Each MLB Team's Breakout Prospect Turning Heads in 2022

Joel ReuterAugust 20, 2022

Each MLB Team's Breakout Prospect Turning Heads in 2022

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    Vaughn Grissom (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

    One of the most fun things about MLB prospect rankings is how often they wind up being completely wrong.

    Any top prospect can fail to live up to the hype. Conversely, players outside the top-tier conversation can also raise their profiles.

    The latter group is who we're focusing on today.

    Ahead, we have selected one breakout prospect from each of the 30 MLB organizations, with the focus being on players who were well removed from top-prospect lists at the start of the season. In order to be eligible for a spot, a player had to still hold prospect eligibility, which means fewer than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 days on the active roster at the MLB level.

    Each player's organizational rank at the beginning of the 2022 campaign, according to Baseball America, is included for context.

American League East

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    Ceddanne Rafaela (Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

    Baltimore Orioles: IF César Prieto (Age: 22)

    Preseason Rank: NR

    Signed for $650,000 in 2021 as the Orioles finally began to get involved on the international market, Prieto was a standout in the Cuban National Series before defecting stateside. He began his pro career this year at High-A and quickly received a promotion to Double-A, hitting .298/.338/.442 with 24 doubles and 10 home runs in 92 games.

    Boston Red Sox: IF/OF Ceddanne Rafaela (Age: 21)

    Preseason Rank: 22

    An under-the-radar international signing in 2017 who secured a bonus of just $10,000, Rafaela has raised his OPS more than 150 points this year after a forgettable 2021 season at Single-A. Splitting his time between shortstop and center field, he's hitting .303/.351/.545 with 29 doubles, 18 home runs and 25 steals in 96 games between High-A and Double-A.

    New York Yankees: RHP Will Warren (Age: 23)

    Preseason Rank: NR

    Warren has emerged as the top pitching prospect in the Yankees system after going in the eighth round of the 2021 draft out of Southeastern Louisiana University. The 6'2" right-hander has flashed four above-average pitches, including a plus slider, and used them to post a 3.31 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 106 innings while reaching Double-A.

    Tampa Bay Rays: LHP Mason Montgomery (Age: 22)

    Preseason Rank: NR

    The Rays develop pitching as well as any organization, and Montgomery looks like their latest find as a sixth-round pick in 2021. The 6'2" southpaw struck out 118 of the 282 batters he faced at High-A with a 1.81 ERA in 69.2 innings, and he has continued to impress since being promoted to Double-A in mid-July.

    Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Yosver Zulueta (Age: 24)

    Preseason Rank: NR

    Armed with a 70-grade fastball and three quality offspeed pitches, Zulueta snagged a $1 million bonus out of Cuba in 2019, and he is starting to harness his raw stuff with a 3.72 ERA and a 70-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46 innings over three minor-league levels. Knee and shoulder issues landed him on the IL in early August, but his arrow is pointing straight up.

American League Central

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    Michael Massey (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

    Chicago White Sox: IF Lenyn Sosa (Age: 22)

    Preseason Rank: 17

    The White Sox are loaded with intriguing middle-infield prospects in the upper levels of the minors, and Sosa has separated himself from the pack this year by hitting .316/.367/.512 with 34 extra-base hits in 85 games. He is currently occupying a spot on the MLB bench and could get a chance to win the second base job next spring.

    Cleveland Guardians: RHP Gavin Williams (Age: 23)

    Preseason Rank: 8

    Williams did not exactly come out of nowhere as the No. 23 overall pick in the 2021 draft, but he has quickly gone from an intriguing college arm to one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. The towering 6'6" right-hander has a 1.49 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 117 strikeouts in 90.1 innings, and he has already made 11 starts at Double-A in his pro debut.

    Detroit Tigers: RHP Wilmer Flores (Age: 21)

    Preseason Rank: 22

    Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona Western College following the 2020 draft, Flores pitched just 11.2 innings in his lone college season. The 6'4", 225-pound right-hander has been a revelation with a 2.16 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 102 strikeouts in 79.1 innings while pitching his way to Double-A. He's the younger brother of MLB infielder Wilmer Flores.

    Kansas City Royals: 2B Michael Massey (Age: 24)

    Preseason Rank: 15

    Massey turned heads last season with an .882 OPS and 21 home runs in 99 games at High-A, and he has continued to raise his stock. He hit .312/.371/.532 with 44 extra-base hits in 87 games in the upper levels of the minors this year before making his MLB debut in July, and he's batting .321 with a 135 OPS+ in 60 plate appearances in the majors as he makes his case to be the starting second baseman in 2023.

