Here’s a link to the Top 25.
That top 25 blends in pretty well with what you’ll see elsewhere, and so this group, mostly, but from here forward, my lists tend to be tilted toward near-term fantasy functionality, for what it’s Wuertz.
I value the grind of the climb. Each level brings new separators, so guys like Maikel Garcia and Joey Ortiz have shown more, in my opinion, than a guy like Jackson Merrill. Nothing against Merrill or anyone in the lower minors. They’ll have their day. I just don’t see much value in jumping headlong on to Tom Smykowksi’s Conclusions Mat when we’ve got so many great prospects on the cusp who’ve earned their keep. If I get three seasons of useful stats out of a player before a higher-ranked teeny-bopper even gets started, that matters to me. I suppose you could cut it up differently for a rebuilding project, but I wouldn’t change much.
26. Guardians RHP Tanner Bibee | 24 | AA | 2023
Bibee’s currently my favorite of Cleveland’s pitching prospects for dynasty purposes in terms of cost v. value. That’s probably changing as I type, but for now it’s still cheap enough to at least ask about Bibee in your leagues. He’s coming off 73.2 innings in Double-A with a 0.88 WHIP. He allowed just four home runs there and wound up with a 1.83 ERA. He’s good enough to the naked eye that I think he’ll make waves this spring. His 122.2 innings pitched last year sets him up perfectly to step in whenever the Guardians need help. At 6’2” 205 lb, Bibee can sit comfortably in the mid-90’s deep into games and has that Cleveland specialty skill of commanding his off-speed pitches. In case you can’t tell from the blurb, I want him everywhere I can get him. You could more or less say that for every Cleveland pitcher, which I try to remind myself any time I’m making moves or building lists.
27. Red Sox SS Marcelo Mayer | 20 | A+ | 2024
The 6’3” 188 lb Mayer was the near-consensus top player in the 2021 draft but fell to Boston at 4th overall, so the Xander Bogaerts departure feels like an ongoing thread from the story of that night. Mayer posted a 127 wRC+ in 25 games in High-A as a 19-year-old, which is pretty absurd but might have to hold 2023’s beer if Mayer rushes his way up to the majors, which would surprise everyone but shock nobody.
28. Red Sox 1B Triston Casas | 22 | MLB | 2022
I’m buying at his price after he struggled some in 27 major league games (.197 AVG) but still hit five home runs and posted a .358 OBP. Might have some tough stretches as he learns the pitchers, but he’s the kind of player who should do exactly that, flipping the familiarity advantage toward his favor across time.
29. Yankees OF Jasson Dominguez | 20 | AA | 2024
The Dominator had been submissive in his early pro career but switched it up in 2022, traversing three levels and acing High-A (.306/.397/.510 with an 18.5 percent K-rate) in time to spend his final five games as a 19-year-old in Double-A. He hit 16 home runs and stole 37 bases in his 120 total games. He was caught stealing just seven times, giving hope to those who’d love to see him retain some speed into his late-20’s. Listed at 5’10” 190 lbs, the switch-hitting Dominguez looks more like 290 given the Rock-says nature of his build, but so far he looks more like a running back than a pulling guard. With the pandemic pause and teenage steroid whispers in the past, Dominguez is primed for a huge 2023.
30. Athletics OF Esteury Ruiz | 24 | MLB | 2022
In 114 games across three levels last year, Ruiz stole 86 bases and got caught 16 times: elite volume with an elite success rate. Granted, he’ll have a tougher time getting on base in the majors and a tougher time stealing, but the shift ban helps a contact hitter like him and the three-throw-over rule helps him. The ballpark in Oakland hurts him, but the open runway for playing time is gold in our game. Ruiz heading into 2023 is the toughest fantasy evaluation I can remember in a long time. A lot of people are pretty vocal about being out or down on him. I am not one of those people. Feels like a real buying opportunity to me. If it doesn’t work out, so it goes. The price is not particularly high in a start-up or redraft scenario.
