One prospect from each MLB team who will make an impact in 2022

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Major League baseball’s exceedingly frustrating lockout is finally over and we can actually talk about real baseball things! What a concept. With opening day just over three weeks away at this point, let’s look at a prospect from each team who could make a legitimate impact for their club in 2022. 

 

New York Yankees: Luis Gil, RHP

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The Yankees promoted Gil for the first time last August, and while his first six big league starts brought somewhat mixed results, he showed more than enough potential for New York to be excited about his future. In 29.1 Major League innings, the righty delivered a strong 3.07 ERA and held opposing hitters to just a .183 batting average. His 19 walks to go along with a hit batsman contributed to a high 1.33 WHIP, but with so much uncertainty behind Gerrit Cole in the Yankees rotation, Gil will almost certainly get an opportunity at some point in 2022. 

 

Boston Red Sox: Triston Casas, 1B

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The Red Sox selected Casas in the first round of the 2018 draft, and the left-handed swinging first baseman has steadily emerged as probably the organization’s most ready to contribute offensive prospect. In a shade over 300 minor league at-bats split between AA and AAA in ’21, Casas slashed .279/.394./.484 with 14 homers, 59 RBI, and 15 doubles. Bobby Dalbec hit 25 homers a year ago and is slated to be Boston’s starting first baseman, but a hot start at AAA for Casas this spring could put him in prime position for an early-season call-up. 

 

Baltimore Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C

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Rutschman is in all probability the favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year. The O’s made the backstop the top overall pick in the 2019 draft, and every day in the minor leagues he’s validated that choice. Last season Rutschman split the campaign between AA and AAA and hit .285 with 23 homers and a dominant .397 OBP. And won a minor league Gold Glove award. This is a switch-hitting catcher with superstar potential that just has nothing left to prove in the minors, and there’s a better than probable chance he opens 2022 in the big leagues. 

 

Toronto Blue Jays: Gabriel Moreno, C

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Speaking of AL East catchers. Moreno isn’t quite as well known nationally as Rutschman, especially after missing most of last season due to injury, but the Blue Jays are justifiably excited about his upside. In 191 career minor league games though, the 22-year-old owns a .367/.434/.626 slash line with 24 homers, 150 RBI, and 57 additional extra-base hits. He also has a reputation as a skilled defensive receiver. Toronto has Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, and Alejandro Kirk all currently ahead of him on the big league depth chart, but none of the three have the ceiling Moreno does. Look for him to force the Jays’ hand at some point this summer. 

 

Tampa Bay Rays: Shane Baz, RHP

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Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer trade with the Pirates over three years ago has been the gift that just keeps on giving. The Rays netted Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow in the deal–both of whom quickly became cornerstone players in Tampa–but the third piece they brought back, righty Shane Baz may well become the real prize. The hard-thrower was completely lights out in 17 minor league starts in ’21, putting up video game numbers across the board before earning his first promotion late in September. In three outings for Tampa down the stretch, Baz allowed only three runs in 13.1 frames, and he’ll have a chance to emerge as a frontline starter for this club in 2022. 

 

Cleveland Guardians: Nolan Jones, 3B/OF

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The outfield has been a bit of a problem area for the Guardians in recent years, which had to have played a direct role in the team starting to experiment with Nolan Jones in right field in AAA last summer. A natural third baseman, Jones finds himself blocked by Jose Ramirez in Cleveland, and adequately learning to play out on the grass could become his ticket to the show. Offensively a season ago the left-handed swinger slashed .238/.356/.431 with 13 homers, and a potential early-season promotion is not out of the question. 

 

Detroit Tigers: Spencer Torkelson, 1B

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Like the aforementioned Rutschman, Torkelson is a former 1st overall pick who appears poised to make a huge impact in 2022 and beyond. Detroit made the first baseman the top pick in the ’20 draft coming out of Arizona State, and in his first real minor league season a year ago he was able to show why. In 121 games the right-handed slugger hit .267 while crushing 30 homers and driving in 91 runs. He possesses Pete Alonso like power from the right-handed batter’s box and whether it happens on opening day or not, Detroit will be moving Miguel Cabrera to DH and bringing up their power-hitting phenom in short order. 

