With a little more than two months before the Draft starts on July 17, it’s still early to be making strong connections between teams and targets. In my first full first-round projection of 2022, I’ll try to place players in the area they’d go if the Draft began today, but expect much to change over the next nine weeks.
The consensus among clubs is that Georgia high school outfielder Druw Jones is the top talent available, though he doesn’t loom over this Draft like, say, Adley Rutschman in 2019 or Spencer Torkelson in 2020. It’s quite possible that the first four picks could be prep hitters and the top 10 selections could be bats, neither of which has happened since the Draft began in 1965. As of now, I don’t have any members of the injury-riddled college pitching class in the top 14 picks, which would be the longest shutout since 1969.
In MLB Pipeline’s first extended mock draft two weeks ago, Jonathan Mayo projected the Orioles to do what they’ve done with their last two first-rounders: cut a deal with a college player to save bonus-pool money to spend on later selections. I’m taking a different tack this time, having Baltimore select the best player available, like it did with Rutschman three years earlier. Detailed scouting reports for all players can be found within our Draft Top 150 (rankings in parentheses).
1. Orioles: Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS, Peachtree Corners, Ga. (No. 1)
The Orioles have narrowed their field to the top four high school players — Jones, Elijah Green, Jackson Holliday and Termarr Johnson, who are also the top four prospects on the Draft Top 150 — and a couple of college options, presumably Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee and Louisiana State third baseman/outfielder Jacob Berry. If they look to do a discount, Berry theoretically would save the most money because he’s the most likely to slip into the 6-10 range.
2. D-backs: Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (No. 2)
This feels like the floor on Jones, and if he’s gone, the D-backs could take Green, who has a higher ceiling but more questions about his bat (though fewer than last summer after a strong senior season), or Johnson, the best pure hitter to come out of the prep ranks in years. Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada and Lee would be the top college considerations.
3. Rangers: Jackson Holliday, SS, Stillwater (Okla.) HS (No. 4)
Holliday has vaulted to the top of the Draft by getting bigger and stronger and improving his tools across the board. Though the Rangers have gone with polished collegians with their last three first-rounders, the high school talent is simply too good to ignore this year. If Holliday and Jones go 1-2, Johnson could be the choice.
4. Pirates: Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly (No. 5)
Lee would fit nicely with the advanced college bats (Nick Gonzales, Henry Davis) the Pirates have taken with top-seven picks in the last two Drafts.
5. Nationals: Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech (No. 8)
Though Parada may be the consensus top college prospect now, the Orioles and Pirates have selected college catchers with No. 1 overall picks in the last four Drafts. That’s not the case with the Nationals, who have a distinct lack of backstop prospects.
6. Marlins: Jacob Berry, 3B/OF, Louisiana State (No. 6)
Berry may offer the best combination of hitting ability, power and plate discipline in the Draft, but if he doesn’t go No. 1, then he’ll probably last until the 6-10 range. The Marlins wouldn’t mind a crack at one of the high school standouts, and Johnson’s bat could entice them.
7. Cubs: Termarr Johnson, 2B, Mays HS, Atlanta (No. 3)
Getting either Johnson or Berry at No. 7 would be a tremendous value for the Cubs, who are known to like Chipola (Fla.) JC third baseman Cam Collier as well.
8. Twins: Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech (No. 7)
Once the top four high schoolers go off the board, there will be a run on the second tier of college hitters, which consists of Jung, Arizona catcher Daniel Susac, Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross and Collier.
9. Royals: Daniel Susac, C, Arizona (No. 10)
An offensive-minded catcher, Susac is a slightly lesser version of Parada and adds to a first-round heavy in athletic bloodlines as the younger brother of former big league catcher Andrew. Jones (Andruw), Holliday (Matt) and Nevada prep outfielder Justin Crawford (Carl) are the sons of former All-Stars; Collier’s dad, Lou, also played in the Majors; Green’s father, Eric, was a Pro Bowl tight end; Lee’s dad, Larry, coaches him at Cal Poly and his uncle, Terry, was a 1974 first-rounder who topped out in Triple-A; and Jung’s older brother, Josh, went eighth overall in 2019 to the Rangers.
10. Rockies: Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech (No. 11)
The best hitter on the U.S. collegiate national team last summer, Cross has the widest range of possibilities of any player projected to go in this top 10. He has an outside shot of going as high as No. 2 and could drop into the mid-teens.
11. Mets: Brock Porter, RHP, Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary’s Prep (No. 13)
(compensation pick for failure to sign 2021 first-rounder Kumar Rocker)
Finally, a pitcher! Most of the best active and healthy mound prospects are high school arms, a demographic that generally makes the industry skittish. The over/under on prep hurlers in the first round in this unusual year is 5 1/2, with Porter the best of the bunch.
12. Tigers: Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola (Fla.) JC (No. 17)
The Tigers would prefer a bat and would be in play for any of the names we’ve projected ahead of them. If they — along with Collier — aren’t available, homestate product Porter would be tempting.
13. Angels: Brandon Barriera, LHP, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla. (No. 16)
The Angels attempted to address their lack of pitching prospects by using all 20 of their picks on arms in the 2021 Draft, and Barriera has a better combination of starter ceiling and floor than any of them.
