We at MLB Pipeline are in the predictions business, spending most of our time projecting what players are going to do down the line. Now it’s time to see how our crystal balls were working a couple of years ago.
Early in 2020, we picked a prospect for each team we felt we’d be talking about a lot now, in 2022. These were all non-Top 100 types we felt would take a jump forward to prospect prominence. How’d we do? Read below to see our reviews of our picks. Some were spot on, with eight of our selections on MLB Pipeline’s current Top 100. Some haven’t developed the way we hoped and others continue to be works in progress.
Who we picked: Orelvis Martinez, SS/3B (No. 2, MLB No. 44)
How we did: At the time, Martinez had just moved stateside in his first season after signing for $3.5 million in July 2018. The 2020 stop in play didn’t do much to halt the infielder’s early momentum. Now a clear Top 100 prospect, Martinez led all teenage hitters with 28 homers at Low-A and High-A in his first taste of full-season ball last summer, playing right into his plus-power profile. Gabriel Moreno is the prospect on every Blue Jays fan’s lips these days. Martinez isn’t far off.
Who we picked: Gunnar Henderson, SS (No. 4, MLB No. 74)
How we did: Henderson stood out as one of the youngest players at the Orioles’ alternate site in 2020, then went from Low-A all the way up to Double-A in what was his first true full season of pro ball in 2021, even hitting well in the Double-A playoffs. He’s big, super-athletic and has the skills to play shortstop, a big reason why he’s on the Top 100 with an up-arrow next to his name.
Who we picked: JJ Goss, RHP (No. 13)
How we did: The pandemic and shoulder issues have limited Goss from making a real jump in public perception since he was selected for that March 2020 story. The right-hander was limited to only 10 1/3 innings last season and still hasn’t pitched for a Rays affiliate outside of the Florida complex. When he’s on, Goss features a low-90s, riding fastball with a plus slider and decent changeup — all while featuring good control. He just turned 21 last Christmas, meaning a healthy breakout could be right in front of him.
Who we picked: Noah Song, RHP (No. 30)
How we did: The best pitcher ever to come out of the Naval Academy, Song has a fastball that reaches 99 mph and three secondary pitches (slider, curveball, changeup) with at least solid potential. But his military commitment means that the 2019 fourth-rounder hasn’t pitched since the Premier 12 tournament that November, and it’s unclear when he’ll rejoin the Red Sox.
Who we picked: Anthony Volpe, SS (No. 1, MLB No. 15)
How we did: Volpe had a modest pro debut after signing as a 2019 first-round pick out of a New Jersey high school, in part because he was dealing with mononucleosis, but he broke out as one of baseball’s top prospects last season. MLB Pipeline named him its 2021 Hitting Prospect of the Year after he batted .294/.423/.604 with 27 homers and 33 steals in 109 games between Low-A and High-A. He topped the Minors in runs (113) and OPS (1.027) and ranked second in extra-base hits (68).
Who we picked: George Valera, OF (No. 2, MLB No. 63)
How we did: Injuries and the coronavirus shutdown delayed Valera’s full-season debut until 2021, when he showed why he was considered one of the best hitters in the 2017 international class. With a sweet left-handed swing and advanced plate discipline and pitch recognition, the Dominican reached Double-A at age 20 while recording a .910 OPS with 19 homers and 11 steals in 86 games.
Who we picked: Erick Peña, OF (No. 6)
How we did: Peña was just about to get his career going in March 2020, having signed for $3,897,500 out of the Dominican Republic the prior summer. Instead, he participated in instructional leagues in Kansas City and Arizona in 2020 and played 40 games in the Arizona Complex League last summer. Early results have been tough: a .161/.256/.314 line and 36.5 percent K rate. Peña, who turns 19 next month, can still be an above-average power bat with good defensive skills. He’ll just need a longer runway to reach that destination.
Who we picked: Roberto Campos, OF (No. 8)
How we did: Campos remains firmly on the radar, having moved stateside two years after he signed for $2.85 million in July 2019. His power is his best skill as he’s already making good use of his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. Campos hit eight homers and slugged .441 over 39 games in the Florida Complex League last summer. He’ll taste full-season ball in 2022 and could become a bigger name on the scene if he can refine his overall offensive approach.
Who we picked: Keoni Cavaco, SS (No. 11)
How we did: Cavaco is still super young — he doesn’t turn 21 until June — but he finished with just a .598 OPS in 2021. He started off decently in his full-season debut, but then missed a considerable amount of time with a concussion and hit poorly down the stretch. There’s still plenty of time for him to right the ship, but a .217/.276/.289 slash line to date in his pro career is likely not what he and the Twins were hoping for when he was taken No. 13 overall in the 2019 Draft.
