The Prospect Watchlist First Half All-Stars

A starting 9 of Prospect Watchlist All Stars plus reserves

With 120 teams and 5,000+ players spread through four levels (not to mention the Dominican Summer League and the Rookie Complex leagues in Arizona and Florida), identifying the next prospect breakout can be difficult. If you wait until end-of-season wrap-ups, a prospect may get too much coverage and no longer be available.

You can scout stat lines all year, but that can be tedious, and it’s difficult to keep an eye on every tweet and post. We may have renamed this column but fear not, intrepid dynasty league manager, this is still THE place to find your potential prospect diamonds in the rough.

With the first half of the MLB season (and the MiLB season technically) now in the books, it’s a perfect time to name the 1st annual Prospect Watchlist First All Stars. This is a starting 9 (with honorable mentions at each position) that, in keeping with the intent of this column, highlights notable under-rostered prospects.


C Moises Ballesteros, CHC, Low A/High A

2023 1st Half Stats: (69 games, combined), .264/.389/.426, 8 HR, 15 doubles, 34 RBI, 35 runs, 5 SBs


As much as I wanted to put Dalton Rushing of the Dodgers as the inaugural backstop of the Prospect Watchlist All Star team, being nearly 25% rostered in Fantrax and an appearance in the MLB Futures Game leads to believe Rushing is well onto his way into the mainstream. That said, Ballesteros is a name that has climbed through the first half of this season.

His recent promotion to High A hasn’t delivered the same power numbers we witnessed earlier in the year but delving into his advanced stats shows continued upward trajectory for the young catcher.

His SwStr still remains obscenely low (6.3% in 12 High A games) along with 11K:8BB rate. Additionally, his contact rate is at 84% while maintaining a manageable Swing % of 41%. He’s actually increased his FB rate as well, so we should expect to begin seeing the ball leave the yard again very soon.

Of course, Ballesteros’ biggest question is his final defensive home. The bar becomes much higher to clear if he gets permanently moved to 1B and his MLB potential becomes completely muddled if he can’t find any definitive spot on the diamond. But for right now, his arrow is moving in the right direction.


Honorable Mention: C Samuel Basallo, BAL, Low A

2023 1st Half Stats: (68 games) .294/.367/.481, 10 HR, 15 doubles, 55 RBI, 45 runs, 5 SBs


Basallo is incredibly similar in player profile to Ballesteros, an exceptionally young international signee who’s shown some advanced ability early in his pro career. Also similar to the Cubs catcher, there’s questions as whether Basallo can (and should) remain behind the plate as he advances through the Orioles’ farm system.

Unlike the 5’7 Ballasteros, Basallo’s large frame and slow mechanics are the reasons for doubt. One thing that’s beyond a doubt, however, is the thunder that the young man from the Dominican Republic carries in his bat.

If the hit tool can even touch league average at every stop, Basallo has major power potential, as evidenced by his 27 XBH so far this year. Look for Basallo to start ticking up rankings at the end of 2023/the preseason of 2024 as analysts look for clarity on whether the Orioles still foresee him as a big-league catcher or move him to 1B for good.


1B Nathan Martorella, SDP, High A

2023 1st Half Stats: (79 games) .268 .370 .454, 12 HR, 15 doubles, 56 RBI, 49 runs, 4 SBs


A spot that Seattle 1B Tyler Locklear was certainly competing for until a broken wrist felled him in May and derailed his season, Martorella has followed the paths of Kyle Manzardo and Vinnie Pasquantino before him.

Martorella joins the fraternity of lefty bats seemingly undervalued due to the lack of positional versatility (Manzardo was the highest draft pick of the three as the 63rd overall pick in 2021). Like his brethren, Martorella has shed any doubts of his ability, displaying a preternatural combination of plate discipline and all fields power.

