospects At The Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Baseball at the Tokyo Olympics is set to get begin Tuesday, with Japan hosting the Dominican Republic at 11 p.m. ET in the first game of the six-team tournament.
While most of the players on Olympic rosters are veterans, there are a number of intriguing prospects playing in the Tokyo Games. Here is a look at the top 10 prospects in the Olympics, developed in consultation with domestic and international scouts employed by MLB teams.
Please note this is a list of only the top prospects in the Olympics, not the best overall players. Only players with prospect eligibility were considered, so major league veterans like United States 3B Todd Frazier, Japan RHP Masahiro Tanaka, Dominican Republic OF/1B Jose Bautista, Mexico 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Israel 2B Ian Kinsler and South Korea OF Hyun-Soo Kim were not eligible.
Foreign veterans like South Korea C Eu-ji Yang and Japan OF Yuki Yanagita were eligible, but were not included because they do not project to come to MLB.
1. Julio Rodriguez, OF, Dominican Republic
Age: 20. Team: Mariners (Double-A)
The No. 3 prospect in baseball shows all the traits of being a foundational, middle-of-the-order power hitter. He possesses plus-plus raw power and has become much more consistent in the quality of his at-bats, allowing him to get to his power more frequently. He identifies pitches well and makes extremely loud contact when he connects. Rodriguez will swing and miss like most power hitters and he has lapses in focus that lead to mistakes on defense. His power more than makes up for his shortcomings, and he has the potential to be one of the most feared hitters in the tournament if he’s locked in.
2. Shane Baz, RHP, United States
Age: 22. Team: Rays (Triple-A)
Baz is the No. 15 prospect on the BA Top 100 and will lead Team USA’s rotation at only 22 years old. His 95-99 mph fastball blows away hitters at the top of the strike zone and his slider has steadily improved to give him a quality secondary offering. Baz struggled with his control in the past, but he now spots his fastball and slider exceptionally well and overwhelms hitters with the quality of his stuff.
3. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP, Japan
Age: 22. Team: Orix Buffaloes (NPB)
Yamamoto is already Orix’s ace at 22 years old and is highly-desired by MLB teams. His fastball sits at 94-96 mph and touches 98, his hard upper-80s slider and tight-spinning curveball both flash plus and he rounds out his arsenal with an above-average splitter that reaches 90 mph. He has above-average control and projects as a No. 2 starter in the major leagues. He will not be a free agent until after the 2026 season, but Orix could post him before then.
4. Triston Casas, 1B, United States
Age: 21. Team: Red Sox (Double-A)
Casas is the No. 23 prospect on the BA Top 100 and is considered the Red Sox’s first baseman of the future. He is an exceptionally patient hitter who stays in the strike zone and makes good swing decisions, and when he does swing, he drives balls with his plus-plus power. He frequently launches balls for doubles and home runs while maintaining his patient approach and takes his walks if pitchers don’t give him anything to hit. Casas is also a strong defender at first base with sound footwork, a solid arm and a good feel for when to stretch.
5. Koudai Senga, RHP, Japan
Age: 28. Team: Softbank Hawks (NPB)
Senga introduced himself to a US audience when he sat 95-97 mph against Team USA at Dodger Stadium in the 2017 World Baseball Classic semifinals. He led the Pacific League in ERA and strikeouts last year and has been desired by MLB teams for years. Senga has been limited by an ankle injury this season, but he’s still shown a 95-96 mph fastball as a starter and a devastating forkball that plays well off his heater. Senga hasn’t thrown many innings this year and may be used out of the bullpen in the Olympics, where he has the potential to touch 100 mph. Softbank has never posted a player in its history, so teams will have to wait until Senga is a free agent after the 2022 season to sign him. Japan’s service time rules regarding injuries may push his free agency back to 2023.
6. Seiya Suzuki, OF, Japan
Age: 26. Team: Hiroshima Carp (NPB)
Suzuki is a five-time NPB all-star and won the Central League batting title in 2019. While many Japanese hitters keep their hands inside and take short, direct paths to the ball, Suzuki takes powerful uppercuts more conducive to the modern MLB game. He has plus-plus raw power and the bat speed, hand-eye coordination and feel for the barrel to be an average hitter once he adjusts to major league velocity, although there is some hesitation whether he will. He is an above-average defender with an above-average arm in right field. Suzuki’s offensive and defensive abilities make him a potential starting outfielder in MLB. He will be free agent after the 2022 season.
7. Joe Ryan, RHP, United States
Age: 25. Team: Twins (Triple-A)
Ryan was the top prospect the Twins acquired from the Rays in the Nelson Cruz deal. He was a member of Team USA’s starting rotation during qualifying and will remain in the rotation for the Olympics. Ryan racks up swings and misses at the top of the strike zone with his high-spin fastball. He relies heavily on that fastball and his secondaries are only average. He struggles to get through an order for a third time because he is so fastball-reliant and better hitters adjust to it, but his heater is good enough to get him through five or so innings before handing the ball off to the bullpen.
8. Baek-Ho Kang, 1B, South Korea
Age: 21. Team: KT Wiz (KBO)
Kang set the KBO’s rookie home run record as an 18-year-old in 2018 and has flirted with batting .400 this season as a 21-year-old. He previously projected to be a power-over-hit type, but his game has changed as he’s gotten older and he now is more of a hitter first. He’s a pure hitter who has a chance to bat No. 2 in a major league lineup and has the average power to profile at first base. Kang is strictly a first baseman only and will need to hit to have a role in MLB. Evaluators project him to be a better hitter than Hyun-Soo Kim, who hit a respectable .273 with a .351 on-base percentage in two seasons in the majors but never accessed his power.
9. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, United States
Age: 20. Team: Blue Jays (Double-A)
Woods Richardson pitched four strong innings in his lone start for Team USA during qualifying, but the stats were never official because the game was canceled by rain in the fourth inning. Woods Richardson will once again be a part of Team USA’s starting rotation in Tokyo. His 90-94 mph fastball isn’t exceptional, but his curveball is an out pitch and he sells his low-80s changeup well. He has struggled at Double-A this season, but he is extremely young for the level. He projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter with the fallback of a solid multi-inning reliever.
10. Nick Allen, SS, United States
Age: 22. Team: Athletics (Double-A)
Allen is a defensive wizard and has a case as the best defensive shortstop in the minor leagues. He has a quick first step, takes good angles to the ball, reads hops exceptionally well and makes all the throws with his slightly-above average arm. He is consistent and reliable and turns almost any ball hit in his direction into an out. Allen is slightly built at 5-foot-8, 166 pounds and will never be a major power threat, but he makes a lot of contact, stays in the strike zone and occasionally flashes surprising extra-base pop.
Five Reasons Why So Many Elite Prospects Made Opening Day Rosters
An exploration of the factors that led a near-record number of Top 100 Prospects making their MLB debuts during the first week of the season, reversing decades of front office behavior.
FIVE OTHERS TO WATCH
Jung-Hoo Lee, OF, South Korea.
Age: 22. Team: Kiwoom Heroes (KBO)
Munetaka Murakami, 3B, Japan.
Age: 21. Team: Yakult Swallows (NPB)
Jeison Guzman, SS, Dominican Republic.
Age: 22. Team: Royals (High-A)
Won-Tae In, RHP, South Korea.
Age: 21. Team: Samsung Lions (KBO)
Mark Kolozsvary, C, United States.
Age: 25. Team: Reds (Double-A)