Ranking the top 50 MLB prospects after first two months: Jackson Holliday still tops list

We’re a third of the way through the minor-league season, more or less, and have seen quite a few promotions and graduations from my pre-season top 100, making it a reasonable point to look at the top 50 prospects still in the minor leagues. This is more of a check-in than a full update, since we’re still dealing with less than half a season of performance and data, a lot of players haven’t played at all or barely played due to injury, and scouts are still making the rounds seeing players for the first time this year.

For this list, I’m only considering players who are currently on a minor-league roster and retain their MLB rookie eligibility. That means Jackson Chourio and Paul Skenes aren’t here, but Jackson Holliday is.

Since we don’t have a huge amount of new information, I haven’t written new scouting reports like you might expect from my offseason rankings; for longer write-ups, I’ll refer you back to the February top 100 and the associated lists. Instead, I’ve highlighted something the player has or hasn’t done so far this year, or any changes I’ve seen or heard about in their respective games.

(Note: Player tool grades are listed on a 20-80 or 2-8 scouting scale. Ages as of July 1, 2024. Stats as of June 1, 2024.)

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Preseason Ranking: 1

No, I’m not worried, the Orioles aren’t worried, and you shouldn’t be worried, either. Baltimore didn’t give Holliday that long of a shot at the major-league level — something we’ve seen a few times there in the last 18 months, extending to Heston Kjerstad this year and Joey Ortiz in 2023 — and, by the way, hitting big-league pitching is really hard. Holliday did shine defensively at a new position (second base), which should open a path for his return sooner than later.

Preseason Ranking: 4

Lawlar is just starting a rehab stint in the complex league after preseason finger surgery, but he ended up two spots higher due to a graduation (Jackson Chourio) and one player (Ethan Salas) sliding down a few notches. That also means there’s nothing new to report on Lawlar until his return to Triple A. No news is … not bad news, I suppose.

Preseason Ranking: 5

If Caminero could play shortstop and was healthy, he’d be in the majors right now. He landed on the IL with a quad strain last week; he missed time with a left quad strain earlier this season and is set to miss four-to-six weeks with the new one. Aside from the health issues, he’s doing everything right in Triple A, at least at the plate, and just needs an opportunity. He’s already hit eight balls at 110 mph or harder, one at 117, and has kept his strikeout rate down around 22 percent even though he’s very young (20) for his level.

Preseason Ranking: 8

Mayer is off to a solid start in Double A while playing strong defense at short. He’s still working on some of his offspeed recognition while he’s crushing fastballs, with whiff rates on sliders, curves, and changeups all 42 percent or higher in the early going. I don’t think he’s on the fast track to Boston, given his age and all the injury issues he’s had the last two years, but any concerns after his tepid 2023 season should be over now.

Preseason Ranking: 19

My main concern with Wood coming into this year was how he managed his huge strike zone, from fastballs up in the zone to sliders down in or out of it. It’s a challenge most hitters his height have to confront at some point, and few have done so successfully in MLB history. The Nats were aggressive with Wood, moving him up to Triple A this spring despite a high strikeout rate in Double A in the second half of 2023, and he’s responded with the biggest improvement of his career, cutting his whiff rate from 34 percent to 27 percent, and on sliders specifically from 44 percent to 23 percent.

There’s still more chase than you’d like but if that’s his worst attribute, we’re miles ahead of where he was a year ago. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have to make a similar adjustment again in the majors, and maybe struggle with contact in his first year or so after he gets the call, but I’m way more optimistic about the probability of him making that adjustment and maintaining it going forward than I was at this point last year.

Preseason Ranking: 3

Salas turned 18 on Saturday and is already playing well enough in High A that everyone agrees he’s going to be a solid or better MLB regular, but the word from scouts this year is to pump the brakes a little on the hype. He isn’t showing electric bat speed or other elite tools that point to superstardom, and his value may be more connected to his high floor and the potential for a very long major-league career given his youth. That’s not as negative as it sounds, although I could understand anyone disappointed to hear he might not be an MVP candidate in the making given how incredible his debut was last year.

