Last week in the Top 20 First Base Prospects for 2022 Fantasy Baseball, I dubbed first base the Island of Misfit Toys for its tendency to collect prospects who fail out of other positions.
Welcome to the sequel! It’s untitled at the moment, so chime into the comments if you’ve got thoughts. Once upon a time, a guy had to be pretty quick to handle the keystone, but advances in defensive positioning have mitigated that need for speed and opened the spot to some slow-moving bats looking for a place to sit and wait for their turn to hit.
If a guy is a plus defender at shortstop, like CJ Abrams in San Diego, I left him there for the purposes of this list. I know he’s blocked and likely to play somewhere other than short, but he profiles as a plus defensive player at the infield’s toughest non-catching position, so he’s earned that spot. Some of the guys here can still hack it at shortstop, but they’re trending toward a future elsewhere on the diamond.
Format = Player | Team | Age on 4/1/22 | Highest Level Played | ETA
Perhaps my take is just anecdotal, but it feels like Brujan’s fantasy stock took a hit when Tampa brought him up to sit the bench last year. Here’s a link to Grey pondering that path in Vidal Brujan, 2022 Fantasy Outlook.
It behooves us to keep our eyes on the context here. The 5’10” 180 lb switch hitter added power to his game early in AAA, belting seven bombs in his first 16 games. But just as easily as he’d found that pop, he lost it again, slugging just five more home runs over his next 87 games at the level. So which player is he? Well, both. Skill-based power ages well, and though he’s an explosive rotator in the batter’s box, Brujan’s best tools are Hit and Run. The speed is going to make him a fantasy mainstay as long as he’s on the field. The hit tool adding power could make him a first-round pick in standard roto leagues. Brujan has always managed a low strikeout rate, so even as a rookie finding that balance between power and contact, he figures to help us even in redraft leagues, even in a part-time role.
Miranda is an elite right handed bat with all-fields power who checks in at a healthy 6’3” 210 lbs. He’s not a great defender, but Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care. The hell does that song mean, anyway? Nevermind. I don’t care. And Miranda is such a good hitter that it doesn’t really matter what kind of defender he ultimately becomes. He’s not a second baseman, but he’s eligible there already in Fantrax leagues, and who knows he might keep the designation for a few seasons as Minnesota seeks places to put him in the lineup. In 127 games across two levels this year, Miranda slashed .340/.401/.572 with 32 home runs, 4 stolen bases, and just 74 strikeouts. Some approximation of that could probably help the Twins in 2022.
Here’s a link to Grey’s Jose Miranda, 2022 Fantasy Outlook.
Gonzales spent his whole season (80 games) at High-A, but I remembered him starting slow after not playing for more than a year, so I wanted to dig in and cut it up to get a clearer picture of who he was at his best. I’m zeroed in on his final 59 games, from July 6 through the end of the season, when Gonzales slashed .324/.409/.601 with 14 HR, 4 SB, 16 2B and 4 3B, good for 34 extra base hits in those 59 games. I’m confused about why he didn’t get promoted to AA at some point. He was walking in 11.6 percent of his plate appearances and striking out 26.6 percent of the time. No red flags there. Perhaps it was just to keep him on the dirt with Liover Peguero. Perhaps they didn’t have room after acquiring Diego Castillo and Hoy Jun Park. Regardless, Gonzales looked like his college monster self in his pro debut, featuring lightning quick hands and a compact swing with power to the opposite field. It’s hard to imagine what could trip him up long term. Dude looks better than a Tom Emansky video in the box.
Anyone who snagged Yorke last year is tasting the sensation. Boston’s fresh peppermint patty was 2.2 and 3.9 years younger than the average player at his two levels last season but slashed .325/.412/.516 with 14 HR and 13 SB across 97 games anyway, establishing himself as a high-end dynasty asset in the process. Hit tools are what you seek, in that format and across baseball in general, and Yorke’s stacks up pretty well with the elite in that area.
I’m probably a little high on Leonard–not in the psilocybin sense but in the sense that I might be siphoning some profit for readers by putting the cart (value) before the horse (time), particularly on August 8 in Prospect News: If I Were Eddys Leonard, Would You Like Me Any Better?
