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Who Are The Biggest Prospect Risers?


Wade Meckler playing for Oregon State University; CC by License 2.0

Anyone who knows anything about baseball is familiar with the volatility of the sport. It’s a streaky game, and fans and front offices alike can make snap judgments about players. Therefore, a two-month hot streak can make a huge difference in an organization’s view of a player. Here are some players who had big summers and are proving themselves as valuable assets moving forward.


Samuel Basallo: C, BAL

It’s been the year of the catcher in minor league baseball and Basallo has been leading the charge all season long. The 19-year-old has worked his way up to AA this year and has performed at every level. He’s emerging as a top-tier talent in an already stacked Orioles farm system. In A ball, Basallo posted a 149 wRC+ and after being challenged with an A+ assignment, he only got better, hitting at a 195 wRC+ clip. While it’s been an incredibly limited sample in AA, he currently has a 220 wRC+ through 18 at-bats. Defensively, Basallo is nothing special, but defense doesn’t really matter when you’re as productive as he is offensively. From a long-term standpoint, it’s hard to picture a role for Basallo with the O’s, who have Adley Rutschman cemented behind the plate. He could turn into a 1B/DH type of guy or be dangled as trade bait in an attempt for the Orioles to land some impact big league pitching. Regardless, Basallo looks like a stud in the making.


Wade Meckler: OF, SFG

Meckler is one of the best stories of this season. After starting the year in High-A, he hit his way through three minor league levels and eventually forced his way onto the big league roster. There are different tiers of prospects, and while for some, cracking the bigs is expected, there are many players where that alone is an enormous feat. Meckler essentially took himself from being an organizational depth piece to being someone whom the Giants will have to factor into their future plans. While he didn’t find much success in his cup of coffee in the bigs, the Giants certainly view him as a long-term asset. As he worked through the minors, Meckler consistently showed an advanced approach, hitting at a 140 wRC+ and above clip throughout the entirety of his minor league stay. I wouldn’t be surprised if he cracked the opening-day roster next year.


Tyler Locklear: 3B/1B, SEA

Locklear was a favorite of mine in the ‘22 draft class and he’s quickly become a favorite of Mariners fans. Locklear falls into an interesting category of players that we see every year, players who take but don’t really have a defensive home. Actually, about half of the guys on this list could be put into that category. While being positionless makes it harder to crack the bigs, it’s impossible to ignore people who hit the way Locklear does. The approach is a scout’s dream as he limits strikeouts, doesn’t chase, hits the ball hard, and sprays it around the field. Locklear hits about 35% of balls to the opposite field, most of those coming with two strikes. He seems to be able to handle velocity well and looks comfortable in almost every situation. He’ll probably start next year in AAA and be knocking on the door to the bigs by the end of summer.


Dalton Rushing: C/1B, LAD

If you take away anything from this article, take away the fact that batted ball data is important. I had Rushing as the 12th-best prospect on my 2022 draft board and he fell into the Dodgers’ lap in the second round. There was nothing visionary about my scouting, but I paid attention to the data. Rushing was unlucky in college and didn’t have top-tier results despite hitting the ball harder than any other player in the country. In his first full professional season, it’s clear that his top-tier exit velocities will lead him to success. Through 120 A ball plate appearances, Rushing hit at a ridiculous 224 wRC+ clip. After moving up to A+, he’s kept his elite offense up with a 146 wRC+. Going into the offseason Rushing has to be a consensus top 100 prospect as he’s one of the premier hitters in all of minor league baseball.


Ryan Clifford: OF, NYM

Justin Verlander is an incredible pitcher and an all-time great. However, when we look back on the Verlander trade in 10 years, it’s going to look very lopsided, in favor of the Mets. Clifford was the secondary return piece for the Mets, behind Drew Gilbert, but he’s a stud in his own right. Prior to the trade deadline, through 371 plate appearances with Houston affiliates, Clifford hit at a 167 wRC+ rate with an 18% walk rate and only a 21% strikeout rate. He’s cooled off since being traded, but it’s a small enough sample that I’m not concerned. I really like the long-term outlook and think Clifford will be a valuable piece for the Mets in the near future.


Owen Caissie: OF, CHC

Caissie is probably the biggest wildcard on this list. There’s a world in which he hits 40 home runs a year in the big leagues. There’s also a world where he strikes out at a 40% clip. There might even be a world where those two things can coexist. The former second-round pick who got shipped to Chicago as part of the Yu Darvish trade has broken out in a big way. After solid showings in each of his first two years with the Cubs, he finally translated his always impressive raw power into game power. The strikeout rate, which hovers right around 30%, is more a product of whiffs than it is bad plate discipline. Caissie has a decent approach at the plate and will draw a respectable amount of walks. He doesn’t chase much but is susceptible to the high fastball. Defensively he has the tools to be a passable right fielder but I think the Cubs will end up giving him looks at 1B in order to get him to Wrigley quicker.


Cole Young: SS, SEA

Young is slowly turning into one of my favorite prospects. Coming out of high school, he was toolsy but the floor was pretty low, causing him to drop a bit. In his first two pro seasons, Young really hasn’t shown many flaws and is proving himself to be a rare high-floor, high-ceiling type of player. The term five-tool player gets thrown around too much, and I won’t quite be there with Young, but he certainly has 5 plus tools. He’s a 60 grade hitter, and 50 across the board with every other tool. He’s hit at every level, played solid defense, and showed an incredibly professional approach. This season, he’s only walking 1% less than he’s striking out. It’s hard to envision a world where Young isn’t a stalwart in the Mariners infield for years to come.


Zach Dezenzo: 3B, HOU

I had a 3rd-round grade on Dezenzo heading into the 2022 draft, he ended up getting picked in the 12th round. Despite being high on the Ohio State product straight out of college, he’s played significantly better than I expected. He’s a corner infielder in the most traditional sense, a big, lumbering guy, not the most athletic, but light tower power. Dezenzo’s ISO is currently at .229 in AA, a mark that only power hitters can reach. In the first half of the season, Zach had almost 200 plate appearances in A+ and hit for a 195 wRC+. After being promoted to AA in just his first professional season, he faced an adjustment period with quite a bit of struggle but was able to turn things around and get his AA slash line to .257/.339/.486. The bat is almost big league-ready but the biggest hurdle Dezenzo will face is finding a defensive home. He probably ends up moving to 1st and being a potential DH option, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Houston within the next year or two.


 

Hopefully, all of these players can continue to improve and force themselves onto big-league rosters in the near future. I view all of them as major league candidates and have been incredibly impressed with the film I’ve watched and the stats I’ve seen. Make sure to follow these guys and watch them grow.


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