Top MLB Prospects: Rookies Taj Bradley, Brett Baty, more emerge as top sleepers in fantasy baseball leagues

Every year, there are several top prospects and impactful rookies that owners miss out on in their fantasy baseball drafts. These youngsters can end up being the most important picks and waiver-wire pickups, as they have the potential to be league winners or huge busts. Due to the risk-reward ratio, it’s important to identify which young stars can help owners the most at various points in the season. 

This year, Jordan Walker, Gunnar Henderson, Anthony Volpe, and Corbin Carroll topped our fantasy baseball prospect rankings. For every successful prospect debut (Walker, Carroll), there are plenty that struggle out of the gate (Volpe and Henderson). For owners that missed out on the aforementioned players, there’s no need to worry. The next batch of prospects is getting promoted with the recent arrivals of Taj Bradley and Brett Baty, among others.

The three things we look for most when evaluating a prospect are opportunity, team situation, on-base ability (hitters), or K-to-BB ratio (pitchers). It is also important to remain patient, as many prospects will have their ups and downs.

Today, we’ll identify which of the recently promoted prospects to target and which still in the minors could be seeing their names on big-league rosters shortly. Let’s dig into the next wave of players that owners should roster, and as always, be sure to follow RotoBaller for all the fantasy baseball news you need to stay up to date with prospects throughout the season.

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Top MLB Prospects: Best fantasy baseball rookies, sleepers to watch

By Danny Burdeen

Brett Baty, 3B, New York Mets

After a very strong showing in spring training, Baty was a surprise cut by a Mets team that has shown its willingness to win at all costs. He didn’t take his demotion lightly and lit up Triple-A to the tune of a .400 batting average to go along with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 35 at-bats. Baty’s only issue was suffering soreness in his right thumb and missing a couple of games. Despite the Mets’ reluctance to bench a struggling Eduardo Escobar at the hot corner, Baty forced their hand and was promoted on Monday.

The power numbers in the minors look great for the 23-year-old lefty, but even more impressive were his seven walks. When identifying young players, two things I greatly value are his ability to get on base and avoid strikeouts. Baty’s seven walks were just two fewer than his nine strikeouts, and that’s a step in the right direction despite the small sample size.

Baty got a cup of coffee with the big-league squad at the end of 2022, but he struggled with a .184 batting average to go along with a pair of homers and five RBIs over just 38 at-bats. It’s nice that he was able to get that opportunity and shake the jitters of his big-league debut, which can be beneficial in his second go around. It is also important to note that he will be playing every day, and that’s one less thing for the youngster and fantasy owners to worry about. The bottom line for Baty is that he offers fantasy owners the potential to be a league changer with his ability to hit for both power and average while getting on base. His speed won’t blow anyone away, but at a thin position, Baty can be a difference-maker. With both opportunity and a good lineup, Baty is worth a roster spot in all formats.

Taj Bradley, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

Switching sides of the field, the next prospect that can make an immediate impact is Bradley. The Rays’ top youngster and consensus top-20 prospect was called up this past week with Zach Eflin (back) landing on the 15-day injured list. Despite an impressive debut of five innings in which he allowed five hits, three runs, and a walk with eight strikeouts, Bradley was sent packing back to Triple-A after the game. The following day, Rays starter Jeffrey Springs suffered an elbow injury and is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery.

The 22-year-old righty got the call on Tuesday against the Reds and put together another dominant performance in which he went 5.1 scoreless innings and allowed three hits and a walk while striking out nine. He now has an impressive 17:2 K:BB rate through his first two starts. Bradley has excelled throughout the minor leagues with a 2.66 ERA and 10 K/9 in 317 innings. Even more impressive was his 1.07 WHIP, showing he can limit runners.

The Rays have a history of ensuring their prospects are fully seasoned before hitting the big leagues, and Bradley has shown enough growth to keep him on the big-league squad for the long term. The 6-2, 190-pound righthander throws a fastball that can reach up to 98 mph with good secondary pitches that includes a cutter and split-finger changeup. Between the combination of opportunity, the Rays’ willingness to win, and his strikeout potential, Bradley checks all the boxes as a potential league-winner across all formats in 2023. Fantasy owners shouldn’t hesitate to grab this talented arm before it’s too late.

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Five prospects to watch in fantasy baseball redraft leagues:

Zach Neto, SS, Los Angeles Angels. The 2022 first-round pick raked in Double-A and has been given an everyday role at the big-league level at the leadoff spot after just 44 career games in the minors. He provides good pop at shortstop.

Matthew Liberatore, SP, St. Louis Cardinals. The lefty struggled in his debut last year, but he’s been lights out in Triple-A this season with a 1.06 ERA and 24 strikeouts over his first 17 innings (three starts). He should get a chance with the Cardinals sooner than later.

Brandon Pfaadt, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s picked it up after a rough opening game and led the minors in strikeouts in 2022. He’s likely the next man up if the D-backs make a change in the rotation or suffer an injury.

Endy Rodriguez, C/2B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates. This talented catcher offers a rare blend of power/speed with good on-base skills and versatility. The rebuilding Pirates are expected to give him a good look in 2023.

Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays. Manzardo is an on-base machine who has found some power and is likely to make his debut sooner than later for the red-hot Rays

Others to keep an eye on: Elly De La Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Matt Mervis, Jordan Westburg, Gavin Stone

Five prospects to watch in fantasy baseball dynasty leagues:

Andrew Painter, SP, Philadelphia Phillies. Arguably the best arm in all of the minors, Painter is recovering from elbow surgery and has resumed throwing. He recorded a 2.17 ERA with 155 strikeouts in 103.2 innings across between Single-A, High-A, and Double-A in 2022 at just 19.

Jordan Lawlar, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks. Lawlar is a potential five-tool star who’s slashing .276/.417/.969 with two homers, five RBIs, and four stolen bases over his first 29 at-bats.

Jasson Dominguez, OF, New York Yankees. Dominguez is another potential five-tool star in the making. Has struggled at Double-A early on, but he’s a career .259 hitter with 21 homers, 78 RBIs, and 51 stolen bases in 184 games throughout the lower levels

Tink Hence, SP, St. Louis Cardinals. Hence is one of the more promising arms in the minors with a fastball that can reach 99 mph and plus secondary pitches. He’s likely to rise through the Cardinals’ system but also have an innings limit.

Masyn Winn, SS, St. Louis Cardinals. After his strong spring, Winn would likely be on the big-league club if there was room. He offers both pop and speed from the shortstop position. 

Others to keep an eye on: Eury Perez, Druw Jones, Marco Luciano, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Marcelo Mayer