The start of a new college baseball season means it is time for my first 2022 (and 2023 and 2024) MLB draft rankings.
There are a few big takeaways from this year’s early edition of these lists:
Last year, Vanderbilt aces Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker were the No. 1 story of the MLB draft. This year, it is the high-profile sons of high-profile former big leaguers. Druw Jones, the top player in my rankings, is the son of Andruw Jones. Lower down the list, Matt Holliday’s son is at No. 12, Carl Crawford’s son is at 27 and CC Sabathia’s son (Carsten) is also of draft quality.
Secondly, there’s the toss-up at the top of the draft, with Jones and Termarr Johnson (both Atlanta-area prep products) as the current leaders. Elijah Green has been hyped as having one of the best tool packages in recent draft history and is certainly in the mix to go first overall. While a prep pitcher is unlikely to be the top pick, this year’s college crop is stronger in overall depth than high-end talent.
This year’s college class is down, with the college pitching class as weak as it has been in recent memory. It seems mostly a random occurrence rather than a real problem or the beginning of a trend. The top college pitching prospect (Carson Whisenhunt) missed opening weekend because of a suspension, three potential first-round picks (Connor Prielipp, Peyton Pallette and Reggie Crawford) are all missing the season due to Tommy John surgery, and then there’s the limbo status of Rocker — which will likely lead him to an Independent League team or extensive pre-draft workouts.
If all were healthy, Prielipp and Pallette would be the best two college arms for this list by a good margin, and Prielipp would be in the top 10, if not the top five. Scouting directors are so underwhelmed by the current Friday crop of college starters, many are opting to go to high school games to start the weekend rather than line up the best college starting pitchers.
For reference, in my recent minor league top 100 prospects, Jones and Johnson are both 55 FVs right now (23-50 on the recent top 100) with a real shot to land in the 60 FV tier (4-22) by draft time. I have the other 50-FV-caliber talent through Jung at seventh overall, but that will probably expand by a few spots and shuffle a bit by draft day.
1. Druw Jones, CF, Wesleyan HS (GA), Vanderbilt commit
The son of Braves great Andruw Jones is a plus-plus defender in center field like his dad. He can also play a solid shortstop, but likely won’t need to, and has advanced feel to hit, with emerging power, a lanky 6-foot-4 frame and plus speed.
2. Termarr Johnson, 2B, Mays HS (GA), Uncommitted
Johnson might be the best prep hit/power combination in recent memory but isn’t a long-term shortstop — though he can play a solid second or third base. Given his frame, special bat, handsy swing and defensive fit, there’s real Rafael Devers vibes here. The top spot is basically a toss-up right now, depending on the sort of prospect you prefer, and I flipped these two in the past week; I might again after I check in later this month on them both.
3. Elijah Green, CF, IMG Academy HS (FL), Miami commit
Green has the most eye-popping tools we’ve seen in some time: 70 raw power, speed and arm strength on the right day, all at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. That’s in a conversation with Jasson Dominguez, Justin Upton and other lofty names in terms of raw tools on an amateur player.
He has had some off-and-on contact issues but has come out hot this spring. He hit a home run with 109 mph exit velocity in an early-season tourney and has shown a simplified swing that should help solve that contact problem.
4. Jacob Berry, 3B, LSU
Berry transferred from Arizona with his coach, a couple teammates and a few commits after last season. There’s some risk he moves to first base long term, and he might not have a true 60-grade tool, but above-average offense from the SEC with some defensive value doesn’t last long on the board; that was also 2019 No. 4 overall pick J.J. Bleday’s sales pitch.
5. Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly
Lee was a fringe first-rounder out of high school, and this is what happens to your draft stock when you opt to go to college then keep performing at the level of your tools. Lee isn’t exciting, per se, but he might have a plus hit tool, appears good enough to stick at short and played well for Team USA in the summer.
6. Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford HS (GA), Vanderbilt commit
Lesko, on the other hand, is very exciting. He’ll tickle triple digits while looking like Walker Buehler in terms of frame, delivery and shape of his arsenal. Unlike most prep power arms, Lesko also has a plus changeup, feel for location and a breaking ball (his third pitch!) that will flash plus. With a strong spring (he’s already performing well), he’s in the Jackson Jobe-level conversation. Lesko is also in the Atlanta-area, along with Jones and Johnson.
7. Jace Jung, 3B, Texas Tech
Yep, that’s the brother of Texas Rangers 3B Josh Jung, recently No. 19 on my top 100 prospects list, and a former top-10 pick out of Texas Tech. Jace isn’t quite the defender his brother is (he might be a shift-aided second baseman, maybe a first baseman), but similarly offers a polished hit/power combo with years of track record and a summer with Team USA.
