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MLB Prospect Watch: What the Stars of the Future Have Been Doing in the Minor Leagues

 Leif Skodnick  |    May 15th, 2023 11:11pm EDT

Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds slides into home plate to score a run past Francisco Alvarez of the New York Mets in the first inning at Great American Ball Park on May 10, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Alvarez is the top catching prospect in baseball. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network

Plenty of young prospects are battling their way to Major League Baseball in the affiliated minor leagues. Several of the top 25 prospects listed on MLB.com’s Pipeline site have been called up to the show this season, and several of these players even got a taste of the big leagues last year.

This list is led by New York Mets catcher Francisco Álvarez and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker. The best pitcher to make his MLB debut this season is Baltimore Orioles right-handed starter, Grayson Rodriguez. Tampa Bay Rays right-handed starter Taj Bradley has also made three starts for the Rays this season.

New York Mets C Francisco Álvarez

Álvarez is 21 years old and got a brief call-up last season, where he hit one home run in five games. This season he has two home runs, four RBI and an OPS of .1056 in Triple-A with the Syracuse Mets. He was called up on April 6, after in four games and has gotten 61 at-bats with the New York Mets this season. He has three home runs and six RBI with New York. Álvarez wasn’t playing every day when he first got called up, but he is now getting regular at- bats.

St. Louis Cardinals 3B/OF Jordan Walker

Walker, 20, was on the Cardinals opening day roster, and was primarily a third baseman in the minor leagues, playing 146 games there. He also played 38 games in the outfield. With the Cardinals having Nolan Arenado as their starting third baseman, Walker was forced to play the outfield and DH. Walker struggled defensively, but got off to a hot start with the bat, stringing together a 12-game hitting streak to start his career, tying a rookie record set by Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Eddie Murphy in 1912. The Cardinals sent Walker down to their Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, on April 26. Walker hit two home runs, drove in 11 runs, stole two bases and had an OPS of .718 in 20 games with the Cardinals this season.

Philadelphia Phillies RHP Andrew Painter

Painter, 20, is currently sidelined with a torn ligament in his elbow. Before the injury in Spring Training, he was slated to start the season with the Phillies Double-A affiliate, the Reading Fightin’ Phils. Painter is currently throwing from 90 feet off flat ground, but there is no timetable for his return. Painter has made 26 starts in his minor league career, posting an ERA of 1.48. He’s pitched 109.2 innings and has racked up 167 strikeouts.

Baltimore Orioles RHP Grayson Rodriguez

Rodriguez is 23 and started the season in Orioles Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides. After two starts, he was called up to the Baltimore Orioles on April 5. Rodriguez has an ERA of 5.08 in seven starts with the Orioles. He’s pitched 33.2 innings and struck out 41 batters. In his minor league career, he pitched 296 innings with an ERA of 2.49 and 417 strikeouts.

Milwaukee Brewers OF Jackson Chourio

Chourio, 19, is playing for the Brewers Double-A affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers. He has three home runs 18 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 26 games. Chourio is a five-tool player with speed as his standout tool. He was originally a shortstop, but is now playing center field. Chourio was the youngest player in the MLB All-Star Futures game last season at 18 years old.

Boston Red Sox SS Marcelo Mayer

Mayer is 20 years old and is playing for the Red Sox High-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive. Mayer split time between Low-A and High-A last season. He had 13 home runs, 53 RBI, 17 stolen bases and an OPS of .888 in 2022. He’s gotten off to a hot start this year with four home runs, 23 RBI and an OPS of .996.

Cincinnati Reds SS/3B Elly De La Cruz

Cruz, 21, is playing in the Reds Triple-A affiliate, the Louisville Bats. Cruz could be called up this season and has played 113 games at shortstop, 65 at third base and 13 at second base in his minor league career. Cruz has six home runs, 16 RBI and an OPS of .965 in 79 at-bats this season.

Arizona Diamondbacks SS Jordan Lawlar

Lawlar is 20 years old and Is playing in the Diamondbacks Double-A affiliate, the Amarillo the Sod Poodles. Lawlar was the Diamondbacks sixth pick in the 2021 draft. Last season he skyrocketed from rookie ball to double-A. Lawlar has five home runs, 14 RBI and eight stolen bases this season.

Baltimore Orioles SS Jackson Holiday

Holliday is 19 years old and was the Orioles first overall pick last season. Holliday is the son of former big league outfielder Matt Holliday, who spent most of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies and was a seven-time all-star. Jackson Holiday is playing with the Orioles High-A affiliate, the Aberdeen IronBirds. He got called up to High-A after 13 games in Low-A with the Delmarva Shorebirds. The younger Holliday has an OPS of .1080 with four home runs, 21 RBI and seven stolen bases combined at both levels.

Miami Marlins RHP Eury Pérez

Pérez is 20 years old and got called up to the Miami Marlins on May 10. He made his MLB debut on May 12 against the Cincinnati Reds. Pérez has an imposing stature at 6-foot-8, and earlier this season, he pitched with the Marlins Double-A affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Pérez has topped out at 100 mph with his fastball and has the secondary pitches to back it up. His changeup is his best off-speed pitch with the slider and curveball as his third and fourth-best pitches. Pérez has made six starts this season with an ERA of 2.32. He’s pitched 31 innings with 42 strikeouts.

