10 most fascinating MLB prospects: Here are 4 hitters and 6 pitchers to watch in the minor leagues

From super speedsters to two-way players and strike-throwing machines, these prospects have our attention.

As the 2024 MLB season rolls on, thousands of additional players are competing at various levels of affiliated minor league baseball, hoping to impress the right people in an effort to advance their dreams of one day becoming big leaguers.

Here are 10 minor leaguers whose stats — and stories — have caught my attention over the first few months, all of whom could make that dream a reality if they continue to make the necessary progress.

Simpson might be the fastest player in organized baseball, and his ridiculous speed has been on display since his amateur days. As a junior at Georgia Tech, Simpson scored from second base on a sacrifice fly. Yes, you read that right.

How has that speed manifested in pro ball? A second-round pick in 2022, Simpson led all of MiLB with 94 steals in 115 games in his full-season debut in 2023. But more importantly for his future as a viable big-league regular, he has continued to collect a bevy of base hits while rarely striking out, enabling his otherworldly wheels to play at a meaningful level. Simpson, who was recently promoted to Double-A, is leading all qualified minor-league hitters with a .365 batting average and is striking out less than 10% of the time. And, obviously, he is leading MiLB in steals with 47 in 51 games — 10 more than the guy in second place.

The only catch? There is zero slug to speak of. Simpson hit one home run in 115 career collegiate contests, and his lone homer through his first 171 pro games was, unsurprisingly, of the inside-the-park variety. On the 20-80 scouting scale, Simpson has 90-grade speed and 10-grade power. But with an above-average hit tool and improving defense in center field after he spent most of his college days as a middle infielder, there is a great chance that Simpson will eventually contribute at the big-league level – perhaps even soon.

A three-star quarterback prospect in high school in North Carolina, McLean’s supreme athleticism as a rocket-armed pitcher and corner bat with serious power had MLB teams intrigued back in 2020, before he matriculated to Oklahoma State. Although he ditched the two-sport dream in Stillwater, McLean continued to show promise as a two-way player on the diamond. In three years as a Cowboy, he hit .270/.396/.560 while striking out 76 batters in 57 1/3 frames, primarily out of the bullpen, including notching 11 saves.

But given his control issues on the mound (13% walk rate) and sky-high strikeout rate at the plate (35%!), big-league clubs were wary of investing too much in McLean out of the draft. Draft-eligible as a sophomore in 2022, he opted not to sign with Baltimore when they selected him with the first pick of the third round, hoping to boost his stock as a junior. As it turned out, McLean went in the third round again in 2023 and signed with the Mets for a bonus of nearly $750,000.

That’s a fairly compelling path to pro ball, but things have only gotten more interesting since McLean joined the Mets organization. Not only have the Mets continued to let him play both ways, but they are also developing him on the mound as a starting pitcher, despite his having made only three starts in college. And the results have been downright fascinating.

While McLean has managed to slug a respectable .463 in 119 plate appearances with some highlight-reel homers mixed in, concerns about his ability to make contact at the pro level have been thoroughly validated. His 48.8% strikeout rate is far beyond what is remotely palatable for a hitting prospect. Just 10 qualified hitters are currently striking out more than 30% of the time in MLB, but none is above 40%. McLean has struck out multiple times in all but seven of his 31 games as a designated hitter; that’s a ridiculous amount of strikeouts.

And so, as fun as the two-way experiment has been to watch, it’s fairly obvious that McLean’s future is on the mound. New York has to be thrilled with the progress he has made throwing strikes and pitching deeper into games. If he can continue to harness his stuff and develop a third pitch beyond his mid-90s heater and high-spin slider, a future in the Mets’ rotation seems plausible. Otherwise, he could probably be a pretty nasty reliever sooner rather than later. Promoted to Double-A last month, McLean could arrive in Queens at some point in 2025 if his progress on the mound continues at an accelerated pace.

