Top performers from ’23 Draft — one from each team

June 5th, 2024

Ten months after the Pirates selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 Draft, Paul Skenes arrived in Pittsburgh and immediately asserted himself as one of the best pitchers in the big leagues. Two other first-rounders from the Class of ’23 preceded him to the Majors, with Nolan Schanuel debuting last August and Wyatt Langford making the Opening Day roster of the defending World Series champion Rangers.

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Beyond that trio, several other players from last year’s Draft are faring well with less fanfare in the Minors. Here are the top performers this season from each club’s 2023 Draft.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Connor O’Halloran, LHP (Unranked on Blue Jays Top 30)The fifth-rounder out of Michigan opened with Single-A Dunedin and got off to a strong start with a 3.13 ERA, 45 strikeouts and 13 walks in seven starts (37 1/3 innings). He debuted with High-A Vancouver on May 30 and tossed five scoreless frames, continuing his previous momentum. O’Halloran relies heavily on his 78-84 mph slider, as he didn’t show a ton of fastball velo by topping out at 92.1 mph with his sinker in Single-A, but that should make him a menace against lefties as he continues his climb.

Orioles: Matthew Etzel, OF/1B (Unranked on Orioles Top 30)Guys taken in the 10th round don’t usually have much in the way of expectations and Etzel definitely flew under the radar, spending two years at a junior college (Panola) in Texas before one season at Southern Miss. The left-handed hitter has jumped to High-A Aberdeen for his first full season and has a .298/.376/.458 line with 17 extra-base hits and 27 steals in 33 tries.

Rays: Tre’ Morgan, 1B/OF (No. 13)The former LSU star was known primarily for his glove when he entered the Rays system as a third-rounder, but all he’s done is hit in pro ball. Assigned to Single-A Charleston to begin his first full season, he hit .320/.398/.440 in 26 games for the RiverDogs and joined High-A Bowling Green in mid-May, thus pairing him with another Top 10 first-base prospect Xavier Isaac. Morgan has shown even better power at the higher level with 11 of his 19 hits going for extra bases through 11 games. His .994 OPS and 185 wRC+ are tops in the system.

Red Sox: Kristian Campbell, 2B/OF (No. 30)Campbell showed average power and plus speed at Georgia Tech but those tools didn’t play that well in games, enabling the Red Sox to grab him in the supplemental fourth round. They helped him make some swing changes and encouraged him to be more aggressive at the plate, and he batted .306/.418/.558 with a High-A South Atlantic League-leading .976 OPS before getting promoted to Double-A on Tuesday.

Yankees: Cade Austin, RHP (unranked on Yankees Top 30)In the last 11 Drafts, the Yankees have signed four future big league pitchers out of South Carolina: Tyler Webb, Jordan Montgomery, Taylor Widener and Clarke Schmidt. They went back to the Gamecocks again in the 19th round last July for Austin, who features a 92-94 mph fastball, plus changeup and improving slider. He’s making his pro debut in Single-A, where he has compiled a 3.15 ERA, .213 opponent average and 37/7 K/BB ratio in 34 1/3 innings.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Guardians: Matt Wilkinson, LHP (unranked on Guardians Top 30)Wilkinson helped Central Arizona CC win the Junior College World Series in 2022 before earning NJCAA pitcher of the year honors last spring, when he ranked second among national JUCO pitchers in ERA (1.07) and strikeouts (136 in 84 innings). A four-pitch guy who excels at missing bats with his low-90s fastball, he leads the Minors in strikeouts (87 in 50 1/3 innings) and ranks sixth in WHIP (0.79) while recording a 1.79 ERA between Single-A and High-A. Honorable mention to first baseman C.J. Kayfus (third round, Miami), who was leading the High-A Midwest League in batting average (.338), slugging (.578) and OPS (1.015) when he was promoted to Double-A on Monday.

Royals: Blake Mitchell, C (No. 1/MLB No. 70)Selecting a high-school catcher in the Top 10 picks seemed risky, but Mitchell has come as advertised to the Kansas City system. His power is already playing for Single-A Columbia. His eight homers are tied for second-most in the Carolina League, while his .469 slugging percentage leads all qualified Single-A catchers. He pairs that with a 16.2 percent walk rate and .384 OBP, strengthening the overall performance. Mitchell’s 34.3 percent K rate holds back the offensive profile, but K.C. will take the early positives.

Tigers: Jaden Hamm, RHP (No. 18)Hamm’s stock slipped some in the Draft process before the Tigers picked up the Middle Tennessee State righty in the fifth round, but he’s turned that right around in pro ball. The 6-foot-1 hurler has been the most productive pitcher in the Detroit system this year with a 1.73 ERA, 56 strikeouts and only six walks in 41 2/3 innings for High-A West Michigan. The significant carry on his fastball has played well in today’s game, and his 78-82 mph curveball plays off that well to get more whiffs.

