Dylan’s Prospect Breakout Team For 2023

Image credit: Mason Montgomery (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

A team of young players poised to break through to the Top 100 Prospects this season.


C Leonardo Bernal, Cardinals
Low-A Palm Beach • Age: 19

Signed out of Panama in January 2021, the switch-hitting Bernal shows above-average to plus power paired with average contact rates. Those traits are made all the more impressive by the fact that he was just 18 last season and the youngest regular in the Florida State League. Bernal grades out well defensively and projects as a potential everyday catcher based on his ability to manage a pitching staff. He has a chance to mimic the developmental progression of the Mets’ Francisco Alvarez, who finished the 2021 season as a 19-year-old catcher at High-A.

1B Tyler Locklear, Mariners
High-A Everett • Age: 22

A masher with double-plus power, Locklear also shows a preternatural feel for contact. His rate of in-zone contact versus hard-hit rate at Low-A last season placed him squarely in a cluster with top prospects James Wood and Jackson Merrill. Locklear should open the season at the hot corner, but he looks to be a better fit at first base.

2B Carlos Jorge, Reds
Low-A Daytona • Age: 19

Small in stature, Jorge has a quick, short swing that generates more power than expected from his 5-foot-7 frame. His calling card has been his stolen base output, with 54 thefts against nine caught stealing in 89 pro games. In a sense, Jorge has overperformed his above-average—but not plus—speed. Similarly, his actual home run rate also exceeds what his batted-ball data would suggest. What can’t be denied is that last season, an 18-year-old Jorge produced numbers that would prorate to 35 homers and 135 steals over a full season. Likely earmarked for second base because of his arm, Jorge has a wide range of possible outcomes. How he does at Low-A in 2023 will go a long way toward determining his future value.

3B Casey Schmitt, Giants
Triple-A Sacramento • Age: 24

In spring training, Kyle Glaser reported how Schmitt was impressing scouts not only with his already Gold Glove-caliber defense but with how he was building on his breakout season with the bat. In 2022, he had the third highest OPS in the Giants organization and showed an improved hit tool and contact skills. He needs to cut down on his chase rate, but his glove is so special that the Giants were considering having him as the primary fill-in at shortstop if Brandon Crawford missed time.

SS Luisangel Acuña, Rangers
Double-A Frisco • Age: 21

Acuña won’t be mistaken for older brother Ronald, but he presents an intriguing blend of power and speed. Luisangel is a twitchy, bat-first player who struggled last season after being promoted to Double-A Frisco, but his performance for the entire season still translated to peak major league equivalencies of nearly 20 homers and 20 steals. That’s enough to keep an eye on Acuña, especially for fantasy purposes. He likely doesn’t have the arm or polish for shortstop, but I give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

OF Yasser Mercedes, Twins
Extended spring training • Age: 18

With above-average grades for hitting, power and defense—and then add on plus speed—Mercedes has made it obvious why the Twins signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2021 for $1.7 million. Last year in his pro debut he hit .355/.420/.555 with 30 steals in 41 games in the Dominican Summer League. Mercedes’ contact rate was average or better compared to his peers and was paired with exit velocities more than a standard deviation higher than the DSL average. A natural athletic center fielder, Mercedes is capable of switching gears at the plate to become contact-oriented when his pull-happy approach leads to too many chases out of the zone. If he can continue to work on his pitch recognition in 2023, then he should quickly enter the Top 100 conversation.

OF Yeison Morrobel, Rangers
Low-A Down East • Age: 19

When he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2021, Morrobel was lauded for his hit tool with hopes that his physical maturation would lead to 20-homer power. Last season as a teenager in the Arizona Complex League and then with Low-A Down East, his underlying data was arguably even better than the scouting grades. Morrobel had a contact rate, in-zone contact rate and 90th percentile exit velocity that were all plus—with more walks than strikeouts—and he did it while being in the younger quartile of the league. As Morrobel continues to add strength, look for him to solidify his status as a future everyday right fielder.

OF Dylan Beavers, Orioles
High-A Aberdeen • Age: 21

With plus grades for power, speed and arm strength, Beavers has a high floor and the ability to play any outfield position. If he could approach even an average hit tool, he would be a potential offensive monster. After drafting him in the supplemental first round, the Orioles altered Beavers’ swing, and the returns were immediate: his contact rate, in-zone contact rate and ability to lay off pitches out of the zone were all above-average to plus when compared to his peers in the Carolina League. More impressively, in a small pro sample, Beavers managed to hit 16% of his batted balls at 95 mph or harder between a launch angle of 10 and 30 degrees—optimal hard contact—which was well above the league average of 11%. Beavers has a chance to advance to the cozy confines of Double-A Bowie by year’s end as a 21-year-old.

