Picture of Pete Crow-Armstrong by Todd Johnson

Let’s dive into Baseball America’s updated 2023 prospects. As a reminder, much of the information at Baseball America is behind a paywall. The writers at North Side Bound honor fellow publications decision on utilizing subscription-based content. We will not be posting large sections of the articles, but will include some interesting tidbits.

The Baseball America Top 10

Some of the following are notes from our previous review of Baseball America’s Top 10 release in December.

North Side Bound previously covered Baseball America’s Top 10 so the first ten names shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. PCA leads it off like other major publications have all fall/winter. Other names like Matt Mervis are featured prominently. It is hard not to be impressed with how Matt Mervis is gaining national prospect steam. BA’s ranking of 4 matches Greg Zumach’s ranking and lands one spot higher than Just Baseball and Todd Johnson’s. BA goes on to describe Mervis’s strengths (“demolishing fastballs”, bat speed and arm strength) along with weaknesses (lefties, softer pitches out of the zone). Could Matt Mervis actually land on Top 100 lists this offseason? It’s possible. He slots in behind Kevin Alcántara, who was BA’s 100th overall ranked prospect.

Cade Horton is featured prominently at 5th overall. Cade Horton is a bad man and clearly BA agrees. They gave him a 70 (plus-plus) grade fastball and a 60 (plus) grade slider. Perhaps even more exciting to two members of North Side Bound is that Horton’s fastball is listed as a cut-ride pitch. Baseball America believes he can be a front-line starting pitcher and they have Horton slotted in as the No. 1 starter in their annual 5-year in the future roster predictions. Early discussion from The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney is that Horton is adding a curveball and changeup to those two pitches. 2023 could be the year of Cade Horton as he’s unleashed into the minor leagues.

Surprising rankings and other Notes

We touched on Jordan Wicks ranking 11th and below Caleb Kilian previously so we won’t belabor that point. It still doesn’t feel quite right to the NSB writers.

Owen Caissie sitting at 14 is surprising in a vacuum, but Baseball America tends to put an emphasis on hitting at higher levels unless the player plays a premium position. Caissie has the ability to mash this year for AA Tennessee.

It is phenomenal to see Cam Sanders (28th) be featured on this list though surprising that he is there over Jeremiah Estrada, Bailey Horn, and Luke Little and one spot ahead of Kohl Franklin. According to Lance Brozdowski, Sanders has been utilizing his splitter more in camp and in reports from Sahadev Sharma ($), Sanders is now throwing a sweeper. Sanders not being taken in the Rule 5 was a surprise, but a blessing. We could see a lot of Sanders Shimmies off the Wrigley mound this year.

Baseball America has consistently been the highest publication (23rd) on centerfielder, Darius Hill. BA’s assessment rings as a loud endorsement for the 25-year-old, “Hill’s contact skills and ability to play center field has him in the Cubs outfield plans for 2023. His debut should come during the season”. That would be very fun to see Hill carve out a role, even if it’s just as a contact-heavy 4th outfielder.

Daniel Palenica is given a true “80-grade” fastball and that jives with how we at NSB feel about the pitch.

James Triantos

Admittedly I’m (Greg Z) generally viewed as one of the higher evaluators on James Triantos. I leaned into evaluating James heavily prior to the 2021 draft and had a first round grade on him. The rationale was that Triantos combined an exceptional hit tool, solid pop, and strong infield defense. This evaluation came from utilizing showcase data, video looks either posted publicly or sent to me via Virginia baseball contacts, and discussion with players, coaches, and evaluators in the Northern Virginia area. Greg Huss’s own BASH metric also likes James’ 2022 production. Baseball America is a respected publication, but they and I have just not seen eye-to-eye on Triantos (18th). It’s especially jarring to read their reports on his defense which I viewed in high school as above-average, showing a strong accurate arm and capable of making throws from across the diamond.

Ultimately defense is incredibly difficult to assess and it takes a keen eye. To me, his 2022 season looked inconsistent defensively where at times he showed he could play a solid or better third base and other times took a bad first step leading to having to rush the play. Ultimately that didn’t feel surprising for a 19-year-old in full season ball. Baseball America disagrees noting Triantos “is a well below-average defender at third base with a slow first step and poor balance, and he lacks the range or agility to play second base”. In defense of this, BA noted that Triantos has added weight. But to continue the thought, they noted “Some Cubs officials want to move him to catcher, where his above-average arm strength will play”. Wow. I do think that Triantos has both the arm and the demeanor to catch, but I still find that surprising. I reached out to Virginia baseball contacts and they could not recall a time Triantos suited up as a catcher. Perhaps I’ll go down with the ship that he could be a solid-average infielder. Count me among the believers in Triantos. This is a huge year for him to prove how we (including NSB writers like myself) should project him.

Final Thoughts

It’s always good to hear dissenting opinions and NSB appreciates the work Baseball America writers and analysts put into this report. Make sure to check out the whole article and North Side Bound’s Top 30 to compare and contrast. Consider subscribing to Baseball America as well.