MLB Mock Draft 4.0: Keith Law's final projection before the 2022 No. 1 pick is made

MLB Mock Draft 4.0: Keith Law’s final projection before the 2022 No. 1 pick is made

This is my fourth and almost-final mock for Sunday’s first round of the 2022 MLB draft. I say almost, since this is going up Saturday morning, so if I hear anything else between the time this article goes live and the start of the draft that would change any of the picks here, I’ll update the post accordingly.

The same caveats apply as before: I base my mocks on the best information I can get from industry sources who might actually know something about which teams are interested in which players, as well as my own understanding of teams’ individual draft philosophies — such as how much each team leans on its own analytical model, assuming they use one. I do not consider my own opinions on players’ values or projections, because that’s not how teams draft. I may not have a player ranked as a first-rounder, but that has no bearing on where he will actually be drafted.

1. Baltimore Orioles: Jackson Holliday, SS, Stillwater (Okla.) High

Nothing has changed per se – as far as we know, the Orioles have a short list of 5-6 names (more of a medium list, really) for this pick, which most folks assume includes Holliday, Druw Jones, Brooks Lee, Termarr Johnson, and one or two of Cam Collier, Elijah Green or Jacob Berry. There’s been talk of Johnson here on an under-slot deal, which makes sense given GM Mike Elias’ history. There could be a name in there no one has expected, although I’m a little hard-pressed to see who that might be. The Orioles will tell us all who they’re taking on Sunday night and nobody outside of their brain trust will know much before that. Beyond that, it’s just educated guessing, and my most educated guess right now has them taking Holliday …

Scouting report: I’m not sure anyone has helped himself more than Holliday has this spring, notably during his team’s spring break trip to Arizona in March, where Holliday showed incredibly well in front of a lot of decision-makers in town for spring training. He has one of the best swings in the draft, even with a slight bat wrap, with strong plate coverage and above-average power, more likely to be a high-doubles guy with 15-20 homers than a 30-homer guy even at his peak. He’s been hard to strike out as an amateur, only showing occasional weakness against fastballs up, and so far his pitch recognition has been strong for his age and experience level. He’s improved his defensive skills at shortstop, although there’s also been talk of him moving to centerfield to take advantage of his speed if he can’t stay at short, rather than moving him to second or third. It also hasn’t hurt that his father, Matt, was a longtime big-leaguer and seven-time All-Star, and that scouts have been just as impressed by Jackson’s younger brother, Ethan, who may become a top-5 pick in the 2025 draft. Jackson’s heading for the same range this year.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks: Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan School (Norcross, Ga.)

… because I think Arizona might prefer Jones, although they’re going to take whichever of Jones or Holliday is still here if Baltimore takes one, and I think that means Baltimore might be better able to negotiate a deal they like with Holliday (or, I suppose, one of the other players).

Scouting report: Jones is the son of Andruw Jones, and his game bears many resemblances to his father’s, not least in the outfield, where Druw is already a plus defender and could work his way up to an elite level with experience. At the plate, he shows 70 power thanks to the strength in his wrists and forearms, with more power possible as he fills out further. And he has shown some bat control against amateur competition, with some understanding of when to pull the ball and when to try to go the other way. He’s a plus runner right now but may lose some of that down the road as he gets bigger, as his father did by age 24-25. The real question on Druw is whether he’ll hit – if he does, he’s a superstar, with 30/30 potential and a glove that should save 10 or more runs a year in center. If he’s more of a 45 bat, he still has plenty of major-league value due to the secondary skills, so he could be worth several WAR per year even with a .300ish on-base percentage. He’d have to be a worse hitter than even that to be something less than a regular, and the unlikeliness of that outcome combined with his very high ceiling make him the top prospect in this year’s draft class.

3. Texas Rangers: Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy

I think they’d go Jones, Holliday, Green, in that order. Sounds less likely they’d go Johnson, Collier or a college player. No arms anywhere in sight up here, by the way.

