Thursday, May 26, 2022

MLB’s top 50 prospects 2022: Ranking Adley Rutschman, Bobby Witt Jr. and the rest of baseball’s young talent

Spring training has arrived. In December, Major League Baseball’s owners voted to lock out the players, triggering the league’s first work stoppage since 1994-95. It took 99 days and a couple of “canceled” weeks before the two sides could reach a new collective bargaining agreement. They did, however, and now the Major League Baseball season will kick off on April 7.

During the lockout, CBS Sports passed the time by breaking down the top prospects in baseball, both globally and on a team-by-team basis. That process continues today, with the unveiling of our top 50 prospect list.

Do note that the players below were identified as the top talents in the minors following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player-development types. As always, this is more of an art than a science, and some disagreement is a given.

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1. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles (Age: 23)

Rutschman, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, is on the precipice of stardom. Evaluators have maintained that he would someday feature four plus or better tools (everything but the speed), as well as an excellent feel for the strike zone and field-general qualities. Rutschman, a switch-hitter, has lived up to expectations. He batted .312/.405/.490 in 43 games at Triple-A, suggesting the only thing standing between him and the majors is the Orioles’ desire to suppress his wages. (And, now, a triceps strain that will compromise his spring.) Even they won’t be able to hold down Rutschman for long; he’s the future of the catcher position. 

2. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals (Age: 21)

Witt was selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft, making this the second time he’s finished a step behind Rutschman. That’s no knock on him, however, as he’s a high-grade prospect in his own right. He proved as much by hitting .290/.361/.575 with 33 home runs and 35 doubles across Double- and Triple-A in his first full professional season. There used to be fear that Witt would swing-and-miss too frequently to maximize his loud offensive tools; those concerns haven’t materialized, and he struck out in just 22.5 percent of his Triple-A plate appearances. Factor in an above-average glove, and Witt should accomplish something his father never did over the course of his 16-year big-league career as a pitcher: make an All-Star Game.

3. Julio Rodríguez, RF, Mariners (Age: 20)

Rodríguez fits the right-field prototype with a middle-of-the-order offensive projection and a strong arm. He has well-above-average power and a better feel for contact than most with this profile. Indeed, Rodríguez struck out in just 18 percent of his plate appearances during his 46-game introduction to Double-A last season, an impressive piece of business for someone who can’t legally drink until Dec. 29. The Mariners have shown they’re more than willing to manipulate the service time of their top prospects to save a buck, suggesting they’ll likely do the same thing with Rodríguez. Nonetheless, he should debut in the majors before the season is out.

4. Shane Baz, RHP, Rays (Age: 22)

Baz is the lone member of the top 20 who has already reached the majors. He appeared in three regular season contests with the Rays in 2021, accruing a 2.03 ERA and a 6.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio in a small sample of 13 innings. Baz demonstrated during his big-league cameo that he has three swing-and-miss pitches, including an upper-90s fastball (with movement and release-point characteristics that rival Gerrit Cole‘s) and a pair of breaking balls. He’s simplified his delivery since being acquired from the Pirates as part of the ill-fated Chris Archer trade, allowing him to tally just 16 walks in 92 combined innings between the majors and minors last season. That would be impressive for anyone, let alone someone who was issuing a walk every other inning prior to the pandemic. Between Baz’s pure stuff and his newfound control, he’s the favorite to eventually succeed Tyler Glasnow (who also came over in that trade) as the Rays ace.

5. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles (Age: 22)

Rodriguez, the final first-round pick Baltimore under Dan Duquette’s watch, has proven to be a quality parting gift. He split last season between High- and Double-A, compiling a 2.36 ERA and a 5.96 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Rodriguez already looks like a big-league starter thanks to a physical frame and a broad, high-grade arsenal. He’s capable of dialing up his fastball into triple digits and elevating it above the batter’s hands late in counts. He complements the heater with several swing-and-miss secondary pitches, including a nasty slider that qualifies as his second-best pitch. Rodriguez has already achieved a high degree of success in Double-A, meaning he should open the year in Triple-A before making his big-league debut come summer.

