Even though the bulk of the attention may be going to the superstars of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, there are a number of highly-touted prospects and some unheralded names that have turned heads thus far. Here’s a quick look at five MLB prospects who’ve done well in the early stages of the WBC.
We’ll start off with Team Columbia reliever Guillermo Zuñiga, a pitching prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals. Zuñiga bounced around the Braves and Dodgers farm systems prior to landing with the Cards in the winter of 2022. The 24-year-old struck out 66 over 54.2 IP last season with Tulsa (AA), but struggled a bit with command. The Columbian reliever, though, has explosive stuff. In a two-inning outing against Mexico on March 11, Zuñiga struck out four over two innings to notch a win in extra innings for Columbia.
Zuñiga showcased a hard slider that sat in the upper-80s, to go along with a triple digit fastball. That stuff could earn Zuñiga a look in the Majors at some point down the road.
One of the fastest rising prospects in the Minors, former University of Auburn Edouard Julien may be a regular for the Twins in the near future. The Twins infield prospect hit .300/.441/.490 with 17 home runs and 39 extra base hits last season with Wichita (AA), showcasing above-average power and good discipline. So, how did he start his 2023? The Quebec native kicked off the 2023 World Baseball Classic with four walks and a bomb at Chase Field against Team Great Britain and former Mets pitcher Akeel Morris.
With Jorge Polanco at second base in 2023, the Twins don’t need to rush Julien. But, his bat may force the issue if he gets off to a hot start in the Minors.
The Detroit Tigers have been quite active in bringing Australian ballplayers into its organization. LHP Jack O’Loughlin doesn’t throw very hard, but did use his stuff effectively in order to help push Australia to the quarterfinals. O’Loughlin threw 2.1 IP on March 12 against the Czech Republic, allowing just one run in the process. The 22-year-old struck out three, one of those came off of former Major Leaguer Eric Sogard.
O’Loughlin is not among the top prospects in the Tigers system, but the lefty could be a name to watch.
Royals prospect Robbie Glendinning played a key role in Team Australia’s run through pool play. Across four games, Glendinning hit .375/.444/.750 with two home runs and six RBIs. Entering WBC play on March 13, those six RBIs were third-best among all players in the tournament.
The University of Missouri product does have some pop; Glendinning launched 19 home runs for Northwest Arkansas (AA) in 2022.
Mariners fans get a chance to take a long look at catcher Harry Ford. Seattle’s first-round pick from 2021, Ford put up a strong first pro season with Modesto (A) last year. The 20-year-old hit 11 home runs and 38 extra base hits last year, and recorded an eye-popping .425 OBP across 104 games. Playing for Great Britain in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, the Georgia native only picked up one hit over his first two games. That lone hit, though, left Chase Field.
A strong catcher would good pop and an above-average eye, Seattle fans should be excited to watch the 20-year-old move through the Minors.