Geoff's Prospect Breakout Team For 2023
A team of young players poised to break out and join the Top 100 Prospects.
C Ethan Salas, Padres
Extended spring training • Age: 17
How teams manage their prospects often tells you how they view particular players. If the Padres' actions in spring training tell us anything about how they view Salas, we might be looking at a very special talent. Signed out of Venezuela in January, Salas received the largest bonus in the 2023 international class. He saw action in a major league spring training game and then played with the Double-A squad during minor league spring training. A supremely talented defensive catcher, Salas has the offensive skills to match, receiving above-average grades from evaluators on his contact and power.
1B Xavier Isaac, Rays
Low-A Charleston • Age: 19
A surprise pick at the back end of the first round last July, Isaac is blessed with double-plus power and the ability to get to it, meaning that he could burst onto the scene this spring. His explosive lefthanded swing and lightning-fast hands could lead to prodigious power output in his full-season debut. Isaac missed time on the 2021 summer showcase circuit with injury, adding to some mystery around his profile. Those who have scouted Isaac believe he has the raw power and plate skills to develop into a middle-of-the-order thumper.
2B Tyler Black, Brewers
Double-A Biloxi • Age: 22
Entering last season, Black was listed in this spot as a potential breakout. Things were trending that way until a series of injuries kept him off the field. First it was a fractured scapula while making a diving catch in July and then a broken thumb cut short his Arizona Fall League stint. Despite some durability concerns dating back to his days at Wright State—he had labrum surgery in 2020—Black’s ability to manage the strike zone and make contact projects well. He has an all-fields approach but has shown the ability to turn on pitches to the inner part of the plate. If Black has a full healthy season, he could climb several levels in 2023.
3B Cayden Wallace, Royals
High-A Quad Cities • Age: 21
A standout as a prep player who was likely a casualty of the 2020 five-round draft, Wallace matriculated to Arkansas where he starred for two seasons. A strong all-around talent, Wallace has a lofty swing with adjustability in his barrel, allowing him to balance both contact and power with projection to hit for more power as he matures. He’s an above-average defender at third base, where his double-plus arm affords him extra ability to make tough plays. While his defensive abilities round out his profile, it’s his upside as a potential well-rounded hitter that earns him this spot.
SS Michael Arroyo, Mariners
Extended spring training • Age: 18
One of the highest-upside players in the Mariners' lower levels, Arroyo has earned praise from evaluators for his mature approach and polished baseball instincts. The Colombian teenager was in consideration for the team's World Baseball Classic squad but ultimately didn’t make the final roster. Despite this, Arroyo is considered one of the more talented players to come out of the country in a long time. He has a refined approach at the plate with a balanced swing that allows him to hit a variety of pitch types and shapes all over the zone. He maintains the strike zone, showing a disciplined approach that limits chase swings outside of the zone. He’s still growing into his body and has below-average power at present, but he could grow into more strength as his body matures.
OF Josue De Paula, Dodgers
Extended spring training • Age: 18
Few players in the Dominican Summer League have had the helium De Paula had this winter. He is a Brooklyn native who immigrated back to the Dominican Republic at 15 before signing with the Dodgers as an international free agent. De Paula debuted in the DSL last year and hit .349/.448/.522 with more walks than strikeouts. He possesses extremely advanced plate skills and projectable power that should grow into plus juice. While he’s unlikely to stick in center field, he should be athletic enough to handle a corner with the power to fit the profile.
OF Drew Gilbert, Astros
High-A Asheville • Age: 22
One of the top players in college baseball in 2022, Gilbert surprisingly fell to the back of the first round and into the hands of the Astros. Despite an injury in his pro debut, Gilbert was back in action this spring and drawing rave reviews from evaluators. He combines contact, power and speed with the ability to stick in center field. Gilbert’s short, direct lefthanded swing allows him to own the inner half of the plate, with the adjustability to cover the outer half when needed. Look for Gilbert to move fast in the coming months as he begins his first full season in the South Atlantic League.
