Projected Top-10 Fantasy Baseball Prospects in 2023
While Major League Baseball remains in a lockout, the world of prospects and dynasty leagues remains lively. The current group of top-10 prospects is exciting, but many will graduate to the Major Leagues at some point this season, whenever that begins. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at who could be the top 10 fantasy prospects in 2023.
For this exercise, the following prospects are expected to graduate from prospect status in 2022 and were not included: Bobby Witt Jr. (SS – KC), Julio Rodriguez (RF – SEA), Riley Greene (CF – DET), Adley Rutschman (C – BAL), Spencer Torkelson (1B,3B – DET), Brennen Davis (CF – CHC), Grayson Rodriguez (SP – BAL), Shane Baz (SP – TB), Josh Lowe (LF,RF – TB), Alek Thomas (CF – ARI), Oneil Cruz (SS – PIT), and Triston Casas (1B,3B – BOS).
Deciding the top spot here was incredibly difficult. Ultimately, it came down to the more-well rounded profile that Anthony Volpe brings to the table. Volpe destroyed Low-A pitching to the tune of a .302/.455/.623 slash line and kept that momentum in High-A with a .286/.391/.587 slash line. Overall, Volpe finished with 27 homers and 33 steals between the two levels. The contact rate dipped slightly in High-A, but Volpe has demonstrated an easy plus hit tool with his contact skills and advanced plate approach. There’s an intriguing power/speed blend here as well, with both grading as above-average or better. With his 25/25 upside, strong AVG/OBP skills, and hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium awaiting him in the Majors, Volpe has all the makings of a fantasy star. And yes, as a Red Sox fan, I’m frustrated that I’m this high on him for fantasy purposes.
If CJ Abrams’ power develops to the level that I believe it can reach, he might be in the #1 slot here come 2023. Unfortunately, a fractured tibia ended his season prematurely in 2021, so we weren’t able to see if that power was going to develop in the second half of the season. Leading the way in his electric profile is a plus hit tool and blazing double-plus speed. That speed has led to 28 steals in his first 348 plate appearances, and that’s not just due to the rules and catcher quality in the low minors. Abrams is a legit 30+ steal threat annually at the highest level, perhaps even exceeding 40 steals as a probably leadoff or number two hitter thanks to his contact and OBP skills. The big question and the one that will determine if he’s a full-blown fantasy stud is the development of his power. We’ve seen the bat speed and ability to drive the ball, but that’s been more in the “gap power” department so far. If Abrams adds more bulk (likely) and begins driving the ball in the air more consistently, he could flirt with 18-20 homers to pair with that AVG/OBP/SB trio.
It was incredibly tempting to put Noelvi Marte #1, as he’s already #3 overall in my current rankings. But hey, #3 in this talented group of prospects is still an impressive feat. As a 19-year-old in Low-A, Marte racked up 17 homers, 23 steals, and a solid .271/.368/.463 slash line before earning a late-season promotion to High-A. Those 23 steals might be a bit misleading due to the rules and quality of catchers at the level, but Marte profiles as a 15-steal type annually with a .270+ AVG and 25+ home runs, maybe even 30+ at peak if he continues to add good bulk to his frame as he has already. The biggest question is how much of his speed will remain as he continues to bulk up. Even if he’s only a 50-grade runner, that should be enough when you factor in his desire to run and a decent 77% success rate last season. Whether this comes from shortstop, the hot corner, or a corner outfield spot remains to be seen, but the offensive profile could make him a fantasy star.
Honestly, you can apply a lot of what I said about Abrams above to Carroll here. As with Abrams, Carroll is a hit/speed first prospect that has hinted at additional growth in the power department as he matures physically. But unfortunately, we weren’t able to see that come to fruition last season as he played only seven games after suffering a posterior capsular avulsion and a labrum tear on the follow-through after hitting a home run. Carroll had two homers and five total extra-base hits in those seven games, just enough to offer a glimpse of his enormous fantasy potential. In dynasty leagues, you can likely get him for a slight discount right now, and trying to do so is encouraged. We could be looking at the top fantasy prospect in the land by the end of 2022 with a plus or better hit tool, double-plus speed, great on-base skills, and budding raw power.
Robert Hassell is a name I’ve been high on ever since the 2020 draft when he was taken inside the top 10 by the San Diego Padres. His 2021 performance pushed that to new heights. In 110 games between Low-A and High-A last season, Hassell slashed .303/.393/.470 with 33 doubles, 11 home runs, and 34 steals. Many evaluators touted Hassell as the best pure prep bat in the 2020 class and he’s done nothing to disprove that notion thus far. With a plus hit tool, advanced approach, plus speed, and the potential for average to above-average power, Hassell has that all-around offensive blend that entices in our fantasy world and he could find himself hitting in front of Tatís and company within the next few years.
