This week on Big Hype Prospects, we visit some notable players at various stages of their journey and highlight three more whose 2023 success could yield top prospect status next season.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Wyatt Langford, 21, OF, TEX (AAA)
(CPX/A+/AA) 174 PA, 10 HR, 9 SB, .359/.471/.697
The Rangers, thirsty to reach the postseason for the first time since 2016, have to be giving consideration to Langford. He received a promotion to Triple-A today for the final week of the minor league season. If that goes well, Langford could be the latest player to debut in his draft year. He’s earned the consideration. Of all minor leaguers with at least 150 plate appearances, Langford ranks second overall with a 202 wRC+. He has more walks than strikeouts along with a .338 isolated slugging percentage. He has 25 singles and 26 extra-base hits.
Kyle Manzardo, 22, 1B, CLE (AAA)
(AAA) 313 PA, 11 HR, 1 SB, .238/.342/.442
Seemingly on the cusp of reaching the Majors to start this season, Manzardo instead spent the year in Triple-A and on the injured list. A contact-oriented hitter with a hefty fly ball rate, his approach should play up at Progressive Field. It also yields predictably low BABIPs. Manzardo’s batted ball profile is that of a slugger, but he’s yet to turn that into on-field results. The peripherals are in place for a breakthrough 2024 campaign. The Guardians have an extremely left-handed lineup which could affect how the club plans to use Manzardo.
Curtis Mead, 22, 3B, TBR (MLB)
(MLB) 52 PA, .267/.365/.356
Another Rays product whose 2022 performance outshined his 2023 follow-up, Mead is currently serving as a platoon bat. A slugger by reputation, Mead has yet to homer in his debut season. He also contributed only nine dingers in 278 Triple-A plate appearances. He’s struggled to make consistent contact as evidenced by his 84.0 mph average exit velocity. The only qualified hitter with a worse average EV is Esteury Ruiz. Likely, Mead will make the necessary adjustments to produce spicier balls in play. It’s not uncommon for prospects to make unexpectedly weak contact in their first exposure to the Majors. Mead’s long-term outlook depends upon him finding 30-homer power.
Druw Jones, 19, OF, ARI (A)
131 PA, 2 HR, 6 SB, .252/.366/.351
This year, perhaps no prospect has lost more clout than Jones. A Top 10 prospect entering the season, he’s now at risk of falling off Top 50 lists. Injuries cost his entire 2022 season and most of 2023. Early in the season, he struggled mightily. The good news: there is a silver lining. Since returning to action on August 1, Jones is batting .274/.389/.400 with a tolerable 24.8 percent strikeout rate. His speed and double-plus outfield defense have been on display as well. While Jones has been leapfrogged by other worthy names, he appears to be back on a positive developmental track.
Samuel Basallo, 18, C, BAL (AA)
(A/A+/AA) 483 PA, 20 HR, 12 SB, .313/.402/.551
Basallo began the year as a young power-over-hit catcher with a questionable defensive reputation. He appeared to be half a decade away from a debut – if it ever came at all. He’s now played his way onto Top 100 lists as the latest Orioles breakout. Basallo is built like a first baseman, and it’s where I expect to see him long-term. I believe it’s telling the Orioles have opted to promote him based on the development of his bat rather than his glove. Most catchers meander through the minors as they hone their defensive chops. Concerns about his hit tool appear to be overstated. Given his raw power, he looks likely to make enough contact to float at first base. Fine adjustments might determine whether he’s Rowdy Tellez redux or a first-division starter. In the grand tradition of Carlos Delgado and Kyle Schwarber, Basallo might get some play at catcher before the Orioles bow to necessity.
Ricardo Cabrera, CIN (18): The latest intriguing shortstop in the Reds system, Cabrera recovered from a disappointing 2022 season by hitting .346/.475/.531 in 202 plate appearances split between the complex and Low-A. He’s already a Top 100 prospect candidate who should find himself in High-A next season.
Yordanny Monegro, BOS (20): The most exciting pitcher to pop in the Red Sox system this year, Monegro combines a number of traits that portend a big league future. He’s built like a starter, misses bats, and can move the ball around the zone. He finished the season in High-A after dominating Low-A where he was old for the level.
Abimelec Ortiz, TEX (21): Ortiz was among the minor league leaders in home runs. His breakout campaign included 33 dingers, mostly at High-A. Not considered much of a prospect entering the season, he should now comfortably rank within the Top 200. He has a chance to reach the Top 100 with a fast start at Double-A in 2024.
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