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Prospects Set To Join The Elite Ranks in 2022

In the dynasty world, we’re always looking to build the best farm system we can. Part of what goes into that build is jumping on prospects on the rise before their price tags rise to elite levels. None of the prospects discussed today are what I’d call true breakouts as they all began breaking out in 2021 and made names for themselves in dynasty circles. But I’m going to discuss eight prospects on the rise that have the potential to develop into elite dynasty prospects in 2022, potentially rising all the way into my top-20 overall. If you wait any longer on these prospects, you’ll surely have to pay an elite price tag next offseason.

For this article, I’m not including prospects that are already fairly close to my top-20 overall. So, you won’t see guys like Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawlar, Jordan Walker, or Kahlil Watson in this piece.

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Prospects Set To Join The Elite Ranks in 2022

Nick Yorke (2B – BOS)

Nick Yorke has gone from a “who the bleep is that guy” to one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system in short order. While he certainly was a surprising first-round selection back in 2020, Yorke has done his best to show that Boston was spot on in selecting him that high. As a 19-year-old for the entire 2021 season, Yorke reached Hi-A in late-August and really flourished at both levels. In 442 combined plate appearances, Yorke slashed .325/.412/.516 slash line with 39 extra-base hits, 14 doubles, and 13 steals.

Yorke has long been lauded for his hit tool and was considered one of the best pure hitters in the 2020 draft class. Those skills have been very apparent in the minors so far with that high average, 11.8% walk rate, 15.7% strikeout rate, 10.3 SwStr, and high contact rates. Yorke posted an 84% contact rate in Lo-A before dipping slightly to 73.8% in 21 Hi-A games. But while the hit tool has come as advertised, Yorke’s power and speed have exceeded expectations. He wasn’t overly efficient on the bases last season with a 59.1% success rate, but Yorke has at least average speed to pair with above-average raw power. His contact skills and bat speed definitely help aid his power output.

While he might top out at 20 homers and 12-15 steals, Yorke could add a .290+ AVG with that and plenty of runs scored batting near the top of the order. If he has another dominant showing in 2022 in Hi-A and Double-A, Yorke will likely find himself well inside the top-25 on many rankings by season’s end.

Cristian Hernandez (SS – CHC)

Signed out of the Dominican Republic last January, Cristian Hernandez was considered one of the top players in the class along with Wilman Diaz and Carlos Colmenarez. The other two had so-so debuts, but Hernandez raised his stock dramatically and has fantasy stud written all over him. In 47 DSL games, Hernandez slashed .285/.398/.424 with five homers, 21 steals, and nearly as many walks (30) as strikeouts.

The 6’2 Hernandez demonstrates an advanced feel for hitting for someone his age with a solid plate approach as well. Both his 15.7% walk rate and 20.4% strikeout rate were encouraging last season, and there could be a plus hit tool here when all is said and done. Hernandez exhibits plus bat speed with a knack for barreling pitches up and driving them with authority. His plus raw power didn’t show up a ton last season, but there are 25+ homers in this bat as he develops physically and adds bulk to his frame.

A potential plus-hit, plus-power shortstop with above-average speed in a system that has a strong track record in hitter development is exactly the prospect I’d want to go all-in on in my dynasty leagues. Hernandez’s stock has already begun rising considerably and he has the skills to flirt with top-10 status by this time next year.

Colton Cowser (OF – BAL)

I’m already beginning to plant my flag on Colton Cowser. The 5th overall pick in the 2021 draft excelled during his final season at Sam Houston State with 16 homers and 17 steals in 55 games with a .374/.490/.680 slash line. On top of that, he walked more than he struck out. But even with the Orioles showing confidence in him by making him a top-5 pick, some analysts questioned his opponent quality from college as Sam Houston State didn’t play many big conference schools. That’s all true, but what do you want Cowser to do? Complain to the AD?

Cowser’s offensive onslaught continued in the minors after the draft. In 31 games between the Complex level and Lo-A, Cowser slashed .375/.490/.492 with two homers, seven steals, and once again, more walks than strikeouts. This is easily a plus hit tool with exceptional pitch recognition and plate discipline that should allow Cowser to settle in as a top-of-the-order producer down the road. But how much power and speed will he bring? While Cowser isn’t going to be a stud in those two departments, he’s potentially above-average in both and will get to play in hitter-friendly Camden Yards and the AL East. Flirting with 20/20 annually with a strong AVG & OBP is realistic, giving Cowser exciting five-category upside.,

Harry Ford (C – SEA)

First of all, ignore the C next to his name. It’s unlikely that Ford will remain behind the plate longterm and that’s not the reason why Seattle targeted him early in the 2021 draft. They targeted him because of his immense upside at the plate, not his abilities behind it. Ford truly has the potential to be plus across the board offensively. According to Perfect Game, Ford recorded a 6.50 second 60-yard dash time (99th percentile in 2021 HS class), a 97 mph Exit Velocity (98th percentile), and also a 98th percentile bat speed. All incredibly impressive marks.

Ford quickly put those skills on full display in the minors with a .291/.400/.582 slash line along with a trio of homers and steals in just 19 games. He also racked up seven doubles as well. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto was on 710 ESPN Seattle last year and said that Ford was “a freakish athlete” and “he’s about a 65 runner and we feel he has 70 or maybe more potential power upside.” That’s high praise right there. Dipoto and the Mariners are incredibly bullish on Ford’s offensive abilities and we should listen when teams show excitement like this.