6. Riley Greene, OF, Tigers (Age: 21)

Greene, the fifth pick in the 2019 draft, split his first full professional season between Double- and Triple-A, hitting .301/.387/.534 with 24 home runs, 33 troubles (triples plus doubles), and 16 stolen bases on 17 tries. He celebrated his 21st birthday in September. Predictably, Greene is considered to be an intelligent, polished hitter who should fit in near the top of Detroit’s lineup at some point early in the season. The big question is where he’ll play defensively. The Tigers have primarily played him in center so far, and it’s possible that’s where he begins his big-league career before eventually sliding to a corner (he has enough of an arm for right if so desired). 

7. Francisco Álvarez, C, Mets (Age: 20)

The first of two Mets prospects on the list, Álvarez only turned 20 years old in November. Despite his youth, he hit .272/.388/.554 with 24 home runs across two levels in 2021. Part of Álvarez’s season included a stint with the St. Lucie Mets. It was then that he posted the highest average exit velocity the league saw all season — and that league included the likes of Jordan Walker, Anthony Volpe, and Austin Hendrick. It’s rare to see such offensive potency from a young backstop who is certain to remain behind the plate. Álvarez figures to open the year in Double-A; he’s one to watch.

8. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers (Age: 22)

Torkelson, the No. 1 pick in 2020, soared all the way to Triple-A in his first professional season. Overall, he performed as you would expect someone with cleanup-hitter aspirations to: batting .267/.383/.552 with 30 home runs and a 14.5 percent walk rate. He’s often been compared to Andrew Vaughn of the White Sox because of their similar profiles: each has big raw strength and a feel for hitting, as well as the intelligence to make adjustments as needed. (Vaughn, for his part, had a disappointing rookie campaign in 2021.) The Tigers announced Torkelson as a third baseman on draft day, and they’ve continued to crosstrain him at both corner-infield positions. Scouts still expect him to end up at first base, however. With the Tigers gearing up to compete in 2022, odds are Torkelson will debut early in the season. 

9. Gabriel Moreno, C, Blue Jays (Age: 21)

Moreno won’t turn 22 years old until February, and he’s caught fewer than 200 professional games so far because of the pandemic and a fractured thumb. Even so, his upside and progress on both sides of the ball make him a highly promising backstop prospect. Moreno hit .367/.434/.626 eight home runs in 37 games across three levels last season; he then appeared in 22 games in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .329/.410/.494 with a walk for every strikeout. In addition to adding strength at the plate, Moreno has improved his receiving capabilities behind it. The eventual implementation of the automated ball-strike system might render some of his work moot, but it speaks well of his eagerness to get better — and his chances for stardom.

10. CJ Abrams, SS, Padres (Age: 21)

Abrams, yet another member of that vaunted 2019 draft class (he was selected sixth overall), may have made his big-league debut late last season had he not broken his leg and sprained his MCL as part of a June collision. Prior to that incident, he had hit .296/.363/.420 with 16 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases (on 15 tries) in 42 contests at the Double-A level. It’s to be seen if Abrams’ elite speed will be impacted by his injuries. Provided the answer is “no,” he could slot into the Padres’ lineup early next year as a hit-over-power option at either of the middle-infield positions.

11. Noelvi Marte, SS, Mariners (Age: 20)

Marte, who recently celebrated his 20th birthday, spent most of 2021 in a league where the average player was two years his senior. It didn’t matter, as he batted .271/.368/.462 with 17 home runs and another 24 doubles. Scouts are projecting Marte to grow into a plus hitter thanks to his hands and the natural loft in his swing. The concerns with his game revolve around his defensive position. He has the arm strength to stick on the left side, but he might have to slide over to third base. Marte’s offensive forecast is such that he’ll still rank highly even if that proves to be the case.

