Vincent Ginardi’s 10 Prospects Bold Predictions for 2023

Vincent Ginardi dishes out his prospect-related bold predictions.

We are knocking on the door of regular-season baseball which means it’s time to get bold. These predictions aren’t ones that are expected to happen but instead ones that could happen but are not likely. Let’s cross our fingers and see if one or two can hit.


1. Pitcher List’s 2024 Top 10 Dynasty Prospect list will include at least five prospects that were not included on the 2023 Top 100 ranking


My sincere apologies for starting with a wordy first prediction. On first read, this seems crazy. But let’s take a look at the current Top 10 on our Top 100, found here, and rewind to March 2022.

While some of these names, like Corbin Carroll and Grayson Rodriguez, were consensus top prospects heading into last season, a few of them were not. Jackson Chourio and James Wood were not sniffing Top 100 lists at this time a year ago, and names like Elly De La Cruz and Andrew Painter were toward the back of Top 100s or just outside of them.

Even if these were players that many were keeping an eye on heading into the season, the idea here is that some of the prospects that we consider elite in 2024 may not currently be rostered in your dynasty leagues. Always be monitoring prospects that can be added to your team and remember that prospect valuation is extremely fluid.


2. Elly De La Cruz is not considered a Top 50 prospect by the end of the season


We all know the flaw in De La Cruz’s game. It’s the strikeouts. This is not new information. My bet here is that it catches up to him enough this season that we’re all left thinking that we fell into a trap by looking at his otherworldly power/speed combo. That power/speed combo is incredible, of course. Between High-A and Double-A, Elly posted 28 home runs and 47 home runs in only 120 games. Just typing those numbers out is making me reconsider this bold prediction. But alas, we will move on.

For those 120 games, Elly had a strikeout rate of 30.8%. If you’re looking to justify this, you can point to the rate being consistent across both levels and that he was only 20 years old. These are both fair points and in the event that he does reduce his strikeout numbers going forward, they are points that we can look back on in the future. But the strikeouts are concerning and difficult to ignore.

Last season, only three qualified hitters – Patrick Wisdom, Luke Voit, and Eugenio Suárez – had a strikeout rate north of 30%. As of now, it’s looking like we are going to see a lot less of those first two names this season. Of course, Elly provides all this while being a shortstop, so he has a positional advantage over those guys, but the point is that it’s tough to have an MLB career with a strikeout rate that high and it’s likely a number that will keep climbing as he faces higher-level pitching.

The bold prediction here is that he struggles to keep those strikeouts in check against Triple-A pitching and/or a brief stint against MLB pitching. It will be enough that we all re-evaluate what his floor and ceiling actually look like and drop him significantly down the ranks.


3. Brandon Pfaadt wins National League Rookie of the Year


It’s been all aboard the Pfaadt hype train this offseason and it’s not difficult to see why. The 6’4″ righty was one of the most efficient pitchers in the minors last year, posting a 26.9% K-BB rate and 3.83 ERA in 167 innings across Double-A and Triple-A. The performance dictates a promotion and shot at the MLB level. Pfaadt is entering his age-24 season and the Diamondbacks’ pitching rotation might be the shallowest in the league.

Unfortunately, he was sent to minor league camp on Sunday. Still, it shouldn’t be long before he’s up and the risk of Pfaadt being on some sort of innings cap is less worrisome than it may be with other pitchers. Pfaadt led the minors in innings pitched a season ago and tossed at least six frames in 10 of his last 12 starts. This is a potential workhorse and although it would be naïve not to think that there would be some bumps along the way at the MLB level, the prediction here is that the rookie campaign as a whole is strong enough to take home the hardware.


4. Ben Joyce leads the Angels in saves


The Angels used their third-round pick in 2022 on the flame-throwing Joyce. The 6’5″ righty can hit 105 MPH on the radar gun and his ability to strike out collegiate hitters during his 2022 season at Tennessee made him a highlight machine. With the Vols, Joyce punched out 53 in 32.1 innings and finished with a sparkling 2.23 ERA. It was more of the same for Joyce in his brief stint at Double-A post-draft; the right-hander struck out 20 in 13 frames and posted a 2.08 ERA.

If there are nits to pick with Joyce it’s that he walked 14 in his 32 collegiate innings, the fact that he throws his heater almost exclusively (with good reason, of course), and that he doesn’t have a ton of innings under his belt. Still, it’s only logical that the Angels are going to want to push their chips to the center of the table this season with the impending Shohei Ohtani free agency looming, and the closer committee is looking like a combination of Carlos Estévez, Jimmy Herget, Ryan Tepera, and Matt Moore. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row. Joyce might not start the year with the Angels, but even if he doesn’t, I think he can take over the closing job in short order.


5. Josh Jung leads the Rangers in home runs


Maybe on the surface, this seems less bold than the first few predictions but a deeper look shows that this is actually fairly unlikely. There may have been a bit of a power outage across the league last season (outside of Aaron Judge)but there wasn’t in Texas. The Rangers were the only team to have at least four players (Corey Seager, Adolis García, Nathaniel Lowe, and Marcus Semien) hit at least 26 home runs a season ago. Seager led the pack at 33, but it goes to show that the Texas lineup has some thump to it.

So, the question is whether or not Jung can outpace those four bats. It’s possible! Jung missed a large chunk of 2022 following shoulder surgery, but he still logged 57 games across the majors and minors. He hit 14 home runs in those contests, which is roughly a 40-homer pace across a full season.

