Each team’s prospect to watch

Detroit Tigers

It hasn’t been the most typical Spring Training, something we’ve gotten used to over the last few years, but it’s all pointing to the start of another regular season across all levels of baseball.

The Triple-A season gets to lead things off when Iowa plays at Buffalo on Tuesday, April 5, at 1 p.m. ET. The big leaguers come next on April 7 with the rest of the Minor League levels joining in the fun on April 8. There will be exciting prospects across all levels getting their first action of 2022. Picking just one for each team that we’re excited to watch is a tall order, but here are 30 prospects we can’t wait to see.

Blue Jays: Ricky Tiedemann, LHP (No. 6)
Blue Jays camp was abuzz about the club’s 2021 third-round pick after he added muscle in the offseason and was sitting 95-96 early in Dunedin. The southpaw also mixes in an above-average changeup and a slider that’s already improved during his short stay in pro ball. Following Gunnar Hoglund’s move to Oakland, Tiedemann has become Toronto’s top pitching prospect and an arm the organization is excited to see take flight over a full season.

Orioles: Heston Kjerstad, OF (No. 9)
We’ll have to wait a bit longer before we finally get to see Kjerstad, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2020 Draft, make his professional debut. The Arkansas product didn’t play in ’20 because of the shutdown and missed all of ’21 due to a diagnosis of myocarditis. He looked well on his way to being ready for the start of the season when he was sidelined by a left hamstring strain that could delay him by eight to 12 weeks.

Rays: Taj Bradley, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 74)
Tampa Bay knows how to develop its pitching. Bradley’s stuff took a jump to the point where he was throwing mid-90s and showcasing a plus slider as part of a legit four-pitch mix. The results: he led Minor League full-season qualifiers with a 1.83 ERA at Low-A and High-A. A repeat statistical performance may be unlikely as he reaches the upper levels, but the 21-year-old right-hander has the time and stuff to make another jump in 2022.

Red Sox: Marcelo Mayer, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 14)
Boston found a fortuitous time to land its highest pick since 1967, turning the fourth overall choice last July into Mayer, MLB Pipeline’s top-rated 2021 Draft prospect and the consensus best hitter and defender in that crop. He comes from the same high school (Eastlake in Chula Vista, Calif.) as Adrian Gonzalez and has a sweet left-handed stroke and bat-to-ball skills reminiscent of the former Red Sox All-Star. Just 19 years old, Mayer went viral on Monday when he homered off Nathan Eovaldi in an intrasquad game.

Yankees: Jasson Dominguez, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 61)
Perhaps the most hyped international prospect ever, Dominguez signed for $5.1 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2019 and made his pro debut last year at age 18, spending most of the summer in Low-A and participating in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Known as “The Martian” because of his otherworldly tools, he could have solid to plus ability across the board.

Guardians: Daniel Espino, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 53)
Espino served notice that he might rank as baseball’s best pitching prospect in the not-too-distant future when he struck out seven of 10 Reds in a back-fields game in mid-March, whiffing big leaguer Nick Senzel twice — first on a 102-mph fastball, then on a 93-mph slider. The 24th overall pick in the 2019 Draft from a Georgia high school, he also has a power curveball and a promising changeup in his arsenal, and he’s learning to harness them.

Royals: Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B (No. 5)
You already know to watch the biggest hitters of this group, many of whom should see the Majors in short order. Don’t let Pasquantino catch you off guard, as the 2019 11th-rounder hit .300/.394/.563 with a 64/64 K/BB ratio at High-A and Double-A. His 64 extra-base hits ranked sixth in the Minors. The lefty slugger provides an interesting blend of power and strike-zone discipline — one Kansas City should want in its lineup. With Pasquantino likely stuck at first base (Nick Pratto’s position), his defensive game will deserve following too.

Tigers: Jackson Jobe, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 40)
Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene look set to open 2022 in the Majors, leaving Jobe to be the top prospect in the system once they graduate. The 2021 third overall pick has four above-average to plus pitches (highlighted by a wicked slider), giving him top-of-the-rotation stuff. The Tigers might take a cautious approach with the 19-year-old as he begins his career though, so it’ll be interesting to see how much he can press the issue with his arsenal.

Twins: Royce Lewis, SS/OF (No. 1/MLB No. 46)
The last time we saw Lewis play in a competitive game was in the Arizona Fall League in 2019, when he finished with a .975 OPS and took home league MVP honors after a rough regular season. Then came the lost ’20 season (he did play at the alternate training site) and a torn UCL in Spring Training in ’21 ended that season. He’ll be with Triple-A St. Paul shaking the rust off.

