Matt’s Prospect Breakout Team For 2023

Image credit: Prelander Berroa (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

In this post, we look at coming attractions to a minor league park near you.

These are my picks for the young players poised to break through to Top 100 Prospects status in 2023. I focused on players who had little to no experience above Class A.


C Dalton Rushing, Dodgers
High-A Great Lakes • Age 22

The Dodgers had their first pick in 2022 pushed back 10 places to No. 40 overall because of competitive balance tax overage penalties. They still came away with a first-round talent in Louisville catcher Rushing, who had the loudest pro debut of any 2022 draft pick. He hit .424/.539/.778 (238 OPS+) with eight homers and a 16% strikeout rate in 28 games for Low-A Rancho Cucamonga.

 Other catchers: Samuel Basallo, Orioles; and Ethan Salas, Padres

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

The Mariners drafted Locklear in the second round last year after he set the single-season and career home run marks at Virginia Commonwealth. That’s more impressive than it sounds because his freshman season in 2020 was halted after 16 games by the pandemic. Locklear played primarily third base in his pro debut but faces a likely move to first, where he has a chance to profile because of his righthanded power. In 29 games for Low-A Modesto last year he hit .282/.353/.504 (130 OPS+) with seven homers and nearly 22% strikeouts.

Other first basemen: Nathan Martorella, Padres; and Xavier Isaac, Rays 

2B Mikey Romero, Red Sox
Low-A Salem • Age 19

Romero kept exceeding expectations in 2022. The Southern California prep shortstop projected as more of a second-round talent a year ago but played his way up the board to 24th overall by the Red Sox. Romero then hit .304/.368/.506 (155 OPS+) in a 19-game pro debut that culminated at Low-A Salem. His hard-hit and zone-contact rates in a brief pro look offer a strong foundation for the young lefthanded hitter who could split his time at both middle infield positions. 

Other second basemen: Hao Yu Lee, Phillies; and Juan Brito, Guardians

3B Colt Keith, Tigers
Double-A Erie • Age 21

A shortstop in high school and primarily a third baseman in pro ball, Keith hit .301/.370/.544 with nine homers and a 19.4% strikeout rate in 48 games for High-A West Michigan last season before a shoulder injury ended his season. Keith added good weight prior to 2022 and took his power production up a notch during the season and in the Arizona Fall League. If that trend continues at Double-A, he is a good bet to join the Top 100 Prospects.

Other third basemen: Bryan Ramos, White Sox; and Tucker Toman, Blue Jays

SS Darell Hernaiz, Athletics
Double-A Midland • Age 21

Drafted by the Orioles in the fifth round of their epic 2019 draft class that has already yielded big leaguers Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Kyle Stowers, Hernaiz got a bit lost in the shuffle of Baltimore’s deep farm system. Traded to the Athletics for Cole Irvin In January, he now has a much clearer runway to MLB. Scouts like Hernaiz’s loose, handsy swing and bat-to-ball ability, and he hit .273/.341/.438 (122 OPS+) with 12 homers, 32 steals and a 17.9% strikeout rate in 105 games last season. He reached Double-A in late August last season and struggled, but he should enjoy hitting in the Texas League more than he did the Eastern. 

Other shortstops: Angel Genao, Guardians; and Jonathan Mejia, Cardinals

OF Josue De Paula, Dodgers
Extended spring training • Age 18

Signed in January 2022, De Paula had few peers in his age group in the Dominican Summer League in his debut. He hit .349/.448/.522 with five homers in 53 games to rank fifth among qualified 17-year-old DSL hitters with a .970 OPS. De Paula has a picturesque lefthanded swing and is still adding muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame. Given his production and projection he could be an impact corner outfielder at maturity. This season De Paula gets his first test in a U.S. league. 

OF Spencer Jones, Yankees
High-A Hudson Valley • Age 22

Athleticism, power and speed. Those are the key attributes that drew the Yankees to Jones with the 25th pick in the 2022 draft. The former Vanderbilt star has sky-high upside to match his 6-foot-7 stature, especially after he reined in his swing-and-miss as a college junior. In a 22-game sample for Low-A Tampa, Jones hit .325/.411/.494 (161 OPS+) with three homers, 10 steals and an 18.9% strikeout rate. The sky’s the limit if Jones keeps hitting against more advanced pitchers.