Scouting report: Green looks the part of a future star in size, frame, and especially tools, with a strong, athletic 6-3 build, explosive speed, and plus power already that projects to 70 in the future. It’s easy, easy power, with fantastic hand acceleration after a quiet start, and when he gets his arms extended the ball jumps off his bat. All his power comes on pitches on the middle or outer thirds, although he can still make contact on the inner third, just without the same sort of impact. The concern on Green has always been his tendency to swing and miss, especially on stuff in the zone; he doesn’t chase fastballs, but will miss fastball strikes, especially up, and can expand for breaking stuff down and away. He has the most pure upside of the high school position players in the class, with 30/30 potential in a true centerfielder who throws well enough to play right, with a bit more risk than some of the other hitters in the top echelon.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola College

This is one of the newer rumors of the week – not that they’re on Collier, but that he might be their top choice among the likely options. I’ve heard Zach Neto here on what I presume would be a well-under-slot deal, and who knows what happens if one of the big three falls here (although I think they might still prefer Collier to Green).

Scouting report: Collier is one of the youngest players in this draft class, as he won’t turn 18 until November, but he pulled a Bryce Harper by leaving high school after his sophomore year to attend Chipola College, one of the best junior college baseball programs in the country. It is paying off, as he’s hitting for average and getting on base this spring with solid power production despite being the youngest player on the Chipola roster and younger than every pitcher he’s faced. Collier, whose father Lou played in the majors for several years as an extra outfielder, is 6-foot-2 and may still grow a little with a ton of room to fill out. He’s a third baseman now and good enough to stay there with a 70 arm and the agility to handle the position as the game speeds up. At the plate, he’s more than held his own against much better pitching than what he saw in high school; he’s had some expected issues with breaking stuff but also shown he can adjust to some of those pitches and stay back to take them the other way. He needs to add some more strength to better control the barrel as well as make harder contact, as his hands work well enough at the plate for him to be a plus hitter with average power. He’s committed to Louisville but should be a top-five pick in the draft.


Cam Collier (Mike Janes / Four Seam Images via AP)

5. Washington Nationals: Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech

It sounds like there’s some question in Washington whether to go the safe route, which would be Parada, one of the two best college players in the class and the player I thought should have won the Golden Spikes Award (I voted for him, but he lost to Texas slugger Ivan Melendez); or to take a high-upside high schooler, like Green or maybe even Collier (technically a juco player, but just 17 years old). There’s also a nonzero chance that they choose Berry even if Parada is still here.

Scouting report: Parada has been one of the best hitters in college baseball this year, tying for sixth in Division 1 with 26 home runs while walking nearly as often as he struck out on the season (32:30 K:BB), and does so despite one of the more bizarre setups you’ll see in a hitter and while handling the most difficult position on the diamond. Parada sets up at the plate with the bat slung over his shoulder like a bag of golf clubs, but gets the bat to the zone on time, even against better velocity. His plate discipline and pitch recognition are both advanced for an amateur and he’s shown some ability to make adjustments in-season already. Behind the plate, he’s adequate as a receiver with fringy arm strength, good enough to stay there because he hits so well. With 20-25 homer power and a potential 60 hit tool at a position of permanent scarcity, he offers some of the best pure value in the draft class.

6. Miami Marlins: Termarr Johnson, SS, Mays High (Atlanta)

Johnson should be the pick if he’s here, as it seems like they might be out on Green (and assuming Jones and Holliday are gone). I have heard rumors of a deal here – Jacob Berry, surprisingly, or maybe a high school arm like Dylan Lesko or Brandon Barriera, any of them likely to sign well under slot.

Scouting report: Johnson has the best pure hit tool in the draft class, with scouts saying it’s the best hit tool they’ve seen on a high school kid in a decade or more. Despite a small hitch in his swing, he does hit all pitch types and controls the zone, with outstanding hand-eye coordination and great bat speed, making good quality contact but with only average power. He’s a shortstop now but will move to second base in pro ball, with good hands but not the footwork to handle short. I think the present hit tool is a 60, at best, rather than a 70, although perhaps it will get there in time, but he’s swung and missed enough against good competition that the higher grade doesn’t apply just yet. He has exceptional makeup in every evaluation, from his feel for the game to the way he acts as an additional coach on the field to the interviews he’s had with scouts and team executives, so there’s greater confidence that he’ll reach his ceiling than there is for just about any high school player. That ceiling is tied to just how good his hit tool can become.

