Welcome to Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch! This weekly feature will list and give updates on the best minor-league prospects that are trending up, with a chance to make an impact in the MLB – and for your fantasy baseball teams – sooner rather than later.
Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch Week 18
1B Kyle Manzardo, Cleveland Guardians
The former 2nd round pick (2021) was headed for a starting role with Tampa Bay before he was dealt last week to Cleveland. Now, Cleveland has one of the top first base prospects in all of baseball. The former Washington State Cougar tore through A and AA finishing his first two minor league seasons with an average above .325 while slugging over 1.000. This season has been Manzardo’s first shot at AAA, and it has been a learning curve as his K% (24.5%) has gone up five points compared to last year. Still, Manzardo has made great contact at the plate while hitting 11 home runs and driving in 38 runs across 73 games played. He profiles as more of a contact hitter than power hitter, and this fits the mold as Cleveland has featured numerous hitters that spray the ball, to all parts of the field, while not having the most ideal power numbers. Manzardo should reach the Majors by next season and should be a perennial .300+ hitter with 20-25 home run capability.
SS Jackson Holliday, Baltimore Orioles
Last year’s 1st overall pick is moving quickly through the minor leagues, and he could crack the Orioles lineup next season before his 21st birthday. His baseball IQ is without question his greatest asset, but his smooth, powerful swing allows him to drive balls to all parts of the field and his power numbers will skyrocket as he matures. His 2022 summer debut saw him walk 10 times while striking out only twice. His keen eye at the plate is evident as this season has seen him move through three different levels of baseball while slashing a combined .334/.458/.523 with eight home runs, 53 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Holliday figures to finish out the 2023 season at AA Bowie, but he could make the move to AAA early into the 2024 season. Gunnar Henderson currently starts at SS for Baltimore, but even if Holliday is moved to second base, he will be one of the better options at the position in fantasy baseball.
LHP Drew Rom, St. Louis Cardinals
Fantasy baseball players always get excited for power arms, but there are mid-rotation starters that come in handy each season. J.A. Happ and Drew Smyly come to mind when thinking of back-end starters that do not possess overpowering velocity, and Drew Rom could be the next finesse lefty to aid fantasy teams within the upcoming seasons. His low-90s fastball combined with a deceptive slurve/changeup have played well in his first full season at AAA Norfolk. After finishing the 2022, between AA and AAA, Rom finished with 144 strikeouts in 120 innings. Through 18 starts this season, Rom has 100 strikeouts in 86 innings pitched. One thing to note is his walk rate has increased from 8.8% (2022) to 11.5% (2023). This could be attributed to AAA batters having MLB-ready eyes at the plate as well as needing to use more pitches as hitters battle at the plate. Rom has under-the-radar potential and could play a big factor on fantasy teams especially pitching behind a blossoming Orioles offense.
RHP Blade Tidwell, New York Mets
2023 is Tidwell’s first season in the minors, but last week saw his move to AA after tearing up A+ with a 3.09 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 112 strikeouts in 81.2 innings. Collegiate arms tend to move quickly through the minor leagues and Tidwell could be on the fast-track to Queens. The 6’4” 207lbs righty uses his mid-to-high 90s fastball to get ahead of hitters, and his three secondary pitches (wipeout slider, curve and sinking change) have already given him a repertoire he can thrown in any given count. His walk rate is a modest 13.5%, but there have been noticeable control issues at times, and this is one thing to monitor as he progresses to higher levels in the Mets minor league system. Mid-2024 is a safe estimate as to when Tidwell sees his call to the Mets, and he possesses upside to be a #2 or #3 starter.
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