OF Sterlin Thompson, Rockies
High-A Spokane • Age 22

The Rockies used the compensation pick they gained when Trevor Story signed with the Red Sox to draft Thompson 31st overall in 2022. The sweet-swinging former Florida Gator spent a few weeks in the Arizona Complex League before joining Low-A Fresno, where he hit .348/.380/.500 (137 OPS+) with a homer and a 24.0% strikeout rate in 11 games. Thompson played to his strengths in his brief pro debut, hitting the ball hard consistently and making tons of in-zone contact. Those traits should serve the lefthanded hitter as he advances in a Rockies system that leans heavy with hitter-friendly parks and has the dangling BABIP carrot of Coors Field at the end.

Other outfielders: Anthony Gutierrez, Rangers; Joe Lampe, Guardians; Parker Meadows, Tigers; Nelson Rada, Angels; and Samuel Zavala, Padres 

RHP Prelander Berroa, Mariners
Double-A Arkansas • Age 23

The Mariners added Berroa last May when they traded Donnie Walton to the Giants. The deal paid off better than they could have imagined. Berroa struck out 36.5% of batters to rank fifth in the minors among pitchers with at least 100 innings. Then he showed up to big league camp this spring brandishing an electric high-90s fastball with ride and a devastating mid-80s slider. Berroa’s control is probably short for the rotation, but a high-leverage relief role appears to be in his future.

RHP Owen Murphy, Braves
Low-A Augusta • Age 19

There may be no better pairing than high school pitchers and the Braves. Murphy was a standout pitcher and power-hitting shortstop at his suburban Chicago high school who is now in the capable hands of Atlanta pitching development. The Braves are helping the 6-foot Murphy develop his slider/cutter hybrid into more of a gyro slider to pair with his high-spin fastball and hammer curveball. Murphy’s pitch traits and athleticism should create a fairly easy transition to pro ball. 

RHP Marco Raya, Twins
Extended spring training • Age 20

Raya was trending in the right direction at his southern Texas high school when the pandemic scuttled the 2020 season. He fell to the Twins in the fourth round of the five-round draft and proceeded to miss the 2021 season with shoulder fatigue. Raya came out firing at Low-A Fort Myers in 2022 and showed a plus riding fastball in the mid 90s and command of a vicious slider. He also picked up a new split-changeup grip to help combat lefthanded hitters. Last season he posted a 3.05 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 23 walks in 65 innings. Next for Raya is building up his 6-foot frame and stamina after truncated 2020 and 2021 seasons. He opened the season in extended spring training but is ticketed for High-A Cedar Rapids when ready.

LHP Noah Schultz, White Sox
Extended spring training • Age 19

The appeal of Schultz is hard to miss. He’s a 6-foot-9 lefthander who delivers high-90s fastballs from a low release angle. It’s an atypical look that has the potential to give pro hitters fits. Schultz has advanced feel for his mid-80s slider and throws a changeup that will be a developmental focus this season. If he throws enough strikes, Schultz has upside to match his stature. He was sidelined with a left flexor strain and should join Low-A Kannapolis when healthy.

LHP Robby Snelling, Padres
Low-A Lake Elsinore • Age 19

Snelling starred in baseball and football at his Reno high school, needing as many as 235 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame to play linebacker. But now that baseball is his sole focus, he has leaned up and improved his flexibility as he embarks on his first pro season. Snelling had one of the best breaking pitches and some of the sharpest control in the prep class last year, prompting the Padres to buy him out of a Louisiana State commitment for $3 million as the 39th overall pick. Polishing a split-like changeup to pair with his mid-90s heat and spike-curveball will be goals for 2023.

Other pitchers: Brandon Barriera, Blue Jays; Dax Fulton, Marlins; Cristian Mena, White Sox; Connor Prielipp, Twins; Carlos Rodriguez, Brewers; AJ Smith-Shawver, Braves; and Blade Tidwell, Mets

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