Prospects who most improved stock in ’22

Detroit Tigers

There have been a number of prospects with breakout performances this year, none more impressive than Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio. Making the jump from the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League a year ago, he’s finishing the season in Double-A — at age 18! — and has batted .296/.350/.556 with 20 homers and 16 steals in 95 games.

Unranked among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects entering the season, Chourio since has vaulted all the way up to No. 11. Below, we spotlight the prospects who have boosted their stock the most within each organization this year, and 10 others also have climbed their way onto the Top 100. That contingent includes Phillies right-hander Andrew Painter (No. 25), Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Tiedemann (No. 34) and Nationals outfielder James Wood (No. 35).

Blue Jays: Ricky Tiedemann (No. 2/MLB No. 34)
It wasn’t that long ago — just 14 months, in fact — that Tiedemann was a third-round pick. The 6-foot-4 left-hander could have been taken 90 times over before falling to Toronto at No. 91. Now, he’s one of the 35 best prospects in baseball and second on our list of left-handed pitchers. Tiedemann’s velocity has picked up to the mid-90s in pro ball, while his slider and changeup have become true above-average pitches. He finished 2022 with a 2.17 ERA and 117 strikeouts over 78 2/3 innings while climbing from Single-A to Double-A in his age-19 campaign.

Orioles: Gunnar Henderson, SS/3B (No. 1/MLB No. 2) 
Henderson was obviously firmly on the radar as our No. 64 overall prospect before the season began, No. 3 on the O’s list. But he went from very good prospect to arguably the best prospect in the game with what he did in the Minors this year, with a .947 OPS across Double- and Triple-A and a home run shy of a 20-20 season. He hasn’t missed a beat since getting called up to the big leagues, either.

Rays: Kyle Manzardo, 1B (No. 6)
To be a notable first-base-only prospect, you have to hit. Ever since Manzardo was a second-round pick by Tampa Bay last year, he has really, really hit. The Washington State product has produced an average above .320, an OBP above .400 and a slugging percentage above .600 at every stop in the Rays system to this point, including Double-A Montgomery where he ends his first full season. What’s more, Manzardo has done a promising job of marrying power with a strong contact rate. His 16.8 percent K rate is 11th-lowest among the 130 Minor Leaguers with at least 20 homers this year.

Red Sox: Ceddanne Rafaela, OF/SS (No. 4/MLB No. 100)
Rafaela established himself as one of the Minors’ best and most versatile defenders last year, but he has taken his offensive potential to another level by hitting .303/.347/.549 with 21 homers and 27 steals in 113 games between High-A and Double-A. Signed for $10,000 out of Curacao in 2017, he’s listed at just 5-foot-8 and 152 pounds but produces power with a quick right-handed swing and aggressive mindset.

Yankees: Will Warren, RHP (No. 8)
Warren has gone from an eighth-round pick out of Southeastern Louisiana in 2021 to the Yankees’ best pitching prospect a year later. Armed with a 85-88 mph slider with nasty sweep and a 92-95 mph sinker, he has logged a 3.78 ERA with a 117/42 K/BB ratio in 123 2/3 innings between High-A and Double-A during his pro debut.

Guardians: Tanner Bibee, RHP (No. 8)
The Guardians excel at helping polished college pitchers improve their stuff, and Bibee is the latest example since signing as a sixth-round pick from Cal State Fullerton last year. He’s now operating at 93-97 mph and reaching 99 with his fastball while flashing a plus slider and changeup. His upgraded arsenal has helped him post a 2.06 ERA, .211 opponent average and a 158/25 K/BB ratio in 126 2/3 innings between High-A and Double-A in his pro debut.

Royals: Tyler Gentry, OF (No. 8)
The 2020 third-rounder had a sound statistical season last year with an .844 OPS in 44 games at High-A Quad Cities, but knee injuries shut him down in August and made him a bigger question mark heading into 2022. Consider that question answered. Gentry leads Kansas City Minor League qualifiers in average (.327), slugging (.549), OPS (.974), and wRC+ (155) while chipping in 21 homers and 10 steals in 105 games at High-A and Double-A. The 23-year-old outfielder’s breakout season has helped fill the Royals’ Minor League hitting vacuum following multiple graduations throughout the summer.

Tigers: Kerry Carpenter, OF (No. 14)
Carpenter hit only 15 homers in 112 games at Double-A Erie last season before working on adding lift to his swings during the offseason and early parts of 2022. The result: the left-handed slugger had 30 homers through 98 games at Double-A and Triple-A on Aug. 9 and would have been a favorite to win the Minor League home run title if a pesky Major League callup hadn’t gotten in the way. Carpenter has been slugging around .500 since joining the big club — a sign that his power jump this season was no illusion.

Twins: Marco Raya, RHP (No. 7)
The Twins’ fourth-rounder in 2020, Raya had missed making his debut in 2021 due to a shoulder strain, so he was a bit of an unknown quantity heading into this season. He still has a long way to go, but he made a huge jump into the organization’s top 10 with his showing with Single-A Fort Myers this year. The Twins were cautious with his usage, but he missed a ton of bats (10.5 K/9) and was very tough to hit (.199 BAA) and just turned 20 in August.

