Two notable prospects were promoted to the majors last week. First, the Baltimore Orioles brought up right-hander Grayson Rodriguez for his big-league debut, which he made on Wednesday against the Texas Rangers. Then, later in the week, the New York Mets recalled catcher Francisco Álvarez after veteran backstop Omar Narváez suffered a calf injury.
In combination, those moves mean that five of CBS Sports' top 10 prospects, including each of the top three, are now employed at the game's highest level. Allow us to recap using a handy dandy list for convenience's sake:
- No. 1: Gunnar Henderson, SS, Orioles
- No. 2: Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks
- No. 3: Francisco Álvarez, C, Mets
- No. 6: Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals
- No. 7: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles
There are two natural follow-up questions worth asking: 1) Who is the top prospect remaining in the minors, and 2) Which top prospect will be the next to make the leap to the majors? Here's our attempt at answering both questions.
Who is No. 1?
Keep in mind players retain their prospect eligibility until they clear a certain amount of at-bats, innings, or days of service. In other words, the best prospect is probably on a big-league roster. We said we would answer who the top prospect remaining in the minors is, however, so let's get to it.
If you treat our preseason list as gospel, then there are two candidates for the title: Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio, and Nationals outfielder James Wood. You can't go wrong either way, as both possess high ceilings. If we had to pick one or the other -- and that's the purpose of this exercise, isn't it? -- we'd go with Chourio for the time being. Chourio is younger than Wood, and he's already conquered High-A, where Wood opened up the season.
Granted, not everyone will share that opinion. Some evaluators who have spoken to CBS Sports have expressed concern about Chourio's aggressive approach -- he walked in just over 7% of his plate appearances last season -- and how it will impact his output heading forward. Plus, at least one source nominated Wood as the top prospect in the sport over the winter -- and that was with Henderson, Carroll, and the others remaining in play.
Beyond those two, the other three top-10 prospects who remain in the minors are Red Sox shortstop Marcelo Mayer, Marlins righty Eury Pérez, and Orioles shortstop Jackson Holliday. Holliday in particular impressed this spring, looking far more polished than a 19-year-old should during an extended stay in big-league camp. He may finish the year as the best prospect in the game.
It depends on how you define "top prospect." If it means "someone who ranks inside of the top 10," then Chourio is tied with Pérez for being the furthest along by virtue of beginning his season with a Double-A assignment. (For reference: Wood and Mayer are in High-A, while Holliday is in Low-A.)
Chourio's path to the majors is more complicated than it appears. Yes, the Brewers should remain competitive, giving them incentive to field the best possible lineup. The catch is that they have an abundance of young outfielders. Garrett Mitchell and Joey Wiemer are already on the big-league roster, and former first-round pick Sal Frelick is waiting to make his debut. The Brewers could keep Chourio in the minors all year for additional seasoning, arguing that he needs to improve his aforementioned approach before advancing.
Should that come to fruition, then Pérez is probably the next-best prospect who will reach the shorelines of the majors this season. For those who aren't familiar with him, he's a big right-hander with high-quality stuff and a feel for throwing strikes. The Marlins are currently without Johnny Cueto, and have received some mixed performances from other parts of their rotation. As such, it wouldn't be too surprising if they summon Pérez before the summertime.
But what if we expand our parameters -- is there anyone from, say, the top 25 who could step through the door sooner than later?
Phillies right-hander Andrew Painter and Giants lefty Kyle Harrison would have been on our shortlist. Alas, Painter is out with a sprained elbow, and Harrison has endured two short and rough outings in Triple-A. That leaves us with three other realistic candidates: Twins infielder Brooks Lee (No. 19), Rangers outfielder Evan Carter (No. 24), and Mets infielder Brett Baty (No. 25).
Of those three, Baty stands out as the most logical. Foremost, he's stationed in Triple-A. He's also already made his big-league debut, appearing in 11 games last season before suffering a thumb injury. He's experienced some recent thumb discomfort that sidelined him for a few days, but he was back in the lineup on Sunday and has performed quite well already this year.
If Baty stays healthy -- and if veteran Eduardo Escobar continues to scuffle -- then it seems like a matter of time before he returns to the majors,à la Álvarez.