Breakout Prospects for 2024: Hitters

With the Triple-A season underway and more minor league baseball soon to come, here's a look at 12 young hitters who could take a big leap in 2024.

Yophery Rodriguez of the Milwaukee Brewers leads off first base during a spring training game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields.
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 26: Yophery Rodriguez #94 of the Milwaukee Brewers leads off first base during a spring training game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 26, 2024 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

With the Triple-A season already underway, and High-A and Double-A set to begin their seasons Friday, it’s time to highlight some of our favorite breakout position player prospects.

While there are plenty of prospects I expect to make a leap in 2024–often highlighted on “The Call Up” –I wanted to narrow this list down to players who would be more pronounced breakouts. That means they could not have been selected in the top 30 picks in the draft and/or signed for more than $3 million.

There’s less of a firm line on the statistical side, but if a player previously produced a complete season with a decent stat line, they were cast aside for a player with even less of a track record. There’s no rhyme or reason positionally or organizationally, these are just some of the bats expected to make the biggest leap from 2023.

Braylin Tavera – OF – Orioles

Orioles No. 11 prospect

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Much larger than his listed height/weight, Tavera is still agile for such a physical teenager. Signed for $1.7 million in 2022, Tavera made some tweaks to his setup and swing in 2023, helping him make much more consistent contact in the Complex League than he did in the DSL prior.

Added strength in tandem with improved contact rates and a strong finish to 2023 has Tavera poised for a big 2024. A patient approach only helps his case for making a smooth transition to full-season ball. The Orioles may have another riser in Tavera. 

Cole Carrigg – OF – Rockies

Rockies No. 6 prospect

A switch-hitter who can play a good center field and shortstop, Carrigg is dynamic and valuable even if he is not putting up gaudy offensive numbers. However, the bat could surprise people this season.

Another swing adjustment that has me feeling optimistic, his changes have helped him stay in his backside longer and utilize the ground to generate power. Carrigg struggled with power leaks due to a premature forward move and dormant lower half at times in college. 

I saw more of the same positives on the backfields, with Carrigg featuring a cleaner path that lives in the zone longer. He is maintaining his direction well, rather than spinning off like he had the tendency to do prior. With his twitchiness and feel for the barrel, added power and not allowing his body to take him out of his swing should result in more consistency bat-to-ball-wise and more impact, as well. Add the speed and defensive versatility to the equation, and Carrigg could become a popular prospect quickly. 

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Walker Martin – SS – Giants

Giants No. 4 prospect

A second-round pick out of the Colorado prep ranks, Martin may have been a first-rounder had he played his high school ball elsewhere. Under-scouted, he turned heads with a strong showing in the Area Code Games, showcasing an advanced swing and explosive athleticism.

Martin did not make his pro debut after the 2023 draft, adding to the mystique of the exciting shortstop. Reports have been strong on Martin, who has continued to turn heads during Spring Training. There could be an exciting blend of hit and power from the left side with enough polish to handle the jump to full-season ball. 

Rayner Arias – OF – Giants

Giants No. 5 prospect

The highest-priced international free agent on this list ($2.7 million), Arias was off to a fantastic start to his pro career before a wrist injury ended his season at 16 games. Arias will not turn 18 years old until the end of April, though you would not know it when you watch him in the box.

Live looks this spring backed up his small sample success in 2023, with simple moves preceding a whippy bat and mature feel for the strike zone. Already possessing the ability to elevate consistently, Arias projects to blend above-average hit and power with the polish to tap into both as soon as this season.

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Ramon Ramirez – C – Royals

Royals No. 1 prospect, No. 97 overall

One of my favorite prospects yet to reach full-season ball, Ramirez is already a well-rounded catcher with exciting offensive tools. His barrel maneuverability combined with above-average exit velocities for his age and an athletic operation in the box have him ahead of his peers at the plate.

Behind the dish, Ramirez is similarly solid. He is a good receiver with an above-average arm, and while the blocking is lagging behind a bit, it is more of a matter of fundamentals rather than capability.

That said, catcher prospects at the lower levels don’t break out with blocking, they do it with the bat, and Ramirez can really swing it. His physical build blended with a good feel for the barrel should result in strong numbers at the complex and a Low-A debut this season for the 18-year-old.

Zyhir Hope – OF – Dodgers

Traded from the Cubs along with Jackson Ferris in exchange for Michael Busch and Yency Almonte during the offseason, Hope stood out during the showcase circuit by posting elite run times along with exciting bat speed. Being a Northeast kid with hit tool concerns caused the Stafford, Virginia native to slip to the 11th round where the Cubs shelled out $400,000–roughly fifth-round money–to sign him away from UNC.

