As the 2022 MLB season is underway, we start to get a look at some of baseball’s youngest brightest stars. While every team is optimistic at the beginning of each year, the teams whose fans know they will most likely be watching the postseason for the love of the game and not a particular team watch to see how their favorite team’s prospects fair in as they arrive in the big leagues. Do they race out of the gate until major league pitching catches up? Perhaps they watch intently as their young prospect battles his way through major league lineups from 60 feet away. Regardless, the youth arriving at the major league level breeds optimism about what they could be. Perhaps, rookie of the year? Here is a look at five potential rookie of the year candidates.
Bobby Witt Jr. – Kansas City Royals
Bobby Witt Jr. was selected with the second overall pick in the 2019 draft by the Kansas City Royals. Witt would play 37 games in the minors in 2019 hitting .262/.317/.354 slugging one home run, 27 runs batted in, and nine stolen bases. Missing all of 2020 due to the pandemic, Witt would begin 2021 in double-A and play 60 games there with positive results before heading to triple-A. With the Storm Chasers Witt would slash .285/.352/.581 with 17 home runs, 46 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases. Finally breaking camp on the major league roster in Kansas City, Witt officially began his major league career on opening day of 2022. Witt who is a natural shortstop began working at third base in spring training this year and has been there in all of his 13 starts this year. Witt has struggled this year, particularly against major league sliders. This game at its highest level will humble you quickly and it has done just that to Witt, one of baseball’s top prospects. What remains for Witt is every tool to become a perennial all-star at the major league level. With a great hit tool and elite speed, Witt will hit in this league, it is only a matter of time. With this being mid-April, expect him to make the adjustments necessary to compete for the American League Rookie Of The Year award and have an excellent major league career.
Spencer Torkelson – Detroit Tigers
Spencer Torkelson was drafted with the first overall pick of the 2020 draft by the Detroit Tigers. The only knock on Torkelson was being a right-handed 1st baseman which is nonsense in today’s game. Less than one-third of today’s major league starting first basemen are left-handed. This proved to be a non-issue for the Tigers and rightfully so. Torkelson provides power and more power from the right side in a Tigers lineup needing more of that.
With the incumbent first baseman, Miguel Cabrera effectively passing the torch to Torkelson by gifting him a first baseman’s glove the Tigers are ready to move forward with Torkelson as the everyday first baseman. While Miggy will not see much time over at first this year, he will continue to hit as the team’s primary DH and recently collected his 3,000th hit. Congratulations Miguel Cabrera!
Torkelson, or Tork as folks in Detroit call him, has also started slowly in his major league career. Over 14 games Torkelson has a slash line of .214/.353/.452. While these numbers are low, expect Torkelson to make the adjustment throughout the season and compete for the American League Rookie Of The Year as well.
Julio Rodriguez – Seattle Mariners
Julio Rodriguez signed with the Seattle Mariners at 16 years old with a 1.75 million dollar signing bonus as an international prospect from the Dominican Republic. While it was a different path for Rodriguez being an international prospect the result is the same. A 2022 debut in the major leagues. Rodriguez quickly tore up the minor leagues over three seasons with a .331/.412/.543 slash line including 30 home runs, 152 RBIs, and 32 stolen bases.
While Rodriguez is the third of three potential rookie of the year candidates on this list to struggle early during their first major league experience, he is also the third to have otherworldly talents. Rodriguez possesses insane bat-to-ball skills and will almost certainly cut down his strikeout issues which are showing up early. Slashing just .192/.263/.250 thus far there is no reason to believe Rodriguez will do anything but get better. With huge power, great speed, and an excellent set of defensive skills this kid will rake at some point and I would expect it to be sooner rather than later.
Summary and Prediction
While the three players on this list will almost certainly be in the chase for the Rookie Of The Year award, two other players to watch would be Adley Rutschman of the Orioles, and Riley Greene, a teammate of Torkelson in Detroit. Greene will most likely take over the everyday center field job with the Tigers once he returns from a fractured foot he suffered in a spring training game against the Yankees. Greene fouled a pitch off of his foot causing the injury however he stayed in the game long enough to score in the inning before being removed from the lineup. Greene has elite hitting skills and should be good enough to cover center field in roomy Comerica Park.
Torkelson will be great in Detroit and should put up great power numbers in a lineup with Javier Baez and Miguel Cabrera but could be slightly limited by the park he plays in. Rodriguez fits in a loaded lineup in Seattle alongside Mitch Haniger and Jesse Winker but may take longer than the others to get acclimated to the bigs. This leaves Bobby Whitt Jr. as my selection to win the Rookie Of The Year in the American League. Good Luck to all of these prospects on great seasons and long careers!
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