MLB composite top 100 prospect rankings, takeaways
Welcome to prospect season.
Four main outlets - MLB.com, Baseball America, The Athletic, and ESPN - have published their prospect rankings ahead of the 2023 campaign. As usual, there are disagreements, including who holds the coveted top spot.
A total of 144 farmhands were named across the four lists. However, we're breaking down the composite top 100 by aggregating all the lists and assigning weighted scores based on their placements in each ranking. In the event of a tie in the scoring system, the player with the highest individual ranking on one list was placed higher.
Here's how all the lists combined look with takeaways and analysis throughout.
Notes from the top 20
It's Gunnar Henderson's world and all other prospects are just living in it. The Baltimore Orioles infielder narrowly missed being the consensus No. 1, ranked second by The Athletic's Keith Law. Instead, Law had Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll atop his board.
Baseball fans won't have to wait long before seeing them both in action in the majors permanently, which could help settle the debate.
Henderson earned his call to the bigs at the end of August 2022 and hit .259/.348/.440 with four homers and one stolen base over 34 games. He'll almost certainly open the season in Baltimore as the team's starting shortstop. He could end up at second or third if his defense doesn't improve.
Carroll also jumped to the bigs in late August and hit .260/.330/.500 with four homers and two steals over 32 games. He'll likely be the Diamondbacks' starting center fielder on Opening Day.
Despite both of them already making their debuts, Henderson (+250) and Carroll (+400) are prospect-eligible and early favorites to win Rookie of the Year awards in their respective leagues.
Interestingly, none of the lists seem overly convinced by any of the pitchers in the minors. The Philadelphia Phillies' Andrew Painter and the Miami Marlins' Eury Perez are the first pitchers to pop up in the rankings and are at the back end of the top 10.
Painter and Perez made it to Double-A as teenagers last year and have shown elite strikeout stuff at every level. Painter seems like the more refined of the two by preventing walks and homers, while Perez seems to struggle with command despite otherworldly whiffs.
Orioles righty Grayson Rodriguez was also in the mix for top pitcher. Cleveland Guardians right-hander Daniel Espino, San Fransisco Giants southpaw Kyle Harrison, and Los Angeles Dodgers righty Bobby Miller narrowly found their way into the top 20.
It's interesting to note where the two highest-ranked prospects from last year's draft landed. The Orioles selected Jackson Holliday with the first pick, and the Diamondbacks followed up by drafting Druw Jones. In the aggregate rankings, Holliday placed 15th, and Jones slotted 16th. Holliday finished ahead of Jones in three of the four individual lists. Law was the lone prospector who preferred Jones.
More on the class of newcomers
Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 first-round pick Termarr Johnson is the next brand-new addition to the list. That's interesting since he's only behind Holliday and Jones for the newcomers despite being drafted fourth overall. The Athletic's Law even had Johnson ranked higher than Holliday.
That's because 23-year-old Kumar Rocker, who the Texas Rangers drafted third overall in 2022, went unranked on all four lists. After a botched deal with the New York Mets following his 10th overall selection in the 2021 draft, Rocker played in the Independent Frontier League in preparation to re-enter MLB. His first taste of professional action didn't go well, posting a 4.50 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 14 innings in the developmental Arizona Fall League.
Highest prospects to go unranked
This is where the aggregate rankings get interesting as they diverge quite wildly.
Cincinnati Reds third-base prospect Cam Collier is one of the most prominent cases of how scout valuations can deviate. Collier is ranked as high as 17th by The Athletic but as low as 70th by Baseball America, so he settles at No. 46 here. This also shows how negligible the difference is between the 20th-best prospect and the 80th-best prospect, for instance. Despite the gulf between the two prospects on the list, both are likely assigned roughly 50 future value, which pegs them as an average everyday player.
Each ranking also has its own rules for what a prospect is, which complicates matters. To MLB.com and The Athletic, recent Diamondbacks acquisition Gabriel Moreno is already considered to have graduated and is no longer prospect-eligible. However, he played fewer MLB games than Henderson and Carroll last year and is still rookie-eligible, so ESPN and Baseball America have him ranked fourth and 12th, respectively. Moreno would likely be ranked much higher if all lists abided by the same rules.
Either way, Orioles outfielder Colton Cowser is the top prospect to go unranked on at least one list, getting omitted by The Athletic. The other three had him between 30-41.
Do international pros belong on prospect lists?
Mets offseason addition Kodai Senga is another example similar to Moreno in that Baseball America considers him a prospect - since he's rookie-eligible - but the other lists don't. As a result, the 30-year-old starter is ranked as high as No. 16 and goes completely unranked on the other lists. Senga settles at No. 75 for our purposes. That placement seems unfair, and he'd surely be higher if the outlets all followed the same rules. But it's not as though all international free agents should qualify as prospects, either, just because they're rookie-eligible. It's a tricky grey area.
The lowest-ranked consensus top-100 prospect
Boston Red Sox outfielder Miguel Bleis is the lowest-ranked prospect to at least be named on all four lists. Despite finishing on the fringes of the top 100, the 18-year-old with a very limited professional track record is the last of the consensus top-100 guys.
Best and worst farm systems
As stated earlier, the total number of prospects on all four lists is 144, with 68 players named on every list. Below, you'll see the ranking of each system based on the team's aggregate score of all their top 100 prospects combined. The right column denotes the number of players named on any list.
With Henderson and a total of 11 other Orioles prospects named at least once across the four lists, it's no surprise Baltimore scores the best system. Rodriguez, Holliday, and Jordan Westburg are the other three consensus top-100 guys in the organization.
It also likely won't surprise anyone that the Diamondbacks came in second with a narrowly worse score than Baltimore's. Arizona has seven total prospects named at least once on the four lists and four consensus top-100 guys - Carroll, Jones, Jordan Lawlar, and Brandon Pfaadt.
It starts getting interesting beyond the top two, and the St. Louis Cardinals took the final podium spot. They tied the D-Backs with seven total players named but three in the consensus top 100 - Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, and Tink Hence.
The ever-dominant Dodgers came in next. Their system includes four consensus top-100 guys and four additional prospects who show up on at least one list. This is despite L.A. hatching multiple win-now deals to push for a championship over the past few seasons.
After that, the Cleveland Guardians and New York Mets aren't far behind. Six of the Guardians' eight prospects appeared on all four lists. And while a lot of the value in the Mets' system is attributable to catcher Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty also earns rave reviews.
Only one team has fewer than two prospects who made at least one list: the Atlanta Braves, and they have zero. In fairness, they've recently had numerous graduations, with Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider finishing first and second in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Meanwhile, it seems as though the rebuilding Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers have a long way to go, placing 29th and 28th. The Tigers also had recent graduations from Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, but the on-field product hasn't improved. Neither team has a consensus top-100 prospect in the system, but Detroit right-hander Jackson Jobe got onto three lists.
Numerous other clubs have only two prospects in their system, including the Phillies, Giants, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, and Houston Astros. However, each avoids ranking as low as Kansas City because they boast at least one consensus top-100 farmhand. In fact, the Giants' two prospects appear on all four lists - Harrison and Marco Luciano.