It is difficult to believe that this season is about a third over and that I'm on my 5-30-23 edition of 5 Dynasty Baseball Prospect Risers that are in my Prospect Rankings.
One of the prospects discussed in the earlier edition of Five Dynasty Baseball Prospect Risers (Matt McLain) has become an impact major league with 181 wRC+ in his first 12 major league games, Fortunately, I put my money where my mouth is and have McLain on six different teams. Another prospect that was featured earlier this season, Junior Caminero, was promoted to AA while still a teenager.
Typically I feature prospects that are outside of the consensus top twenty-five prospects in baseball. However, this time I wanted a couple of prospects that have been particularly impressive in 2023 and they happen to be the top two prospects in my rankings.
Another prospect featured today has been on prospect lists going back to 2017.
Finally, the two pitching prospects that are featured today both were sixth-round picks in the 2021 draft.
5 Dynasty Baseball Prospect Risers 5-30-23
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Elly De La Cruz Reds, SS, Age 21 Ranking 1
When evaluating prospects it is nice to see a player show improvement in an area that was previously a weakness.
When the Reds signed Elly De La Cruz in July 2018 for $65,000 he was a very slender 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic and was not considered of the top prospects in the international free agent class. A lot can change in three years with a teenager.
In June 2021 when the short-season rookie league began, seemingly overnight De La Cruz went from an unknown to the talk of prospect evaluators. De La Cruz had filled out and turned into an athletic freak with a tremendous combination of raw power and speed He only played 11 games in the Arizona Complex League where De La Cruz had nine extra-base hits and .hit 400 earning a quick promotion to Single-A Daytona Beach.
Since a lot of the stadiums in the Florida State League are spring training facilities, Statcast data in 2021 were more readily available in the Florida State League than other minor league facilities. De La Cruz stood out at that time, especially with his speed and throwing arm. He had 26 extra-base hits in 50 games as a 19-year-old in full-season ball. He hit five homers and stole eight bases.
De La Cruz began 2022 at High A Dayton where the raw skills now resulted in big-time power and speed. In 73 games, Del La Cruz hit 20 homers and stole 28 bases in 32 attempts. On July 22nd Del La Cruz was promoted to AA Chatanooga. In 47 games, De La Cruz hit eight homers and stole 19 bases out of 21 attempts with a 134 wRC+ as a 20-year-old in the upper minors.
For the 2022 season, De La Cruz struck out at a 30.8% rate which was the big concern heading into 2023. De La Cruz strained his hamstring in spring training and began the 2023 season on the injured list.
De La Cruz was activated on April 20th. It took De La Cruz some time to get going. For the remainder of April, he hit .195 with a 41.9% strikeout rate. Once May began, De La Cruz has been on fire. In 23 games, he has nine homers including several with eye-popping exit velocities. During May, De La Cruz has a 500 wOBA and a 192 wRC+. However, most impressive is that in May, De La Cruz has a strikeout rate of just 21.2% and a walk rate of 15.8%.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 26, 2023
There is a question of when the Reds will call de La Cruz up and how quickly he will adjust to the majors. The Reds have a crowded infield and it is unclear how that will play out. However, not only is Elly De La Cruz my number-one prospect, since I began evaluating prospects in 2019, the 2023 version of Elly De La Cruz is the best prospect that I have seen.
Jackson Holliday, Orioles, SS, Age 19, Ranking 2
With the first pick in the draft, there is increased scrutiny of the team and the player that it selects. The Baltimore Orioles had the first pick in the 2020 draft and selected the consensus top choice, Adley Rutschman who has lived up to the hype.
The Orioles had the first pick again in 2022 and chose Jackson Holliday. This time it was not as much of a clear choice of the top player in the draft. Druw Jones, son of five-time All-Star, Andruw Jones was considered the top player by a lot of evaluators but never seemed to be the Orioles' choice. TeMarr Johnson, Elijah Greene, Jacob Berry, and Brooks Lee were some of the other players the Orioles reportedly considered.
