Wednesday, August 10, 2022

2022 Fantasy Baseball: Midseason top 30 prospect rankings led by Corbin Carroll, Gunnar Henderson

I intended to write about only 25 prospects here, but when you’ve already whittled the list down to 28 and can’t bear the thought of removing anyone else, sometimes it’s easier just to expand.

So 30 is what I have for you, and I’m fairly confident it’s the right 30 even if we might quibble about the order. To preempt some of the what-abouts, I’ve included 20 honorable mentions at the end, making this list arguably a top 50. I think you’ll agree that’s even better than a top 30 (or 25, for that matter).

We should go over the ground rules first, though. Namely, these three:

  1. These rankings are intended for Fantasy Baseball use, which means proximity is paramount and defense only matters to the extent it could impact a player’s playing time.
  2. None of the latest draft class, many of whom remain unsigned, were considered.
  3. Most of all, these rankings are only for prospects who have yet to reach the majors.

That last one is the big one. Rookie eligibility (130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched) works well enough for a preseason rank list, but a midseason list like this one quickly becomes irrelevant if half the players on it are on the verge of meeting those thresholds. You’ve heard enough about those guys already.

Still, just to provide a frame of reference, I’ve indicated where some of this year’s call-ups would slot if they still qualified. What does that look like? Observe:

What I’m revealing here is that Riley Greene would be the No. 1 prospect if I still considered him a prospect for the purposes of this list. Scroll down a little further, and you’ll see that Oneil Cruz would be No. 3, Vinnie Pasquantino would be No. 8, Max Meyer would be No. 13 and so on.

Simple enough, right? Let’s do the thing.

All stats are updated through Wednesday, July 20.

1. Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks

Age: 21

2022 levels: Rookie ball, Double-A, Triple-A

2022 stats: .315 BA (248 AB), 19 HR, 23 SB, 1.087 OPS, 47 BB, 72 K

Carroll has breezed through every level, taking a wrecking ball to the upper minors this year after hardly playing the past two. He’s already exceeded the power projections for someone of such small stature and is about as complete of a prospect as you’ll find, standing out just as much for his speed and plate discipline.

Second half call-up is … possible.

2. Grayson Rodriguez, SP, Orioles

Age: 22

2022 levels: Triple-A

2022 stats: 5-1, 2.09 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 56 IP, 14 BB, 80 K

Rodriguez is a near perfect pitching prospect, boasting premium velocity, plus command, a deep arsenal, a workhorse build and an unblemished minor-league track record. He’d already be in the majors if not for a lat strain suffered in early June, but he’s said to be making good progress in his recovery and might even have a chance to pitch again this year.

Second half call-up is  … unlikely.

3. Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees

Age: 21

2022 levels: Double-A

2022 stats: .253 BA (297 AB), 12 HR, 35 SB, .812 OPS, 38 BB, 66 K

Last year’s emergent shortstop stud hit a speed bump at Double-A to begin the year but has been cruising since about mid-May, batting .303 with a .933 OPS in his past 48 games. That’s about what we expected for a player who checks every box offensively, though you should note he’s at some risk of shifting to second base.

Second half call-up is  unlikely.  

4. Gunnar Henderson, SS, Orioles

Age: 21

2022 levels: Double-A, Triple-A

2022 stats: .294 BA (272 AB), 13 HR, 15 SB, .968 OPS, 63 BB, 74 K

After getting buried by strikeouts in his first taste of the upper minors last year, Henderson has flipped the script this year, actually walking more than he struck out at Double-A to earn a quick promotion to Triple-A. It has allowed his diverse array of skills to shine through, positioning him as a potential franchise shortstop with a clear path to the majors.

Second half call-up is  unlikely.  

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5. Jordan Walker, 3B, Cardinals

Age: 20

2022 levels: Double-A

2022 stats: .304 BA (280 AB), 8 HR, 15 SB, .878 OPS, 37 BB, 74 K

Walker’s ability to impact the ball is about as good as you’ll find in all the minors, especially with Oneil Cruz having graduated to the majors, but his hitting instincts are more natural than Cruz, giving him a better batting average projection. He’ll need to elevate the ball better, but he’s already way ahead developmentally.

Second half call-up is  not happening.

