MLB Prospect Report: Unheralded Top-50 Prospects
Published: Jun 10, 2021
To be unheralded and in the top-50 prospects in baseball seems like it would be an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Seriously, how can you be recognized for being as good as a top-50 prospect is considered to be, yet still remain relatively untalked about at the same time? We’ve arrived at the crux of the topic. Every year there are players that rise to the top portion of the rankings yet no one really talks about them and so we’ll be doing that this week as a few of these players may in fact still be available as they just haven’t had the flash behind them that other top prospects have and thus the slow burn has kept them off of radars.
Rankings are based on my own personal rankings that get updated throughout the season with the most recent update readable here. An updated list will be out in two weeks.
Riley Greene, OF DET (No. 17) - With all of the attention that some of the others in the system have gotten in the last couple of seasons from Casey Mize to Tarik Skubal to Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene has managed to sneak into the top-20 without much hubbub. The outfielder has the makings of a true superstar with 60-grade hit and power tools and he’s capable of putting on a show defensively as well. While he’s not the fleetest of foot, he’s got enough speed to play all three outfield spots and chip in double-digit steals in his stat line. In 87 minor league games since being taken fifth overall in the 2019 draft, he’s posted 11 homers and 11 steals with a .270/.353/.424 slash line. ETA: 2022
Nick Gonzales, SS PIT (No. 18) - Gonzales is a relative newcomer to the top-20 as he was drafted in 2020 and clearly didn’t get the chance to play much, if any, last year. However, he has all the tools to be there regardless. He’s more of a throwback middle infielder with a plus hit tool and great fielding assets and above-average speed, but the power isn’t much to write about. He played shortstop at college and was drafted as one but was moved full-time to second base once in the Pirates’ system and that’s his likely long-term home and fastest path to the majors. Expect the Pirates to be aggressive with his assignments and when all is said and done he’s a .280-.290 hitter with 20-steal speed while chipping in like 10-12 homers and playing very good defense at the keystone. ETA: 2022
Trevor Larnach, OF MIN (No. 27) - Larnach, unlike the first two on this list, is up with the Twins right now and has been heating up of late. In 27 games with the Twins this year he’s slashing .260/.388/.432 with three homers, 11 runs, and eight RBI, but over his last 10 games, he’s hit more like .370 with two doubles and a homer. The hit tool and the power are the calling-cards from the lefty-hitting outfielder as both are above-average to plus respectively and should play in the middle of the Twins’ lineup before too long. He’s likely still available in most leagues because he was overshadowed by Alex Kirilloff but he’s just a tick below the bat Kirilloff is.
Drew Waters, OF ATL (No. 35) - Waters is a guy that’s been a slow burn in the Atlanta system and since being drafted out of the Prep ranks in 2017, has been overlooked by the bevy of hitting and pitching prospects to come through that organization. He’s now the Braves’ best prospect in my opinion and in the top-50 with a shot to come up this year, especially with the Marcell Ozuna developments. Waters is a switch-hitting outfielder who carries an above-average hit tool and all the defensive skills one could want in speed, fielding, route running, and arm strength. The power is still coming but should be at least average in the big leagues. He won a batting title and MVP at Double-A in the Southern League in 2019 while also reaching Triple-A at 20 years old before working on his approach at the alternate site in 2020. He’ll need to cut down on the mid-20s K-rate to find success in the majors, but in 324 minor league games he’s posted 20 homers and 52 steals as an idea of what he brings. ETA: 2021
Nolan Jones, 3B CLE (No. 39) - If you’ve been reading the Prospect Reports here at FA for the last few years you’ll know that I think highly of the depth in the Indians’ system, but this isn’t a deep dive, he’s the top prospect. Jones is the fourth-best third baseman in minors and with three above-average or plus skills, it’s not a shock to see him there. The hit tool is average-to-above-average and he carries a .277 average in 370 minor league games, including his .206 mark through 30 Triple-A games this year. The lefty-hitting hot cornerman has plus power and a plus arm while being average with the glove though he flashes above-average fielding traits. Ultimately he likely winds up defensively at left field with Jose Ramirez locking down third for the foreseeable future. Think about an Anthony Rizzo bat, who will be great in OBP leagues, in left field and it’s Jones. ETA: 2022
Austin Hendrick, OF CIN (No. 43) - Combine a forgotten draft year (2020) and a coming out of a place not known for a ton of prep school talent in the Pittsburgh area, and you have Hendrick who has as much raw talent as any first-round bats over the last few years. At his best, the lefty-hitting outfielder uses his quick hands and tremendous bat speed to launch balls with as much raw power as anyone in the last two drafts with a power tool that clocks in at 60-grade. The defense, speed, glove, and arm are all above-average traits as well. That means the only “lacking” skill is the hit toll and it’s still average but if he trusts his instincts and feel for hitting it’ll be above-average too as he’ll stop messing with his setup and pre-swing routine. The 19-year-old has the tools to be a top-10 prospect in a year and a half or two. ETA: 2024
Orelvis Martinez, SS TOR (No. 44) - Martinez is the fourth-ranked Toronto prospect in the top-50, and some have him fifth, behind guys like Nate Pearson, Alek Manoah, and Austin Martin, so it’s not a surprise that most people don’t talk about him. That should change though. The only tool the 19-year-old Dominican shortstop has that’s subpar is his fielding, but it’s coming along with extra work since turning pro. The trait that gets mentioned the most with him is the 60-grade power that’s still improving as he physically matures in his 6’1” frame and his above-average hit tool is a close second in mentions. In 69 games stateside, he’s slashing .269/.341/.496 with 10 homers, 49 RBI, 36 runs, and four steals. The approach is still coming together as he was raw when signed but the skills are there for him to be an impact bat at a few different spots as the 60-grade arm strength could see him moved to the outfield or potentially third depending on what the Blue Jays decide to do with the multitude of athletes they can deploy any given night. ETA: 2023