Image credit: Jackson Holliday (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Best tools winners are voted on by league managers.
|Category||Eastern (AA)||Southern (AA)||Texas (AA)|
|Best Batting Prospect||Jackson Holliday||Jackson Chourio||Evan Carter|
|Bowie (Orioles)||Biloxi (Brewers)||Frisco (Rangers)|
|Best Power Prospect||James Wood||Owen Caissie||Joey Loperfido|
|Harrisburg (Nationals)||Tennessee (Cubs)||Corpus Christi (Astros)|
|Best Strike-Zone Judgment||Jasson Dominguez||Tyler Black||Evan Carter|
|Somerset (Yankees)||Biloxi (Brewers)||Frisco (Rangers)|
|Best Baserunner||Ceddanne Rafaela||Nasim Nuñez||Luisangel Acuña|
|Portland (Red Sox)||Pensacola (Marlins)||Frisco (Rangers)|
|Fastest Baserunner||Johan Rojas||Mason Auer||Jonatan Clase|
|Reading (Phillies)||Montgomery (Rays)||Arkansas (Mariners)|
|Best Pitching Prospect||Ricky Tiedemann||Eury Perez||Emmet Sheehan|
|New Hampshire (Blue Jays)||Pensacola (Marlins)||Tulsa (Dodgers)|
|Best Fastball||Ricky Tiedemann||Jacob Misiorowski||Emmet Sheehan|
|New Hampshire (Blue Jays)||Biloxi (Brewers)||Tulsa (Dodgers)|
|Best Breaking Pitch||Orion Kerkering||Connor Phillips||Prelander Berroa|
|Reading (Phillies)||Chattanooga (Reds)||Arkansas (Mariners)|
|Best Changeup||Carson Whisenhunt||Patrick Monteverde||Devin Sweet|
|Richmond (Giants)||Pensacola (Marlins)||Arkansas (Mariners)|
|Best Control||Richard Fitts||Sean Hunley||Landon Knack|
|Somerset (Yankees)||Montgomery (Rays)||Tulsa (Dodgers)|
|Best Reliever||Luis Guerrero||Jefry Yan||Devin Sweet|
|Portland (Red Sox)||Pensacola (Marlins)||Arkansas (Mariners)|
|Best Defensive C||Drew Romo||Will Banfield||Pedro Pages|
|Hartford (Rockies)||Pensacola (Marlins)||Springfield (Cardinals)|
|Best Defensive 1B||Grant Lavigne||Haydn McGeary||Robbie Tenerowicz|
|Hartford (Rockies)||Tennessee (Cubs)||Arkansas (Mariners)|
|Best Defensive 2B||Nick Yorke||Nasim Nuñez||Ryan Bliss|
|Portland (Red Sox)||Pensacola (Marlins)||Amarillo (D-backs)|
|Best Defensive 3B||Chase Meidroth||BJ Murray Jr.||Kody Hoese|
|Portland (Red Sox)||Tennessee (Cubs)||Tulsa (Dodgers)|
|Best Defensive SS||Marcelo Mayer||Luis Vazquez||Jordan Lawlar|
|Portland (Red Sox)||Tennessee (Cubs)||Amarillo (D-backs)|
|Best Infield Arm||Julio Carreras||Nasim Nuñez||Luisangel Acuña|
|Hartford (Rockies)||Pensacola (Marlins)||Frisco (Rangers)|
|Best Defensive OF||Johan Rojas||Pete Crow-Armstrong||Victor Scott II|
|Reading (Phillies)||Tennessee (Cubs)||Springfield (Cardinals)|
|Best OF Arm||Matt Gorski||Yoelqui Cespedes||Jose Ramos|
|Altoona (Pirates)||Birmingham (White Sox)||Tulsa (Dodgers)|
|Most Exciting Player||Jackson Holliday||Jackson Chourio||Jordan Lawlar|
|Bowie (Orioles)||Biloxi (Brewers)||Amarillo (D-backs)|
|Best Manager Prospect||Callix Crabbe||Kevin Randel||Mike Freeman|
|Altoona (Pirates)||Pensacola (Marlins)||Arkansas (Mariners)|
Chourio Gets In The Swing
The Brewers’ Jackson Chourio finished his breakthrough 2022 season at Double-A as an 18-year-old. No hitter that young had reached that high since Fernando Tatis Jr. in 2017 or Bryce Harper in 2011.
Chourio returned to Biloxi on Opening Day this year as the only 19-year-old at Double-A. The center fielder did not light the world on fire in the first half, hitting .249/.304/.410 with 11 home runs and a 21% strikeout rate in 71 games.
But not everything is as it seems.
The Southern League experimented with a pre-tacked baseball in the first half that gave pitchers a consistent grip on the ball. It had the effect of improving spin rate and command of breaking pitches and fastballs, especially riding four-seamers up in the zone.
The SL ditched the pre-tacked baseball when the second half began on July 14. In his first 30 games coming out of the break, Chourio batted .346/.401/.554 with six homers and 15% strikeouts.
Chourio’s batted-ball data was equally bullish. According to Synergy, he improved his swinging-strike and chase rates when the SL moved to a standard baseball in the second half. He also swung much less frequently overall.
Chourio saw his greatest gains against fastballs. His chase rate against them dropped from 33% to 21%. His swinging-strike rate improved slightly 18% to 17%. Most dramatic was his change in swing rate versus fastballs, which fell from 53% to 39%.