Here comes me quoting me:
“Los Angeles (NL) SS Eddys Leonard is enjoying a season as smooth as slow-churned Rocky Road. Recently promoted to High A, Leonard’s full season slash line is .292/.398/.540 with 15 HR and 7 SB, most of that as a 20-year-old in Low A. If he performs well over this final month in High A, he could open next year as a 21-year-old in AA. You probably can’t add Toronto heat wave Orelvis Martinez, but Leonard is having a similar season at a similar age and could be had for a minimum bid in most dynasty leagues. He’s already inside my Top 100 and would leap up the list with a hot August.”
Over that final month 41 games in High-A, Leonard slashed .299/.375/.530 with 8 HR and 3 SB. This ain’t Clark’s cousin Eddie, but he might become the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.
A switch-hitter who remade himself over the lost season, Cabrera now generates power from the ground up. He’s listed at 5’10” 145 lbs, which might be what he weighed when he signed at 16 but looks at least 30 pounds too light at the moment. Seems to me the prospect world has been slow to notice Cabrera’s 2021 season. He slashed .272/.330/.492 with 29 HR and 21 SB in 118 games across two levels, only nine of those happening at AAA, where he slashed .500/.583/1.133 with 5 HR. No typos there, friends. Cabrera hit five home runs over his first nine games at AAA. If he’d done so in May, he’d be a named guy by now, buoyed by the team’s hype machine and owned in every dynasty league. Makes for a smart target in supp drafts this winter.
Busch looked a little tipsy early in 2021 but sobered up by the second half and slashed .300/.401/.558 with 14 over his final 62 games and .339/.415/.620 over his final 30. A 6’1” 210 lb lefty hitter who’s right handed in the field, Busch was drafted 31st overall for his bat in 2019. He’s been playing mostly at 2B, where he would be a boon for our purposes if he can handle the keystone at the fastest level.
The dream for Freeman is that he adds power to his double-plus hit tool, and if you believed reports from the alt site in 2020, he was doing just that in the controlled setting of glorified batting practice. When the games resumed in 2021, Freeman was back to his singles-focused self, hitting just two home runs in 41 games. He did slash .323/.372/.470, and he was 1.9 years younger than the average at AA, but it’s hard to envision what kind of role he can fill without adding power. At 6’0” 190 lbs, he has the size to do it, but his swing is extremely short and quick—geared more toward long at bats than long bombs. He also spent a bunch of the season on the IL with a shoulder injury that ended his season and required surgery. He’ll open the year at AAA and could quickly establish himself as an option for Cleveland if he looks healthy.
Lopez can hit well enough to hang in the majors, in terms of making contact, but the question will be whether or not the 5’10” 160 lb righty can do enough damage to hang in an everyday lineup. He hit just five home runs in 113 games across two levels last year but added 32 doubles and four triples, slashing .315/.379/.437 with 22 stolen bases in 26 attempts. You can see the appeal. He also struck out just 13.4 percent of the time in 43 games at AAA. If he gets a real shot, I see him adding power across time and doing enough in batting average and stolen bases to be a fantasy asset while he learns to access his functional thump in games.
Can’t get him out of my heart. A 5’10” 173 lb left handed hitter, Aranda played mostly first base on a loaded AA team in Montgomery last year and figured he might as well hit like a first baseman while he was at it, slashing .325/.410/.540 with 10 HR and 4 SB in 79 games. That deserves a wow. He struck out 63 (19.3%) times and drew 33 walks (10.2%). He could prove superior to AAA pitching early in 2022 and be on the tips of prospect peoples’ fingers for most of the season—a considerable achievement for MLB pipeline’s 30th ranked MiLB Ray.
Gonzalez covered three levels this year, spending his final ten games with the big club after an electric 15-game stretch in AAA (.370/.417/.704, 4 HR, 3 SB). He was juuuust a bit less effective in the majors (.250/.273/.344), but the full sum of his minor league season is mouth-watering: 24 HR, 24 SB, and a .283/.364/.532 slash line across 93 games. I believe he, Rodriguez, Jake Burger, Yolbert Sanchez and Leury Garcia are the biggest reasons Nick Madrigal was traded. Second base is arguably the deepest spot in the organization, which is not ideal for us. All these guys will probably play a role in 2022. People give La Russa a lot of crap, but he’s always found ways to play the guys who were hitting, so the opportunity is here for a lot of playing time if Gonzalez can get hot, partly because he can play third base and left field. Even if he’s struggling, he’ll probably wind up popping in and out of revolving-door situations over the next couple years.