Twins: Luke Keaschall, 2B/OF (No. 9)Keaschall has hit wherever he’s been, leaving Arizona State with a career 1.003 OPS before the Twins took him in the second round. He’s continued to barrel up baseballs this year, hitting .335/.457/.544 with High-A Cedar Rapids to earn a bump up to Double-A. He was second in the Midwest League in OPS when he got the promotion and has continued to hold his own, with a combined .954 OPS, 20 extra-base hits and 15 steals.

White Sox: Grant Taylor, RHP (No. 13)Taylor showed first-round stuff before he blew out his elbow last February, which caused him to miss Louisiana State’s national championship season following Tommy John surgery and enabled the White Sox to land him in the second round. Healthy again, he has reclaimed his power repertoire of a mid-90s fastball, plus cutter and solid curveball and slider. He owns a 2.93 ERA, .179 opponent average and 26/2 K/BB ratio in 15 1/3 innings in Single-A.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Angels: Camden Minacci, RHP (No. 18)A two-pitch reliever who saved 13 games for Wake Forest in 2023 to help him land in Round 6, Minacci seems to like getting the ball at the end of the game. He leads the High-A Northwest League with nine saves while posting a 2.95 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .221 BAA and a 10.3 K/9 rate. Could a promotion up to Double-A be in his near future?

Astros: Jake Bloss, RHP (No. 10)Bloss graduated in three years from Lafayette, then transferred to Georgetown and became the 2023 Big East Conference pitcher of the year and the highest pick in Hoyas history (third round). His 92-97 mph fastball with carry and solid upper-70s curveball have helped him log a 1.98 ERA, .168 opponent average and 53/17 K/BB ratio in 50 innings between High-A and Double-A.

A’s: Jacob Wilson, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 53)A minor knee issue is the only thing that’s remotely slowed Wilson’s fast track to the big leagues. The No. 6 overall pick in the Draft leads all 2023 draftees in full-season leagues in a host of offensive categories from average (.438) to SLG (.652) and OPS (1.110). He’s already made it to Triple-A and just doesn’t swing and miss, with just a 10.2 percent strikeout rate over his first 28 games.

Mariners: Logan Evans, RHP (No. 19)It’s looking like the Mariners can find pitching talent in all rounds, from the first (Logan Gilbert, George Kirby) to the fourth (Bryce Miller) and even the 12th. That’s when they got Evans out of the University of Pittsburgh and he’s far exceeded expectations. He’s athletic with excellent extension, things that didn’t lead to great results at Pitt but he’s worked with the M’s to find success and he currently leads the Double-A Texas League with his 1.18 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, while holding hitters to a .190 batting average (fifth best in the league).

Rangers: Alejandro Rosario, RHP (unranked on Rangers Top 30)Rosario displayed quality stuff in college but it translated into a 6.47 ERA in three seasons at Miami, so he lasted until the fifth round. His mid-90s fastball and plus splitter are working better in Single-A, where he has posted a 1.44 ERA with a .190 opponent average and 49/5 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Hurston Waldrep, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 72)Atlanta’s first-rounder came into pro ball with a fastball-splitter combination most were sure would get professional hitters out. He just got moved from Double-A to Triple-A and he’s missed bats at a combined 33 percent rate so far. The splitter has been unhittable, with a miss rate north of 55 percent so far this year, and his slider has also been effective, leading to a 9.6 K/9 rate while he’s thrown more strikes (2.9 BB/9) than expected.

Marlins: Nigel Belgrave, RHP (No. 29)Belgrave redshirted in his first season at Maryland and got tagged for a 6.79 ERA in his next two, but the Marlins liked his arm strength enough to select him in the 15th round. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider, he has thrived in pro ball, dominating to the tune of a 0.99 ERA, .111 opponent average and 32 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings between two Class A stops.

Mets: Brandon Sproat, RHP (No. 13)Sproat was a fun Draft story as a player twice-taken by the Mets, and early results have made New York look smart to turn back to the Florida pitcher in last year’s second round. Sproat leads full-season pitchers in the system with his 1.23 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 63 strikeouts and .151 average-against over 51 1/3 innings between High-A Brooklyn and Double-A Binghamton. His fastball has touched triple digits while his slider and changeup have also been strong swing-and-miss pitches.

Nationals: Phillip Glasser, OF/INF (Unranked on Nats Top 30)Selected in the 10th round as a five-year player out of Indiana, Glasser was expected to perform well at Single-A Fredericksburg, and he certainly accomplished that with a .381/.444/.587 line in 15 games. He moved to High-A Wilmington in late April, held his own there and enters Wednesday on a 10-game hitting streak in which he’s gone 17-for-40 (.425) with only two strikeouts. Glasser has played both corner outfield spots as well as shortstop, second and third as he tries to carve out a utilityman role.

