Topps generally does a great job of getting autographs of top prospects into their Bowman sets. True to form, a whopping 35 players from this list last year had Bowman autographs in 2022. Still, the hobby runs deep with its thirst for the next great ballplayer — every single one of these guys will have ‘hobby relevance’. I’ve outlined a list below of my favorites. I have not included anyone who would otherwise qualify but has debuted in the majors, such as Vinnie Pasquantino and Hunter Brown. We already know they’ll be Rookie Cards in 2023, so they’ve graduated in my eyes.
Because this is a list that’s really just exclusive to what a single company hasn’t covered yet, the definition of the Tiers needs to be revamped:
Tier 1: Players who are no-doubt headliners of a Bowman product. They will make the release interesting regardless of any other players in the checklist.
Tier 2: Players who, without a Tier 1 player, we need 2-3 of to make a product interesting. They can serve as headliners in a pinch.
Tier 3: Players that most collectors will find interesting, and will be great additions to help fill the body of the checklist. They should have the chance to get to Tier 2 easily.
Tier 4: Players that have a high hobby upside, but for various reasons probably lack broad interest.
Tier 5: Other players who have an outside chance of making it to being Tier 2-3 type players.
Tier P: For the hobby, it’s rare for pitchers to reach into a list such as this. They simply don’t have the same demand as hitters. But they deserve mentions too! This tier covers the top pitchers, from a hobby perspective, that are outside the Top 50.
1. Druw Jones, OF, Diamondbacks, 19, Rookie (ACL)
The traditional #2 overall pick holdout from Bowman Draft, Jones was always #1 in the hobby for me. He simply has every tool imaginable and a pedigree to back it up. There’s nothing to indicate he won’t be the headliner for 2023 Bowman.
2. Cam Collier, 2B, Reds, 18, Rookie (FCL)
Slipping to the 18th pick in the draft despite his sky-high power ceiling, Collier was also held out of Bowman Draft. It’s almost the same ceiling at Jones, but he has even more power and is closer to average projections elsewhere.
3. Felnin Celesten, SS, Mariners, 17, International Signee
His immense ceiling has been talked about for the longest among this J15 class and he plays the most desired position. As you might expect, he has excellent projection with every tool – he’s an easy headliner for (likely) 2023 Bowman Chrome.
Mariners sign No. 2 ranked international prospect, shortstop Felnin Celesten!
The 17-year-old from D.R. signs for $4.7m
— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) January 15, 2023
4. Spencer Jones, OF, Yankees, 21, Single-A
You can almost rinse and repeat Trey Sweeney last year, as another Yankees 1st-rounder with plus-power potential who’s been held out from Bowman Draft. Other than better speed, the only difference here is that Jones had an eye-popping debut, which predictive or not, boosts his hobby status heading into 2023 Bowman where he’ll likely have cards. Being a Yankee is what pushes him well into Tier 1, for me.
5. Eury Perez, RHP, Marlins, 19, Double-A
Perez will start the 2023 season as a 19 year old with 75 AA innings under his belt and a 4/1 K/BB. That hasn’t been done in the last 15 years. The closest was Mike Soroka, who’s turned out pretty well. There’s a little bit of durability concern as his shoulder gave out later in the season, but this is a guy who, in the middle of the season, gave up just 11 runs in 50 innings. He’s a stud.
6. Ethan Salas, C, Padres, 16, International Signee
It feels crazy to put a catcher this high in a hobby ranking, especially one that’s so young and all projection. But Salas is the exception of exceptions – he’s hailed as a generational catching talent with defense being his forte. His offensive skills also have plus potential as well, so that’s why he’s here. He’ll likely co-headline 2023 Bowman Chrome with Celesten.
7. Masyn Winn, SS, Cardinals, 21, Double-A
I’ve seen the light with Winn’s potential. I didn’t have him in my top 50 last year but he’s now hit a triad of things we like for the hobby: advanced level for his age, a great foundation of plate skill, and exponential power growth (his ISO grew from .112 to .185). He doesn’t even need to be a 30 HR bat to be a hobby darling – defense is not normally a draw for the hobby, but his arm is incredible.
— Max Arterburn (@MaxArterburn) January 19, 2023
8. Gabriel Gonzalez, OF, Mariners, 19, Single-A
I planted my flag with Gonzalez last year as the best 2021 J15 without a Bowman, and due to some of his peers now having cards … It’s still the case for me. Like several of those peers he was promoted to Single-A in his first year of stateside ball where he continued to show a great feel to hit. He’s not showing a lot of power yet, but it’s easy to project it as average or better.