Martorella should push his way into top 100 rankings in the offseason. If you’ve picked him up by now, you’re reaping the reward of watching his value rise. While Martorella’s big league ceiling is still a bit hazy (Pasquantino is a good hitter but not yet great for fantasy), Martorella gives his managers the ability to seek out major returns thanks to his 2023 season thus far.


Honorable Mention: 1B Ivan Melendez, ARI, AA

Stats: (57 games) .270/.353/.586, 17 HR, 17 doubles, 40 RBI, 35 runs, 4 SBs


Like most of the prospect community, I was already low on Melendez when he was drafted last year in the 2nd round, and the sub-optimal performance in Low A from such a decorated college bat seemed to confirm the worst suspicions.

However, Arizona clearly believed in Melendez’s ability while seeing something that encouraged them to assign him directly to High A anyway to begin 2023. With that assignment, we’ve seen a Melendez more reminiscent of his collegiate profile, yes, still hitting tank job homers but showing great plate discipline against competition that is still probably below his skillset on the whole. 

Melendez may still be available on the wire in your league depending on size. I’d suggest taking the gamble now. Given Arizona’s hitter-friendly upper minors environments, it’s unlikely that we’ll see consistent challenges to Melendez until he reaches the majors. You might as well ride his upward momentum for now.


2B Adael Amador, COL, High A

Stats: (54 games – Currently Injured) .302/.391/.514 , 9 HR, 14 doubles, 35 RBI, 46 runs, 12 SBs


I won’t repeat my effusive praise of Amador yet again but it is important to note that he’s just recovering from surgery on his right hamate bone, an injury that was essentially unreported for a month. The surgery plus recovery time is roughly six weeks, which does damage to Amador’s trajectory.

A healthy return at the end of season could mean a quick promotion to Double AA just to recoup some PAs after the High A season has concluded but it seems even more likely that we see Amador either in winter ball or the Arizona Fall League to help him regain some time lost.


Honorable Mention: 2B Ryan Bliss, ARI, AA

Stats: (68 games, combined) .358/.414/.594, 12 HR, 25 doubles, 47 RBI, 67 runs, 30 SBs


I previously mentioned Arizona’s hitter-friendly environments. While those should be considered when looking at Bliss’s numbers, it can’t be denied that the second baseman listed at 5’6 has displayed that mechanics and data points that lead you to believe his performance this year. 

He’s lifting the ball more with more power while maintaining good overall contact and of course, flashing plus speed on the basepaths. If he were 3-4 inches taller, there’d be even more to recommend, especially if he had the arm to play SS.

As it stands, Bliss is only another season, maybe less, from cracking a major league lineup. Once doing so, Bliss could be a starter, while unremarkable, considerably dependable to deliver in 2-3 offensive catergories.


3B Thomas Saggese, TEX, AA

Stats: (78 games) .317/.385/.518, 12 HR, 20 doubles, 54 RBI, 60 runs, 7 SBs


3B is a bit thin in the prospect world currently. Most of the players at the hot corner have either been promoted (Walker, Baty) or are well-known and rostered. But Saggese provides an under the radar option with some decent proximity to the big leagues.

After starting the year at AA alongside rocketing prospect Evan Carter, Saggese had an awful April that kept him at Frisco longer than it expected. After posting a .241/.311/.354 line in the month (good enough for a  76 wRC+), the former 5th round pick immediately picked up the pace with a hot May (.891 OPS, 136 wRC+) and a blistering June (.969, 146 wRC+).

He seems to be fully converted from SS to 3B now and certainly has a generous helping of thump alongside some good baserunning instincts to be a productive major leaguer. Given Josh Jung’s stranglehold on the position and the Rangers’ newly opened contention window, Saggese is the exact type of prospect that gets sent out as Texas looks for reinforcements to secure their division.

On a weaker team with less talent ahead of him, Saggese could quickly find himself in the big leagues.


