Welcome to the May 15th edition of the 2022 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings.
During the season the prospect rankings are updated on the 15th and 30th of each month.
This google sheets link shows all the 2022 updates for a historical perspective.
2022 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings
It was another update with a lot of changes. Before we discuss the updates we will look at the trend of elite hitting prospects struggling in the majors. After reviewing the prospect rankings, we will also look at several prospects that appear to have improved in 2022.
Top Position Prospects Not Hitting in the Majors
As someone who puts together a list ranking baseball prospects, I do not believe that we just ignore the fact that in recent years hitting prospects that have reached the majors have mostly been disappointing.
In 2018 and 2019 there was a strong crop of hitting prospects that debuted and had early success in the major leagues including Ronald Acuna Jr. Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette, and Fernando Tatis Jr. In a few of these cases (Soto and Tatis) they even arrived a couple of years earlier than expected. However, since then the major leagues have proven to be very difficult for the best hitting prospects.
Wander Franco, who was the top prospect in baseball after Guerrero graduated is an exception and has had a strong start to his major league career. Luis Robert has been able to improve his approach at the major league level since his MLB debut in 2020. However, other top hitting prospects have really struggled in the majors.
Adell and Kelenic Demoted
Jo Adell and Jarred Kelenic are no longer prospects but were both generally ranked as the number two prospect in baseball when they debuted and so far their major league careers have not gone as expected. Both are now back at AAA after again having poor results in the major to begin 2022.
When Adell was initially called up to the majors in 2020 he struggled terribly to make contact with a 41.7% strikeout rate. He spent most of 2021 at AAA and appeared to make progress with cutting down on the strikeouts. However, in 2022 Adell was overtaken on the depth chart by Taylor Ward in spring training and continued to have a difficult time tracking fly balls in the outfield.
I believe that Adell could put up respectable offensive numbers if he played every day but based on how Ward has started the year it appears the Angels made the correct decision and Adell is clearly a liability in the field. Of course, with Shohei Ohtani, designated hitter is not an option for Adell on the Angels. Adell was sent down to AAA on May 3rd.
Despite only 21 games of upper level experience in the minor leagues, when Kelenic was sent down to the minors to begin 2021 it was believed that it was only due to service time reasons. Kelenic got off to a big start at AAA Tacoma and was called up to the majors after just six games.
Kelenic has had issues with pitch recognition and the Mariners sent him back to AAA a month later. Kelenic spent a bit more than a month in AAA when he had a 140 wRC+ and was called back up on July 16th. Again, Kelenic had issues in the majors, but he finished the year on a positive note and the hope was that Kelenic was ready to meet expectations in 2022. Kelenic was hitting just .140/.219/.291 with a 37.59% strikeout rate when he was sent down to the minor leagues on May 13th.
Dylan Carlson was ranked as a top ten prospect in baseball after a strong 2019 minor league season. He was considered a safe prospect whose floor appeared to be solid major league regular. Carlson has now played parts of three seasons in the major leagues and after a decent 2021 season, he has gotten off to a terrible start in 2022.
Four of the top six prospects in my rankings began the year in the majors but only Julio Rodriguez at 91 has a wRC+ above 70. A wRC+ of 100 is average. It is fair to say that Bobby Witt Jr, Julio Rodriguez, and Spencer Torkelson are going through growing plain in their first month or so of major league experience and could turn things around very quickly.
Rodriguez has actually tied for the lead the majors with ten stolen bases which was not expected to be a big part of his game.
My sixth-ranked prospect, C.J. Abrams has just 42 games of experience in full-season minor leagues coming into the season after missing much of 2021 with a leg injury. He surprisingly made the Padres opening day roster and started 17 of the Padres first 30 games. Abrams was sent down to AAA on May 10th.
What is the reason that the top-hitting prospects have not found instant success the last few years?
I think the biggest factor may have just be evening out the success. There are only so many stars. Between 2016 and 2019 a number of prospects were called up from the minors and helped fantasy managers immediately. Trea Turner (he was called up a bit in 2015, but really prospered when we got regular playing time in July 2016) and Cody Bellinger (2017) are examples. There were an unusual number of stars that made their major league debut during this time and it may be that the crop of top prospects that have come up in the last couple of years are not as good. The law of numbers.
Major league pitching is tough. There is a school of thought that the gap between major league pitching and minor league pitching is greater now than in the past. I am not sure how this can be measured or if there is an explanation for this that makes sense. However, clearly runs are down in baseball in 2022 and factors such the baseball and humidors appear to be contributing to this.
