Image credit: Victor Scott (Brad Krause/Four Seam Images)
We’ve updated our Top 30 Prospects lists following the 2023 trade deadline. Below are prospects for all 10 Central Division teams who’ve taken significant steps forward this year.
Jaison Chourio, OF: Jaison has a different skill set from his older brother Jackson—who is one of the sport’s top prospects—but has a high ceiling as well. The younger Chourio has been excellent all season long in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League, where he’s shown a strong knowledge of the strike zone and excellent bat-to-ball skills. He has the speed to play center field and the arm strength to play in all three outfield spots. There are plenty of raw ingredients in place. Now, it’s a matter of applying polish and waiting to see what kind of player emerges.
Anthony Veneziano, LHP: Veneziano made the organization’s Top 30 after his first full season in 2021 and was that year’s pick to move higher in the rankings the next year. Instead, he struggled to throw strikes in Double-A. He’s turned it around this year while splitting the year between Double-A and Triple-A. The key factor in his turnaround is the drastic decline in walk rates in his return to Double-A, plummeting from 4.8 walks per nine innings to 1.1. Veneziano is handling a promotion to the tough Pacific Coast League by showing more confidence in a fastball sitting 93-96 mph.
Justice Bigbie, OF: Bigbie has been a model of consistency this year. He’s hit over .300 and slugged over .500 in every month of the 2023 season. How he’s done it is equally impressive. Bigbie rarely hits a 450-foot bomb, but he consistently hits the ball hard, spraying line drives around the outfield. He rarely misses a hittable fastball, and has established himself as a pure hitter who hasn’t been fazed at all by a promotion to Double-A Erie.
Kala’i Rosario, OF: Rosario has made impressive all-around strides at the plate this year. He’s continued to turn his impressive raw power into more and more productive power, but he’s done so while also showing a better ability to hit for average and get on base. Rosario is a corner outfielder who needs to rely on his bat to get him to the majors, but he’s done a lot this year to make that a viable possibility.
Jacob Burke, OF: The White Sox’s 11th-round pick from Miami in 2022 was a lesser-known draft prospect before he signed for an over-slot bonus of $225,000. Burke got into just 27 games at the end of 2022 and was not on the system’s preseason Top 30. His 2023 season was delayed due to lower back inflammation, but he hit the ground running when he finally got to Low-A Kannapolis in May and has continued to hit after a promotion to High-A Winston-Salem. All season, he’s shown the potential to be an average hitter with above-average defense and speed.
Luke Adams, 3B: Adams is by no means a perfect prospect. His throwing motion is unusual and his throwing accuracy sometimes wanders, but he can hit and he does a little bit of everything else as well. He’s not a burner, but he’s an opportunistic basestealer who should swipe 30 bags this year. He’s also reached double digits in home runs, but it’s his batting eye that stands out the most. Adams has walked nearly as often as he’s struck out, which is why he’s among the Carolina League’s on-base percentage leaders at .423 despite a .245 batting average.
Victor Scott, OF: Selected in the fifth round in 2022 out of West Virginia, Scott established himself as one of the Cardinals’ top prospects this spring, filling in during multiple MLB spring training games while players on the Cardinals active MLB roster represented their country in the World Baseball Classic. Scott is a double-plus runner and an elite defensive center fielder. While his athleticism and defensive chops drive his profile, Scott has power, plate approach and some feel to hit, providing all-around value. Scott looks like a potential everyday center fielder who can make an impact at the plate or on the basepaths.
Haydn McGeary, 1B: Over the opening month of the season few hitters were hotter than McGeary, who hit .368/.467/.592 over the month of April. His combination of feel to hit, plate approach and power saw the slugger promoted to Double-A Tennessee after just 20 games in the High-A Midwest League. McGeary lacks defensive value, so he’ll need to hit for impact to make his bat-first profile work.
Tony Blanco Jr., OF: Blanco was the Pirates’ top international signing in the 2021-22 period and has big league bloodlines from his father, who played 62 games with the Nationals in 2005. The younger Blanco is a big man who can put a charge into a baseball. His average and 90th percentile exit velocities already hover around 93 and 114 mph, making him one of the hardest teenaged ball-strikers in the sport. There’s a chance he gets too big and has to move to first base, but no matter where he plays Blanco should bring light-tower power and a high ceiling.
Julian Aguiar, RHP: A 12th-round draftee out of Cypress (Calif.) JC in 2021, Aguiar had a solid season at Low-A Daytona in 2022, but he’s found another gear to both his fastball and his ability to dominate hitters in 2023. He was dominant in his last few starts at High-A Dayton and has settled in after a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. Aguiar’s high-90s fastball and above-average slider give him a potent combo.