12. Marco Luciano, SS, Giants (Age: 20)

As with Marte, Luciano is a young 20-year-old who projects as a middle-of-the-order hitter with positional question marks. (Marte gets the higher spot because he seems more likely than Luciano to remain at shortstop.) Luciano did scuffle after reaching High-A for the stretch run — he hit just .217/.283/.295 with a 37 percent strikeout rate — but it’s not worth panicking or pressing the eject button just yet. The sample size is too small and his upside, particularly with the stick, is too big. He should get the opportunity to vindicate himself to begin the 2022 season. 

13. Jordan Walker, 3B, Cardinals (Age: 19)

Walker is the first of two Cardinals on this list (both of whom were drafted in the second half of round one). He made his professional debut last season, hitting .317/.388/.548 with 14 home runs and 29 troubles (that’s doubles plus triples). Walker has near-elite raw power and, in a promising development as it pertains to maximizing its utility, he started lifting the ball more frequently after being promoted to High-A. His strikeout rate also spiked following his move up the ladder, moving up from 17 to 27 percent, but it’s easy to give him a pass on that for now because he won’t celebrate his 20th birthday until May. Walker may in time have to move away from the hot corner, likely to another corner; it won’t matter if he turns into a marquee slugger.

14. Brett Baty, 3B, Mets (Age: 22)

Some evaluators in the industry expressed skepticism when the Mets drafted Baty 12th overall in 2019. Their criticism had less to do with him as a player and more to do with his age, as he was hurtling toward his 20th birthday despite being a high-schooler. Baty did well to quiet concerns in his first full pro season, batting .292/.382/.473 with 12 home runs and 22 doubles across High- and Double-A. Baty’s boosters see a strong-bodied third baseman who could be a plus hitter. There are some areas of concern to keep in mind with him, however, as his strikeout (25.6 percent) and groundball (61.2 percent) rates at Double-A suggest he wasn’t maximizing skill set, especially considering his well-above-average raw juice.

15. Marcelo Mayer, SS, Red Sox (Age: 19)

Mayer entered last summer’s draft ranked by CBS Sports as the No. 1 prospect on the board. He ended up going fourth overall to the Red Sox, who, in our estimation, should thank their lucky stars. Mayer’s boosters believe he’ll be a well-rounded left-handed hitter who can contribute average, on-base, and slugging once he adds enough strength to his frame to launch 15-to-20 home runs annually. While he’s not a fast runner, he is a skillful defender who has the arm, the hands, and the fluidity to remain at shortstop. Mayer’s exact ceiling hinges on his aforementioned physical maturation, but if he gets close to his peak he’ll become a two-way contributor and an All-Star.

16. Alek Thomas, CF, Diamondbacks (Age: 21)

The Diamondbacks organization has made a habit out of taking undersized outfielders. Thomas, listed at 5-foot-11, is one of the prizes from that approach. (The injured Corbin Carroll is another.) Thomas authored a breakout season in 2021, batting .313/.394/.559 with 18 home runs, 29 doubles, and 12 triples in 106 contests across Double- and Triple-A. Thomas has a noisy swing, including an elongated leg kick, that helps him generate more power than his size indicates (encouragingly, the moving parts have not resulted in a high strikeout rate). Add in his good defense, and he should become the Diamondbacks’ starting center fielder as early as this spring.

17. Nolan Gorman, 2B, Cardinals (Age: 21)

The other Cardinal in the top 20. Gorman made two noteworthy changes last year, moving from third to second base on a nearly full-time basis and dropping his strikeout rate upon reaching Triple-A. Gorman’s improved contact rate was accompanied by a change in his swing mechanics, as he lowered his hands to streamline his swing. He has well-above-average power, the kind you seldom see at the keystone; provided his defense is deemed tolerable (and he has improved), he should spend most of the 2022 season as the Cardinals’ starting second baseman. 

