On the eve of Opening Day, I’m trying to recall the last time so many high-profile rookies were scheduled to break camp with the big club. Might’ve been . . . never? Prospect coverage has come a long way these past few decades. Used to be cool to bash rookies and the prospect lovers who drafted them. Now you’re just leaving money on the table if you ignore the possibility that Julio Rodriguez opens the season in center field for Seattle. 

Focusing on Rodriguez in particular, I moved earlier than Average Draft Position at the time to select him in the 18th round of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. Pick 265. He went inside the top 75 this week. Incredibly weird to me that three weeks of stats is worth 200 draft spots in the echo chamber, but that’s the illusion of certainty for you. Object permanence. I guess there was an outside chance Julio stayed in the minors until July, but not really. Not without a catastrophe of some kind. 

I’m already eager to see how next year’s crop of potential rookies is treated during draft season. Will we overweight the 2022 outcome, which happened partly due to a backlog built from the paradigm of punting combined with a CBA in flux and a lost 2020 season? Or is this simply the new reality? If a player is ready to help generate major league wins for a contending team, he will open the season on the roster. Sounds crazy, I know. 

So let’s run through the list, consider the fates of each player, and celebrate what we all hope will be a new chapter in baseball history, where service time suppression starts to creep away from center stage. 

PS: You can click these names for more extensive profiles of the players. 

Philadephia SS Bryson Stott might not start everyday. At least not right away thanks to Alec Bohm and Didi Gregorius, but I don’t think he’ll be sharing time for long. If he hits, he’ll be out there every day somewhere. I wasn’t drafting Gregorius or Bohm anywhere anyway, but Stott’s arrival is a pretty big arrow down for them. 

Cincinnati RHP Hunter Greene is unlikely to post great ratios, but he’ll rack up the K’s and generate some wins on a solid team in a mediocre division. 

Cincinnati LHP Nick Lodolo features plus command that has him further along than Greene as a pitcher at the moment. He’s gonna have some fantasy-monster outings this year and should wind up among the first faab run’s best values.

Pittsburgh SS Diego Castillo made my top 100 list at 83rd overall last September, and he looks even better now, spitting on tough pitches and raking high fastballs to right field. He’ll have ups and downs like any youngster but has plenty of runway to develop his craft this season. 

I don’t have San Francisco C Joey Bart rostered anywhere. I got blasted two years ago for ranking him pretty low, but he returned zero value in those two years and figured to do so again in 2022 until Buster Posey retired. He’s smelling his chance and smashing the ball this spring, and that coaching staff can perform wonders, so I suspect it’s a good time to buy Bart, who’s price still wears some of the rust formed these past couple seasons. 

Like a lot of catchers, Washington C Keibert Ruiz is hitting well in spring before the wear and tear of the season takes its toll. Looks like a top five-ish redraft option to me at the moment. 

Cleveland OF Steven Kwan is going to hit about .300 with some power and speed, as I shared before he made the roster in my Brash Predictions 2022: Prospects Edition.

Detroit 1B Spencer Torkelson might go through some struggles in the heart of a good lineup, but being surrounded by solid veterans should relieve some pressure. Pretty comfortable penciling in a .255+ batting average with 25+ home runs. 

Kansas City SS Bobby Witt Jr. is the most physically gifted rookie we’ve seen since Mike Trout

I’m pretty down on Anaheim LHP Reid Detmers, comparatively speaking. I won’t be surprised if he’s good against bad teams, but I’ll be very surprised if he can handle the good ones. That’s not much of a knock on a young pitcher, although the young arms with big stuff just have a different path than Detmers, who has to be fine with his below average fastball, which has decent velocity but predictable shape. 

Houston SS Jeremy Peña has been an Itch favorite for a long, long time. Happy to see him get his chance. A 20/15 season is within reason. 

Another longtime Razzball favorite, Minnesota SP Joe Ryan gets the Opening Day nod for the Twinkies, and I’m once again impressed they were able to acquire him for a couple months of Nelson Cruz, and yet Nelson Cruz was relatively cheap and easy to sign again this off-season for anyone who wanted him. 

