Pipeline Inbox Predicting Future No. 1 Prospects (www.mlb.com)

Time for the first Pipeline Inbox of the new year. Hope everyone is safe and well out there.

Time for the first Pipeline Inbox of the new year. Hope everyone is safe and well out there.

Can you predict the top 3 prospects at the end of the 2021 season, the end of the 2022 season and the end of the 2023 season (out of guys who are currently in a system?)

At the end of each season, I project the top 10 prospects at the end of the next season, factoring in development and graduations. I did so again in November, when I picked Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez and Rangers shortstop Bobby Witt to

. I’m going to slightly amend that list and bump CJ Abrams up to the No. 3 spot for the purposes of this inbox.

By the end of 2022, I envision Giants shortstop Marco Luciano, Yankees outfielder Jasson Dominguez and Rockies outfielder Zac Veen ascending to the top of the Top 100. Twelve months after that, Dominguez, Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez and Rangers shortstop Maximo Acosta will be the best prospects in baseball.

Hey Jim … when all said and done, where do u see Austin Martin settling in when he makes it to the show. Middle infield/hot corner/center?
— @talkinjays

This was a popular topic this week, as I got three separate questions about Martin, the fifth overall pick and best pure hitter in the 2020 Draft. Though the Blue Jays will have him start his pro career at shortstop, he played only sparingly there at Vanderbilt. With average arm strength and concerns about his throwing accuracy, he probably won’t wind up on the left side of the infield in Toronto.

If Martin’s throwing isn’t a problem, he’ll wind up at second base. Otherwise, he’s a center fielder. He’s athletic and quick enough to be a solid defender at either position, and his bat should get him to the big leagues very quickly.

George Kirby frequently gets overlooked in the Mariners deep system. All I’ve read about him is that he has a high fastball velocity and pinpoint control. Will you give some analysis on a highly ranked, yet overlooked prospect in a deep system?
— @KylewGrew

Kirby does get overshadowed in a resurgent Mariners system that includes dynamic position players such as Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez and Noelvi Marte as well as Emerson Hancock and Logan Gilbert, who are first-round college right-handers like Kirby. He does sit at No. 95 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100, which reflects that he’s held in high regard.

Kirby stands out most for his pinpoint control. He led NCAA Division I in strikeout/walk ratio (17.8) and walk rate (0.6 per nine innings) at Elon in 2019, then fanned 25 batters without a walk in 23 pro innings after getting drafted 20th overall. He has quality stuff too, with a fastball that sat in the mid-90s during alternate camp and three potentially solid or better secondary pitches in his slider, curveball and changeup.

Kirby offers the combination of a high floor and a ceiling as a mid-rotation starter. With his arsenal and polish, he shouldn’t require much time in the Minors and should arrive in Seattle in early 2022.

Is Luisangel Acuña going to be a star?
— @OnCatcher

A Rangers middle infielder and the younger brother of superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., Luisangel has intriguing tools and bloodlines. Signed for $425,000 out of Venezuela in 2018, he batted .342/.438/.455 with 17 steals in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League a year later.

Acuña makes consistent hard contact from the right side of the plate and is a potential 20-20 player with solid to plus speed and raw power — surprising pop from someone who stands 5-foot-8. His quickness and plus arm should allow him to stay in the middle of the field, whether it be at shortstop, second base or center field.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.

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