Inbox: 2022 Draft picks making their mark

March 22nd, 2023

Spring Training is winding down and the start of the 2023 season, both in the big leagues and down on the farm, is on the horizon. If that doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will.

Based on the questions I got for this week’s Inbox, folks are fired up, both for real baseball as well as their fantasy drafts. The question we answered in this week’s MLB Pipeline Podcast clearly had a fantasy team in mind, as we were asked which of these rookies -- , , or -- will have the biggest impact in 2023.

The questions I chose for this week aren’t as directly fantasy baseball related, but as always, we hope that our information helps in that realm as well.

Which 2022 Draft picks have impressed you the most in Spring Training? -- @StevieDAles97

During my stint in Arizona, early on, there wasn’t much to go on regarding last year’s Draft class and how they’re performing. Some have gotten a good amount of time in big league camp with some mixed results and some have impressed with just how they’ve gone about their business (Angels first-rounder comes to mind, but maybe that’s just because I enjoyed the conversation we had (that you can listen to on the MLB Pipeline Podcast from two weeks ago).

By now, there’s a little more data to look at on that front, but I’ve decided to split this into two tiers. The first is based on big league game performance, which is admittedly a bit of a Small Sample Size Squad:

Jackson Holliday, Orioles: It might not be so surprising to hear that the No. 1 pick in the Draft has looked good this spring, but it’s easy to forget Holliday is still a teenager, which makes his .429/.556/.500 line in 18 Grapefruit League plate appearances pop even more.

Ben Joyce, Angels: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Joyce can throw hard. He was up to 104 mph in his most recent Cactus League outing. He’s also tossed five scoreless frames, allowing just two hits, walking four and striking out six.

Gabriel Hughes, Rockies: He made his Cactus League debut on Monday and tossed three scoreless innings against the Dodgers. And that was his first game action of any kind this spring

Gavin Cross, Royals: Yes, it was only seven ABs, but after a 1.070 OPS during his pro debut last summer, it sure was exciting to see Cross hit .714 with three extra-base hits during his brief time in big league camp this spring.

Spencer Jones, Yankees: Jones also had a strong pro debut (.344/.425/.538) last year and then made a nice first impression on the big league staff this spring by going 4-for-12, albeit all singles.

Eric Brown, Brewers: People love his defense at short and he also opened eyes by going 4-for-10, with a double, homer and two steals, in Cactus League play.

The second tier is looking at our Spring Training reports, which are wrapping up. We have a “Camp Standout” with each report, which isn’t based on big league performance but rather who has looked good behind the scenes on the Minor League side. Four members of the 2022 Draft class have been feted this way: (A’s, third round); (Giants, fifth); (Twins, fifth); (Angels, sixth).

We’ve heard that the quantity of catching prospects in the minors is better than ever.   Is there a position that is worse than normal? -- @ballsandgutters

It’s true that the catching crop has been strong of late, and it’s not just this year, where there are nine catchers on our current Top 100 list. That’s actually down from 2022, when we had an all-time high of 12 catchers on the list.

If I were to single out one category as being “worse than normal,” it would be left-handed pitching. A year ago, there were eight southpaws on the Top 100; there were 12 back in 2021. This year? There are just four: , , and . I think this is more cyclical than anything else, and there are some lefties just off the Top 100 who are young, or coming back from injury, who could work their way onto the Top 100 over the course of the season.

Who do you think is the best “hitting” prospect in the Phillies system? Lee? Crawford? Or international kid? -- @GreenjackTom

I’m guessing that by “international kid,” you mean ? He is among the better pure hitters in the Phillies' system as of right now. All the players you mentioned -- Hao-Yu Lee, and Bergolla -- all were given 55 grades on their hit tool, and an argument could be made for any of them. But I’ll stay consistent with a recent story we did on the best pure hitter in each organization and give the honor to Lee. He has great hitting mechanics and a really advanced approach at the plate, especially for his age (he’ll be 20 years old for all of the 2023 season). He doesn’t strike out, he draws walks and I think there’s more sneaky pop to come.

Would love to know your top 5-10 prospects to watch this season in the Midwest League in High-A? -- @dchendrix

Teams tend to stay pretty quiet about where guys are going to go until rosters are officially announced and I’ll warn folks not to read too much into it if they hear Player X is playing with the Double-A team in Minor League Spring Training games. That’s always a fluid thing in the spring. But I’m going to give this a shot. There are 12 teams in the Midwest League representing these organizations: A’s, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Guardians, Marlins, Padres, Reds, Royals, Tigers and Twins. With my best guesses, the Top 100 guys in the MWL could be:

Jackson Merrill, Padres (No. 19)
Edwin Arroyo, Reds (No. 44)
Jacob Berry, Marlins (No. 61)
Gavin Cross, Royals (No. 62)
Tink Hence, Cardinals (No. 77)
Kevin Alcántara, Cubs (No. 87)
Emmanuel Rodriguez, Twins (No. 88)