This installment of our prospects list will end things are we round out the top 50. The list of guys we have today are all capable of making big impacts in the Majors someday with some being closer to doing so than others.
41. Nick Gonzales, Pittsburgh Pirates
Gonzales was one of my favorite players in the 2020 Draft. He shows a very complete package with most of his value predicated on his feel to hit. Many likened him to Keston Hiura since Nick is a second baseman coming from a lesser-known school with his hitting ability being what got him drafted. Gonzales put up the numbers in college to be a top-five pick but many teams saw it as a fluke given his hitter-friendly home in New Mexico. I think teams will regret not taking him before the Pirates.
Gonzales’ ability to hit is what makes him such an impressive player. Nick has all the makings of a great hitter as he displays everything you wish to see in a top-10 pick. He has a short stroke at the plate that he uses to help make a lot of contact, doesn’t chase outside the zone often, uses the entire field, hits plenty of line drives, and shows power despite his smaller frame. His hands are very quick through the zone, helping him make the most out of his frame. That and pristine mechanics make me believe he could be a legitimate power threat in the league someday.
It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts once he reaches pro ball. The level of pitching he saw while with the Aggies wasn’t great by any means so there may be some struggles initially. He hit incredibly well during his stint in the Cape Cod League, hitting .351/.451/.630 over the summer prior to his junior year. It’s obviously not that big of a sample, but for him to hit that well against the best competition amateur circuits have to offer can’t be ignored.
As much as there is to like about his offense, Nick’s other skills shouldn’t go unnoticed. Gonzales is a second baseman at the next level so there’s a ceiling to his value. He could also play third if forced into it as he has a strong enough arm. Nick played shortstop in college his final year but that was more of a ploy to get teams more interested. What I mostly like other than the bat is Gonzales’ wheels. He grades out to be above average and that should persist as he gets older. He shows solid chops on the base paths and has the potential to be a 20-20 guy at second multiple seasons in the bigs.
42. Garret Crochet, Chicago White Sox
Crochet was a name that steadily moved up draft boards once people started to pay attention to the 2020 draft class. His numbers at Tennessee were good, but it was really the pure stuff that put him on the map. The White Sox took the southpaw with the 11th pick in the draft and then quickly made him the first of his class to reach the Majors. Garrett is the embodiment of electricity from the left side of the mound; Chicago hopes to harness it and turn it into a frontline starter.
Crochet went straight from being drafted to the Majors. Due to the absence of a Minor League season in 2020, the White Sox weren’t able to season the former Volunteer before unleashing him. That didn’t seem to matter any as Crochet dominated in his six innings of work once in the south side. It was a very small sample, but man was it fun to watch. Six scoreless innings with eight K’s is what Garrett threw up in his brief debut. He put everyone on notice as he displayed a high-velocity fastball and wipeout slider. Those two will be what helps him be the best he can be.
Crochet’s stuff has steadily gotten better over the past couple of years. He now throws 95-100 with the numero while the slider acts as a terrific number two option. The pure stuff he displays with those two offerings are enough to make people believe he could be an elite reliever someday. The White Sox may agree with that, but they’re more than likely looking for a little more. I’m sure this team will give Garrett every chance to start before they decide on moving him to the pen. Whether he ends up starting long-term or as a late-inning guy, the future is bright for Crochet.
43. Keibert Ruiz, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ruiz made his presence known very abruptly after signing with the Dodgers. He’s done nothing but hit since coming state-side as he looks like one of the top backstop prospects in baseball. He may not have quite the ceiling some of the other guys I could’ve put in this spot, but finding a catcher of this quality is few and far between.
Keibert will more than likely act as a trade chip for L.A. as they continuously look to improve their roster. With Will Smith asserting himself as one of the best catchers in the league, there is very little doubt Ruiz ends up being a long-term piece with the Dodgers. Whichever team ends up with this guy should feel very confident in what he brings to the table.
Ruiz is a switch-hitter that makes plenty of contact and has tried to unlock more power to go along with it. He doesn’t strike out much and hits for a very high average. He has an exaggerated leg lift, but Keibert gets his foot down early, helping him use his quick swing to make plenty of good contact. Ruiz won’t swing and miss much as he’s struck out around 10% in MiLB career and isn’t afraid to take a walk. If he starts to offer up more power, he could be an extremely well-rounded backstop.
Ruiz shows all the physical tools to be a solid defensive catcher. He moves well behind the plate and displays a pretty strong arm. People have been impressed with his ability to frame pitches and harp on how good his hands are. Some have noted his tendency to be lazy or to lose focus, behind the plate. That’s something he’ll need to clean up if he wishes to reach his full potential.
