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Prospect Roundup

Top 10 Prospects: April 4

by Christopher Crawford
Updated On: April 4, 2022, 9:32 am ET

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We made it.

A reminder on how this works: This is a list for the 2022 season only. It is not a list of the top overall prospects, but the players who have the best chance of making a difference in 2022.

Also, it’s only a list of prospects who are currently in the minors/have prospect eligibility. For this first version, we’re just counting the former, but going forward players that are on MLB rosters will not be eligible.

Those warnings out of the way, here’s a look a the top prospects who have a chance to make a fantasy contribution in 2022.

1. Bobby Witt Jr., INF, Kansas City Royals

2021 stats: 124 G, .290/.361/.576, 33 HR, 29 SB, 51 BB, 131 SO at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. 

As if there was any doubt. Witt Jr. would have been first on this list anyway, but it made it even easier to make that decision when it was announced that he had made the Opening Day roster. The second-overall pick of the 2019 draft has the ability to make an impact in every category, and has more than looked the part in Cactus League action. Yes, fantasy managers should be prepared for some ups and downs, but the overall counting stats should be there regardless. There’s enormous potential for Witt Jr. in 2022. 

2. Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners

2021 stats: 74 G, .347/.441/.560, 13 HR, 21 SB, 43 BB, 66 SO at High-A Everett and Double-A Arkansas. 

As of print time, it’s not known just yet if Rodríguez has officially made the roster. All signs point to yes, and even if he were to begin the year in Triple-A, he’d slot second on this list. The 21-year-old is one of the best pure hitting prospects in the sport -- maybe the best -- and he’s the rare player who appears to be getting faster; making those 21 steals he put up in the minors a possibility in the majors. Again, expect some lumps, but Rodríguez has a chance to be an impact player right away, and it appears we’re going to see him in a Seattle uniform to begin the year.

3. Spencer Torkelson, 1B/3B, Detroit Tigers

2021 stats: 121 G, .267/.383/.552, 30 HR, 5 SB, 77 BB, 114 SO at High-A West Michigan, Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. 

Another easy one to place on the list, as we now know that Torkelson is going to begin the year in Detroit. While he doesn’t have the same type of upside as those names above, the first-overall pick of the 2020 draft has easy plus-plus power to all parts of the park, a keen eye at the plate, and the ball jumps off his right-handed bat. He won’t provide many steals and there is some swing-and-miss in his game, but fantasy managers looking for potential help at the corner-infield position -- or maybe even third base, as this will be the last year he likely qualifies there -- should take a close look at the man I’m choosing to call Torky. 

4. Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

2021 stats: 21 G, 106.1 IP, 3.30 ERA, 39 BB, 139 SO at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville.

The player that is most surprising to have made the Opening Day roster is Greene, and it’s a very pleasant one, indeed. The hard-throwing right-hander will make his first start against the Braves on Sunday, and while that’s not exactly the softest of landing spots, he’s worth consideration as a starter for that contest. This is a hurler who gets his heater well above 100 mph on a consistent basis, and he complements it with secondary offerings that keep hitters honest and an athletic delivery he repeats well. There’s a ton of volatility in Greene as a 22-year-old rookie hurler, but it’d be foolish to deny his upside. 

5. Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles

2021 stats: 123 G, .285/.397/.502, 23 HR, 3 SB, 79 BB, 90 SO at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. 

There are going to be massive changes to next week’s list -- remember, we only do prospects in the minors on this -- but the name that will assuredly be here at the top is Rutschman. The question is whether he would have made the roster before his tricep strain, and my guess is no. That has nothing to do with Rutschman’s baseball skills, however. He’s a switch-hitting backstop who has outstanding hand-eye coordination and the ability to drive the baseball from both sides of the plate. Catchers often struggle in their first year of MLB action. Rutschman has the tools/acumen to be an exception. 

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6. Oneil Cruz, SS/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

2021 stats: 68 G, .310/.375/.594, 17 HR, 19 SB, 28 BB, 69 SO at Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis; 2 G, .333/.333/.667 1 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 4 SO at Pittsburgh.

