As the Major League Baseball season gets underway, so have some of the careers of MLB’s top prospects in 2023. Gunnar Henderson, the top MLB prospect according to MLB.com, has already cracked into the big leagues slashing .259/.348/.440 in 34 games during his 2022 campaign for the Baltimore Orioles.
While Jordan Walker, Anthony Volpe, and Hunter Brown make their highly anticipated debuts for their respective teams, let’s take a look at the top five prospects that are expected to make their Major League debuts post-opening day.
Top Five Debuts on the Horizon for MLB’s Top Prospects
1. Francisco Alvarez
The Venezuelan’s 5’10”, 223lbs build provides the perfect build for a catcher in today’s game. Alvarez signed with the New York Mets in 2019 as a 17-year-old and has flown through the minor leagues, hitting 58 home runs and driving in 174 runs in his three full minor league seasons.
The Mets’ decision to start Alvarez’s 2023 season in Triple-A Syracuse wasn’t an easy one. But the club’s reasoning was quite simple: to get him ready to be an everyday catcher. The Mets have not had a catcher post over a 2.4 WAR since Paul Lo Duca in 2006.
Expect the power-hitting, high-contact rate Alvarez to change that narrative once he gets his chance in the big leagues in 2023 and be a catalyst for the redemption seeking Mets’, as Joe Rini of LWOS Baseball mentions in his most recent article.
2. Grayson Rodriguez
Approaching Opening Day, this was the biggest shock in anyone not making their team’s opening day roster. The 6’5″ right-hander from Houston, Texas had some unusual command issues in spring training, which ultimately made the Baltimore Orioles decide to start him out in Triple-A Norfolk.
But, Rodriguez posted a 2.20 ERA over 69.2 IP in Norfolk last season, while also finishing with an impressive 12.5 K/9, surpassing the MLB average of 7.3 K/9 by a large feat. Rodriguez’s four-pitch mix with a fastball touching triple digits will certainly play in the big leagues once he gets his opportunity.
3. Elly De La Cruz
The 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic is one of the more passionate and fun players to watch on a baseball diamond, not to mention his five-tool potential. De La Cruz was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 2018 for just $65,000 and should’ve already made his Major League debut if the 2020 minor league season wasn’t canceled.
The switch hitter posted an eye-popping .945 OPS in the minor leagues in 2023, complimenting that with 28 home runs and 47 stolen bases. But with a combination of Cincinnati showing patience with their young prospects and a minor left hamstring strain De La Cruz suffered towards the end of spring training, the Reds decided to start his 2023 season in Triple-A Louisville.
But what’s not to like about De La Cruz? Expect him to make a splash once he gets the call in late April or early May.
READ MORE: Why to watch the Reds in 2023
4. Eury Perez
Sandy Alcàntara Jr. you mean? The comparison is spot on for the 6’8″ starting pitcher from the Dominican Republic.
Featuring an eerily similar pitch mix as Alcàntara, Perez gets his fastball in the triple digits with ease and mixes in a high 80s changeup to effectively strikeout hitters at a career 12.7 K/9 clip. But the main concern is that command, as his minor league career WHIP sits at 1.01, which is much higher than where the Miami Marlins are looking for it to be.
Although Perez won’t get the call until about August time, expect hitters to struggle against his electric tailing fastball and devastating changeup.
5. Sal Frelick
The Boston native is known to have the top contact rates of all MLB’s top prospects. With Frelick’s batting average of .365 for Triple-A Nashville in 2022 and his .385 batting average in 10 games for the Milwaukee Brewers this spring, he made a strong case for himself to get the Opening-Day nod.
He complimented his batting average with a .435 OBP for Triple-A Nashville in 2022, but the power numbers haven’t been there for Frelick which ultimately will have him starting his season with Nashville. With Milwaukee having a lot of question marks in the outfield for 2023, the former ACC defense player will earn a spot on the team with his contact-speed combo sometime in the summer and will be a tough out at the plate for all pitchers.
Where is Andrew Painter on this list? Although he’s projected to bust into the league this year, there is a big question mark on his health at the moment as he is dealing with a strain in his throwing elbow. Although I’m no doctor, teams usually side on the side of caution with young pitchers and elbow issues. This could delay his debut until even next year, even if there aren’t any setbacks.
Players who received honorable mentions for this list were Daniel Espino, Kyle Harrison, Taj Bradley, and Bobby Miller. Although this highlighted my top prospects to be on the lookout for as they break into the big leagues in 2023, there are plenty of young players that will get their chance to make a splash in the Major Leagues this year.
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