Welcome to the 2022 debut of MLB Pipeline’s Rookie Power Rankings. Once a month, Pipeline staff will vote on who we consider the most likely Rookie of the Year winner at the end of the season.
It is the last part that is crucial here. We are not voting on who would win if the prizes were handed out now. Instead, it is a combination of current performance and expectations for the remainder of the year, combined with a judgment from our foresight experts. So you could just – spoiler alert! – see also the name of a player who has not yet appeared in a league match in 2022.
Without further increases, ahead with the rankings.
1. Seiya Suzuki, outsider, Cubs
This makes too much sense to be someone else. We loved Suzuki who arrived at the start of the year, ranking him as the most likely winner of the National League’s Rookie of the Year honors ahead of the season. Then the former Japanese Central League star got off to a great start, making everyone look smart. Suzuki entered on Tuesday with a .278 / .398 / .528 batting line, the kind of numbers that can lead to MVP ratings under the rating, no matter Rookie of the Year. No rookie has more RBI, double, walk or hit than Suzuki.
2. Julio Rodríguez, winger, Mariners
It wasn’t the brightest start for any of the top prospects who made it to the Major Leagues on opening day this year, but nearly all of them are starting to show signs of life. This is especially true of Rodríguez, who scored his first homer on Sunday and slashed his strikeout rate over the past two weeks. He’s at .238 / .307 / .325 of the year, which isn’t flashy, but his talent is undeniable – we’d ranked him runner-up among the American League Rookie nominees in the preseason – and it looks like the light is turned on him. Oh, and by the way, he’s got nine steals in 10 tries.
3. Jeremy Peña, shortstop, Astros
Peña must count as the first surprise on this list, since we didn’t have him in the top 5 nominees for AL’s rookie honors until four weeks ago. Driving all rookies in homer can do it. Peña has come out of the gates fiercely, and even though his average has had quite a leap in the past couple of weeks, he’s still hitting for power. His five homers are the best of first-year players, as are his 14 points. And there is no doubt that he will have the opportunity to continue producing.
4. Joe Ryan, right handed pitcher, Twins
Ryan, one of the top 100 potential candidates earlier this year who performed skillfully in a short stint with the Twins last year, didn’t rank in our preseason poll, but maybe he should have. Ryan leads rookie pitchers in strikeouts (25) and has the lowest ERA (1.17) of any rookie who qualifies for the ERA title. He has also improved over the course of the year, with at least six innings and no more than one run allowed in his second, third and fourth starts.
5. Bobby Witt Jr., third base, Royals
We had Witt as AL Rookie’s favorite four weeks ago, and any honest evaluation would not have put him in the ballot if the vote had been taken today. It will not, however, and we still firmly believe in Witt, perspective no. 1 of Pipeline. He’s still not hitting for power after a very difficult start, but he started to put together some hits and picked up four stolen bases while playing quality third base. Many great players hit .221 in one baseball month. We are not worried.
6. Spencer Torkelson, first base, Tigers
Here’s another one from the “we believe” file. The potential customer n. Pipeline 4 actually got off to a warmer start than Witt or Rodríguez, but recently had a bad time. However, he has already counted three homers and Torkelson has never hit. Big leagues are tough, man! And it’s worth noting that he took some time to adjust before him: he hit .220 and lost .305 in his first 17 games as a pro in High-A. He scored .246 in his first 16 Double-A games. He hit .180 in his first 16 Triple-A games. And he understood it every time. Torkelson will be fine.
7. MacKenzie Gore, left-handed pitcher, Padres
If Torkelson and Witt fall into “we still believe”, the best way to describe Gore would be “we really, really want to believe”. Two years ago, Gore was the best launch prospect in the game. Then he lost his way on the mound. Now it looks like he found it. He has been brilliant in three major league starts and there have never been any doubts on the roof of him. If Gore still has to do it in a month, chances are he’ll be much higher on this list.
8. Joey Bart, receiver, Giants
This is where Bart got in the year – fifth in NL, to be exact – and honestly, his performance was what probably should have been expected. He’s hitting .205, which isn’t dazzling, but he’s hitting for power and always getting good marks for his defense. Mostly, if you ask the Giants, they will likely notice that Bart is the primary catcher for a pitching staff that is in third place in the NL in ERA. They have no complaints, and neither do we.
9. Steven Kwan, outsider, Guardians
Here’s another, much more extreme case of performance beyond pedigree. It should come as no surprise that we didn’t rank Kwan among the most likely Rookie winners, as we ranked him 15th among the Guardians’ prospective clients. Still, he was one of the best stories of the start of the season with his streak of contacts, and entered Tuesday with a sleek .340 / .439 / .472 line. Kwan struck for the media but not for the power in all minors; the question is how sustainable that approach can be in the Majors in 2022. It will be fun to find out.
10. Adley Rutschman, receiver, Orioles
Virtually nothing has changed in Rutschman since we ranked him fifth among the AL Rookie nominees last month. It is still one of the highest and highest perspectives in the game. He is still a two-way threat. He is back in health and is currently proving to be much, much better than the rest of the South Atlantic League players. He will quickly work his way through the system, he will probably be in the big leagues before long once he gets his timing down and he should perform very well once he gets there.