Future stars? Projecting top prospects in ’23

Detroit Tigers

Covering prospects is all about future, right? When we put out a new Top 100 list or Top 30 by team ranking, as we did recently, we’re trying to look into a crystal ball and predict the stars of tomorrow.

And that’s not just for right now, or even next year. As the list below indicates, we try to project as far off into the future as possible. With that in mind, we give you who we think will be the No. 1 prospect for each organization at the start of the 2023 season. Some are already in that top spot, some are recent additions via the 2021 Draft and some are those we feel will ascend between now and the start of ’23.

Blue Jays: Orelvis Martinez, SS/3B (No. 3/MLB No. 48)
Martinez has been pegged as a potential future No. 1 prospect for the Blue Jays since he signed for $3.5 million back in July 2018, and he’s backed that up with his performance in his first full season. The 19-year-old infielder’s carrying tool remains his power with 24 homers in 90 games between Low-A and High-A this season, and that could grow even more by 2023 as he continues to grow accustomed to more experienced pitching.

Orioles: Gunnar Henderson, SS (No. 5/MLB No. 83)
Henderson has climbed onto the Top 100 while earning a quick promotion from Low-A to High-A this year. While his time up a level has been a bit more uneven, he is still only 20 years old and continues to hit for some power and steal some bases, with 14 of each heading into Thursday’s games in what amounts to his first full season of pro ball.

Rays: Carlos Colmenarez, SS (No. 7)
There is a whole lot of projection baked into this selection. Tampa Bay signed Colmenarez to a $3 million deal back in January because of his potential at a premium position. Indeed, his hit, power, run and arm tools all grade out as above-average, and even if he needs to move to second or third, those skills could make him a special player. We haven’t seen it in the Minors much yet due to hamate surgery, but when Colmenarez truly gets going next year, he has the potential to jump to the top of the Rays’ list come 2023.

Red Sox: Marcelo Mayer, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 9)
The Red Sox picked fourth in the 2021 Draft, their earliest selection since 1967, and landed MLB Pipeline’s top-rated prospect in California prepster Mayer. The consensus best hitter and best defender in this year’s crop — high school or college — he also has at least solid power and homered twice in his first eight pro games in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League.

Yankees: Anthony Volpe, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 15)
Slowed by mononucleosis in his pro debut after the Yankees made him a first-round choice in 2019 out of a New Jersey high school, Volpe used his pandemic downtime to add strength to his advanced hitting skills and has raked throughout 2021. He’s batting .303/.440/.609 with 20 homers and 28 steals in 88 games between Low-A and High-A, leads the Minors in runs (93) and extra-base hits (55) and ranks third in OPS (1.049).

Indians: George Valera, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 69)
Signed for $1.3 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, Valera was one of the best offensive prospects in that year’s international class. He barely got a chance to show what he could do in his first four years as a pro, however, because a broken hamate in his right hand in 2018 and the canceled Minor League season in 2020 limited him to just 58 games. He jumped to High-A for his full-season debut this year and hit .256/.430/.548 with 16 homers and 10 steals in 63 games to earn a promotion to Double-A at age 20.

Royals: Erick Peña, OF (No. 8)
Kansas City sent Peña to its alternate site last year when he was still only 17 — a sign of how advanced they believe the July 2019 signee was. He’s jumped stateside again this season in the Arizona Complex League, and while results haven’t been stellar, the pieces are still there to make the Dominican Republic native an above-average hitter for both average and power in time. If he can stay up the middle as he matures, then he could be an even bigger position-player star in a system that will likely graduate Bobby Witt Jr., Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez next year.

Tigers: Jackson Jobe, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 50)
From an external point of view, there were higher ranked players on the board when the Tigers took Jobe third overall last month. From Detroit’s stance, it picked up a pitcher who could eventually end up as the best arm of the class. Jobe sports four above-average to plus-plus pitches, headlined by a killer wipeout slider, and the Tigers have a recent history of developing top-pick hurlers into Major Leaguers in Casey Mize and Matt Manning. Jobe is the organization’s next big project.

Twins: Misael Urbina, OF (No. 12)
We gave a 2021 first-round pick Chase Petty a long look, but Urbina’s upside is too hard to ignore. Yes, he’s struggled during his United States debut, but keep in mind he’s played all year at age 19 and jumped to full-season ball. He could repeat Low-A in 2022 and still be ahead of the curve, with plenty of time to figure it out.

