5 MLB Position Player Prospects Making Waves at Spring Training

Jesse Pantuosco
March 05, 2020 - 3:07 pm

I hope you brought your Oakleys because the future of MLB is bright. Like SPF 50 bright. Last year’s prospect class brought us a treasure trove of young talent—Pete Alonso, Yordan Alvarez and Fernando Tatis Jr. wasted no time in becoming big-league difference-makers while Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez showed similar promise in their debut seasons. And this year’s batch of youngsters should be no different.

Leading the charge are consensus top prospect Wander Franco (who has to wait another two years to purchase a White Claw variety pack) and Dodgers prodigy Gavin Lux, who got his feet wet as a September call-up last year and should be a fixture at Chavez Ravine soon enough. Reigning Golden Spikes Award winner Adley Rutschman (a first-round pick of the Orioles last summer) and Pale Hose slugger Luis Robert are other names worth earmarking as the season approaches.

John Healy got the ball rolling with a deep dive into pitchers last week, so I’ll change it up by taking the temperature of non-hurlers across the sport. Here are five up-and-comers who have already made an impact this spring.

Giants catching prospect Joey Bart has had an impressive spring
Photo credit Jamie Schwaberow, Getty Images

Joey Bart, C, San Francisco Giants

Joey Bart has swung a hot stick in Scottsdale, manhandling Cactus League pitching to the tune of an outrageous .545 average through six games. They haven’t been cheapies either as two of his six hits in the early going, including a solo bomb off Kansas City’s Yunior Marte, have gone for extra bases. The smooth-hitting 23-year-old has produced at a similarly explosive clip in the minors, logging an eye-popping .316/.368/.544 triple slash over 22 showings for Double-A Richmond at the end of last season.

Drafted second overall out of Georgia Tech in 2018, the former ACC Player of the Year could see a call-up this year, though his emergence may complicate where the team stands with declining All-Star Buster Posey. The former MVP is coming off his worst season (career-low .257 average in 405 at-bats) but the long-time Giants backstop remains a fan favorite, and a highly-compensated one at that (he’s owed a hefty $64.8 million over the next three seasons). As injuries and the expected wear-and-tear of catching have both taken their toll, Posey has seen increased usage at first base (201 career starts) and his migration there should become permanent once Bart arrives as a full-time big-leaguer.

Phillies prospect Alec Bohm representing Team USA in Tokyo
Photo credit Kiyoshi Ota, Getty Images

Alec Bohm, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

No. 30 in MLB.com’s current prospect rankings, Alec Bohm has future star written all over him. The 6’5” corner infielder lived up to his first-round billing (the Phillies drafted him third overall out of Wichita State in 2018) with a superb 2019, compiling a .305 average with 21 round-trippers and 80 RBI between stops in Lakewood (Low-A), Clearwater (Advanced-A) and Double-A Reading. Last year’s success has carried over into spring training as Bohm’s early Grapefruit League returns have been extremely promising. Bohm hasn’t quite found his power stroke yet (no homers) but he’s made excellent contact, hitting at a robust .467 clip with just one strikeout in 15 at-bats this spring.

There’s no room at the inn right now with two-time All-Star Jean Segura seemingly entrenched at third base and some have already questioned whether Bohm, never the most sure-handed fielder, will stick at the hot corner long-term. But after sporting a worrying .246 team average last season (ninth-lowest in MLB), the light-hitting Phils could certainly use his offense. A September call-up, or an even earlier audition (injuries could force the Phillies’ hand) remain a distinct possibility for the talented 23-year-old.

Cardinals farmhand Dylan Carlson competing in the All-Star Futures Game in Cleveland
Photo credit Jason Miller, Getty Images

Dylan Carlson, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

After four years incubating in the Cardinals’ farm system, Dylan Carlson may finally be ready to make the leap. The 2016 first-rounder is hoping to graduate to the bigs after putting on an absolute clinic in the minors last year. His 2019 accomplishments included 26 round-trippers, 20 thefts on the base paths and a flashy .292 average across 489 at-bats for Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. The jump in levels didn’t faze Carlson in the slightest as the 21-year-old quickly outgrew Triple-A, roaring to a booming .361 average in 72 eye-opening at-bats for the Redbirds.

Carlson has spent the spring making his bid for an Opening Day roster spot, impressing with eight hits and nine runs scored through 20 Grapefruit League at-bats (.400 AVG). With left field seemingly up-for-grabs in the wake of Marcell Ozuna’s free-agent exodus (Tommy Edman will see reps there, though he appears ticketed for a super utility role), don’t be surprised if Carlson joins the big-league ranks sooner rather than later, particularly if his spring heroics continue.

Nationals shortstop prospect Luis Garcia holds a bat during a team photo shoot
Photo credit Michael Reaves, Getty Images

Luis Garcia, SS, Washington Nationals

Remember the simple elegance of landline phones and AOL dial-up? Luis Garcia doesn’t. Heck, he probably doesn’t even remember TiVo. Garcia may not know what it’s like to live in a world without Netflix, but the 19-year-old certainly knows how to play shortstop and his bat is improving by the day. He’s been piping hot this spring, terrorizing the Grapefruit League with a blistering .462 average through 13 at-bats.

Garcia hasn’t been an especially prolific power hitter throughout his minor-league reign (12 homers in 1,224 lifetime at-bats), but that perceived shortcoming didn’t stop him from going yard off Jake Woodford in Saturday’s exhibition loss to St. Louis. There’s no rush for Garcia to make it to the big leagues with Trea Turner manning the controls at shortstop in Washington, but if he keeps on his current trajectory, the minors won’t be able to contain him much longer.

Riley Greene takes in a Tigers home game shortly after being drafted
Photo credit Duane Burleson, Getty Images

Riley Greene, OF, Detroit Tigers

So much for growing pains. Despite being less than a year removed from high school, Riley Greene is already making his presence felt at big-league camp. Last year’s fifth overall pick out of Oviedo, Florida (an Orlando suburb), got off to the best start imaginable this spring, bopping homers in each of his first two Grapefruit League appearances. He’s kept it in the park since then but the left-hander has still turned plenty of heads in Lakeland, batting a phenomenal .417 through seven exhibition appearances. Twelve at-bats is obviously an extremely small sample size and it stands to reason that the raw 19-year-old would need more time in the minors to hone his craft, though Greene’s slick hitting of late suggests he’s not as far off as you might think.

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