List season is tricky for me. I always forget somebody for reasons that remain mysterious to me. This year, it was Josh Jung. Sorry about that, Josh and the Jungs. I’ll clean it up in post, by which I mean I plan to collate the hundred in a long scroll here near the end of spring training, tweaking the sequence as the new information suggests. Jung would be 19th or 20th or 21st at the moment among Neto and Tiedemann. All three could move the needle in a significant way this spring. I’m sure it’s just the nature of my work and focus, but the minor leagues look absolutely loaded to me. There’s maybe four guys in my top 25 who won’t see the majors this season (Wood, Holliday, Jones, PCA). We had a great rookie class last year, and it’s natural to expect an ebb from that flow, but after my lap around the league, 2023 feels to me like a pandemic-slash-service-time backlog is still seething at the edges, bubbling over early before rushing into our lineups come summer.
Here’s a link to the Top 25.
Here’s a link to the Top 50.
Colas has dominated every step of the way and finds himself on the escalator this winter, by which I mean he could start the season hot and cruise right up the lists. Might even open a sell-high window early in spring training with just a few good games. And even then, with offers raining down on you after Colas hits his second spring home run, you might struggle to move the 6’1” 209 lb left-handed bat with a chance to make the opening day lineup. He hit 23 home runs in 127 games across three levels last year, batting above .300 at every stop. Chicago has been tough on hitters the past few seasons, but Colas has enough thump to threaten 20-plus bombs if he gets the gig early.
Harrison will likely be first or second on every public-facing list, and he’s earned it. For what it’s Werthers, I won’t have him in any league just because he should be ranked really high on all the real-baseball lists. Not many 20 year-olds rolling through Double-A with 127 strikeouts and a 3.11 ERA in 84 games. Even fewer 20-year-olds bringing three easy plus offerings from the left side (fastball, slider, changeup). Should work well in San Fran.
I know it’s ‘just’ Tommy John surgery, and it’ll probably be fine, but some of them aren’t fine, and even if they are, it’s gonna be a while. September surgery puts him out through 2023 but lines up nicely for 2024. Good time to buy if you’re the type. I never like sending offers shortly after an injury, but over the winter when everyone’s trying to compete for the coming year, it makes sense to see if a Walker Buehler or Shane Baz is clogging up someone’s plan. Not that you’d wanna lowball. Nobody likes the lowball. Although both these guys were traded for not a whole lot in the Highlander Dynasty Invitational.
A dynamic defender with unique arm talent, Masyn Winn is the shortstop of the near future in St. Louis. When the club abandoned their efforts to make Winn a two-way player and turned him loose on offense, he responded with 12 home runs and 43 stolen bases in 119 games across two levels. The power output was new, as Winn bumped his slugging percentage from .304 in 36 High-A games last year to .566 in 33 games there this season. Such a leap wasn’t especially surprising given Winn’s exceptional hand-speed and athleticism. He controlled the plate well in Double-A, posting a 12.4-to-21.3 percent walk-to-strikeout rate while slashing .258/.349/.432 with 11 home runs in 86 games against much older players. Between Tommy Edman and Paul DeJong and Brendan Donovan, the Cardinals have him “blocked” in the softest sense. Would be out of character for the club to turn to Winn even in a crunch this season, but he’ll probably look like their best option before the All-Star break this year.
I’ve written a lot about Carpenter in this space. The Tigers have been desperate to develop some bats for as long as I can remember, and so far Kerry Carpenter looks like their biggest developmental win. A 19th round pick in 2019, Carpenter made a leap in pitch selection, particularly in his transition from Double-A (6.1% BB) to Triple-A (12.3 % BB). His strikeout rate evaporated at the same time, from 27.5 percent to 12.3 percent and the result was a dominant run in Triple-A (.331/.420/.644) and a 31-game MLB debut that netted six home runs and a 126 wRC+. If I catch any Tiger by the tail for redraft leagues this year, it’ll probably be Carpenter.
56. Angels C Logan O’Hoppe | 23 | MLB | 2022
The O’Hoppe bandwagon has filled up in a hurry, and the Angels could look pretty clever for finding the Phillies a center fielder down the stretch in 2022. My only quibble would be that this team already had a dynamic catching prospect in Edgar Quero, but he’s a long way away, and the Angels actually look pretty competitive for 2023. In 104 games across two minor league levels, O’Hoppe hit 26 home runs and stole seven bases, slashing.283/.416/.544 with 74 strikeouts and 70 walks. He finished the season with the week in the majors and figures to open 2023 as the starting catcher, where his elite plate skills, plus power and open runway make him a fun redraft gamble.
A spark-plug type player who plays with fire, Moreno might be a great two-way major league catcher right away. At 5’11” 195 lbs with dynamic hands, Moreno is a better athlete and better hitter than most catchers. He struck out just 11 percent of the time in his big league debut (72 plate appearances) and batted .319 over the small sample after hitting .315 in Triple-A.