31. Rangers OF Evan Carter | 20 | AA | 2024
A left-handed hitter with smooth actions at 6’4”190 lbs, Evan Carter is a unique player with incredible plate skills. Brandon Nimmo comes to mind, but Carter is on course to be a better athlete with a better hit tool. He slashed .287/.388/.476 with 11 home runs and 26 stolen bases in 100 games at High-A and finished up with a white-hot week in Double-A (.429/.536/.714). I suspect he’ll look like a big leaguer this spring and open in Double-A on a fast track to slagging flies for Jacob deGrom.
32. Mets C Francisco Alvarez | 21 | MLB | 2022
Alvarez battled injuries throughout 2022 and had ankle surgery this week. It’s possible or even probable that the plate-appearance seas will part once he’s back on the field and healthy, but the playing time outlook is a little tricky at the moment. I’m going this long way around to indicate that I think the concerns are real, but my primary read on Alvarez for a long, long time has been that he’s an everyday major leaguer, and probably a middle-order bat for a contending team. Might be an opening to buy the slight dip in his perceived value coming off an injury riddled season. Scherzer and deGrom, if he comes back, will probably throw the guys they know, but Alvarez could be catching two or three times a week coming out of spring training and mixing in at DH as Buck sees fit.
33. Dodgers C Diego Cartaya | 21 | A+ | 2024
Careful not to put the Diego before the horse when evaluating a catching prospect for fantasy baseball. Don’t have a cow man, but I’ll always think of Joey Bart in this way. As good as Cartaya can be, the Dodgers already have a catcher who is very good at defense and offense. Teams don’t just move away from those guys. The universal designated hitters changes the math quite a bit for a guy like Cartaya, which is nice because Freddie Freeman certainly isn’t looking to platoon at first base. At 6’3” 219 lbs, Cartaya is already bringing double-plus power and solid plate skills. In 63 games as a 20-year-old at High-A, he produced a 138 wRC+ thanks to 13 home runs and a 14.2 percent walk rate. If you map forward another year like last, he’ll be 21 in Triple-A this fall and could be part of the postseason roster.
34. Royals SS Maikel Garcia | 23 | MLB | 2022
Rare player here. Fantasy-friendly profile. Easy-plus defense. Several paths to playing time. Favorable scouting reports. Only real hiccup is the awful home park, but aside from that, I’m struggling to understand the general vibe of disinterest I feel around Garcia in the echo chamber. In 40 games at Triple-A, Garcia hit seven home runs and stole 12 bases. You don’t have to be watching Numberblocks everyday to know that would be 28 home runs and 48 stolen bases over 160 games. The power is new, but that’s often the plan with skinny youngsters with barrel feel and strike-zone judgment. It’s all coming together perfectly on time for Garcia.
35. Red Sox OF Masataka Yoshida | 29 | NPB | 2023
At 5’9” 176 lbs , Yoshida is exactly the kind of player scouts doubt every step of the way. The key takeaway for now is that he was completely dominant for a half-decade in Japan, walking twice as much as he struck out while swatting 20-plus home runs and producing MVP-level slash lines. He’s currently around the 400 spot in NFBC drafts. Feels like easy money there. We know one thing for sure: Boston loves him and will give him more time than they gave Rusney Castillo to get situated.
36. Rays 3B Curtis Mead | 22 | AAA | 2023
Mead is ready for the next challenge right now, having posted impressive lines and plate skills at Double-A and Triple-A. He’s not a numbers-only guy either. He aces scouts-eyes evaluations as well. In a lot of organizations, he’d be expected to inherit the everyday third base job in April or May. In Tampa, he might be an afterthought for 2023.
37. Diamondbacks RHP Brandon Pfaadt | 24 | AAA | 2023
If you can see this name without thinking “Pretty hot and tempting,” you have a better mind than mine. The 6’4” 220 lb Pfaadt got better outcomes than anyone could expect from a Triple-A Diamondback, posting a 0.99 WHIP with 74 strikeouts in 61.2 innings. Pitching coach Brent Strom has gotten great results from a lot of arms over the years, and Pfaadt comes gift wrapped with all the bells and whistles, carrying his plus velocity deep into starts and commanding his four-pitch arsenal like a veteran.