White Sox: Colson Montgomery, SS (No. 1)
Montgomery immediately became the White Sox’s top prospect when they drafted him 22nd overall in July out of Southridge High (Huntingburg, Ind.), where he also holds the career basketball scoring record. As a 6-foot-4 lefty-hitting shortstop with a lofty offensive ceiling, he draws comparisons to Corey Seager at the same stage of their careers. He’s hitting .255/.386/.340 through 13 games in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League.

Angels: Kyren Paris, SS (No. 5)
While Paris missed a chunk of this season with a fractured fibula, he came back and hit well enough to earn a promotion from Low-A to High-A, and he’s still a teenager. He’s missed a lot of time, first with a broken hamate the summer after he was drafted in 2019 and then this year, but the tools and the ability to play shortstop long-term make him stand out.

Astros: Tyler Whitaker, OF (No. 6)
The Astros forfeited their first two Draft choices again in 2021 as punishment for sign stealing, and they used their top pick (third round) in July on Whitaker, Gatorade’s Nevada high school player of the year. He features an intriguing toolset that includes plus power and arm strength as well as solid to plus speed. After a slow start in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League, he has tripled and doubled in his last two games.

A’s: Tyler Soderstrom, C (No. 1/MLB No. 46)
While a back issue has kept him out since late July, Soderstrom has shown that reports of his advanced bat coming out of high school were right on target. The 2021 Futures Gamer would be second in the Low-A West in slugging and OPS if he had enough at-bats to qualify, while hitting over .300 to boot.

Mariners: Noelvi Marte, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 11)
Marte has made the largest leap of any prospect who wasn’t on our Top 100 at the start of the season, jumping up to No. 11 overall. The teenager is currently in the Low-A West’s top five in home runs and RBIs and has a very good chance of joining the 20-20 club in his U.S. debut.

Rangers: Jack Leiter, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 12)
Leiter turned down first-round interest as a New Jersey high schooler in 2019 to attend Vanderbilt, where he was spectacular in his lone full season this spring, no-hitting South Carolina in his first SEC start, tying for the NCAA Division I strikeout lead with 179 in 110 innings and helping the Commodores reach the College World Series finals. The son of two-time All-Star and World Series champion Al Leiter, he comes equipped with an elite 90-97 mph fastball that hitters rarely barrel, a plus curveball and a solid slider and changeup. After his long college season, he’ll make his pro debut in 2022.

Braves: Michael Harris, OF (No. 4/MLB No. 97)
During his pro debut after being a bit of a surprise third-round pick in 2019, Harris showed that the Braves might’ve been shrewd to take the two-way player and let him hit, as he reached full-season ball. He’s shown that was no summer fluke by jumping to High-A at age 20 this year, going to the Futures Game, and putting up a .303/.355/.447 line with 21 steals to land on the Top 100 list.

Marlins: Kahlil Watson, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 28)
The Marlins were delighted to find Watson, MLB Pipeline’s No. 4-rated prospect in the 2021 Draft, available with their 16th overall selection. The North Carolina high school product has well above-average speed and otherwise solid tools across the board. He batted .346/.469/.500 with three extra-base hits and pair of steals in his first seven pro games in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League.

Mets: Francisco Álvarez, C (No. 1/MLB No. 10)
Basically, the only way Álvarez isn’t at the top of the Mets list come 2023 is if he somehow graduates next season. That’s unlikely given that he’ll only turn 20 in November. But then again, it might be best not to doubt the backstop. Álvarez shows an impressively quick right-handed bat that should help him hit for average and power the higher he climbs. His defensive work remains a work in progress, but there has been growth there in 2021.That entire package has cemented his place atop the New York rankings for a good while to come.

Nationals: Brady House, SS (No. 4/MLB No. 60)
The biggest asset on House’s scouting report was his plus power. He’s already shown that off with two homers (including a grand slam) in his first three games in the Florida Complex League. There’s no reason to doubt that the pop won’t keep showing up in his first full season next year, and even if he needs to move off short, his offensive ceiling is considerable enough to make him a potential No. 1 prospect in the Nats’ future.

Phillies: Mick Abel, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 70)
It’ll be interesting to see if 2021 first-rounder Andrew Painter surpasses Abel, the club’s 2020 top pick, as both are big right-handers drafted out of high school. We’ll give Abel the nod for now as the organization’s lone Top 100 player currently, even though a shoulder issue has shelved him for a while, as he was missing a ton of bats (13.3 K/9) while proving to be tough to hit (.174 batting average against) before he went on the injured list.

