Between prospect lists and the upcoming MLB draft, it can be difficult to track all of the players coming to the majors in the near future. When you expand it to all of the various talent pools around the world, the task becomes even more daunting. I’m trying something new here to present the best young players in a new way: grouped by their birth year.

At the ends of our list, you get an age-to-age comparison of the best young players in the majors or at the start of their prospect careers. But where this gets particularly interesting is for players ages 17 to 21, as they are evaluated in so many different contexts. Domestic players are followed loosely until ages 17 and 18 when scouts make their first true recommendations to their clubs, while the top international signees have already been in pro ball for a season or two at that age. Once players are in their early 20s, we start top prospects playing in full-season minor leagues to college stars, along with the early-arriving players in the top leagues in Japan and Korea.

Here’s how we’re going to go about ranking the top players at each age from 16-25: We’ll start with the group born in 1998, the last year with players under the age of 25, and rank them based on who I’d want on my team going forward. Then we’ll slowly work our way back in time until we get to players born in 2007.


Soto was an obvious elite talent all the way back in 2014 when I first scouted him as a 16-year-old who already had a verbal deal with the Nationals. Just over three years after that, he was playing in the majors. Soto is now a franchise player who has a shot to clear $400 million when he hits free agency. Strider is next on this list and from the other end of the prospect spectrum as a late-blooming college pitcher who went in the fourth round of the 2020 MLB draft and now looks like an ace.

Some other noteworthy players in the first year on our list: Brown has moved up with a strong showing for the Astros this season while Cruz could emerge in the top tier once healthy after injuring his ankle in April. There’s a chance Yamamoto posts as a free agent this offseason and he could be a midrotation MLB starter.


Guerrero Jr., Tatis Jr., and Paredes were on the younger side in the legendary 2015 international signing class that also included Soto, Gimenez, Cruz and Chisholm from the 1998 birth year and Yordan Alvarez from the 1997 birth year. Vlad and Tatis were the top two prospects in baseball by the middle of the 2018 season when Soto graduated from prospect status, while the others were slower burns.

I filled out the end of this year’s list with Baz and two bat-reliant infielders who could all get replaced here by next year as there’s there’s a nice group of young pitchers who could jump onto the list by the time Baz returns from Tommy John surgery: MacKenzie Gore, Tanner Bibee, Brayan Bello, Andres Munoz, Max Meyer, Bobby Miller, Gavin Williams and Jordan Wicks. Esteury Ruiz headlines the position players with a chance to crack this top 10 in the near future, followed by Brice Turang and Royce Lewis as other candidates.


This is the last birth year that is headlined by multiple established big leaguers, with only Cowser and Murakami having not yet made their big league debuts. This group is largely composed of players who got Rookie of the Year votes after being one of the top 10 prospects in the game.

Murakami is still somewhat unknown to a larger audience outside of the World Baseball Classic, though. He’s nominally a third baseman but in reality more of a corner guy who a team is trying to hide defensively. On the plus side, he put up totally bananas 2022 numbers, hitting .318/.458/.711 with 56 homers. The level of competition in Japan’s NPB is generally considered to be between Triple-A and MLB — and he torched it at 22 years old! He has plus-plus power to all fields with plus pitch selection, but some in-zone contact limitations that could hold him back at the highest levels.

The just-missed names here are mostly prospects in the upper minors who were in the middle of my recent top 100: Endy Rodriguez, Sal Frelick, Curtis Mead, Logan O’Hoppe, Triston Casas, Kyle Manzardo, Cade Povich, Ivan Herrera, Bo Naylor, Maikel Garcia, Trey Sweeney and Drew Gilbert.


The top of this group is pretty well known with some former top-five prospects in the game and ROY candidates joined by Sasaki, who is a familiar name mostly to WBC and Pitching Ninja fans. He is at the back of that elite group, but on talent he could be second in relatively short order. Sasaki, at his best, works off a fastball that sits in the upper-90s and reaches the triple digits, while mixing in one of the best splitters in the world. There are concerns given his comically heavy high school workload, 2021 dip in velocity and his effort-y delivery, which also affects his command. If it all comes together, he’ll be the next elite pitcher to come over from Japan, joining Ohtani and Yu Darvish.

After them is where things really start to get interesting as we’re comparing some established minor leaguers with current college players and some of the college draftees from last summer. Langford would, in most draft years, be a No. 1 overall pick candidate if not for the two LSU players born in 2002; more on that group in my 2023 draft rankings. Neto was another later-blooming player from Florida who shocked many with how quickly he blitzed to the big leagues after being taken out of Campbell last summer.

