25 Players Standing Out To Scouts In 2023 Spring Training
Spring training is a time of renewal. For teams, that means the shortcomings of the previous year have been washed away and a new season brings the promise of better days.
For players, it means a chance to improve their games and move closer to fulfilling their potential. Every year, players arrive at spring training with new swings, new physiques, new pitches and new mindsets. Sometimes, they merely make for interesting stories but don’t result in any meaningful improvement.
Other times, the improvements that players show in spring training are a precursor to a breakout season ahead.
For the last four seasons, Baseball America has surveyed scouts in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues about which players they believe are in for big seasons based on what they are showing in spring training.
In 2019, scouts highlighted Sandy Alcantara, Brandon Lowe and David Fletcher, among others, in spring training before they went on to breakout seasons. In 2020, evaluators correctly pegged Brandon Nimmo, Zac Gallen, Tony Gonsolin and James Karinchak even as camps shut down and the season was delayed.
In 2021, Shohei Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alek Manoah, Tyler O’Neill, Jonathan India and Logan Webb were all highlighted in spring training before going on to their best seasons. Last year’s list included Julio Rodriguez, Daulton Varsho, Tyler Stephenson, Brendan Rodgers and Nick Lodolo before they all had their best years.
Here are 25 players that evaluators believe are primed to take a step forward in 2023 based on what they are seeing in spring training. Some are established big leaguers who are showing they might reach another gear. Others are prospects who have gotten their first taste of the majors and are now primed to excel. Still others are prospects who may need another year in the minors, but whose future outlooks have brightened based on the improvements they’ve shown in camp this year.
All scouts are employed by MLB teams and were granted anonymity to speak freely. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Players are listed in alphabetical order. All statistics are through March 16.
Edward Cabrera, RHP, Marlins
Cabrera took a step forward in his second season in the majors last year and went 6-4, 3.01 in 14 starts while lowering his rates of hits, home runs and walks allowed per nine innings. He made quick work of the Nationals in each of his first two starts this spring, notably showing improved pitch efficiency by needing just 60 pitches to get through five innings.
Scout’s Take: “Edward Cabrera has looked really good to me. At least a 70 change, commanded the fastball a lot better than last year and then showed some cleverness with the curveball, too. He looks like he has No. 2-type stuff, for sure. It’s arguably No. 1-type stuff, but the command kind of holds him back from that. But he does look like an impact guy for sure. A couple of scouts, we were talking the other day and ranking guys that we’ve seen the last few weeks. We’d seen Cabrera, MacKenzie Gore, Cade Cavalli and Hunter Brown. Cabrera was No. 1. There was a lot of consensus on Cabrera. It’s top-of-the-rotation stuff.”
Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs
The No. 2 prospect on the Top 100 Prospects, Carroll impressed with an .830 OPS in his major league debut last season and has been on a tear this spring. He’s shown a combination of contact skills, strike-zone discipline, power and speed that have been even better than anticipated and led to increased confidence he can be an impact player from the outset this year. The D-backs signed him to an eight-year, $111 million extension earlier this week, a record amount for a player with less than 100 days of service time.
Scout’s Take: “(It’s) just the quality of his at-bats. Swing decisions. We all know he has amazing speed, but he's still 22 and it's just impressive how often he's ahead in counts. He's had a pretty optimal approach as far as how often he is swinging. How easily he lays off a pretty close ball but then isn’t passive and goes and hammers a ball when he gets his pitch. And then speed-wise . . . his speed is impacting games more than Trea Turner’s. He looks ready to go. He can definitely keep doing what he did in that small sample size, the .830 OPS, in the 30 games he played last year. He can be a very good major leaguer this year.”
Jake Cronenworth, 1B, Padres
Cronenworth is a two-time all-star, but he hit a career-worst .239/.332/390 last season while seeing his number of hits, runs, doubles and home runs all decline from the previous season. With the signing of Xander Bogaerts pushing Ha-Seong Kim to second base, Cronenworth will spend the majority of the 2023 season as the Padres’ primary first baseman, putting pressure on him to have a bounceback year offensively. The early results have been promising, as he’s hit .419 (13-for-31) in Cactus League play with a re-oriented swing.
