See ya 2021! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Let the new year commence!
There’s so much to look forward to prospect-wise as we turn the calendar to 2022. We here at MLB Pipeline want to wish all of you a happy new year by taking a look at a prospect for each team we can’t wait to see make his big league debut in the coming season. Cheers!
Blue Jays: Gabriel Moreno, C (No. 1, MLB No. 32)
An easy one here. There’s a case to be made that Moreno was on track to make a 2021 debut, if not for a fractured thumb that knocked him out for nearly three months. He still produced a .373/.441/.651 line while showcasing impressive defensive skills in his 32 games at Double-A New Hampshire. The Major League presence of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Reese McGuire complicate Moreno’s path, but the 21-year-old has the highest ceiling of the bunch and should earn his look when ready.
Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C (No. 1/MLB No. 1)
This has to be a question of when, not if, right? The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 Draft is seriously knocking on the door after posting an OPS of .899 between Double- and Triple-A in 2021 while providing excellent defense behind the plate. He’s the future face of the franchise and it will happen sooner rather than later.
Rays: Greg Jones, SS (No. 5, MLB No. 84)
Another talented shortstop on his way to Tampa Bay? Indeed. What position Jones lands at when he does see The Show remains to be seen. His easy plus-plus speed and above-average arm make him a capable candidate for a move to center. In any case, Rays officials highlight how the switch-hitter is capable of showing good raw power with the exit velocities to back it up. Tapping a little more into that pop while being even an average hitter would hasten Jones’ move to the Majors after he reached Double-A in his age-23 season.
Red Sox: Triston Casas, 1B (No. 2, MLB No. 18)
The Red Sox got within two games of the World Series despite inconsistent production at first base and they also happen to have one of game's top prospects at that position. A 2018 first-round pick from a Florida high school, Casas is a complete hitter who starred for the U.S. Olympic team and topped the Arizona Fall League with a .495 on-base percentage, sandwiched around batting .279/.394/.484 with 14 homers in 86 Minor League games (mostly in Double-A).
Yankees: Ken Waldichuk, LHP (No. 9)
A previously anonymous 2019 fifth-rounder from St. Mary's, Waldichuk opened 2021 with 30 2/3 scoreless innings at High-A and finished fourth in the Minors in strikeouts (163 in 110 innings) and whiff percentage (36 percent) while fashioning a 3.03 ERA and reaching Double-A. With a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and gives hitters fits, as well as a pair of solid breaking balls and an improving changeup, he could give the Yankees some in-house pitching help.
Guardians: Tyler Freeman, INF (No. 1, MLB No. 59)
Before sustaining a slight tear in the labrum in his left shoulder on a swing that ended his 2021 season after 41 games, Freeman burnished his reputation as one of the best hitters in the Minors by batting .323/.372/.470 in Double-A. The 2017 supplemental second-rounder from a California high school could take over second base for the Guardians with his uncanny bat-to-ball skills and high baseball IQ.
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS (No. 1, MLB No. 3)
There were whispers that Witt could have made the Majors out of Spring Training last year, so you can imagine how loud the cries will be for him to see The Show in early 2022. The 2019 No. 2 overall pick is clearly the future of the franchise in Kansas City and showed in 2021 just how close he is to its present with 33 homers, 29 steals and a 143 wRC+ at Double-A and Triple-A. He could be at short. He could be at third. He will be on preseason AL Rookie of the Year shortlists and very well might be the favorite.
Tigers: Spencer Torkelson, 1B/3B (No. 1, MLB No. 4)
Manager A.J. Hinch made no bones about it last summer. The club is planning as if Torkelson is its future first baseman. Who could blame Detroit? The 2020 No. 1 overall pick lived up to lofty expectations with a .267/.383/.552 line and 30 homers over 121 games across the top three levels of the Tigers system in his first full season. He split time between the infield corners but is expected to be at first when the dust settles. Given the Tigers’ investments this offseason, the organization is ready to pounce on the AL Central now and giving Torkelson an early (and deserved) promotion next season will lock another huge piece of the puzzle in place.
Twins: Jose Miranda, INF (No. 8)
There’s hope top prospect Royce Lewis will make a stirring comeback from his knee injury and reach Minnesota, but let’s not put any pressure on him yet. Besides, we want to see if what Miranda did in 2021 (30 homers, .973 OPS) is legit at the highest level, regardless of what position the Twins find for him to play to get that bat into the lineup.
White Sox: Yoelqui Céspedes, OF (No. 2)
The younger brother of Yoenis Céspedes and the most famous player in the 2020-21 international class, Yoelqui fared better with the bat than some scouts expected, hitting .285/.350/.463 with eight homers and 18 steals in 72 games between High-A and Double-A. Signed for $2.05 million last January, he possesses well above-average raw power and arm strength, flashes plus straight-line speed and could join the White Sox after some time in Triple-A.