Preseason Ranking: 7

Crews may just be waiting for a Wood promotion to get to Triple A himself, as he’s done enough in Double A to merit a move to the next level. He still has some issues with fastballs up in the zone, though, and he’s going to have to lay off of those or at least learn to foul them off before he comes to the majors.

Preseason Ranking: 14

Clark has hit very well for a teenager in Low A, even with some reports that he’s swinging more for power than contact in the early going. He’s also not posting run times in line with the 70+ speed he showed in high school, although he’s still plus and going to stick in center field. I suspect he’s just too advanced a hitter for the Florida State League, and the Tigers will need to challenge him with better pitching before the midpoint.

Preseason Ranking: 15

Jenkins is now rehabbing in the complex league after getting hurt in his first game of 2024, straining a hamstring while running to make a catch in center field. He’s raking in his brief stint so far, but that’s a level below where he ended last season.

Preseason Ranking: 37

Emerson blew pro scouts away at the end of last year, after Seattle took him with the 22nd pick and he hit everything in sight in his brief pro debut. He’s still doing it, hitting .271/.441/.414 so far as an 18-year-old in Low A, and is even playing shortstop in contrast to expectations that he’d move to second or third in pro ball. He’s also on the injured list for the second time this year, and he’s out until late June with a fracture in his foot. Seattle had a tremendous opportunity in the 2023 draft, with two extra picks at the tail end of the first round, and right now it looks like they had a franchise-altering haul with Emerson, Jonny Farmelo, Aidan Smith, and Logan Evans.

Preseason Ranking: 12

Quero’s out for the year after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. As long as he can return to catching, I don’t think the injury changes his long-term outlook, with the loss of at-bats more of a concern than the actual injury. We’ll just have to see how it all looks next March.

Preseason Ranking: 20

Basallo is only 19 and already in Double A, splitting time almost equally between catching, first base, and DH. There’s really no rush to get him even to Triple A given his age and the Orioles’ other players, although I wonder if the aggressive promotion was at least in part to boost his trade value.

Preseason Ranking: 21

Domínguez is back playing rehab games in Double-A Somerset after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September, and so far he looks like the same electric, high-upside hitter he was when he reached the majors last year, well ahead of schedule. The Yankees aren’t in the same offensive straits right now that they were in last year, though, so they can afford to take it easy on him, and perhaps option him to Triple A once the rehab assignment ends.

Preseason Ranking: 29

Jobe continues to show two plus or better pitches with high spin rates and to throw enough strikes to see him as a potential ace, as long as he stays healthy — which he hasn’t, again, although it’s a hamstring strain right now after a lower back injury took him out of the first half of 2023. He shouldn’t be out for much longer and you can at least feel a little relief that his arm has been fine, especially with some effort in the delivery and his consistently high velocities and spin rates.

Preseason Ranking: 26

Shaw’s performance in Double A looks very disappointing, but his batted-ball data remains strong and the consensus seems to be that it’s been more bad luck than a deficiency in skill. The Cubs’ first-rounder from last year could still have an opportunity for big-league impact this year, especially now that he’s shown he can handle third base, once he starts getting more results from his hard contact.

Preseason Ranking: 25

De Paula continues to play well beyond his age at the plate, with an extremely advanced approach for a teenager and plenty of hard contact already. With his physical projection remaining, he looks like a high-OBP, 25+ homer guy in the making. He’s a corner outfielder now and could end up at first base, which is really the only thing holding him out of the global top 10 at the moment.

Preseason Ranking: 27

Mayo’s hurt at the moment, or else he’d probably be looking at accommodations in Baltimore, as he has done everything the Orioles asked of him so far in Triple A, hitting .291/.359/.605 in 42 games, albeit with a 28 percent strikeout rate. The O’s have had him play a little first base as well, opening another path for him with all of the other infielders they have in Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk.

Preseason Ranking: 31

The Twins have had miserable luck on the injury front this year, with Jenkins, Lee, and Royce Lewis, among others, all missing significant time before we even reached June. Lee has missed the entire year to date due to a herniated disc in his back, rehabbing right now in Florida with the hope that he’ll head to Triple A in the first week of June.