Honorable Mention: 3B Sal Stewart, CIN, Low A

Stats: (69 games) .271/.392/.418, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 43 runs, 8 SBs


The saying is “When it rains, it pours” and right now it’s a monsoon in Cincinnati as far as prospect talent. We know the names Elly De La Cruz, Spencer Steer, and Andrew Abbott but there’s more reserves on the way.

I’ve waxed a bit poetic about Stewart in last week’s Watchlist and I really believe he’s someone to watch as we move into the second half of the year. His June has been everything you’d want, not only from a game power standpoint (7 HRs, 9 doubles) but also his hit tool looks better than the 25 present grade he received from Fangraphs. His in-zone contact rate in the month was above 80% while his chase rate of 32% shows a burgeoning command of the strike zone.


SS Cole Young, SEA, Low A

Stats: ( games) .267/.396/.429, 5 HR, 20 doubles, 39 RBI, 60 runs, 5 SBs


Young just edges my unwritten criteria for making the Watchlist. On one hand, it’s incredibly difficult justifying the 21st overall pick of a draft as “under-rostered” and not well known. But on the other hand, it does feel like Young is overshadowed by larger names at his position (Mayer, Holliday, Mauricio, etc).

For me, Young seems right on the precipice of a huge power breakout which, if it occurs, should send his arrow pointed firmly up close to top 100 territory. This stat should say it all: He swings less and makes more contact currently than Jackson Holliday!


Honorable Mention: SS Trey Sweeney, NYY, AA

Stats: (73 games) .239/.363/.425 , 12 HR, 15 doubles, 37 RBI, 49 runs, 11 SBs


You could do a lot worse than having someone like Sweeney in your farm in a deep dynasty league. He’s a capable enough shortstop defensively (though likely to get moved around the infield at the major league level) and sprays the ball with some pull-side power. The swing is optimized to drop the barrel on the ball down in the zone, so there may be difficulty with elite velo up around the letters.

That said, Sweeney looks like a .240 AVG/.335 OBP guy who can get you 14-16 HRs and swipe around 10-12 SBs. It’s not sexy but it definitely plays in 14 teamers or larger.


OF Yanquiel Fernandez, COL, AA

Stats: (74 games, combined) .304/.355/.588, 22 HR, 15 doubles, 77 RBI, 58 runs, 1 SB


You already should know…


OF Carlos De La Cruz, PHI, AA

Stats: (76 games) .288/.361/.500, 16 HR, 16 doubles, 40 RBI, 53 runs, 1 SB


A different De La Cruz, Philadelphia’s large corner bat has been hitting the stitches off of baseball throughout his career but this year he’s finally shown a consistent ability to make contact overall while limiting his swing and miss.

There’s a good chance that De La Cruz’s final spot on a major league roster is more 1B than RF but for our purposes we’ll keep him in the OF. It’s not obvious how he’ll crack the Phillies lineup but being able to develop beyond a TTO profile is a great way to earn a shot.


OF Ryan Clifford, HOU, High A

Stats: (67 games, combined) .284/.407/.492, 13 HR, 13 doubles, 47 RBI, 47 runs, 4 SBs


Similar to the Orioles, the Astros have a variety of OF types they’ve drafted over the past couple of seasons from incredibly dynamic athletically (Drew Gilbert) to older college bats, with one or two interesting skills (Justin Dirden and Joey Loperfido, see below).

But Clifford may arguably be the best pure hitter among all of them and likely the entire farm system. He’s been on a tear at every level in 2023, and while it could be stated that his outrageous Low A totals were a result of a supremely talented hitter being fed 19 year old pitchers, it was impressive nonetheless.

Now in High A, the average and OBP have come back to Earth but by no means have they cratered. Clifford is still showing strong plate skills, the 25% K rate is likely to stabilize closer to 21-22% and the walk rate should remain close to double digits. The best news for managers rostering Clifford? The power has now made itself known, as Clifford’s ISO has jumped from .120 to .253 with 11 HRs.


