As the clock runs out on the 2023 season, we take a look at the Big Hype Prospects who have advanced their hype-levels to all new… levels.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Junior Caminero, 20, SS/3B, TBR (MLB)
(AA) 351 PA, 20 HR, 3 SB, .309/373/.548
The will they/won’t they dance with Caminero finally resolved. Despite foregoing a promotion to Triple-A, the Rays saw fit to inject an offensive weapon into their postseason repertoire. Part of me wonders how much gamesmanship went into leaving Caminero at Double-A, as if the Rays could convince their playoff rivals he wouldn’t be promoted, maybe they would scout him less? A player of his age and profile undoubtedly has exploitable weaknesses, so the deeper the Rays can get into the postseason before those weaknesses are discovered, the better. Caminero batted fifth in his first two MLB games, going 2-for-9 with a walk and producing impressive exit velocities on six batted balls. While small sample caveats apply, the beauty of exit velocity is instant gratification. A 112-mph EV immediately validates a hitter as possessing impressive pop. All the other stats, well, they need more time to mature into larger samples.
Wyatt Langford, 21, OF, TEX (AAA)
(4 levels) 200 PA, 10 HR, 12 SB, .360/.480/.677
With Caminero up, Langford is the next future superstar on the cusp of promotion. We discussed him last week prior to his promotion to Triple-A. Since then, he’s batted .368/.538/.526 in 26 plate appearances with MLB-level exit velocities. Round Rock has a three-game series remaining for the PCL Championship, and I suspect we’ll see Langford join the Rangers upon the conclusion of the series. Where he fits on the roster is less certain. Leody Taveras is a quality defender with a league-average bat, and Evan Carter has performed well in limited action. Langford likely represents a net upgrade on both outfielders, but it can be tough to justify changing something that’s working well. Now might be the wrong moment to mess with team chemistry.
Jackson Holliday, 19, SS, BAL (AAA)
(4 levels) 581 PA, 12 HR, 24 SB, .323/.442/.499
Like Langford, the Norfolk Tides have a championship series over the next three days. If Holliday is summoned to the Majors, it will likely follow these games. He’s had a longer stint in Triple-A, and after a slow start, he’s up to .267/.396/.400 in 91 plate appearances. His average quality of contact is better than a typical Major Leaguer, but his top-end EVs are poor. That’s no cause for concern. Holliday is a teenager. If anything, it might indicate that the Orioles are best served to play it slow rather than forcing an awkward situation with a last-minute promotion. Holliday might represent a modest upgrade over Adam Frazier and Jordan Westburg at second base. He certainly improves upon seldom-used benchman Ryan McKenna. Whether that’s sufficient cause for a promotion is a tough question to answer.
Evan Carter, 21, OF, TEX (MLB)
(CPX/AA/AAA) 513 PA, 12 HR, 25 SB, .288/.413/.450
Though he is deservedly a Top 10 prospect, Carter profiles differently than most of the top names. He’s one of the surest things in the minors. True stardom might be out of his grasp, especially in this rich era of uber-prospects. Then again, no era of baseball has offered players such tangible opportunity to transform their game. The high-floor, low-ceiling expectation is reinforced by a profile, build, and approach that screams “Brandon Nimmo clone.” Nimmo, of course, recently signed a nine-figure deal entering his age-30 season, hence everyone’s comfort ranking Carter highly. Still, nobody expects Nimmo to carry the Mets. He’s a rich man’s complementary piece. Carter seems destined for a similar role.
Carter is off to a hot start in the Majors. Improbably, he’s hit four home runs in 54 plate appearances as part of a .318/.426/.705 batting line. The dingers, in addition to a .400 BABIP, have served to carry his offensive line beyond even the wildest expectations. Look under the hood, and you’ll see Carter produces only modest quality of contact. He has a knack for barreling the ball, but those barrels aren’t impactful. Like Holliday, this is more of a “now” problem than a future concern. He’ll develop more pop as he ages.
Noelvi Marte, 21, 3B/SS, CIN (MLB)
(AA/AAA) 399 PA, 11 HR, 18 SB, .279/.358/.454
There are no questions about Marte’s exit velocities. They’re among the best in the game. Alas, a ball smashed into the ground is still a ground ball. He’s running a predictably high BABIP as the result of his worm murdering. He’s not producing any power numbers despite hitting the ball powerfully. We have every reason to anticipate growth from Marte in the coming years. What we’re seeing now is a fantastic platform for a quality Major Leaguer. At present, he’s roughly a replacement-level performer. He’s batting .293/.350/.380 (96 wRC+) in 100 plate appearances. If he can learn to generate any lift whatsoever, he’ll quickly morph into a dangerous hitter.
Orion Kerkering, PHI (22): Arguably the top pure relief prospect in the minors (excluding those being developed as starters), Kerkering features triple-digit gas. He lives off a filth-monster slider. After starting the season in Low-A, the right-hander made his big league debut on Sunday. He seems destined for high-leverage postseason innings.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, CIN (23): Since he has expended his rookie eligibility, this will be Encarnacion-Strand’s last appearance in this column. After an unimpressive August, CES has caught fire in September. Over the last 20 days, he’s batting .378/.429/.778 with six home runs in 49 plate appearances. Volatility will likely always be a part of his game.
Pete Crow-Armstrong, CHC (21): Crow-Armstrong drew a trio of starts shortly after his promotion. He looked overmatched and has since been reduced to a pinch runner/defensive replacement role. I fully expect PCA to fill this same role in the postseason – assuming the Cubs hang onto a Wild Card slot.
Did I miss a detail or nuance? DM me on Twitter @BaseballATeam to suggest corrections.