This won’t shock you if you have last year’s standings memorized, but the premium talent in baseball isn’t exactly spread evenly across the sport. The Yankees had nine players crack the MLB Rank top 100 , the Astros had seven (including six in the top 40) as did the Red Sox, and eight other teams had at least five. Meanwhile, four teams had no players in the top 100 and eight others had just one. That helps explain why we had three 100-win teams and three 100-loss teams.
I don’t know if this talent dispersion is a historical anomaly, but I do know the level of talent is unbelievably high these days. As one example, Justin Turner comes in at No. 53 and all he has done the past three seasons is finish ninth, eighth and 14th in the MVP voting. That’s a pretty good 53rd-best ballplayer in the majors. The young talent is remarkable, with the likes of Ronald Acuna Jr ., Juan Soto and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. all making the top 100 for the first time — in Guerrero’s case, even though he’s yet to play a game in the majors.
That leads us to this question: Who’s next? For each team, I’ve nominated one candidate to be the next player from that franchise to appear on MLB Rank — not necessarily in 2020, but at some point in the future. The only rule: The player can’t be on this year’s list — so Mike Trout for the Phillies or Gerrit Cole for the Dodgers don’t count, as much fun as that would be to speculate. It’s OK if a player has appeared on a previous MLB Rank top 100.
The teams are ordered based on points earned in the 2019 rankings: 100 points for the No. 1 player, 99 for No. 2 and so on, down to one point for No. 100. So, argue away …
(7 players, 480 points) — Alex Bregman (6), Jose Altuve (10), Justin Verlander (22), Carlos Correa (27), Gerrit Cole (30), George Springer (37), Roberto Osuna (95)
Josh James , RHP
You might have expected to see top prospects Forrest Whitley or Kyle Tucker here, but both were already sent back to minor league camp and might not see Houston for a few months, so they’re more on a 2021 or 2022 timetable to crack the top 100. Meanwhile, I’m all in on James and his 100 mph fastball. His spring training was slowed by a strained groin and he’s just getting back on the mound, so he won’t be ready for the opening rotation, but when he is, watch out.
(9 players, 437 points) — Aaron Judge (11), Luis Severino (23), Giancarlo Stanton (31), James Paxton (43), Aroldis Chapman (47), Gary Sanchez (67), Gleyber Torres (78), Miguel Andujar (84), Aaron Hicks (88)
Masahiro Tanaka , RHP
This is interesting. Over the past three seasons, Paxton is 29-18 with a 3.52 ERA over 417 innings, while Tanaka — pitching in much more of a hitters’ park — is 39-22 with a 3.83 ERA over 534 innings. Yet Paxton comes in at No. 43 and Tanaka is unranked. Don’t be surprised if Tanaka has the better season and cracks the top 100 next year.
(6 players, 412 points) — Francisco Lindor (8), Jose Ramirez (14), Corey Kluber (16), Trevor Bauer (39), Carlos Carrasco (44), Brad Hand (73)
Mike Clevinger , RHP
Maybe if Clevinger got into more fights on Twitter and posted videos of his workouts he’d rank higher. Over the past two seasons, Clevinger has quietly posted a 3.05 ERA in 321 innings, while his more publicized teammate Bauer has a 3.20 ERA over 351 innings. I’m not necessarily saying Clevinger is better, but 2018 was Bauer’s first season with an ERA under 4.00. Look for more good things from Clevinger and maybe a higher top-100 ranking next year than Bauer.
(7 players, 405 points) — Mookie Betts (2), Chris Sale (9), J.D. Martinez (17), Andrew Benintendi (50), Xander Bogaerts (57), David Price (69), Nathan Eovaldi (98)
Eduardo Rodriguez , LHP
Rafael Devers certainly has top-100 potential, but his defense and plate discipline will keep him below that bar for at least another year. The Red Sox feel Rodriguez has the ability to put everything together this year and become a rotation anchor. He has been working on a new slider to go with his 93 mph fastball and outstanding changeup. Various injuries — knee surgery in 2017, an ankle injury last year — have limited him to a career high of 24 starts, so he needs to stay healthy and get to 180-plus innings.