7. Chicago Cubs: Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly

So after hearing last week they were out on Collier, I heard from two separate sources this week that he’s their guy and they just didn’t want anyone to know it. So, shrug emoji, I guess. If one of the big high school names gets here, they might just do it – Green, Johnson, etc. Lee is probably the best hitter in the draft class, and even his detractors say they believe he’ll hit, which would make this incredible value if he really gets this far.

Scouting report: Lee has been the best pure hitter among college prospects this year, running a walk-to-strikeout rate over 2.00 all season and punching out well under 10 percent of the time. He controls the zone well and rarely misses fastballs within it, thanks to exceptional hand-eye coordination. His swing is unorthodox and kind of noisy, with some evident effort, but with all that hip and torso rotation he doesn’t always make the high-quality contact teams are looking for in elite prospects. I don’t think Lee is a shortstop long term; he has outstanding hands that will play anywhere on the field, but his ankles are thick and he’s a 40 runner, so the lateral agility that position demands may just be beyond his physical ability. Put him at third base and he should be fine. It’s a bet on the bat, and that a pro department can take this foundation of contact skills and help him get to more consistent contact quality; it’s easier to teach someone to hit the ball harder than it is to teach him to hit the ball in the first place. Lee should be a strong regular who makes some All-Star teams as a third or second baseman, but probably doesn’t project to be a superstar.

8. Minnesota Twins: Zach Neto, SS, Campbell

One rumor had the Twins on Golden Spikes winner Ivan Melendez, a 22-year-old first baseman from Texas who led Division I in homers, with this pick. Just a guess, but I think they’re also a sort of hard floor for some of these college position players who should go ahead of this pick. If Lee or Parada gets here, I think the Twins would just take them.

Scouting report: Neto is a definite shortstop who should be a plus defender in the majors and has a plus arm, but he’s really made himself some money this spring with his performance, including just a mere 7.6 percent strikeout rate for the Camels. He’s got the extraneous movement that you need to have to be a top hitting prospect in this year’s draft, although he calms it down with two strikes; despite that, he’s short to the ball and makes high-quality contact, even hitting for some home-run power that may not persist into pro ball with wood bats and better pitching. He’s spent a little time on the mound, but his future is on the dirt, and with his propensity for putting the bat on the ball and enough power to project as a 30-doubles guy, he should go in the top half of the first round.

9. Kansas City Royals: Justin Crawford, OF, Bishop Gorman High (Las Vegas)

This would probably be an under-slot deal, but a high-upside player for the Royals, who drafted that way last year, going for projection and cutting a deal in the first round to go over with multiple subsequent picks. I have heard they’d love for Green to get here, have considered a deal with Porter, and might still just end up with a college bat like Gavin Cross.

Scouting report: The son of Carl Crawford — yes, Carl Crawford is old enough to have a son in the draft, and nothing in this draft year has made me feel any older than that one fact — is quite similar to his dad as a player. He’s at least a 70 runner, with good bat speed, but not much present power or even hard contact yet, although his frame is very projectable and he could get to average power. He sets up with an extremely wide stance, and strides about as far as he can, which may be why he has trouble adjusting to changing speeds. He’s a better defender than Carl was and throws well enough to stay in centerfield. He has above-average regular upside, but may require more time in the minors than the typical first-round high school position player.

10. Colorado Rockies: Cade Horton, RHP, Oklahoma

I think the Brock Porter rumors here might be more smoke than fire. I had heard Berry would be their guy if he gets here, but that a number of teams have been deterred by Berry’s batted ball data this spring, combined with his lack of a position. Horton was the best pitcher in the NCAA postseason, with elite characteristics on his breaking ball, and with only 53 innings this spring he still has some mileage left for the summer.

Scouting report: Horton is an age-eligible sophomore (he’ll turn 21 in August) who missed 2021 after Tommy John surgery but has been a key part of the Sooners’ run to Omaha this year, working with two pitches that have helped him dominate right-handed batters. Horton sits 94-96 mph, touching 98 mph, and has a wipeout slider up to 89 mph that breaks downward so sharply that it doesn’t just fall off the table, it takes the tablecloth and all the dishes with it. He has no changeup to speak of and allowed an on-base percentage near .400 to lefties this year, and that’s the main thing keeping him from projecting as a starter. If you think there’s a third weapon in there somewhere, he would be a second-rounder; if not, he’s in the big bucket of good college pitchers who project as relievers and fit in rounds 3-5.

