Feels nice to visit the peak of Prospect Mountain this week in Seattle. Julio Rodriguez is neck-and-neck with Bobby Witt Jr. for the number one overall spot, and the system itself is comfortably among the elite. 

Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2022 | Highest level played | ETA

1. OF Julio Rodriguez | 21 | AA | 2022

A 6’3” 180 lb right-handed right fielder, Rodriguez comes straight out of central casting for superstar ballplayers. The hit-tool scouting grades I’ve seen in public-facing spheres around the game feel a little light to me, typically 60 or 65. Even Bobby Witt Jr., who I like a lot and have tried to acquire in my dynasty leagues, can’t really compare to J-Rod with the bat. I hadn’t had a thought anywhere near that until I started researching this article, but he feels like as easy a 70 as I’ve seen since Wander. I suppose could trade some of his all-fields contact for power in the long run, but so far he’s been hit over power in his approach, slashing .362/.461/.546 in 46 games at AA. He didn’t turn 21 until December 29 and brings an energy to the game that we oldsters need to see just to keep us young. This day-in-day-out ebullience should serve him well in the big league grind and help him fight through the early struggles typical of the game today with pitching (and advanced scouting) being fathoms better in the big leagues than the minors. 


2. SS Noelvi Marte | 20 | A+ | 2024

The Fantrax prospect crew has Marte ranked third overall, so there’s a lot of value here from the dynasty perspective, even if a chunk of that comes in the form of trade value. For most of this write-up, I had Marte third in this system. I do think he’s a top 25 guy–maybe top ten–but I will say he’s fallen back a little in my rankings as I’ve cased the MiLB joint down to the roach and beyond to the extent that I’m coughing up little stat nuggets in my sleep. Marte slugged .462 in Low A at 19, which is good, but a .271/.368/.462 stateside debut doesn’t often launch a guy into the top five. He hit 17 home runs and stole 23 bases in just 99 games, so it was a loud season by a great prospect, but the 119 wRC+ provides a little context. 19 percent better than league average at 19 is an amazing achievement, especially if it comes with speed, but the hit tool isn’t as advanced as the typical prospect who sprints to the front of the dynasty draft line. 


3. RHP George Kirby | 24 | AA | 2022

The shapeshifting Super Smash Bros legend brings the pain with a triple digit fastball that he’s reportedly bumped up to 102. His off-speed stuff is less impressive, but his double-plus command makes everything play up and turns the fastball into multiple pitches. If you know you can hit the inside corner or the outside corner to hitters from both sides of the plate, that soon factors into your thinking as two different pitches, strategically speaking. He’s 6’4” 215 lbs and puts it together in a smooth, athletic delivery that should help him stay healthy, in theory. His outcomes have been stellar at every stop so far. In 67.2 innings across A+ and AA in 2021, Kirby allowed just one home run, struck out 80 and walked 15 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.079 WHIP. 


4. RHP Emerson Hancock | 22 | AA |  2022

For a minute there in college, I was really vibing with Emerson, Ralph Waldo. I was reading his poetry and letters along with the famous essays. Not much poetry there, really. You could read it in a minute, and it’s, well, it’s not great. I’m not a fan of most poetry though, truth be told, even though I might write a poem here or there. And that’s where we find ourselves with Emerson Hancock. He’s not great, among pitching prospects, in my opinion, which is not surprising considering I don’t like many pitching prospects on a dollar per outcome basis. Hancock began his junior year as a leading candidate for number one overall pick but didn’t dominate quite as much as expected, but he’s done exactly that since Seattle selected him sixth overall in the 2020 draft, posting a 1.03 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 44.2 innings across two levels. 


5. C Harry Ford | 19 | CPX | 2025

A hyper-athletic catcher with double-plus speed, Ford could play just about anywhere in the field, but the team will keep him behind the plate as long as possible. He’s not a star defender back there, and I’d rather see him in centerfield, but the org is loaded with outfielders at the lower levels, and I’m not sure they take Ford 12th overall unless viewing him as a catcher all the way. His plus power and hit tools played up right away at the complex site, where Ford slashed .291/.400/.582 with 3 HR and 3 SB in 19 games. I think he’s settled into the top ten for most first-year-player drafts this winter.


