Top 50 Prospects Without a Bowman Autograph

2021 Bowman Draft Brady House refractor and 2021 Bowman Draft 1st Edition Daylen Lile sky blue foil. Photo credit @MKelley_ND on Twitter

Topps generally does of a great job of getting autographs of top prospects into their Bowman sets. In fact, only 8-10 of the names below will be in various Top 100 Prospect lists. Still, the hobby runs deep with its thirst for the next great ballplayer — every single one of these guys will have ‘hobby relevance’. I’ve outlined a list below of my favorites.

Because this is a list that’s really just exclusive to what a single company hasn’t covered yet, the definition of the Tiers needs to be revamped:

Tier 1: Players who are no-doubt headliners of a Bowman product. They will make the release interesting regardless of any other players in the checklist.
Tier 2: Players who, without a Tier 1 player, we need 2-3 of to make a product interesting. They can serve as headliners in a pinch.
Tier 3: Players that most collectors will find interesting, and will be great additions to help fill the body of the checklist. They should have the chance to get to Tier 2 easily.
Tier 4: Players that have a high hobby upside, but for various reasons probably lack broad interest.
Tier 5: Other players who have an outside chance of making it to being Tier 2-3 type players.
Tier P: For the hobby, it’s rare for pitchers to reach into a list such as this. They simply don’t have the same demand as hitters. But they deserve mentions too! This tier covers the top pitchers, from a hobby perspective, that are outside the Top 50.

Tier 1

1. Brady House, SS, Nationals, 18, Rookie (FCL)
Last year’s #11 overall pick had base cards but no autographs in 2021 Bowman Draft. Does that mean they’re just holding him out for the first 2022 release? Probably so. But if not, we’ll be missing autos of a prep SS with some prolific power potential.

2. George Valera, OF, Guardians, 21, AA
Valera has slid in and out of #1 on this list for a few years as the release & draft cycles pass. We all know his name for good reason — he’s played at an advanced level, has big power, and hits & fields well enough to be a hobby superstar. Unfortunately, Topps & Valera have already made contact & failed to come to terms – will they circle back to him?

3. Kahlil Watson, SS, Marlins, 18, Rookie (FCL)
Topps knows what they’re doing – they always intentionally hold players out of their Draft product for the next release. Watson slipped in the draft, but everyone knew he’d be one of the top chases for whatever product he was in. With Leiter going #2 and Watson “all the way down at #16”, it was easy to envision an auto checklist centered around those two. In fact, Watson is on the sell sheet for 2022 Bowman, so he will be the headliner to a Bowman set in short order.

As for Watson himself, despite his size (5’9”) he has good raw power that’s likely to translate to 20 HR pop as he matures. It’s easy to see Watson as a 5-Tool middle infielder in the mold of Ozzie Albies. Similarly, his overall ceiling will depend on how his hit tool develops.

4. Jack Leiter, RHP, Rangers, 21, College
It takes a lot for a pitcher to be this high, but Leiter has it all. Dad who pitched in the majors? Check. Been talked about as a top pick for several years? Check. Great performance on a national stage at a major college? Check. Being drafted by a team like the Rangers doesn’t help, but it won’t slow down the hype train much. He’ll be the most in-demand hobby pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg.

It’s a little concerning that Panini didn’t have autos of Leiter in their 2021 Elite product (although he was in Leaf). It could be that his asking price was too high. If that’s the case, temper your expectations for Topps to include Leiter autos.

Tier 2

5. Jhonkensy Noel, 3B/1B, Guardians, 20, High-A
Noel truly broke out in 2021. Hitting .340, having 14 PA/HR, and being a tank of a human at 19 is something the hobby loves. If the skills of Franmil Reyes & Rafael Devers had a baby, it’d be Jhonkensy Noel. He might not have much projection left, but he doesn’t need it. All he has to do is keep hitting – the only concern is swing & miss, which he hasn’t had to address yet.

