2022 Breakout Prospect For All 30 Teams

Image credit: Jhonkensy Noel (photo by Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)

Breakout prospects were selected by each Handbook correspondent. Editor Chris Hilburn-Trenkle summarized reports for each player below.

Each minor league season unearths prospects ready to make the next jump. During the 2021 season, Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz made a leap in his first year of full-season ball that culminated in a spot on the Top 100 Prospects list. Similar jumps were experienced by Pirates righthander Quinn Priester and Dodgers second baseman Michael Busch, each of whom impressed at 2020 instructional league following the cancellation of the minor league season.

Below are 30 prospects, one for each organization, who we believe could take a step forward this season.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Bryce Jarvis, RHP (No. 11)

Jarvis, a 2020 first-rounder from Duke, boasts a four-pitch mix headlined by a mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup and a pair of average breaking balls in a slider and curveball. After conquering High-A in 2021, Jarvis scuffled at Double-A Amarillo and is likely to start the 2022 season back at the level. He has the upside of a mid-rotation starter.

Atlanta Braves
Freddy Tarnok, RHP (No. 8)

Following the Braves’ trade for Matt Olson in which they parted with three of their top nine prospects, Tarnok moved from No. 11 to No. 8 in the system. The righthander impressed at Double-A as a 22-year-old in 2021 thanks to a potent fastball/curveball combination. Tarnok has the ingredients to start, with a changeup and slider rounding out his four-pitch mix.

Baltimore Orioles
Connor Norby 2B (No. 12)

Armed with one of the best pure hit tools of any hitter in the 2021 draft class, the Orioles were happy to land Norby in the second round out of East Carolina. He could rise quickly through the system in his first full season thanks to his combination of an above-average hit tool and solid-average power.

Boston Red Sox
Miguel Bleis, OF (No. 20)

Bleis was signed by the Red Sox for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in January 2021 and held his own in the Dominican Summer League as a 17-year-old. Bleis combines fast bat speed with good barrel skills and the speed to stick in center field. He should grow into more power thanks to a projectable 6-foot-2 frame. He’ll likely make his stateside debut in 2022.

Chicago Cubs
James Triantos, 2B/3B (No. 11)

Triantos reclassified from the 2022 draft class to 2021 and received an above-slot bonus in the second round from the Cubs. He had a loud debut as an 18-year-old in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League, and combines a potential plus hit tool with average power. The bat-first middle infielder will make his full-season debut in 2022.

Chicago White Sox
Bryan Ramos, 3B (No. 11)

Ramos held his own during his full-season debut as a 19-year-old in Low-A, showcasing all-fields power while walking at a decent clip (10.1%). In a White Sox system devoid of high-level talent, Ramos could quickly move up the ranks thanks to his bat speed, power and solid defense at third base.

Cincinnati Reds
Ariel Almonte, OF (No. 23)

Almonte, along with Malvin Valdez, headlined the Reds 2020-2021 international signing class thanks to his ability as a hitter and a profile that fits nicely in right field. He had an impressive Dominican Summer League stint as a 17-year-old in 2021, and combines potential plus power with an average or better hit tool and a plus arm, with more strength likely coming as he fills out his lanky 6-foot-4 frame.

Cleveland Guardians
Jhonkensy Noel, 3B/1B (No. 20)

Although he missed the cut as one of the Low-A East’s Top 10 Prospects in 2021, Noel was cited frequently by league managers as a player who stood out thanks to his massive power, with exit velocities topping out at 115 mph during the 2021 campaign. He continued to fare well upon a promotion to High-A Lake County as a 19-year-old, and makes more than enough contact to access his power tool. As a below-average defender who’s likely ticketed for a future at first base, Noel’s bat will have to carry the way.

Colorado Rockies
Jaden Hill, RHP (No. 11)

Hill, who moved to the rotation full-time for Louisiana State during the 2021 season, ranked as one of the top pitchers in the draft class before a torn UCL required Tommy John surgery. The Rockies drafted him in the second round, and he’s on track to make his pro debut in 2022. Hill’s command issues could lead him to the bullpen one day, but he has the stuff to excel in the role, with three potential plus or better pitches in a mid-90s fastball, a changeup with tumble and fade and a hard slider, although he needs to show more consistency in landing his offspeed offerings.