Holliday, the son of seven-time All-Star, Matt Holliday, was not considered a top pick until the spring of 2022 when his added strength improved his draft stock. Holliday signed for 8.19 million which is slightly below slot and typical for the top pick.
After signing with the Orioles, Holliday essentially got his feet wet by playing eight games in the Florida Complex League and 12 games at Single-A Delmarva. After the season and in spring training there were reports about how impressive Holliday was looking.
This year it only took 13 games for Holliday to show that he did not belong in Single A any longer. Holiday went 20 to 51 with nine extra-base hits. Holliday was promoted to High A Aberdeen on Aberdeen.
In Aberdeen, Holliday has been even more impressive. In 27 games, has a 200 wRC with a .487 on-base percentage and 14 extra-base hits. On the season, Holliday has walked 36 times (19.6%) and struck out 35 times(19%).
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 21, 2023
The way Holliday is going, he will likely spend the second half of 2023 at AA Bowie and could make his major league debut in 2024 before his 21st birthday.
Ronny Mauricio Mets SS/2B Age 22 Ranking 20
It is hard to believe that Ronny Mauricio just turned 22 because it seems like he has been around for years. Mauricio was the Mets' big signing from the 2017 international free-agent class. He received a 2.1 million dollar bonus.
In a dynasty league that I am in, I traded for Maurcio after the 2018 season and traded him away after the 2019 season. Unlike superstars like Ronald Acuna Jr. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.,, Mauricio has not had instant success, it is been a gradual climb up the minor league ladder, and for a while, it was more about potential than production.
Mauricio always had a nice long body which gave him the look of a potential big-time power hitter once he filled out. The Mets were aggressive with Mauricio's early assignment. As a 17-year-old he skipped the Dominican Summer League and spent most of the year in the Gulf Coast League and even finished the year in the Appalachian League.
As a 19-year-old in 2019, he spent the entire year in the Full season Sally League where he had a 93 wRC+. After min league play resumed in 2021, Mauricio's in-game power surfaced with 19 homers in 100 games at Single-A Brooklyn before finishing the season at AA Binghamton.
Last year at Binghamton, Mauricio hit 26 homers and stole 20 bases but his on base percentage was just .296.
At AAA Syracuse this year, Maurcio got off to a fast start with six homers in the first 13 games. He has only one homer since April 22nd but has 22 doubles with a .346/.389/.576 line with nine steals and just a 14.9% strikeout rate.
Ronny Mauricio is the first player in baseball (MiLB/MLB) to hit 20 doubles this season.
— Mike Mayer (@mikemayer22) May 20, 2023
Defensively, Mauricio has only played shortstop prior to this year although it was speculated that he would eventually move to third base as he filled out. He obviously is blocked at shortstop by Francisco Lindor and at third base, Brett Baty is getting a shot before Mauricio. Mauricio has been playing a lot of second base later and there is some talk that Jeff McNeill could move to left field regularly to free up a role for Mauricio.
There is no question that Mauricio has taken a big step forward this year and his arrival in New York appears imminent.
Emmet Sheehan Dodgers RHP Age 23 Ranking 109
Whether it is due to good scouting or good player development, the Dodgers have a great farm system despite not having a draft pick before the 20th overall pick since 2013 when they selected Chris Anderson with the 8th overall pick. Anderson never made it to the upper minors.
Emmet Sheehan is a pitcher from the northeast with good size (6'5" 220 lbs). He was born in New York City and went to high school in Connecticut. Sheehan went to college at Boston College.
As a freshman, Sheehan only pitched 14 innings. During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Sheehan pitched 14.1 innings and gave up 13 earned runs, and walked 14 batters. In 2021 he also pitched in the Future Collegiate Baseball League where in 18.1 inning he struck out 34 batters but allowed 17 earned runs and walked 16 batters.
