Bold 2023 predictions for MLB's top prospects

Thursday, February 2, 2023

It's out! ESPN MLB draft and prospect expert Kiley McDaniel ranked his top 100 MLB prospects for 2023 this week, and now, it's time to have some fun with it.

We asked our MLB experts to give us one bold 2023 prediction for the top-100 prospect they are most excited about going into the upcoming season -- and there were plenty of electrifying options to choose from.

From which players will win Rookie of the Year honors to who will be a breakout star this season, here's what our experts had to say about this year's top prospects.

Which future star is No. 1? Kiley's top 100 prospects

Gunnar Henderson (3B): Will win American League Rookie of the Year

The easiest of any of the major award predictions to make is Henderson for AL Rookie of the Year, because when Baltimore Orioles leadership finally allowed him to be promoted to the big leagues, he demonstrated the impact he will have. A rival AL East staffer said this: "Yeah, he's going to be a problem." His athleticism, presence and confidence will make evaluators wonder in the years ahead how he lasted until the 42nd pick of the 2019 draft. -- Buster Olney

Corbin Carroll (CF): Will lead the National League in stolen bases and triples

It's not exactly a bold prediction to say Carroll will win NL Rookie of the Year honors given that he's a top prospect. So let's go bolder: With his blazing speed, Carroll will lead the NL in stolen bases and triples and turn into one of the game's best leadoff hitters and most exciting players. And here's the kicker: He'll do it for an Arizona Diamondbacks team that wins a wild card. -- David Schoenfield

Anthony Volpe (SS): Will be the Yankees' starting shortstop in the second half

The New York Yankees should not rush their top prospect into the big leagues when they already have Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera on the roster. Given that Volpe does not have much experience above Double-A, they should allow him to get some more looks at higher-level pitching and ease him into a contributing spot at the major league level. The expectations being placed on Volpe are enormous given the complaints from Yankees fans about shortstop. Easing him into the spotlight should allow for a smooth transition for a young player the franchise hopes can be a superstar. -- Joon Lee

Francisco Alvarez (C): Will take over catching duties for the Mets at some point this season

It's true -- at least according to one scout -- that Alvarez needs a little more seasoning at Triple-A. After all, he played only 45 games there last year but that doesn't mean he'll need another full season in the minors.

Remember when Steve Cohen thought the New York Mets needed another bat -- hence the pursuit of Carlos Correa? Unless Omar Navarez reverts to his 2019 form or Tomas Nido suddenly finds an offensive game, Alvarez will be needed in the batter's box even if it's not behind the plate every day. By June, he'll be up. -- Jesse Rogers

Elly De La Cruz (SS): Will be this year's Michael Harris II

To be clear upfront, the Harris comparison is almost entirely about De La Cruz's projected big league timetable, as well as his ability to make a serious push for Rookie of the Year honors. With his skill set, enthusiasm and lack of top-shelf competition on the Cincinnati Reds roster, De La Cruz will be in the majors sooner than you think, with a very real chance at a 19-homer, 20-steal rookie campaign of his own. -- Tristan Cockcroft

Andrew Painter (RHP): Will be the Phillies' No. 3 starter by September

Painter, the 13th overall pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2021, dominated three minor league levels as a 19-year-old last season and was named Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline (1.56 ERA, 155-25 K-BB in 103 IP). His four-pitch repertoire and precocious command have him on the fast track, one that could slot behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler by season's end. -- Paul Hembekides

Jordan Walker (RF): Will force his way onto the big league roster in St. Louis

It might not be out of spring training, but Walker could do that, too. Obviously it's harder for a prospect to crack the roster of a good team and the St. Louis Cardinals have one of MLB's best lineups.

When you see the power that Walker's bat generates and the consistency of his professional record to date, he'll be too good to keep in Springfield. And if he's in the majors, he's not going to languish on the bench, so we could see the Cardinals hit the trade market to free up a slot for him and add depth elsewhere, probably the bullpen. However it shakes out, the Cardinals will be dealing from a position of strength. So too, for that matter, will be Walker. -- Bradford Doolittle

Kyle Harrison (LHP): Will be the Giants' No. 2 starter by August

The San Francisco Giants' best starting pitcher prospect in years looks a little like Madison Bumgarner until he releases the ball, and a little like Carlos Rodon afterward. He's only 21, but after two seasons at three levels and 14.6 K/9, he's running out of leagues to dominate. -- Tim Keown

Diego Cartaya (C): Will be the next Will Smith -- or better

By the end of the year, it'll be fair to wonder whether Cartaya can be just as good -- if not better -- than Smith, the current catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Smith, 27, is already one of the sport's greatest catchers. But Cartaya's combination of on-base ability and power, along with his plus arm strength and steadily improving defense, will soon make industry executives wonder if Smith might actually be expendable.

"Will is an All-Star," one longtime scout said. "Cartaya has a chance to be a cornerstone." -- Alden Gonzalez

Miguel Vargas (3B): Will earn top rookie honors

Vargas would've helped the Dodgers last season had they only let him. While he has typically played third base, he's their starting second baseman this year and his combination of power, patience and speed (let's project .280/.360/.475, with 15 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 75 runs) earns him top NL rookie honors. -- Eric Karabell

Tanner Bibee (RHP): Will be the Cleveland Pitching Factory's latest late-round success story

Last year, I chose a pitcher who was the third right-hander from his own team on Kiley's list and said he'd be the best pitching prospect in baseball. Eury Perez made me look very smart. I'm not suggesting Bibee -- who's behind Daniel Espino and Gavin Williams -- will be the best pitching prospect in baseball, or even on his own team.

But, maybeShane Bieber potential? Someone with exquisite fastball command (and high-90s velocity), three other good pitches (his slider and changeup, particularly) and a high floor and ceiling? That's Bibee. Another low-round pick (fifth round, 2021), another success story and another year in which theCleveland Guardiansremind the league that nobody develops pitchers better.-- Jeff Passan