2022 MLB Draft Stock Watch: First Round To-Do List
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.
Today, we’re taking a look at what the current top prospects in the class have on their to-do lists as we approach the 2022 season.
We’ve done this exercise for five years now, attempting to identify specific areas of growth or areas of weakness that potential first-round picks will need to address to solidify or improve their draft stock.
Each player addressed their to-do list items in notable ways and wound up higher on the final 2021 draft board than their initial preseason BA Draft rankings.
Jobe entered the season ranked No. 30 with development of a changeup and/or curveball and improved strike-throwing on his to-do list. Jobe had proven his fastball and double-plus slider during the summer showcase circuit, but teams also wanted to see more refined command from the two-way prospect and see if there was a legitimate third offering to pair with his electric fastball/slider combo. One of the first pieces of feedback Baseball America started hearing with Jobe during the spring was that he was now showing a legitimate plus changeup. He ended the process with plus or better grades with three pitches, in addition to above-average control and curveball grades—and then signed for $6.9 million as the No. 3 overall pick and highest-drafted high school righthander since Hunter Greene went No. 2 in 2017.
Hoglund ranked No. 23 as one of the best command pitchers in the class, but after sitting mostly in the 88-92 mph range prior to his draft season, scouts obviously wanted to see more electric velocity. His velocity ticked up to the 92-94 mph range and his slider also got more firm and sharper, while still retaining the excellent strike-throwing ability he had since he was a prep arm out of Florida. Even after blowing out his elbow and having Tommy John surgery, Hoglund’s uptick in stuff made him the No. 19 overall pick to the Blue Jays and if he were healthy a top 10 selection seemed to be a real possibility.
Davis ranked No. 19 entering the season and was coming off of an impressive offensive season (.372/.481/.698) but scouts were skeptical of his bat and the sample size—just 14 games—of that 2020 performance. Teams wanted him to prove his offensive production because it’s not a typical swing scouts like to buy into, and he did that and then some, climbing into the “best college bat” category by a decent margin on draft day. The Pirates gave him an under-slot, $6.5 million deal as the No. 1 pick in the class but that bonus is still far greater than the slot value for the No. 19 pick in the draft ($3,359,000).
Finally, House ranked as the No. 13 player entering the season in part because he suffered from some of the high expectations and prospect fatigue that comes with the territory of being the top-ranked high school player the summer before. House didn’t hit to his expectations or track record during that time period, but absolutely dominated quality Georgia competition in the spring—showing positive adjustments mechanically and within his approach offensively, while also continuing to impress as a defender at shortstop. He only went two spots higher than his preseason ranking, but was solidly viewed as a top 10 player in the class and earned an over-slot $5 million bonus with the Nationals at the No. 11 pick.
On the other end of the spectrum, players like Louisiana State righthander Jaden Hill, Florida outfielder Jud Fabian and Auburn righthander Richard Fitts failed to address their to-do lists and wound up being selected quite a bit lower than their preseason ranks.
Hill (No. 6) didn’t showcase the same quality stuff in a starting role in addition to dealing with injury; Fabian (No. 11) didn’t cut down his swing-and-miss tendencies and hit for a lower average; Fitts (No. 16) failed to establish himself in a starting role, his stuff regressed and he also dealt with injury.
All three players went undrafted in the first round. Hill signed for $1.7 million in the second round, Fabian was selected in the second round but didn’t agree to a deal with the Red Sox and returned to Florida where he’s eligible again in 2022, and Fitts signed for $346,800 in the sixth round.
As always, things can change quite quickly during a draft season and many players below have wide ranges of outcomes. This is the nature of prospects in general, and particularly at the amateur level. Health and general performance are obvious to-do list items for every player below—hitters need to hit and pitchers need to prevent runs—regardless of situation or level.
But let’s dive into a few specifics that could help each player currently ranked as a first round talent solidify or improve their 2022 draft stock.
31. Hayden Dunhurst, C, Mississippi
Areas To Improve: Hitting for average, more contact vs. secondaries, all-fields power
Dunhurst has shown solid power and a strong arm behind the plate for two seasons with Mississippi, but he has hit under .300 in both seasons. While his walk rate is solid (11.6 BB%), scouts question his pure hit tool after hitting .278 for his career in the SEC. He made gains season over season from 2020 (.269) to 2021 (.280), but pushing that clip closer to .300 could give scouts more confidence in his bat. Tied to this is Dunhurst’s contact rate against secondary pitches. He has swung and missed 36% of the time against sliders, changeups and curveballs compared to just an 18% swing-and-miss rate against fastballs. Additionally, Dunhurst has solid power, but most of that has been to the pull side in his time with Ole Miss. If he can show more opposite-field power, it couldn’t hurt.