6. Trey Sweeney, 3B, Yankees, 21, Low-A
Thoughts of Sweeney being a bit of an early-round sleeper went out the window when he was drafted by the giant microscope that is the Yankees. To his credit, the @EIU_Baseball product really did well in his debut, showing great raw power with a .518 SLG in Low-A.

7. Roderick Arias, SS, Yankees, 17, International signee
Again, the Yankee effect is very real. I suppose it also helps to be the consensus top 2022 J15 & have 5-Tool potential. If he has cards this year, there’s no doubt that he can headline that product.

8. Cristhian Vaquero, OF, Nationals, 17, International signee
Depending on how his body develops, there are Luis Robert & Yordan Alvarez comps being thrown around. It’s not fair, but it’s fuel that keeps hobby fire quite hot. Vaquero probably has more raw power than any other 2022 J15.

9. Alex De Jesus, SS, Dodgers, 20, Low-A
I’m probably as high as anybody on De Jesus. Don’t be fooled by the fact that he hasn’t quite broken out yet, or the 30 K%. De Jesus played all of 2019 as a teenager in Low-A and nearly led the entire MiLB in LD%. With an excellent IFFB% & 16 BB% as well, he was never an easy out. I’m excited to see what he can do next.

10. James Wood, OF, Padres, 19, Rookie (ACL)
A massive human at 6’7″, 240 lbs, Wood might have more raw power than any prep player in the 2021 Draft, and clearly has strength & levers to get to it easily. But with that size, there comes a lot of concern for large strikeout numbers. In the hobby we keep an eye on that, but we also care much more about ceiling. It’s the same reason a guy like Bayron Lora was so pumped up.

11. James Triantos, SS/2B, Cubs, 19, Rookie (ACL)
Opposite Wood is Triantos, who thanks to a strong debut, is in the conversation as having the best hit tool in the 2021 prep class. If his performance from the ACL is to be believed, there’s power in it too! He’s a prospect Cubs fans can rightfully be excited about moving into full season ball.

12. Gabriel Gonzalez, OF, Mariners, 18, Rookie (DSL)

With prospects who only have DSL experience, rule #1 is to follow the money. Rule #2 is to treat performance as closer to a pass/fail than anything to specifically take away. Gonzalez checks both boxes, signing for over $1 million & being one of the best hitters in the DSL. It doesn’t mean a lot, but it’s a fantastic sign to have a sub-16 K% and a SLG% over .500.

I’m planting my flag here with Gonzalez as the #1 DSL prospect, but in reality, there are multiple that have a very similar story. The hobby loves to dream, and there’s no bigger dream than these guys that are so young. I just have the others a bit further below because the discussion isn’t that interesting.

Tier 3

13. Joey Wiemer, OF, Brewers, 23, High-A

It’s rare to find a college bat with Wiemer’s power & speed combo in the 4th round. In his first year of pro ball he earned the Brewers’ Minor League Player of the Year by putting up a silly .296/.403/.556 with 27 HR and 30 SB. Then in a small sample, he continued to perform well in the AFL. Just check the video — there’s a lot to like.

14. Dustin Harris, 1B, Rangers, 22, High-A

Hobby-wise, college players from the 2019 & 2020 Draft like Wiemer & Harris have it rough. Because age is so important for collectors, it’s requisite for a player of this ilk to dominate in multiple facets to be more than a ‘hobby flyer’. Harris has done that. The most impressive part to me is that as a former 11th Round pick, he had a sub-8.5 SwStr%, 20 HR. and an OPS over .925. The only other minor leaguer that can make that claim is fellow breakout Vinnie Pasquantino. Harris doesn’t deserve the older-for-the-level-1B-only stigma the hobby may put on him. He’s athletic enough to play OF, he just hasn’t yet.

15. Curtis Mead, 3B, Rays, 21, High-A (with a brief AAA fill-in)

Mead played in the AFL as one of the youngest players in the league, and did great. In fact, he did there exactly what he did in both levels of A this year – low K% with good power and hit. What we’re seeing now is still just the Aussie’s raw skill. For next year, it will be interesting to see as he moves to AA if he gets coaching that guides him to a specific part of his game, or if he continues to have ‘just’ above-average projection across the board.

