On Wednesday, I released my new ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball. Now let’s look at 10 prospects who didn’t make the list but were in my top 50 last August and were still eligible this time. (My list only included prospects who had not made their major-league debuts as of the start of this week.)
I still consider all 10 of these players “top 100” prospects in the game, but they dropped out of my top 50 this year for a variety of reasons. For several, injuries were the main factor. In other cases, it was a rapid decline in production, a hit tool that didn’t develop as expected, or command and control issues that worsened. Regardless of their respective issues, all of these prospects still have a chance to be successful major-league players one day.
Statistics are updated through Aug. 30 unless otherwise noted. Players’ minor-league level as of Aug. 31 is listed in parentheses. Players’ ages are as of Aug. 31. Jim Bowden’s scouting grades are based on the 20-80 scale, in which 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. PWR denotes Power; FLD: Fielding; FB: Fastball; CT: Cutter; CB: Curveball; CH: Changeup; SLI: Slider; CTL: Control; CMND: Command.
1. Zac Veen, OF, Rockies (Double A — 60-day IL)
Bats: L Throws: R
Height: 6-3 Weight: 190
Scouting grades: HIT: 55 PWR: 50 RUN: 65 ARM: 60 FLD: 55
Last year’s ranking: 2
I ranked Zac Veen second in my top 50 last year but an injury hampered him in 2023. He underwent season-ending surgery to repair a left wrist tendon in June. The wrist had bothered Veen to start the year and likely contributed to him hitting just .209 in the Eastern League this season. However, he was able to play in 46 games at Double A as a 21-year-old and stole 22 bases in 24 attempts. I still believe that Veen, the No. 9 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, will be a 20-homer, 50-steals type player once he arrives at Coors Field.
2. Diego Cartaya, C, Dodgers (Double A)
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6-3 Weight: 219
Scouting grades: HIT: 55 PWR: 60 RUN: 35 ARM: 65 FLD: 55
Last year’s ranking: 3
Diego Cartaya has battled back and hamstring injuries throughout his career and, in an attempt to keep him healthy, the Dodgers have put the 21-year-old on an aggressive maintenance plan, limiting his games behind the plate and having him DH a third of his games. He’s struggled with the jump from A-ball to Double A this season, slashing .189/.278/.656, but has hit for power and driven in runs (19 home runs, 57 RBIs). Despite his offensive woes, Cartaya has done a great job defensively with his game calling, pitch framing and blocking. He’ll need to repeat Double A next season.
3. Robert Hassell III, OF, Nationals (Double A)
Bats: L Throws: L
Height: 6-1 Weight: 195
Scouting grades: HIT: 55 PWR: 45 RUN: 55 ARM: 55 FLD: 55
Last year’s ranking: 7
A first-round pick in the 2020 draft, Robert Hassell III was one of the headliners traded from the Padres to the Nationals in the Juan Soto blockbuster. But, like Cartaya, he’s really struggled with the promotion to Double A as he’s had trouble adjusting to the next level of pitching. This year, he’s slashed .211/.320/.314 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 105 games. However, I still believe in Hassell’s quick, short stroke and think he’ll be able to figure it out next year when he repeats Double A.
4. Druw Jones, OF, Diamondbacks (Low A)
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6-4 Weight: 180
Scouting grades: HIT: 55 PWR: 65 RUN: 70 ARM: 65 FLD: 70
Last year’s ranking: 8
After Druw Jones signed with the Diamondbacks in July 2022, he injured the posterior labrum in his left shoulder during his first official batting practice session with the organization and needed surgery. This year, after just 10 games, he was shut down again with a right quad strain. To top things off, he suffered a right hamstring strain in June that kept him out until August, when he finally hit his first professional home run. Hopefully the injuries are behind him and next year he’ll be able to play a full season and focus on his development. The talent is still there for Jones, the second overall pick in the 2022 draft, but the injuries have set him back.
5. Jack Leiter, RHP, Rangers (Double A)
Height: 6-1 Weight: 205
Scouting grades: FB: 60 CB: 50 SLI: 60 CH: 45 CTL: 40 CMND: 40
Last year’s ranking: 17
Jack Leiter has really struggled since the Rangers drafted him second overall in 2021. The 23-year-old righty has become their most important project as they look to rediscover the potential he had coming out of Vanderbilt. He’s had to make a lot of mechanical changes this year, including adjusting his lower body rotation and overall posture. He’s also had to improve his mental approach, which now consists of just trying to execute one pitch at a time. Leiter has dealt with command and control issues since being drafted, which have led to high walk and home run rates, both related to his delivery and mechanics. However, keep in mind the talent is still there, not everyone develops at the same pace and early failure often leads to future success, which I think will be the case with Leiter. In 38 starts and one relief appearance of his minor-league career, he has a 5.48 ERA and 1.528 WHIP.
