Welcome to the newest list to debut on the PitcherList site. The dynasty team is continuing to grow here as we have great content coming out weekly with everything from performance reports to a consistently awesome prospect podcast. Adding to the already great lineup, I now have the honor of bringing you a top prospect list for dynasty leagues. Before diving in, make sure to read through the ProspectList rules below.
- All players must have prospect eligibility.
- This list is only for prospects in the Minor Leagues, no Major League players are included.
- Maximum of 2 positions listed per player
- Primarily weighted for standard 5×5 leagues, but all league types are considered.
Top 50 Prospect Notes
What better way to start this list than talking about the player ranking at the very top. This might come as a surprise to many considering that Jordan Lawlar is not off to the fastest start in Double-A this season. Most prospect lists prefer the new flashy toy (Jackson Holliday who still ranks fourth on this list) or the toolsy Elly De La Cruz (who comes in at fifth), but I am sticking with Lawlar here, so hear me out and let me explain why.
Like Holliday, Lawlar is a former first-round pick who has seen early success in his career. He made his professional debut in 2021, but really took off last season. At just 19 years old, Lawlar made quick work of both Low-A and High-A before earning himself a promotion to Double-A. This trajectory sound familiar to anybody (Holliday is already in High-A during his first full professional season)? Overall on the year, Lawlar hit 16 home runs with 29 stolen bases and a .303 average. He also managed to maintain double-digit walk rates at each level he played at, which is impressive for a player so young.
One of the biggest concerns with Lawlar entering this season was a high ground ball rate. Jordan Walker is the most recent example of a prospect dominating Minor League pitching overshadowing launch angle issues resulting in struggles at the Major League level. Lawlar has lowered his ground ball rate from just under 50% last year, all the way down to 35.6% this year. He is getting the ball in the air more and has even managed to increase his pull percentage. Early in his career, Lawlar posted impressive HR/FB% rates which is one of the most sticky stats when forecasting future Major League success. More fly balls combined with a higher pull percentage should only increase his home run output. Not to mention, Lawlar is already up to ten stolen bases on the year. Despite a line drive rate of 24.7%, Lawlar’s BABIP is .239. That will not continue.
Okay, okay, okay so why Lawlar over Holliday? The success Holliday is experiencing in his first full season is reminiscent of the success Lawlar has already experienced. He is dominating the lower levels of the Minor Leagues flashing the power, hit tool, and speed that are eye-popping. The issue? A ground ball rate near 55%. I am going with Lawlar over Holliday because we are seeing Lawlar make the necessary adjustments to get the ball in the air already. Holliday still needs to prove he is capable of doing that if he wants to maintain this success at higher levels of competition. I might be in the minority, but Lawlar>Holliday at this point.
Heston Kjerstad stood out as a player that was important to hit on. Kjerstad comes in at 27th overall on this list and has been one of the most notable risers in most rankings early on this year. After being the second overall pick in 2020, Kjerstad dealt with health issues that prevented him from making his professional debut until last season. He got off to a fast start in Low-A before struggling in High-A and the Orioles opted to send him to the AFL for more work. He has not stopped hitting since. After winning the AFL MVP, Kjerstad is dominating Double-A pitching. He is slashing .304/.382/.589 with ten home runs and three steals.
The question with Kjerstad was never the raw tools. Throughout the draft process, he was known to have big-time power potential, but the issue was swing and miss concerns. He ran into some trouble in this area at High-A, but those struggles seem to be a thing of the past. So far in Double-A, Kjerstad has cut his strikeout rate down to 16%. A swinging strike rate of 15% prevents Kjerstad from moving even higher on this list, but the early returns are still encouraging. There is massive pop in his bat and his swing is smooth and consistent with the ability to use the whole field. He is going to be a doubles monster in the Major Leagues and deserves more attention than he is getting thanks to the loaded farm system he is a part of.
Back-Half Top 100 Prospect Notes
Before being drafted in the first round of the 2021 draft, many viewed Ty Madden as a bland prospect. What I mean is that sure, he had a high chance of making it to the Major Leagues, but what was really his ceiling? Back of the rotation? His wind-up lacked deception and he did not have any special movement or velocity to make up for this. Well, since joining the Tigers, the team has worked to completely transform him. They have changed his arm slot to add deception, added a sweeper to his repertoire all while failing to lose any of the attributes that made Madden so safe.