12. James Triantos | Cubs | 19 | CPX | 2025
The club’s second round pick this year, Triantos has a good shot to remain up the middle on defense and has an ideal build at 6’1” 195 lbs for continued development in the power department, where he has already been a huge success, slashing .327/.376/.594 with 6 HR and 3 SB in 25 games on the complex. Good chance he’ll be at the top of my board when my pick comes around at the back of the first round in the Razz 30 Supplemental Draft this winter.
When the season started, Burger hadn’t played since 2017 in Low A, but the Sox saw enough juice in Spring to assign him to AAA. Might be an unprecedented jump in my time tracking this stuff. The 6’2” 220 pounder stepped up to the challenge, slashing .274/.332/.513 with 18 HR in 82 games. He also played well in 15 games as a big leaguer, slashing .263/.333/.474 with five extra base hits in a part-time role. He got some time at second base, and while it’s hard to imagine that as his long term home, it’s encouraging that the club thinks enough of his athleticism to give it a whirl. Should have a shot at a short-side platoon role early in 2022 with more on tap if he sizzles.
Part of the return for RHP Clay Holmes, Castillo got traded more because the Yankees didn’t know what to do with him than anything he could control. While he may not tickle Brian Cashman’s fancy, he’s an intriguing piece for our purposes: a 5’11” 185 lb middle infielder with just enough talent across the board to break even in every roto category. In 104 games across two levels last year, Castillo hit 19 bombs, swiped nine bags and slashed .278/.355/.487.
Castro is just 6’ 205 lbs but brought big power with him to the majors when the club called him up from AA, but power was all he showed. Nonetheless, five home runs in 93 plate appearances is pretty good for a rookie who hadn’t played AAA. When he was sent to AAA after an up and down stretch, Castro played well, slashing .286/.342/.657 with three home runs in eight games, leaving his status up in the air for Opening Day. He’s probably going back to AAA, but he could quickly prove better than the competition and force his next chance. I like his work from the left side better than the right, at the moment, which is how you’d like a switch hitter to look in general, but especially as a young player.
In 23 games at High-A to close the season, Vivas slashed .318/.422/.424 on the strength of a 12.7%/12.7% K/BB rate, which was just a continuation of his work in Low A, when the 5’11” 171 lb middle infielder slashed .311/.389/.515 with 13 HR and 5 SB in 83 games. Vivas features excellent hands in the box that should help him make the most of his time with one of the best development staffs in the business.
Massey was playing well enough to graduate this level at any time, really, but the Royals left him there for 99 games, slashing .289/.351/.531 with 21 HR and 12 SB, striking out just 68 times (15.5%). He’s behind the age-to-level curve, but I don’t care. He’s a 2019 draftee (109 overall), so he’s had two pro chances and hit well in both (105 and 135 wRC+ in 2019 and 2021). This is just who he’s always been. He hit at Illinois. He hit in the Cape Cod League. A back injury cost him some games and money in his draft season. A lefty bat at 6’0” 190 pounds, Massey is a natural-looking hitter, fouling off touch pitches and going the other way when the opportunity presents itself. I think he’s underrated in dynasty circles.
Acquired from the Yankees in the Joey Gallo deal, Duran is a twitch factory who logged 19 HR and 19 SB in 105 games in High-A this year, slashing .267/.342/.486 between the two organizations. He also went to the fall league and slashed .278/.333/.611 with another three home runs in 16 games. I’ve been into this guy’s baseball actions since the first time I saw video of him way back in 2017. He’s a stout right handed hitter at 5’11” 185 lbs who swings like he’s killing snakes, as my old man used to say. Texas didn’t get any real big names in return for Joey Gallo, but I think they did okay in adding multiple players with good potential.
A left-handed hitter with quick hands at 5’10” 160 lbs, Tena enjoyed a big breakout in 2021 at High-A Lake County, slashing .281/.331/.467 with 16 HR and 10 SB in 107. He then burned up the Arizona Fall League: .387/.467/.516. If he can carry that heat into AA at age 21 this year, he’ll be a steal in dynasty drafts where he might be available even in deep leagues.
