The 10 MLB prospects who had breakout seasons in 2022 (2)

The 10 MLB prospects who had breakout seasons in 2022 (2)

Table of contents

The 10 MLB prospects who had breakout seasons in 2022 (2)

The 10 MLB prospects who had breakout seasons in 2022  (2)

6. Andrew Painter, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Preseason Prospect Grade: 45 FV
Painter was the 13th overall pick in 2021 and to be picked that high as a prep righty when every team is aware of the risks picking a prep arm that high, you have to check a lot of boxes. Painter (great pitcher name) had shown plus traits across the board for years, along with starter command. Often, in their first pro seasons, these types will be fastball command-focused with higher walk rates and lower K rates as they focus on first principles to ready themselves for the big leagues. Painter had other ideas, going from 92-96 mph for most high school starts to sitting at 95-99 and hitting 100 mph. Like Ricky Tiedemann below, this extra arm speed also helped the crispness of his secondary stuff. His command didn’t regress at all and he reached Double-A as a 19-year-old, dealing all the livelong day en route to landing at 32nd on my midseason list.

7. Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Preseason Prospect Grade: 40+ FV, breakout pick

I scouted Tiedemann at Southern California junior college before the 2021 draft and was intrigued by his three above-average pitches and starter feel from a low slot with a lively sinker. I noted that progressive, numbers-oriented teams seemed to like him the most as low arm slots became en vogue. I assumed he’d go around the middle of round two, but he somehow (I still don’t know why) slipped to the 91st overall pick, later in round three. Tiedemann was a young, 18-year-old, first-year JuCo prospect at draft time and he had physical projection in his 6-foot-4 frame, but I also didn’t think his velocity would spike this season from 89-93 before the draft to 93-96 mph this spring, peaking at 98 mph. His off-speed stuff got more lively with the added arm speed, his command didn’t recede at all and he reached Double-A as a 19-year-old, ranking 41st on my midseason list.

8. Elly De La Cruz, SS, Cincinnati Reds

Preseason Prospect Grade: 50 FV (100th on the Top 100)

I ranked De La Cruz as the last player on my top 100 as a copout of sorts — I was terrified by the downside of his approach but knew I couldn’t leave the upside off of the list completely. The upside being Oneil Cruz-level stuff: He’s listed at 6-foot-5 but is taller than that, he’s a plus-plus runner with 80 raw power potential and has a shot to play shortstop. De La Cruz’s plate discipline in a 50-game sample at Low-A last spring (5% walks, 31% strikeouts) was a blinking red light to me that he was so far above his competition physically that he could bully them, but that approach wouldn’t work as is at higher levels, thus there may be some growing pains.

Well I’m the one that whiffed on that one, as De La Cruz raised his walk rate to about 8% while keeping his strikeout rate around the same level and hitting 28 home runs across High-A and Double-A as a 20-year-old. I’m still a bit scared of De La Cruz, like how despite Bobby Witt Jr.’s crazy tools and performance in Triple-A, his approach had undermined his MLB debut season. I also wondered if this would happen to Julio Rodriguez in his MLB debut and it did not at all; same goes for Acuna. Sometimes this stuff doesn’t matter and the story is the raw tools and ability to improve and adjust and De La Cruz may just have “it.” He was 20th on my midseason update and I think he’ll end up closer to 10th on my winter top 100.

9. Ceddanne Rafaela, SS, Boston Red Sox

Preseason Prospect Grade: 35+ FV
I had Rafaela at the lowest prospect tier on the Red Sox list entering the season. I had him as a standout, plus-plus defender but my only note on his offense is that he “swung too much,” while the offensive tool grades were fringy. He may still swing too much, as his walk rates hover around 5-6%, but it’s notable that Rafaela hit 20 homers, 9 triples and 32 doubles this season, evenly split across High-A and Double-A while young for the level at then-20 years old. Combine that with his plus speed and versatility (he can play basically any position at an above-average level) and he’s at least a top-tier utility type with more raw tools than you expect in the Ben Zobrist or Marwin Gonzalez-type profile. Though, he may be more of an Adolis Garcia or Cedric Mullins, with some similarities to another 2022 prospect breakout in Brewers’ utilityman Esteury Ruiz. The point is that he’s definitely something now, while before this season not many people thought that, especially me.

10. Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Preseason Prospect Grade: 40 FV

Encarnacion-Strand was traded from the Twins in the Tyler Mahle deal and there are a half-dozen others in the honorable mention who were also traded during the season, which seems notable. He was drafted in the late fourth round in 2021 due to strong exit velocities and he still has plus-power, but the contact ability and defense both immediately ticked up after signing. I made him a 40 FV last winter thinking there was a shot this arrow-up prospect could turn into a regular at some point, then he hit 30 homers this year while keeping his strikeout rate under 25% and succeeding at Double-A with his like-aged prospect peers. He’s now on the fringes of the top 100 conversation.

Other Posts