6. Jordan Lawlar, SS, Diamondbacks

Age: 20

2022 levels: Rookie ball, Low-A, High-A

2022 stats: .327 BA (214 AB), 9 HR, 26 SB, .981 OPS, 32 BB, 58 K

Despite having been selected sixth overall, Lawlar has emerged as the early standout of the 2021 draft class, showing plenty of athleticism and a knack for barreling up the ball. If the plate discipline carries over to the upper levels, he really will be the complete package and possibly the No. 1 overall prospect at some point.

Second half call-up is  not happening.

7. Miguel Vargas, 3B, Dodgers

Age: 22

2022 levels: Triple-A

2022 stats: .295 BA (339 AB), 13 HR, 9 SB, .881 OPS, 48 BB, 57 K

Questions about his defensive home push Vargas down another 15-20 spots on some real-life rank lists, but hitting comes so easily to this guy that I can hardly envision anything less than Fantasy greatness. He isn’t lacking in athleticism, so I trust the Dodgers to figure it out, having had him experiment with first base, second base and left field.

Second half call-up is  likely.

8. Francisco Alvarez, C, Mets

Age: 20

2022 levels: Double-A, Triple-A

2022 stats: .261 BA (276 AB), 18 HR, .882 OPS, 43 BB, 80 K

Catcher prospects are downgraded in Fantasy for their difficult developmental path and inherent playing-time concerns, but Alvarez may threaten for the top spot on some real-life rank lists. It’s uncommon for any 20-year-old to reach Triple-A, much less at that position, but nothing seems to slow down his bat.

Second half call-up is  … unlikely.

9. Zac Veen, OF, Rockies

Age: 20

2022 levels: High-A

2022 stats: .285 BA (288 AB), 11 HR, 41 SB, .861 OPS, 42 BB, 72 K

Veen seems like the sort of player who needs time to adjust at every stop, and his slow start this year might cost him a few spots on other rank lists. He’s been everything he’s supposed to be since about mid-May, though, and I’m still envisioning something like Kyle Tucker turned loose at Coors Field.

Second half call-up is  not happening.

10. Marco Luciano, SS, Giants

Age: 20

2022 levels: High-A

2022 stats: .288 BA (146 AB), 8 HR, .867 OPS, 15 BB, 38 K

Luciano continues to check all the boxes in his slow ascent up the minor-league ladder, improving his plate discipline in his second shot at High-A. The prospect fatigue is beginning to set in, though, as we await the big breakthrough.

Second half call-up is   not happening.

11. Eury Perez, SP, Marlins

Age: 19

2022 levels: Double-A

2022 stats: 3-1, 3.05 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 62 IP, 14 BB, 87 K

Sandy Alcantara aside, Perez has emerged as the best of the Marlins’ embarrassment of pitching riches, carving up hitters three and four years older than him at Double-A. At 6-feet-8, he still has some physical projection left, which is a scary thought given how polished he is already, featuring multiple secondary offerings and plus-plus command.

Second half call-up is  … not happening.

12. Marcelo Mayer, SS, Red Sox

Age: 19

2022 levels: Low-A

2022 stats: .297 BA (209 AB), 8 HR, 14 SB, .912 OPS, 35 BB, 65 K

Even though Lawlar has leapfrogged Mayer here, the most favored shortstop of the 2021 draft class has lived up to every expectation so far and has gotten so hot in July that he may be looking at a move up to High-A. He’s still only a teenager, but his disciplined approach and line-drive stroke point to a Corey Seager-like ceiling.

Second half call-up is  … not happening.

13. Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox

Age: 22

2022 levels: Rookie ball, Triple-A

2022 stats: .266 BA (143 AB), 7 HR, .873 OPS, 26 BB, 37 K   

Casas has only recently made it back from a lengthy absence for a sprained ankle, so the year-to-date numbers don’t give us much to go by. He’s still a disciplined hitter with a considerable power ceiling, and the way he approaches his craft, constantly tweaking like Joey Votto, makes it easy to see him hitting for batting average as well.

Second half call-up is   possible.

14. Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers

Age: 24

2022 levels: Has not played due to torn labrum in shoulder

2021 stats: .326 BA (304 AB), 19 HR, .990 OPS, 31 BB, 76 K

A torn labrum in the shoulder, which is what’s kept Jung on the sidelines all this time, would normally raise concerns about a player’s effectiveness moving forward, but since it’s his left shoulder and he’s a right-handed hitter, he’ll probably be fine. Health is all he has left to prove, really, and it’s possible he would have won the opening day job if not for the injury.

Second half call-up is  … possible.

15. Robert Hassell, OF, Padres

Age: 20

2022 levels: High-A

2022 stats: .311 BA (264 AB), 9 HR, 19 SB, .872 OPS, 33 BB, 54 K

The power remains mostly theoretical for Hassell, and I’m something of a skeptic given the iffy exit velocities and high ground-ball rates. He has a knack for hitting, though, and should be enough of a base-stealer to make an impact in Fantasy even if the power projection doesn’t come through.

Second half call-up is  … not happening.

16. Daniel Espino, SP, Guardians

Age: 21

2022 levels: Double-A

2022 stats: 1-0 2.45 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 18 1/3 IP, 4 BB, 35 K

Espino brings triple-digit heat with a sinister slider, and with the improved control he showed in his first four starts, he looked like he might be the top pitching prospect in baseball once Grayson Rodriguez got the call. Like Rodriguez, though, Espino got hurt. Fortunately, his patellar tendinitis isn’t something that should impact his long-term projection.

Second half call-up is  unlikely.

17. Henry Davis, C, Pirates

Age: 22

2022 levels: Rookie ball, Low-A, High-A, Double-A

2022 stats: .268 BA (149 AB), 7 HR, 5 SB, .882 OPS, 16 BB, 33 K

The top pick in last year’s draft made quick work of High-A but has slowed down with his move up to Double-A, which isn’t altogether unexpected. Davis is a balanced hitter who profiles for both average and power, and he may move too quickly to stick at catcher (which wouldn’t be the worst thing for his Dynasty outlook).

Second half call-up is  … not happening.

18. Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies

Age: 20

2022 levels: Double-A

2022 stats: .318 BA (264 AB), 13 HR, 17 SB, .931 OPS, 25 BB, 64 K

This year’s pop-up shortstop prospect always earned high marks for his defense and now may have the bat to match, having learned to impact the ball for power. The ease with which he’s handled Double-A as a 20-year-old is particularly encouraging, and with Coors Field as his eventual home, everything figures to play up.

Second half call-up is … not happening.

19. Noelvi Marte, SS, Mariners

Age: 20

2022 levels: High-A

2022 stats: .264 BA (311 AB), 14 HR, 11 SB, .802 OPS, 40 BB, 77 K

A top-10 prospect for me at the start of the year, Marte looked like he might slip even more in the rankings when he showed up out of shape and struggled in all facets of the game. He wouldn’t be the first top prospect to size himself out of a fruitful career, but he’s come back strong over his past 22 games, batting .357 with eight homers, six steals, a 1.129 OPS and more walks (13) than strikeouts (12).

Second half call-up is … not happening.

20. Elly De La Cruz, SS, Reds

Age: 20

2022 levels: High-A

2022 stats: .302 BA (281 AB), 20 HR, 28 SB, .968 OPS, 24 BB, 94 K

Oneil Cruz is the first 6-foot-7 shortstop, but he may not be the last. De La Cruz, a derivative right down to his name, offers similar size and athleticism, and the tools are translating at an even younger age than they did for Cruz. Unfortunately, the strikeout issues are even more pronounced.

Second half call-up is   not happening.

21. Diego Cartaya, C, Dodgers

Age: 20

2022 levels: Low-A, High-A

2022 stats: .273 BA (242 AB), 14 HR, .946 OPS, 40 BB, 84 K  

Cartaya has had his admirers from the time he was 17, and while the pandemic and a couple of injuries delayed his development, it’s gone into overdrive now. The glove may have trouble keeping up with the bat, which offers big-time power to go along with excellent plate discipline. 

Second half call-up is … not happening.

22. Taj Bradley, SP, Rays

Age: 21

2022 levels: Double-A

2022 stats: 3-1, 1.70 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 74 1/3 IP, 18 BB, 88 K

Bradley has carved up Double-A just like he did the lower minors in his breakout season a year ago, making an ace outcome all the more possible. The Rays are deliberate in their development of pitchers and often introduce them in less-than-conventional roles, but Bradley’s plus control and swing-and-miss fastball give him a leg up.

