One MLB Sleeper Prospect For Each Organization In 2024


Image credit: Juan Nunez (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

With our preseason Top 10 Prospects lists for every MLB organization live, Baseball America now takes a look at players with less fanfare who could surprise in 2024.

Below, find one player in each MLB organization who could emerge this season. A sleeper is defined as any prospect-eligible player who does not rank within his organization’s Top 10 Prospects and was not designated as a breakout in our recent team-by-team posts.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Christian Cerda, C

Acquired from the Rays for David Peralta at the 2022 trade deadline, Cerda impressed mightily behind the plate across the Class A levels last season. He is a solid receiver and blocker with an above-average, accurate arm that controls the run game. Beyond his physical skill set, he is a natural leader who is bilingual and brings energy, positivity and toughness to every game. He has excellent strike-zone discipline and does just enough offensively to have a chance to rise as a defense-first catcher.

Kyle Glaser

Atlanta Braves

Isaiah Drake, OF

Drake is the younger brother of Kenyan Drake, a nine-year NFL running back who played briefly for the Ravens as recently as this season. Like his brother, Isaiah is a speedster, with exceptional top-of-the-scale speed. He won’t turn 19 until halfway through the 2024 season, and will require a lot of patience, but he has the tools to be a speedy center fielder who can run down balls in the gaps and create havoc on the bases. He’s going to need plenty of time and work at the plate to reach that ceiling, but in a system lacking in position prospects, he’s a toolshed to keep an eye on.

JJ Cooper

Baltimore Orioles

Juan Nuñez, RHP

One of four pitching prospects acquired by Baltimore when it traded reliever Jorge Lopez to the Twins at the 2022 trade deadline, Nuñez flashed above-average stuff across the board but shaky control at two Class A levels in 2023. He pitches at 93-95 mph and throws swing-and-miss breaking stuff in the form of a power curveball and a gyro slider. Nuñez also has a changeup that flashes above-average. Control is a problem after the 23-year-old walked 13% of batters in 2023, but he has the wide arsenal to start if he can rein in the free passes.

— Matt Eddy

Boston Red Sox

Hunter Dobbins, RHP

After a promising early career at Texas Tech, Dobbins had Tommy John surgery and missed all of his junior season. The Red Sox gambled on Dobbins in the eighth round of the 2021 draft and have been rewarded with a pleasant surprise over the past 18 months. Dobbins climbed from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland in 2023 on the strength of his strikeout ability. Dobbins mixes four pitches led by a four-seam fastball with heavy cut at 94-95 mph touching 96 mph, with a mid-80s slider, a curveball at 79-80 mph and a low-80s splitter. While Dobbins doesn’t miss many bats with his fastball, he does use it effectively to get ahead in the count and setup his secondaries.

Geoff Pontes

Chicago Cubs

Brandon Birdsell, RHP

Birdsell won Big 12 Conference pitcher of the year at Texas Tech in 2022 and led the Cubs organization with a 2.77 ERA last season while rising to Double-A. He is a confident, durable pitcher who commands his fastball and throws four pitches for strikes to keep hitters off-balance. While none of his pitches jump out individually, his aggressiveness, fastball command and deep arsenal give him a chance to outperform others with louder stuff and be a solid back-end starter.

— Kyle Glaser

Chicago White Sox

Terrell Tatum, OF

Tatum was taken by the White Sox in the 16th round of the 2021 draft on the strength of a combination of tools and athleticism, but didn’t have a full season’s workload until 2023, when he split the year between High-A and Double-A. He’s shown flashes of his upside, which includes above-average defense in center field and plus speed that plays both on the bases and in the outfield. The North Carolina State alum is a fringy hitter with fringe-average power and could fit as a fourth outfielder, but with a bit more seasoning in 2024 could raise his ceiling a tick. 

Josh Norris

Cincinnati Reds

Julian Aguiar, RHP

Aguiar is a bit of a late-bloomer as a 12th-round find out of Cypress (Calif.) JC. He looked much more impressive and dominant in 2023 than he had in his first two pro seasons, showing the ingredients to be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter. His ability to mix two breaking balls (curve and slider), a four-seam and a two-seam fastball and a plus changeup gives him the ability to handle lefties and righties. The Reds can be patient with him with so many arms now set for the major league rotation and Triple-A Louisville, but he could be ready for Cincinnati by 2025.

