10 youngest players to open in the bigs in '22

April 8th, 2022

Wander Franco already has a 43-game on-base streak, a pair of postseason home runs and a $182 million contract to his credit. And he's still the youngest player on a Major League Opening Day roster by more than two months.

The Rays shortstop ranked No. 1 on four consecutive MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects lists from mid-2019 to pre-2021, and is No. 1 among the current 10 youngest big leaguers as well, having just turned 21 five weeks ago. Tampa Bay also features the youngest pitcher on an Opening Day roster in right-hander Luis Patiño, who will be 22 throughout this season.

All 10 of the youngest players are past or present Top 100 Prospects, including four currently ranked among the very best prospects in the game: Royals shortstop/third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. (No. 1), Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez (No. 3), Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson (No. 4) and Padres shortstop C.J. Abrams (No. 9).

Entering his fourth year in the Majors after finishing second in American League Most Valuable Player balloting in 2021, Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is still the 12th-youngest player on an Opening Day roster. He just turned 23 three weeks ago.

Here are the 10 youngest players opening the season in the big leagues:

1. Wander Franco, SS, Rays (age 21, DOB: March 1, 2001)
Franco is nearly three years younger than the Rays franchise. In case you're wondering, the only player ever to win an MVP Award in his age-21 season or younger was Vida Blue in 1971.

2. Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners (age 21, DOB: Dec. 29, 2000)
Rodríguez needed just 217 games, none above Double-A, before getting the call to Seattle, which is what happens when you bat .331/.412/.543. On Friday afternoon, he'll become the youngest Mariners position player to start on Opening Day since 20-year-old Alex Rodriguez in 1996.

3. C.J. Abrams, SS, Padres (age 21, DOB: Oct. 3, 2000)
Abrams has even less experience than Rodríguez, playing just 76 Minor League games -- a fractured left tibia and sprained left knee cost him most of 2021 -- and hitting .343/.398/.529. Though he didn't play in the Padres' opener, he'll help fill the void left by the injured Fernando Tatis Jr.

4. Bobby Witt Jr., SS/3B, Royals (age 21, DOB: June 14, 2000)
All baseball's best prospect did in his first big league game was smoke a game-winning double while also showing off his tremendous speed and arm strength. The youngest Royal ever to debut on Opening Day, Witt has 30-30 potential and the personality to quickly become the face of the franchise.

5. Luis Patiño, RHP, Rays (age 22, DOB: Oct. 26, 1999)
The youngest pitcher (age 20) to appear in a regular-season game in 2020, Patiño also saw playoff action with the Padres that fall before going to the Rays in the Blake Snell trade in December '20. He was the youngest AL hurler to pitch in a game last year and is the youngest arm on any '22 Opening Day roster.

6. Geraldo Perdomo, SS, D-backs (age 22, DOB: Oct. 22, 1999)
The fifth-youngest big leaguer in 2021 at age 21, Perdomo got a surprise callup last April while Nick Ahmed was dealing with a knee injury. The youngest D-backs position player to debut since 19-year-old Justin Upton in '17, he's back again with Ahmed nursing a sore shoulder.

7. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers (age 22, DOB: Aug. 26, 1999)
Torkelson broke Barry Bonds' freshman home run record at Arizona State and is considered the best all-around offensive prospect to come out of college baseball in at least two decades. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft would have been joined on Detroit's roster by outfielder Riley Greene, who's No. 5 on the Top 100 and would have been No. 4 on this list, had Greene not fouled a ball off his right foot and broken it last week.

8. Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds (age 22, DOB: Aug. 6, 1999)
Greene overcame Tommy John surgery in April 2019 and regained his overpowering fastball, which has reached 104 mph and averaged 99 mph during the final three months of last season in Triple-A. Scheduled to pitch Sunday against the Braves, he'll be the youngest Reds starting pitcher to debut since Mike Leake was three months younger in 2010.

9. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners (age 22, DOB: July 16, 1999)
Ranked No. 4 on the preseason 2021 Top 100 Prospects list, one spot ahead of teammate Rodríguez, Kelenic struggled to a .181/.265/.350 line in Seattle last year. He did bash 14 homers, putting him in good company because the previous four rookies age 21 or younger to do so were Guerrero, Tatis, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Juan Soto.

10. Reid Detmers, LHP, Angels (age 22, DOB: July 8, 1999)
The second player (following Garrett Crochet) from the 2020 Draft to reach the big leagues, Detmers debuted last August and won one of his five starts with the Angels. Armed with a well above-average curveball, he struck out 127 batters in 82 2/3 innings between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors in his first year as a pro.