Who knows why Topps operates the way they do? That’s not a negative. They have given us cards of almost all of the Top 100-type prospects in baseball, and many, many other prospects with good upside that we love in the hobby. But we live in a world where we can be as petulant as we want. We’re all Veruca Salt. We all want more, and we want it now!
So, I’m going to break down a few players from every level of professional baseball who don’t have a Bowman card, yet. This does NOT include 2022 draftees since they’re reserved for Bowman Draft. This does NOT include players who have had base cards but no autos.
Topps gets cards of most top prospects in their Bowman line. So in MLB & AAA, the pickings are pretty slim. I did not consider guys who will have their RCs in Topps-branded products this year such as Steven Kwan.
Vinnie Pasquantino, 24, 1B, Royals
Under the hood he’s been essentially the same player with the Royals – he just hasn’t seen the results that had him slashing .280/.372/.576 in AAA. I don’t know how Topps has missed him for (realistically) 5 releases – he’s always produced. If he’s not slated to be in the Bowman Chrome release, it’ll be their biggest brand miss since Zac Gallen.
Jonathan Aranda, 24, IF, Rays
Aranda has spent most of the year in AAA but received a brief call-up, so he lands here. With an OBP hovering around .400 and SLG over .500, there’s a lot to like about what Aranda’s done this year. He can play either position on the right side of the infield, but his high-floor bat is the main attraction. I’m a buyer at ~$15/auto.
Pickings for AAA are a little less slim, but for the hobby, these guys wouldn’t be the top names you’d hope for in a product. I could easily write about Hunter Brown or Gavin Stone here, but the AA pitchers are more interesting.
Joey Wiemer, 23, OF, Brewers
Power, speed, personality – those three traits are sure to make Wiemer a draw whenever he has cards. Sure, there’s quite a bit of swing-and-miss concerns, and he’s got a setup so weird that it’s fair to question whether it hurts him. On the positive side, we don’t need projection to see what he could be – he’s already shown enough. From a hobby perspective, he’s likely to have a comparably small but very strong demand.
Enmanuel Valdez, 23, IF, Red Sox
Nothing in Valdez’s swing or batted ball profile has really changed to lead to the .300/.400/.600 slash he’s had most of this year – so we throw our hands up and say ‘late bloomer?’ Flipped to the Red Sox in the Christian Vazquez trade, at best they get a bat-first super-utility player. Moving to the Boston organization massively increases Valdez’s hobby value.
Two home runs so far tonight for Enmanuel Valdez pic.twitter.com/HlEyWjCWZL
— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) August 13, 2022
There are a quite few AA hitters that could be discussed here, such as Zach Gelof and Edouard Julien, but AA is just overwhelmed with no-Bowman pitching. I’m not even going to write about Gordon Graceffo, Yosver Zulueta, Wilmer Flores, DJ Herz, or Mason Montgomery.
Jack Leiter, 22, RHP, Rangers
Don’t look at the numbers. Consider who he is – #2 overall pick in his first professional year, aggressively assigned to AA after only 126 collegiate innings, son of an MLB All-Star, has stuff for days. It hasn’t all come together yet with any consistency in production – absolutely. But nobody is souring on him much, and the hobby won’t be any different. Hobby-wise, there is some concern that he may have an exclusive contract with Leaf, which would be damaging to how many collectors prefer to collect. I assume he’d still be the #1 pitching prospect with no Bowman, were it not for…
Eury Perez, 19, RHP, Marlins
The last pitchers to do things similar to what Perez did at his age were Julio Urias and Jose Fernandez. Remember how popular those guys were as prospects? When he has cards, he will very likely be setting a precedent for a new high at release for a pitcher. There’s no reason he shouldn’t. You don’t even need to look at the projections of three plus pitches with double-plus command (per Fangraphs) – just look at his performance. Eight outings of 5+ IP and less than 3 runs. Had a K/9 over 12.0 and a BB/9 under 3.0. Batters hit .228 off of him. This has been all year in a league where he’s 5 years younger than average. Truly a wunderkind.