14. Mets: Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison (No. 12)
A career .402/.520/.715 hitter in three shortened college seasons, DeLauter broke his left foot sliding into second base on April 9. He may not play again this season, but he offers one of the best combinations of power and patience available.
15. Padres: Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama (No. 23)
The Padres took Cal Quantrill eighth overall in 2016 after he missed the entire college season while recovering from Tommy John surgery the year before. A candidate to go No. 1 overall before he blew out his elbow last May, Prielipp is in the same situation. He’ll stage a bullpen workout for teams May 23 in Hoover, Ala., one day before the city plays host to the Southeastern Conference tournament.
16. Guardians: Zach Neto, SS, Campbell (No. 26)
It’s almost too easy to give the Guardians a sweet-swinging infielder, but Neto’s exceptional bat-to-ball skills will make him the first first-rounder in Campbell history.
17. Phillies: Robby Snelling, LHP, McQueen HS, Reno, Nev. (No. 79)
Likewise, it’s no secret that the Phillies aren’t afraid of prep pitchers after popping Mick Abel and Andrew Painter with their first-rounders in the last two Drafts. Snelling has more helium than any high school arm at the moment and has broken Shawn Estes’ Nevada large-class state strikeout record with 145 in 62 1/3 innings, including 15 on Tuesday.
19. Athletics: Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee (No. 22)
Tidwell missed the first six weeks of the season with shoulder soreness and has yet to last five innings in a start, yet he may have more upside than any active college pitcher. There’s buzz that South Carolina prep third baseman Tucker Toman could go in the first round, with the Athletics one of the teams attached.
20. Braves: Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga (No. 19)
It took 20 picks, but we’ve finally come to a college arm who has been completely healthy this spring. The Braves have been linked to a number of college pitchers, including right-handers Justin Campbell (Oklahoma State) and Thomas Harrington (Campbell).
21. Mariners: Cole Young, SS, North Allegheny HS, Wexford, Pa. (No. 18)
It’s tough to get a read on Young, with some teams believing he won’t last this long and others thinking he might land in the supplemental first round. The Mariners broke a string of three straight years with a college right-hander in the first round to take an up-the-middle prepster in 2021 and could do so again in July.
22. Cardinals: Jett Williams, SS, Rockwall-Heath (Texas) HS (No. 25)
A 5-foot-8 sparkplug with plenty of hitting ability and speed, Williams could venture as high as the mid-teens.
23. Blue Jays: Justin Crawford, OF, Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas (No. 37)
Crawford has more helium than any high school position player right now and this might be his floor. It’s possible that he could sneak into the top 10.
24. Red Sox: Jordan Beck, OF, Tennessee (No. 21)
Four of the next five projected picks are college bats, and they all could go in the teens if teams prefer safer picks than high school pitchers. The Red Sox selected Beck in the 14th round out of an Alabama high school three years ago and he often gets compared to Hunter Renfroe, who made a similar leap in his third SEC season.
25. Yankees: Sterlin Thompson, OF, Florida (No. 36)
Scouts love Thompson’s easy left-handed swing and he continues to climb Draft boards. There’s talk that Florida high school outfielder Roman Anthony could go in the first round, starting around here.
26. White Sox: Dylan Beavers, OF, California (No. 20)
College outfielders such as Beavers and Drew Gilbert (Tennessee) make sense here, as could a college arm.
27. Brewers: Andrew Dutkanych, RHP, Brebeuf Jesuit Prep, Indianapolis (No. 14)
Dutkanych was at the head of the high school pitching class before struggling in his last two outings. No. 27 could be on the low end, though a team with multiple early picks could try to push him down and overpay him with its second choice. If Louisiana State second baseman Cade Doughty climbs into the first round, it could be with the Brewers.
28. Astros: Jud Fabian, OF, Florida (No. 29)
Fabian turned down more than $2 million from the Red Sox as a second-rounder in 2021 and it looks like his gamble will pay off as he has made more contact this spring without sacrificing any power. Other college bats who could go in the first round who haven’t been mentioned earlier: Mississippi State catcher Logan Tanner, Oklahoma shortstop Peyton Graham and Stanford outfielder Brock Jones.
29. Rays: Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State (No. 46)
The type of crafty high-floor southpaw who often sneaks into the first round, Hjerpe has a chance to be the first college pitcher taken and might go 10-15 picks earlier. Other healthy college arms who are candidates for the first round: right-handers Jonathan Cannon (Georgia) and Drew Thorpe (Cal Poly) and left-handers Carson Whisenhunt (East Carolina, suspended) and Parker Messick (Florida State). Injured college pitchers with first-round upside: righties Peyton Pallette (Arkansas) and Landon Sims (Mississippi State), not to mention righty Kumar Rocker, who didn’t return to Vanderbilt after the Mets rescinded their $6 million bonus offer after taking him 10th overall last July and balking at his post-Draft physical.
30. Giants: Jackson Ferris, LHP, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (No. 15)
The Giants haven’t picked in the bottom half of the first round since 2017 and now they’re at the very end, hoping for a high-ceiling high schooler such as Ferris to fall. Other prepsters who are generating first-round buzz: left-handers Noah Schultz and Tristan Smith, outfielder Henry Bolte, right-handers Jacob Miller and Owen Murphy, and catcher Malcolm Moore.