NL Edition: An Intriguing Minor Leaguer For Every Team
Most MLB fans know their team’s blue-chip prospects, the guys whose highlights are all over social media, the guys who are selling tickets at the minor league level, and the guys who had first-round hype. While star power in a farm system is essential, plenty of guys are viewed as “depth” tearing up the minors and deserve more attention. In this list, I’ve tried to comprise a list of mostly non-team top 10 prospects who could end up being big league regulars. While making this I considered age, level, stats, general tool evaluation, and physical projection. While these guys may not be well known, it’s time that they are on your radar. I included Fangraphs on the first version, but I am not including them here as they aren’t as updated and many players on my list aren’t included in their rankings.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Deyvison De Los Santos
Corbin Caroll, Druw Jones, and Jordan Lawlar have really stolen the show atop the Diamondbacks system, but De Los Santos has proved that he’s going to be an everyday player in the big leagues with a strong 2022 campaign. At just 19 years old, De Los Santos has already reached AA, something very few players are able to do. The raw power is already present, and as it starts to translate in-game, Deyvison’s offensive skill set will be even more potent. He could potentially end up alongside those names mentioned above as a part of Arizona’s future core.
Atlanta Braves: Justyn-Henry Malloy, 3B/OF
Malloy is one of the top prospects in a relatively thin Braves farm system. The 22-year-old wasn’t ever a star in college, causing him to be a 6th-round pick. He has rapidly proven that he was quite deserving of more attention. Malloy has posted a cumulative 137 wRC+ and has seen time at AAA in his first year of pro ball. Perhaps even more impressive, he has shown a competent plate approach with little concern over discipline. Defensively, there’s nothing special, but Malloy is quickly forcing himself into the Braves’ long-term plans.
Chicago Cubs: Moises Ballesteros, C
Conversely to the Braves, the Cubs have had a lot of breakout stars who are beginning to make a name for themselves. Of all the success stories, Moises Ballesteros is one of the best. Moises had virtually no hype coming into the 2022 campaign and has made a name for himself by tearing up the complex league and putting up a very respectable showing at A ball. The Venezuelan native isn’t very physically imposing but seems to be an average defender from the video I’ve seen. It doesn’t particularly matter because Ballesteros will make his money with the bat. If he continues his success at higher levels, he could easily vault himself into the Cubs top 10
Cincinnati Reds: Spencer Steer, INF
Reds fans probably know him as a centerpiece of the Mahle trade, but it’s starting to look like Steer is more valuable than the return for a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Spencer made his major league debut a couple of weeks ago after dominating the minors. He is the quintessential high-floor player. There is so little risk associated with his profile, and with that comes minimal upside, but high-floor guys are a valuable piece on any team. He definitely has a major league future and could become a regular as soon as next year.
Colorado Rockies: Hunter Goodman, C
Goodman is just about the polar opposite of Steer. He is a power-first, lumbering guy who has a major boom or bust profile. Goodman has a .277 ISO this year, which is absurdly good for any player, let alone one that is relatively anonymous. While he has proved that the power is legit, Goodman is running unsustainably high strikeout rates and practically nonexistent walk rates. That mixed with his fringy defense behind the plate knocks him down a few pegs. Regardless, the power cannot be ignored, and Goodman has the potential to be a very productive big-league player.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Dalton Rushing, C
I had Rushing as a first-round talent on my draft board, which was pretty high for a consensus late second/early third guy. He posted college exit values that were second to Spencer Jones and showed that he could be an above-average backstop. In his first taste of pro ball, the 2022 draftee has an astronomical 213 wRC+ across about 125 A ball plate appearances. Rushing has a chance to be the next great product from the Louisville catching factory. If Rushing can maintain even part of his success this year, he’s positioning himself to be a top 100 prospect.
Miami Marlins: Byron Chourio, OF
This is one of the more obscure names I have listed as the 17-year-old hasn’t even made it stateside yet. However, the numbers are just too good to ignore. Chourio, no relation to Jackosn, hit for a 135 wRC+ and walked at the same rate that he struck out through the Dominican Summer League. He is a good center fielder who stands at 6’2'' and just 170 pounds. As he makes it to America and starts to put on weight, there is a lot to be excited about. It’s a bit too early to project his future outlook, but Chourio will be one to watch over the next few years.
