What if I told you some of the best prospects in baseball weren’t even old enough to drink yet? This is a look at the next generation of potential MLB stars. Instead of being a strict countdown from #20 to #1, I’ve arranged this article in alphabetical order. To be eligible, all players had to be 19 years old or younger after March 30, 2023 (ages are denoted in parenthesis). Let’s get to know this group of teen phenoms!
OF Jace Avina, MIL (19)
2022: .272/.392/.557, 15 HR, 54 RBI, 44 runs, 4 SBs
64 games combined between Complex/ Low A
Avina immediately jumps off the page when you see the 15 HRs in 64 games. They’re no gimmes either, as his balanced set-up and quick rotation through the zone allow him to get around on pitches, tapping into pull-side power. Unfortunately, the swing itself is a steep uppercut, tilting Avina’s flyball percentage (53%) into an extreme that’s detracting rather than helpful. Additionally, the same uppercut is mostly responsible for Avina’s grisly strikeout numbers (34.2% at Complex, 35% at Low A). Either a swing adjustment needs to occur, which could neutralize some of Avina’s natural power or he needs to become increasingly more selective in order to maximize attacking pitches down in the zone that he can elevate. 2023 will tell us if the Brewers can help Avina make the according changes.
OF Jackson Chourio, MIL (18)
2022: .288/.342/.538, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 75 runs, 16 SBs
99 games combined between Low/High A/AA
Chourio is coming off of one of the most accomplished seasons for a player too young to vote that we’ve ever witnessed. Detractors may point out that Chourio’s stats decreased from level to level, including a less impressive 6 game stint at AA Biloxi to finish 2022. But when you look at how Chourio dominated Low A and displayed a game-breaking skillset at High A, you become less cynical. Chourio’s power is may seem surprising given his small stature but similar to short kings like Betts and Altuve, Chourio uses his incredibly quick hands to get the barrel to pitches and create natural backspin to lift balls. The small sample of AA did contain an alarmingly high swinging strike rate but this year should indicate whether that was signal or noise.
3B Cam Collier, CIN (17)
2022 season: .370/.514/.630, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 7 runs
9 games played in Arizona Complex League
Collier is one of several top picks from the most recent MLB draft that will appear on this list. Currently listed at 6’2, 210 lbs, Collier has a frame that could still add muscle as he matures and his potential is higher than many of the other names below. He possesses 50-grade raw power and above-average pitch recognition for his age, with the arm and footwork to remain a cornerstone at third for a decade. Having reclassified for this past year’s draft, Collier spent his spring season at a JUCO, Chipola College, where he hit .333 with 8 HRs over 52 games. The competition may not have been D1 level, but it showed Collier’s not afraid of competing against older talent. A lot of things still have to come together for Collier to come close to what fantasy managers hope he’ll be, look for 2023 to be a year spent in Low A.
3B Deyvison De Los Santos, ARI (19)
2022: .306/.348/.499, 22 HR, 106 RBI, 72 runs, 5 SB
126 games played in Low A
Built like a tank, De Los Santos (or DDLS, if you’re into the whole brevity thing), puts a charge into the ball almost anytime he gets a bat on it. Even with his risk, there’s a path to a .220/.300/.450 hitter with 20+ HRs, that’s just based on his power output. That said, if he can begin to mitigate this risk by swinging & missing less while taking more pitches, he could max out in the .245/.345/.500 space with 30+ HRs. He is almost guaranteed to become a full-time DH or 1B by the time he makes his major league debut as he lacks the range for 3B and the footwork for a corner OF position.
3B Gleider Figuereo, TEX (18)
2022: .269/.349/.550, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 29 runs, 7 SBs/1CS
41 games combined between Rookie/Low A
Here’s a name not yet well known. Figuereo stood out among his DSL peers with his ability to spray line drives around the field. The next step will be developing the rest of his hit tool, specifically, pitch recognition. There’s still a good bit unknown with Figuereo but this season will serve as a great initial litmus test, as he should spend most of it at Low A Down East.
P Walter Ford, SEA (17)
Did Not Pitch in 2022
The youngest player in the 2022 MLB Draft, Ford has yet to make his pro debut as the Mariners promptly kept the teenage right-hander on the shelf after he completed his last season at Pace HS. Ford has the type of eccentric personality that belies his ability (see: his Vanilla Missle merchandise) but make no mistake, the kid comes ready to play when on the mound. Looking at him, he could easily grow another inch or two while adding more muscle. His fastball touches 97 and the Mariners have had him attend their “Gas Camp” with other organizational prospects to begin the process of refining his pitch mix. Look for Ford to begin 2023 in Low A but he could move through levels exceedingly fast.
