Prospects We Are Targeting for 2022 & Beyond
A companion piece to today’s earlier article about the top professional players, below is the list of 10 prospects that Gurus Ross Jensen and Brian Shanks are focused on adding to their dynasty rosters.
Some opening words from the Gurus…
Ross: Similar to this morning’s article about MLB players, I wanted to focus less on the MiLB’s top ranked prospects here and more on the guys that don’t seem to be getting the respect they deserve. The players I selected here fit distinctly into two categories: post-hype or under-the-radar. Most of the players I have selected will contribute at the big league level immediately, and the exception, my final pick, comes with some major helium potential.
Brian: I really want to shed some light on the 2020 draft class. It really does seem like the industry has just forgotten about them. 3 out of my 5 targets are 2020 draftees. I then went with one super risky prospect with grade A power surplus and one that I feel has no chance of being a poor player but is not getting the love that he deserves. Overall I would say these guys are more than worthy of rostering in all formats and can help you build a young and dynamic group. Unfortunately I didn’t add any speed, but that has become a lost art in itself.
Keibert Ruiz, C, WAS
It wasn’t long ago, as recent as 2019, that Ruiz was being billed by some as the top catching prospect in the league. Adley Rutschman entered the scene to steal Ruiz’s spotlight and a host of talented young catchers followed closely behind (Francisco Alvarez and Gabriel Moreno, primarily). Fast forward to 2022, Rutschman is entrenched as the #1 catcher and Ruiz’s star faded after down seasons in the high minors. Last year, however, Ruiz took a massive step forward in his development. He always had a knack for putting the bat on the ball, annually posting some of the lowest K%s in the minors, but power finally began showing up in the box score, too. Consider the numbers of Ruiz when compared with MLB’s universally-agreed upon #1 catching prospect, Rutschman, from 2021…
Player A: .285/.397/.502, 23 HR, 17% K%
Player B: .310/.377/.611, 21 HR, 10% K%
Most of you probably recognize Rutschman is Player A and Ruiz is Player B. In a vacuum, I would likely be inclined to choose Player B’s (Ruiz) numbers on the season. Icing on the cake for Ruiz’s case is that he is the younger of the two, played the entire 2021 season at the Triple-A level, and already has MLB experience under his belt. The Nationals paid a hefty price to acquire Ruiz as the headliner when the Nationals gutted their squad, shipping out Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, at least in part because they saw something special in him. Ruiz will produce for the Nats immediately in 2022 and will likely be one of the best hitters in their lineup in the upcoming season. (Ross Jensen)
Nolan Gorman, 2B/3B, STL
I have been schizophrenic when it comes to Gorman. When he first came up, his power was enticing, and he mashed at the Rookie level with a 1.107 OPS. Upon the promotions that followed, his swing-and-miss tendencies were exploited. I balked, cooling on him significantly. It appears I wasn’t alone and his once rising star on top prospect lists stalled out. Through it all, the Cards remained undeterred, continuing to challenge him. That carried through to last year, when Gorman was challenged with the highest level of the minors, despite beginning the season at just 20 years old. Gorman rose to the challenge, continuing to hit for power while reducing his strikeout rates. This year, he will likely receive hefty professional exposure. While he may need to make some adjustments before his talent shows up in his statistical output, time is on his side: he will be younger than most college bats selected in the next draft. I recently read some analysts calling him a good sell-high. I disagree, Gorman is underrated for his age and production in the high minors, and given that others seem to be looking to sell him now, I see him as a player to target if you are a young rebuilding team or looking for someone to step up to a productive role at 2B/3B within the next 2-3 years. (Ross Jensen)
Steven Kwan, OF, CLE
Despite playing second-fiddle to Adley Rutschman, as a high on base, low strikeout talent, Kwan executed a key role on Oregon State’s 2018 championship team. Taken in the 5th round of the 2019 draft by the Guardians, Kwan has mostly looked the same through his minor league career. That is until 2021, when power began to appear as part of Kwan’s profile. In 341 minor plate appearances, Kwan hit 12 home runs, more than the rest of his minor league and college career combined. While it still may not seem like much, the power emergence is promising, as Kwan managed to slug over .500 at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels, and should put him firmly on every dynasty owner’s radar. Throughout his career, Kwan has managed to walk more than strikeout, with consistent .300+ averages and OBPs near or above .400. His bat is so strong that Fangraphs assigned him with a rare 80 potential bat grade, the only minor league player with such a designation from them. Couple that with an ability to hit 15 home runs or more and you have yourself a fantasy asset, one that will be contributing at the highest levels beginning this season. (Ross Jensen)
Luis Campusano, C, SDP