White Sox: Oscar Colas, OF (No. 2)
The latest Cuban signed by the White Sox, Colas turned pro for $2.7 million in January. He fits the right-field profile with some of the best power potential and arm strength in Chicago’s system, and he also moves well for a 6-foot-1, 209-pounder.

Angels: Sam Bachman, RHP (No. 2)
Just how quickly can Bachman, the No. 9 pick in the 2021 Draft, move up the Angels’ ladder? He has ridiculous raw stuff, particularly his fastball-slider combination, with a heater that touches triple digits and a wipeout breaking ball. His changeup is getting better already, something that will answer any questions about his need to move to a bullpen.

Astros: Hunter Brown, RHP (No. 3)
The Astros keep having under-the-radar pitching prospects make significant contributions in the big leagues, and Brown could be next in line. The 2019 fifth-rounder from NCAA Division II Wayne State (Mich.) finished strong in Triple-A last year, displaying a mid-90s fastball and a devastating power curveball that both grade as well above-average offerings.

A’s: Gunnar Hoglund, RHP (No. 7)
The top prospect the A’s got in the Matt Chapman trade with the Blue Jays, Hoglund was Toronto’s first-round pick in 2021 despite needing Tommy John surgery last May. He’s just about finished with his rehab and will return to the mound this year. He had top 10 pick potential before he got hurt and the A’s would love to have that kind of starting pitching potential in their system.

Mariners: Julio Rodríguez, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 3)
Sometimes, you have to go with the best. Rodríguez is one of the best prospects in all of baseball and is currently making a very strong bid to jump onto the Opening Day roster with a .925 OPS in Cactus League play. Even if he starts in Triple-A, it’s a question of when, not if, his plus bat and power, not to mention his improved speed, make it to Seattle.

Rangers: Owen White, RHP (No. 8)
A second-round choice in 2018 as a South Carolina prepster, White didn’t make his pro debut until May 2021 because of Tommy John surgery and the pandemic shutdown. He broke out as the Arizona Fall League pitcher of the year last offseason, showing the potential for four plus pitches and the quality athleticism to locate them well, and he could start to zoom toward Texas this spring.

Braves: Spencer Strider, RHP (No. 2)
Strider had Tommy John surgery in 2019 and threw just 12 innings in 2020 at Clemson, so it was hard to know exactly what the Braves were getting in their fourth-round pick in the ’20 Draft. All he did was go from Low-A to the big leagues in his first pro season, with a fastball that can touch triple digits and an outstanding slider. Who doesn’t want to see what he does for an encore?

Marlins: Eury Perez, RHP (No. 4/MLB No. 41)
Perez opened eyes during instructional league in 2020, a prelude to his spectacular pro debut last year when he posted a 1.96 ERA, .158 opponent average and 108/26 K/BB ratio in 78 innings while advancing to High-A at age 18. Signed for $200,000 out of the Dominican three years ago, he has amazing body control for a 6-foot-8 teenager and could have a double-plus fastball accompanied by a plus changeup and curveball once he’s fully developed.

Mets: Mark Vientos, 3B/OF/1B (No. 4)
We know Vientos can mash. He proved that by hitting .281/.355/.581 with 25 homers in only 83 games at Double-A and Triple-A last season. It might be hard to fathom, but Vientos could beat that in just his age-22 season now that he has that upper-level experience. But where will he play? The Mets are still figuring that out. He could battle Brett Baty at third base while getting more time in the outfield, where early reviews were rough. He could also see first base, where he’d bump against Pete Alonso. That all needs sorting before Vientos hits his way to Flushing.

Nationals: Jackson Rutledge, RHP (No. 4)
This feels like a make-or-break year in many ways for the 6-foot-8 right-hander. He battled shoulder and blister issues last summer and was inconsistent with his control when he was on the mound, including in a stint in the Arizona Fall League. His stuff can still get whiffs by the handful, highlighted by a mid-90s fastball and plus slider, and it’s worth asking if he’s best served taking that arsenal to the bullpen. The Nats prefer to keep him starting for now to give him more time between starts to make adjustments. Bad news, however: Rutledge has dealt with biceps soreness, slowing his spring buildup some.

Phillies: Bryson Stott, SS/3B (No. 1/MLB No. 45)
We all knew Stott was close to big league ready after he reached Triple-A and then played very well in the Arizona Fall League in 2021. Where the ’19 first-round pick plays in Philadelphia — it could be his natural shortstop, it might be third — at the big league level will be determined, and it could be soon. With his 1.331 OPS this spring, he’s making a very strong case he belongs in the Opening Day lineup.