JJ Cooper

Cleveland Guardians

Parker Messick, LHP

Picking Messick as a sleeper is a vote of confidence in the Guardians pitching development. As he currently stands, Messick is a crafty, well-rounded lefty starter who has a chance to fill the zone with four pitches, none of which are plus. But if the Guardians can succeed in getting him to throw a bit harder, something they’ve done with numerous other college arms with above-average control, they could really have something. Messick knows how to pitch, can spin a breaking ball, spot a changeup and throw strikes. If he was sitting 93-94 mph instead of 90-92 as he currently does, everything else will play up as well.

JJ Cooper

Colorado Rockies

Evan Justice, LHP

Justice has flashed the type of pure stuff that plays in a major league bullpen dating back to his days at NC State. A near side-arm lefthander from a low slot, Justice mixes a fastball that sits 95-96 mph touching 97 mph from a 5-foot-3 release height. His fastball is an effective and nasty pitch on its own, but Justice’s gyro slider at 82-84 mph generates whiffs on 45.7% of swings in the strike zone. It’s this one-two power combo that allows Justice to profile as a potential late-inning option for the Rockies as soon as 2024. Command, particularly of his slider is the biggest question mark, but his pure stuff and deceptive operation could yield a long successful major league career.

Geoff Pontes

Detroit Tigers

Justice Bigbie, OF

Bigbie was one of the best hitters in the Tigers’ system in 2023, and he ranked just outside of the Top 10, so he’s not a deep sleeper. But considering his background as a 19th-round pick out of Western Carolina in 2021, he’s coming from well off the radar. Bigbie started to do a better job of turning his excellent contact skills into more productive power in 2023, and he looked more comfortable in the outfield than he had at first base. There are still questions about how well he can handle plus stuff, but his breakout 2023 season showed he knows what he’s doing and has solid pitch recognition.

— JJ Cooper

Houston Astros

Waner Luciano, 3B

Luciano signed as a member of the Astros 2022 international class and has done nothing but hit, posting an OPS above .800 in each of the first two seasons of his career. A thicker-bodied corner infielder, Luciano has seen a majority of his playing time at third base, but could move off the position. His bat is his carrying tool, and Luciano pairs strong bat-to-ball skills (13.3% in-zone contact rate), plate discipline (21.6% chase) and developing power (104 mph 90th percentile exit velocity). It’s an exciting mix of skills and Luciano should make his full-season debut in 2024.

— Geoff Pontes

Kansas City Royals

Trevor Werner, 3B

Werner took a few years to find his footing at Texas A&M, but he put together a solid season in 2023 hitting .252/.349/.514 with 14 home runs. The Royals selected Werner in the seventh round and he immediately made noise upon his debut. Werner was initially assigned to the Arizona Complex League where after four games the Royals had seen enough to promote him to Low-A Columbia. There over 31 games Werner hit .354/.459/.699 with eight home runs while showcasing some of the best underlying data of recent draftees.

— Geoff Pontes

Los Angeles Angels

Ryan Costeiu, RHP

A seventh-round pick out of Arkansas in 2021, Costeiu impressed in his first full professional season before missing all of last year after having Tommy John surgery. He flashed a swing-and-miss, mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup and an improving curveball before surgery and could rise quickly if his stuff returns intact. He has the arsenal and control to remain a starter and enough stuff to excel as a reliever if he needs to move to the bullpen.

Kyle Glaser

Los Angeles Dodgers

Alexander Albertus, 3B/2B

Albertus hit .307/.469/.420 in the complex leagues after signing out of Aruba and is a frequent target of opposing teams in trade discussions. He has a good understanding of the strike zone, advanced contact skills for his age and is a smart, cerebral player who gets the most out of his ability. His future defensive home is in question, but his promising offensive skill set makes for a strong foundation.

