This week’s MLB Prospect Report tag teams with the full update to my Top-400 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings. With a lot of changes occurring in the rankings, it’s a good time to highlight who some of the newcomers and biggest movers are in the top 100 MLB prospects. Some will be players you’ve heard of before, including new top-overall prospect Elly De La Cruz, as well as Tanner Bibee and Brandon Pfaadt. Others, however, are brand new to the top 100, or the MLB prospect rankings list overall, and offer a chance to get in on a future MLB rookie long before they’re a household name. Some of these youngsters could be rising up fantasy baseball rankings and MLB projections at some point this season as they get called up to MLB lineups. Let's take a closer look at the top MLB prospect risers and sleepers to know for your fantasy baseball lineups and dynasty fantasy baseball leagues.


MLB Prospects Rising In Updated Top 100 Rankings

Elly De La Cruz - 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Okay, so clearly Elly De La Cruz isn’t new to the top 100, but he is the new No. 1 overall prospect in baseball, at least in my opinion. He was hampered by an injury to start the year but has now returned to the field, albeit to a slow start, but if he produces anywhere close to the year he had a year ago, he’ll be in Cincinnati by the All-Star Break. In 2022, across two levels, he hit .304 with 28 homers and 47 steals. Now his near 31-percent K-rate is a tad concerning but posting a .402 BABIP and .410 wOBA takes some of that concern away. De La Cruz’s hit, power, and speed combo is unmatched at his position in the minors right now.

Tanner Bibee - RHP, Cleveland Guardians

Here comes the hype train, both for Tanner Bibbee and the next few prospects. Drafted 156th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft out of Cal State Fullerton, Bibbee was practically unhittable in his first full season of pro ball in 2022. Over 132-plus innings, the righty hurler held opponents to a .211 BAA while striking out 167 and walking just 27. He then picked up where he left off last year in the first 15 innings this year with a .151 BAA and 1.76 ERA at Triple-A. He was known to be a strike-thrower coming out of college but his four-pitch mix is playing to a whole other level since turning pro and each pitch is an out pitch. Bibbee has the upside of a number-two starter with high-strikeout potential. I don’t know why we doubt the pitchers the Guardians draft given their track record for years now.

Matthew Mervis - 1B, Chicago Cubs

How much more hype does one prospect need? The Chicago fans are already clamoring for him to be up with the team on the North Side and now I’ve risen him to 45th in the rankings. The power has been evident with him as he hit 36 homers last year — 15 of which came in 57 Triple-A games — and then five to start this year. In his 481 at-bats between Double- and Triple-A he’s slashed .295/.381/.588 with 34 homers, 111 RBI, 95 runs, and two steals for good measure. The K-rate has been less than 20% with a BB rate over 10%. The Cubs are good right now without getting a single thing from their first base combo of Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini. It shouldn’t be too long before Matthew Mervis is up with the big club making him a big 1B FAAB target.

Brandon Pfaadt – RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Speaking of hype surrounding a prospect, Brandon Pfaadt (pronounced Fought) is another guy in that camp. He lit the spring training world afire with his performance and has now been rolling in his last few starts at Triple-A. Over the course of his 319 minor league innings to this point, he’s posted a 3.55 ERA and 3.94 xFIP, 1.09 WHIP, 31-percent K-rate, 1.72 BB/9 in 55 starts. Pfaadt’s four-pitch mix is all at least above average if not plus and each pitch can be a swing-and-miss offering. With all of the turnover in the Diamondbacks rotation recently from Madison Bumgarner being DFA’d to Drey Jameson being sent down the room is there for Pfaadt to come up and strengthen the rotation for a team hoping to be a dark horse contender in the NL West.

Emmanuel Rodriguez - OF, Minnesota Twins

Who? I know, a lot of you are probably hearing this name for the first time, though he was 74th in the last iteration of the rankings. Emmanuel Rodriguez has just started putting everything together so well, he can’t be ignored for a spot in the top 20. He was a prized signing in the 2019-20 international class for Minnesota and has been on a tear since playing full-season ball starting in 2021. Over that 91-game stretch — injuries shortened his last two years — he’s put up 22 homers and 20 steals with a .316 BABIP and .437 wOBA. His average hit tool is still coming around but plus-power and burgeoning plus-speed will carry him until the contact improves in consistency. Rodriguez profiles as a two-hole hitter who can play very good defense in center field but can move to right field as well with his plus-arm strength in the outfield as well.

Jackson Merrill - SS, San Diego Padres

For those of us who thought the Padres had nothing left in the system, Jackson Merrill is proving that’s not the case. Moving up from 100th to 39th is a big jump for Merrill but his play on the field has warranted that jump. His 2022 season was cut short with a few injuries but prior to that, Merrill was showing an ability to hit balls to all fields and get on base at a very good clip. When on base he has the speed to swipe bags as well, nabbing 11 steals in 55 games a year ago. If they can get the 6’3”, lefty-hitting shortstop to stay healthy, the 27th-overall pick in the 2021 draft might be the steal they kept Washington from getting in the Juan Soto trade. As for where he plays long term? I’d expect a move to an outfield spot given the long deals already in place for Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, and Fernando Tatis Jr.

Josue De Paula - OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

When was the last time we had a 17-year-old this high in the rankings? Dodgers’ scouts say that Josue De Paula may be their best international bat over the last decade which is more high praise for a teenager. The 60-grade hit tool might be underselling things and the 6’3” frame has enough room left in it to fill out and produce 60-grade, at least, power. The rest of the profile isn’t as great as he likely will need to play left field defensively or perhaps DH given the 40-grade speed, but the .300 average and 35 home runs will easily be enough to keep him in the middle of an MLB order… eventually. That’s the thing, he’s a long-term prospect given he’s 17 until the end of May and still in Rookie Ball but the upside is there to make him a top-10 prospect at some point just like Felnin Celesten (#172) for Seattle.

Spencer Jones - OF, New York Yankees

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. The Yankees have a 6’7” outfielder with power and a hit tool to all fields who can steal some bags. Spencer Jones is, in some respects, the left-handed hitting Aaron Judge, though minus a decent amount of power. Sure, Jones has 55-grade pop but Judge came up with 65-70-grade power. Big difference. Jones was a first-round pick out of Vanderbilt last year and impressed with his short introduction to the pros. He’s starting 2023 at High-A as he tries to refine some skills in the batter’s box. What skills? Well, he hits to the opposite field a tad too much, to the point where velocity inside might be a problem, and hitting to the opposite field that much reduces the game power a bit. If he can work on getting to pitches inside at quicker velocity, as he’ll see in the upper minors, we’re talking about a .280 hitter with 25-30 homer power who can hit in the middle of a Yankees order.

Bryce Miller - RHP, Seattle Mariners

You thought the Mariners were done with pitching prospects following Logan Gilbert and George Kirby and Emerson Hancock huh? Well, not quite. Bryce Miller, drafter in the 2021 draft in the fourth round is making his presence known in the Seattle system after making it to Double-A in his first full season with 130-plus innings pitched. There were questions about his control and whether his stuff would hold up over a full season but he seems to be putting those to rest so far. The mid-90s, high-spin fastball works very well along with his power-slider, sinking changeup, and downer-curve, all of which are at least average if not double-plus in the case of the fastball. His start to Double-A in 2023 hasn’t been great with a 6.41 ERA over four starts and allowing 23 hits, five of which were homers, in 19.2 innings. If he can sort out his stuff being hit harder and more often than it should, the fast track should continue for Miller with a shot to be banging on the door of a rotation spot to start 2024.


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