6. LHP Brandon Williamson | 23 | AA | 2022

Over his final seven starts in AA, Williamson pitched 37.2 innings, allowing 22 hits, 13 walks and 1 home run with 61 strikeouts. His 1.43 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 32.9 percent K-BB rate over that stretch represented a new level for the 6’6” fireballer, who also struck out 47.6 percent of the batters he saw at High-A. His upper nineties fastball and low-80’s slurve are a dynamite one-two punch, and his cambio should mix well with that combo as he refines his command of it. Prior to 2021, Williamson might’ve landed in a middle relief bucket for many evaluators, and that could still happen and provide a late-inning floor, but I’m betting against that now that he’s dominating upper-level bats over six-inning stretches. Great guy to pick up on the cheap if you can. A brief adjustment period to AA left his WHIP at the level at 1.26 and might help obscure a dominant season. 


7. RHP Matt Brash | 23 | AA | 2022

Bold prediction: Brash is good. Here’s what I wrote on August 29 in Prospect News: Jake Meyers Breaks Out in Time for Halloween

“Brash looks a little like closer Paul Sewald due to the impossible angle created by his delivery that brings his front leg well over toward third base before he crossfires back toward the plate. Will likely get hit with a reliever tag more than once as he climbs the org ladder, but he managed seven dominant innings in his last start. I’ve got a pretty open mind to his potential role, and I suspect Seattle feels a similar way. Brash is enjoying a loud breakout season, especially if you do the cool kid thing and remove his one big hiccup: 1.61 ERA and a 36.6 K% in ten starts since June 23, seven of those coming in AA.”

I’ll bet he’s back in AAA as a starting pitcher to open 2022, and I think he’ll probably dominate there and come up as a starter. 


8. OF Zach DeLoach | 23 | AA | 2023

The 43rd overall pick in the 2020 draft, DeLoach got busy in a hurry when he finally got the chance to play a pro game, slashing .313/.400/.530 with 9 HR and 6 SB across 58 games in Low-A. He then posted a .227/.338/.384 line in 49 games at AA, but that’s a tough hitting environment, as evidenced by DeLoach’s 98 wRC+. League average is more or less the expectation across the board here, I think, with a little room above that in speed and hit. At 6’1” 205 lbs, DeLoach is a high-energy guy who makes a lot of diving attempts in the outfield and grinds out tough at bats with something of a drop-the-hammer swing from the left side. 


9. 3B Milkar Perez | 20 | A | 2025

I feel good about having Perez here and then a little wishy-washy on who should have the final spot from a list of eight guys. The Milk-Man features a double-plus throwing arm and might already have plus plate skills. Tough to say until we see him play a full season, but his 20.7%/20.2% BB/K rate at the complex site is an outlier. Not many 19-year-olds walking around with .463 OBPs or 139 wRC+ scores in that league. He played just six games in Low-A at  season’s end but carried a 12.5%/12.5% BB/K rate there with a .406 OBP and 118 wRC+. I don’t think it’s just passivity pushing the profile, but that’s tough to tell until we see him against pitchers who can pound the zone. He’s listed at 5’11” 185 lbs and will likely add power as he grows into his frame. 


10. OF Cade Marlowe | 24 | AAA | 2023

Marlowe was a little old for the lower levels he played at this year, but that’s more due to the pandemic than anything he could’ve controlled. He clobbered Low-A in 34 games (146 wRC+) then put a similar hurt on High-A (135 wRC+) before spending the final day in AAA. His overall season line of .275/.368/.566 with 26 HR, 24 SB, 107 RBI and 87 runs would look pretty good on my fantasy squads, and while that’s not a realistic outlook for him given the age-to-level lens, it’s fun to see a guy produce this line in just 106 games. A 20th round pick in 2019, Marlowe is all upside for this organization. A left-handed hitter at 6’1” 210 lbs, he hasn’t gotten much pub in the echo chamber but looks plenty real to me. 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.