Assessing prospects is more of an art than a science. Deciphering which young players will succeed at the big league level isn’t easy.
The few prospects who are selected in the first round of the draft or are signed for high-value international free agent contracts make the headlines, but there are so many more who fly under the radar.
Here at CardLines, we often try to mine scouting reports and minor league statistic leaderboards for prospects who might be diamonds in the rough. Earlier this year, I wrote about 10 under the radar players in the 2022 Bowman Prospects class.
With this series, however, we want to cover the 10 best prospects of recent Bowman Baseball classes. This edition covers prospects with 1st Bowman cards in the 2020 Bowman Baseball release.
“Best” can be subjective, but I attempt to include a variety of statistics, scouting grades, and narrative reports in my rankings. I covered this process in detail within my Best Prospects in 2021 Bowman Chrome article for CardLines last year. Because I include Baseball America’s grades on the 20-80 scale for each prospect, here’s a refresher on how they categorize each grade.
In addition to my Top 10 ranking, I’ll also touch on players in this class with high risk and those who might have hidden value. Lastly, we’ll rank the set from a prospect investment standpoint in relation to other Bowman Baseball releases in the past decade.
Without further ado, here’s my ranking of the Top 2020 Bowman Best Prospects Baseball class:
Age: 20 | Bats: L | Throws: R | ETA: 2022
|2022 (22)||Bobby Witt Jr.||MLB||114||21||17||24||4.7%||22.5%||.252||.294||.443|
Bobby Witt Jr. was one of those players who everyone knew. Largely regarded as the best high school prospect in the 2019 draft, the second-generation big leaguer was selected second overall and given a signing bonus close to $8 million.
Multiple outlets touted him as a potential five-tool prospect. After one full season in the minor leagues, Witt made the Kansas City Royals 2022 Opening Day roster.
Although he started off the 2022 season slow, he’s put together a solid rookie campaign and displayed the power-speed combination that’s rare for a shortstop. There are some obvious holes like a high chase rate, low walk rate, and murky defense, but more experience should help the former and investors are prone to overlook the latter.
Witt is going to be the Royals’ shortstop for a very long time, and his tools cement him as the top prospect in the 2020 Bowman class.
He is seen as both a high-floor player as well as someone with one of the highest ceilings in the class because of his well-rounded toolset and strong odds of sticking at shortstop. If he is even a .230 or .240 hitter, he should have a lengthy big league career because of his defensive ability at shortstop, speed and power. If he proves to be an average or better hitter, he could become a franchise-caliber player.—Baseball America
Age: 22 | Bats: R | Throws: R | ETA: 2022
|2021 (21)||Spencer Torkelson||AA&AAA||121||29||30||91||14.5%||21.5%||.267||.383||.552|
|2022 (22)||Spencer Torkelson||AAA||28||5||4||13||14.5%||28.2%||.226||.339||.387|
|2022 (22)||Spencer Torkelson||MLB||83||11||5||21||9.7%||25.5%||.197||.282||.295|
Torkelson’s career at Arizona State was full of fireworks, including breaking Barry Bonds’ freshman home run record and leading the Sun Devils to the NCAA tournament in 2019. This made him the clear favorite heading into the 2020 MLB Draft, leading to his No. 1 overall selection by the Detroit Tigers.
Although the power is what catches the eye, the slugger hit for average and displayed a keen eye during the 2021 minor league season. This, along with a solid spring training, earned him the 2022 Opening Day starting spot and the blessing of Miguel Cabrera.
His first stint in the big leagues wasn’t smooth, however, with the Tigers sending him down to Triple-A in mid-July. Despite the demotion, Torkelson’s proven to possess a mature offensive approach. Expectations are high here, but I don’t expect that approach to collapse just because he didn’t hit the ground running.
