Five Players Outside the Top 150 Who Could Make An Impact In 2022
As we wrap up the release of the 2022 BA Top 100 Prospects, I thought it would be fun to expand on exercises done by my colleagues over the last week. Both Ben Badler and Kyle Glaser have highlighted talented prospects outside the Top 100, and I provided a look at the 15 players that just missed the cut.
Here, we go a layer deeper and identify five players who did not receive a single Top 150 vote who could have an impact for their respective clubs during the 2022 season. While these players may not have the fanfare of other, more notable Top 100 candidates, they do possess the skills to fill valuable roles this upcoming season.
Cody Morris, RHP, Guardians—It really shouldn’t come as any surprise that Cleveland has several good prospects who were outside the scope of our collective Top 150 lists. After all, a deep organization with a strong history of player development is more likely to get more out of players outside their organizational Top 10.
Among a strong group of Guardians prospects, the 25-year-old righthander stands out. After a solid but unspectacular career at South Carolina, Morris made his pro debut in 2019 and showed improved bat-missing ability, although he struggled with command. After the canceled 2020 minor league season, Morris dealt with bad luck as a lat injury delayed the start of his 2021 until July 1. In his opening start, a rehab appearance with Cleveland’s Rookie-level Arizona Complex League affiliate, Morris went 4.1 innings and struck out 12 of the 16 batters he faced. He was subsequently promoted to Double-A Akron and delivered a 1.35 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 20 innings. With this success came an early August promotion to Triple-A Columbus, where it became clear Morris was pitching his way onto the Guardians 40-man roster. Officially added to the 40-man in November, Morris is now just a call away from the major leagues. Armed with a four-pitch mix led by a mid-90s fastball that generates whiffs, an easy plus changeup and a curveball that's effective versus righthanded hitters, Morris has all the ingredients of a major league starter. He added a cutter coming into 2021, but it’s a pitch that’s still used sparingly. With at least above-average feel for his arsenal and advanced sequencing, Morris may be the next major league starter to emerge from Cleveland’s pitching factory.
Tobias Myers, RHP Guardians—You can read Morris’ intro and apply it here. There’s an element of trusting Cleveland’s pitching development, but how and when Myers was acquired cannot be ignored either. In the days leading up to the 40-man roster protection deadline, few thought the Guardians would acquire a player that would require immediate protection. However, Cleveland acquired Myers from the Rays in exchange for teenage infielder Junior Caminero and immediately added him to the 40-man on deadline day. Not only did they complicate their already present 40-man roster crunch, but they also sent the talented Caminero the other way. So, why did Cleveland go to such great lengths to acquire the righthander? Digging into Myers' data and pitch movement, he certainly fits a type the organization has valued in recent years.
Myers generates elite vertical movement on his fastball, a characteristic shared by many pitchers Cleveland has acquired through the draft or trade in recent years. He’s able to generate a flatter vertical approach angle on his fastball, which in turn allows him to generate whiffs on his four-seamer when elevated at the top of the strike zone. While his fastball is the entree, his trio of offspeed pitches provides distinctive looks that each play off of his strong fastball characteristics. His primary secondary is a high-80s cutter, and he also mixes in an upper-70s, downer curveball and a mid-80s changeup with hard, arm-side run. Myers possesses command of his four-pitch mix and has a strong foundation of good analytical traits, abilities that historically do very well under the Guardians tutelage. If opportunity arises in 2022, it would not be a surprise to see Myers debut with Cleveland.
Bailey Falter, LHP Phillies—File the proceeding sentence under things you likely did not expect to read this offseason: Falter is a unicorn. That’s a fairly ridiculous statement on the surface for a player that allowed 21 earned runs over his first 33.2 innings in the major leagues. That said, Falter had a track record of professional success, with a career 3.06 ERA over parts of six minor league seasons. What makes Falter unique is not the movement on his fastball but the way in which he generates his movement. The general gist is Falter shouldn’t be able to generate the amount of arm-side run or horizontal movement he does based on his very vertical spin axis.
Beyond that, Falter generates bottom-of-the-scale fastball spin. With those two elements, Falter generates a perceived spin direction that doesn’t align with how the pitch is thrown. You can see this phenomenon explained here in greater detail by Nathaniel Plotts, formerly of the White Sox. In summation, these elements of deception and uniqueness create more intrigue in Falter’s long-term upside than his surface level numbers suggest. Beyond Falter’s peculiar fastball, his trio of average or better secondaries generates ground balls, whiffs and strikes at average or better rates. All of these factors provide hope that he may just be the back-of-the-rotation starter the Phillies desperately need.
Dynasty: Key Numbers For Five Young Players In Spring Training
Spring training standouts among the younger set. Some of these gains are bound to stick.
Diego Castillo, 2B Pirates—One of my personal biases is elite contact hitters. You know the type—the often undersized hitter with an innate ability to get his bat on seemingly anything thrown his way. In recent years we’ve seen a few players that fit this archetype develop power in their mid-20s and transform into some of the top hitters in the game. Players like Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner serve as prime examples, while Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts could fit into that bucket as well. It’s so ingrained in our heads it’s almost cliche—learn how to make contact and use the whole field, then learn how to hit for power. It’s idealistic, but for those that have these innate contact skills, it has served as a roadmap to the promised land.
Enter Castillo, an unheralded Yankees middle infield prospect who burst onto the scene early in 2021 after impressive stops at High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset. He hit .277/.345/.504 with 29 extra-base hits between the two levels before he was traded to the Pirates with fellow infielder Hoy Park for righthanded reliever Clay Holmes in late July. Castillo was assigned to a star-studded Double-A Altoona roster and continued to perform, walking more than he struck out while hitting .282/.342/.445. He earned a September promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis and hit .278/.414/.500 in his first taste of the minors’ highest level. Added to the Pirates 40-man roster in November, Castillo will likely feel the crunch of young infield depth in Pittsburgh, but his polished bat and positional versatility (he spent time at three infield spots in 2021) may earn him some extended run in the majors this summer.
Jack Suwinski, OF Pirates—An underrated element of the Pirates approach at the 2021 trade deadline was their ability to acquire young players close to the majors who were coming into their own. Suwinski was one such player. A cold weather player out of the Illinois high school ranks, the outfielder did little to garner attention over parts of his first four minor league seasons, hitting a paltry .231/.316/.361 over more than 1500 minor league at-bats. However, fast forward to 2021, and a different player emerged for the Padres.
Assigned to Double-A San Antonio to begin the season, Suwinski caught fire early, hitting .265/.378/.623 with 13 home runs over the first two months Acquired in late July by the Pirates as a part of the Adam Frazier trade, Suwinski was assigned to Double-A Altoona and struggled initially. His struggles against lefthanded pitching and heavy whiff tendencies began to catch up to him and his overall line suffered. He bounced back in September, however, and finished the season hitting .262/.383/.485 with 40 extra-base hits. The Pirates added Suwinski to their 40-man roster in November, and he is now in prime position to earn playing time in Pittsburgh’s shallow outfield. His poor performance against lefthanders and corner outfield profile provide some limitations, but he has the power and on-base ability versus righthanded pitching to be successful as a strong-side platoon bat for Pittsburgh. He is a player who is not without his flaws, but also one who possesses valuable traits for a rebuilding club.