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 23
OF Dylan Crews, Washington Nationals
Organizations that draft collegiate hitters in the first two rounds tend to do fantasy managers a favor in terms of how quickly the prospects reach the Majors. Drafted second overall in this year’s draft, outfielder Dylan Crews should not only move quickly through the the minor leagues, but he has a strong chance of finding himself in the Nationals’ lineup by July of the 2024 season. The young outfielder possesses a plus-plus hit tool, and his plus-power is consistent to all parts of the field. In his final season at LSU, Crews slashed .426/.567/.713 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs. While he may never reach 25+ steals, Crews possesses adequate speed and should reach double-digit steals on a consistent basis. All signs point to Crews being on his way to being an annual second or third-round fantasy pick, and the Nationals outfield has a bright future with prospects the likes of Crews, James Wood and Elijah Green.
SS Jackson Merrill, San Diego Padres
Drafted 27th overall in the 2021 draft, Merrill has little left to prove before he finds himself in San Diego. With Xander Bogaerts joining the Padres last off-season, Merrill could find himself shifting to second or outfield to have a spot in the Padres’ lineup. This season has been a big step forward for Merrill, who is slashing a combined .281/.329/.451 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs across A and AA. A left-handed hitter with above-average power, Merrill set a career-best mark in home runs this season (15), and he will continue to get stronger as he adds muscle to his 6’3” frame. Defensively, his strong arm will allow the Padres to move Merrill across the diamond should shortstop never materialize. On track to reach San Diego next season, the young infielder was the top prospect the Padres held onto in the trade that saw them acquire Juan Soto.
RHP Rhett Lowder, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds’ organization has some of the best pitching prospects in MLB, and the past few seasons have seen several of them reach the Majors. This past season, they used the seventh overall pick to draft right-handed pitcher Rhett Lowder. One of the best collegiate arms available in this year’s draft, Lowder finished his final season at Wake Forest 15-0 with a 1.87 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, and 143 strikeouts in 120 innings. While his fastball sits in the mid-90s and tops out at 97 MPH, his fading changeup was arguably the best among his peers. His changeup keeps both righties and lefties off stride while generating numerous swings and misses. His slider has gained sweep action and plays well given the three-quarter slot he throws from. Lowder will probably spend the majority of next season at different levels in the minors, but he has all the makings of being a top-tier middle-rotation starting pitcher.
RHP Jared Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates saw signs of success early into 2023 but came back to reality as the summer rolled around. While number-one overall pick Paul Skenes is the highly anticipated Pirate prospect for fantasy players to wait on, right-handed pitcher Jared Jones could be valuable to fantasy managers as well. A power pitcher himself, Jones lights up the radar gun, sitting consistently between 96-99 MPH. His slider and curve have been strikeout pitches, and the development of his slider will only aid in him staying a starting pitcher when he is ready for his call to Pittsburgh. Jones has pitched at AA and AAA this season, owning a combined 5.17 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP, and 132 strikeouts in 115 innings. Pitching at AAA has seen Jones face adversity as he posted a 2.23 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP for AA Altoona. Should Jones continue to learn how to pitch in the strike zone and develop his changeup, he has the chance to be a highly successful three or four starting pitcher. Should control be an issue as he progresses through the innings, Jones has the makeup of being an electric closer, and one fantasy players would love to roster.