Full Futures Game outing for Marlins #1 prospect Eury Pérez 🤩 pic.twitter.com/IobZ6P768m
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) July 17, 2022
Kyle Harrison, 21, LHP, Giants
The only knock on Harrison is command issues which have gotten a bit worse since he got to AA. All his results have been fantastic – lowering IP thresholds, he would lead AA in K/9 by a wide margin. Even with that lighter workload, he’s top 10 in all of MiLB in strikeouts. He doesn’t have the same non-performance elevators as Perez or Leiter, but the Giants are a strong card market and this is a potential ace.
#TheHobby hates age, so an older standout performer like Vaun Brown isn’t a good pick. These two were pretty easy to pick out, with apologies to players like Tristan Peters, Gabriel Martinez, and Kenedy Corona.
Deyvison De Los Santos, 19, 3B, Diamondbacks
The only other teenager who has a batting average over .315 & 40 XBH is Jackson Chourio. ‘Nuff said. Everything’s real except a position. He’ll be a top 5 chase in any product he’s in.
Deyvison goes deep!
No. 12 @Dbacks prospect Deyvison De Los Santos mashes a 381-foot homer for the @HillsboroHops, his 16th dinger of the year.
Watch FREE: https://t.co/6or1LHB03G pic.twitter.com/bKdJdmSSd9
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 31, 2022
Alex De Jesus, 20, 3B, Blue Jays
I’ve had De Jesus on my watchlist for a while. He has Topps Pro Debut cards from last year, but no Bowman yet. He’s the model of a modern ballplayer, with a high K%, high BB%, and excellent power. It’s the exact ceiling of his power and a defensive home that’s the question, but he seems like a player that the hobby would very much like to speculate on.
It’s an odd point of the year for Single-A. It’s filled with guys who haven’t been there for very long as draftees and complex promotions shuffle in, and guys who have earned it get promoted. So this is really just the best of what’s at the level now, and not the best of what Single-A has seen this year in total.
Gabriel Gonzalez, 18, OF, Mariners
The Mariners promoted Gonzalez to Single-A after just 35 games of Complex ball where he had a .969 OPS. His J15 peer Jackson Chourio has proven to be a more dynamic power hitter, but Gonzalez could quickly be cementing himself as the #2 of that class, with maybe an even better hit tool. He’s clearly one of the top hobby prospects Topps has remaining in their bucket.
First professional state side hit for @Mariners OF Gabriel Gonzalez. Love this kid. Team leader pumping up teammates, tons of energy and swag. Great approach and bat speed. Saw this pitch right out of his hand. Mariners fans going to love him#ProspectOne pic.twitter.com/c5m67lK8y4
— The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) June 7, 2022
Yanquiel Fernandez, 19, OF, Rockies
I don’t know what the Rockies are doing. Fernandez (and Adael Amador) have been worthy of a promotion for months. The power is real, the K% is in check, and his XBH count is over 50 – the most among all MiLB teenagers. The Rockies prospect thing is a bit of a barrier to collectability, but only for some.
Eddinson Paulino, 19, IF, Red Sox
Paulino has shown some unexpected pop and is also amongst MiLB teenage leaders in XBH. He’s stolen over 20 bases this year. Whether or not this power & speed is actually projectable doesn’t matter for the hobby. In our minds, he’s shown these tools so he now owns them. I think especially playing to the Boston market, his cards will be quite the hot commodity at release.
ACL & FCL (Rookie)
Here’s where I write my treatise on low-level pitchers for the hobby. First, if I need to pick a pitcher from this league right now, it’s Juan Rojas. But to call a pitcher (international especially) a strong chase for the hobby before they reach High-A is a bit of a fool’s game. In 2019 Richard Gallardo was a 17-year-old starter who had already debuted stateside. Upside, right!? Well, he was only a strong chase for a month, is just now reaching High-A at age 20, and his autographs can be had for less than $10. Again, he’s still only in his age-20 season. He still has some upside. But it’s much more often than not that these teenage pitchers follow a very long path to the majors with a lot of downtime in hobby demand.
