Top 20 MLB Rookies For 2022

Image credit: Bobby Witt Jr. (Photo by Eddie Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As baseball continues to get younger and younger, the importance of having impact rookies grows every year.

The Rays won 100 games and the American League East last year with rookies Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco leading their lineup and rookie lefthander Shane McClanahan fronting their rotation.

Astros righthander Luis Garcia and Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson played critical roles leading their teams to the playoffs, and Braves righthander Ian Anderson pitched to a 1.59 ERA in four postseason starts—including throwing five no-hit innings in his lone World Series start—to help lead the Braves to a World Series title.

That’s to say nothing of Reds second baseman Jonathan India, Marlins lefthander Trevor Rogers, Orioles first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase and Tigers starters Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, all of whom excelled to provide the promise of better days ahead for their respective clubs.

Here are the top 20 rookies to watch in 2022, taking both talent and opportunity into account.

1. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals
Age: 21

Witt rampaged through Double-A and Triple-A in his first full minor league season and won BA’s Minor League Player of the Year award after he finished one stolen base shy of a 30-30 season. His power, speed, defense and arm strength are all among the best of any prospect and have him ready to assume a starting role in Kansas City.

72: The minor league-leading total of extra-base hits Witt had last season at Double-A and Triple-A.

2. Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners
Age: 21

Few players combine the hitting ability and power potential of Rodriguez, who owns a career .331 batting average and has been known to hit balls out of stadiums. Though he’s played just 46 games above Class A, his knack for making rapid adjustments and performing against older competition gives him a chance to rise quickly to Seattle.

117.4: Rodriguez’s maximum exit velocity, in miles per hour, last season, the same as that from Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

3. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
Age: 24

Scouts heralded Rutschman as the best draft prospect since Bryce Harper when the Orioles selected him first overall in 2019. His elite strike-zone discipline, plus power from both sides of the plate and Gold Glove-caliber defense have him ready to make an instant impact in Baltimore as soon as he recovers from his preseason triceps strain.

106: The number of games, out of 123, that Rutschman reached base last season at Double-A and Triple-A.

4. Riley Greene, OF, Tigers
Age: 21

Greene’s hitting ability has been lauded since he was in high school, and he lived up to it in 2021 by batting .301/.387/.534 in his first full season while reaching Triple-A as a 20-year old. He has all the traits to hit for both average and power from the left side and should take his place in the middle of the Tigers’ lineup shortly.

2: Players last year who posted a 150 wRC+ or better at Triple-A aged 20 or younger: Greene and Wander Franco.

5. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers
Age: 22

Torkelson established his reputation as an elite slugger when he broke Barry Bonds’ freshman home run record at Arizona State. He added to it by hitting 30 home runs in his first full season while racing up to Triple-A in 2021. With enormous power, a patient approach and underrated athleticism, he will soon be a force in the middle of the Tigers’ lineup.

91.1: Torkelson’s average exit velocity, in mph, in his pro debut last season, a tick ahead of Pete Alonso’s 91 mph mark in MLB.

6. Seiya Suzuki, OF, Cubs
Age: 27

Long considered one of the top players in Japan, Suzuki is only now entering his prime. He won his second batting title and fifth Gold Glove award last year while hitting a career-high 38 home runs, all wrapped around leading Japan to a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. His towering pull-side power and above-average defense and arm strength in right field should help him contribute immediately.

.333: Suzuki’s batting average against fastballs 95 mph and above in Japan last season.

7. Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates
Age: 23

Cruz became the first player 6-foot-7 or taller to start a game at shortstop when he made his MLB debut last year, defying longstanding predictions he would have to move off the position. Even if he does eventually move, his monstrous power, freakish athleticism and surprising contact skills for his size should make him an impact player at any position.

118.2: The exit velocity, in mph, on a Cruz single in his MLB debut, the hardest-hit ball by any Pirates player in the Statcast era (2015-present).

8. Jeremy Peña, SS, Astros
Age: 24

Once a standout defensive shortstop with a light bat, Peña used the coronavirus shutdown to get stronger and returned a different hitter after the pandemic. A broken wrist limited him in 2021, but he still showed explosive power after he returned. Peña’s defensive excellence and growing power should help the Astros withstand the loss of Carlos Correa, even if he won’t fully replace Correa’s production.

10: Home runs Peña hit in 37 games at Triple-A last year after never hitting more than seven homers in any season in college or as a professional.

9. Brennen Davis, OF, Cubs
Age: 22

Davis didn’t focus solely on baseball until his senior year of high school and has been sidetracked by injuries as a professional, yet he still reached Triple-A after just 152 career games. His premium athleticism and growing power give him a chance to be a focal point of the Cubs’ rebuild as soon as this summer.

838: The combined distance, in feet, of Davis’ two home runs at the Futures Game last year at Coors Field in Denver.

10. Aaron Ashby, LHP, Brewers
Age: 23

Another Brewers pitching development success story, Ashby made his major league debut with 13 appearances (four starts) last season and struck out 39 batters in 31.2 innings. With a mid-90s fastball and vicious slider from the left side, he’s ready to help the Brewers in whatever role they need, whether it’s starting or in relief.

