20 MLB prospects who have made an impact on the 2022 MLB season


Roughly a quarter of the way through the MLB season already more rookies than usual are currently making a difference in the big leagues thanks to the changes benefitting young players in the new CBA, So with that in mind, let’s take a look at 20 of them who are making a name for themselves at the game’s highest level. 

 

Julio Rodriguez, OF  Seattle Mariners

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The Mariners phenom got off to a slow start in the big leagues, but he’s come on hard the last few weeks. Buoyed by a four-hit day on Sunday to help lead the M’s to a series win over the Mets, Rodriguez is slashing .346/.393/.519 in May with a pair of homers and seven RBI. He’s tied for the Major League lead with 10 steals, has played a solid center field, and has brought youthful enthusiasm to a team with high expectations. Don’t be surprised if he’s ultimately the AL Rookie of the Year when it’s all said and done.

 

Steven Kwan, OF  Cleveland Guardians

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Cleveland took Kwan in the 5th round out of Oregon State four years ago, and while it took him a while to crack the Major Leagues, he’s currently showing it was worth the wait. The 24-year-old has played all three outfield spots for the Guardians and emerged as a table-setter in the two spots in their batting order. He has only eight extra-base hits so power has not really been his game, but he’s hitting .281 and has reached base at a .377 clip. Kwan is not a star but he’s filled a role on this Cleveland team and has played a big part in them staying right in the thick of the AL Central race. 

 

Jeremy Pena, SS  Houston Astros

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When the Astros lost Carlos Correa to the Twins in free agency the expectation was both their offensive and defensive production at the shortstop position would downgrade significantly. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, it appears Houston has developed their very own newer and younger version of their former perennial all-star. Jeremy Pena has hit from day one this season, slashing .276/.339/.514 in just over 100 at-bats. His six homers and 20 RBI both are the most among rookies to date, and he’s a big reason why the Astros are leading the AL West yet again. 

 

Bobby Witt Jr., IF  Kansas City Royals

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Heading into 2022 Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr. was one of the consensus top prospects in all of baseball, and while he’s gone through some growing pains, he’s certainly showed some of the potential that made him the 2nd overall pick in the ’19 draft. Witt is a natural shortstop but has predominately played third base for the Royals as a rookie. Offensively he’s hit only .217, but he’s registered three homers, six doubles, and two triples. Kansas City is unlikely to seriously compete as this season carries on, but Witt is the primary position player they plan to build around moving forward, and the experience he is logging at the Major League level right now has already made this season a success. 

 

Royce Lewis, SS  Minnesota Twins

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Young 22-year-old shortstop Royce Lewis was the first player selected in the ’17 draft, and a little over a week ago he cracked the big leagues for the first time. Ironically, his inaugural promotion coincided with the aforementioned Carlos Correa landing on the injured list. Lewis has taken advantage of the opportunity, though, hitting .281 with a homer and four RBI in his first nine big-league games. It will be interesting to see what the Twins’ long-term plan becomes when Correa returns. 

 

Seiya Suzuki, OF  Chicago Cubs

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Seiya Suzuki became the latest high profile Japanese player to cross the Pacific and join Major League baseball when he landed a long-term contract with the Cubs this winter, and he has not disappointed to date. After blasting 91 homers over his last three seasons in Japan, Suzuki has not yet shown that level of power in Chicago, with only four bombs and seven doubles to date. But he’s hitting .255 and reaching base at a strong .362 clip, and you’d have to imagine he’ll get more and more comfortable as the season moves along and his numbers will start to take off. 

 

Luis Gonzalez, OF  San Francisco Giants

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New Mexico University product Luis Gonzalez had a brief stint with the White Sox the last two years, but he’s getting his first real opportunity as a member of the Giants here in 2022. In 21 games the left-handed swinging outfielder has slashed .349/.397/.492 and even got a chance to pitch in San Francisco’s blowout loss to St. Louis on Sunday. 

 

Cristian Pache, OF  Oakland Athletics

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Cristian Pache spent years as one of the top prospects in the Atlanta system, and there’s a reason he was one of the centerpieces of the big trade this past March that sent all-star A’s first baseman Matt Olson to the Braves. Pache is a lifetime .280 minor league hitter but his bat has yet to really emerge in the big leagues. In 108 at-bats this season he’s hitting only .157, but he’s still only 23-years-old. What Pache does bring on a daily basis is elite defense in center field, and he’s got an infectious and engaging personality and likes to interact with fans on social media. If his bat can come on at all, the A’s will have themselves a building block. 

 

Seth Beer, DH  Arizona Diamondbacks

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During the first few weeks of the 2022 season, DH Seth Beer was really the only player hitting for the Arizona Diamondbacks. As recently as April 24th he was hitting .341. Since then, though, the left-handed swinger has been in a dreadful slump. In fact, in May he was only hitting .095 in 21 at-bats before the Diamondbacks ultimately demoted him to AAA on Sunday. Arizona still has high hopes for the Clemson product, though. In his last full minor league season, he hit .289 with 26 homers and drove in 103 runs. The Diamondbacks are surprisingly over .500 here in the middle of May, and they’re hoping Beer can get his swing right in the minors and come back to help keep them afloat as we approach the summer. 

 

Joe Ryan, SP  Minnesota Twins

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The Twins acquired young righty Joe Ryan from Tampa Bay in a deal that sent veteran DH Nelson Cruz to the Rays, and this transaction has leaned heavily in Minnesota’s favor. In exchange for a rental bat, the Twins brought in a cornerstone 25-year-old rotation member. Thus far in ’22 Ryan has made seven starts and compiled a 2.39 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP. He’s punched out 36 hitters in 37.2 innings, held the opposition to just a .179 batting average, and already earned four wins. 