Elly De La Cruz (SS/3B – CIN)

One of the buzziest breakout prospects in the 2nd half of 2021 was Cincinnati infielder, Elly De La Cruz.  The tall and lanky De La Cruz compiled 18 doubles, nine triples, eight homers, and 10 steals in 265 plate appearances with a .296/.336/.539 slash line. De La Cruz flashed his plus or better raw power at both levels, finishing with a .243 ISO and nearly half of his base hits going for extra bases.

Power and speed ooze out of De La Cruz’s pores with both grading as plus or better with plenty of additional power projection in his slight frame. However, the hit tool, mainly his approach, are still in question. While De La Cruz hit for an impressive .296 AVG, there are plenty of red flags in his approach and batted ball profile that will need to be corrected before more advanced pitching exposes him. De La Cruz is incredibly aggressive at the plate, recording a lowly 5.3% walk rate to pair with a 30.2% strikeout rate. His contact rates were only 70% in rookie ball and 67% in Lo-A.

Add in a lofty 20.1% swinging-strike rate and a pull-happy approach, and there are plenty of areas to work on before De La Cruz can potentially reach this elite level that he has the potential to reach. But if the approach can be refined and contact skills improved, De La Cruz could be a 25/20 threat with a chance to stick at short too. If not, he’ll likely slide over to third base, especially if he outgrows short, which is definitely a possibility.

Kevin Alcantara (OF – CHC)

Personally, I’m ecstatic that Kevin Alcantara is out of the Yankees system. For one, he’s now in one of the top organizations for hitting development, and his immense talent could make him an offensive standout at the highest level. I’d rather have him in the NL Central than facing my Red Sox 18-19 times a season.

Listed at 6’6/188, Alcantara already has plus or better raw power with plenty of projection left in his frame. He does a great job keeping his hands inside the ball and creating plus bat speed through the zone with a swing that generates plenty of loft. He’s just scratching the surface of his power potential as well and could develop into a 70-grade power bat down the road that will get to call the hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley Field his home ballpark.

Alcantara is far from an all-or-nothing masher though. He improved his walk rate from 4.6% in 2019 to 12.3% in 2021, albeit, with a 26.1% strikeout rate. He’s also a plus runner presently that should still be above-average if he bulks up as he ages. Long-term, Alcantara projects as a 50/55-hit, 60/70-power, 55-speed outfielder and he could skyrocket into top-25 rankings with a strong 2022 showing.

James Triantos (SS – CHC)

Some may say that the 2021 draft class lacked upside, but here we are with the third player from this class. James Triantos has arguably raised his stock more than any other player from this class from July until now. Triantos raked in 25 games after the draft, putting up a stellar .327/.376/.594 slash line with 14 extra-base hits, six homers, three steals, and a .267 ISO. His 16.5% strikeout rate is also rather impressive, albeit, with only a 6.4% walk rate. But hey, it was only 25 games. There’s plenty of time for Triantos to develop more patience at the plate.

Offensively, Triantos has a real chance to stand out, regardless of what position he winds up at. He’s a plus of better hitter right now with above-average power already and the potential for more. Triantos flashed those abilities early and often in rookie ball last season, showing an all-fields ability and quick hands. His ability to get the barrel on the ball consistently is rare at this age and bodes well for his future development. Even if he’s only an average runner at best, there should still be at least 5-10 steals in Triantos’ profile to pair with a potential 60+ hit, 60 power combination.

Daniel Espino (RHP – CLE)

While hitting prospects always get valued a bit higher, I couldn’t finish this article without including at least one pitcher. And if I’m going to include an arm, of course it’s going to be Daniel Espino. There’s so damn much to love in Espino’s profile. I could honestly ramble on for days. Espino posted a solid 3.73 ERA and 1.12 WHIP across 20 starts last season split between Lo-A and Hi-A, but where he really stood out was in the strikeout and swinging strike department where he sat at 40.5% and 20.2% respectively. That swinging strike rate was higher than both Shane Baz and Grayson Rodriguez’s marks.

Espino’s arsenal really stands out. He works in the mid to upper-90’s consistently from a lower release point and creates explosive life on his fastball. Offsetting the heater is a trio of impressive secondaries in his curveball, slider, and changeup. Both the curveball and slider are plus offerings and the changeup isn’t far behind, flashing above-average or better at times.

With a trio of plus pitches and a potential above-average changeup as well, the sky is the limit for Espino who has really improved as a pitcher over the last couple of years thanks to the top-notch Cleveland player development team. With continued refinement in the command and control departments, Espino could develop into a frontline starter and is the current leader in the club house for my top pitching prospect in 2023.

Honorable Mention: Benny Montgomery (OF – COL), Deyvison De Los Santos (3B – ARI), Reginald Preciados (SS – CHC), Eury Perez (RHP – MIA), Jose Salas (MI – MIA), Coby Mayo (3B – BAL), Andy Pages (OF – LAD), Pete Crow-Armstrong (OF – CHC), Anthony Garcia (1B – NYY)

Media Credit: Kelly O’Connor (@SittingStillSox), Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja), MLB Pipeline, Mariners Player Development, Chris Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh)

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1 Comment
  1. Joe Wegner says

    Cubs well represented. Maybe the rebuild is going better than I thought.

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