Who we picked: Matthew Thompson, RHP (No. 7)
How we did: Though Thompson logged a 5.90 ERA in 19 High-A starts in his full-season debut, he did strike out 77 in 71 2/3 innings and can make a case for having as much upside as any White Sox pitching prospect. The 2019 second-rounder from a Texas high school needs more consistency, but he’s still a quality athlete who can display a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball when he’s on.
Who we picked: Robert Puason, SS (No. 10)
How we did: We put Puason, who signed for $5.1 million in July 2019, on this list before he played a professional inning, something he wasn’t able to do until 2021, though he was at the A’s alternate site during the shutdown. It was an up-and-down, at best, pro debut in Low-A in 2021 for the shortstop as he finished with a .215/.282/.291 line in 91 games. His approach at the plate will need refinement, as he struck out in 41.2 percent of his plate appearances, though he’ll still be just 19 for the 2022 season.
Who we picked: Kyren Paris, SS (No. 4)
How we did: While the Angels’ second-round pick in 2019 hasn’t been able to play a lot, with a hamate fracture limiting his pro debut to three games and a non-displaced fibula fracture allowing him to play just 47 games in 2021, he has shown glimpses of the tools that made him the choice for this story in the first place. Paris did have a .924 OPS in Low-A and earned a bump up to High-A last year, all as a teenager, so this one is more of an incomplete than pass/fail.
Who we picked: Colin Barber, OF (No. 7)
How we did: Barber offered one of the better power/speed combinations in the 2019 high school class, which landed him a $1 million bonus in the fourth round, and he still has the upside of a 20-20 center fielder. But a right shoulder injury required surgery and restricted him to just 16 games last season.
Who we picked: Noelvi Marte, SS (No. 2, MLB No. 11)
How we did: This one’s worked out pretty well so far, huh? At the time of the story two years ago, Marte was coming off a dominant debut in the Dominican Summer League, leading that circuit in total bases. He followed that up in 2021 by hitting .271/.368/.463 with 17 homers and 23 steals in Low-A in 2021 to earn a late promotion up a level, all at age 19, positioning himself as one of the best infield prospects in the game.
Who we picked: Maximo Acosta, SS (No. 10)
How we did: Acosta drew comparisons to fellow Venezuelan Gleyber Torres before signing for $1.65 million in 2019, but he has played just 17 pro games because of the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season and surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome last August. He’s still just 19 and has the advanced hitting ability to make up for lost time once he returns.
Who we picked: Michael Harris, OF (No. 4, MLB No. 89)
How we did: The Braves were one of the few teams who liked Harris more as a hitter than as a pitcher and it’s looking like they were right. After a strong pro debut that saw the Georgia high schooler reach full-season ball, he really took off in 2021, jumping to High-A and finishing with a .294/.362/.436 line and 27 steals. There’s some concern about his chase rate, but even in that regard he improved as the season wore on and he’s poised to make a nice jump up lists in 2022.
Who we picked: Jose Salas, SS (No. 10)
How we did: The Marlins’ primary target on the 2019 international market, Salas has lived up to expectations since signing for $2.8 million out of Venezuela. A switch-hitter with 20-20 upside and the tools to stay at shortstop, he batted .305/.391/.405 with two homers and 14 steals in a 55-game pro debut divided between Rookie ball and Low-A.
Who we picked: Robert Dominguez, RHP (No. 10)
How we did: On stuff alone, Dominguez would stand out in a shallow Mets system. His mid-90s fastball and good-spin breaking ball show above-average promise, and he has plenty of size to dream on at 6-foot-5. The Mets eased him in with only 10 FCL appearances last summer, in part due to previous shoulder concerns, so he needs innings before he can truly become a household name.
Who we picked: Andry Lara, RHP (No. 4)
How we did: The performances and stuff of Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry and Jackson Rutledge can still make it easy to overlook Lara among Nats pitching prospects, but he is very much on the radar. Lara can fire fastballs in the mid-90s and throws a curveball and changeup that each show at least average potential. He struck out 47 in 39 2/3 innings in the FCL last season and received a late promotion to Low-A, where he struggled with control in a small sample (eight walks in 8 2/3 innings). We know a little bit more about Lara than we did in March 2020, but we’ll know even more in the year ahead.
Who we picked: Luis Garcia, SS (No. 8)
How we did: This was a bold pick considering that Garcia was coming off a very rough full-season debut in 2019, but we were still bullish on Garcia given his tools and his age. Added strength was apparent when he returned to Low-A in 2021 and while his season was uneven overall (.243/.353/.414), there were some promising developments, from finishing with 13 homers and 15 steals, to walking in 13.8 percent of his plate appearances and earning a promotion to High-A, all at age 20.
