We are just about a month shy of the 2022 Draft and I would love to report that we have a lot more clarity in terms of the first-round picture.
In fairness to all of you, however, I can’t do that, as words like “volatility” and “wild card” still dominate conversations with scouts. What I can tell you is that there is a whole lot more data, performances and information floating around.
Perhaps the biggest wild card, Kumar Rocker, has made two starts in independent league ball to create some buzz. Suspended college starter Carson Whisenhunt is pitching in the Cape Cod League (and actually faced junior college star Cam Collier in his first outing). Alabama lefty Connor Prielipp is following up his late May bullpen session by throwing at the Draft Combine, which could easily cause some ripple effects. And Termarr Johnson, who was tough to evaluate this spring because of the lack of good competition, is taking BP at the Combine and also playing in an Atlanta area wood bat league.
Do any of these things create any certainty? Of course not — not yet. But it is likely helping teams slightly narrow their focus, though that might not be the case at the very top, where it looks like the Orioles are still looking at the same bucket of players: the top four high school bats in Druw Jones, Elijah Green, Jackson Holliday and Johnson, as well as college hitters Brooks Lee and Jacob Berry (though the latter seems more on the outside looking in to me).
For this week’s mock, I’ve decided to take another crack at what the round could look like if Baltimore goes the college route.
1. Orioles: Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly (No. 5)
The explanation that has typically been given as to why the Orioles might take Lee has been to save money and use that savings later on in the Draft, as they have in the past two Drafts. Another possibility is that with some of the organization’s top talent reaching the big leagues and upper levels, it might be desirable to get a player who could join them quickly.
2. D-backs: Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS, Ga. (No. 1)
As we’ve said in this spot several times, the D-backs would love for this scenario to play out and take Jones, considered to be the top talent in the class by most. The other top high schoolers listed above would be in play, as would Lee, if the Orioles take one of the aforementioned prepsters, with Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada perhaps in the mix as well.
3. Rangers: Jackson Holliday, SS, Stillwater HS, Okla. (No. 3)
It could be a spirited debate over Holliday or Green here, assuming they want to go with a high school player. Parada would be the college bat to fit if they go in that direction.
4. Pirates: Termarr Johnson, 2B, Mays HS, Ga. (No. 4)
Both my colleague Jim Callis and I have had Lee in this spot several times over, but with him off the board, it’s possible they could move off of their perceived desire to add a college hitter by choosing Johnson’s advanced bat over Green’s higher risk/reward.
5. Nationals: Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy, Fla. (No. 2)
Parada has been the choice in this spot repeatedly, and while that certainly could still happen, it’s not difficult to imagine the Nats not wanting to pass up on Green’s enormous upside here.
6. Marlins: Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech (No. 6)
We will continue the run on bats, and with all of the top high school names off the board, this allows the Marlins to take the best college hitter available in Parada.
7. Cubs: Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola Junior College (No. 12)
As mentioned above, Collier is currently seeing how he measures up against older competition in the Cape Cod League. It’s not unreasonable to think that a strong showing there could move him more strongly into top five consideration.
8. Twins: Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech (No. 9)
Another landing spot for hitters, with Collier and Johnson certainly of interest, but off the board in this scenario. Berry and Campbell’s Zach Neto come up here as well.
9. Royals: Justin Crawford, OF, Bishop Gorman HS, Nev. (No. 13)
There’s some buzz that Carl’s kid has impressed in workouts for teams like the Royals and the Mets, only adding to his upward trajectory.
10. Rockies: Jacob Berry, 3B/OF, Louisiana State (No. 7)
College hitters are still getting most of the attention in this spot, and though the industry seems to be a bit lackluster about Berry, it’s hard to imagine him not going around the spot of the first round.
11. Mets: Brock Porter, RHP, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s HS, Mich. (No. 10)
(compensation pick for failure to sign 2021 first-rounder Kumar Rocker)
Just named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, Porter is working towards adding a state championship to his résumé. He has cemented himself as the top arm in the class.
12. Tigers: Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech (No. 8)
Jung’s star has faded just a bit after going 5-for-24 (.208) combined in Big 12 Tournament and Regional play.
13. Angels: Brandon Barriera, LHP, American Heritage HS, Fla. (No. 15)
While some actively wonder if the Angels would take a pitcher in the first round after their pitching-only draft in 2021, all we continue to hear are arms here. They could look at high school lefties like Barriera or Robby Snelling. If they want to go the safer college route, this is the first spot I’ve heard Oklahoma State’s Justin Campbell’s name.
14. Mets: Daniel Susac, C, Arizona (No. 11)
This is a good balance for the Mets, nabbing a high-end high school arm at 11 and then getting one of the better college bats in the country at 14.
