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 13
OF James Wood, Washington Nationals
Part of the return that sent Juan Soto to San Diego, the fifth overall MLB prospect is quickly making a name for himself and sits atop Washington’s prospect rankings list. At 6’7” and 240 lbs, Wood possesses great power to go along with a strong throwing arm and speed one would not expect from an athlete his size. After starting the 2023 season in A+, he made the jump to AA where he has hit a combined .269/.366/.529 with 12 home runs, 52 RBI and 13 stolen bases. The former 2nd round pick (2021) is trending toward a bright MLB career and currently owns the five-tool player tag. As Wood continues his development, he will need to adjust to the advanced pitchers he sees in the high levels of the minor leagues. This is evident in his K% jumping from 25% (2022) to 33% this season. The outfielder should reach AAA by next season, but the Nationals are in no hurry to see the 20-year-old rushed to AAA before he is ready. He has a chance to reach Washington by the end of 2024, but a more realistic target would be the 2025 season. Playing in this year’s SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game will give Wood’s name more exposure, and it is only a matter of time before he starts skyrocketing up fantasy managers’ wish lists.
OF Drew Gilbert, Houston Astros
The 28th pick in last year’s draft out of the University of Tennessee, Drew Gilbert is one of the more interesting prospects especially given he plays in the Astros organization. The Astros have plugged and played Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers and Corey Julks in outfield spots when Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez are in the lineup. The combination of McCormick, Meyers and Julks has produced, but their numbers are far from exciting. That leaves outfield prospect Drew Gilbert with the chance to cement his claim to Houston’s center-field role soon. A future top-of-the-order hitter, Gilbert has close to plus-speed and great hand-eye coordination that leads him to hitting to all parts of the field and barreling the baseball while doing so. He has surprising power for his smaller frame, and he should produce 20+ home runs per season while hitting .270-.290 with 25+ stolen bases. 2023 is his first full season in the minors and through A+/AA he has slashed .270/.378/.438 with eight home runs and eight stolen bases. He should see his stolen base numbers increase as he gets acclimated facing better pitching and polishing his jumps off first base. Fantasy managers should be excited to watch Gilbert progress, and an MLB comparison would be Whit Merrifield with a smaller number of stolen bases, but with more home runs.
RHP Cade Horton, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs selected Horton 7th overall in last year’s draft out of the University of Oklahoma, and he was the second pitcher off the board after Kumar Rocker went 3rd overall to the Texas Rangers. The 2023 season is Horton’s first in the minor leagues, and his success has been immediate to the tune of a 2.93 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 67 strikeouts in 43 innings. The righty has #2 starter potential and brings a mid-to-high 90s fastball coupled with an electric cutter and effective slider. Horton’s calling card is his effectiveness pitching in the zone, and he does not get hurt by doing so. He has pinpoint control, and this has led to only allowing 12 free passes through 11 games started. The Cubs are in no hurry to rush the 21-year-old through the minor league levels as he has yet to surpass 54 innings pitched in the collegiate or minor league level. A realistic expectation would see Horton receive a handful of spot starts during the 2024 season while supplanting a role in the Cubs’ pitching staff during the 2025 season.
LHP Carson Whisenhunt, San Francisco Giants
Considered the best collegiate left-handed pitcher in the 2022 draft, the Giants selected Whisenhunt in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. This season, his first in the minors, Whisenhunt has pitched in three levels (A+, A, AA) compiling a 2.90 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 49 innings. Whisenhunt’s calling card is his outstanding changeup that he pairs with a mid-90s fastball. His changeup has generated one of the highest numbers of swing-and-misses in the minors, and it could solely be responsible for him being selected for this year’s SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. The Giants would like to see the lefty’s slider become a more effective pitch, and its development could be the key to his ascent from AA and AAA. A lot like Cubs prospect Cade Horton, Whisenhunt could be on a similar path to the Majors as he has never pitched more than 62 innings.