Second half call-up is … not happening.

23. Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers

Age: 18

2022 levels: Low-A 

2022 stats: .321 BA (237 AB), 12 HR, 10 SB, .960 OPS, 18 BB, 73 K

Chourio is the teenage phenom who’s captured the imagination of prospect hounds this year. His bat speed stands out when you watch him, and his pull and fly-ball tendencies should help him maximize his power output. The usual strikeout caveats apply here, but with a center-field profile, he’s a reasonable bet to be the top prospect in baseball at some point.

Second half call-up is … not happening.

24. Brett Baty, 3B, Mets

Age: 22

2022 levels: Double-A

2022 stats: .288 BA (281 AB), 13 HR, .871 OPS, 39 BB, 88 K

Baty has proven to be a productive hitter at the highest levels even while undermining his power potential by putting the ball on the ground too much, but the launch angle is gradually improving. He’s positioned himself for a move up to Triple-A with his performance since the start of June, though he might need to shift to the outfield before reaching the majors.

Second half call-up is … possible.

25. George Valera, OF, Guardians

Age: 21

2022 levels: Double-A

2022 stats: .272 BA (279 AB), 13 HR, .857 OPS, 44 BB, 82 K

Valera is just a solid prospect across the board and has an easy path in an organization that’s struggled to fill out its outfield for years now. His left-handedness and on-base skills help to distinguish him from other corner outfielders with pop.

Second half call-up is  possible.

26. DL Hall, SP, Orioles

Age: 23

2022 levels: High-A, Double-A, Triple-A

2022 stats: 2-5, 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 66 2/3 IP, 37 BB, 111 K

Shane McClanahan entered the league as maybe the hardest-throwing left-handed starter in history, and it’s worked out pretty well for him. Hall, who’s also capable of reaching triple digits, could surpass him. Control is a major obstacle, but since figuring out he was tipping his pitches four starts ago, he has a 0.44 ERA with 40 strikeouts to eight walks in 20 2/3 innings.

Second half call-up is … likely.

27. Tyler Soderstrom, C, Athletics

Age: 20

2022 levels: High-A

2022 stats: .252 BA (301 AB), 16 HR, .808 OPS, 25 BB, 91 K

Soderstrom still has premium exit velocities and a pretty swing and has rebounded from a slow start this year to hit .295 with a .920 OPS in his past 50 games. He’s among the prospects whose stock has slipped a little since the start of the year, though, both because his strikeout rates are higher than expected and he’s already beginning to transition away from catcher.

Second half call-up is  not happening.

28. Jack Leiter, SP, Rangers

Age: 22

2022 levels: Double-A

2022 stats: 2-7, 6.30 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 50 IP, 30 BB, 62 K

The second pick in last year’s draft seemed like as polished of a pitching prospect as you’ll find, but the Rangers may have been overly aggressive in starting him at Double-A. The arsenal is deep and everything rates as plus or better, but judging from his walk rate, the hitters there don’t seem to be chasing like he’s used to.

Second half call-up is … not happening.

29. Kyle Harrison, SP, Giants

Age: 20

2022 levels: High-A, Double-A

2022 stats: 3-2, 2.52 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 71 1/3 IP, 32 BB, 119 K

Harrison has shown that he’s absolutely unbeatable when he’s finding the strike zone, as he did early this year at High-A, his 98 mph fastball, wipeout slider and developing changeup giving him three potential swing-and-miss pitches. But the walk rate has ballooned again at Double-A and looks like something he’ll need a couple more years to figure out.

Second half call-up is … not happening.

30. Ricky Tiedemann, SP, Blue Jays

Age: 19

2022 levels: Low-A, High-A

2022 stats: 5-3, 2.13 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 67 2/3 IP, 25 BB, 103 K

I rank Hall and Harrison ahead of him here, but I get the feeling Tiedemann will quickly establish himself as the top left-handed pitching prospect once he reaches the upper levels, showing the makings of three plus pitches and seeing his velocity continue to climb. The walk rate is misleading given that he’s thrown 66 percent of his pitches for strikes.

Second half call-up is  not happening.

The next 20 (sorted alphabetically)

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