Discover more from The Dynasty Dugout
2023 MILB Prospect Team of the Year
The best players from the 2023 Minor League Baseball season according to Zac Beck.
It’s a bittersweet time in the calendar for prospecting. Watching these players night in and night out is a distinct joy of mine, and I’m sad to see it go. Conversely, the offseason presents an opportunity to dig into data that isn’t going to change tomorrow and again the day after that.
We’re also on the doorstep of the AFL. It’s an interesting crop this year with a ton of exciting talent that posted strong statistical performances further down my ranks, gracing the circuit. Chris and I will put out daily performance recaps and helping you keep up to speed on what players are seeing their stock move significantly.
I’ll be in Phoenix for the AFL from October 28th through the Fall Stars game on November 5th. Reach out if you figure to be in the area at the same time; I’d love to meet you and catch a ballgame. I’m also particularly interested in food recommendations for the greater Phoenix area. Good baseball and good food are two of the few things I need to carry on.
Now, the team of the year is slightly different than the team of the month. Several players made multiple appearances on the team of the month that are not present here. This is because I’ve excluded any players who are currently at the MLB level (think Junior Caminero) and there are new faces who will appear in my next rank update that have not appeared previously (Blake Dunn et al.) This exercise is based strictly on surface-level statistical performance but I’ll do my best to provide you with a point of view on how those data translate to future fantasy performance in MLB alongside batted ball data gathered through contacts and the introduction of statcast to certain levels of minor league affiliated ball.
The Dynasty Dugout is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Honorable Mention: Abimelec Ortiz, Texas Rangers (A, A+)
2023: .294/.371/.619/.990 with 33 HRs and 1 SB in 454 PA
Ortiz made one team of the month appearance in 2023 for his sweltering June in which he slashed .374/.442/.723 with 8 home runs spread across just 95 plate appearances. His value lies firmly in his bat and he’ll be sequestered to a first-base or designated hitter role as a result of his frame and lackluster defensive utility. Fortunately, he had a pretty excellent year offensively, finishing tied for fourth among qualified minor league hitters at any level in home runs and 17th in wRC+.
The arguments in favor of Ortiz as a promising fantasy asset are clear: he has undeniable power and should eventually play in an offense that figures to be potent for years to come. However, it’s equally important we heed the deficiencies. The offensive burden of proof for a first basemen is exceptionally high, Ortiz has already demonstrated some difficulty with identifying spin and chasing breaking stuff out of the zone, and he’s yet to prove his profile will hold up against high-level pitching.
Honorable Mention: Samuel Basallo, Baltimore Orioles (A, A+, AA)
2023: .313/.402/.551/.953 with 20 HRs and 12 SBs in 483 PA
Basallo was a one-time team-of-the-month player this year for his June line of .309/.411/.543 with 5 HRs and 3 SBs in 95 plate appearances, which isn’t a far cry from his full-season slash. I’ve written about him recently, but I don’t think I’ve been as superlative as is necessary – he’s an excellent hitter. His 6’4, 220lb frame brings with it at least plus power to pair with contact rates that edge out those of Lazaro Montes and Xavier Isaac.
There’s a chance he’ll have to move off of the catcher position as a result of his size. That’s not particularly concerning to me, and I’d welcome a few extra plate appearances. He’ll be firmly within my top 40 prospects in the next rank update and second among first basemen.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Black, Milwaukee Brewers (AA, AAA)
2023: .284/.417/.513/.930 with 18 HRs and 55 SBs in 558 PA
I promise I didn’t realize that all 3 honorable mentions made the June team of the month until I got to Tyler Black. It’s far from statistically significant, but maybe keep an eye out for guys lighting it up in June next year.
Black is a weird profile. My read is that the 55 stolen bases are the result of instinctual, smart base running more than they are indicative of top-of-the-scale speed. He’s an OBP monster who should figure to play up in points formats as a result. Brice Turang is far from a lock for the second base role next year, and I don’t think anybody knows what’s in store for Keston Hiura (Milwaukee’s front office included). I’ve underrated Black all year, and he should feature near the top 75 in my next rank update.
SP: Drew Thorpe, New York Yankees (A+, AA)
2023: 2.52 ERA, 34.0% K%, 7.1% BB%, 34.4% CSW in 139.1 IP
Thorpe featured in the August team of the month and was the minor league leader in strikeouts with 182 across 139.1 innings. He racked them up between A+ and AA and should be part of the wave of young pitchers descending on the Bronx at some point in 2024.
His performance doesn’t appear fluky, especially when you consider he finished with a 34.4% CSW and 26.9% K-BB, but I do still have some concerns about his repertoire. His changeup is by far the best pitch, and his fastball trails significantly in quality. Fastball velocity and shape are something I’ve come to value extremely highly, and for that reason, I prefer Chase Hampton to Drew Thorpe in the Yankees org.
C: Ben Rice, New York Yankees (A, A+, AA)
2023: .324/.434/.615/1.048 with 20 HRs and 11 SBs in 332 PA
The enterprising minds of the Dynasty Dugout discord have dubbed Ben Rice “Uncle Ben”, a moniker that has grown on me as the second half of the season droned on. Rice did not make any team of the month appearances, largely because he suffered a lower back injury that held him out of competition in May and June and was not ranked in my post-draft update.
Rice was a 12th-round pick in 2021 out of Dartmouth and had an inauspicious start to his pro career prior to 2023. I scoured for video of his 2022 setup and swing to see if there were any tangible changes to point to, but came up empty. The film I watched of his 2023 approach looked promising; he’s athletic at the plate with a slightly open position and hands held high, akin to Christian Yelich. He’s been undeniable at every level, and reports conclude he has enough offensive juice to play first base if he has to move off of catcher. His blocking and framing are strong, but a lackluster arm and healthy competition for reps make his future behind the plate blurry.
