Here at Pitcher List, we track the prospect promotions that occur every week during the regular season. This series will outline prospects that have the potential to get the call to the bigs early into the MLB season or to maybe even be on the Opening Day Roster. Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list, just some names that I believe we could see up earlier than not.
American League West
Jeremy Peña, SS, HOU – Peña’s playing time appeared to be dependent on whether or not Houston would be able to bring back star shortstop Carlos Correa. With Correa now in Minnesota, the starting gig is now Peña’s to lose. He’s never had a big-league appearance, but despite an injury-shortened 2021 season, the 24-year-old looks the part. Peña’s defense is his carrying tool but his offense has come alive in the last few seasons and he belted 10 home runs and stole five bases in 30 Triple-A games last year. The 30 games is a small sample but his strikeout and walk rates were less than desirable (less than 5% BB rate, greater than 25% strikeout rate) and could be something to monitor in the early going.
Shawn Dubin, P, HOU – Dubin has split time as a starter and a multi-inning reliever in the minors and has showcased big strikeout ability. He tossed nearly 50 innings at Triple-A last season and posted a strikeout rate above 30% with a 3.44 ERA. His walk rates have consistently been near double digits, so it’s likely he ends up as a relief-only option, but if anything that could fast track him to the majors. He will start the year in Triple-A.
Reid Detmers, P, LAA – Detmers absolutely dominated Double-A last season with a 43.1% strikeout rate in 54 innings. The Angels quickly promoted him to the big leagues where he struggled, allowing 17 earned runs in 20.2 innings. All recent signs have pointed to the Angels going to a six-man rotation, with Detmers occupying that number six spot. If he performs, he will be up for good.
Janson Junk, P, LAA, – Junk is in a similar situation to Detmers. He spent his entire minor league season at the Double-A level, where he pitched fairly well, before making a leap to the bigs late in the season, where he struggled. Junk now finds himself competing for a spot in the rotation as we close in on Opening Day. It feels like he will ultimately be the odd man out but the first option for the Angels to turn to when in need of a spot start.
Kevin Smith, SS/3B, OAK – Smith’s prospect stock has been a roller coaster. A huge 2018 season was followed by a disappointing 2019 campaign and we obviously didn’t get to see him in-game action in 2020 due to the lack of a minor league season. Smith bounced back in a big way in 2021 belting 21 home runs, swiping 18 bags, and posting a 144 wRC+ at Triple-A. He did get a big-league look but struggled with it, hitting just .096 in 36 PAs. The trade from Toronto is great news though, as the 25-year-old is in line to get a full-time opportunity to start the season for Oakland. It’s looking like he will spend most of his days at third base, but he should play some shortstop too.
Cristian Pache, OF, OAK – Like Smith, the change of scenery for Pache is a positive. Pache is an elite defensive outfielder that has struggled at the plate against MLB pitching. It’s only 24 big-league games, but his -6 wRC+ and 37.5% strikeout rate are cause for concern. Still, he looks like the leading candidate to be Oakland’s starting centerfielder, and perhaps getting more consistent playing time will be the key to him figuring it out. From a fantasy perspective, Pache has some intriguing upside given his speed and Oakland’s willingness to steal bases. I don’t buy it entirely though – since reaching Double-A, Pache has a stolen base success rate under 50%.
Zach Logue, P, OAK – Logue isn’t the highest-regarded prospect but his 2021 campaign has him knocking at the door. The soon-to-be 26-year-old is coming off a career year where he posted a K-BB rate north of 30% in seven Double-A starts before tossing 89.1 innings at Triple-A where he finished with a 3.32 ERA. Oakland is apparently punting the 2022 season after trading away some of its stars, so guys like Logue should get a look at some point. He will start the year in Triple-A.
Julio Rodríguez, OF, SEA – Ah, yes. The one everyone wants to know about. With service time manipulation still a part of our lives, there’s so there’s always still a chance Rordríguez spends the first few weeks in Triple-A. He’s been living up to the hype in Spring Training and the Mariners made some win-now moves this offseason, so things seem to be trending toward him making the Opening Day Roster. The 21-year-old is thought of by many to be the top prospect in the sport and there is no doubt that adding him to the MLB roster immediately would increase Seattle’s chances of making the playoffs in 2022. We’ll find out soon, but the worst-case scenario is we see him with the Mariners in a few weeks.
Matt Brash, P, SEA – Brash appears to be the frontrunner for the fifth spot in the rotation, though nothing is set in stone at this point. He’s tossed five scoreless frames this spring, backing up his dominant performances at High-A and Double-A in 2021. Across both those levels, Brash had a strikeout rate north of 30% with an ERA in the low-to-mid twos. Of course, skipping Triple-A entirely isn’t super common so there is a chance we see him get a handful of starts in Triple-A to start the year, but don’t be surprised if he’s in the rotation come Opening Day, either.
Wyatt Mills, P, SEA – The Mariners have a ton more pitching prospects, but none of Levi Stoudt, George Kirby, and Emerson Hancock have pitched above Double-A. We will probably see some, if not all, of those arms in the majors at some point this season but it probably won’t be right away. Mills, on the other hand, got a taste of MLB action in 2021. He’s a relief-only arm that posted eye-popping strikeout numbers in the minors in 2021 (a 44% clip in 28.2 Triple-A innings) before struggling in a small sample at the big-league level. The bullpen is a bit crowded but Mills’ strikeout ability should give him a chance sometime soon, if not right away.
A.J. Alexy, P, TEX – Ultimately, Alexy might be better suited in relief, but the right-hander is currently slated to be at the backend of the rotation for Texas. Alexy has always posted great strikeout numbers in the minors, notching rates around 30% at every level but that has also consistently been paired with double-digit walk rates. He struggled in 24.1 MLB innings in 2021 but has a shot to bounce back to start the year.
Sam Huff, C, TEX – Huff has, unconventionally, played at all levels of professional baseball. Due to the lack of the minor league season in 2020, the backstop played 10 games at the MLB level without ever playing above High-A. He spent 46 games at Double-A and seven at Triple-A in 2021, but required knee surgery and missed a good chunk of the campaign. He profiles as a low-average, power-hitting catcher. The acquisition of Mitch Garver definitely complicates his path to the majors a bit, but an injury to Garver or the need for an extra bat should lead to Huff’s number being called relatively early.
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)