The 2023 MLB season is now past the quarter mark and while there are still top MLB prospects being called up, we’re going to approach this week's fantasy baseball prospect report a bit differently. The 2022 MLB Draft was less than a year ago. It was one of the more loaded baseball draft classes in recent memory and has already produced a current MLB player in Zach Neto. There are more on the horizon if we look at our top 50 MLB prospect rankings. Some are already among the top 10 players in fantasy baseball prospect rankings. With the 2023 MLB Draft a little over a month away, let’s take a look at how some of the top baseball prospects from the 2022 and 2021 MLB Drafts are doing and when they’ll be in MLB lineups or your fantasy baseball lineups. We could see some of these players quickly rise up fantasy baseball rankings and MLB projections later this season. First things first, though, let’s talk about Bobby Miller making his MLB debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Miller could be among the popular fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups if he's available in your league, especially if you need MLB injury report replacements. Let's look at Miller and those noteworthy former MLB Draft prospects who could be fantasy baseball sleepers.
Bobby Miller Makes MLB Debut for Los Angeles Dodgers
Bobby Miller – RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
It was a spectacular debut for one of the top pitching prospects in the Dodgers system and personally my favorite arm in their system. Since being drafted late in the first round of the 2020 MLB draft out of Louisville, he’s done nothing but prove he’s a frontline starter in the making. The four-pitch mix Miller has is among the best in all the minors with all four grading out as double-plus to fringe-plus. The fastball is electric topping out at 100 with run, which pairs with the upper-80s fading changeup. The two different breaking pitches are distinct and work well against both right- and left-handed hitters. Miller’s strikeout numbers in the minors were hefty with 227 Ks in 183 frames. Given all of the health concerns and questions with the Dodgers’ rotation, I’d expect Miller to be up for good at this point.
2022 MLB Draft Picks to Know
Leading off this section, just like he did the 2022 MLB Draft, Jackson Holliday is getting a lot of hype right now. As well he should be. Holliday smoked the ball to start 2023 in Class-A slashing .392/.523/.667 in 13 games with two homers, 15 runs, 15 RBI, and three steals. That earned him a call-up to High-A Aberdeen. The 19-year-old has now been there for 22 games and is doing nothing but slashing .397/.515/.718 with four home runs, 22 R, 20 RBI, and eight steals. Holliday is clearly backing up the number one overall pick status so far and is letting his five-plus tools shine. At this rate, he should be up in Baltimore perhaps by the middle of 2024.
Pre-Draft, Druw Jones was widely considered to be the consensus top pick… until he wasn’t. So far, it seems like Baltimore might have made the right choice. It’s still early though, like 10 games into his career early. Jones has struggled so far in Class-A Visalia with a .175/.283/.200 slash line and just one XBH in 40 at-bats. I’m not going to belittle his talent, of which there’s a lot to talk about, but it has undoubtedly been a rough start to his pro career. Jones, the son of Andruw Jones, has tools for days and they will start to show soon. When they do, watch out.
The number five overall pick in the draft class, Elijah Green was the biggest boom-or-bust candidate in the early part of the first round. The ceiling is immense with 60-grade power and 70-grade speed while possessing Gold Glove-caliber defensive skills. However, the hit tool that grades to below average and his contact rates were a concern. That’s starting to show up. While he’s posted four homers and 17 steals so far in his 46 MiLB games since being drafted along with 10 doubles, that’s the good news. The bad news for Green? His K-rate. In 169 at-bats he’s struck out… wait for it… 88 times. That includes 67 in 34 games in 2023 at Class-A Fredericksburg. Not great Bob. Now, while posting a .249 AVG isn’t great, his .352 OBP from that is solid. Green is still 19 and will be all this season but he’ll have to start being more discerning at the plate if he wants to join fellow Nationals’ outfield prospects James Wood and Robert Hassell III III in the development train.