Oakland OF Cristian Pache has typically been the opposite of an Itch-favorite. I traded him the day I inherited him in a 20-team dynasty a few years back, so worried was I the bottom would fall out any moment. I’m more optimistic about him in Oakland, where they can keep running him out there for the 800 plate appearances or so it might take for him to find his feet. 

Oakland 3B Kevin Smith is going to produce this season. Been a value in every draft or auction I’ve seen even after the trade to Oakland opened up what should be an everyday role. 

Seattle OF Julio Rodriguez is the best young hitter we’ve seen since Juan Soto. Get your offers in now. Might feel like a buy high, but this is likely your last chance, if his team is even open to listening in your league. 

Fittingly enough, Seattle RHP Matt Brash seems like a polarizing prospect. People either love him or think he’ll be a reliever by July, but we know the stuff works. Truly elite fastball/slider combination. If he can command those, he’ll remain in the rotation. If he can spot his change and curve sometimes when he needs them, he’ll thrive. 

Gotta mix in some news here as Tampa continues to do Tampa things. Can’t often see it coming. Whenever the Rays clear money, I wonder if that’s just a domino leading to another domino. Obviously, OF Jose Lowe getting called up is big news for his fantasy outlook. I’m worried Michael Conforto might be a part of this picture, but now let’s celebrate the possibilities of having Josh Lowe in our lineups for about 500 plate appearances. 

I don’t know what to think about 3B Isaac Paredes as a Ray except to think he should’ve always been one. He’s exactly the kind of awkward, Yandy-ish piece they’ve maximized over the years. In fact, I’m half-expecting Yandy Diaz and his 2.8 million dollar contract to be moved to clear the spot for Paredes. 

2B Vidal Brujan remains in a holding pattern. With Meadows and his four million dollar contract off the roster, Kevin Kiermaier could be settled in center. The team reportedly shopped him throughout the off-season, so maybe this deal is an admission Kiermaier couldn’t be sold. Paredes and a draft pick feels like a light return for three seasons of Meadows, but stuff gets weird around Opening Day, and Meadows has been on a roller coaster since his monster season in 2019, but who hasn’t? 

Atlanta RHP Spencer Strider never made a top 100 for me, but he wasn’t far off. He lit up the radar gun all spring, and while he won’t be part of the opening day rotation, I think he’ll go multiple innings a few times before the rosters get trimmed from 28 down to 26. If he pitches well, he’ll stay around. 

 

Special Considerations:

As I build this article (deadline of noon central on Wednesday April 6), San Diego SS CJ Abrams doesn’t know where he’ll be living tomorrow. 

Miami RHP Max Meyer earned a spot in the rotation in my opinion, but he got optioned out of a full rotation and pitched 4.2 innings last night for the AAA club, lining him up perfectly to take Elieser Hernandez’s place if the combacker that hit him in yesterday’s game caused any IL-type damage.

White Sox RHP Michael Kopech is not a rookie, but it’s exciting that he’s getting another chance to start in the major leagues after spending most of 2021 in the bullpen and 2018-2020 rehabbing, being a reality TV personality, marrying a reality TV personality, and divorcing a reality TV personality nine months later. Been a wild stretch of life for all of us these past few years.

Thanks for reading! 

And Happy Opening Day!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

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Sport
Sport
1 month ago

Hey Itch, hope you get a chance to watch some baseball tonight after school!

I had a couple of minor league spots open up in a league. Pretty bare free agent list. I could go with Forrest Whitley, Brendan McKay, or Austin Hendrick.
But also I could go with someone you think might gain some popularity during the season that’s still pretty quiety. James Triantos?Masin Wyn? Or someone likely owned less than 20% that might be a fun one to take a chance on.

I appreciate your thoughts!

Sport
Sport
Reply to  Sport
1 month ago

I went back to your top 75 rankings and found a couple names still available. Elehuris Montero and Liover Peguero. Still like those guys I’m assuming?