 

Kansas City Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS/3B

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Along with Rutschman and Torkelson, here is your 3rd popular preseason prediction for AL Rookie of the Year. Witt was selected 2nd overall in ’19, right after Rutschman, and he was simply unstoppable in his first full minor league campaign a year ago. in 123 contests split virtually right down the middle between AA and AAA, Witt Jr. hit .290 with 33 homers, 97 RBI’s, 35 doubles, four triples, and 29 stolen bases. His blend of power and speed is big-league ready right now, leaving the Royals to determine when and where he debuts. The 21-year-old is primarily a shortstop, but speedy Nicky Lopez was serviceable there a year ago for Kansas City. Third base is more open at the moment, making it conceivable Witt Jr. begins his career at the hot corner, hopefully on opening day. 

 

Minnesota Twins: Jordan Balazovic, RHP

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Minnesota has a pair of exciting young infielders who were both taken in the top five of recent drafts in Royce Lewis and Austin Martin, but with both of them more likely to make an impact next season, let’s single out righty Jordan Balazovic as a name to watch at the big league level. In 38 starts over the last two minor league seasons Balazovic has developed into an exciting strikeout arm in this system, and his performance in AA last summer has him firmly on the Twins radar. He’ll begin 2022 in AAA, but with so much uncertainty in the Minnesota rotation, look for him to get an opportunity at some point this year. 

 

Chicago White Sox: Jake Burger, 3B

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At 25-years-old Burger is a little old to be mentioned as a prospect about to make a difference, but that’s really not his fault. The big power-hitting righty, unfortunately, missed two full seasons in ’18 and ’19 with leg and foot injuries, and then lost all of 2020 due to covid. He came back last year and swung the bat well in AAA, crushing 18 homers in 82 games and even briefly earning a big-league promotion. Chicago is going to start the year with Yoan Moncada at third base, but if an opening at either the hot corner or DH becomes available, look for Burger to end up back in the big leagues. 

 

Los Angeles Angels: Reid Detmers, LHP

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The Angels do not possess an abundance of big league-ready talent in their system, but Detmers is someone who they’d love to see take the next step and emerge as a reliable option for them at the game’s highest level. The Louisville product was LA’s 1st round pick in 2020, and in the minor leagues a season ago he showed why. In 14 starts the southpaw pitched to a 3.19 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP, while striking out an eye-opening 108 hitters in 62 innings. That performance led to him being promoted to the Majors in August, but that’s when his campaign derailed a little bit. In five outings for the Angels, he struggled to an ugly 7.40 ERA in just over 20 innings, and he’ll assuredly start this upcoming season in AAA. If he pitches well the Angels will certainly give him another chance in the big leagues, and it will be up to him to take advantage of the opportunity. 

 

Texas Rangers: Josh Jung, 3B

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The Rangers used their 1st round pick in 2019 to select Jung out of Texas Tech, and they’ve envisioned him anchoring the middle of their line-up ever since. A .322 lifetime batting average and 21 homers in 122 minor league games have done little to damper those expectations. Jung is currently dealing with a shoulder injury that could potentially delay his big league debut, but with no significant roadblock in front of him in Texas, look to see Jung at some point in 2022. 

 

Oakland Athletics: Nick Allen, IF

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The A’s figure to be a team in serious transition in 2022, as they’ve long been expected to trade off some pieces and attempt a reset. Their veteran stars Matt Olson and Matt Chapman may well be traded in the coming days, as could several of their pitchers. On a team in flux, a talented infielder with some versatility could very find an opportunity. Enter Nick Allen. The 23-year-old doesn’t have a ton of power but is a contact high average hitter, and he’ll in all probability spend a lot of time in the big leagues in the upcoming campaign. 

 

Houston Astros: Korey Lee, C

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The Astros took Lee in the first round in ’19, and while he was a little raw coming out of college, the 23-year-old has made a lot of strides in the minor leagues. Last season he bounced between three different levels of the Houston system, hitting .275 with 11 homers. Lee did not become a full-time catcher until 2019, and the presence of Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro on the big league roster will allow the Astros to be a little patient with his development. But as long as his bat continues to come along, you’d have to imagine Lee will get an opportunity at some point this year. 

 

Seattle Mariners: Julio Rodriguez, OF

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Is this the season the Mariners finally end their long playoff drought? Adding another postseason team in each league will help that quest, but so will the inevitable promotion of uber-prospect Julio Rodriguez. The 21-year-old has obliterated the minor leagues to date, slashing .331/.412/.543 in 217 games in the Seattle system, but he assuredly won’t accrue many more. Look for the M’s to bring Rodriguez to the Major Leagues sooner rather than later, and when he arrives he’ll be here to stay. 

