TOP PROSPECT FOR NATIONAL LEAGUE TEAMS

BY ADAM MEDEIROS – UPDATED 1/29/2021

The second part of my Top Prospect for each organization will now focus on the
National League. As I mention in my American League Top Prospect list, Covid-19
threw a wrench into the cogs of Minor League Baseball. Using what we saw from
the 2019 campaign along with occasional appearances with their big clubs in 2020,
the following list will examine each National League team and what we can expect
from their top prospect.

ATLANTA BRAVES – CRISTIAN PACHE, OF, 22 YEARS OLD

Cristian Pache has steadily improved his prospect status year-after-year
in the minors, culminating in a big-league roster spot during 2020.
Pache’s strengths come on the defensive side of the ball. His blazing
speed and strong arm allow him to cover a ton of ground in the outfield
and I believe he has a chance to elevate to become one of the best
centerfielders in the league. At the plate, Pache won’t provide much
power as he only hit 21 homeruns in 400+ minor league games. His
average has hovered around the .275 in the minors but if he can do that
at the major league level, his bat will be an excellent complement to
what he provides in the field. Expect to see him with the Braves as early
as 2021 with some Gold Gloves headed his way in the future.

MIAMI MARLINS – JJ BLEDAY, OF, 23 YEARS OLD

The Marlins clear-cut number 1 prospect heading into 2021 is Sixto
Sanchez, who I view as a potential Cy Young Award winner in the near
future. However, since Sixto made 7 starts with the Marlins in 2020 and
figures to slot into the top of their rotation in 2021, I chose to focus on
their next minor league prospect, JJ Bleday. The Marlins drafted Bleday
with the 4th overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Vanderbilt. As a junior
at Vandy, Bleday led the team to a National Championship and
showcased his ability to command the strike zone. Bleday has a smooth,
fluid swing which generates hard contact along with plus defense and a
strong arm. We’ve only seen Bleday play in 38 games with the Marlins
organization, so he’s still early in his development. With the lost 2020
minor league season, Bleday was able to spend the season at the
Marlins alternate site and I’d expect him to start 2021 with Double A.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES – MICK ABEL, RHP, 19 YEARS OLD

In a situation similar to what I wrote about the Marlins, the Phillies top
prospect is right-handed pitcher Spencer Howard. Since Howard made 6
starts last season and currently projects to start the 2021 season with
the big club, I instead wanted to focus on a true minor-league prospect,
RHP Mick Abel. Abel was drafted 15th overall in the 2020 MLB draft out
of high school. As far as pitch arsenal goes, Abel can consistently reach
the mid 90’s to go along with a plus slider and a developing change up.
All reports indicate that Abel has above-average control, so when you
put that arsenal together with the ability to throw strikes, you have the
making of a top of the rotation starter.

NEW YORK METS – FRANCISCO ALVAREZ, C, 19 YEARS OLD

The Mets signed Francisco Alvarez in 2018 and figures to be the Mets
catcher of the future. At the plate, Alvarez is an excellent hitter with the
ability to drive the ball to all fields. Alvarez has the chance to develop
into a middle-of-the-order bat thanks to his power and provide the Mets
with 20-30 home runs a season. The only downside to Alvarez’s game at
the moment is his ability behind the plate. He has a strong throwing
arm but isn’t always accurate with his throws to the bases. In 2019, he
allowed 15 passed balls in 27 games, something he will definitely need
to work on. The Mets spent the 2020 season working with Alvarez on
his ability to call a game which will hopefully translate into Alvarez
rounding out his game.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS – JACKSON RUTLEDGE, RHP, 21 YEARS OLD

At 6’8, 250 lbs, Jackson Rutledge is a towering figure on the mound. He
matches his presence on the mount with an aggressive, explosive
approach which can overpower hitters. Rutledge’s best pitches are his
mid to high 90’s fastball and a wipeout slider, to go along with an
average changeup and curveball. In 2019, we got to see Rutledge in
game action across 3 levels of the minors where he posted a combined
37.1 IP with 39 K’s and a 3.13 ERA. If Rutledge can harness his control
and develop his secondary pitches, he could move quickly through the
Nationals system and become a staple of their rotation moving forward.