Preseason Ranking: 54

Teel looked tired when I saw him at the end of last summer, and in hindsight, I think that’s exactly what was going on, as he’s a new man this year, hitting .309/.411/.503 with improved defense so far in Double A. I don’t think he’s far off at all, and if Connor Wong reverts to his pre-2024 form, Teel might be ready to replace him.

Preseason Ranking: 38

Williams is pretty much the same guy he was last year — he plays great defense, he runs double-plus, he hits the ball hard, and he whiffs too much on pitches in the zone. If he didn’t have the great defensive profile, he wouldn’t be in the top 50, but that’s a pretty strong floor if he makes even a little more contact going forward.

Preseason Ranking: 28

Alcántara started the year 0 for 26 with 11 K’s, but since he got off that particular schneid, he’s hit .315/.351/.492 with a 21 percent K rate. He’s got as much projection left as any hitter in full-season ball, with 30-homer upside in center field, although he’ll have to improve some of his swing decisions, especially against righties.

Preseason Ranking: 41

Jones started the year with 21 strikeouts in his first 35 PA, culminating in a Platinum Sombrero on April 16 (five Ks in five PA). He’s been on fire ever since, hitting for average and contact and getting on base, although the home-run power hasn’t shown up yet. He’s still a 70 defender in center and while we’re still in modest sample-size territory here, I’m optimistic that the Druw Jones from high school is back.

Preseason Ranking: 79

Schultz dominated High A to start the year, striking out 38 percent of batters he faced in seven abbreviated starts before a bump up to Double A. The one knock here is that he hasn’t gotten more than 12 outs in any outing — he’s made nine appearances in total, and in seven of those, he went exactly four innings. He did end last year on the shelf with a sore shoulder, so I understand and appreciate the caution, but at some point, you’ve got to throw more than 67 pitches to be a top-end starter. He’s got the stuff, and so far the results, striking out half of the 24 batters he’s faced already since his promotion to Birmingham.

Preseason Ranking: 34

Painter should be back making rehab outings this summer after the Phillies tried to avoid Tommy John surgery last year, pushing the eventual surgery back to the point where he would have to effectively miss all of 2024. The aspect of his game I’ll most want to see when he returns is the power and shape to his curveball, which was a wipeout pitch before the elbow injury, but which for some pitchers isn’t the same weapon post-TJ (Lucas Giolito and Jay Groome come to mind).

Photo:

Philadelphia Phillies

Preseason Ranking: 22

Anthony is young for Double A, but he has had some trouble at the level with a 29 percent strikeout rate, coming from some unsurprising sources — he’s struggling with same-side breaking stuff, even in the zone, and is chasing a lot of changeups and fastballs from righties. These are small samples, but I do think it’s fair to say that this is going to be a long stay at the level as Anthony works on pitch and location recognition in general.

Preseason Ranking: 40

Walcott is the poster child for how the elimination of short-season leagues continues to be a penny-wise and pound-foolish decision for MLB. He’s 18, younger than many top prospects in this year’s draft, but already in full-season ball because he hit too well in the complex league last year to return there. He’s struggling, as you would expect,  with the High-A Hickory Crawdads — he has a .195/.326/.315 line and a 28 percent strikeout rate because he doesn’t belong there. He remains high on this list because of the enormous power upside and the fact that he is showing some plate discipline even amid the strikeouts.

Preseason Ranking: 30

Williams played just 11 games for Double-A Binghamton before going on the injured list with a nagging wrist sprain that still hasn’t healed enough for him to play some rehab games. There’s no apparent timetable for his return, unfortunately, and wrist injuries can linger for months even after the player is ready to hit again, so I’d keep my expectations for him on the conservative side when he does come back.

