Bold predictions for MLB’s top prospects

Sports

This week ESPN MLB draft and prospect expert Kiley McDaniel ranked his top 100 MLB prospects for 2022. Now, it’s time to have some fun with the biggest names on the list.

We asked our MLB experts to give us one bold 2022 prediction for the one prospect in the top 100 whom they are most excited about going into the new season. From when players will get called up to the majors to how many home runs young sluggers will hit and even who could make franchise history as a rookie, here’s what they had to say.

Adley Rutschman (No. 1): Will be an All-Star in 2022

Kiley McDaniel called him a “borderline-flawless future star,” which says a lot about Rutschman’s ceiling but also says a lot about his present. Rutschman is a 24-year-old who excelled at the upper levels in 2021 and should undoubtedly crack the Opening Day roster in 2022, service-time manipulation be damned. He is a supremely polished hitter with exceptional defensive ability, and, with no disrespect meant to Cedric Mullins, he might already be the best player on the Orioles. — Alden Gonzalez


Bobby Witt Jr. (No. 2): Will already be considered the best shortstop in Royals history — by the end of this season

While that sounds outlandish to say about someone who has yet to play in the majors, know that it’s a very low bar. The career leader in wins above average for K.C. players who played shortstop at least half the time is Rey Sanchez (4.0 WAA). Assuming Witt gets at least half his turns at short (no guarantee), consider that six rookies have topped that figure in one season since 2001. Witt is good enough to make that seven. — Bradford Doolittle


Julio Rodriguez (No. 3): Will go deep … in October

The Mariners were the big American League surprise of 2021, just missing the playoffs, but it’s clear what this roster needs: a superstar. It’s been so long since they’ve produced a homegrown star that the last one — Kyle Seager — just retired. Not only will Rodriguez debut after spending a couple of months in Triple-A, but he’ll help the Mariners end their long playoff drought and hit a home run in the postseason. — David Schoenfield


Anthony Volpe (No. 6): Will force his way into the shortstop conversation in the Bronx

At some point in 2022, there will be debate within the Yankees’ organization about whether to promote Volpe to the big leagues. He’ll start the upcoming season in the minors and it may be that most of his plate appearances in ’22 occur in Double-A. But the belief in Volpe’s intangibles — as well as his potential as a hitter — remind you of the discussions of 1995 about when to promote Derek Jeter. You can sense this: The Yankees’ staff can’t wait to bet on his talent and character. — Buster Olney


Spencer Torkelson (No. 7): Will win American League Rookie of the Year

After rewriting Arizona State’s record book, the former No.1 overall pick flew through Detroit’s system last year. Even pitcher-friendly Comerica Park won’t impact his power. He’s the real deal, and he’ll show it in the majors in 2022. — Jesse Rogers


Oneil Cruz (No. 13): Will lead his team in two major offensive categories

Say hello to your 2022 edition of Adolis Garcia, a big-time power/speed combination player who will take the National League by surprise — at least early in the year. Cruz’s raw tools, not to mention his having the advantage of relative obscurity while playing for a rebuilding Pirates team, will fluster pitchers during his rookie year. While I anticipate they’ll eventually adjust to him and potentially cause a Garcia-like second-half cooling, he’ll nevertheless lead his own team in home runs AND stolen bases. — Tristan Cockcroft


Shane Baz (No. 15): Will be the Rays’ No. 1 starter — this October

Poor Double-A and Triple-A hitters stood no chance against Baz in 2021 — he struck out 113 batters and walked only 13, the best ratio (8.7) of its kind across all affiliated baseball (minimum 70 innings pitched). Given the Rays player development track record, Baz promises to be the most impactful pitching prospect — on any big league team — this season. — Paul Hembekides


Nolan Gorman (No. 18): Will hit 30 home runs for the Cardinals this season

Three Cardinals players hit at least 30 home runs last season. Each bats right-handed. Gorman hits home runs from the left side and is certainly ready to do this season at the big league level. If the Cards give Gorman a full season in the majors, he might even lead the team in home runs. — Eric Karabell


Marco Luciano (No. 30): Will be on the postseason roster, if the Giants make the postseason

This is bold, I get it, because Luciano is 20 and the Giants are not known for rushing prospects. But when I saw Luciano twice at Low-A San Jose last season (small sample size, whatever), his bat speed and power were superior, and the universal DH opens the door to bats that play. — Tim Keown


Triston Casas (No. 46): Will become the Red Sox first baseman of the future … now

Casas will stabilize the Red Sox at first base for the near future. The 22-year-old has hit at every level of the minor leagues and continues to improve.

Casas made waves as a member of Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, receiving praise from manager Mike Scioscia. Boston has looked for a steady first baseman since trading Mitch Moreland in 2020, and Casas should solidify the spot in Boston as soon as he arrives. — Joon Lee


Eury Perez (No. 55): Will become the best pitching prospect in all of baseball

By the end of the season, Perez, the fourth Marlins right-handed starter on the list, will be the best pitching prospect in baseball. Leapfrogging Max Meyer, Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera is one thing — Sanchez and Cabrera should graduate — but Perez’s combination of size (6-foot-8), stuff (a high-octane fastball, deadly changeup and hard curve) and age (18 on Opening Day) give him the highest ceiling in the minor leagues. After dominating both Class A levels last year, Miami’s best pitching prospect since Jose Fernandez is on a similarly fast track. — Jeff Passan

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