Joe Buckyourself
Joe Buckyourself
1 month ago

Itch:

Dynasty Roto
6×6 with OBP, DT
6×6 QS, Holds and Saves are separate cats

We hold 10 minor slots:

Rutschman
Alvarez
Miranda
Frelick
B House
K Watson
H Hernadez
Crow Armstrong
J Allen
Lodolo

I also have L Garcia from Washington who recently was sent back down. I can possibly use the slot once Lodolo moves up.

Question is….. Will Garcia be anything to hold or would you drop him?

Thanks!

LadyScorpio
LadyScorpio
1 month ago

Great article! VERY detailed and informative!!! Btw, Which rookie would you add In a 12 team, roto, saves+holds league… S. Beer, R. Greene, J. Miranda, T. Casas or B. Stott?!?

Last edited 1 month ago by ladyscorpio
NUX
NUX
1 month ago

Happy Opening day!!!!

A great post, among many offseason gems. Thanks for them all. Be well bruthaman

TBS
TBS
1 month ago

12 team dynasty. Keep em all forever. 9 NA spots. Need to cut 3…..

Eury Perez
George Kirby
Kahlil Watson
Jose Miranda
Duran
Dominguez
Veen
Matos
Yorke
Gonzales
Volpe
Mayer

Which 3? In order if you could. Also Vargas is available. Pickup him and drop 4?

Thanks for all you do brother!

Suicide Squeeze
Suicide Squeeze
1 month ago

I’ve not seen a lot of ink spilled for Gabriel Moreno, He’s what, 18th on your rankings? So he must have some upside. I’ve been offered him at $4 for my Ryu at $19. AL only keeper league. I am playing for next year with a lot of young talent (JuRod, Witt, Wander, Brujan, Kelenic, Adell), and am wondering if Moreno is a good stash.

Thanks

NATRONEMEANSBUSINESS
NATRONEMEANSBUSINESS
1 month ago

Am I crazy to want to drop Franmil for Kwan? My league is a weird 8×8 H2H counting hits, avg, bb, tb.

task force
task force
1 month ago

Hey Itch great article!

Tried to get J-Rod in a trade and was countered with a 1 for 1 my Judge for his/her J-Rod… I said no but how much would you offer for J-Rob in redrafts right now?

Jolt In Flow
Jolt In Flow
1 month ago

Itch, you’re the equivalent of that left tackle that has allowed zero sacks of his QB. The QB loves him, the rest of your O-line looks up to you for leadership, and your team’s RB wouldn’t lead the league in rushing without the holes you create for him and the blocking you provide down the field.

I always feel ultra confident in your analysis and it keeps me warm and fuzzy inside. It’s singlehandedly allowed me to create a prospect monster of a team in multiple leagues.

Love your stuff. Keep ‘em coming. Always a highlight to my weekly reads.

Jolt

Jolt In Flow
Jolt In Flow
Reply to  The Itch
1 month ago

Hahaha! Amazing! I’m flattered.

All the best in your leagues this year.

I’m sure I’ll have prospect questions once my 2022 minor league draft starts.

Jolt

Oddball Herrera
Oddball Herrera
1 month ago

What about Mickey Moniak? How does someone so quietly hit 6 hr with a .1200 ops in spring training?

denp1717
denp1717
1 month ago

Watched Miller pitch last night against the Angles. He blew Ohtani away!! Looks good!!!

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Great piece! There are some exiting young players with lots of potential. I already have Witt and Kopech on my roster. Would you recommend picking up CJ Abrams by dropping Myles Straw or Jo Adell? If he’s get a shot in that lineup (possible OF eligibility), I think he might outperform Straw. If I’m way off, let me know! Thanks again!

Last edited 1 month ago by Jeff
Chhhhh
Chhhhh
Reply to  Jeff
1 month ago

I LOVE Abrams and I’m not Itch, but I wouldn’t drop Adell for Abrams this year (especially if it’s a redraft). However, in a dynasty I’d be all over dropping Straw for Abrams (what’s your depth like?)

happyharry
happyharry
1 month ago

Hey Itch,
12 team H2H 6X6-Need to pick up a FA MI, give me your top two in order of this bunch: Torre, Eduardo Escobar, Jean Segura, Wong…Thanks Man.