Scout’s Take: “He changed his swing. He had some swing changes last year that weren’t really conducive to his hitting abilities and talents. He’s been on the barrel all spring now. I really think he's gonna have a big year. I don't anticipate a problem with him moving over to first full-time. He's athletic and has instincts, all the right ingredients for a person to make a position change like that. I think he's gonna have his best year.”
Jasson Dominguez, OF, Yankees
Yankees phenom Jasson Domínguez is having himself a spring! pic.twitter.com/9P1XQKHNiT— MLB (@MLB) March 11, 2023
“The Martian” has faced extraordinary hype since he signed for $5.1 million as a highly-touted teenager. While he understandably hasn’t fulfilled unrealistic expectations, he still reached Double-A in his age-19 season last year and showed a promising combination of power, speed and plate discipline. He continued to build on those foundational skills this spring and hit .455 (10 for 22) with four home runs and nine RBIs in 11 games before being reassigned to minor league camp on Thursday.
Scout’s Take: “Every time I see him, it just looks like it's better and better. I think it's worth appreciating that the hype is ridiculous. He should never be hyped like that. But at the same time, I think he’s gonna be a good player. The times I've seen him, he barrels balls. He got a center-cut fastball the other day and just hit it so viciously that it was impressive. It was a pitch that he should never miss and he didn’t, to his credit. I think he's going to be a good player. I don't think he can be Mike Trout. But I think he can be a pretty good player.”
Sal Frelick, OF, Brewers
Sal Frelick, mustache and all, helped Team Italy advance out of Pool play in the WBC with his signature offensive stroke 🇮🇹#ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/VNZ3evsYDY— Brewers Player Development (@BrewersPD) March 16, 2023
Frelick rocketed three levels up to Triple-A in his first full season and hit .331, showcasing the premium contact skills that made him a first-round pick in 2021. He didn’t get into an official game this spring, but he impressed observers on the backfields before leaving to play for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. He continued to impress in the WBC, finishing among the tournament leaders in hits through the end of pool play to lead Italy to the quarterfinals.
Scout’s Take: “Before he went to the WBC he was swinging it well and I know he had impressed (Brewers manager Craig) Counsell. I like that kid. He can play defense. I’m a believer in the bat. It’s just a well-rounded profile. I like him more than Garrett Mitchell. He was interesting and then he went to the WBC and he’s done well over there too. I’m a believer.”
Riley Greene, OF, Tigers
Long regarded as one of the best pure hitters for his age, Greene received his first callup last season and initially struggled like many rookies. He quietly found his rhythm at the end of the year, though, and hit .297/.377/.419 from Aug. 20 through the end of the season. He’s shown continued strides in the Grapefruit League this spring, hitting for both average and power to be one of the bright spots in Tigers camp.
Scout’s Take: “I think Greene’s going to have a really good year this year. He can really, really hit. I'm flabbergasted that they're trying to play him in another spot beside center field. I don't understand why. He's a good center fielder and they keep trying to put other guys out there. He's just a really good baseball player that can hit and play center field. He's struggled on the angles in they alleys in right and left. Balls are dropping in that shouldn't drop in, but he's not used to those angles. They need to just let him play center field and not mess with a guy that is that good.”
Nico Hoerner, 2B, Cubs
Though he debuted back in 2019, Hoerner didn’t get to play his first full season until last year and acquitted himself well, batting .281/.327/.410 and playing above-average defense at shortstop. The Cubs’ free agent signing of Dansby Swanson has pushed Hoerner to second base this year, and though his spring training performance hasn’t jumped out statistically, the combination of increased experience and lesser defensive numbers have made him a popular breakout pick among evaluators who have watched him this spring.
Scout’s Take: “Hoerner looks really good. I think he'll have a big year. He looks more comfortable. He could be a 15-18 homer guy, hit around .280-plus, lead off for them and score a bunch of runs and play a solid second base. I think he'll be a pretty impactful player, and if he keeps doing this he'll get a pretty fat contract in a couple seasons. He’ll be one of the top five or so second basemen in the National League and in contention for an all-star bid.”
