Breakaways and breakthroughs: 10 former top MLB prospects ready to take a leap

It’s easy to look at Atlanta’s Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II, Baltimore’s Adele Ratshman, or Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez and project superstars into the distance.

After all, these players broke through last year in franchise-changing ways.

But what about recent top prospects with more untapped potential? Who didn’t set the baseball world on fire as some might have expected?

The 10 players on this list were among the most hyped baseball players going into the 2022 season, but left more to be desired for a variety of reasons. With a little patience, they may still be able to deliver next year as many people imagine.

To qualify, “breakout” candidates had to have no more than two wins over replacement in at least 300 at bats or 100 innings the previous year. “Breakthrough” candidates produced a bWAR or worse last year.

The criteria eliminate talented young players like Pittsburgh’s K’Brien Hayes (4.3 WAR), who certainly has more drawing power, and Cincinnati’s Hunter Green (2.3 WAR) and Nick Lodolo (2.8 WAR), whose Still have big leaps to make. Such players were too productive to qualify in previous seasons.

the outbreak

ready to rise

Bobby Witt Jr., Royal Family short stop

It almost seems unfair to include him here considering he finished fourth in last season’s Rookie of the Year poll. But he qualified because he struggled to reach base and scored poorly at shortstop, resulting in less than a win despite becoming the youngest shortstop with 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season. It’s been a crazy year.

RBI faces double blow from US to reduce deficit against Bobby Witte Jr Mexico

A high chasing percentage and low walking percentage contributed to a .293 on-base percentage that was better than only 12 other qualified Major Leaguers. Defensively, Witt committed 16 errors at shortstop and finished 34th in strikeouts, above average for eligible players at his position. But he too was only 22 years old. His running back speed was much better the year before in Double-A and Triple-A, and he still hit the ball hard in his first major league season.

If Witt can be more selective at the plate, it’s not hard to project too much forward given his rare combination of speed and power.

riley green, Tigers outfielder

Highly regarded as a no. 5 of 2019, Green had some trouble hitting in the minors. That translated early in his big league career, but later in the 2022 season, he got better at playing the ball. While Witt’s troubles were more about chasing, Green actually could have swung a bit more. His increased strikeout percentage was partly due to a higher call-strikeout percentage and a lower swing percentage on in-zone pitches.

Green’s hard hitting percentage was well above average, and followed a league average year offensively. No small feat for a player in his 21-year-old season. He displayed above-average skill in the midfield, and if he can improve his hitting frequency, pick up the ball more often and handle breaking throws better, a breakout could be closer.

Keith Ruiz, citizens catcher

That list could be about half the nationals’ players, drawing on both the youth and unrealized potential of the many former top prospects they count on to move up. By giving Ruiz an eight-year extension, the Nationals showed how much faith they put in their 24-year-old backstop.

A lot was pinned on Ruiz as the centerpiece of the returning Max Scherzer and Trey Turner. Last year was Ruiz’s first full season as a major leaguer and he produced a more respectable than spectacular 1.6-WAR season. His ability to connect is extraordinary. His strikeout percentage and projected batting average in 2022 were among the best in the game — let alone among catchers — and while his hard-hit numbers left much to be desired, he improved dramatically in the second half of the season. improved. I’d bet more power in the tank than seven home runs last year.

bounceback

Jonathan India, Red second baseman

All three players in this group have already shown what they are capable of with outstanding 2021 seasons. He also showed how difficult it can be to replicate those performances.

The Indian followed the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year campaign last season by seeing his OPS drop by 130 points and his hard hit percentage drop by nearly 10%. He also slowed down a lot and scored poorly at second base. He missed time with a hamstring injury and was hit by 37 pitches in his first two seasons — one of which forced him out of the Field of Dreams game last year — so you’d be surprised how much health played a role in the past. Drop year of the year.

It’s hard to find any other explanation, and the return of spring seemed much more encouraging. He stole more bases in Cactus League play this year (four) than last season (three).

trevor rogers, marlins Pitcher

Rogers’ story was originally from India, but on the hill.

After an All-Star age-23 season that saw him post a 2.64 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 2021, he more than doubled his ERA last year. Rogers was dealing with back spasms and a crossbar strain, which could contribute to a decreased hit rate, increased running speed, and a sudden shortening of the four-seam fastball that ravaged opponents the previous year. If that area returns to him, and the progress he made with his slider last year continues, a healthy season could get him back on track.

dylan carson, Cardinals outfielder

The St. Louis outfield in the busy St. Louis outfield may have no higher ceiling than Carlson, the Cardinals’ former top contender, looks to enter 2021 with 18 homers and a .780 OPS while finishing third in Rookie of the Year mood.

Last year was not the same.

While showing flashes of his potential early in the year, Karlsson still produced some great defense in midfield, but the end result was an average offensive season in the league and a significant drop in barrel rate. He also dealt with nagging issues – a hamstring strain in May, a sprained thumb in September – that could have reduced his production. The switch-hitter was still great against left-handers (.305/.369/.477) and had been for his entire career, but he’ll need to improve from the left side of the plate to live up to his expectations.

Now, onto the post-hype sleepers.

Breaks

have something to prove

jarred kelenik, sailors outfielder
Spencer Torkelson, Tigers first baseman

No, it hasn’t been pretty so far. So far none of the compelling prospects have lived up to expectations, but there is too much talent in this tandem to write off any player as they try to cement their place as top leaguers.

Kelenik reportedly did a lot to revive his swing this winter, and while the spring numbers should be taken with a lot of grain of salt, it’s hard to ignore a first-round pick that hit four homers and a . Ripped the cover of baseball with Ops. Over 1,000 in Cactus League. He’ll have to lower his hit rate (K’d a third of his performance last year) and do better against ball breakings (0.057 avg.), but have the tools and a hard-hit rate. Shift rules can help too.

Torkelson’s spring production didn’t jump much off the page, but he still hit the ball hard enough to show up low.

Everything points to the best overall roster in 2020, with the prodigious power forward at Arizona State launching his professional career and becoming baseball’s next superstar. Instead, Torkelson struggled with eight home runs and 77 OPS+ in 110 games in his debut season.

Notably, the blackout continued as he was sent back down to Triple-A, where he hit a disappointing .389 in 35 games. This was the same player who posted a .531 slugging percentage in 40 games at Triple-A in 2021 as a 21-year-old. Maybe an off-season reset would help. He is only 23 years old and will have another chance to settle down earlier this year with little expectations.

health permit

Roy Lewis, Twins outfielder

As soon as you get a chance, no. 1 overall pick of 2018 was drafted.

The problem was that the opportunity only lasted 12 games.

Lewis returned from a torn right ACL, but last May tore it again for the second time in less than two years. The top-100 prospect already missed much of the 2021 season recovering from his first torn ACL, which made his run in a close streak with the Twins — 12-for-40 with six extra-base hits — all the more impressive. . He should be back sometime this summer so he can start where he left off.

right opportunity

Andrew Vaughn, white socks first baseman

Vaughan performed at near replacement level last season, but it was not because of his bat.

The third overall pick of 2019 crushed the ball as he slashed .271/.321/.429 with 17 home runs, but with Jose Abreu manning first base, he was mostly confined to the outfield and designated batter. Now, with Abreu in Houston, Vaughn is back in his natural state and should see his value increase.

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and the NL West for Fox Sports. Previously, he was editor of the Dodgers’ digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @rowan kavner,

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