With the MLB draft tonight, we are providing Baseball America subscribers with live, pick-by-pick analysis for every team’s first-rounders, along with full BA scouting reports for each selection. The draft begins tonight at 7 p.m. ET.
Here is the order for tonight.
- Baltimore Orioles
- Arizona D-backs
- Texas Rangers
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Washington Nationals
- Miami Marlins
- Chicago Cubs
- Minnesota Twins
- Kansas City Royals
- Colorado Rockies
- New York Mets
- Detroit Tigers
- Los Angeles Angels
- New York Mets
- San Diego Padres
- Cleveland Guardians
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Cincinnati Reds
- Oakland Athletics
- Atlanta Braves
- Seattle Mariners
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Boston Red Sox
- New York Yankees
- Chicago White Sox
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Houston Astros
- Tampa Bay Rays
- San Francisco Giants
Pick: Jackson Holliday
School: Stillwater (Okla.) HS
Instant Analysis: Some scouts think Holliday is the best player in the country. That wasn’t the case coming into the year, when Holliday was a first-round candidate but not this high up the board. This spring, he grew taller, got stronger and his tools ticked up, making him a well-rounded player with a chance for average to plus tools across the board at a premium position. The son of former major league all-star Matt Holliday, Jackson has been an arrow-up player all spring, culminating in him being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The Orioles are now even richer in shortstop prospects, with Holliday joining Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg as Top 100 prospects as soon as he signs.
Scouting Report: The son of seven-time all-star and four-time Silver Slugger Matt Holliday, Jackson is a lefthanded-hitting, toolsy shortstop who significantly boosted his draft stock by getting bigger and stronger this spring. Holliday had an inconsistent performance on the showcase circuit last summer, where scouts saw him get big and aggressive with his swing and show more whiff tendencies than he did as an underclassman. Scouts with history watching Holliday believed he was simply looking to hit for power, rather than letting his developing power come naturally and he looked like his instinctual and natural hitting self this spring in Oklahoma, where he broke JT Realmuto’s national hits record. Holliday worked hard over the offseason and added plenty of strength—as well as a few inches of height—to his frame, while showing an impressive ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. He looks like a plus hitter when he is focused on the opposite field gap and willing to go the other way, instead of ripping out on his front side and trying to hunt homers like he did over the summer. Holliday still has room to add more strength to a 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame and he could grow into above-average power in the future. His tools improved across the board after his offseason in the weight room and he now shows plus running ability, above-average power and plus arm strength. In a class light on true shortstops, Holliday is the best bet of the top tier hitters in the class to stick at the position. He has solid hands and instincts, impressive athleticism and great carry and accuracy on his throws, which at times look like they are climbing into a second gear on the way to first base. He also shows a good understanding of where to position himself. Holliday is committed to Oklahoma State but has put himself in position to be one of the first players selected in the draft and has a special combination of tools, lefthanded-hitting ability, premium defensive positional value and professional bloodlines.
Pick: Druw Jones
School: Wesleyan HS, Norcross, Ga.
Instant Analysis: The D-backs land BA’s No. 1 player on our draft board for the second straight year, with excellent early returns so far on shortstop Jordan Lawlar. Jones checks a lot of boxes scouts traditionally want in a high school prospect. He’s tall and lean (6-foot-4, 180 pounds) with big league bloodline, an excellent athlete at a premium position with impressive tools and the physical projection for those tools to continue to climb higher. He’s a potential well above-average defender in center field with outstanding speed, a strong arm and great jumps off the bat. Usually when we talk about a player’s defense first, it’s because their bat is light, but that isn’t the case with Jones. It’s not the most picturesque swing, but he has hit well in games and hit for power as well, with more power likely coming as he gets stronger.
Scouting Report: Unsurprisingly, the son of five-time all-star and 10-time Gold Glove center fielder Andruw Jones is an excellent defensive center fielder as well. Druw is the top player in the 2022 draft class thanks to his unique combination of present skills, projection and loud supplemental tools while handling a premium defensive position. Jones stood out during the summer showcase circuit with plenty of hard contact and the ability to drive the ball with authority to the right-center gap. His swing wasn’t always the most fluid or ‘hitterish’ and at times he would get out of sync with his lower and upper halves, resulting in lots of ground ball outs, but he has improved the consistency of that swing this spring. Jones has an advanced approach at the plate with solid pitch recognition and pure bat-to-ball skills. As he continues to add strength to a lean frame, he should grow into above-average or plus raw power, and he could become a plus hitter with above-average game power. He’s a lock to play center field at the highest level and is one of the best defensive outfielders scouts have seen in years, with the instincts and physical tools necessary to be a 70-grade defender at the position. Scouting directors unanimously named Jones the best defensive outfielder in the high school class prior to the season, and he has a case as the best defender in the entire class as well. He’s a double-plus runner with a fantastic first step that allows him to track difficult balls into the gaps and to the fence with instinctual route-running ability on top of that. His arm strength is a cherry on top of his tool set and it’s at least plus with some scouts putting 70 grades on his throwing ability as well. If Jones weren’t such a dynamic center fielder, teams might be inclined to try him at shortstop as well, where he shows advanced actions and instincts as an infielder. Jones is committed to Vanderbilt but is expected to be one of the first players selected in the 2022 draft. He has all-star upside and should impact the game in many ways.
Pick: Kumar Rocker
School: Tri-City (Frontier)
Instant Analysis: Well, we were all talking about Kumar Rocker as a potential top three overall pick . . . in 2021. After everything that happened with Rocker last year, we didn’t expect Rocker to go higher than the 10th overall pick, where he went last year, so the Rangers are pulling off the first big surprise of the draft. The idea of Rocker reuniting with former Vanderbilt teammate Jack Leiter is a great story, but all the unknowns with Rocker—both the limited sample of innings this season and the medical history— makes this a risky bet for the Rangers, especially given the opportunity cost of the other players th
ey could have had in this spot.
Scouting Report: Despite not throwing a pitch in amateur baseball this spring, Kumar Rocker is likely one of the most famous prospects in the 2022 class. A first-round talent out of high school, Rocker became the highest-ranked player (No. 13) in Baseball America’s college recruiting rankings history to make it to campus at Vanderbilt. While there, Rocker was one of the most dominant pitchers in college baseball over his three-year career, posting a 2.89 ERA over 236.2 innings, with 321 strikeouts (33.2 K%) and 68 walks (7.0 BB%). He was the 2019 Freshman of the Year after helping push the Commodores to a 2019 College World Series championship and after a strong 2021 junior draft season, was selected by the Mets with the 10th overall pick. The two sides never agreed to a deal because of medical concerns voiced by the Mets, which meant the team got a compensation pick (No. 11) in the 2022 draft and Rocker had to wait another year to enter affiliated ball. Instead of returning to Vanderbilt, Rocker signed with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Frontier League, and he made his debut on June 4. In terms of stuff, physicality and track record as a college-equivalent starting pitcher, no prospect comes close to Rocker in the 2022 class. When on the mound he’s shown a fastball up to 99 mph at peak, and he showed that same velocity during his Tri-City debut, along with a 70-grade slider that has made a mockery of amateur hitters, as well as a solid changeup and cutter. Rocker’s velocity fluctuated during his junior season with Vanderbilt, which raised some concerns, but it’s an easy plus offering which pairs well with a low-to-mid-80s slider that is a real wipeout offering. While Rocker’s command has been nitpicked at times, he has a strong track record of throwing strikes and profiles as a starter at the next level, with middle-of-the-rotation or better stuff at his best. Ultimately, Rocker’s 2022 draft status could depend on how teams view his medical—as he has nothing left to prove in terms of stuff and performance and is likely the top non-prep arm in the class on talent.