 

New York Mets: Khalil Lee, OF

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Lee got a short cup of coffee in Queens last May, but everyone involved knew injuries at the big league level had forced the Mets to rush him to the Majors before he was ready–and the results showed. Lee hit in AAA though, slashing .274/.451/.500 with 14 home runs and 20 doubles. New York is entering ’22 with serious expectations and they may very well add more players to their outfield mix between now and the start of the regular season. But regardless, Lee is one of the biggest league-ready bats in this system, and if a roster spot becomes available look for him to get another chance. 

 

Atlanta Braves: Kyle Muller, LHP

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Muller is an enormous presence on the mound, especially for a left-hander, and he’s an arm in this organization that is just not talked about enough. Muller made his big league debut last June and ended up throwing 36.2 innings at the game’s highest level. He was largely productive, turning in a 4.17 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP and striking out over a batter/inning, but his minor league track record is more impressive. The 24-year-old owns a career 3.10 ERA across 84 minor league starts, and with some uncertainty in the back of the Atlanta rotation, he conceivably will get a chance to break through at this level in 2022. 

 

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryson Stott, SS

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Philadelphia made Stott the 14th pick in the 2019 draft, and they’ve been excited with his progress since then. Splitting ’21 between three levels, the UNLV product seemed to get better against the better competition. In 418 total at-bats, Stott slashed .299/.390/.486 with 16 homers, 26 doubles, and 10 steals. Didi Gregorius‘ contract makes it very hard to envision him not retaining his starting job on opening day, but the veteran struggled mightily last season, and if that continues and Stott is hitting in AAA–look for Philly to make the change.

 

Washington Nationals: Cade Cavalli, RHP

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Washington’s sell-off last summer signified their willingness to commit to the rebuilding process and move forward with younger players. That line of thought certainly bodes well for their top prospect, righty Cade Cavalli, to get a chance to debut later this summer. Last season the 23-year-old threw at three different levels. He dominated A-ball in seven starts, was fantastic in 11 AA outings, and got hammered in six starts at AAA. His goal during the early portion of this season should be to get acclimated to the minor league’s highest level and find his footing and consistency there. If he can, he will almost certainly get a chance in the Nationals’ rotation in the second half. 

 

Miami Marlins: Max Meyer, RHP

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The Marlins are loaded with young pitching, and several different arms could have been their answer here. Miami is obviously excited about guys like Sixto Sanchez, Jesus Luzardo, and Edward Cabrera, but my pick here is Meyer, the #3 pick from the 2020 draft. In his first season of professional ball a year ago, the University of Minnesota product dazzled. In 22 starts–most of which were at AA–he delivered a 2.27 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a .221 average and punching out 130 hitters in 111 innings. Miami has big plans for his future, and he will almost definitely be debuting in south Florida sooner rather than later. 

 

Chicago Cubs: Brennen Davis, OF

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Similar to the aforementioned Nationals, the Cubs traded away most of their championship-winning team from a few years ago this past summer. Chicago is comfortable embarking upon a rebuild in search of their next winning core, and one of the guys they are counting on to be part of that nucleus is Davis, the top-ranked prospect in their system. The big right-handed hitter is still a little raw with his offensive tools and hasn’t come close to reaching his ceiling. He has immense power, and plus speed–though he still has yet to really learn how to use it to steal bases. The Cubs are hopeful he can eventually develop into a dynamic two-way player, but they don’t have to rush him. They’ll give him a chance to hone his skills at AAA, but they’ll definitely initiate his big league introduction later this summer. 

 

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Gorman, IF

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The Redbirds selected Gorman in the 1st round of the 2018 draft, and the 21-year-old proved a year ago that he’s just about big-league ready. Splitting the campaign between AA and AAA Gorman hit .279 with 25 homers and 75 RBI, and his versatility to play multiple infield positions should expedite his big league arrival. If a need on the infield arises in St. Louis, look for Gorman to be the one that gets the call. 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates: Oneil Cruz, SS

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Cruz has long been mentioned as an intriguing prospect in the Pittsburgh system, and as 2022 gets set to begin he’s ascended to the top of the list. In over 1500 career minor league at-bats, the Dominican-born shortstop owns a lifetime .281/.342/.463 slash line and he even earned his first big league call-up–and crushed his first homer in the Majors–last September. Cruz is slated to begin this season as the Pirates starting shortstop, and if all goes to plan he won’t be giving the job back anytime soon. 