30. Cayden Wallace, 3B/OF, Arkansas
Areas To Improve: Improve defense at third, cut down chase out of zone, handle velocity
Wallace has an intriguing foundation of power and athleticism, but refining his defensive work at third base could help his profile. He’s spent most of his time in right field with Arkansas and in the Cape Cod League last summer, but if he shows an ability to handle third base at the next level the bar on his offensive production will come down slightly. On top of that, Wallace could improve his chase rates out of the zone. In particular, he chased heavily on sliders (35%) and changeups (48%) out of the zone last spring and could stand to be more disciplined with his swing/take decisions in 2022. Wallace also hit just .161/.297/.226 on 93 mph or better fastballs a year ago and will need to do a better job producing against velocity this spring.
29. Peyton Pallette, RHP, Arkansas
Areas To Improve: N/A, injured
Pallette is out for the season after having Tommy John surgery to repair an injured UCL. Teams will have to decide on his draft stock based on his previous track record and stuff.
28. Hunter Barco, LHP, Florida
Areas To Improve: Improve velocity, slider consistency, up changeup usage
Barco has been a productive starter for Florida and has posted a 3.52 ERA over 102.1 innings and 20 starts. He’s in good position entering the season as one of the few healthy college starters with some track record, but could shoot up boards if he comes out this spring with fastball velocity that’s ticked up from the 91-92 mph he’s sat in so far. Barco’s fastball is more of a running pitch than a heavy vertical break heater up in the zone that will generate whiffs, but he has found success getting strikeouts thanks to his control and ability to spot to both sides. Increased fastball velocity would help the velo separation from his changeup, which is a strong pitch in its own right and could be thrown more than the 6% usage rate it has so far. While Barco’s lower arm slot adds to his overall deception, scouts have noted that it can also inhibit the consistency of his slider, which is a plus pitch at best, but at times will get loose and sweepy.
27. Noah Schultz, LHP, Oswego (Ill.) East HS
Areas To Improve: Add physicality and power, refine changeup
Schultz has a projectable 6-foot-9, 225-pound frame that looks like it can add plenty of weight and strength in the future. If he starts to grow into that frame this spring—while retaining his standout body control and athleticism—and his fastball velocity starts creeping into the mid 90s more consistently he could take off. Schultz has a fantastic foundation for spinning the baseball, and with more velocity on his heater and a breaking ball that has plenty of depth and movement but has lacked power, his stuff could take a big step forward. Showing an improved changeup could also add to the confidence that teams will want in Schultz’s ability to profile as a starter at the next level.
26. Peyton Graham, 3B, Oklahoma
Areas To Improve: Prove shortstop defense, more contact vs. secondaries, add strength
Graham has primarily played third base for Oklahoma over his first two seasons, but he’ll slide over to shortstop this spring and could have the athleticism to stick at the position. Scouts haven’t seen much from him there just yet, but he did play nine games at shortstop with Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League last summer. While Graham has hammered fastballs, he could stand to make more contact against secondary pitches after swinging and missing at a 42% clip against curveballs, sliders and changeups over his first two seasons. Additionally, scouts want to see Graham fill out and add strength to a lanky, 6-foot-4, 171-pound frame which could allow his power to translate better to a wood bat at the next level.
25. Kumar Rocker, RHP, No School
Areas To Improve: Prove health?
In terms of on-field performance, no one in this draft class has proven as much as Rocker has. Dating back to his time as a high school pitching prospect (when he was viewed as a first round talent) to his draft season a year ago (when he ranked as the No. 5 player in the class), Rocker has been dominant and showed dominant stuff. Even when his velocity was up and down, he sported some of the best pure stuff in the country. His career 2.89 ERA over 236.2 innings at Vanderbilt dwarfs the resume of any other college pitcher in the class you could compare to him, and his frame (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) and control (2.6 BB/9) suggest a workhorse starting role in the bigs. The only thing seemingly in question is his health after the Mets found something they didn’t like in his physical a year ago, leading to the sides not completing a deal at the No. 10 pick in the draft. That question mark isn’t something Rocker can answer any more this spring than he did a year ago, and because of that he is difficult to place on a draft board while attempting to gauge industry consensus. At the end of the day, team doctors could be making a decision more than scouts on Rocker and that’s much harder to get a feel for. The assumption is that Rocker will throw in front of scouts at some point prior to the draft, but he won’t be back at Vanderbilt and at this point it’s not clear where or when he will pitch.
24. Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola (Fla.) JC
Areas To Improve: Show consistent defense, perform in juco
At this point the industry seems a bit split on Collier’s defensive ability at third base. Those high on him think he has all the tools to stick at the position, while skeptics question his lower half and wonder if he’ll have the mobility and actions necessary to prevent a move to first. Solidifying that defensive profile will help, but Collier also has perhaps more leverage to move his draft stock needle than any prep-aged hitter in the class. If he performs well against junior college competition as the youngest hitter in the draft class, it’ll be hard for him to not move up higher than the range he’s currently in.
23. Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama
Areas To Improve: Show pre-injury stuff in bullpens
Like many college pitchers on this list, Prielipp has injury issues that are largely out of his control at this point. However, given the timeline of his Tommy John surgery, there’s a chance Prielipp could flash the stuff he showed in previous years in pre-draft bullpens or potentially short outings in live games in a summer college league. If he does get that opportunity, showing he hasn’t lost any stuff since having surgery could ease some medical concerns.
22. Tristan Smith, LHP, Boiling Springs HS, Spartanburg, S.C.
Areas To Improve: Take steps with command, develop third pitch
Smith dominated in shorter outings last summer and showed one of the better curveballs in the class while doing so. No one questions his spin, and he’s also shown a loud fastball, but his control last summer was quite a bit better than what he displayed as an underclassmen. Continuing to throw high-quality strikes and giving scouts confidence in his command and starting profile could elevate him further, as could showing a changeup to complement an already solid two-pitch mix.
21. Carson Whisenhunt, LHP, East Carolina
Areas To Improve: Add strength, up velocity, sharpen breaking ball
Whisenhunt has solid stuff across the board and owns one of the best individual pitches in the 2022 draft class with his high-usage changeup, but he could shoot further up the board if he comes out stronger and throws harder this spring. Whisenhunt’s fastball has sat in the low 90s for the most part, but if he is averaging more 92-94 than 90-92 this spring and touching 96 or even 97 with some frequency it would be difficult not to imagine him pushing into a consensus top 15 sort of range. If that increased velocity carries over to a sharpened breaking ball as well (a la Gunnar Hoglund in early 2021) then you’re looking at three potential plus pitches from the left side.
20. Brandon Barriera, LHP, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
Areas To Improve: Pitch deep into games, leave no doubt about starting role
Barriera is one of the smallest pitchers ranked in the first round, so there could be some questions about his durability and chances to pitch in a starting role at the next level. Pitching deep into games against quality South Florida competition this spring would help him in this regard, as could routinely turning over a lineup while maintaining the top-end pure stuff he showed in shorter outings last summer.
19. Landon Sims, RHP, Mississippi State
Areas To Improve: Handle starting role, show third pitch, remove violence from delivery
Sims possesses arguably the best two-pitch combo of all college pitchers in this class, and among players in that category with no health concerns he’s the best. Still, he has no college starting track record to point to and if he transitions smoothly into that role this spring with Mississippi State he’ll fly up boards. To further build confidence in his ability to start at the next level, it would be beneficial for Sims to show some development or at least flash a usable changeup to help him turn over lineups and keep elite lefties off-balance. In a relief role that pitch is unnecessary given his fastball/slider whiff rates, but if a team projects him to start it takes on much more importance. There is some violence to his delivery as well, and while this might be nitpicky given the control he showed last year, cleaning that up could help as well.
18. Jackson Ferris, LHP, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Areas To Improve: Consistency from outing to outing, confidence in all three pitches
Ferris has flashed plus grades with his fastball, breaking ball and changeup, but the quality of all three of those offerings wavered and varied last summer. He wasn’t quite as sharp with his command as he has been in the past as well, so refining his consistency from outing to outing from a stuff and command perspective will help him this spring. If he is showing three consistent plus pitches from the left side with his projectable frame and deceptive delivery, it’ll be hard to ignore his upside potential.
17. Logan Tanner, C, Mississippi State
Areas To Improve: Hit for more average, cut down whiffs on sliders
Tanner seems to have the defensive side of the game in check, and he is coming off of a 15-homer season as an SEC catcher, so the foundation is quite good. He’s hit .268 and .287 in both of his seasons with Mississippi State, however, so boosting that batting average this spring could move him further up boards with similar power production and defensive ability. One way Tanner could improve his batting average and contact ability would be to cut down his swing-and-miss rate on sliders. He has swung and missed at a 32% rate against sliders, per Synergy, which is far and away his worst pitch type in that category.