White Sox: Lenyn Sosa, INF (No. 4)
Signed for $325,000 out of Venezuela in 2016, Sosa has made a leap in 2022 by making better swing decisions, resulting in a .309/.361/.499 line with 20 homers in 106 games between Double-A and Triple-A — as well his first trip to the Majors. His best tools are his hitting ability and solid arm strength.

Angels: Edgar Quero, C (No. 3)
Quero landed in the Angels’ Top 10 to start the 2022 season after signing for $200K in Feb. 2021 and playing his way to full-season ball last year. He’s taken a huge step forward this season, on both sides of the ball. He’s shown off his advanced approach and an ability to already get to his power, leading to a .965 OPS with Single-A Inland Empire while continuing to improve his receiving, reasons why he’s knocking on the Top 100 door as a teenager.

A’s: Jordan Diaz, 1B/3B (No. 8)
The A’s always thought Diaz could hit and thought he performed well enough in High-A Lansing in 2021 to add him to the 40-man roster. He repaid their faith in him with a vey strong season across Double- and Triple-A this year and is knocking on the big league door at age 22. Diaz has posted a .324/.364/.508 line across the levels and should impact the A’s lineup in 2023.

Mariners: Bryce Miller, RHP (No. 5)
The Mariners may have found a steal in the fourth round of the 2021 Draft in Miller, who showed good stuff but less polish at Texas A&M after moving from the bullpen to the rotation in his Draft year. He’s pitched across three levels this year, up to Double-A, and the reliever risk talk is very quiet after he’s struck out 10.6 per nine and walked 3.2, all while working a full starter’s workload.

Astros: Yainer Diaz, C/1B (No. 3)
Acquired from the Guardians as part of the Myles Straw trade last July, Diaz has shown improved power and made progress with his defense in his first full year with the Astros. He had batted .306/.356/.542 with 25 homers in 105 games between Double-A and Triple-A, nearly matching his total of 27 blasts from his first four pro seasons before Houston called him up on Sept. 2.

Rangers: Evan Carter, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 59)
Carter hasn’t so much made a leap this year as he has enjoyed his first fully healthy pro season and shown that he’s a potential five-tool talent. A surprise second-round pick as a Tennessee high schooler in 2020, he has rebounded from a stress fracture in his back last year to hit .287/.388/.476 with 39 extra-base hits and 26 steals in High-A at age 19 before getting promoted to Double-A on Tuesday.

Braves: Vaughn Grissom, SS/2B (No. 1/MLB No. 79)
The investment the Braves made in going over slot to sign Grissom in the 11th round of the 2019 Draft is looking to be a very wise one. He’s hit everywhere he’s gone and jumped firmly onto the Top 100 during this season, hitting .324/.405/.494 across High-A and Double-A. Come up and play second base, a spot he had played just seven games in 2022, in the big leagues while continuing to hit over .300? No problem.

Marlins: Jerar Encarnacion, OF (No. 14)
Encarnacion established himself as one of the better power hitters in the Marlins system after signing for $78,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, then ran into the pandemic shutdown in 2020 and knee and finger injuries last year. Healthy again this season, he batted .294/.363/.505 with 22 homers in 99 games between Double-A and Triple-A and also slammed his first two big league longballs.

Mets: Alex Ramirez, OF (No. 4/MLB No. 89)
A $2.05 million signing out of the Dominican Republic back in July 2019, Ramirez was far from an unknown entering this season, but his profile was filled with a lot of if’s before his breakout. The 19-year-old outfielder started turning his potential into production more regularly with a .281/.346/.436 line, 11 homers and 21 stolen bases in 121 games at Single-A St. Lucie and High-A Brooklyn while playing in some harsh environments for hitters. His power, speed, fielding and throwing tools are all at least above-average, and he could be primed for another jump when he reaches the upper Minors in 2023.

Nationals: James Wood (No. 3/MLB No. 35)
From the 62nd overall pick to the 35th overall prospect and a big piece of a blockbuster trade. Wood has mashed at both Single-A Lake Elsinore and Fredericksburg in the Padres and Nats systems, respectively, hitting .324/.429/.560 with 12 homers and 19 steals over 71 games combined at those two stops. His plus speed may be surprising for his size at 6-foot-7, but it’s held up well over his first full season. Add in his obvious power potential and above-average arm, and Wood gives Washington fans hope for the future of its post-Juan Soto outfield.

Phillies: Andrew Painter, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 25)
We knew Painter was good and had the chance to be very good eventually as the Phillies’ top pick in 2021. Did we know he’d be this good, this fast? No way. He wasn’t in our Top 100 to start the season and now might be under-ranked at No. 25. Now in Double-A at age 19, his numbers for the season are ridiculous: 1.17 ERA, .170 BAA, 13.5 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9.