I believe that the cancellation of the minor league season in 2020 may be a factor for a couple of reasons.
There is a belief by some in baseball that player development can take place just as well in an alternate training environment rather than playing minor league games. I disagree especially for the more advanced prospects and think that some of the issues that Kelenic and Adell for example are having would have been exposed in minor league games if there was a normal 2020 minor league season.
There was limited access to information at the alternate training site so reports were magnified and there was no way of verifying the reports. Supposedly Kelenic was dominating at the Alternate Training Site. The Mariners only had so many pitchers at the Alternate Site which he saw on a regular basis. If he was dominating, how meaningful was it?
Tracking a flyball is something you typically take for granted with a professional outfielder. Adell is a good athlete so it is reasonable to think he would be at least an average outfielder. My assumption is that Adell is able to track a fly ball easily enough normally but in a major league stadium under the lights is where he has issues. In addition, he did play 27 games at the end of 2019 at AAA and he struck out 43 times. If he had begun the 2020 season at AAA both the strikeouts and the flyball issue would have been evident in AAA stadiums which are bigger than stadiums at the lower levels and he may not have been called up without improvement in those areas.
There is also a belief that prospects are better scouted today in the minors and that when a top prospect reaches the majors today there is more information available that a pitcher can use to their advantage. In the past, it took more time for a scouting report to emerge on a prospect.
I do believe that Bobby Witt Jr and Julio Rodriguez especially are future stars. Adley Rutschman and Rily Green are top hitting prospects returning from injuries that will debut in the majors in the near future. I think both will also have some growing pains and not be major contributors in 2022 although I like them for 2023.
Currently, rookie pitching prospects are performing better than rookie hitting prospects but I expect that the trend will change at some point in the future.
Prospect Ranking Changes
A couple of Rockies shortstops were among the prospects moving up the list for this update.
|224||Trent Palmer||80||RHP||Blue Jays||High A|
|272||Antoine Kelly||53||LHP||Brewers||High A|
|221||Evan Carter||52||CF||Rangers||High A|
|296||Wilmer Flores||47||RHP||Tigers||High A|
|85||Michael Harris II||33||CF||Braves||AA|
|162||Gavin Williams||30||RHP||Guardians||High A|
|336||Connor Seabold||16||RHP||Red Sox||AAA|
The season is more than a month old and these prospects have moved down after getting off to a slow start.
|348||Joe Gray Jr.||-32||CF||Brewers||High A|
There are 27 new additions to the prospect ranking which pushed the total over 400 prospects that are ranked.
|199||Bryan Ramos||3B||White Sox||High A|
|260||Royber Salinas||RHP||Braves||High A|
|284||Mason Englert||RHP||Rangers||High A|
|285||Nick Swiney||LHP||Giants||High A|
|319||Sem Robberse||RHP||Blue Jays||High A|
|326||Chris Murphy||LHP||Red Sox||AA|
|341||Jeremy De La Rosa||CF||Nationals||A|
|358||Brainer Bonaci||2B||Red Sox||A|
|398||Cade Povich||LHP||Twins||High A|
|405||Lenyn Sosa||SS||White Sox||AA|
|406||Mason Montgomery||LHP||Rays||High A|
|407||Gordon Graceffo||RHP||Cardinals||High A|
Prospects That Have Caught My Eye
For this edition of the prospect rankings, I will look at several prospects who have shown improvement this year.
First 2021 Draft Pick to Reach the Majors
A lot was made of the Angel using all 20 of their 2021 draft picks on pitchers. The Dodgers and Blue Jays were not far behind in focusing on pitchers. It was a volume-based approach and it certainly was unexpected that the 321st pick in the draft ended up reaching the majors first and had a sensational major league debut.
Chase Silseth pitched in both the SEC for Tennessee and the PAC 12 for Arizona in college and showed flashes. The Angels selected Silseth in the 11th round and signed him for $480,000 which was their fifth-highest bonus of their 2021 draft picks. Silseth was assigned to AA Rocket City and got off to an excellent start in 26 innings with a strikeout minus walk rate of 30.3% and a batting average against of .167.
When the Angels needed a spot start they called up Silseth and he pitched six shutout innings allowing just one hit and two walks. This is a talented pitcher who should not be overlooked because his college stats at Arizona were mediocre.
White Sox Infielder
After graduating several big named prospects in recent years, the White Sox farm system do not have many prospects left. While Lenyn Sosa has always been young for his age, there was not much to get excited about with no speed and little patience.
However, in 2022, the 22-year-old is in AA and the walk rate has improved(12 in 30 games versus 16 in 115 games in 2021) and the power is starting to come (205 ISO).