11. New York Mets: Jace Jung, 2B/3B, Texas Tech

My guess is the Mets go one college player and one high school player, if they see one of the latter they like. But I also know they see the two picks (Nos. 11 and 14) as an opportunity to get creative and maybe go well over slot once and under with the other. Jung and Berry are candidates here, as is Daniel Susac.

Scouting report: Jung has one of the weirdest setups you will ever see in a hitter above Little League, holding the bat so far behind his back shoulder that you’d think it was covered in a toxic fungus. Or perhaps cooties. Yet he hits — he hit well enough as a sophomore in 2021, with a .337/.462/.697 line and more walks than strikeouts, that he probably would have gone in the top half of the first round last year had he been eligible. The younger brother of Rangers prospect Josh Jung, Jace gets the bat head into the zone in plenty of time to make consistent, high-quality contact, including power, with 21 homers as a sophomore and 14 this season. His position is still the main question; he’s mostly played second base in college, not that well, but doesn’t have the arm for the left side of the infield or the speed to play anywhere else but left field or first base. There’s enough reason to buy his bat that he’s going to go in the top-10 picks even with such a huge unknown in his profile.

12. Detroit Tigers: Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech

This connection has come up a lot over the last month – everyone around the Tigers thinks they’re going college and that they are disinclined to take a pitcher after Casey Mize and Matt Manning got hurt this year, and Jackson Jobe’s stuff has backed up in his first year in the minors (which could just be a blip).

Scouting report: Cross is an advanced hitter with above-average power and the potential for more with some swing adjustments, rising thanks to a thin crop of advanced college hitters in this year’s class. He’s improved his approach significantly this year, walking more than he’s struck out in conference play through May 19th, and improving his ball-strike recognition over 2021. He’s an above-average runner who can steal a bag but isn’t fleet enough to stay in center in pro ball. He strides too far at the plate, without transferring his weight as he does so, which cuts off some of his power potential and can leave him unable to drive anything on the outer half. He hasn’t faced much left-handed pitching this year, with a mild platoon split in the sample he’s had, which is just something to watch when he moves into pro ball rather than an immediate concern. He should be a solid regular in an outfield corner, thanks to his hitting and on-base skills, but I’d like to see some swing changes that might unlock more power.

13. Los Angeles Angels: Brandon Barriera, LHP, American Heritage High (Plantation, Fla.)

The Angels are the team most likely to take a pitcher in the top 15, by far. I’ve only heard them on arms, mostly Barriera and Gabriel Hughes, small chance of Dylan Lesko. I haven’t heard them with Horton, but he’d fit what I infer as their philosophy.

Scouting report: Barriera ended his season early, choosing to make his final start before his team’s schedule was over, which may become more common going forward (Hunter Greene did this as well) as pitchers try to avoid getting hurt right before the draft. He’s been up to 98 with a very fast arm and shows two very sharp breaking balls, both of which can touch plus, along with a plus changeup. He doesn’t offer much projection, but he also doesn’t need it given his present stuff, and his build right now seems sufficient for him to stay a starter. I don’t think he gets great extension over his front side, but it’s a minor quibble. It’s premium stuff, and he’s aggressive on the mound. If he gets to consistent strikes, he’s an above-average starter.

14. New York Mets: Jett Williams, SS, Rockwall-Heath (Texas) High

Been a lot of connections here too, along with Crawford and rumors they’d cut a deal with someone like Lesko. My guess is they lean toward two bats with these picks and then open it up to any kind of pitching later on.

Scouting report: Williams is the other 5-8 high school shortstop in this draft class, behind Termarr Johnson because of the latter’s elite hit tool … but how far behind, really? He’s a right-handed hitter with a clean, efficient swing, and his hand-eye coordination rivals Johnson’s; Williams almost never swung and missed last summer on the showcase circuit and didn’t show any trouble with velocity when he faced it. He’s an above-average to plus runner, quick enough for shortstop but lacking the arm strength or footwork for the position in the long term, so it’s more likely he’ll move to second base or possibly centerfield. There’s always some trepidation around undersized high school hitters, but I remember a similarly sized right-handed high school shortstop who rarely struck out and hit everything hard — Alex Bregman.