JDB
JDB
1 month ago

Hey Itch –

I have both J. Sanchez and Santander on my bench and don’t really need either of them. Replace one or both with Kwan and/or Kevin Smith? Thanks, and watch for Ken Waldichuk coming up mid-season for the Yanks – dude’s legit!

zombie
zombie
1 month ago

Great useful stuff, Itch! Thank you. Would you consider Lowe a no brainer over H. Bader, despite the likely frustrating Tampa playing time issues? Overlooking the new toy allure of Josh, Bader’s projections seem similar to what would be considered a successful first season for Lowe. Thanks again!

AJ H
AJ H
1 month ago

Love these posts Itch!

Question for ya, if you could only roster one of these guys in a dynasty league, who would you choose?

Johan Rojas, Coby Mayo, Ronny Mauricio, Benny Montgomery, Jay Allen, or Vaughn Grissom.

Keep up the great work!

Drunk Mets PR Team
Drunk Mets PR Team
1 month ago

All of your work is so great, Itch, can’t tell you how helpful this rundown is. Have been poring over your ranks too.

I recently drafted in an expansive keeper league (keep as many as you want, but we pay escalating costs in our snake draft to keep guys multiple years). Prices for the highest-profile prospects were legit insane, but the slightly lesser prospects and bounce-back types were very cheap.

I ended up with Peña, J. Lowe, Senzel, Voit, and Vaughn. I’m wondering, whether I should swap out Vaughn for someone on the wire — Kwan, Stott, and Diego Castillo are out there. Do you think any of the wire guys have a better chance of making a short-term splash? It’s 6×6 with OPS but I’m really just thinking about overall ceiling with these bench guys.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago

Do you like Stott or Castillo for better early season production?

Thanks

BAC
BAC
1 month ago

5×5 10 team OBP.
Drop Happ / Oneil Cruz for Adell or Abrams?

BAC
BAC
Reply to  The Itch
1 month ago

I have Adolis, Julio, Myles Straw. 10 team so a little tight.

leon
leon
1 month ago

would you roster issacc paredes in a 16 man dynasty? he is available in FA to pick up.

Jimmy
Jimmy
1 month ago

Awesome stuff!…I have Melendez, Moreno and Ruiz…15 team 5×5 dynasty league would you drop Melendez for Diego Castillo, I have Peña as well, but I am loathe to drop him! thoughts?
Thanks Itch! Good luck this year!

steve stevenson
steve stevenson
Reply to  Jimmy
1 month ago

I’m no Itch but I wouldn’t be dropping Melendez for Castillo in a dynasty, though I would be looking to trade as you have a bunch of in-demand catchers who have yet to disappoint owners.

Jimmy
Jimmy
Reply to  The Itch
1 month ago

Maybe Tucker Davidson…..what about dropping Tucker for Strider?

steve stevenson
steve stevenson
1 month ago

Good stuff, Itch! Do you like Kevin Smith enough to roll him out as your 3B in an AL-only keeper? I’m one of the low-money men in the auction tonight. I’m targeting him with a single digit bid; preferably he’d be my corner man but if you think he can hold his own at 3B without being a weak link that’d be huge for the rest of my roster.

The sportsguy
The sportsguy
Reply to  steve stevenson
1 month ago

Picked him up in my 10 team AL only as last hitter for $1…auction was Sunday…good luck but he should be pretty cheap

steve stevenson
steve stevenson
Reply to  The Itch
1 month ago

Thanks! Yeah I’m hoping to bleed the room on some of the big 3B and then try to get Smith (he’ll go around $6-7 is my guess). If I can pull that off then I can splurge on a couple P and secure at least 1 C who’s not a total black hole and leave the room with Smith as my worst non-C bat, which’ll leave me feeling pretty good about things.

toolshed
toolshed
1 month ago

Thanks Itch. So lodolo made the team and is likely to pitch April 13. It seems like he is more ready than Green and is the safer and maybe better option this year. Brash has a spot now but there seems to be questions about his control, not his his stuff which is nasty. Who would you rather have this year: lodolo or brash? The reds rotation is kind of up in the air once castillo ans minor return. Castillo, mahle are locks. Minor is too since they signed him and is a vet. Not sure about the others. Thanks