These 30 prospects are vying for jobs in Spring Training
Pitchers and catchers have reported and if you’re like us, you’re loving all the videos of early batting practice and bullpen sessions. Let the competition commence!
Spring Training is a time to get ramped up and ready for the coming season, but for many, Grapefruit and Cactus League action will serve as an audition for a roster spot. There are prospects in every camp vying for big league jobs and we are providing one prospect hoping to do just that for each team this spring.
We’re not talking about the prospects who are all but guaranteed spots, so you won’t see the likes of Gunnar Henderson, Corbin Carroll or Triston Casas on the list below. We like to avoid the slam dunks in MLB Pipeline land.
Top 100 rankings appear in parentheses.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Yosver Zulueta, RHP
There was a late chance that Zulueta could have competed for a spot in the Toronto rotation down the stretch last year, but that didn’t come to fruition. On stuff alone, he deserves to be back in the conversation, with an upper-90s fastball and three offspeed pitches that each flash above-average. Despite his history of injuries, the Jays say they want to keep trying him as a starter, but if the arsenal is right back where it was in 2022, don’t rule out the 25-year-old right-hander forcing the issue on a shorter but more immediate role.
Orioles: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP (MLB No. 7)
If he hadn’t had the lat strain that kept him on the sidelines for three months last year, Rodriguez likely would’ve been in the O’s rotation already. But he will have every opportunity to earn a spot in it this spring. GM Mike Elias has said he has the inside track and that he’ll take the best staff north with him, so it’s Rodriguez’s spot to lose.
Rays: Taj Bradley, RHP (MLB No. 20)
Tampa Bay’s Major League competitions are more loaded with recent prospect graduates than those who currently qualify. That said, pitching depth always gets tested, and the organization’s top prospect should be right on the cusp of that debate. Bradley’s 94-96 mph fastball and mid-80s cutter could both play in the bigs immediately, and he has a long history of filling up the strike zone, which could also translate quickly. The Rays have done wackier things than giving a Top 20 overall prospect a shot if he’s earned it.
Red Sox: Zack Kelly, RHP
Released by the Athletics and Angels before hooking up with the Red Sox in January 2021, Kelly has gained velocity on his fastball since becoming a reliever, and he now pairs a 94-97 mph four-seamer with a plus changeup that drops at the plate. He's looking for a full-time role in Boston's bullpen after posting a 3.95 ERA in 13 appearances during his big league debut late last season.
Yankees: Oswald Peraza, SS/2B (MLB No. 52)
Peraza looks like the favorite to start at shortstop for the Yankees after slashing .306/.404/.429 during a September callup and earning a spot on their American League Championship Series roster. A bargain signing at $175,000 out of Venezuela in 2016, he's a smooth defender with 20-20 potential.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Bo Naylor, C (MLB No. 64)
Until last year, Naylor didn't live up to his reputation as one of the best prep hitters in the 2018 Draft, in which he went 29th overall and became half of the only Canadian brother tandem to both get selected in the first round. He slashed .263/.392/.496 with 21 homers and 20 steals between Double- and Triple-A in 2022, continued to provide solid defense behind the plate and joined his brother, Josh, in Cleveland in October. Bo could be a lefty-hitting complement to free-agent import Mike Zunino on the Guardians this year.
Royals: Drew Waters, OF
Michael A. Taylor is now a Twin. The center-field job in Kansas City is open for the taking, and Waters should very much be in the mix, having revitalized his prospect status after last year’s trade from the Braves. Kansas City quickly worked with the 24-year-old on cutting down his ground-ball rate, allowing him to better tap into his above-average raw power, and the result was a 125 wRC+ over 109 plate appearances in the Majors. He has the speed and arm for center too, but Kyle Isbel might have the upper hand in that department. Game on.
Tigers: Joey Wentz, LHP
Wentz, who has a lengthy injury history, made five starts for the Tigers in the season’s final two months last year, posting a 1.73 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 27 innings, and then was downright dominant in the Arizona Fall League, where he fanned 14 over 12 scoreless frames as he made up for lost time. The additions of Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen add some rotation competition, but Wentz should be right in the mix with a fastball-cutter-change mix that plays.
Twins: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
The Twins’ big league rotation appears pretty deep, with more arms than spots currently. But there are some question marks, from Pablo López’s and Tyler Mahle’s shoulders to Kenta Maeda coming off of Tommy John surgery. Woods Richardson figured some things out in 2022 en route to making his big league debut and can continue to open the eyes of the big league staff if someone falters.