I have been trying to figure out what happened here. In 2020, Campusano was everyone’s darling. He surprised the fantasy world with a professional debut at just 21 years old, particularly young for a catching prospect. Then 2021 came and it seemed Campusano was nothing but chopped liver. I haven’t heard any spirited debates about him being discussed among the top catching prospects or as a likely breakout candidate. So what’s different? Campusano continued to perform well in the minors, posting the highest slugging percentage of his career at Triple-A. Despite some struggles at the professional level in a small sample, it seems to me that this is the same Campusano as he was after making his big league debut. If he ever interested you, this post-hype hangover is the time you’ve been waiting for to get on board and add him to your roster. (Ross Jensen)
Jay Allen, OF, CIN
I’m breaking the mold of players close to the Major Leagues that I think are overlooked to talk about a youngster fresh out of high school. Why? Well because the small sample of Jay Allen’s Rookie level stats and his draft position (late first round, 30th overall) kind of remind me of Mike Trout, that’s why. Not a ton of people were talking about Trout when he was drafted by the Angels with the 25th overall pick in 2009. That quickly began to change after he hit .352/.419/.486, with 13 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances. You know what that looks like? That looks a lot like the season that Allen put together: .328/.440/.557, with 14 stolen bases in 75 plate appearances. Am I saying that Allen will be the next Mike Trout? Of course not. However, I’m not ignoring the clear raw talent that he appears to possess. This may be your last chance to acquire this talent before he skyrockets up the rankings. (Ross Jensen)
Alec Burleson, OF, STL
This is a brand new target for me. It’s really pretty sad what these 2020 draft picks have had to go through. First they miss their true rookie year and now they are headed into a lockout. Alec Burleson had a heck of a season in 2021 though as he moved and progressed through three different affiliates for St. Louis, ultimately ended up at Triple-A Memphis. The overall stats are darn good with an average of .270, on-base of .329 and a slugging of .454 in 456 at bats. The 22 percent strikeout rate is what gets me really excited and pairs nicely with the 22 home runs he hit. As of now the Cards have him slotted in the outfield, but that is only to get him into the lineup: he will be a first baseman once Goldschmidt is out the door. This is gonna be the only time that his value is this low. (Brian Shanks)
Mason Martin, 1B, PIT
This is the kind of truly risky prospect that I find myself really interested in. Everything that Mason Martin does is directly linked to selling out for power. In 1,416 at bats during his minor league career he has struck out 529 times (a massive 37%). Normally I run and run really fast. But after I saw the total of 85 home runs, I stopped. He is the ridiculously good-looking girl in the bar that is so crazy it out-weighs her hotness. Can you handle the home run output but sacrifice your average? Can you bring her home to mom? The lines are getting blurred. (Brian Shanks)
Seth Beer, 1B, ARI
I purposely put Beer after Martin. Where Mason Martin is really risky, Seth Beer is extremely safe. There is no doubt in my mind that Beer is gonna have a successful career (obviously barring injuries). If not for the 2020 season being what it was, I think we would have already had a full season of Beer in an Arizona uniform. In 1,072 career minor league at bats he has 54 dingers with a tasty 22 percent strikeout rate and a clean .292 average. I think Beer is massively underrated throughout the industry but that only helps your cause to go out and get him. P.S. Who doesn’t love Beer? (Brian Shanks)
Justin Foscue, 2B, TEX
Foscue’s slash line of .275/.371/.590 between three levels of the minors has me excited. Another one of the forgotten 2020 class, the first round pick out of Mississippi State has an abundance of power at the keystone position. The high power output coupled with the high strikeout percentage has me slightly worried but at 2nd I am looking for guys with these kind of counting stats. Foscue really reminds me of another former prospect that isn’t getting much love in Pittsburgh, Micheal Chavis. I want everyone to be quietly optimistic on what Foscue brings to the table because if this lottery ticket hits, throw something my way. I wanna track 2022 really closely to make sure that Foscue is on my team when the breakout happens. (Brian Shanks)
A.J Vukovich, 3B, ARI
To round it all off I want to bring to light a prospect that I am extremely excited for, A.J. Vukovich. Standing 6’ 5 and weighing 230 lbs, the 19 year old had an impressive debut at two Arizona affiliates. He played with some patience in 2021 as he struck out 77 times in A-Ball but produced 10 bombs. Then quieted the power down and hiked his average 30 points while sacrificing power in A+ ball. Overall Vukovich is a power hitting 3rd baseman for the Diamondbacks that can adapt to anything you want him to do. Right now he is projected to be a third baseman because of the athleticism he gained from being Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball, but a move to first base could certainly be in his future. We have a couple years to see what he really has unless he goes bonkers and proves me right, but start the hype train cause the V-Man is a comin. (Brian Shanks)
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