38. Yankees SS Oswald Peraza | 22 | MLB | 2022
In 117 games across Triple-A and MLB, Peraza hit 20 home runs and stole 35 bases. He hit .197 in 16 April games and then .271 with 31 extra base hits and 29 steals over his next 83 games before getting the big call. He’s become a little underrated in Volpe’s shadow, but Peraza is a 6’0” 200 lb plus athlete with great hands and still-developing power. He probably should’ve been the shortstop throughout last season and should open at short this season, but I’m a little worried the Yankees don’t see an everyday player when they look at him.
39. Twins SS Royce Lewis | 23 | MLB | 2022
Carlos Correa’s signing clutters the road before Lewis, but he’s talented enough to play left field, third base, second base or right right. When he cracked the lineup last year, the excitement was palpable. He’d hit five home runs and stolen 12 bases in 34 Triple-A games, slashing .313/.405/.534 with a 20.9 percent strikeout rate. In 41 plate appearances as a major leaguer, Lewis hit two home runs and slashed .300/.317/.550. Then he tore an ACL for the second time. That’s not what you want. Just about everything else points to fantasy success for Lewis. Feels like a good time to buy.
40. Dodgers RHP Gavin Stone | 24 | AAA | 2023
Just like the Guardians and Astros, the Dodgers are rarely short on options to cover their innings, and this season is no different, but I see a path to the rotation for Stone, Gavin Stone. He’s coming off a preposterous season covering three levels with a 1.48 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Change-up dominant arms with plus command can cruise through the minors and get corrected at the highest level, but Stone has enough fastball and enough slider to tunnel with that killer cambio. Most importantly, he’s a good pitcher. Knows what he’s doing out there. He struck out a lot of guys but realizes you don’t have to strike everyone out. His best skill as a pro has probably been home run suppression, which I tend to think is generally underrated. He’s allowed ten of them in 212.2 professional innings with just three of those coming in the 121.2 innings he threw this year.
41. Athletics 1B Tyler Soderstrom | 21 | AAA | 2023
That he’s already in Triple-A makes me think the catching path is no longer particularly real for Soderstrom. They might let him keep doing games back there once in a while, but they’ve got Shea Langeliers and just drafted a college catcher (Daniel Susac) with their first-round pick, and they played Soderstrom a lot (59 games) at first base in 2022. Wherever he winds up in the field, Soderstom’s smooth left-handed swing will be holding down the middle of Oakland’s lineup for years to come. At 6’2” 200 lbs, he generates plus power to all fields. In 134 games across three levels, Soderstrom hit 29 home runs, 21 doubles and five triples. The slash lines weren’t idyllic, but .267/.324/.501 across the three stops is extremely impressive given the age-to-level math and especially that Soderstrom bounced back from a rocky start to his season.
42. Mets 3B Brett Baty | 23 | MLB | 2022
Baty slashed .312/.406/.544 with 19 home runs in 89 Double-A games then spent six more in Triple-A before debuting with the Mets. He didn’t light the world aflame during his two big league weeks, but he did contribute two home runs and strike out just eight times in 11 games. At 6’3” 210 lbs with a smooth strike, Baty doesn’t go looking for power but finds it all the same. He’s at his best when he’s going to all fields and fighting for every pitch, something he’s shown a knack for doing since his high school days when scouts considered him the best pure hitter in his draft class. It’s a scary profile for redraft leagues: a speed-free corner infielder with questionable playing time and limited experience against elite spin, but I’m interested anyway at the right price.
43. Royals OF Tyler Gentry | 24 | AA | 2023
Tyler Gentry is following the Vinnie-P path, reducing his strikeouts while boosting his power output. The coaching in Kansas City has proven itself adept at strike-zone management, and the top two on this list are my next two bets on that development team. Gentry is 6’2” 210 lbs but remains quick enough to swipe some bases. He stole ten in 108 games across two levels last year, slashing .326/.422/.542 with 16 home runs, 66 strikeouts and 40 walks.
