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Jackson Holliday debut: Paul Skenes and James Wood among top prospects who could be next to reach MLB

Earlier this week, Baltimore Orioles infielder Jackson Holliday made his big-league debut. Holliday, the No. 1 prospect in the minor leagues who had been in contention to make Baltimore’s Opening Day roster until late in the decision-making process, forced his way to The Show after 10 Triple-A games by batting .333/.482/.595 with two home runs and four more walks than strikeouts. Furthermore, 15 of his 34 batted balls had recorded an exit velocity of at least 100 mph; players are often doing well if just 40% of their balls in play clear the 95-mph threshold.
Holliday became the fourth top prospect to make their big-league debut this season, according to CBS Sports’ preseason rankings. He joined Texas Rangers outfielder Wyatt Langford, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio, and San Diego Padres outfielder/infielder Jackson Merrill among players to debut after finishing in the top 12. In all, 14 of the top 25 are currently employed on big-league rosters.
Naturally, Holliday’s got us thinking: just which top prospect will be the next to arrive in the majors? Here, in our estimation, are the five likeliest candidates from our top 25, plus an honorable mention whom we felt obligated to include for obvious reasons. (Do note that we’ve excluded players like Junior Caminero, who have already debuted.)
Skenes, the top pick in last summer’s draft, is the most obvious candidate to head this list. In two Triple-A starts, he’s struck out 11 of the 20 batters he’s faced while surrendering zero runs on one hit and a walk. You can’t do much better than that.
Skenes’ arsenal is very much based on power: his fastball has averaged 100 mph, his swing-and-miss slider checks in at 87 mph, and a new splitter-changeup contraption he’s loosed this spring clocks in at 95 mph. (Some change of pace, huh?) The slowest pitch in his bag is a curveball that, on average, registers at 84 mph.
There are different threads pulling Skenes’ exact arrival date in either direction. The Pirates’ hot start would seem like motivation to bring him up sooner than later. At the same time, Pittsburgh has obvious financial incentives to keep him down a wee bit longer. There are some valid baseball reasons for doing that, too.
Skenes, now up to seven career minor-league appearances, has yet to throw even 50 pitches in an outing. Assuming the plan is to ramp up his pitch count at a conservative pace while limiting his overall workload (he threw around 130 innings last year), the Pirates might not press the launch button for a few more weeks yet.
Wood, the crown jewel of the first Juan Soto trade, has followed up a white-hot exhibition season (.364/.509/.705 in 44 at-bats) by hitting .441/.558/.794 with eight extra-base hits and two stolen bases in his first nine Triple-A games. What’s more is that he’s also walked more than he’s struck out while averaging a 97 mph exit velocity on his batted balls. (He cleared the 115 mph mark on a home run earlier this week.)
For as productive as Wood has been thus far, the Nationals might want him to accumulate more plate appearances against Triple-A pitchers before exposing him to the bigs. That’s because Wood continues to display extreme swing-and-miss tendencies, running up a 32% whiff rate that would place him around Giancarlo Stanton’s level if it ports to the majors. Wood has the power, athleticism, and on-base skills to overcome that, but it’s reasonable to think he would strike out more than his current 16% rate indicates if he were stepping to the plate against MLB arms.
Lee doesn’t boast the same level of prospect notoriety as everyone else in this piece, but he was the No. 8 pick in 2022 on account of his well-rounded game.
Lee also, and most unfortunately, doesn’t have a clean bill of health at present the way that everyone else does. He’s been sidelined since late March by back spasms that are expected to cost him most of April. It’s fair to write that he would’ve already reached the majors if he had stayed hearty and hale. Remember, Royce Lewis is expected to miss at least a month himself after suffering a quad injury on Opening Day. The Twins, in turn, had to bring up Austin Martin. That’s just how the cake rises sometimes.
Whenever Lee returns, he should be able to make the leap in a hurry. He’s a solid left-side infielder with an established track record of tagging right-handed pitchers.
4. Coby Mayo, 3B/1B, Baltimore Orioles
Yes, the Orioles have even more good positional player prospects on the way. Mayo has started the Triple-A season in grand fashion, hitting .377/.441/.660 with three home runs and five other extra-base hits in 12 games. He’s averaged a 93 mph exit velocity on his batted balls, and his contact and chase rates have both been above the Triple-A average — even if he’s punched out in a jarring 35.6% of his trips to the plate.
The only thing stopping Mayo from debuting soon is … well, where does he play on the Orioles? Gunnar Henderson and Holliday obviously have the middle-infield spots sewn up. You could put Mayo at the hot corner but he’s not the most graceful defender. That leaves first base or DH, but the resident Ryans (Mountcastle and O’Hearn) are both hitting well. It’s a good problem to have overall, even if it does complicate putting a firm timeline on when Mayo will be stepping in to take his first big-league rips.
Montgomery had last season derailed by back and oblique issues, limiting him to just 64 regular season contests. He later appeared in 20 Arizona Fall League games, albeit while hitting just .244/.300/.415.
Montgomery’s so-so play has carried over into this year: over the course of 52 plate appearances, he’s batted .239/.314/.283. To his credit, he is striking the ball with authority, registering an average exit velocity of 90.7 mph; alas, to his debit, he’s been very prone to striking out, running a 38.5% K rate in 11 games to date.
We expect Montgomery to balance things out sooner than later. Once he does, he should be able to leapfrog onto the White Sox’s big-league depth chart.
Honorable mention: Dylan Crews, OF, Washington Nationals
Most talent evaluators who spoke to CBS Sports considered Crews to be the best prospect in last year’s draft class. Yet, while Langford and Skenes are either in the majors or closing in on it, Crews has struggled to make a dent in Double-A.
Indeed, dating back to last year, Crews is sporting a .215/.315/.301 slash line and uncomfortably high whiff rates in 109 plate appearances at the Double-A level. That is, obviously, not what you want to see from the No. 2 pick. We’re not going to wave the white flag or anything of that nature; it’s still only 100-something trips to the plate, and most of those came when Crews was likely worn down from the college season.
We do think Crews might require more seasoning than we originally anticipated, however, which is why he’s listed down here instead of in the top five.

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