Well the 2023 MLB draft has come and gone, the Atlanta Braves officially announced their signing class, and before the trade deadline we wanted to get out the midseason top 25 prospects list. We’ll kick it off today, as we always have in the past, with our honorable mentions on guys that just missed the top 25. Now, not all of these six players were in the 26 to 31 range on our list, but rather interesting names that either just missed or that haven’t gotten attention before despite being solid players.
Ceballos is the only draftee on the honorable mentions (five made the top 25) and was one of the closest shaves to clearing into the top 25. When we expand to a top 30 next spring he is a lock to join that list. Ceballos was the Braves third round pick in the 2023 draft, and quickly we’ve grown to like the combination of a hit tool and power potential. What’s more Ceballos can play a good third base with his hands and reactions, though his top end speed is limited and limits where he can fit in professional baseball. Ceballos had a strong year at Oregon with 18 home runs and a .426 on base percentage, and is a player that we are hopeful will shoot up this list once we get a long look at him against professional competition.
You may not remember this, but back in the 2019 draft Owens was considered one of the gems of that deep class of players. Owens received the same signing bonus as third-round pick Michael Harris II and more than Vaughn Grissom, but his career for various reasons hasn’t taken off in the same way. For one, Owens was unlike those two not on the alternate site in 2020 and thus missed a lot of development time, and since then has battled with injuries. This was always a concern given his size, and his long term future will be in the bullpen although he is currently starting in Mississippi. Owens has a blender for a curveball, and has carved hitters up to the tune of 9.5 K/9 and a 2.27 ERA in Rome. The biggest development has been his command, as he’s only walked 10 batters in 42 innings this season and has been the most consistent pitcher in the lower levels of the system. If we believed he was a starter long term he would likely be in the top 25, but for now he is viewed as an interesting relief prospect who is approaching Rule 5 eligibility and could advance quickly.
Casanova falls into the category of interesting player who hasn’t really gotten much attention yet. His surface level numbers are mediocre at best and coming in the same class as Ambioris Tavarez has overshadowed him a bit. Still, Casanova has been better than Tavarez his entire career, and as a 19 year old this season has put up an 89 wRC+ despite being hurt by a .252 BABIP. Casanova has too much swing-and-miss at this stage and lacks the ability to play a premium defensive position, but he has a solid approach at the plate and burgeoning raw power. Casanova has a solid metric backing with his average and high end exit velocities, and is being held back by a 52% ground ball rate. Given that he is just 19 years old there have been a number of positive signs and he could be a key breakout candidate for 2024.
Luke Waddell Waddell is the most notable absence from the top 25, with the biggest hold-up being his lack of high-end potential. Waddell can undoubtedly hit and despite missing most of 2022 with injury has come back to be the Mississippi Braves’s most consistent offensive threat. He’s also seen a surge in power production this year to a tune of a .156 isolated power, though that’s partially a case of a good run in the past couple of weeks that will even out over time. Hit tools are valuable and Waddell’s is good enough for him to carve out a bench role at the next level, but his lack of foot speed and arm strength limits him to second base and perhaps left field on a regular basis. It’s unlikely that he hits for the power necessary to be an everyday starter, but if he can maintain his current power production he could find a low-end starter role at the next level.
Due to the trade of Victor Vodnik to the Colorado Rockies Waddell has been moved into the top 25.
I’ve talked somewhat about Lara in the past and he is certainly a favorite of mine, fitting in similarly to how Roddery Munoz looked in 2021. There are red flags especially in his command and lack of a third pitch, but there is no doubting the talent on display when you watch Lara pitch. Lara tops out in the upper 90’s with solid carry and he matches that with a potentially above average slider that should give him solid relief potential. Lara has managed a 3.41 FIP at Single-A Augusta this year, and he’s still very young as he was debuted just last summer and went straight from the DSL to Single-A this year as a 20 year old. Lara is tall, athletic, and has elite arm talent but has a lot of development left to learn how to pitch. Lara has been a mild breakout this year and is one that I expect to start getting more attention in 2024.
If Cody Milligan had not spent most of this year injured there was a good chance for him to slide into our top 25. As it is he just missed the top 25 and was a player that I personally had rated safely in that range. His strikeout rates this year have been concerning, but he’s hitting the ball much harder which was the knock on his game before. Milligan has a consistent line drive stroke and a great eye at the plate which gives him solid on base skill, though he will need to cut back closer to what his strikeouts were in past seasons to stick. Defensively his arm limits him, but he is athletic and despite just being moved to center field for the first time in his life last year he has already solidified himself as the system’s best minor league outfielder. Now back healthy Milligan has had a little trouble sliding back into the lineup, but the hope is that he will finish the year strong and he could sneak into the top 30 this spring.