The Top 10 Most Talented Minor League Rosters On Opening Day
After more than 18 months away, minor league baseball is officially back.
The 2021 minor league season begins today in every league except for Triple-A West. The first games begin at 6 pm ET and will run through the night with more than 50 games scheduled.
Almost every team has talented players worth paying close attention to, but some teams have particularly enviable collections of high-end prospect talent. As the minor league season gets set to begin, here is a look at the most talented Opening Day rosters in the minors.
All Top 100 rankings are from the most recent update of the BA Top 100. All Top 30 rankings are from the Baseball America 2021 Prospect Handbook.
1. Durham Bulls (Rays)
Top 100 Prospects: SS Wander Franco (1), 2B Vidal Brujan (56).
Top 30 Prospects: Franco (1), Brujan (3), LHP/DH Brendan McKay (6), RHP Joe Ryan (10), SS Taylor Walls (13), OF Josh Lowe (14), RHP Brent Honeywell (15), 3B Kevin Padlo (18), RHP Drew Strotman (30).
Other teams have more Top 100 Prospects, but Durham’s combination of star power and depth pushes it to the top. The Bulls open with the No. 1 prospect in baseball and nine of the Top 30 prospects from baseball’s best farm system. Franco and Brujan make up arguably the best middle-infield duo in the minors, while the pitching staff should be excellent with McKay, Ryan, Honeywell and Strotman leading the way.
2. New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays)
Top 100 Prospects: SS/OF Austin Martin (15), SS Jordan Groshans (27), RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (60).
Top 30 Prospects: Martin (2), Groshans (3), Woods Richardson (4), C Gabriel Moreno (8), SS/2B Otto Lopez (12).
New Hampshire has seen a lot of talent in recent years, highlighted by the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette-led team in 2018, and once again has an impressive roster in 2021. With three Top 100 Prospects, another on the cusp in Moreno and the reigning Midwest League batting champion in Lopez, the Fisher Cats have the high-end talent to be one of the minors’ most exciting teams. They also have an intriguing supporting cast led by 2B Samad Taylor and OFs Demi Orimoloye, Reggie Pruitt and Chavez Young.
3. Everett AquaSox (Mariners)
Top 100 Prospects: OF Julio Rodriguez (3), RHP Emerson Hancock (50), RHP George Kirby (93).
Top 30 Prospects: Rodriguez (1), Hancock (4), Kirby (7), RHP Juan Then (9), LHP Brandon Williamson (11), RHP Levi Stoudt (12), RHP Isaiah Campbell (14), OF Zach DeLoach (16), 2B Kaden Polcovich (25), C Carter Bins (28).
With 10 of the Top 30 prospects from baseball’s No. 2 farm system, Everett has a well-rounded roster that provides a promising glimpse of the Mariners future. Rodriguez gives the AquaSox an offensive force at the plate, while Hancock, Kirby, Then, Williamson, Stoudt and Campbell lead a potentially dominant pitching staff.
4. Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Marlins)
Top 100 Prospects: OF JJ Bleday (35), RHP Max Meyer (36).
Top 30 Prospects: Bleday (2), Meyer (3), OF Peyton Burdick (16), OF Jerar Encarnacion (18), LHP Jake Eder (29), OF Victor Victor Mesa (30).
The Marlins’ rising farm system features talent at every level, but the greatest concentration is at Pensacola. Meyer will be one of the must-watch pitchers in the league after jumping straight to Double-A for his pro debut. The team’s primary strength is in the outfield, where Bleday, Burdick and Encarnacion all possess game-changing offensive potential and Mesa provides speed and defense.
5. Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pirates)
Top 100 Prospects: 2B/SS Nick Gonzales (44), RHP Quinn Priester (51), SS Liover Peguero (99).
Top 30 Prospects: Gonzales (3), Priester (4), Peguero (5), RHP Tahnaj Thomas (7), RHP Carmen Mlodzinski (10), RHP Braxton Ashcraft (17).
The heart of the Pirates rebuild will be in Greensboro to start the year. Five of the organization’s Top 10 prospects entering the season are with the Grasshoppers, including their last two first-round picks in Gonzales and Priester. The pitching staff has a chance to be dominant with Priester, Thomas, Mlodzinski, Ashcraft, LHP Omar Cruz and RHP Austin Roberts, while Gonzales and Peguero make up an all-Top 100 middle-infield duo.
