50 MLB breakout prospect candidates to watch in 2023


With the start of the 2023 MLB season approaching, we’ve ranked the top 100 prospects in the game. Now it’s time to take a look at the players who didn’t make my list this year but could earn a spot on the top 100 going into next season.

This is an opportunity to look past just the scouting grade to find my personal picks to click going into the new season. The aim here is to sort through the 1,296 ranked prospects from my American League and National League team lists and project who will take the biggest steps forward onto next year’s top 100.

The parameters for this list are that the 129 prospects with a 50 future value or better on my scouting scale are not eligible, and for players in the 130-150 area of my rankings, I have to think they can land in the middle of my next top 100 rather than just sneak into the end of it.

I’m trying to predict which players will make the top 100 for 2024 — not 2025 — because prospects are eligible for a picks-to-click list only once, so I need to time it right. For this reason, many recent international signees who I do think can make my list eventually will be saved for when they’re closer to a full-season debut.

The players who fit my pick-to-click breakout criteria tend to fit into specific groupings, so here are the 50 candidates broken out by prospect type.

Position players

2022 draft picks to watch

Gavin Cross, RF, Kansas City Royals, 45+ FV (Rank: 160)
Drew Gilbert, CF, Houston Astros, 45+ FV (165)
Spencer Jones, RF, New York Yankees, 45+ FV (184)
Dylan Beavers, RF, Baltimore Orioles, 45 FV
Tucker Toman, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays, 45 FV
Jordan Beck, RF, Colorado Rockies, 45 FV
Cole Young, SS, Seattle Mariners, 45 FV
Tyler Locklear, 3B, Seattle Mariners, 45 FV
Mikey Romero, SS, Boston Red Sox, 45 FV
Jud Fabian, CF, Baltimore Orioles, 40+ FV

As you’d expect, there are several players here who were drafted in the top 50 picks last summer. Cross, Jones, Beavers, Toman, Beck and Locklear are all corner-based power-and-patience players who generally just need to produce in line with their tools for a year in A-ball to be in the conversation for a spot in my top 100. Gilbert, Young and Romero are bat-first, up-the-middle hitters who will be top-100 candidates with even fringy in-game power. Fabian is unique here because he has some qualities that fit both groups, with a key reason for optimism being that he plays in an Orioles system that should maximize his skill set.

Already in upper minors, with shot at a 2023 MLB debut

Zack Gelof, 2B, Oakland Athletics, 45+ FV (130)
Aaron Zavala, RF, Texas Rangers, 45+ FV (150)
Petey Halpin, CF, Cleveland Guardians, 45+ FV (164)
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Cincinnati Reds, 45+ FV (169)
Tyler Black, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers, 45+ FV (189)
Mason Auer, CF, Tampa Bay Rays, 45+ FV (194)
Addison Barger, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays, 45 FV

These guys have a shot to play in the majors this year, but their big league teams are all deep enough at their positions that I think they’ll get one more year of prospect status.

Black may have the best hit/approach projection in the minor leagues, but his power and position are questions. Of the center fielders, Auer has real power while Halpin has a more conventional hit-first profile for the position. Encarnacion-Strand has huge raw power but needs to tighten up his pitch selection to shoot up the list, which could take just enough time in Triple-A to allow him to keep his prospect status. Barger and Gelof are both well-rounded offensive threats who fit at second or third base while Zavala is a classic power-and-patience right fielder.

Up-the-middle prospects, still in lower minors

Carter Jensen, C, Kansas City Royals, 45+ FV (131)
Ethan Salas, C, San Diego Padres, 45+ FV (135)
Grant McCray, CF, San Francisco Giants, 45+ FV (147)
Dyan Jorge, SS, Colorado Rockies, 45+ FV (158)
Yiddi Cappe, SS, Miami Marlins, 45+ FV (173)
Aeverson Arteaga, SS, San Francisco Giants, 45+ FV (193)
Denzel Clarke, CF, Oakland Athletics, 45 FV

You might have seen Salas (pictured) looking like a savvy veteran behind the plate in a big league spring training game as a 16-year-old last week. He has been hyped as the best prospect in his age group for years, and he has a chance this year to take over the “best international prospect in the past few years” conversation. There have been only a handful of 16-year-old international signees who were even in consideration for the top 100 before they played a pro game — Jasson Dominguez, Wander Franco, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. come to mind — and Salas right now is just behind that group at the same stage.

Jorge and Cappe are both big bonus shortstops from Cuba who are likely to land in a top 100 soon. Arteaga is a slightly different sort of player, but was also a notable prospect when he signed out of Venezuela. Clarke has absurd physical skills and just needs to make more contact. Jensen and McCray were both outside of the top tier as prep prospects and have hit more than expected in the low minors while retaining their defensive value.