Barger enjoyed a dream season in 2022, thriving at three levels and setting himself for a big league gig in 2023. His wRC+ scores of 149, 147, 192 tell the story of a season that ended with eight molten-hot games in Triple-A. A left-handed hitter at 6’0” 175 lbs, Barger cut his strikeouts at each new level, which allowed the solid natural power to play in game. He was a sixth round pick out of high school in 2018. Real developmental win for the Jays. Feels a little underrated in a general fantasy sense.
At 5’10” 200 lbs, Ford is an easy plus athlete who might be a little too talented to stay behind the plate. As exciting as that sounds, it complicates Ford’s value for our purposes. He’s a good defender with premium upside behind the plate, but the bat is racing toward a position switch. The 12th overall pick in 2021, Ford aced his first full season in pro ball, slashing .275/.425/.438 with 11 home runs and 23 stolen bases across 104 games. It’s interesting to me that he didn’t get promoted. In 53 games from July 1 through season’s end, Ford slashed .310/.461/.477 with six home runs, 17 stolen bases, 55 strikeouts (21.5%) and 45 walks (17.6%).
I know this is out of line with my org rankings and FYPD rankings, but it’s a process, and Joyce keeps getting press, so you’ll have to bump him up your lists if you want him, and I do. 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 good, 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 pitches in the minors.
A 6’4” 205 lb left-handed hitter, Montgomery fits the new mold of enormous humans playing shortstop. Chicago snagged him with the 22nd overall pick in 2021, and Montgomery has made them look smart for it, graduating three minor league levels in about 1.2 seasons of professional baseball. He didn’t respond well to a late promotion to Double-A in 2022, slashing .146/.192/.292 with a 19 wRC+ in 14 games, but that’s just 14 games, and he had just posted a 125 wRC+ in 37 games at High-A and a 152 in 45 games at Low-A. My only hesitation: it’s a patience-powered profile. Montgomery isn’t hunting pitches to pull just yet, and that’s fine. That comes late for a lot of hitters, and I’m wondering if working on that was partly responsible for some of the struggles. Chicago has a new, late-season developmental plan called Project Birmingham, where many of the organization’s instructors work with their chosen prospects at Double-A.
A sturdy left-handed hitter with big-league bloodlines, the 6 ‘2” 210 lb Collier represented huge value for Cincinnati with the 18th pick in this year’s draft. Other clubs were reportedly scared off by signing bonus demands, but that’s an old story that gets older every year. Take the best players you can get, especially early, and let the chips fall where they may. Collier rewarded the Reds with a silky smooth transition to pro ball, slashing .370/.514/.630 with two home runs in nine complex league games.
Marte checks in at 6’1” 181 lbs but seems to be filling out in a hurry, just to the eye test. Next time we get a fresh weigh in, he might clear two bills. The power is plus-plus, and he controls the strike zone well for someone his age and level, posting a 13.5-to-18.3 percent walk-to-strikeout rate in 30 games for the High-A Reds. He’d posted a 10.7-to-21.3 percent rate in 85 games for Seattle before coming over in the Luis Castillo trade. Could be a sign he’s on an upward trajectory in that area, and he’s got the talent to sort of choose the type of hitter he wants to be. His big leg kick is changing shape here and there over the years as he navigates that path.
Green turned 19 in December but has already posted major league exit velocities. The fifth overall pick in this year’s amateur draft, Green could’ve gone first overall and might’ve been the best athlete on the board. He’s already 6’3” 225 lbs and figures to get even bigger in his twenties. Despite the size, he’s an easy plus runner and defender who will probably push Wood to a corner outfield spot. Hit the ground running in the Florida Complex League, too, slashing .302/.404/.535 with two homers and a steal in 12 games. Struck out 21 times, for what it’s worth, which will be the primary hurdle between Green and becoming an impact major leaguer.
At 6’0” 210 lbs, Aranda is not some light-hitting middle-infielder who needs to fully connect to generate any pop. Last year, he played 13 games at second base, 11 games at first base, six games at third base and one in left field. He’s a left-handed hitter, so he’ll be on the favorable side of like seventeen platoons, which should allow his plus hit tool to acclimate to the league. He slashed .318/.394/.521 with 18 home runs and four stolen bases in 104 Triple-A games, and it’s within his realm of outcomes to blow the doors off his pre-season projections, which are pretty favorable for a rookie as is. He won’t have to hit much to be useful to our game as a multi-position-eligible bat in a good lineup.
A huge man with an equally enormous fastball, Williams checks in at 6’6” 255 lbs and hasn’t run into much competition as a professional since being drafted 23rd overall in 2021. Cleveland likes to slow-roll their pitchers to help them master off-speed command. Some have whispered that Espino and McKenzie were both deemed more injury prone than accurate because the organization slow-played their rehab to focus in the pitch lab. Williams will challenge any efforts to control his timeline this spring when he’ll almost certainly look better than Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale.