16. Colson Montgomery, SS, White Sox, 20, Rookie (ACL)

One of the safer prep bats in the 2021 draft, Montgomery could easily be above-average across the board. But if either of his hit or power end up better than that, he’ll be far & away the White Sox #1 prospect. Heck, I would argue that he already is. If the hype that the fan base put onto Yoelqui Cespedes is any indication, he’ll be a hot commodity in 2022 Bowman, where he’s already confirmed.

17. Joshua Baez, OF, Cardinals, 18, Rookie (FCL)

Having some of the best raw power from the 2021 draft is what separates Baez from higher-drafted prep players like Max Muncy & Jackson Merrill. However, there is quite a bit of risk in his profile. He doesn’t work counts well, he has issues with breaking pitches, and his body is already close to maxed out. Sounds a little bit like the concerns we had with Blaze Jordan, doesn’t it?

18. Eddys Leonard, IF/OF, Dodgers, 21, High-A

Leonard was inconsistent once promoted to High-A, but it’s hard to argue with his overall results at age 20. Like Noel, he hasn’t really had to make major adjustments yet after tallying a .296 BA &  55 XHB this year. I think his ceiling is pretty similar to org-mate Michael Busch, but with more positional versatility.

19. Elly De La Cruz, 3B/SS, Reds, 20, Low-A

De La Cruz is a camp divided, and I’m in the camp of not liking him. He hits the ball very hard, as evidenced by 24 XHB in 50 Low-A games. However, his 30 K% and 20 SwStr% coupled with just a 5 BB% is an approach that needs a lot of refinement. Despite my calling out of his red flags, I need to keep him here. Just as with Wood, for the hobby we focus on ceiling — Elly definitely has it. Someone who likes what De La Cruz did in his stateside-debut would have him in the top 10 of this list.

20. Jose Ramos, OF, Dodgers, 21, Low-A

Speaking of head-turning stateside debuts, Ramos fits the bill as well. He matched De La Cruz’s XBH pace, with better underlying metrics. Also, Ramos hit .313 after being promoted to Low-A — Elly did not come close to doing that. Although Elly is a fully year younger & plays a more desirable position, I like Ramos’ odds of continuing success more.

21. Eury Perez, RHP, Marlins, 18, High-A

It’s extremely rare to see a pitcher this young be this dominant. Highlights? How about .158 BAA (4th in MiLB, min 70 IP) and a 35.4 K% (15th). He did give up a few too many HR — that feeds into what some are saying is ‘just’ a #2 SP ceiling. Still, he ticks every box that we like for a hobby-friendly pitcher.

Tier 4

22. Deyvison De Los Santos, 3B, Diamondbacks, 18, Low-A
23. Matt McLain, SS, Reds, 22, High-A
24. Ricardo Cabrera, SS, Reds, 17, International signee
25. William Bergolla, SS, Phillies, 17, International signee
26. Eddinson Paulino, 2B/3B, Red Sox, 19, Rookie (FCL)
27. Hendry Mendez, OF, Brewers, 18, Rookie (ACL)
28. Samuel Zavala, OF, Padres, 17, Rookie (DSL)
29. Daniel Montesino, OF, Padres, 17, Rookie (DSL)
30. Aeverson Arteaga, SS, Giants, 18, Low-A
31. Carlos Jorge, SS, Reds, 18, Rookie (DSL)
32. Yanquiel Fernandez, OF, Rockies, 19, Rookie (DSL)
33. Max Muncy, SS, Athletics, 19, Rookie (ACL)
34. Jackson Merrill, SS, Padres, 19, Rookie (ACL)
35. Daylen Lile, OF, Nationals, 19, Rookie (FCL)
36. Oscar Colas, OF, White Sox, 22, Unassigned
37. Edryn Rodriguez, SS, Mariners, 18, Rookie (DSL)