OF Samuel Zavala, Padres
Low-A Lake Elsinore • Age: 18
The youngest player in a full-season league in 2022, Zavala hit .254/.355/.508 in 33 games for Low-A Lake Elsinore at 18 years old. He showed off impressive power at the plate with an average exit velocity of 88.2 mph and a 90th percentile exit velocity of 103.5. Zavala makes hard contact at optimal angles, allowing him to get the most out of his raw power. Despite below-average bat-to-ball skills, Zavala has shown advanced swing decisions, leading to future projections as a power and on-base threat. He has an opportunity to move onto the Top 100 Prospects list by midseason with a strong first half.
DH Nathan Martorella, Padres
High-A Fort Wayne • Age: 22
One of the more underrated college bats in the 2022 draft class, Martorella possesses a strong combination of bat-to-ball skills, advanced approach and power. The trick is that he gets to his above-average game power with a simple, lower-effort swing that allows him to make hard barrel contact without sacrificing plate discipline or contact. The fifth-rounder out of Cal hit .322/.421/.511 in 28 games split between the Arizona Complex League and Low-A Lake Elsinore. His underlying data was strong with an 89.9 mph average exit velocity, a 105.8 mph 90th percentile exit velocity and a 20% chase rate. Look for Martorella to continue to impress early in a similar fashion as Rays first baseman Kyle Manzardo last year.
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LHP Cooper Hjerpe, Cardinals
High-A Peoria • Age: 22
Sometimes velocity isn’t everything. While Hjerpe sits low 90s on his fastball, the pitch boasts multiple characteristics that analytical models value. His sidearm delivery creates a flat vertical approach angle and unique look, allowing the pitch to play way above its velocity. Whether you examine Hjerpe's college performance or read the reports from this spring, hitters consistently struggle to barrel up his fastball. Mix in a heavy sweeping slider and an above-average changeup, and you have a unique profile that portends success as a starter in pro ball.
LHP Robert Gasser, Brewers
Triple-A Nashville • Age: 24
Acquired by the Brewers in the trade that sent Josh Hader to San Diego, Gasser seems to be the player Milwaukee had the most enthusiasm for in the trade. The lefthander primarily deploys four pitches in his four-seam fastball, slider, cutter and changeup, but he technically throws six when you factor in his two-seam fastball and curveball. With a deep arsenal of pitches that grade as above-average or better, according to Baseball America’s stuff+ model, Gasser has the ability to blow up in 2023 based on the quality of his pitch mix. His best pitch is his sweepy low-80s slider with ride that generated whiffs at a rate above 40% in 2022.
LHP Justin Wrobleski, Dodgers
High-A Great Lakes • Age: 22
An 11th-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2021, Wrobleski looks like the next under-the-radar breakout from the Dodgers' system. The lefthander mixes four pitches that all grade out as average or better, according to Baseball America’s stuff+ model. His low-to-mid-90s fastball misses bats, and he pairs it with a low-to-mid-80s slider and a high-80s cutter and changeup. Wrobleski has had limited pro experience, but everything else looks promising for 2023.
RHP Mason Miller, Athletics
Double-A Midland • Age: 24
If you’re a fan of pure power, Miller is one you’re going to want to keep an eye on. He boasts an upper-90s fastball that regularly hits as high as 102 mph, as well as a hard cutter and slider. Miller has overcome injury early in his career but was one of the more impressive pitchers in the Arizona Fall League. He also shined during his time with the big club at spring training. With the power stuff to handle high-leverage innings out of the pen, Miller has the command and pitch mix to try his hand at starting before he’s moved to a relief role long term.
RHP Jarlin Susana, Nationals
Low-A Fredericksburg • Age: 19
Part of the Nationals' return from the Padres for Juan Soto, Susana has one of the more explosive arms in the lower levels. He has an upper-90s fastball that consistently touches triple digits and tops out at 103 mph. While his command is still shaky, Susana flashes a hard slider and changeup that project to be average pitches at peak. There’s plenty of relief risk with Susana, but at just 19 years old and with top-of-the-scale power on his pitches, he has time to develop the pitchability traits to start. If not, he has the sort of hellacious stuff that could play out of the pen.