— Kyle Glaser

Miami Marlins

Fabian Lopez, SS

Signed for $650,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2023, Lopez hit .265/.327/.405 in a 49-game pro debut in the Dominican Summer League. The 18-year-old shines defensively with plus range and arm strength, but is several seasons away from reaching his offensive upside. The switch-hitting Lopez has a chance to develop into a near-average hitter who adds value with efficient basestealing. 

— Matt Eddy

Milwaukee Brewers

Oliver Dunn, 2B

While he is already 26 years old and in his third organization, Dunn is a member of the 40-man roster and has a path to playing time in Milwaukee if the power gains he showed in 2023 are real. The Brewers picked him up at the reserve roster deadline in November, trading prospects Robert Moore and Hendry Mendez to the Phillies. The lefthanded-hitting Dunn makes frequent hard contact—92 mph average exit velocity; career-high 21 home runs at Double-A—and draws walks at a high rate but is a limited defender at second base and third base. The Brewers don’t have entrenched regulars at those positions and could have DH at-bats available, making Dunn a possible multi-position option in 2024.

— Matt Eddy

Minnesota Twins

Zebby Matthews, RHP

Matthews opened a lot of eyes with his ability to throw five pitches for strikes while dominating the Florida State League and holding his own in the Midwest League last year. He has found the feel for a hard 89-91 mph cutter that gives lefties a lot of trouble. Righthanded hitters are annoyed by his sweepy slider. Matthews was old for those levels and will be 24 for most of the 2024 season, but he has the arsenal and feel to handle a jump to Double-A Wichita.

JJ Cooper

New York Mets

Branny De Oleo, SS

The 18-year-old shortstop was one of the Mets’ most pleasant developmental stories in 2023 while making his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League. De Oleo hit .313/.403/.476 in 46 games, showing high-end bat-to-ball skills—he struck out just 9% of the time—and the type of athleticism and body projection to add power to his game. He has the range, arm and instincts to stick at shortstop as he develops. 

— Matt Eddy

New York Yankees

Brock Selvidge, LHP

Selvidge got the second-largest bonus in the Yankees’ 2021 draft class and slowly wound his way through the system until an excellent 2023 season split between the Class A levels. The lefthander has an above-average fastball and a potentially plus slider that stood as one of the better pitches of its type in a system full of them. If he can bring forth his changeup and/or cutter and work to keep his arm speed uniform on all of his pitches, he could take a jump in 2024, when he should reach the upper levels for the first time. 

Josh Norris

Oakland Athletics

Drew Conover, RHP

Drafted in the 11th round in 2023 out of Rutgers, Conover made only one brief pro appearance but has attributes that could allow him to progress rapidly if moved to the bullpen. The 22-year-old righthander delivers a mid-90s fastball from a low arm angle and backs it with a high-spin slider that helped him strike out 83 batters in 68 innings as a college junior.

— Matt Eddy

Philadelphia Phillies

Devin Saltiban, SS

Phillies officials pointed to Saltiban as one of the system’s more intriguing players, even if it might take a while for him to reach his ceiling. The Hawaiian product was an outfielder in high school, but converted to shortstop as a professional thanks to the suggestion of Philadelphia crosschecker Shane Bowers. Saltiban has a swing that should produce both average and power as part of a tool package that could get him to 50s and 55s across the board. He performed well in a limited sample after signing, and will get plenty of patience at his new position in his first full year as a pro, which should be spent largely in Clearwater. 

Josh Norris

Pittsburgh Pirates

Jack Brannigan, 3B

The Notre Dame alum had an excellent season in 2023, when he advanced to High-A Greensboro and showed off powerful tools across the board. Brannigan’s bag of tricks includes a double-plus throwing arm that ranks as the best in the system, 60-grade defense and speed and power that rank as potentially above-average. Now, he needs to cut down on the swing and miss in order to let his offensive game play to its fullest potential. His defense gives him a floor of a backup big leaguer, but there’s plenty more upside left to tap. 

Josh Norris

St. Louis Cardinals

William Sullivan, 1B

Throughout the fall, Sullivan generated the most buzz among recent draftees in the Cardinals offseason development camps. The 13th-round pick out of Troy impressed with his raw power and feel to hit. Sullivan hit just 26 home runs over four collegiate seasons, but exploded for 17 during his final season at Troy. He hit .308/.395/.433 over 32 games during his professional debut in the Florida State League. An older unheralded prospect, Sullivan shows hints that he’s a late-bloomer just scratching the surface on his power-hitting potential. With exit velocities during development camp up to 115 mph, Sullivan has potential top of the scale power bubbling under the surface.

