Thursday, April 18, 2024
spot_img

Four MLB prospects who missed out on Top 50 ranking but could soar up list with strong 2024 season

CBS Sports recently published its annual preseason ranking of the top 50 prospects in the minor leagues, led by Baltimore Orioles shortstop Jackson Holliday and Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Junior Caminero, among other future stars. 

Since the whole process is about projecting and trying to predict the future, a natural follow-up exercise to the listmaking is trying to figure out who might make the leap onto the top-50 over the season to come. You can guess where this is going, so let’s just get to the point: below, you’ll find four players who we consider to be compelling candidates to take a big step forward in our rankings before next winter.

In some cases, these players might have appeared to be snubbed from this year’s list. In other instances, they haven’t even played in their first professional game. With each player, we’ve tried to explain his game, why he was absent from the 2024 list, and what we’re looking for from him to assure that won’t be the case in 2025.

Do note that the players are presented in alphabetical order.

1. Samuel Basallo, C/1B, Orioles

Why he missed in 2024: Defensive uncertainty 

You can make a compelling argument that Basallo is already a top-50 prospect, and perhaps significantly better than that. He just missed for us, by which we mean he lost out on what amounted to a few coin flips. (In other words, he would’ve had a home if our list was slightly, and we do mean slightly, larger than the 50 it runs.)

Last season, Basallo produced at an above-average rate across three levels, including brief stints at High- and Double-A. He showcased well-above-average strength while walking a healthy amount and keeping his strikeout rate in check. Oh, and he turned 19 in the middle of August. That combination of offensive polish and youth bodes well — extremely well, even — for his chances of turning into a middle-of-the-order hitter.

We discounted Basallo because he lacks a defined position. He may never clear the fringe-average bar as a backstop … and even if he does, he’s not going to be the everyday catcher in Baltimore for as long as Adley Rutschman is in town. (To be clear: we don’t hold the second part of that against him.) Basallo appears to have the bat to move down the defensive spectrum and remain an asset to a lineup, but we tend to take a “prove-it” approach for players we consider to be first-base or DH prospects. The offensive bar to stand out at those positions is so high that we don’t fully buy in on a player until they’ve dominated the Double-A level, the page-69 test for offensive prospects. It’s the same reason we’re the low vote on Rays slugger Xavier Isaac.

You can argue that it’s a silly philosophy. It certainly puts us at risk of undervaluing players who — in Basallo and Isaac’s cases — could soon be batting third or fourth on championship-caliber teams. Every evaluator has their tics and biases, however, and we think that that’s OK provided there’s a thought behind them beyond “vibes.” 

2. Miguel Bleis, OF, Red Sox

Why he missed in 2024: Health

We thought Bleis was in for a breakout season in 2023. 

Indeed, we wrote this last April: “Bleis just missed cracking the Red Sox top three list over the winter. He’s a fairly safe bet to appear on the next edition thanks to his tantalizing upside. His outstanding bat speed hints at well-above-average power potential, and he has enough athleticism that he could remain in center. Bleis just turned 19 in March, giving him plenty of time to refine his approach.”

It’s a good thing youth is still on Bleis’ side because fortune was not in 2023. He barely played, appearing in just 31 contests before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. The short stint he was active, Bleis didn’t perform well, hitting .230/.282/.325 with one home run in 142 trips to the plate at A-ball. That is, again, not quite what we had in mind.

We’re not flinching, at least not for the time being. We’ll see if Bleis rewards our faith.

3. Josue De Paula, OF, Dodgers

Why he missed in 2024: Delayed actualization

De Paula spent last season in the California League where, as an 18-year-old, he was roughly three years the junior of his average opponent. He fared fine, hitting .284/.396/.372 for a Rancho Cucamonga team that hit .253/.342/.391 overall. 

We’re not including De Paula because he was “fine.” We’re including him because we anticipate a shift into a higher gear sooner than later. He’s an angular left-handed hitter with a mature swing and the room to add muscle as he ages. If all goes well, he could become a positive contributor in each of the triple-slash categories.

We’re technically supposed to judge the players independent of their team affiliation. We mostly do. But here’s a little secret, just between us friends: we feel better about De Paula’s chances of fulfilling his promise because of the Dodgers’ track record of being one of the best staffs in the game at developing players.

That doesn’t mean De Paula is a sure thing to develop into a starting-caliber corner outfielder. It does mean that he has a great opportunity in front of him to do so. 

4. Leodalis De Vries, SS, Padres

Why he missed in 2024: Too untested

The Padres signed De Vries for $4.2 million back in January. He was, at 17, considered to be the best international amateur free agent on the market thanks to a skill set that could end up featuring five above-average or better tools. 

De Vries hasn’t yet made his professional debut, but we feel obligated to include him in this article anyway after what happened last year with Ethan Salas. For those unaware: Salas was catching in big-league spring training games about a month after signing with the Padres; he then raced his way to Double-A as a 17-year-old, positioning himself to become the first teenager to catch in MLB since Iván Rodríguez in 1991.

We doubt De Vries will blaze a trail quite as lurid over the upcoming year. We can’t fully rule it out, though, not with the way the Padres love to challenge their best youngsters.

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.