Spring training is here, and that means it's time for Major League Baseball to begin a new year. CBS Sports is already in the process of previewing the upcoming season. Part of that process entails highlighting and evaluating the 50 minor-league prospects who we deem to be the best the sport has to offer.
, the process for curating this list involves conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types, as well as some firsthand observations based on our own beliefs and biases. As always, bear in mind that this is an art, not a science, and a snapshot, not a prophecy set in stone. Players are more than capable of getting better and making this analysis look silly, and there are more than 50 future good big-league players in the minors. In fact, here are .
With all that written, let's get to the reason you're here: the rankings.
1. Gunnar Henderson, 3B, Orioles (2023 seasonal age: 22)
Henderson, the 42nd pick in the 2019 draft, began last season in Double-A and ended it in the majors, hitting at each stop along the way. That included 34 big-league games, in which he batted .259/.348/.440 (123 OPS+) with four home runs and a steal. Henderson primarily played third base, though he also saw action at second and short in a nod to his above-average athleticism and footwork.
Offensively, he has a strong foundation to build from thanks to his well-above-average raw power and his disciplined eye. If there is a flaw in Henderson's game, it's that he's had his problems with left-handed pitchers. Perhaps he can improve on that with time, but for now, it's fair to expect most of his damage to come with the platoon advantage. Otherwise, he's big-league-ready as it is, with an upside that could see him make All-Star Games.
2. Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks (2023 seasonal age: 22)
Carroll was limited by injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic to 142 minor-league games ahead of his debut in Arizona last August. The lack of repetitions didn't prevent him from batting .260/.330/.500 (133 OPS+) with four home runs and two steals in 32 games. Carroll continued to exhibit swing-and-miss tendencies within the zone, ranking in the 27th percentile in that respect. That flaw won't sink him (Paul Goldschmidt and the aforementioned Gunnar Henderson were just two recognizable names around him on the leaderboard), but it may result in a higher strikeout rate than he was expected to post in the past. Still, Carroll is a well-rounded center fielder with top-of-the-scale speed who ought to provide oodles of secondary value. He should begin the season in the majors.
3. Francisco Álvarez, C, Mets (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Álvarez reached the majors late last season when the Mets were seeking another capable right-handed bat for their postseason run. He didn't fare well in five regular season games, but ultimately it doesn't matter. Álvarez has big-time raw power and he's improved his defense enough to bet on him sticking at catcher. Strikeouts are always going to be part of his game, and he's been pull-heavy in the minors, a combination that may limit his batting average upside. Even if it does, there's more than enough pop-and-walk potential here for him to become an offensive force.
4. Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers (2023 seasonal age: 19)
Chourio was the breakout star of the minor-league season in 2022. Despite playing the entire campaign as an 18-year-old, he hit .288/.342/.538 with 20 home runs and 16 stolen bases split across three levels, including a cameo at Double-A. Chourio is a fantastic athlete with a dynamic (and well-above-average) power-speed combination who should have more room to add muscle to his frame as he matures. Chourio did strike out in more than 26 percent of his plate appearances, though it's easy to forgive him for that based on his youth. (He was four years younger than his average opponent in High-A, and six years younger in Double-A.)
There's a strong chance Chourio ends the year ranked as the best prospect in the game -- provided, of course, he hasn't forced the Brewers to push him along to the majors by then.
5. James Wood, OF, Nationals (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Our belief is that a team can never win a trade in which they send out a generational talent like Juan Soto years before he's set for free agency. Be that as it may be, Wood has the potential to help Nationals fans forgive the move. (One talent evaluator who spoke to CBS Sports even suggested he should be ranked No. 1 overall.) Wood may be listed at 6-foot-7, but he's no Big 10 ogre; he's quite athletic, to the extent that he's primarily played center field so far in his professional career. Some mechanical tweaks he made last season left him with a 21 percent strikeout rate, an improvement over his initial professional introduction. Wood has big-time power, as you'd expect, and in a perfect world he'd turn into a middle-of-the-order, middle-of-the-diamond player. At minimum, he's raised his stock since being selected 62nd in the 2021 draft.
