2023 Fantasy Baseball Rookie Preview

by Mike Schneider
2023 Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Stock up - Stock Down

With the season about to begin, there is a fresh crop of rookies ready to make an impact in majors. I'm going to dive into some of these in the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Rookie Preview.

Some have been top prospects for years while others just recently emerged. Over the years we have seen different levels of success from all types of prospects. We've even been surprised, both good and bad by the performance of some of them.

I have broken them down into groups of players I expect to have a regular role, those who are battling for a job out of Spring Training. Then we have the guys who, if things break right should get the call midway through the year. And I finish off with a group of guys outside the top 200 to keep an eye on.

If you play in Dynasty Baseball leagues, be sure to check out my Dynasty Prospect Rankings.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Rookie Preview

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Locked Into a Regular Role

Several prospects made their major league debut at the end of 2023 while maintaining their rookie eligibility.

This first group of prospects are expected to begin the season with a regular role.

Corbin Carroll (Diamondbacks CF, Age 22, Ranking 1)

Carroll is the number one prospect in baseball and already has a nine-figure contract while still rookie eligible. Carroll got 115 plate appearances in September so he should exceed rookie eligibility in April.

Pros: Carroll offers a power speed combination that fantasy players love.

Cons: Prior to 2022, Carroll played in a total of 49 professional games.  In 2022, in AA and AAA, Carroll played in favorable home-hitting parks which boosted his stats and may cause unrealistic expectations.

Grayson Rodriguez (RHP Orioles, Age 23, Ranking 4)

Rodriguez has been an elite prospect since a dominant 2019 season as a 19-year-old in full season A.  Rodriguez appeared to be on the cusp of making his major league debut last June when he strained his lat and missed much of the remainder of the year.

Pros: Rodriguez appears to be major league ready with four good pitches and solid command. in one year, for various reasons, Baltimore went from being a  poor pitching environment to an above-average pitching environment.

Cons: The Orioles have been ultra-cautious with Rodriguez.  It is unknown how many innings he will pitch during the season or how many pitches they will allow him to throw in a game.

Gunnar Henderson (Orioles 3B/SS, Age 21 Ranking 5)

Henderson was one of the biggest prospect risers in 2022.  The 21-year-old Henderson showed power, speed and patience in AA and AAA in 2022.  He earned a late-season promotion to the Orioles where he got in 132 plate appearances.

Pros: Henderson is an On Base Percentage asset who is a solid bet for 20 homers and double-figure steals.

Cons: The 2022 stolen base numbers are misleading.  I think ten stolen bases a year in the majors are more realistic.  The Orioles really like Jorge Mateo's defense and have several other shortstop prospects, so Henderson may not get shortstop eligibility.

Josh Jung (Rangers 3B, Age 25, Ranking 16)

Since being the eighth overall selection in the 2019 MLB draft, Josh Jung has not played a full season.  Injuries cost him a good chunk of both the 2021 and 2022 seasons.  He is fully healthy and set to begin the season as the Rangers starting third basemen.

Pros:  Jung was an advanced college hitter at Texas Tech and had 43 homers in 675 minor league plate appearances with a  21% strikeout rate in the minors.

Cons: In his first crack in the major leagues in September, Jung struck out 39 times in 101 plate appearances.  Contact did not appear to be an issue for Jung in college or the minors.

Miguel Vargas (Dodgers (2B/3B, Age 23, Ranking 32)

The Dodgers signed Vargas after he defected from Cuba in September 2017 for $300,000.  Vargas has been consistently productive throughout his minor league career with a .313/.390./878 line in 410 minor league games with a 15.4% strikeout rate and a  10.5% walk rate.

Pros:  The Dodgers were quiet in the off-season which puts Vargas in line to open the season as the Dodgers regular second basemen, especially with Gavin Lux's injury.

Cons: Vargas is average at best defensively. The Dodgers called Vargas up at to the Dodgers at the end of 2022 and he has just a 26 wRC+ in 50 plate appearances.

