Matt's Breakout MLB Prospect Team For 2022
At Baseball America, we continually strive to identify the next big thing.
Each season is a new slate for young players to wow us and climb into Top 100 Prospects consideration. In this piece, I built a team of up-and-coming prospects who are poised to break through into the Top 100 conversation.
The only qualifying standards used were that players must not be current Top 100 Prospects, and they must have little to no experience above Class A.
C Jeferson Quero, Brewers
Low-A Carolina • Age 19
Quero makes his full-season debut this year after a loud pro debut last summer in the Arizona Complex League in which he compiled a .934 OPS with more walks than strikeouts in 23 games. Signed out of Venezuela in 2019, Quero is an athletic receiver who earns high marks for his leadership and baseball IQ. He rounds out his profile with strong bat-to-ball skills, a disciplined approach and emerging power.
1B Austin Shenton, Rays
Double-A Montgomery • Age 24
The offensive bar is set so high at first base in MLB that age and experience often count as authentication for prospects trying to break in at the position. Shenton has played more third base than first as a pro, but probably fits best at the latter. What is not in dispute is his incredible raw power to all fields combined with a good feel to hit. Drafted by his hometown Mariners in 2019, Shenton joined the Rays organization last summer in Seattle’s trade for reliever Diego Castillo. Now, Shenton could be a year away from fitting into the Rays’ lineup puzzle as a lefthanded corner bat.
2B Ian Lewis, Marlins
Extended spring training • Age 19
While Lewis stayed behind in extended spring training when the Marlins broke camp, he will make his way to Low-A Jupiter at some point. Playing time on the Low-A middle infield is a commodity in a Miami system that boasts Kahlil Watson and Jose Salas. So Lewis, who hails from the emerging baseball hotbed of the Bahamas, may have to wait his turn. But when he gets his shot, Lewis has a chance to shine. He combined rare barrel accuracy with damage frequency last season in the Florida Complex League and does it from both sides of the plate.
3B Deyvison De Los Santos, D-backs
Low-A Visalia • Age 19
De Los Santos is one of those prospects who sounds as well as he looks in batting practice. The ball explodes off his barrel and wastes no time carrying to the deep recesses of the park. De Los Santos impressively held his head above water last season when pushed to full-season ball. He was one of just three 2019 international signees to bat 100 times in Low-A last season and record a 100 wRC+ or better. Power is De Los Santos’ calling card, but he controls at-bats well enough to hit for average, too.
SS Cristian Santana, Tigers
Low-A Lakeland • Age 18
Santana looked so good this spring that the Tigers skipped him over the Florida Complex League and straight to Low-A—and with good reason. Santana dominated the Dominican Summer League last year in his pro debut, leading all qualified 17-year-olds with a .251 isolated slugging percentage. Santana’s power is real, and his pitch recognition and flyball swing help accentuate that power. He is poised for big things.
OF Jay Allen II, Reds
Low-A Daytona • Age 19
Drafted with the final pick in the first round last year, Allen turned in one of the more promising pro debuts by a high school hitter. He hit for average and power in the Arizona Complex League, while swiping 14 bases in 15 tries and walking eight times against 12 strikeouts in 19 games. While that raw production may overstate the quality of his raw tools, Allen has a strong foundation to build on as he attempts to sharpen his hit tool and power production to plus.
OF Evan Carter, Rangers
High-A Hickory • Age 19
One of the youngest players drafted in 2020, Carter was 18 for virtually all of his pro debut in Low-A last season. While his season ended prematurely with a back injury, Carter showed a lot of promise in 32 games—enough for the Rangers to feel comfortable bumping him to High-A this season. Few teen hitters have a mature hitting approach quite like Carter, who walked 34 times in 32 games in his debut while also stealing 12 bags in 16 tries. Hitting conditions in Hickory are far more favorable than those in Down East. In other words: buckle up!
OF James Wood, Padres
Low-A Lake Elsinore • Age 19
The Pirates’ Oneil Cruz is a 6-foot-7 shortstop with light-tower power and the speed for double-digit steals. The Mariners’ Harry Ford is a catcher with legitimate plus wheels. Now, add Wood’s name to the expanding list of prospect unicorns. Drafted in the second round last year but signed for first-round money, the 6-foot-7 Wood modified his hitting setup in the Arizona Complex League, which helped further unlock his immense power. He has a chance to stick in center field, where his height would make him a historical outlier.
Guadrians' Gavin Williams Intimidates With Presence, Stuff
Drafted 23rd overall in 2021, Gavin Williams met little resistance as he climbed to Double-A this season. Best of all, he showed the mound presence of a frontline starter.
LHP Ky Bush, Angels
Double-A Rocket City • Age 22
Drafted in the second round last year out of St. Mary’s, Bush struck out 20 in 12 innings in a five-start pro debut for High-A Tri-City. The Angels liked what they saw this spring and jumped the 6-foot-6 lefthander to Double-A, where his four-pitch mix headlined by a power fastball and slider could wreak havoc on Southern League hitters.
RHP Ryan Cusick, Athletics
Double-A Midland • Age 22
Cusick announced his presence in pro ball last summer by striking out nearly 51% of batters faced in 16.1 innings for Low-A Augusta. The Braves drafted him 24th overall out of Wake Forest, then packaged him with three other top prospects to Oakland to acquire Matt Olson. Cusick pitched his way to Double-A to begin his first full season after sitting mid 90s with a power slider this spring.
RHP Owen White, Rangers
High-A Hickory • Age 22
Drafted in 2018, White had just 35.1 pro innings to his name entering the season after a series of injuries—including Tommy John surgery in 2019—plus the pandemic sidelined him for most of the past three years. He looked sharp in the Arizona Fall League last year and again in spring training to break with High-A Hickory. With a mid-90s fastball powering a four-pitch mix, White should be missing bats on his way to Double-A this season.
RHP Gavin Williams, Guardians
High-A Lake County • Age 22
Though Williams was just the eighth college pitcher drafted last year, the All-American from East Carolina has a chance to be the best of the bunch. His riding mid-90s fastball and devastating curveball can be that good. This is especially true now that he’s in the capable hands of Guardians pitching development.