15. San Diego Padres: Jacob Berry, 3B/OF, LSU

A lot of scouts think Berry is the best pure bat in the college ranks, so while I hear he and Jung are both sliding, I don’t think either goes too far, with this run – the Mets, Padres, Guardians, Phillies – a sort of general floor.

Scouting report: Berry has one of the best pure hit tools in the draft class, with an exceptional combination of contact and power — at the end of the regular season, he had the fewest strikeouts of any hitter with at least 15 homers. He transferred from the University of Arizona to LSU for his junior year, and in the process cut his strikeout rate substantially, with less power on contact (perhaps also a result of moving from 2,400 feet above sea level to 56 feet above it). He has a very simple approach from both sides of the plate, with no stride and just average bat speed, but despite that he’s had no trouble getting to good velocity. Berry has no position — the Tigers have tried him at third and both outfield corners, and he’s been bad everywhere, reminiscent of current Diamondbacks DH Seth Beer when he was at Clemson. That lack of a position limits how valuable he can be, and if he doesn’t hit, there’s no floor. But someone will take him for the potential OBP/power combination he offers, perhaps with the hope he can handle first base.

16. Cleveland Guardians: Chase Delauter, OF, James Madison

Cleveland is one of the most model-centric teams in the draft, as it didn’t even have amateur scouts go see Division I games for most of the spring. And if you draft just off the model, Delauter is probably a top-10 talent – top five if you assume he stays in center. I think the Guardians could be in on Horton, as well. If both are gone, they could go high school pitching. I haven’t specifically heard Walter Ford with them, but he’s the youngest prospect in the draft and that weighs very heavily in Cleveland’s draft model.

Scouting report: Delauter had about as bad a spring as any of the players who came into 2022 as first-round candidates — he was dominated by the two left-handers in the Florida State rotation in a series that was very heavily attended by scouts, and just a few weeks later broke his foot, ending his season after 24 games. His gaudy stat line this spring was boosted by a comical 13-for-22 performance with five homers and 10 walks in midweek games against inferior opponents. Delauter opens his front side way too early as he tries to cheat to get to velocity, and thus becomes vulnerable to offspeed stuff moving away. Florida State’s lefties just attacked him with fastballs and he struck out six times in those two games, giving teams the book on how to approach him. There could be more here with a lot of swing and mechanical work, but scouts are concerned he just can’t get to velocity consistently without that early move. He’s played mostly center for the Dukes but will end up a corner in pro ball.

17. Philadelphia Phillies: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Troy Valley-Cats

Rocker seems to have a few possible landing spots in the first round – San Diego, Philadelphia, Boston, at least – although I know other teams who still think he slips out of the round. I’ve heard the Phillies connected to Horton as another possible fast-mover. I would guess they don’t go high school pitching for the third year in a row.

Scouting report: Rocker was the 10th-overall pick last year, selected by the Mets, but the team declined to offer him a contract after finding something they didn’t like in his post-draft physical. Rocker left Vanderbilt to pitch for the independent Tri-City ValleyCats in upstate New York, where he was 95-98 in his first outing with two above-average breaking balls and an adequate changeup, showing a lower arm slot than he had last year. Rocker has shown a plus-plus slider at times in the past, and there’s no reason to think his fastball is back but his slider isn’t. He has always had better control than command, and while he’s shown incredible competitiveness in some games — like the no-hitter he threw in 2019, when he was pushed to 131 pitches — he’s also had outings where he seemed to struggle to adjust mid-game. He has No. 2 starter upside, if healthy, but the risk associated with his medicals may make him a better bet for some team’s second pick.

18. Cincinnati Reds: Daniel Susac, C, Arizona

A straight value pick if it happens, as Susac has big power for a catcher and projects to stay behind the plate. They could also go with Cole Young, who has at least a 50-50 chance to get here. I think they’re the floor for a bunch of players like Jung or Neto.

Scouting report: Susac has actually had a slightly worse sophomore year than freshman year, but the weak draft and the value of his position has moved him up into the top half of the first round. Susac, whose older brother Andrew was a second-round pick in 2014 and has played 114 games in the majors, is a solid-average receiver at worst with a plus arm, giving no doubt that he’ll stay at the position. At the plate, he starts out with an interpretive dance sequence that involves a huge step forward and then erases it with the same move backwards, but of more concern is that his swing is long, and he’s been far more dangerous against fastballs than anything else because adjusting once he’s committed to the swing is difficult. He has produced well enough in a Power 5 conference for two years to be a first-rounder, with a similar projection to Joey Bart’s out of college — low-OBP with power and solid defense.


