Will any Prospect be next year’s Wander Franco?

Once he made it to the big leagues, former #1 prospect Wander Franco made huge waves. In just 70 games played, Franco accumulated 3.5 WAR thanks to hitting .281/.347/. 463 and 5 defensive runs saved, according to Baseball Reference. His impact was felt across the league, playing well above what would have been expected even for a #1 prospect. However, there are new top prospects in town now. Yes, no one can truly predict how a prospect of any caliber is going to perform right away. But let’s try anyway.

#1: Adley Rutschman

The new #1 prospect with the graduation of Franco, Rutschman has been highly touted ever since he was drafted by the Orioles in 2019. He looked a little overmatched at times that year, but in 2021 he was fantastic, especially for a catcher, with an OPS just a hair under .900 on the year between AA and AAA. And, by all accounts, he’s an above average defender behind the plate in all respects. He should make his debut for the Orioles next season, and that’s all their fans really have to look forward to. I’d expect him to struggle somewhat when he first makes it, but he’ll find his bat before the end of the season. Maybe somewhere in the high 700s OPS with a dozen or so home runs.

#2: Julio Rodríguez

Between Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic, the Mariners have a bright future in the outfield. Rodriguez just turned 21 the other day, and he’s slated to make his big league debut this coming year, at least according to MLB.com. There’s a chance he won’t because the Mariners don’t want to rush him, since he only made it to AA next year, but he could be a late year addition to the team. Rodriguez absolutely raked last year in High A and AA, though, so maybe they’ll want his bat sooner rather than later.

The Mariners only have one outfield spot locked in next year in Mitch Haniger (if you don’t include Kelenic’s spot “locked in” given his poor play in 2021), so while it may be unlikely, there’s a chance we’ll see Rodriguez in 2022. Given how he’s hit in the minors, I would expect a pretty stellar average when he makes it, though the home runs might be lacking at first.

#3: Bobby Witt, Jr.

Like Rutschman and Rodriguez, Witt excelled in the minors last year, and he could be the first one to debut of the three we’ve talked about so far. Witt hit 33 home runs lasts year between AA and AAA, and the rest of his play looked strong as well. Given how current Royals shortstop Aldaberto Mondesi has been injury prone pretty much since his entering the MLB, Witt could make his debut earlier in the year and stick at short, forcing Mondesi to move elsewhere (or be a potential trade candidate?). Either way, Witt should find himself in the MLB for the majority of the season, ending somewhere around 20 home runs with a .250ish average and an OBP in the lower .300s.

#4: Spencer Torkelson

Torkelson has already made it to AAA in his first full year in the minors, and that’s impressive in and of itself. That’s partially because of the cancellation of the minor leagues last year, but we’ll set that aside for the moment. Torkelson might not end up a top defender, especially if the Tigers plan to use him as a third baseman, but he’ll certainly be serviceable there, and his bat is powerful enough to play wherever they want him. He had some struggles when he hit AAA last year, so I’d expect something similar to happen whenever he reaches the majors. But, he’ll still draw walks, and he’ll still hit for power, so “struggle” is probably just a relative term. Depending on when he reaches the majors, I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits .240-.250 with 20-25 home runs, at least adjusted for a full year.

#6: CJ Abrams

I know what you’re thinking: did I accidentally write 6 instead of 5? Well, no. MLB.com’s #5 prospect, Marco Luciano, isn’t projected to make it to the majors until 2023, so we won’t be discussing him here. But despite a fractured left tibia, Abrams is still projected to make the majors in 2022. The question is: where will he play? Shortstop and third are covered by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado respectively. I suppose they could have Jake Cronenworth play first for Abrams to cover second. Or, if the DH makes its way to the National League, they could alternate there. If he does get to playing time, though, he should provide strong fielding right away with a solid, but not spectacular, bat to start his career. He gets a lot of doubles, but he’s not a home run hitter. I predict his numbers to look somewhere around .260/.310/.400.

Image source: wikipedia.com

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– Pat Shuman (@PShu1996 on Twitter) Check out my other articles here!

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