12 Breakout Pitching Prospects For The 2022 Season
Each year new prospects emerge to assert themselves in the minor leagues. Below we’ve broken down a dozen pitchers who made the leap during the 2022 season.
Gavin Stone, RHP, Dodgers
It’s become an annual rite of passage to find Dodgers pitching prospects listed among the breakout players in the minor leagues at the completion of each season. In 2022 the Dodgers saw one of their greatest triumphs in the form of Stone. The penultimate pick of the five-round 2020 draft, Stone has developed from a small school pitcher with a limited track record as a starter, to the MiLB ERA leader in 2022. Stone climbed three levels, making the majority of his appearances with Double-A Tulsa in the treacherous Texas League. He’s an athletic hurler with mid-90s velocity and a four-pitch arsenal. Stone commands all of his pitches well and has the ability to generate a high rate of whiffs on his two primary secondaries in his changeup and slider. After reaching the upper levels of the minor leagues in 2022, Stone is poised to debut early in 2023.
Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Blue Jays
No pitcher in 2022 experienced the sort of meteoric rise of Tiedemann. A 2021 third-round pick out of Golden West (Calif.) JC, Tiedemann experienced a velocity jump almost immediately after signing and those velocity gains carried forward into this season. Assigned to Low-A Dunedin out of camp, Tiedemann saw a promotion to High-A Vancouver by late May and subsequently Double-A by early August after laying waste to both levels of Class A. His difficult angle from the left side combined with the plus power and movement on his pitches proved to be too much for MiLB hitters in 2022. His fastball sits 94-96 mph, touching 97, and he pairs it with a sweepy slider in the low 80s and a devastating changeup with tumble and heavy arm-side run. Tiedemann utilized his premium stuff to strike out 117 batters over 78.2 innings, posting an ERA of 2.17 and a WHIP of 0.86. Tiedemann has the look of a front-of-the-rotation anchor for years to come.
Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, D-Backs
Pfaadt had a strong 2021 campaign that saw the righthander post an 8-7 record, 3.21 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 160 strikeouts to 28 walks over 131.2 innings. The season announced Pfaadt’s presence among a strong group of pitchers drafted in recent seasons by general manager Mike Hazen’s front office. The breakout campaign earned Pfaadt an assignment to Double-A Amarillo out of camp in 2022. Long viewed as one of the most difficult run environments to pitch in across all of professional baseball, Pfaadt passed the challenge, earning a promotion to Triple-A Reno by the start of August. The run environments got no easier in the Pacific Coast League, but Pfaadt had no trouble with the conditions. Over 10 starts with Reno the righthander dominated, striking out 74 batters to just 14 walks over 61.2 innings. Pfaadt’s advanced command of his four-pitch mix and three above-average or better offerings in his fastball, slider and changeup give him the look of a mid-rotation starter as soon as early 2023.
Brayan Bello, RHP, Red Sox
Entering the 2022 season, Bello was a righthander with inconsistent command, top-of-the-scale fastball velocity and the makings of three above-average or better pitches. Bello had shown flashes of dominance throughout his time in Class A, and during a 15-start stretch with Double-A Portland in 2021, but was never able to limit damage against his fastball. Heading into 2022, Bello switched his primary fastball variation to a sinker and the results followed. Bello’s newfound fastball approach allowed him to limit hard contact, driving his rate of groundball contact over 60%. He showed a strong ability to blend his two fastball shapes with his above-average mid-80s slider and plus changeup. Assigned to Portland out of camp in 2022, Bello earned a promotion to Triple-A Worcester after just six dominant Double-A starts. At Triple-A, Bello produced a 6-2 record with a 2.76 ERA while striking out 33.8% of the batters he faced. Bello was promoted to the major leagues in early July, making his debut on July 6 at home against Tampa Bay. Bello went on to make 11 starts with the big league club, solidifying himself as a piece of the Red Sox rotation for years to come.
