The 2021 MLB season just ended, you might say. However, it’s never too early to start thinking about next year! This time, we will look at some rookies with the potential of impacting your fantasy team in 2022.
As a rule, we will only examine players who have yet to make their MLB debuts. Get these names on your radar if they aren’t already!
Spencer Torkelson, 1B/DH, Detroit Tigers
The future is now for the Detroit Tigers. They have three brilliant young starting pitchers in Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning, and they have the money to spend on one or two impact players in free agency.
However, the success of the franchise for the next five or six years will likely depend on one rookie hitter: Spencer Torkelson. Fantasy owners should take notice, too, as he will likely make his MLB debut sometime in early 2022, and he should be a factor immediately upon getting the call.
Steamer is aggressively projecting him for a .259/.341/.506 line with 29 home runs, 77 RBI, and a 129 wRC+. And you know what? He may very well meet those projections. He has the swing, approach, and tools to hit for both average and power in the majors, and was excellent in 2021 with 30 homers across three levels, including Triple-A. Invest.
Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Kansas City Royals
Witt Jr. was the Minor League Player of the Year in 2021, with an otherworldly season: he hit .295/.369/.570 with a 145 in 61 Double-A games, got promoted to Triple-A, and slashed .285/.352/.581 with a 142 wRC+ in 62 games there.
Between the two levels, he hit 33 homers and stole 29 bases. Do you have any idea how valuable those kind of numbers would be from a fantasy shortstop? Additionally, given the fact the Royals currently have a good defensive option there in Nicky Lopez, there is a chance Witt Jr. plays third base, and the ever-exciting prospect of multi-position eligibility looms.
Witt Jr. has the potential to be a game-changer, and he should be up no later than May, with the chance he makes the team out of camp.
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners
Yes, everybody is excited about what Jarred Kelenic can do in 2022, now that he has more experience seeing MLB pitching. But the Seattle Mariners have a similarly talented player that, as the team grows and fights for a postseason spot, should see the majors at some point next season: Julio Rodriguez.
J-Rod has one of the sexiest swings you will see from a minor leaguer, capable of generating average and power. He hit .362 (!) over 206 plate appearances at Double-A this year, with seven homers and 16 stolen bases.
His 173 Double-A wRC+ indicates that he is more than ready to start next season at Triple-A, and after a couple of weeks there, he should be up and helping both the Mariners and your fantasy team in all hitting categories, including stolen bases.
Grayson Rodriguez, SP, Baltimore Orioles
Grayson Rodriguez was by far the most exciting pitching prospect in Minor League Baseball during the 2021 season. He started at High-A and completely dominated the competition with a 1.54 ERA and 15.43 strikeouts per nine innings. Then, he was promoted to Double-A, and had a 2.60 ERA with 13.67 punchouts per nine frames.
In reality, the Orioles are in no rush to promote their prized prospect and start his clock, but chances are he is going to make his debut sometime in the second half. And when he does, you need to act quick and add him to your team.
Nick Lodolo, SP, Cincinnati Reds
If you are looking for a polished rookie with great stuff and a good floor (and some ceiling, too), look no further: Nick Lodolo, the Cincinnati Reds’ first-round pick in 2019, could fight for a rotation spot next spring.
After 44 dominant innings in Double-A this season, in which he had a 1.84 ERA and struck out 13.91 hitters per nine frames (while handing just 1.84 walks per nine), Lodolo was promoted to Triple-A for three games, 6.2 episodes, and a 5.40 ERA. He fanned 10, though.
Lodolo is one of the potential rookies to target next season, and has the potential of an SP3 if things go right.
Josh Winder, SP, Minnesota Twins
Winder doesn’t have the same prospect pedigree as Rodriguez and Lodolo, but is a personal favorite and a sleeper for the 2022 campaign. He had a fantastic year in 2021, with a 1.98 ERA in 54.2 Double-A innings. He struck out 10.70 hitters per nine frames while handing just 1.65 walks per nine.
He struggled a bit in 17.1 Triple-A innings (4.67 ERA) but thanks to a velo spike in 2020 and improvement in his secondaries, now has the profile of a mid-rotation starter. The Twins will likely give him a shot at some point in 2022. Keep his name in the radar.