The Rays' Chandler Simpson and the Mets' Nolan McLean are two of the hitters to watch in minor league baseball. (Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)
The Rays' Chandler Simpson and the Mets' Nolan McLean are two of the hitters to watch in minor league baseball. (Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)

Injuries limited Meidroth early in his college career at the University of San Diego, but it didn’t take long for his prospect stock to climb once he was healthy and playing regularly. That began in the summer of 2021, when he hit .345 and drew an astonishing 40 walks compared to just 13 strikeouts in the highly competitive Northwoods League. He carried that momentum into his junior spring with the Toreros, when he displayed markedly more power to go with his elite plate discipline skills.

A fourth-round pick by Boston in 2022, Meidroth has continued to demonstrate his advanced aptitude at the plate while rapidly climbing the MiLB ladder. It’s one thing to do it in a collegiate summer league against varying competition, but Meidroth is now running an exceptional BB:K rate as a 22-year-old in Triple-A — 51 walks to 28 strikeouts, to be exact — while rotating among second base, third base and shortstop for Boston’s Worcester affiliate. While Meidroth has modest power, his .364 SLG% has more to do with his struggles elevating the baseball than with hitting the ball hard, as evidenced by his 55% ground-ball rate. Considering his OBP skills, this version of Meidroth could probably succeed at the next level, but if he can find a way to get the ball in the air more consistently, a further breakout could be in store.

Meidroth has long been a personal favorite, but if multi-positional players who walk more than they strike out are up your alley, here are a few more names with similar profiles to keep an eye on, all of whom are performing well in Triple-A: Yankees 2B/3B/SS Caleb Durbin, Astros 1B/2B/3B Will Wagner, Cardinals 2B/3B Nick Dunn, Marlins SS/2B/CF Javier Sanoja and Nationals SS/3B Jack Dunn.

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As Meidroth was climbing into the middle range of Boston’s top-30 prospect lists, Lugo appeared to be heading in the opposite direction — or so we thought. For comparison, MLB Pipeline tabbed Meidroth as Boston’s 17th-best prospect entering the season, while Baseball America had him at No. 12. Lugo, meanwhile, had completely fallen off both outlets’ Top 30 lists despite appearing regularly on such lists in the four seasons since Boston selected him in the second round of the 2019 draft. This exclusion wasn’t unwarranted by any stretch; Lugo was coming off a wholly underwhelming campaign in which he posted a .677 OPS with a 28% strikeout rate in 83 games in Double-A. Still just 22, Lugo wasn’t completely off the radar entering 2024, but there wasn’t exactly a ton of buzz.

So why is Lugo on this list? Because he returned to Double-A Portland this year and started to absolutely rake, hitting .315/.405/.664 in 43 games before a recent promotion to Triple-A, where he promptly homered in two of his first three games with Worcester. Originally drafted as a shortstop before dabbling at second and third base in recent seasons, Lugo has played only outfield in 2024, primarily left. That move down the defensive spectrum is usually not a good sign for a prospect, but if you’re hitting like Lugo is, it becomes far less of a concern.

While we’ll need to see Lugo’s production continue at Triple-A over an extended period before reassessing him too aggressively, the 23-year-old’s bounceback is an undeniably promising development. The Puerto Rico native is now squarely back on the prospect map, joining an already deep group of position players atop Boston’s farm system. Bonus fun fact: Carlos Beltran is Lugo’s uncle.

It has been a wild journey to this point for the 24-year-old righty reliever who currently boasts some of the more bonkers stats of any pitcher in minor-league baseball: 0.35 ERA in 26 IP with 50 (!!!) strikeouts, eight walks and just 10 hits allowed. Yoho was promoted to Double-A earlier this month.

Elbow and knee injuries derailed Yoho’s original ambitions to be a position player at the University of Houston. The Fishers, Indiana, native then transferred closer to home to Indiana University, where he moved to the mound and found tremendous success out of the bullpen as a 23-year-old redshirt senior who had barely played any college baseball because of all his injuries.