DH Nathan Martorella, Padres
High-A Fort Wayne • Age: 22

The 2022 fifth-round pick of the Padres signed an under-slot deal and quickly advanced to the middle of the order for Low-A Lake Elsinore. While at California, the lefthanded slugger showed an uncanny knack to lay off pitches out of the zone, leading to more walks than strikeouts. In his pro debut, Martorella’s underlying batted-ball data also showed plus grades for contact rate, exit velocity, chase rate and optimal contact. His violent swing in college led to too many ground balls, and he needs to optimize his launch angle to fully actualize his tools. 

RHP Justin Campbell, Guardians
High-A Lake County • Age: 22

Drafted in the supplemental first round by the Guardians last year, the lanky Campbell boasted one of the best changeups in his draft class. He complemented it with a lively fastball that averaged 93 mph and topped out at 95 nearly 10% of the time and an above-average curveball. With the Guardians’ track record for developing pitching prospects, especially ones with good command, this selection might retrospectively be considered low-hanging fruit.

LHP Mason Montgomery, Rays
Double-A Montgomery • Age: 23

The Rays’ sixth-round pick in 2021 earned an invitation to major league camp this spring on the heels of winning the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year. Montgomery’s two primary pitches are a 91-93 mph fastball and slider—both of which generated whiff rates greater than 30% last year—and are solid offerings from a stuff standpoint because of a unique, deceptive arm action. His ceiling will be dictated by the continuing development of his changeup—and his recent experiments with a cutter. Not currently a consistent offering, Montgomery’s change generated a whiff rate greater than 30% but was hit hard when batters made contact. That mix yielded an overall strikeout rate of 12.4 per nine innings last season, though that number trailed off to 8.8 following a promotion to Double-A. I expect Montgomery to be another Rays success story, where they once again accentuate a pitcher’s unique traits and set him up to exceed the sum of his parts. See fellow lefties Jeffrey Springs, Josh Fleming and Ryan Yarbrough as past examples. 

RHP Dahian Santos, Blue Jays
High-A Vancouver • Age: 20

With a three-pitch mix, of which his slider is the crown jewel, the projectable Santos tallied the second most strikeouts in the Low-A Florida State League, all while making half his starts in Dunedin, the best hitter’s park in the league. Concerns for Santos include a double-digit walk rate, an unorthodox arm action and a high flyball rate. Still, his feel for all three pitches and lots of projection in an improving pitching development organization portends a reasonably good chance he can reach average command. If so, his future becomes a lot brighter.

RHP Peyton Pallette, White Sox
Extended spring training • Age: 21

Prior to Tommy John surgery in early 2022, the Arkansas righthander was earmarked for the first round, but risk aversion led him to fall to the White Sox in the second round. Whether he can get back to his college arsenal—a 93-95 mph fastball, a plus, high-spin curveball and a serviceable changeup—remains to be seen, but from the look that Josh Norris got, that seems possible. It may take a while for us to get a good feel for how he will fare against upper-level pro hitters, but this is a selection similar to Mason Miller, Walker Buehler and possibly Jake Eder, where a prospect is somewhat forgotten because of injury but in hindsight shouldn’t have left our consciousness in the first place.

LHP Yu-Min Lin, D-backs
Extended spring training • Age: 19

Lin used his deep repertoire on the international stage to great success, leading to Arizona signing him in 2021. In 2022 he dominated the Arizona Complex League in his pro debut to earn a promotion to Low-A Visalia. Lin experienced even more success as the fifth-youngest player in the California League and struck out 13.5 batters per nine innings. What’s holding him back from rocketing up prospect lists are his slight 5-foot-11 frame and peak velocity of 92-93 mph. If he gains strength and physicality as he matures and adds velocity, that would give him a bigger cushion with which to deploy the four—or more!—pitches in his arsenal. We’ve seen soft-tossing lefthanders use savvy and pitchability to find success in the big leagues, and Lin seems to be on the right track to join that club. Lin is building up at extended spring training before heading to Low-A Visalia.

LHP Juan Rojas, Orioles
Extended spring training • Age: 19

I’m going off the beaten path for this pitcher spot. Part of the Orioles’ return from the Twins for Jorge Lopez, Rojas already shows advanced control of three pitches as a teenager. As he matures, his fastball could develop into an above-average pitch. Purely from a data perspective, Rojas looked like one of the more impressive Rookie complex league pitchers last year with a strikeout-to-walk ratio not much different than that of more well-known Jarlin Susana. The Orioles’ pitcher development apparatus has been excellent, and I expect them to refine Rojas’ abilities. Look for Rojas to join Low-A Delmarva after he is built up at extended spring training.

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