Yes, the title reads like a bit of an oxymoron, but that’s done purposefully in order to make sure we’re talking about talents with a high-percentage chance to show up in future MLB stories.
The pool of players I’m working off is MLB.com’s Top 100 as of December 15, 2020.
Here are the eight most underrated top prospects, and why.
Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/DH — Baltimore Orioles
MLB RANK: 90
Mountcastle raked in 140 plate appearances in the majors in 2020 (.333/.386/.492) and has a long track record off hitting for average and power in the minors. He’s limited to first base or DH thanks to a poor throwing arm that gets a lot of 30s and 35s from scouts, but he’s a decent athlete who projects to hit .280 with 25-30 homer power, and he’s clearly ready to face big-league arms (again).
Reid Detmers, LHP — Los Angeles Angels
MLB RANK: 75
He’s yet to lace ’em up in pro ball, but Detmers should be a quick study thanks to plus command and control and a 65 curveball. He’s a good athlete, repeats a deceptive delivery, and the value in his ETA suggests 75 is a 10-20 spots low.
Francisco Alvarez, C — New York Mets
MLB RANK: 58
Alvarez has a traditional catcher’s build and is tooled up from a plus throwing arm to defensive instincts and an above-average hit tool that may end up plus. There’s some funk to his non-stride, but it’s conservative if anything. He’s 2-3 years away, but the profile itself is too unique and as risk averse as it gets for young backstops that 58 just too too low.
Brennen Davis, OF — Chicago Cubs
MLB RANK: 72
Davis is a five-tool prospect with at least above-average grades across the board, including plus speed and projectable power that could end up his best tool. He’s still maturing physically, but showed an advanced skillset considering he was 20 years old posting a .305/.381/.525 slash in the Midwest League. He has a real chance to stick in center and the trends are all pointing sky high. Davis has big-time bat speed, generates easy leverage and loft, and covers the zone well for his age and experience. No. 72 is minimum 15-20 spots low.
Sam Huff, C — Texas Rangers
MLB RANK: 69
Huff’s raw power and improved hit tool suggest a chance he’s an average first-base bat if he has to move off catcher, but despite his size — 6-foot-5, 239 pounds — he has good feet, soft, strong hands, has shown adept at framing and may be able to handle catching early in his career, a la Matt Wieters. Either way, there’s 30-homer power in there, and he’s short to the ball despite long levers.
George Kirby, RHP — Seattle Mariners
MLB RANK: 95
Kirby cruises at 91-94 mph, touching 97, with plus command and three projectable secondaries, two of which already flash big-league average or better. He used the downtime in 2020 to remake himself physically and now looks the part of 200-inning No. 3 starter. There’s so little risk here and the right-hander figures to move quickly due to his ability to throw strikes and locate the fastball that 95 is at least 20-25 spots too low.
Luis Patino, RHP — San Diego Padres
MLB RANK: 23
Ranking at No. 23 suggests it’s very difficult to be underrated, but at 20 years of age the right-hander competed in the majors and struck out nearly 25% of the batters he faced in 11 appearances. The stuff is undeniable, including a 94-98 mph fastball, a slider that misses bats and flashes plus-plus, and a changeup that’s already a useful weapon. He’s not as udnerrated as some others here, but right now Patino is ranked below CJ Abrams, Matt Manning, Drew Waters, and Forrest Whitley, and for me that’s a mistake.
Edward Cabrera, RHP — Miami Marlins
MLB RANK: 80
Despite developing late, Cabrera is 22 and big-league ready after fewer than four years in pro ball. The fastball has plane at 93-97 mph, runs some to his arm side, and the slider is above-average with a chance to be plus-plus in time. He’s shown feel for an average changeup, too, and has at least average control at present. He’s built like an ace and those two potentially-elite pitches offer a high floor and ceiling, screaming ’80’ is far, far too low for the Marlins’ right-hander.
Jason A. Churchill
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