 

Cincinnati Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP

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Greene was the 2nd overall pick in the ’17 draft, but his career, unfortunately, was stuck in neutral for a while due to Tommy John surgery and then covid. Heading into the 2021 minor league season, though, Greene was healthy and ready and picked up right where he left off. In seven AA starts he went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA before quickly being bumped up a level. He found AAA more challenging, pitching to a 4.13 ERA in 14 starts, but he encouragingly still struck out well over a batter/inning and turned in a 1.29 WHIP. The Reds will pay attention to his innings and be patient as he tries to master AAA, but if all goes the way everyone involved wants it to, Greene will be pitching at Great American Ballpark later this summer. 

 

Milwaukee Brewers: Ethan Small, LHP

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Small was the Brewers 1st round pick in 2019, and the Mississippi State product has been virtually lights out as a professional. In 25 career minor league starts he’s pitched to a 1.98 ERA with a sub-.200 batting average against in 98.1 innings. It’s becoming clear, especially after gaining so much experience in college, that the lefty just doesn’t have very much more to prove ahead of an eventual Major League debut. If a rotation spot in Milwaukee becomes available early in 2022, look for Small to get the first opportunity. 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Jackson, RHP

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The Dodgers are obviously very much built to win right now, but even powerhouse teams need the depth to survive the grind of 162 games. This is why arms like Andre Jackson often become unsung heroes on good teams. Jackson was a late-round pick five years ago, but his minor league performance has opened enough eyes that he’s steadily risen through LA’s system and even reached the big leagues briefly last summer. In 61 career minor league starts the righty owns a 3.53 lifetime ERA, and if the Dodgers need someone to come up and make some starts in ’22 he could be the guy. 

 

San Diego Padres: Mackenzie Gore, LHP

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The Padres selected Gore 3rd overall in the 2017 draft, and from that day forward he’s been regarded as one of the better starting pitching prospects in the league. Other teams have often asked about Gore during trade discussions with San Diego and for years have been told he’s off-limits. Last year though, the lefty failed to really live up to the hype. In 12 outings across four different minor league levels, Gore pitched to just a 3.93 ERA in 50.1 innings while struggling with injuries. The 2022 season will be an important one for the southpaw, and if he can pitch well in probably AAA early in the year, he could quickly put his name back on the big league radar. 

 

San Francisco Giants: Joey Bart, C

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If the Giants are going to back up their surprisingly excellent 2021 campaign, they’d better hope young Joey Bart is ready to assume a prominent role on this team. Future hall-of-famer Buster Posey caught San Francisco off guard when he retired this winter, leaving the starting catching gig in the lap of Bart, the Giants’ top pick in the ’18 draft. In 197 minor league games the Georgia Tech product has been a force, hitting .287 with 39 homers and 134 RBI, but that has not translated to the Majors. In 109 at-bats to date at the sport’s highest level, Bart has hit just .239 with no home runs. He’s going to have a lot on his plate in terms of handling the pitching staff of a team with deep postseason aspirations, but the Giants would still like to see the bat progress in 2022. 

 

Arizona Diamondbacks: Ryne Nelson, RHP

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The Diamondbacks were the worst team in baseball last season, and things don’t project to get all that much better for them in 2022. The silver lining, however, could be the opportunity young players figure to get all over the diamond for this team, and on the mound, someone like Ryne Nelson could be poised to take advantage. Arizona selected the righty in the 2nd round three years ago, and after the covid canceled 2020 minor league season, he was terrific from start to finish a year ago. Topping out at AA, the 24-year-old made 22 starts and delivered a 3.17 ERA in 116.1 innings. The Snakes will probably start him in AAA in ’22, and if he continues to pitch well look for him to get a big-league look in the 2nd half. 

 

Colorado Rockies: Ryan Rolison, LHP

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Rolison was the Rockies’ 1st round pick in the 2018 draft, and after a tremendous introduction to pro ball later that summer, things have gone dramatically off the rails for the southpaw. In his most recent 41 minor league starts, Rolison has pitched to a 4.70 ERA and served up 31 home runs. Pitching your home games in Colorado is challenging enough, and the Rockies are really hoping Rolison can get back on track and get some confidence again in 2022, ahead of a potential promotion. 

Justin Mears is a freelance sports writer from Long Beach Island, NJ. Enjoys being frustrated by the Mets and Cowboys, reading Linwood Barclay novels, and being yelled at by his toddler son. Follow him on twitter @justinwmears



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