Geoff Pontes

San Diego Padres

Ryan Bergert, RHP

Bergert had a chance to go in the top three rounds of the 2021 draft out of West Virginia but fell to the Padres in the sixth round after he had Tommy John surgery and missed the season. He showed loud stuff in his first year back and regained his command and feel in 2023, leading to a 2.73 ERA with 126 strikeouts in 105 innings across High-A and Double-A. With his stuff, durability and command growing each year he moves away from surgery, Bergert has a chance to take another jump in 2024. 

Kyle Glaser

San Francisco Giants

Liam Simon, RHP

If it occurs, Simon’s breakout might take a little longer than some of the other names on this list. That’s because the righthander had Tommy John surgery in May and won’t return until some point later in the year. If he returns with his stuff intact, it might be worth the wait. Simon has a big fastball and a nasty—if inconsistent—slider that could work in concert to form an overpowering two-pitch mix. If that’s the case, he could move quickly and find himself as a late-inning option sometime in 2025. 

Josh Norris

Seattle Mariners

Bill Knight, OF

A 10th-round pick out of Mercer in 2022, Knight missed a month with a broken hand but excelled when he was on the field in his first full professional season. He hit .285/.388/.401 with six home runs, 32 RBIs and 36 stolen bases in 70 games while rising to High-A and showed real tools to lean on. He is a plus-plus runner who can stay in center field and consistently puts together good at-bats, all of which gives him a path to the majors.

Kyle Glaser

Tampa Bay Rays

Chandler Simpson, OF

Simpson is one of the fastest players in professional baseball. He led the minors with 94 steals in 2024 and is almost impossible to strike out. It’s a pretty solid combination, even if he has virtually no power. Most of his doubles and triples come on balls that find gaps and land in front of the outfielders, and when he hits his first pro home run, it’s likely to be an inside-the-park job. Simpson has hit for average pretty much everywhere he’s played, and with his speed, pitchers hate to see him standing on first base. Usually, before long he’s standing on second. 

JJ Cooper

Texas Rangers

Caden Scarborough, RHP

As a draft prospect, Scarborough gained late helium because of improved fastball velocity and remaining projection on his frame. The Rangers took a gamble on him in the sixth round and awarded him a bonus north of $500,000. His fastball sits in the 89-91 range and is paired with a north-south curveball in the low 70s. The mix plays up because of big-time extension in his delivery. There’s a long way to go, but the Rangers have shown the patience in recent years to take chances on talented players who require a fair amount of polish to reach their ceilings. Scarborough fits that bill perfectly. -Josh Norris

Toronto Blue Jays

Nolan Perry, RHP

The Blue Jays farm system is stocked with relievers who have big fastballs and are close to the majors. But outside of Ricky Tiedemann, Brandon Barriera and a few prospects, the Blue Jays are short in terms of legitimate starting pitching prospects. Enter Nolan Perry, a projectable righthander with excellent feel for his breaking ball and in-game production that’s yet to match his ability. Perry mixes a four-seam fastball at 92-94 mph with around 17-18 inches of induced vertical break and 11 inches of run, with a slider at 82-84 mph with moderate sweep, a low-80s curveball with two-plane depth and a changeup. He has a projectable frame with a starter’s pitch mix.

— Geoff Pontes

Washington Nationals

Zach Brzykcy, RHP

The Nationals certainly aren’t sleeping on Brzykcy. They added the 24-year-old reliever to the 40-man roster in November despite him losing the entire season to Tommy John surgery. Signed as an undrafted player out of Virginia Tech in 2020, Brzykcy put himself on the map with a transcendent 2022 that culminated at Triple-A Rochester. That season he struck out 95 in 61.1 innings as he recorded a 1.76 ERA in 51 appearances. When healthy, Brzykcy showed an explosive mid-to-high-90s fastball, an above-average curveball and the type of control to work in a high-leverage role.

— Matt Eddy

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