- Druw Jones, center field, Georgia
Druw is the closest thing to a consensus 1-1 in this year’s draft and carries himself with a sense of swagger and confidence. He is electric on the basepaths like his father was and he could be even better than him if you give it time. Andruw Jones was well on the way to Cooperstown before injuries took over and his son has the same mix of elite speed and elite power he did. Jones is significantly taller and lankier so he still needs to fill out a bit and his swing may look weird for a while as he does but the upside here is enormous. He plays more like Byron Buxton than Aaron Judge, although it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he ends up physically resembling 99. To reach his potential with the bat, his hit tool must improve like his ability to make contact has. He’s well on his way to becoming more selective and having better at-bats and swing decisions. Now he just needs to do it at the minor league level where there won’t be nearly as many scouts to impress. He has strong hands and is able to generate big time power because of them. Jones may not be as risky as you first think because his defense and arm are going to play regardless.
- Termarr Johnson, middle infield, Georgia
I don’t think there is much separating Termarr Johnson from Jones. I could make a compelling argument for him to go first overall and for under-slot despite a lack of positional value. Termarr has a legit 70 hit tool and is generational from that aspect. Out of any player in this class, I am most confident that Johnson will be the safest big leaguer and have the longest career but don’t mistake this for a lack of upside, Johnson has some of the best bat speed I have seen from the left side. His special wrists and ability to time pitchers up perfectly make it such that there is no good way to pitch to him. So what is the problem? Well, his size. This should mean nothing since Jose Altuve and Mookie Betts are future Hall of Famers. but some are scared off by it and mistake small stature for average power. Termarr can put on a show in batting practice and has plus pop when he wants to tap into it. He rather collect hits instead like Tony Gwynn. He has Gwynn’s personality too and can be a face of the franchise you will be proud of in short order. He is advanced and just needs to find a home on the diamond as well as improve his defense.
- Elijah Green, center field, Florida
Elijah Green is how you draw them up with his perfect physical frame and may be the most talented player in the draft. If Druw Jones has a 70 field and Termarr Johnson has a 70 bat, Elijah has 70 power. The question, unfortunately, then is how much the child prodigy will be able to use it. He has power to all fields and makes fields look small when he makes contact. Pre-pitch and before his swing, Green is relaxed until he connects and viciously attacks the baseball like Ronald Acuna. It’s hard to describe exactly what that looks like but it’s not too dissimilar to Nelson Cruz’s start to finish. For someone who almost certainly will strike out a ton in pro ball, the issue with him is that he sometimes isn’t as aggressive as he is said to be. This wouldn’t seem to make sense but Green is passive when it comes to hunting fastballs and goes down looking rather than swinging. If he is going to carry the reputation of a free swinger, I prefer he actually be that. Another misconception about Green is he can’t hit breaking balls. I don’t really believe this to be all that fair and think he simply faces better pitching than any other high schooler in the country and has since age 16 at IMG Academy, a place that churns out first round pitching.
- Cam Collier, third base, Chipola
Cam was born in 2004. Late 2004. The 17 year old spent the season playing in junior college after he reclassified in order to be eligible for this year’s draft. More than anyone, he is a blank canvas and gives teams a lot to dream on and mold, perhaps more than any other player. Thanks to his patience as a hitter, Collier has not looked overmatched against players older than him or lefties like a majority of young players his age. This is because Cam understands who he is and wants to be as a player. Utilizing his strengths and not trying to do too much can make him look too relaxed and almost like he’s not trying, although this is not the case. He pulls the ball with ease, hits the ball with spin and is a splitting image of Rafael Devers at the plate with a similar approach. Collier is a natural who can get out of bed and rake. His thick lower half allows him to stay back and not be launch angle reliant or develop bad habits as a young hitter. There is more raw power than some outlets suggest once he allows the baseball to get deep. Teams can afford for him to take his time to develop, even if he does not need much of it.