With strength in both physical appearance and performance, Torkelson punishes baseballs to all fields with 80-grade raw power and hits jaw-dropping home runs that demoralize opposing pitchers. More than just an all-or-nothing slugger, Torkelson complements his power with a polished eye for the strike zone, excellent hand-eye coordination and a mature approach that make him a plus hitter.—Baseball America
Age: 20 | Bats: R | Throws: R | ETA: 2022
|2022 (24)||Jeremy Peña||MLB||100||15||16||7||4.6%||25.2%||.249||.290||.419|
Unlike the shortstop that took the top spot on this list, Jeremy Peña wasn’t a highly touted prospect or a lock to make the 2022 Opening Day roster. Houston Astros fans were probably not expecting to be excited about whoever would be replacing Carlos Correa, but Peña’s start forced them to pay attention. After a solid first few months, Peña had his name in the early AL Rookie of the Year conversation.
Peña’s proven to be more than just a shortstop with incredible defense and elite speed. Through the first two months, Peña’s barrel rate (hard-hit balls in the air that often go for extra bases) was third-best among all shortstops.
As he’s matured, he’s tapped into the power that wasn’t evident when he was in college. Although he’s cooled off recently, Peña’s someone I like from a long-term investment standpoint.
Pena is making the offensive strides and showing a power surge that will make him an everyday major league option…Pena’s body and build have generated praise from across the sport, but he has not sacrificed plus defense at shortstop, where he shows one of the organization’s best infield arms.—Baseball America
Age: 20 | Bats: R | Throws: R | ETA: 2023
|2021 (19)||Jordan Walker||A||82||25||14||14||9.0%||23.8%||.317||.388||.548|
|2022 (20)||Jordan Walker||AA||98||28||17||17||10.8%||21.8%||.311||.393||.534|
All Jordan Walker seems to do is mash. The power potential from the 6-foot-5, 20-year-old is exciting; he’s already recorded a batted ball hit at 116.2 mph per Statcast. He consistently makes hard contact, draws a lot of walks, and has proven to be a base-stealing threat so far.
Walker has spent all of 2022 in Double-A where the average age difference is more than four years older than he is. Still, he’s posting a .910 OPS and walking nearly 11% of the time. Although it’s still to be seen where he ends up defensively, Walker will be a menacing force in the batter’s box.
Walker’s combination of tools and performance fit the profile of a future middle-of-the-order masher who could one day hit 35 home runs in a season.—Baseball America
Age: 21 | Bats: R | Throws: R | ETA: 2023
|2019 (18)||Anthony Volpe||Rk||34||7||2||6||15.3%||25.3%||.215||.349||.355|
|2021 (20)||Anthony Volpe||A||109||35||27||33||15.2%||19.7%||.294||.423||.604|
|2022 (21)||Anthony Volpe||AA||103||29||17||43||11.7%||17.5%||.255||.354||.472|
Anthony Volpe made arguably the biggest stride from the time the pandemic canceled the 2020 minor league season to when he showed up for camp in 2021. A FanGraphs scout reported an “added 15-20 pounds of muscle without sacrificing anything in the way of athleticism.”
He’s advanced in terms of approach, plate discipline, and batted ball contact, noted by plus grades (60) in both his hit and power tools. After stealing 44 bases in 108 games at Double-A, his speed grade might be the next to earn a plus grade.
The fact that Volpe plays in the New York Yankees’ organization only adds to his mystique of a chase prospect for investors.
Whether he’s facing premium velocity, high spin or extreme changes of speed, Volpe stays balanced and on time, often resulting in a ball hit with authority…From the first day of minor league spring training, scouts buzzed about Volpe’s combination of skills, instincts and makeup. They never stopped singing his praises.—Baseball America
Age: 21 | Bats: L | Throws: L | ETA: 2023
|2021 (19)||Robert Hassell III||A||110||33||11||34||12.8%||19.2%||.303||.393||.470|
|2022 (20)||Robert Hassell III||A&AA||91||21||10||23||11.4%||20.5%||.275||.360||.420|
Robert Hassell III was the headlining prospect (with no major league experience) that the San Diego Padres traded to the Washington Nationals in the blockbuster trade for Juan Soto. At pick No. 8, the left-handed hitting outfielder was the first prep player taken in the 2020 MLB Draft.