Honorable Mention: OF Joey Loperfido, HOU, AA

Stats: (68 games, combined) .291/.398/.555, 15 HR, 16 doubles, 49 RBI, 45 runs, 20 SBs


Loperfido is the type of player for whom this column was initially created. After a couple of seasons as an older bat in the lower minors, posting great OPS and wRC+ but with little faith placed in the validity of the numbers, Loperfido took over AA this year. Not only is he still posting an absurd 15.3% walk rate to power his .410 OBP but he’s showing both power (15 HRs) and speed (17 SBs).

It’s the exact type of out-of-nowhere performance that pushes a player into a major league lineup and returns dividends to managers who were quick to take a flier on him. Is Loperfido this good of an MLB hitter? It’s unlikely that he’s actually a .290s hitter with 20/25 in him BUT he could win a strong-side platoon advantage that lets him deliver a .270ish avg with 15/15. Loperfido does hit lefties very well so a full-time gig could become available.


SP Jacob Misiorowski, MIL, High A

Stats: (14 starts, combined) 46.1 IP, 13 ER, 21 hits, 23 BB, 70 Ks


If there was any room left on the Misiorowski hype train or any existing “buy low” window before Saturday’s impressive outing in the MLB Futures game, the train has left the station and the window was slammed shut.

Misiorowski dialed in 10 of his 18 pitches at 100MPH or greater, allowing one hit, and striking out 3. Not only was the velocity on display but his IVB friendly release and general pitchability were also shown on the national stage. The Misiorowski manager in your league should fully realize the special talent they have now, which means your offers are either getting outright ignored or the price of business just went waaay up.


Honorable Mentions:

SP Chase Hampton, NYY, AA

Stats: (13 starts, combined) 69.1 IP, 24 ER, 50 hits, 22 BB, 103 Ks


While Misiorowski stood out as the obvious choice as the starter for this unique All Prospect team, the Honorable Mention was much more difficult. So I punted and chose 2 (you need multiple arms on an all star team anyway!)

Chase Hampton is probably the only pitcher who’s had a rise in value in such a short amount of time anywhere close to what Misiorowski has experienced. His SwStr and K-BB% at the High A level put him in an outlier territory this season that’s truly special.

Now that he’s at AA, some of those early gaudy numbers have stepped back towards being good not great. That’s to be expected, the question is whether he can push himself into a SP2/3 ceiling.

If there’s more velocity to tease out, it’ll likely occur in the off-season but more than likely, Hampton’s profile will be decided by his refinement of his fastball command. We know the slider is deadly but can he throw enough strikes in the upper minors with an average fastball design without getting hit hard?


SP Christian Scott, NYM, AA

Stats: (11 starts) 51.1 IP, 17 ER, 35 hits, 10 BB, 58 Ks


Scott completely took prospect writers by surprise with how dominant he’s been through the first half of the season. It sounds elementary but Scott throws a lot of strikes, doesn’t walk many, and limits hard contact. There’s no better formula for extended success as a pitcher and so far Scott is reaping the rewards.

Scott has seen a slight decrease in K% at the AA level. Additionally, his GB/FB ratio has done a 180, after being a heavy groundball pitcher at High A (50.9%), Scott is seeing his FB rate climb to the 50% range now. Similar to Hampton, the difference between a mid-rotation starter and a back-end guy tends to lie in the counting stats.

If he can find at least a happy medium that allows him to generate misses consistently off of his slider, the Mets could have found some joy in what’s felt like a lost season.

LaMar Gibson

A lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan that still hasn't forgiven Jeffrey Maier, Tony Fernandez, the 2014 Royals, or Edwin Encarnacion...and has no interest in doing so in the foreseeable future. You can read more of LaMar's thoughts by subscribing to his free monthly newsletter, Inside Fastball, for all things prospects.

2 responses to “The Prospect Watchlist First Half All-Stars”

  1. PC says:

    Clifford was a HS draft pick, not an SEC hitter. Think you confused him with Gilbert…

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