Pick: Termarr Johnson
School: Mays HS, Atlanta
Instant Analysis: With Termarr Johnson, the Pirates land the most polished high school hitter in the 2022 class. Johnson has a sweet swing that stays through the hitting zone for a long time, the bat control to barrel up pitches in all areas of the strike zone and an outstanding track record with wood bats. Sure, he’s 5-foot-8, but he has excellent bat speed to whip the bat head through the zone with ferocity and already has some of the biggest raw power in the high school class. His Jose Ramirez body type gives some teams concerns, and while he does have soft hands and a high baseball IQ, there’s a good chance he moves off shortstop and ends up at second base. If he ends up being a plus hitter with plus power—with a chance both tools could grade out higher—he’s an impact player. I value the bat more than any other tool, so if it were me, I would have taken Johnson with the first overall pick. That’s how much conviction I have in Johnson’s hitting ability, so I love this pick for the Pirates.
Scouting Report: Johnson is one of the most unique, top-of-the-class high school prospects the industry has seen in years. He’s a 5-foot-8, 194-pound shortstop who probably moves to second base at the next level and is close to physically maxed out, but he’s also one of the most advanced pure hitters to come out of high school since perhaps Joe Mauer in 2001. Johnson manipulates his bat from the left side of the plate like a magic wand, equally capable of turning on mid-90s velocity and showing 60-grade power to the pull or sitting back and slapping a breaking ball or offspeed offering through the 5-6 hole for a softly hit single. He was the top hitter on the showcase circuit and consistently performed no matter the competition and has a lengthy track record as an underclassman with USA Baseball. He has the rare amateur combination of excellent bat-to-ball skills, an advanced approach at the plate, impressive pitch recognition and more power than you’d expect given his frame, thanks to excellent bat speed and precise barrel accuracy. There are few holes to speak of in his game offensively and he has a real chance to be a 70-grade hitter. As a defender, Johnson is likely to move to second base due to limited range and arm strength that fits better on the right side of the infield. He’s sure-handed on balls he gets to and he turns a double play nicely, with quick footwork and a fast exchange, and profiles as an average defender. He is an average runner now, but it would be unsurprising for him to slow down a tick as he reaches physical maturity. Johnson committed to Arizona State late in the process but is expected to be a top-10 pick thanks to his hitting prowess. It’s certainly possible Johnson is selected as a shortstop, but if he is selected as a second baseman, he has a chance to top Delino DeShields (2010, No. 8) as the highest-ever drafted prep player at the position. There’s plenty of pressure on Johnson’s bat given his supplemental tool set, but it’s also hard to point to a recent high school hitter this advanced.
Pick: Elijah Green
School: IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Instant Analysis: Green has a chance to be a physical, exciting power/speed threat in the mold of Luis Robert. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds with plus-plus speed and raw power to match. If everything clicks, the upside is a center fielder who could hit 30-plus home runs. The risk is in his swing-and-miss tendencies, the same question scouts had last year about his former IMG Academy teammate, James Wood, who so far has quieted those concerns and become a Top 100 prospect. If Green goes out and shows he can keep his strikeouts to a manageable level next year in Low-A, he has the talent to quickly move into the elite tier of prospects in baseball.
Scouting Report: Green is one of the most dynamic and unique athletes scouts have seen on the baseball field in a long time. The son of 10-year NFL tight end Eric Green, Elijah’s physicality would stand out on a football field and is almost unheard of on the baseball field at his age. At 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, Green has tremendous strength and power currently and would look right at home standing next to the top sluggers in baseball as an 18-year-old. His power/speed combination with his frame gives him the biggest pure upside in the 2022 draft class as a righthanded hitter with the power to drive the ball out of any ballpark, while also turning in 70-grade run times. As one scout remarked, “Guys that big and that strong aren’t supposed to be running 6.5 in the 60.” Green isn’t a raw hitter without a plan at the plate either. He has an impressive track record of performance as an underclassman and accessed his power regularly in games over the summer showcase circuit, with USA Baseball’s 18U National Team—where he homered four times in seven games—and this spring against strong competition with IMG Academy. There is swing and miss in Green’s game. He’ll get caught out in front on breaking balls and he has shown whiff tendencies against velocity as well, but he should make more than enough impact to live with those whiffs. He has more than enough speed for center field now, and will likely begin his career at the position, but will need to refine his routes and reactions to stick there long term. It’s uncommon to see a major league center fielder with Green’s size, but he is an outlier athlete. If he does have to move to a corner he has the tools to be an above-average defende
r in right, with plus arm strength to profile nicely there. While other hitters in this class might top Green as a pure hitter, you won’t find anyone with his combination of dynamic athleticism, power, speed and pure upside.
Pick: Jacob Berry
School: Louisiana State
Instant Analysis: There’s a lot to like with Berry offensively, a disciplined hitter with an excellent track record against top college competition, ranking No. 8 in the BA 500. Still, if you’re looking for a college hitter at the top of the draft, it’s a bit surprising to see him go ahead of Brooks Lee and Kevin Parada, two other elite college hitters still on the board who offer more defensive value.
Scouting Report: Berry is a dynamic switch-hitter who should come off the draft board quickly in July. Atop the batting average leaderboard in SEC play, Berry’s Pac-12 dominance at Arizona carried over to the SEC after making the jump from Tucson to Baton Rouge alongside current LSU skipper, Jay Johnson. Analytics departments will appreciate Berry’s plate discipline, as he’s walked more times than he’s struck out. Berry stands in with a semi crouch and very still hands above the shoulders from both sides of the plate. He is very efficient in his timing and load, setting himself up for success prior to the pitch’s arrival. He tends to put more lift on the ball from the left side and does more damage there. Berry has the ability to level off his swing from the right side on fastballs up in the zone, showing the ability to use all fields with more of a gap-to-gap approach. Some evaluators question Berry’s true power from the right side, as he has notched just one homer from that side of the box this spring. However, what stands out is his ability to hit. His maturity at the plate projects to carry over to the next level, as the strong-framed 6-foot, 212-pound slugger has proven himself in two high-powered conferences. If there’s any blemish in Berry’s game, it falls on the defensive side. Lacking a true position, Berry may profile best at first base, but his profile also fits as a DH. Known for his high makeup both on and off the field, expect Berry to make the adjustments needed at the next level to carve his path to the big leagues sooner rather than later.
Pick: Cade Horton
Instant Analysis: If you want a college pitcher this year early in the draft, you’re going to have to be able to swallow more risk than usual given the injuries that have taken a toll on that demographic. It’s an aggressive bet by the Cubs this high on the board on Horton, who missed the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery and didn’t get many innings this year, but he was at his best down the stretch in June, throwing strikes with impressive stuff, moving up to No. 23 on the BA 500.
