Fantasy Baseball Expectations For Prospects in 2023
Chris Clegg breaks down his expectations for top prospects on Opening Day rosters in 2023.
With spring training wrapping up, I figured it would be a good time to discuss some expectations of prospects who are breaking camp with their respective teams. Not all these players are officially confirmed, but they are expected to be in Opening Day lineups with big league teams. If you have not checked out my updated prospect rankings, you can here!
Jordan Walker, 3B/OF, STL
Jordan Walker officially made the St. Louis Cardinals as a 20 year old, which is highly impressive. Walker has been better at every stop and was the best player in the Arizona Fall Leauge last fall. He looked like one of the best players in Spring Training as well before a shoulder injury. He has continued to play since, but has not quite looked the same.
What should you expect from Walker in 2023? Well, the power is massive. His 19 home runs last year don’t paint a great picture of his power upside. Last season in AA, Walker had a 108 mph 90th percentile exit velocity and a 45 percent hard-hit rate. There are some swing and miss plus chase concerns. Pitchers could exploit Walker against with breaking balls and offspeed pitches as we saw last year in the Minors.
I think 20-25 home runs is a reasonable expectation over a full season for Walker. He does have high-end sprint speed and stole 22 bases last year, but I would expect closer to ten in his rookie season. Due to chase concerns against breakers, I would keep his batting average expectation in check around the .250 range. Walker should have a great season, but it is never easy for a 20 year old stepping into such big expectations. The Julio Rodriguez type performances are the exceptions, not the expectations.
Corbin Carroll, OF, ARI
Corbin Carroll made his debut last season after an incredible Minor League performance as well. Between 557 plate appearances between the Minors and Majors last year, Carroll hit 28 home runs and stole 32 bases. Some would say the power is a mirage due to Carroll playing in the PCL, a hitter friendly environment. While that is true, people fail to see that Carroll consistently put up high-end exit velocities. In the Minors, he posted a 90 mph average exit velocity and a 106.2 mph 90th percentile exit velocity. We didn’t even mention that he had a 47.5 percent hard-hit rate.
In the past, Carroll has been billed as a double-plus hitter. I am not quite there, but there is tremendous plate discipline like Henderson. In the Minors last season, Carroll posted an 80.7 percent zone-contact rate and a 75 percent overall contact percentage. His chase rate was also below 20 percent.
Where Carroll is a game-changer is with his speed. He is the fastest player in baseball. He topped out at 30.7 feet per second, topping Bobby Witt Jr.’s 30.4 ft/sec.
In 2023, I would bank on Carroll hitting at least 20 home runs and stealing 30 bases. It seems pretty lofty, but all the intangibles are there for Carroll to pull it off. An average between .260 and .270 is what I would expect.
Gunnar Henderson, 3B/SS, BAL
Gunnar Henderson put on an impressive showing in the Minors and his small sample in the Majors in 2022. Across 503 MILB plate appearances, Henderson blistered baseballs to a 107.2 mph 90th percentile exit velocity. For reference, MLB average last year was 103.7. He also hit the ball consistently hard, with a 92.2 mph average and a 52.7 percent hard-hit rate.
Henderson displayed great plate discipline as well. He had just a 17.8 percent chase rate in the minors. That number stayed impressive in his 132 plate appearance MLB sample.
The question marks with Henderson are his ground ball rates and platoon splits. The groundball was a bit high at 59.8 percent in the Majors. It was not much better in Triple-A at 50.3 percent. But that is not who he has been throughout his career. Henderson hit just .208 against lefties last season which does present some concerns. He is not likely to fall in a platoon, but it is something to note.
For 2023, a 20 home run, ten stolen base performance seems like a good baseline for the Orioles top prospect. There could be a large amount of strikeouts, especially against lefties. The average is likely to fall in the .250-.260 range.
Anthony Volpe, SS, NYY
I was pretty adamant that Anthony Volpe would not make the Opening Day roster all spring. With Oswald Peraza already having debuted and on the 40-man roster, it seemed like he would be the everyday shortstop. Not to mention that Peraza is the better fielder and arm of the two. Simply put, I was wrong.
Volpe is coming off a strong season where he hit 21 home runs and stole 50 bases. His .249 batting average was a bit underwhelming, but it came with an 82.7 percent zone-contact rate and a 22.9 percent chase rate. Volpe profiles to have a higher batting average than we saw in 2022 with great power and speed. He has also looked even better in Spring Training than he did in 2022.
Over a full season, Volpe could be a 15 home run bat that steals 20-25 bases as a rookie. I expect him to challenge for the AL Rookie of the Year award.
Triston Casas, 1B, BOS
Triston Casas made his MLB debut in 2022. It took longer than fans wanted, thanks to an ankle injury and some stubbornness from the Red Sox. Casas came up in September and mashed five home runs, but it came with an unimpressive .197 batting average. In the small sample, Casas showed good OBP skills.
I would not put too much stock in the MLB performance, though. Casas posted average contact rates with big-time power metrics in the minors. His 107.7 mph 90th and 92 mph average EVs were both highly impressive. He does need to improve against lefties (.216 average/32% k rate) as he struggled last year in the minors. The early returns have been good against lefties this spring. Despite a small sample, Casas is hitting .385 in 13 at-bats against them.
Casas could be primed for a big season in Boston. He is more valuable in an OBP league, but I could still see a 25+ home run season from him.
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