Ben Joyce, RHP, Angels
Joyce became a social media star at Tennessee last season with his fastball that sat 102 mph and touched 105, but the Volunteers mostly used him in low-leverage situations due to his inconsistent control and secondaries. Joyce immediately improved both after being drafted by the Angels in the third round last year and has impressed in his first professional spring training, making five scoreless appearances, including an outing against Team USA.
Scout’s Take: “He's probably going to be up there at some point if he doesn't break camp. I don't think he'll break camp with them, but once they find him a consistent breaking ball, he's gonna be a shutdown reliever at some point. The fastball explodes. He mows down righthanded hitters. Lefties right now can wait him out because his control is what it is, but it's explosive. He’s got a big fastball and the fastball can be tough to square up because it’s not just straight velo(city). It’s got some hard arm-side movement. It’s a tough angle when he’s on. The breaking ball went from, like, a bad curveball to a cutter at times. But someone will find a pitch for him that will work. And I think the more confidence he gets, the more he's become a better pitcher. I don't know if he ends up as a closer, but anytime a guy can sit 99 and be around on the zone, that's big league value.”
Scott Kingery, SS/OF, Phillies
Kingery famously signed a six-year, $24 million contract extension before ever playing a day in the majors, but he’s battled injuries and struggled to perform when he has been healthy. Most evaluators had written Kingery off entering the year, but he’s been one of the Phillies' most productive hitters in camp this spring while playing four different positions. He’s in the final guaranteed year of his contract and has made a compelling case to be the Phillies’ primary utilityman in the eyes of observers this spring.
Scout’s Take: “Kingery looks good. Nothing sexy, he but he looks good. If I were them I’d (cut) Josh Harrison and I would put Kingery on the team. The swing looks good. He might make some noise this year. Probably just as a backup or platoon guy, he’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s the position player in that camp where you say ‘this could work this year.’ It’d be nice for them because this is his final guaranteed year. He’s been the biggest guy trending up in Phillies camp.”
Josh Lowe, OF, Rays
Lowe has demonstrated prolific tools since he was an amateur but has struggled to make consistent contact throughout most of his professional career. He hit .221/.284/.343 in his first extended playing time in the majors last season and was demoted twice, finishing the year in Triple-A after making the Opening Day roster. With the Rays seeking offense, Lowe has produced power and speed this spring while showing enough strides as a hitter to make him a popular breakout pick amongst Grapefruit League observers.
Scout’s Take: “Josh Lowe looks good. That might be a good pick to click. The at-bats are better, he’s making a little more contact. They definitely had an open competition for some roster spots in camp and where they stand right now, it would be a pretty safe assumption that Josh Lowe is going to make that club and that Josh Lowe is going to play. It’s looked better and he’s really made some noise in camp.”
Michael Massey, 2B, Royals
Michael Massey back at it with an RBI double! #Royals— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) March 15, 2023
TV: Bally Sports Kansas City
Stream: https://t.co/wMYUFlfg5c pic.twitter.com/qWvl2VPDRT
A fourth-round pick out of Illinois in 2019, Massey hit his way up the minors and earned his first big league callup last season. With Nicky Lopez playing for Italy in the World Baseball Classic, Massey has gotten extended playing time in the Cactus League and made the most of it. He’s hit .345 with two doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs in 10 games while showing the underlying skills that observers believe will allow his production to transfer to the regular season.
Scout’s Take: “He had a slow start to spring but he’s really turning it on and finding his stride. Timing is there. Barreling up balls. Surprise isn't a tough place to hit, but it’s not like it’s wind-aided or smoke and mirrors. It’s legit. I think this guy is primed to take the second base job. He’s had more opportunities to start there with Nicky Lopez playing for Team Italy, but even when Nicky was there, they were grooming him to be the utilityman. They’re giving Massey every opportunity . . . and he’s earned a spot on the major league roster. Defensively he’s a little bit limited, but he will make the plays at him. This guy’s bat is legit and there’s some power there. I see quite honestly a .270-.280-type hitter with the potential for 20 bombs. I think this is a legit everyday player.”
Elehuris Montero, 3B, Rockies
The top prospect acquired by the Rockies in the ill-fated Nolan Arenado trade, Montero has long shown promise as a hitter and earned his first big league callup last season. With Ryan McMahon shifting over to second base following Brendan Rodgers’ shoulder injury, Montero has taken the early lead in the battle for the Rockies starting third base job and has made noticeable improvements to his approach. Previously known as an aggressive free swinger, he has five walks against just seven strikeouts this spring.