9. Justin Crawford, OF, Phillies, 19, Single-A
Last year’s #17 overall pick, for now I consider Crawford to be a light version of Druw Jones (except speed, where’s he equal). He even has the same bloodline with his dad (Carl). It was a limited debut, but the Phillies trusted he was advanced enough for a taste of SIngle-A, where he’ll look to show off his skills in 2023.
10. Deyvison De Los Santos, 3B, Diamondbacks, 19, Double-A
Man there’s a lot of power here. The downside is that he comes with all the negatives of being a poor defense, high K%, low BB% guy. Still though, he made it to AA as a teenager on the merits of tearing up both A levels with a total of 50 XBH. He could fall far as his lack of a hit tool gets exposed, or really bust out this year with improvements in his K/BB% – I think it’ll be one or the other, and nothing in between.
11. Alex Ramirez, OF, Mets, 20, High-A
A complete contrast to De Los Santos, Ramirez has a wide path to the majors but didn’t break out or have anything resembling a superlative performance. What he did do is perform consistently at an advanced level for his age. He has a great athletic 6’3” frame from which to build power, and I personally think it’s coming this year – I’m calling 20 HR.
In celebration of Alex Ramirez’s 20th birthday, check out the second multihomer game in the career of the @Mets‘ No. 4 prospect: pic.twitter.com/kCkhWpOsQk
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) January 14, 2023
12. Edwin Arroyo, SS, Reds, 19, Single-A
Those high on Arroyo probably have him a bit higher than this, but he really struggled with quality of contact after his trade to the Reds. For now it’s a minor quibble – if we take his year in total it’s a .296/.366/.846 slash that includes 49 XBH and 27 SB. It’s the type of dynamic SS the hobby loves.
13. Gleider Figuereo, 3B, Rangers, 19, Single-A
A minor signing in the 2021 J15 class, Figuero came stateside in 2022 and hit a whopping 9 HR in 35 games, prompting a promotion to Single-A to finish the year. His profile isn’t completely believable – the LD% is awfully low – but he showed enough power and feel to hit that he’s quite intriguing.
14. Lazaro Montes, OF, Mariners, 18, Rookie (DSL)
Following the money, Montes is the top 2022 J15 prospect remaining without a Bowman auto. His performance in the DSL backed up his $2.5 MM bonus, with an OPS over 1.007 and a whopping .301 ISO. There’s a lot of contact issues presently, but there’s plenty of time to figure it out.
15. Brandon Mayea, OF, Yankees, 17, International Signee
16. Yoendry Vargas, SS, Dodgers, 17, International Signee
Here’s where I’ll slide in the next of the 2023 J15 signees – they’re boring to write about, as we’re all reading the same blurbs to glean information with little else available. There is seemingly a drop in talent (for now, in January) from Celesten and Salas to these two, but the hobby will not treat it as such. Mayea figures to be a power-first bat with an aggressive approach – we’ll see what his hit tool looks like when he hits the DSL. Also, he gets the Yankees bump. Vargas is a large-framed infielder who has more of a complete, 5-tool skill set. He could jump to Tier 1 very quickly if he comes out hot.
17. Junior Caminero, 3B, Rays, 19, Single-A
An offseason riser due to the fantastic power he’s showing in the Australian Baseball League. If you combine the ABL, Complex, and Single-A he’s hit 25 HR since April – the most of any teen. That’s bolstered by a sub-18% K and a strong BB% to boot. There’s a ton to like with Caminero’s offensive tools. He’s too much of a sleeper for Tier 2, but I expect that will change quickly as the 2023 season begins.
A Junior Caminero 2 RBI Blast extends the lead to 4 for Perth! pic.twitter.com/jfIBSJZYaY
— Australian Baseball League (@ABL) January 15, 2023
18. Kyle Harrison, LHP, Giants, 21, Double-A
Harrison had a better K/9 than any AA pitcher with 80 IP or more. At that threshold, he was also in the Top 10 in BAA. There’s a bit of a command issue, but that’s to be expected for a pitcher with emergent pitch quality, as his is. At his age/level there’s plenty of time to figure it out and still be a hobby darling. When he does, he’ll be at least a #2 SP.