OF Gabriel Gonzalez, SEA (18)
2022: .321/.410/.468, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 51, 9 SBs
90 games between Complex/Low A
A popular name in deep league circles in 2021, Gonzalez made his stateside debut last season, first in the ACL before playing the majority of the year with Low A Modesto. Gonzalez has a quick bat and compact swing to drive the ball. Additionally, his foot speed and reaction time are good enough to man all 3 OF positions. Gonzalez will need to log more plate appearances against stiffer competition to really show his capability.
OF Elijah Green, WAS (19)
2022: 302/.404/.535, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 9 runs, 1 SB
12 games at Rookie level (Florida Complex League)
Green’s calling card is his ability to drive the ball…far. A swing that generates what some would call “effortless” power, the question coming into Green’s draft season was whether he could cut down on his swing and miss. He mostly did and entered the 2022 MLB draft looking more polished than when he first landed on the scene. That said, he has to stay consistent in his plate discipline, especially once he starts to see more experienced arms with better command. An Elijah Green with a sub 26% K rate and a 75% Z-Contact rate is likely enough to be an incredible middle-of-the-order hitter, if he improves more than that, he could easily develop into one of the most dangerous sluggers in the game.
SS Jackson Holliday, BAL (19)
2022 season: .297/.489/.422, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 14 runs, 4 SBs
20 games between Rookie/Low A
Holliday has become a near-consensus 1.1 pick in FYPDs in the months following his pro debut, a likely result both of Druw Jones’ season-ending injury as well as Holliday’s flash of plus tools. His swing is well-tuned to barrel pitches in just about every area of the zone while his plate discipline so far position him as an above-average hitter for swing decisions. It’s really just a matter of seasoning for Holliday, the Orioles are likely to move him slowly (see: Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschmann) so don’t expect to see him in the big league Black & Orange any time soon. In the meantime, it should be fun to watch him improve month over month.
2B Termarr Johnson, PIT (18)
2022: .222/.366/.365, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 7 runs, 6 SBs/1 CS
23 games combined between Rookie/Low A
There was a moment in 2021 when Termarr Johnson was considered the top overall prospect and potential #1 overall pick in the draft. While his peers surpassed him in terms of appealing potential, Johnson still represents an incredibly high upside. What has been shared about his batted ball data both as a prep baller and during his pro debut, indicates a hitter who creates exceptional exit velocities. Additionally, Johnson has long been praised for his discipline at the plate. The stolen bases are unlikely to tick up as Johnson has average foot speed and could slow as he ages. That said, eyes will be on his power; can those EVs and plus bat speed turn translate into homers or will his game power always lag behind his raw power? If everything comes together, Johnson could be both a .300 hitter with 25+ HRs, something only 5 players did in the majors last season (2 of whom were league MVPs).
OF Druw Jones, ARI (19)
Did Not Play in 2022 (Shoulder injury)
Jones is likely to be treated with even softer gloves than Holliday after suffering a shoulder injury before taking his first pro AB. Coupled with Corbin Carroll and Jordan Lawlar, this is now the 3rd D’Backs prospect to fall victim to a season-ending injury of the shoulder. While Carroll seems to have returned to full strength, you can bet that Arizona will slow-roll Jones through Low A likely for the entire season while he catches up to his draft class. Similar to Holliday, it’s less of a question of if his tools will translate into sustainable skills and more of a waiting game to see if he’s able to maximize every part of his potential.
SS Carlos Jorge, CIN (19)
2022: .261/.405/.529, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 32 runs, 27 SBs
42 games in Arizona Complex League
Jorge has been bubbling over the past couple of years, first wowing analysts with his unique mix of power and speed in the DSL before coming stateside for an abbreviated Low A stint in 2022. The power and speed are real but the hit tool can be fringy so there’s still development left for Jorge before he can elevate into the top 100 conversations. He made the rounds on Twitter this past month at hitter workouts with arms that peak Hulk Hogan would find jaw-dropping. Whether his 22-inch pythons help him make better contact is still in question.
P Yu-Min Lin, ARI (19)
91 Ks, 2.72 ERA, 1.101 WHIP, 30.5% K-BB
56.1 IP combined between Complex/Low A
Over the past 3 seasons, Arizona has suddenly become a haven for talented pitching prospects of every flavor. Add Min to the list as the young left-hander struck out almost 100 batters in his first pro season as an 18-year-old. As one would suspect, Min’s nearly invisible WHIP and K/BB ratios increased after his promotion. But even then he showed the ability to limit HRs (2 HRs), generate whiffs (12.7 SwStr rate), and keep walks about average (11.4%). The next step for Lin will be learning how to increase his strand rate from the mid-60s along with decreasing his LD% so he can be more effective longer into starts.