6. Jordan Walker, 3B/OF, Cardinals (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Walker has immense strength, resulting in the kind of raw power that could make him a prototypical middle-of-the-order slugger. In order to fully access that pop, scouts expect that he'll need to continue to learn how to lift the ball more frequently -- last season, more than 45 percent of his batted balls were grounders. (A point in his favor is that most evaluators believe it's easier to train launch angle than exit velocity.) There was always a chance Walker would outgrow the hot corner, and the Cardinals have already taken to cross-training him in the outfield. Whatever position Walker ends up playing, his bat will be the main draw. It's conceivable that he could become the latest young Cardinals hitter to take regular at-bats sometime in 2023.
7. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Rodriguez would have debuted at some point last season had he not been sidelined in June by a right lat strain. (He returned in September for a series of minor-league appearances.) Rodriguez has a power pitcher's frame and an impressive arsenal that includes three well-above-average or better pitches: an upper-90s fastball, a slider, and a changeup. That trio empowered him to strike out 37 percent of the batters he faced last season, all the while amassing a 2.62 ERA in 75 innings. The Orioles will likely look to limit his workload, as he's never thrown more than 103 innings in a season. He should debut early in the year with an eye on becoming a frontliner starter.
8. Eury Pérez, RHP, Marlins (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Not to be confused with the former journeyman outfielder of the same name, this Pérez is a 6-foot-8 right-hander with front-of-the-rotation potential. He has a deep, quality arsenal led by a mid-90s fastball and a pair of breaking balls, and he's shown impressive command given his profile. Whereas many pitchers his size and age are still struggling to find the strike zone on a consistent basis, he averaged a walk every three innings across 18 starts (all but one occurring at Double-A) while adding muscle to his once-gangly frame. Pérez may make his debut sometime in 2023, though it should be noted that he's yet to clear the 100-inning threshold in a single season.
9. Marcelo Mayer, SS, Red Sox (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Mayer, who entered the 2021 draft ranked by CBS Sports as the best prospect in the class, slipped to the Red Sox at No. 4. That looked like a blessing for the Red Sox then and now, as he hit .280/.399/.489 with 13 home runs and 17 steals across two levels in 2022 -- and did so despite being several years younger than his average opponent. In addition to being a well-rounded hitter who could add more power as he matures, he's a promising defender with fluid actions and a good arm. The only tool of Mayer's that projects to be below-average is his speed. Clearly that's not going to hold him back.
10. Jackson Holliday, SS, Orioles (2023 seasonal age: 19)
Holliday, the son of former Cardinals slugger Matt, was the No. 1 pick in last July's draft. He looked the part in his first exposure to pro ball, hitting .297/.489/.422 with more than twice as many walks as strikeouts in 20 games. Holliday raised his stock last spring by getting into better shape and learning to use the entire field rather than pulling off pitches. He's an explosive athlete who can run and throw as well, giving him a chance to become a high-grade shortstop. He won't be able to legally drink until December 2024, giving him ample time to continue to refine his game.
11. Elly De La Cruz, SS, Reds (2023 seasonal age: 21)
This will almost certainly prove to be an overrank or an underrank. De La Cruz is perhaps the most unusual prospect in the minors, and therefore the toughest to get an accurate read on. He's a 6-foot-6 switch-hitting shortstop with well-above-average power and speed who really likes to swing the bat. He split last season between High- and Double-A, hitting .304/.359/.586 with 28 home runs and 47 steals.
De La Cruz did strike out in more than 30 percent of his trips to the plate because of his aggressive approach, and that percentage is likely to increase once he reaches the majors. De La Cruz has a real chance at becoming a star; there's just substantial downside, too.
12. Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees (2023 seasonal age: 22)
Volpe enjoyed a breakout 2021 season, homering 27 times after adding muscle to his frame. He didn't match that performance last season -- he outright struggled during a 22-game introduction to Triple-A, striking out 30 percent of the time -- thereby delaying his debut until sometime next summer. Volpe still projects as an above-average hitter who can contribute in each of the slash line categories. Defensively, he'll have to continue to prove that he can make all the plays at short despite a substandard arm. It's possible that he'll eventually end up at the keystone.
13. Noelvi Marte, 3B, Reds (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Marte, the top piece the Mariners sent to Cincinnati in the Luis Castillo trade, has homered 36 times the last two seasons despite being on average two years younger than his peers. In addition to having well-above-average raw power, he's shown a feel for contact by keeping his strikeout rate in check. He has the right attributes to be an average or better defender on the left side of the infield, too, though there's reason to think that'll come at third base. Among those: the Reds, packed to the gills with shortstop prospects, had him play third exclusively during the Arizona Fall League. If Marte's performance to date against older competition is any indication, he has a real chance to become a middle-of-the-order fixture in due time.
14. Andrew Painter, RHP, Phillies (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Painter, a 6-foot-7 righty, was the Phillies' first-round pick in 2021. He's since rocketed through the system, finishing the year with five starts in Double-A. Overall, he tallied a 1.56 ERA and a 6.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 103 innings. Painter has a broad arsenal that includes an upper-90s fastball that can clear the 100-mph mark, two breaking balls, and a changeup.
He's shown good control, too, walking about two batters per nine last season, including just two across 28 frames at Double-A. Painter should make his big-league debut in 2023, perhaps earlier than expected, and may give the National League champions another big-time starting pitcher.
15. Marco Luciano, SS, Giants (2023 seasonal age: 21)
The book on Luciano remains the same as it's been for a while now: he's a promising hitter who seems highly unlikely to remain at shortstop for the long haul. He had an above-average year at the plate in High-A, batting .263/.339/.459 with 10 home runs and 10 doubles in 57 games. (He was limited by back issues on separate occasions.) Luciano shows off a good arm on defense, but his footwork leaves much to be desired and many evaluators feel he'll eventually have to move to third base. That shouldn't be an issue for him provided that he continues to develop into a plus hitter. Luciano figures to get a crack at Double-A to begin next season.
16. Druw Jones, CF, Diamondbacks (2023 seasonal age: 19)
Jones, the son of longtime Braves outfielder Andruw Jones, was the industry's preferred choice for the No. 1 pick entering last summer. Alas, he suffered a shoulder injury taking batting practice with the big-league club after signing, derailing his first taste of pro ball before it began. Jones projects to have five above-average or better tools, giving him a genuine shot at becoming a star-level performer. Predictably, he's a high-grade defensive center fielder with well-above-average speed and a strong arm. At the plate, meanwhile, he projects to hit for average and power alike. Presuming Jones stays healthy, he's likely to move up ahead of next winter's list.
17. Kyle Harrison, LHP, Giants (2023 seasonal age: 21)
The Giants selected Harrison with the 85th pick in the 2021 draft and then dished out nearly $2.5 million to buy out his commitment to UCLA. So far, that looks like a prudent investment. Harrison struck out an unfathomable 15 batters per nine in 25 starts split between High- and Double-A, amassing a 2.71 ERA in 113 innings. He has a high-quality three-pitch mix, led by a lively mid-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss slider that benefits from a flat release point. Harrison needs to continue to improve his command (he walked about four batters per nine) and will need to average more than 4.5 innings per appearance in order to move up the list. If he can check those boxes, he'll solidify himself as one of the most promising arms in the minors.
18. Jordan Lawlar, SS, Diamondbacks (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Lawlar, the sixth pick in the 2021 draft, has elicited comparisons to Royals infielder Bobby Witt Jr. based on their Texas heritage and skill sets. He performed well in his first full professional season, posting a .910 OPS in 100 games across four levels (including 20 at Double-A). Unfortunately, Lawlar's year again prematurely because of a shoulder injury; whereas in 2021 he tore his labrum, this time around a pitch hit him there and fractured his scapula during the Arizona Fall League. (The injury shouldn't impact his future, or even his 2023 season for that matter.) Lawlar has a chance to remain at shortstop and boast five above-average or better tools at maturation, giving him an All-Star-caliber ceiling should he develop as planned.
