CHICAGO – Adley. Tork. Witt.
A couple of highly touted draft picks are on the brink of the major leagues. Nice timing, too, with baseball coming back after an ugly labor dispute.
Here is a closer look at a handful of rookies who could play a starring role this year:
—C Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles: The switch-hitting Rutschman looks ready to lead the Orioles' revival after 110 losses by the big league club last year. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 amateur draft batted .285 with 23 homers and 75 RBIs over two minor league stops last season, finishing the year with Triple-A Norfolk.
—SS Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals: The son of the former Texas Rangers right-hander was selected by Kansas City with the No. 2 pick in 2019, right behind Rutschman. Witt, who turns 22 in June, hit 33 homers and swiped 29 bases in a combined 123 games at Double-A and Triple-A last season.
—INF Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers: First base? Third base? Torkelson's position might not matter all that much if he continues to produce at the plate. The No. 1 pick in the 2020 amateur draft batted .267 with 30 homers and 91 RBIs in 121 games in the minors last year.
—C Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants: The reigning NL West champions have an opening behind the plate after Buster Posey retired in November. The 25-year-old Bart hit .294 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in 67 games for Triple-A Sacramento last season. He has appeared in 35 big league games, batting .239 with eight RBIs.
—RHP Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds: Featuring a fastball that reaches the low triple-digits and a sharp slider, the 22-year-old Greene likely will make his big league debut this season. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft went 10-8 with a 3.30 ERA in 21 starts over two minor league stops last year.
—OF Brennen Davis, Chicago Cubs: The athletic Davis homered twice in the All-Star Futures Game in July, earning MVP honors. He finished last season at Triple-A Iowa, hitting .268 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 15 games. If he doesn't make the Cubs out of camp, he could join the big league team for the first time this summer.
—OF Julio Rodríguez, Mariners: The 21-year-old Rodríguez is a big part of the future plans for the ascending Mariners, joining Kyle Lewis and Jarred Kelenic in a promising young outfield. Rodríguez hit .347 with 13 homers, 47 RBIs and 21 steals in the minors in 2021, finishing the season with Double-A Arkansas. He could begin this year with Triple-A Tacoma, but his big league debut is coming soon.
—C Shea Langeliers, Athletics: The No. 9 overall pick in the 2019 amateur draft was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Atlanta that moved All-Star first baseman Matt Olson to the Braves. The 24-year-old Langeliers hit 22 homers in the minors last season, finishing the year with Triple-A Gwinnett. He also has drawn rave reviews for his arm and his defense behind the plate.
—RHP Cade Cavalli, Nationals: The 6-foot-4 Cavalli starred at the University of Oklahoma before he was selected by Washington with the No. 22 pick in the 2020 draft. He rocketed through the Nationals' system in his first year in the minors, striking out 175 in 123 1/3 innings over three levels. He had a shaky stay with Triple-A Rochester, going 1-5 with a 7.30 ERA in six starts, but he could be a key member of Washington's rotation for years to come.
—OF Yoelqui Céspedes, White Sox: The younger half-brother of former big league slugger Yoenis Céspedes agreed to a contract in January 2021 that included a $2.05 million signing bonus. He batted .285 with eight homers, 27 RBIs and 18 steals in his first year in the minors, finishing the season with Double-A Birmingham. He could step into Chicago's long-running opening in right field at some point in 2022.
—1B Triston Casas, Red Sox: The 22-year-old Casas was drafted by Boston with the No. 26 pick in 2018. He hit .279 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in the minors last year, and won a silver medal playing for the United States in the Tokyo Olympics. The Red Sox look as if they might need some help at first, and Casas could be the answer.
—OF Alek Thomas, Diamondbacks: It has been a rough couple of years in the desert, but the arrival of the talented Thomas could help ease the pain of Diamondbacks fans. Thomas, a second-round pick in 2018 who turns 22 in April, batted .313 with 18 homers, 59 RBIs and 13 steals in 106 games combined with Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno in 2021.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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