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Top 15 Fantasy Baseball Rookies (2022)

Mar 29, 2022

Prospects and rookies hold a special place in baseball fans’ hearts. Every year, the promise of the new elite and the bright future they’ll bring to their affiliated franchise gets an enormous amount of buzz. Fantasy players tend to overpay and the media goes crazy over what could be. As exciting as it may be, it’s best to keep expectations in check because many go through some initial struggles. There are the select few, however, that become instant difference makers and help win fantasy leagues.

In this piece, we will be discussing the top rookies for 2022 in terms of fantasy value only. While it may seem like a daunting task, searching for tomorrow’s stars can be quite a fulfilling endeavor. Predicting a rookie’s future is always difficult, but let’s face it, it’s fun! Plus, there are a few standout factors that seem to work more often than not. When evaluating for this year only, however, playing time may be the biggest factor of all.

While teams do now have more of an incentive to bring up their top prospects early, there will still assuredly be service time manipulation. Teams like the Pirates may not be so inclined to start their young player’s service clocks, just in the hopes of receiving extra draft picks. That said, many team’s top projected stars may start Opening Day this season, who may not have made it in years past.

Without further ado, and after careful consideration, here are your top 15 fantasy rookies, in order, for this year’s roto leagues.

And for even more fantasy baseball draft prep advice, check out our 2022 MLB Draft Kit >>

Bobby Witt Jr. (SS – KC)
Witt Jr. is the cream of the crop. No other rookie possesses the enormous upside and skill-set quite as the young Royals shortstop does. A five-category stud with an incredibly high ceiling, Witt could do wonders for any team lucky enough to draft him. He’ll come with an extremely high cost, however, which is a risky play considering he’s yet to take a Major League at-bat.

There’s a strong chance though he does begin the season at the Major League level and rakes from day one. He will likely struggle a bit, which is true for all rookies, but when discussing first-year players, no one can match the unbelievable tools and pedigree of the future face of the Royals’ franchise.

Oneil Cruz (SS – PIT)
No one possesses the power/speed combo of Witt Jr. other than maybe Cruz. The Pirates’ prized possession is a freak with a bat in his hands and absolutely blazes on the base paths. He’s a 6’7″ shortstop with all the tools and the makings of the next great superstar.

The lineup surrounding him will still be one of the worst in the league, but paired with Bryan Reynolds (if they keep him), Pittsburg could have one of the better hitting duos in the league. They are likely to start him in Triple-A, but once he gets the call (which should be soon), the sky’s the limit. Cruz is my pick for NL ROY and should be drafted in all leagues.

Joe Ryan (SP – MIN)
Ryan has been a stalwart at every stop along the way of his professional career, including a standout performance in last year’s Olympics. After a nearly flawless showing, Ryan got the call and continued to shine in his five-game MLB cup of coffee. During his initial stretch of 26.2 innings, Ryan demonstrated impeccable control by striking out 30 percent of opposing batters, while limiting free passes to just five percent. He could be a true star this season for the Twinkies and is almost guaranteed a starting spot from day one. Ryan’s a bargain at his current ADP.

Spencer Torkelson (1B – DET)
Torkelson could easily capture this year’s AL ROY. The first overall pick in the draft less than two years ago has been on the fast track to the Major Leagues since day one. A strong candidate to start Opening Day, Torkelson has the bat speed and control to easily launch 30 home runs while hitting for a decent average. The Tigers’ lineup is actually quite good and full of high on-base type of players, potentially leading to a hefty amount of RBIs for the young slugger. If he lives up to his potential, it won’t be long until they move the slugging Torkelson into the cleanup spot where he could mash all year long. Target him in the early to mid 200’s.

Riley Greene (OF – DET)
A teammate of Torkelson, Greene was also a top draft pick for Detroit (fifth overall), coming in the year prior. While he doesn’t generate as much buzz, some insiders believe Greene will actually outperform his highly touted teammate. A few scouts have granted him the title of having the prettiest left-handed swing in the Minors. The high praise should not fall on deaf ears. Greene could start from day one in the Majors and has the skills and makeup to be a five-category contributor. He even has an outside chance at being the most valuable rookie in fantasy leagues this year. Don’t let him go undrafted.

Shane Baz (SP – TB)
Baz underwent a minor surgery this Spring, delaying his trajectory a bit. While just the mention of elbow surgery for a pitcher is always a red flag, it was just a minor procedure. The reports coming out of Tampa are good, stating he should be back throwing in a matter of two or three weeks.

While he won’t break camp with the MLB roster, he will be someone the Rays call on early and often. The fact that they started him in a playoff game after throwing just 13 Major League innings last year, should tell you all you need to know about Baz’s abilities. As long as his rehab goes as planned, the young righty could be up dominating opposing offensives by late May or early June.

Adley Rutschman (C – BAL)
Rutschman is another star in the making who suffered a minor setback during Spring Training. Practically already a household name, the switch-hitting Rutschman slightly strained his tricep last week, likely delaying his debut. A mid-May call-up could very well be in the cards though, and once he receives regular playing time, the Orioles’ top prospect projects as one of the better catchers in the league. The former number one overall pick and Baseball America’s top-rated prospect hits for power to all fields, shows a great eye at the plate, and is a fantastic leader. The future of the Orioles franchise will be a popular late-round stash in most leagues.

