These are baseball's best defensive prospects

February 23rd, 2022

Our annual All-Defense team is nearly certain to contain two things: future Gold Glove winners and Braves outfielder Cristian Pache.

Since we started identifying the best defenders back in 2016, five honorees have received Gold Glove acclaim in the big leagues: Cody Bellinger, Byron Buxton, Matt Chapman, J.P. Crawford and Evan White. That number is sure to grow as more All-Defense members graduate to the Majors.

And ever since Pache reached full-season ball, he has been a mainstay on the team. He earns All-Defense recognition for the fifth straight year in 2022, and scouts have regarded him as the consensus best defender in the Minors for at least the past four seasons.

Four other 2022 first-teamers made our 2021 squads. Athletics shortstop Nick Allen and Royals first baseman Nick Pratto repeat on the first team, which Allen also cracked in 2020, while Rays second baseman Vidal Bruján and Cubs outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong appeared on the second team a year ago.

Our complete All-Defense first team includes five Top 100 Prospects (end-of-2021-season rankings in parentheses):

C: Adley Rutschman, Orioles (No. 1/MLB No. 1)
Rutschman's all-around offensive brilliance was the major reason why he went No. 1 overall in the 2019 Draft out of Oregon State, but his defense at a premium position also contributed. He's an advanced receiver with plus arm strength, and he also excels in intangible areas such as game-calling and leadership.

1B: Nick Pratto, Royals (No. 2/MLB No. 65)
While it took four years after the Royals made him the 14th overall choice in 2017 for his bat to break out, Pratto's glove has shone consistently during his pro career. He's extremely athletic and aggressive for a first baseman, possesses soft hands and has a strong arm that also made him a pitching prospect as a California high schooler.

2B: Vidal Bruján, Rays (No. 2/MLB No. 21)
Because of the Rays' logjam of talent at the upper levels, Bruján played six positions in Triple-A and four in just 10 games in the big leagues last season. Signed for a mere $15,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, he's best suited for second base and has seen most of his professional action there. His plus-plus speed gives him more range than most at the keystone, and his solid arm strength stands out as well.

3B: Casey Schmitt, Giants (No. 17)
Schmitt was one of the better relief prospects in the 2020 Draft, in which the Giants grabbed him in the second round out of San Diego State, showcasing a fastball that reached 96 mph and a mid-80s splitter that was devastating at its best. His powerful arm is also an asset at third base, where he has soft hands and good range to both sides as well as coming in on slow grounders.

SS: Nick Allen, Athletics (No. 3)
Though Allen is just 5-foot-8 and 166 pounds, he's so dynamic at shortstop that he commanded an over-slot $2 million bonus as a third-round choice from a California high school in 2017. He not only makes spectacular plays thanks to his smooth actions, exceptional range, quick hands and strong arm, but he's also a reliable defender who rarely boots a routine grounder.

OF: Cristian Pache, Braves (No. 1/MLB No. 38)
While there's still some question about how much offense Pache will provide, his ability to make an impact with his defense has landed him on the Braves' postseason roster the past two years. Signed for $1.4 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, he's a complete center fielder. His plus-plus speed alone would give him tremendous range and he enhances it with outstanding instincts. He also has well-above-average arm strength that ranks among the best at his position.

OF: Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cubs (No. 5)
The best defensive outfielder in the 2020 Draft, Crow-Armstrong went 19th overall to the Mets and moved to the Cubs last summer in a trade for Javier Báez and Trevor Williams. His combination of plus speed and quality reads and routes allows him to cover plenty of ground in center, and he also owns solid arm strength.

OF: Michael Harris, Braves (No. 4/MLB No. 89)
Known more as a left-handed pitching prospect for much of his amateur career, Harris wanted to hit and the Braves obliged after taking him in 2019's third round out of a Georgia high school. He's similar to Pache, albeit with plus rather than plus-plus speed and arm strength, and likely will shift to right field if they play in the same Atlanta outfield.

Second team
Our second team includes two more Top 100 Prospects: Braves catcher Shea Langeliers and D-backs outfielder Corbin Carroll. Langeliers, Marlins shortstop Nasim Nunez, Rockies first baseman Michael Toglia also received second-team nods in 2021.

C: Shea Langeliers, Braves (No. 2/MLB No. 69)
1B: Michael Toglia, Rockies (No. 6)
2B: Michael Massey, Royals (No. 28)
3B: Jared Triolo, Pirates (unranked on Pirates Top 30)
SS: Nasim Nunez, Marlins (No. 13)
OF: Johan Rojas, Phillies (No. 6)
OF: Michael Siani, Reds (No. 11)
OF: Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks (No. 2/MLB No. 20)