Early looks that I have been able to get of Hope have only made me more excited about his upside and entirely unsurprised when the Dodgers targeted him in a lower-level prospect return. Though a small sample, Hope looked comfortable in the box as a pro. He adjusted his hand position and simplified his load, aiding his timing and path.

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Already popping 111-mph exit velocities in his brief pro cameo in 2023, Hope possesses a scary power and speed combination if the hit tool continues to trend in the right direction.

Kevin McGonigle – 2B/SS – Tigers

No. 86 overall prospect

One of my favorite swings in the 2023 draft class, McGonigle had no issue making the leap to pro ball where his polish was immediately evident in Low-A. The hit tool leads the way for the middle infielder, who boasts a short, quick stroke that somehow becomes even shorter with two strikes.

Despite being geared for high contact rates, McGonigle is capable of hitting the ball hard and has no issue beating outfielders over the head or splitting gaps. His approach only helps his case, rarely expanding the zone and even leveraging his hitter’s counts to do more damage. McGonigle has the makings to be a hitter who can quickly climb the minor league ranks.

Yophery Rodriguez – OF – Brewers

Brewers No. 7 prospect

Headlining the Brewers 2023 IFA class with a signing bonus of $1.5 million, Rodriguez immediately stood out in the Dominican Summer League with both his bat speed and relative polish at the plate. Already with a powerful lower half, Rodriguez is also adjustable with the ability to get to pitches in different spots.

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The 18-year-old received an aggressive assignment to Low-A, skipping over the complex. It’s an exciting challenge that the Brewers present to their most talented young prospects. Beyond Jackson Chourio, both Luis Lara and Jeferson Quero were similarly put to the test assignment-wise. Rodriguez has the goods to be the latest success story for Milwaukee.

Yoeilin Cespedes – INF – Red Sox

Red Sox No. 7 prospect

Possessing more pop than his frame may suggest, Cespedes’ swing is violent and geared for lift. He already produced exit velocities as high as 107 mph in his age-17 season, along with a good feel for the barrel. An aggressive hitter, Cespedes hedges the concern with his ability to put good swings on pitches just outside of the zone or in difficult spots.

There’s above-average power potential to his pull side, but he also flashed the ability to drive the ball to all fields. Productive against all pitch types in the DSL, Cespedes should make quick work of the complex and handle the leap to Low-A well.

Colton Ledbetter – OF – Rays

Rays No. 7 prospect

One of my favorite bats outside of the first round of 2023’s draft, nothing quite jumps off the page with Ledbetter, but it’s hard to find a deficiency either. With pretty much 50 grades across the board bolstered by a good feel for the strike zone, Ledbetter possesses a sweet swing from the left side and can surprise with some pull-side rockets.

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Ledbetter’s consistent progression is hard to ignore as well. He started his collegiate career at Samford, breaking out as a sophomore and winning both the MVP and top pro prospect honors in the New England Collegiate Baseball League the following summer. He then transferred to Mississippi State where he put up an OPS of 1.025 against SEC competition. The blend of solid hit, power and approach should result in strong numbers at High-A.

Jefferson Rojas – SS – Cubs

No. 85 overall prospect

Considering his standing as the 85th overall prospect for Just Baseball, it probably goes without saying that Rojas is one of my favorite breakout prospects for the season. A phenomenal showing at extended spring training prior to his 18th birthday earned Rojas an assignment straight to Low-A Myrtle Beach where he more than held his own.

A swing geared for line drives helped Rojas make plenty of contact against older competition, while his quick stroke and projectable frame provide optimism for more impact. During live looks in Arizona, Rojas looked stronger and even more in sync swing-wise, generating plenty of buzz within the Cubs org through his performance. With a good chance at sticking at shortstop as well, Rojas could become a very popular name this season.

Alfonsin Rosario – OF – Cubs

A sixth-round pick in the 2023 draft, Rosario is another power and speed prospect who slipped out of the first five rounds due to hit tool concerns.

The bat speed is easily plus, and the 19-year-old does not require much movement to get into it. He ditched the leg kick for a toe tap that he starts early and controls well, yielding impressive results in the live looks I was able to get. During the spring, Rosario posted exit velocities as high as 112 mph and several over 110 mph.

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He’s raw defensively but has the wheels to stick in center if his reads and overall comfort continue to improve. It’s no big deal if he moves to a corner though, as he registered a 101 mph throw from the outfield at a Perfect Game Showcase. From a contact perspective, Rosario may be the hitter in whom I have the least confidence within this group, but he also has some of the more eye-popping bat speed and explosiveness.