From the just-missed: Spencer Jones and Dalton Rushing both have had very strong starts to their pro careers after going outside of the top 20 picks in last year’s draft while Brooks Lee has mostly performed as expected after going No. 8 overall. Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander and Maryland infielder Matt Shaw are the strongest candidates from this year’s draft class who didn’t make the list.

There were also some strong candidates who have already debuted in the majors: Taj Bradley, Ezequiel Tovar and Vaughn Grissom, along with minor leaguers including Mick Abel, Diego Cartaya, Ronny Mauricio, Coby Mayo, Zac Veen, and Noelvi Marte.


At this point, this list starts to become an informal preview of my updated minor league prospect rankings as a number of the top players in the previous two sections have graduated from eligibility and some players with 2002 birthdates are the prime candidates to move into those spots. There isn’t a clear, slam-dunk best prospect in baseball right now, but Mayer and De La Cruz are in that top group — with Lawlar and Walker in the group right behind them for me right now. Wood probably needs to get to Double-A to enter that discussion, Montgomery could also make the leap with a strong 2023 campaign, Crews is the best draft prospect in years and Carter is one of the early-season arrow-up players vaulting into the 60 FV tier on my scale. Tiedemann and Skenes linger just behind that at the top of the 55 FV tier.

The just-missed group also starts to get bigger with a number of top 100 prospects/ top-10 draft pick in the draft types who could break through. Among current minor leaguers that includes Masyn Winn, Pete-Crow Armstrong, Kevin Alcantara, Luisangel Acuna, Luis Matos, Bryan Ramos, Max Muncy, Tink Hence, Jonatan Clase and Owen Caissie. Of the 2023 draft prospects, Jacob Gonzalez, Jacob Wilson, Rhett Lowder and Kyle Teel all fit, as do 2024 draft prospects Travis Bazzana, Brody Brecht and J.J. Wetherholt.


Eury Perez just blitzed to the big leagues, becoming the first player from this group to debut — but Andrew Painter likely would’ve beaten him to the punch if not for an elbow strain the Phillies prospect suffered during spring training. Holliday and Jones were the top two picks in the draft last summer, and Holliday has been arrow-up this spring. Merrill and Williams are two of the biggest risers from the 2021 draft’s prep class. Perez, Dominguez, Amador and Caminero all came from the 2019 international signing class that was dominated by Dominguez hype early on, but is already showing nice depth.

Seattle Mariners prospect Harry Ford was the last cut as a similar player to Quero. Fellow 2021 draft class product Brady House of the Washington Nationals is not far behind Ford and then there is a bit of a gap to Cincinnati’s Edwin Arroyo. 2022 prep products Elijah Green (Nationals), Cole Young (Mariners) and Dylan Lesko (Padres) are also in the mix. Rayne Doncon (Dodgers) and Moises Ballesteros (Cubs) are both arrow-up international players followed by more 2019 international signees who could end up in future versions of this list in Deyvison De Los Santos (Diamondbacks), Alex Ramirez (Mets) and Emmanuel Rodriguez (Twins). On the amateur side, the top of the 2024 college draft class resides here with Vance Honeycutt, Jac Caglianone, Nick Kurtz, Charlie Condon, Jacob Cozart and Malcolm Moore along with 2025 draft prospect right-hander (and quarterback) Sam Horn.


We’re now right in the middle of the confusing area with a number of talent pools who have faced very different levels of competition and are competing for spots in this top 10.

First, we have three early emerging stars who signed at the opening of their international signing period of Jan. 15, 2021 in Chourio, Bleis and Zavala along with Susana, who could have signed with them but waited 365 days to get his desired bonus and then was in the Juan Soto trade package less than eight months later.

Meanwhile, Johnson was the youngest of the top prep bats in last summer’s draft while Clark is on the older side of this summer’s best high school hitters. Collier actually started off in Clark’s class, but reclassified to a junior college (ala Bryce Harper) and became a first-rounder last summer. Anthony, Barriera and Petry were perennial members of Florida’s showcase circuit who are neck-and-neck now after being rated very differently just a year ago. Barriera was a slam-dunk first-rounder, Anthony is a huge arrow-up prospect after (surprisingly) getting late-first-round money at 79th overall and Petry is the biggest arrow-up player in college baseball as a freshman.