Scouting Report: Horton was a highly regarded high school prospect in the 2020 class, when he ranked as the No. 65 prospect on the BA 500 thanks to his two-way talents. Horton was a preseason All-American for his efforts on the mound and showed impressive ability as an infielder and hitter. On top of that, he was a standout high school quarterback who was committed to Oklahoma to play both sports. He went undrafted and made it to campus, and quickly started drawing rave reviews for his fall efforts in 2021. His 2021 season never happened, however, as Horton had Tommy John surgery. Now a draft-eligible sophomore, Horton didn’t get on the mound until late March—though he played plenty of third base and slashed .235/.323/.324 as a hitter—but he rocketed up draft boards with dynamic pitching performances and stuff that trended way up during the College World Series. Horton helped pitch the Sooners to the College World Series finals and in four June outings posted a 2.81 ERA while striking out 40 batters and walking just four. In June, he pitched with a 94-95 mph fastball that got up to 98 with high spin and impressive carry up in the zone. All of his pitches feature a high-spin profile, and he’s shown impressive feel to spin the baseball dating back to his prep days. He showed a harder slider in the mid 80s that got up to 90 mph late in the season, a pitch that earned double-plus grades and was used more frequently than his fastball. Horton will also throw a slower curveball around 80 mph, and that could be an above-average offering as well. He didn’t use a changeup much this spring, but he has a firm one in the upper 80s that flashes some downward movement and could be a real fourth pitch. Because Horton has just 53.2 innings under his belt, teams could vary on how far up the board they would select him, but he was getting consistent top-two round chatter in late June and plenty of scouts like his arm talent enough to put him in the first round.
Pick: Brooks Lee
School: Cal Poly
Instant Analysis: If you’re looking for a college hitter this year, there isn’t a Kris Bryant or Adley Rutschman type of player available, but Lee has a superlative offensive track record and is the top-ranked college player in the country. He drew nearly twice as many walks (46) as he had strikeouts (28) this season en route to a .357/.462/.664 season with 15 home runs. Lee’s tools are more solid than spectacular, but his best one is the one that matters most: his hitting ability. Several scouts think he’s a potential plus-plus hitter in the big leagues, with a polished swing from both sides of the plate and a great eye for the strike zone. Lee ranks No. 2 on the BA 500, so the Twins have to be pleased to get him here at eighth overall.
Scouting Report: The son of Cal Poly coach and renowned hitting guru Larry Lee, Brooks has long been an elite hitter and would have been a top-50 pick out of high school if not for his strong commitment to play for his father in college. A hamstring injury and the coronavirus pandemic limited him to two at-bats as a freshman, but he lived up to his reputation as a premium hitter once play resumed. Lee hit .342 to win Big West Conference co-player of the year as a redshirt freshman and torched the Cape Cod League with a .405/.432/.677 slash line for Yarmouth-Dennis in the summer. He followed with a standout showing for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and hit .357 with 15 home runs and a 1.125 OPS this spring, all career highs. Lee is a gifted switch-hitter with exceptional hitting ability. He takes short, balanced swings with elite bat speed from the left side and laces balls hard to all fields. His righthanded swing isn’t as fluid or powerful, but he has the hand-eye coordination to make consistent contact and spray balls around the field. He has elite strike-zone discipline, crushes fastballs and drives pitches in all parts of the zone, projecting as a potential plus-plus hitter. He has rarely faced good breaking stuff and will need to prove he can handle that. Lee has bulked up as he’s matured and is now a physical specimen with strong legs, broad shoulders and a chiseled torso. His strength and knack for barreling balls give him at least average power potential and likely more. Lee is an instinctive defender who positions himself well at shortstop and converts the routine plays with his reliable hands and above-average, accurate arm, but his bulk and below-average speed limit his range. He projects to move to second or third base, where he should be an average defender. Lee’s only major concern is his health. He missed time with multiple back injuries in high school and had hamstring surgery as a true freshman. His physical, maxed-out frame raises concerns about ho
w his body will age. Even so, Lee’s premium hitting ability makes him a likely top-five pick in the draft. As long as he stays healthy, he projects to be a switch-hitting infielder who hits for average and power in the top half of a lineup.
Pick: Gavin Cross
School: Virginia Tech
Instant Analysis: Several aspects of Cross’ game and performance ticked up this year at Virginia Tech. Cross ranked No. 10 on the BA 500 and goes ninth overall here to the Royals, so right around the range we expected him to go based on talent.
Scouting Report: Cross was one of the breakout stars in college baseball in 2021 with Virginia Tech. He hit .345/.415/.621 with 11 home runs, 13 doubles and five triples, then followed that up by being the most consistent hitter with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team over the summer. In fact, he’s been tremendously consistent as a hitter throughout his collegiate career, never hitting below .300 for the Hokies and turning in a .318/.399/.627 line in 2022, with a career-best 14 home runs, while adding 13 doubles and 11 stolen bases. Cross is a large and physical, 6-foot-3, 210-pound outfielder who primarily played right field before transitioning solidly to the everyday center field job during his junior season. While moving to the middle of the outfield, Cross also showed an improved approach at the plate as a junior, cutting his strikeout rate from 20% in 2021 to 14% in 2022 and boosting his walk rate from 7% to 11%. While Cross has made improvements, scouts still view him as a power-over-hit lefthanded bat, thanks to a long-striding, low bat path that has been exploited at times and a tendency to chase out of the zone—though he showed progress in this area in 2022. While most of his power came to the pull side, Cross has easy plus juice and can homer to the opposite field, with exit velocity numbers that stack up with (and in many cases surpass) the elite college hitters in the class. Cross has annihilated fastballs—including impressive results against 93-plus mph velocity—but does swing and miss against breaking stuff and offspeed offerings, which could cap his overall hitting upside at the next level. Cross profiles as a corner outfielder at the next level despite his impressive showing in center with Virginia Tech, where he is an average runner and fielder with a big, plus throwing arm that could allow him to profile as a classic powerful, lefthanded-hitting right fielder. Given his track record of performance in both the ACC and with Team USA, as well as his power and physicality, Cross should be drafted somewhere among the top 15 picks.
Pick: Gabriel Hughes
Instant Analysis: Through the first 10 picks, we’ve had three players who, while they were all projected first-round picks, went notably higher than their BA 500 ranking. All three are college pitchers, the player group where there’s less consensus and more risk than usual given the slew of injuries among college arms. Hughes was one of the better college pitchers this year, though for a pitcher who gets a lot of back-end starter projections, 10th overall is surprising.
Scouting Report: Hughes began his career at Gonzaga as a hitter and pitcher, but it quickly became clear his future was on the mound. In his first season as a full-time starter in 2021, Hughes posted a 3.23 ERA over 61.1 innings and 10 starts, while striking out 67 batters, but showing erratic control and walking 30. During his draft year in 2022, Hughes has made impressive steps forward with his command, and in a poor college pitching class, he’s worked himself into a position to perhaps be the first college pitcher selected. Hughes has a fantastic pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, with plenty of strength and he’ll also still be just 20 years old on draft day. He primarily works off of a fastball/slider combination and after sitting 91-93 a year ago, in 2022 Hughes has averaged 93-94 mph with his fastball and touched 97 at peak. Scouts noted that his fastball command specifically looked better this spring (which helped him cut his walk rate significantly year over year) and the pitch has gotten close to a 40% whiff rate when he locates it up in the zone. His slider flashes wipeout potential at best but hasn’t consistently been a plus pitch this spring. It’s a low-80s offering that will get into the mid 80s, with 2,300 rpm spin and a whiff rate north of 40%. He did a nice job landing the pitch to his glove side this spring and showed some ability to manipulate the pitch to use it as an early-count strike stealer and expand the zone as a swing-and-miss offering. Hughes didn’t use his changeup as frequently as a secondary, but it was successful as a bat-misser and as a pitch to induce ground balls. It sits in the low 80s and features some slight fading action, but he will yank and spike the pitch at times. Hughes’ combination of size, youth, stuff and performance this spring allows him to check plenty of boxes as a potential No. 4 starter and he should benefit from a down college pitching class on draft day as well.
