Our annual team of top minor league defenders can be counted on to have two things: Future Gold Glove winners and Braves outfielder Cristian Pache.
Since we began identifying the top defensive prospects in 2016, five of those players have been awarded Major League Gold Gloves: Cody Bellinger, Byron Buxton, Matt Chapman, JP Crawford and Evan White. And that number is sure to grow as more of the team gets promoted to the majors.
And ever since Pache hit the full-season level, he’s been a fixture on this team. 2022 marks the fifth time the Dominican has been named to this squad, and scouts have recognized him as the best minor league defender for at least parts of the last four seasons.
Other players included this year also made the 2021 squad. A’s shortstop Nick Allen and Royals first baseman Nick Pratto are again on the first team, in which Allen was also named to the 2020, Rays second baseman Vidal Bruján and Cubs outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong were recognized on the second team a year ago.
Our “All-Defense” team includes five Top 100 prospects (their rankings as of the end of 2021 are in parentheses):
C: Adley Rutschman, Orioles (No. 1/MLB No. 1)
The overall splendor of Rutschman’s offense is the main reason he was selected with the first pick in the 2019 Amateur Draft, but his defense at a terrific position also played a role. He has advanced skills behind the plate with good strength and also excels in intangible areas like calling the game and leadership.
1B: Nick Pratto, Royals (No. 2/ MLB No. 65)
Although it took four years since the Royals took him with the 14th pick in the 2017 Amateur Draft to break out at bat, Pratto has consistently shone with the glove throughout his professional career. He has great athletic ability, is aggressive for a first baseman, has soft hands and possesses a strong arm that also made him a pitching prospect when he was a high school student in California.
2B: Vidal Brujan, Rays (No. 2/ No. of 21)
Given the amount of talent the Rays have at the highest levels of their farm, Bruján saw action at six different positions in Triple-A and four in just 10 major league games last year. Signed for just $15,000 in 2014, second base is where he fits in best and that’s where he’s played the most in his pro career. His sheer speed gives him greater reach than many in that position, while his solid arm strength also commands attention.
3B: Casey Schmitt, Giants (No. 17)
Schmitt was one of the top relievers picked in the 2020 Amateur Draft, in which the Giants selected him in the second round. He boasted a 96-mph fastball and a devastating 80-something split-finger fastball. His powerful arm is also an advantage at third base, where he has soft hands and good reach from both sides and when going for soft ground balls.
**SS: Nick Allen, A’s (**No. 3)
Although Allen is only 5-foot-8 and 166 pounds, he is so dynamic at shortstop that he received a $2 million bonus when he was selected in the third round of the 2017 Amateur Draft. Not only does he make spectacular plays thanks to his great range, quick hands and strong arm, but he’s also a dependable defender who rarely fails to catch a ground ball.
OF: Cristian Pache, Braves _(No. 1/ MLB No. 38)
Though how much offense Pache will bring remains to be seen, the impact he’s capable of with his defense has allowed him to crack the Braves’ postseason roster the past two years. Signed for $1.4 million in 2015, Pache is a complete center fielder. His great speed is enough to allow him to cover a lot of ground and is enhanced by his incredible instincts. He also has a well-above-average arm that puts him among the top prospects at his position.
OF: Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cubs (No. 5)The best defensive outfielder in the 2020 Amateur Draft, Crow-Armstrong was selected by the Mets with the 19th pick and moved to the Cubs in 2021 in exchange for Puerto Rican infielder Javier Báez and the mound Trevor Williams. His combination of speed and ability to read the ball and his good routes allow him to cover a lot of ground in center field. He also has solid strength in his throwing arm.
OF: Michael Harris, Braves (No. 4/MLB No. 89) Known primarily as a left-handed pitching prospect for much of his amateur career, Harris wanted to hit and the Braves let him after selecting him in the third round of the 2019 amateur draft. He’s reminiscent of Pache, albeit with slightly less speed and arm strength, and would probably move to right field if the two were together in the Atlanta outfield at the same time.
Our second team includes two other Top 100 prospects: Braves catcher Shea Langeliers and D-backs outfielder Corbin Carroll. Langeliers, Marlins shortstop Nasim Nunez and Rockies first baseman Michael Toglia were also named to the second team in 2021.
C: Shea Langeliers, Braves (No. 2/MLB No. 69)
1B: Michael Toglia, Rockies (No. 6)
2B: Michael Massey, Royals (No. 28)
3B: Jared Triolo, Pirates (not ranked in Pirates Top 30)
SS: Nasim Nunez, Marlins (No. 13)
OF: Johan Rojas, Phillies (No. 6)
OF: Michael Siani, Reds (No. 11)
OF: Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks (No. 2/MLB No. 20)
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Best prospects of 2022 at defense