There Is Spring Training For Some Players, Junior Circuit Edition

As the Major League Baseball team owners continue to lock out the players it can be easy to forget the baseball calendar rolls along. The minor league players have begun to report to camps around Florida and Arizona. There will be plenty of discoveries of swing changes and new pitch designs. The guys in the minors have more than a little reason to be motivated not to rest on their laurels during the winter because they want to be one of the guys getting locked out the next time this happens. Let’s take a look around the league at some of the guys who hope to make some noise in 2022; there will be some top prospects mixed in amongst some lesser names.

Amereican League East
New York Yankees. Jasson Dominguez. Is he real or is he hype? He is barely 19 but has the body of a full-grown man. The fact he is already in A-ball means the Yankees are believing and are giving him the aggressive assignment to show his worth. Luis Medina might be all stuff and no command, or a future dominant starter. This one is a crapshoot for sure.
Boston Red Sox. Jeter Downs has been a man in demand to this point in his professional career. Acquired as a key piece in the deal for Mookie Betts. He still has to show if he is a version of Howie Kendrick or someone who is barely a big-league backup. Jay Groome is a big left-hander who had big stuff before he got hurt. It is time to see what he has left.
Baltimore Orioles. Adley Rutschman. Baltimore has tried this before with Matt Wieters. I have liked his game since I first saw him in college at Oregon State. He has all of the ingredients to be something special, but Wieters never quite got there, so there is the cautionary tale. Grayson Rodriguez could be the Oriole ace of the future. He is big enough and stuff is loud enough. The only question which remains is whether or not he can do it on the big league level.
Tampa Bay Rays. Greg Jones is the living embodiment of the age-old baseball question of whether or not an athlete can be made into a full-fledged baseball player. He has the power and has the speed. Now needs to show he can do it in the mid-to-upper levels of the minor leagues. Taj Bradley has youth on his side and the makings of a decent pitching prospect. The Rays do well-developing pitchers, so one has to like his chances.
Toronto Blue Jays. Gabriel Moreno is their catcher of the future. He looks like he will hit and the defense is solid. It will come down to the more nuanced aspects of the game, such as pitch calling and working with the pitching staff to manage the game plan through games. Worst case scenario has him becoming an offense-first catcher, with so-so receiving skills. Gunnar Hodlgund is a former first-rounder who went to college and then got hurt. Time will tell what he will become now he is in the professional ranks.

American League Central

Chicago White Sox. Yoelqui Cespedes, the brother of Yoenis, showed up from Cuba ready to go. He hit as expected and looked like a major league outfielder. It is just a matter of where will he play in the outfield. Andrew Dalquist is a bit of a homer pick for me since we are from the same area. He has to get his basic control together, but he could become a useful arm in their system.
Cleveland Guardians. Tyler Freeman is homer pick number two since we attended the same high school (Obviously, at different times). He can definitely hit, but he has no power. I am intrigued to see how this plays going forward. He is a guy who will likely have to hit over .300 to have value. I liked Daniel Espino in his draft year. He looks like a potential next-generation Carlos Carrasco, so Cleveland has to be excited about his potential.
Detroit Tigers. Spencer Torkelson has built upon being the first player selected in his draft class. He looks to me like a version of Rhys Hoskins, but with a better hit tool. He will be in the middle of the order in Detroit for the next decade plus if all goes according to plan. Jackson Jobe is still years away, but the stuff is there to be their future Justin Verlander. No pressure there at all. I have seen him compared to Jacob deGrom as well, so I am not the only one who sees bright things in his future.
Kansas City Royals. Bobby Witt Jr. might be the best prospect in all of baseball, so needless to say he is the guy the entire Royals rebuild hinges upon. Offensively, he can do it all. He projects as a 30/30 shortstop. The defense is a bit sketchy, but it is almost expected at his stage of development. Asa Lacy looked good when I was him at Texas A&M. The lefty has elite stuff, but the command comes and goes because there is a lot going on in his delivery. He is going to be a problem for left-handed batters whether the command comes or not.
Minnesota Twins. Austin Martin was a first-rounder for the Blue Jays out of Vanderbilt University. He looks like he can be a 20/20 type of hitter with a high on-base percentage. I have doubts about him as a hitter due to some things I have seen in his swing, but I don’t root for anyone to fail. I want to how it plays out. Simeon Woods-Richardson is in the Jeter Downs mold in the sense he has bounced through a few organizations in high-profile deals. I am curious as to what teams see in him because he hasn’t looked like a front of the rotation guy since the Mets drafted him in 2018.

American League West

Houston Astros. Jeremy Pena is the Carlos Correa replacement. The question will be if he can hit enough to be a difference-maker. The glove will play, but being light with the bat will mean he constantly looking over his shoulder to be replaced. While I may be the last guy for the Forrest Whitley hypetrain, the pitcher I am intrigued by the most here is Hunter Brown. He has the stuff, and stop me if you have heard this before, his command is spotty. He was taken out of a Division II school, so it is always fun to root for the underdog.
Los Angeles Angels. Kyren Paris looked good in the little bit I saw of him in Inland Empire last season. He is another line-drive hitter with medium power which makes me think he will be more of a doubles guy than a home run hitter. The defense at second base was playable given where it is on the defensive spectrum, so he could be in the Angels’ more near-term plans. Sam Bachman is a reliever to me. The Angels said he will be a starter, so they will be proving a lot of people wrong if he manages to stick in the rotation.
Oakland Athletics. Tyler Soderstrom can definitely hit, now the question becomes how he will fare if asked to be an everyday catcher. All signs point to him being one of the DH types who have no real defensive home. Age is on his side as he won’t turn 21 until after this season concludes. As Manny Ramirez always said, “If you hit you won’t sit”. Colin Peluse looks like a power deliver. The A’s are going to give him a look as a starter. If the guy’s breaking balls play then he has a chance at a rotation spot. The spring will show a lot.
Seattle Mariners. Julio Rodriguez is coming fast. He will hit. He will hit for power. A .300 average and 30-plus homers annually will be reasonable for him. He looks like he will be the test case for service time manipulation this season as he has checked all of the boxes in the minor leagues to this point. George Kirby will be a key addition to the Mariners this season. He is the rare young arm who doesn’t have command and control issues. He can pitch and has stuff enough not to need a bunch of help behind him. He is their future ace.
Texas Rangers. Josh Jung will be given every opportunity to play third base. He will be a prototype masher in the middle of the order. The bat is the thing because the glove is average. Spring training will be the determinant of how quickly he gets to the big leagues. Cole Winn is the guy I am keeping an eye on since Jack Leiter will not be in the big plans this season almost certainly. Winn was a high school player of the year a few seasons ago, so the pedigree is there. Winn might not be an eventual ace, but he will be a contributor.

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