Topps Top 100: Which Prospect Could Exceed His Current Ranking?
Each week, Baseball America and Topps/Bowman are partnering to bring you a commemorative Top 100 Prospects card set. You can also enter to win a free one here.
In conjunction, each week our staff discusses one topic pertaining to the Top 100. This week's question? Of everyone in the Top 100, who is someone who you personally think is someone who could exceed our current ranking?
JJ Cooper: If you told me five years from now that Tigers LHP Tarik Skubal ended up being as good as any of the pitchers in the top 50 of our rankings, it wouldn’t stun me.
Statistically, he was as good or better than anyone in Double-A or above last year. In nine starts with Double-A Erie, he went 2-3, 2.13 with only 25 hits allowed in 42 innings. His 82-18 strikeout-to-walk rate in those nine starts is almost off the scale. Stuff-wise, he also has everything you want–a mid-90s fastball that gets swings and misses, a pair of breaking balls he can throw for strikes or bury and a changeup that avoids the sweet spot of the bat. We tried to be aggressive where we ranked him at 34, but that ranking does reflect the fact that Skubal truly came out of nowhere last year. He was a prominent recruit for Seattle, but between Tommy John surgery and an inconsistent 2018 season, he was not a top prospect in that draft class.
If Skubal keeps it up in 2020 (and the early returns in spring training are that he is), he’ll rank higher on the Top 100 by the time he graduates than he does now. We just want to see a longer track record, as the pitchers he’s now being compared to with very few exceptions have been showing dominance for years.
Josh Norris: Orioles LHP DL Hall had control issues in 2019, when he walked more than six hitters per nine innings. However, he was the second-youngest pitcher in the high Class A Carolina League on Opening Day (behind only Red Sox righty Bryan Mata). Hall also averaged nearly 13 strikeouts per nine innings, which would have ranked him among the top five pitchers in the minor leagues if he'd pitched enough innings to qualify. He throws a lively fastball that topped out at 97 mph and complements it with three offspeed pitches which project as average or better, including a potentially plus curveball and changeup. He'll get his first taste of the upper levels in 2020.
Kyle Glaser: My answer would have been Angels OF Brandon Marsh, whose tools are every bit as loud as the outfielders we have ranked Nos. 10-12 (Dylan Carlson, Jarred Kelenic and Cristian Pache) and has the upper-level performance to match. However, Marsh’s latest injury—he is currently out with an elbow strain and has back and ankle injuries on his ledger—gives me pause. As such, I’m going to go with Royals LHP Daniel Lynch. The lanky lefthander brings dominant, power stuff from the left side with impressive control for someone with his height and build. He has yet to pitch at the upper levels, but based on his stuff and what he showed in the Arizona Fall League, he could very well be considered on par with some of the pitchers ranked 10-20 spots above him in the BA Top 100.
Matt Eddy: This could be the year 22-year-old righthander Edward Cabrera pops and ranks alongside Sixto Sanchez at the top of the Marlins’ revamped farm system. Cabrera, who ranks No. 68 this spring, reached Double-A last summer and showed dramatically better control (2.8 walks per nine innings) than he had in 2018, which helped him miss more bats (10.8 strikeouts per nine). He throws a heavy, double-plus fastball up to 100 mph and backs it with a power, bat-missing curveball and firm changeup.
Ben Badler: White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal is a polarizing prospect. He’s small. He doesn’t have much power. But he has the attributes to be a high OBP hitter who can play plus defense in the middle of the diamond, which if it all clicks adds up to a valuable player. Madrigal’s bat control and plate coverage aren’t just good—they’re outstanding. He struck out in just three percent of his plate appearances last year. He walked nearly three times as often as he struck out. The lack of power is a red flag, but his hand-eye coordination and plate discipline give him a chance to post big OBPs, while his defense could be plus or better. He could end up along the line of Placido Polanco, a second baseman who rarely cracked double-digit home runs but was a high-contact hitter with plus defense and a few Gold Gloves who posted five seasons of 4+ WAR and nine years of 2+ WAR, per Baseball Reference. There’s still risk that he ends up more like Ronald Torreyes than Polanco, but there’s a lot more upside with Madrigal than he gets credit for having.