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How Can Today's Top Prospects Reach the Majors?

Jackson Holliday playing for the Baltimore Orioles Florida Complex Leage; CC by License 2.0

After the implementation of the Prospect Promotion Incentive as a part of the 2022 CBA, we’ve seen an increasing number of top prospects crack MLB opening day rosters. This is a quick look at some blue-chip prospects that can make an impact at the big league level this year. I’ll be taking a look at what they need to do to earn a roster spot in the show and how they will impact their ballclub at the next level.

Jackson Holliday: IF, Baltimore Orioles

By far the most abysmal roster decision this year, Holliday was assigned to begin the year with AAA-Norfolk. Holliday’s stellar 2023 campaign and spring training performance prove that he is more than deserving of a spot in Baltimore. He’s going to be a mainstay in the O’s lineup by the summer. Despite opening the year in AAA, Holliday opens with the third-best odds to take home AL Rookie of the Year. The former number-one pick was successful in his 91 AAA plate appearances last year, racking up a .370 wOBA. I’d be shocked to see anything different this year. 

What he needs to do: There isn’t a specific flaw in Holliday’s game. The Orioles allow him to continue gaining experience while playing in a relatively low-stakes situation before being thrown into the mix on an exciting, young Baltimore team.

James Wood: OF, Washington Nationals

Wood was one of the headliners in the 2022 Juan Soto blockbuster. Despite not having the hype of CJ Abrams or Robert Hassell at the time, Wood is likely to be the best player the Nationals received in the deal. The 6’7 outfielder provides a rare combination of size and athleticism and probably has the skill set to play center field at the next level. He slugged at a .520 clip through the minors and will continue to be a power threat at any level. 

What he needs to do: Mike Rizzo and the other decision-makers in Washington will look to see Wood shake some of the rawness in his game. His strikeout rates have been concerning at every level, and he’s shown he has a major weakness against sliders. Despite his 173 strikeouts last season, Wood’s plate discipline is solid. If he can get himself into fastball counts, he can do major damage. If he can cut the strikeout rate down to even 10%, Wood will be in Washington’s outfield very soon.

Pete Crow-Armstrong: OF, Chicago Cubs

Pete got a cup of coffee in Chicago towards the end of last season but failed to collect a hit in his 14 big league at-bats. He probably provides a higher floor than anyone else on this list, as he plays stellar defense in center field and has proven to be a serious threat on the bases. After joining the Cubs farm system in 2021, Crow-Armstrong saw skyrocketing offensive numbers, giving Cubs fans a glimpse of a bright future. I expect PCA to be a streaky hitter throughout his career, but his defense will make him a pivotal part of the next Cubs core. 

What he needs to do: After the Cubs re-signed Cody Bellinger, Crow-Armstrong’s odds of cracking the opening day roster decreased drastically. He will open the year in AAA-Iowa and look to prove that he is worthy of the Cubs reconfiguring their lineup to accommodate him. If PCA can consistently make contact in the minor leagues and flash some of the power he’s previously shown, he’ll make an impact in Wrigley very soon.

Jackson Jobe: RHP, Detroit Tigers

There aren’t many pitchers with the upside of Jackson Jobe. While he’s not exactly knocking down the door of the major league club, the 21-year-old has shown all the tools necessary to be an absolute stud at the next level. He has the best slider of any pitcher in the minor leagues. It breaks nearly two feet, has a 3100 rpm spin rate, and can be thrown as hard as 85 miles per hour. His fastball will touch 98 and has shown the ability to get whiffs up in the zone. While he’s a three-pitch pitcher, his pitches play well enough off of each other to be effective in the show.

What he needs to do: His arsenal is big-league-ready. The fastball will play at any level, and the slider is going to devastate even All-Star hitters. The only thing that Jobe needs to do is increase his workload to a point where he is ready to be a big-league starter. Jobe pitched just 64 innings in the minor leagues last year. It’s always tough to toe the line between increasing workload and ensuring the safety of young pitching prospects, so look for the Tigers to err on the side of caution with Jobe. While he may not get a big league shot until late in the season, I’m looking forward to seeing Jackson make an impact in Detroit.

Chase DeLauter: OF, Cleveland Guardians

A favorite of mine from the 2021 draft class, DeLauter is just a solid baseball player. He burst onto the scene after being arguably the best amateur hitter in the nation while playing for James Madison University. He’s continued to show his value at every minor league assignment. After getting the call to AA-Akron towards the end of the 2023 season, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League to face some of the top young talent in baseball. He was successful against high-level pitching, posting a .946 OPS in 109 at-bats. 

What he needs to do: I think the Guardians have been slightly too safe with DeLauter’s development and would like to see them give him a big league shot this summer, especially if they aren’t competitive in the AL Central. There isn’t a whole lot more he needs to prove. Look for DeLauter to continue improving his outfield defense while maintaining his impressive offensive profile.

Spencer Jones: OF, New York Yankees

The Vanderbilt product and my number three ranked player in the 2022 draft class somehow fell to the Yankees at pick 25. The Aaron Judge comp will continue to be thrown around as Jones climbs the ranks and eventually joins Judge in the Bronx. Similar to the Nationals’ James Wood, Jones is a physical specimen that is capable of handling center field. He will open the year in AA but is likely a hot streak away from getting the call to AAA. He has true 70-grade raw power but will have to translate that into game power to continue to climb prospect lists.

What he needs to do: With two top-five players in baseball roaming the outfield in New York, it’s going to be difficult for Jones to crack the big league roster. If Jones continues to post impressive slug numbers while getting on base at a .335 OBP clip, however, there will be a spot for him. Like Wood, he struggles with a high strikeout rate. He’s very vulnerable to velocity up in the zone, so the Yankees will look to see him make improvements in that hole in his game before promoting him up the farm system.


All of these players can make an impact at the highest level if they can continue to track well in their development. Keep an eye out for them as they get big-league opportunities throughout the year, marking the start of what will hopefully be long, exciting, and successful careers.



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