Welcome to the newest list to debut on the PitcherList site. The dynasty team is continuing to grow here as we have great content coming out weekly with everything from performance reports to a consistently awesome prospect podcast.
Adding to the already great lineup, I now have the honor of bringing you a top prospect list for dynasty leagues. Before diving in, make sure to read through the Prospect List rules below.
Prospect List Rules:
- All players must have prospect eligibility.
- This list is only for prospects in the Minor Leagues, no Major League players are included.
- Maximum of 2 positions listed per player
- Primarily weighted for standard 5×5 leagues, but all league types are considered.
Prospect List Graduates:
This part of the Prospect List is reserved for players who appeared in the previous version but have since been promoted to the Major Leagues.
Top 50 Prospect Notes
Prior to the 2023 season, there was plenty of buzz around Jackson Merrill. Merrill was the Padres first-round pick from 2021 and looked dominant in the Complex League and Low-A last season. I, however, was not ready to crown Merrill as a top 15 prospect in baseball and included him in my preseason prospect bust article. Any good fantasy baseball analyst/writer is willing to own up to their wrong predictions. Labeling Merrill as a bust candidate was a mistake and he now sits inside my top ten prospects.
The case for Merrill busting was simple and is something that I explained more deeply in an article you can find here. Merrill hit way too many ground balls for my liking in 2022. Hitters that rely on ground balls can only have a ceiling so high. The start of 2023 appeared to be more of the same for Merrill. He was hitting ground balls more than 50% of the time which was preventing him from hitting home runs and was keeping his BABIP and batting average down.
Although exact data points are unavailable, a flip seemed to switch for Merrill toward the end of May. His ground ball rate on FanGraphs consistently dropped lower and his slash line consistently improved. From May 27th to July 6th, Merrill hit .315/.352/.490. More impressively, Merrill clubbed seven home runs over that span.
Merrill’s strides at the plate have become even more clear since his promotion to Double-A. Previously, his career-low in ground ball percentage at any level was 48.6%. This number currently sits at 35.9%. More line drives and more fly balls will lead to more home runs and a higher batting average for Merrill who currently has a 114 wRC+ in Double-A.
While I stand by my research that hitters with high-ground ball tendencies have a higher chance of struggling, Merrill has proven that he is talented enough to undergo a swing change and still be one of the best hitters in the Minor Leagues. He moves up to number seven on this update and is a prospect we could see debut as soon as this season.
When playing fantasy baseball, our attention easily shifts from one shiny new toy to another. Much like the meme where the guy is holding the hand of one girl and turns around to look at another girl. Our lack of complacency is often a good thing, but sometimes it can come back to bite us in the butt. Diego Cartaya is the perfect example of that. Entering this season, Cartaya was fresh off a 22 home run campaign and ranked inside the top 100 on most prospect lists. Then, enter Dalton Rushing, Ethan Salas, and Jeferson Quero to name a few, and Cartaya’s perceived value was dropping.
Couple those new flashy names with the fact Cartaya is batting under .200 and it is easy to see why dynasty managers were quick to write him off. I am here to say those judgments were passed too quickly. Yes, Cartaya has struggled with strikeouts throughout his professional career. This has continued in 2023 and it is possible this will always be a part of his game. However, this is one of few catching prospects with the potential to hit 25+ home runs in a season. He is already up to 19 home runs this year and will likely clear 20 for a second consecutive season. Since 2018, there have only been nine catchers to hit 25+ home runs in a season. The possibility for Cartaya to reach this insanely makes him an intriguing prospect.
The biggest issue prospect evaluators have with ranking Cartaya inside of the top 50 is that his batting average currently sits below The Mendoza Line. Cartaya’s strikeout rate will likely prevent him from ever posting superb batting averages, but he has been a decent hitter throughout his Minor League career. His batting stance and swing is extremely quiet and polished leading to high line drive rates and excellent BABIPs. A BABIP that has consistently sat above .310, currently sits down at .216. Cartaya’s batted ball metrics are similar to those of previous seasons and it is easy to chalk his 2023 struggles up to poor luck.
Cartaya has been rewarding those who have been patient with strong play as of late. Since August 5th, Cartaya’s BABIP still sits down at .243, but his slash line is .246/.356/.557 including six home runs during that time frame. Surface numbers can be misleading and Cartaya remains a top 50 prospect for me.
Back-Half Top 100 Prospect Notes
Take one look at Lazaro Montes and you can understand why the fantasy community has become enamored with him. Montes stands at 6’4″ and has some of the best raw power in the Minor Leagues. Last summer in the DSL, Montes slugged 10 home runs in just 55 games. As an encore this season, for his first home run at the Complex League Montes crushed a home run that was registered at 118 mph off the bat:
Lazaro Montes ?
— Prospects Worldwide (@ProspectsWorldW) July 1, 2023
Montes’ swing is designed to tap into his power by elevating the ball and utilizing the pull side. After crushing six home runs in his first 37 games at the Complex League, the Mariners sent him to Low-A where his power surge has continued. In just 20 games, Montes is already up to six home runs and his hit tool seems to be improving. After striking out over 33% of the time in the DSL, Montes lowered his strikeout rate to 25.3% at the Complex level. Now in Low-A, he is striking out under 25% of the time. Montes’ pitch recognition is excellent as is his understanding of the strike zone.