Triston Casas (Red Sox 1B, Age 23, Ranking 65)

A 2018 first-round draft pick who it seems has been the Red Sox's top prospect for years.

Pros: At this point in his career, Casas' strength is his ability to get on base. He has posted a huge walk rate throughout his minor league career and may hit leadoff for the Red Sox.

Cons: Despite his size (6'4" 252 lbs), Casas's power is still a work in progress.

Esteury Ruiz (Athletics CF, Age 24, Ranking 81)

Ruiz has already been traded three times including twice in 2022.  However, with Oakland, Ruiz should get his opportunity.

Pros: Ruiz's calling card is his elite speed.  He stole 85 bases in just 114 bases in the minor leagues in 2022. Ruiz hit 16 homers last year and clearly has made improvements as a hitter the last couple of years.

Cons:  Ruiz only got 36 plate appearances in the majors, but appeared overmatched.  He only walked once and only had one barrel.

Garrett Mitchell (Brewers CF, Age 24, Ranking 98)

Mitchell is extremely athletic with power and speed potential.

Pros: In 357 plate appearances in 2022, Mitchell stole 25 bases in 26 attempts.  Mitchell's defense can keep him in the lineup.  He can cover a lot of ground in centerfield.

Cons: There are questions regarding Mitchell's hit tool.  In his minor league career, Mitchell's strikeout rate was 26%.  In his brief major league career, Mitchell struck out 41.2% of the time.

Kyle Muller (Athletics LHP, Age 25, Ranking 193)

Muller has been on the prospect radar for years but with the trade to Oakland should finally get an extended big league look.

Pros:  The massive lefthander made considerable strides at AAA in 2022 where his walk rate of 7.3% was a career-best.  While he is unlikely to win many games with Oakland, he will be playing in a nice pitcher's park.

Cons: The command is still a question mark at the major league level.  Muller has a 1.37 WHIP in 49 major league innings.

Battling for a Job

Whether these prospects break camp with a regular role or not is still being determined.

Anthony Volpe (Yankees SS, Age 22, Ranking 3)

The Yankees 2019 first-round pick was overshadowed in high school by his teammate, Jack Leiter.  However, a tremendous 2021 season split between A and High A where combined he hit 27 homers and stole 33 bases established Volpe as an elite prospect.

Pros:  An impressive spring training has bumped Volpe up from a mid-season possibility to a prospect battling for the job.  He has hit 50 homers and stolen 89 bases in 106 attempts in 275 career minor league games.

Cons: Volpe is competing with another prospect, Oswald Peraza for the Yankees' starting shortstop job.  Peraza has been at a level above Volpe throughout their minor league careers and may get first crack at the starting shortstop role.

Jordan Walker (Cardinals 3B/RF, Age 21, Ranking 6)

Walker was a bit of an under-the-radar selection when the Cardinals picked him with the 21st overall pick in the 2020 draft out of high school but he has moved quickly through the Cardinals minor league system.

Pros: In 201 minor league games. Walker has hit .406/.388/.913 with 33 homers and 36 steals while being one of the youngest players at each of his levels.  Walker has mashed this spring.

Cons: The Cardinals have a crowded depth chart, Barring injuries, Walker won't play third base or first base with the Cardinals. He has only played 31 career games in the outfield.  He is an offensive first player and even if he wins a starting job, he will need to hit to keep it.

Oswald Peraza (Yankees SS, Age 23, Ranking 29)

Peraza appears to be battling Anthony Volpe for the Yankees shortstop job.

Pros: Peraza has had a steady climb through the Yankees farm system.  After a slow start in 2022 at AAA, Peraza had 15 homers and 26 steals with a 129 wRC+ in the last 66 games.

Peraza is considered a better defensive shortstop than Volpe. If the Yankees keep both Volpe and Peraza while not resigning  Gleybar Torres, it is likely that Peraza would stick at shortstop with Volpe moving to second in 2024.