White Sox: Oscar Colas, OF (MLB No. 85)
Colas might be Chicago's best option in right field after slashing .314/.371/.524 with 23 homers while advancing from High-A to Triple-A in his U.S. debut. Signed for $2.7 million after playing professionally in Japan, he offers well above-average raw power and arm strength.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Chase Silseth, RHP
The Angels will be using a six-man rotation in 2023 and five of those spots seem to be locked in. But the competition for the No. 6 guy is wide open with Silseth among many arms with a shot. The first player from the 2021 Draft to make the big leagues, his seven-start big league debut last year was uneven, but he was absolutely dominant in Double-A.
Astros: Hunter Brown, RHP (MLB No. 43)
After fashioning a 0.89 ERA in 20 1/3 regular-season innings with the Astros, followed by three scoreless outings in the postseason en route to the franchise's second World Series title, Brown would seem to be a lock for a starting job. But the 2019 fifth-rounder from NCAA Division II Wayne State (Mich.) may not be able to crack a crowded rotation, which could leave him angling for a bullpen job or getting more Triple-A seasoning he doesn't really need. He has two well above-average pitches in a 95-100 mph fastball with plenty of carry and run and a low-80s downer curveball.
A’s: Ken Waldichuk, LHP (No. 76)
The A’s rotation is a bit in flux, though it’s a fair bet to think 2022 All-Star Paul Blackburn and newcomers Shintaro Fujinami and Drew Rucinski have the inside track on three spots. The A’s got Waldichuk from the Yankees in last year’s Frankie Montas deal and gave him seven starts in the big leagues. The last one was a seven-shutout inning win, leaving the A’s brass plenty to think about over the offseason.
Mariners: Bryce Miller, RHP (No. 98)
The Mariners have a lot of pitching in camp, and Miller’s not on the 40-man roster yet, but he has a couple of avenues to the big league staff if Jerry Dipoto and company see fit. The rotation is six deep already, but Miller could break in as a reliever if need be, with his fastball-slider combination playing up in shorter stints. Long-term, look for him to join Logan Gilbert and George Kirby as college arms from the Mariners in the rotation.
Rangers: Yerry Rodriguez, RHP
Signed for $60,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Rodriguez made his big league debut with a scoreless inning on the final day of the 2022 season, and now he's looking for a permanent job in the bullpen. Working with a running fastball that reaches 100 mph and a sweeping low-80s slider, he compiled a 4.27 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 59 Triple-A innings last year.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Jared Shuster, LHP
He might be on the outside looking in right now, but given the uncertainty behind Michael Soroka and Ian Anderson coming off of injuries, the former first-round pick could pitch his way into plans or at the very least open eyes to be ready for an early callup. Victor Vodnik is another prospect who could pitch his way into bullpen plans.
Phillies: Andrew Painter, RHP (No. 6)
Yes, he won’t turn 20 until April 10. And yes, he has just five starts above A ball on his resume. None of that matters. He’s in the mix for the last spot in the Phillies’ rotation and has the combination of elite-level stuff and command to win it. This might be the most fun prospect-related competition to watch this spring.
Marlins: Jordan Groshans, 3B/SS
Acquired from the Blue Jays for Anthony Bass, Zach Pop and catching prospect Edward Duran in August, Groshans started 17 games at the hot corner for the Marlins in the final month of the season. He slashed .263/.359/.331 with three homers in 103 Triple-A games, demonstrating his bat-to-ball skills but also an inability to deliver on his power potential.
Mets: Brett Baty, 3B (MLB No. 21)
Francisco Álvarez is most likely heading back to Triple-A to get regular at-bats. Baty, however, has a real case to be the Mets’ Opening Day third baseman now that he’s healed from a right thumb injury. The 23-year-old is certainly capable of hitting the ball hard, and his launch angle improved in 2022 to the point where it’s less of a question of him living up to his plus power potential. Eduardo Escobar may be the more veteran presence, but after the Carlos Correa debacle, Baty is the long-term answer at the hot corner.