Scout’s Take: “I think they're gonna start Montero at third and I would be excited about that. He's a pretty obviously good bat. Third base is very shaky, but I think he's at least manageable down there. I think he'll hit. I like the bat. I'm excited to see what he can do. The swing decisions, he seems more comfortable. Last year he didn't seem like he was really comfortable in the box. He would just swing at every pitch hard. Now he's actually looking for better pitches to drive and swinging at every strike. The swing decisions have improved and just kind of opened up his whole offensive potential.”
Logan O’Hoppe, C, Angels
The Angels acquired O’Hoppe from the Phillies for Brandon Marsh at last year’s trade deadline and called him up to the majors for the final week of the regular season. Expected to share time with veteran Max Stassi behind the plate this year, O’Hoppe has shown enough on both sides of the ball this spring to lend belief to the notion that he’ll take over as the Angels undisputed starter sooner rather than later.
Scout’s Take: “He's gonna end up being their everyday guy at some point this year. He's just super sound. He's good on defense. He's a good hitter. I wouldn't sit here and say it's plus all across the board. It's just like, this guy is just solid, and in that position it's exactly what you need (in) the big leagues. It's exactly what they need. He's been catching all the big guys in camp. Guys clearly like throwing to him. I don't think the mental load of game calling and strategy is gonna hurt him. It'll just be whether physically he can handle that offensively. But he's on time, it's a simple swing. He is gonna swing and miss a little bit, but he'll be fine.”
Andy Pages, OF, Dodgers
Pages has shown huge power throughout his minor league career, but he’s long struggled with his fitness and conditioning and was concerningly heavy in the Arizona Fall League last year. He reported to camp this spring 25 pounds lighter and has shown newfound athleticism without losing any of his previous strength, leading to newfound optimism amongst observers about his immediate future.
Scout’s Take: “Andy Pages physically looks awesome. He legitimately looks like he's 30-40 pounds lighter. He looks like a middle infielder almost. I always thought he was a pretty good mover, even when he was on the heavier side, but he's moving really well right now . . . I think at some point, he'll get the call. If he was with another org, I think he'd have a chance to even crack the Opening Day roster.”
Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, D-backs
Pfaadt struck out 218 batters last year, the most strikeouts in a minor league season since 2001, and dominated despite pitching at hitter’s havens in Amarillo and Reno. He entered this spring a candidate to win the D-backs No. 5 starter job and has seized the opportunity. He’s dominated in three of his four Cactus League appearances, including pitching four innings with one run allowed and seven strikeouts in a start against the Cubs on Thursday.
Scout’s Take: “He should win their fifth starter spot. He's better than Ryne Nelson. He's better than Drey Jameson. He's got just as good of stuff as Jameson and he’s in the zone more, which is obviously better. The stuff is just as good. He should win that role because I mean, he put on 150-plus innings last year in the minors. He looks ready. He looks at the best one. He’s had a couple of hiccups, but he bounces back. He’s tough. I have a No. 3 starter on him. There’s potential for him to be a No. 2.”
Cal Raleigh, C, Mariners
Raleigh became a fan favorite in Seattle last year as “Big Dumper” and hit 27 home runs, including a momentous walkoff shot to clinch the Mariners' first playoff berth since 2001. Raleigh played solid defense and provided power in his first full season, but he hit just .211 with a .284 on-base percentage. He’s returned this spring showing improved contact skills, leading multiple evaluators to highlight him as a player who will take a step forward and assert himself as one of the best all-around catchers in the game.
Scout’s Take: “I think he's going to put himself in the top five catchers in the league. That's where I think he's gonna kind of put himself into. He's just a good player. I'm a big fan of his. I know he had the power numbers last year, but there's some hittability there. I thought it was more sell out for power before, but that's not the case now. That position, that young, controllable, he really becomes a really prized asset from an organizational standpoint, too. I think he's going to put himself into that next tier, that upper echelon.”