SS Jackson Merrill, SDP (19)
2022: .325/.387/.482. 5 HR, 34 RBI, 33 runs, 8 SBs
45 games between Complex/Low A
Merrill represents a bit of a Rorschach test for dynasty managers, as some see a player already showing a mature approach and simple swing mechanics to drive the ball as a lefty. Others see a somewhat passive player who could never hit for enough power given his position. Whichever way you slice it, Merrill has already shown above-average plate discipline and is still looking to learn. He looked comfortable against more age/talent-appropriate at Low A Lake Elsinore but was mostly neutralized as a hitter in the 2022 Arizona Fall League. If Merrill doesn’t allow passivity to dominate his game, he has 3+ contributor tools that could help any contender in fantasy baseball.
P Andrew Painter, PHI (19)
2022: 155 Ks, 1.56 ERA, .887 WHIP, 32.4% K-BB
103 IP combined between Low A/High A/AA
The rise of Andrew Painter from April 2022 until now has been amazing to watch. Painter was seen as more polished than his 2020 compatriot Mick Abel but no one imagined him being this good this fast. Painter’s pitch mix was already major league ready, from his four-seam fastball sitting 95-97 MPH to his two distinct breaking balls that he’s shown the ability to throw in any count. What’s most impressive has been the command and control of Painter so early in his career. Where many 18-19-year-olds would struggle to consistently throw a slider and a curve as strikes to either side of the plate, Painter has demonstrated the repeatability of his mechanics in generating in and out-of-zone whiffs without giving up walks hardly ever. A year ago, Grayson Rodriguez was the industry standard as the top pitcher in the minors. Now, Painter comes into the new season ready to throw that assumption out of the window.
P Eury Perez, MIA (19)
2022: 110 Ks, 4.08 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 26% K-BB
77 IP combined between High A/AA
The 6’8 Perez first appeared on dynasty radars in 2021, dominating A ball with an explosive fastball paired with above-average secondaries. 2022 brought more of the same as Perez faced AA hitters with little resistance. That said, he is a 19-year-old pitcher with only 2 years of pro experience and is bound to show some negative regression. One thing to keep an eye on (like most young pitchers) is his innings pitched in ’23. Having yet to get to 100 IP logged in a single season, he showed some fatigue as the season wore on, culminating in a 4-walk, 2-inning outing to finish his year in the AA Southern Championship.
C Edgar Quero, LAA (19)
2022: .312/.435/.530, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 86 runs, 12 SBs
111 games at Low A
Quero is likely the best catching prospect you haven’t yet heard of (depending on your familiarity with Endy Rodriguez). While the track record for teen catchers developing into substantial MLB backstops is checkered, Quero checks many of the boxes that you want to see including stamina. Having played in more than 670 innings at catcher this past season, Quero demonstrated the ability to wear the “tools of ignorance” and still have enough left in his legs to post an incredibly well-rounded offensive season. The power isn’t a plus but it should be good enough to stay in the mid-teens at a major league level while he could remain a contributor in stolen bases (5-7) thanks to his surprisingly quick feet. His defense is passable, he has a strong enough arm although his caught-stealing record was less than optimal (25%) and his number of errors ballooned to 12. Switch-hitting catchers always sound great even if they hardly ever work out. Quero will look to be the exception to the rule.
SS Jose Salas, MIN (19)
2022: .250/.339/.384, 9 HR, 41 RBI, 69 runs, 33 SBs
109 combined between Low/High A
Like Maverick and Goose in ’86, Salas feels the need…for speed, swiping more than double the number of bases as his pro debut. Unfortunately, like so many young, speed-first, infield types, Salas struggles to make solid contact consistently. The inconsistency renders his base-stealing prowess moot although the near 50% pull-side contact may not be as damaging in the majors when considering the changes in shifting.
P Jarlin Susana, WSH (19)
2022: 66 Ks, 2.40 ERA, 1.067 WHIP, 25.7% K-BB
45 IP combined between Complex/Low A
Susana made his pro debut for the Padres this season before being sent East as part of the Juan Soto trade. His big fastball is the calling card; previously clocked at 103 MPH, it’s a beast of a pitch with characteristics that seem to make it big league ready right now. His slider is his other plus offering, with nasty bite down and away to right-handed hitters. With a limited number of innings under his belt so far, Susana will have to build up endurance as a starter. Of course, there’s always a chance that with this deadly of a 1-2 combo, the Nationals eventually move him to the bullpen and develop him as the game’s next great high-leverage reliever.
OF Samuel Zavala, SDP (18)
2022: .272/.366/.530, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 30 runs, 5 SBs
43 games combined between Rookie/Low A
Similar to Figuereo, Zavala flashed all five tools at some point in the season but will need to demonstrate them with consistency in 2023. His strikeout rate still is slightly elevated but conversely, he was able to work double-digit walk rates at both levels while making close to 70% contact at Low A. In the batter’s box, Zavala starts from a still upright position, a big leg kick and wide stride towards the ball are his initial moves. His hands traveling backwards away from his head before exploding through could create some length in his swing causing more whiffs and mis-hit pitches.
Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)