Tanner Bibee, RHP, Guardians
Entering the 2022 season there was plenty of fanfare around the Guardians draftees from the previous summer, particularly their crop of young pitchers. Little of that admiration was reserved for Bibee, a gritty college starter who had shown flashes of a deep arsenal of quality pitches but no plus offering. That perception adjusted quickly over Bibee’s first few appearances with High-A Lake County. Bibee was now sitting 94-96 mph on his fastball with command for four pitches. His secondaries were deep with a variety of pitch shapes—his mid-80s slider showed sharp sweep, while his curveball showed greater depth. His feel for his changeup was clearly evident as he played it off of his fastball, landing it for strikes and selling it with arm speed. A season after going underslot in the fifth round, Bibee had the look of a legitimate rotation piece in the future. He earned a promotion to Double-A Akron in early July, where he produced a lower ERA and FIP over 13 starts than he did in High-A. Bibee is a legitimate starting candidate as early as next summer.
Tink Hence, RHP, Cardinals
After barely pitching over his first two years as a professional, Hence exploded in 2022 as he dominated Florida State League competition over 16 starts with Palm Beach. Taken with the 63rd overall pick in the 2020 draft, Hence made his professional debut in the summer of 2021, pitching eight innings with the Cardinals' Florida Complex League affiliate. While Hence certainly hinted at his immense upside, nothing screamed potential star. Fast forward to May of 2022 and Hence exploded onto the scene with a dominant first month. He allowed just one earned run across 15 innings of work, striking out 24 batters in the process. His strong results continued throughout the summer on the back of his electric fastball and curveball combination. Hence mixes four pitches and shows the makings of average or better offerings in his slider and changeup. His ability to play the vertical game is notable. With a four-seam fastball that sits 95-96 mph, touching 99 mph at peak with an outlier vertical approach angle, Hence is able to dominate with the pitch at the top of the zone. He’ll follow the pitch with any of his secondaries. The change in eye level from his fastball to his curveball keeps hitters off balance. Limited to three-inning outings in 2022, look for Hence to build up his workload as he progresses in 2023.
Gordon Graceffo, RHP, Cardinals
The last two years have been transformative for the 2021 fifth-round pick out of Villanova. At the start of Graceffo’s spring in 2021 the righthander sat 89-92 mph on his fastball, mixing in a deep arsenal of average pitches that played up due to command, deception and advanced sequencing. Throughout the spring Graceffo’s velocity climbed, peaking in the Cape Cod league with mid-90s readings on the radar gun. Assigned to Low-A Palm Beach following the draft, Graceffo made 11 appearances, showcasing his newfound fastball velocity and deep arsenal of secondaries. This spring Graceffo’s velocity took another step forward, as he hit 100 mph, according to Trackman, during a minor league spring training game. Graceffo dominated High-A Midwest League competition out of camp in 2022, posting a 0.99 ERA while striking out 33.9% of the batters he faced. He later saw a promotion to Double-A Springfield, where Graceffo effectively navigated the treacherous run environments of the Texas League. His strikeout rate dropped in Double-A, but Graceffo’s ability to go deep into games and eat innings make him a potential back-of-the-rotation option in the coming years.
Griff McGarry, RHP, Phillies
Dating back to his time as an amateur there was no doubting the quality of McGarry’s stuff. His ability to command the baseball, well, that’s another story. A highly decorated recruit who attended Virginia, McGarry showed flashes of dominance throughout his college career but his strike-throwing was so poor that his opportunities to start for the Cavaliers had all but dried up by the spring of 2021. Selected in the fifth round by the Phillies, McGarry proved to be a wise selection as he performed well initially out of the draft. Assigned to High-A Jersey Shore out of camp in 2022, McGarry would eventually team up with fellow top pitching prospects Andrew Painter and Mick Abel to form a formidable trio for first Jersey Shore and later Double-A Reading. Blessed with some of the best pure stuff in the minor leagues, McGarry throws five different pitches, but everything plays off of his premium fastball. Sitting 95-96 mph and touching 99 mph at peak with ride and a flat vertical approach angle, McGarry’s fastball is extremely difficult for hitters to barrel. He’ll mix in a variety of shapes with his secondaries including a cutter, slider, curveball and changeup. While McGarry has significant relief risk he has the quality of stuff that can play in a variety of roles for the Phillies in the short term, with the ability to develop into a high-octane five-inning starter or a shutdown reliever.