42%: Ashby’s whiff rate on his slider in his major league debut last season. 


11. Shane Baz, RHP, Rays
Age: 22

A hard-throwing but wild righthander before the pandemic, Baz streamlined his delivery during the year away and re-emerged in 2021 as a premium strike-thrower without any loss of stuff. His fastball, slider and curveball were all dominant pitches in his brief MLB debut last year, and now he’s ready to take on a larger role in the Rays’ rotation as soon as he returns from elbow surgery.

.143: Opponent average in at-bats ending with a Baz fastball in his major league debut last season.

12. Reid Detmers, LHP, Angels
Age: 22

Detmers added velocity to his fastball, found a new slider grip and cruised through the minors en route to making his MLB debut last season, only a year after being drafted. With his advanced feel for pitching and newly enhanced arsenal that includes a 93-95 mph fastball, knee-buckling curveball and power slider, he’s ready to bolster the Angels’ rotation.

15.7: Detmers’ strikeout rate per nine innings at Double-A and Triple-A last season, highest in the minors among pitchers with at least 60 innings.

13. Alek Thomas, OF, D-backs
Age: 21

Thomas’ quick lefthanded swing and plus speed have long made him an offensive menace who lines the ball into open spaces and races around the bases. Though he’s on the small side, he consistently hits the ball hard and is progressively adding strength and power. With the D-backs effectively rebuilding, he’s primed to take over in center field.

23: Extra-base hits by Thomas in just 34 games at Triple-A Reno last season. 

14. Joey Bart, C, Giants
Age: 25

The second overall pick in the 2018 draft is set to take over as the Giants’ catcher following Buster Posey’s retirement. His easy plus power, rocket arm and improved approach after a year in Triple-A should help him contribute more readily than he did in his premature 2020 debut, though he still has to show he can make more contact.

.512: Bart’s career slugging percentage in the minors despite playing in pitcher-friendly parks at every level.

15. Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds
Age: 22

After missing all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery and 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Greene showed he still possessed elite stuff when he returned to the mound in 2021. With a fastball that averaged 99 mph and nearly touched 105 and a much-improved slider and changeup, Greene is set to play a significant role in the Reds’ rotation.

104.9: The speed of Greene’s hardest fastball, in miles per hour, he threw in the minors last season.

16. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Reds
Age: 24

The top pitcher selected in the 2019 draft, Lodolo has dominated when he’s been on the mound and finished his first full season in Triple-A last year. Even though none of his pitches is eye-popping, his ability to mix and match a varied arsenal and locate all of his pitches keeps hitters off-balance. His polished repertoire has him ready for Cincinnati.

108:11: Lodolo’s strikeout-to-walk mark in 69 career professional innings. He has walked 0.5 per nine innings.

17. Cade Cavalli, RHP, Nationals
Age: 23

Cavalli stormed three levels up to Triple-A in his pro debut after the Nationals made him the 22nd overall pick in 2020. With a vicious arsenal that includes a fastball up to 101 mph, a slider that gets into the low 90s and a power curveball in the mid 80s, he has the stuff to be a frontline starter, though he needs to improve his control.

175: Strikeouts by Cavalli, most in the minor leagues, in his pro debut last season as he climbed from High-A to Triple-A.

18. Nick Pratto, 1B, Royals
Age: 23

Pratto overhauled his swing during the coronavirus shutdown and had one of the biggest bounceback seasons of any prospect following a poor start to his career. He finished tied for second in the minors with 36 homers and third with 98 RBIs while reaching Triple-A. With Carlos Santana aging poorly, first base should soon be Pratto’s for the taking in Kansas City.

.400: The point differential from Pratto’s OPS at High-A Wilmington in 2019 (.588) to his OPS at Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 (.988).

19. Josh Lowe, OF, Rays
Age: 24

A first-round pick in 2016, Lowe took time to translate his tools into production but broke out at Triple-A last year, hitting a career-best .291 to go with 22 home runs and 26 stolen bases. After getting a brief taste of the majors last year, he’s ready to take over a larger role in the Rays’ outfield mix and is a legitimate center fielder.

2: Players last season who reached Triple-A and had a 20-20 season while hitting at least .290: Lowe and Bobby Witt Jr.

20. Matt Brash, RHP, Mariners
Age: 23

One of the biggest breakout players in the minors last season, Brash began the year in High-A and finished it in Seattle, though he did not appear in a game. His hellacious slider is arguably the best secondary pitch of any prospect, and his fastball continues to tick up into the mid 90s. Brash faces control and durability questions that may limit him to relief, but he projects to make an impact for Seattle in any role.

35.1%: Brash’s strikeout rate last season, the 10th highest in the minors among pitchers who threw at least 90 innings.

Editor’s Note: Seiya Suzuki was unintentionally omitted from the print edition. Consider this rookie ranking update to be official.

Others To Watch
(Listed in alphabetical order)

Seth Beer, DH, D-backs

Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox

Steven Kwan, OF, Guardians

Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Cardinals

Cristian Pache, OF, Athletics

Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays

Geraldo Perdomo, SS, D-backs

Joe Ryan, RHP, Twins

Bryson Stott, SS, Phillies

Juan Yepez, DH, Cardinals

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