Each MLB Team's Prospect Who Could Help Right Away in 2022

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2022

Each MLB Team's Prospect Who Could Help Right Away in 2022

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    Justin Berl/Getty Images

    There was no shortage of top prospect talent that broke camp with a spot on Opening Day rosters, led by Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals, Spencer Torkelson of the Detroit Tigers, Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners and C.J. Abrams of the San Diego Padres.

    So who's next?

    Now that the initial big league rosters have been set, we can get a better idea of which prospects will be the next to reach the majors for their respective teams.

    Ahead we've highlighted one up-and-comer who is ready to help right away in 2022, focusing exclusively on prospects who are not already on the MLB roster.

    From catcher Adley Rutschman for the Baltimore Orioles to hard-throwing right-hander George Kirby with the Seattle Mariners, these are the names to know as we wait on the next wave of prospect talent to arrive in the big leagues.


AL East

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    Adley Rutschman
    Adley RutschmanGabe Christus/Associated Press

    Baltimore Orioles: C Adley Rutschman

    Rutschman would have had a real chance at winning a spot on the Opening Day roster had it not been for a strained right triceps that sidelined him early in spring training. Veteran Robinson Chirinos was signed to keep the catcher position warm, but the starting job will be Rutschman's as soon as he's ready, and that shouldn't take long after he hit .285/.397/.502 with 23 home runs and 75 RBI in 123 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year.


    Boston Red Sox: 1B Triston Casas

    After a solid run in the upper levels of the minors and a star turn with Team USA in the Olympics, Casas is knocking on the door. It's just a matter of finding a spot for him in the Boston lineup. If young first baseman Bobby Dalbec gets off to a slow start, Casas could get the call in short order. Looking ahead, the DH role will open up after the 2022 season with J.D. Martinez headed for free agency, so that will offer some flexibility.


    New York Yankees: IF Oswaldo Cabrera

    Anthony Volpe gets all the hype, but Cabrera is the more MLB-ready middle-infield prospect. The 23-year-old hit .272/.330/.533 with 31 doubles, 29 home runs and 21 steals in 118 games in the upper minors last year while playing all over the infield. With locked-in starters and a roaming super-utility man in DJ LeMahieu, finding playing time in the Yankees infield won't be easy, but injuries happen.


    Tampa Bay Rays: IF/OF Vidal Brujan

    Brujan went 2-for-26 in his first taste of the big leagues last year, but the future remains bright for a player with a .288/.371/.422 line and 195 steals in 502 minor league games. The 24-year-old has played mostly second base, but he began seeing regular time in center field last year. That versatility should help him get another look in the majors soon, and he could be the long-term replacement for Kevin Kiermaier in center field.


    Toronto Blue Jays: C Gabriel Moreno

    Danny Jansen is a good young catcher coming off a 105 OPS+ and 11 home runs while playing his usual solid defense. That said, he's not going to stand in the way once Moreno is ready. One of the breakout prospects of 2021, Moreno hit .367/.434/.626 with 19 extra-base hits in 37 games last year before his season was cut short by a fractured thumb. He returned to rake in the Arizona Fall League and could debut before the All-Star break with another hot start.

AL Central

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    Nick Pratto
    Nick PrattoCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Chicago White Sox: IF Romy Gonzalez

    How much will the White Sox get from 34-year-old Josh Harrison at second base? He had a great start to 2021 with the Nationals but slumped down the stretch after he was traded to the Athletics. If he struggles, Gonzalez could get a shot at the starting job after he hit .283/.364/.532 with 24 home runs and 24 steals in 93 games before making his MLB debut as a September call-up.


    Cleveland Guardians: IF Gabriel Arias

    The Guardians system is loaded with middle-infield talent, and Arias should be the next to arrive in the majors. The 22-year-old was acquired in the Mike Clevinger deal, and he hit .284/.348/.454 with 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 55 RBI in a full season at Triple-A last year. He can play second, shortstop and third, and his 50-hit, 55-power offensive profile should play at the next level.


    Detroit Tigers: LHP Joey Wentz

    Riley Greene was not technically on the Opening Day roster, but he would have been if not for a fractured right foot he suffered at the end of spring training, so including him here seemed like cheating. Instead, keep an eye on Wentz as a polished left-hander who could make an impact as a spot starter or a multi-inning reliever once he gets the call.