19. Brooks Lee, SS, Twins (2023 seasonal age: 22)
Lee, perceived to be in the running for the No. 1 pick deep into last summer, could prove to be a steal after slipping to eighth. His offensive polish and feel for the game were on display in 25 High-A contests, where he hit .289/.395/.454 with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. The Twins played him exclusively at shortstop, but most scouts expect him to move to second or third base sooner than later. Some evaluators have expressed concern about his past knee and back injuries, so the Twins would be wise to monitor his workload. The upside here is an above-average, switch-hitting bat and good glove at a premium position attached to a high baseball IQ. That'll play.
20. Daniel Espino, RHP, Guardians (2023 seasonal age: 22)
The main concern with Espino is his durability. To wit, he would've ranked higher had he not appeared in just four games this last season because of knee and shoulder injuries.. When Espino is healthy, though, he possesses a loud arsenal that includes a hot fastball and two high-grade breaking balls. He gets his hand up early and generates impressive torque (and velocity) thanks to his hip and shoulder separation. If Espino can stay healthier in 2023, he's likely to make his big-league debut late in the year.
21. Jackson Merrill, SS, Padres (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Merrill had as much helium as any player heading into the 2021 draft, so it wasn't too surprising when the Padres popped him with the 27th pick. He's made them look smart so far, hitting .325/.387/.482 in 45 A-ball games, despite missing several months because of a fractured wrist. Merrill is a left-handed batter who is listed at 6-foot-3, but you should tuck those Corey Seager comparisons away for someone else because his game is built around contact, not power. He seldom whiffs with a flat swing that generates grounders more than 50 percent of the time. While he's not a burner, scouts do like his actions and arm at shortstop, suggesting he has a good chance of remaining there heading forward. Merrill, then, could become an asset on both sides of the ball.
22. Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Blue Jays (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Tiedemann went undrafted out of high school in 2020 and opted to go the junior college route, making him eligible again in 2021. The Blue Jays popped him in the third round, and he's since emerged as one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the sport. Tiedemann has three average or better pitches (fastball, slider, changeup) that he delivers from a flat release point. He's shown sufficient control, too, issuing a free pass just once every three innings for his pro career. Tiedemann ended last season in Double-A, suggesting he could make his big-league debut this year. The Blue Jays have good reason to be conservative if they so desire: he's thrown just 78 professional innings and he won't celebrate his 21st birthday until next August.
23. Diego Cartaya, C, Dodgers (2023 seasonal age: 21)
The Dodgers have steadily produced quality catching prospects in recent years, be it Will Smith, Keibert Ruiz, or now Cartaya. (That's without mentioning Dalton Rushing, their second-round pick last summer.) Cartaya's game is all about power. He has good raw juice at the plate to go with a willingness to walk and a very strong arm behind it. The main question here concerns his hit tool. He struck out in more than 27 percent of his plate appearances last season, and that's before reaching the Double-A level. Add in how pull-happy Cartaya is, and it's fair to wonder if he's destined for a subpar batting average. To his credit, it probably won't matter thanks to his various other strengths.
24. Evan Carter, CF, Rangers (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Carter was a well-kept secret by the Rangers heading up to the 2020 draft, and it's already fair to call him a huge win by their scouting and development staffs. He's shown an advanced feel for the game, hitting .287/.388/.476 last season against High-A competition that was more than three years his senior on average. Carter has a lanky frame that he should be able to add muscle to as he matures, improving his power projection, and he's a good runner who ought to stick in center field. He's a well-rounded player, in other words, with the potential for a few plus tools. Factor in how Carter has handled himself despite his relative youth, and there's a lot to like about his profile.