6. San Jose Giants (Giants)
Top 100 Prospects: SS Marco Luciano (12), OF Luis Matos (94).
Top 30 Prospects: Luciano (1), Matos (4), LHP Kyle Harrison (5), OF Alexander Canario (7), 3B Luis Toribio (11), 3B Casey Schmitt (14), LHP Nick Swiney (16), C Ricardo Genoves (23).
The Giants’ impressive collection of low-level talent will get its first crack at full-season ball in San Jose. Luciano, Matos, Canario, Toribio and Schmitt give the Giants a high-powered lineup, while Harrison is one of baseball’s fastest-rising pitching prospects and has a chance to shine at pitcher-friendly Excite Ballpark.
7. Worcester Red Sox (Red Sox)
Top 100 Prospects: 2B/SS Jeter Downs (62), OF Jarren Duran (95).
Top 30: Prospects: Downs (2), Duran (5), RHP Tanner Houck (8), RHP Connor Seabold (11), C Connor Wong (15), 2B/SS Jonathan Arauz (21), RHP Eduard Bazardo (28).
The Red Sox's improving farm system has an impressive collection of talent at its newest affiliate. Downs and Duran give the WooSox two Top 100 Prospects with dynamic skillsets, while Houck, Seabold and Bazardo lead an interesting pitching staff full of arms that should be up to help Boston at some point this season. Wong, who came from the Dodgers with Downs in the Mookie Betts trade, is a prospect with a chance to jump this season.
8. Bowie BaySox (Orioles)
Top 100 Prospects: C Adley Rutschman (2), LHP D.L. Hall (52).
Top 30 Prospects: Rutschman (1), Hall (3), RHP Kyle Bradish (12), SS/2B Terrin Vavra (21).
Rutschman and Hall should make for one of the top batteries in the minors, and the roster will be even better if RHP Grayson Rodriguez (2) gets promoted from High-A Aberdeen. Bradish, one of the prospects who came to Baltimore in the Dylan Bundy trade, reportedly made huge strides at the alternate training site last year and is a potential riser to watch.
9. Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets)
Top 100 Prospects: SS Ronny Mauricio (65), RHP Matt Allan (98).
Top 30 Prospects: Mauricio (2), Allan (4), 3B Brett Baty (6), RHP Jose Butto (15), RHP Michel Otañez (26), OF Jake Mangum (28) .
Mauricio, Allan and Baty represent one of the better prospect trios in the low minors and give the Cyclones high-end talent both on the mound and at the plate. The roster isn’t particularly deep, but Butto and Otañez are two intriguing young pitchers who could take a jump.
10. Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners)
Top 100 Prospects: OF Jarred Kelenic (4), RHP Logan Gilbert (28).
Top 30 Prospects: Kelenic (2), Gilbert (3), C Cal Raleigh (8).
There isn’t much depth here, but Kelenic and Gilbert give Tacoma a 1-2 punch of top prospects few teams can match. The overall caliber of the roster should improve if RHP Andres Muñoz (10) makes a successful mid-season return from Tommy John surgery. INF Donnie Walton and OFs Braden Bishop, Luis Liberato and Eric Filia do have some prospect pedigree.
Baseball America Prospect Report—May 5, 2021
Top prospect Wander Franco impresses in his Triple-A debut, CJ Abrams breezes in his first Double-A game and more.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) – LHP MacKenzie Gore, C Luis Campusano, INF/OF Tucupita Marcano, RHP Mason Thompson.
Springfield Cardinals (Cardinals) – C Ivan Herrera, 3B/2B Nolan Gorman, 1B Luken Baker, SS Delvin Perez, RHP Griffin Roberts.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals) – SS Bobby Witt Jr., 1B Nick Pratto, RHP Jonathan Bowlan, RHP Alec Marsh, C M.J. Melendez.
Chattanooga Lookouts (Reds) – SS Jose Garcia, RHP Hunter Greene, LHP Nick Lodolo.
Wilmington Blue Rocks (Nationals) – RHP Cade Cavalli, RHP Jackson Rutledge, RHP Cole Henry, LHP Matt Cronin.
St. Lucie Mets (Mets) – C Francisco Alvarez, OF Pete Crow-Armstrong, RHP Junior Santos, SS/2B Shervyen Newton, 3B/OF Jaylen Palmer