- Jackson Holliday, shortstop, Oklahoma
No player in this year’s draft has done more for their stock than Jackson Holliday. He had a phenomenal high school season and looked like a different player from a year ago. Jackson has gotten noticeably bigger and what is most impressive is that Jackson was able to do so while somehow getting even faster so whoever has been training him has done well. That person might be his dad, former all-star outfielder Matt Holliday, one of my favorite players growing up. A lot of the helium associated with Jackson definitely has to do with bloodlines and that he is Matt Holliday’s son, a title that assures that he at least be seen, but in some ways – Jackson feels a bit less-hyped than say a Vlad Jr., for a projected top five pick. He is a gap to gap hitter who can spray the baseball all over the field, all while barreling them up. Jackson’s swing is aesthetically pleasing and one of the best in this year’s draft and his athleticism makes me think he can play just about anywhere. There are intangibles at play here: he knows the ins and outs of MLB, can develop into a leader much like Corbin Carroll or become a center fielder like him. Seager
- Jacob Berry, third base, LSU
In my view, the best college hitter in the draft is Jacob Berry and he could play in the majors tomorrow. He is a professional hitter who teams will have to hide defensively but his 65 hit and 65 power make that a minor inconvenience. When I watched Berry, I knew he reminded me of someone but couldn’t put my finger on it until I saw him in Lance Berkman. A switch hitter like Berkman, Berry is mature and even if he can’t hack it at third base, he has more than enough to profile at first. Watching him mash won’t be pretty but he will be able to carry an offense for stretches and is consistent at the plate. He transferred to Louisiana State from Arizona without so much as a blip and played as if he had been in Baton Rouge for years. He is a no-frills hitter, short to the ball and the ball carries every time he hits it. Berry is underrated and not being spoken about nearly enough for the kind of impact level bat that he has. He is not going to be a Statcast leader or favorite in terms of exit velocity and bat speed but Berry does not have to be. Pitchers shouldn’t pitch to him inside as he can turn on pitches near that part of the batter’s box.
- Zach Neto, shortstop, Campbell.
Zach Neto has a career college batting average of over .400. That is impressive in of itself but the way he does it is remarkable. I am not sure I have ever seen a more pronounced leg kick, outside of former first overall pick Royce Lewis, or even witnessed Neto whiff on back to back swings since he shortens up with two strikes. He is a two-way player for Campbell and also likes to pitch out of their bullpen. This alone shows how gifted he is. Now, he won’t be pitching in the majors or minors but he throws well into the nineties and can probably hit 95 if he desired. That’s a shortstop’s arm and I don’t worry about a position change. Neto’s overall profile is a lot like Trevor Story and he will do damage wherever he goes or hits in a lineup. While his leg is in the air during his leg kick, Neto moves his hands all the way back and swings with all his might to put a charge into one, but will not get cheated because his bat path is whippy and more precise than Javy Baez’s. His eyes are focused and get large when he sees a pitch he wants. Neto, a Cuban-American, plays baseball with his hair on fire, not so different from Justin Turner.
- Brooks Lee, infield, Cal Poly
Generally expected to be the first college hitter taken this year, Brooks Lee can hit with the best of them with his 65 hit grade. Brooks has gotten to play for his dad in college and never not hit, whether it be in the Cape Cod League with wooden bats or Team USA, as a budding leadoff hitter. He is a grinder and leaves it all on the field, to a fault at times. He is a magician with the bat and is borderline impossible to strike out. The issue here is that Lee does not have much chance to stick at his current position: shortstop. He does not offer much in the way of athleticism for a number of reasons: chief among them being his long injury history. Playing as hard as he does day in and day out can take a toll and has on his back. Lee missed the entirety of the 2020 college season, undergoing knee and hamstring surgeries. It remains a question if he can display the power that will be needed for a move to third but he has done well to answer doubts by putting together more than acceptable home run totals this season. The switch hitter may not be in the caliber of a Jose Ramirez but will get every ounce of his talent if he is healthy.