18. Jack Leiter, RHP, Rangers (Age: 21)

Leiter was the first pitcher to come off the board in July’s draft, and for good reason. In addition to having big-league bloodlines and an SEC certification, he possesses many of the traits teams seek in their pitchers these days, including an electric fastball and a release point that creates tough angles up in the zone. Leiter needs to find greater consistency with his secondaries and his command, but talent evaluators believe he’s capable of making those gains in short order; to wit, a veteran scout told CBS Sports that Leiter’s pre-draft interview was one of the best he’s experienced.

19. Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox (Age: 21)

It’s hard for a first baseman to rank highly these days because of the offensive demands of the position. Casas is the exception based on his pleasant combination of hit, discipline, and power; he’s a triple threat in the batter’s box, in so many words. He homered 14 times in 86 games between Double- and Triple-A, and did so while striking out in fewer than 20 percent of his plate appearances despite being only 21 years old. Casas has a frame and swing path that might remind people of Freddie Freeman, and, health provided, he ought to break into Boston’s lineup sometime around midseason.

20. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Reds (Age: 23)

Lodolo was the first pitcher to come off the board during that 2019 draft, albeit relatively late at No. 7. He’s atoned for it by zipping through the minors, accruing a 2.31 ERA and a 7.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 starts across Double- and Triple-A in his first full professional season. (He was hampered by blisters and shoulder fatigue.) Lodolo doesn’t have loud stuff; he does have a good slider and a broad arsenal of averageish offerings that play up because of his command and the deception he creates with a lower release point. Provided Lodolo is hearty and hale, he ought to debut early this spring, with a straightforward path toward mid-rotation status.

21. Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks (Age: 21)

Carroll suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on a home-run swing in early May, bringing his year to a close after seven High-A games. (He’d hit .435/.552/.913 with two homers and three stolen bases in those contests.) When healthy, Carroll has proven himself to be a dynamic, well-rounded player with the potential to contribute in all phases. He commands the strike zone and he hits the ball with more authority than his stature (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) suggests. He’s also a fast runner and a good defender who someday ought to compete with Thomas for center-field reps at the big-league level. Provided he makes a full recovery, he should debut in 2023.

22. Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates (Age: 23)

Cruz’s availability at this point last year was up in the air after he was involved in a car accident that killed three people. (Cruz’s lawyer and the Pirates pushed back against reports suggesting alcohol was involved.) He ended up playing in 68 minor-league games and then, surprisingly, two big-league contests to end the season despite limited Triple-A exposure. Cruz has one of the oddest profiles in the game stemming from the fact that he’s a 6-foot-7 shortstop. The Pirates haven’t hedged their bets against him sticking there by so much as cross-training him at other positions. They’re all-in, in other words. Cruz has big-time power and he’s a fast runner (at least for the time being), making him a potentially dynamic offensive talent. He also cut into his strikeout rate this season, too, which bodes well for him given his hit tool has been scrutinized in the past. Cruz should get a longer look in the majors this year.

23. Anthony Volpe, Yankees, (Age: 20)

Volpe, the 30th pick in the 2019 draft, suffered through a rough introduction to professional ball. You wouldn’t know it based on how well he played last season. After adding strength to his frame, he batted .294/.324/.604 with 27 home runs and a rules-inflated 33 stolen bases. His strikeout rate did jump after his promotion to High-A, and that merits keeping an eye on heading forward. At present, though, he projects to become an above-average hitter in terms of contact and power. Volpe’s long-term defensive home is up in the air because of his substandard arm strength, but the Yankees have played him almost exclusively at shortstop to date, suggesting they still have faith in him there.

