Breakout MLB Prospects Trending Toward Midseason Top 100 ListsMay 14, 2022
Breakout MLB Prospects Trending Toward Midseason Top 100 Lists
With so many top-tier prospects breaking camp on an MLB roster and several others knocking on the door for an early promotion, it will be a busy season of updating Top 100 prospect lists.
Bobby Witt Jr., Julio Rodriguez, Spencer Torkelson, Hunter Greene, Jeremy Pena, Aaron Ashby, Spencer Strider and Joe Ryan are all poised to exit the prospect ranks within the next month, which will open the door for an influx of newcomers to join the Top 100 ranks.
So who can we expect to see make the jump?
Ahead we've highlighted 10 prospects who are trending toward earning a spot on leaguewide Top 100 lists by midseason based on their early production, past track record and projectable tools.
To be considered for inclusion, a player must not already appear on any of the Top 100 prospect lists from Bleacher Report, MLB.com or Baseball America.
Let's start with some honorable mentions.
- SS Adael Amador, Colorado Rockies
- OF Evan Carter, Texas Rangers
- OF Jackson Chourio, Milwaukee Brewers
- OF Jeremy De La Rosa, Washington Nationals
- OF Moises Gomez, St. Louis Cardinals
- IF Colt Keith, Detroit Tigers
- SS Jackson Merrill, San Diego Padres
- 1B Vinnie Pasquantino, Kansas City Royals
- 3B Bryan Ramos, Chicago White Sox
- SS Carson Williams, Tampa Bay Rays
- OF James Wood, San Diego Padres
- LHP Andrew Abbott, Cincinnati Reds
- RHP Mike Burrows, Pittsburgh Pirates
- RHP Matt Canterino, Minnesota Twins
- LHP DJ Herz, Chicago Cubs
- LHP Jared Shuster, Atlanta Braves
- LHP Ethan Small, Milwaukee Brewers
- LHP Ricky Tiedemann, Toronto Blue Jays
SS Jacob Amaya, Los Angeles Dodgers
2022 Stats: 24 G, 100 PA, .338/.460/.763, 18 XBH (7 HR), 17 RBI
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed infielder Jacob Amaya to an above-slot deal as an 11th-round pick in 2017, and he jumped onto the prospect radar when he hit .311/.432/.436 with the same number of walks and strikeouts in his first full season in the organization.
However, he struggled to make the jump to the upper levels of the minors, hitting just .216/.303/.343 with 103 strikeouts in 113 games at Double-A last year.
The 23-year-old followed that lackluster performance with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League and is turning heads in a second go-around at Double-A. His mix of on-base ability, sneaky power and strong defensive tools on the infield give him a high floor as an offensive-minded utility player, but he is showing the potential for more this year.
SS Edwin Arroyo, Seattle Mariners
2022 Stats: 26 G, 122 PA, .298/.393/.548, 13 XBH (5 HR), 25 RBI, 6 SB
Shortstop Edwin Arroyo was the first player selected out of Puerto Rico in last year's draft, going No. 48 overall to the Seattle Mariners, and he is quickly shaping up to be one of the steals of the 2021 class.
He won't turn 19 years old until Aug. 25, yet he is already playing full-season ball at Single-A Modesto and putting up offensive numbers that rank among the league leaders in a number of categories.
After he hit just .211 with 26 strikeouts in 86 plate appearances in his pro debut last year, his arrow is pointing straight up. There is no question he has the defensive tools to stick at shortstop, which adds to his long-term upside, and there's still a lot of untapped power potential in his 6'0", 175-pound frame.
3B Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Minnesota Twins
2022 Stats: 27 G, 121 PA, .370/.430/.602, 13 XBH (5 HR), 27 RBI
Christian Encarnacion-Strand spent two seasons at JUCO powerhouse Yavapai College before transferring to Oklahoma State, where he hit .361/.442/.661 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI in 56 games last spring to send his draft stock soaring.
The Minnesota Twins called his name in the fourth round, and he continued to rake after signing, hitting .391/.424/.598 with eight extra-base hits and 18 RBI in 22 games at Single-A Fort Myers.
He was bumped up to High-A Cedar Rapids for his first full professional season, and it has been more of the same, as he's posted impressive offensive numbers across the board. His 24.8 percent strikeout rate is worth keeping an eye on, but that's a manageable number for someone with his power potential, and he could rise through the minor league ranks quickly as the third baseman of the future in Minnesota.
3B Zack Gelof, Oakland Athletics
2022 Stats: 27 G, 132 PA, .344/.394/.516, 12 XBH (4 HR), 22 RBI, 6 SB
One of the top college bats in the 2021 draft class, Zack Gelof hit .333/.422/.565 with 17 extra-base hits in 161 plate appearances over three minor league levels last season after he was selected No. 60 overall in the second round.
The 22-year-old was sent to Double-A Midland to begin the 2022 season, and he has not missed a beat with that aggressive assignment, showcasing a good mix of hit tool, power and defense at the hot corner, where he seems poised to settle in long term after playing all over the infield in college.
He also checks the intangibles box, with MLB.com making note of his "confidence and presence in the clubhouse" while giving him 50-grade or better tools across the board. Don't be surprised if he is making a serious push for the starting third base job in Oakland by this time next year.