Trending toward corner spots

Josue De Paula, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers, 45 FV (League: DSL)
Yeison Morrobel, RF, Texas Rangers, 45 FV (CPX/Lo-A)
Anthony Gutierrez, RF, Texas Rangers, 45 FV (DSL/CPX)
Yasser Mercedes, RF, Minnesota Twins, 40+ FV (DSL)
Yordany De Los Santos, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates, 40+ FV (DSL)

These guys are mostly defensive tweeners who are young enough that their exact position is still a question, but I tend to think they’ll continue adding bulk and power and sliding to a corner. These players are also recent international signees who are mostly notable for bat speed and raw power at signing. They are candidates to fill the spots at the end of the list that were taken this year by Miguel Bleis (95), Junior Caminero (97), Samuel Zavala (99), Cristian Santana (107) and Cristian Hernandez (113) on the strength of their first full seasons out of the Dominican Summer League.

De Paula, Mercedes and De Los Santos spent all of 2022 in the DSL, while Gutierrez started there and got a complex league look late in the summer. Morrobel is a year ahead after splitting 2022 between the complex and Low-A. There are about 12-15 other strong candidates to fill those back-of-the-list slots for next year’s rankings, but there’s a low probability for anyone without full-season experience to make the top 100. So you’ll instead see a lot of those names as next year’s picks to click.


Recently drafted prep pitchers

Bubba Chandler, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates, 45+ FV (159)
Brandon Barriera, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays, 45+ FV (161)
Owen Murphy, RHP, Atlanta Braves, 45 FV
Noah Schultz, LHP, Chicago White Sox, 45 FV
JR Ritchie, RHP, Atlanta Braves, 45 FV
Jacob Miller, RHP, Miami Marlins, 45 FV
Walter Ford, RHP, Seattle Mariners, 40+ FV

This is basically a group of potential answers to the question, “Who will be the Andrew Painter or Ricky Tiedemann of 2023?” as prep pitchers who shoot up the list in their first full pro season. I’ve also included Chandler, the lone 2021 draftee among these 2022 draftees. He was a two-way and two-sport athlete in high school, so his reps as a pitcher are more on par with this group. Basically every pitcher in this group projects to eventually have a plus fastball and breaking ball along with the physical skills for starter command — but given their age and arm speed, the 2023 outcomes will vary a lot.

Recently drafted college pitchers

Griff McGarry, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies, 45+ FV (138)
Nick Nastrini, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers, 45+ FV (188)
Cade Horton, RHP, Chicago Cubs, 45 FV
Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals, 45 FV
Spencer Schwellenbach, RHP, Atlanta Braves, 45 FV
Mason Miller, RHP, Oakland Athletics, 45 FV
Reggie Crawford, LHP, San Francisco Giants, 45 FV
Thomas Harrington, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates, 45 FV
Jacob Misiorowski, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers, 40+ FV

All of these players are college pitchers from the past two draft classes with slightly different cases to shoot up my rankings. McGarry, Nastrini, Schwellenbach and Miller will make my top 100 next year if they can stay healthy, get the ball over the plate and continue to show the stuff we’ve seen from them. Hjerpe could Aaron Nola his way through the minors (by moving quickly as a crafty low-slot starter after dominating at a big school), but I think St. Louis’ pitching depth will keep him from debuting this season. Horton, Crawford and Misiorowski have limited innings pitching at their current performance level, but they will probably make the top 100 if they keep up doing what we last saw from them. Crawford missed 2022 with Tommy John surgery, while the other two showed improved stuff in 2022. Harrington is a gut-feel guy who is above average at everything, but has basically one year of scouting history because he was a later-bloomer at Campbell.

Starters who could rise

Nick Frasso, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers, 45+ FV (139)
Dax Fulton, LHP, Miami Marlins, 45+ FV (140)
Abner Uribe, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers, 45 FV
Marco Raya, RHP, Minnesota Twins, 45 FV
Bryan Woo, RHP, Seattle Mariners, 40+ FV

Frasso is a later-bloomer from Loyola Marymount who hit triple digits for Toronto in his return from Tommy John surgery before being traded to Los Angeles. He is another of my gut-feel guys but also has strong pitch data to support his breakout chances. Fulton also might be in my top 100 by the late spring, and he and Frasso both could be in the middle of my top 100 for next year if they demonstrate the mid-rotation upside that I think they possess. Woo has excellent feel for solid-average stuff while Uribe is into triple digits on his fastball and has a plus-plus slider — but hasn’t thrown many innings or strikes thus far. Raya is somewhere between those two, with excellent bat-missing characteristics to his fastball/breaker combo, but has thrown only 65 pro innings.

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