25. Brett Baty, 3B, Mets (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Baty, the 12th pick in the 2019 draft, reached the majors for the first time last season, but his stay was short-lived; he appeared in just 11 games before undergoing thumb surgery that ended his campaign in late August. Baty's path back to the Mets big-league lineup is less complicated without Carlos Correa in tow, but he's a potential above-average hitter who lifted the ball and slugged more during his stay last season in Double-A. In other words, he should find a lineup welcoming to his talents, be it in New York or elsewhere.
26. Colson Montgomery, SS, White Sox (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Montgomery, the 22nd pick in the 2021 draft by way of Huntingburg, Ind., elicited comparisons to Rangers shortstop Corey Seager based on their similar builds and skill sets. He split his first full professional season between three levels, reaching as high as Double-A while batting a combined .274/.381/.429. Montgomery has a good feel for the strike zone and for making contact, and his gangly frame inspires hope that he'll tap into more of his above-average raw power as he matures. Defensively, he has a left-side arm and a fair chance to remain at short, though it is possible that he has to move elsewhere, perhaps to third, if he loses a step (or more) as he continues to mature and add muscle.
27. Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Tovar forced his way to the majors just weeks after celebrating his 21st birthday by hitting a combined .319/.387/.540 across Double- and Triple-A. He didn't take quite as well to big-league pitching, but it was for all of nine games so who cares. Besides, scouts like his bat-to-ball skills enough to envision him hitting for average and some power at his peak. Even if Tovar never finds himself batting cleanup, he should enjoy a lengthy career thanks to his glove. He's a fluid defender with a good arm who makes it look easy. Tovar should serve as the Rockies starting shortstop in 2023 and if his offense can catch up to his glovework, he'll be a dark horse contender to win Rookie of the Year.
28. Hunter Brown, RHP, Astros (2023 seasonal age: 24)
Brown made his debut last September, joining Blue Jays reliever Anthony Bass as the only players from Wayne State University to appear in the majors since 1990. He made a good first impression while working primarily out of the bullpen, striking out 22 batters in 20 innings. Brown's mid-to-upper-90s fastball led the way, though he also chucked his swing-and-miss curveball more than 30 percent of the time and deployed his slider often enough to keep batters honest. The big question with Brown is whether or not he has the command to start. The Astros have the rotation depth to provide him with additional reps in Triple-A if they so desire. Even if he ends up pitching in relief, he should be able to contribute in a high-leverage role.
29. Curtis Mead, INF, Rays (2023 seasonal age: 22)
Mead, who originally signed with the Phillies out of Australia, was acquired in exchange for lefty reliever Cristopher Sanchez in November 2019. He's since ascended thanks to an above-average offensive projection. Mead split last season between Double- and Triple-A, batting .298/.390/.532 with 13 home runs in 76 games. He hits the ball hard and often, and he walked more frequently in 2022 than he had in past years. Mead's best defensive position is in the batter's box, since he lacks the arm to be good at third base and the range to excel at second. The Rays may try to play him all over the place anyway, but make no mistake: his bat is the selling point.
30. Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF, Cubs (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Crow-Armstrong, the son of two actors and the 19th pick in the 2020 draft, was traded to the Cubs the following summer in exchange for Javier Báez. He's a potential Gold Glove center fielder and basestealing threat whose exact ceiling hinges on how his offensive game matures. Crow-Armstrong appeared to encounter his first hurdle last season in High-A, as his walk rate collapsed and his strikeout rate spiked to 24 percent. The encouraging news is that Crow-Armstrong has gotten progressively more prone to lifting the ball, suggesting he's apt to make the most of his average strength. Double-A will likely tell the tale on whether he's more than a bottom-third bat.
31. Bobby Miller, RHP, Dodgers (2023 seasonal age: 24)
Another thing the Dodgers have consistently done is unearth gems late in the first round. Miller, the 29th pick in 2020 by way of Louisville, is in line to be the next one. He's all but certain to make his big-league debut sometime in 2023 after appearing 24 times across the upper minors last season, accumulating a 4.25 ERA and a 3.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 112 innings. Miller has loud stuff, including a triple-digits fastball and a promising slider and changeup, and he's taken well to a mechanical overhaul as a professional that truncated his arm stroke, among other changes. Last season helped ease concerns about his usage as a professional, too: he faced 20 or more batters in 15 games after he cleared that mark just once in 2021. The Dodgers have suffered a number of losses to their rotation this offseason, and Miller seems as likely as anyone to benefit next summer from that development.
