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5 Early-Season MLB Prospects To Watch

5 Early-Season MLB Prospects To Watch

Carter Fillman

With baseball in full swing, we have officially entered my favorite time of the year. Minor League Baseball is a full go, too, and the prospect market is red hot. Identifying talented sleepers and capitalizing on their market early on is something I really enjoy. Most of my mornings these days are spent combing prospect and fantasy sites for inklings of who the next hobby sensation will be. Last year’s big winner was New York Yankees prospect Anthony Volpe, whose 2020 Bowman “Chrome Prospect” 1st Auto was roughly $30 in 2020 but is now well over $400 in a PSA 10.

Who can make that type of jump this year? Let’s dive into a few standouts from early on this season to find out.

Moises Gomez – OF, St. Louis Cardinals .333 AVG / .397 OBP / .802 SLG

At the top of the list sits 23-year-old Moises Gomez, who was essentially dead in the water as a prospect and released by the Tampa Bay Rays at the conclusion of the 2021 season. The Cardinals took a swing on the Venezuelan outfielder and, boy, are the early results paying off. After lacking the ability to make an impact with the bat, Gomez has tapped into some newfound power and currently sits near the top of the Minors with 17 HRs in just 33 AA games. For reference, his former career high was 19 HRs back in 2018 in 122 games.

Prior to this season, his 2019 Bowman “Chrome Prospect” 1st Auto was literally $1. As Gomez keeps pumping along, the same card is steadily around $40. That’s an insane ROI for anyone who got in and stayed in at the right time.

Ezequiel Tovar – SS, Colorado Rockies .318 AVG / .395 OBP / .588 SLG

Tovar was a stud in spring training, hitting .550 with three HRs in a short stint with the big league squad. Starting the season in AA, the 20-year-old shortstop has carried that momentum enough to look like one of the top middle infield prospects in the minors. Tovar has stolen 14 bags in 37 games. But he’s also tapped into some additional power with six homers in the same span. There is a decent chance he’ll be at least a 20/20 player, or even 30/30 guy, as he continues to mature.

You can find his notable Bowman Chrome 1st “Prospect Auto” in the 2021 Bowman Chrome set. Prior to his spring training outburst, they floated around $25. As of this writing, they were eclipsing $100 consistently. At $20 raw, Tovar’s 2021 Bowman’s Best auto is a great budget choice right now.

Jordan Walker – 3B, St. Louis Cardinals .304 AVG / .404 OBP / .489 SLG

The Cards’ 2020 first-round draft pick has been one of my favorite follows of the early season. After dominating Low and High-A last season, the just-turned 20-year-old has taken an aggressive AA assignment by the horns and handled it extremely well. He has a mature approach at the plate, which is noted by his 20:39 BB:KK ratio and enough consistent impact to stay at third base. Despite the impressive numbers early on, though, Walker has yet to really tap into his plus-power potential with only four bombs thus far. Still, the sky is really the limit here. Walker’s name is squarely in the conversation for baseball’s next top prospect.

Walker’s 1st Bowman is in 2020 Bowman Draft and it’s an interesting case. He has base autos, but they are extremely short printed and hard to come by. He also has zero refractor autos. Thus, his 1st auto prices are well over $750—and that’s on the lower end. Snagging a few of Walker’s 1st Chrome Refractors isn’t a bad option. And if you’re looking for one of his autos, 2020 Bowman’s Best and 2021 Bowman Mega Box autos offer some slightly more affordable options around $75.

Corbin Carroll – OF, Arizona Diamondbacks .328 AVG / .462 OBP / .694 SLG

Prior to the 2021 season, Carroll was getting rave reviews from baseball insiders about a potential breakout campaign. That excitement lasted seven games before he tore ligaments in his shoulder. Carroll has come back healthy and, turns out, scouts were right about him all along. The 21-year-old outfielder is absolutely tearing it up. He went straight to AA despite playing less than 50 games in lower level. While not a huge dude, Carroll is a great athlete with explosive bat speed that has led him to 12 homers in just 34 games. Like Walker, Carroll will be a candidate for the No. 1 prospect in baseball by this time next year, so his reasonably priced 2019 Bowman Draft Chrome Refractor ($30-40) could be a smart play these days.

Andrew Painter – SP, Philadelphia Phillies 1.35 ERA / 53 Ks / 14 BB / 26.2 IP

Time to give a pitcher some love on this list. I’m going to let my bias show here with Andrew Painter. Drafted by my beloved Phils as the 13th pick of the 2021 draft, Painter was seen as the best prep pitcher in the draft prior to an underwhelming senior season in high school. Still viewed as a safe pick due to solid control and three pitches, Painter has elevated his stock considerably by absolutely dominating Low-A in his first taste of pro ball. He gave up no earned runs across his first five starts while striking out 40 batters in 20 innings. His fastball has also reportedly touched 101 mph after being mostly in the low-mid 90s throughout high school.

You can find the surgical pitcher’s 1st Bowmans in 2021 Bowman Draft. His autos in the set are pricey because of the Jordan Walker-like predicament of just being so rare. That said, you may want to look at Panini’s Elite Extra Edition this time around. These on-card autos are very affordable ($20-30) and some of the parallels look great.

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