Picking 5 prospects to watch at Spring Training

February 27th, 2024

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Spring Training is finally here. By the time you're reading this, I should have landed in Florida and begun my tour of five Grapefruit League camps. I'll get to the Cactus League later in March.

My favorite part of the spring is watching top prospects try to grab a starting role in the big leagues for the first time. Here are five I'm monitoring closely:

Jackson Holliday, SS/2B, Orioles
He only turned 20 last December, but baseball's best prospect is one of the most advanced young hitters in recent memory. He grew up around the game as the son of seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday, so no situation is too big or too new for him. His biggest adjustment may be becoming a full-time second baseman, which seems to be his clearest path to making the reigning American League East championships despite playing just 25 games there in the Minors.

Wyatt Langford, OF, Rangers
It's kind of crazy that a player could make the defending World Series champs nine months after getting drafted, but Langford is crazy talented. The No. 4 overall pick last July out of Florida, he batted .360/.480/.677 with 10 homers and 12 steals while reaching Triple-A in his 44-game pro debut. He stands out most with his massive raw power, but he's also an advanced hitter and quality athlete.

Jackson Merrill, SS/OF, Padres
This may be the most interesting situation of all. Merrill has only played 46 games above High-A and just five in left field, where he started two of San Diego's first three exhibition games. He already has provided a couple of web gems in left and his precocious hitting ability and swing decisions have been evident. The Padres open their regular season early, March 20 against the Dodgers in Korea, they need outfield help and they're going to give him plenty of opportunity to make an impression.

Joey Ortiz, INF, Brewers
The Corbin Burnes trade was huge for Ortiz, who faced an infield logjam with the Orioles. Not so with the Brewers, who have a gaping hole at third base. He's a no-doubt shortstop and may eventually replace Willy Adames there, and his defensive gifts also will allow him to shine at the hot corner. While he's known most for his glove, Ortiz batted .321/.378/.507 in Triple-A last year and can do some damage.

Ceddanne Rafaela, OF/SS, Red Sox
Pete Crow-Armstrong may be the best defensive prospect in baseball but Rafaela is the most versatile, capable of winning Gold Gloves in center field and providing at least plus glovework anywhere on the diamond. The Red Sox are giving him every opportunity to win their job in center, where he'd be a huge upgrade for a defensively challenged club. He's overly aggressive at the plate but also has produced back-to-back 20-20 seasons with plus speed and surprising pop for a 5-foot-9, 165-pounder.