Road to The Show™ Ambassador season reviews
The Nationwide Road to the Show™ Ambassadors series, which provides fans an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at four of the best prospects in Minor League Baseball, returned for another season in 2022. Orioles hurler Grayson Rodriguez, Yankees infielder Anthony Volpe, Rangers right-hander Jack Leiter and Cardinals infielder/outfielder Jordan Walker were this
The Nationwide Road to the Show™ Ambassadors series, which provides fans an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at four of the best prospects in Minor League Baseball, returned for another season in 2022.
Orioles hurler Grayson Rodriguez, Yankees infielder Anthony Volpe, Rangers right-hander Jack Leiter and Cardinals infielder/outfielder Jordan Walker were this season’s representatives, and each was involved in producing original content that showed fans who they are on and off the field while highlighting their own journey to fulfill their dream of reaching the big leagues.
From Spring Training to the Futures Game to the end of the season, the Ambassadors navigated promotions, struggles and success in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues. Here’s a look at how each of the four prospects fared in 2022.
Jordan Walker, St. Louis Cardinals | MLB Pipeline Rank: No. 6
The 20-year-old followed his breakout in 2021 with an impressive list of accolades during just his second professional season. Walker, who was the youngest player in the Texas League on Opening Day, stayed with Double-A Springfield for the entire 2022 campaign and finished with league All-Star honors while also being named the circuit’s Top MLB Prospect.
Even against advanced competition, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound slugger continued to show the advanced hitting tools that led to his first-year breakout. His .388 on-base percentage was identical to his 2021 season, and he set career highs with 31 doubles, 19 homers and 22 stolen bases. Walker was one of only eight players across the Minors to reach those statistical benchmarks.
He also finished the season with a .306 average, .898 OPS, 68 RBIs and 100 runs scored. The 2020 first-rounder was one of the most consistent hitters in the Minors, batting at least .300 in every month of the season besides July, where he still managed a .290 average, while taking a hiatus for the Futures Game.
Though he wasn’t challenged with a midseason promotion, Walker did stand up to advanced competition in the Arizona Fall League, where he belted five homers and hit .286 with a .925 OPS in 21 games for Salt River. He was named to both the Fall Stars Game and the All-AFL team.
Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore Orioles | MLB Pipeline Rank: No. 4
When he was on the field in 2022, Rodriguez proved why he was the highest-ranking pitching prospect in the sport. But his season was defined by his time spent on the injured list, a hiatus significant enough to prevent him from joining fellow Orioles rookies Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson in making his Major League debut.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander debuted with Triple-A Norfolk to open the season. He made 11 brilliant starts, compiling a 2.09 ERA with 80 strikeouts over 56 innings, before suffering a Grade 2 lat strain on his right side. The injury could have shut him down for the season, but Rodriguez returned to Minor League games on Sept. 1, exactly three months after his latest start. He made one rehab start with High-A Aberdeen and three with Double-A Bowie before returning to finish the season with the Tides. Over his last three starts, the 22-year-old allowed four earned runs over 13 ⅔ innings while striking out 17.
Despite missing time with the injury, Rodriguez was named to the International League All-Star team. Overall, he finished with a 2.62 ERA and 6-2 record over 17 starts. He held opposing batters to a miniscule .176 average while striking out 109 in 75 ⅔ innings.
Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees | MLB Pipeline Rank: No. 5
The 21-year-old took another step toward the Majors with a late promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and may have even positioned himself to challenge for a spot on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster next year. The 2019 first-rounder played in just 22 games with the RailRiders as a strong finish to a brilliant second half of the season.
Volpe struggled out of the gate with Double-A Somerset, where he also finished the 2021 season. He was batting just .181 with a 24.5 percent strikeout rate over the first 37 games. But he hit a different gear at the end of May. Over 40 contests leading into his Futures Game appearance, Volpe hit .315 and elevated his OPS to .958 while nearly cutting his strikeout rate in half to 13.8 percent.
The New Jersey native left Somerset with a .251 average and .820 OPS. He didn’t experience too much of a drop in his numbers against the advanced competition following his promotion in September, batting .236 with eight extra-base hits, including two homers, and six stolen bases to finish the season.
By the end of the season, Volpe stood alone as the only player in the Minors with at least 20 homers and 50 stolen bases in 2022. Overall, he finished with 21 homers, 35 doubles, 86 runs scored and five triples. He was the only player in the Minors to reach those statistical thresholds as well.
Jack Leiter, Texas Rangers | MLB Pipeline Rank: No. 45
The 22-year-old faced his fair share of adversity in his first professional season. The Rangers challenged him with an assignment to Double-A Frisco, and the surface numbers show that he may be in for another tour of the Texas League at least for the start of next year.
Leiter went 3-10 with a 5.54 ERA over 23 games with the RoughRiders. Opposing batters hit .247 with a .740 OPS against him. He issued 5.44 walks per nine innings, which was the 21st-highest mark among the more than 400 pitchers to complete at least 90 frames in the Minors this season.
But there were two very encouraging developments to come of his season. The first was his workload, as Leiter was able to complete 92 ⅔ innings. There were some durability concerns about the 6-foot-1 right-hander after his storied college career at Vanderbilt, and to pitch for a full season against Double-A competition is a difficult way to start a pro career.
The other encouraging sign was his 109 punchouts or 10.59 strikeouts per nine innings. His arsenal is still impressive, and he can still look dominant at times. Cleaning up his command might be his next, and biggest, challenge. And he may be able to do it alongside his Vanderbilt teammate, Kumar Rocker, in 2023.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.