Cole Ragans, LHP, Rangers
Ragans had two Tommy John surgeries as a minor leaguer, but he persevered and made his major league debut with nine starts for the Rangers last season. He’s come out this spring and been one of the top pitchers in the Cactus League, posting a 2.79 ERA with 14 strikeouts and just two walks in 9.2 innings while showing premium stuff from the left side.
Scout’s Take: “I saw him in his first spring outing and he was up to 97-98 mph with pretty good secondary pitches as well. It was a super easy delivery … Strictly from the delivery standpoint and the stuff and the ease of strikes he was throwing I would put money on him as a starter. That was the best pitcher I’ve seen so far this spring.”
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles
The No. 2 pitching prospect in baseball, Rodriguez was sidetracked by a lat strain last season but still posted a 2.62 ERA in 17 starts for Triple-A Norfolk. Though his numbers haven’t been exceptional this spring, he’s shown enough for evaluators to believe he’s not only ready for the major leagues, but that he will quickly become a premium starter at the front of the Orioles rotation.
Scout’s Take: “If they're serious about taking a step forward this year, that guy has to make the team. It's power (stuff). He might not be a No. 1 starter immediately, but that guy has no use for Triple-A. He’s probably their best starter and he needs to be on their team. There is no doubt he could contend for Rookie of the Year … It’s vicious (stuff) and he’s composed and confident. I think it’s going to be immediate impact. It might not be immediate Cy Young Award impact, but he’s going to be very good, very quickly.”
Top 10 East Division Prospect Graduates Based On Updated BA Grades
We assess the future value potential of the top graduated prospects from the 2022 rookie classes of the American and National league East divisions.
Jackson Rutledge, RHP, Nationals
The hard-throwing Rutledge has battled injuries and control issues since the Nationals drafted him in the first round in 2019, but the 6-foot-8 righthander flashed enough in two big league outings this spring to lend belief that he might finally be turning the corner. Rutledge quickly set down the Mets starters in his first outing and showed premium stuff in a two-inning stint against the Tigers in his second.
Scout’s Take: “He’s thrown really well for me twice this spring. I’m higher on him than the industry is. It’s a good body and it’s good stuff. I know health has been a concern. I know strikes have been a concern. I know he’s going to be 24 pretty soon here. But I can’t just turn away from a guy who’s been 98 and around the zone with a pretty deep arsenal. I wrote him up as a low-leverage reliever just because you’re kind of playing the odds, but it’s No. 2 starter stuff he’s showing. I like him. I’d definitely take him."
Joe Ryan, RHP, Twins
Ryan earned the Opening Day start for the Twins as a rookie last season and went 13-8, 3.55 in his first full season. Ryan has primarily succeeded on the strength of his high-spin fastball, but altered his slider and adopted a new changeup grip this offseason in an attempt to improve his secondaries. The early results have been promising, with his slider in particular earning strong reviews both on the back fields and in live games this spring.
Scout’s Take: “Joe Ryan looked great when I saw him. His split-change grip looked like an improvement and the new slider he learned this offseason also looks better. I was impressed. He oozes competitiveness and will easily adapt to the new rules; he likes tempo and is quick to the plate. I saw him against a decent lineup and he made it look easy.”
Casey Schmitt, 3B, Giants
Long renowned for his defense at third base, Schmitt made tremendous strides as a hitter in 2022 and ascended three levels to Triple-A. He reported to camp this spring looking even better on both sides of the ball, to the point evaluators believe he can slide over to shortstop and is the Giants best internal option to replace the injured Brandon Crawford.
Scout’s Take: “He's having a really good spring. He looks a lot quicker on the dirt than I've seen him in the past. I've always liked the glove. This year, he just looks light on his feet. They've put him at shortstop a couple of times, I didn't see it live, but it sounded like it was okay. And he’s just barreling balls and I think there's some power coming. I've always liked him and I think he’s a good hitter. He just keeps growing. He plays the game right, he plays hard, he's got confidence and what he's doing in the box right now is definitely one of those turning points. This guy understands that he can work a count, he can use power in this situation. It’s just good to see. Especially with how dinged up (the Giants) are … I do think there's potentially a path he ends up in the majors.”