- Kevin Parada, catcher, Georgia Tech
Most evaluators, myself included, were not optimistic that Kevin would still be a catcher at the collegiate level when he was a top catching prospect coming out of high school three years ago. He has undoubtedly helped his cause since then and slowly made improvements as a receiver. Parada still has a long way to go before he can be an adequate defender behind the plate. Mainly, he has not fared well throwing out base stealers at all because of his lack of accuracy. His arm’s fringy at best and he needs to do better with blocking and getting down more quickly. When it comes to offense, not many can handle the bat like Parada, regardless of their position. Parada makes some of the loudest contact you can hear a bat and ball make. His batting stance is unique since he sets up by covering his face with his elbow and loads like Francisco Alvarez. He hits scorching line drives that both players and fans have to be on the lookout for in the park. Parada will be a run producer in the majors and hit more than enough homers, with his 65 power, to keep him at catcher, although the DH will be helpful for him when he gets fatigued.
- Connor Prielipp, pitcher, Alabama
Connor Prielipp might have been the first overall pick if his time at Alabama had gone the way he hoped. Instead, he had Tommy John surgery last May and is nearing the finish line. He had a positive showing at the league’s draft combine and is the ultimate ceiling play as he has the best slider in the draft and can be like Blake Snell, except with the ability to control his pitches and where they go. Both have injury histories but are top of the rotation southpaws when everything is clicking and they are healthy. Prielipp has pitched less than thirty innings in college the last three years but teams can look at that as a positive because he has largely gotten to save his arm. Elbow surgery is not what it once was and is no longer a career killer. The list of pitchers who had to miss time in college or the lower minors due to it is endless and some gain extra ticks on their fastball. Being away from the game helps pitchers think about pitching and Prielipp will benefit from this. He will not miss instructional time and will be full-go as soon as he is drafted. The opportunity to cut an underslot deal is enticing since you would not sacrifice quality.
- Brock Porter, pitcher, Michigan
The first pitcher with a real chance of going in the top ten, Brock Porter has a lot to offer. His fastball flashes high nineties and flirts with triple digits. His changeup is his other best offering and he throws it with the same action as his fastball, fooling hitters. Porter has been a winner of state titles and performed his best in the most important games, boding well for his future. Brock’s curveball is effective as well and he throws it just enough for it to be a threat. What is going to decide how elite he will become is the development of his slider, which is overtaking the curveball as his third best pitch, adding one more pitch for opposing batters to worry about. There’s a chance at four above-average offerings, should they all develop, and each differs in velocity. Even if all of the pitches do not, Porter is imposing on the mound at 6’4 and animated when he pitches. Watch him strike someone out and you will see how he paces right afterwards. Porter’s delivery is a lot like Max Scherzer’s and any young pitcher would do well to emulate him. Porter likely grew up watching Mad Max on the Tigers and has several of his mannerisms.
- Dylan Lesko, pitcher, Georgia
The winner of Gatorade’s National Player of the Year as a high school junior, Dylan Lesko was having a heck of a senior year before his elbow gave up on him only three months ago. Like Brock Porter, his bread and butter is his plus fastball combined with his plus, plus changeup. Lesko would have been ahead of Porter, had it not been for him having Tommy John surgery, and potentially in my top three. Dylan does not try to break radar guns when he throws or even throw a slider, and still got injured – proving that pitchers just break, regardless of what they do. His pitches have tremendous life and fades completely away from hitters at the last second. This has batters fooled and looking bad, sometimes in disbelief. The delivery is like Gerrit Cole, free and easy, and not hard to repeat. The team that drafts might very well get the best value pick of the draft, as his likely slide to the teens would have been unimaginable not too long ago. That team could be a big market club able to pay him what he wants like the Nationals did when they bit the bullet and chose Lucas Giolito, another fastball-changeup artist, before trading him.