Brewers: Sal Frelick, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 96)
Milwaukee stuck to a theme by taking a speedy outfielder in the first round for the second consecutive year, following up Garrett Mitchell last summer with Frelick this time around. Of the pair, Frelick is almost guaranteed to be the one who won’t graduate by 2023. Beyond his 70-grade run tool, the former Boston College star looks like a potential plus hitter, and he works well in both center and right.

Cardinals: Jordan Walker, 3B (No. 3/MLB No. 63)
Walker would have been the likely pick here even before his stellar 2021, but it’s certainly true now. The 2020 21st overall pick has shown his trademark power with impressive exit velocities at both Low-A and High-A this summer, and his hit tool has been perhaps even better than expected with a .323 average through 63 games at both stops. With Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore both likely in the Majors by 2023, the top spot will be Walker’s to lose by then.

Cubs: Cristian Hernandez, SS (No. 3)
Some scouts considered Hernandez the best prospect in the 2020 international class and the Cubs say he has more upside than any foreign player they’ve signed recently — including Eloy Jiménez and Gleyber Torres. Signed for $3 million out of the Dominican Republic in January, he’s built like a young Alex Rodriguez or Manny Machado and could have solid-or-better tools across the board. He’s making his pro debut as a 17-year-old in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, where he’s hitting .224/.337/.329 with two homers and nine steals in 24 games.

Pirates: Henry Davis, C (No. 1/MLB No. 23)
The No. 1 pick in the 2021 Draft, Davis is showing early on that his bat is as advertised, with six of his first eight professional hits of the extra-base variety while moving quickly to High-A ball. He’s going to move fast, with how his catching develops the only thing that will slow him down at all.

Reds: Matt McLain, SS (No. 4/MLB No. 98)
He’s only just started his pro career as the Reds’ top pick in the 2021 Draft, but the fact that he’s already in High-A ball points to the possibility he’ll live up to his billing as an advanced college hitter who can move quickly. The Reds don’t hesitate to push their college bats quickly, so McLain could be hit the big leagues at some point in 2023, after kicking off the year as the club’s top prospect.

D-backs: Jordan Lawlar, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 13)
Arizona looks like an organization ready to turn even more attention to its young farm system, so the club must have been elated when Lawlar dropped to the No. 6 overall pick last month. Lawlar earns 55’s and 60’s across the board as shortstop who can hit for both average and power and steal his fair share of bags too. He just turned 19 in July, meaning there could be fits and starts in his development ahead, but barring an even better prospect coming in the 2022 Draft, he should be in the driver’s seat of the Arizona pipeline for the foreseeable future.

Dodgers: Diego Cartaya, C (No. 1/MLB No. 29)
The Dodgers have landed the best Venezuelan prospect in the last three international classes: Cartaya in 2018, outfielder Luis Rodriguez in 2019 and shortstop Wilman Diaz in January. His 6-foot-3 build and his game prompt comparisons to Salvador Perez, but he’s a better pure hitter than the seven-time All-Star. He excelled in his full-season debut as a 19-year-old in Low-A, batting .298/.409/.614 in 31 games, but he sustained a hamstring injury in mid-July that’s expected to sideline him for the rest of the year.

Giants: Marco Luciano, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 5)
Luciano has been better than advertised since the Giants signed him for $2.6 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, part of an international haul that included two more potential impact bats in outfielders Luis Matos and Jairo Pomares. Luciano has some of the best bat speed and raw power in the Minors, and he’s hitting .270/.358/.510 with 19 homers in 89 games between Low-A and High-A while making his full-season debut at age 19.

Padres: Robert Hassell III, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 47)
Hassell is off to a solid start in his first full season with a .320/.414/.478 line in 90 games at Low-A Lake Elsinore, showing off the advanced hit tool that made him the eighth overall pick in 2020. He’s played primarily in center field as well, only helping his case as a high-end prospect. Sure, this is a bet that CJ Abrams (still only 20 years old) will graduate prior to 2023, but the way San Diego was aggressive with sending Abrams to Double-A this summer (and Fernando Tatis Jr.’s recent move to the outfield) could be signs he would take that jump next year.

Rockies: Zac Veen, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 55)
The only thing that will remove Veen from the Rockies’ top spot, in all likelihood, will be when he graduates to the big leagues. The 2020 first-rounder has had a tremendous first full season with a slash line over .300/.400/.500 across the board to go along with 31 stolen bases.

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