32. Taj Bradley, RHP, Rays (2023 seasonal age: 22)
Bradley, a fifth-round pick in 2018, hails from the same Georgia high school (Redan) as former big-league hitters Brandon Phillips and Domonic Brown. He has a chance to become the school's most accomplished pitcher thanks to above-average control of two good pitches. Bradley's fastball can touch into the upper-90s and he complements it with a cutter. He'll need to continue to work on developing a third pitch, but the ever-changing demands of the position make that less pivotal than it would've been a decade or two ago. Bradley is likely to debut sometime in 2023 with a future as a mid-rotation starter within reach.
33. Masyn Winn, SS, Cardinals (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Back in Winn's draft year, before he was selected 54th overall, we wrote that "if a position player selected outside of the first round is going to turn into a star, it might be [him]" based on his high-grade athleticism and bat speed. Sure enough, last season was a step in the right direction. He split the year between High- and Double-A, batting .283/.364/.468 with 12 home runs and 43 stolen bases. Factor in Winn's good defense, complete with a strong arm that's an artifact from his days as a two-way player, and it's fair to write that he's well on his way to making good on our bold prediction.
34. Miguel Vargas, 3B/2B, Dodgers (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Vargas is likely to be a benefactor of Los Angeles' winter, with Trea Turner and Justin Turner each finding homes elsewhere. He reached the majors last season, appearing in 18 games after spending most of the year hectoring Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .304/.404/.511 slash line.
Vargas is all but certain to figure into the Dodgers' Opening Day plans, though it's an open question as to whether he'll do so as a second or third baseman. Whatever the case, the appeal here is his bat. There's a real chance that he posts above-average marks in both contact and power, and he's always demonstrated an ability to walk and keep his strikeouts in check. Depending on what the Dodgers do the rest of the way, it's possible that the 23-year-old Vargas spends next season as the youngest everyday regular in their lineup.
35. Sal Frelick, OF, Brewers (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Frelick, Milwaukee's first-round pick in 2021, should make his big-league debut early in 2023. He's a speedy, contact-tailored hitter who walked more than he struck out last season in 46 games at Triple-A. Frelick has more pop than you'd expect from someone with his frame (he's listed at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds), but power is unlikely to ever be a big part of his game. By the time he makes it to the majors, Frelick could find himself in left field out of deference to either Garrett Mitchell, who debuted last season, or the aforementioned Chourio.
36. Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Casas, Boston's first-round pick in 2018, made his big-league debut last season, putting him in position to graduate from prospectdom this spring. In 95 major-league plate appearances, he batted .197/.358/.408 (113 OPS+) with five home runs. The book on him remains largely the same, as his idealized version would contribute average, on-base, and slugging. Casas showed some of that well-rounded nature during his big-league stay. He has well-above-average raw strength (evidenced by his 30-homer pace) and his disciplined approach saw him chase just 17 percent of the pitches thrown to him outside of the zone. Casas' willingness to work deep counts, plus his league-average swing-and-miss rate, will result in some strikeouts, but there's little risk of him going full Gallo. Casas seems ready to take over first base for the Red Sox.
37. Termarr Johnson, 2B, Pirates (2023 seasonal age: 19)
Johnson would have been a defensible selection at No. 1 in the draft last summer. The Orioles and two other clubs went in other directions, paving the way for the Pirates to land him with the fourth pick. Johnson was an exceptionally polished prepster, showing an ability to hit for average and power alike, and he received credit from scouts for having one of, if not the highest baseball IQ in the class. The one concern evaluators have had about Johnson is his defensive home: he played shortstop in high school, but he's widely expected to be a second baseman in the long run. Regardless, Johnson's stick and wits should empower him to bat near the top of a big-league lineup sooner than his young age indicates.