Los Angeles Dodgers C Diego Cartaya

Cartaya is 21 years old and is playing with the Dodgers Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers. Last season he spent time in low-a and high-a and had 22 home runs 72 RBI and an OPS of 1.023. Cartaya was the top international prospect in the 2018 signing class. The Dodgers signed him for $2.5 million dollars. This season he has two home runs and 13 RBI. He has a strong arm behind the plate but needs to improve his blocking and framing.

Arizona Diamondbacks OF Druw Jones

Jones, 19, was the second overall pick by the Diamondbacks in last year’s draft and is the son of Atlanta Braves legend Andruw Jones. Druw Jones is following in his father’s footsteps as a center fielder. He won a state title in Georgia at Wesleyan High School and was also named the 2021-22 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year. Jones didn’t play in the Diamondbacks organization in 2022 due to a shoulder injury. He started the season with the Diamondbacks Low-A affiliate, the Visalia Rawhide, where he has five RBI in 40 at-bats with the Rawhide. The injury bug has caught up to him again this season, and he was placed on the Injured List on April 23 with s right quadriceps strain.

Cleveland Guardians RHP Daniel Espino

Espino, 19, is the Guardians’ top prospect. Espino won’t be playing this year following shoulder surgery, and his recovery is estimated to take 11 to 13 months. Espino hasn’t pitched since April of 2022, with the Guardians Double-A affiliate, the Akron RubberDucks. In his minor league career, he has an ERA of 3.57 in 133.2 innings. Espino is averaging 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings in the minor leagues.

Washington Nationals OF James Wood

Wood, 20, was one of the prized prospects the Nationals received in the Juan Soto trade with the San Diego Padres last July at the trade deadline. Wood is playing with the Nationals high-A affiliate, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, and has four home runs, 24 RBI, five stolen bases and an OPS of .852 this season.

San Francisco Giants LHP Kyle Harrison

Harrison is 21 years old and the top left-handed pitching prospect in MLB, currently playing with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats. Harrison is expected to get the call-up to the show this season. In seven starts this season, he’s pitched 19 innings with an ERA of 3.20 and 34 strikeouts. Harrison appeared in the MLB All-Star Futures Game last season.

San Diego Padres SS Jackson Merrill

Merrill is 20 years old and is playing for the Padres High-A affiliate, the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Last season, he started in rookie ball and worked his way up to Low-A. He had six home runs, 40 RBI, 11 stolen bases and an OPS of .906 combined in both levels. Merrill has three home runs, nine RBI and three stolen bases this season.

Tampa Bay Rays RHP Taj Bradley

Bradley is 22 years old and made his MLB debut this season against the Boston Red Sox on April 12. Bradley has gone back and forth from the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. The Rays’ top prospect has an ERA of 3.52 in three MLB starts. He’s pitched 15.1 innings with 23 strikeouts. Bradley has an ERA of 3.03 in his minor league career in 326.2 innings. He was optioned back to Triple-A on April 25.

San Francisco Giants SS Marco Luciano

Luciano is 21 years old and playing with the Giants’ Double-A affiliate, the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Luciano was the top middle infielder of the 2018 international signing class. The Giants signed him for $2.8 million dollars out of the Dominican Republic. He has one home run and one RBI this season in 22 at-bats.

Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Bobby Miller

Miller is 24 years old and is playing for the Dodgers triple-A affiliate, the Oklahoma City Dodgers. He’s only pitched eight innings this year due to shoulder soreness steaming from Spring Training, but could be in line for a call-up this season. Miller lit up the radar gun with eight pitchers at 100 MPH or greater in his season debut. Miller has pitched 173.2 innings in his minor league career with 219 strikeouts.

Pittsburgh Pirates 2B Termarr Johnson

Johnson, 18, is playing with the Pirates Low-A affiliate, the Bradenton Marauders. In last year’s draft, the Pirates selected Johnson fourth overall out of Mays high school in Atlanta, Georgia. Johnson has only gotten 102 minor league at-bats in the last two seasons. He has one home run, 11 RBI and six stolen bases in his minor league career.

Colorado Rockies OF Zac Veen

Veen is 21 years old and is playing for the Colorado Rockies Double-A affiliate, the Hartford Yard Goats. Veen is the Rockies top-ranked prospect and has 91 steals in his minor league career. He’s hit 28 home runs with an OPS of .800 in 930 minor league at-bats. This season, Veen has one home run, 13 RBI and 10 steals.

Chicago Cubs OF Pete Crow-Armstrong

Crow-Armstrong is 21 years old and is playing for the Chicago Cubs Double-A affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies. Crow-Armstrong was acquired from the New York Mets in the trade for Javier Baez in 2021. Crow-Armstrong is the Cubs top prospect and is off to a good start in Double-A. His OPS is .799 this season with three home runs, 14 RBI and nine stolen bases.

Cincinnati Reds Noelvi Marte SS/3B

Marte is 21 years old and is playing with the Reds Double-A affiliate, the Chattanooga Lookouts. Marte is the second Reds player on this list., and has played 171 games at shortstop in his minor league career, but made just nine starts at third base. Marte has five home runs, 17 RBI, six stolen bases and an OPS of .844 this season.

Editor’s Note: Players that played more than 25 MLB games were left off this list. Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe and Mets third baseman Brett Baty fit those criteria.

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Leif Skodnick