24. George Kirby, RHP, Mariners (Age: 23)

The Mariners chose Kirby with the 20th pick in the 2019 draft, making him the highest-selected player ever from Elon University. He’s since rewarded their faith by developing into one of the best pitching prospects in the sport. Kirby split last season across High- and Double-A, posting a 2.53 ERA and a 5.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s more than a statistical wonder; he’s upped his velocity without sacrificing control (he’s walked fewer than two batters per nine innings as a professional) or the sheer breadth of his arsenal. His combination of stuff and polish should allow him to become the first of a few incoming arms to debut for the Mariners.

25. Reid Detmers, LHP, Angels (Age: 22)

The book on Detmers coming out of Louisville was that he was a polished strikethrower who would move through the minors quickly. Sure enough, Detmers reached the majors after 13 professional appearances. He ended up making five big-league starts, during which he amassed a 7.40 ERA and a 1.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those numbers belie that he’s still a legitimate mid-rotation prospect who pairs a low-90s fastball with a big-time curveball and a slider that fared well in The Show. Detmers should get a longer look in the majors in 2022, and those numbers should improve as the sample size increases.   

26. Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds (Age: 22)

Greene, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, made his first regular-season appearances since 2018 after missing time because of Tommy John surgery and the pandemic. He didn’t disappoint; rather, he posted a 3.30 ERA and a 3.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 106 innings, with most of those coming in Triple-A. Greene still has big-time arm strength, but there’ve long been concerns about the pitch’s lack of movement. He still needs to work on his command and his changeup, too. Greene’s pure velocity and promising slider should help him survive until he can make up for lost reps.

27. Jordan Lawlar, SS, Diamondbacks (Age: 19)

Lawlar entered last spring as a candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2021 MLB Draft. He ended up sliding to the sixth spot, in part because of signability concerns. All the same, Lawlar has drawn comparisons to Bobby Witt Jr. for reasons on and off the field (they share a home state, in Texas, and were both over-age for prep players). He has a projectable frame that should bode well for his power potential; a strong arm; and the other necessary traits to stick at the shortstop position. There are some concerns about his swing-and-miss tendencies, and he appeared in only two games before he required a shoulder surgery of his own. Lawlar still has All-Star potential if all goes well.

28. Henry Davis, C, Pirates (Age: 22)

The Pirates approached last summer’s draft with a “portfolio approach” in mind. Taking Davis at No. 1 played into that plan, as it allowed them to save money on his signing bonus that they later rerouted to other picks. Nevertheless, Davis shouldn’t be written off as anything less than a desirable talent himself. He made a habit of hitting the ball hard while seldom striking out at Louisville, a desirable combination in any batter, let alone one with enough defensive chops to stick behind the plate. Some scouts have expressed concerns about Davis’ swing and if it’ll cause his bat to play lighter against top-end pitching; there’s only one way to find out for sure.

29. Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers (Age: 23)

Jung, the eighth pick in 2019, has long elicited comparisons to former Padres third baseman Chase Headley because of his hit-over-power profile. He challenged that perception last season, lifting the ball more frequently en route to 19 home runs (and a .326/.398/.592 slash line) in 78 games across the upper-minors. For reference, he’d previously homered twice in his first 44 professional games. Jung is considered to be an average defender at the hot corner, and he’s not going to contribute much on the basepaths. The totality and complexion of his offensive output, then, will go a long way in determining if he becomes a first- or a second-division starter. Jung’s MLB debut, however, has been put on hold after he underwent shoulder surgery this spring that will sideline him for at least half the season.

30. Brennen Davis, OF, Cubs (Age: 22)

Davis possesses the best chance of developing into a star of anyone on the Cubs farm. He has a dynamic collection of tools, including plus or better grades with his power and speed, and he has an established track record of performance. This past season, he batted .260/.375/.494 with 19 home runs across three levels, including a 15-game stint at Triple-A that saw him post a .933 OPS. Davis should make his big-league debut in 2022; he’s likely to at least begin his career as a center fielder, though he might have to move off the position if and as he adds muscle to his frame.

