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Chris Clegg’s 2023 NL West Breakout Prospects

Each year, Eric Cross and I do team top-20s. In those rankings, we included a breakout prospect to target from each team. It is always fun to project which prospects could break out the following season. Getting in on those prospects early could lead to significant success in dynasty leagues.

Last year, 12 of my 30 picks turned out to be major successes. Names I picked included Jackson Chourio, Endy Rodriguez, Ezequiel Tovar, Vaughn Grissom, Vinnie Pasquantino, and Ricky Tiedemann, to name a few. Some busts included Kala’i Rosario, Michael Stefanic, and Cristian Pache. You can find all 30 names in the thread below.

This year, Eric and I will write individual articles for breakout prospects from each division. Today we will dive in on the NL West. You can find other prospect breakout articles here:

Prospect Breakout Series: NL East, NL Central

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2023 NL West Breakout Prospects

Arizona Diamondbacks: Ivan Melendez, 1B

Ivan Melendez was deemed the Hispanic Titanic by his Texas teammates and coaches because he is a massive human being, but he also hits towering home runs. Melendez hit 32 home runs this season at Texas in just 315 plate appearances. He slashed .387/.508/.863, yes, that .863 is his slugging percentage. Melendez struggled in his pro debut with Arizona, setting him up for a breakout in 2023.

There is no denying Melendez’s power; you can argue it is 80-grade. Last season he posted a 90th-percentile exit velocity north of 110 mph. For reference, four Major League hitters were above 110 mph last season. Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Oneil Cruz, and Vlad Guerrero Jr. were the four.

Melendez made contact on pitches in the zone over 90 percent of the time, which is also elite. The plate skills are evident because he walked more than he struck out last season at Texas. Tack on that Melendez barreled the ball more than 20 percent of the time, and you have an elite hitter.

Yes, he is a first baseman with no speed. People discount that kind of player for fantasy. But look at the ascension of Kyle Manzardo last season, a college hitter who also makes elite zone contact and has solid power. The crazy thing is Melendez has more power. Watch out for a big-time breakout from Ivan Melendez.

Colorado Rockies: Benny Montgomery, OF

Benny Montgomery has tools for days which led him to be selected by the Colorado Rockies eighth overall in the 2021 MLB Draft. Montgomery put together a solid 2022 season, especially when you factor in the injuries he suffered. He missed three weeks in late April and early May with a quadriceps injury and then had an undiagnosed injury that led him to miss nearly two months.

After July 1, Montgomery slashed .323/.408/.516 with a solid 8.5 percent walk rate. He did manage just four home runs over that span but also stole six bases. With an undisclosed injury, we are not sure if it was an issue that could have zapped the power.

Montgomery saw an increase in contact in the second half as he changed his approach. He has a big hitch in his swing but worked to limit it. He also began to start his hands higher. The results paid off. Montgomery has massive power and speed upside, and if the contact continues like it did to end the season, watch out. Montgomery’s stock will soar!

Los Angeles Dodgers: Oswaldo Osorio, SS

Oswaldo Osorio is a prospect we have the least on among names on the list. The Dodgers have a ton of intriguing young prospects who could break out, such as Josue de Paula, Samuel Munoz, and Juan Alonso. These are all great options, but I picked Osorio due to the power and speed that he brings to the table.

Maybe you look at the numbers and are concerned when you see Osorio hit .239 in the DSL last season. Osorio struck out 23.5 percent of the time, which is a tad high for the DSL, but remember, we are talking about a 17-year-old making their pro debut.

Osorio finished the DSL with a 145 wRC+, six home runs, and 11 stolen bases. He has a projectable frame with still room to grow at 6 “1/171. There are still question marks, but Osorio has the tools to make big moves up prospect rankings. Now is the time to pick up or acquire him in dynasty leagues.

San Diego Padres: Jackson Merrill, SS

It is possible to argue that Jackson Merrill has broken out already. At least if you look at the hype on him on Twitter since the start of the Arizona Fall League, you might say Merrill should not qualify for this list.

Between Complex and Low-A, Merrill hit .339 with six home runs and 11 stolen bases in 250 plate appearances. He also had a scorching hot start to the Arizona Fall League but finished just a .261 batting average and one home run in 98 plate appearances. All that to say, Merrill could be in for a massive breakout in 2023 for many reasons.

Merrill’s data is excellent. he made zone-contact 89 percent of the time last season and struck out just 19 percent of the time. On top of that, he has shown high-end exit velocities. He maxed out at 110.4 mph and saw his 90th percentile exit velocity jump to 104 mph this year. Merrill hits the ball hard and hits it consistently.

The concern with Merrill is too many ground balls. Last season, he hit the ball on the ground 59.1 percent of the time. He will have to lift the ball more to get to that home run power. He is capable of lifting it, though. Check out this beautiful uppercut for a home run in the AFL, shoutout Chris Welsh. That is a professional power swing right there. Buy Jackson Merrill this offseason.

San Francisco Giants: Casey Schmitt, 3B

Casey Schmitt ascended through the Giants organization in 2022 and improved at each stop. Some will be quick to point at his age, especially since he started the year in High-A. Schmitt is one of the weird situations that saw his college season ended early due to the pandemic in 2020, and then he did not make his debut until 2021, which came in Low-A. Considering Schmitt’s solid season, there are minimal worries about his.

Between the three levels, Schmitt slashed .293/.365/.489 with 21 home runs. Not to mention he plays gold glove-caliber defense at third base. Schmitt’s exit velocities aren’t elite by any means, but he does hit the ball hard enough to hit for power. Check out his swing below. He creates an easy loft and can get to power naturally. Schmitt may never be a huge stud, be he is going to be a solid MLB player for a long time.

Media and Statistical References: MLB Pipeline, Chris Welsh, Fangraphs

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