If you’re looking for a deep-sleeper starter late in a draft-and-hold format, it might be Miller time. A 4th round pick in 2021, Miller has chugged right through the minor leagues and figures to open this season in Triple-A after posting a 1.05 WHIP in 50.2 innings across ten Double-A starts in 2022. The main worry is that he goes the way of Matt Brash. His delivery isn’t as low or unbalanced (relievery) as Brash’s, but he too is a fastball-slider dominant pitcher getting kind outcomes in a kind setting.
Luciano has lost some of that new-car shine over the years as people settled into the reality that he was unlikely to steal many bases, but I think 2022 was his most encouraging season as a pro. Nothing was particularly loud (.263/.339/.459), but his plate skills looked okay (9.6% BB, 22.2% K) and he was 20 percent better than league average against older players during something of a grind-it-out season with a two-month injury slicing it down the middle.
Diaz has always hit. In 105 games across three levels, he hit 25 home runs and collected 96 runs batted in, his second straight season eclipsing 90 RBI in about 100 games across multiple levels. He doesn’t walk as much as you’d like, and runs batted in is perhaps the least popular surface stat in the game right now, but 90 RBI in about 100 games played across multiple levels is rare air for a minor league hitter. Certainly helped that he was with Cleveland and Houston, whose minor league lineups tend to be stacked, but he slashed .306/.358/.542 in 2022, which was pretty close to his slash line the year before: .324/.362/.527. His strikeout rates across these levels have also been consistent: 16.3, 16.2, 15, and 17.8 percent in 48 Triple-A games last season. We can see the elite power in the slash lines, but it’s nice to have the extra confirmation of a 92 mile per hour exit velocity per Baseball America. The 6’0” 195 lb Diaz is a perfect fit for his major league team, where he should find plenty of ducks on the pond and plenty of easy homers down the left field line.
The adverbial form of doing something the way a person named Brooks would do it, Lee had an outstanding debut season after being selected 8th overall in 2022, slashing .289/.395/.454 with four home runs in 25 High-A games. Even finished up with two games at Double-A. A switch-hitter at 6’2” 205 lbs, Lee looks like a high-probability major leaguer even if his position outlook is cloudy in Minnesota.
The Cardinals saved some scouting money in 2020, drafting Hence from the same travel-ball team as Masyn Winn. Imagine watching your kid go up against that bunch in high school. St. Louis has moved slowly with Hence, a skinny kid on draft night who checks in at 6’1” 175 lbs now, and he’s rewarded them by dominating whenever they did let him pitch. His Low-A numbers are preposterous: 0.17 HR/9 allowed in 52.1 innings; a 33.8 percent strikeout-minus-walk rate; a 0.88 WHIP and .173 batting average against. Nothing left to prove there. He’ll open in High-A and should be in Double-A before his 21st birthday on August 6.
Rodriguez is not an easy prospect to peg. People running him up into their top tiers are early for me, but I can understand the excitement. I’m leery of an extreme-patience profile in the lower minors, but it’s certainly not a bad thing to walk in 28.6 percent of your plate appearances and get on base 49 percent of the time as a 19-year-old playing 47 games in Low-A. It’s not a bad thing to strike out 26.1 percent of the time or hit nine home runs or steal 11 bases. Bear with me, I’m trying to talk myself through the reasons I don’t love Rodriguez, but this bear in the room keeps distracting me. Also I’m grasping at straws a little because I’ve been out on the extreme patience player type for so long it’s hard to rewire my brain to embrace the possibilities. It wouldn’t be fair to call this kid passive. He slugged .551 by picking his spots and looking to do damage. All the same, I think he’s an easy sell wherever someone is giving him the benefit of the doubt as a top 25 type prospect,
I wound up seeing Julien quite a bit in 2021. He’s listed at 6’2” 195 lbs but never looked that big to me, not that it matters. Julien makes the most of every pitch, riding that third rail between passive and selective. I just dinged Emmanuel Rodriguez for the same, but Julien walks about ten percent less often than Rodriguez (19.3 percent in 113 games). Strikes out less, too. He lacks the eye-catching upside of some contemporaries, but he’s an excellent hitter who’s likely to help in the near term after posting a 144 wRC+ in a full Double-A season.
Pilfered from Cleveland when Tobias Myers ran out of 40-man runway, Caminero is climbing the winter lists in a hurry. He’s raking in the Australian league, but that’s not the reason so much as just the general echo chamber catch-up that happens over the off-season. Once listed at 5’11” 157 lbs, Caminero is thicker now, and it’s easy to see the burgeoning power coming off him in waves when he swings. He popped 11 home runs and stole 12 bases in 62 games across two levels last season and figures to double those if he stays healthy this season.
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.
Thanks for reading!