(6 players, 354 points) — Max Scherzer (3), Anthony Rendon (32), Juan Soto (35), Stephen Strasburg (46), Patrick Corbin (52), Trea Turner (54)
Victor Robles , CF
Why did the Nationals ultimately feel comfortable letting Bryce Harper walk? Because they know Robles is ready to step in. Heck, Robles might have cracked this list this year if he hadn’t injured his elbow early last season attempting a diving catch in Triple-A. He’s a career .300 hitter in the minors, projects as a plus defender in center, will steal some bases and has power potential if he adds a little more launch angle. But even if he’s just a 15-homer guy, he has the all-around game to become an All-Star. ZiPS already projects a solid 2.5 WAR for his rookie season.
(5 players, 314 points) — Bryce Harper (15), Aaron Nola (24), J.T. Realmuto (28), Rhys Hoskins (45), Jean Segura (79)
Nick Pivetta , RHP
The Phillies have reason to be optimistic beyond Harper and all their other offseason acquisitions. Acquired from the Nationals for Jonathan Papelbon in 2015, Pivetta should be near the top of any list of potential breakout pitchers. The stuff is there as evidenced by a 27.1 percent strikeout rate that ranked 13th among qualified starters — one spot ahead of Nola. The question: Was his .326 BABIP the result of the porous Phillies defense, or does he simply lack the fastball command to make the leap to the next level? He might also be wise to consider ditching his two-seamer (batters hit .379/.471/.569 against it). He’s not a lock to improve, but he’s the best "next" choice for the Phillies given the farm system lacks can’t-miss prospects.
(6 players, 300 points) — Clayton Kershaw (41), Walker Buehler (42), Corey Seager (49), Justin Turner (53), Kenley Jansen (60), Cody Bellinger (61)
Gavin Lux, 2B/SS
Look, if Max Muncy rakes again — .263/.391/.582 with 35 home runs in 2018 — he’ll crack this list next year. I do believe in his bat, as his ability to control the strike zone should allow him to tap into his power, but some regression in the home run rate is expected (he had the 10th-highest rate of home runs to fly balls), and it’s not certain how much he’ll play against lefties. So I’ll go with one of my favorite minor leaguers in Lux, who had a breakout season, hitting .324/.399/.514 at age 20 between Class A and Double-A. I love the bat-to-ball ability and the left-handed bat, although he’ll probably wind up at second base.
(6 players, 277 points) — Jacob deGrom (4), Noah Syndergaard (25), Edwin Diaz (36), Robinson Cano (82), Zack Wheeler (83), Michael Conforto (99)
Brandon Nimmo , CF
Nimmo became the first Mets hitter to post a .400 OBP since David Wright in 2007; it was just the 11th .400 OBP season in team history. He might be a little stretched on defense in center field, but if he posts another .400 OBP and 4.4 WAR season, he’ll easily crack the top 100.
(5 players, 228 points) — Kris Bryant (21), Javier Baez (29), Anthony Rizzo (38), Willson Contreras (92), Jon Lester (97)
Yu Darvish , RHP
Kyle Hendricks remains criminally underrated with WAR figures of 5.4, 3.5 and 3.5 the past three seasons, good for 10th-best among starting pitchers in total WAR over that span. MLB Rank tends to reward peak value more than consistency, however, and Hendricks is unlikely to come close to the 2.13 ERA he had in 2016. Anyway, Darvish’s first season in a Cubs uniform was a disaster, but I’m banking on a comeback and the big strikeout totals that jazz up his reputation.
(4 players, 228 points) — Christian Yelich (7), Josh Hader (33), Lorenzo Cain (56), Yasmani Grandal (80)
Keston Hiura, 2B
Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff will be intriguing to watch as they move into the rotation, but let’s see if their stuff plays up as well as it did out of the bullpen last season. Hiura is the team’s top prospect, the ninth overall pick in 2017 out of UC Irvine with a highly regarded bat. He reached Double-A last year and hit .293/.357/.464 between two levels with 13 home runs in 485 at-bats. I’d like to see him improve his walk rate (just 36 walks in 535 plate appearances), and he’ll really have to hit as his glove isn’t considered special.
(5 players, 225 points) — Nolan Arenado (5), Trevor Story (48), Charlie Blackmon (55), […]
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