Jared Shuster, LHP, Braves
The Braves’ first-round pick in 2020, Shuster ascended the minors as a crafty lefthander with fringy stuff and above-average control and drew lukewarm opinions from evaluators despite his success. He reported to camp this year throwing harder without sacrificing any of his control and emerged as one of the biggest risers in Braves camp. Initially expected to open the season in the minors, he has emerged as the leading candidate to be the Braves No. 5 starter after the team optioned righthanders Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder earlier this week.
Scout’s Take: “He looks like he's made a big step since last season. In his whole minor league career he's had success, but the stuff has made a big jump to this year. He's sitting 91-93 mph (and) commanding both sides of the plate with it. The changeup is excellent as always. It may be a tick better than it's been in the past. And the breaking ball, which I thought in the past was slightly above-average, is now consistently plus with more depth and more sharpness to it. He looks right now to be a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. A lot of people had a No. 5 on him before and I’d thought he’d be like probably a No. 6. The stuff is better. The pitchability is better. The command is better.”
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers
The first overall pick in the 2020 draft, Torkelson struggled badly in his major league debut last season and, most concerningly, hit .229/.348/.389 at Triple-A after being demoted. He entered camp this year as one of the Tigers’ big question marks, but he’s shown enough signs of improvement this spring for evaluators to believe he’ll have a bounceback season in 2023.
Scout’s Take: “He’s been coming on. It’s very pull-centric. I don’t know if he’s ever going to be, like, a star. But he's really been hitting the ball hard. The at-bats have been pretty solid. I would strongly bet on him having a better year than he did last year. Again, I'm not telling you this guy's gonna be a seven time all-star. I'm not telling you this guy's gonna be Steve Garvey or whatever. But I'm telling you, he's gonna be better. I'd seen a little bit of him and I didn't believe in it, and I'm starting to believe in it a little more.”
Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals
115.9 MPH off the bat of Jordan Walker!— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) March 17, 2023
His MLB-leading 17th hit and 7th XBH of the Spring. pic.twitter.com/rZfFQXQfOr
Walker excelled at Double-A last season as a 20-year-old and was one of the early stars of Cardinals camp this spring, leading to excitement that he could jump straight to the majors and make the Opening Day roster. A shoulder strain suffered on a headfirst slide earlier this week has cooled that excitement, but the 6-foot-5 slugger has nonetheless convinced observers with his performance this spring that he’ll make an outsized impact in the majors when the time comes.
Scout’s Take: “The guy has extremely above-average power and he has a really nice approach. He controls the strike zone. He can hit the fastball. I have a little bit of concern about (his ability to cover) the outer part of the strike zone, but he definitely can impact the ball. I don’t think he’s quite ready for the majors. He’s still young and needs work. It’s not that sustainable yet. But I think he’s going to keep getting better and make his debut, and then next year he’s going to have a big year in the majors. I think he has a chance to be a superstar, honestly. He has the potential to be an all-star player. The defense in the outfield is ok. He’s definitely not the fastest player, his range may not be the best. His arm strength was not above-average, but it will be enough to play left field.”
Hayden Wesneski, RHP, Cubs
Hayden Wesneski tosses 4 perfect innings 🔥 pic.twitter.com/5FcxfRGr4V— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 11, 2023
Acquired from the Yankees for reliever Scott Effross at last year’s trade deadline, Wesneski posted a 2.18 ERA over six appearances in his major league debut last season. He entered this spring a contender to win the Cubs No. 5 starter job and has seized pole position in the race, pitching 8.2 innings with five hits allowed, no earned runs, two walks and 11 strikeouts in Cactus League play. Not only has he shown he deserves to open the season in the rotation, but observers believe he’s ready to be one of the Cubs best starters.
Scout’s Take: “Wesneski looks really, really damn good. I'd be surprised if they don't give the fifth starter spot to him. He's probably their third or fourth pitcher right now. He's better than (Drew) Smyly. He's probably better than (Justin) Steele. If not, they're on the same level right now, but he will be better during the season. He'll be their No. 3 starter, in my opinion, by July. I'm pretty big on him. He looked really good mixing and matching fastballs and sliders. Really good command. Did exceptionally well.”
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with an adjustment on the scout's quote speaking about Michael Massey.