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Top 10 Central Division Prospect Graduates With Updated BA Grades



Rankings and BA Grades developed with input from BA staff.

Baseball America follows prospects from the amateur ranks until they reach the major leagues, but then we tend to forget about them as we focus on the next wave of prospects.

We remedy that oversight in this space, where we rank the top 10 graduated prospects—you know them better as rookies—from the two Central divisions in 2022.

Each prospect is listed with his preseason BA Grade and then his updated BA Grade based on what happened in 2022. Each player is graded on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is average. Risk is also assessed on a scale of Low, Medium, High, Very High or Extreme.

1. Bobby Witt Jr., SS/3B, Royals
Preseason:
75/Medium
Updated: 65/Medium

The 2021 Minor League Player of the Year made the Royals’ 2022 Opening Day roster. Witt showed a lot of promise by hitting .254/.294/.428 with 20 homers and 30 steals, thus becoming the 13th rookie ever to go 20-20. Improved selectivity at the plate and better reliability at shortstop can get him occasional all-star status. 2023 Age: 23

2. Riley Greene, OF, Tigers
Preseason:
65/Medium
Updated: 60/Medium

Greene injured his foot in spring training, which delayed his MLB debut until June 18. He performed at a roughly league-average rate as a 21-year-old big leaguer by hitting .253/.321/.362. Bigger picture: Greene proved himself capable in center field and had some of the best plate discipline markers among rookies. The 2023 season could mean growth for Greene. 2023 Age: 22

3. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Reds
Preseason:
55/High
Updated: 60/Medium

Lodolo showcased present No. 3 starter stuff in his MLB debut season. The 6-foot-6 lefthander threw strikes, worked ahead of hitters and missed bats with a 94 mph four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. Among rookies with at least 50 innings as a starter, Lodolo’s 20.9 K-BB% trailed only Spencer Strider and fellow young Reds starter Hunter Greene. Health is the only limiting factor with Lodolo, who has the skills to be a No. 3 or better. 2023 Age: 25

4. Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates
Preseason:
65/Medium
Updated: 60/Medium

Cruz pushes into the red in multiple Statcast categories, with a 100th percentile ranking for max exit velocity, 98th for sprint speed, 97th for arm strength and 96th for barrel rate. At the other extreme, he also struck out 35% of the time—third-highest in MLB at 300 PA—and was graded unfavorably for his fielding at shortstop. Still, Cruz hit .265/.324/.513 with 27% strikeouts versus righthanders and should benefit from the shift ban. That hints at batting upside that would play at any position. 2023 Age: 24

5. Steven Kwan, OF, Guardians
Preseason:
45/High
Updated: 55/Low

Expectations for Kwan were modest coming into the year, but he showed his upside immediately by hitting .469 in spring training with zero strikeouts in 32 at-bats. He showed a true magic wand-type bat all season by hitting .298.373/.400 for the Guardians and winning a Gold Glove in left field. Only the Twins’ Luis Arraez made contact at a higher rate than Kwan, who will be a first-division leadoff hitter who will contend for batting titles. 2023 Age: 25

6. Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Royals
Preseason:
50/High
Updated: 55/Low

Pasquantino was ready when the Royals finally looked his way on June 28. It took a while to get rolling, but he showed first-division upside in his final 40-game stretch by hitting .362/.442/.553 with seven of his 10 homers. Pasquantino has a remarkable batting eye and was one of two rookies along with Steven Kwan to have more walks than strikeouts. 2023 Age: 25

7. Aaron Ashby, LHP, Brewers
Preseason:
60/High
Updated: 55/Medium

Ashby misses bats with four distinct pitch types and keeps the ball on the ground—his 55% groundball rate ranked second among starters with at least 50 innings. The next step will be throwing more first-pitch strikes so that he can leverage his outstanding slider, changeup and curveball. Ashby has the ability to be a No. 3 or 4 starter if he can harness his stuff. 2023 Age: 25

8. Joe Ryan, RHP, Twins
Preseason:
50/Medium
Updated: 50/Low

Added at the 2021 trade deadline when the Twins sent Nelson Cruz to the Rays, Ryan had one of the better seasons by a rookie starter with a 3.55 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 147 innings. He struck out a batter per inning despite averaging just 92 mph on his four-seam fastball and not having a positive run value on any secondary pitch. Ryan befuddles hitters with his low arm slot and riding fastball, so much that he’s a lock to operate as at least a No. 4 starter. 2023 Age: 27

9. Jhoan Duran, RHP, Twins
Preseason:
50/High
Updated: 50/Medium

By the metric win probability added, only Rockies closer Daniel Bard pitched more effectively in big spots than Duran, a rookie in his MLB debut season. He threw the fastest average fastball in MLB at 100.9 mph while also wielding one of the deadliest curveballs in any bullpen. It translated to a 1.82 ERA in 67.2 innings for Duran, who has all-star closer potential. 2023 Age: 25

10. Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds
Preseason:
55/High
Updated: 55/Medium

It was a tale of two seasons for Greene after he made the Reds’ Opening Day roster. He ran up a 5.66 ERA in his first 14 starts, allowing 20 homers in 70 innings. In his final 10 turns, Greene pitched at the level of a future No. 3 starter or better with a 2.91 ERA, .197 opponent average, 17% swinging-strike rate and 76 strikeouts in 55.2 innings. He allowed just four homers in that stretch. 2023 Age: 23

Hunter Greene Reds Mikejanesfourseam

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The following pitchers fall into the grouping of younger starters with varying degrees of major league experience who look primed for a breakout season.

MORE GRADUATES

55/High Risk
Nolan Gorman, 2B, Cardinals
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers

50/Medium Risk
Roansy Contreras, RHP, Pirates

45/Low Risk
Brendan Donovan, UT, Cardinals
Oscar Gonzalez, OF, Guardians
Michael Massey, 2B, Royals
MJ Melendez, C/OF, Royals
Jose Miranda, 1B/3B, Twins
Lars Nootbaar, OF, Cardinals
Seiya Suzuki, OF, Cubs

45/Medium Risk
Graham Ashcraft, RHP, Reds
Jose Barrero, SS, Reds
Alexis Diaz, RHP, Reds
Kyle Isbel, OF, Royals
Christopher Morel, UT, Cubs
Andre Pallante, RHP, Cardinals
Nick Pratto, 1B, Royals
Jack Suwinski, OF, Pirates
Josh Winder, RHP, Twins
Juan Yepez, 1B/OF, Cardinals

40/Low Risk
Jake Burger, 3B, White Sox
Diego Castillo, UT, Pirates
Alex Faedo, RHP, Tigers
Davis Martin, RHP, White Sox

40/Medium Risk
Rodolfo Castro, 2B, Pirates
Tucupita Marcano, 2B/OF, Pirates 
Cal Mitchell, OF, Pirates

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