2022 Bowman Baseball is officially hitting shelves and there is no shortage of elite prospects to hunt in this loaded checklist. 2020’s COVID-cancelled Minor League season resulted in Topps not having many new names to work with prospect wise, but with an endless number of breakout prospects last year, the 2022 Bowman Baseball product is loaded with exciting young hitters.
5. Curtis Mead – 3B – Tampa Bay Rays
An under-the-radar prospect out of Australia, Mead broke out in a big way last year hitting .321/.378/.533 with 15 HR across all three levels. It has been like riding a bike for Mead in 2022, showing off an OPS of 1.037 along with a minuscule 12.5 K%.
Mead’s plus hit-tool and underrated power give him a high floor along with the potential to be a well above average big league contributor. Power output will ultimately determine Mead’s ceiling, but the fact that he put up exit velocities above 110 mph last year on several occasions provides hope for above average pop.
4. James Wood – OF – San Diego Padres
An overslot second-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, Wood was viewed as one of the highest upside bats in his class and it is easy to understand why. The 6-foot-7, 240 pound outfielder is surprisingly athletic, impressing in centerfield during the early going of his first professional season.
On top of the sneaky athleticism, Wood has a better-than-expected feel to hit and has mashed to an OPS above 1.000 through his first month of Low-A. Most impressively, Wood has walked more than he struck out, perhaps hedging some of the perceived risk with his profile. Wood could be a name that heats up in the hobby very quickly and this is the first chance for collectors to get a piece of the exciting Padres prospect.
3. George Valera – OF – Cleveland Guardians
One of the most patient hitters in Double-A, Valera has reached base at a .380 clip in his 121 MiLB games. Paired with Valera’s patience is an impressive ability to lift and backspin baseballs. Valera has the ability to make any ballpark look small and has the bat flips to complement his no-doubt bombs.
The 21-year-old has not quite demonstrated the same power production in the early going of the Double-A level, though he is still getting on base at a nearly .400 clip and heating up bat-to-ball wise. Between Valera’s upside and proximity to the big leagues, he is a name to chase in this product and has been long overdue for a Bowman auto.
2. Elly De La Cruz – SS – Cincinnati Reds
There may not be a more physically gifted player in the Minor Leagues than Reds prospect Elly De La Cruz. The No. 52 prospect in baseball boasts double plus speed and raw power as a switch hitting infielder, finally getting an opportunity to put his skills on display in 2021 where he dominated the Complex League.
De La Cruz is an extremely raw prospect, which is the only reason why he isn’t ranked even higher on our top 100 list, but has a chance to rise as quickly as any prospect in baseball. The Reds top offensive prospect will probably take some time to develop, however the hype will continue to build as De La Cruz accumulates the highlight reel plays like the one below.
When you are 6-foot-5 with elite speed and power potential as well as an exciting field presence to back it up, it is probably safe to assume Elly De La Cruz will be a collector’s favorite.
1. Kahlil Watson – SS – Miami Marlins
Our 48th ranked prospect in baseball, Watson was projected by many to be a top five pick in 2021’s MLB Draft, but slid to the Marlins at pick No. 16 due to sign-ability concerns. Having seen Watson first hand on the Marlins backfields this spring, I can attest that his elite bat speed is as advertised.
Watson is explosive, showing off already well above average exit velocities and 400+ foot homers as a 19-year-old in Low-A. The Marlins top offensive prospect is a plus runner who should be able to electrify the game on the base paths and in the field.
Ultimately, the big time power potential and ability to spray the ball all over the field will be what draws collectors to Watson and the shortstop has a chance to be one of the most exciting young prospects in the game.