31. Robert Hassell III, OF, Padres (Age: 20)

The Padres were known to be big fans of Hassell heading into the 2020 draft, so it wasn’t too surprising when they selected him with the eighth pick. He’s since rewarded their faith by hitting .302/.393/.470 in his first professional season — that despite celebrating his 20th birthday in mid-August. While it seems like a given that Hassell, who has a mature approach and feel for contact, is going to provide offensive value, it’s not as certain where he’ll play in the outfield. The Padres used him almost exclusively in center field last season, and it’s fair to think that’s the plan for now.

32. Zac Veen, OF, Rockies (Age: 20)

The Rockies selected Veen, an angular left-handed hitter who often received Jayson Werth comparisons from scouts as an amateur, ninth in the 2020 draft. He made his professional debut last season, hitting .301/.399/.501 with 15 home runs and 31 troubles (doubles plus triples) in 106 games at Low-A. Veen has all the right weaponry to become a middle-of-the-order hitter: good power; a feel for the zone; and barrel awareness. He also has a strong arm that should come in handy in right field. 

33. Jeremy Peña, SS, Astros (Age: 24)

Peña, who could be set to take over for Carlos Correa as Houston’s starting shortstop, may have made his big-league debut last season had he not undergone wrist surgery in the spring that wiped out most of his year. He did return for a 30-game stretch in Triple-A to close out the campaign, where he hit .287/.346/.598 with 10 home runs. (He’s since hit .291/.364/.410 in 30 winter ball games, suggesting his wrist has healed up fine.) At his peak, Peña figures to offer a well-rounded skill set: he’ll hit for average, some power, and provide value as both a defender and a baserunner. The one aspect worth monitoring with Peña’s game as he nears The Show is his approach: between the minors and winter ball, he’s posted a 3.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio; good for a pitcher, not so much for a hitter.

34. Keibert Ruiz, C, Nationals (Age: 23)

The Nationals acquired the switch-hitting Ruiz from the Dodgers as part of the payout on Max Scherzer. Ruiz had, throughout his development, been known for an extreme contact-over-power offensive profile; that seemed to change in 2021, as he lifted the ball more in the minors en route to a career-high 21 home runs. Ruiz’s tweaks didn’t translate to the majors (in a small sample), but his power playing closer to average would represent a game-changing development for him given his bat-to-ball skills. Ruiz is adequate behind the dish, which makes him a starting-caliber catcher regardless; if the power sticks, he could become a first-division starter. 

35. Bobby Miller, RHP, Dodgers (Age: 22) 

Coming out of Louisville, there were enough scouts who felt Miller would wind up in the bullpen that he slipped to the Dodgers at the end of the first round. Naturally, fewer than two years later, he seems more certain to stick in a rotation. Miller’s best pitches are his mid-90s sinker and his slider, and he’s seen both his changeup and command tick up since turning pro. If there’s one blemish to his game at this point, it’s a lack of exposure. The Dodgers micromanaged his outings last season, to the point where he averaged fewer than four frames per appearance. The game is changing, with starters shouldering fewer and fewer innings, but that’s still on the light side for a perceived starter. Even so, Miller ought to reach the majors in 2022.

36. Cade Cavalli, RHP, Nationals (Age: 23)

Cavalli, whose injury and control woes at Oklahoma caused him to slip to the 22nd pick in 2020, made it all the way to Triple-A in his first professional season. His results may have been a mixed bag (he had a 3.36 ERA and a 2.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio overall; his marks in six Triple-A  starts were 7.30 and 1.85), but there’s myriad reasons for optimism that he’ll debut in 2022 and turn into an above-average starter. Among them: Cavalli has the size, athleticism, and stuff (in addition to a big-time fastball, he has a pair of good breaking balls). Ultimately, those same old brickbats — command and durability — may dictate if he’s more than a No. 3.