Say what you want about Colorado prospects. Most of it is likely true. But that’s no reason to shy away from an immense talent like Zac Veen. People tend to forget that the Rockies have also developed some damn talented offensive players like Trevor Story (SS – FA) and Nolan Arenado (3B – STL), among others. After a slow start to the season in the power department, Veen cranked up the heat in the summer months, hitting over .300 in both July and August with a combined 11 doubles and 13 home runs. Overall, Veen slashed .301/.399/.501 with 15 homers and 36 steals. He’s not going to be a major stolen base threat but double-digits annually is within reach to pair with an above-average hit tool and plus or better power that will all be elevated by Coors Field.
Picking between the prep shortstops in the 2021 draft class is a difficult task. If you want floor, Mayer is your guy. But if you want the highest upside, I’d go with Kahlil Watson by a hair over Jordan Lawlar (SS – ARI) and Brady House (SS – WSH). Watson isn’t the biggest guy around at 5’9″, but he certainly packs a punch at the plate with a quick and powerful left-handed swing and the potential to grade as plus in the hit, power, and speed departments. It’s still too soon to project which way Miami’s middle infield will go with Watson and Jazz Chisholm Jr. (2B,SS – MIA), but Watson’s .280+/20+/20+ upside makes him one of the most exciting dynasty prospects in the game.
You could honestly make a case for any of the top four from the 2022 draft class to be included here, but I’m still leaning towards Elijah Green as of now. Green is one of the most toolsy prospects we’ve seen since Byron Buxton (CF – MIN) more than a half-decade ago. Plus or better tools as far as the eye can see with potential 70-grade power AND speed. This type of power/speed blend is incredibly rare, and even more impressive when you consider that Green is still a senior in high school. The frame already looks like a big-league frame too at 6’3″ and 225 pounds. If Green can clean up some of his current swing and miss tendencies, even the sky isn’t going to be the limit for him offensively.
The Chicago Cubs are loaded with prospect talent right now and the one with the highest fantasy ceiling in my eyes is Cristian Hernandez. Yes, even higher than Brennen Davis. Hernandez was one of the big three in the January 2021 international signing class along with Wilman Diaz (SS – LAD) and Carlos Colmenarez (SS – TB). While it was close between the trio then, it sure isn’t now after Hernandez impressed in his professional debut to the tune of a .285/.398/.424 slash line and 11 extra-base hits in 191 PA. Hernandez has showcased an advanced approach and a good feel for hitting with some projecting him as a plus hitter with plus power who can also add 12-15 SB annually. With Chicago’s stellar track record developing hitting prospects, I’m confident that Hernandez will continue to fly up prospect rankings in 2022.
What? Not the San Francisco prospect you were expecting to see in this article? I’ve been beating the Matos over Luciano drum for a while now, and I’m not going to stop now. Matos is the more complete and safe prospect for fantasy purposes with a plus hit tool, plus speed, and around average power as well which is still developing. After an impressive .367/.438/.566 line with seven homers and 21 steals in 290 PA back in 2019, Latos backed that up with 35 doubles, 15 homers, 21 steals, and a .313/.359/.495 line in 2021. Matos doesn’t walk much (6.1%), but he’s shown an exceptional contact rate (86.5%) and limits his strikeouts incredibly well at 11.8%. There’s .290/15+/20+ upside in his profile as a top-of-the-order caliber hitter.
Top Pitcher: Daniel Espino (SP – CLE)
Since we didn’t have a pitcher make the top 10 above, I figured I’d quickly discuss Daniel Espino, the arm I project to be the top pitching prospect in baseball in 2023. Espino is downright nasty with a fastball that can touch triple digits and a trio of secondaries that all project as above-average or plus offerings. He’s improved his overall command and strike-throwing since being drafted as well, a trend that will hopefully continue in 2022. Espino finished 2021 with an elite 40.5% strikeout rate and 20.2 SwStr rate to go along with a 3.73 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 20 starts.
Darkhorse: Harry Ford (C – SEA)
Out of all the prospects taken in the 2021 draft class, Harry Ford has one of the three highest fantasy ceilings in my eyes. Forget that catcher tag next to his name too as Ford is likely to move out from behind the plate eventually. Some have Ford listed as plus across the board offensively with plenty of room to grow into even more power. He’s basically Daulton Varsho (C,OF – ARI) with more upside.
Honorable Mentions (No Particular Order): Marcelo Mayer (SS – BOS), Nick Yorke (2B – BOS), Jordan Lawlar, Jordan Walker (3B – STL), Nick Gonzales (2B – PIT), Marco Luciano (SS – SF), Brady House, Colton Cowser (OF – BAL), Druw Jones (OF – 2022 Draft), Chase DeLauter (OF – 2022 Draft), Termarr Johnson (MI – 2022 Draft)
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