The White Sox do not have a long-term second baseman and if Sosa keeps it up, he could get a shot as soon as 2023.
Does What Happens in Vegas Matter For a Hitter?
The Braves selected Shea Langeliers with the ninth overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Baylor. Langeliers always struck me a solid defensive catcher who was a safe bet to become a major league starting catcher who would hit for a low average with some pop. After hitting 22 homers at AA in 2021, Langeliers was included in the trade package the Athletics received for Matt Olson.
Langeliers has gotten off to a fast start with AAA Las Vegas with 11 homers and a 160 wRC+ in his first 30 games. It is difficult to determine how much of his fast start is due to actual improvement and how much is due to the favorable hitting environment in Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League. Last year, Carlos Perez hit 31 homers in 97 games for Las Vegas after only reaching double-figure homers once previously in a long minor league career.
There is also the question of how the Athletics will handle catcher going forward between Langeliers and Sean Murphy. Murphy is one of the Athletics’ better talents on their major league roster and he is young enough that he is not making much money yet.
Another UVA Pitcher to Watch
It seems like we discuss University of Virginis pitchers frequently. The lefthanded Andrew Abbott was the Reds second round pick in 2021. At 6’0″ 180 lbs he is not physically imposing and his best pitch is probably his curveball. Abbott spent four years at UVA and will be 23 next month. Abbott was primarily a reliever in college until his last year when he made 17 starts and struck out 162 batters in 106.2 innings.
Abbott was too advanced to begin 2022 for High A Dayton. In 27 innings Abbott allowed just two runs and had double figure strikeouts in three of his five games. Abbott was promoted to AA Chattanooga on May 10th. In his AA debut, Abbott struck out 12 in 5.2 scoreless innings with no walks.
He is an advanced pitcher with a high floor who should be in Cincinnati by 2023.
Opportunities in Oakland
There are opportunities on bad teams and Max Schuemann could be a source of cheap speed in the not-so-distant future. A 20th round pick in 2018 out of Eastern Michigan, Schuemann has always been able to steal a base and he is versatile defensively. Schuemann has played everywhere except catcher and coming into 2022 he has stolen 88 bases in 258 games including 52 stolen bases in 57 attempted in 119 games in 2021.
Schuemann split 2021 between High A Lansing and AA Midland and hit much better in the second half in AA (.320/.398/.416) than he did in the first half in High A (.224/.347/.363) partially due to a .393 BABIP in AA.
Back in AA to begin 2022, Schuemann is hitting .398/.504/.551 in the first 26 games. An unsustainable .500 BABIP is helping but with his speed, his BABIP is likely to be on the higher end. Look for Schuemann to be promoted to AAA soon and if he continues to hit, he could be in Oakland later this summer.
A Big Twin Pitching Prospect
The Twins pitching development is underrated. At 6’6″ 235 lbs, Brent Headrick is a huge lefthander who was the Twins ninth round selection in 2019 from Illinois State. Despite his size, Headrck struck out less than a batter an inning in college. Headrick only pitched 3.2 innings as a pro in 2019 and then the 2020 minor league season was canceled.
Headrick spent most of 2021 in Single-A with Fort Myers, he got off to a sold start but struggled in July and spent August on the injured list.
Now 24, Headrick is old for the level but he has been dominant at High A Cedar Rapids to begin 2022. Batters are hitting .126 against Headrick and he has struck out 42.7% of batters. Headrick will likely be in AA soon and that will be a big test for him.
Rockies Pitching Prospect Looks Much Better
Here is some next level prospect analysis. If a prospect’s ERA starts with a two that is good but it is not good if a WHIP begins with two.
The Rockie selected Karl Kauffmann with the 77th pick out of University of Michigan. He appeared to be a seasoned college pitcher who threw 130.2 innings his junior year in 2019 so Kaufmann did not pitch at all as a pro that year after getting drafted. When minor league baseball resumed in 2021, Kauffmann made two starts in High A and was quickly promoted to AA Hartford.
It did not go well in AA for Kauffmann in 2021. In 82 innings Kaufmann allowed a .343 batting average against (a .379 BABIP did not help) but his strikeout minus walks rate was just 5.9%.
In 2022 Kauffmann is back at AA Hartford and has had considerably more success. In six starts, batters are hitting .220 against Kauffmann and his strikeout minus walk rate is 24.3%.
2022 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings
*Note ECR column is not how much the players rank has changed, it is the difference between my ranks and Fantasy Pros Expert Consensus Rankings