1B: Coby Mayo, Baltimore Orioles (AA, AAA)
2023: .290/.410/.564/.974 with 29 HRs and 5 SBs in 614 PA
You’re not going to believe this. Coby Mayo was on the June team of the month. He was excellent all year, but his June was particularly superlative as he slugged his way to a .340/.467/.711 with 8 HRs and 2 SBs in 120 plate appearances.
The book is pretty well out on Mayo – he’s a hulking power hitter with an unorthodox swing that catches him some flack. He starts with a wide, flat-footed stance and gets into his motion with a small hitch as he drops his hands. I’m curious about his splits against velo, especially up in the zone, given the way his hands have to move to be in position to hit.
Regardless, the results have been there for Mayo. If he’s getting a full season’s worth of plate appearances in a young, loaded Orioles lineup, he has a chance to blossom into one of the best corner infield options in baseball. He has enough juice to post 30 home run seasons annually if everything clicks.
2B: Thomas Saggese, St. Louis Cardinals (AA, AAA)
2023: .306/.374/.530/.903 with 26 HRs and 12 SBs in 630 PA
Saggese was on the most recent iteration of the team of the month in August after he took off following his trade to St. Louis. He gets bonus points for shirking batting gloves altogether and, for whatever reason, evoking visions of JJ Hardy for me.
He does many things well, but nothing at a particularly elite level except for making contact on pitches in the zone. He’s squarely average regarding exit velocities and plate discipline, but he’s optimizing what he has with good angles. He’s an intriguing utilityman type whose value goes up if he stays at second base, and he’ll land somewhere in the back half of the top 100 in my next rank update.
3B: Colt Keith, Detroit Tigers (AA, AAA)
2023: .306/.380/.552/.932 with 27 HRs and 3 SBs in 577 PA
Keith is the first player to appear here who did not make a team of the month appearance, and while I’m tempted to say it isn’t for lack of performance, that would be incorrect. He had several stellar months but was narrowly edged out in May (1.107 OPS), June (1.087 OPS), and August (1.061 OPS).
He was firmly on radars coming into the 2023 season but has propelled himself into the top echelon of hitting prospects. His left-handed swing generates impressive power, and he doesn’t have platoon problems, which improves his likelihood of being an impact bat in a burgeoning Tiger’s offense in short order. He isn’t a standout defensively and may need to spend time at multiple positions in the infield, but as long as he’s producing some additional positional eligibility may be a welcome sight.
SS: Jackson Holliday, Baltimore Orioles (A, A+, AA, AAA)
2023: .323/.442/.499/.941 with 12 HRs and 24 SBs in 581 PA
Somehow, some way, Jackson Holliday had zero (0) team of the month appearances. Let me explain before you come for my head – the shortstop position is loaded. Team of the Month crowns went to Junior Caminero (x2), Elly De La Cruz, Masyn Winn, and Michael Arroyo.
If I had a vote for Minor League Player of the Year it would have gone to Jackson Holliday. Climbing four levels as a 19-year-old in your first professional season is a preposterous feat and OPSing .941 while walking over a hundred times is downright baffling. Yes, he benefitted from a .408 BABIP, which is certain to regress, but did you read the previous sentence?
He’ll be the #2 overall prospect in my next rank update. I love everything about his profile for points formats but think he may lack the explosiveness to be a top-of-the-scale star and perhaps settle in as just a great fantasy asset.
OF 1: Blake Dunn, Cincinnati Reds (A+, AA)
2023: .324/.425/.522/.947 with 23 HRs and 54 SBs in 559 PA
Dunn was unknown to me entering the year. I’m not going to beat myself up too much for that – he was a 24-year-old former 15th-rounder who had not played above A-ball – but I will confirm he’s made himself known.
A former standout at Western Michigan, Dunn is an electrifying athlete with plus speed and a potentially double-plus arm that anchor his profile as a bona-fide center fielder at the next level. There were some questions about his offensive ability driven by a poor showing on the Cape and a second lackluster performance with Kalamazoo of the Northwoods League, but Dunn has put some of those concerns to bed with a 3/4/5 line this year.
He was the beneficiary of a high BABIP (.386) and was old for the level much of the year, but he was also one of a handful of players to ever put together a 20/50 season.
OF 2: Justice Bigbie, Detroit Tigers (A+, AA, AAA)
2023: .343/.405/.537/.942 with 19 HR and 6 SBs in 485 PA
Bigbie is a product of the Western Carolina baseball program and, before that, was a two-sport athlete who excelled as the quarterback of his high school team and as an all-conference batterykeeper. There wasn’t a lot of buzz about him pre-draft (in fact, Baseball America doesn’t have a scouting report up on his profile) and both his 2021 in the Florida Complex and his 2022 in A-ball were struggles.
It’s been entirely different this year. Bigbie made his way through A, A+, and a brief stint in AAA without a hitch and could find himself in Detroit next year. He’s currently playing for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League, where he has the opportunity to generate significant buzz as a helium prospect.
OF 3: Owen Caissie, Chicago Cubs (AA)
2023: .289/.399/.519/.918 with 22 HRs and 7 SBs in 520 PA
Before you have a conniption over Caissie’s 31.1% K-rate, consider for a moment that he was able to compile a nearly .400 OBP even with that affliction. It's pretty impressive stuff. What’s more impressive is his batted ball data – he carried a 90th percentile exit velocity over 110 mph with a near-ideal average launch angle. He didn’t chase at an untenable rate and his zone contact was average.
Simply put: Owen Caissie hits the ball extraordinarily hard and often in the air without the usual warts that lead to an inflated K-rate. He rates favorably to James Wood in nearly all batted ball metrics. He’ll be a big riser in the next rank iteration.