Brewers: Jackson Chourio, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 11)
The easiest selection here without question. We’ve said and written it plenty, but it’s worth doing again; Chourio turned 18 back in March and had only played in the Dominican Summer League before the start of the regular season. He skipped right over the Arizona Complex League and is now at Biloxi, where he’s on track to be on a list with Bryce Harper and Fernando Tatis Jr. as the only 18-year-olds to get more than 15 Double-A plate appearances in a single season. Chourio has flashed all five tools as a center fielder, standing out most for his prodigious power and plus-plus speed, and should be a candidate for the No. 1 overall prospect spot before he graduates to Milwaukee, which could come as early as next summer.

Cardinals: Gordon Graceffo, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 83)
A fifth-round pick last year out of Villanova, Graceffo started to show promising signs of a breakout early in pro ball, and those signs kicked into another gear this summer in his climb from High-A to Double-A. The 22-year-old right-hander can touch the upper-90s on occasion with his heater while showing a plethora of other promising pitches with his slider, curve and change. While his K numbers have dropped off a bit at Springfield, Graceffo’s control won’t likely be an issue, cementing his place in our Top 100 so early in his career.

Cubs: Ben Brown, RHP (No. 7)
A Phillies 33rd-round pick out of a Long Island high school in 2017, Brown had Tommy John surgery in 2019, lost the 2020 season to the pandemic and worked just 16 innings in 2021. He came out this year firing mid-90s fastballs that top out at 98 mph, not to mention a pair of power breaking balls, which is why the Cubs sought him in the David Robertson trade in July. He has compiled a 3.42 ERA, .216 opponent average and 141/34 K/BB ratio in 100 innings between High-A and Double-A.

Pirates: Endy Rodriguez, C/2B/OF (No. 6)
After coming to the Pirates from the Mets in the three-team deal that sent Joe Musgrove to the Padres, Rodriguez had a very solid first full season with his new organization in 2021, with an .892 OPS with Single-A Bradenton. He’s taken it a few steps further this season, mashing his way to Double-A and hitting a combined .319/.407/.589 with 24 homers while catching, playing second and the outfield, putting him on the cusp of Top 100 status.

Reds: Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B (No. 1/MLB No. 15)
While De La Cruz burst on the scene last year, he climbed to the top, or close to it, of the prospect ladder this season. He’s one of the most exciting prospects in all of baseball with louder tools than just about anyone. With 28 homers and 46 steals combined this year, he has the chance to join some exclusive company if he finishes 20/50 or 30/50.

D-backs: Brandon Pfaadt, RHP (No. 4/MLB No. 94)
Pfaadt was certainly on the radar coming into this season, but his performance at Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno has made him a bit of a household name in prospect circles in 2022. The 23-year-old right-hander not only leads the Minors with 202 strikeouts in 155 1/3 innings; he is also the first Minor Leaguer with at least 200 K’s since 2011 as our Jim Callis laid out in the latest MLB Pipeline newsletter. Pfaadt’s four-pitch mix, highlighted by a plus fastball and divebombing changeup, pushed him into our Top 100, and he’ll likely remain there right up until he sees Arizona, likely early in 2023.

Dodgers: Gavin Stone, RHP (No. 7/MLB No. 81)
The penultimate pick in the five-round 2020 Draft, Stone has improved his repertoire as a pro and now deals with a mid-90s fastball with a difficult approach angle, a mid-80s slider/cutter and an upper-80s changeup that plummets at the plate. The Central Arkansas product leads the Minors in ERA (1.56), ranks seventh in strikeout rate (12.3 per nine innings) and has climbed from High-A to Triple-A this summer.

Giants: Grant McCray, OF (No. 4)
The Giants made McCray a third-round pick out of a Florida high school in 2019 because they liked his power/speed combination, and he finally showed it off this year now that he no longer was held back by nagging injuries. He hit .289/.383/.514 with 23 homers and 43 steals in 120 games at two Class A stops, making him one of four 20-40 players in the Minors this season.

Padres: Jackson Wolf, LHP (No. 13)
Wood, Robert Gasser or Esteury Ruiz could have been picked here if all three weren’t dealt at the Deadline. Instead, we’ll go with Wolf, a 2021 fourth-round senior sign out of West Virginia. The 6-foot-7 southpaw jumped to Double-A recently after posting a 4.01 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 119 innings at High-A. What he lacks in velocity, Wolf makes up for in impressive breaking balls with a good slider and curveball, helping his case as a future potential No. 4/5 starter.

Rockies: Adael Amador, SS (No. 3/MLB No. 64) 
Hat tip to Ezequiel Tovar, who easily could have gotten the nod here, but we’ll go with Amador for what he’s done in his full-season debut as a 19-year old in Single-A. The infielder has climbed to the middle of the Top 100 with a big up arrow next to his name thanks to his .292/.415/.445 line, 15 homers and 26 steals, all while continuing to show defensive actions that will keep him in the middle infield long-term.

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