Honorable Mention: Cade Cavali, RHP, 22 years old

CHICAGO CUBS – BRAILYN MARQUEZ, LHP, 21 YEARS OLD

The Cubs signed Brailyn Marquez as a part of the 2015 international
class and since then, Marquez has developed into one of the hardest
throwing pitchers in all of baseball. Marquez’s fastball sits in the high
90’s but he can sometimes lose control of it. He has worked to develop
his secondary pitches while maintaining control of his fastball, which is
something the Cubs worked with him on extensively at the alternate site
in 2020. If Marquez can harness the control on his pitches, he has the
chance to develop into a front-line starter, but Marquez could also
provide great value at the back end of a bullpen as he has great closer
potential.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS – MATTHEW LIBERATORE, LHP, 21 YEARS OLD

Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays 16th overall in the 2018 MLB
draft, Liberatore came to the Cardinals in the trade that sent Randy
Arozarena to Tampa. Liberatore has an excellent mix of pitches that
include a mid 90’s fastball, a plus curveball and a developing slider and

changeup. All 4 of his pitches have the chance to become above-
average offerings, which would project Liberatore to become a top-of-
the-rotation starter for the Cards. Liberatore hasn’t pitched above low A

ball yet though, so we’re a couple years away at the earliest from seeing
him pitch in the majors. However, with that time to develop, we could
perhaps see him make his debut sometime in 2023 with a spot in the
rotation come 2024.

CINCINNATI REDS – AUSTIN HENDRICK, OF, 19 YEARS OLD

Austin Hendrick was drafted by the Reds in the 1st round, 12th overall, of
the 2020 MLB draft out of high school after showcasing one of the best
power bats in the draft. Scouts have graded Hendrick to have plus raw
power which he can spray to all fields. With a keen eye at the plate and
the ability to hit for both average and power, Hendrick immediately
projects as a middle of the order bat. Hendrick’s defensive ability is the
other side of that coin, where his average speed limits him to a corner
outfield spot, most likely in right field. As long as Hendrick can provide
enough pop as he progresses through the minors, the Reds will find a
way to get his bat into the lineup.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS – BRICE TURANG, SS, 21 YEARS OLD

A sort of jack-of-all-trades, Brice Turang has shown the ability through
his short time in the minors to be able to be a plus hitter, plus runner
and plus defensively. The only shortcoming to Turang’s game is he
doesn’t provide much power, as he’s only amassed 4 homeruns across
171 games in the minors. That being said, reports out of Milwaukee’s
alternate site in 2020 showed that Turang was consistently barreling the
ball and producing high exit velocities. It would not be unrealistic for
Turang to develop into a top-of-the-order bat who hits for high average
and provides 10-15 homeruns per year.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES – NICK GONZALES, SS, 21 YEARS OLD

Ke’Bryan Hayes burst onto the scene with the Pirates last season, so

while he is the Pirates top prospect, I’ll again focus on a true minor-
league prospect. Nick Gonzales was drafted 7th overall in the 2020 MLB

draft and with good reason. Gonzales can flat out hit. In 3 years at New
Mexico State, Gonzales hit .399 in 128 games. Using his elite plate
discipline and contact skills, he also hit .351 in 42 games at the
prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League in 2019. Before the 2020 NCAA
season was canceled due to the pandemic, Gonzales had a .448 average
to go along with 12 homeruns in 16 games. Gonzales was drafted as a
shortstop, but the feeling is that he is a better fit as a second baseman
with the Pirates. Once he reaches the big leagues, Gonzales has a
chance to be one of the best hitters in the league as he can hit for a high
average and provide upwards of 15-20 homeruns a season.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS – KEIBERT RUIZ, C, 22 YEARS OLD

