The 2023 College World Series gets going on Friday June 16th in Omaha, Nebraska. After thrilling Super Regionals that saw Twitter-worthy viral moments from Stanford and Texas going back-and-forth to Oral Roberts’ upset over Oregon to Wake Forest blowing out Alabama. With the eight-team field set for the CWS at TD Ameritrade Park, it’s a great time to see 2023 MLB Draft prospects in action. Perhaps the most-watched match-up will be the Vols baseball team, powered by Chase Dollander and Chase Burns, squaring off against LSU with Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes. There are more guys to scout outside of that series though for fantasy baseball prospects. Heck, there might even be a catcher who’s fantasy-relevant in Kyle Teel. So in this week’s Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report we’ll take a look at who the top draft picks and dynasty league players could be, where they likely slot into 2023 MLB prospect rankings and just how quickly they’ll be in your fantasy baseball lineups. If you look back at this previous Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report you’ll see a few other draft prospects broken down as well. MLB teams take this chance to see who can improve their MLB lineups so why shouldn’t you look for your fantasy baseball rosters?
Paul Skenes — RHP LSU
What’s not to like about Paul Skenes? He’s got everything you want in a future MLB ace in terms of size (6’6”, 235 lbs.), pitches (three plus offerings), composure, control, command, and strike-throwing ability. The fastball tops out at 102, regularly, and looks like a rising fastball for all intents and purposes. The slider and changeup are in the upper-80s with bite and break representative for those pitches. The clean delivery is repeatable and pounds the strike zone with a 16.6 K/9 rate this year. Skenes is polished already and should be a top-two pick in the draft and a fast riser through whichever teams’ system drafts him. Get ready to see him in an MLB rotation in 2024 as he’s already a top-10 MLB prospect.
Dylan Crews — OF LSU
Has Dylan Crews’ last home run landed yet? Seriously, the power is double-plus, but so is the Hit tool that grades out at a 65-grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. Prior to 2023, there were concerns about the swing-and-miss in his game facing better pitching, but this year that seemed to be lessened with a more advanced approach at the plate. On top of the Hit and Power skills we’re talking about a plus-Speed and above-average-Fielding tool. So he won’t be a concern anywhere in the outfield and the bat is a quintessential middle-of-the-order presence in the making. Depending on how the swing-and-miss translates to the pro ranks, he could be the first hitter from the 2023 class to make an MLB roster.
Chase Dollander — RHP Tennessee
Prior to the 2023 College Baseball season starting, Chase Dollander was the favorite to the be the first pitcher off the board. That is until the season began. While the stuff is still elite, and we’re splitting hairs between him and Paul Skenes, the control was more average. That knocked the shine off, just a bit. The 6’2”, 200-pound righty for Tennessee still has a frontline starter future with a four-pitch mix as good as anyone’s. The fastball sits mid-90s with run while the slider and curveball are distinct, and 10 mph apart on the radar gun. Rounding it out is the changeup in the upper-80s with fade. Everything plays up when his control is at his best producing an 8.3 K/BB ratio. If he outduels Paul Skenes, in a potential match-up, he could be the top pick.
Rhett Lowder — RHP Wake Forest
The best team in the country wouldn’t be the best team without a great starter. That’s what Rhett Lowder is for the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest has been quite good about turning arms into first-round talent the last few years and Lowder might be the best prospect yet with a three-pitch mix that is all at least above-average. His sinker anchors the arsenal in the low-to-mid-90s and generates a high ground ball rate. Lowder’s best pitch though is his changeup which he works well to both handedness of hitter and the slider rounds out the repertoire but needs more development to be anything more than MLB-average. His combo of pitchability and stuff make him a number-three starter as a floor and if the slider rounds into a plus-pitch, Lowder could be a inning-eating number-two starter.
Kyle Teel — C Virginia
We can all use better catching depth right? Kyle Teel is the best catching prospect in the draft though let’s not make the mistake of thinking he’s as good as top catchers in the past few drafts. Teel, a lefty-hitting backstop, has an above-average Hit tool but not as much pop as we think of for catchers at this point in fantasy baseball. He is a great defender and receiver behind the dish though which will allow him to focus on his offense as he goes through the minor league ranks. Teel projections as a .280 hitter with 15-homer pop and maybe a handful of steals added in but at this point that makes him a top-10 catcher in fantasy baseball.