Detroit Tigers
Cristian Santana, SS (No. 11)

Santana was highlighted as one of 10 prospects to watch in their stateside debut in 2022 after impressing in the Dominican Summer League in 2021. He combines future power potential and a promising hit tool with good footwork and instincts, making him a potentially average defender.

Houston Astros
Yainer Diaz, C (No. 16)

Traded by the Guardians to the Astros as part of a return for outfielder Myles Straw in 2021, Diaz excelled at High-A Asheville thanks to an above-average hit tool. He’ll need to improve his defense to prevent a move to first base, but he has an above-average arm and enough power to profile as a backstop.

Kansas City Royals
Alec Marsh, RHP (No. 11)

An expected breakout performer ahead of the 2021 season, Marsh missed the majority of the year due to arm fatigue. When healthy, Marsh boasts an upper-90s fastball that can hit triple digits, two breaking balls and a changeup, all of which show promising potential. He’ll likely start the 2022 season back at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

Los Angeles Angels
D’Shawn Knowles, OF (No. 14)

Knowles struggled offensively in his full-season debut at Low-A Inland Empire, but wreaked havoc on the basepaths, stealing 31 bases in 32 attempts. He can play all three outfield positions thanks to an above-average arm and plus speed, but will need to unlock more out of his bat to project as a starter moving forward.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Yeiner Fernandez, C (No. 18)

Fernandez could be the next man up in a long line of successful Dodgers catching prospects. He played his way out of the Arizona Complex League in 2021 and was on fire in a seven-game stint at Low-A, with 16 hits in 31 at-bats. With deceptive power and a strong hit tool, Fernandez is currently a bat-first catcher, but he’s still new to the position and has shown promise defensively. 

Miami Marlins
Cody Morissette, 2B (No. 17)

Morissette joined teammate Sal Frelick as the two Boston College players selected in the first two rounds in 2021 but struggled in his first taste of the minor leagues at Low-A. He worked with Marlins coaches to revamp his swing at fall instructional league and showed more power after doing so. Morissette’s above-average hit tool should carry the way for him, with his defense still needing work.

Milwaukee Brewers
Hendry Mendez, OF (No. 11)

Mendez stood out in his pro debut in 2021 between the Dominican Summer League and Arizona Complex League, with more walks than strikeouts while showing extra-base pop. He combines the potential for plus raw power with quick bat speed, but he’ll likely move from center field to an outfield corner as he fills out his frame.

Minnesota Twins
Steven Hajjar, LHP (No. 12)

The 2021 second-rounder from Michigan has a pair of solid offspeed offerings in an average, mid-80s slider and above-average low-80s changeup to go with above-average control, but the development of his fastball, a low-90s offering in college, could mean the difference between him profiling as a mid-rotation starter or back-end starter.

New York Mets
Dominic Hamel, RHP (No. 11)

Hamel was one of the premier strikeout artists in college baseball in 2021 and was rewarded with a third-round selection by the Mets. He pairs a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph with a low-80s slider with above-average or better potential, but needs to show improvement from his changeup or curveball to have a third average offering. Hamel could advance quickly through the system, especially with a move to the bullpen.

New York Yankees
Randy Vasquez, RHP (No. 12)

Vasquez shot up the Yankees rankings to move past righthanders Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia thanks to an impressive first year of full-season ball spent primarily between the Class A levels. Vasquez has impressive spin metrics on both his slider and curveball, and pairs those offerings with a four-seam and two-seam fastball, each of which projects as an average or better pitch. 

Oakland Athletics
Denzel Clarke, OF (No. 18)

The hulking 6-foot-5 outfielder parlayed a strong 2021 season into a fourth-round selection by the A’s, and he showed well in a short stint in the Arizona Complex League. Like many power hitters, Clarke has swing-and-miss concerns, but he makes enough contact to still access his plus raw power. He’s a plus runner and a solid defender likely headed for left field, where his power should play.