Who we picked: Hedbert Perez, OF (No. 4)
How we did: Depending on where you saw Perez, you might have seen an exciting young outfield prospect ready to move fast or an inexperienced young outfield prospect with swing-and-miss issues. The former came in the ACL, where Perez hit .333/.394/.575 with six homers in 32 games. The latter was at Low-A Carolina where he went 11-for-65 (.169) with 25 strikeouts. That Mudcats performance may have put the brakes on making the Venezuela native a Big Deal for Milwaukee, but he still has decent offensive potential with a tight left-handed swing and good speed.
Who we picked: Tre Fletcher, OF (No. 21)
How we did: This selection was a bet on athleticism. The same could be said for the Cardinals’ pick of Fletcher in the second round in 2019. The 20-year-old outfielder can be a plus-plus runner with a strong arm from the grass. There was a hope he could find some offensive value as he entered the pro game, but that hasn’t happened yet. Fletcher has still yet to see full-season ball and owns a career .669 OPS in 204 plate appearances. He turns 21 in April.
Who we picked: Pedro Martinez, INF (unranked on Rays Top 30)
How we did: The Cubs signed Martinez out of Venezuela for $300,000 in 2018 and shipped him to the Rays for José Martinez (no relation) two years later. He struggled in his first season with his new organization, batting .216/.289/.319 as a 20-year-old in High-A, but scouts previously saw him as an advanced switch-hitter with some sneaky power and defensive versatility.
Who we picked: Quinn Priester, RHP (No. 2, MLB No. 49)
How we did: Priester caused a lot of buzz with how he performed at the Pirates’ alternate site and then at instructs in 2020. While he wasn’t quite that dominant in 2021, he did perform very well as one of the youngest pitchers at his level at 20 years old. His legitimate four-pitch mix was overpowering at times (12.9 K/9 in August, for example), and he has set the stage to be one of the youngest starters in Double-A this season.
Who we picked: Tyler Callihan, 2B/3B (No. 12)
How we did: After the first month of the 2021 season, it looked like this pick would click as Callihan hit .299/.351/.437 in 23 games. But an elbow injury forced him to the sidelines and he ended up needing Tommy John surgery. Consider it a pause more than a setback, as Callihan should be able to get back to being the offensive-minded infielder he was proving to be in 2022.
Who we picked: Blake Walston, LHP (No. 4)
How we did: The Arizona system was once seen as position player-heavy, and it still is loaded in that department. But Walston — the 26th overall pick from 2019 — has elbowed his way into the discussion at the top. The 20-year-old southpaw sports a four-pitch mix, including a curveball that regularly receives plus grades, and he’s a solid strike-thrower. He posted a 3.76 ERA with 117 strikeouts over 95 2/3 innings between Low-A and High-A last season and could make a Top 100 jump with similar performances in 2022.
Who we picked: Diego Cartaya, C (No. 1, MLB No. 28)
How we did: MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked international amateur in the 2018 class signed for $2.5 million out of Venezuela and looks like a future star. An advanced hitter with solid power and defensive skills, Cartaya batted .298/.409/.614 with 10 homers in 31 Low-A games before a hamstring injury truncated his season in mid-July.
Who we picked: Alexander Canario, OF (No. 12 on Cubs Top 30)
How we did: Fellow international outfielder Luis Matos would have been a better choice, but Canario does feature well-above-average raw power and arm strength. Signed for $60,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2017 and shipped to the Cubs in the Kris Bryant trade last July, he hit .230/.300/.431 with 18 homers and 21 steals in 107 games between Low-A and High-A.
Who we picked: Reginald Preciado, SS/3B (No. 8 on Cubs Top 30)
How we did: Sure, we could say folks have talked about Preciado since the list first ran two years ago. Most of that talk centered around his trade from the Padres to the Cubs in December 2020 in a deal that sent Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini the other way. Preciado was the best prospect moved in that swap, and he quickly showed why he earns above-average hit-tool grades by hitting .333/.383/.511 over 34 games in the ACL. The 6-foot-4 switch-hitter, who turns 19 in May, could show more pop as he fills out and could be a fun follow in the season ahead.
Who we picked: Helcris Olivarez, LHP (No. 14)
How we did: Signed back in August of 2016, Olivarez’s United States debut in 2019 had the Rockies very excited about the big lefty’s future. His time as the youngest player at the Rockies’ alternate site did nothing to dampen excitement. Challenged with a move up to High-A at age 20, he did continue to miss a lot of bats (10.1 K/9), but it’s clear he has work to do command-wise (6.1 BB/9).