Keith lands on 2023 Top 10 3B prospects list

Detroit Tigers

MLB Pipeline will reveal its 2023 Top 100 Prospects list at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 26, with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com. Leading up to the release of the Top 100, we’ll examine baseball’s top 10 prospects at each position.

There are a lot of changes to this year’s Top 10 third base prospects list compared to last year. While there were only two graduations (Jose Miranda and Elehuris Montero), there were a few position shifts, with Jordan Walker and Nolan Jones now outfielders and Elly De La Cruz more of a shortstop.

That leaves Brett Baty, who was No. 1 on this list in 2022, as the highest-ranked hold-over, topping Curtis Mead, Josh Jung and Miguel Vargas. The new No. 1 is a position-changer himself. While Gunnar Henderson undoubtedly could still play a solid shortstop, he saw more time at third when he got to the big leagues and that’s likely where he’ll play in 2023. He’s joined by a pair of 2022 first-round picks on the list along with a few other new names.

If you like change, you won’t have to wait long. Henderson and Baty should have plenty of opportunities to be on their Opening Day rosters and Henderson is a front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year. The entire top five here have ETAs of 2023, so there could be more turnover as the year goes on.

The Top 10 (ETA)
1. Gunnar Henderson, Orioles (2023)
2. Brett Baty, Mets (2023)
3. Curtis Mead, Rays (2023)
4. Josh Jung, Rangers (2023)
5. Miguel Vargas, Dodgers (2023)
6. Jacob Berry, Marlins (2025)
7. Cam Collier, Reds (2025)
8. Colt Keith, Tigers (2024)
9. Coby Mayo, Orioles (2024)
10. Deyvison De Los Santos, D-backs (2024)
Complete list »

Top 10 prospects by position:
RHP | LHP | C | 1B | 2B | 3B
1/24: SS
1/25: OF
1/26: Top 100

Hit: Mead, Vargas (65)
All Mead has done is hit pretty much wherever he’s been, with a .306/.376/.517 line. He had a .922 OPS at the upper levels in 2022 after hitting .313 in the Arizona Fall League in 2021… sense a trend? Vargas has similarly mashed at every stop, with a Minor League career line of .313/.390/.488. Rapidly advancing up levels didn’t hurt him — he hit .304 in Triple-A last year — en route to his first callup to the big leagues.

Power: Henderson, Vargas (65)
Henderson is still only 21 and even though he slugged .531 in the Minors a year ago, he’s just scratching the surface of tapping into his power from the left side of the plate and he hit the ball very hard during his big league debut. Vargas’ pop started showing up for real in 2021 when he hit 23 homers and slugged .526, then slugged .511 in Triple-A last year and that plus hit tool means he’s going to get to the power consistently.

Run: Henderson (55)
Henderson is a shortstop playing third, so it should be no surprise he leads in this category. He’s capable of registering plus run times and went 22-for-25 in stolen-base attempts in the Minor Leagues in 2022 and has at least 20-20 potential.

Arm: Henderson, Mayo (70)
The two Orioles both have absolute hoses for arms. Henderson can make strong, accurate throws from everywhere on the infield and from all angles. If he’s playing third, then Mayo might have to move elsewhere, but for now fans can watch him throw lasers from the hot corner in the Minors.

Field: Henderson (55)
This grade might be light for Henderson at third. He’s a solid defender at shortstop but has the potential to eventually be a plus defender from this spot on the diamond.

Highest ceiling: Henderson
He’s only 21 and already clearly ready for the big leagues. There’s a Rookie of the Year Award potentially in his immediate future and multiple All-Star appearances and other hardware on the horizon.

Highest floor: Baty
Putting Henderson here could also make sense, but the certainty people have in Baty’s bat gets the nod. It’s possible he ends up in the outfield, or eventually first base, but that left-handed swing is going to play, much like it did when he posted a .943 OPS in the Minors last year.

Rookie of the Year candidate: Henderson
Who else? Others on this list will play in the big leagues, but Henderson is going to play every day, in an ever-improving lineup, and has all the ability to walk away with the award.

Highest riser: De Los Santos
De Los Santos wasn’t even on the D-backs’ Top 30 at the start of the 2022 season, but was in this Top 10 at the end of the year. He played across three levels of the Minors, ending in Double-A, and while he needs to work on his approach, his .306/.348/.499 line with 22 homers and 106 RBIs as a teenager point to a very bright future.

Humblest beginning: Mead
The Phillies signed Mead out of Australia close to the end of the 2017-18 international signing period for a relatively humble $200,000 bonus. He hadn’t even left the Phillies’ complex when he was traded to the Rays and he started taking off in his introduction to full-season ball in 2021 and hasn’t stopped hitting since.

Most to prove: Jung
He turns 25 this year and will get his chance in the big leagues as the Rangers’ Opening Day third baseman. It’s not that he hasn’t performed, with a .990 OPS in 2021 and slugging .540 in 2022 to earn his first call to the big leagues. But he’s had trouble staying healthy, with 78 games played in ’21 and only 31 in the Minors last year.

Keep an eye on: Casey Schmitt, Giants
Schmitt’s first full season in 2021 was relatively non-descript over 64 games, but things clicked offensively last year, with 21 homers and a .293/.365/.489 while touching Triple-A to go along with easily plus defense at third.

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