Every January, when we update MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects rankings, we also analyze which players have the best individual tools on the list. Several of the phenoms who won honors seven months ago have shown their talents as rookies.
Francisco Alvarez (best power) ranks first among all rookies in home run percentage (7.5 percent) and second in homers (21). Corbin Carroll (fastest runner) uses his speed to make an impact in all phases of the game. Hunter Brown (best curveball) and Grayson Rodriguez (best changeup) chase their signature pitches more than any of their others.
We just refreshed the Top 100 again last week, so let’s take another look at the standouts in the new list. Counting the honors, eight of the game’s top 13 prospects are represented — which also shows just how exclusive the top gear club is. Grades in parentheses are based on a 20-80 scouting scale, with 50 representing major league average.
Best hitter: Jackson Holliday, SS/2B, Orioles (70)
Holliday sits atop the updated Top 100, and his hitting ability is the biggest reason. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 Draft has already reached Double-A as a 19-year-old midway through his first full pro season and is a career .335/.466/.519 hitter to that point with more walks (98) than in the outfield (94) while facing mostly significantly older pitching. Makes consistent power contact with a simple left-handed swing and advanced approach.
Also in the running: Dylan Crews, OF, Nationals; Sal Frelick, OF, Brewers; Jackson Merrill, SS, Padres
January best player: Frelick.
Best Power: Owen Caissie, OF, Cubs (65)
The best prospect the Cubs received in the Yu Darvish trade in December 2020, Caissie generates tremendous raw power with bat speed and leverage in his lefty. He’s doing a better job of getting pitches and driving them to the air this summer, claiming the Double-A Southern League triple crown while hitting .293/.394/.554 with 21 homers in 95 games. His exit velocities are outstanding for a 20-year-old and would rank among the best in the Majors.
Also in the running: Marco Luciano, SS, Giants; Wyatt Langford, OF, Rangers; James Wood, OF, Nationals
January Best Power: Francisco Alvarez, C, Mets
Fastest runner: Justin Crawford, OF, Phillies (70)
The son of former All-Star Carl Crawford, who won four American League stolen base titles in his first five full seasons in the major leagues, Justin has inherited his father’s speed. Repeatedly clocked in under 6.2 seconds in the 60-yard dash on the high school showcase circuit, he has swept 40 bases in 47 attempts this season and also used his speed to beat multiple infield hits en route to leading the state Single-A Florida League in hitting .344.
Also in the running: Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers; Max Clark, OF, Tigers; Drew Jones, OF, Diamondbacks
Fastest January runner: Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks
Best arm: Masyn Winn, SS/2B, Cardinals (80)
Wynn starred as both a shortstop and right-hander as a Texas high school junior, and some clubs liked him more as a pitcher after seeing his fastball touch 98 mph. The Cardinals let him have a professional appearance before making him a full-time shortstop, and they have had no reason to regret that decision. His superior arm allows him to make throws to many shortstops who can’t, and the standout recorded a 100.5 mph fastball at the 2022 SiriusXM All-Star Game Futures. He also went 102 mph in a relay in a Triple-A game this July.
Also in the running: Coby Mayo, 3B/1B, Orioles; Sebastian Walcott, SS, Rangers; Carson Williams, SS, Rays
Best Defensive Player: Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Cubs (80)
Crowe-Armstrong has been recognized as the best outfielder in the Minors since coming to Chicago in a 2021 deal that sent Javier Báez and Trevor Williams to the Mets. He fills both gaps with a combination of speed, instincts and fearlessness, and his solid arm also boosts his defensive profile. He certainly has the potential to become the first Cub to win a Gold Glove in center since Bob Dernier in 1984.
Also in the running: Druw Jones, OF, Diamondbacks; Joey Ortiz, INF, Orioles; Ceddanne Rafaela, OF/SS, Red Sox
January best defender: Crowe-Armstrong
Best Fastball: Paul Skenes, RHP, Pirates (80)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 Draft, Skenes won the College World Series with Louisiana State while leading NCAA Division I in strikeouts (209), strikeouts per nine innings (15.3) and WHIP (0.75) and ranked second in wins (12). ), ERA (1.69) and opponents average (.165). He averaged 98.6 mph with his fastball all spring and topped out at 102 mph. In addition to absolute speed, its heater also stands out with a flat angle of approach and good transfer.
Also in the running: Daniel Espino, RHP, Guardians; Nick Frasso, RHP, Dodgers; Kyle Harrison, LHP, Giants
Best January Fastball: Espino
Best Curveball: Ben Brown, RHP, Cubs (60)
Another smart trade acquisition by the Cubs, Brown arrived from the Phillies in a July 2022 deal for David Robertson. His pitch is a fastball that he calls a slider, but it has much more downward movement than lateral movement and takes the path of a traditional curveball. He throws it with power in the mid-80s and takes swings and misses inside the strike zone and chases outside of it. His 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings would have ranked fourth in the Minors if not for a few shutout innings.
Also in the running: Tink Hence, RHP, Cardinals; Dylan Lesko, RHP, Padres; Quinn Priester, RHP, Pirates
Best January Curveball: Hunter Brown, RHP, Astros
Best Slider: Paul Skenes, RHP, Pirates (70)
Skenes rivals Stephen Strasburg as the best pitching prospect in Draft history thanks in large part to his fastball/slider combination. His slide is an 85-90 mph monster with plenty of horizontal and vertical action, yet he manages to command it well. He produced an absurd 62 percent swing-and-miss rate during the college season, as well as a 32 percent chase rate.
Also in the running: Daniel Espino, RHP, Guardians; Jackson Jobe, RHP, Tigers; Jacob Misiorowski, RHP, Brewers
Best January Slider: Espino
Best inning: Dylan Lesko, RHP, Padres (70)
Not only did Lesko have the best changeup in the 2022 Draft, but some veteran scouts also rated it as the best high school prospect they’d ever seen. It sits in the low 80s, spins sideways and also has a bit of a sink when it comes to the plate. His advanced pitching feel led the Padres to select him 15th overall despite having Tommy John surgery three months earlier, and he quickly regained his ability with his changeup when he returned to the mound this summer.
Also in the running: Gavin Stone, RHP, Dodgers; Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Blue Jays; Carson Whisenhunt, LHP, Giants
Best January trade: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles
Best check: Andrew Painter, RHP, Phillies (65)
Coming off a 2022 season in which he reached Double-A at age 19 and led all Minor League pitchers with at least 100 innings in K-BB percentage (32.4), Painter ranked as the top prospect in baseball. He combines a quality four-pitch mix with the ability to locate his offerings wherever he wants, but unfortunately never took the mound in an official game this year. He injured his elbow during spring training and had Tommy John surgery in July.
Also in the running: Rhett Lowder, RHP, Reds; Paul Skenes, RHP, Pirates; Robby Snelling, LHP, Padres
January best check: Painter
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