8. Brock Jones, CF, Stanford
Jones played football for the Cardinal as a freshman and was also a standout on a strong USA Baseball squad last summer. He’s a plus runner with above-average raw power, solid performance and enough hitability to get to his power in games.
9. Chase DeLauter, RF, James Madison
It’s hard to rank DeLauter much lower than this, but his opening-weekend performance vs. Florida State was a disaster, facing the best pitching staff in the country — one that also happens to be lefty heavy: 3-for-14, no hard contact, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts. DeLauter is a classic long-limbed (6-foot-4) late bloomer, with a really loud Cape breakout last summer, and at least plus raw power from the left side. He’ll probably end up in right field, but there are real issues to monitor with his lower half (back foot was all over the place vs. FSU) and adjusting to hard, pro-level stuff on his hands (long limbs makes that tricky).
He most reminds me of Kam Misner or Bradley Zimmer, both tall, tooled-up, later-blooming college hitters who have disappointed in pro ball thus far. The example of how someone like this works is Kyle Tucker, who had plus bat control as a prep underclassman, so that’s hard to project developing. I’m still hesitant to totally buy in, but the resume before this weekend was short and sterling, and this is about where in the rankings where the opinions on this class diverge, so I’ll lean to the cleanest résumé and best tools. Struggling against mid-major competition this spring will drop him out of the first round, but crushing it (as most expect he will) won’t really tell us that much. I’ll be in to see him in a few weeks.
10. Jackson Ferris, LHP, IMG Academy HS (FL), Ole Miss commit
Ferris and teammate Elijah Green will get seen a ton this spring, but scouts have already watched them both plenty the past 12 months. Ferris shows above-average stuff and feel from the left side, coming from a 6-foot-4 frame.
11. Gavin Cross, RF, Virginia Tech
Cross has a sweet lefty swing but, again, might have the “no plus tools” profile of Jacob Berry and J.J. Bleday, so there’s a bit of a ceiling on projecting him as a player, but a huge showing in conference play will get him into the top 10 picks.
12. Jackson Holliday, SS, Stillwater HS (OK), Oklahoma State commit
The son of MLB great Matt has been getting early raves from scouts and right now is atop the four-way derby for top prep shortstop in the class, with above-average tools across the board. His dad is a volunteer assistant at Oklahoma State and his uncle Josh is the head coach there, so Jackson won’t be an easy sign.
13. Brandon Barreira, LHP, American Heritage HS (FL), Vanderbilt commit
Barreira has been one of the top arms in this loaded prep pitching class for years, hitting 90 mph as a prep sophomore for one of the top programs in the country. He’s more of a sinker/slider type, as opposed to the vertical arsenals of Dylan Lesko, Jackson Ferris, and Walter Ford, but Barreira can really pitch and is a bulldog on the mound.
14. Walter Ford, RHP, Pace HS (FL), Alabama commit
Ford was a big name for the 2023 class who had a solid summer, then reclassified to the 2022 class and switched schools. Seeing Ford, Florida State and Chipola is a nice run in the Florida panhandle, and it’ll draw scouting directors all spring.
Ford might end up with an easy plus fastball and breaking ball while also having strong analytic pitch components; the elements are here for a top-10 pick if it all comes together. Since he reclassified, scouts have been bearing down and will have a full spring to really dive in, while another recent example, 2020’s Nick Bitsko, went in the first round with far less information available.
15. Dylan Beavers, RF, Cal
After a strong 2021 put him in the conversation for the first round, Beavers has been on a steady rise. His March weekend at Florida State facing its tough lefties (ranked below) will be a big measuring stick for him and where he’s drafted relative to Chase DeLauter.
16. Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola JC (FL)
Collier is unique in this class, playing the summer like Ford as one of the elite members of the 2023 prep class, amid rumors he was going to reclassify to the 2022 class at the end of the summer. Collier went one better and is now 17 years old playing at one of the best junior college programs in the country. He’s an advanced hitter who has a shot for above-average power and to stick at third base; putting up numbers at 17 at a junior college after a good summer while playing solid defense will blow up some draft models in which those are literally the most important inputs.
Recent eyeball accounts are mixed, but Collier seems very likely to go somewhere in the first round. The last player I can remember doing this was Bryce Harper, but to be clear, Collier isn’t at that level. Choosing to do this when just being a top pick in 2023 would’ve been a totally fine option with little risk speaks his the appetite for taking on challenges and the confidence he has in his own abilities. He’s high on my list of priority guys to see multiple times this spring.
17. Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech
Parada has performed well at Georgia Tech since slipping through the draft process as a SoCal prep prospect who looked like a second-round talent. He isn’t the most dynamic athlete, but he’s a solid defender with some power and a long track record of hitting.
18. Cole Young, SS, North Allegheny HS (PA), Duke commit
I have Young as second in the four-way prep shortstop matchup. He might be the best bet to stick at short and to make contact. Cold-weather bats tend to be underrated, and Young has a long track record of performing.
19. Robert Moore, 2B, Arkansas
The son of Royals GM Dayton and an early-enrollee who is a year younger than the other first-time-eligible college players on this list, Moore is still best known to college baseball fans as Bob. He’s probably not a shortstop and doesn’t have a ton of raw power, but is good at everything else.
20. Cole Phillips, RHP, Boerne HS (TX), Arkansas commit
Phillips was on my extended list of hundreds of names a month ago but wasn’t anywhere near appearing in this article. Then, he started throwing 99 mph in preseason bullpens, and scouts have now rushed in to see his first few starts. Opinions range from the top 10 picks to the back half of the second round, in part due to the handful of appearances he has made as this new pitcher.
He’ll sit in the 95-98 mph range and flash a 55-or-60-grade breaking ball, with command that you can project to be average, but there’s some effort and his delivery is a bit rigid. There are some similarities to another spring pop-up Texas prep righty with an upper-90s heater in 2020 34th overall pick Justin Lange, and prep righties are in general the running backs of the baseball draft, so you’d make money betting on the under consistently. Phillips is probably the most volatile player in this top 50.
21. Carson Whisenhunt, LHP, East Carolina
Whisenhunt missed opening weekend due to violating team rules and it’s unclear when he’ll be back. His preseason looks were earning raves, with a plus changeup and above-average fastball/breaking ball combo.
22. Landon Sims, RHP, Mississippi State
Sims shifted his Craig Kimbrel impression to the rotation and had a solid first outing against Long Beach State. If he can post all year in that role, he’ll have a chance to go a bit higher than this, like Will Bednar did last summer.
23. Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama (TJ)
Prielipp will miss the season with Tommy John surgery, but should be healthy enough to throw for teams before the draft. When healthy, he was up to 97 mph, flashed a plus breaking ball and starter traits.
24. Mikey Romero, SS, Orange Lutheran HS (CA), LSU commit
25. Gavin Kilen, SS, Milton HS (WI), Louisville commit
Romero and Kilen are, for now, at the back of the four-man prep shortstop derby, but every scout I ask has a different take on the group, so this will likely shuffle a few times before draft day.
26. Peyton Pallette, RHP, Arkansas (TJ)
27. Justin Crawford, CF, Bishop Gorman HS (NV), LSU commit
28. Brady Neal, C, IMG Academy HS (FL), LSU commit
29. Logan Tanner, C, Mississippi State
30. Carter Young, SS, Vanderbilt
31. Cade Doughty, SS, LSU
32. Hunter Barco, LHP, Florida
33. Tristan Smith, LHP, Boiling Springs HS (SC), Clemson commit
34. Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State
35. Noah Schultz, LHP, Oswego East HS (IL), Vanderbilt commit
36. Andrew Dutkanych, RHP, Brebeuf Jesuit HS (IN), Vanderbilt commit
37. Jud Fabian, CF, Florida
38. Zach Neto, SS, Campbell
39. Sterlin Thompson, LF, Florida
40. Cayden Wallace, 3B, Arkansas
41. Parker Messick, LHP, Florida State
42. Jordan Sprinkle, SS, UC Santa Barbara
43. Ian Ritchie Jr., RHP, Bainbridge HS (WA), UCLA commit
44. Jordan Beck, LF, Tennessee
45. Brock Porter, RHP, St. Mary’s HS (MI), Clemson commit
46. Peyton Graham, 3B, Oklahoma
47. Henry Bolte, RF, Palo Alto HS (CA), Texas commit
48. Kumar Rocker, RHP, No school
49. Sal Stewart, 3B, Westminster Christian HS (FL), Vanderbilt commit
50. Thomas Harrington, RHP, Campbell
Others of note
Jett Williams, SS, Rockwall Heath HS (TX), Mississippi State commit
