Topps Top 100: Who Could The 2021 Top 100 No. 1 Prospect Be?
Baseball America and Topps/Bowman NEXT are teaming up to release several commemorative 2020 Top 100 Prospects card sets. You can purchase yours here. We'll also be giving away one free set a week to BA readers, which you can enter to win here.
Each week, we'll spotlight one player who is also included in the card sets. Here is our first installment:
The question for today is: If you were going to predict one Top 100 Prospect from this year's list to be No. 1 on the 2021's list, who would it be?
JJ Cooper: The most likely result is Wander Franco repeating, which would make him the fourth player to be a two-time No. 1 prospect joining Andruw Jones (1996-1997), Joe Mauer (2004-2005) and Bryce Harper (2011-2012). But there’s a plausible scenario where Franco gets a July/August callup that sees him graduate. If so, I’d expect to see Adley Rutschman step into next year’s No. 1 spot. Catchers don’t often end up No. 1 on our list–Mauer and Matt Weiters are the only two to do so in the 31 years of the Top 100. But Rutschman has the combination of hitting and defense to become the third. Catching is very, very hard, and it often affects the pace of offensive development for a prospect, but if Rutschman puts up a big year in high Class A/Double-A this year (as expected), he fits all the criteria to be the top prospect in the game.
Ben Badler: My money is on a Wander Franco repeat at No. 1 at this time next year. All the evidence and track record of how the Rays run their organization suggests there is little chance we will see Franco exhaust his rookie eligibility this year. It’s not that they’re slow playing him either; he’s going to open the season as a 19-year-old in Double-A and probably finishes the year in Triple-A. I’m not entirely ruling out him reaching Tampa Bay in 2020, but I think a 2021 ETA is more likely.
Josh Norris: If we’re being realistic, it’s probably going to be Wander Franco again. He’s unlikely to graduate from prospect eligibility this year and I fully expect him to tear up the upper minors in much the same fashion as he did the Class A levels in 2019. If you want somebody else, I’ll take Julio Rodriguez from the Mariners. He’s a potentially double-plus hitter with double-plus power who annihilated two Class A stops in 2019. He’s got all the hallmarks of being a star.
Kyle Glaser: Assuming our current top four prospects—Wander Franco, Luis Robert, Jo Adell and Gavin Lux—graduate by Opening Day 2021, my pick would be Julio Rodriguez. With another offseason of physical development, the natural growth that comes with having that first full season stateside under his belt and his precocious ability to rapidly adjust , it would not surprise me if we’re talking about Rodriguez a year from now as the next in line of the transcendent teenage hitters coming through the international ranks.
Matt Eddy: I agree with other BA editors that the strongest candidate to rank No. 1 in 2021 would be either Wander Franco, Adley Rutschman or Julio Rodriguez. So I’m going to go in a different direction and choose a couple darkhorse candidates who have an admittedly slim chance to occupy the top spot a year from now. The first is 18-year-old Giants shortstop Marco Luciano. He combines everything you want to see in the batter’s box: hard contact, present power with a chance for more and strong plate discipline. Luciano could rise just as quickly as Franco and Rodriguez have risen. The other dark-horse candidate would be 19-year-old Padres shortstop CJ Abrams, who exhilarated evaluators in the Arizona League last year with his hitting ability, classic swing and near elite speed. He already makes steady hard contact, and his frame offers room to project at least average power.