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10 MLB NL Central Breakout prospects for 2024

As we continue the series focused on MLB breakout prospects, we turn our attention to the top 10 breakout prospects of the NL Central. The NL Central features some of the MLB’s best farm systems. The breakout prospects below are the result of good scouting, drafting, and development. Just like in MLB, dynasty league winners place a heavy importance on scouting and drafting. Finding that diamond in the rough or breakout prospect can be the key difference in winning or losing. Below are 10 players to get to know.

If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. Just starting out in a dynasty league? Then check out Rick Haake’s Top-400 Overall Fantasy Prospects and George Bissell’s Top-500 Dynasty League Rankings.

Breakout Prospects from the NL Central

Jefferson Rojas SS Chicago Cubs

Jefferson Rojas was signed during the 2022 international signing period by the Chicago Cubs. The summer after signing, he started in the Dominican Summer League. Rojas proved to be too advanced for the league, posting a .303 batting average and a .391 on-base percentage while walking nearly as much as he struck out (16BB/ 18K).

He received a quick promotion to low-A after only one game at the Arizona Complex League in 2023. Rojas produced career highs in home runs, RBI, and runs in his first taste at low-A at the age of 18. He produced a line of .268/.345/.404, seven home runs, 48 runs, and 31 RBI. The production is impressive because the Carolina League is known for its pitcher-friendly confines. His advanced approach at the plate allows him to barrel balls with his quick compact swing. Rojas should gain muscle that will allow for more power, projecting as a potential .270 average hitter with 20 home runs annually with a chance to stick at shortstop.

Haydn McGeary 1B/DH Chicago Cubs

Haydn McGeary was drafted in round 15 in 2022 by the Chicago Cubs. McGeary’s carrying tool is his towering power. Recognized as the all-time NCAA Division II home run king with 75 home runs. McGeary played at high-A and double-A in his first full season in 2023. Here he would prove that he was not just power, but he could hit for average with a high on-base percentage, producing a stat line of .275/.397/.462, 19 home runs, 65 runs, 88 RBI, and 80 walks compared to 121 strikeouts.

McGeary’s may primarily be a DH in the future as he lacks a true position due to poor defensive skills. The defensive concerns have suppressed McGeary’s rankings in most lists. This makes him a great buy-low option in dynasty leagues as offensive stats are all that matter in fantasy baseball. McGeary should start 2024 in triple-A and may be in line for a promotion to MLB by the season’s end. There is risk due to being a bat-only player but he could end up as a clean-up hitter with 30-plus home runs.

Alfredo Duno C Cincinnati Reds

Alfredo Duno was signed by the Reds during the 2023 international signing period. Duno started at the Dominican Summer League (DSL) and showed out, producing a stat line of .303/.451/.493, 6 home runs, 36 runs, and 41 RBI, all while being just 17. Duno has elite bat speed which points to future plus in-game power. He also showed a good eye at the plate by walking 38 times compared to 41 strikeouts. He should be brought stateside in 2024 and see low-A by season’s end.

Duno is big for a catcher at 6’2” but should be able to stay at the position due to his athleticism. If you still have the chance to grab him in your league, do it. This time next year, Duno will be ranked in the top 100 of MLB prospects. Duno at his peak should hit for a good average with 25 plus home runs, especially if he plays at Great American ballpark.

Leonardo Balcazar SS CIN

Leonardo Balcazar was a little-known prospect when he signed for $100,000 during the 2021 international signing period. Balcazar has an advanced hit tool, proving this when he came stateside in 2022, hitting .322/.411/.476, four home runs, 25 runs, and 26 RBI in just 143 at-bats in 2022. He was off to a fast start again at low-A Daytona before tearing his ACL 18 games into the 2023 season.

Before getting hurt, he was outplaying many on a prospect-laden Daytona team, hitting .324/.427/.471 in the 18 games he played last season. If he returns healthy, Balcazar should hit for a high average with 20+ stolen bases, making him a perfect leadoff candidate. There is risk here as he has little to no power, but his hit tool and solid defense should allow him extra opportunities.

Ricardo Cabrera SS CIN

Ricardo Cabrera was a higher-rated prospect in 2022 before signing with the Reds for $2,700,000. Cabrera possesses a good plate approach, using the whole field with his current gap power. Starting in the DSL rookie league in the summer of 2022, Cabrera held his own, posting a line of .253/.363/.380. Cabrera played across two levels in 2023, the ACL rookie league and low-A, and showed improvement in almost all categories, posting .346/.475/.531, five home runs, 48 runs, 23 RBI, and 24 stolen bases.