Philadelphia Phillies
Alexeis Azuaje, 2B (No. 23)

Azuaje played in just 19 games for a Phillies Florida Complex League plagued by Covid-19, but when he was on the field all he did was hit. Azuaje has the tools to become a plus hitter once he shows more patience at the plate, and he combines that with plus-plus speed and decent pop. The bat-first second baseman will make his full-season debut in 2022.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Maikol Escotto, SS (No. 19)

Traded to the Pirates as part of the return for Jameson Taillon in January 2021, Escotto struggled in his full-season debut at Low-A, but he posted impressive exit velocities and has the potential for above-average juice to go along with an above-average hit tool if he can learn to be more selective at the plate. Escotto is an average defender who can play shortstop and second base.

St. Louis Cardinals
Andre Pallante, RHP (No. 16)

The groundball specialist capped off an impressive year that saw him rise to Triple-A with a stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he showed a cutting fastball up to 98 mph. Pallante pairs it with an above-average, low-80s slider, an average, low-80s changeup and a curveball. He’ll need to throw more consistent strikes to prevent a move to the bullpen, but he should help the Cardinals in some capacity in 2022.

San Diego Padres
Victor Acosta, SS (No. 11)

The Padres’ top signing in the 2020-2021 international class fared well in the Dominican Summer League in 2021 as a 17-year-old, showing plenty of extra-base pop and walking almost as many times as he struck out. The switch-hitter has the potential for four above-average or better tools, with an above-average hit tool, above-average power, plus speed and a plus arm, although it remains to be seen whether he can stick at shortstop. 

San Francisco Giants
Nick Swiney, LHP (No. 13)

Swiney moved to the rotation full-time in the pandemic-shortened 2020 college season and stood out to the Giants in the supplemental second round. He missed time with a concussion in 2021, but excelled in 32.1 innings between the Arizona Complex League and Low-A, allowing just three earned runs. Swiney’s plus, high-70s changeup is his most-used offering, but he mixes in a fastball that sits in the low 90s and a high-70s curveball.

Seattle Mariners
Gabriel Gonzalez, OF (No. 9)

Yet another standout international signee for the Mariners, Gonzalez showed big pop in the Dominican Summer League in his debut, leading the circuit with 26 extra-base hits. His plus raw power leads the way, but he projects as an average hitter, with the speed, arm strength and fielding ability to remain in center field for now.

Tampa Bay Rays
Carlos Colmenarez, SS (No. 11)

Colmenarez struggled in his DSL debut as a 17-year-old, although that could be partly attributed to a fractured hamate that caused him to miss time. Now healthy, he should make his stateside debut in the FCL, and his impressive hit tool, potential for above-average power and plus defense at shortstop make him one of the most exciting players in the league. 

Texas Rangers
Tekoah Roby, RHP (No. 14)

Although his professional debut in Low-A was limited due to an elbow strain, Roby impressed when healthy, striking out 35 batters in just 22 innings. His high-spin fastball tops out at 97 mph and should continue to give hitters headaches, and he pairs it with a high-spin, upper-70s curveball and a low-80s changeup, giving him some of the best stuff of any pitcher in the organization.

Toronto Blue Jays
Estiven Machado, SS (No. 12)

Machado only had one at-bat in his pro debut in the Florida Complex League due to a hamstring injury, but he has some of the highest upside in the Blue Jays system. He pairs promising athleticism with a potentially above-average hit tool, above-average speed and strong defense at shortstop.

Washington Nationals
Aldo Ramirez, RHP (No. 13)

Acquired by the Nationals in July 2021 for Kyle Schwarber, Ramirez struggled in the FCL with his new organization, but the team is excited with his arsenal. He pairs a fastball that reaches 98 mph with a deep-breaking, plus curveball and an average changeup. He’ll likely spend the 2022 season between the Class A levels.

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