Prospect Primer: American League East
Some prospects are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. As the 2023 season approaches, MiLB.com goes through each MLB division to take a look at the most intriguing prospects. Other Prospect Primers:
Some prospects are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. As the 2023 season approaches, MiLB.com goes through each MLB division to take a look at the most intriguing prospects.
Other Prospect Primers:
AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL Central | NL West
Appointment viewing matchup: Curtis Mead, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore Orioles
While it may not have the same cachet as Mike Trout vs. Shohei Ohtani in the World Baseball Classic final, fans of top prospect duels won’t have to wait long to see a battle between two of the Minors’ best.
Triple-A Durham hosts Norfolk in a season-opening series, creating the potential for an Opening Day bout between Rodriguez and Mead, two highly ranked prospects with a lot to prove.
Both prospects are coming off injuries that have delayed their Major League debuts. Rodriguez (the No. 2 Orioles prospect), compiled a 2.09 ERA over his first 11 starts before being shut down for three months with an oblique strain. Mead, the second-ranked Rays prospect, was limited by an elbow injury to 76 games in 2022, but provided excellent production for Durham and Double-A Montgomery. The Australian slugger seemed to return to full strength this spring, but was not able to represent his home country in the Classic.
“I worked really hard in the offseason to kind of improve all the strength around [the elbow] to make sure that it was not going to bother me this season,” Mead told MLB.com on March 3.
Both Rodriguez and Mead were firmly on the big league roster bubble coming into Spring Training but ultimately fell short. Mead had five hits in 22 at-bats (.227) and was reassigned on May 14. Rodriguez finished with a 7.04 ERA in 15 ⅓ innings and was optioned on Monday.
“He’s had some good moments and he’s had some not so good moments this camp, but we have huge hopes for him and believe in him,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde told MLB.com.
It’s more than just talent that elevates this matchup. It’ll be fun to see how one top prospect reacts to the other conceivably standing in his way to the Major Leagues.
Change of scenery: Adam Macko, Toronto Blue Jays
Acquired from the Mariners in the Teoscar Hernandez trade in November, Macko joins Ricky Tiedemann and Brandon Barriera to compose what’s arguably the deepest crop of lefty pitching prospects in the Minors. The Slovakia-born, Ireland and Canada-raised southpaw pitched in the Arizona Fall League but was limited to just 33 1⁄3 innings in the regular season with High-A Everett after suffering an elbow strain and meniscus injury. Macko’s unique background makes him an interesting player to follow, and the No. 9 Blue Jays prospect is something of a developmental blank slate with an improving fastball and two breaking pitches. He’ll likely return to the Northwest League with Vancouver to start 2023.
Full-season debutant: Jackson Holliday, Baltimore Orioles
There’s more to the anticipation of Holliday’s first full season than his background as the top pick in the 2022 Draft. MLB Pipeline’s No. 12 prospect tore through Rookie ball to finish last season with Single-A Delmarva. Holliday reached the professional ranks with more polish than the average high schooler. He displayed an advanced approach during his first pro stint, drawing more than twice as many walks (25) as strikeouts (12) over 20 games, and he proved to have a strong baseball acumen as a shortstop. As the 19-year-old advances in his development and gets physically stronger, he’ll soon be the leader of what’s already the highest-ranked farm system in baseball.
2028 Faces of the rivalry: Jasson Domínguez, New York Yankees and Marcelo Mayer, Boston Red Sox
The greatest rivalry in sports feeds off superstars. Mayer, MLB Pipeline’s No. 9 prospect, and Domínguez (No. 47) are two of the most recognizable names in the Minors. They’ll probably start the 2023 season at different levels – Mayer played just 25 games with High-A Greenville while “The Martian” finished 2022 with five games at Double-A Somerset. But they’re both predicted to reach the Majors in 2024. There’s obviously a lot left to develop for a duo whose combined age barely eclipses that of each team’s current third baseman. But it would be a treat to see both reach their superstar potential on opposite sides of this rivalry.
Human highlight reel: Ceddanne Rafaela, Boston Red Sox
This category was practically invented for the No. 86 overall prospect, whose defensive exploits are well-documented. Beyond the 22-year-old’s athleticism allowing for some absolutely ridiculous, acrobatic plays, he proved he was the organization’s best defender at both shortstop and center field. The bat started to come around as well last season as he finished with a .299 average and an .880 OPS between Greenville and Double-A Portland. Rafaela’s electric style of play should make him one of the most exciting players to watch in the Minors this season.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.