    Minnesota Twins: OF Emmanuel Rodriguez (Age: 19)

    Preseason Rank: 11

    After slugging 10 home runs in 23 games in rookie ball last year, Rodriguez hit .272/.493/.552 with more walks (57) than strikeouts (52) in 47 games at Single-A before a torn meniscus ended his season in June. Despite the injury, his impressive full-season ball debut has vaulted him into the top tier of prospects in the Minnesota system.

American League West

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    Yainer Diaz (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Houston Astros: C Yainer Diaz (Age: 23)

    Preseason Rank: 16

    The Astros acquired Diaz in the deal that sent Myles Straw to Cleveland at the 2021 deadline, and with a 60-hit/50-power offensive profile, he is hitting .295/.344/.519 with 19 doubles, 21 home runs and 83 RBI in 96 games in the upper minors this year. It remains to be seen if he'll stick behind the plate, especially for a Houston organization that values defense at the catcher position, but it's looking more and more like his bat will play at first base.

    Los Angeles Angels: C Edgar Quero (Age: 19)

    Preseason Rank: 27

    Signed for $200,000 in 2021, Quero is hitting .314/.425/.524 with 30 doubles, 14 home runs and 60 RBI in 93 games at Single-A. The switch-hitter has an advanced approach and the potential to continue to hit for power as he climbs the minor-league ranks. Defensively, he has the tools to develop into a solid defender behind the plate.

    Oakland Athletics: 3B Brett Harris (Age: 24)

    Preseason Rank: 30

    A seventh-round pick in 2021, Harris hit .350/.483/.535 while also winning WCC Defensive Player of the Year during his senior year at Gonzaga. Already 24 years old, he'll need to move quickly, and he's off to a good start this year with a .287/.381/.481 line that includes 20 doubles and 15 home runs in 90 games between High-A and Double-A.

    Seattle Mariners: RHP Taylor Dollard (Age: 23)

    Preseason Rank: 20

    With a 6'3" frame and a four-pitch repertoire that he commands well, Dollard checks all the boxes to be a future MLB starter. After struggling following a promotion to High-A last year, he has been dominant at Double-A Arkansas, going 12-2 with a 1.93 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and a 104-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 116.1 innings.

    Texas Rangers: 3B Gleider Figuereo (Age: 18)

    Preseason Rank: NR

    After a forgettable pro debut in the Dominican Summer League last year, Figuereo has raised his OPS nearly 300 points in stateside rookie ball, hitting .280/.367/.636 with 19 extra-base hits in 139 plate appearances. He has a long way to go in his development, but tuck this name away as one to keep an eye on.

National League East

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    Vaughn Grissom (David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Atlanta Braves: SS Vaughn Grissom (Age: 21)

    Preseason Rank: 12

    Grissom sent his prospect stock soaring this year by batting .324/.405/.494 with 20 doubles, 14 home runs, 67 RBI and 27 steals in 96 games before he received a surprise promotion to fill in for the injured Ozzie Albies on the MLB roster. With a .406/.457/.656 line and two home runs in his first nine games, he might be up for good.

    Miami Marlins: OF Jose Gerardo (Age: 17)

    Preseason Rank: NR

    Gerardo is batting .290/.423/.574 with 11 doubles, 11 home runs and 30 RBI in 46 games in the Dominican Summer League. Signed for $180,000 earlier this year, he was clocked at 102 mph throwing from the outfield, and the Marlins briefly considered trying him on the mound, but it looks like developing him as a hitter was the right move.

    New York Mets: RHP Calvin Ziegler (Age: 19)

    Preseason Rank: 10

    The Mets gave Ziegler a below-slot $900,000 deal as a second-round pick in 2021, and he could wind up being one of the steals of that draft class. He still has significant work to do on his command, but the stuff is there, as he has posted a 3.32 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 61 strikeouts in 38 innings at Single-A.

    Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Griff McGarry (Age: 23)

    Preseason Rank: 12

    Elite stuff and sketchy command was the book on McGarry coming out of the University of Virginia, and he struggled to a 5.54 ERA with 42 walks and 69 strikeouts in 43 innings during his senior season. The Phillies took a chance on his stuff in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, and he is pitching to a 3.26 ERA with a more manageable 107-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 69 innings between High-A and Double-A.

