You are currently viewing 2022 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Top 10 prospects to stash away for a big payoff later – CBS Sports

2022 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Top 10 prospects to stash away for a big payoff later – CBS Sports

Play Now
Men’s Brackets
Play Now
Women’s Brackets
WRs With Sophomore QBs
Covering the impact of coronavirus on the sports world
Bold prediction: 2022 turns out to be a banner year for prospects.
We’re still recovering from the great bottleneck of 2020, when the loss of a minor-league season froze the development of so many. You know what’s on the other side of a bottleneck, though, right? Narrowing this list down to only 10 names was such an endeavor that I can only presume we’re on the verge of pushing through with a sudden influx of talent that makes up for the past two years’ stagnation.
Let’s talk for a minute about some of the names I left out. The goal here is to identify the most stashable prospects in Fantasy Baseball, meaning ones that won’t contribute anything right away. So I obviously left out Bobby Witt, who appears to have the Royals third base job locked up already, and I think Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene are pretty much set for the Tigers as well.
Julio Rodriguez is more questionable, but I lean yes to him making the Mariners opening day roster, and it’s at least 50/50 for Phillies shortstop Bryson Stott and Reds pitchers Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene. They’re already getting plenty of attention for their immediate value, and so I’d rather use this space to highlight other prospects.
Impact is the key here. Proximity also matters, but if you’re investing a precious roster spot in a hypothetical, that hypothetical needs to be a genuine game-changer. This list also doesn’t really apply to shallow leagues (say, fewer than 300 players rostered) where there’s enough upside to be found among the players already contributing. No. 1 might be an exception, though.

2021 minors: .310 BA (271 AB), 17 HR, 19 SB, .970 OPS, 28 BB, 69 K     
The sheer improbability of Cruz’s two spring homers stands out, each coming on a pitch about ankle-high. It speaks to his incomparable ability to impact the baseball — and I do mean incomparable. His 94 mph average exit velocity last year was far and away the best among the Baseball America top 100. He already owns the Pirates record for hardest-hit ball, and he’s played only two games for them. He’s also played just six at Triple-A, which is why it sounds like he’ll be sent back down — well, that and to get some reps in the outfield. But the power/speed combo could be something to behold, making him well worth a hold in the meantime.
2021 minors: .285 BA (452 AB), 23 HR, .899 OPS, 79 BB, 90 K
It always seemed like a long shot that the Orioles of all teams would cast aside service time considerations for Rutschman and bring him up for opening day, but it became a non-issue once the top pick in the 2019 draft strained his triceps early on. So now there’s a convenient reason to keep him down for the first few weeks, just in time to secure an extra year of team control before initiating what figures to be a decade-long run at or near the top of the catcher rankings. It’s a difficult position to break in at, but Rutschman is as close to flawless as a catcher prospect gets, both offensively and defensively.
2021 minors: .344 BA (535 AB), 30 HR, 32 2B, .973 OPS, 42 BB, 74 K  
Just when it looked like the Twins had cleared the deck for Miranda by trading Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the Yankees, they went and signed Carlos Correa. Granted, Miranda was never himself going to play shortstop — his defensive shortcomings being all that’s holding him back at this point — but Gio Urshela or Jorge Polanco could have moved there, with Miranda claiming either of their spots on the diamond. Still, it looks like he’s just one break away from breaking in, and given the kind of numbers he put up between two levels last year, having learned to shrink the strike zone so his contact skills are working for him rather than against, it’ll be worth the wait.
2021 minors: 1-3, 3.93 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 50 1/3 IP, 28 BB, 61 K    
Hey look, Gore was No. 3 on this list last year. In between, his stock plummeted, taking him from consensus top pitching prospect to outside most top 100 lists when they came out just a few short weeks ago. But the mechanical issues that compromised his effectiveness appear to be fixed this spring. He’s landing the leg kick again and cranking up his fastball to 98 mph. So far, he’s allowed just one base runner in five innings, striking out seven. If the Padres hadn’t just made a four-year commitment to Nick Martinez, I dare say Gore would be leading for the fifth starter job, but it won’t be long in any case.
2021 minors: .279 BA (480 AB), 25 HR, .814 OPS, 38 BB, 115 K
The 21-year-old came into camp with an outside shot at winning the DH role after finding his footing at Triple-A late last season, batting .302 (41 for 136) with eight homers and a respectable 18.4 percent strikeout rate over his final 34 games. But the Albert Pujols signing effectively ended that, not that Gorman had put his best foot forward up to that point. That’s kind of his MO, though. He reaches a new level and struggles at first with strikeouts before eventually catching fire. His power is pretty special and could be enough to bump Tommy Edman to a super utility role if Gorman hits the ground running in his return to Triple-A.