The just-missed list is just as diverse as the top 10 here. We have recent high profile international signees (Roderick Arias, Cristhian Vaquero, Anthony Gutierrez, Lazaro Montes, Danny De Anrade and Yasser Mercedes) and arrow-up guys with lower bonuses (Samuel Munoz, Luis Lara, Samuel Basallo, Michael Arroyo, Leonardo Bernal) with only a few playing full-season ball right now. There are some younger prep players who were selected last summer (Karson Milbrandt, Walter Ford), a couple from the same class who are now in college as 2025 draft prospects (Brady Neal, Chase Shores, Andrew Fischer) and some older prep players who are likely first-rounders this summer (Colin Houck, Aidan Miller, Bryce Eldridge, Kevin McGonigle, Dillon Head, Blake Mitchell, Walker Martin, Thomas White).


This year is maybe the most difficult as there are so many types of players at such different points in their prospect paths. Top international signees are often entering into verbal deals with MLB teams as early as age 12, so they’re scouted and identified really early, but they often don’t play in regular competitive games in the U.S. until they are 18 years old. Domestic high school players have a much more linear path, and we see a slow growth of information on them throughout high school.

In this group, you have parts of the last two international signing classes who either have a summer in the DSL or just extended spring training of performance to measure, while the high school players have now been poked and prodded for a year.

Jenkins is a clear top choice here as a 1-1 caliber prospect while De Paula is looking likely to land on the top 100 by the winter. Nimmala is young for the 2023 draft class, with clear upside albeit varying opinions about his chances to reach it, while Dix is arguably the top prep hitter for the 2024 class. However, there’s a higher bar for error there as his intense year of evaluation hasn’t started yet; his best data point is a series of great at-bats I saw in Alabama where he faced Soto in a tournament this spring.

For the just-missed bunch, we have prep prospects who are young for the 2023 class and projected around the late first-to-sandwich round (Ralphy Velasquez, Tai Peete, Nazzan Zanetello), as well as some well-known, older-for-their-class 2024 prospects (Michael Mullinax, Bryce Rainer, P.J. Morlando, Derek Curiel). We also have some early-separating position players from the international ranks (Ruben Santana, Jaison Chourio, Yordany De Los Santos, Mairoshendrick Martinus).


It starts getting speculative here. Salas is a slam-dunk top 100 prospect, comfortably inside of the top 50 for me and maybe inside of the top 30 once I finish my work on my updated prospect list. He’s on a Dominguez/Franco/Vlad Jr. trajectory now and stands alone at this age group, as he was also young for his signing class.

De Vries kicks off our first international amateur prospect and he’s the best for the group that can first sign in January 2024; he might be on a tier with Salas when it comes to his pro potential if he stays on the current trajectory. He’s very likely to sign with the Padres, giving San Diego the two best players from 2006.

Gamble is intriguing as an Iowa-born player who transferred to IMG to face stronger pitching and be seen more by scouts. He has really stood out and is older for the 2025 class, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he reclassifies into the 2024 class. For reference, while he’s probably a center fielder long term, he’s a plus runner with an above average arm who can also hit a ball where very few go at IMG, joining a list that includes James Wood, Elijah Green, Tommy White, etc.

I sent the video and some tool grades to a few international scouts and they agreed that sort of tool set would likely go for a top-of-the-class type $4 million-ish bonus on the international market (where they often evaluate players of this age).

Like Salas, Walcott and Arias signed in January and have positive buzz on the back fields, while Franco recently reclassified to the 2024 draft class. Caminiti (cousin of Ken) started hitting 95 mph from the left side a year ago, has a feel for a breaking ball and just hit 97 last week; both Franco and Caminiti are two-way prospects, though I’ve listed them at the positions that they excel most at. Cruz is tied to the Cubs, Morales to the Dodgers and Perdomo to the Braves. On the just missed list, we have 2024 prep shortstop Konnor Griffin and two more Dominican-born players from the next international class in Paulino Santana (Rangers) and Daiber De Los Santos (Twins).


I’ll cut it off at five here since it’s getting very speculative. Holliday is tracking like a first-round pick and has had a ton of visibility, as he batted next to his brother Jackson last spring with every scouting department in baseball checking in. Blanco (likely signing with the Blue Jays), Hurtado (Nationals) and Joseph (Mariners) are the best of the younger players in the next signing class, while Pena (Mets) is arguably the top player in the next class after that. There are more international players with seven-figure deals even further back than this, but I chose to cut things off here.

Holliday is a good example of how players at this age are normally identified early, both from being physically bigger than their peers and from being in a position to be seen more due to their teammates or opponents. By no means am I blanketing the country for these classes, but I usually end up seeing the best players well before their last showcase summer. I was tipped by a few agents to watch Brady Harris — a 2008-born prospect for the 2026 draft, who’s a freshman in high school and already committed to the Florida Gators — and he was one of the best prep freshman prospects I’ve seen, a list that includes future first-rounders Nick Gordon and Enrique Bradfield. See for yourself.

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