    Kansas City Royals: 1B Nick Pratto

    The No. 14 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Pratto struggled early in his pro career before exploding for a .988 OPS with 36 home runs and 98 RBI while splitting his time evenly between Double-A and Triple-A last year. The Royals could easily shift Carlos Santana into the DH role once Pratto is ready to take over at first base, giving him a more clear path than fellow breakout prospect MJ Melendez has as a catcher.


    Minnesota Twins: IF Jose Miranda

    Miranda has the offensive upside and defensive versatility to make an immediate impact in Minnesota, whether he finds his way into a starting role or joins Luis Arraez in a super-utility capacity. The 23-year-old hit a staggering .344/.401/.572 with 32 doubles, 30 home runs and 94 RBI last year while playing at least 25 games at three different positions on the infield.

AL West

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    Cole Winn
    Cole WinnSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Houston Astros: RHP Hunter Brown

    The Astros love power arms, and they have shown a willingness to start their top pitching prospects in relief roles in recent years. That bodes well for Brown, who can touch 99 mph with his fastball and ranks as the consensus top pitching prospect in the Houston system entering the year. The 23-year-old had 131 strikeouts in 101.1 innings last year and is pitching at Triple-A to open the 2022 season.


    Los Angeles Angels: RHP Janson Junk

    In the midst of a breakout season last year, Junk was acquired from the Yankees in exchange for left-hander Andrew Heaney. After posting a 2.81 ERA in 93 innings at Double-A, he made his MLB debut in September and started four games down the stretch. The 26-year-old is more floor than ceiling, and he's on the older end of the prospect scale, but he should be one of the first depth arms called on by the Angels this year.


    Oakland Athletics: SS Nick Allen

    Veteran Elvis Andrus has a $15 million option for 2023 that vests with 550 plate appearances this year, so the tight-fisted organization has plenty of motivation to turn the shortstop job over before he comes close to that number. The slick-fielding Allen has made strides with his offensive game, and he gained some valuable experience playing shortstop for Team USA in the Olympics last year.


    Seattle Mariners: RHP George Kirby

    Armed with a 70-grade fastball that touches 100 mph and three above-average off-speed pitches, Kirby has the highest ceiling of any young pitcher in the Seattle organization. The 6'4" right-hander had a 2.53 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 80 strikeouts in 67.2 innings between High-A and Double-A last year, and while his innings won't be stretched too far, he's ready to help in some capacity.


    Texas Rangers: RHP Cole Winn

    Winn has worked just 154.2 innings as a pro since going No. 15 overall in the 2018 draft, but the Rangers began letting him off the leash last year, and he responded with a 2.41 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 86 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. The 22-year-old checks all the boxes to be a front-line guy, and if the Rangers get off to a better-than-expected start, he could be a major X-factor.

NL East

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    Max Meyer
    Max MeyerSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Atlanta Braves: RHP Freddy Tarnok

    Tarnok is being developed as a starter, and that may well be his future, but his fastball-curveball combination would play in a bullpen role right now. The 23-year-old had a 3.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 73.1 innings between High-A and Double-A last year, and if he gets off to a hot start this season, the Braves could find a role for him as a multi-inning relief weapon.


    Miami Marlins: RHP Max Meyer

    The Marlins have a wealth of young pitching talent, including Edward Cabrera who is waiting in the wings at Triple-A after making seven starts in the big leagues last year. He could certainly make an impact this year, but we'll instead focus on the flame-throwing Meyer. The 23-year-old threw four perfect innings during spring training, and he had a 2.27 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 130 strikeouts in 111 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year. He has legitimate No. 1 starter upside.


    New York Mets: IF/OF Mark Vientos

    Vientos is closer to making an MLB impact than Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio and any top pitching prospect in the Mets system. The 22-year-old hit .281/.352/.581 with 18 doubles, 25 home runs and 63 RBI in 83 games last year, and he also saw some time in left field for the first time in his career. If someone like Dominic Smith or J.D. Davis is traded, it would open up a spot for him in a utility role.


    Philadelphia Phillies: C Logan O'Hoppe

    O'Hoppe climbed three minor league levels last year and closed out his breakout season at Triple-A, hitting .270/.331/.458 with 19 doubles, 17 home runs and 58 RBI in 104 games. The 22-year-old has drawn rave reviews for his work ethic and intangibles, and he could push for a role in the majors this year with J.T. Realmuto capable of playing first base and Rhys Hoskins as a designated hitter option.