OF Alex Ramirez, New York Mets
2022 Stats: 26 G, 120 PA, .363/.400/.593, 16 XBH (3 HR), 18 RBI
The New York Mets gave outfielder Alex Ramirez a $2.05 million bonus during the 2019 international signing period, and he made his stateside debut at Single-A St. Lucie last season.
After hitting .258/.326/.384 with 24 extra-base hits, 16 steals and a 31.1 percent strikeout rate last season, he returned to Single-A for a second go-around to begin 2022, and he has been one of the most impressive hitters at that level.
"It's possible he tones down the swing, grows into that power and becomes a true five-tool threat before reaching the age of an American college junior," wrote MLB.com in his preseason prospect profile.
With 16 extra-base hits in 120 plate appearances and a far more manageable 19.2 percent strikeout rate, he seems to be doing just that, and a move up to High-A could be coming soon.
OF Esteury Ruiz, San Diego Padres
2022 Stats: 29 G, 142 PA, .314/.489/.562, 15 XBH (5 HR), 21 RBI, 19 SB
Esteury Ruiz popped up as a prospect to watch in 2018 when he hit .350/.395/.602 with 34 extra-base hits and 26 steals in 52 games as an 18-year-old in rookie ball.
However, he failed to build on that performance in subsequent seasons, and his prospect stock was way down entering 2022 after he hit .249/.328/.411 and posted 16 doubles, 10 home runs and 36 steals in 84 games in Double-A last year.
The 23-year-old has come out swinging in his second tour of duty with Double-A San Antonio this year, posting some of the most impressive numbers of any player in the upper levels of the minors. The Padres left him unprotected multiple times in the Rule 5 draft, and now it's looking like a stroke of good luck that no one plucked him from their system.
SS Ezequiel Tovar, Colorado Rockies
2022 Stats: 28 G, 125 PA, .330/.416/.587, 14 XBH (6 HR), 22 RBI, 11 SB
If you're looking for the 2022 version of Anthony Volpe, this might be your guy.
The Colorado Rockies inked Ezequiel Tovar for $800,000 during the 2017 international signing period, and he has been pushed aggressively through the system, making his stateside debut at age 17.
He hit .287/.322/.475 with 30 doubles, 15 home runs, 72 RBI, 79 runs scored and 24 steals in 104 games between Single-A and High-A last year to put himself squarely on the top-prospect radar, and now he's making a strong case for being one of the game's elite young shortstops.
He's already viewed as a no-doubt shortstop and one of the top defensive players at any position in the minors, and his offensive uptick this season at Double-A has sent his stock soaring. He could crack the Top 50 on midseason Top 100 prospect lists.
LHP Ken Waldichuk, New York Yankees
2022 Stats: 5 GS, 3-0, 1.14 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 9 BB, 40 K, 23.2 IP
It's time to start paying attention to Ken Waldichuk.
The left-hander was a fifth-round pick in 2019 out of Saint Mary's, and he turned heads in his pro debut when he racked up 49 strikeouts in 29.1 innings in rookie ball.
After the canceled 2020 campaign, he returned strong in full-season ball last year, posting a 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 163 strikeouts in 110 innings while splitting the year between High-A and Double-A.
The 24-year-old does not have overpowering stuff, but he has good command of a four-pitch repertoire, and there is good life on his mid-90s fastball with a quality changeup/slider pairing backing it up. A promotion to Triple-A should be coming soon, and he could make his MLB debut before the season is over.
RHP Gavin Williams, Cleveland Guardians
2022 Stats: 5 GS, 2-1, 1.46 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 9 BB, 39 K, 24.2 IP
One of the biggest breakout players of the 2021 college baseball season, Gavin Williams went 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 130 strikeouts in 81.1 innings for East Carolina before going No. 23 in the 2021 draft to the Cleveland Guardians.
The big 6'6", 250-pound right-hander has a 70-grade fastball that can touch the upper 90s, and he backs it with three quality off-speed pitches. He used that arsenal to rack up 13 strikeouts in 7.1 innings against Vanderbilt in the Super Regionals, pitching opposite Kumar Rocker.
The Cleveland organization has done as good a job as any team developing pitching talent in recent years, and outside the fast-rising Daniel Espino, Williams is the most promising young arm in their system.
SS Masyn Winn, St. Louis Cardinals
2022 Stats: 24 G, 105 PA, .344/.414/.556, 11 XBH (1 HR), 14 RBI, 11 SB
An elite two-way prospect coming out of high school, Masyn Winn was given an above-slot $2.1 million bonus as a second-round pick in 2020, and the St. Louis Cardinals have focused their attention on developing him as a shortstop.
He made his pro debut at Single-A and took some lumps last season while hitting .242/.324/.356 in 98 games against mostly older competition, but that experience seems to be paying off this year as he's off to a stellar start at High-A Peoria.
With an 80-grade arm and elite athleticism, he ticks all the boxes to be a solid defensive shortstop, and it's the development of his offensive game that will determine his ceiling. He is already showing signs of an improved approach, trimming his strikeout rate from 22.8 to 17.1 percent, and there is still a ton of upside in his raw tools.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs and accurate through Wednesday's games. Prospect grades via MLB.com.