Preseason Ranking: 47

Rodriguez is just a fascinating hitter: He strikes out more than you’d like, but he simply does not chase. He’s around 11 percent at swinging at anything out of the zone, and for pitches out of the “shadow” of the zone he’s down at 6 percent. My dude just takes a lot of called strikes, and I think you have to respect that when the rest of the line is so good — and he’s showing more in-game power this year than ever before, already halfway to his 2023 home run total in just 36 games so far this year before a hand injury that has had him out for the last few games in Double A.

Preseason Ranking: 43

Crawford still needs swing work, which I detailed in a post a few weeks ago, but he’s got unbelievable bat speed, 80 run and can play the heck out of center field. There’s power in here when he gets a consistent path to the ball. He’s reduced his groundball rate from last year but it’s still way too high, and it’s all about his mechanics.

Preseason Ranking: 89

Miller slipped to the Phillies at the 27th pick last year after he missed nearly his entire senior spring with a broken hamate bone, and it looks like Philadelphia got an absolute steal, as Miller is hitting for contact and power, getting on base, and at least playing well enough at short that he should be a 55 defender whenever he moves over to third.

Preseason Ranking: 46

Young is … well, young for his level, just 20 in Double A, but has been among the 10 toughest hitters to strike out in the Texas League so far (considering only qualifying players). It was an aggressive promotion since he’d only played 48 games in High A the year before, but he’s at least kept the contact rate up even as his other surface numbers have gone down. He is making decent contact and putting the ball in the air enough to see him boosting his slugging percentage as the season goes on.

Preseason Ranking: 49

Horton came out of his last start on Wednesday due to back soreness, so here’s hoping this ranking doesn’t seem out of date by the time the story runs. He dominated Double A and has been solid in Triple A, although his fastball continues to play well below its velocity, with far more success coming on his slider and changeup. He’s a starter, of some sort, but what sort probably depends on what he and the Cubs do with his fastball going forward.

Preseason Ranking: 42

Triple A has been a challenge for Montgomery, who is hitting .226/.333/.390 with a 29 percent strikeout rate and has been getting killed by velocity. When he swings at anything 94+, he whiffs 36 percent of the time. I saw a slower bat from him in the AFL last year, and heard from scouts who saw him in August that they also questioned the bat speed, but he was coming off a serious back injury and I assumed some of it was rust. This is definitely something to monitor as the sample size grows.

Preseason Ranking: 45

Acuña hasn’t hit well since the Mets acquired him last July at the deadline, scuffling for Double-A Binghamton last fall and now hitting .250/.303/.355 for Triple-A Syracuse. He’s not making hard enough contact overall, and he’s swinging way too often, including a chase rate over 35 percent.

Preseason Ranking: 56

I was hoping for a little better from Taylor in High A this year, but hey, hitting is hard, and he’s mashing against righties while at least making contact against lefties. The Rays have moved their 2023 first-rounder back to shortstop for about half of his games, which is intriguing if he can pull it off.

Preseason Ranking: NR

At long last, Celesten made his pro debut in the ACL in May, and he’s been destroying the league so far, enough so that I doubt he’s there much longer as an 18-year-old. If only there was some intermediate level to which the Mariners could send him, one that played less than a full season, but alas, it’s complex or Low A. I’ll take a switch-hitting shortstop with a good eye and emerging power, please and thank you.

Preseason Ranking: 60

Lowder ripped through High A but has hit some trouble in Double A, with a bizarre .500 BABIP at the level through 15 innings. It’s a combination of bad luck and some bad location, as Lowder’s living too much in the heart of the zone with his fastball, which means it’s harder for him to get to his plus slider and changeup for whiffs. I’m still bullish, but that’s a clear adjustment he’ll have to make at the new level.

Preseason Ranking: 50

Collier is just 19 and playing in High A, where he’s already hit more homers than he did last year in Low A. Scouts have been impressed by his approach and all-fields power, even around a miserable 3-for-53 stretch in mid-May. He’s going to have to work on his conditioning, though, as he might grow himself off third base and end up at first.

Preseason Ranking: 53

House raced past High A last summer to get to Double A, where he’s been fully challenged for the first time, still showing big power and high exit velocities but expanding the zone too early and too often against pretty much all pitch types so far.