Brewers: Jeferson Quero, C (No. 5)
Quero dealt with a concussion, hamstring injury and left shoulder surgery in 2021, limiting him to only 23 games in the Arizona Complex League. He was a standout when he did play, hitting .309/.434/.500 while showing a plus arm from behind the plate, and the Brewers believe the injuries were bad luck and unrelated to each other, helping the idea that he can put them in the past. With plus defensive capabilities and a solid all-around bat, Quero has everyday potential in the Majors. Getting regular time in the lower levels, at last, will be a big step toward that future.

Cardinals: Joshua Baez, OF (No. 7)
The Cardinals did a strong job of developing high-ceiling, 2020 prep Draft picks Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn in their first full seasons. Baez, a 2021 second-rounder out of Massachusetts, could follow in their footsteps. The 18-year-old outfielder possesses plus power potential and a 70-grade arm that should help immediately in right field in the Minors. He’ll need to hit enough to make the most of that pop after exhibiting some swing-and-miss tendencies as an amateur.

Cubs: James Triantos, 2B/SS (No. 3)
Triantos reclassified into the 2021 Draft as a Virginia high schooler, then commanded an over-slot $2.1 million bonus in the second round on the basis of his advanced hitting ability. Compared to the likes of Alex Bregman and David Wright for his bat, he hit .327/.376/.594 in Rookie ball during his pro debut.

Pirates: Oneil Cruz, SS (No. 3/MLB No. 26)
For however long he still qualifies, Cruz will be the prospect to watch for the Pirates. A 6-foot-7 shortstop with ridiculous raw power is a true unicorn in the game. Sure, he got sent down and will start the year in Triple-A, where he can presumably start trying some other positions on for size, but that left-handed bat will be loud enough for him to get back to Pittsburgh soon enough.

Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 22)
We don’t know about you, but we have April 10 circled in Red on our calendar. That’s when Greene makes his Major League debut in Atlanta. The No. 2 pick back in 2017 has long been on radars and put Tommy John surgery well in his rearview mirror last year, and we can’t wait to see how his triple-digit fastball plays (not to mention his secondary stuff) in the big leagues.

D-backs: Corbin Carroll, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 19)
Picture this. You get off to a 9-for-23 start. Five of those nine hits go for extra bases, including two homers. You add three steals and a near-even 7/6 K/BB ratio. All of this comes after you jump to High-A in what is essentially your first full season. Then you suffer a shoulder injury that requires season-ending surgery after only seven games. That was Carroll’s tale in 2021. The ’19 first-rounder remains tooled up with plus hit, plus-plus speed and a good glove on the grass. He just needs to pick up those valuable at-bats once again this summer.

Dodgers: Bobby Miller, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 57)
Though he has pitched just 56 1/3 pro innings since the Dodgers drafted him out of Louisville in 2020’s first round, Miller may not need much more time in the Minors. His stuff borders on the ridiculous: a four-seam fastball that parks in the upper 90s; a heavy mid-90s two-seamer; a two-plane slider and a lively changeup that sit in the mid-80s and can be well above-average pitches at their best; and a power curveball in the low 80s.

Giants: Will Bednar, RHP (No. 5)
The younger brother of Pirates reliever David Bednar, Will was named most outstanding player at the 2021 College World Series after leading Mississippi State to its first national championship. The 14th overall selection last July, he featured one of the best combinations of stuff and strikes in the ’21 Draft, including a 92-97 mph fastball he can sink or ride and a sweeping mid-80s slider.

Padres: MacKenzie Gore, LHP (No. 4/MLB No. 86)
Which Gore will we see in 2022 after two consecutive years of work on command and delivery issues? Early signs are promising that he could be close to his ’19 self; the southpaw has struck out 11 and walked only one in nine innings this spring. His fastball is back to averaging in the mid-90s, touching 99, and his slider, curveball and changeup continue to round out the arsenal. Gore’s starts in Triple-A El Paso will be must-follows unless this spring is enough to push him into a San Diego rotation from the jump.

Rockies: Zac Veen, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 36)
The organization’s lone Top 100 prospect currently had a huge first full season in Low-A, finishing with a .301/.399/.501 line to go along with 36 steals. He has a huge up arrow next to his name and it’s not difficult to see him hitting his way to Double-A in 2022 and rising to among the top overall prospects in the game.

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