If you enjoyed the multi-category fantasy delights of Julio Rodriguez, Bobby Witt Jr. or Michael Harris last season, then we shouldn't need to give you a hard sell on prospects. They can absolutely help. When the performance matches the hype, these guys can be legitimate league-winners.
We should warn you, however, that you definitely don't want to be the manager who drafts all the prospects. There's usually someone in every fantasy league — across all sports — who will treat any standard redraft format as if it's dynasty. You don't want to be that person. Hoarding prospects is no way to win.
Realistically, most young players who arrive with buzz aren't going to perform at a level that makes them serious fantasy contributors. It's enough for these kids to merely tread water. Some of them will completely face-plant when facing major-league competition for the first time — which, of course, is fine. Mike Trout hit just .220/.281/.390 in his first 40 big-league games back in 2011, and he turned out OK.
Our official recommendation is that you limit yourself to no more than, say, two drafted prospects in a mixed league of typical size and shape. These are high-upside players, without question. But as a group, these kids are also as high-variance as it gets.
With the official terms and conditions out of the way, let's discuss nine
can't might-miss 2023 rookies ...
Carroll feasted in the high minors last season, hitting 24 home runs, swiping 31 bags and slashing .307/.425/.611 across multiple levels. He has been a monster this spring as well, opening exhibition play by going 6-for-16 with six runs, one steal and six walks. Carroll is at the top of the chart in terms of sprint speed, and he's a pretty fair power source, too:
— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) June 10, 2022
Carroll has the profile of a future fantasy first-rounder. He's generally the first prospect off the board, but his draft price still offers profit potential.
Every day this spring, Walker's legend grows. By the end of March, the Cardinals will probably have already retired No. 67 in his honor. He has been ridiculous.
Jordan Walker would like to introduce himself! pic.twitter.com/zhPiBZPMhG
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) February 26, 2023
As of this writing, Walker is 9-for-21 this spring with three homers and three doubles. St. Louis writers can't seem to discuss him without making Pujols comps. He's headed to the outfield for the Cards but carries third-base eligibility into the season, which is a huge bonus for fantasy purposes. He stole 22 bags at Double-A last season and delivered 53 extra-base hits while batting .306, so this is a player with five-category potential.
Gunnar Henderson, 3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles
Henderson rocketed to the top of the prospect ranks with a brilliant every-tool season in the high minors, thriving at both Double-A Bowie (.312/.452/.573) and Triple-A Norfolk (.288/.390/.504). He closed his year in Baltimore, where he more than held his own in a 34-game cameo (4 HR, .259/.349/.440). Henderson offers power/speed upside, on-base skills and defensive versatility, plus he's likely to do his hitting in the heart of the order for the O's. He can go 20/20 (25/25?) with run production as a rookie.
Kodai Senga, SP, New York Mets
Everyone is a sucker for an exotic pitch with a fun nickname, right? Of course we are. Senga's ghost fork is just uncommonly cruel:
— David Adler (@_dadler) March 5, 2023
He throws a pretty zesty fastball, too. Senga is 30 years old and was outstanding over the past decade-or-so overseas — 1.89 ERA and 9.7 K/9 last season — so he's pretty clearly a finished product. Wins should be plentiful in New York, which boosts his fantasy appeal.
Grayson Rodriguez, SP, Baltimore Orioles
Rodriguez has an ADP hovering in the 180s, which, to me, makes him a filthy steal. His stuff is of the highest quality, with a blazing fastball included (98-99 mph this spring). Last year, Rodriguez was utterly dominant at Triple-A, striking out 97 batters over 69.2 innings with a WHIP of 0.93 and ERA of 2.20. He's electric. We're talking about a player with ace potential.
Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Colorado Rockies
Whenever Tovar arrives for good — and he's a decent bet to make the Opening Day roster — he'll offer pop and speed, plus he'll do his hitting in the friendliest possible home environment. He banged out 13 home runs and stole 17 bases over 66 games at Double-A last season, slashing .318/.386/.546. Tovar's glove is more than ready for the big leagues, so no worries there. It's reasonable to hope for double-digit power/speed totals in Year 1.
It's not much of a surprise to see Casas clearing fences this spring, though it's notable that both of his exhibition homers have been served up by left-handed pitchers:
Triston Casas goes yard ... and rounds the bases with no helmet. pic.twitter.com/wuqHaNkJFJ
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 3, 2023
Last year, all 11 of his Triple-A homers and 29 of his 32 XBHs came against right-handers. He has on-base skills and significant pop, but quality LHPs have been a bit of an issue. It wouldn't be the worst outcome if he found himself on the heavy side of a platoon, but competence against lefties would be a welcome development.
Brett Baty, 3B, New York Mets
Baty has raked so far this spring (8-for-17, HR), doing all he can to force himself into the Mets' Opening Day plans. He basically lived on base in the high minors last season, hitting .315/.410/.533 with 19 bombs in 95 games. As soon as he becomes entrenched at third for New York, he'll be a bankable, startable fantasy asset. And run production shouldn't be an issue considering the team context.
Sal Frelick, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Frelick slashed .317/.380/.464 with 20 XBHs over 52 games at Double-A last season, then really got going when he reached Triple-A Nashville. He destroyed International League pitching (.365/.435/.508) and continued stealing bags and hitting ropes. Frelick rarely strikes out, he has excellent speed, and he's capable of double-digit power. He's likely to hit for average as soon as he reaches the big leagues.