Milwaukee Brewers: Eric Brown Jr., INF
Another player who was criminally underrated throughout the entirety of the draft process, Brown’s athleticism, barrel control, and plate discipline all stood out to me. On my final draft board, I had him listed as the 12th-best prospect. Despite the ridiculously odd batting stance, Brown should be ranked as a top 5 prospect in the Brewers system. Brown has played decently in A ball thus far, but I hope to see the Brewers give him an aggressive assignment. Letting Brown, already a very mature hitter, see time at A+ to start out next year will give him the opportunity to prove his value.
New York Mets: Blake McIntosh, OF
It’s hard for anyone on the Mets to be under the radar, as their rabid fanbase will go crazy at just about everything. McIntosh is shockingly unknown for a guy who has put up very impressive numbers this year. The 21-year-old has a 126 wRC+ on the year and has walked at an above-average rate. While the strikeouts are a bit of a concern, the walk rate is an encouraging factor that may allow him to succeed even with the high strikeout rate. At 6’4”, 180 pounds, there is lots of projection left. Blake’s success will be 100% reliant on how he continues to fill out his frame. If he can become a 15-home run guy, then there will likely be a spot for him in the show.
Philadelphia Phillies: Nikau Pouaka-Grego, INF
The Phillies farm system has good pitching depth but is quite weak on the hitting front. Pouaka-Grego has put his name on the map this year, despite only playing in the complex league. He had a 150 wRC+ and walked as much as he struck out. Nikau also flashed some raw power that isn’t necessarily expected out of a guy with a 5’10” frame. Similarly to the last few guys, we haven’t seen enough to come to any major conclusions, but he’s definitely a guy to keep on your radar.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Matt Gorski, OF
Gorski is wrapping up the best season of his career to date. After striking out way too much, Gorski entered the 2022 season with a much better approach. The strikeout rate is still way higher than you’d expect for a potential big leaguer, but at least it is trending in the right direction. Matt is a very solid outfielder who could play an average centerfield and a well-above-average right field. The Pirates might give him a big league look come opening day of next year. If not, he’ll head back to AAA and will be one hot streak away from the call. While there isn’t a super high ceiling, Gorski has the potential to be a very productive player.
San Diego Padres: Nathan Martorella, 1B
The 2022 5th-round pick, like all first baseman, is going to have to carve his path to the big leagues with his bat. Martorella is about as strong as he’s going to be but is already punishing baseballs at A ball. He has shown a better approach than most draftees start out with and has hit a 146 wRC+. That’s the kind of offensive production that Nathan is going to need to keep up to be an eventual MLB asset. Defensively, he’s mediocre at best, and would probably fit best as a DH. If Martorella can continue to leverage his raw power into game power, he could very well end up a big-league player.
San Francisco Giants: Vaun Brown, OF
Brown has been about as dynamic as any player in the minor leagues this year. He has a 175 wRC+ and .276 ISO, both very near the top of the league. Braun is a big guy but moves really well for a 215-pounder. He is 24 in his first year of pro ball, which doesn’t look great, but can easily be ignored when you produce at the level that Vaun has produced. He has blazing speed and could very well end up in the center. Brown is looking like another giant win for Farhan and the Giants scouting team. If he can follow this campaign up with another solid year, Brown could be knocking on the door of Oracle Park by this time next year.
St. Louis Cardinals: Jimmy Crooks III, C
A lot of people were familiarized with Crooks during Oklahoma’s run in the College World Series this year. Crooks stood out to me as a very advanced defender at the college level and falls into the same category in the low minor leagues. He’ll have to improve his arm to continue being above average as he climbs through the minors. Surprisingly, Crooks has looked like a better hitter at A ball than he did in his time in Norman. He has hit for an even 150 wRC+ while maintaining decent strikeout and walk rates. Crooks will probably get sent to A+ to begin next year as he’s proved just about everything he needed to at A. If the batting isn’t a fluke, Crooks could rise up the ranks quickly.
Washington Nationals: Israel Pineda, C
After the selloff last year and the Juan Soto deal this year, the Nationals have revitalized what was a very weak farm system. Despite injecting the system with talent, there are some homegrown guys who are proving to be major stars as well. Israel Pineda tore up the minors this year and debuted for Washington just over a week ago. His sudden jump in power took Pineda from organizational depth to a potential asset on the big league club for next year. At just 22 years old, he’s been fast-tracked a bit and still has more development potential, especially behind the plate. If the Nats continue to push Pineda’s limits, he could open next year as Keibert Ruiz’s backup. If not, he could return to AAA and clean up his defense a little, preparing him for his time in the bigs.