Pick: Kevin Parada
School: Georgia Tech
Instant Analysis: The Mets are a bat-driven team and they get an ideal match with the bat-driven Parada. He has eased some of the defensive questions on him coming into the season, but Parada is clearly an offensive-minded catcher and one of the most dangerous hitters in college baseball. He does have plus power, but it’s his mature hitting ability that stands out just as much if not more. Parada ranked No. 6 on the BA 500, so the Mets have to be happy to get a player in the conversation as the top college hitter in the draft with this pick.
Scouting Report: One of the top prep hitters in the 2020 draft class, Parada ranked as the No. 48 prospect on the BA 500 but made it to campus at Georgia Tech after going undrafted. His cross country move from Southern California to Atlanta should pay off, as Parada is now viewed as one of the best prospects in the 2022 draft class—and again viewed as one of the most accomplished pure hitters of the crop, albeit a more proven one with more power. A draft-eligible sophomore, Parada turned in a strong freshman campaign in 2021 (.318/.379/.550 with nine home runs and 20 doubles) before looking tired and worn out during the summer in the Cape Cod League and with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. Over the offseason, Parada added more weight and strength, which translated into more home run power (26) and durability that has prevented fatigue from setting in at the end of the season. Parada has a unique pre-pitch setup at the plate, with his bat angled behind his back and pointed down into the dirt with his lead shoulder raised and almost directly between his eyes and the pitcher. Despite that unorthodox setup, Parada consistently gets to a good launch position and times up quality stuff, with the ability to hit for average power to all fields. His improved power production this spring came with reduced strikeout rates (from 16.9% in 2021 to 9.5% in 2022) and he also walked as frequently as he whiffed. Between his contact ability, newfound power and production in a strong conference, Parada’s offensive package is as complete and proven as anyone’s in the 2022 class. Defensively, it’s less glowing, though Parada has made strides to improve as a receiver and thrower this spring. He’s a good athlete and runner for a catcher, but could improve his lateral mobility and blocking, as well as his arm strength, which is cited as fringe-average currently. He did improve his 12% cau
ght stealing rate from 2021 to 22% in 2022 and scouts who know him praise his work ethic and desire to stick at the position at the next level. Parada’s bat is enough to force its way into a big league lineup and he should be one of the first college players selected because of it.
Pick: Jace Jung
School: Texas Tech
Instant Analysis: With Jung, the Tigers get an advanced college hitter who could move quickly. He has a good eye for the strike zone, with some scouts projecting him to be a plus hitter with plus power. Jung is very much an offensive-oriented player, with his hitting polish something that should translate to quick success in pro ball.
Scouting Report: Being a first-round pick is in the Jung bloodlines, as older brother Josh was selected eighth overall in the 2019 draft by the Rangers. There is a chance the younger Jung can top that pick, as he put together another stellar spring campaign. The sturdy 6-foot, 205-pound lefthanded hitter is one of the best pure bats in the college class. Jung brings an old-school approach to the plate in terms of hitting the ball where it’s pitched and has displayed power to all fields in his time at Texas Tech. His gap-to-gap approach will remain the same in the pro ranks and his home run power should translate to a wood bat as well. Though his offensive setup is unique (with the bat head pointed to the backstop), after his load he is in a perfect position to strike and let his hands work. Like most offensive threats, Jung does have a tendency to get “too big” or over swing trying to do too much. However, plate discipline is not a problem, as Jung walked 59 times compared to 42 strikeouts this spring and has a career walk rate of 19.9%. Defensively, Jung won’t wow you with an overall athletic profile, but you can count on the routine plays being made with an average, accurate arm. His baseball IQ and adequate reads off the bat will allow him to stay on the dirt at the next level, with most action being at second base, third base or first base if needed. Jung backs his game up with very high makeup. Certainly the type of player you want in the clubhouse as his leadership at Texas Tech speaks for itself. With Jung’s high baseball IQ, plate discipline and hit tool with power behind it, he could be a fast-mover through a minor league system and should go in the top half of the first round.
Pick: Zach Neto
Instant Analysis: Neto ranked No. 16 on the BA 500, with the Angels drafting him right around the range we expected him to go at No. 13 overall. There are some unorthodox components to his swing, but it works for Neto, a disciplined hitter who had more than twice as many walks (39) as strikeouts (19) while hitting .407/.514/.769 this season.
Scouting Report: Neto was the 2021 Big South Conference Player of the Year after he hit .405/.488/.746 with 12 home runs and posted a 3.43 ERA as a reliever who logged 21 innings. Neto followed up that two-way campaign in the Cape Cod League, where he played shortstop, second base and third base and slashed .304/.439/.587 with as many walks (eight) as strikeouts (eight). Neto has a noisy operation at the plate, with plenty of pre-pitch bat-waggle and hand movement during his load, as well as a big leg kick. Despite all those moving parts, Neto has made the swing work and has produced plenty of contact with Campbell, with more walks (53) than strikeouts (49) throughout his career. Listed at 6-foot, 185 pounds, Neto shows only average raw power in batting practice, but he backspins the ball consistently and has solid bat speed and barrel manipulation—enough so that scouts think he’ll get to every ounce of the raw power that he does have, with potentially above-average game power depending on the major league environment. There are some questions about whether his setup will need to be simplified at the next level against better competition, but so far Neto has shown an ability to be on time. Neto has played all over the infield for Campbell but was the team’s everyday shortstop in 2022. He has solid hands and defensive actions, with easy plus arm strength that allows him to make challenging throws in the hole. As a pitcher, Neto has been up to 93 mph on the mound and that arm strength should give him a chance to stick on the left side of the infield. He’s an above-average runner with solid athleticism and has been an aggressive and successful baserunner with Campbell, going 28-for-33 (85%) in stolen base attempts for his career. For teams who think he’s a shortstop and any team heavily reliant on a model, Neto will stand out nicely in the 2022 draft class. He fits somewhere in the middle or back of the first round and should become Campbell’s first-ever first-round pick.
Pick: Jett Williams
School: Rockwall-Heath HS, Rockwall, Texas
Instant Analysis: Williams has a smaller frame with lots of quickness and explosion to his game, evident in the way he runs and his bat speed. He’s a very different type of athlete than their first pick, Kevin Parada, but he’s another player who has impressed scouts with his ability to recognize pitches and drive the ball to all fields.
Scouting Report: Consistency best describes Williams’ performance in 2021 and 2022. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound center fielder has performed everywhere he’s been, from the Area Code Games all the way to the 2022 spring. In the box, Williams stands with an upright stance and his hands close to his chest. Williams strides into the ball, drawing his hands back in time prior to contact. His plus bat speed is eye-opening, resulting in higher exit velocities off the barrel and gap shots you wouldn’t expect to come from someone of his age and stature. Scouts marvel at his ability to track spin and use all fields, which gives the notion that the transition into professional baseball should come with little restraint. Williams is a plus runner, turning in 60-yard dash times around 6.5 seconds. It’s not a rare occurrence to see him turn a single into a double and a double into a triple. Defensively, Williams’ plus speed, quickness, reads and instincts give scouts everything they look for in a center fielder. He has the ability to go deep in the gaps to make the difficult play and combines his defense with a solid-average arm. Throughout the year, Williams has also shown the ability to play up the middle on the dirt, adding to his versatility. Depending on which scout you talk to, the defensive future for Williams changes, but all agree it will be in the middle of the field somewhere. The only concern in Williams’ profile is the one thing he can’t control. With limited physical upside left, Williams will not fit the profile some evaluators look for in a highly drafted prospect. However, evaluators cannot doubt the tools and overall package Williams brings to the table. Do not be surprised if Williams comes off the draft board a bit sooner than expected.