Daniel Susac (Steven Branscombe / USA Today Sports)

19. Oakland A’s: Cole Young, SS, North Allegheny High (Wexford, Pa.)

Young goes somewhere in the teens, although a few clubs have backed off based on his age at the draft (he’s 19 – but so were Bobby Witt Jr. and Jordan Lawlar). I’d heard the A’s were heavy on Dylan Beavers earlier this spring, too.

Scouting report: Young has surged up draft boards with a strong showing this spring in the Pittsburgh suburbs. Last summer he would often overstride, and since he nearly bars his lead arm, he was left off-balance enough that he couldn’t adjust to stuff spinning away from him, although he’s quieted all of that down somewhat this spring and scouts have reported seeing better quality contact from him. He’s at least a 55 runner who has the speed and arm to stay at shortstop, although he’ll need some adjustment with his footwork to remain there in the majors. The Duke commit will turn 19 a few weeks after the draft, which will hurt him with certain teams that weigh age more heavily, while teams that focus more on tools and athleticism are likely to push him into the first 15 picks.

20. Atlanta: Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford (Ga.) High

Not so much because he’s a hometown kid, but because he would have been a top-five pick if healthy, and Atlanta has a lot more flexibility now that it traded for the 35th pick in the deal that sent Drew Waters to the Royals last week. I’ve heard them with Horton, too.

Scouting report: Lesko is one of the best high school pitching prospects in the last 20 years, and has one of the best changeups anyone can remember seeing a high school kid throw. He’s 90-96 mph as a starter already, but that’s just the appetizer to the main course of his changeup, which looks just like his fastball out of his hand and finishes with hard tailing action to his arm side. He started throwing an improved curveball this past spring with hard downward break and a very high spin rate, which answered one of the major questions facing him coming into the spring. He takes an enormous stride toward the plate to generate that velocity and seems to repeat the delivery well, with no obvious red flags in his mechanics. Lesko stopped pitching after the mid-April NHSI tournament due to a sore forearm, and underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of that month. The best historical comparison for him might be Lucas Giolito (16th overall in 2012), who suffered an elbow injury during his senior year but didn’t have surgery before the draft, blowing out after one pro inning that summer. Giolito was in the running to go first overall and was a definite top-five selection before the injury, which seems like a good comparable for Lesko, who now seems primed to go somewhere in the middle of the first round.

21. Seattle Mariners: Drew Gilbert, OF, Tennessee

I think the Mariners return to the college ranks after surprising a lot of us with a high school player, Harry Ford, as their first pick last year — the first time a Jerry DiPoto-helmed club had done so (counting his time with the Angels, as well). It could be Gilbert or one of the better college arms, with a good chance that every college pitcher is still on the board at this pick.

Scouting report: Gilbert was a two-way prospect out of a Minnesota high school but had a strong commitment to Tennessee, so he wasn’t drafted until the hometown Twins took him in the 35th round in 2019. He’s only thrown 16 innings for the Vols, none this spring, but he’s turned into a premium defensive center fielder with a strong eye at the plate and ability to hit for average. Gilbert rarely swings and misses, staying back even through contact, with minimal weight transfer — possibly an avenue for a player development group to try to get another half-grade of power out of him. In center, he’s a 6 defender with a 6 arm, doing it more with reads and instincts than pure speed, as he’s just a tick above average as a runner. The defense and contact skills give him a good chance to be a regular, although there’d have to be something more — more power, greater patience — to make him a star.

22. St. Louis Cardinals: Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga

Lot of beliefs they’ll lean toward one of the model-friendly players – Delauter, Hughes, Horton – although I don’t think they are only on college players, and I think there’s some small chance they’re on Rocker.

Scouting report: Hughes took a big step forward in command this year even as his stuff ticked up, all of which has put him into first-round consideration. He’s sitting 93-94 mph now, touching 97 mph, up almost 2 mph from last year, with a hard slider in the low to mid 80s that misses a lot of bats. He’s huge, 6-5 and 225 pounds already, with a workhorse frame but a longish arm action that he has a hard time repeating. He has a changeup that he barely uses, although it’s been effective when he has. There’s some reliever risk here from the delivery, and the fact that his command is still probably a soft 45, but there’s also big upside given the frame and the two pitches he already has.