The ceiling here is Yordan Alvarez. A big burly outfielder who is suspect in the field and will not provide much of any contribution in the stolen base category. However, he has the potential to be one of the best bats in all of baseball if everything works out. He is still just 18 years old, but this potential carries him inside of the top 100.
Addison Barger was a popular breakout pick entering the 2023 season. Fresh off a breakout 2022 campaign that saw him bat over .300 with 26 home runs across three different levels, Barger was looking to break through to the Major Leagues in 2023. Although his first home run got people excited (A 456-footer!), the start to the season was a major disappointment. Barger struggled to make consistent contact before injuries cost him nearly two months of action.
It took Barger some time to regain his timing at the plate, but the performance everybody was hoping for is finally happening. Barger has looked like a different hitter during the second half of 2023. He is batting near .300 with an ISO over .200. The most impressive part is the fact that he is walking more than he is striking out. Considering the biggest concern with Barger is his hit tool, it is safe to say there is plenty to be excited about.
Looking under the hood, Barger’s season has been even more impressive. Starting with quality of contact, Barger’s max exit velocity is up at 113.7 mph. This would rank in the 89th percentile amongst Major League batters. On top of that, his sweet spot percentage sits over 37% and his barrel rate is 7.2%. From a plate discipline standpoint, Barger is whiffing on less than 25% of pitches and chasing only 27.5% of the time. Both numbers are better than the Major League average. Many (including myself) were too fast to push Barger down ranking lists. He is back inside the top 100 where he belongs.
Prospect List Part 2
Prospects That Just Missed
After being selected 39th overall in the 2022 draft, Robby Snelling is wasting no time ascending through the Minor Leagues. 51.2 dominant innings at Low-A was all the Padres needed to see before sending Snelling up to High-A. In 34.2 innings there, he posted a 2.34 ERA with a 27.8% strikeout rate and a walk rate of under eight percent. The Padres once again had seen enough and quickly moved Snelling up to Double-A.
Snelling is a three-pitch guy who relies heavily on a low-to-mid 90s fastball. His curveball is inconsistent at times but when on, is virtually unhittable for left-handed batters. The biggest key to Snelling’s projection is likely going to be the development of his changeup. Without elite velocity, Snelling needs a third pitch to really raise his ceiling. If he can do that, he will for sure break into the top 100 prospects. For now, he sits just outside as a name to monitor.
Xavier Isaac, Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays originally selected Xavier Isaac 29th overall in last year’s draft out of a North Carolina high school. A rare true first baseman, scouts knew that Isaac was going to need to hit and hit well to make it to the Major Leagues. A slow start to his first professional season had many questioning his upside and saw him fall down dynasty ranking lists. Well, Isaac’s value is back on the rise. Since the start of July, he is slashing .294/.391/.531 with eight home runs. This was good enough to earn him a promotion to High-A and you can see from the swing just how effortless his power is:
Didn’t take long for Xavier Isaac to hit his first High-A homer!
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 25, 2023
The one thing keeping Isaac outside of the top 100 is his inconsistent swing path. Although still early in his career, Isaac is showing a tendency to run high ground ball rates. For a player who is going to need to hit for power to make it to the Major Leagues, this is a major concern. He is still only 19 years old and there is plenty of time for him to develop, but if he fails to undergo a swing change he will never reach his full potential. If Isaac starts hitting more fly balls, he will easily move inside of the top 100 on this list.
Deep Prospects to Note
Luis Morales, Oakland Athletics
The Athletics made signing Luis Morales a priority this off-season, handing the 20-year-old pitcher a three million dollar signing bonus. He made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League where he looked virtually untouchable. His fastball consistently sits in the upper 90s with the ability to hit 100. His secondaries are a work in progress, but the most promising is a curveball that is especially effective to righties.
Morales continued to rack up strikeouts in the Complex League before earning a promotion to Low-A. Now, he has given up one earned run or less in three of his first four starts while striking out 11.68 batters per nine. The ceiling for Morales is a future ace and dynasty managers need to make sure he is on their radars.
For those of you looking for a sleeper pick in first-year player drafts, highlight Tai Peete on your list. Peete was selected 30th overall by the Mariners in the 2023 draft and recently promoted the young infielder to Low-A. Despite being just 18 years old, Peete already has a mature frame standing at 6’2″ and 193 pounds. FanGraphs gave his future raw power a 70-grade and after seeing his first two professional home runs, it is easy to see why:
Bet Tai Peete didn't even dream this one up!
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) August 28, 2023
Peete’s swing looks effortless and is consistent enough to hit plenty of line drives. He already possesses an innate ability to pull the ball which will help turn his raw power into game power. Seattle already has plenty of prospects rocketing up ranking lists (Cole Young, Lazaro Montes, and Gabriel Gonzalez just to name a few) and Peete could be the next name to join them. He is already off to a fast start in the Minor Leagues and is a name to know.