2022 MLB Draft Stock Watch: 10 Performers, Risers And Popups After Week One
Welcome to Baseball America’s 2022 Draft Stock Watch. This is a recurring feature we’ll bring throughout the draft season to explore rising and falling prospects and dig into different themes and topics with the class at greater length.
On Tuesday we took stock of a number of players I saw in person at PBR’s Florida Preseason Classic and a weekend series between Florida State and James Madison.
Today, we’re hitting the phone and video to break down 10 players who put together loud performances throughout the country during week one—or dig into players who scouts are raving about.
Five Ranked Performers
Landon Sims, RHP, Mississippi State (No. 20)
Sims was the highest-ranked college arm to pitch during opening weekend and as expected got the start in Mississippi State’s opener after spending the last two seasons terrorizing batters out of the bullpen. It was a successful debut college start—despite his team taking the loss to Long Beach State—as Sims allowed just one earned run and five hits over seven innings, while striking out 13 and walking none on 81 pitches.
Sims largely dominated with his fastball, a pitch that averaged 94 mph in this outing and got up to 96. Sims’ fastball grades out well from an analytic perspective thanks to excellent induced vertical break, a lower release height and a flat vertical approach angle (Geoff Pontes breaks him down further in this piece), and he generated 16 whiffs with the pitch in this outing. All of those whiffs came in the middle or upper sections of the strike zone, with most of the contact allowed on the pitch coming when he left it down.
Sims allowed a pair of doubles, but both were mis-hits down the left field line. His one mistake of the game that got punished was against designated hitter Kaden Moeller in the seventh, when he missed an outside setup with his fastball and instead put it over the heart of the plate. Moeller capitalized and drove the pitch over the wall in right field for the only run Long Beach State would manage against Sims.
The slider was the other pitch Sims used in this outing, and it featured impressive horizontal break and late turn away from righthanded hitters. He used the pitch to finish three strikeouts and generate three whiffs and generally was around the zone with the breaking ball, though his control was more scattered than refined with it in this look.
Sims showed solid command early, but became more scattered as the outing progressed and missed his spots more frequently in the final three innings—highlighted by his home run allowed in the seventh. One of Sims’ to-do list items entering the year was to show a legitimate third offering to pair with his fastball and slider and help him better profile in a starting role. That pitch wasn’t seen in this outing, though as he progresses further into the season and faces more SEC lineups, potentially scouts will get a better feel for it. Altogether it was a successful first start for Sims—who just might possess the best fastball in the class.
Hunter Barco, LHP, Florida (No. 29)
Barco was the only other prospect currently ranked inside the first round to pitch this weekend, and against Liberty in Florida’s opener he dominated. Barco threw six shutout innings and allowed just one hit and one walk, while striking out 11 on 88 pitches en route to being named the SEC pitcher of the week.
Barco showed a solid three-pitch mix in this outing and mostly worked off of a fastball that sat around 92 mph and a slider around 80 mph. He also sprinkled in a few changeups in the mid 80s, but didn’t go to the pitch often.
Barco throws from a low, three-quarter arm slot and his delivery features significant crossfiring action that creates above-average deception. He also sets up from the first base side of the rubber, which makes the angle even more difficult on hitters. His arm slot, delivery and pitch mix give him the feel of an east-west pitcher more than a north-south arm. His fastball is more of a sinking pitch that makes it hard to elevate and his slider is a sweeping pitch that he showed solid feel for as a back foot swing-and-miss offering to righties and a tough look in general for lefties.
The Florida ace seemed confident going to his slider in any count or situation and when he did miss, they were “good misses” down and to his glove side. While the pitch was fairly consistent in this look, it did back up to the arm side at times and there are some scouts who think his lower arm slot will make it difficult to consistently hit on an above-average or plus breaking ball.
Barco's changeup showed slight tumbling action in this look and was better towards the bottom of its velocity range with the most possible separation between his fastball that also features some sinking life. Only eight balls were put in play against Barco in this outing, and five were ground balls (63%) while three were of the fly ball variety (37%).
Cade Doughty, 2B/3B, Louisiana State (No. 42)
Doughty played second base and third base for LSU this weekend and went 8-for-14 (.571) with two home runs and three doubles. His production in the middle of a deep lineup was a big reason why the Tigers scored 51 runs against Maine.