Milwaukee gave him a $10,000 signing bonus in the eighth round a year ago, and all Yoho has done is keep on shoving, thanks to a wicked two-seamer and two outstanding secondary pitches in his curveball and changeup. Few teams have been better at identifying unusual yet electric stuff on the mound than Milwaukee in recent years. If Yoho can stay healthy, he might be the latest and greatest example.

The first thing you need to know about this 21-year-old lefty is that he has a 1.97 ERA in 59 1/3 IP this year, with a whopping 99 punchouts across two levels of A-ball. The second thing you need to know about Wilkinson is that his nickname is “Tugboat,” given to him by a family friend who thought the pace at which he ran around the bases as a kid was similar to the speed of, well, a tugboat. At age 12, Wilkinson starred for Team Canada at the 2015 Little League World Series. Six years later, the Vancouver native came stateside to pitch at Central Arizona College, one of the premier junior college programs in the country. In 2023, Wilkinson’s 1.07 ERA across 84 innings with 136 strikeouts earned him the NJCAA Division I Pitcher of the Year award, and he was selected by Cleveland in the 10th round last July.

Despite a fastball that sits around 90 mph, Wilkinson’s exceptional command and deception due to his low-slot delivery enabled his excellence at the junior-college level and a similar degree of dominance in his first full season of pro ball. It remains to be seen how his arsenal, which also features a changeup and slider, will play as he continues to climb the minor-league ladder. But if you like dudes who just know how to pitch — not to mention one with a nickname and personality worthy of fan-favorite status, regardless of his outlandish K/9 — Wilkinson is your guy. Tugboat Forever.

Mathews made headlines a year ago when he struck out 16 Texas Longhorns in a 156-pitch complete game in the Super Regional to help Stanford advance to the College World Series. It was an epic way to punctuate a fantastic senior season in which the left-hander went over 100 pitches in 15 of his 18 starts, though his outlandish workload both during the season and in that memorable outing prompted a barrage of questions and concerns across the industry about how it might impact his ability to perform at the next level. Nevertheless, St. Louis selected Mathews in the fourth round thanks to his advanced pitchability that profiled well as a potential back-end starter.

How has Mathews held up in his first year of pro ball after throwing more than 2,000 pitches for Stanford last spring? He hasn’t just held up; he has already blasted past expectations and is throwing significantly harder than he did in college. A fastball that was parked in the low-90s at Stanford has averaged close to 95 mph this season, maxing out at 97 on a handful of occasions. And as the stuff has ticked up, the results have followed: Mathews has punched out 92 batters in 61 2/3 innings across both levels of A-ball, and his .141 batting average against is the lowest among all MiLB arms with at least 50 innings pitched.

Double-A looms as a more instructive test — Mathews was arguably overqualified for A-ball even before his arsenal leveled up in a big way — but this is still quite the trajectory so far for the lanky lefty, and one of the most interesting characters in recent college baseball history is suddenly just as intriguing as a pro prospect.

It took Matthews six starts, a promotion to Double-A and four more innings in his seventh start before he issued his first free pass of 2024. More precisely, the 24-year-old went 38 1/3 frames to open the season without walking someone — and he has walked only one other batter in 14 innings since then.

An eighth-round pick out of Western Carolina University in 2022, Mathews’ senior season with the Catamounts stood out for his exquisite 122-21 K-BB ratio, a mark he improved upon in his first full year of pro ball in 2023, with 112 strikeouts to just 15 walks across both levels of A-ball. Now, an advanced college arm excelling in A-ball might not be enough to write home about on its own, but Matthews’ leap forward with both his already great command and his previously mediocre arsenal has evaluators very excited about his potential, and he hasn’t skipped a beat since his promotion, posting a 1.21 ERA in five starts with Wichita.