- Brandon Barriera, pitcher, New York
Brandon Barriera, a Yankees fan, is cool, calm and collected, not seeming to be bothered by anything. Perhaps this is the New York that remains with him in Florida but he could have the best stuff of any high school lefty in this draft. Seen as being undersized, Barriera has a clean motion and contorts his body in different ways. The finished product could end up being someone like Carlos Rodon and that’s hard to pass up at any point of the draft. There are signs that his changeup will be what takes him to that level, on top of his already solid curveball. He should continue to add velocity as his delivery gets smoother and smoother like it has with just how fluid of an athlete he is. Barriera is also a Vandy commit, a school that scouts and identifies high-end pitching better than just about anybody. Should he fall far enough, that commitment could make him a tough signing but as long as he is drafted early enough, he should sign. Barriera has a relatively low arm slot that allows him to mess around with the shape of his slider and throw the pitch in many different directions, which is sure to drive opposing hitters crazy.
- Jace Jung, second base, Texas Tech
Jace Jung could be a steal for a team if he is taken after the tenth pick. The buzz on him has seemed to dim as he had a better sophomore season than junior year this year. Still, Jung continued to pile up walks. Like Jacob Berry and Brooks Lee, he is a bit of an ugly duckling on the field but you would be drafting him for the bat. Like Kevin Parada, he holds the bat in an unorthodox way that you would not typically teach but works and helps him scald the ball. His older brother, Josh, is a superb hitter in his own right but Jace can be just as good if not better. He has nice coverage of the strike zone and knows how to drag on at bats to frustrate pitchers. Jung waits for his pitch and capitalizes on mistakes. His range at second is not great but he is a smart and hard-working player who is motivated to stick there. If he does, he can be an all star and is an intense competitor. He does not have any problem with velocity and can pull the trigger on offspeed stuff in a second when he recognizes it. Jung also goes opposite field or the other way naturally and can take big rips without necessarily wanting to hit more home runs.
15) Daniel Susac, catcher, Arizona
The rare draft eligible sophomore, Daniel Susac deserves to go in the top half of the first round. He made the difficult decision to drop switch-hitting this year when players usually stay with it as long as possible, even if they have splits that suggest a change. Susac was not that bad hitting from the left side but he made the decision as someone who wants to be a catcher. Hitting both lefty and righty means double the work as you need to take swings with both and a catcher is already tasked with doing a lot. Catchers are not usually solid offensively because of this lack of time, the need to focus on the other side of the ball, and study with pitchers. Susac already has a sweet right-handed swing with the same follow through as Kris Bryant and could then reach another level with the bat since he will have more time to dedicate to that side alone. Daniel is a large human who defies the odds by being the giant that he is at catcher and not letting it affect his defense behind the plate. However, I prefer he move off the position or catch less to save the bat. His arm fits perfectly in right field and he would also take less of a beating playing there.
16) Chase Delauter, center field, James Madison
Chase Delauter has never gotten his due and if he went to any other college than James Madison, he probably would have. Delauter is in something of a no-win position. If he hits well, it is because he should since he goes up against weak competition but if he ever struggled against lefties, it is seen as proof that he can’t hit good pitching. When he is at his best, which is how I like to evaluate prospects and compare ceilings, Delauter belongs inside the top ten. Hitting .437 this spring before injury is not going to be enough for some people but you can’t overlook his incredible performance for the Orleans Firebirds last summer against the best the Cape offers. There are certainly mechanical flaws that cause Delauter to do worse against the high fastballs at times but are not hard to fix once the team that drafts him gives him the info he needs, whether it be data or video that he has not been lucky enough to receive thus far in his career. To me, he is the closest thing to a Cody Bellinger that college baseball has to offer this year, as long as his foot heals like it is expected to. Dylan Beavers is close to Delauter’s upside.