Malcolm Moore, C, McClatchy HS (CA), Stanford commit
Tucker Toman, 3B, Hammond HS (SC), LSU commit
Tommy Specht, CF, Wahlert HS (IA), Kentucky commit
Paxton Kling, CF, Central HS (PA), LSU commit
Jack O’Connor, RHP, Bishop O’Connell HS (VA), Virginia sommit
Austin Henry, RHP, Dell Rapids HS (SD), Wichita State commit
Owen Murphy, RHP, Riverside Brookfield HS (IL), Notre Dame commit
Jackson Humphries, LHP, Fuquay-Varina HS (NC), Campbell commit
Caden Dana, RHP, Don Bosco Prep HS (NY), Kentucky commit
Chase Shores, RHP, Lee HS (TX), Oklahoma State commit
Michael Kennedy, LHP, Troy HS (NY), LSU commit
Jaden Noot, RHP, Sierra Canyon HS (CA), LSU commit
Nazier Mule, RHP, Passaic County Tech HS (NJ), Miami commit
Hayden Dunhurst, C, Ole Miss
Daniel Susac, C, Arizona
Clark Elliott, CF, Michigan
Drew Gilbert, CF, Tennessee
Josh Kasevich, SS, Oregon
Eric Brown, SS, Coastal Carolina
Reggie Crawford, LHP, Connecticut (TJ)
Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee
Derek Diamond, RHP, Ole Miss
Justin Campbell, RHP, Oklahoma State
Bryce Hubbart, LHP, Florida State
Adam Maier, RHP, Oregon
Jonathan Cannon, RHP, Georgia
Bryce Osmond, RHP, Oklahoma State
Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga
Jake Bennett, LHP, Oklahoma
The 2023 class is seen as a solid one, with two standout prep hitters and one pitcher, who have had the elite look on the national scene for years, along with a handful of the SEC position players teams covet. Keep an eye on Patrick Reilly and Tanner Witt to possibly move into top-five territory with a great spring and summer; they have the profile if the performance is there.
Brock Wilken is scouts’ favorite to potentially put up historic offensive numbers the next two springs. I’m not as sure about my FV grades on this group, but I feel good about Dylan Crews and Walker Jenkins as 55 FVs for now, with a 60 in play for them before the draft, and a chance to expand that 55-or-better tier in the coming months.
1. Dylan Crews, RF, LSU
2. Walker Jenkins, RF, South Brunswick HS (NC), North Carolina commit
3. Maxwell Clark, CF, Franklin Community HS (IN), Vanderbilt commit
4. Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss
5. Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy HS (MA), Uncommitted
6. Enrique Bradfield, CF, Vanderbilt
7. Dylan Cupp, SS, Cedartown HS (GA), Mississippi State commit
8. Kyle Teel, C, Virginia
9. Brock Wilken, 1B, Wake Forest
10. Patrick Reilly, RHP, Vanderbilt
11. Tanner Witt, RHP, Texas
12. Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS (FL), Arkansas commit
13. Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton HS (TX), LSU commit
14. Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU
15. Jackson Baumeister, RHP, Florida State
16. Travis Sykora, RHP, Round Rock HS (TX), Baylor commit
17. Will Sanders, RHP, South Carolina
18. Caden Grice, RF, Clemson
19. Drew Bowser, 3B, Stanford
20. Corey Collins, C, Georgia
21. Jaxon Wiggins, RHP, Arkansas
22. Teddy McGraw, RHP, Wake Forest
23. Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee
24. Yohandy Morales, SS, Miami
25. Christian Little, RHP, Vanderbilt
It’s super early for 2024, with no clear prep standout separating just yet (the best prospect until recently just had Tommy John surgery), though Brody Brecht has an up arrow, hitting triple digits in preseason workouts (and in an opening weekend game) while also playing receiver for the football team. Will Taylor tore an ACL in the fall playing football for Clemson as a slot receiver/gadget player, but he fit in the middle of the first round on talent out of high school. Carter Holton might shift to the 2023 class depending on the exact date of the draft, as his birthday is right at the cutoff.
1. Will Taylor, CF, Clemson
2. Gage Jump, LHP, UCLA
3. Cody Schrier, SS, UCLA
4. Lorenzo Carrier, CF, Miami
5. Josh Hartle, LHP, Wake Forest
6. Thatcher Hurd, RHP, UCLA
7. Brody Brecht, RHP, Iowa
8. Peyton Stovall, 2B, Arkansas
9. Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas
10. Jonathan Vastine, SS, Vanderbilt
11. Carter Holton, LHP, Vanderbilt
12. Chase Burns, RHP, Tennessee