16. Brock Porter, RHP, St. Mary Prep, Orchard Lake, Mich.
Areas To Improve: Add polish to delivery, take steps forward with command
In terms of stuff, Porter stacks up with any pitcher in the class. Where he could stand to improve are with his delivery and his command. Porter isn’t erratic by any means, but he does regularly get “control over command” evaluations and has plenty of length in the back of his arm stroke. If he’s able to improve his command and potentially clean up some of the length in his delivery that concerns some evaluators, it would be hard to poke many holes in Porter’s game.
15. Daniel Susac, C, Arizona
Areas To Improve: Improving receiving ability, cut down swing and miss on secondaries
Susac is big for the catcher position—listed at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds—and because of that scouts are going to be critical of his defensive ability and actions behind the plate. His arm is plenty good, but he could improve the details of his receiving game this spring to give teams more confidence that he’ll stick at the position long term. While his offensive profile is quite good overall, he could improve his contact and production against secondaries after hitting .250/.297/.462 on those pitches last spring. Spitting on breaking balls out of the zone more often would be a positive outcome as well.
14. Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech
Areas To Improve: Show more power, improve across the board defensively
Parada’s track record as a pure hitter stacks up with most players in this class, but between his defensive profile questions and power production, there is some room for improvement this spring. Defense is probably the most obvious area to address, and scouts seem split on his chances to stick at the position long term, with many area scouts being on the favorable side and crosscheckers and out-of-area evaluators being much more skeptical at the moment. Parada needs to improve as a blocker, receiver and thrower this spring for the industry to collectively view him favorably at the position moving forward. If he doesn’t improve defensively, showing more power in games (nine homers in 2021) becomes all the more important for him to profile well at the next level.
13. Cole Young, SS, North Allegheny HS, Wexford, Pa.
Areas To Improve: Add strength, dominate Pennsylvania pitching
Young has one of the better all-around profiles among the high school position player class, with standout feel to hit, an excellent eye at the plate, strong defensive actions at shortstop and solid speed as well. He doesn’t jump off the page with any one tool, however, but potentially with added strength gains he could improve his overall tool set—perhaps in a similar manner to what Anthony Volpe did as a professional last year—and increase his ultimate ceiling. For a hitter in the Northeast, it’ll also be good to dominate the pitching he faces this spring and leave no doubt about his bat.
12. Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee
Areas To Improve: Prove health, show deeper pitch mix, limit home runs, sharpen command
It appears that Tidwell’s season will be delayed due to shoulder soreness, so getting on the field and proving he’s healthy when he is cleared will be the most important area for the big righthander this spring. After that, showing more usage and effectiveness with a changeup and curveball he combined to throw around 15% of the time last spring could help him profile better as a starter. Additionally, Tidwell allowed 12 home runs in just 98.2 innings (1.09 HR/9) in 2021 and 10 of those came off his fastball, so limiting the long ball and being sharper with his fastball command will also help.
11. Robert Moore, 2B, Arkansas
Areas To Improve: Show better arm strength, hit for more average
Moore is regarded as one of the best defensive infielders in this class, but with Jalen Battles entrenched at the shortstop position for Arkansas, he’ll once again man the keystone this spring. While many teams would certainly be happy plugging him in as a plus defender at second, showing improved arm strength would at least open up the possibility of him trying his hand at shortstop. Offensively, Moore has shown impressive power production (16 home runs last spring) and on-base ability (14.4 BB%), but there are questions about how much power he’ll get to regularly in pro ball with a wood bat. Because of that, hitting for a higher average this spring will probably help his cause. Getting back to that .318 mark he posted in 16 games in 2020 over a full season could certainly move him up into the top 10.
10. Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech
Areas To Improve: Improve plate discipline
Cross’ production with Virginia Tech (.351/.413/.563, 11 home runs) and USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team (.455/.474/.879, four home runs) is exceptional and the big outfielder profiles nicely as a slugging corner outfielder. His success has come with moderate strikeout rates (19 K%), low walk rates (6.9 BB%) and a high chase rate (30%), so improving his swing decisions and zone recognition could make his overall offensive profile much more appealing and safer for teams this spring.
9. Brock Jones, OF, Stanford
Areas To Improve: Prove center field defense, contact vs. secondaries, improve arm strength
A former football player with Stanford, Jones is regarded as one of the best pure athletes in the class and using that athleticism to establish himself as a no-doubt center fielder this spring would give him plenty of margin for error in other areas. The most glaring issue offensively seems to be his contact issues against secondary offerings. He swung and missed 47% of the time against sliders, curveballs and changeups in the last two years and particularly struggled against changeups (59%). Making more contact against the soft stuff this spring will be important. A secondary area of improvement is with arm strength, as most scouts view it as fringe-average currently.