A’s: Nick Allen, SS/2B (No. 3)
Defensively, Allen could’ve played in the big leagues in 2021 and he’ll bring his Gold Glove caliber work to Oakland at shortstop or second base, depending on where he’s needed most (here’s hoping it’s shortstop). He took a nice step forward with his bat in Double-A in 2021 to earn a promotion to Triple-A and prime door-knocking territory.
Angels: Davis Daniel, RHP (No. 21)
After having Tommy John surgery in April of his Draft year (2019), the Angels’ seventh-rounder that year made the most of his pro debut in 2021. The Auburn product began the year in High-A and ended in Triple-A and struck out 12.1 per nine along the way. A low walk rate led to a very solid 4.53 K/BB ratio as well, looking very much like a solid starting pitching prospect.
Astros: Jeremy Pena, SS (No. 4)
If the Astros can't re-sign Carlos Correa, they could replace the All-Star with Pena, the son of former big leaguer Geronimo and a 2018 third-rounder from Maine. He's a quality defender who has gotten stronger and made more impact at the plate since turning pro, hitting .287/.346/.598 with 10 homers in 30 Triple-A games after losing the first three months of the season to a left wrist injury.
Mariners: Julio Rodriguez, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 2)
After a year that saw him hit .347/.441/.560 across two levels, mostly in Double-A, at age 20, while also playing well for the Dominican Republic in the Olympics, Rodriguez’s debut might be one of the most highly anticipated in all of baseball. He’s going to hit for average and the power is going to keep showing up, and as his 21 steals indicate, he’s a better baserunner than perhaps he’s given credit for.
Rangers: Josh Jung, 3B (No. 2, MLB No. 48)
Jung was on course to debut with the Rangers in 2021 before he came down with a stress fracture in his left foot that sidelined him until mid-June. The eighth overall pick in 2019 out of Texas Tech, he's a polished hitter (.326/.398/.592 with 19 homers in 78 games between Double-A and Triple-A) who continues to get better defensively at the hot corner.
Braves: Shea Langeliers, C (No. 2/MLB No. 69)
The Braves’ top pick, taken No. 9 overall in the 2019 Draft, has plenty of power at the plate, as his 22 homers in 2021 indicate. But it’s his defense behind the plate that will get him to the big leagues. He has one of the strongest arms in the Minors that can shut down a running game, works well with pitchers and receives extremely well. There’s a reason the Braves kept him on the taxi squad throughout their postseason run last fall.
Marlins: Max Meyer, RHP (No. 3, MLB No. 30)
Meyer went from the third overall pick in 2020 -- matching Hall of Famer Paul Molitor as the highest choice ever from the University of Minnesota -- straight to Double-A in 2021 and placed eighth in the Minors in ERA (2.38) while striking out 123 in 106 innings between that level and Triple-A. The Marlins could use some rotation help and he could provide it with a fastball and slider that both can be well above-average offerings when they're on.
Mets: Brett Baty, 3B/OF (No. 2, MLB No. 45)
It’s far from a given that Baty heads to Flushing next summer. He just turned 22. He played 40 games at Double-A last year and put up solid, if not spectacular, numbers in the Arizona Fall League on top of that. But still, his is the most exciting potential debut for the Mets next season. Another year of maturation, another year of upper-level experience could allow him to tap even more into his plus-plus raw power and solidify his standing at third base, even with Eduardo Escobar now in the frame.
Nationals: Cade Cavalli, RHP (No. 1, MLB No. 39)
Cavalli led the Minors with 175 strikeouts over 123 1/3 innings in 2021. He likely won’t get a lengthy enough return to defend his title. The 23-year-old right-hander has four above-average to plus-plus pitches that could likely play in Washington’s rotation right now. Refining his command will be a point of emphasis at Triple-A Rochester, and even a slight improvement in that category should punch his ticket to the capital.
Phillies: Bryson Stott, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 97)
Could Stott be the Phillies’ starting shortstop in 2022? After watching him play across three levels and hit a very solid .299/.390/.486, then looking like one of the best prospects in the Arizona Fall League (.318/.445/.489 and a league-leading 31 RBIs), he should at least get the opportunity. He has every chance to play shortstop regularly, but has also shown defensive flexibility by playing second and third at various levels.