 

Reid Detmers, SP  Los Angeles Angels

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The Angels made left-hander Reid Detmers the 10th overall pick out of Louisville in 2020, and while he struggled in his first cup of coffee last season, Detmers is rewarding the Halos for their faith in him in ’22. In six starts the 22-year-old has delivered a 0.84 WHIP and held the opposition to a measly .165 batting average. Detmers gained national attention for his out of nowhere no-hitter on May 10th, and it will be interesting to see how he follows that up moving forward. 

 

MacKenzie Gore, SP  San Diego Padres

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Padres’ southpaw MacKenzie Gore was the 3rd overall pick in 2017, and he’s seemingly been on top prospect lists ever since. The 23-year-old made his big league debut on April 15th, and it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to assume he won’t be going back to the minor leagues. In his first five big league starts Gore has pitched to a 2.42 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP in 26 innings. He’s struck out over a batter/inning, only allowed a single home run, and has played a big part in the Friars’ early-season success. 

 

Spencer Torkelson, 1B  Detroit Tigers

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Slugging first baseman Spencer Torkelson was the first overall pick two years ago, and the Tigers and their fans have salivated about his power potential ever since. Thanks to the new CBA changes focused on getting teams to stop manipulating prospect service time, Torkelson was able to begin 2022 in the big leagues. In 32 games so far he’s delivered largely mixed results, hitting only .253 in 98 at-bats, but he’s launched three long homers that certainly opened some eyes. The Tigers have little doubt the 22-year-old will emerge as a star, they just hope his current struggles won’t diminish his confidence. 

 

Brock Burke, RP  Texas Rangers

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Brock Burke was a starting pitcher for most of his professional career, including a rough six-start spurt in the Major Leagues back in 2019. But Texas shifted him to the bullpen this season, a move that is paying major dividends for both him and the team. In 10 outings so far Burke has worked to a 1.45 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP while striking out 27 hitters in 18.2 innings. He’s given manager Chris Woodward a reliable multi-inning option, and it will be interesting to see how long he can maintain this level of production. 

 

Spencer Strider, RP  Atlanta Braves

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The defending champion Atlanta Braves have some star power in their bullpen, but one name that isn’t being mentioned nearly enough is their young right-hander Spencer Strider, who’s throwing the ball extremely well as a rookie. In seven outings thus far Strider has pitched to a 3.06 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP while striking out 26 hitters in 17.2 innings and holding the other team to a .177 batting average. He’s emerged as a reliable option for manager Brian Snitker in the middle innings of games, and Atlanta will hope that can continue moving forward. 

 

Oliver Ortega, RP  Los Angeles Angels

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The Angels are armed with a plethora of nationally recognized star power, and they’re finally playing like a legitimate contender, something that is good for the sport. One of the many bright spots on this year’s Angels’ team is their young right-handed reliever, Oliver Ortega, who has been brilliant thus far in 2022. In 12 outings Ortega has pitched to a dazzling 1.96 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP in 18.1 innings. He hasn’t gotten many high leverage opportunities to date, but if his current level of production continues that will change in short order. 

 

17 of 20

A. J. Puk, RP Oakland Athletics

A. J. Puk, RP  Oakland Athletics

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Puk was immensely heralded coming out of the University of Florida in 2016, and the A’s had incredibly high hopes for him when they drafted the southpaw 6th overall. Injuries and poor performance for the first several years of his professional career moved Puk dangerously close to the dreaded bust label, but he’s starting to rewrite the script in Oakland’s bullpen here in 2022. Puk has made 11 appearances so far, tossing 15.1 innings and allowing just one run. Opponents are currently hitting just .167 against him, and perhaps the 27-year-old can ultimately go from failed starter to dynamic closer in a dramatic career reboot. 

 

Kevin Smith, IF  Oakland Athletics

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Former Maryland Terrapin Kevin Smith was one of four prospects the Toronto Blue Jays shipped to Oakland to acquire third baseman Matt Chapman two months ago, and the 25-year-old has handled most of the third base duties in 2022 as the A’s attempt to replace Chapman. His first 80 at-bats have not gone all that well. Smith is currently slashing only .188/.217/.325 with eight extra-base hits. On an Oakland team with no hopes of contending in a difficult division, Smith will get plenty of runs to figure this out, and it will be interesting to see if he can ultimately emerge as a piece for his new team or not. 

 

Alexis Diaz, RP  Cincinnati Reds

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Speaking of teams that are not any threat to contend in 2022, let’s talk about the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have had virtually no bright spots this season, aside from catcher Tyler Stephenson and reliever Alexis Diaz. Diaz is the younger brother of Mets’ star closer Edwin Diaz, and to date, he’s actually thrown the ball even better than his brother. In 15 outings he’s pitched 16.1 innings and allowed just a single run–a solo homer by Eric Hosmer. Diaz has struck out over a batter/inning, held the opposition to a .127 batting average, and pitched to a 0.86 WHIP. 

 

Tanner Banks, RP  Chicago White Sox

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White Sox lefty Tanner Banks has been one of the better stories thus far in 2022. The Riverton, UT native was an 18th-round pick in 2014, and at 30-years-old he’s finally cracked the big leagues for the first time. In 10 appearances as a rookie, the southpaw has pitched to a 3.38 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP, while holding the opposition to a .203 batting average and striking out 12 men in 16 innings. 

Justin Mears is a freelance sports writer from Long Beach Island, NJ. Enjoys being frustrated by the Mets and Cowboys, reading Linwood Barclay novels, and being yelled at by his toddler son. Follow him on twitter @justinwmears





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