    Washington Nationals: RHP Cade Cavalli

    The Nationals are in the early stages of a rebuild, and Cavalli has a chance to be a significant building block at the top of their rotation. The 23-year-old reached Triple-A in his pro debut last year, posting a 3.36 ERA with 175 strikeouts in 123.1 innings and showcasing top-of-the-rotation stuff. He still needs to refine his command after walking hitters at a 5.2 BB/9 clip between Double-A and Triple-A last year, but his upside is among the highest of any pitching prospect.

NL Central

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    Nolan Gorman
    Nolan GormanNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Chicago Cubs: RHP Caleb Kilian

    One of the prospects acquired in the Kris Bryant blockbuster last year, Kilian had a 2.42 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 112 strikeouts in 100.1 innings between High-A and Double-A. With a four-pitch mix, 65-grade command and an athletic 6'4" frame, he has a solid middle-of-the-rotation ceiling, and his rapid ascent up the minor league ranks should continue in 2022 and culminate with his MLB debut.


    Cincinnati Reds: LHP Nick Lodolo

    Lodolo is not on the Opening Day roster, but he is expected to be promoted to fill the fifth starter spot when it is needed for the first time on April 13. The 6'6" southpaw was the first pitcher taken in the 2019 draft at No. 7 overall, and he had a 2.31 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 78 strikeouts in 50.2 innings last year. He could join fellow rookie Hunter Greene at the top of the Cincinnati rotation for the foreseeable future.


    Milwaukee Brewers: LHP Ethan Small

    Small went 10-2 with a 1.93 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 107 innings during his junior season at Mississippi State before going No. 28 overall in the 2019 draft. Viewed as a floor-over-ceiling prospect at the time, he has continued to dominate with a 1.74 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 98.1 innings in the minors. The Brewers have not been shy about promoting their top pitching prospects, and Small should be next.


    Pittsburgh Pirates: SS Oneil Cruz

    "There's some defensive development there that we believe is important and will put him in the best possible position to come up and be a regular player somewhere on the field," Pirates general manager Ben Cherington told reporters after Cruz was sent to Triple-A. "We felt like a little bit more time was going to be helpful for him."

    There's a good chance that "defensive development" will come to fruition just after the Super Two deadline passes, and the 6'7", 220-pound slugger should be starting at shortstop in Pittsburgh long before the All-Star break after posing a .970 OPS with 38 extra-base hits in 69 games last year.


    St. Louis Cardinals: 2B Nolan Gorman

    The Cardinals shifted Gorman from third base to second base after Nolan Arenado was acquired last offseason, and he should push the versatile Tommy Edman back into a utility role once he's ready to be promoted. That should be soon after he posted an .814 OPS with 25 home runs and 75 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A last year, and he has legitimate 30-homer power.

NL West

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    Alek Thomas
    Alek ThomasChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Arizona Diamondbacks: CF Alek Thomas

    With a 60-grade hit tool, 60-grade speed, 60-grade defense in center field and some sneaky power, Thomas is going to be a cornerstone player for the D-backs. He hit .313/.394/.559 with 59 extra-base hits between Double-A and Triple-A last year, and he should be patrolling center field at Chase Field before the All-Star break.


    Colorado Rockies: LHP Ryan Rolison

    The Rockies took Rolison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Ole Miss, and while he sports a lackluster 4.35 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 231.2 innings in the minors, he remains the top pitching prospect in the Colorado system. The 24-year-old should be able to help out at some point in 2022, and he still has solid back-of-the-rotation potential.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Bobby Miller

    With a 70-grade fastball, 60-grade slider and 60-grade changeup, Miller looks like the next great homegrown Dodgers pitcher, following in the footsteps of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias and Walker Buehler. He worked three scoreless innings during spring training with electric stuff, and he'll be ready for the big leagues in some capacity soon.


    San Diego Padres: LHP MacKenzie Gore

    Gore spent much of last season at the team's alternate site working through some mechanical issues, but he finished strong at Double-A, and he had a 16-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12 innings this spring. The 23-year-old is still the best pitching prospect in the San Diego system, and he will get his shot at some point in 2022.


    San Francisco Giants: CF Heliot Ramos

    It's easy to forget Ramos is still only 22 years old, as he was one of the youngest players in his draft class when he went No. 19 overall in the 2017 draft. His stock has dipped a bit after a down year last season, but he still has 55-grade power and above-average tools across the board. He might be one Steven Duggar slump away from the big leagues.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.