Here at Pitcher List, we track the prospect promotions that occur every week during the regular season. This series will outline prospects that have the potential to get the call to the bigs early into the MLB season, or to maybe even be on the Opening Day Roster. Please note this is not an all-inclusive list, just some names that I believe we could see up earlier than not.
American League East
Adley Rutschman, C, BAL – Rutschman is considered by some to be the overall best prospect in baseball. He’s a switch-hitting catcher that dominated the upper minors during the 2021 campaign. Rutschman spent 80 games in Double-A, posting a 145 wRC+ and walking nearly as often as he struck out before earning a promotion to Triple-A. There he put up similar production, triple-slashing .312/.405/.490 in 43 games. He’s 24-years-old and as big-league-ready as they come. He may have been on the Opening Day roster, but he is now being shut down for the next few weeks with a triceps injury. Assuming no setbacks, we should be seeing Rutschman in the majors very soon.
Kyle Bradish, P, BAL – The Orioles starting rotation is very thin. There should be plenty of opportunities for some of their young arms who haven’t had a chance at the MLB level to break into the bigs. Of those, Bradish feels like a safe bet to see some action early. Bradish is a 25-year-old righty who spent the majority of 2021 at Triple-A, where he finished with a 4.26 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 86.2 innings. Bradish has strikeout stuff, posting a 27.8% strikeout rate in those 86.2 innings, but a career double-digit walk rate in the minors will probably cap his upside. Regardless, Bradish seems prime to work some MLB innings in 2022.
Connor Seabold, P, BOS – Seabold made a three-inning appearance in the majors in 2021 but should almost certainly see more frames at the big league level in 2022. He battled some injuries last season but finished Triple-A with a 3.50 ERA and 22.9% strikeout rate. He doesn’t always go deep into games but the Red Sox rotation has enough question marks in it that Seabold should get an opportunity as a spot starter or inning-eating reliever some point early on. The news that Chris Sale is slated to miss some time gives Seabold a possibility to be up even sooner.
Brayan Bello, P, BOS – Bello probably has the best strikeout stuff in the system. In 2021, he posted strikeout rates north of 30% at both the Single-A and Double-A levels. There are some questions surrounding his command and he doesn’t pitch deep into games consistently, so there is a good chance he ultimately ends up as a high-leverage reliever. He has yet to be tested at Triple-A so he probably won’t be up quite as quickly as others on this list but it’s difficult to imagine Boston keeping his strikeout potential in the minors for too long. Like Seabold, the Sale injury could lend an early-season opportunity to Bello.
Clarke Schmidt, P, NYY – Schmidt has gotten a brief taste of MLB action the past two seasons but hasn’t found much success with a 6.39 ERA in 12.2 innings. He’s had some injury history the past few years so despite a stellar 25.2 innings of Triple-A action in 2021, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him work as both a starter and a reliever for the Yankees out of the gate.
Oswald Peraza, SS, NYY – Peraza was one of 2021’s biggest breakouts, playing in three different minor league levels. He had his way with High-A, triple slashing .306/.386/.532 in 28 games before hitting 12 home runs, swiping 20 bags, and posting a 122 wRC+ in 79 contests. He ended 2021 with a handful of games at Triple-A, where he will likely start the year. This promotion may not be as quick as others as the Yankees infield is more or less set, but an injury could open the door for Peraza if he doesn’t force their hand sooner.
Shane Baz, P, TB – Well, this one feels like a lock. Baz is one of the top prospects in all of baseball and ended the season with the big-league club. He even got a postseason start. He dominated the upper minors in 2021, posting a strikeout rate close to 40% in 78.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Expect him to be penciled into the Rays Opening Day rotation.
Josh Lowe, OF, TB – Lowe broke out in a big way in 2019 and has been considered a Top-100 prospect ever since. He showed off his power and speed combination in 2021, hitting 22 home runs while swiping 26 bags in 111 Triple-A games. He’s posted strikeout rates in the mid-to-upper 20s for most of his minor league career, but they appear to be a result of a patient approach at the plate. The Rays outfield is somewhat crowded, but not overwhelmingly, so Lowe should see an opportunity early on.
Vidal Bruján, 2B/OF, TB – It was only a 10-game stint in the majors but it went about as poorly as it could for Bruján with the then 23-year-old picking up just two singles in 26 plate appearances. At this point we all know that Bruján’s speed is his ticket to the majors (he racked up 44 steals at Triple-A in 2021) but a career-high 12 home runs point to some more potential power than was originally thought. Bruján’s versatility gives him a better chance at earning a spot but there is a chance the Rays keep him in Triple-A the first few weeks.
Tommy Romero, P, TB – The righty Romero had a breakout campaign in 2021, posting a 1.88 ERA and a 34% K-BB rate in 48 Double-A innings before recording a 3.18 ERA in 62.1 innings at Triple-A. Romero’s strikeout numbers decreased and his walk rate increased at the higher level, but he still had a K-BB rate over 20%. The Rays farm is incredibly deep, so Romero is a tad under-the-radar for someone who could make an impact in 2022.
Otto Lopez, 2B/OF, TOR – The Toronto portion of this list originally included Zach Logue and Kevin Smith, but now both have been moved to Oakland in the Matt Chapman deal. Lopez’s path to the big leagues is both more and less muddled after that swap. He’s no longer competing with Smith, but Chapman will have a lock on the third base spot, shifting Cavan Biggio to second base full time. Biggio struggled in 2021, so if he struggles again in 2022 it could lead to an opportunity for Lopez. Lopez is a contact-over-power batter with good speed. He is knocking at the door of the big leagues following a 2021 season where he posted a 102 wRC+ in 43 Triple-A games and the fact that he played some outfield last season gives him a better chance to see time early with Toronto as a bench piece with defensive versatility.
Bowden Francis, SP, TOR – Francis profiles as a potential back-end starter. He had a solid 2021 campaign, especially after moving up to Triple-A where he put up a 17.9% KK-B rate and a 3.49 ERA. The Blue Jays lost Robbie Ray but added Kevin Gausman to replace him; even so, the back half of the rotation has some durability concerns. It’s possible for Francis to be the first man up for a spot start if need be.
Photos by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire, Oleg Magni | Adapted by Drew Wheeler (@drewisokay on Twitter)