Nationals: Cade Cavalli, RHP (MLB No. 58)
After spending the year trying to hone his command at Triple-A, Cavalli finally made his Major League debut on Aug. 26 … only to suffer right shoulder inflammation that knocked him out for the rest of 2022. His four-pitch mix is still one of the best in the prospect ranks, and the rebuilding Nats have a rotation that seems to have built-in spots for young pitchers in him and MacKenzie Gore. So long as he keeps landing pitches where he wants them, he should get a chance to begin ’23 in D.C.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Brice Turang, 2B/SS/OF
The center-field job is Garrett Mitchell’s to lose, it seems, so we’ll put him aside. Turang, on the flip side, is part of a more open conversation at second base with more veteran types like Luis Urías (who could slide to third), Keston Hiura and Owen Miller (both might be best at first). It’s a defensively flexible group, and the athletic Turang came up at short with some center and third mixed in. He could be a defensive star at second though, and his bat did show signs of improvement at Triple-A, particularly in the power category.
Cardinals: Jordan Walker, OF (MLB No. 4)
Lars Nootbaar and Tyler O’Neill will both be participating in the World Baseball Classic for much of the spring. That means more opportunities in the outfield for the Cardinals’ top prospect, and when he gets at-bats, he tends to wow with his ability to hit for average and power. He has arguably the highest ceiling of anyone in the Cards’ outfield group, and the newish rules that incentivize opening top prospects in the Majors could work in his favor to pull a Julio Rodríguez to jump from Double-A to the bigs.
Cubs: Matt Mervis, 1B
Mervis has little left to prove after slashing .309/.379/.605 with 36 homers and leading the Minors with 78 extra-base hits, 310 total bases and 119 RBIs while rising from High-A to Triple-A -- then tying for the Arizona Fall League lead with six long balls. The 2020 undrafted free agent from Duke has legitimate left-handed power, though Chicago's offseason signings of Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini may make at-bats harder to find.
Pirates: Ji Hwan Bae, UTIL
It looks like Bae has an inside track at a utility role in Pittsburgh as a guy who can play second, short and center field. His speed provides an element the Pirates can use, and he heads into camp having impressed during his MLB debut last year, when he hit .333 and stole three bags in 33 at-bats.
Reds: Brandon Williamson, LHP
Veterans Luis Cessa and Luke Weaver might have the upper hand heading into Spring Training for the last two spots of the rotation. But don’t be shocked if Williamson, a big lefty with a legit four-pitch mix, enters the picture, especially if he can trust his stuff and command the baseball like he has earlier in his pro career.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Dodgers: Miguel Vargas, 3B/OF/1B (MLB No. 37)
The loaded Dodgers have an opening in their lineup for a rookie and it could be filled by Vargas, fellow Top 100 Prospect Michael Busch or toolsy outfielder James Outman. Signed for $300,000 in 2017 after defecting from Cuba along with his father, Lazaro (the DH on Cuba's 1992 and 1996 Olympic championship teams), Vargas is a career .313 hitter in the Minors with burgeoning power and the work ethic to improve his speed and defense.
D-backs: Ryne Nelson, RHP
Barring an injury, Corbin Carroll is the Opening Day center fielder in Arizona, no question. The more interesting prospect debate will be in the rotation with both Nelson and Drey Jameson vying for the No. 5 spot (Top 100 prospect Brandon Pfaadt shouldn’t be ruled out either). Nelson might have the leg up after he found success with a fastball-heavy approach (averaging 94.8 mph and keeping hitters to a .111 average on the heater alone) in three Major League starts, while his curveball, slider and change got whiffs too.
Giants: Cole Waites, RHP
The pandemic and knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus meant that Waites worked just 30 2/3 innings in his first three years as a pro after the Giants drafted him in the 18th round of NCAA Division II West Alabama in 2019. Armed with a 95-100 mph fastball and flashing a mid-80s slider with two-plane depth, he rocketed from High-A to the Majors last year while recording a 2.09 ERA, .185 opponents' average against and 80 strikeouts in 47 1/3 frames between four stops.
Padres: Jose Lopez, LHP
San Diego is built to compete now and has the projected veteran-heavy roster to match. However, the club did make a Rule 5 pick this offseason in Lopez, a lefty reliever with a mid-90s fastball and plus sweeping slider. Despite Lopez’s lack of a Triple-A resume, the Padres believe his stuff out of the bullpen is something they’d consider keeping around all season long, so even with the tough roster requirements, he should get a long look in Peoria.
Rockies: Nolan Jones, OF/3B
Jones made his big league debut with Cleveland last year before coming to Colorado over the offseason, so this is really the first look the Rockies’ staff will have. He worked out in Scottsdale all offseason with the Rockies urging him to find pitches to be more aggressive at the plate. He’s in the mix for a bench role as someone who has played third base and the outfield and will also get reps at first base this spring.