17) Reggie Crawford, pitcher/first base, UConn
Along with Prielipp, Reggie Crawford is shrouded in mystery but what is known about him makes him all the more intriguing. He counters Prielipp’s 70 grade slider with a 70 fastball and is also a position player as well. At UConn, Crawford was the team’s closer last season before Tommy John took him out for this year. Also like Prielipp, Reggie’s sheer talent could have made him a top pick if he had pitched more than 20 innings but a team should still bet on him due to his make-up and outstanding mentality. Big bodied but athletic, Crawford is more physically gifted than just about anyone in the draft and it shows. While no one is Shohei Ohtani, like Ohtani, Crawford reaches 100 MPH effortlessly but as a lefty. Only Ben Joyce has his arm and he can slide in at first or DH when needed as the bat fits at both. However, his swing is more powerful than pure. Even if he is Ohtani-lite and a reliever instead of a starter, he can push the game forward and give more credence to the two-way player model. Of course, you have to be talented like him to do it. Teams have to bring him along more slowly as he continues his rehab.
18) Peyton Graham, shortstop, Oklahoma
Something clicked for Peyton Graham this season and he went on a tear towards the end of it. He cut down on strikeouts and became a purer hitter, with a stance and swing like Buster Posey. Graham is obviously faster and was previously a third baseman who got a shot to play shortstop this year. He ran with the opportunity and may have become the best five-tool player in college. Graham could regularly produce 20-20 seasons and have hit his stride at the plate after making swing changes that have helped him stay back and hit breaking balls better than he ever has. This is critical for Graham as he has no issue with fastballs and stands to add weight to his frame as he receives strength and conditioning that can help his power move up a few grades. After his second half surge, Graham cut his strikeouts and began putting the ball in play more. It remains to be seen if he can build on his success but I believe in the breakout and future here. Graham is an above-average defender at third base, should a team want to shift him back there and can presumably play any of the three outfield positions in a farm system rich with infielders.
19) Max Wagner, third base, Clemson
It is hard to find a player who crushed college more than Max Wagner did this year. Yet, I have yet to see anyone put him in the first round or even in that mix. The only other player whose chatter around him confuses me than Max’s is Texas first baseman Ivan “the Hispanic Titantic” Melendez who takes a hit for being a right handed first baseman. Paul Goldschmidt was never a top 100 prospect or even a top 10 prospect for the Diamondbacks, likely for this reason. There are questions about Max’s position but the bat is so good that he needs to be in lineups. His best comparison, to me, is Austin Riley. Teams thought Riley was going to move off third and the Braves played him in left field some. Now, he has become their best player with Acuna and has improved to the point where that belief has died down. A similar situation could happen with Wagner who has a rocket of an arm and the power to match. With both him and Melendez, there could be a lot of head scratching and Monday morning quarterbacking on how they fell. Few players had the rebound season Wagner had after a rough 2021 campaign as a freshman.
20) Gavin Cross, outfield, Virginia Tech
I am lower on Virginia Tech’s Gavin Cross than other analysts but he is a high probability major leaguer and starter at one of the outfield corners. He has a great eye and refined his approach but the power projection on him is a little too high. I also would not rule out his speed slowing down but what this comes down to, for me, is the strength of the college outfielder class. I am not underwhelmed by it and would point to the value to be had in the second round with spark plugs who can play center field like Stanford’s Brock Jones, Tennneesee’s Drew Gilbert, Oregon State’s Jacob Melton, among others. Those three do not possess the same hit tool Cross does, which is why I do prefer him over them, as long as he’s picked closer to the twenties of the draft. He is a safer bet than first rounders who stand to come off the board around the same time in Jordan Beck or Sterlin Thompson, who have more flaws in their games but also are regulars. Cross can be a Jesse Winker type that destroys right-handed pitching and struggles with lefties. There are stance changes that can be implemented to have him bent down less and straight.