2023 Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects Chat
Geoff Pontes answered questions regarding the Blue Jays system today. You can read the transcript here.
Hayden Wesneski, RHP, Cubs
Drafted by the Yankees in the sixth round of the 2019 draft, Wesneski quickly ascended through the Yankees minor league system, reaching Double-A by the end of his first full professional season in 2021. Wesneski returned to Triple-A to begin the 2022 season, where he performed well before he was traded to the Cubs in exchange for reliever Scott Effross. Wesneski was promoted to the major leagues on Sept. 6, tossing five scoreless innings against the Reds. His four-pitch mix consists of two different fastball variations in his four-seamer and two-seamer, an upper-80s cutter, a heavy sweeping low-80s slider and a mid-80s changeup with heavy tumble and fade. His ability to command the entirety of his arsenal and mix up his sequencing has allowed Wesneski to blossom into a legitimate rotation option for the Cubs in 2023.
Yosver Zulueta, RHP, Blue Jays
The righthander’s professional career got off to the rockiest of starts as Zulueta underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after signing with the Blue Jays out of Cuba in 2019. He made his professional debut with Low-A Dunedin on May 5, 2021, but disaster struck as he tore his ACL covering the first base bag against the first batter he faced. He returned to Low-A Dunedin nearly a year to the day of his injury, and began an ascent up the Blue Jays minor league system that concluded with a stint in Triple-A Buffalo’s bullpen. While Zulueta battled command woes throughout the season, he flashed promising upside and a powerful pitch mix. Zulueta’s fastball and slider combination can be deadly. His four-seamer sits 96-97 mph, touching 101 mph at peak, with heavy arm-side run. His slider is the best pitch in his arsenal, a mid-80s sweeper with some vertical depth. He mixes in a mid-to-high-80s changeup that will flash above-average but is plagued by inconsistent command and a two-plane curveball in the 79-81 mph range that is a change-of-pace pitch. It’s a deep, powerful arsenal with a chance for three above-average or better pitches. After several years on the shelf, Zulueta showed tremendous upside in a variety of roles in his first healthy professional season.
Bryce Miller, RHP, Mariners
Miller was considered an older SEC arm with a great fastball and a likely future in the bullpen when he was drafted out of Texas A&M in 2021. Less than 18 months after the Mariners selected Miller in the fourth round he ascended to Double-A and finished his first full professional season with a 30% strikeout rate and a 3.16 ERA across 133.2 innings spanning three levels. Miller’s notable fastball dominated in 2022, sitting 95-97 mph with over 20 inches of induced vertical break and a flat vertical approach angle—characteristics in line with many of the game's best pitchers. His primary secondary is a mid-80s sweeper that was clocked as high as 90 mph this season. His changeup is a clear third pitch, but was used effectively throughout his 26 starts. While Miller is still heavily reliant on the one-two punch of his fastball and slider, the quality of those two pitches and the presence of his changeup give him an opportunity to continue as a starter.
Taylor Dollard, RHP, Mariners
After a difficult second half of 2021, few viewed the 2020 fifth-rounder out of Cal Poly as anything more than a solid organizational starter with the ability to handle a sizable workload. Over the course of the 2022 season Dollard pitched his way up the Mariners organizational ranks and into a potential option at the major league level as soon as next spring. Assigned to Double-A Arkansas out of camp, Dollard made 27 starts for the Naturals, compiling a 16-2 record with a 2.25 ERA, a .203 opponent average and just 31 walks over 144 innings. While Dollard may lack the gaudy strikeout numbers of many prospects, he executes with his command and a wipeout slider. Dollard utilizes his slider more than his fastball, and his high-70s sweeper saw a usage rate of 47% in 2022. The pitch generates lots of weak contact and swings out of the zone, allowing Dollard to play his low-90s fastball off of it. He’ll mix in a curveball and a splitter as well to keep hitters off balance. Overall, Dollard has the look of a crafty innings eater capable of handling a No. 5 starter role next season.