Cons:  Even if Pereza gets the first crack, Volpe will be casting a large shadow especially if Pereza struggles early.

Logan O'Hoppe (Angels C, Age 23, Ranking 114)

The Angels acquired O'Hoppe at the trade deadline in 2022 for Brandon Marsh.  It was a rare one-for-one trade of young players.

Pros: O'Hoppe was a late-round 2018 draft pick out of high who has mashed the last couple of years to emerge as a top prospect.

Cons: The Angels have hopes to contend and like the Mets with Francisco Álvarez and the Guardians with Bo Naylor, they appear to be reluctant to give a rookie catcher the starting job.

O'Hoppe is a bat-first catcher who is average defensively.

Brice Turang (Brewers SS, Age 23, Ranking 146)

Turang has steadily worked his way up the ladder since being the Brewers first-round pick in 2018 out of high school.

Pros: Always solid defensively with good speed, Turang made strides with the bat in the second half of 2022. From June 26th to the remainder of the season, Turang has a 132 wRC+ with ten homers with an 18.4% strikeout rate versus a 14.3 %walk rate in 69 games at AAA.

Turang has a shot at a strong-side platoon role as the second basemen with the Brewers.

Cons: Prior to the power outburst in the second half of 2022, Turang had only 13 homers in 350 games as a pro.

Drey Jameson (Diamondbacks RHP, Age 25, Ranking 147)

The upper minors present a special challenge for Arizona pitching prospects because both AA Amarillo and AAA Reno are extreme hitter parks.

Pros:  The hard-throwing Jameson was excellent in four major league starts at the end of 2022 allowing just four earned runs in 24.1 innings while strikeout out a batter an inning.

Cons: Jameson had a 6.31 ERA with a 1.49 WHIP in 132.1 minor league innings in 2022.

Jared Shuster (Braves LHP, Age 24, Ranking 157)

A first-round pick in 2020 out of Wake Forest, Shuster is viewed as more of a back-end starter than a front-end starter.

Pros: Shuster has been a spring training surprise who appears to have the inside track on the Braves fifth starter role.  Shuster has a solid year in 2022 making 16 starts in AA with a 0.98 WHIP and ten starts at AAA with a 1.21 WHIP.

Cons: Even if Shster wins the fifth starter job, the Braves have a number of possibilities like Mike Soroka, Dylan Dodd, Bryce Elder and Ian Anderson that will be trying to get the job back from him.

Mid Season Possibility

These prospects will begin the season in the minors but could make an impact later in the summer.

Elly De La Cruz (Reds SS, Age 21, Ranking 2)

It has been a rapid rise for De La Cruz who was an international signing for $65,000 and was largely unknown until dominating the Arizona Complex League in July 2021.

Pros:  De La Cruz is a tall freak athlete with off-the-charts upside.  In 2021 split between High A and AA, De La Cruz hit 28 homers and stole 47 bases.  The Reds shortstop situation is wide open.

Cons: The strikeout rate has been around 30% throughout De La Cruz' minor league career and he has just 207 plate appearances in the upper minors.  He may not be until 2024 that he makes an impact in the minors.

Francisco Álvarez (Mets C, Age 21, Ranking 7)

The thickly built Álvarez was one of the top prospects in the 2018 international free agent class and he has hit throughout the minors.

Pros: Álvarez has hit 58 homers with a .384 On Base Percentage in 253 career minor league games while being among the younger players in his leagues.  Catcher is one area where the Mets do not have an established star blocking him. Omar Narváez and Tomás Nido will begin the season as the Mets catchers.

Cons: Álvarez is a bat-first prospect with average catching skills. The  Mets are obviously planning to contend and catcher is not the position to put an inexperienced player.