Preseason Ranking: 61

Ford continues to be an on-base machine, now in Double A at 21, catching about 60 percent of the time for Arkansas. As a hitter, he makes pitchers throw him strikes and doesn’t miss much in the zone, although he’s still more geared toward contact than power, with just a couple of pull-side homers this year and nothing the other way.

Preseason Ranking: 80

Waldrep got bombed in his first outing of the year, but since then he’s been cruising with a 1.74 ERA and, most importantly, a reasonable walk rate just over 8 percent. Atlanta has him throwing his slider much more often so he’s not so reliant on his grade-70 split-change, and he’s having success with it, especially against lefties.

Preseason Ranking: 73

Hence got hit around in Double A after the All-Star break last year, but in his return to the level he’s been dominant across the board. He looks stronger and seems to be finishing his secondaries better while living more around the perimeter of the strike zone. His changeup might be the stuff of nightmares, with a whiff rate on the pitch over 70 percent so far due to his arm speed and the very late tumble to the pitch.

Preseason Ranking: 57

Martinez has been among the International League leaders in home runs all year while keeping his strikeout rate around 25 percent, playing second base as his primary position for the first time in his career. That’s probably a good indicator of his eventual MLB profile — borderline contact rates with big power, making him an above-average regular at second or third.

Preseason Ranking: 75

Dollander looks much more like the guy he was as a sophomore at Tennessee than the 2023 version with the backed-up slider, which is great news for the Rockies given the risk they took to grab him at the ninth pick last year with so many promising college bats still on the board. He should be in Double A, though, given how advanced he is as a pitcher and the power of that breaking ball to miss bats.

Preseason Ranking: 33

Ryan hasn’t pitched at all this year due to “shoulder fatigue,” with no update since spring training, although at that time there wasn’t any expectation we’d see him until June regardless. He’s in stasis at the moment until we see him on a mound, with top-25 prospect upside if he comes back as he was last year.

Preseason Ranking: 48

Chandler missed a start in May due to forearm tightness but returned on the 29th to throw 75 pitches in four innings, working almost only with his fastball and changeup in the outing without much feel for the few sliders he threw. He still needs to work on fastball command and control, but his stuff is so good, particularly his fastball life and the deception and fade on the changeup, that he has as much upside as any pitcher on this list.

Preseason Ranking: 62

The Orioles don’t seem willing to give Kjerstad, the second pick in the 2020 draft, an extended look in the majors, which is odd given how little production they’re getting from their outfield corners. He’s among the Triple-A leaders in homers and over 30 percent of the balls he’s hit in play at the level have been at 100 mph or greater. He’s ready to help someone, even if his defense turns out to be below average.

Preseason Ranking: 59

Nimmala should have started in the complex league, or at the non-existent short-season level, as he was one of the youngest hitters in the 2023 draft and it has shown, with a 34 percent strikeout rate before the Jays returned him to the complex in mid-May. He hasn’t played since the demotion on May 12, although I expect him to see some FCL time soon, and remain bullish on his bat long term — as long as they take it slower with him, since he won’t turn 19 until November.

Preseason Ranking: NR

Colt Emerson may have overshadowed Farmelo’s pro debut, but the Mariners’ second pick from the 2023 draft is off to a tremendous start of his own and adds the value of plus defense in center. I don’t love the swing, but he has shown he can make it work even against real velocity, so I don’t see any reason to mess with him unless he struggles at any point — and so far, he hasn’t.

Preseason Ranking: 86

Rushing is only catching half-time in Double A, splitting time with the still-struggling Diego Cartaya, but otherwise looks like any on-field effects from last year’s concussion are gone, as he’s making a ton of contact and not missing fastballs while getting to above-average power again. The Dodgers have no place to play him though, now or next year, so I imagine he’s going to be involved in every trade conversation they have this summer.


Additional MLB prospect coverage

(Photo illustration by Sean O’Reilly / The Athletic; From left to right: Caminero, Lawlar, Holliday: Christopher Pasatieri / Getty Images; G Fiume / Getty Images; Daniel Shirey / MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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