44. Cubs OF Brennen Davis | 23 | AAA | 2023
Tough stretch for Brennen Davis, who was shut down with another back injury during the Arizona Fall League. Reports suggest it’s not related to the injury that cost Davis the 2022 season, but that doesn’t easily pass the smell test. Bad backs are kinetic chain issues incarnate. On the field, Davis remains a double-plus athlete with easy power and speed, even if I get Corey Patterson-style, could’ve-been-a-contender vibes from the waterfront we’ve traveled so far.
45. Orioles 2B Connor Norby | 22 | AAA | 2023
I almost put Norby even higher on the strength of his 29 home runs across the top three levels of minor league baseball. He finished up with four homers in just nine games at Triple-A, where he drew three walks and struck out five times. At 5’10” 187 lbs with just enough defense to handle second base, Norby has had to hit his way into the baseball world, and the smart money suggests he’ll keep doing so.
46. Orioles OF Colton Cowser | 23 | AAA | 2023
Cowser didn’t thrive in 27 games at Triple-A last season, but that was his third level of the season. When he’s on his game, Cowser features an approach-fueled, high-floor profile that’s great that’s perfect for building an organization from scratch but perhaps not ideal for our five-category purposes. He’s 6’3” 195 lbs from the left side and played centerfield through the minors, so he might be able to hack it out there in Camden Yards, even if I think they’ll need easy plus defenders in center and left to maximize their home field advantage. Like a lot of spots on the Orioles, right field will be hotly contested. Solid chance Cowser looks ready early this year but has to wait a little longer than we’d like.
47. Orioles SS Joey Ortiz | 24 | AAA | 2023
Probably my favorite player in his system in terms of value to our game versus perceived value across the lenses I’ve seen, Ortiz is a plus defender at 5’11” 175 lbs and could come so quickly in spring training that the club has to make room for him early in the season. He finished 2022 with an excellent 26-game stretch in Triple-A (.346/.400.567) and doesn’t have much more to learn in the minors.
48. Red Sox SS OF Ceddanne Rafaela | 22 | AA | 2023
An excellent defender with good speed, Rafaela has been adding power and plate skills the past few seasons. He hit 21 home runs and stole 28 bases across two levels last season. Even reduced his strikeout rate 5.9 percent from High-A to Double-A. Could be an impact piece for us and the Red Sox this year. Seems to me he represents the new prototype in the organization. One of the key lessons Chaim Bloom brought with him from Tampa is prizing plus defenders who run well and can play multiple positions while developing into tough outs in the batter’s box.
49. Rays RHP Taj Bradley | 22 | AAA | 2023
The main worry with Bradley for our purposes is Tampa’s pitching depth. They paid Zack Eflin the Rays-equivalent of one billion dollars, so they’ll want to give that some room to breathe. I’d guess he’s theoretically the number three starter given the money, leaving Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs to fill the four and five spots behind Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow and Eflin. Probably they’ll split up the lefties. Yonny Chirinos and Luis Patiño could factor in somewhere. Shane Baz had Tommy John surgery in September. My main point in rattling through all this is that I think Bradley is a little underrated at the moment, and he probably should be. Feels like Tampa can poof a good starter into existence at any given moment, and Bradley wasn’t dominant in 59 innings at Triple-A (1.19 WHIP, 15.4 K-BB%). On the other hand, he’d just posted a 0.91 WHIP and 24.6 percent strikeout minus walk rate in 74.1 innings at Double-A. The Rays make overperformers out of decent athletes all the time. Bradley is a plus athlete. I don’t know if he’ll splash like McClanahan did, but I am expecting him to succeed early in his career.
50. Padres SS Jackson Merrill | 19 | A | 2025
Merrill had already posted an impressive season (.325/.387/.482 in 45 Low-A games) despite missing two months with a wrist injury when he made a bunch of noise in front of tastemakers this fall in Arizona, solidifying his spot as the likely consensus number one prospect in this system. Makes sense, too. The 6’3” 195 lb Merrill aces the eye test, featuring a sleek left-handed swing that lets him track pitches deep into the zone and explode through the hips to generate even opposite field thump. He’s fast enough to swipe a base or two, too.
Thanks for reading!