Spring Training Hot Sheet: Baseball's 10 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (3/21/23)
The Hot Sheet is back! Baseball America's staff ranks the 10 hottest prospects from the previous week. This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did through March 20. Contributing this week was Josh Norris.
This simply recognizes what the hottest prospects in the minors did in the past week—it’s not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.
1. Gavin Stone, RHP, Dodgers
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO, 0 HR
The Scoop: It’s hard to believe, but it appears the Dodgers have found another late-round gem. The fifth-rounder from Central Arkansas in 2020 rung up 168 strikeouts in 2022, tying him for ninth in the minor leagues. He zoomed from High-A to Triple-A that year and is on the precipice of becoming yet another talented homegrown Dodger.
2. Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs
Why He’s Here: .462/.533/.846 (6-for-13), 2 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The No. 2 prospect in the game is living up to the hype. With another strong week of showing sneaky power and blazing speed, Carroll is showing why he’s a prime contender for the NL’s Rookie of the Year award and could be a cornerstone in the D-backs’ rebuilding efforts.
3. Jared Shuster, LHP, Braves
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO, 0 HR
The Scoop: The Braves emptied the farm to land Matt Olson and Sean Murphy—among others, but there’s still a few gems at the top, and keeping Shuster might prove to be a boon. The Wake Forest alum was identified by scouts in spring training as a player who’d opened their eyes. Atlanta already found one high-end pitcher from the Atlantic Coast Conference in recent years. Shuster could be next.
4. Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, D-backs
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 2.25, 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO, 1 HR
The Scoop: Though he was optioned back to Triple-A, Pfaadt is part of an enviable cluster of pitching the D-backs have at their upper levels. He struck out 15 in 12 spring innings (so far), including an excellent outing this past week. His year will begin at Reno, but it shouldn’t be long before Pfaadt is pitching in Arizona once more.
5. Jordan Westburg, 3B, Orioles
Why He’s Here: .429/.500/.786 (6-for-14), 5 R, 0 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: The Orioles have plenty of pieces ready to impact Baltimore in the near future, but they also have options. Gunnar Henderson is the game’s top prospect and could be a key cog in the team’s fortunes, but Westburg could fit on the left side of the infield as well. The Mississippi State alum provides power and on-base skills befitting a player who profiles at third base. He should make his big league debut in 2023.
6. Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers
Why He’s Here: .444/.500/1.000 (4-for-9), 2 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Jung struggled a bit in his first big league stint, then went back to the lab in the offseason and made some swing changes. So far, so good. The mashing corner infielder has lived up to the reputation this spring with three home runs and a 1.135 OPS. Even if he moves off of third base, he has the bat to profile at first base or a corner outfield spot.
7. Canaan Smith-Njigba, OF, Pirates
Why He’s Here: .400/.438/.867 (6-for-15), 4 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Smith-Njigba should get plenty of big league time in 2023 for a Pirates team that is still firmly in rebuilding mode. A former Yankees farmhand who came over in the Jameson Taillon deal, Smith-Njigba hits the ball plenty hard and could provide a pinch of pop when needed throughout the course of the season.
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8. Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Rockies
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO, 0 HR
The Scoop: Hughes was Colorado’s first-rounder in 2022 out of Gonzaga. The righthander made his pro debut in the regular season with one start at Low-A Fresno. On March 20, he made his Cactus League debut with a nighttime start against the Dodgers. He was excellent. Not only did Hughes rack up four punchouts (two swinging) in three innings, he also added four more whiffs. All of his swings and misses came on variations of his fastball—three on cutters, two on sinkers and one on a four-seamer. He topped out at 97 mph.
9. Heston Kjerstad, OF, Orioles
Why He’s Here: .294/.333/.647 (5-for-17), 5 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: After an outstanding Arizona Fall League, Kjerstad is putting together a solid spring training. The Arkansas alum added another home run this past week, bringing his Grapefruit League total to four. Of his 16 hits this spring, nine have gone for extra bases. How he fares against advanced upper-level pitching will help determine his future.
10. Gavin Cross, OF, Royals
Why He’s Here: .800/.833/1.600 (4-for-5), 2 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 BB, 0 SO
The Scoop: Is it a small sample? Yes, but Cross used his brief Cactus League time this past week to show fans why the Royals made him the first college position player they’d selected in the first round since 2013. The Virginia Tech alum clubbed a pair of extra-base hits—including a home run—in five at-bats and added a walk. He could move quickly if he performs in High-A the same way he did in Low-A in his pro debut.