23. Toronto Blue Jays: Dylan Beavers, OF, California

I’ve heard more college than high school here, bats and arms, so a group like Beavers, Delauter, Gilbert, Hughes, Cooper Hjerpe, etc. Tucker Toman is their plan B if it all goes pear-shaped.

Scouting report: Beavers is a strong, 6-4 outfielder with big power but an unusual swing path that has led to questions about his future hit tool. He hit .291/.427/.634 for the Golden Bears this spring with 17 homers, after he swatted 18 for them last spring. He makes a sharp move down and slightly back when he begins his swing, and whether you want to call it a hitch or not, it’s not helping him with timing, leading to trouble with breaking stuff and a lot of groundballs because his hands are moving upwards and he gets on top of the ball. He does have good bat speed and is athletic enough that he might end up a plus defender in right, although the odds are against him staying in center. If he can work around this swing issue, or some team can smooth it out, he has above-average regular upside thanks to his speed and pitch recognition.

24. Boston Red Sox: Sterlin Thompson, 2B/OF, Florida

I do think they’re seriously considering Rocker if he gets here. Jordan Beck, Brock Jones, Cooper Hjerpe, even one of the hurt pitchers like Connor Prielipp would also fit.

Scouting report: Thompson is a draft-eligible sophomore with a pretty left-handed swing and the potential for plus power, showing a solid two-strike approach for the Gators this spring while hitting well even in SEC play. He’s a below-average runner who’s limited to an outfield corner and could end up at first base, which definitely caps his value upside. His best tool is the hit tool, which is the hardest one to evaluate, and if he doesn’t in fact end up with a 55 or 60 hit tool, he’s not going to have much of a role in the majors. Primarily a corner outfielder, Thompson has played a lot of second base this year for the Gators, and improved enough as the season has gone on that many scouts believe he’ll be able to stay there in pro ball. He’s shown he can hit good velocity with doubles power right now, enough that he should be a mid first-rounder this July.

25. New York Yankees: Brock Porter, RHP, St. Mary’s Prep (Orchard Lake, Mich.)

I think this is Porter’s floor, but if he’s gone, the Yankees are linked to a lot of less common names here, like Tyler Locklear and Spencer Jones — two names I haven’t heard with any other team in the first.

Scouting report: Porter has emerged as one of the top high school right-handers in this class, and right now is the best bet to be the first arm taken from anywhere in the class. He’s been up to 97 this spring with good arm-side run on the pitch, while both his curveball and changeup project as at least above-average offerings when he starts using them more. He offers a ton of projection on his 6-4 frame, with a long stride toward the plate and good extension over his front side. He’s also committed to Clemson, but he’s pitched well enough this spring that he should go high enough to sign.

26. Chicago White Sox: Robby Snelling, LHP, McQueen High (Reno, Nev.)

I have had some sources say they think Snelling is gone before this pick, but there aren’t that many teams willing to take a high school arm in the top 20. The Padres, the Mets, the Angels … that’s it for teams that are clearly open to the general idea, as opposed to just liking one particular prep arm. I’ve heard the White Sox a lot with Snelling, and a lot with Hjerpe (which could very well just be because they’ve taken a lot of college arms with unusual deliveries, from Chris Sale to Carson Fulmer).

Scouting report: Snelling has flown up boards this spring thanks to his athleticism and one of the better curveballs in the class. He’ll sit 92-93 mph and has touched the mid-90s, but the curveball is the selling point here, in the upper 70s with angle and tight rotation. He shifts his hand position for the two pitches, though, visibly on top of the fastball and on the side of the breaking ball, which better hitters might pick up on to distinguish the pitch type out of his hand. He accelerates his arm very well at the end of a pretty clean delivery, with a little bit of a head-jerk at release. He’s a former quarterback who has the athleticism you’d expect from a two-sport player, but many quarterbacks haven’t been able to translate their arm strength into baseball success. He also needs to develop a third pitch, although the fact that he’s left-handed and has a now breaking ball gives him a higher floor than most high school pitchers can offer.

27. Milwaukee Brewers: Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State

Teams around the Brewers expect them to be on some of the more model-friendly players, like Hjerpe, Horton or Delauter.

