Around this point in the draft, you should probably be checking the free agent pool. You never know who can slide through the cracks created by transaction freezes, roster limitations, football season and the general malaise that sometimes accompanies late-summer rotisserie baseball.
16. Mariners SS Cole Young | 19 | A | 2025
Cole Young looks like the early win of last summer’s draft. He wasn’t especially late at 21st overall, but he might go inside the top ten if the draft happened tomorrow. A 6’0” 180 lb left-handed hitter, Young features plus bat-to-ball skills and an all-fields approach that plays beyond his years. He graduated the complex league in seven games and got even better in Low A, slashing .385/.422/.538 with two home runs and a stolen base in ten games. In the cold light of dawn between publications, this ranking feels a little low.
17. Athletics RHP Shintaro Fujinami | 28 | NPB | 2023
After having his best season in 2022, Fujinami was posted by the Hanshin Tigers and signed with Oakland for $3.25 million. His contract includes another million in incentives for starts made, and it sounds like he’s going to open the season in the rotation. I’m eager to see how it goes. I’m not likely to draft Kodai Senga anywhere but suspect I’ll have some Fujinami in 2023. He’ll be under the radar for us, but Fuji was the 1.1 pick in the NPB out of high school and dominated in the big leagues there as a 19-year-old. His career hasn’t been as easy since then, but this season represents his best opportunity as a professional, and I think he can make the most of it.
18. Orioles OF Dylan Beavers | 21 | A+ | 2025
A 6’4” 206 lb left-handed hitter who went 33rd overall in this year’s draft, Beavers could be a nice value in First-Year-Player-Drafts despite a five-tool profile and loud, if brief, debut season. It was just 23 games, but Beavers slashed .322/.438/.460 with six stolen bases across three levels. Dam.
19. Padres RHP Dylan Lesko | 19 | NA | 2026
Fell from a likely top five pick to 15th overall due to an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery in April. Lesko is the only high school junior to win the Gatorade player of the year award thanks to three plus pitches (fastball, change up, curveball) and excellent control from a 6’2” 195 lb frame. When he was there for Preller at 15, it felt like a done deal. No sense passing on a unicorn type talent in that spot.
20. Marlins 3B/OF Jacob Berry | 21 | A | 2024
Miami’s drafting of Jacob Berry represented a pivot from swinging for the fences with all their prospects, opting instead to target a few guys who make regular contact. As their reward, Berry ripened nicely during 33 games in Low-A, slashing .264/.358/.392 with three homers and a steal. Not the sweetest fruit you’ll ever find on the vine, but you can squeeze a little juice from the 118 wRC+ those numbers netted. If he doesn’t deliver a lot more thump in 2023, he’ll go the way of JJ Bleday.
21. Tigers 2B Jace Jung | 22 | A+ | 2024
The 12th overall pick in 2022, Jung has never really struggled to hit, which is good because that’s kind of his only calling card. Unlike his brother, Jace has the platoon advantage of being a left-handed hitter. He’s also a little smaller at 6’0” 205 lbs to Josh’s 6’2” 214. His ultimate impact will be determined by how much power he can access in games, although the plate skills (18.7 percent walk rate in 30 games) should float the profile through some dry spells. On one hand, it’s nice that he’s in Detroit where the paths to playing time are fairly wide open. On the other hand, he’s in Detroit, and they’ve struggled to string together enough decent hitters to build a big league quality lineup.
22. Angels RHP Ben Joyce | 22 | AA | 2023
Carlos Estevez was brought in to be the club’s closer, or part of the Jimmy Herget committee anyway, and I like him a lot. Running some rough, back-of-the-envelope math, his 1.18 WHIP in Coors equates to a 0.08 WHIP in Anaheim. I only mention the back of that major league bullpen because Joyce went straight to Double-A and dominated (2.08 ERA, 20 K, 0 HR in 13 IP) after being drafted 89th overall in 2022. He tops out well above 100 mph and sits triple digits with his heater. Slider’s solid, too. Might not be a ton his guy can learn in the minors. Looks likely to open 2023 in Triple-A and could be the team’s best closing option by June. You don’t draft a guy like Joyce to watch him waste a bunch of bullets in the minors.
23. Astros OF Drew Gilbert | 22 | A | 2025
Gilbert can barrel up a variety of pitches in a variety of places, runs with attentiveness, aggression and speed, and he controls the strike zone. He was the best player on the best team in college baseball for most of 2022.
24. Mariners SS Felnin Celestin | 17 | NA | 2027
A switch hitter at 6’1” 175 lbs, Celestin signed for $4.7 million in January. International classes the past few seasons haven’t produced the best return on investment for even patient dynasty players, but Celestin is well positioned to buck that trend. His tools are good, but it’s his hit tool and well-rounded game that makes him a good bet.
25. Rays 1B Xavier Isaac | 19 | CPX | 2027
Pure upside play here as a bet on the Rays developmental team that liked Isaac enough to take him 29th overall this year. He’s already 6’4” 240 lbs and will have surpassed expectations if he can become an average defender at first base. What he can do is find the barrel and smash the baseball. Tampa has been on a roll for a long time. If they see enough in a bat-only prospect to take him in the first round, that’s good enough for me.
26. Phillies OF Justin Crawford | 19 | A | 2026
The club’s first-round pick in 2022, Crawford played well enough in 11 games on the complex to spend a week in Low-A, where he didn’t hit, but that doesn’t matter yet. Crawford’s calling cards will be the same as his father Carl’s: a contact-heavy approach with plus defense and double-plus speed. The mechanics are not ideal, and I’ll probably be avoiding him in my own leagues, but the 6’3” 175 lb Crawford possesses unique upside and deserves a spot on everyone’s radar.