15. Padres: Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford HS, Ga. (No. 14)
This makes four mocks in a row where we’ve put Lesko — the top arm in the class before he needed Tommy John surgery — in this spot. That has more to do with the knowledge that the Padres are willing to take risks and that the Georgia prep right-hander could land somewhere in this range.
16. Guardians: Zach Neto, SS, Campbell (No. 25)
Neto’s advanced bat is being mentioned higher than this at this point, but Cleveland would certainly have an interest if he were still available. If they want to go the high school infielder route, they could look at Jett Williams or Cole Young.
17. Phillies: Justin Campbell, RHP, Oklahoma State (No. 34)
This has been a popular spot for Barrera, but with him off the board, the Phillies could look at other high school lefties like Snelling or Jackson Ferris. But this go-round, I’ll have them go the safer college route with Campbell. There has also been some talk of them being interested in Young, should they want to go for a high school bat.
18. Reds: Cole Young, SS, North Allegheny HS, Pa. (No. 18)
Young is taking BP and infield at the Combine and he’s had some workouts with teams, which will only help the Pittsburgh area standout.
19. Athletics: Dylan Beavers, OF, California (No. 21)
This makes four straight projections with the A’s staying in their relative backyard and taking Beavers’ power-speed combination. There are some other college hitter possibilities here, like Chase DeLauter or Brock Jones.
20. Braves: Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State (No. 32)
This could come down to the best college arm available. Hjerpe has been as consistent as just about anyone in the class, albeit with less of a ceiling.
21. Mariners: Brock Jones, OF, Stanford (No. 31)
Jones had played his way largely out of first-round contention with the way he started his year at Stanford, but he has played his way back into the conversation with how he has swung the bat the second half of the season.
22. Cardinals: Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama (No. 24)
Before he got hurt in his first start of his sophomore year in 2021, scouts saw Prielipp as a potential top-of-the-Draft type of college arm. Whether the May workout and however he throws at the Combine convinces folks he can still be that kind of starter remains to be seen and could impact whether he floats up or falls down.
23. Blue Jays: Jett Williams, SS, Rockwall-Heath HS, Tex. (No. 26)
Williams’ name is coming up all over the middle of the first round, so there is a chance that he’s gone by the time the Blue Jays pick. They could also go the college outfielder route if they still want a bat.
24. Red Sox: Jordan Beck, OF, Tennessee (No. 22)
The Red Sox could choose between two Tennessee outfielders in Beck and Drew Gilbert.
25. Yankees: Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison University (No. 19)
DeLauter is a tough one to place because while he has put up very good numbers wherever he’s been, scouts were not in love with his mechanics at the plate and his broken left foot ended opportunities for them to evaluate him down the stretch.
26. White Sox: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Tri-City ValleyCats (No. 39)
That’s right, he’s back in a mock. The reports of his stuff in his first two starts have largely been very good, though he will still have to answer questions on the medical side for a team to feel really comfortable taking him in the first round.
27. Brewers: Drew Gilbert, OF, Tennessee (No. 28)
He can really hit and he can really play center field, a very good combination. Other possibilities could be Jacob Melton from Oregon State or high school hitter Tucker Toman.
28. Astros: Sterlin Thompson, OF, Florida (No. 27)
While some of the other college outfielders might be more athletic, Thompson might be a better bet to hit, with a very smooth left-handed swing that generated more power this year than it had in the past.
29. Rays: Tucker Toman, 3B, Hammond HS, S.C. (No. 42)
He can really hit and he does it from both sides of the plate, reasons why he may be gone by the time the Rays pick at 29.
30. Giants: Robby Snelling, LHP, McQueen HS, Nev. (No. 16)
The Giants would definitely have interest in the Reno area lefty should he somehow make it this far. There are other high school arms who could come into play, like fellow lefty Jackson Ferris, and right-handers Jacob Miller or Andrew Dutkanych.
31. Rockies: Jacob Melton, OF, Oregon State (No. 54)
32. Reds: Jacob Miller, RHP, Liberty Union HS, Ohio (No. 44)
33. Orioles: Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee (No. 23)
34: D-backs: Peyton Graham, SS, Oklahoma (No. 33)
35. Royals: Landon Sims, RHP, Mississippi State (No. 41)
36. Pirates: Jackson Ferris, LHP, IMG Academy, Fla. (No. 17)
37. Guardians: Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga (No. 20)
38. Rockies: Max Wagner, 3B, Clemson (No. 63)
39: Padres: Cayden Wallace, 3B, Arkansas (No. 37)