Madden saw a big strikeout jump after his promotion to Double-A which is when things really started to click. He posted a 2.78 ERA there last season and the Tigers decided to have him repeat Double-A to start 2023. So far, it has been more of the same for Madden who is striking out just under 30% of batters. His command seems to have improved, evidenced by the stark decline in home runs allowed. Madden deserves more recognition than he receives. He might not be the flashiest, but profiles as a mid-rotation arm who could be in the Major Leagues at some point later this year. This warrants a spot inside the top 100 on this list.
Most of the talk around Watson since the start of last season has been negative. High strikeout rates, poor attitude, and a surefire bust have been most of the discussions around the young prospect. How can I rank him inside my top 70 if that is the case? The answer is simple: upside. Watson has some of the biggest upside in the Minor Leagues and his maturity and improvements are going virtually unnoticed. Up until his benching on July 1st of last season, Watson was batting .221/.274/.372 with a 39.3% strikeout rate and a 6.0% walk rate. From that point forward, he hit .260/.371/.481 with a more manageable 26.6% strikeout rate and a 13.7% walk rate. These improvements went unnoticed as his swinging strike rate on the year was still 18.8%.
Flip the page to 2023, and Watson is making even more improvements. His strikeout rate? Down slightly to 26.2%. His walk rate? Up to 16.4%. His swinging strike? Down all the way to 11.4%. He has nine stolen bases in just 30 games while also making a conscious effort to pull the ball more. The early 2023 stats do not jump off the page but take these improvements and then watch the kind of raw power in Watson’s bat.
Kahlil Watson with his first homer since April 8th yesterday. Broke a 5-30 streak he was on with a two hit day.
— Fish on the Farm (@marlinsminors) May 22, 2023
Watson should be a top-100 prospect on all lists. I feel good about him at 69.
Prospect List Part 2
Prospects That Just Missed
Yu Min Lin, Arizona Diamondbacks
The case can be made that Yu-Min Lin should already be in the top 100. At 18 years old, Lin dominated the Complex League and carried that success to Low-A where he continued to accel. Now in 2023, Lin is showing the same dominant performance at High-A. He fits the stereotype of a “crafty-lefty” with a deceptive delivery paired with two plus breaking pitches and an excellent changeup. His deep arsenal helps keep hitters off balance leading to increased strikeout rates. The only thing holding Lin back from breaking the top 100 is the lack of fastball velocity. His strikeout rate has dipped this year at High-A and there are some concerns this trend could continue as the competition increases. Still, Lin is an exciting pitching prospect that you need to have on your radar.
The Rockies are known for taking projectable bats that leave fantasy managers dreaming about what their potential could look like in Coors Field. Unfortunately, they tend to struggle with development, and we are too often disappointed. Well, they might have found a special prospect in Jordan Beck. After posting solid numbers in his brief 2022 debut, Beck has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. He has already hit 13 home runs with an average north of .282. He made swing adjustments to get more launch on the ball which has resulted in more fly balls and fewer grounders. This change is fueling a home run outburst that is vaulting him closer to the top 100. He is 22 in High-A, so I would like to see him continue this success against tougher competition before I move him up further.
Deep Prospects to Note
Yeiner Fernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers always seem to turn up international catching prospects. Yeiner Fernandez might be the next name to attract attention. He pairs excellent contact skills with a mature understanding of the zone. His profile reminds me of Gabriel Moreno with a smooth swing path that is designed more for gap power than to launch balls out of the park. If he can lower his ground ball rate by just a little, he could really skyrocket up prospect lists. So far this year, he is hitting .283 with four home runs and two stolen bases.
Nobody thought twice about the Yankees taking Chase Hampton in the sixth round of the 2022 draft. However, they clearly saw something they could work with as he has already added two mph on his fastball and a cutter to his arsenal. The early results have been overwhelmingly positive as Hampton is striking out over 40% of the batters he faces. The Yankees have slowly been letting Hampton work deeper and deeper into games speaking to the belief he has what it takes to make it as a starter in the Major Leagues. New York might have found a diamond in the rough with Hampton. Now might be your last chance to get in before his name becomes even more popular.