Bold predictions for 2023 for MLB’s best prospects

It’s over! ESPN MLB drafts and prospects expert Kiley McDaniel this week ranked his top 100 MLB prospects for 2023, and now it’s time to have some fun with them.

We asked our MLB pundits to give us a bold 2023 prediction for the top 100 prospects they’re most looking forward to heading into the upcoming season — and there were plenty of electrifying options to choose from.

From the players set to win Rookie of the Year honors to this season’s “breakout stars,” here’s what our experts had to say about this year’s top talent.

Which future star is number 1? Kiley’s Top 100 Prospects »

Gunnar Henderson (3B): American League Rookie of the Year

The easiest of all big prize predictions is Henderson for AL Rookie of the Year because when the Baltimore Orioles leadership finally allowed him to be promoted to the big leagues, he demonstrated the impact he will have. A rival AL East staffer said, “Yes, he’s going to be a problem.” His athleticism, presence and confidence will have reviewers wondering for years to come how he held out through the 2019 draft’s 42nd pick. – Buster Olney

Corbin Carroll (CF): Will lead the National League in stolen bases and triples

It’s not exactly a bold prediction to say that Carroll will win NL Rookie of the Year since he’s a top prospect. So let’s be bolder: With his blistering speed, Carroll will lead the NL in stolen bases and triples and become one of the best leadoff hitters and most exciting players in the game. And here’s the kicker: He’ll do it for an Arizona Diamondbacks team that wins a wild card. – David Schoenfield

Anthony Volpe (SS): Will be the Yankees’ first shortstop of the second half

The New York Yankees shouldn’t push their top contender into the big leagues if they already have Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera in their roster. Given that Volpe doesn’t have much experience over Double-A, they should allow him to gain more insight into pitching at a higher level and give him some input at the major league level. With Yankees fans complaining about shortstop, expectations are high for Volpe. Giving him the spotlight should make for a smooth transition for a young player who the franchise hopes to become a superstar. – Joon Lee

Francisco Alvarez (C): Will take on catching duties for the Mets sometime this season

It’s true — at least according to one scout — that Alvarez needs a little more spice at Triple-A. After all, he only played 45 games there last year, but that doesn’t mean he needs another full season in the minors.

Remember when Steve Cohen thought the New York Mets needed another bat — hence the Carlos Correa pursuit? Unless Omar Navarez returns to his 2019 form or Tomas Nido suddenly finds offensive play, Alvarez will be needed in the batter’s box, even if he’s not behind the plate every day. By June he will be up. – Jesse Rogers

Elly De La Cruz (SS): Will this year’s Michael Harris II

To get straight to the point, the Harris comparison revolves almost entirely around De La Cruz’s projected big league schedule as well as his ability to make a serious push for Rookie of the Year honors. With his skill, enthusiasm and lack of high-profile competition on the Cincinnati Reds roster, De La Cruz will be in the majors sooner than you think, with a very real shot at owning a 19-homer, 20-steal rookie campaign. – Tristan Cockcroft

Andrew Painter (RHP): Will be the Phillies’ No. 3 starter through September

Painter, the 13th overall pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2021, dominated three minor league levels last season as a 19-year-old and was named Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline (1.56 ERA, 155-25 K- BB in 103⅔IP). His four-pitch repertoire and precocious command put him in the fast lane who could be behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler by the end of the season. – Paul Hembekides

Jordan Walker (RF): Will push his way into the big league squad in St. Louis

It might not be outside of spring training, but Walker might as well. Obviously, it’s harder for a prospect to crack a good team’s roster, and the St. Louis Cardinals have one of the best rosters in MLB.

If you see the power Walker’s racquet generates and the consistency of his professional record to date, he will be too good to stay at Springfield. And if he’s with the majors, he won’t sink on the bench, so we might see the Cardinals come into the trade market to clear a spot for him and add depth elsewhere, likely in the bullpen. Whatever the outcome, the Cardinals will operate from a position of strength. Walker will be too, by the way. – Bradford Doolittle

Kyle Harrison (LHP): Will be the Giants’ No. 2 starter through August

The San Francisco Giants, the best starting pitcher in years, look a little like Madison Bumgarner until he lets go of the ball and a little like Carlos Rodon after that. He’s only 21, but after two seasons on three levels and a 14.6K/9, he’s running out of leagues to dominate. – Tim Keown

Diego Cartaya (C): Will Smith be the next one – or better

By the end of the year, one has to wonder if Cartaya can be as good – if not better – than Smith, the current Los Angeles Dodgers catcher. Smith, 27, is already one of the sport’s greatest catchers. But Cartaya’s combination of skills and on-base power, along with his plus-arm strength and ever-improving defense, will soon have industry executives wondering if Smith might actually be expendable.

“Will is an all-star,” said one longtime scout. “Cartaya has a chance to become a cornerstone.” — Alden Gonzales

Miguel Vargas (3B): Will receive top rookie honors

Vargas would have helped the Dodgers last season if they’d just let him. While he usually played third base, he’s their second baseman this year, and his combination of strength, patience, and speed (let’s say .280/.360/.475, with 15 homers, 15 stolen bases, 75 runs) deserves him top spot -NL Rookie Honors. – Eric Karabell

Tanner Bibee (RHP): Will be the Cleveland Pitching Factory’s latest late-round success story

Last year I picked a pitcher who was the third right-hander from his own team on Kiley’s list and said he was the best pitcher in baseball. Eury Perez made me look very smart. I’m not suggesting that Bibee — who is behind Daniel Espino and Gavin Williams — will be the best pitching prospect in baseball, or even on his own team.

But maybe Shane Bieber potential? Someone with exquisite fastball skill (and high 90s speed), three other good pitches (especially his slider and changeup), and a high floor and ceiling? This is Bibee. Another low-round pick (fifth round, 2021), another success story, and another year of the Cleveland Guardians reminding the league that nobody develops pitchers better. -Jeff Passan

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