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MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 preseason prospect ranking — now in its 20th edition after it began as a Top 50 in 2004 — is meant to be a series of individual assessments. We evaluate each player for who they’ve been, who they are and who they could be as Major Leaguers someday based on their performance and tools, and we slot them into Nos. 1-100 accordingly. But once that’s done, there are whole sorts of ways to slice and dice the list. By position. By age. By home country.
Fans of individual organizations may decipher the Top 100 in one specific way — how many did we get?
For 2023, there are five farm systems with at least five prospects on the updated Top 100. For reference, a larger group of eight clubs have exactly four Top 100 prospects, so this group represents a clear separation from the pack.
Baltimore Orioles (8)
The O’s have developed one of the best farm systems in recent times, but one could argue it’s never been stronger than it is now. This octet represents not only the most Top 100 prospects Baltimore has claimed on a preseason list since we started ranking prospects in 2004, but it’s also the first time it’s opened a season with more than five players on a Top 100 list. Yes, that includes last year’s group headlined by Adley Rutschman.
No. 1 overall prospect Gunnar Henderson is the big name this time around, followed by Grayson Rodriguez (No. 7), Jackson Holliday (No. 12), Colton Cowser (No. 40), Jordan Westburg (No. 74), Heston Kjerstad (No. 80), DL Hall (No. 97) and Joey Ortiz (No. 99). Those are four infielders, two outfielders and two pitchers — a fairly diverse mix of names beyond just the overall talent. Henderson, Rodriguez and Hall could all compete for Opening Day jobs, while Ortiz, Westburg and Cowser may not be far behind.
Notably, the organizations with eight or more prospects on a preseason Top 100 in the previous five years — Rays (2021), Padres (2020), Braves (2020, 2019, 2018) — all made the postseason in 2022.
Cleveland Guardians (7)
Similarly to Baltimore, this is the highest total of preseason Top 100 prospects Cleveland has boasted since lists began 19 years ago, beating the previous best of five set a year ago. MLB executives voted the Guardians as the best developers of pitching prospects, and that comes through with the placement of Daniel Espino (No. 16), Gavin Williams (No. 42) and Tanner Bibee (No. 65) on the list.
That same poll listed Cleveland as the organization most likely to hoard its prospects too. That might explain how George Valera (No. 51), Bo Naylor (No. 64) and Brayan Rocchio (No. 75) are still on the club’s ever-crowded 40-man roster instead of being flipped for more Major League-ready pieces, but all three also fit Cleveland’s mold of relying on its young talent to compete in the AL Central. Chase DeLauter (No. 82) — the club’s first-round pick in 2022 — has as much ceiling as any other hitter in the group as a potential five-tool outfielder.
Los Angeles Dodgers (7)
On the flip side, the Dodgers were selected by MLB execs as the system that best develops hitters, and sure enough, the hard-hitting quartet of Diego Cartaya (No. 14), Miguel Vargas (No. 37), Michael Busch (No. 54) and Andy Pages (No. 81) leads the charge for the perennial NL West contenders. Don’t sleep on the pitchers either with Bobby Miler (No. 24), Gavin Stone (No. 56) and Ryan Pepiot (No. 70) each showing starter-level-quality stuff in the Minors (or in Pepiot’s case, the Majors too).
An important thing to note: All seven players have ETAs of 2023. The Dodgers’ Top 100 contingent could look very different this time next year, but given the organization’s ability to bring out breakouts in players of all types, it could still claim a healthy amount on the 2024 list too.
Texas Rangers (6)
This isn’t the most high-ceiling group you’ll find on this list. Josh Jung is the highest-ranked at No. 34, and he’s coming off a 2022 campaign in which he missed much of the season with a left shoulder tear. But the fact that it’s this deep should give additional hope to a Texas fanbase already hoping for a 2023 turnaround following the additions of Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney this offseason.
Evan Carter (No. 41) and Luisangel Acuña (No. 71) could both be darkhorses to impact the Major League lineup this season after ending 2022 at Double-A, while Owen White (No. 66) may just need health and repeated upper-level starts to give himself a shot at the Texas rotation soon. By keeping him in the Top 100, we’re banking on Jack Leiter (No. 78) learning from his Double-A bumps last year and making the adjustments necessary to prove why he was the top pitcher selected in the 2021 Draft. Another right-hander Brock Porter (No. 94) is just getting his career going and has the four-pitch mix much more akin to his signing bonus ($3.7 million) than his Draft spot (fourth round).
St. Louis Cardinals (5)
Remember the five-round 2020 Draft? The Cardinals made four picks in the top 70 selections that year. All four of them are now Top 100 prospects: Jordan Walker (No. 4), Masyn Winn (No. 50), Tink Hence (No. 77) and Alec Burleson (No. 91). That’s an incredible hit rate for a Draft that came after the pandemic shortened the spring season for everyone in baseball. The Draft successes haven’t stopped there. Gordon Graceffo (No. 79) was a fifth-round pick two years ago and launched himself into Top 100 territory with a breakout pitching performance at High-A and Double-A last year. The St. Louis conveyor belt continues apace.
We’ve been going off raw totals to honor the farm systems above, but here’s what happens when you break down the Top 5 by Prospect Points (i.e. 100 for No. 1 overall, 99 for No. 2, etc.):
1. Orioles, 398
2. Dodgers, 371
3. D-backs, 317
4. Guardians, 312
5. Reds, 252
Arizona boasts arguably the best Big Four of any prospect group this year in Corbin Carroll (No. 2), Jordan Lawlar (No. 11) and Druw Jones (No. 15) and the reigning Minor League strikeout leader in Brandon Pfaadt (No. 59). That quartet represents the D-backs’ only Top 100 representation, but it’s enough to clear 27 other clubs in the Prospect Points ranks.
The Reds specialize in infielders with their Top 100 foursome of Elly De La Cruz (No. 10), Noelvi Marte (No. 29), Edwin Arroyo (No. 44) and Cam Collier (No. 69). The last three were all acquired last year either via the Draft or the Luis Castillo blockbuster trade with the Mariners, giving Cincinnati a much-needed influx of talent at a time when it’s heading toward a certain rebuild.
After we include the 2023 raw totals, the top five all-time leaders in preseason Top 50/100 prospects are the Rays (84), Dodgers (76), Braves (66), Padres (65) and Twins/Pirates (both with 64). Atlanta holds its place in third from a year ago despite being the only organization without a Top 100 prospect this year.
The Angels (36), Nationals (39), Giants (40), Athletics (42) and Tigers (43) take up the bottom five spots. Every system in that group has at least two Top 100 prospects to begin this year, and with four, the Nationals give themselves the best shot at climbing out of the cellar within the next few seasons.