2022 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team Top MLB Draft Prospects 1-10
For the first time since 2019, USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team completed a normal summer schedule.
After the training camp roster of 50 players played a series of five intrasquad games in North Carolina, the final 26-man roster traveled to the Netherlands to compete in Honkbalweek Haarlem, a biannual international baseball competition, where they earned the bronze medal.
As always, the talent level was off the charts on the CNT, with many of the players who donned the stars and stripes in the Netherlands projected to be early draft picks the next two years. These are the top 10 such prospects.
1. Dylan Crews, OF, Louisiana State
Crews has been one of the most dynamic players in college baseball over his first two seasons at LSU, batting a combined .356/.458/.677 with 40 home runs and 114 RBIs in 125 games, living up to the high expectations that followed him to Baton Rouge after foregoing the draft coming out of high school in 2020. Crews went a combined 6-for-38 in scrimmages and in the Netherlands, but he hit the most talked about home run of the CNT schedule when he hit a ball over the bull above the left field wall at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The aforementioned plus power thanks to physicality in his frame and bat speed to burn is Crews’ most prominent tool if you had to choose one, but he really stands out for how well-rounded his game is. He does swing and miss some, but has curtailed that since his high school days, and shows a good approach and bat-to-ball skills. Crews played right field as a freshman at LSU—he likely projects to play a corner at the next level—but took over in center field as a sophomore for the Tigers, where his good speed underway, strong arm and excellent feel for the game allowed him to shine.
2. Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi
Like Crews, Gonzalez is a two-time member of the CNT, debuting for the team after hitting .355/.443/.561 as a freshman at Ole Miss and returning after putting up a .273/.405/.558 slash line with 18 home runs and winning a national title with the Rebels as a sophomore. And perhaps most impressive are his 88 walks compared to 66 strikeouts in two seasons in the SEC. Gonzalez went 11-for-40 for the CNT with three doubles and a home run, one of just two CNT players to hit a home run while in the Netherlands.
Gonzalez’s production through two seasons of college baseball matches his reputation as a high-level hitter coming out of high school in 2020. His operation and swing aren’t always pretty, but it works. His average dropped more than 80 points from his freshman to sophomore season, but his home run power improved, as did both his walk and strikeout rates. As with most college shortstops, his ability to stay at the position will be continually evaluated as time goes on, but he’s shown the arm and athleticism to stick there. Away from the bright lights, Gonzalez is seen as a quiet player who is diligent about his work.
3. Enrique Bradfield, Jr., OF, Vanderbilt
Bradfield has been a catalyst in the Vanderbilt lineup from the moment he stepped on campus, and over two seasons, he’s batting .326/.433/.456 with 93 stolen bases, including 46 stolen bases during the 2022 season without being caught. His ability to impact the baseball also took a jump from his freshman to sophomore season, as he went from 13 extra-base hits to 23.
Top-of-the-scale speed is Bradfield’s calling card, and that shows both in his ability to be a weapon on the base paths and in his premium defensive ability in center field. Rather than getting by on just speed, Bradfield is also a cerebral base runner who knows how to read pitchers and get good leads. With 86 career walks compared to 82 strikeouts, Bradfield shows good plate discipline and a willingness to set the table by putting together a quality at-bat, a trait that continued into the summer, when he led the CNT in walks with 10 between the scrimmages and competition overseas. Defensively, his ability to cover so much ground is a security blanket for his coaches.
4. Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest
Lowder made a massive jump from 2021 to 2022, going from putting up a 6.12 ERA in 67.2 innings as a freshman to going 11-3 with a 3.08 ERA and a 105-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99.1 innings as a sophomore on the way to earning ACC pitcher of the year honors. In three appearances for the CNT, including two starts in the Netherlands, Lowder gave up eight hits and one earned run with two walks and 11 strikeouts in 9.1 innings, leaving the impression that he was the team’s best pitcher.
The righthander works with a fastball that averaged just over 93 mph last spring for Wake Forest and touched as high as 97. With the CNT in shorter stints, his average fastball velocity bumped up to higher than 94 mph. He also has a mid-80s changeup that had a 34% whiff rate last spring and a low-80s slider that had a 39% whiff rate, throwing those two pitches in just about equal measure. All of that comes packaged with excellent mound presence. Off the mound, Lowder is lauded for his makeup and leadership skills.
5. Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida
After getting just four at-bats as a freshman, Langford developed into one of the best hitters in college baseball as a sophomore, as he batted .355/.447/.719 with 26 home runs, tying the UF single-season record, and 63 RBIs. He emerged as a trusted player on the CNT as well, as he was one of just a handful of players to start all 12 official games the team played. He went just 2-for-18 stateside but then found his groove in Europe, going 7-for-21, good for third on the team in hitting during Honkbalweek.