Pick: Dylan Lesko
School: Buford (Ga.) HS
Instant Analysis: A few months ago, it would have been unrealistic for the Padres to expect Lesko to be available here. He’s one of the most polished high school pitchers to come around in years, with three pitches that flash plus or better and outstanding pitchability for his age. Lesko looked to be on track to go among the top five overall picks, but Tommy John surgery ended his season early this spring. Between Lesko and Jarlin Susana, the Padres now have two of th
e most electric teenage pitchers in the lower levels of the minors. Getting a pitcher with Lesko’s upside here is great value for the Padres.
Scouting Report: Lesko has been paving his way as the top pitching prospect in the 2022 class for years now. His track record of performance on the travel circuit and with Buford High in Georgia is exceptional, and he was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2021 as an underclassman after posting a 0.35 ERA over 60 innings with 112 strikeouts. He pitched his way into consensus top pitching prospect status in the 2022 class—college or high school—this spring and was looking like a top-five pick before suffering an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. When healthy, Lesko showed a unique combination of power and polish, with three pitches that have flashed plus and two which consistently reach that grade. His arsenal is headlined by a fastball routinely in the mid 90s that touches 97, with impressive riding life that plays nicely at the top of the zone. While the velocity is impressive, Lesko’s touch and feel for the pitch and his ability to locate it in the zone at will is extremely advanced and the combination of velocity plus command remind many scouts of Josh Beckett at the same time. His best secondary offering is a low-80s bugs bunny changeup that routinely earns double-plus grades and is one of the best changeups the industry has seen from a high school pitcher. He sells the pitch with fastball arm speed and will double and triple up on the pitch for swings and misses in the zone and below it to both lefthanded and righthanded hitters. It’s an elite out pitch presently with no projection necessary. His curveball is less consistent, but also flashes plus at its best. The pitch is a high-spin breaking ball (2,700-3,000 rpm) that varies in shape but shows depth and hard finish when he breaks off a good one. All his stuff comes together with clean arm action and a highly polished delivery that one scout described as “poetry in motion.” Lesko is a standout athlete and would be a strong prospect as a shortstop and hitter if he didn’t pitch, and he still has some projection remaining in a lean, 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. His injury clouds his draft stock a bit, and a Vanderbilt commitment could make things tricky as well, but there’s no doubting he is the highest upside pitcher in the class.
Pick: Chase DeLauter
School: James Madison
Instant Analysis: There’s a lot to like with DeLauter. He’s physical and athletic, runs well for his size, has plus raw power and a keen eye for the strike zone. The knock on him is that the lofty numbers he has posted in college have come at James Madison, but he also dominated last summer in the Cape Cod League. I think it all translates in pro ball, with DeLauter a strong candidate to jump into the Top 100 Prospects list next year if he goes out and hits in the minors as expected.
Scouting Report: DeLauter exploded during the summer of 2021 in the Cape Cod League, when he hit .298/.397/.589 with nine home runs, 21 walks and 18 strikeouts with Orleans. That performance with a wood bat, combined with his gaudy numbers with James Madison and a loud set of physical tools, elevated him into the top tier of 2022 draft prospects, with some scouts citing him as the top player in the class. DeLauter scuffled out of the gate initially in a tough matchup against Florida State, with a swing path that looked steeper and stiffer than it did over the summer. He quickly found his form and went on to hit .437/.576/.828 with eight home runs and more walks (28) than strikeouts (21) for the Dukes before a broken left foot ended his season after just 24 games. DeLauter is a large and physical, 6-foot-4, 235-pound center fielder who looks like he should be in a corner outfield position, but he’s a surprisingly good runner for his size and has turned in double-plus run times in the 60-yard dash. That speed, plus solid instincts, have led some scouts to believe he can at least start his career in center field, and he has the plus arm strength to profile in right if he slows down or is forced off the position by a better defender. DeLauter’s statistical portfolio will be more heavily criticized as a small school hitter, but he has shown a precocious batting eye and rarely expands the zone with good contact as well. DeLauter has plus raw power that translated to a wood bat in the Cape Cod League, and while he never hit double-digit home runs with James Madison, he also never played more than 26 games in a season and was well on his way in 2022 before getting injured. He hasn’t faced a large sample of elite velocity, which will be another question he’ll need to answer at the next level. DeLauter should become the highest-drafted player in James Madison’s history (outfielder Kellen Kulbacki was selected No. 40 in 2007) and fits somewhere in the middle of the first round on talent.
Pick: Justin Crawford
School: Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas
Instant Analysis: Crawford is an exciting athlete, an explosive runner with elite speed at a premium position. What should separate Crawford from other supreme athletes who have gone high in the draft but have been more raw in terms of baseball skills is that he has shown good bat control and ability to hit in games. It’s not a given that he grows into more power, but there’s already surprising raw power in there for someone with his wiry frame and a chance that could tick up more as he packs on strength. Logan O’Hoppe is a good prospect behind the plate, but Crawford immediately becomes the most exciting position player in the Phillies system.
Scouting Report: In 1999, Carl Crawford was one of the two or three best athletes in the draft class, with a special combination of speed and strength. Several decades later, his son, Justin Crawford, is one of the most impressive athletes in the 2022 draft class. Crawford is much leaner than his father at the same time, with a highly projectable and lanky, 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame that has plenty of room for more strength gains in the future. Crawford showed solid bat-to-ball skills last summer over the showcase circuit, with a slappy approach in games, but sneaky raw power in batting practice given his strength at the time. Scouts noted that Crawford added more muscle throughout the fall and this spring, and he’s started driving the ball with more authority. Crawford has contact skills and will make two-strike adjustments by widening his stance at the plate, but his swing can get lengthy at times, and he’ll need to refine his bat path a bit at the next level. Power should be the last part of his game to develop, and how much he has in the future will depend on how much strength he can add to his frame. Even if he’s never a big power hitter, he should be able to find plenty of extra-base hits by driving balls into the gaps and using his speed on the bases. The industry raved about his performance this spring and he continued to show premium tools. He’s one of the best runners in the class and regularly turns in 70-grade run times, getting out of the box quickly from the left side of the plate and covering tons of ground when underway with long, graceful, loping strides. That speed should allow him to stick in center field, where he has a chance to be an impact defender at the position. Crawford is committed to Louisiana State but has gotten plenty of attention as a prospect in the middle of the first round. Crawford is the latest in a long line of talented prospects produced by Bishop Gorman, including Tyler Whitaker, Austin Wells, Cadyn Grenier and Joey Gallo in the last 10 years.
Pick: Cam Col
School: Chipola (Fla.) JC
Instant Analysis: The Reds get the steal of the draft so far. On talent, Collier belongs in the top 10 and would not have been out of place if he went in the top five overall. He reminds me of Rafael Devers at the same age when he was coming up with the Red Sox, a pure hitter with a sweet swing and a knack for barreling all types of pitches, lefties or righties, and use the whole field. He has big power, too, and generates it with ease without having to sell out to get to it, and that power should only tick up as he gets into his prime years. Getting Collier this late in the first round is a huge win for the Reds.