2021 minors: .288 BA (448 AB), 41 HR, 1.011 OPS, 75 BB, 115 K
Last year’s minor-league home run leader is blocked by last year’s major-league home run leader, which presents an obvious complication. Melendez has already gotten some exposure at third base, though, and will presumably see reps at first base as well, opening the door to a scenario in which he backs up three positions (including catcher, obviously) while also serving as the primary DH. Bottom line is the Royals will have to get creative, and it’ll have to happen soon. Melendez slashed .293/.413/.620 in his 45 games at Triple-A last year and has little more to gain there other than increased versatility.
2021 minors: .265 BA (445 AB), 36 HR, 12 SB, .988 OPS, 83 BB, 157 K
Pratto isn’t in direct competition with Melendez for at-bats unless Carlos Santana unexpectedly regains his pre-2020 form. The Royals still owe Santana a healthy chunk of change this year, so presumably, they’ll want to make extra sure he has nothing left to offer before turning the job over to Pratto. The former first-round pick broke out in a big way last year with a shorter swing and better plate discipline. He may get some reps in right field down at Triple-A just to give the Royals more ways to make all the pieces fit, but the stay should be short as long as he doesn’t regress as a hitter.
2021 minors: .279 BA (308 AB), 14 HR, .877 OPS, 57 BB, 71 K
This marks the point in this rank list where we can’t just presume that the player in question is already ready. Having said that, there’s a reason the Red Sox are discussing where else they can play Bobby Dalbec. They know Casas isn’t far off. In fact, having reached Triple-A late last year, he’s at the point where just a hot streak could signal his arrival. His hitting prowess has earned him comparisons to Freddie Freeman and Joey Votto, and while you may wonder about the home run production, he’s making quick progress in that regard. Seven of last year’s came in his final 20 games.
2021 minors: 9-1, 2.36 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 103 IP, 27 BB, 161 K     
As with Casas, the first hot streak may be enough to propel Rodriguez to the majors, and looking over his minor-league track record, it’s not clear how you’d be able to distinguish a hot streak from his general production. He somehow keeps finding ways to get better, adding velocity and honing a new pitch every year. Now with three double-plus offerings and the ability to locate them all, he should continue to carve up minor-league lineups with such ease that it’s honestly a little reminiscent of Jose Fernandez’s ascent to the majors. Rodriguez’s arrival mostly hinges on how motivated the Orioles are to play the service time game with him.
2021 minors: .267 BA (409 AB), 20 HR, 27 2B, .870 OPS, 70 BB, 129 K
This last spot was a close call between Busch and another Dodgers prospect, third baseman Miguel Vargas (.319 BA, 23 HR, .906 OPS last year), who has made some noise in spring training. It may ultimately come down to which spot on the infield opens up first, but I’m giving the edge to Busch since he’s older and just spent a full year at Double-A rather than a partial one. He’s a bit stretched defensively but is an on-base machine with a hit tool better than his final line would suggest. Hampered by a hand injury early, Busch hit .297 with a .949 OPS from July 1 on. 
© 2004-2022 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.
CBS Sports is a registered trademark of CBS Broadcasting Inc. Commissioner.com is a registered trademark of CBS Interactive Inc.
Images by Getty Images and US Presswire

source

Leave a Reply