Keibert Ruiz signed with the Dodgers as an international free agent in
2014. Since that time, he’s put together a minor league career batting
average of .299. Ruiz is an excellent hitter and has showcased his ability
to hit for average while providing some pop as well. Ruiz is a switch
hitter which only adds to his value. Unfortunately for Ruiz at the
moment, the Dodgers have another young player in Will Smith who is
locked in behind the plate. Ruiz felt like a prime candidate to be moved
in some trades, but he wasn’t included in the trade with Boston for
Mookie Betts. Ruiz would be the future at catcher for many teams in
the league, so the possibility is there that he will be moved. For now, it
seems he will either return to the minors or enter a time share with
Smith.

SAN DIEGO PADRES – MACKENZIE GORE, LHP, 21 YEARS OLD

MacKenzie Gore was selected 3rd overall in the 2017 MLB draft to the
San Diego Padres, who hoped they had just drafted their future ace.
Featuring a high leg kick during his delivery, Gore brings 4 plus pitches to
the mound including a mid 90’s fastball, a slider (his next best pitch), a
curveball and changeup. Throughout his minor league career, he’s had
difficulty throwing both his curveball and slider consistently for strikes in
the same game, but if he can put it all together, he will surely eat up
major league hitters. Gore had his best minor league season in 2019
while pitching in High A ball. He compiled a 1.02 ERA in 79.1 innings to
go along with 110 strikeouts in 15 starts. Gore was promoted to Double
A that same year where he made 5 starts. 2020 would have been
another opportunity for Gore to begin the year in Double A and make
his way to the big leagues, but instead spent the season with the Padres
alternate site. Currently, it seems the Padres don’t want to rush Gore up
to the majors, so it is believed he will start 2021 back with Double A with
a chance for a call up later in the season.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS – MARCO LUCIANO, SS, 19 YEARS OLD

Marco Luciano was signed by the Giants as an international free agent in
2018 and immediately became an impact player in the Giants system.
During his first year, at age 17, he played 38 games in the Arizona
League. Luciano went on to hit .322 with a .438 OBP to go along with 10
homeruns and 38 RBI, truly showcasing his loud bat. He has a natural
feel for hitting and, with development, has a chance to become a
middle-of-the-order bat for the Giants. Early reports are that Luciano is
just average defensively at shortstop, so a position change may be in line
for Luciano if his bat pushes him quickly through the Giants organization.
We’re still many years away from seeing Luciano reaching the majors,
but when he finally does, I think we’re looking at a future all-star with
MVP potential.

COLORADO ROCKIES – ZAC VEEN, OF, 19 YEARS OLD

Drafted 9th overall in 2020, Zac Veen stands at 6’5”, 200 lbs and is an
exceptional athlete. We haven’t been able to see Veen in game action
with the Rockies organization yet due to the pandemic, but his draft
scouting revealed that Veen projects to be a power hitter who can at
least hit for a decent average. In Coors Field, a left-handed power hitter
can put up some video games numbers so the opportunity will arise for
Veen to become an impactful hitter with the Rockies. Defensively, he is
athletic enough to be a center fielder, but with just average speed he
will more than likely profile better at a corner outfield position.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS – CORBIN CARROLL, OF, 20 YEARS OLD

Drafted 16th overall in the 2019 MLB draft, Corbin Carroll has a mature
approach at the plate and has the ability to spray the ball to all fields.
While undersized, Carroll can still lift the ball out of the ballpark but
generally profiles more as a contact hitter. Carroll has plus speed and is
an excellent defender so he will in all likelihood remain a centerfielder
for his career. Many have made comparisons to Jackie Bradley Jr., but if
Carroll can maintain his prowess at the plate, he could develop into a
better hitter than JBJ. Carroll only has 42 games under his belt with the
Diamondbacks organization and will need more time to develop, but in a
few more years I expect to begin hearing Carroll’s name in call-up
discussions.