Scouting Report: The youngest hitter in the 2022 draft class, Collier will still be 17 years old on draft day and doesn’t turn 18 until November. The son of former big leaguer Lou Collier, Cam was originally a top-ranked member of the 2023 high school class, but he opted to first reclassify for the 2022 draft class and then move from Georgia high school baseball to one of the top junior college programs in the country at Chipola. Those aggressive moves have paid off for the 6-foot-1, 219-pound third baseman, who was second on the team in hitting and posted a .333/.419/.537 slash line with eight home runs, 12 doubles and 25 walks to 33 strikeouts. As you likely guessed given Collier’s age and performance, he’s an advanced hitter who has long shown a savvy approach at the plate. He has quick hands and a clean bat path paired with excellent pitch recognition and an ability to let the ball travel, trust his hands and use the entire field. Collier has a wide, crouched and open setup with a low handset. He’ll occasionally let those hands completely take over in his swing and slap the ball the other way without fully incorporating his lower half or being fully grounded. He has plenty of strength in the tank as a physically mature player for his age with plus raw power, but it’s an approach that is more geared for balls sprayed into the gaps than homers to the pull side. Collier has an easy plus arm from the hot corner, with solid hands and defensive instincts as well, though he’ll need to maintain his body and lateral mobility to stick at the position. Scouts skeptical of his defense think he’ll eventually move to first base primarily because of mobility concerns at his physical peak. Collier should be the first junior college bat taken in the first round since Tim Anderson (No. 17) in 2013 and will join a strong demographic that includes Anderson, Cory Spangenberg, Bryce Harper, Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Markakis this century. He is committed to Louisville but could go among the first 10 picks.
Pick: Daniel Susac
Instant Analysis: Susac was the top-ranked player available here at No. 11 overall on the BA 500. There was somewhat of a split camp among scouts on Susac, which is why he was still available in the back half of the first round.
Scouting Report: Susac ranked as the No. 118 player in the 2020 class out of high school, where he stood out as a power-oriented backstop with arm strength and big league bloodlines—his brother, Andrew, caught for five years in the big leagues. After going undrafted, the 6-foot-4, 218-pound catcher had a freshman All-American campaign in 2021 (.335/.392/.591, with 12 home runs and 24 doubles) and was named the 2021 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year for his efforts. In his draft-eligible 2022 season, Susac continued to perform with the bat and followed up with a .367/.432/.598 slash line with 12 home runs and 19 doubles. Susac hits the ball hard and puts the ball in the air, with plus raw power, though most of his homers came to the pull side this spring. A long-levered hitter, there is some swing and miss in his game (evidenced by 18% and 15% strikeout rates the last two seasons) and Susac has been prone to chasing out of the zone a bit more often than scouts would like, which leads to average, or above-average hit tool grades rather than the 60-grade hit tool his .350 career average might suggest. He has hammered fastballs and done well against 93-plus mph velocity but will swing and miss more frequently against breaking and offspeed offerings. Even with some swing and miss, Susac’s top-end exit velocities stand out and should allow him to provide plenty of impact for the catcher position. Defensively, Susac has a chance to be an average defender behind the plate, which is a credit to him given his tall frame. He is a solid athlete (he was a standout high school quarterback) with plus arm strength and a 24% caught stealing rate this spring. Susac is one of the more divisive players at the top of the 2022 draft class, with some teams viewing him as an easy top-10 talent and others viewing him as more of a back-of-the-first sort of prospect. Still, the industry tends to push college catchers up the board and Susac is a proven hitter with power who should stick behind the plate.
Pick: Owen Murphy
School: Riverside-Brookfield HS, Riverside, Ill.
Instant Analysis: Carlos had Murphy projected to the Braves in his mock draft, though that was with their next pick at 35 overall. Murphy ranked No. 44 on the BA 500, so the Braves made an aggressive push for Murphy with several high school and college pitchers ranked ahead of him still available here.
Scouting Report: A two-way player as well as a star on the gridiron, Illinois prep product Owen Murphy opened eyes last fall as one of the top arms for Team USA’s 18U National Team. The athletic, 6-foot-1 195-pound hurler began where he left off last fall and cemented his name as a potential top-two round pick this spring with dominating performances and plus stuff that will only improve in time. Murphy uses a simple delivery that gains momentum as he progresses. With a loose, quick takeback, he releases his pitches from a three-quarter slot, landing on-line with good extension over his front side. The product out of his hand is live. Murphy’s fastball sat 91-94, presenting itself much firmer up in the zone due to high spin. Murphy loves to challenge hitters with his “No. 1” as it also serves as his go-to pitch in the clutch. Complementing his fastball is an 11-to-5 hard-breaking slurve that sits in the 76-80 mph range. Flashing plus, Murphy’s breaking ball will serve as his primary offspeed weapon moving forward as he possesses the ability to land it for a strike as well as intensifying the break to notch the punchout. There are two other offspeed pitches Murphy has tucked away in his arsenal, but he’s rarely used either this spring due to dominance with his fastball and curveball. He will flash an 84-86 mph cutter that presents like a slider at times, varying in plane and shorter three-quarter break. His changeup is also present at 78-82 mph, thrown mostly in his warm-up pitches. Evaluators have stated the traditional down-and-away movement is there when timed up as it appears to have the makings of at least a solid-average offering when fully developed. Murphy’s ability to attack in the zone, accompanied with his highly competitive nature, gives him a starter profile. The Notre Dame commit has put himself in a favorable spot on draft boards heading into July.
Pick: Cole Young
School: North Allegheny HS (Wexford, Pa.)
Instant Analysis: Young is extremely hitterish. It’s a sweet lefthanded swing, a mature approach for his age with good strike-zone discipline, a high contact rate and strong overall instincts for the game. His hitting ability should translate into immedi
ate strong performance in pro ball, and I think he ends up a better player than several of the picks who went off the board before him.
Scouting Report: Young separated himself over the showcase circuit as one of the best shortstops in the 2022 class with arguably the best hit tool of anyone not named Termarr Johnson. A 5-foot-11, 179-pound lefthanded hitter, Young doesn’t jump off the page in terms of tools and might not have a single plus tool outside of his bat. That said, he does everything on the field well and could have average to above-average tools across the board, with no obvious weakness in his game beyond power. Young has a sound offensive approach with a good understanding of the strike zone and an ability to track velocity and offspeed offerings consistently. He has a slightly crouched setup, with a lower handset and good rhythm in the box before firing a fast and direct swing to the ball. He has a flat bat path and keeps the barrel in the zone for a long time and uses the opposite field naturally. Those skills give him future plus hit tool projections, but he will need to add more strength to project for anything more than fringy power and there’s not much physical projection remaining. Young has a chance to stick at shortstop, as a capable and fluid defender, albeit not an explosive one. He plays low to the ground and has a solid first step, with above-average speed once he’s underway. His above-average arm will give him a chance to stick on the left side of the infield, as will his baseball instincts. In terms of size and tools, Young is reminiscent of Yankees 2019 first-rounder Anthony Volpe at the same time, though Young has the advantage of hitting from the left side. While there are players with more upside in this class, Young’s swing is ready made and the overall polish of his game should give teams confidence in a high floor. He is committed to Duke and will be a draft-eligible sophomore in 2024 if he makes it to campus but has been scouted throughout the first round and should come off the board before the first 30 picks are up.
Pick: Cooper Hjerpe
School: Oregon State
Instant Analysis: From their recent drafts, the Cardinals have righthanders Gordon Graceffo and Tink Hence in the Top 100 prospects. Last year they used their first-round pick on righthander Michael McGreevy, a college pitcher who filled the strike zone with an outstanding K-BB mark. This year, they get Hjerpe, who has even more dazzling numbers with 161 strikeouts and 23 walks in 103.1 innings. Hjerpe might not even need to throw any harder to be successful, but I’m even more intrigued to see if the Cardinals can help him squeeze out a few more ticks of velocity the way they have done over the past year with Graceffo.
