We are back! Over the course of the last few seasons, this series has aimed to detail every prospect promotion across each week of the entire regular season. After reviewing feedback from our readers, we have decided to mix things up a little bit for 2023. Instead of outlining every prospect that gets the call, the series will highlight some of the bigger names that receive a promotion. These players will be discussed in more detail. Some other notable prospects who head to the bigs will also be discussed, but this time around there will be more focus on detailing these top prospects and less focus on players who are being brought up as a depth piece for a double header.
Of course, this means there will be some variance on what this article looks like week to week. Some weeks there will be several notable young players who are joining their major league club while other weeks there will be hardly any. Either way, there should be more than enough players to breakdown.
Additionally, each week, I’ll do a quick note on the featured players from the week prior. This will mostly focus on recent performance and whether or not it appears that the player will stay with the big league club moving forward.
Last week, we took a look Royce Lewis, Ben Joyce, AJ Smith-Shawver, and Grant Anderson. Unfortunately for Lewis, he took a hard fall in Sunday’s game following a collision at first base. He just seems to be a magnet for injuries. Fortunately, it appears to be a case where the injury isn’t as bad as it looks and Lewis has been able to return to the lineup. He still has a high ceiling for fantasy purposes, though it’s realistic to expect him to run a little bit less this season coming off of his lengthy injury. Joyce has made four appearances at the MLB level so far. Three of those have been scoreless frames while the flamethrower coughed up two runs in an inning against the Astros. Overall he’s struck out five in four innings while throwing his fastball nearly 95% of the time. In his most recent outing, which came Wednesday against the Cubs, Joyce walked three batters. It was the first time he issued a free pass at the MLB level but he’s had walk issues historically. Smith-Shawver has made one appearance thus far, tossing 2.1 shutout innings while striking out three and walking one, but he’s slated to make his first start this weekend against the Nationals. It’s unclear just how late into games Atlanta will let him go in his first few outings, but the ceiling is there now that he’s being moved to the rotation. Anderson had made two more relief appearances following his electric MLB debut and looked more human, allowing two runs across two innings while striking out one. Outside of hold leagues, he doesn’t offer a ton fantasy appeal at this point.
Now, onto this week’s call ups.
Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B, CIN (preseason PL/team rank: 4, 1): I mean, who else would it be? De La Cruz clocked in as our number four overall prospect heading into 2023 and following his dominant performance at Triple-A and the graduation of a few names ahead of him, he’s been mentioned by many as the top prospect in the game. De La Cruz’s presence has been felt immediately at the big level – in his first two games, the toolsy infielder has gone 3 for 7 with a home run, triple and a double.
At this point, it’s difficult to argue against it. Coming into this season, we all knew about the tools and his seemingly unparalleled power/speed combo, but questions surrounded his strikeout rate and just how much that would potentially cap his ceiling. So much so that some fool of a writer here made a bold prediction that De La Cruz would fall out of the Top 50 prospect rankings. But this season De La Cruz has been able to cut down on his strikeout rate while also nearly doubling his walk rate. At Double-A in 2022, De La Cruz posted a 7.7% walk rate and a 30.9% strikeout rate in 47 games. He posted nearly identical rates in 73 High-A games, too. But in 2023 at Triple-A? De La Cruz has walked at a 14% clip while striking out 26.9% of the time. That strikeout rate is still a little high, but you take it when the hitter is hitting 12 home runs and swiping 11 bags in just 38 contests.
Only time will tell if the walk rate we saw this spring in the high minors is sustainable. It’s only logical to assume pitchers were avoiding the zone considerably against De La Cruz, so we will see how he manages against big-league arms who will be less afraid to attack him in the zone and have a better knack for making balls looks like strikes. It is encouraging that De La Cruz drew two walks in his MLB debut – a game where it feels only natural to want to swing at everything. And even if the walk rate comes back down to his minor league norms and his strikeout rates climb back to around 30%, De La Cruz’s ability to hit the ball hard and reach top end speeds make him one of the higher ceiling players in all of fantasy baseball.
Andrew Abbott, P, CIN (preseason PL/team rank: N/A/7): Abbott has been one of the top prospect breakouts this season, racking up strikeouts seemingly at will. The recently turned 24-year-old lefty made three starts at Double-A to kick off 2023, totaling an absolutely ridiculous 36 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. Just to put that into perspective, that’s 36 strikeouts out of 46 outs. Silly stuff. Of course, we know some parts of Double-A are behind impacted by a tacky ball, but these numbers are impressive nonetheless.
From there, Abbott earned a promotion to Triple-A. Returning to the normal ball and moving up a level saw his strikeout numbers come down to a more human level, but the left-hander still had success. In 38.1 innings, Abbott put up a 25.8% K-BB rate with a 3.05 ERA. That’ll play and earned Abbott a promotion to the big leagues where he made his debut against the Brewers on Monday. Abbott labored through the first two innings before turning a corner and finishing with an impressive line – six innings, zero runs, four walks, one hit and six strikeouts. You can watch Nick Pollack’s excellent breakdown of Abbott’s debut here.
Prior to 2023, it’s not like Abbott was an unknown. The Reds selected Abbott with the 53rd overall pick in 2021 draft, and while he didn’t toss a ton of innings professionally in 2021, he showed off his strikeout potential at High-A and Double-A in 2022, punching out 159 in 118 innings. His ERA finished at 3.81, which while not elite, is good enough. His walk rate approached 10% and although he has cut down on it in 2023, it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.
It looks like Abbott is up for the foreseeable future, so long as he performs well enough. The Reds are bringing up their top prospects and there are more still to come.
Brayan Rocchio, INF, CLE (preseason PL/team rank: 56/5): This isn’t the first time Rocchio got the call – he made our Featured Prospects section earlier this season – but just like we saw in April, and then again in May, Rocchio has already been sent back to Triple-A. Cleveland continues to be frustrating with their prospects, at least from a fan perspective, calling up their top guys to be fill-ins and depth pieces instead of giving them extended them a big league look.
As we’ve covered Rocchio in the past we won’t spend a ton of time on him here. In Triple-A, he’s triple slashing .323/.394/.467 with one home run and 12 steals in 49 games. He’s only 22-years old and has succeeded at every level of the minors.A season ago, Rocchio triple slashed .257/.336/.420 while hitting 18 home runs and swiping 14 bags in 132 games across Double-A and Triple-A.
Hopefully the next time Rocchio is up it will be for a longer stay.
Reese Olson, P, DET (preseason PL/team rank: N/A/9): Coming into the season, Olson’s prospect ranking varied pretty greatly depending on where you looked. Olson had a bit of a breakout in 2022, spending the whole season in Double-A as a 22-year-old. There, he racked up 168 strikeouts in 119.2 innings, while finishing with a 4.14 ERA. He also had a 25.6 K-BB%. Those stats are eerily similar to what we saw from Abbott a season ago.
The difference between the two is that Olson has not had much 2023 success at Triple-A. In 10 starts at he minor’s highest level, Olson put up a 14.3% K-BB rate and a 6.38 ERA. Despite the tough results, Olson got the call due to multiple injuries to the Tigers’ staff. The right-hander responded in his MLB debut, striking out six while allowing two runs in five frames against the White Sox.
Outside of 2022, Olson has posted some pretty high walk rates. He has good strikeout potential and plays in a weak division, so there’s a chance he could be fantasy relevant if he’s up for the next few weeks, but it’s unclear how long he will be with the big league team.
Photo courtesy of the Cincinnati Reds | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesfdx on Twitter)