With 120 teams and 5,000+ players spread throughout four levels (not to mention the Dominican Summer League and the Rookie Complex leagues in Arizona and Florida,) identifying the next prospect breakout can be difficult. If you wait until end-of-season wrap-ups, a prospect may get too much coverage and no longer be available. You can scout stat lines all year, but that can be tedious, and it’s difficult to keep an eye on every tweet and post. We may have renamed this column but fear not, intrepid dynasty league manager, this is still THE place to find your potential prospect diamonds in the rough.
For those unfamiliar, this is a weekly column where I’ll select four prospects (typically 2 hitters and 2 pitchers) who performed outstandingly well during the week prior. Not only will you get a name, but also we’ll dive into what powered their results and where their future value stands. “But,” you may think to yourself, “what makes this column so different than any of the countless other blurbs, rundowns, and general prospect lists that are published?” Glad you asked!
First and foremost, this column is dedicated to the deep dynasty manager. If you’re in an 18-team league, or rostering 30+ minor leaguers, then this is your spot.
Secondly, and I don’t want to honk my horn (toot toot) but in year 1, we had a pretty solid track record of recognizing some names that have risen in value entering this season, including Kyle Manzardo, Yainer Diaz, Evan Carter, Justin Dirden, and Will Benson.
With that said, let’s get to this week’s prospects…
Player of the Week: 1B Tyler Locklear, SEA, High A
Stats: (6 games) 8-23, 1 double, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 7 runs, 1 SB
I’m proud to say I made it all the way to Week 6 before writing up a player I already have rostered. I call that progress! In all seriousness, I try not to make this column just a rundown of players on my farm but after the week that Locklear just had, it didn’t make sense not to include him.
Tyler Locklear blasts a game tying HR in the 7th! pic.twitter.com/baAd8i7P0Y
— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) May 20, 2023
The power was a known quantity when Locklear was drafted last year out of VCU, but there were remaining questions about where he would end up (he played 3B collegiately, but has the body and range of a 1B) and whether there was more than a fringe hit tool to go with his enormous power. So far, playing 1B has worked well, and about that hit tool…
This reads like a Who’s Who of prospects: The boy wonder Caminero, previous Watchlist members Rushing and Fernandez, along with some potential future write-ups (looking at you Dezenzo and Zebrowski!) Locklear has also been sporting a 74.5% contact rate, so the hit tool seems just fine. Locklear has a swing that matches his body type: muscular. It’s not the prettiest but it’s definitely functional, allowing him to extend his arms and drive pitches up in the zone to all parts of the field. Now’s probably the last chance to get in low for Locklear, he’s due for a promotion to AA and if he duplicates these numbers in Arkansas, it’ll be too little too late for you, my friend.
Honorable Mention: OF Chris Newell, LAD, Low A
Stats: (6 games) 10-26, 2 doubles, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 9 runs, 1 SB
Chalking this one up to just searching through the past week’s worth of stats and looking for anyone who jumps out. I had never heard of 13th round draft pick Chris Newell before this week, but now I’m all sorts of intrigued. Okay, let’s remove the Dodgers’ halo of prospect invincibility and really look at what he’s bringing to the table. At Virginia, Newell improved in almost every major offensive category year over year, finishing his draft season with a respectable .258/.385/.468 line, 12 HRs, and 16 stolen bases. Not a world-beater, but not too shabby. Flash-forward to this season, and he’s bringing in a .292/.409/.631 triple slash along with 12 homers already and 7 stolen bases.
Armed with an unorthodox stance (he pretty much stands like you do for wiffleball), with the bat held chest high, parallel to his body, Newell has sneaky pop and good athleticism. Color me interested to watch where he goes.
Pitcher of the Week: SP Kyle Hurt, LAD, High A
Stats: (1 start) 4 IP, 0 ER, 2 hits, 0 BB, 10 Ks
Well, if Hurt skyrockets into top 100 status over the next 6 months, this was the start of his ascension. The arm talent was noted by analysts after he was drafted from USC in 2021, but the major hurdle was his lack of control (the 4.24 BB/9 in his draft year was his best in college.)
Kyle Hurt was just about untouchable for the @TulsaDrillers.
The No. 28 @Dodgers prospect struck out 10 in only four frames: pic.twitter.com/slSF3eWYb3
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 20, 2023
The above video is heavy on Hurt’s fastball, but you also see him display the slider and curveball that he offers, generating whiffs on both. So far Hurt’s second go-round at AA has produced the numbers to finally go with his stuff. If this keeps up, chalk up yet another Dodger arm preparing to make a MLB splash soon.
Honorable Mention: SP Cory Lewis, MIN, Low A
Stats: (2 starts) 9.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 hits, 2 BBs, 19 Ks
I’ve stated previously that I tend to ignore Low A pop-up arms, as the variance of outcomes just between levels of A ball is severe. That said, Lewis’ two starts and his overall 2023 season caught my eye, and I figured I owed him at least the mention. Reading scouting reports as he came out of UCSB last year as a 9th round pick, the headline is the knuckleball. That’s right, a knuckleball! Paired with a low-90’s fastball, both slider & curve along with a change-up, Lewis has a junk-baller’s pitch mix, but has been able to execute at an optimal level. That fastball by the way? Don’t sleep on it, it’s reportedly as big a part of Lewis’ profile as the knuckleball, armed with deceptive ride for such below average velocity thanks to some unique spin. Lewis is a great stash and simmer, someone to let sit on the back-end of your farm and not touch for a while. His repertoire is unique, and whether it’s as a middle of the rotation starter, bullpen ace, or high leverage reliever, there’s a good chance we see him as a major league pitcher in the next few years.
How come Jackson Holliday isn’t on the high A list? He meets all the criteria and his OPS is 1.229