The nominations continue.
Last week, we announced the three finalists for the MiLB Pitching Prospect of the Year. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to the batters, with three Hitting Prospect of the Year candidates. These finalists were determined by MLB Pipeline staff, which considered many worthy performers from the 2023 Minor League season. To qualify, a player must have opened the year with prospect eligibility, and only Minor League stats were considered as part of the process.
The winner will be announced during MLB Network’s inaugural MiLB Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, Oct. 2. MLB Pipeline will continue to announce nominees ahead of that date.
So without further ado, here are the three Hitting Prospect of the Year finalists, including a pair of young infielders and another who dominated the Minors’ top level. (All stats below are accurate through the end of the Triple-A regular season on Sunday.)
Michael Busch, 3B/2B, Dodgers (No. 44 on Top 100)
Triple-A: .323/.431/.618, 98 G, 27 HR, 4 3B, 26 2B, 90 RBI, 65 BB, 88 K, 4 SB, 150 wRC+
The 2019 31st overall pick entered the season with a reputation as a bat-first prospect, but he took matters to a new level in 2023. Busch ranked second among the 707 full-season Minor League qualifiers with a 1.049 OPS, second with a .618 slugging percentage, tied for eighth with a .431 on-base percentage and tied for 12th with a .323 average. He hit the most homers in the Dodgers system this season with 27 -- his third straight campaign with 20-plus dingers -- despite having played only 98 games because of multiple Major League callups.
The left-handed slugger hasn’t found a way to stick in a loaded Dodgers depth chart just yet, but for this category, that shouldn’t matter. Even in a year when offense was up at Triple-A, Busch was one of the Minors’ most productive bats during his stint in OKC.
Junior Caminero, 3B/SS, Rays (No. 6 on Top 100)
High-A: .356/.409/.685, 36 G, 11 HR, 3 3B, 9 2B, 32 RBI, 10 BB, 40 K, 2 SB, 190 wRC+
Double-A: .309/.373/.548, 81 G, 20 HR, 3 3B, 9 2B, 62 RBI, 32 BB, 60 K, 3 SB, 140 wRC+
Total: .324/.384/.591, 117 G, 31 HR, 6 3B, 18 2B, 94 RBI, 42 BB, 100 K, 5 SB, 156 wRC+
Playing in his age-19 season, Caminero (who was promoted to the Majors on Friday) was one of 15 Minor Leaguers to eclipse the 30-homer mark, and he was the youngest of that group by far. Abimelec Ortiz, 21, was his closest competition on that age scale, and he spent the year at Single-A and High-A. As if that wasn’t enough, Caminero was the only member of the group of 15 to strike out less than 20 percent of the time (19.6 percent.) His .591 slugging percentage and .976 OPS both ranked fifth among full-season qualifiers (and best among players 20 or younger on July 1) while his 156 wRC+ placed 10th.
As good as those final numbers look, this was certainly a final sprint to the finish line for Tampa Bay’s top prospect. From Aug. 1 through the end of the Southern League regular season, Caminero hit .336/.400/.685 with 15 homers in 37 games. That stretch alone eclipsed his previous career high for dingers -- 11 set last season between the Florida Complex and Carolina Leagues.
Jackson Holliday, SS/2B, Orioles (No. 1 on Top 100)
Single-A: .396/.522/.660, 14 G, 2 HR, 1 3B, 6 2B, 16 RBI, 14 BB, 13 K, 3 SB, 226 wRC+
High-A: .314/.452/.488, 57 G, 5 HR, 5 3B, 11 2B, 35 RBI, 50 BB, 54 K, 17 SB, 162 wRC+
Double-A: .338/.421/.507, 36 G, 3 HR, 3 3B, 9 2B, 15 RBI, 21 BB, 34 K, 3 SB, 154 wRC+
Triple-A: .267/.396/.400, 18 G, 2 HR, 0 3B, 4 2B, 9 RBI, 16 BB, 17 K, 1 SB, 109 wRC+
Total: .323/.442/.499, 125 G, 12 HR, 9 3B, 30 2B, 75 RBI, 101 BB, 118 K, 24 SB, 159 wRC+
Any discussion of Holliday’s 2023 has to start with this: There were 420 qualified Minor Leaguers who were playing in their age-19 seasons or younger in 2023; Holliday was the only one to play at Single-A, Double-A, High-A and Triple-A. The Baltimore infielder accomplished that with an advanced approach that has found him walking at least 12 percent of the time at each stop. His .442 combined OBP was fifth-best among full-season qualifiers, and the four above him were all 25 or older. He, Caminero and Justin Crawford were the only qualified age-19 players with an average above .320.
Even with a downturn at Triple-A -- and who could blame a teenager for that? -- he still ranked sixth among full-season qualifiers with a 159 wRC+. The Orioles continually sought to challenge their top prospect because of the way he consistently answered the bell, making Holliday’s multi-level ascent -- at the same time the Major League club is headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2016 -- one of the biggest stories of the 2023 Minor League season.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.