Hurston Waldrep — RHP Florida
We’ve reached perhaps the most polarizing arm in the first round territory of the draft. Hurston Waldrep has been in a college starting rotation for two years between Southern Miss and Florida but was in the bullpen at Southern Miss as a freshman. The three-pitch mix is not lacking for out pitches with all three being plus offerings. Waldrep has high-90s velocity on fastball but the best pitch might be the splitter which has missed a ton of bats this year. His slider comes in in the upper-80s and if he throws it more, it’ll easily be plus, at least. So where’s the polarization come in? His control and eventual role. The walk rate isn’t great for a guy who can get Ks with the best of them and the delivery isn’t as repeatable as you’d like to see from a starter. With the delivery issues and the control and command problems, Waldrep could fit as a high-leverage, late-inning reliever more so than a starter which would also hasten his ascension to an MLB roster.
Brock Wilken — 3B Wake Forest
Holy power folks! Brock Wilken has hit more homers each year in college going from 17 to 23 to 27 this year. There’s some, including me, who believe there’s more to come from the 6’4”, 225-pound, 20-year-old third baseman. His game is still maturing but in order to tap into his burgeoning double-plus Power, the Hit tool needs to get going. Wilken increased his K-rate in 2022 which is a bit of a concern that he’ll be limited offensively until he sorts out off speed and breaking pitches. He’s young, like really young for a draft-eligible college bat, and that gives him the upside teams strive for from elite college hitters. Ultimately there is a Giancarlo Stanton-ish projection here with 35-homer upside while hitting in the .260 range and little in the way of steals.
Brayden Taylor — 3B TCU
Consistently unheralded, including coming out of high school, Brayden Taylor is a toolsy infielder. The lefty-hitting, third baseman, and part-time second baseman, has a nice mix of everything you want from a baseball player. Above-average Hit too, average Power, average Run, and above-average Fielding tools he is the prototypical ballplayer who can do a bit of everything but doesn’t have one tool that carries him. While he can stick at third base full-time, from a fantasy baseball perspective, Taylor has more value if he moves to the Keystone as a 20-homer, 15-steals upside hitter. That combo moves the needle less at third base with how deep that position is, and will be in the next year or two.
Tommy Troy — SS Stanford
Like Taylor just above, Tommy Troy is another “ballplayer” type. The skillset is there in every facet to not hurt the team in any way with average to above-average tools across the board. However, for fantasy baseball managers, that doesn’t really spell anything spectacular. But hey, MLB teams are drafting to win in real life and not fantasy right? Troy is likely to be a second baseman in pro ball given his 5’10”, 197-pound frame and his average arm strength and footwork. At the plate though, he is a guy who’s willing to walk and be patient while showing gap-to-gap extra-base-hit Power. There’s a chance that pop turns into at least average with more development but it looks more Troy is a guy likely to hit in the .280 range with a high-OBP and a 15-homer, 20-steal upside.
Jake Gelof — 3B Virginia
Does the last name sound familiar? His older brother Zack Gelof, a former-Cavalier and now top-A’s prospect, was a 2021 MLB Draft pick and now the younger Gelof could go earlier in the 2023 MLB Draft. The power is off the charts with the Cavaliers third baseman with back-to-back electric seasons for Virginia including a team-record 81 RBI last season. He’s not just power though, the Hit tool and ability to take pitches are coming along as well even if the defense is still being sorted out. If you want a comp for a ceiling for Gelof, it’s Pete Alonso at his best with a floor of Matt Chapman.
Maui Ahuna — SS Tennessee
It’s not all about the pitching in Knoxville with the spark plug of a shortstop powering the offense. Maui Ahuna is one of the more interesting college hitters in the draft, starting with him being a left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing shortstop. Ahuna can get white-hot at the plate and then go cold. The defense never goes cold though. His double-plus Speed, above-average Arm, and plus-Fielding tools give him great range, reaction, and ability to throw anyone out from short. The swing is an interesting one that’s more uppercut than not and can get long at times. However, when everything is working the power is a tad below-average and the contact rate is about the same. A reasonable comp for Ahuna is Javier Baez from the left-side of the plate with the same aggressive approach.
Jonah Cox — OF Oral Roberts
The upstart, upset-specialist Golden Eagles may not be nationally ranked but they do have MLB-caliber talent on the roster. Jonah Cox brings two key traits to the ballpark — Hit and Speed. The 6’3”, 200-pound righty-hitting outfielder has been setting the base paths afire in his college career with 92 combined steals in two years at the JUCO ranks and then 26 steals in 2023 with Oral Roberts. His hit tool is also fantastic with back-to-back .397-plus hitting season in JUCO and now hitting .425 with a 38-game hit streak this year in the Summit League. That kind of skill set while being an outfielder draws comps, at least offensively to Cubs’ prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong. Fielding wise though he’s about average, far below Crow-Armstrong’s defensive ability. Don’t expect Cox to go in the first two rounds but to be a player in starting in the third-round for a team needing a speed and contact injection.
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