37. Daniel Espino, RHP, Guardians (Age: 21)

History is not on the side of first-round high-school righties, yet Espino continues to reward the Guardians for selecting him 24th overall a few summers ago. In his first full professional season, he posted a bananas strikeout rate of 14.9 per nine innings across 91 frames. Arguably the wildest part of that number is that both his strikeout and walk rates improved after a midseason promotion to High-A, with the former jumping to 16.2 per nine and the latter dipping to 2.9 per nine. Espino is able to miss bats with a fastball he can dial into the upper-90s and a pair of average or better breaking balls. He needs to continue to work on his changeup and command — he is a 21-year-old, after all — but there’s enough upside here to give him this ranking.

38. Mick Abel, RHP, Phillies (Age: 20)

Abel, the top prep pitcher in the 2020 class, slipped to the 15th pick because of the usual concerns about high-school arms. While it’s too early to panic, his first professional season brought those concerns to the forefront. Abel was limited to 14 starts by a shoulder issue, and he walked more than five batters per nine when he was able to pitch. Abel still has well-above-average upside, thanks to an arsenal that could include three plus or better pitches and a tall, projectable frame. 

39. Austin Martin, UTL, Twins (Age: 22)

The Twins acquired Martin, the fifth pick in the 2020 draft, as part of a deadline trade that sent José Berríos to Toronto. Martin spent his first pro season in Double-A, hitting .270/.414/.382 with five home runs and 14 steals (on 18 tries). There’s no doubting his feel for contact or his command of the strike zone; nevertheless, there remain questions about his power potential and his defensive home. If Martin is slugging at below-average levels, and if he has to move down the defensive spectrum, then that complicates his overall profile. Let’s see how Martin fares with a full offseason of instruction from the Twins before rushing to any conclusions. 

40. Brayan Rocchio, SS, Guardians (Age: 21)

The Guardians have a lot of quality shortstops in their system. Right now, Rocchio is the most promising of the bunch. He’s a safe bet to remain at the six, and he’s already had success at the Double-A level before he could even celebrate his 21st birthday. Consider that last season he batted .293/.360/.505 in 44 games against competition that, on average, was four years his junior. Rocchio could stand to walk more frequently, and he’ll probably never hit a lot of home runs; he is, nevertheless, an intriguing prospect who isn’t too far off from making his big-league debut.

41. Tyler Soderstrom, C/1B, Athletics (Age: 20)

Soderstrom was considered one of the top prep catchers in the 2020 class, but even then scouts expressed a desire to move him elsewhere. Those wishes weren’t cast because of a disdain for his defense so much as a belief in his bat. Soderstrom, evaluators feel, has a chance to become a middle-of-the-order hitter thanks to his feel for hard contact and the strike zone alike. He showed as much by bullying his A-ball competition in his first full professional season, hitting .306/.390/.568 with 12 home runs and 21 troubles (triples plus doubles) in 57 games. The A’s still permitted Soderstrom to catch most of the time, but they did give him a look at first base, suggesting even they’re considering their options to maximize his stick.

42. Michael Harris, OF, Braves (Age: 20)

Harris is a fascinating prospect. He was a two-way player in high school who has since toyed with switch-hitting just because. He’s made a quick ascent up the Braves’ list since being drafted in the third round in 2019 thanks to a tool set that could feature five above-average or better grades at maturation. Harris spent last season in High-A, where he batted .294/.362/.436 with seven home runs and 27 stolen bases (on 31 tries). Some scouts aren’t sure if Harris will be able to remain in center for the long haul, but his bat should more than play in a corner. And if he does stick? He could be a star.

43. Josh Lowe, OF, Rays (Age: 23)

Lowe, the Rays’ first-round pick in 2016, made his big-league debut last September when he took two plate appearances. (He singled and walked.) Lowe should be in line for more playing time in 2022, having batted .291/.381/.535 with 22 home runs and 26 stolen bases (on 26 attempts) at Triple-A. Lowe still strikes out more than a quarter of the time, but he makes up for it with above-average power and speed, and he has enough experience in center field to suggest the Rays are comfortable with him there. It’s possible his bat plays lighter than expected because of his contact woes, yet until that proves to be true he looks like a legitimate starting outfielder from here.

