As Spring Training and the WBC are now in full swing, it’s time to shift our focus to the players in camp who are battling it out for coveted spots on Major League rosters. In this article, Fantrax will highlight some under-the-radar prospects who may be considered end-of-draft targets or waiver wire pickups, as well as players who are worth monitoring throughout the year.
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Under-the-Radar Prospects for 2023
Brice Turang, 2B/SS/CF, Milwaukee Brewers
Brice Turang is a highly versatile player for the Milwaukee Brewers who can hold his own up the middle at 2B, SS and even CF. Standing at 6-0 and weighing 176 lbs., Turang is a left-handed batter and right-handed thrower.
Turang was a first-round draft pick (21st overall) of the Brewers in the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft. He hails from a family with a strong baseball background, as his father is former major leaguer Brian Turang. Despite having a commitment to attend Louisiana State University, Turang was given a signing bonus of $3.56 million, well above slot value.
Turang’s defensive skills at SS are impressive, with an exceptional first step, plus range to both sides of his body, and an above-average arm. Some experts even consider him to be the best defensive SS on the Brewers’ 40-man roster right now. However, with Willy Adames firmly established as the starting SS, Turang is being considered for 2B in 2023. Although he has played in the outfield during his minor league career, the Brewers seem confident in keeping him on the infield. Luis Urias is currently listed as both the 2B and 3B, which hints at the team’s need for another infielder. Fans and analysts alike are eagerly anticipating the Spring Training to see where Turang is playing.
Turang’s hitting ability is equally impressive, as he has an excellent feel for the strike zone and can make a fair amount of contact. With the Brewers’ lineup currently dominated by right-handed batters, Turang could provide some much-needed balance in the batting order.
Despite his young age, Turang has already accomplished much in his career, having reached Triple-A at just 21 years old and posting a 99 wRC+ in 44 games despite being one of the youngest players in the league. In 2022, he continued to improve his hitting with a 108 wRC+, 13 home runs, and 24 doubles. Looking ahead to 2023, Turang is expected to hit for a decent average and may be a sneaky source of steals.
Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays
Kyle Manzardo, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound first baseman, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the second round of the 2021 draft. Although he may not have the prototypical physical build of a first baseman, Manzardo compensates with his exceptional ability to consistently make hard contact and control his swing, earning him a favorable comparison to Yandy Diaz.
Across two levels (A+/AA), Manzardo boasted an impressive 160 wRC+ over 90-plus games, with a 15.6% strikeout rate and 11.5% walk rate, while hitting 22 home runs. While projected to begin the season in AAA, his bat is already considered to be at an MLB average level, with the potential to hit around 10-15 home runs when he ultimately reaches the major leagues.
Robert Hassell III, OF, Washington Nationals
Robert Hassell III is a left-handed outfielder with a height of 6-2 and a weight of 195 lbs. He was selected as the eighth player in the 2020 amateur draft and was the first high school player to be chosen in his class. RH3 has a sweet left-handed swing that projects him as a high-average hitter, and he has the potential to hit around 20 home runs per season as a major leaguer. His line-drive power extends to all fields, making him a versatile player.
Hassell was involved in a blockbuster deal by the Padres, which led to the acquisition of superstar outfielder Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals. With his command of the strike zone and contact skills, Hassell is a reliable player who excels in solid outfield defense.
Hassell’s impressive performance during his time in High-A, where he hit for a 135 wRC+ in 75 games, was followed by a struggling performance during a promotion to Double-A. He managed only a 73 wRC+ in 20 games before breaking his hamate in Arizona after the regular season. Although some speculate that the change of scenery has affected his skills, many believe that he will make a significant rebound on prospect rankings in 2023.
Garret Cleavinger, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Garrett Cleavinger, a left-handed reliever, was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2022. Despite his ERA- of 102, which suggests he was an average pitcher, advanced metrics indicate that he was actually 35% better than league average, as demonstrated by his impressive FIP- and xFIP-. Last season, he recorded 32 strikeouts and 7 walks in just 23 innings pitched, relying on his 98 MPH fastball and sweeping slider to get the job done.
Although his stats may not seem impressive due to a couple of homers with runners on base, this is an unfair representation of his true potential. If he can replicate his minor league walk rate, he could be the Rays’ equivalent to Josh Hader in the bullpen.
With an expected workload of around 60 innings, his performance in terms of saves, holds, and wins will be dependent on his role. For those seeking strikeouts and a stabilizing ERA, Cleavinger could be a valuable secret weapon on their fantasy team. Keep an eye out for him when the season begins.
Cade Cavalli, RHP, Washington Nationals
Cade Cavalli is a right-handed starting pitcher hailing from Oklahoma. He was selected in the first round (22nd) of the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft and stands at 6-4 and 232 lbs.
Cavalli has a powerful four-pitch mix, headlined by a four-seam fastball that averages 96 mph and can reach triple digits. Recently, he has been focusing on his secondaries, which include a hard, mid-80s curveball with a 12-to-6 shape and a firm, 87 mph slider that he commands better than his curveball.
Cavalli is actively working to refine his 88 mph changeup, as it could prove to be a valuable weapon in keeping hitters off his heater. During his time in AAA, he showcased his potential by recording a solid 3.71 ERA, 104 strikeouts, and 38 walks in 97 innings pitched. However, his walk rate is around 4 per 9 innings pitched, which occasionally puts him in disadvantageous situations. Nevertheless, his breaking pitches have shown promise, which resulted in his call-up to the Major Leagues in 2023.
Cavalli is expected to continue his development as a starter for the Washington Nationals and is slated to make at least 20 starts in the upcoming season and perform at the level of an SP3.
Curtis Mead, 2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays
Meet Curtis Mead, a 22-year-old baseball player from Adelaide, Australia who has played both 2B and 3B so far in his pro career. In the 2022 season, he split his time between AA and AAA and batted an impressive .298/.390/.532, but unfortunately, an elbow injury kept him sidelined for most of the second half of the season.
The Tampa Bay Rays clearly recognize Mead’s potential, evidenced by his addition to their 40-man roster during the offseason to prevent him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft. Although he is still eligible to be sent to the minors for the next three years, it is anticipated that Mead will join the Tampa Bay Rays sometime in 2023.
Moreover, Mead and the Rays have engaged in talks about a possible contract extension this spring, highlighting the team’s appreciation of his hitting prowess and power. Should Mead secure a deal soon, it would indicate his inclusion in the Opening Day roster for a full MLB season.
Although some evaluators have raised concerns about Mead’s defensive abilities and long-term suitability, his exceptional skills at the plate indicate that he will likely be a game-changing player, regardless of the position he ultimately ends up playing. In terms of fantasy baseball, it will be crucial for Mead to maintain eligibility at both second base and third base.
Got a few under-the-radar prospects of your own? Drop some knowledge in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!