A fastball that previously touched only the upper-90s during Matthews’ occasional bullpen outings in college is now regularly sitting 95 mph for entire starts, with his cutter and slider go-to secondary pitches. And despite throwing an unparalleled number of pitches in the strike zone, Matthews has allowed a batting average against of just .180. His 0.688 WHIP is comfortably the lowest among MiLB pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched. Also, let’s be real: Baseball has enough Kyles and Austins and Tylers and Justins – how can you not root for a dude named Zebby?

Let’s start with the obvious: Among 224 pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched in the minor leagues this year, Evans’ 1.14 ERA in 55 1/3 frames for Double-A Arkansas is the lowest. That’s impressive for anyone, let alone a 12th-round pick from last year’s draft who had a 6.78 ERA in 138 collegiate innings at two different schools (first Penn State, then Pitt).

Results aside, Evans’ frame, mechanics and arsenal were ripe for the renowned Mariners pitching development apparatus to get their hands on and help maximize, and, boy, have they done that over the past calendar year. Not only has Evans’ velocity ticked up to where he is touching 99 mph after sitting low-90s in college, but also his entire repertoire has been polished to where he now has multiple plus secondaries, including a particularly devastating slider. What makes Evans so fascinating isn’t just how good he has gotten so quickly; it’s also how Seattle is choosing to handle his sudden prospect status.

As president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said in a recent interview with the Seattle Times, Evans “could go out and ‘Bob Gibson’ the Texas League, or we could see if he could help us here,” indicating the organization’s intention to fast-track the 23-year-old righty to Seattle as soon as this season. Unlike a few other notable (and successful) starter-to-reliever transitions we’ve seen in this organization, such as Edwin Diaz in 2016 or Matt Brash in 2022, this is less about how Evans profiles — Seattle still views him as a starter long-term — and more about the opportunity the Mariners have to win the AL West combined with a growing internal need for bullpen depth.

The organization clearly already views Evans as one of its best available arms, and it is priming him for a relief role later this summer. Evans has already made three relief appearances with Arkansas and is focused on learning how to pitch with fewer days of rest between outings, albeit shorter ones. If all goes well, it seems like we’ll see Evans in the big-league bullpen at some point in the second half — an unfathomable notion a year ago.

This dude is already pretty famous for someone who turned 20 just a few months ago. Originally signed by San Diego out of the Dominican Republic for a $1.7 million bonus, Susana was the youngest player in the mega-haul sent to the Nationals in exchange for Juan Soto at the 2022 trade deadline. Although his 5.14 ERA in 63 innings with Low-A Fredericksburg last year didn’t exactly catapult Susana up prospect lists, the raw stuff remains ever-tantalizing — and that was on display earlier this year, when the gargantuan right-hander touched 103 mph in a big-league spring training game against the Mets.

Back in Fredericksburg in 2024, things don’t appear to be going much better on the surface: Susana is walking hitters at the same 14% clip he was a year ago, and his ERA has actually gone up to a less-than-stellar 6.44. But he might be turning a corner ever so slowly, as he has delivered five scoreless innings in each of his past two starts. His 22% strikeout rate last season — a stunningly average mark for someone with his high-powered repertoire — has leapt to a more appropriate 31% through 10 starts this season. Even more encouraging is that he is getting a ton of grounders – 65.1%, one of the highest marks of any MiLB starter – to go with his newfound collection of punchouts. While a preposterous .420 BABIP against has wrecked Susana’s run prevention, there’s a lot going right under the hood, at least besides the continued issues with walks.

There is still a ton of refinement that needs to happen for Susana to be more seriously considered one of the game’s top starting pitching prospects, from his need to rein in his shoddy control to the development of a third pitch beyond his high-80s slider. We’ll also need to cross our fingers that a pitcher throwing this hard at this age can stay healthy for the long haul. Still, few minor-league pitchers possess the pure arm talent of Susana, which makes him unquestionably one of the more captivating players to follow this year and beyond.