19. Jacob Berry, 3B, Marlins, 21, Single-A
I’m not a big fan of Berry, but with being the #6 overall pick in the 2022 Draft and having come from a powerhouse school – this is a floor placement. I don’t like that he doesn’t have a defensive home, and I don’t think he has 25 HR pop. Still, he’s undoubtedly a strong hitter and among the safest bets from his class to reach the majors. I just don’t think he has much star potential.
20. Roman Anthony, OF, Red Sox, 18, Single-A
No, he’s not really a sleeper for the hobby, if you were thinking that. His cache in draft circles was at least equal to the Sox’ 1st rounder Mikey Romero (and Anthony’s bonus was actually bigger). This is a similar strategy to what they did in 2020 when they snagged Yorke and Jordan – the hope is that history repeats, with a few years of development. If he pans out, Anthony will be a corner OF power hitter with some speed.
21. Jack Leiter, RHP, Rangers, 22, Double-A
This is as far as I’m willing to slide Leiter. He’s slipped into the ‘guys with great stuff and poor command’ mold, and there’s not much to like about his performance. He’s still the #2 overall pick in the 2021 Draft – that status and his name is a lot more valuable than his on-field performance right now. That matters for the hobby. I just wish it wasn’t still what matters most.
22. Jose Rodriguez, OF, Twins, 17, Rookie (DSL)
A year ago, Rodriguez was merely in the ‘other signings’ portion of the Twins’ J15 names. Now he’s surpassed all but Yasser Mercedes on that list – leading the DSL in homers while maintaining a decent contact rate will do that! I’m personally using that as a broad stroke rather than something specific, to say that he has really good power projection. Beyond that, wait to see video, wait to see what he does in the Complex.
23. Josue De Paula, OF, Dodgers, 17, Rookie (DSL)
The power numbers Jose Rodriguez showed in the DSL is what De Paula could be going forward. With a strong foundation to his hit tool as well, he’s a corner OF bat to watch in the complex this year for sure. Stateside scouts’ eyes were opened a bit further as they got eyes on him for the first time this winter, and this rank reflects that.
24. Axel Sanchez, SS, Mariners, 20, High-A
Sanchez is such an excellent defender that he was trusted to fill in at High-A playing 2B/3B to start the year, then went back to the Complex to work at SS. When Edwin Arroyo was traded, he settled in at Single-A where he was his best, posting a .305/.401/.618 slash – making him the youngest player to have an ISO over .300 at the level. Those stats probably lie a little bit, as he did have a high-20’s K%, but that’s still enough for me to bump him into Tier 3. To me though, it’s equally plausible that he continues to be very good offensively, the Mariners let his glove take the reins of his development, and he gets to AA this year. If that happens and he does well there, we’re talking about a Top 100 prospect.
Axel Sanchez crushes a 3-run HR! @a_sanchez0210 is good. pic.twitter.com/0DGOl3gTDK
— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) September 8, 2022
25. Gabriel Martinez, OF, Blue Jays, 20, High-A
26. Matt Mervis, 1B, Cubs, 24, Triple-A
27. Edouard Julien, 2B, Twins, 23, Double-A
28. Nikau Pouaka-Grego, 2B/3B, Phillies, 18, Rookie (FCL)
29. Enmanuel Tejada, SS, Yankees, 18, Rookie (DSL)
30. Michael Arroyo, SS, Mariners, 18, Rookie (DSL)
31. Carlos Jorge, SS, Reds, 19, Single-A
32. Max Wagner, 3B, Orioles, 21, High-A
33. Joey Wiemer, OF, Brewers, 24, Triple-A
34. Brock Jones, OF, Rays, 22, Single-A
Martinez showed off his plus hit tool projection in 2022 and figures to hit for at least average power – think Alex Ramirez in a smaller frame. Mervis and Julien are statistical standouts who have been around for awhile – too long. They’re ‘hobby-old’, but they do both figure to see time in the MLB this year. A 2022 J15 signed out of Australia, Pouaka-Grego played in the Complex at 17 and posted an .890 OPS. His power isn’t very projectable, but with a K% equal to his BB% and a single-digit SwStr%, his hit tool is already looking excellent. Tejada and Arroyo were standouts at the SS position in the DSL, with some tools to believe in. Jorge is an elite athlete who’s a bit rough around the edges, but has great hobby potential. Wiemer remains an intriguing power/speed threat who’s knocking on the door, but he’s 24, not on the 40-man, and likely behind Sal Frelick. Jones has all five tools but they’re all average to above-average. If any tick up he’ll be great for the hobby.