The plus hit tool is undeniable, but scouts are conflicted on whether he’ll ever have more than average power. Still, his profile as a doubles machine that runs rampant on the base paths should appeal to investors.
His attitude is also one that seems to fit well with the way the game is embracing electrifying young players, with FanGraphs labeling him as a “tempestuous, competitive guy [and] a fierce competitor who seems hellbent on succeeding.”
He’s a consensus plus hitter who controls the strike zone, covers the entire plate and hangs in well against lefties in a way that is rare for a young lefthanded hitter…He’s an all-star in the making if he unlocks his 15-20 homer potential.—Baseball America
Age: 20 | Bats: L | Throws: R | ETA: 2023
|2021 (19)||Zac Veen||A||106||27||15||36||13.4%||26.4%||.301||.399||.501|
|2022 (20)||Zac Veen||A&AA||105||21||11||53||11.6%||22.5%||.267||.359||.419|
The Colorado Rockies selected Zac Veen at No. 9 in the 2020 MLB Draft, making him the second high school player drafted. He seemingly came out of nowhere, turning himself into one of the best hitting prospects thanks to an eruption of power. His first professional season was a huge success.
At 19 years old, Veen’s .900 OPS was the fourth-highest and 36 stolen bases were the second-most in his Low-A league. Baseball America gave the Rockies’ outfield prospect plus grades in three categories, giving him a high ceiling that’s grabbed investors’ attention.
Veen is a true five-tool player and has the potential to be a longtime anchor in the Rockies outfield. … On the low end, Veen projects to be an everyday big leaguer who reliably puts up 15 home runs and 10 steals per year while hitting for a high average. On the high end, if he makes the necessary adjustments to his approach, he could be a 30-home run threat who hits for average, steals bases and is a perennial all-star.—Baseball America
Age: 20 | Bats: L | Throws: L | ETA: 2024
|2021 (19)||Pete Crow-Armstrong||A||6||2||0||2||21.9%||18.8%||.417||.563||.500|
|2022 (20||Pete Crow-Armstrong||A||87||17||15||28||8.3%||22.1%||.312||.378||.530|
Pete Crow-Armstrong was a top prep prospect drafted from the highly esteemed Harvard-Westlake High School in 2020. Initially entering the New York Mets system, Crow-Armstrong played only a handful of games before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.
The Mets then traded him to the Chicago Cubs as part of the Javier Báez trade. Because he missed virtually all of what was to be his first professional season due to injury, there were fears Crow-Armstrong would struggle to find his footing in 2022. The risk cooled off after he lit up Single-A pitchers to the tune of a .354/.443/.557 slash line, earning him a promotion to High-A in June.
Although he’s seen a dip in walks and rise in strikeouts, he’s largely held his own against more advanced pitching (.285/.338/.518) which keeps me optimistic about his ceiling.
Crow-Armstrong has the skills to be a Gold Glove-winning center fielder who hits at the top or bottom of a lineup. He should have no trouble dealing with the spotlight—his parents, Ashley Crow and Matthew Armstrong, are both accomplished actors in L.A.—Baseball America
Age: 20 | Bats: L | Throws: R | ETA: 2024
|2021 (19)||Tyler Soderstrom||A||57||20||12||49||10.6%||24.0%||.306||.390||.568|
|2022 (20)||Tyler Soderstrom||A&AA||105||20||22||81||7.3%||27.0%||.258||.316||.493|
Tyler Soderstrom’s bat will force the Oakland Athletics to make a tough decision about his defensive home. Although he was drafted as a catcher, Soderstrom is far more inexperienced behind than plate than the organization would have hoped due to not catching full time in high school. The conundrum here is not bad: Soderstrom is so advanced offensively and tearing it up in the minor leagues. This is causing industry folks to wonder if forcing the 20-year-old to develop defensively is worth keeping him down in the minor leagues when his bat is nearly big league ready.
FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen likens Soderstrom’s situation to Bryce Harper or Wil Myers, two advanced bats whose organizations decided to have them abandon the catching position in order to fast-track their bats in the big leagues. For investors’ sake, I hope this is what the A’s do with Soderstrom.
The chorus of praise surrounding Soderstrom only grew louder in 2021. The 19-year-old posted some of the best average exit velocities of any hitter in Oakland’s system, consistently beating Low-A pitching with a swing and approach some scouts believe could handle big league pitching right now.—Baseball America
Age: 23 | Throws: R | ETA: 2022/2024
|2021 (22)||Max Meyer||AA&AAA||22||6||4||111.0||10.5||3.4||7.3||2.27||1.19|
|2022 (23)||Max Meyer||AAA||13||3||4||61.0||10.2||2.8||5.9||3.69||0.97|
Max Meyer slots in as the only pitcher on my list and someone that’s worth extra consideration because his stock is low due to a season-ending elbow injury. He is another case of the Miami Marlins’ exceptional ability to develop pitchers.
Meyer started his professional career in Double-A in 2021 before starting the 2022 season in Triple-A. He dominated there, holding a 1.72 ERA and 31.5% strikeout rate through his first six starts. He then missed time with an elbow injury but returned after a month before making his big league debut in mid-July. Two outs into his second start, Meyer left the game with an elbow injury that would require Tommy John surgery.
This will cause Meyer to miss most, if not all, of the 2023 season, causing many investors to jump ship on the right-hander. The risk with TJ surgery is incredibly high, but Meyer is still someone I think is worth considering. His fastball-slider combination is enticing. The former flirts with triple digits, the latter earned him praise as best pitch in the 2020 MLB Draft.
Meyer has two 70-grade offerings in his arsenal. He holds a mid-90s fastball deep into outings and runs it up to 97-98 mph, while his slider is the best in the 2020 draft class. Meyer’s slider is not only hard, reaching 92-93 mph, but it has tremendous movement and depth and he has excellent command of it. He can loosen it for strikes or tighten it for chases out of the zone at will. Some observers have called it the best amateur slider they’ve ever scouted.—Baseball America
When Domínguez signed with the New York Yankees in 2019, there were high praises for the 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic that included comparisons to Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle, taglines like “the Zion Williamson of baseball,” and the nickname “El Marciano” or “The Martian” because his tools were out of this world.
Scouts said he was the best international prospect they’d ever seen, and the New York Yankees gave Domínguez a $5.1 million signing bonus that set a franchise record. When this amount of hype is heaped on a player’s shoulders before he even plays a professional game, I can’t help but wonder if anything he does will satisfy both fans and investors.
For this reason, Jasson Domínguez is a player I’d be cautious about investing in.
Atlanta Braves rookies Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom are the latest in a long line of homegrown talent for the 2021 World Series Champions. Harris and Grissom have 1st Bowman cards in the 2020 Bowman class, but they might be a little hard to find.
Neither have cards in the paper nor base chrome set. Their 1st Bowman cards can only be found in the 2020 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autograph set.
Harris has put together a stellar rookie season that makes him a favorite for NL Rookie of the Year. Atlanta also recently signed Harris to an 8-year, $72 million contract extension, making him their centerfielder of the future. Grissom’s played only 25 games in the big leagues, but he’s gotten off to a hot start and could be the next player Atlanta locks down.
Two years after the release of 2020 Bowman, the checklist has held up as one with budding big league stars and a surplus of top prospects. 2020 Bowman is the place to start if you’re looking to invest in the cards of top baseball prospects who are on the cusp of MLB stardom.
Investment ranking: 2020 is the third-best Bowman set in the last 10 years.