After the 2021 opening day rosters felt scattered following the pandemic-canceled minor league season the previous year, this seemed like a much more traditional edition of assignments, at least as far as the roster goes. minors. The Majors, on the other hand, saw four of the Top 9 prospects (Bobby Witt Jr., Julio Rodríguez, Spencer Torkelson, CJ Abrams) get called up for the first time to start the year.
This goes to show how player development decisions aren’t always as simple as putting a player on a treadmill and watching them work their way through affiliate ball tiers, one after another. Some leads are put on a fast track. Others need more time and may need to repeat a level. Opening missions can be instructive for those of us on the outside about how an organization views its players and what it thinks those prospects can take on the first launch of a new campaign.
With that in mind, here are the top 100 prospects pushed or held back the most to open the 2022 season:
CJ Abrams, SS, Padres (No. 9): Majors
We’ll keep this mostly for the minors, but we have to go back to the Padres’ fascinating decision to break camp with Abrams on the San Diego roster. The 21-year-old is undoubtedly talented with top speed and more strike tool from the left side. He’s also just suffered serious leg injuries that limited him to just 42 Double-A games in 2021 and robbed him of the chance to see Triple-A. Credit the Padres here for trusting the player and their assessment of his potential readiness based on his current skill set. Still, that’s unlikely to happen if Fernando Tatis Jr. is healthy to start 2022. Abrams opened the season as the Majors’ third-youngest player behind Wander Franco and Rodríguez.
Jack Leiter, RHP, Rangers (#17); Matt McLain, SS, Reds (No. 86): Double-A
We will associate these two together due to the similarity of duties. Leiter (2021 second overall pick) and McLain (17th overall pick) are two rare cases of prospects jumping straight to the Minors’ second-highest tier to start their first full seasons. In fact, only 12 members of the 2021 draft class saw Double-A to start the spring. It shouldn’t come as a huge shock that Leiter is among them. His four-pitch mix seemed advanced in the Vanderbilt days, and Rangers believe Arsenal can play the Texas League bats — a notion backed by Leiter’s seven strikeouts in three innings during his Frisco debut last Saturday. McLain, a UCLA shortstop, is a little more of a surprise, but he has a quick power-hit profile, the type that can translate quickly to the pros. Even Torkelson made his High-A debut a year ago, so keep an eye out for how quickly this former Bruin can make his way to Cincy.
Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs (No. 19): Double-A
Carroll played in all seven games at High-A in 2021 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in May. Eleven months later, he is still being pushed to a higher level. His dominance with Hillsboro seemed to play a role. The 21-year-old outfielder went 10-for-23 (.435) with five extra hits, six walks and three stolen bases in those seven games with the Hops, and as he entered rehab last summer , the D- backs were telling him they wanted to challenge him when he returned to the diamond. The Grade 70 speedster with plus punching tool and surging power hit his ticket to Amarillo with a healthy spring. After Carroll spent part of the last year working with scouts behind the plate at Arizona’s Major League games, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t let his eyes get too big at Double- A and settled in early with the Sod Poodles.
Jordan Walker, 3B, Cardinals (No. 30): Double-A
St. Louis got aggressive with the 2020 first round last summer, sending it to High-A after just 27 games, and the organization isn’t about to end its second full season. The 19-year-old third baseman was the youngest position player on an Opening Day Double-A roster and was the youngest Texas Leaguer, period. Of course, the Cardinals’ top prospect doesn’t hit like a teenager. Its raw power is more-more on the right side – it hit an exit speed of 116.2 mph at Single-A Palm Beach last summer – and it exhibits a mature approach that helps it pull steps against hard arms. St. Louis was already busy trying to figure out Nolan Gorman’s positioning since being blocked by Nolan Arenado in the hot corner. He might have another call to make on Walker if he continues to press the issue like this.
Orelvis Martinez, SS/3B, Blue Jays (#37): Double-A
Martinez led all Minor League teenagers last season with 28 homers in 98 games between Single-A Dunedin and High-A Vancouver, so maybe we shouldn’t consider the move to Double-A too aggressive. But only 27 of those contests have been at the senior level, and he’s beaten just .214 with a 99 wRC+ in 125 plate appearances there. Even though a .197 BABIP brought those numbers down, it wouldn’t have been out of place for the Jays to let their No. 2 prospect build a stronger High-A resume before pushing him to Double-A. Instead, Toronto clearly believes that Martinez, a potential power hitter with improving K-rates, could handle New Hampshire off the jump, and the fact that he’s hitting .750 in his first four games only reinforces that. this belief.
Eury Pérez, RHP, Marlins (No. 40): Double-A
Only one 18-year-old opened the 2022 season at Double-A. To put that into more perspective, Zero 18 opened the 2022 season at High-A. And yet there was Pérez, as Pensacola’s opening day starter last Friday — a week before his 19th birthday. There’s something to be said for starting the 6ft 8in right-hander in warmer weather than he would have experienced at High-A Beloit, but he could also be ready for Double-A anyway with three pitches potential plus and plus -medium control. After all, Pérez struck out 108 in 78 innings while posting a 1.96 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in Single-A and High-A in 2021. did on these circuits, he could be the best prospect in the game. by the fall.
Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates (#26): Triple-A
Again, trying to save that for Minor League decisions, but we’d be remiss not to mention Cruz’s move to Indianapolis this month. For one, the 6-foot-7 shortstop saw Triple-A for just six games last season. On the other, he also made it to the Majors and displayed his plus-plus raw power in a brief two-game span. It wasn’t really a sample, but if the Pirates thought their No. 3 prospect was ready to see The Show in October, it stands to reason he would stay ready in April, barring a major downturn in the spring. who hasn’t it doesn’t seem to come. Defense was the first explanation, and Cruz got a start in left field for the first time in his career. But it will only be so long before his bat needs the challenge of the Majors, no matter how he looks on the court.
George Kirby, RHP, Mariners (No. 31): Double-A
Seattle fans will recall that Kirby was in talks for a rotational Major League spot this spring. Instead, it will open two levels below the big ones. Again, the weather and the general environment could play a role. Opening it up to Triple-A Tacoma (which played at home last week and is in batting-friendly Albuquerque during its current streak) could have led to more inconsistencies than a posting to warmer Arkansas. . Additionally, Kirby has only pitched 26 innings for Travelers in 2021 due to shoulder fatigue. Still, his increased speed and precise control were good enough to make him an MLB contender in Arizona, so a move to the Pacific Coast League may not have been far away.
Austin Wells, C, Yankees (No. 95): High-A
After opening in Tampa, the 2020 first-round pick hit a solid .274/.376/.473 with seven homers in 170 board appearances at High-A Hudson Valley to complete his first full season. He then gained additional experience in the Arizona Fall League and more than held his own with a .344/.456/.578 line in 79 plate appearances in the admittedly pro-prospect showcase. hitters. Nonetheless, the former Arizona Wildcat’s time in the Southwest showed just how advanced his bat was. So it’s a little surprising to see him back in the South Atlantic League to start 2022. Wells’ defense behind home plate is even more of a concern than Cruz’s on the dirt, but like his Pittsburgh counterpart, his game offense (led by an above-average hit and power tools) might need a new challenge in early spring.