8 prospect-related predictions for '23

January 4th, 2023

In the first Pipeline Podcast of 2023, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo take a look at the year ahead with a wide range of predictions about prospects and farm systems to keep an eye on, from Rookies of the Year in both leagues and the No. 1 overall Draft pick to which organization will finish with the top-ranked farm system at season's end and more. Since bragging rights come down to predictions, we'll focus on those.

Check out the entire Pipeline Podcast here.

Rookies of the Year

Jonathan Mayo: Corbin Carroll (D-backs No. 1/MLB No. 3); Gunnar Henderson (Orioles No. 1/MLB No. 2)

“[Carroll] made it up to the Majors last year and showed that he could hold his own. He doesn’t have a lot of Minor League time because he missed most of 2021 with the shoulder injury, but he showed this year that he’s the kind of advanced hitter who’s going to figure things out. Even if he’s not swinging the bat that great, the speed and the defense are going to play in center field. I’d put him in the Diamondbacks’ leadoff spot and let him go."

Jim Callis: Carroll (NL); Henderson (AL)

“I think the American League pick is a little clearer cut for me. In the National League you’ve got guys like Mets catcher Francisco Álvarez and Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker. But I too would pick Corbin Carroll. I think he’s got both the clearest opportunity at playing time, especially now that the Diamondbacks traded [Daulton] Varsho, and I also think his bat is the most ready for the big leagues.”

“With Gunnar Henderson, I guess we could question if he’s going to play shortstop, is he going to play third? [‘Who cares?' -- Mayo] He’s just everything he was cracked up to be. Like Carroll, he got to play the final month of the season and stepped right in, didn’t look overmatched, and he played three different positions. In my mind, I know Álvarez is No. 1 on our Top 100 Prospects list right now … I think I’d vote for Gunnar Henderson as we begin a new one.”

Pipeline Hitter of the Year

Callis: Jackson Holliday (Orioles No. 3/MLB No. 13)

“We knew he was advanced at the plate -- you obviously aren’t going No. 1 in the Draft if you don’t have a lot of physical ability and skills. But he just controlled the strike zone so well, even after jumping up to Single-A at age 18. I think he’s going to hit for average, hit for power, [play] really good shortstop. It’ll be fun to figure out who’s playing where in that Orioles infield when he’s ready in a couple of years."

Mayo: Marcelo Mayer (Red Sox No. 1/MLB No. 7)

“[Mayer] was of course the No. 4 overall pick in the Draft to the Red Sox in 2021 but was at the top of our board. He performed very well across two levels of A-ball, even though the jump to High-A was a little more challenging, but he showed off a really good approach. I think the power is going to keep coming and I think he’s going to completely explode this year."

Pipeline Pitcher of the Year

Mayo: Mick Abel (Phillies No. 2/MLB No. 54)

“I’m going to say that the Phillies are going to go back-to-back. I think that Abel spends most of [next] year between Double-A and Triple-A, maybe touches the Majors at the end of the year … He missed a ton of bats, I think he’s going to really figure things out and he’s going to see Andrew Painter beat him to Philadelphia and that’s going to motivate him ... I think the stuff is just going to get better and sharper."

Callis: Ricky Tiedemann (Blue Jays No. 1/MLB No. 33)

“To me it came down to three guys -- Mick Abel, Ricky Tiedemann, maybe Jackson Jobe of the Tigers … I’ll go with Tiedemann. I want to give a shoutout to Keegan Matheson, who does our Blue Jays list with Sam Dykstra, he was really pushing for Ricky Tiedemann going into the year … Third-round pick in 2021, mid-90s fastball, slider, changeup, [throws] strikes, left-handed, good 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame. I’ll gamble a little bit that Tiedemann spends enough time in the Minors."

No. 1 overall Draft pick

Callis: Chase Dollander (Draft No. 2)

“In my mind he’s the best pitching prospect in the Draft, going back to Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, and I think he’s a little more rare than what Dylan Crews (Draft No. 1) or Wyatt Langford bring to the table."

