15 MLB Prospects We Hope Have A Healthy 2022
Even if the owners’ current lockout of the players bleeds into the regular season, the minor leagues will still play on as scheduled. Barring any delays due to the pandemic, there will be minor league games played in April for the first time since 2019.
The return of the minor league season, of course, means the return of prospects to ballfields all across the country. After the canceled 2020 season, 2021 meant the resumption of development for players—especially those who didn’t get invited to their team’s alternate training site.
Unfortunately, baseball’s revival meant the usual spate of player injuries. After a year away because of the pandemic, time spent on the injured list only compounded the effects of the at-bats and innings missed in 2020.
With that in mind, here are a few prospects we hope stay healthy in 2022.
1. Royce Lewis, SS/OF, Twins
After an outstanding turn in the Arizona Fall League in 2019, Lewis seemed primed for a big 2020 season. He spent the year at the Twins’ alternate training site instead, then had his 2021 wiped out when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament over the winter. Even before the injury, Lewis had to answer questions regarding his hit tool and ultimate defensive position. The lockout puts Lewis in a particular pickle. Because of his spot on the Twins’ 40-man roster, he would be ineligible for the minor leagues if the lockout is still going once minor league Opening Day comes around.
2. Gabriel Moreno, C, Blue Jays
Without question, Moreno was the breakout prospect of the early portion of the 2021 season. Then, he broke his thumb and missed nearly all of the rest of the regular year. He caught up on at-bats with a standout turn in the Arizona Fall League and a stint in the Venezuelan Winter League. Before the injury, Moreno showed such tremendous gifts on both sides of the ball that he still ranked as the second-best catching prospect in the sport, behind only No. 1 overall prospect Adley Rutschman.
3. Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs
Arizona’s top prospect missed nearly all of the 2021 season but didn’t leave without a lasting memory. Carroll succumbed to a torn labrum in his shoulder, the result of a massive swing that resulted in a monstrous home run at High-A Hillsboro. Despite just 23 at-bats (during which he collected 10 hits), Carroll still reigns as Arizona’s top prospect. A healthy 2021 season could cement that spot and help him vault even further up the Top 100 list.
4. Jordan Lawlar, SS, D-backs
Between Lawlar and Corbin Carroll, Arizona’s top two prospects didn’t have much time on the field. Lawlar ranked as the top prospect available in the draft but fell to the sixth overall selection, where Arizona gladly snapped him up. His pro debut lasted just five at-bats in the Arizona Complex League before he, like Carroll, tore a shoulder labrum and was shelved for the rest of the year. He spent part of his rehab process shadowing the team’s scouts during big league games at Chase Field. If all goes well, he’ll have plenty of time in 2022 to take advantage of his second chance at a first impression.
5. Brailyn Marquez, LHP, Cubs
The last time Marquez threw an official pitch was in 2020 in Chicago during his big league debut. The fireballing lefthander spent the 2021 season dealing alternately with a bout of Covid-19 as well as soreness in his left shoulder. The double whammies kept him out all year long and cost him his first true test at the upper levels of the minor leagues. If he can get on the mound in 2022, he’ll take another step toward determining whether he can stick in rotation or whether he’d be better utilized as a flamethrowing lefty neutralizer out of the pen.
6. Emerson Hancock, RHP, Mariners
The Mariners have done a tremendous job developing a wellspring of pitching talent in the past few seasons. Righthander George Kirby has become one of the game’s best prospects, and Matt Brash has rocketed from virtual unknown to the cusp of his big league debut. Hancock, the top righthanded pitcher available in the 2020 draft, spent the first part of the season as the third member of that impressive trio before shoulder soreness cost him roughly a month of action despite not being placed on the injured list. He did wind up on the IL later in the year and spent time in the fall working to build up strength in the shoulder.
7. DL Hall, LHP, Orioles
Baltimore righty Grayson Rodriguez ranks as the best pitching prospect in the game. When healthy, Hall has the stuff—if not the command and control—to have the same monstrous upside. He was dazzling at Double-A through his first seven starts of the year—when he struck out nearly 16 hitters per nine innings before landing on the injured list with tendinitis in his pitching elbow that cost him the rest of the year. If he can pick up where he left off in 2021, Hall could make the future in Baltimore look even brighter.
8. CJ Abrams, SS, Padres
Along with Bobby Witt Jr. and Riley Greene, Abrams was the third member of a tremendously talented trio of prospects who looked primed to rocket into the sport’s elite. Witt and Greene lived up to the billing, and Abrams was following suit before a serious knee injury ended his season. Before the injury, Abrams’ talent had shown up in spades. In the Double-A Central, where he opened as the league’s youngest player, Abrams showed speed, hittability and defense. He was slated to make up at-bats in the Arizona Fall League but was sidelined there with a shoulder injury.
9. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins
For most of his big league stint in 2020, Sanchez was dazzling. The wheels came off a bit at the end, but otherwise, his four-pitch mix, fronted by a powerful fastball and a wicked changeup, was mighty impressive. Unfortunately, shoulder issues that culminated in surgery kept him off the mound all season long. If he comes to spring training fully healthy, he has the talent to establish himself firmly toward the front of a Marlins rotation loaded with young talent.
10. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres
Gore’s case is kind of blurring the lines because while he did not have the season he’d like, injuries were not the issue. Problem was, there wasn’t one root cause that was easy to pin down. As it turned out, Gore spent the year battling control and command and eventually was sent back to the team’s complex in Arizona for a bit of a reset. He re-emerged in the Arizona Fall League, where he found a mixed bag of results. The stuff is still largely there from his prospect peak, but he has a long way to go to re-establish that kind of cachet.
11. Hunter Bishop, OF, Giants
Bishop has not been on the field enough to show anything close to his true potential. His first test in pro ball ended early due to injury, and his time at the alternate training site in 2020 was delayed due to a bout with Covid-19. His return in 2021 was limited by a shoulder injury to just 45 at-bats before a stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he put up a respectable slash line despite a strikeout rate of nearly 40%. Bishop has just 150 at-bats in the regular season since being drafted and has plenty of catching up to do to regain his prospect sheen.
12. Yoendrys Gomez, RHP, Yankees
Gomez was one of the Yankees’ highest-upside arms entering the 2021 season and badly needed the innings after a pandemic season when his only action came at spring training. He showed hints of his promise in 2021 but was limited to 23.2 innings by a stint on the Covid-19 list, followed by elbow surgery in August. He’ll have another crack in 2022 at realizing his ceiling.
13. Ricky Vanasco, RHP, Rangers
The pandemic and Tommy John surgery cost Vanasco the last two seasons, but he was outstanding enough at instructional league to still place just below the system’s elite prospects. Despite the lack of innings, the Rangers showed their confidence in Vanasco by placing him on their 40-man roster in advance of a possible Rule 5 draft.
14. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Cubs
Crow-Armstrong’s 2021 season lasted just six games before he suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery. The 2020 first-rounder still had enough value to be flipped to the Cubs in the deal that sent Javier Baez to New York. He’s a potentially elite defensive center with plenty of upside at the plate. In 2022, he’ll get a chance to make his new organization look smart for his acquisition.
15. Evan Carter, OF, Rangers
Carter was one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 draft class and entered the 2021 season as the youngest position player to make an Opening Day roster. He showed strong defensive abilities and strike-zone discipline in a limited sample but missed most of the year with a back injury. His extreme youth gives him plenty of time to make up for what he lost in 2021, and he has some of the biggest upsides in the system among position players.