With the 2021 MLB season (hopefully) starting on April 1, MLB.com has released their yearly Top 100 prospect rankings. Many of the top players listed were able to get in some major-league action due to the pure oddity that was the 60-game 2020 season. Many familiar faces stuck around in the top 20, but there are a handful of players who worked their way up to the top 10 after their mostly taxi-squad development.
As many young players are starting to make a name for themselves in the majors, this new wave of talent is looking to do the same.
Franco and Rutschman stick to NO. 1 and NO. 2
Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco stays at the top spot after making his way to the Rays taxi squad during their World Series run. It was a long shot to see Franco thrown into play due to Tampa Bay’s lineup producing the way it was throughout the playoffs. Franco will surely see at least some MLB action this year considering he is the best prospect in baseball and the Rays love throwing their young players in the ring early.
Adley Rutschman is in a similar boat, minus the fact that he had an opportunity to see some major league action because of his team focusing more on tanking and trying to get some trade value out of their veterans. Scouts have raved about Rutschman’s skill-set and maturity from behind the plate, which is exactly what the Orioles have been looking for since Matt Wieters’ early years in Baltimore. At 22, Rutschman will be a pro real soon.
Mariners dominate top 5
After acquiring Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn (NO. 70 in 2019) in a 2018 trade with the Mets, the Mariners farm system has dominated the top 100. Kelenic sat at NO.9 last season, but hurdled the competition after an impressive stint at the Mariner’s training facility where he went viral for powerful home runs and outstanding range in the outfield. This year, Kelenic was placed at NO.4, one spot above his soon-to-be teammate and outfield partner, Julio Rodriguez, who batted .462 in 65 at-bats during his 17 games in a 2019 short-season A league. It is not for certain that either Kelenic or Rodriguez will see MLB action this season, but at 21 and 20 years old, they still have plenty of time to develop into the players that MLB.com projects them to be.
Detroit’s first overall pick slots in at NO. 3
After the Tigers drafted Spencer Torkelson in last season’s entry draft, he debuted at NO.4 on the top prospects list. Even though he mostly played 1B at Arizona State University, the Tigers announced him as a third baseman and he has impressed during his short time at the alternate site, showing good agility and athleticism at the hot corner. Detroit certainly did not expect him to take such large strides as a fielder considering he was the projected first-overall selection due to his game-changing power. The Tigers are in for another abysmal season so there is no rush to force Torkelson to Detroit this year.
Former top-10 prospects drop
Three of the top six prospects from 2020 have dropped down substantially in this year’s rankings, mostly due to shakiness in their limited MLB action and some stiff competition in this year’s prospect class. The most notable drop came from Detroit’s Casey Mize, who sat at NO. five on last year’s top 100 but came in at NO.11 this year. Mize showed good stuff in his seven starts last season, but ended the year with an 0-3 record and some more hitter-friendly stats like a 4.1 BB/9 and a 6.99 ERA. Mize was known for a solid three-pitch arsenal that featured a heavy fastball, a plus splitter and a sweeping slider while also working on adding a sinker and a curveball that MLB hitters feasted on. Mize will certainly be back in action for the Tigers this season since they quite literally have nothing to lose by letting Mize work on his game.
The next player to drop out of the top six was Nate Pearson from the Toronto Blue Jays. Pearson impressed in his first few starts last season, aside from an issue with control which led him to a 6.5 BB/9 ratio. Pearson is known for his triple-digit fastball that he showed during a 2018 Fall Stars game when he hit 104 on the gun and then proved that it was still in his arsenal during the American League Wild Card this postseason where Pearson pitched two perfect innings with five strikeouts against the Rays. Pearson’s drop from NO.6 to NO.10 this year is no cause for concern, the prospect pool is just immensely deep with talent.
The final player that saw a noticeable drop was MacKenzie Gore. Up until this off-season, San Diego has put a lot of focus into building up young, talented players in their farm system. It has paid off so far as now that they have developed talented prospects, they have flipped them for talented veterans and immediately makes San Diego a threat in the National League. Gore is one of those young prospects that will soon break into San Diego and hopefully make an instant impact. It wasn’t much of a drop, but Gore went from NO.3 last season to NO.6 in 2021, right behind the Mariners duo that he comfortably led last year.
Pirates young stud reaches top 10 at NO. 8
Ke’Bryan Hayes was taken by the Pirates with the 32nd overall selection back in 2015 and he finally made it to the majors last season where he got to play in 24 games and if it weren't for Devin Williams’ outstanding season, Hayes might have had a shot at NL Rookie of the Year. Hayes batted .376 with five HR, 11 RBI and 32 hits in his 85 at-bats, not bad for a guy who was listed at NO. 37 in last year’s top 100.
The Martian lands at NO.32
Yes, Jasson Dominguez has never taken an MLB or MiLB at-bat. Yes, he is about to turn 18 and has already drawn comparisons to Mickey Mantle, Bo Jackson and Mike Trout. Dominguez is a total mystery, most people haven’t even seen him swing a bat, yet here he is for the second straight year in the top 50. Last year, Dominguez debuted at NO.48 and even though he has yet to show anything, he moved up 16 spots. Let’s all hope this kid is special.
Padres SS prospect jumps 13 spots
Last year, CJ Abrams was NO.21 on the top 100 list and now he jumped to NO.8 after a strong 2019 Rookie League season where Abrams hit .401 in 150 at-bats followed by catching plenty of eyes at the Padres alternate training site where coaches pushed him to use his 80-grade speed as a defensive advantage. Since the Padres have Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, Abrams will probably end up at second base or in the a corner outfield spot due to his average arm.