Mayo: Wyatt Langford (Draft No. 3)

“I think Langford is going to show people he can play center field -- he hasn’t played it before -- he runs a bit better than Crews, I think he’s a little more athletic … I don’t think there’s that much separating the two and I think there will be some spirited conversations, but I’m going to listen to the two different scouts that I spoke to when we were putting together our list and take Langford."

No. 1 prospect at the end of the year

Mayo: Mayer

“I’m going to stick with him for all the same reasons why I picked him as the Hitter of the Year. More power is going to come and I think he’s going to really take off at the upper levels while playing a very good shortstop.”

Callis: Holliday

“I’m going to mirror what you did, Jonathan, and just stick with my Hitter of the Year … I just think he’s going to be the best hitting prospect in the Minors. I don’t think he’s quite as good defensively as Mayer is at shortstop, but he’s stronger and faster."

No. 1 farm system at the end of the year

Callis: Guardians

“This is probably the most difficult question … It’s still a very young farm system: George Valera (No. 2), Gavin Williams (No. 3), Bo Naylor (No. 5) and Brayan Rocchio (No. 4) are all knocking on the door, all on the Top 100 Prospects list, and so is Tanner Bibee (No. 6). I don’t think any of those guys are locks to lose their prospect status. I like their Draft, starting with Chase DeLauter (No. 7) and Justin Campbell (No. 12). They have Jackson Chourio’s little brother Jaison Chourio (No. 21), who started to make a rise last year. I just think they have a really deep farm system and won’t get as affected by graduations as much as other clubs."

Mayo: Reds

“I’m going to say that Elly De La Cruz (No. 1) is going to hold onto rookie eligibility for one more year to make me look smart. I know we saw Noelvi Marte (No. 2) not look that great in the Fall League but I think he’s going to settle in playing third base and the power is there. They still have Edwin Arroyo (No. 3), Cam Collier (No. 4) from the Draft, I think Matt McLain (No. 5) will have a bounceback season … If Brandon Williamson (No. 6) and Andrew Abbott (No. 10) aren’t in the Majors that adds to their pitching depth. I think Chase Petty (No. 9) is going to take a big step forward this year."

Biggest riser among current Top 100 prospects

Mayo: Gavin Cross (Royals No. 1/MLB No. 72)

“He’s got five-tool potential and had a really strong pro debut, mostly in Single-A, where he had an OPS over 1.000 in 26 games. He’s a guy who could start the year in High-A, maybe in Double-A. Left-handed hitter who can hit and have power coming out of that Virginia Tech offense and can do a little bit of everything."

Callis: Jackson Merrill (Padres No. 1/MLB No. 83)

“Merrill was the third-youngest player in the Fall League and he didn’t look like it … He just never looked overmatched. I love the swing, just love the way he hits. I think he’s going to be an impact bat. With a lot of these young shortstops it’s, ‘Is he a shortstop, third baseman, second baseman…?’ I don’t think it matters because this is a guy who could eventually be a .300/25-plus homer guy and then that bat will play all over the diamond."

Who will be this year's Jackson Chourio?

“The guy signed for $4.925 million so it’s not like if he blossoms it’ll be a big shock. But he’s 6-foot-3, he’s got all kinds of power and bat speed, he’s a switch-hitter, he can really run. I don’t think anyone who follows international baseball would be shocked like, ‘Where did Cristhian Vaquero come from?’ But I do think he’s capable of making that leap from the DSL to rising up the Top 100 list very quickly."

“He signed for $1.3 million in January of 2021, which was at the time the biggest bonus the Orioles had ever given to an international prospect. He played in the States in 2022 in the Florida Complex League, really held his own and showed off a pretty good approach. There is a lot of raw power for him to tap into as a left-handed-hitting catcher. There’s an outside chance he outgrows catcher -- he’s got a really strong arm -- so it’s really the bat that I’m buying. He’ll only be 18 for most of this upcoming season where he’ll move to full-season ball."