27. Tigers SS Peyton Graham | 22 | A | 2025
Listed at 6’3” 185 lbs, Graham looks skinnier than that partly because I think he’s built from rebar like a young Byron Buxton, delivering strength well beyond what your eyes would guess from afar. He even moves a little differently than most players, jolting around the field with a twitchy-fast smoothness of controlled movements that look like they might spill out of control at any given moment. He’s played third, shortstop, second and outfield, and I think he could hang just about anywhere on the diamond. On offense, Graham became the first D1 player in almost 20 years (2004) to hit 20 homers and steal 30 bases.
28. Cardinals LHP Cooper Hjerpe | 22 | NA | 2024
I liked the Hjerpe pick on draft night. Cards got him a 22 overall after he dominated during his Junior season at Oregon state, striking out 161 batters in 103.1 innings on the strength of his plus command and deceptive delivery. Can sort of trace a path from Liberatore to Hjerpe, who tops out in the low-90’s. Liberatore checks every 1990’s box, but the release point and pitch shapes make him hittable. Hjerpe hasn’t debuted yet, but I’m expecting him to dominate the lower levels.
29. Cubs RHP Cade Horton | 21 | NA | 2024
Horton heard his name called early on draft night when the Cubs took him seventh overall. At 6’1” 212 lbs, Horton was a two-way player but settled into a weekend starter role as a Sophomore after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He got better and better the further he got from the surgery, leading Oklahoma to the College World Series Final on the strength of a mid-90’s fastball he can locate up in the zone and a double-plus slider he loves to throw. It’s not necessarily a negative, as throwing it a lot has led to impressive command of the pitch. He’s got a curveball in a third velocity band as well but hasn’t used it as much.
30. Rangers RHP Kumar Rocker | 23 | NA | 2024
There’s a name-value component to this ranking, I admit, but if Rocker can stay healthy long enough to get in rhythm, he might rip right through the minor leagues. I have a little fear that the club might send him straight to Double-A like they did Jack Leiter, but that seems unlikely given how Leiter’s career has gone so far. When they were at Vanderbilt, getting both Rocker and Leiter would’ve been an unthinkable windfall for a major league organization. Feels like we’ve got more questions than answers about each at the moment. Rocker went 42nd in the Razz30 draft that’s halfway through round five. Not much risk at that price.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.
Dynasty NL Who are your top two?
I have first pick in available MiLB draft in 6 weeks and May trade for a high priced second round stud hitter. The
Salary is activated when they get to MLB and then $5 raise per year.
J. Chourio-Druw Jones-James Wood( all $5 )
pS : mervis E $5 Rodriguez $5 (C Pitt ) Stone $3 (LAD) are also available if they do not make the opening day lineup …. Sooooo where would these rank. So who do I pick first ITCH?
, u R my GURU
Please see my first question on this tread and group all the pool rookies are mentioned in the NL for your opinion of the top two … THX!
Itch! SO good to be back
Do you have a list of top prospects that will make an impact for this fantasy year coming out?
Just wanted to say thanks for these posts. I’m joining a deep dynasty league (my first! ?) and this has helped me uncover some good targets.
Wow! Thanks Itch! I have a waiver wire opening Saturday morning, still a few Jujube’s to be had!
This is perfect! I feel real good about the FYP moving forward now! About where at in your one through thirty do you feel the top 100 cuts off?
Also, as I rebuild an orphaned team, I’m looking at taking a chance a couple of ‘forgotten’ prospects who might come at a low price. Any suggestions? Nolan Jones in Colorado?
Brother Itch! Awesome as always you are a god send lol. Penny for your thoughts sir, I’m knee deep in a dynasty startup draft. We are around pick 200 right now. I went full prospect I couldnt help myself, I think it’s more fun to build for the long haul. We have picked roughly the top 25 prospects. Just curious if you have any suggestions on maybe guys w top flight upside or undervalued future studs. Some that you would run to grab no matter what. Appreciate any feedback and thank you again!
Hi, Jake from State Farm!
Sal Frelick and Matt Mervis come to mind right away.
Maybe Brandon Pfaadt and Hunter Brown on the pitching side.
I’ll add a couple more on here as I ruminate.
Maikel Garcia of course but that’s a bit later.
Dude thank you so much. I missed out on brown by a pick a few rounds ago. I will grab these guys as my picks come up. Mervis sounded real good in your write up. Cheers!!
Ive ran through your top 10’s a few times, obviously all we care about is Fantasy here but dynasty leagues might have a different ranking. Or maybe not maybe I’m thinking too hard lol. Again I appreciate it thank you
Good stuff as always! Thank you! I guess I have a very dumb question and may be completely ignorant, but can you please explain how or why catchers are always ranked so high as top prospects? I get it for “real baseball”, but for fantasy purposes, I don’t understand. Even in dynasty leagues…..I understand Varsho’s versatility and MJM. But why why am I holding spot for Bart that any catchers on waivers could fill? There are 2 catchers in the top 15. What am I missing here? Why would I take a chance on a catcher before Rocker #30. I am not being a smartass, just hoping to gain a different perspective.
Not a dumb question at all.
I really don’t know why this happens.
I was looking at a dynasty position ranking today in my Twitter feed that had minor leaguers in half of the top 20 catcher spots.
It’s always a tough position to break into on the MLB side. Somebody reads that ranking, takes it to heart and winds up selecting Endy Rodriguez and Harry Ford inside the top 12 at the position or whatever and still has no catcher, which means they have to roster another catcher or TWO to field a roster.
Anywho, yeah, I don’t get it. Ethan Salas will go in this group for a lot of leagues, and maybe it’ll be great, but it’s a hard sell for me.
Every dynasty league I’ve been in has a catcher hoarder or two, and you can typically get a major league one from them for a reasonable price, partly because they’d rather hold their prospects than move them.