38. Mick Abel, RHP, Phillies (2023 seasonal age: 21)
History is by and large unkind to prep right-handers taken early in the first round. The Phillies have defied the odds thus far with Painter, and they have a chance to do the same with Abel, the 15th pick in 2020. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a good slider, he split last season between High- and Double-A, amassing a 3.90 ERA and a 2.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio across a career-high 108 innings. Abel's walked more batters than you'd want as a professional (about one every other inning), but there's plenty to like here.
39. Endy Rodriguez, C/OF, Pirates (2023 seasonal age: 22)
The Pirates obtained Rodriguez from the Mets as part of the three-team trade in January 2021 that sent Joe Musgrove to the Padres and Joey Lucchesi to New York. He's since emerged as one of the most productive and promising hitters in Pittsburgh's system, clocking an .892 OPS in 2021 and then a .996 OPS in 2022 across multiple levels, including a short stint in Triple-A. All the while, he's also shown a proclivity for walking and avoiding strikeouts. Rodriguez can hit, in other words. Where will he land positionally? That's to be determined. He's improved behind the plate, but the Pirates have played him all over and there's a case to be made, mostly based on his offensive upside and the presence of fellow catcher Henry Davis, that they should plop him down in the outfield and let him hit. Whatever they decide to do, Rodriguez is one to watch.
40. Zac Veen, RF, Rockies (2023 seasonal age: 21)
There's one question worth asking about Veen: where's the power? He split his year between High- and Double-A, hitting 245/.340/.384 in 126 games. His .439 slugging percentage in Spokane, the affiliate where he spent most of his year, ranked seventh among batters on that team with at least 100 plate appearances. He then walked nearly twice as often as he struck out in 21 Arizona Fall League Games, though he continued the theme by posting an underwhelming .111 ISO. It's important to contextualize his numbers by noting that he was between two and four years younger than his average competition. Still, it's fair to write that Veen's lack of pop is a surprise. This is someone who elicited Jayson Werth comps on draft day, after all, and not just because of his gangly frame. Veen still has ample time to get the train on the tracks, of course, but it'll soon be time to reconsider his outlook if he continues to lack thump.
41. Oswald Peraza, SS, Yankees (2023 seasonal age: 22)
Peraza made his big-league debut in September, hitting .306/.404/.429 (139 OPS+) in 18 games down the stretch. He showed an exceptional ability to put the bat on the ball, running a zone contact rate of 90 percent. Peraza has flashed average power in the past, though it's to be seen if he can tap into it at the big-league level.
Even if he doesn't, he has a chance to contribute offensively thanks to his contact chops and the above-average speed that enabled him to steal 35 bases on 40 combined attempts in the minors and majors last season. Peraza grades as a better defensive shortstop than Volpe, suggesting he'll take over at the six if both remain with the organization.
42. Tyler Soderstrom, 1B/C, Athletics (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Scouts have been high on Soderstrom's bat since he was drafted with the 26th pick in 2020. Some evaluators were even proponents of moving him out from behind the plate immediately, allowing him the opportunity to max out his offensive potential. The Athletics clearly didn't share that opinion. They've continued to play Soderstrom at catcher, albeit while crosstraining him over at first base. However the A's divvy up Soderstrom's defensive responsibilities heading forward (and the presence of Shea Langeliers on the depth chart would suggest it's not as a most-days catcher), the draw here is his offense. He has a chance to be a plus hitter who contributes both average and slugging alike. Soderstrom should begin the season in Triple-A. He may end it in the majors.
43. Logan O'Hoppe, C, Angels (2023 seasonal age: 23)
The Phillies' continued employment of J.T. Realmuto empowered them to send O'Hoppe to the Angels at the deadline in exchange for outfielder Brandon Marsh, a deal that should continue to benefit both sides. O'Hoppe has a bunch of 50s and 55s in his tools outlay, giving him the foundation to be an average or better hitter as well as a solid defensive catcher who receives high marks for his leadership skills. He hit .283/.416/.544 in Double-A last season, convincing the Angels to bring him to the majors at the end of the year. O'Hoppe is positioned to serve as the Angels' most-days starting catcher in 2023 -- and for years to come after that.
44. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Twins (2023 seasonal age: 20)
The theme of Rodriguez's professional career to date has been stop and go. He signed for nearly $3 million in July 2019, only to have his debut delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He was well on his way to boosting his stock this season, hitting .272/.493/.552 in 47 games at A-ball, before suffering a season-ending knee injury in June. Rodriguez has good power, a fine eye, and enough athleticism to play center field at this point in his career. That's a mighty fine combination to work with. We'll see how he rebounds from his injury and missed developmental time, but he could rank No. 1 here next year.
45. Tink Hence, RHP, Cardinals (2023 seasonal age: 20)
Hence is a small right-hander with just 68 professional innings (including his stint in the Arizona Fall League) to his credit since being drafted in 2020. His youth and inexperience doesn't overshadow that he has an immense upside. Hence has a mid-90s fastball, as well as a pair of promising secondaries in a curveball and changeup. He's several years of development away, and anything can happen in that time, but there's a fair chance he tops this list someday.
46. Zach Neto, SS, Angels (2023 seasonal age: 22)
The Angels drafted Neto with the 13th pick in last July's draft before ushering him quickly to the Double-A level. He held his own there, hitting .320/.382/.492 in 30 games. Neto was well-regarded by scouts heading into the draft thanks to his baseball IQ and his ability to hit the ball hard at a good angle without selling out or sacrificing his contact chops. He's also a tolerable shortstop, though he's likely to be viewed as a second-division player there. The Angels seem likely to continue their aggressive timetable with Neto, making him a compelling candidate to debut early in the 2023 season.
47. Royce Lewis, SS/OF, Twins (2023 seasonal age: 24)
Speaking of season-ending knee injuries, Lewis has now suffered a torn ACL in each of the past two years. Brutal. The most recent came last May, shortly after he'd made his big-league debut. Lewis appeared in 12 big-league games overall, batting .300/.317/.550 while seeing action at shortstop and in center field. The No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft could theoretically feature five average or better tools, including well-above-average speed. The question now is whether or not his body is going to allow him to put them to use.
48. Henry Davis, C, Pirates (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Davis, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, had an eventful first full season as a professional. He started the year in High-A, earned a promotion in June to Double-A, and then suffered a non-displaced fracture in his wrist that caused him to miss nearly two months of action. Overall, he batted .264/.380/.472 with 10 homers in 59 games. Davis also played well during a stint in the Arizona Fall League, posting an .875 OPS in 69 plate appearances. He has well-above-average power potential thanks to a strength-based swing, but he'll need to be mindful of his strikeouts (he punched out in more than 22 percent of his trips to the plate upon his return). Scouts were confident Davis would stick at catcher on draft night, though he's likely to end up being more "tolerable" than "exceptional" there, based on where he is at present.
49. Griff McGarry, RHP, Phillies (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Whereas the Phillies used premium draft capital to land Painter and Abel, they plucked McGarry in the fifth round in 2021 by way of the University of Virginia. He's since emerged as a quality mid-rotation prospect on the strength of a deep arsenal.
McGarry, like Abel, has walked too many batters as a professional -- his career rate is over five per nine, and he issued nine free passes during a seven-game span to close out the year in the Triple-A bullpen. McGarry should make his big-league debut this season in some capacity or another.
50. Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers (2023 seasonal age: 25)
Jung, the No. 8 pick in the 2019 draft, had his ascent to the majors slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and injuries, including a torn labrum that cost him much of last year. He made his Arlington debut anyway, hitting .204/.235/.418 with nearly 10 times as many strikeouts as walks in 26 games. It was not, to be kind, the best first impression. Even so, we'll cut him some slack because of the circumstances surrounding his year. Jung at his peak was projected to be an above-average hitter and fielder alike. He's entering his age-25 season, meaning that it's about time for him to make good on that projection.