Listed at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Doughty has a polished approach at the plate and while he didn’t see a pitch thrown harder than 88 mph, his swing decisions and pitch recognition looked strong throughout the weekend. He swung and missed just once—against a nicely located 84 mph slider from righthander Brett Erwin—and outside of that stayed inside the zone for all of his swings.
He did a nice job using the opposite field on pitches on the outer half, but on elevated pitches he also showed an ability to get his hands extended and pull the ball for over-the-fence power to left field. Neither of his homers this weekend was far beyond the confines of the field—his first went 352 feet with a 102 mph exit velocity and his second went 360 feet with a 96 mph exit velocity—and Doughty’s swing does look more geared for line drives to the gaps than massive home run power, but he seems to have the bat speed to do damage when given the opportunity.
There was some batted ball luck in his results, as Doughty gained a double on a ground ball that hopped high over the third baseman’s head and also had a pop up into shallow right field fall in for a single, but Doughty largely looked confident and in control during all of his at-bats. There’s very little pre-pitch movement in his load and he gets his swing started with a small toe tap, before firing through the zone with a level bat path.
Doughty turned in two solid-average run times down the line, at 4.25 and 4.28 seconds, respectively.
Sterlin Thompson, OF, Florida (No. 79)
Entering the season, scouts in Florida raved about Thompson’s pure feel for hitting but wondered whether or not he would tap into the power necessary to profile at an outfield corner at the next level. If opening night is any indication, he should have the juice necessary to do just that.
Thompson went 4-for-12 (.333) with two home runs on Friday night and both of his homers went to straightaway center field into the batter’s eye against 90-plus mph fastballs.
The first came in a 1-0 count when Liberty righthander Dylan Cumming left a running, 92 mph fastball up just a bit too much. Thompson got his hands out and extended over the plate and drove the ball high and straight over the 400-foot fence in center field. His second home run—a grand slam in the seventh—was close to an exact repeat. Cumming left a 91 mph running fastball belt high and Thompson again extended his hands, caught the ball on the barrel and drove the ball straight into the batter’s eye.
Most of Thompson’s home run power in his career has come on pitches in the middle third or outer third of the zone, so he likes to get his hands extended over the plate, but he did show some chase tendencies this weekend against soft stuff, with two whiffs against sliders and two whiffs against changeups out of the zone.
Clark Elliott, OF, Michigan (No. 100)
Elliott raised a few eyebrows last summer with his performance on the Cape, where he led the league in hitting and posted a .344/.464/.478 slash line with 17 walks and 20 strikeouts over 24 games with Hyannis. He ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the league for his efforts.
This spring he’s continued that pace, with multi-hit games against Texas Tech and Kansas State, while adding hits against Oklahoma and UT Arlington as well. After four games, he’s gone 7-for-17 (.412) with two home runs, one double, three walks and four strikeouts.
Elliott has done most of his damage against fastballs (five of his six hits have come against that pitch) and that was the case for him last summer as well. He doesn’t seem troubled by average big league velocity, as both of his home runs came against 92 and 94 mph fastballs that were elevated and either on the middle or inner third of the plate.
He has a contact-oriented swing typically, and scouts haven’t seen a ton of power potential, but he’s flashed it to the pull side early this spring and also moves well—showing some plus run times down the first base line in the past.
Elliott has a strong, 6-foot, 185-pound frame with a developed and muscular lower half. He starts his swing with a medium-sized leg kick and almost bars himself out with his arms extended out over the plate in his load before swinging with a level path.
While Elliott has played some center field in the past with Hyannis, all of his playing time with Michigan has come in right field and that’s where he’s playing to start the season as well. If he’s a corner outfielder at the next level, showing more accessible in-game power will be helpful for his profile—and he’s off to a good start in that department this spring.