Long term the Mets want to keep Álvarez behind the plate so they would be hesitant to move him to DH for a good portion of the season.  Perhaps if  Álvarez dominates in AAA, they make him their regular DH late in the season.

Kyle Harrison (Giants LHP, Age 21, Ranking 15)

Harrison has had back-to-back impressive seasons as he has emerged as a top prospect.

Pros: In 2022, he struck out 39.8% of batters which included eighteen starts at AA.

Cons:   The Giant starting pitching depth chart is crowded with seven established starters. Harrison did walk  11.2% of batters at AA so that is an area where improvement is needed.

Royce Lewis (Twins SS, Age 24, Ranking 16)

Lewis was not expected to still be a prospect at this point but two major leg injuries have slowed his progress.

Pros: The first overall selection in the 2017 draft was outstanding in 34 games at AAA in 2022 (149 wRC+) after missing 2021 with an ACL tear and played well in 12 major league games (146 wRC+) before reinjuring his knee.

Cons:  Lewis will open the year on the injured list and is not expected to return until July.  There is obviously a question of whether Lewis' speed will be the same after the injuries.

The Twins resigning Carlos Correa after he failed to finalize deals with the Giants and the Mets, means that Lewis will likely be an outfielder going forward.

Eury Pérez (Marlins RHP, Age 20, Ranking 18)

The 6'8" Pérez who is still a teenager for a few more weeks burst on the scene on Opening Day of the 2021 season for Single A Jupiter.

Pros: Pérez already has 75 innings of upper minor league experience.  Over the last two years, Pérez has held batters to a .190  batting average with 1.01 WHIP while striking out to 35% of hitters.

Cons: The Marlins have a deep rotation and despite Pérez being a stud prospect, they may decide to hold off on calling him up to the majors until 2024.

Bobby Miller (Dodgers RHP. Age 23j, Ranking  38)

A 2020 first-round out of the University of Louisville with a ton of talent pitching for a great organization in a nice pitching environment.

Pros: Miller is a hard thrower with a couple of secondary pitches that have the potential to be plus offerings. He struck out over 30% of batters with high ground ball rates in 2022.

The Dodgers do not appear to have as much pitching depth in 2023 as they have had recently. They have a tendency to rest their pitchers and get them ready for the post-season rather than try to pitch through minor injuries. There is the potential for Miller to get an opportunity during the course of the season.

Cons: Coming into 2022, there was talk that Miller was going to dominate and become possibly the top pitching prospect in baseball.  While Miller showed impressive skills he was hit harder than expected in 2022.

Sal Frelick (Brewers CF, Age 23, Ranking 51)

Frelick's best skill is a plus-hit tool who looks like he will be a prototypical future lead-off hitter.

Pros: Frelick played at three levels in 2022 and got better as he moved up the organizational ladder.  His final stop in 2022 was at AAA where in 46 games, he hit .365/.435/.508 with just a 7.4 strikeout rate.

Frelick is not in line to begin the season in the majors. However, the depth chart is not overwhelming and Frelick has a good chance to be a regular later in the year.

Cons: Frelick has limited power and some speed. but ten homers and 20 stolen bases are probably his ceiling.

Matt McLain (Reds SS, Age 23, Ranking 53)

One of the most advanced college hitters in the 2021 draft, McLain was more of a three-outcome hitter in his first full pro season than expected.

Pros:  The rebuilding Reds will want to give a high draft pick like McLain an opportunity in 2023. McLain walked at a 15.5% rate and stole 27 bases in 30 attempts in 2022 at AA.

Cons: After striking out just 20.6% of the time at UCLA, McLain's strike-out rate of 28.1% was a red flag in 2022.  This is an area where improvement is needed before reaching the majors.

Ricky Tiedemann (Blue Jays LHP, Age 20, Ranking 64)

Tiedemann was a relative unknown that turned heads and skyrocketed up prospect rankings in 2022.

Pros:  Across three levels culminating at AA, batters hit just .149 against Tiedemann who is a hard thrower with a plus slider.