Scouting Report: Ten years ago, a player like Hjerpe likely would have been viewed as much less impressive than he is in 2022—even as one of the best starting pitchers in college baseball. A 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefthander, Hjerpe has dominated this spring and posted a 2.45 ERA over 16 starts and 95.2 innings, while striking out 39.7% of batters faced and walking just 5.3%. He’s dominated every lineup he’s faced despite throwing a fastball that averages just 90-91 mph. The key to Hjerpe’s success is a unique, 52-54-inch release height created by a sidearm slot that makes everything he throws play up. His vertical approach angle is elite, and while Hjerpe touches just 94-95 mph at peak, he generates plenty of whiffs with his fastball, especially at the top of the zone. When hitters do make contact, he has been difficult to elevate and allowed just three home runs this spring through those 95.2 innings of work. Entering the year, scouts questioned Hjerpe’s secondaries, and his lower arm slot made some evaluators wonder if he would ever be able to get to a consistent breaking pitch, but his secondaries have improved this spring. His slider is a fringy and slower breaking ball in the upper 70s that gets whiffs more because of his unique angle than the shape and velocity of the pitch, but that has still meant a close to 50% whiff rate. His upper-70s changeup gets average to above-average grades and does have plenty of velocity separation from his fastball. On top of excellent deception, Hjerpe is a refined and polished strike thrower who has above-average command (his 7.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio was a top-20 rate among Division I arms) that should be more than enough to profile in a back-of-the-rotation starting role. It wouldn’t be a surprise if some teams liked the idea of putting Hjerpe in the bullpen, where he could move quickly, and where his unique release point and arm angle would be a nightmare for hitters. Model-driven teams are likely highest on Hjerpe, whose performance and pitch data give him a chance to be the first college pitcher selected in a light year for four-year arms.
23. Blue Jays
Pick: Brandon Barriera
School: American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
Instant Analysis: Typically a hitter-heavy farm system, the Blue Jays now have three exciting arms with the surging status of lefthander Ricky Tiedemann and righthander Yosver Zulueta to go with Barriera. He checks a lot of boxes you look for in a high school pitcher as a strike-thrower with a strong fastball from the left side, tight spin on a potential slider and feel for a changeup to project as a starter.
Scouting Report: Barriera isn’t a physically imposing pitcher by any means, but he more than makes up for his smaller, 5-foot-11, 171-pound frame with electric arm speed and standout athleticism on the mound. Barriera has one of the fastest arms in the class, and he uses that arm speed to throw a fastball that sits in the low 90s and regularly touches 96. This spring Barriera peaked at 98-99 mph, so pure stuff isn’t a question. On top of that fastball, Barriera has shown a slider in the low-to-mid 80s. The slider features a lot of horizontal movement with late turn and sharp bite at its best, and he shows good feel to land the pitch for strikes. It’s a 2,500-2,600 rpm offering and routinely gets plus grades from evaluators. The fastball/slider combination is Barriera’s bread and butter currently, but he has also shown solid feel for a firm changeup in the mid 80s. He doesn’t use the pitch often, but it has shown at least average potential and because he throws it with the same electric arm speed as his fastball, it could be a deceptive offering against better hitters at the next level. Barriera will also mix in a slower, mid-70s curveball at times to give him a four-pitch mix. Barriera fills up the strike zone and throws with a loose and fluid but whippy arm action. There’s a slight head whack in his finish, but he stays balanced and fields his position well. The Vanderbilt commit is praised for his intense and competitive demeanor on the mound, and while he doesn’t have much in the way of physical projection, he has plenty of stuff and the control that should give him a chance to start. Barriera will need to prove his durability and that his stuff can hold up to the rigors of a professional schedule, but he is a real first round talent and one of the best lefthanded pitchers in the class.
24. Red Sox
Pick: Mikey Romero
School: Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS
Instant Analysis: Another one where Carlos had his mock draft with the player headed to the right team, though with its next pick in the draft. Romero ranked No. 78 on the BA 500, so drafting Romero this high is certainly aggressive, but Romero also has one of the sweeter lefthanded swings in the high school class and impressive feel for hitting.
There isn’t a plus tool that stands out with Romero, who has a hit-over-power profile, and a lot of scouts think he fits better at second base than shortstop. The bet on Romero is conviction in his hitting ability and a belief that his power will come later on as he gets stronger.
Scouting Report: Romero established himself as one of the top players his age as an underclassman at Vista Murrieta (Calif.) High and transferred to national prep power Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High for a chance at increased exposure. He got off to a slow start this spring and struggled at the National High School Invitational, but he recovered to show well at the Boras Classic and finished the season strong. Romero has a pretty, natural lefthanded swing and an advanced feel for hitting. He identifies pitches well and frequently gets the barrel to the ball to make consistent contact, including against high-end velocity and quality breaking stuff. Though Romero makes lots of contact, it’s often soft contact. He has a slender build and lacks the strength to do damage even when he squares balls up. He needs to make substantial strength gains to reach his potential as an above-average hitter with below-average power, with opinions sharply divided on whether he will be able to. Romero is an instinctive defender at shortstop with sure hands and a quick transfer, but his range is limited by his fringe-average speed and his fringy arm strength makes it difficult for him to make throws moving to his right. He is likely to move to second base or play a utility role. Romero is a mature, mentally tough individual who performed in high-pressure situations while his father battled advanced stage cancer. He also has athletic bloodlines: his older sisters Sierra and Sydney were two of the best college softball players of their generation at Michigan and Oklahoma, respectively. He is committed to Louisiana State.
Pick: Spencer Jones
Instant Analysis: Jones hit .370/.460/.644 this season at Vanderbilt, showing off his plus raw power, but with a 24% strikeout rate. That comes with the territory when you’re 6-foot-7 with long arms that lead to some length and holes. His athleticism bodes well for his ability to make adjustments, with a chance he could tap into even more power if he does.
Scouting Report: Jones was a standout two-way player in high school in the 2019 class, with significant upside as a lefthanded pitcher on the mound, but sneaky bat-to-ball skills and athleticism as a hitter with such a tall frame. A fractured elbow cut his senior season short, and he made it to campus at Vanderbilt, where he has exclusively been a hitter—mostly playing outfield but getting a few games at first base. After hitting under .300 in his first two seasons, Jones turned in a strong summer in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .312/.424/.481 in 21 games (though with a 30% strikeout rate) and has had a career-best season this spring. Jones hit .370/.460/.644 with 12 home runs, 21 doubles and 64 strikeouts (23.5 K%) to 32 walks (11.7 BB%) in 61 games. Jones has plenty of power in his 6-foot-7, 225-pound frame, with the average and top-end exit velocities to back that up. He has clear plus raw power but hasn’t tapped into that quite as much as scouts have expected thanks in part to a heavy backside approach. He’s still a plus runner despite his size and will turn in 4.15-second home-to-first times, with the speed to be a threat on the bases and play an above-average corner outfield position. He has shown average arm strength, but that could improve as he gets further away from his elbow injury. Model-driven teams could be lower on Jones given his strikeout rate, but old-school scouts are excited about his unique athleticism, size and power potential.