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8. Jacob Berry, 3B/1B, Louisiana State
Areas To Improve: Prove defensive ability, continue mashing vs. SEC pitching
Berry’s biggest question is where is he going to play? He played nine games at third base in 2021 with Arizona and otherwise was slotted into the lineup as the designated hitter. A universal DH coming to baseball will make his profile better no matter what, but if Berry can prove himself to be a respectable defender at the hot corner this spring (or just show enough to give teams confidence he’ll be a fine first baseman) his bat will be all the more appealing. He also has a new challenge in SEC pitching, and if he manages similar production to his 2021 season in the Pac-12 it will be difficult for his bat not to fly off the board.
7. Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford (Ga.) HS
Areas To Improve: Don’t get hurt, breaking ball consistency
There are few flaws to find in Lesko’s game, and as we get closer and closer to the top of the class we could find ourselves nit-picking more than we have been with players ranked at the back or even middle of the first round. Outside of just staying healthy, Lesko perhaps could do a better job ripping off his best breaking balls more consistently this spring. Some scouts noted that the pitch varied in shape and power at times over the summer, but it has exceptional raw spin (2,700-3,000 rpm) and shows good depth and hard finish at its best.
6. Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison
Areas To Improve: Show more game power, handle center field, dominate CAC pitching
Scouting departments believe DeLauter has some of the best power in the 2022 class and with a powerful swing and a 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame it’s understandable why. He’s only played in 42 games with James Madison, however, so adding to his seven-homer total with the program this spring will help after he homered nine times with Orleans in the Cape Cod League last summer. While scouts think he’ll eventually move to a corner outfield position, he has the tools now to play center and if he can convince teams he can handle the position at the next level that only makes his package more appealing. As a mid-major bat, it goes without saying dominating his competition will be necessary to solidify or improve his stock.
5. Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Areas To Improve: Cut swing and miss vs. velocity and secondaries, refine outfield defense
Green has an impressive track record of hitting as an underclassman and his unique physicality, athleticism and size make him one of the most exciting players in the class, but there are some real swing-and-miss questions to be answered. Evaluators have noted whiff issues against both premium velocity and quality secondary stuff, so improving his contact rate this spring against all pitch types will be important. Unlike many prep hitters, Green will be facing solid enough competition to make a real difference in how he’s perceived in this area. Proving his hit tool is his biggest question, but showing more refinement in the defensive details in center field could help as well. Green certainly has the speed to play in the middle of the outfield, but his size and arm strength could lead many scouts to project him to right field.
4. Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech
Areas To Improve: Improve range and arm strength
Jung has gaudy offensive numbers as a lefthanded-hitting infielder and has shown an ability to hit all pitch types with authority and shown all-fields power. There aren’t too many questions about his bat at the moment, but he does profile as more of a fringe-average defender at best. If he shows an ability to get to more ground balls to either side and improves his arm strength, teams might feel better about his odds to stick at second base in the long run. Showing improved athleticism this spring could help in this area and give him a better all-around game.
3. Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly
Areas To Improve: Stay healthy, improve range, show more home run power
Lee has been hampered by knee and hamstring injuries during his time with Cal Poly, so securing a full, healthy season this spring will be more important for him than other hitters at the top of the class. Scouts like his hands and arm at shortstop, but most view his range as a bit light for the position, so he’ll need to show better lateral mobility and/or first-step quickness to profile at the position long term. Barring that, Lee could turn some of his doubles (27 in 2021) into home runs (10 in 2021) so a move to third or second base feels like less of an issue.
2. Termarr Johnson, SS, Mays HS, Atlanta
Areas To Improve: Improve supplemental tools, stay healthy, keep mashing
Johnson is the best hitter in the class, so there’s not much we need to say about that tool here. While he has impressive glove work and actions defensively, most of the industry views him as a second baseman in the long run, so proving them wrong by showing more range up the middle, better arm strength or better run times might allow scouts to give him a shot at shortstop. Without that, continuing to hit anything and everything he faces in Georgia should be enough to solidify him as a top-of-the-class talent.
1. Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS, Norcross, Ga.
Areas To Improve: Add strength, stay synced up with upper and lower halves offensively
Much of the excitement with Jones’ profile is based on his massive projection. While no one expects him to finish his physical development in one year, taking steps forward in the strength department and beginning to fill out his lean frame should naturally improve the power that he has already shown flashes of. At the mechanical level, scouts have sometimes wondered about how smooth and synced up Jones is at the plate and when he doesn’t incorporate his lower half he has shown a tendency to roll over on balls and hit them into the dirt. Showing more consistency in that department and driving the ball in the air with authority will make it hard for teams to pass on him on draft day.