Cons: Tiedemann has had some shoulder discomfort this spring but he has begun throwing.  Toedmann did walk about ten percent of batters in 2022.  The injury combined with the improvement needed on the control, may make Tiedemmann more of a 2023 arrival but he has tremendous upside.

Forrest Whitley (Astros RHP, Age 25, Ranking 66)

This appears to be a make-or-break year for the former top-ranked pitching prospect who should be fully healthy after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021.

Pros:  Whitley shows glimpses of the skills he had in 2017 when he appeared to be a top of the rotation starter.

Cons: It has been years since Whitley has had consistent success.

Gavin Stone (Dodgers RHP, Age 24, Ranking 73)

Stone was a fifth-round draft pick in 2020 out of Central Arkansas who has a couple of outstanding years in the minors. The Dodgers really know how to find and develop their prospects.

Pros: Stone had a lot of success in the upper minors and there should be opportunities over the course of the season with the Dodgers.

Cons: Stone does not have the upside of Bobby Mille. He is more of a potential fourth starter.

Edouard Julien (Twins 2B, Age 24, Ranking 76)

Julien is originally from Canada but played at Auburn.  He was a 19th-round pick in 2019 who has put up big offensive numbers in the last couple of years.

 Pros: Julien was one of the top performers in the Arizona Fall League.  In his minor league career, Julien has walked more than 20% of the time.  He has some power and speed.

Cons: Julien is not a great defensive player so his bat will have to carry him.  The Twins depth chart is crowded so a few things will have to happen for Julien to get major league playing time in 2023.

DL Hall (Orioles LHP, Age 24, Ranking 87)

Hall's stuff is as good as any pitching prospect in baseball but due to command and durability questions he may not make it as a starting pitcher.

Pros: Hall has the potential to throw four-plus pitches.  In the minors in 2022 Hall struck out 36.6%.  Even as a reliever, Hall has the potential to have a lot of value.

Cons:  Hall walked 13.4% of batters in 2022 which is about his career average.  Hall was a first-round pick out of high school in 2017 but has only thrown 315 innings as a pro due to some injuries, lack of efficiency and the cancellation of the 2020 season.

Hall entered spring training as battling for a job but he has been slowed due to a back injury.  He made his spring training debut on March 20th.

Bo Naylor (Guardians C, Age 23, Ranking 138)

After struggling at AA in 2021, Naylor has considerably more success in 2022.

Pros: Naylor has a well-rounded offensive game.  He even stole 20 bases in 2022 although it is unlikely he will be a big base stealer at the major league level.

Cons: Naylor is still a work in progress behind the plate and the Guardians will go with veteran Mike Zunino to begin the year.  Although the lefthanded hitting Naylor could work his way up to platooning with Zunino.

Brandon Pfaadt (Diamondbacks RHP, Age 24, Ranking 188)

A fifth-round draft pick out of tiny Bellarmine University in 2020, Pfaadt has been very impressive as a pro the last couple of seasons.

Pro:  Pfaadt has a 26% strikeout minus walk rate as a pro.  He has outperformed the other Diamondback pitching prospects while pitching in difficult pitching environments in the upper minors.

Cons:  Pfaadt will begin the year at AAA where he will have to overcome pitching at Reno in order to get an opportunity later in the year with Arizona.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand (Reds 3B, Age 23, Ranking 189)

Acquired in the Tyler Mahle deal with the Twins, Encarnacion-Strand has a bat-first profile.

Pro: Encarnacion-Strand impressed in spring training and there are playing time opportunities with the Reds.

Cons: Encarnacion-Strand is probably more of a first baseman or DH.  Encarnacion-Strand walked just five percent of the time at AA.

Five Prospects Outside of the Top 200

These are deep sleepers to make an impact at the major league level this summer.

Be sure to check out more excellent Fantasy Baseball content from the F6P team!

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