44. Vidal Bruján, UTL, Rays (Age: 23)

Bruján also made his big-league debut in 2021, going 2 for 26 with eight strikeouts and no walks. No worry; he should get another chance in 2022. Bruján, a burner with a history of walking and making high rates of contact, added a new wrinkle to his game last season, swatting a career-high 12 home runs at Triple-A by doing a better job of lifting the ball. Whether or not his newfound slugging translates to the majors, his well-rounded game and his defensive versatility (the Rays have played him all over the place, infield and outfield) should soon make him a favorite of Kevin Cash.

45. Jackson Jobe, RHP, Tigers (Age: 19)

The Tigers went off-script when they selected Jobe, a prep arm from Oklahoma, with the third pick in the 2021 draft. There’s ample risk in taking high-school pitchers that early, but there were scouts with other organizations who believed Jobe was the best pitching prospect in the class. He has a couple of potential top-notch offerings, in his fastball and slider, that could mature into plus-plus pitches. Jobe also has a changeup that he’s made progress with, giving him a chance at becoming a front-end starter in time. There’s serious boom-or-bust potential here; clearly the Tigers think he’ll boom.

46. Kahlil Watson, SS, Marlins (Age: 18)

Watson, who slid to the middle of the first round, could prove to be one of the biggest steals of the draft. He has a beautiful left-handed swing that he delivers with an explosiveness that bodes well for his quality of contact. His boosters across the industry believe he’ll develop into a well-rounded hitter as he gains experience against more advanced pitching. Opinions are more split on his long-term defensive home, with some evaluators envisioning him ending up in the outfield, where his above-average speed and arm strength could make him a dynamic asset. 

47. Oswald Peraza, SS, Yankees (Age: 21)

Peraza, another Yankees prospect who broke out in 2021, saw action at three levels, including an eight-game stint at Triple-A. Overall, he hit .297/.356/.477 with 18 home runs, the product of him learning to lift the ball more frequently. Defensively, he has the above-average speed and arm strength that scouts look for when projecting shortstops. Peraza seems more likely than not to make his big-league debut sometime during the 2022 season, perhaps even as the Yankees’ starting shortstop. 

48. Bryson Stott, SS, Phillies (Age: 24)

The Phillies took Stott with the 14th pick in the 2019 draft. He should be able to make his big-league debut in 2022 after hitting .299/.390/.486 with 16 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 112 games across three levels, including Triple-A. Stott has a well-rounded game, albeit without a true carrying tool, or an aspect that stands out. 

49. Eury Perez, RHP, Marlins (Age: 18)

Not to be confused with the former big-league outfielder with whom he shares a name, this Perez is a lanky, 6-foot-8 right-hander who posted a 1.96 ERA and a 4.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 20 starts in Low- and High-A. Perez’s fastball sat in the mid-90s with big-time spin and boring action. His curveball beats out his changeup as his best secondary offering, though that isn’t surprising given he won’t celebrate his 19th birthday until next April. Perez, whose frame looks like it should hold more muscle as he matures, has above-average starter potential; the Marlins just need to be disciplined with how they approach his development.  

50. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Cardinals (Age: 22)

Liberatore is best known as the key piece in the Randy Arozarena trade for the Cardinals. Arozarena’s ascent to stardom has obscured that Liberatore ought to be a quality big-league player himself. He spent last season in Triple-A, where he accumulated a 4.04 ERA and a 3.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio despite having previously not pitched above Single-A. Liberatore, who throws strikes with a four-pitch arsenal chock full of average or better offerings, should debut in the majors early in 2022. He ought to settle in as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

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