Most of Chourio’s improvement against fastballs occurred with heaters high in the zone—the pitch type on which pitchers received the biggest performance boost with the pre-tacked ball.
That’s great news for Chourio, whose five-tool center fielder projection looks better today than it did in the spring.
Tiedemann Balances Risk With Tantalizing Upside
Injuries annually rob fans of great performances. Blue Jays lefthander Ricky Tiedemann’s season falls within that category this season.
The 21-year-old flamethrower impressed Eastern League managers so much that he earned Best Pitching Prospect and Best Fastball despite missing all of May, June and July while sidelined with a biceps injury
No other pitcher flashed the moments of dominance that Tiedemann did when he was on the mound. While his results were up and down—he ran a 6.75 ERA through 18.2 innings for New Hampshire—no pitcher in the league could match his pure power.
Tiedemann sits 95-97 mph and mixes in a devastating plus-plus changeup and a plus sweeping slider. He can overpower hitters while controlling both sides of the plate when his command is locked in.
His ability to land three pitch shapes with unique traits and good separation off of his fastball makes Tiedemann a unique pitcher—but especially so as a lower-slot lefthander. Tiedemann possesses a premium mix of pure stuff, pitchability and deception that places him among the elite pitching prospects.
The concerns regarding his viability as a starter are very real. Tiedemann had not exceeded 70 pitches or four innings since July 8, 2022. His health and durability are major concerns, and he struggled with command this season upon returning from a biceps injury.
Still, Tiedemann’s potential as a high-risk, high-reward lefthander with ace upside is clear.
Precocious Perez Shoots To The Top
Marlins righthander Eury Perez began the season as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He eventually moved into the top spot and then spent two stints in MLB showing that the hype was very, very real.
As ever, the massive, 20-year-old Perez showcased a combination of high-end stuff and precocious athleticism. In concert, both of those traits added up to a pitcher able to dominate some of the finest hitters in the big leagues.
Perez made his big league debut on May 12 after six starts for Pensacola. He earned his first win a week later by spinning five one-run innings against the Nationals.
After electrifying the majors for 11 starts, Perez was sent back to Double-A for a month. Once he returned to Miami, he took two starts to find his groove again before he turned in the best outing of his career on Aug. 19.
Facing the Dodgers, Perez struck out 10 over six innings of two-hit, no-walk ball. The outing was his first as a big leaguer with double-digit strikeouts.
Perez is one of just 17 pitchers age 20 or younger to make at least 10 starts in a season in the past 30 years.
For the last two seasons, Perez has been lauded as one of the highest ceiling pitching prospects in baseball.
He proved it in 2022 with a standout turn as the youngest pitcher in the Southern League, then reaffirmed his stock with two more stints in Double-A in 2023. In both seasons, he was SL managers’ pick as Best Pitching Prospect.
Based on the results, hitters in the Southern League should be breathing a sigh of relief with the knowledge that Perez is finally gone for good.
Player Spotlight: Jordan Lawlar
D-backs shortstop Jordan Lawlar is one of the finest power-speed prospects in baseball.
In his time with Double-A Amarillo he hit .263/.366/.474 with 15 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 89 games.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing in the Texas League. Lawlar hit just .168 with 30% strikeouts through his first 34 games for Amarillo. His swing got out of whack and he tended to chase high fastballs
That adversity may have paid off in the long run for the 21-year-old Lawlar.
In his final 55 games in the Texas League he put up a .957 OPS with a strikeout rate just shy of 17%.
That made Lawlar a prime candidate for Most Exciting Player in the Texas League, which he won in Best Tools voting.
More surprising was Lawlar’s win for Best Defensive Shortstop.
He was a bit error-prone in his 2022 full-season debut—.912 fielding percentage—but shoring up his defensive work was a primary goal for Lawlar in 2023.
Lawlar’s athletic ability and plus arm help him make highlight-reel plays. Now he has improved the consistency of his fundamentals to make routine plays with much greater frequency.
Prospect Showdown: James Wood vs. Owen Caissie
The Padres hit big on consecutive second-round picks, drafting Owen Caissie in 2020 and James Wood in 2021. Both were traded for marquee players—Caissie to the Cubs in the Yu Darvish deal and Wood to the Nationals in the Juan Soto deal—and have emerged as premier power prospects in their age-20 seasons at Double-A.
As for who has more power, Wood can hit balls farther, but Caissie gets to his power more frequently against better pitching. Both hit towering drives to the opposite field and center in addition to their pull side, and both regularly clear elite markers for exit velocity and home run distance.
From a pure tools standpoint, their power is roughly even. From a productivity standpoint, Caissie gets the edge. Either way, both Caissie and Wood are two of the best young power hitters in the minor leagues and are capable of hitting mesmerizing blasts at any time.
55 HIT 50
65 POWER 55
55 RUN 50
50 FIELD 45
55 ARM 55
What They’re Saying: Evan Carter, OF, Rangers
“He’s obviously very interesting. Plus athlete. Plus runner. Can definitely stay in center field . . . He’s not quite physically mature yet and has strength gains to come.
“His swing is good. It’s just not coming off the bat real hot yet. He knows the strike zone and can manage an at-bat. It’s hit over power. He’s a good player.
A good leadoff profile.”
—Anonymous pro scout