Pirates: Nick Gonzales, 2B (No. 4/MLB No. 62)
The Pirates took Gonzales No. 7 overall in the 2020 Draft because they believed he had the kind of advanced bat that would move quickly to Pittsburgh. The only thing that slowed him at all was a broken finger that shelved him for a while and likely kept him from earning a bump up to Double-A. He hit .302 with a .950 OPS in High-A, then went off in the AFL, finishing third in the league with his .380 average and seventh with a 1.032 OPS. He could start the year in Double-A, but that bat will carry him to the big leagues quickly.
Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 26)
Talk about a return from Tommy John surgery. Greene’s elbow needed to be repaired late in 2018, so he missed all of 2019 rehabbing and then didn’t pitch officially in 2020 because of the pandemic. He certainly didn’t look rusty in 2021, striking out 11.8 per nine while walking just 3.3 between Double- and Triple-A, bringing the triple-digit heat and swing-and-miss slider on a regular basis.
Brewers: Ethan Small, LHP (No. 5)
The Brewers have a recent history of breaking in their pitching prospects with opening Major League assignments in the bullpen. Could Small be good enough to slide straight into the rotation? The possibility is at least there. Last season, the 24-year-old southpaw had a 1.98 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 77 1/3 Minor League innings, 35 of which came at Triple-A. His low-90s invisiball fastball and above-average changeup would play straight away, thanks to a deceptive delivery. A few more solid Nashville starts should be all Small needs to see Milwaukee, regardless of role.
Cardinals: Nolan Gorman, 2B (No. 1, MLB No. 24)
Prepare for a Nolan-Nolan 5-4-3 double-play combination. Gorman moved over to second base in 2021 in deference to Arenado and because the Cards fully want the pair to occupy the same dirt soon. That should come in 2022. Gorman hit .274/.320/.465 with 14 homers in 76 games at Triple-A Memphis last summer, and many believe there is plenty more pop to come in his upcoming age-22 season and beyond. A powerful start to the spring should allow Gorman to see the Majors and have his say in an open NL Central race.
Cubs: Brennen Davis, OF (No. 1, MLB No. 14)
The rebuilding Cubs will be bringing a lot of new faces to Wrigley Field in 2022, none more important than Davis, a center fielder who should have solid or better tools across the board. The 2018 second-rounder out of an Arizona high school reached Triple-A at age 21 while hitting a combined .268/.379/.510 with 19 homers in 96 games and winning MVP honors at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
D-backs: Alek Thomas, OF (No. 3, MLB No. 40)
Arizona fans will look for any optimism they can find after the rough season that was 2021. The arrival of the 2018 second-rounder could fit the bill. Thomas has the speed and instincts to play a quality center field in the Majors right away, and his offensive arrow is pointing up after hitting .313/.394/.559 with 18 homers across Double-A and Triple-A last season. He has the potential to help the D-backs’ return to relevance in multiple ways.
Dodgers: Bobby Miller, RHP (No. 4, MLB No. 78)
A 2020 first-rounder from Louisville, Miller logged a 2.40 ERA, .192 opponent average and 70/13 K/BB ratio in 56 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A in his pro debut this summer before showing the best pure stuff among Arizona Fall League starters. With a heavy fastball that can park in the upper 90s, a sharp mid-80s slider, a developing low-80s curveball and a lively mid-80s changeup, he'll help the Dodgers as soon as he tightens his command a bit more.
Giants: Heliot Ramos, OF (No. 4, MLB No. 80)
Though the Giants are coming off a 107-victory season, they don't have a lot of locks in their outfield, which could present an opportunity for their 2017 first-round pick from a Puerto Rico high school. Ramos, who batted .254/.323/.416 with 14 homers and 15 steals in 116 games between Double-A and Triple-A, has played mostly center field in the Minors but fits more of a right-field profile with his power, strong arm and average speed.
Padres: CJ Abrams, SS (No. 1, MLB No. 6)
We only got to see Abrams for 42 Double-A games due to a fractured left tibia and sprained left MCL during the regular season and a left-shoulder bruise that kept him from playing in the AFL. All the same, his ceiling remains considerable due to his top-of-the-line speed, hitting potential from the left side and strong defensive skills from a primary position. The Padres’ decision to send the 2019 sixth overall pick to Double-A for his first full season spoke volumes of how advanced he is. Even with the lost time and Fernando Tatis Jr.’s spot at short, Adams’ talent and ceiling are considerable enough to warrant Major League consideration before long.
Rockies: Ryan Rolison, LHP (No. 3)
The left-hander missed time with appendicitis and was a bit inconsistent during his time in Triple-A, though he did miss a fair amount of bats overall in 2021 (9.7 K/9) while walking just 2.8. He made up for some lost time with Licey in the Dominican League over the winter, with a 3.15 ERA and 10.8 K/9 rate in five starts pointing to him being ready to impact the big league rotation very soon.