Mets, Yankees among clubs with soaring prospects in camp

We know not to overreact — or react much at all, to be honest — to spring training statistics and performances; it’s a small sample with which to begin, the environment is not equal to that of a fully-functional big-league regular-season game, and the competition isn’t exactly constant major-league quality, either. Despite that, young players performing is never a bad thing, and a large handful of them are thriving in Arizona and Florida as MLB Opening Day 2023 nears.

Here are some of those opening eyes in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues.

Jordan Walker, 3B/OF — St. Louis Cardinals

Walker, among the elite prospects in the game entering 2023, has shown off his bat through March 7, including three home runs in eight games. He’s batting .417 (10-for-24) this spring, coming off a 2022 season in Double-A Springfield that resulted in an impressive .306/.388/.510 slash that includes 53 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases.

Walker is just 20 years old, but is knocking on the door of the big leagues. His entrance may be based on how the Cardinals view his defensive role. Walker is a natural infielder and he was drafted as a third baseman. But St. Lous has an elite player at the hot corner now in Nolan Arenado, suggesting Walker likely gets most of his time in the majors as an outfielder and designated hitter.

While his current career high is 19 homers, he should challenge for 30-plus in the Majors in short order. A swing-heavy approach does lead to some chase concerns, but his overall average and K rates should still be at least solid because of his ability to find the barrel. — MLB Pipeline

Walker made 31 starts in the outfield last season, and and has six more this spring, and counting at the midway point of camp.

The more hits, however, the more difficult it will be for the Cards to hold back their top prospect, but perhaps the new rules and how the Seattle Mariners took advantage last April will influence clubs to open the season with deserving rookies rather than playing the service-time game.

Julio Rodriguez, despite being just 21 years of age, started the 2022 season on the Opening Day roster, thrived, won the American League Rookie of the Year, and the Mariners were rewarded with the No. 29 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft.

Brett Baty, 3B/OF — New York Mets

Baty debuted in the majors last season, flashing with a pair of homers in 40 plate appearances, and could open the season in the everyday lineup for the World Series contending Mets.

The 23-year-old Baty, generally considered a Top 25 prospect in baseball, is a left-handed hitter with plus raw power and a track record in the minors of hitting for average and getting on base, with the home run numbers growing every season since he was drafted No. 12 overall in 2019.

He’s done nothing to deter the Mets with his spring performance (8-for-18, 2B, HR), but has competition from another Mets prospect…

Mark Vientos, 3B/1B — New York Mets

Vientos, who isn’t the athlete and defender Baty is, appears a bit closer to maturing his own plus raw power into game production than Baty.

There are scenarios both Baty and Vientos play a meaningful role in the majors in 2023, especially with Vientos adept at playing first base, Baty having experience in the OF, and the DH role available to the Mets, too.

Vientos has four extra base hits this spring and is 8-for-26 overall, though he has swung and a missed a bit (9 Ks), which could play a role in the club’s decision; Baty projects as the better pure hitter, on top of the defensive advantage.

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Anthony Volpe, SS — New York Yankees

Volpe (6-for-17, 3 XBH, 3 BB, 4 SO in six games) has done nothing but impress this spring, which simply is a continuation of his development since the Yankees made him their top pick (No. 30 overall) in 2019.

In 2022, the New Jersey native reached Triple-A at age 21 on the strength of a 21-homer campaign in 132 contests. He makes a lot of contact, is a plus runner with instincts that help him steal bases (50 in 57 chances in ’22), and defensively he projects as above-average to plus.

 I don’t know for a fact that the Yankees have sat out the free-agent shortstop market because they think Volpe’s a star, but I think Volpe’s a star, so I can hardly blame them. — Keith Law, The Athletic

One of the game’s best prospects, Volpe is likely to see the majors in 2023, and it could be earlier than later.

Josh Jung, 3B — Texas Rangers

Jung, who missed most of last season after February surgery to repair a torn shoulder labrum, has shown big power this spring for the Rangers (4 HR), who happen to have an opening at third base if Jung wants to seize it.

The 25-year-old has hit for average in the minors (.311 career), including solid contact rates for a player with above-average power. He’s also a solid-average glove, suggesting he could complete the Rangers’ infield with Nathaniel Lowe, Marcus Semien, amd Corey Seager for years to come.

Ricky Tiedemann, LHP — Toronto Blue Jays

The Future Stars Series alum, who won’t turn 21 until August, has raced through the minors out of Golden West JC in California and is poised to see the majors this season.

Tiedmann has been into the upper-90s with his fastball and is considered among the top 5 pitching prospects in the league — perhaps the top left-hander.

The Blue Jays’ prized prospect dominated in 18 starts a year ago — his first in pro ball — including four short-script starts in Double-A New Hampshire that resulted in 14 strikeouts in 11 innings.

Managing Tiedmann’s workload is certainly a priority, but it may be difficult for the Jays to keep Tiedmann down in the minors all year so don’t be surprised if he helps the big club in a relief role, at the very least.

Bryce Miller, RHP — Seattle Mariners

Seattle keeps churning out power arms. First it was Logan Gilbert in 2021, then last season George Kirby burst onto the scene and finished second only to Atlata Braves right-hander Spencer Strider in pitcher fWAR among rookies (3.0).

This season it may be Miller Time.

Miller, a fourth-round pick two years ago out of Texas A&M, tallied over 130 innings at three stops in the minors last season, limited batters to a .195 average, just 10 long balls, and collected 160 strikeouts thanks to a punch-out rate over 30% for the year.

Miller’s fastball induced an 18-percent whiff rate in 2022, more than just about every other pitcher in the organization last year. He’ll mix in a sweeping slider that flashes above average at times, as well as a changeup that could prove effective against left-handed bats. Miller has No. 3 starter upside and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s one of the big storylines in Seattle this summer. — Joe Doyle, Prospects Live

He’s equipped with arm speed, a 70-grade fastball, and a chance at two average or better offspeed pitches in a slider and changeup.

A healthy Miller is all but certain to help the Mariners in 2023, and should have no great concerns about workload entering the season.

This spring, the right-hander has allowed three hits in five innings and boasts a 6-1 K/BB ratio in his two outings.

Jason A. Churchill
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