Scouting report: Hjerpe had eye-popping numbers this spring for the Beavers, with a Division I-leading 161 strikeouts and a strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate that ranked second, behind only a 23-year-old sophomore at FIU. Hjerpe does it with two potentially plus secondary pitches in his slider and changeup – the former getting big sweeping action from his low slot, while the latter is helped by the deception in his delivery. The delivery is one of the main concerns, however, as Hjerpe cuts himself off and comes way across his body, while he delivers the ball from a very low slot not far above sidearm. The other concern is that his fastball is ordinary, 88-93 mph now, with multiple scouts saying they fear it’ll go backwards in pro ball when he’s asked to pitch every fifth day. He may be able to start thanks to those two secondary pitches, but there is no big-league starter in recent memory who was this cross-body, so Hjerpe may have a lot more upside in the bullpen instead.

28. Houston Astros: Carson Whisenhunt, LHP, East Carolina

This is more a comment on Whisenhunt’s market than any specific link to the Astros. Whisenhunt threw just 16 innings on the Cape after his full-spring suspension, so he is the most ‘ready’ to go out and pitch of any college pitcher in the class. I think he goes somewhere between 20 and 40.

Scouting report: Whisenhunt didn’t pitch for East Carolina this spring after testing positive for a banned substance in the offseason, so he didn’t make his 2022 debut until June 12 when he pitched for the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod League. He looked good despite some rust, sitting 92-93 mph and touching 95 mph with an improved curveball and a changeup that flashed plus. It’s a paradox of sorts but he might be better off having missed the spring. While many other first-round contenders among college pitchers have had Tommy John surgery, Whisenhunt is healthy and relatively fresh, making him likely to pitch for most of the remaining minor-league season after the draft. He was ruled ineligible for the NCAA season after testing positive for a banned substance. That left his team without its best pitcher this year, as East Carolina ultimately fell in the super regionals to Texas — perhaps it would be in Omaha if Whisenhunt had been around. However, he is the best healthy college left-hander in the draft right now, with mid-rotation upside.

29. Tampa Bay Rays: Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama

I have heard the Rays and the Dodgers as two teams on juco right-hander Jacob Misiorowski, whom the Dodgers could try to grab with their first pick at No. 40 before the Rays get another shot at him.

Scouting report: Prielipp had Tommy John surgery at the end of May 2021, ending his college career after just seven starts and 28 innings across two seasons. He returned to throw a bullpen right before the SEC tournament, mostly 90-92 with flashes of the slider he’d had before the injury, when the slider was plus and his changeup was good enough to project him as a starter. He cuts himself off when he lands, coming back a little across his body, although that and the low 3/4 slot also add to his deception. He might have been in consideration for the first-overall pick had he stayed healthy — and performed — but now seems more likely to get a deal in the second half of the first round. As for his future, he could be a high-end starter, and he could easily end up in the bullpen. He’s thrown so little in games that the range of his potential outcomes is huge.

30. San Francisco Giants: Jordan Beck, OF, Tennessee

This far down in the draft, who knows? Seems like other teams expect the Giants to take a toolsy college hitter whose swing they believe will work with their player development processes. That doesn’t really limit things that much – Melton, Beck, Brock Jones, Gilbert, even Beavers would all sort of fit that rubric.

Scouting report: Beck has risen up draft boards this spring with a solid, but hardly spectacular, performance, but one that is also supported by tools and athleticism that give scouts reason to believe he can continue to improve in pro ball. Beck has a great build for a hitter, 6-3, 225, with quick wrists and huge raw power that has yet to show up consistently in games, even though he plays in a homer-friendly stadium in Knoxville. He’s very rotational at the plate and has the strength to drive the ball out to all fields, but his approach and pitch recognition have held him back. He’s shown weakness on the outer half, especially on sliders, and expands the zone away too easily. He’s struck out nearly twice as often as he’s walked and hit .252 in regular season SEC play, ranking fourth on the team in homers (16). He’s an above-average runner who plays right field for the Vols because they have a superior defender in center in Drew Gilbert; if he can play center in pro ball, it would substantially add to his value. He’s benefiting from a weak draft class that has left teams looking for upside in unexpected places.

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos: Mike Janes / AP, Matt Dirksen / Getty, Team USA)


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