20. Josh H. Smith | Rangers | 24 | AA | 2022
This Agent Smith carried a 14.2%/15.7% BB/K rate for 30 games in AA after the trade and has generally been pretty awesome with the bat. I’ll list his on base percentages across the levels here:
A- = .450
A = .480
A+ = .414
AA = .425
So that’s pretty good, and it’s not born from passivity either as he’s hit .324, .333, .313, .294 at those stops. Perhaps I laid this out poorly. Sorry if I made this unnecessarily complicated. That’s the opposite of what Smith does in the batter’s box, where everything looks pretty simple for the left-handed hitter with a sweet swing and the hand-eye coordination to hit (or lay off) just about any pitch he’s seen to this point in his career.
21. Euribiel Angeles | 19 | A+ | 2023
Angeles is a 5’11” 175 lb right handed hitter with excellent hands in the batter’s box. He tore through his first full season assignment in 87 games, slashing .343/.397/.461 with 3 HR and 18 SB. Next phase for him will be to add some strength and hunt for power a little more. He’s more of a sell-ball-hit-ball guy at the moment than a wait-on-my-pitch-and-unleash sort of at-bat extender, but he does have the base-level hand-eye talent to attempt such a switch. The approach was more evident in his High-A sample hitting in less cozy environments and slugging just .361, but it was only 18 games, and he was about three-and-a-half years younger than the average player at that level.
Will be played by Ryan Reynolds in the biopic, Eguy.
On the field, Rosario enjoyed his best season as a pro, slashing .281/.360/.455 with 12 HR and 30 SB in 114 games. Maybe that doesn’t jump off the page, but if a rookie came up and did that in 114 games, he’d be the darling of the fantasy industry. I’m not suggesting Eguy can simply carry his AA production over to the majors, but it’s encouraging to see that he produced a 118 wRC+ while producing speed in a league where he was three years younger than the average player. AJ Preller’s core competency is international scouting, so the Padres have to be tracked more closely than the average team, especially for, uhhh, guys like Eguy who grow slow and below the radar with lots of reps across time. Entering his age 22 season, Rosario is a five-year professional with 520 games and 2198 plate appearances on his ledger. Padres out here letting it simmer.
Foscue laid waste to High-A pitching for 33 games, blasting 14 home runs and slashing .296/.407/.736 before moving on to Double-A and finding his first resistance as a pro. His 89 wRC+ in 26 games at the level isn’t a big red flag, nor is the 27.9 percent strikeout rate, but Foscue did find himself selling out for power at the lower levels before paying the price against better pitching, and if he struggles early in 2022, prospect people will start dropping him down their lists. Plus he has no speed to float the fantasy profile during slumps. For these reasons and because I don’t think he’ll be an elite power source in Texas, he’s more of a Sell than a Buy for me if anyone comes to your teams asking after him.
A 5’10” 160 lb powder keg right handed hitter, Taylor offers an interesting look at one of the organization’s core competencies: teaching rotational explosion. After hitting seven home runs in 108 games in 2019 at High-A, Taylor blasted 16 in just 87 games in AA, slugging .503 after posting a .364 at his previous stop. Nonetheless, he was left exposed to the Rule 5 draft, should it ever occur, partly because his 29.4 percent strikeout rate means he might pass through undrafted. I tend to doubt it. He slashed .294/.385/.504 as a 22-year-old middle infielder at AA, and somebody like Baltimore, Arizona or Colorado should be all over that. It might hurt his development to strike out something like 35-40 percent of the time in a part-time MLB role, but it might also help him a lot to work with a big league staff all season. It’s a little hard to see how they make room for him in Toronto, so I’m hoping he gets a change of scenery.
The hope is that Edwards finds his way onto the field in an everyday capacity and swipes 40 bases with a .360 OBP and .290 AVG. He might also hit zero home runs, as he’s hit just one in 953 professional at bats. That lack of thump makes me think the Rays are too good a team to hand him an everyday role, or even a Rays-version of that, so he’ll have to get traded to help us in fantasy, goes the thinking. Even so, the Rangers’ Yonny Hernandez was good for some standings points thanks to 11 steals in 43 games last year, and it’s easy to imagine Edwards as a fantasy fun factory if he can crack a big league lineup.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.