There is plenty of risk here of course – nine of those dingers came in 31 minor league games, and in his brief 26 games with the big-league club, Jung’s walk rate was 3.9% while his strikeout rate was 38.2%. He will not be a successful big leaguer with those types of metrics, but my bet is that we can chalk this up to a combination of a small sample size, a first look at MLB pitching, and a return from a serious injury. Let’s see Jung put it together and clear the fences more than any other Rangers hitter.


6. Addison Barger continues to rake, becomes a consensus Top 30 prospect, and is traded midseason


It feels like Barger’s 2022 season has been overlooked. In his age-22 season, he played across three levels and triple-slashed .308/.378/.555 while belting out 26 home runs in 124 games. Only eight of those games came at Triple-A, so it’s likely he starts the season there, though there have been some whispers and hopes that he makes the Opening Day roster.

In a way, Barger reminds me of where we stood with Jose Miranda a year ago; a bat-first prospect without a true defensive home coming off of a statistically impressive season. The difference here, though, is that Barger hasn’t gotten a ton of love on prospect lists. If he’s on Top 100s, it’s usually toward the back end, and in several instances (like our own here at Pitcher List), he doesn’t crack the Top 100 at all.

The Blue Jays are very clearly in win-now mode. It seems like if given a full-time opportunity, Barger could potentially help the MLB squad with his bat. Unfortunately, there isn’t an obvious path to playing time in a loaded Toronto lineup, even if Barger bounces between positions. The prediction here is that Barger continues to dominate at that plate, his prospect value skyrockets, and the Blue Jays cash him in for a win-now player with more MLB experience.


7. Matt Mervis is not someone worth a roster spot in most dynasty formats by the end of the season


Mervis put up absolutely ridiculous numbers in 2022. Across three levels, the lefty slugger triple-slashed .309/.379/.605 while clobbering 36 home runs in 137 games. There is no denying the production. Mervis was one of the best hitters in the minors a season ago. It’s led to him shooting up prospect ranks; he’s ranked 68th here at Pitcher List. And yet…I just can’t buy in.

While Mervis did produce at all three levels last year, it smells a bit fishy to me that he started the year at High-A in his age-24 season. Combine that with the fact that he had a clear path to playing time this season and yet the Cubs went out and signed Eric HosmerTrey Mancini and Edwin Ríos and I can’t shake the feeling that the organization just doesn’t have much faith in him.

At this point, it’s difficult to say how much of an MLB opportunity Mervis will get in 2023. The signs are pointing to him being a Quad-A player. I won’t be surprised if he continues to produce as a 25-year-old in Triple-A. I also won’t be surprised to see him struggle if he does get an MLB look. His ceiling at the MLB level for me is probably a platoon/bench bat. Which is fine! I’m just not sure how excited that should make us. I just think he’s closer to someone like Niko Kavadas than we’d care to admit.


8. Nick Loftin hits at least 10 home runs and steals at least 10 bases at the MLB level in 2023


Loftin has become one of my favorite somewhat under-the-radar fantasy prospects this offseason. The versatile defender had a nice season at Double-A in 2022, triple slashing .270/.354/.421 while hitting 12 home runs and swiping 24 bags in 90 games. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A, where he struggled, posting just a 69 wRC+ in 38 games.

Loftin has since cited fatigue in the back half of last season and spent this offseason bulking up. In an ideal world, this prevents Loftin from wearing down as the season progresses while also increasing his potential power output. Loftin’s carrying tools are his hit tool and his speed, so a potential breakout could be incoming.

The Royals have some potential paths to playing time for Loftin and his ability to play all over the diamond only increases his chances of getting an MLB call-up at some point this season. I expect him to start the season at Triple-A, but if he performs out of the gate and current MLBers like Hunter Dozier, Michael Massey, Kyle Isbel or Edward Olivares struggle, we could see Loftin sooner rather than later.


9. Brice Turang finishes Top 10 in steals at the MLB level


It feels like Turang has been a prospect forever. In 2023, it looks like he will finally have an opportunity to grab hold of an MLB job with second base being his for the taking. Turang had a solid season at Triple-A in 2022, triple slashing .286/.360/.412. For the purposes of this prediction, though, we will focus on the fact that he swiped 34 bases and walked 10.8% of the time. More impressively, he was only caught stealing twice all last year.

Esteury Ruiz has become the popular prospect pick for steals heading into the season but I’m more confident in Turang’s offensive abilities to translate at the MLB level. As a whole, we are expecting more steals across the league this season, but in 2022 Marcus Semien placed 10th in steals with 25. I think Turang can get to 25 and maybe even 30, as long as he’s able to maintain a near-full-time role. He has some risk of being on the large side of a platoon but even in that case, we could see some steals as a pinch runner.


10. Richard Fitts finishes the season as a Top 100 prospect


Fitts was selected by the Yankees in the sixth round of the 2021 draft and had a nice 2022, finishing with a 3.70 ERA across Low-A and High-A as a 22-year-old. The bulk of his innings did come at Low-A, which isn’t super exciting given his age, but his performance was actually better following his promotion.

In total, the 6’3″ righty tossed 110 innings while striking out 131 and walking just 20. His 24.9% K-BB rate ranked him 14th overall amongst minor league pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. As noted earlier, his numbers were even better at High-A, posting a 29.7% K-BB rate in 33 innings.

So, why is Fitts seemingly off of prospect radars? Well, he doesn’t throw very hard. His fastball sits in the low-90s. That usually doesn’t get a lot of prospect love these days and ultimately could cap his ceiling, but his ability to limit walks gives him a high floor. If Fitts has similar success at Double-A, people will start to take notice, and if the Yankees can do what the Guardians did with Tanner Bibee and find a way to add a few MPH to Fitts’ heater, he could follow a similar breakout trajectory.


Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Reds | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on Twitter)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login