As Cabrera continues to fill out, he may need to move to third base. His bat will play at third with the potential to hit for a high average, with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Cabrera should get ample time to reach his peak because the Reds are loaded with infielders and will not need to rush him. Get him now before he skyrockets up lists with a good 2024 performance.

Hector Rodriguez OF CIN

It is safe to say the Red’s minors are stocked with talent. Hector Rodriguez joined the Reds via the trade of Tyler Naquin to the Mets in 2022. Rodriguez possesses superior hand-eye coordination that allows him to get to pitches out of the zone. He is extremely aggressive and will need to refine his approach by increasing his pitch selectivity.

Rodriguez is small in stature, standing 5’8” but showed he could barrel the ball in 2023 leading to a career-high 16 home runs. In 2023 Rodriguez played between low-A Daytona and high-A Dayton and hit .293/.343/.495, with 91 runs. 61 RBI, and 18 stolen bases. The most impressive stat was his 10 triples. Rodriguez has the makings of being special if he can refine his approach, having the potential of a high average, 20 home runs, and 20 stolen bases.

Brock Wilken 3B MIL

The Brewers selected Brock Wilken in the first round of the 2023 draft. The first thing that comes to mind is his plus power. Wilken set the record at Wake Forest for home runs with 71 over his three seasons. After signing with the Brewers, Wilken played at three levels before ending the 2023 season at double-A Biloxi. Wilken hit a combined .285/.414/.473, with five home runs, 27 runs, and 29 RBI.

Being that he is 6’4”, the swing can get long leading to a lot of strikeouts. Wilken has shown a good eye so far by walking 33 times compared to 47 strikeouts. The plate discipline should allow his plus power to play in games. He should start the 2024 season back at double-A Biloxi but should be in line for a quick promotion if he continues to produce. Wilken projects to hit .260 with 30+ home runs, batting in the third spot, and finally filling a long-vacant position for the Brewers. Fans sitting in the bleachers at AM Fam field should bring their gloves!

Yophery Rodriguez OF MIL

Yophery Rodriguez signed with the Brewers during the 2023 international signing period. Rodriguez has been lauded for his bat-to-ball skills and his selective approach at the plate. Currently, Rodriguez has had some helium as the next potential great international prospect for the Brewers like Jackson Chourio. It is a bit early and unfair to compare the two young prospects.

Rodriguez started his career at the DSL rookie league producing a line of .253/.393/.449, with 6 home runs, 34 runs, 36 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. The selective approach was on full display as he walked 41 times compared to 40 strikeouts. Rodriguez will start the 2024 season at the ACL rookie league with the chance to reach low-A. By season’s end Rodriguez may be a hot commodity reaching top 100 prospect lists. Rodriguez has a high floor with the potential of hitting .270 with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

Eric Bitonti SS/3B MIL

Eric Bitonti was selected in the third round of the 2023 draft by the Brewers and was given an over-slot bonus. Bitonti is another big 6’4” third baseman with plus power, but unlike Wilken, he hits from the left side of the plate. He was sent to the ACL where he struggled a bit, hitting .179/.333/.410, with 2 home runs, 8 runs, and 9 RBI in just 12 games.

Bitonti showed some of that swing-and-miss with 15 strikeouts in 39 at-bats. The silver lining is he also walked nine times. There will be growing pains as Bitonti did not turn 18 until four months after the draft. Bitonti may have the biggest power potential of any prospect in the Brewers farm system, the question is can he hit enough to reach it? I believe Bitonti will make the needed adjustments to hit for a modest average and 30+ home runs.

Won-Bin Cho OF STL

Won-Bin Cho signed with the Cardinals during the international signing period in 2022. Cho does not possess any plus tools but instead is good across the board. He has a smooth left-handed swing but will need to adjust his launch angle to reach the power. Cho shows signs of a good eye at the plate by walking 64 times compared to 98 strikeouts during his first full season. In 2023, Cho played at low-A and produced a line of .270/.376/.389, with 7 home runs, 64 runs, 52 RBI, and 32 stolen bases. Cho should start the 2024 season at high-A Peoria. If Cho can continue to make the adjustments to reach his power, he could project as a .270 hitter with 25 + home runs and 20 stolen bases. This may be the last opportunity to add him in dynasty leagues.

For more of the great fantasy baseball rankings and analysis you’ve come to expect from FantraxHQ, check out our full 2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit! We’re here for you all the way up until Opening Day and then on into your championship run.

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