By now it has become clear that even though the minor leagues will play on as normal for the first time since 2019, there will be some consequences from the owners’ lockout of the players.
As long as the lockout lasts, no prospects on 40-man rosters will be allowed to play. That group includes a whopping 37 members of Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list, as well as 389 overall prospect-eligible players.
That said, there are still plenty of prospects to get your juices flowing starting on April 5 (Triple-A) and April 8 (all other full-season leagues). Perhaps some of the most anticipated moments will come from those prospects who will leave the complexes behind and make their first forays into full-season ball.
The majority of these players are 2021 draftees and recent international signees who have spent their career either in the Dominican Summer League or a level higher in the Arizona or Florida Complex leagues.
Here are 10 players we expect to see make that jump at some point in 2022, even if it’s not necessarily on Opening Day.
1. Jeferson Quero, C, Brewers
After signing in 2019, Quero made his official debut in the ACL and put on a show. The latest in a line of Venezuelan backstop prospects, Quero slashed .309/.434/.500 and amassed more walks (12) than strikeouts (10). He’s got the skills to stick behind the plate, too, including quick hands and a plus throwing arm. Quero’s stock could shoot up with a strong turn at Low-A Carolina.
2. Marcelo Mayer, SS, Red Sox
Baseball America ranked Mayer as the No. 2 prospect available in the 2021 draft class, just behind fellow shortstop Jordan Lawlar. Mayer fell to the Red Sox at No. 4, then went out and proved his worth immediately with a strong turn in the FCL. The California prep product boasts an array of average or better tools—only his foot speed ranks as below-average—and could easily wreck the competition at both Class A levels in 2022.
3. Jack Leiter, RHP, Rangers
The No. 2 overall pick in 2021 didn’t throw a pitch after being drafted, and he’s extremely likely to skip the complex leagues entirely when he gets his first professional assignment. Instead, Leiter could open the season as high as Double-A Frisco thanks to his outstanding arsenal and college pedigree. If he does head to Double-A, Leiter will join fellow Vandy alum Jake Eder as the second Vanderbilt alum in as many seasons to skip the lower levels entirely before making their official pro debut.
4. Norge Vera, RHP, White Sox
After dazzling in the DSL, Vera has jumped to the front of the line among White Sox pitching prospects. Vera’s assignment to the DSL was financially driven rather than based on his arm talent, and the 21-year-old should jump to one of Chicago’s Class A affiliates on Opening Day. No matter where he lands, the righthander will show off a three-pitch mix fronted by an upper-90s fastball and a pair of offspeed pitches which could be above-average when fully developed.
5. Willy Vasquez, SS, Rays
Surprise, surprise, the Rays have another promising prospect. Vasquez was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, then dazzled in his pro debut in the FCL. Though the games didn’t count for his official stats (thus why he can be included here), the Rays bumped Vasquez to Low-A Charleston for their championship run, and he responded by hitting a three-run triple in the game that clinched the title for the RiverDogs. None of Vasquez’s tools currently projects as plus, but none should be worse than average, either.
6. Harry Ford, C, Mariners
One of the most intriguing players in the 2021 draft, Ford is a catcher by trade but has the athleticism and speed—he grades as a plus runner—to move to other positions as well. He also has a compact swing and a keen ability to consistently put the barrel on the ball. He showed plenty of plate discipline and an all-fields approach in his first professional test, and has the chops to impress this season with Low-A Modesto.
7. Reggie Preciado, 3B/SS, Cubs
One of the five players the Cubs received from the Padres in exchange for righthander Yu Darvish, Preciado started his career with a bang in 2021 by slashing .333/.383/.511 in the ACL. Preciado is projectable and already shows plenty of bat-to-ball ability, lending credence to a future as a power-hitting third baseman. There’s still plenty of work to do in terms of plate discipline, but he won’t turn 19 until May 16, so he’s got time on his side.
8. Adael Amador, SS/2B, Rockies
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, Amador had to wait until 2021 to make his pro debut. He didn’t disappoint. The 18-year-old jumped straight to the ACL and was extremely impressive. Amador’s command of the strike zone was advanced for his age and level of pro experience, as was his ability to shoot line drives to both gaps. His tool set portends a player who can be an above-average hitter with near-average power while sticking up the middle.
9. Kahlil Watson, SS, Marlins
Low-A Jupiter is going to be a very, very fun watch in 2022. The club is likely to boast a trove of young, talented middle infielders, including shortstop Jose Salas, second baseman Ian Lewis and Watson—also a shortstop—whom the Marlins chose with their first-round pick in 2021. Watson ranked No. 6 on the 2021 BA 500 and boasts five tools which project to be 55s or 60s on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has a bit of work to do to prove he can stick at shortstop, but his offensive skills should make him an asset anywhere on the diamond.
10. Brady House, SS, Nationals
Another first-rounder from 2021, House absolutely raked in his time in the FCL. The Georgia prep product showcased monstrous power—his raw juice could reach as high as 70-grade before long—and an all-fields approach that could lead to an average hit tool to go with his enviable thump. House is not a standout defender at shortstop, but it’s also not out of the question that he sticks at the position. He’ll be 18 years old for roughly half of the minor league season, which would further embellish his credentials should he produce at Low-A in anywhere near the same way he did in the FCL.