6. Elijah Green, OF, Nationals (Low A)
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6-3 Weight: 225
Scouting grades: HIT: 45 PWR: 70 RUN: 65 ARM: 60 FLD: 60
Last year’s ranking: 25
Elijah Green, the son of former NFL tight end Eric Green, is a tremendous athlete who looks more like a running back than a baseball player. He is a four-tool player with above-average to elite grades for his power, speed, arm strength and fielding ability. However, the one question evaluators had when the Nationals drafted him fifth overall last year was about his hit tool, which was exposed during his senior year in high school. This year between Rookie ball and Low A, he’s slashed .219/.341/.328 with 13 doubles, four home runs and 27 stolen bases in 32 attempts. His tools are tantalizing and his ability to draw walks is impressive. But there is way too much swing-and-miss in his game, as he has struck out in 42 percent of his plate appearances. If Green hits, he’ll be a superstar, however, that’s far from a certainty. He represents possibly the highest-risk, highest-reward prospect in the game today.
7. Andrew Painter, RHP, Phillies (Double A — full-season IL)
Height: 6-7 Weight: 215
Scouting grades: FB: 65 CB: 55 SLI: 50 CH: 55 CTL: 55 CMND: 55
Last year’s ranking: 26
Andrew Painter had Tommy John surgery this summer, putting an end to the Phillies’ hopes of adding the talented righty to their big-league staff in the second half of the season. The 20-year-old never made a regular-season pitch this year as he dealt with elbow discomfort before ultimately undergoing a reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament with ulnar nerve transposition in July. Painter is still considered among the top pitching prospects in the sport but now will likely miss all of next season before returning in 2025, when he’ll still be only 22. When healthy, Painter has tremendous reach that makes his mid-90s fastball look like 100 mph as it gets on hitters in a hurry with special downward plane. He has three plus pitches: a fastball, curve and changeup.What makes him special is his ability to repeat his release point despite his 6-foot-7 frame. If he can make a full recovery, he still has the potential to become a future ace.
8. Jarlin Susana, RHP, Nationals (Low A)
Height: 6-6 Weight: 235
Scouting grades: FB: 75 CB: 45 SLI: 60 CH: 45 CTL: 50 CMND: 50
Last year’s ranking: 28
Jarlin Susana, like Hassell, was part of the six-player package the Nationals received in the Soto trade. The Nationals were aggressive this year in assigning him to the Low-A Carolina League at age 19. However, he’s held his own in 17 starts, albeit with a 5.14 ERA. His issue has been a lack of command and control. He’s allowed 40 walks in 63 innings, and his strikeout rate has dipped from 13.2 per nine innings last year to 8.9 per nine this year. He has raw, electric stuff and is trying to learn how to harness it but hasn’t been able to put it together yet. He’ll need to figure out how to fill up the zone earlier in the count and then use his stuff to get strikeouts. Susana could still develop into a major-league starter, but he has work to get back on track.
9. George Valera, OF, Guardians (Triple A )
Bats: L Throws: L
Height: 6-0 Weight: 195
Scouting grades: HIT: 45 PWR: 55 RUN: 50 ARM: 50 FLD: 50
Last year’s ranking: 38
George Valera started the year recovering from surgery on his right hand because of a broken hamate bone. It was the second time he’d suffered an injury to his right hamate bone; in 2018, he had surgery on it but didn’t have it fully removed as he did this time. There is no doubt that the injury and recovery have factored into his “down” year. This season at Triple A, he’s slashed .207/.339/.352 with just seven home runs in 193 at-bats. Last year, he hit 24 home runs and drove in 82 runs between Double A and Triple A. Valera has played all three outfield positions but I think he’ll settle into left field, with Mark Canha of the Brewers perhaps being the best comp for his future potential at this point.
10. Mick Abel, RHP, Phillies (Double A)
Height: 6-5 Weight: 190
Scouting grades: FB: 65 CB: 50 SLI: 55 CH: 55 CTL: 60 CMND: 55
Last year’s ranking: 45
Mick Abel was the Phillies’ first-round pick in 2020 and the first high school pitcher selected that year. He has a four-pitch mix, including a mid-90s fastball, an above-average slider, an above-average changeup, and an improved curveball with plus spin. This season at Double A, Abel has gone 4-5 with a 4.52 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 97 innings. However, his command and control are not improving, as he’s averaged 5.3 walks per nine innings, up from 4.2 last year, and he’s yielded a career-high 15 home runs. He still has a lot of work to do to improve his mechanics before he’s major-league ready.
What Phillies prospects Carlos De La Cruz, Mick Abel, Griff McGarry are working on in 2023
(Top photo of Jack Leiter in spring training: Ben Ludeman / Texas Rangers / Getty Image)