Phillies: George Klassen, RHP (No. 28)Hat tip to first-rounder Aidan Miller, who has a robust .942 OPS thus far, but what Klassen, the club’s sixth-round pick, has done so far is too impressive to ignore. The right-hander out of the University of Minnesota has allowed just one earned run over his first 34 innings with Single-A Clearwater. That’s a 0.26 ERA over eight starts and he’s allowed just 20 hits (.169 BAA) and eight walks (0.82 WHIP) while striking out 13.5 per nine. Because he threw so little in college, the Phillies are managing his workload, but don’t be shocked to see him get challenged with a move to High-A Jersey City soon.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Mike Boeve, 3B/1B (No. 13)The second-rounder out of Nebraska-Omaha carried his reputation for having a plus hit tool into his first full season by going 21-for-38 (.553) with a 5/13 K/BB ratio over 13 games with High-A Wisconsin. The Brewers got him a better challenge at Double-A Biloxi with a quick promotion, and while the left-handed hitter has cooled off in the Southern League, he still possesses a .297 average and 133 wRC+ over 37 games at the Minors’ second-highest level.

Cardinals: Quinn Mathews, LHP (No. 20)Known for his 156-pitch showing in last year’s Super Regionals, the former Stanford star has made an even bigger name for himself on the pro side and is developing into one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in the game. The fourth-rounder leads Cardinals full-season pitchers with his 1.99 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 76 strikeouts, 40.2 K% and .140 average-against through 49 2/3 innings between Single-A and High-A. Most notably, he’s added fastball velo to sit around 94-95 mph while his slider and changeup look like above-average offerings as well.

Cubs: Nick Dean, RHP (unranked on Cubs Top 30)A four-year starter at Maryland, Dean is a finesse right-hander with a low-80s changeup that features significant fade and helps his low-90s sinker play up. A 19th-round choice, he ranks seventh in the Minors in WHIP (0.83) and has logged a 1.93 ERA, .170 opponent average and 46/10 K/BB ratio in 42 innings between Single-A and High-A.

Pirates: Paul Skenes, RHP (No. 1/MLB No .2)He will graduate from prospect status soon enough, so we might as well get in another mention or two, right? It’s certainly warranted: Between Triple-A and the big leagues (prior to his Wednesday start against the Dodgers), Skenes had thrown 49 1/3 total innings. In that span, he had posted a 1.64 ERA and 0.91 WHIP while striking out 13.7 per nine and walking just 2.4, holding hitters across the two levels to a .187 batting average.

Reds: Sammy Stafura (No. 15)The Reds went over slot to sign Stafura in the second round for $2.5 million to keep him from heading to Stanford. The New York prep product needed some time in extended Spring Training and then the Arizona Complex League this year before heading to full-season ball. The infielder had a 1.031 OPS in 15 games in the ACL with seven extra-base hits and four steals before joining Daytona Beach in the Single-A Florida State League.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Kyle Amendt, RHP (Unranked on D-backs Top 30)Amendt earned 12 saves in his final season at Dallas Baptist before the D-backs selected him in the ninth round last July. He remains a reliever on the pro side and is an early dominant one at that, having struck out 27 and walked only two in 13 1/3 innings for High-A Hillsboro. Arizona promoted Amendt, who throws a fastball, curveball and slider from an over-the-top delivery, to Double-A Amarillo late last week.

Dodgers: Patrick Copen, RHP (unranked on Dodgers Top 30)Though Copen recorded a 6.30 ERA in three seasons at Marshall, his fastball metrics encouraged the Dodgers to pop him in the seventh round. He owns a mid-90s heater as well as a power cutter and slider, and they’ve enabled him to compile a 3.76 ERA with a .222 opponent average and 43 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings in Single-A.

Giants: Bryce Eldridge, 1B (No. 3/MLB No. 74)The best two-way prospect in the 2023 Draft, Eldridge has focused mostly on hitting after going 16th overall and signing for $3,997,500. Tremendous raw power is his signature tool and he’s batting .282/.333/.486 with seven homers through 35 Single-A games.

Padres: Jay Beshears, INF (No. 27)San Diego drafted Graham Pauley in the 13th round out of Duke in 2022 and saw him make the Majors two years later. Could Beshears – another Blue Devil taken seven rounds earlier last year – follow the same model? He’s off to a great start by hitting .310/.454/.437 with more walks (38) than strikeouts (37) over 45 games between Single-A and High-A. His 6-foot-4 frame brought more of a reputation for power, but Beshears has stood out more for his hit tool and has even seen his K rate drop following his jump to the Midwest League.

Rockies: Sean Sullivan, LHP (No. 13)High-A Spokane has a pretty serious 1-2 punch going in its rotation so far, with first-rounder Chase Dollander and Sullivan, the club’s second-rounder out of Wake Forest, standing in first and second place among all Northwest League pitchers in strikeouts. We’ll give Sullivan the nod here because he’s also third in the league in WHIP (0.93) and fifth in ERA (2.37) while posting a ridiculous 57/4 K/BB ratio over his first 49 1/3 innings of work.