Five Unranked Risers & Popups
Derek Diamond, RHP, Mississippi (NR)
Diamond stepped into Mississippi’s Friday night role this spring and turned in a solid game against Charleston Southern, where he pitched five innings and allowed two hits, two earned runs and two walks, while striking out eight. He mostly worked off of a fastball/slider combination in this outing and sat in the 90-91 mph range and touched 95. The pitch seems to play better than a typical low-90s heater, though, and he generated 10 whiffs with the pitch—all of them coming in the middle or upper third of the strike zone. Diamond has good vertical break on the pitch and perhaps his drop-and-drive delivery allows him to get on a flatter attack plane as well. His slider was in the 77-82 mph range and features solid depth, though it did hop out of his hand on a few occasions and he missed with the pitch up and to his arm side because of that. For the most part, though, he did a nice job locating the offering down and to his glove side and he used it to finish three of his eight strikeouts. Diamond flashed a changeup in the 77-80 mph range that has solid velocity separation from his fastball, but he only threw it a few times.
Blue Jays' Cade Doughty Draws Comparisons To Former All-Star
The 21-year-old infielder's gritty, high-contact approach resembles that of a former Blue Jays infielder.
Pete Hansen, LHP, Texas (NR)
Hansen was draft-eligible in 2021, but went unselected after dealing with a dead arm and velocity that was consistently in the upper 80s. He averaged around 87 mph in his debut start this spring as the Friday night arm for Texas, touching 91 at his best, but still showed excellent pitching ability and carved up Rice’s lineup. He threw six shutout innings and allowed three hits, with one walk and eight strikeouts on 78 pitches. Hansen throws from a high slot and his fastball plays up with some deception, and he can command the pitch consistently. He also mixed in a fringy slider in the mid-to-upper 70s and showed plenty of confidence in a changeup around 80 mph that he used frequently while ahead and behind in the count. Hansen’s pitching ability alone should get him drafted, but if his velocity ticks up this spring he’ll shoot up draft boards.
Chris McElvain, RHP, Vanderbilt (NR)
McElvain has big shoes to fill at the front of a Vanderbilt rotation that lost Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker this spring, and he pitched admirably in a four-inning debut against Oklahoma State on Friday. While he allowed four hits, McElvain didn’t allow a single run and walked just one batter while striking out 10 on 79 pitches. He has a strong, filled-out frame at 6 feet, 205 pounds and has a fastball that gets on hitters quickly with solid carry and velocity. In this outing he averaged around 92 mph, peaked at 94 and used the pitch to generate eight swings and misses and finish six of his strikeouts. It wasn’t just the fastball, though, as McElvain finished strikeouts with three other pitches and showed a complete four-pitch mix. His go-to secondary was a firm slider in the mid 80s. He also showed a changeup in the upper 80s with solid fading depth to the arm side that was a swing-and-miss pitch against lefties and showed a slower, top-to-bottom curveball in the 76-77 mph range—though his curveball was used only a few times.
Kassius Thomas, RHP, Sierra Canyon High, Chatsworth, Calif. (NR)
Thomas has been a frequently talked about name on the West Coast, and early this spring it sounds like he’s trending in the right direction and moving up boards. He has a fast arm from the right side and scouts have seen a delivery and arm action that is much cleaner and smoother than last summer—where he struck out four batters over two innings but also walked three. Now with better feel for the zone, scouts see a pitcher who is already getting to 93-94 mph pretty regularly with strength in the lower half and more physical projection in his upper half to project even more velocity in the future. He’s also shown an average breaking ball that flashes 55 grades and a solid changeup. As a Duke commit, he’s expected to be a tough sign.
Josh White, RHP, California (NR)
After getting hit around in just 12.1 innings in 2020, White was one of the better pitchers in the Pac-12 during the 2021 season, where he posted a 2.79 ERA over 61.1 innings, while striking out 81 batters and walking 25. He spent most of that time coming out of the bullpen, but served as California’s opening day starter this year and pitched a strong game against Houston. White threw 5.1 shutout innings and allowed three hits, while striking out 10 and walking two on 76 pitches. In this outing, White touched 95 mph at peak, but averaged 92-93 and held his velocity well throughout. His go-to secondaries were an 82-86 mph slider with solid tilt and a 78-83 mph curveball with 11-to-5 shape that would occasionally hop out of his hand. The slider is the better current breaking ball at the moment, and some scouts think it can be a plus offering. He used it to generate seven whiffs in this outing. White also threw an 84-86 mph changeup that showed very slight fading action, but it was a distant fourth option. Scouts are mixed on whether White is a starter or reliever at the next level—there’s plenty of length and stab in his arm action and the finish of his delivery also features recoil. He was scattered with his command throughout this outing, and has walked 3.8 batters per nine innings over his California career.