2022 MLB Draft Stock Watch: Five Up-Arrow Prospects
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.
Yesterday we released our top 100 preseason draft ranking for the 2022 class, with full scouting reports for each player.
While that is a great resource to get a picture of how the class looks right now as a whole, today I wanted to look at a few players who had significant up-arrow movement between this ranking and the last time we ranked the 2022 class late during the 2021 summer.
Below are five players who have trended up 2022 draft boards significantly over the last six months or so, and reasons for those ascents.
Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison (No. 6)
DeLauter was the name of the summer after his performance with Orleans in the Cape Cod League, where he tied for the league lead with nine home runs, while continuing to show the same excellent plate discipline he’s become known for at James Madison.
Last summer was critical for DeLauter, as the most highly-rated small school hitter in the class. The industry certainly doesn’t mind taking small conference college hitters near the top of the class—Sam Houston State outfielder Colton Cowser was just picked No. 5 last year after all—but it is certainly more critical of statistical performance.
Cowser likely benefited from his exposure as a freshman with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, but South Alabama outfielder Ethan Wilson was also in the 2021 class and was a second-round pick even after posting a .318/.419/.528 line with eight home runs in his draft season. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Wilson never got a chance to hit with Team USA or in the Cape Cod League and there was more anxiety about the true quality of his offensive skill set because of that.
In DeLauter’s case, a lost summer would have been impactful on his draft stock since James Madison played just 26 games during the 2021 spring season. In fact, the 34-game stint with Orleans last summer is his longest stretch of games played in his collegiate career after playing just 16 during the Covid-shortened 2020 season and 26 last spring. He had an opportunity and took full advantage of it by showing more in-game power with a wood bat in a competitive environment the scouting industry heavily values.
That has already paid off for him and will continue to on draft day.
Eric Brown, SS, Coastal Carolina (No. 49)
There are always players who don’t jump out to an evaluator right away, but the more you see them play, the more they grow on you. Brown might fall into that camp. When most scouts see him hit for the first time, they’re likely to be turned off by what’s one of the most unique hitting stances in the class.
Brown has his hands fully extended away from his body and raised above his head and incorporates a long, deliberate leg kick in his lower half during his load. It’s funky to say the least, but it has worked for Brown and after looking at his production at the end of the season, evaluators always seem a bit surprised.
But you can’t knock the production. Brown is a career .286/.405/.465 hitter in two seasons with Coastal Carolina who has 42 walks to 47 strikeouts. Last summer he formed one of the better middle infield duos with Kentucky shortstop Ryan Ritter with Cotuit in the Cape Cod League. While there, he hit .282/.375/.436 with five home runs and 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts.
He’s shown he has the athleticism to stick at shortstop, he has impressive run tools and zone recognition and despite the aesthetics of the swing he manages to make contact and get on base. Many scouts in the industry now are talking about him as a top 50-60 player in the class and if he hits over .300 this spring—for the first time in his career—he could move up more.
Ryan Ritter, SS, Kentucky (No. 71)
As mentioned previously, Ritter paired with Brown in the Cape Cod League to form an impressive middle infield duo. He is regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the class and evaluators Baseball America has spoken with have very little doubt he can stick at the position at the next level.
What increased Ritter’s stock was his offensive performance with Cotuit. After hitting .275/.323/.365 last spring with Kentucky with a 22.9% strikeout rate, Ritter ranked fourth in the Cape in hitting with a .330/.431/.429 line. While his strikeout rate was an identical 22.9% and remains a question mark moving forward, he improved his walk rate from 5.5% in the spring to 12.8% in the summer, suggesting an improved approach.
Given Ritter’s defensive reputation and profile with the glove, he has a reasonable floor in the draft, but a step forward with the bat—whether that’s simply getting on base more frequently or adding strength to his projectable frame and tapping into a few more extra-base hits—could vault him up boards this spring.
There’s no better place to prove yourself as a hitter than the SEC.
Alex McFarlane, RHP, Miami (No. 78)
It seems like every year there are a few pitchers who showcase electric stuff in fall practice and get scouts drooling about their potential next spring. Sometimes the stuff sticks and represents a real step forward. Other times it’s just a flash in the pan.
McFarlane is hoping it’s the former in his case.
Scouts raved about the stuff he showed with Miami last fall. He flashed three plus pitches in a fastball up to 96, a wipeout slider and a changeup. He showed impressive athleticism on the mound and threw strikes with feel for all of his pitches, and he also has some deception that could help his entire arsenal play up.
McFarlane showed glimmers of this sort of upside as a high school projection arm, and he’s had no issues missing bats in his two-year career with Miami (10.2 K/9), but he has largely had middling results (4.70 ERA) while shuffling between a starting role and pitching out of the bullpen. There’s plenty of opportunity for college starters in this year’s class given the uncertainty and below-average outlook for the group as a whole, but McFarlane could have the package to improve that reputation.
If he throws better strikes and starts throughout the spring, watch out.
Future Four: High-Slot College Righthanders To Know (Vol. 4)
In this edition of Future Four, we turn our attention to college righthanders who throw from a higher arm slot.
Walter Ford, RHP, McAdory HS, McCalla, Ala. (No. 41)
The college players on this list are mentioned here largely for their performance last summer and fall that has them moving up boards. Ford is here mainly because a year ago at this time he wasn’t in the 2022 class.
Originally a member of the 2023 high school class, last summer Ford announced he was reclassifying for the 2022 class and he’ll pitch this spring with Pace High in Florida after previously playing in Alabama. Ford joins a number of 2022 reclassifications including third baseman Cam Collier (who also moved to Florida and will play for Chipola JC this spring) and catcher Brady Neal.
Fortunately for Florida area scouts, all three players were at many of the marquee events over the summer showcase circuit, and that includes Ford—who has a chance to vault into the elite prep pitcher tier of the class if he isn’t there already on some clubs’ boards.
He ranked as a top 10 player in the 2023 high school class and pitched with USA Baseball’s 18U team last fall, where he showed a fastball and slider that were well beyond the norm for his age group. His stuff fits firmly as some of the best in the 2022 class and he won’t turn 18 until December—making him the youngest player ranked on the top 100 draft list.