De Los Santos & Mendez deserve mention alongside Elly & Ramos, and they’re even younger, but showed just a little less pop … McLain was one of the safest players in the entire 2021 MLB draft, but he doesn’t have a high ceiling … Cabrera & Bergolla are high-ceiling 2022 J15 signees who the hobby will certainly treat better than Tier 4 … Zavala, Montesino, Jorge, and Fernandez were my favorite 2021 DSL performers beyond Gonzalez. Many others would fit in here as well … Arteaga started the year like a house afire in the ACL then struggled a bit as the league adjusted .. Muncy, Merrill, and Lile are all very talented prep draftees who, for now, don’t quite have the power projection the hobby likes.

Tier 5

38. Alex Ramirez, OF, Mets, 19, Low-A
39. Manuel Betre, SS, 17, Blue Jays, Rookie (DSL)
40. Christian Franklin, OF, Cubs, Low-A
41. Wilfred Veras, 1B/3B, 19, White Sox, Rookie (ACL)
42. Felix Valerio, 2B, 21, Brewers, High-A
43. Jorbit Vivas, 3B/2B, 21, Dodgers, High-A
44. Warming Bernabel, SS, 19, Rockies, Low-A
45. Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, 24, Blue Jays, AA
46. Matt Fraizer, OF, 24, Pirates, AA
47. Adrian Pinto, 2B, 19, Rockies, Rookie (DSL)
48. Zack Gelof, SS, 22, Athletics, AAA
49. Edouard Julien, IF, 22, Twins, High-A
50. Jonathan Aranda, IF, 23, Rays, AA

Because they had base cards in 2021 Bowman Chrome, we know the hobby will treat Ramirez and Beltre well… Franklin has the tools to mimic what Joey Wiemer did this year … Valerio, Vivas, and Bernabel all performed really well this past year but lack projection … Ignoring age, Pasquantino & Frazier had fantastic breakout seasons that would be instantly devoured by the hype monster. But as it is, they’re just interesting flyers for the hobby … Pinto is an interesting name nobody is on. He was old for the DSL and he’s tiny, but his stat line stands out more than any other DSL player … Aranda & Julien check a lot of the same boxes as Dustin Harris.

Tier P

1. Taj Bradley, RHP, 21, Rays, High-A
2. Matt Brash, RHP, 23, Mariners, AA
3. Logan Allen, LHP, 23, Guardians, AA
4. Joey Estes, RHP, 20, Braves, Low-A
5. Kyle Harrison, LHP, 20, Giants, Low-A
6. Matt Allan, RHP, 20, Mets, Unassigned
7. Cole Wilcox, RHP, 22, Rays, Low-A
8. Brayan Bello, RHP, 22, Red Sox, AA
9. Cody Morris, RHP, 25, Guardians, AAA
10. Caleb Kilian, RHP, 24, Cubs, AA
11. Peyton Battenfield, RHP, 24, Guardians, AA
12. Xzavion Curry, RHP, 23, Guardians, AA
13. Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP, 20, Red Sox, Low-A
14. Joel Diaz, RHP, 18, Mets, Rookie (DSL)

Bradley just missed Tier 5. I think he has immense hobby potential. Of 2018 prep draftees, to me only Grayson Rodriguez & Cole Winn have more upside … A 4th round pick in 2019, Brash broke out this year with elite performance that features a fantastic slider and fastball that touches 100 MPH. … Estes & Harrison were two of the best pitchers in Low-A this year, and did it as teenagers. … Allan & Wilcox are in recovery from TJ surgery, but have great upside … Pitchers who project to have age 25 debuts don’t generally do great in the hobby, but interesting flyers that fit that mold include Morris, Killian, & Battenfield … In contrast to hitters, risk trumps upside for pitchers. International pitchers have the longest runway to the majors, and those who lack experience above the Rookie level are both tough to gauge & have that immense risk profile. But, representing the best of those are Gonzalez & Diaz.

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.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.