We don’t know for sure if Baltimore was going to manipulate Rutschman’s service time. We do know that Pittsburgh will do that with Cruz. Pirates manager Derek Shelton called it a “development decision.” Whatever helps you sleep at night. The 6-foot-7 shortstop has tremendous power in his left-handed swing, but he also has quality bat-to-ball skills that allow him to make hard contact all over with less swing-and-miss you’d expect from someone his size. Pittsburgh will let Cruz waste in Triple-A for a bit, but should be up and help fantasy managers before the middle of May. He’s still worth draft pick consideration in redraft leagues, and is a must get when the Buccos stop this nonsense. 

7. Riley Greene, OF, Detroit Tigers

2021 stats: 124 G, .301/.387/.534, 24 HR, 16 SB, 63 BB, 153 SO at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo.

It looked like Greene was on his way to making the Opening Day roster with Torkelson for the Tigers, but baseball can be pretty cruel sometimes. Instead of squaring off against the White Sox on April 8, Greene will be out ‘thanks’ to a fracture in his right foot. He’s not expected to need surgery, but the fracture will keep him out 6-8 weeks. He still deserves to be placed on this list as an outfielder capable of helping in several categories, and he should be back with Detroit before the end of June. It’d be a lot easier to justify carrying him on the roster if you could place him on the injured list, but he’s a must-add as soon as Detroit gives him the chance. 

8. Joe Ryan, RHP, Minnesota Twins

2021 stats: 14 G, 66 IP, 3.41 ERA, 12 BB, 92 SO at Triple-A Durham and St. Paul; 5 G, 26.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 5 BB, 30 SO at Minnesota.

In my [redacted] years of writing these kinds of lists, I cannot ever recall having a pitcher that will start Opening Day on a list. Ryan will break that, as he’ll start the opener against the Mariners on Thursday. Acquired in the deal for Nelson Cruz near the deadline, Ryan doesn’t have elite stuff, but he commands the heck out of his offerings, and he limits the self-inflicted damage while missing enough bats to keep fantasy managers happy. Potentially, anyway. there are certainly prospects like Grayson Rodriguez, Jack Leiter and Max Meyer who have more upside -- just to name a few -- but Ryan’s no slouch, and can help fantasy managers right away. Proximity matters. 

9. Joey Bart, C, San Francisco Giants

2021 stats: 67 G, .294/.358/.472, 10 HR, 0 SB, 21 BB, 82 SO at Triple-A Sacramento; 2 G, .333/.333/.333, 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 2 SO at San Francisco.

It wasn’t a lock that Bart was going to make this list even after Buster Posey’s retirement, and that should be considered more compliment to some other prospects than it is an insult to the catcher. After watching him in Cactus League play, however, it’s impossible for him to be left off -- even if it’s near the bottom. The backstop has plus power in his right-handed bat -- don’t be fooled by the lack of dingers in Triple-A -- and while it’s unlikely he hits for as high of an average at the highest level, there’s just enough hard contact to suggest he can help there. Add in the positional value, and Bart is deserving of a roster spot in two-catcher leagues. I wouldn’t be shocked if he finished as a top-dozen option when the year comes to an end. 

10. CJ Abrams, SS, San Diego Padres

2021 stats: 42 G, .296/.363/.420, 2 HR, 13 SB, 15 BB, 36 SO at Double-A San Antonio. 

Again, as of print time, we do not know if Abrams is going to make the Padres to begin 2022. If we knew for sure that he was going to be San Diego, he’d rank third on this list. Since there’s no clarity, it’s ‘safer’ to put him at the bottom. Whenever he makes his debut, the 21-year-old has a line-drive swing from the left side and top-of-the-scales speed that makes him a threat to steal many, many bases. Power isn’t a calling-card, but he’s more than capable of turning on a fastball or 15-to-20 in a campaign. The Padres have been very aggressive with players like this, so even though he has zero experience at the Triple-A level, he does have a legitimate chance of making that Opening Day roster. Either way, to say fantasy managers need to run to add Abrams when he’s called up is the understatement of understatements. 

Next in line: Shane Baz, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays; Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox; Reid Detmers, LHP, Los Angeles Angels; Brennen Davis, OF, Chicago Cubs; Alek Thomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks; Seth Beer, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks; Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Baltimore Orioles; Nolan Gorman, INF, St. Louis Cardinals.

Christopher Crawford

Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for NBC Sports EDGE and also appears on the Circling the Bases Podcast.