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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, so players on MLB teams do not count.
Those warnings out of the way, here’s a look at the top prospects who have a chance to make a fantasy contribution in 2022.
1. Oneil Cruz, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
2022 stats: 55 G, .232/.336/.422, 9 HR, 11 SB, 30 BB, 56 SO at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Well this has never been easier. As confirmed by the Pirates, Cruz is getting the call to join the Pirates beginning on Monday. The 6-foot-7 shortstops numbers here aren’t particularly impressive, but those of you who have been following along know that they’re not indicative of his talent, and that they are a vast improvement over his poor start to begin the season. Cruz can do a little bit of everything, and the fact he’s got that shortstop by his name just adds to the fantasy upside. He’s got star potential in his left-handed bat, and is absolutely someone fantasy managers need to add to rosters. Go get em, Mr. Cruz.
2. C.J. Abrams, SS, San Diego Padres
2022 stats: 30 G, .314/.367/.507, 7 HR, 10 SB, 8 BB, 25 SO at Triple-A El Paso; 20 G, .182/.270/.273, 1 HR, 1 SB, 4 BB, 14 SO at San Diego.
Alright, the top spot was easy. Everything else is muddled with so many quality prospects either in the majors, below the Triple-A level or hurt. Abrams gets that second spot, but to say I’m not entirely confident in this placement is an understatement. That’s nothing to do with his skills, and the 21-year-old added a pair of homers while stealing three bases and also seeing his average rise another 10 points. It’s just that we have no idea if Abrams is going to get another call anytime soon. All that being said, I’m a massive believer in his talent, and there’s just not enough of a sure thing to rank anyone above Abrams right now.
Update: Abrams is going to be recalled from Triple-A El Paso to replace the injured Manny Machado. Obviously, this changes quite a bit in terms of the write-up above. He's a must-roster in all eligible formats, and you could argue he belongs in the top spot above Cruz.
3. Josh Lowe, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
2022 stats: 36 G, .299/.382/.540, 6 HR, 6 SB, 18 BB, 49 SO at Triple-A Durham; 19 G, .188/.257/.344, 1 HR, 6 BB, 27 SO at Tampa Bay.
Lowe is on an impressive run as of late, and is showing off the power/speed combination that made him such an enticing prospect coming into the season. Since the start of June, the former first-round pick has hit an impressive .321/.441/.554 over 15 games with a pair of homers and also four steals without being caught. Yes, Lowe struggled in his time with Tampa, but that sample is small, and he’d be far from the first young outfielder to pick things up with his next chance. There’s risk involved with Lowe, but there’s plenty of reward as well. He’ll be worth an add in most leagues when Tampa Bay calls his name again. It could be relatively soon.
4. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
2022 stats: 2 G, 4 IP, 6.75 ERA, 2 BB, 8 SO at short-season ACL and Triple-A Louisville; 3 G, 14.2 IP, 5.52 ERA, 5 BB, 19 SO at Cincinnati.
Lodolo is someone who should have been on the “next up” list over the past few weeks. We regret the error. The southpaw made a rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday, and while he did give up two runs on four hits, he also struck out six while throwing 49 pitches. The southpaw has been out since April 28 with a lower back strain, and when he’s at his best he’s a southpaw who can throw three plus pitches and command them to all parts of the plate. He doesn’t have elite fantasy upside, but the stuff suggests he can be successful, and he can be more than just a streaming option over the second half of the season. You can do much worse, anyway.
5. Brayan Bello, RHP, Boston Red Sox
2022 stats: 11 G, 62 IP, 2.47 ERA, 24 BB, 84 SO at Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester.
Bello didn’t pitch this week, but moves up for a couple of reasons. First -- and arguably mainly -- because of the fact that we’re running out of prospects, but also because of what’s going on with Boston’s pitching depth. When your healthiest starters are Rich Hill and Michael Wacha, you know there are opportunities to be had, and Bello has looked outstanding in his time at the upper levels. There’s no guarantee that the 23-year-old is getting promoted soon, but based on his talent and the injury concerns facing the Boston rotation right now, he’s worth a speculative addition. The results could be quite fruitful.
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6. Esteury Ruiz, OF, San Diego Padres
2022 stats: 60 G, .360/.484/.636, 13 HR, 48 SB, 39 BB, 53 SO at Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A El Paso.
I have been doing these lists for close to 10 years, the last six of them with NBC. I have never been asked about a player more than Ruiz. If you’re wondering why I get so many questions, look at the statline above. To be completely honest with you, my friends, I’m still pretty skeptical, but it’s impossible to ignore what he’s done, and especially in fantasy baseball formats -- and that’s why you’re here -- the stolen base potential is incredible. There is a load of volatility in this profile, and I’m unconvinced he can produce even a semblance of the numbers he’s put up thus far, as impressive as they are. There’s just too good of a chance for him to contribute in a few categories for him not to be on this list now. At the very least, we should all be very, very intrigued. I just want to caution everyone that these numbers are not representative of his fantasy upside.
7. Ryan Pepiot, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2022 stats: 9 G, 40.2 IP, 1.77 ERA, 16 BB, 55 SO at Triple-A Oklahoma City; 3 G, 11.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 11 BB, 13 SO at Los Angeles (NL).
Pepiot was only able to go 4 2/3 innings in his last start, but he also allowed only a run while striking out six. Most importantly, the right-hander from Butler didn't walk anyone; the first time at any level that he didn't issue a walk in 2022. Pepiot's stuff is unquestionable, and he's shown as much in the majors. You just have to be cognizant of the fact that there are going to be free passes, so be prepared to take a hit in the WHIP when he's starting games for you. The loss of Walker Buehler could lead to more starts for him soon.
8. Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Kansas City Royals
2022 stats: 63 G, .278/.370/.586, 17 HR, 3 SB, 34 BB, 35 SO at Triple-A Omaha.
The hits aren’t dropping for Pasquantino like they were earlier in the season, and he also hasn’t had an extra-base hit in the last week. It’s tough to be too harsh on a player that still has ridiculous numbers on the 2022 campaign, and it hasn’t affected his approach with seven free passes over his last 10 contests. Pasquantino can flat-out hit, and represents a marked upgrade over what Kansas City is putting out there right now. Whenever the Royals do the right thing and promote Pasquantino, fantasy managers should make him a part of their roster, too.
9. Gunnar Henderson, INF, Baltimore Orioles
2022 stats: 59 G, .310/.458/.563, 10 HR, 13 SB, 54 BB, 47 SO at Triple-A Norfolk.
It’d be much easier to rank Henderson higher on this list if there was a guarantee that he was going to be promoted. In terms of just pure talent, he belongs in the third position, with all due respect to the names above him. He has more than held his own since his promotion to Triple-A with a slash of .300/.481/.526 in 12 games with two homers and a steal. He’s one of the most underrated prospects in baseball, and if the Orioles decide to give Henderson a chance this season -- unlikely, but possible since he’s a step away -- fantasy managers would do well to give him a shot, too.
10. Corbin Carroll, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
2022 stats: 54 G, .321/.436/.651, 15 HR, 19 SB, 38 BB, 64 SO at Double-A Amarillo.
Take everything I said about Henderson, sprinkle in the fact that he’s two levels away from the majors, and put him in the top spot instead of fourth. Even with a pair of 0-for-4 games over his last three, the outfielder is still slashing a borderline stupid .395/.489/.763. There’s literally nothing Carroll can prove at the Double-A level anymore. If he does get the promotion to Reno in the coming days, he’s going to jump up this list. Deservedly so.