Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: Hitters Rising in Spring Training
Kyle takes a look at four hitters that have rocketed up fantasy draft boards with their Spring Training performances.
Opening Day 2023 is just over a week away, and fantasy players are not only waiting for the season to begin but also hoping to see MLB’s top prospects either making Opening Day rosters or getting their call during the upcoming season. With Spring Training entering its twilight, there are a handful of position players who have had success. Below is a list of four prospects with a great chance of making their respective club’s Opening Day rosters and an inside look at how they have fared during Spring Training 2023.
Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Prospect Risers
3B/OF Jordan Walker, Saint Louis Cardinals
Jordan Walker’s name has skyrocketed up draft boards, and the young hitter is making a strong case to break camp with Saint Louis. Entering last Friday, Walker had slashed .390/.390/.683 with three home runs, seven RBIs and one stolen base through 13 Spring Training games. Walker does not turn 21 until late May, and he has shown abilities uncommon among young prospects. At 6’5” and 200 lbs, the Cardinals prospect already possesses great power and has shown the ability to hit to all parts of the field. His plate discipline is ahead of his peers, and he has a keen sense of the strike zone. Having spent all of 2022 in AA, Walker finished the season slashing .306/.388/.510 with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs. While the power potential is eye-popping, he also possesses great speed given his size and accumulated 22 stolen bases in 27 attempts. He has positioned himself as one of the most desirable fantasy prospects, and while Nolan Arenado is cemented at third base for St. Louis, Walker could push for a corner outfield spot while also seeing at-bats at designated hitter. Whether he breaks camp with St. Louis will undoubtedly come down to the final days of Spring Training. Should he start in AAA, it will not be long before Walker gets his call, and an injury could expedite his arrival.
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1B/2B Miguel Vargas, Los Angeles Dodgers
Gavin Lux’s injury may have put a damper on Los Angeles’ early Spring Training plans, but prospect Miguel Vargas allows the Dodgers to have some peace of mind. The 23-year-old Vargas spent time in Cuba’s professional league before making his MiLB debut in 2018, and he has hit at every stop in the minor leagues. He is coming off a 2022 season where he slashed .304/.404/.511 with 17 home runs, 82 RBIs and 17 stolen bases at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Vargas saw playing time at nearly every position on the baseball field, and the second job has been his to lose in camp. This Spring Training has shown growing pains as he has hit .238/.407/.381 with 11 strikeouts and three extra-base hits in 21 at-bats, but he has shown the ability to be selective and not be over-matched by MLB-ready pitching. The Dodgers prospect has gone undrafted in nearly every fantasy draft, but will be quickly added off waivers when the Dodgers announce their Opening Day roster.
OF Oscar Colas, Chicago White Sox
The 24-year-old Oscar Colas is no stranger to professional baseball as he has spent time in both Cuba and Japan’s professional leagues. The 2022 season saw Colas make a name for himself as he finished the season slashing .314/.371/.524 with 23 home runs and 79 RBIs across A, AA and AAA. Of all the young prospects ready to make their appearance in 2023, fantasy owners should mark Oscar Colas as their “must-have” prospect entering this season. There is little doubt he will open the season as the everyday right fielder for the White Sox, and he solidified his case this Spring Training by slashing .324/.342/.514 with two home runs and three RBIs entering last Friday. The White Sox have shown the ability to hit the nail on the head with Cuban players (e.g. José Abreu), and Oscar Colas is looking to be the next phenomenal Cuban player for the White Sox.
OF Esteury Ruiz, Oakland Athletics
After having brief MLB stints with Milwaukee and San Diego, the 24-year-old was dealt to Oakland this past December in the three-team deal that saw Sean Murphy dealt to Atlanta and William Contreras head to Milwaukee. While Ruiz only has a total of 36 Major League plate appearances, he should garner everyday at-bats for an Oakland team that will be bottom dwellers during the 2023 season. Ruiz finished the 2022 season slashing .332/.347/.526 with 16 home runs and 65 RBIs. Looking at these numbers, fantasy managers may think, “What’s the big deal?” The specific, and special, part of Ruiz’s game is his speed. He finished last season with 85 stolen bases in 99 attempts across AA and AAA. There is always a major concern with speed demons in terms of whether they will get on base enough at the MLB level, but Ruiz posted a career .285/.363 average/OBP during his minor league seasons. Ruiz’s speed hype is like that of Myles Straw when he was ready to reach Houston, but Ruiz is a much better hitter and has developed adequate power, whereas Straw never showed power potential. Through March 17th, Ruiz has slashed .250/.324/.438 with one home run, 10 RBIs, and three stolen bases through 12 games. While the average and OBP are low, he has only four strikeouts. Ruiz will be available in nearly every league and has great potential to reach 40+ stolen bases in his rookie season.