Realistically, the only two worries with Keibert are power and defensive consistency. The reports are that he made some tweaks to his swing at the Dodgers’ alternate site in 2020 that’ll help him tap into more power. He hit a homer in his first MLB at-bat, showing that work may be very fruitful. If he can begin to display legitimate power, Ruiz has a very high ceiling.
44. Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox
Casas was drafted by Boston in 2018 late in the first round and has been feared by pitchers ever since. The mammoth of a man hails from American Heritage High School in Florida, where he played before making his way to the GCL. His numbers haven’t been the most impressive during his short Minor league career, but Triston has the talent to be an offensive force.
Casas is limited to first defensively where he rates out to be maybe slightly above average. He isn’t going to provide much on the basepaths either, meaning most of his value is tied to his bat. Lucky for Triston, it is his biggest strength.
Triston has immense power thanks to his large frame. He uses his body well as he’s able to create a great attack angle to go along with the power in his swing. Casas reminds me a bit of Joey Gallo when he swings because of how his bat path is tailor-made for hitting balls to, and over, the fence. His power production is what put him on the map during the 2018 Draft, but people have been impressed by much more just that.
The reason I put Triston this high is because of his mentality at the plate. He doesn’t just want to send balls into orbit every chance he gets; Casas is a much more advanced hitter than that. While he could make a great living as a three true outcome slugger, you can see he wants to be more. Nolan Gorman and Nolan Jones were both in contention to be over Casas, but I have the feeling they both will settle for low-.200 averages; I don’t think Triston will do that. He has a ways to go to be the complete hitter I envision, but I like the direction he is headed.
45. Jeter Downs, Boston Red Sox
Back to back Sox here on my list as we continue to look at the future of Boston’s right side of the infield. Downs is of course named after Derek Jeter and was originally drafted by the Reds as a supplemental first-rounder in 2017. He was shipped off to the Dodgers in the Puig transaction and then again moved in the deal that saw Mookie make his way to L.A..
Downs has been someone I have had my eye on for quite some time. For whatever reason, I have an affinity for second basemen and Downs fits the description perfectly. He could play either spot on the left side of the dirt reasonably well, but it seems like second may be the best spot for him long-term.
The native of Colombia does a lot of things well without having anyone elite-level tool. He hits well, walks, steals bases, can defend, and has grown into more power as he’s gotten older. Some may say he’s a five-tool player but with muted skills. He does everything you want out of a second baseman well, but his skills aren’t the loudest you’ll ever see at the position.
Still, the all-around skill set Downs brings to the table is an enticing one. The fact he can do so many things at a slightly above-average level makes him very useful in my opinion. If one part of his game falls off, he can rely on all the other components. Jeter may not be someone who ends up being a star, but I have a hard time believing he won’t be an everyday player for a long, long time.
46. Josh Jung, Texas Rangers
Jung is someone that isn’t talked about enough in my opinion. He’s an exceptional hitter who should remain at the hot corner for a long time. I think there are elements of his game that go overlooked and they may help him end up being one of the better third basemen in a league flush with stars at the position.
Jung was a star at Texas Tech before being drafted by the Rangers with the eighth pick in the 2019 Draft. He hasn’t gotten the opportunity to play much (44 games in his MiLB career) but he hit very well. His small pro sample to go along with excellent numbers as a Raider makes me think Josh could be a consistently great hitter.
He has a simple, quick swing that enables him to make plenty of contact. There aren’t a ton of moving parts that helps him be able to handle both elite velocity and the adjustments needed to hit off-speed. Jung frequently makes solid contact and has a knack for laying off stuff outside the zone, making him a future offensive force. An adjustment I’m confident Josh will make at some point is lifting the ball in the air more. Once he starts to do that, 30 home runs are well within reach.
Something I’ve felt very optimistic about when watching Jung is his track record on the bases. While he is far from being categorized as a burner, Josh can swipe a bag. He’s a better athlete than what his frame shows and he has been very good at picking his spots when stealing a base. I don’t think double-digit steals are out of the question for a full season. Pairing that with a .850 OPS and 25 bombs sounds like a real nice player to me. The guy I keep coming back to when I watch Jung is Scott Rolen.
47. Nolan Jones, Cleveland Indians
Jones is someone many forget, but he’s one of the better first-base prospects in the Minors. He’s spent some time at third and could conceivably play a corner outfield spot, but Nolan will more than likely play first the majority of his career. He and Gorman have very similar skillsets and I put Jones here ahead because of how much closer he is the Majors.