In 2021 Sheehan pitched 76.2 innings and showed improvement. His strikeout rate was 31.8% and he walked 34 batters. Sheehan had a 4.23 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. The Dodger selected Sheehan in the sixth round with the 192nd overall pick and he signed for a bonus of $244,500 which was just below slot.
Sheehan got his feet wet in pro ball pitching an inning in the Arizona Complex League, then 13 innings in Single-A and 1.2 innings in High A. Overall he struck out 34 batters in just 15.2 innings.
Last year Sheehan emerged as a legitimate prospect mostly at High A Great Lakes. He spent much of the first half of the year on the injured list. However, in seven games beginning on June 26th, Sheehan struck out 39.8% of batters while limiting hitters to a .169 batting average against. He was promoted to AA Tulsa for a couple of brief appearances at the end of the year.
Sheehan has been dominant at AA Tulsa all year so far. In April, Sheehan held batters to a .134 batting average while striking out 35 batters in 19.1 innings. He has been even better in May. In 24.2 innings Sheehan has allowed only one run and eight hits while striking out 41.
Emmet Sheehan was the "piggyback" starter for AA Tulsa & went 6 strong innings and struck out 9, walked just 2 and gave up just 1 run. He also got the W to move to 3-1 on the year and his ERA is 1.64, his WHIP is just 0.80 & he has 76 Ks to just 18 walks in 44 innings. #dodgers pic.twitter.com/n0KN9yfTfv
— Dodgers Daily (@dodger_daily) May 29, 2023
In college, Sheehan walked 14% of batters. In the last two years, his walk rate has improved to 10.9%. Control and developing a third pitch are the biggest question marks for Sheehan when he gets to the majors. Both the fastball and changeup are plus pitches.
If Sheehan keeps pitching like he has he is not going to be in Tulsa for much longer. The question is whether Sheehan will move up to AAA Oklahoma City or get called up to the majors. The Dodgers clearly do not have the major league pitching depth that they have had in recent years and Sheehan could be the solution.
Bryan Woo Mariners RHP Age 23 Ranking 155
In the 2021 draft, 18 picks before the Dodgers selected, Emmet Sheehan, the Mariners took a pitcher who had recently undergone Tommy John surgery. With Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Bryce Miller the Mariners have also had some good success at developing pitchers.
Bryan Woo was limited to 69 innings in three seasons at Cal Poly San Luis due to injuries and the pandemic. Woo's best work was as a sophomore in 2020 prior to the season being canceled when he worked out of the bullpen. In 2021 prior to getting injured in April he was inconsistent but showed promise with a 26.8% strikeout minus walk rate.
Woo finally made his pro debut last June. The Mariners eased him back with three short appearances in the Arizona Complex League. Woo then made six appearances at Single A Modesto totaling 20.2 innings. He finished the season with 32 innings at High A Everett. Woo struggled with consistency but showed his potential with a sensational game on August 19th when he pitched six scoreless innings allowing two hits and two walks while striking out 11 of 21 batters.
In the Arizona Fall League after the 2022 season, Woo was impressive going against more advanced hitters than he had previously faced. In 10.2 innings, Woo allowed only five hits and four hits while striking out 16.
Fully healthy this year, Woo has emerged as a top prospect at AA Arkansas. In four starts in April, Wood held batters to a .138 batting average with a 35.4% strikeout minus walk rate. Woo has not been quite as good in May but he still has a 2.33 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.
Meet Bryan Woo. M’s Double A - Arkansas
• 23 years old
• 8 starts
• 2.08 ERA
• 39 IP - 53 K’s - 10 BB
• Opposing batting average: .181pic.twitter.com/czH5OvVQm5
— Mitch Levy (@Mitch_Seattle) May 24, 2023
Woo has added velocity with his fastball consistently in the mid-nineties which tops out in the upper nineties. His secondary offerings are a slider and changeup. Woo's has the potential to have plus command.
It will be interesting to see how much Woo pitches this year. He has already thrown 44 innings this year. the 67.2 innings Wood pitched in 2022 during the regular minor league season plus the Arizona Fall League appears to be a career-high at any level.
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