Brooks Lee – 3B, Minnesota Twins
Arguably the most polished college bat in the 2022 MLB draft class, Brooks Lee came off the board at number eight to Minnesota. All he did after being drafted was hit .303/.388/.451 in 31 games across three levels last year. That moved him to Double-A Wichita this year where, while the power is showing, the average is dropping a bit. Through 36 games for the Wind Surge, Lee is slashing .245/.323/.392 with three home runs, 26 R, 15 RBI, and four steals along with 12 doubles. He profiles as a bit of a throwback infielder who has solid pop and speed but is a bat and defense-first player who’s likely to hit near the top of the order. If he turns things around at Double-A expect to see him threaten for the Twins’ lineup to start the 2024 MLB season.
The Royals came into the 2022 MLB draft needing an infusion of talent into their system. They got it with their top two draft picks — Gavin Cross and Cayden Wallace. While Wallace is ahead of Cross currently in terms of level, Cross’ overall skill puts him as the top prospect in the Kansas City Royals farm system. Taken out of Virginia Tech, the lefty-hitting outfielder has a great mix of all-around skill with five above-average tools and he’s been showing that ability sporadically so far. In his first stint of pro ball, in 2022, he slashed .312/.437/.633 in 29 games with eight homers, 25 RBI, 24 R, and four steals. However in 2023, over 38 games all at High-A Quad Cities, Cross is slashing .207/.292/.440 with seven home runs, 24 RBI, 23 R, and nine steals. Still a healthy stat line aside from the average. Cross profiles as a 25-20 outfielder with the ability to hit .280 when everything is clicking.
2021 MLB Draft Picks to Know
Jack Leiter – RHP, Texas Rangers
Just how advanced was Jack Leiter when the Rangers drafted him second overall in the 2021 draft? Texas started him at Double-A after signing him to a nearly-$8-million bonus. Things haven’t exactly gone swimmingly for Leiter since though. The 23-year-old righty is back at Double-A Frisco to start this year and over 133.2 innings thus far over the two seasons he’s posted a 5.12 ERA and a 167:83 K:BB ratio. The ERA we can look past a bit as he’s improved to a 4.17 mark in 41 innings this year but the 2:1 K:BB ratio isn’t great. For a guy who’s billed as a future ace of an MLB rotation, he should be in the 3:1 K:BB if not slightly better. The stuff is still as good as it was at Vanderbilt however the control and command are getting him into trouble in pro ball as he tries to nibble too much and then serves up more easily hit pitches in hitter’s counts. If he can get the walks down and throw more strikes, he should advance quickly to the MLB roster in 2024.
Marcelo Mayer – SS, Boston Red Sox
Picking fourth in the 2021 MLB draft afforded the Red Sox the chance to get the top player in that class, Marcelo Mayer. Mayer hasn’t dissuaded anyone from using that moniker for him so far in pro ball either. It was an electric full-season debut in 2022 as the lefty-hitting shortstop slashed .280/.399/.489 over 91 games and two levels with 13 home runs, 61 R, 53 RBI, and 17 steals. He’s picked up where he left off in 2023 hitting .312/.387/.576 in 30 games at High-A Greenville with seven homers, 29 RBI, 22 R, and four steals. Going forward he could be moved to second base where he fits better defensively but it’s the bat that will carry him to fill out his .280-.285, 25 HR, 15 SB profile.
Jordan Wicks – LHP, Chicago Cubs
It’s been a while since the Cubs have had highly talked about pitching prospects in their system and that change is being led by 2021 MLB draft first-round pick Jordan Wicks. The southpaw out of Kansas State has really turned things on at Double-A Tennessee this year with a 2.55 ERA in eight starts and 35.1 innings while posting a 44:10 K:BB ratio. His changeup is his calling card pitch as a double-plus offering. The rest of the arsenal is solid but nothing that’s as elite. Wicks, being a typical lefty, is more known for his movement and control than his velocity. Think of him as a left-handed version of Kyle Hendricks at his best and fits in the mid-rotation as an innings-eating arm with a good strikeout rate. He could be on the north side as early as later this year.
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