Welcome to the fourth edition of the 2022 Rookie Power Rankings. Once per month, the prospect experts at MLB Pipeline vote on who we believe to be the likeliest Rookie of the Year winners at year’s end.
Please be sure not to miss that “at year’s end” part. We’re not voting on who would win today, or who’s hot right now (see the rookie hot list, set to run again in a couple of weeks). Instead, we weigh players’ performance to date along with expectations for the rest of the year, adding up to a judgment call from our prospect experts.
Now, obviously, the later we get in the year, the more we weigh the numbers that are already on the board. But this is still a projection. Anyway, on with the results.
1. Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners (previous rank: 1)
Rodríguez is currently dealing with what pretty much everyone hopes is a minor injury, and that could definitely affect his standing in these rankings if it lingers. But based on performance, this is an easy call. Rodríguez is simply one of the biggest stories of this baseball season, with a legitimate chance to play his way into some MVP votes – never mind Rookie of the Year. He’s also one of the most watchable players in the game, and that never hurts at awards time.
2. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals (previous rank: 2)
Witt found his power in May. He started taking some walks in June. In July? He’s found that hit tool we knew he had. He’s batting .312 for the month and has slashed his strikeout rate, while also racking up eight steals in 19 games. He’s also amassed 20 steals on the season. He’s not hogging the headlines like Rodríguez, but his performance is not far behind at all.
3. Jeremy Peña, SS, Astros (previous rank: 4)
Really, the only thing separating Peña from the two guys above him at this point is playing time. He missed some time due to injury and trails both Rodríguez and Witt by about 70 plate appearances. He’s also been a little less effective since returning from that injury, but he’s an easy and clear choice to be the third name on this list. He’s one hot streak away from making the AL rookie race a three-way battle again.
4. Spencer Strider, RHP, Braves (previous rank: 10)
Strider has mixed in a couple of clunkers over the past month or so, but his overall resume remains outstanding and his stuff is undeniable. Plus, when we’re handicapping something like Rookie of the Year, “key rotation contributor for postseason team” is the kind of item that tends to help a player’s case. We’ll be watching to see if Strider finds his late June/early July groove again, but he’s having a heck of a year.
5. Michael Harris II, OF, Braves (previous rank: 6)
While we’re on the topic of narrative, Harris’ one is pretty good too. He stepped in and stabilized a position of need for that same likely postseason team. Oh, and he’s also been awfully productive, hitting for average and power while playing a very nice center field.
6. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles (previous rank: 3)
Rutschman’s overall numbers may not look all that great, but he’s been torrid in July. He’s also been the starting catcher for a surprising Orioles pitching staff that has the team in the mix for a Wild Card. Rutschman will have a tough time winning the award because an early-season injury kept his playing time down, but if he keeps hitting like he has recently, he’ll definitely appear on some ballots.
7. (tie) Joe Ryan, RHP, Twins (previous rank: 8)
Ryan just keeps quietly, steadily chugging along. He hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in a start since June 26, and hasn’t allowed more than three since June 14. He throws strikes, keeps the ball in the park and keeps the Twins in games. That’s not sexy but it’s awfully valuable.
7. (tie) Christopher Morel, OF, Cubs (previously unranked)
One of the biggest surprises in baseball this year, Morel just keeps producing. Never a great source of on-base percentage in the Minors, he’s shown decent plate discipline in the big leagues while also maintaining the speed and moderate power he’s always had. It hasn’t been a great year on the North Side, but Morel may be a legitimate find.
9. Seiya Suzuki, OF, Cubs (previously unranked)
Suzuki, who played his way out of these rankings earlier in the season, has played his way right back into them. Suzuki followed a dismal May with an injured June, but July has been his best month to date. He’s hit for average and power since returning from the injured list, and it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him force his way into the NL Rookie conversation by year’s end.
10. (tie) Brendan Donovan, OF, Cardinals (previous rank: 7)
Donovan has tailed off quite a bit in July, and he’ll need to reverse that trend to stay on this list. Still, his overall body of work on the season is solid, and he continues to get regular playing time. Until and unless the Cardinals make a move that pushes him to the bench, he has the chance to climb back up the rankings.
10. (tie) Steven Kwan, OF, Guardians (previously unranked)
Much like Suzuki, Kwan was one of baseball’s top rookie stories in April before scuffling in May. But he’s been well over .300 since the start of June, and he’s even mixed in a few extra-base hits in July. If you wrote him off during his slump, you probably made a mistake.