    Washington Nationals: RHP Jarlin Susana (Age: 18)

    Preseason Rank: NR (SD system)

    An underrated piece of the Juan Soto blockbuster, Susana was in the midst of a breakout season in the San Diego system. With a 6'6", 235-pound frame and a 70-grade fastball that touches triple-digits, he has as much upside as any teenage pitching prospect, and he sports a 2.34 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with 53 strikeouts in 34.2 innings in rookie ball.

National League Central

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    Andrew Abbott (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Chicago Cubs: RHP Ben Brown (Age: 22)

    Preseason Rank: NR (PHI system)

    A 33rd-round pick in 2017 who pitched just 84.1 innings over his first three pro seasons, Brown posted a 3.08 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 73 innings at High-A Jersey Shore before the Phillies traded him at the deadline in exchange for closer David Robertson. The 6'6" right-hander could quickly become the top pitching prospect in the Cubs system.

    Cincinnati Reds: LHP Andrew Abbott (Age: 23)

    Preseason Rank: 22

    Abbott was taken in the second round of the 2022 draft as a high-floor, pitchability lefty who was expected to move quickly through the minors. So while it's not a shock that he has already reached Double-A, his 125 strikeouts in 93.1 innings have been a pleasant surprise. Shortstop Elly De La Cruz was the team's No. 4 prospect at the start of the year, so he was not far enough off the top-prospect radar to fit the parameters.

    Milwaukee Brewers: OF Jackson Chourio (Age: 18)

    Preseason Rank: 10

    The youngest player in full-season ball when the 2022 campaign began, Chourio has thrived, earning a promotion to High-A despite the fact that he won't turn 19 until March. The precocious teenager is hitting .310/.363/.566 with 27 doubles, 16 home runs and 59 RBI in 82 games, and he has been far and away the biggest breakout prospect of 2022.

    Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Kyle Nicolas (Age: 23)

    Preseason Rank: 29

    Acquired from Miami in the Jacob Stallings trade, Nicolas has a big 70-grade fastball that has touched triple-digits in short outings. His command and secondary stuff still needs further refinement, but he has pitched well this season with a 3.87 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 74.1 innings at Double-A.

    St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Tink Hence (Age: 20)

    Preseason Rank: 11

    There were several options for the Cardinals, including Alec Burleson (No. 10) and Gordon Graceffo (No. 15) who have both raised their profile relative to their preseason rank. However, Hence is flashing the potential to be one of baseball's elite prospects. The athletic right-hander has struck out 67 of the 152 batters he has faced at Single-A, posting a 1.79 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and .174 opponents' batting average in 40.1 innings.

National League West

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    Ezequiel Tovar (Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

    Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Brandon Pfaadt (Age: 23)

    Preseason Rank: 10

    In a season in which many of the D-backs' top pitching prospects have not turned in great results, Pfaadt has boosted his stock considerably with a 4.20 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and a stellar 166-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 124.1 innings. He could conceivably compete for a rotation spot next spring.

    Colorado Rockies: SS Ezequiel Tovar (Age: 21)

    Preseason Rank: 9

    Already a top-10 prospect for the Rockies when the season began, Tovar has taken his game to another level and vaulted up leaguewide top-prospect rankings in the process. In 66 games at Double-A, he's hitting .318/.386/.546 with 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 17 steals, and he is also widely regarded as the best defender in the Colorado system.

    Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Gavin Stone (Age: 23)

    Preseason Rank: 17

    A fifth-round pick in 2020 who signed for just $97,500, Stone could be the next great homegrown Dodgers pitcher. While he's a bit undersized at 6'1", 175 pounds, his command and athleticism give him a great chance to stick as a starter. In 98.1 innings between High-A and Double-A this year, he has a 1.56 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 135 strikeouts.

    San Diego Padres: IF Eguy Rosario (Age: 22)

    Preseason Rank: 17

    Rosario is hitting .295/.380/.519 with 31 doubles, 19 home runs, 72 RBI, 88 runs scored and 22 steals in 107 games at Triple-A. He has played more than 20 games at second base, shortstop and third base this year, and while he could eventually play his way into a starting job, he'll likely break into the big leagues as a super-utility player.

    San Francisco Giants: OF Grant McCray (Age: 21)

    Preseason Rank: NR

    Injuries and the canceled 2020 season limited McCray to just 93 games during his first three years in the Giants organization, but everything is coming together in 2022. A three-sport athlete in high school who was still somewhat raw on the baseball diamond, he has improved across the board, batting .289/.381/.518 with 20 doubles, 19 home runs, 60 RBI and 35 steals in 101 games at Single-A.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Thursday's games.


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