26. White Sox
Pick: Noah Schultz
School: Oswego (Ill.) East HS
Instant Analysis: I’m a big fan of this pick here for the White Sox. They’re getting a pitcher who improved his already impressive stuff from a year ago and has mostly been slowed this spring by mononucleosis, not an arm injury. Schultz is 6-foot-9, attacks hitters with a plus fastball from a difficult angle and a nasty slider. Even though he’s a long-limbed teenage pitcher, he has the body control that bodes well for his ability to throw strikes. I think there’s frontline starter upside, something the White Sox have to be excited to get at the back of the first round in a draft with a lot of question marks on pitching.
Scouting Report: It is difficult to get much more exciting than the tall and lanky, 6-foot-9, 225-pound lefthander. That’s just what Schultz is, and he has that size plus impressive stuff, with a fastball that’s touched 98 mph this spring after mostly settling in the low 90s last summer on the showcase circuit. While Schultz flashed bigtime stuff this spring, he was also not seen frequently, after missing much of the spring season with mono. He draws Chris Sale and Randy Johnson body comps, but unlike your typical tall pitcher who will rely on a longer arm swing for leverage, Schultz has a shorter take back and hides the ball extremely well before releasing from a low, three-quarter slot, adding even more deception to an already tough look for the hitter. While Schultz has impressive body control for his size, he’ll need to fine tune his fastball command as he can be scattered in the zone at times. Schultz has a lot of confidence in his 80-83 mph sweeping slider that can surpass the 3,000 rpm mark. Scouts are impressed with how he dictates the movement and shape depending on the count, adding sweep for the punchout. Capping off his repertoire is an 81-83 mph changeup, thrown mostly to righthanded hitters. Schultz has huge upside, but is expected to be a tough sign out of a Vanderbilt commitment.
Pick: Eric Brown
School: Coastal Carolina
Instant Analysis: Joey Wiemer had an unorthodox hitting style in college, which didn’t make the Brewers shy away from drafting him two years ago. Brown doesn’t have the most conventional swing either, but he has consistently performed well throughout his time in college, including in the Cape Cod League in 2021. Brown doesn’t have Wiemer’s size, athleticism and tools—Brown’s are more a bucket of 50s—but he has a disciplined hitting approach to make good decisions at the plate with a high contact rate.
Scouting Report: Brown is an athletic, 5-foot-10, 190-pound middle infielder who ranked as the No. 24 prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer after hitting .282/.375/.476 with five home runs with Cotuit. He’s an unusual hitting prospect given his unique setup. Brown starts with his hands fully extended from his body and raised up above his head—which leads to Craig Counsell comparisons—before slowly drawing them back in his load, with a long and deliberate leg kick in the lower half. It is far from a picturesque swing and scouts typically find themselves put off initially, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers he’s posted as a college shortstop. This spring he had a career-best season, hitting .330/.460/.544 with seven home runs, 19 doubles and more walks (39) than strikeouts (28). Brown has always shown impressive plate discipline and he has solid exit velocity numbers as well, giving him a chance for more power if he can get the ball in the air more frequently. He’s an impressive athlete and solid defender who has a chance to stick at shortstop. Brown’s swing is unique, but a college shortstop with his bat-to-ball skills and 2022 production should be a fit among the top three rounds in the draft.
Pick: Drew Gilbert
Instant Analysis: The No. 24 player on the BA 500, Gilbert has a mix of tools that could be 50s to 60s across the board. He’s on the smaller side at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, but he has a good balance of tools, skills and performance at a premium position in center field.
Scouting Report: Gilbert might be a smaller center fielder at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, but in 2022 he’s been the best hitter on the best team in college baseball, and he’s got the physical tools to back it up. Through 54 games during his junior season, Gilbert slashed .380/.474/.696 with 10 home runs, 20 doubles and as many walks (32) as strikeouts (32). Gilbert controls the zone well. He rarely chases at pitches outside of the zone and he also makes plenty of contact, with low whiff rates across all pitch types. He’s a twitchy, lefthanded hitter with bat speed and strength—with some of the louder exit velocity numbers among the top college hitters in the class. Most of his in-game power came to the pull side this spring, but he has shown enough juice to homer to left and left-center as well, though some scouts wonder if he’ll maintain that power at the next level with a wood bat. Gilbert has played a strong center field and should stick at the position at the next level. He’s turned in plus run times and he also has a strong, plus throwing arm that will be an asset for him regardless of the position. There’s a lot of safety in Gilbert’s profile given his up-the-middle defensive role and solid tool set across the board. The industry may be split on his overall upside potential, however, with some scouts more skeptical because of his maxed-out frame with little physical projection remaining. For teams who think his power and exit velocity numbers are more a product of aluminum bats and a good hitting environment in Knoxville, he could be viewed as more of a second-round pick, but his contact ability, performance and well-rounded tool set certainly has others interested in the second half of the first round.
Pick: Xavier Isaac
School: East Forsyth HS, Kernersville, N.C.
Instant Analysis: Isaac ranked No. 93 on the BA 500. But if the Rays didn’t draft him here at No. 29 overall, it sounds like he would have been gone by the top 50 picks. The risk is that he’s a high school hitter limited to first base who missed the 2021 summer circuit due to injury. The upside is that he has gigantic raw power, and scouts highest on him have conviction in his hitting ability as well. Teams don’t get this luxury before they have to make a decision on draft day, of course, but how Isaac performs in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League will tell us a lot more about his prospect stock as he gets tested against better competition with wood bats.
Scouting Report: Isaac didn’t play on the showcase circuit during the 2021 summer after dealing with a foot injury. If he had, his prodigious raw power might have made him one of the more famous players in the class. Isaac is an extra-large, 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman who has monstrous raw power and bat speed. He hits towering home runs to all fields in batting practice—to the point where scouts don’t seem to hesitate when grading him out with 80 raw power. Because of his first base-only profile and lack of track record against top competition during the summer, Isaac is bound to be a polarizing prospect in the industry. More conservative teams reliant on that history to get more confidence in Isaac’s hit tool might be more willing to let him get to campus at Florida and prove his hitting ability. There are other teams that have seen him this spring that see a power hitter, yes, but one who has shown solid hitting traits as well. It might be hard to find a player who is more high-risk, high-reward than Isaac—that also makes him one of the most compelling prospects in the 2022 class.
Pick: Reggie Crawford
Instant Analysis: Crawford is talented. He hit .295/.349/.543 in 2021 for UConn in 2021, showing big raw power. Scouts seem more excited about his future on the mound, as he flashed upper-90s velocity and a plus slider last summer. He also had Tommy John surgery last fall, so he didn’t pitch this season after throwing just 7.2 innings for UConn in 2021 as a primary hitter. There’s a lot of durability and reliever risk here, so it’s an aggressive bet in the first round.
Scouting Report: Between his talent, limited track record on the mound and medical history, Crawford is one of the biggest wild cards in the draft. Crawford was one of the first of many pitchers in this class to have Tommy John surgery, having the operation last fall that kept him out of action the entire 2022 season. That left him with just eight innings on his resume with Connecticut, plus brief looks last summer in the Cape Cod League and with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. When he was healthy, Crawford sat in the mid 90s, touched 99 and flashed a plus slider in the mid 80s. Scouts haven’t had much of an opportunity to see him throw a changeup, with command and durability questions that add considerable reliever risk. Crawford had been a two-way player who also played first base, hitting .309/.362/.546 with 14 home runs for the Huskies in 2020 and 2021. He’s strongly built, with some scouts giving him well above-average raw power, though his high-octane stuff from the left side has teams preferring him on the mound. Given how many college pitchers have been hurt this year, teams looking for college arms are going to have to tolerate some medical risk, which has a lot of scouts projecting Crawford to go by the second round.