21) Kumar Rocker, pitcher
I thought Kumar Rocker would be pitching in New York this season for the Mets but not upstate with the Tri-City ValleyCats. It has been a fall from grace for Rocker and I hope he gets what he wants to happen in the draft. He handled his situation and not getting to sign as well as anyone can as a young adult. A dream turned into a nightmare for him and he has worked his way back. Mental toughness is paramount in baseball and Kumar has a lot of it. He also still has his 98 MPH fastball as well as his breaking pitches and appears to be in decent shape after a year off. Whoever takes him would do well to accelerate his timeline significantly and prepare him to pitch in the postseason if he is medically able to do so. As stated before, injury prevention is far from an exact science and we do not know how some pitchers get injured. In Kumar’s case, I suspect having him throw 130 pitches in starts for Vanderbilt did him no favors. Why not do what the Rays did with David Price in 2008 and McClanahan in 2018 or what the Cardinals did with Adam Wainwright in 2006? Get him ready to pitch meaningful innings and from the ground up.
22) Gabriel Hughes, pitcher, Gonzaga
Like Kumar Rocker, Gabriel Hughes is a man’s man in both height and weight. He is also the second best college righty in the nation. At Gonzaga, Hughes has developed wonderfully and been a workhorse. Both physically and mentally, he reminds me of Blue Jays’ ace Alek Manoah at the same point of their development. His hard slider is a weapon and he maintains velocity as well as conserves his energy over the course of a start, getting stronger as the game goes on. Hughes is largely a two pitch pitcher at the moment but developing a third has gotten easier in today’s game with teams teaching organizational pitch grips and deep dives into them and spin. He will need to be consistent with his delivery and does a fine job being athletic on the mound. This was Hughes’ first season focusing only on pitching so it is fair to say he has more potential. He is a smart strike-thrower who does not nibble around the corners, ready to attack the batter.
23) Cooper Hjerpe, pitcher, Oregon State
Another west-coast arm, Cooper Hjerpe is a late bloomer who has gotten better every year at Oregon State. Not much was expected out of him before he came to campus and put in the pen but that has been his journey of proving others wrong so far. He’s been up for every challenge and is going to have to continue being resilient in pro-ball with his average fastball. His fastball does play up, as scouts like to say. He has an innate feel for pitching that not everyone does and his delivery is one of the most deceptive in this class. Hjerpe’s pitchability is what has allowed him to strike out as many batters as he has without having premium or premier velocity. There will be the urge to see if his stuff jumps more in the bullpen but I would resist that as he is a perfectly capable starting pitcher. He manipulates his pitches, having several versions of each. His slider is a “sweeper” and his changeup tumbles down on hitters. He is a fascinating project.
24) Cade Horton, pitcher, Oklahoma
Data driven teams are going to love Cade Horton as he is a candidate to jump up their boards. He is one of the best athletes in the draft as a pitcher, with his glory days spent at third base. He has always believed in himself and set high bonus demands that caused him to go undrafted. The prep equivalent of him this year is Notre Dame commit Owen Murphy who is roughly the same size as and has one of the more beautiful deliveries of any high schooler in this draft. Horton started the season late, returning from having Tommy John surgery last February, and got off to as bad a start to the season as one can probably imagine. This is, of course, forgivable and he went on to have one of the best pitching stretches of his career by season’s end, where he dominated the College World Series for everyone to see. It took him a while to regain the movement on his pitches but it did and he could return to school if he’s not drafted high enough.
25) Blade Tidwell, pitcher, Tenneesee
Blade Tidwell stayed in his home state of Tennessee for college and also missed some time this season with shoulder ailments but came back to show a glimpse of his potential. The first thing you notice when watching him pitch is how uncomfortable stepping into the batter’s box against him must be. He routinely pitches inside and up and in, almost as if he were establishing his boundaries. As imposing as he is, Blade is more hittable than he should be because there are times that his fastball just seems flat.