Langford hit leadoff late last season for Florida not because of his speed—though he is a solid runner—but because of his knack for getting on base and ability to be a catalyst in the lineup. At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, Langford has obvious strength in his frame and that shows in his power production. He also hammers high velocity, which is a must in the SEC as much as it is in pro baseball, hitting .386/.493/.737 against fastballs of 92 mph or higher. On paper, there’s not much of note defensively, as Langford played left field almost exclusively last season, but he has played the infield corners in summer ball before and he was the emergency catcher on the CNT team that traveled to the Netherlands this summer.
6. Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian
Taylor has been remarkably consistent in his two seasons at TCU, batting a combined .319/.450/.574 with 25 home runs, 103 RBIs, 104 walks compared to 86 strikeouts and 25 stolen bases. Taylor had four hits and seven walks with the CNT and hit a home run against Nebraska lefthander Emmett Olson during the intrasquad scrimmage portion of the schedule.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Taylor stands out for his well-rounded set of offensive skills. He has the bat speed to deliver power production without selling out for it despite being of relatively slight frame and an eye at the plate that keeps him from chasing pitches out of the zone and helps him walk more than strike out. Taylor has played some shortstop in the past and played a decent amount of second base two summers ago in the Cape Cod League, but has mostly played third base at TCU. He cut down on his errors from his freshman to sophomore season, but is more solid than spectacular defensively.
7. Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon
After a solid freshman season that ended with him hitting .313/.376/.440, Wilson became more of an all-around threat as a sophomore, hitting .358/.418/.585 with 18 doubles, 12 home runs, 65 RBIs and just seven strikeouts in 246 at-bats. And no, that strikeout total is not a typo. He was far and away the toughest hitter to strike out in Division I college baseball. He also opened plenty of eyes with the way he shined with the CNT, going 7-for-15 with two home runs in North Carolina before going 4-for-11 in the Netherlands.
Wilson combines the traits of a stereotypical pesky middle infielder with the skills of an elite prospect. In addition to having the sharp batting eye and bat-to-ball skills that make it such that he almost never strikes out, he’s also a steady defender, even as he moved from third base at GCU in 2021 to shortstop in 2022. Not unlike Taylor, at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, you might not think that power would be part of Wilson’s game but he’s proven otherwise, including being the only player on the CNT to hit multiple home runs this summer.
8. Carter Holton, LHP, Vanderbilt
As a freshman last season, Holton was Vanderbilt’s most effective starting pitcher. He went 8-4 with a 3.14 ERA, a .197 opponent batting average and 97 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. Then, after throwing 2.1 scoreless innings stateside for the CNT, he was the only freshman to make the final roster and threw 5.1 one-hit innings in the Netherlands.
From the left side, Holton works with a four-pitch mix. He has pretty easy velocity with a fastball that averaged just over 93 mph last spring and touched as high as 99. With the CNT, that averaged ticked up over 94 mph as well. His most often used secondary pitch last spring was a mid-70s curveball that had a 38% whiff rate. He also has a slider in the high 70s and low 80s that had a 50% whiff rate a season ago and a mid-80s changeup that had a 53% whiff rate in the spring, albeit with much smaller sample sizes than his fastball and curveball.
9. Paul Skenes, C/RHP, Louisiana State
Skenes is the best two-way player in college baseball. In two seasons at the plate, he’s batting a combined .367/.453/.669 with 31 doubles, 24 home runs and 81 RBIs. On the mound, he was a closer in 2021, putting up a 2.70 ERA and 11 saves, before transitioning to the rotation last spring, when he went 10-3 with a 2.73 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 85.2 innings. The fact that he was doing all of this at Air Force only made his story more interesting. A two-time CNT member, Skenes this summer threw 7.2 scoreless innings across two starts and he’s now heading to LSU this fall.
Though Skenes does provide some intrigue as a position player given his profile as a power-hitting catcher—and there is optimism in some circles about the way he plays the position—his future for now is on the mound, where he has an imposing 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame and features a fastball that averaged nearly 94 mph last season and touched as high as 99, a mid-80s slider that has proven to be his best swing-and-miss pitch and a firm high-80s changeup that flashes plus.
10. Kyle Teel, C, Virginia
A premium prospect coming out of high school, Teel has shown plenty of potential in his two seasons at Virginia. He’s batting a combined .305/.409/.481 with 15 home runs and 86 RBIs. His average dropped about 60 points from his freshman to sophomore season, but at the same time, his walk rate nearly doubled while his strikeout rate stayed flat. Teel went a combined 5-for-26 with the CNT this summer.
Teel is a premium athlete, and that portends upside for his defensive skills behind the plate and for his ability to provide additional value by handling other positions on the diamond if pressed into duty. He’s a dynamic defender behind the plate who isn’t picture-perfect in all of his movements, sometimes due to the fact that he seems to be filled with nothing but adrenaline and kinetic energy, but he makes up for that with his natural skills and ability to make it all work. He takes aggressive hacks at the plate and sometimes seems to get outside of his approach, but given that, he doesn’t whiff as often as you might think and has a knack for reining things back in to put together a good at-bat in the end.