Like Casas, Nolan’s value is tied to his bat. If he wishes to be a solid everyday player at the next level, he’s going to have to hit. There are some questions as to how much he’ll actually do that. Jones has really struggled against left-handed pitching since he got his pro career started in 2016 and he does have a decent amount of swing-and-miss in his game. His track record against lefties isn’t too concerning given how well he’s hit against righties, though.
Jones has a swing geared for extra bases and he walks a lot. Nolan walks almost more than anyone as he has walked 17% of the time during his MiLB career. That kind of patience to go along with the power he provides at the plate makes him a very useful player. Jones is what we’ll be seeing more and more of as players worry more about OBP and OPS rather than batting average. His average shouldn’t be terrible, but I don’t think he’ll be someone ever contending for a batting title. Former Cleveland first baseman Carlos Santana is someone I compare this young slugger to.
48. Nick Lodolo, Cincinnati Reds
Lodolo was taken out of TCU in the 2019 Draft by the Reds and he promptly turned into the team’s top pitching prospect. He threw just 18.1 innings after being drafted, but he was downright dominant as he struck out 30 batters without allowing a walk. Nick has a very high floor given his array of pitches and control. The Reds look to unlock a higher outcome for the lanky lefty in hopes of him becoming an ace.
Lodolo is the definition of polished. Great mechanics with three solid pitches to go along with the ability to throw plenty of strikes. He’s a guy that should make the leap to the Majors quite easily. Nick can get you out on strikes or make you get yourself out. He’s confident in all three of his pitches and he spots them well more times than not. His fastball works low-90’s with it reaching 96 while the slider and change both operate in the low-to-mid ’80s. Lodolo’s slider is the better of his two off-speed offerings as it has great late break, making it a deadly weapon against batters of either handedness. At the very least, Nick should be a starter for a long time with one All-Star appearance to his name.
The Reds have been one of the better teams at being able to develop their arms. With someone like Lodolo who has such a high floor, it will be interesting to see how high his ceiling actually is. The fastball and slider have both been trending in the right direction for Nick since being drafted. That could be evidence of an upside no one expected.
49. Nolan Gorman, St. Louis Cardinals
Nolan falls into the same category as Jones and Casas. He’s a left-handed hitting masher who has a strong chance to wind up at first. Gorman has a little more defense versatility compared to the other two, though. Jones and Casas are essentially locked to play first while the jury is still out on Nolan. He’s been continually working at the hot corner and there are some who think he can stay there long-term.
Gorman is the purest three true outcome players between him and the two aforementioned sluggers. There’s plenty of power in Nolan’s bat, but there’s also a lot of whiffs in this young man’s future. He offsets the lack of batting average and looks like he’ll be a decent hitter at the next level thanks to how often he walks. He got exposed in 2019 when moving up the organizational ladder, showing how much room for improvement there is as far as his hitting.
Guys like Gorman who have big-time power will almost always be given a chance to show it in the Majors. Nolan is still a few years away from making his debut, but I don’t really doubt he’ll get there at some point. If he can make the adjustments to make more contact, he could be a very good hitter. If not, Gorman will put up numbers similar to Joc Pederson.
50. Jasson Dominguez, New York Yankees
Nicknamed “The Martian”, Dominguez is one of the most hyped-up prospects ever. Despite no one really knowing who or what this kid is, people have been declaring him to be the next big thing. Scouts in the Yankee’s organization have compared him to Mickey Mantle, saying he’s the best player ever. It’ll be a while before we know whether or not this young man can live up to that sort of praise.
Jasson doesn’t have any stats to his name yet and the videos of his workouts are very scarce. Everything we know about the guy has come from scouts or from his few videos on Instagram. We should start to get a better feel for Jasson this year as he will more than likely make his state-side debut in 2021.
In terms of tools, there might be no prospect with a better package in the history of the game. If you believe the stories, he’s as big and fast as Bo Jackson with the hitting acumen of Mike Trout. The switch-hitter from the Dominican is incredibly well built and has displayed some very loud tools in the videos I’ve seen. Jasson looks like a grown man. His frame belies his age as he’s the epitome of a physical specimen.
His arm, power, and speed all rate out to be 60 or better while most people see him as a future centerfield. It’ll be interesting to see how his tools shape out as he grows older. How much more power is in the tank? Will he lose his speed given how physically mature he already is? There are so many different directions this could go. Something I worry about is if he becomes too big. Remember when Yoenis Céspedes came into camp looking like a god? That didn’t work out too well. The training regimen the team will have for Dominguez more than likely allows for that, but there are so many options in terms of how his career could go that you can’t dismiss anything.