Anyhow, there’s lots of talent at this level. It’s tough to single out players though because pitching is generally bad and much of the league is developmental – performance matters less than in full-season leagues. Still, though, we can see through the weeds to pick out some of those top performers. Caution though, that it should shock no one when 5-10 prospects who were mediocre in this league this year explode next year in Single-A.
Gleider Figuereo, 18, 3B, Rangers
He’s hitting well enough (though like most 18-year-olds, is a free-swinger), but it’s his immense power projection we’re most interested in. He’s a big riser in fantasy circles, and the hobby will be sure to follow. He leads all Complex League players in ISO.
Carlos Jorge, 18, 2B, Reds
One of the top 2021 DSL performers, Jorge has continued his success in his stateside debut. He lacks much physical projection or raw power, but he has a great knack for finding gaps and using his plus speed to turn them into XBH. His plate approach needs a lot of refinement, and that’ll be where his strength will lie, but he looks like an exciting player.
18-year old second baseman Carlos Jorge belted his fifth HR in 117 PAs last night at the Arizona Complex. He’s now slashing .275/.414/.538 with a 154 wRC+. #Reds
🎥 his IG story pic.twitter.com/JeLhWXnFRy
— OnBaseMachine (@RedsFan_Brandon) July 30, 2022
Anthony Gutierrez, 17, OF, Rangers
He’s a big-bonus 2022 J15 who performed so well in his DSL debut that he got moved stateside. That’s a pretty fantastic indicator and one that won’t be missed by the hobby. He’s got a big, projectable body that could end up as plus power, and is showing excellent bat-to-ball skills at present. He’s very raw and is as much of a dart throw as anyone of his ilk, but with this early promotion, he’s now a year ahead of his peers.
Dominican Summer League (Rookie)
Here we get another chunk of intriguing names, but they’re all 90%+ projection. Remember the Bowman Inception set called “Primordial Prospects”? Yeah, if they did that checklist based on the set name, that’s these guys.
I won’t play ‘guess the next Chourio’. I wouldn’t have singled out Chourio at this point last year – sure, he was on my watchlist & had solid projectability, but predicting what he’s done is impossible. So with many, many, many cautions, I’ll do a few quick hits. Cristhian Vaquero is already the 2022 Bowman Chrome cover guy, so we don’t need to wonder about his inclusion. Also, all the top 2022 J15 SS still have very high ceilings but none of them (Roderick Arias, Ricardo Cabrera, William Bergolla, Yordany De Los Santos) have done much to speak of.
Keiner Delgado, 18, 2B, Yankees – His speed is excellent, and has an advanced feel to hit. Results have been phenomenal thus far and it’s possible he exceeds the lack of projectability his 5’8″ frame portends.
Jose Gerardo, 17, OF, Marlins – Nice power/speed combo. Cannon arm.
Samuel Munoz, 17, OF, Dodgers – The Dodgers #1 J15 will always be highly regarded by the hobby, and he’s played well enough to warrant it.
Lazaro Montes, 17, OF, Mariners – Based on performance, has the biggest boom potential of anyone without a Bowman card, period. Also has projection, but still a very low floor & a K% to watch.
Jose Rodriguez, 17, OF, Twins – A 650K signing, has outperformed every other 2005 birth year in the DSL with over 25 XBH, double-digit HR.
Bryant Betancourt, 18, C/1B, Rockies – I can’t ignore the gaudy numbers he’s put up in his 2nd year of DSL action. We’d love to have seen a promotion by now, but….the Rockies.
Max Arterburn lives in the Milwaukee suburbs. He loves coaching baseball, karaoke, film, and spending time with his wife & 3 boys. He loves the Hobby & uses it as an avenue to obsessively follow prospects. He also loves critiquing card design & fancies 1998 UD3 as his favorite childhood set. He is not an Instagram model.
Great job on this! Thank you