35. Brailer Guerrero, OF, Rays, 16, International Signee
36. Derniche Valdez, SS, Cubs, 16, International Signee
37. Sebastian Walcott, SS, Rangers, 16, International Signee
38. Emmanuel Bonilla, OF, Blue Jays, 16, International Signee
39. Andres Chaparro, 3B, Yankees, 23, Double-A
40. Addison Barger, 3B, Blue Jays, 23, Double-A
41. Pedro Ramirez, 2B, Cubs, 19, Single-A
42. Hector Rodriguez, OF, Reds, 19, Single-A
43. Lizandro Rodriguez, 2B, Royals, 20, Single-A
44. Daniel Susac, C, Athletics, 21, Single-A
45. Reylin Perez, 2B, Tigers, 18, Rookie (DSL)
46. Aron Estrada, 2B, Orioles, 18, Rookie (DSL)
47. Hao-Yu Lee, IF, Phillies, 20, High-A
48. Rafael Cruz, 3B, Twins, 19, Rookie (FCL)
49. Wuilfredo Antunez, OF, Guardians, 20, Single-A
50. Xavier Isaac, 1B, Rays, 19, Rookie (FCL)
More big-bonus J15 signees (Guerrero $3.7 MM, Valdez $2.8, Walcott $3.2, Bonilla $4.1) slot in here. There are more names than these four and the Hobby will treat them better than this – I’m just throwing darts with these names as placeholders. Chaparro finished his season like a house afire. If he continues at AAA, he’ll be an intriguing option in case of injury to 30-something corner infielders. Barger is on the Jays’ 40-man roster and showed fantastic growth in 2022 across three levels. Ramirez and both Rodriguez’s lack projection but it’s hard to argue against just how well they’ve performed. The 2022 1st-rounder Susac is a just floor play for me. He definitely has the ceiling of an everyday MLB catcher, but only 15 HR upside. I worry about position and projection for Perez and Estrada, but being so young, it could happen – it’s easy call to predict continued success as they move to the Complex. The pandemic and injuries put Antunez out for almost three years but he finally made his stateside debut in June. He’s my favorite of any injury-delayed prospect. Isaac is a weird 1st Round prep 1B – I think it’s safe to trust the Rays’ scouts that his talent will match where he was drafted.
1. Brock Porter, RHP, Rangers, 19, Unassigned
2. Jackson Ferris, LHP, Cubs, 19, Unassigned
3. Wilmer Flores, RHP, Tigers, 22, Double-A
4. Mason Montgomery, LHP, Rays, 22, Double-A
5. Prelander Berroa, LHP, Mariners, 22, Double-A
6. Royber Salinas, RHP, Athletics, 21, High-A
7. Carson Whisenhunt, LHP, Giants, 22, Single-A
8. DJ Herz, LHP, Cubs, 22, Double-A
9. Dahian Santos, RHP, Blue Jays, 20, High-A
10. Gordon Graceffo, RHP, Cardinals, 23, Double-A
The above list is a 100% overhaul from last year’s Tier P. It’s more related to the fickle, high risk nature of pitching prospects than graduations. So, use caution! My true rank of Porter and Ferris is a little higher, but I moved them into Tier P because they’re 2022 Draft prep pitchers who haven’t debuted. Their ceiling are are sky-high though, and definitely could move as high as Tier 3 this year. Flores and Montgomery hit the triad of great performance, great command, and at least two pitches that project as plus. Berroa, Salinas, Herz, and Santos all have fantastic stuff, and would be electric in the bullpen where they’re likely to end up. Putting them here is a bit of a dart throw that they stick as starters. With Whisenhunt’s bone-headedness behind him, he’s my favorite of the 2022 Draft’s 2nd round college arms. Graceffo has very good command and very good stuff, but he hasn’t put it all together at AA yet.
Max Arterburn lives in the Milwaukee suburbs. He loves coaching baseball, karaoke, film, and spending time with his wife & 3 boys. He loves the Hobby & uses it as an avenue to obsessively follow prospects. He also loves critiquing card design & fancies 1998 UD3 as his favorite childhood set. He is not an Instagram model.
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