Seiya Suzuki (OF – CHC)
No one knows for sure how Suzuki will fare in his first trip to the States, but there is no denying what he was able to accomplish overseas. His 38 long balls last season while registering a .317 average, and 1.073 OPS were quite impressive. He won’t reach those lofty totals here, but a 30 home run, .270 average season, isn’t out of the question. Suzuki also has the ability to steal a handful of bases. The new right fielder of the Cubs is going in the early to mid-teen rounds, where he could end up a massive steal.

Keibert Ruiz (C – WAS)
Ruiz showed just how efficient he can be at the plate last year when the Nationals brought him up in late August. In nearly 90 plate appearances, the former Dodgers’ prospect struck out just four times while maintaining a .284 average and .875 OPS. Not a bad showing for his first real taste of Major League pitching. Catchers rarely give you a good batting average while still contributing in other categories. Ruiz has legit ability and should be drafted as the eighth highest catcher in all leagues.

Camilo Doval (RP – SF)
For all intents and purposes, Doval will serve as the Giants closer this year. His ADP is pretty high for a pitcher who has only thrown 27 Major League innings. But even with other potential closers on the roster and a manager who likes to mix and match, Doval has the stuff and makeup to be one of the premier closers in the game. Even if he only earns around 20 saves, the 24-year-old strikeout artist will still contribute handily in other categories. If he sticks in the role all season, he’ll have a strong case for Rookie of the Year.

Julio Rodriguez (OF – SEA)
Rodriguez would be at the top of this list if I thought he had a strong chance at starting Opening Day. With 13 position players to start the season, Rodriguez does have a decent chance at cracking the roster, especially with the absence of Kyle Lewis. But, unless Scott Servais plans on playing him every day, Rodriguez will likely be sent down. Plus, with little track record (although excellent), the organization may be a bit more hesitant after witnessing Jarred Kelenic’s struggles last year.

That said, Rodriguez probably has more upside than anyone on this list (other than Witt Jr.) and if they do take a shot at him early enough, he could outperform every one of them. Rodriguez absolutely deserves a late-round selection.

Hunter Greene (SP – CIN)
Greene is an absolute stud. I’ve been a fan of his since his high school days when he was blowing away 17-year-olds with 95 cheese. He was also a beast at the plate and played a phenomenal shortstop. A natural athlete who reaches 100 with ease, Greene was originally slated to reach the Major Leagues sometime later this year. A handful of injuries to the projected starting staff, however, may have the Cincinnati brass rethinking Greene’s delayed ascent. The Reds won’t likely compete for a playoff spot this year, but with so few options and Greene already demonstrating MLB-ready production, he could be called upon as early as week two.

Matt Vierling (1B/OF – PHI)
I’m not a huge Vierling fan, but fantasy value often comes down to opportunity and Vierling could be given an enormous one. With Odubel Herrera sidelined with an oblique injury, it looks as though the Phills will turn to the 24-year-old to start in center field. The Notre Dame alum can fill up the stat sheet, hitting for power while flying around the bases. The Phillies lineup will score plenty of runs this season and if Vierling can keep pace, the 6’3″ outfielder could thrive. If Vierling hits the ground running, Joe Girardi will have an easy choice to make when Herrera returns.

C.J. Abrams (SS – SD)
I thought Abrams had zero chance at making the Opening Day roster, much less making much of an impact at all this season. With the devastating loss of Fernando Tatis Jr., however, and the franchise in win-now mode, the Padres may have no choice but to call up their top prospect.

No one will be able to fill the shoes of Tatis, but you have to believe Abrams, who’s always been highly regarded since being drafted sixth overall out of high school, can outperform their incumbent options. Ha-Seong Kim produced a 70 wRC+last year, while Jurkson Profar hasn’t played shortstop since 2018 (and also hasn’t hit well). Manny Machado could slide over to cover the position, but that still leaves a similar hole at third base, plus Manny’s been slowed by back issues.

If the organization does give Abrams a shot, he could be an excellent source for steals while hitting for moderate power and average. He’s been on fire to start the spring, but his very limited Minor League track record and injury history are a bit unnerving. Even if he starts in Triple-A, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him called up sometime in May, if the aforementioned players continue to struggle. Keep an eye on the situation as camp unfolds, and if you’re drafting before his fate is decided, take a flier on him in the final round.

Vidal Brujan (2B – TB)
Brujan reminds me a bit of a young Carl Crawford. He doesn’t possess the same stature, but his early skillset seems to mirror him a bit. The Rays’ lighting fast prospect attempted a steal in more than half his games last year while producing a .785 OPS.

While he only played a handful of Major League games, and may not have hit, he did give fantasy managers a quick glimpse into his abilities. He placed in the top 10 percent of baseball for sprint speed in just those few short outings. He stole 68 bases between two stops at Double-A and Triple-A (158 games) and could easily reach 30+ if he plays in 100 MLB games this year.

The Rays will mix and match their lineup as they always do, but many consider Brujan the future at the keystone pairing with Wander Franco up the middle. The principal factor for the young Dominican will be playing time, but if he can earn it, Brujan could finish in the top 10 of stolen bases.

Honorable Mention:

Joey Bart, Edward Cabrera, Alek ThomasNick LodoloGrayson Rodriguez.

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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.

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