Summer Stock Watch: 10 High School Prospects Who Have Impressed On The Showcase Circuit
The summer showcase circuit is in full swing, and with the 2021 draft and signing deadline in the rearview mirror, the scouting industry is fully focused on the 2022 class.
On the high school side, events like Perfect Game’s National Showcase in Tampa, USA Baseball’s PDP League in Cary, N.C. and the scout-run East Coast Pro in Hoover, Ala. are three of the priority events that bring together the nation’s top players and allow scouts to start getting a feel for the prep class.
With these events all wrapped up, we look at 10 standouts and notable prospects you need to know about who have a chance to be impact players in next year’s draft class. There’s a strong East Coast flavor to this piece, but with Area Code Games taking place this week in San Diego we’ll have more information on the West Coast prospects soon.
Termarr Johnson, 2B (Georgia)
Johnson has been one of the most anticipated players in the 2022 class for some time now, and ever since we’ve had rankings for the class he’s been solidly among the top 5 players. Nothing about that pedigree has changed, and it seems like Johnson has a strong case as the best overall hitter in the class.
Johnson is a bit of a unique profile, as a shorter, 5-foot-10 infielder who is probably better suited for second base and also close to physically maxed out with a strong and muscular 180-pound build. He’s the best second base prospect in years, at least going back to Nick Madrigal in 2018, and that’s comparing a prep Johnson to a college Madrigal. If you compared Johnson to Madrigal when both were at the same level Johnson is now, it’s an entirely different tier of hitter in favor of Johnson.
He’s got explosive bat speed from the left side, and routinely hits towering home runs to his pull side in batting practice, but what separates him from other hitters in this prep class is his advanced approach at the plate. Johnson will take huge swings and looks to do damage early in counts or when he’s ahead, but he has no issue shortening up when he has two strikes or needs to put the ball in play. He can slap the ball the other way for a single through the 5-6 hole, he’s shown an ability to turn on mid-90s velocity without a problem, he tracks breaking balls and has a great feel for the strike zone. One of his most impressive at-bats came at PG National, when he took a 94 mph fastball and blasted it to right field, for a no-doubt, monster home run.
Johnson’s lightning quick hands help him defensively as well. He’s sure-handed in the infield and makes impressive reactions to short hops or unlucky bounces, and he’s been among the better middle infielders at turning the double play at second base, with a quick exchange and accurate throws from multiple positions.
In addition to his on-field tools and skills, Johnson is among the most vocal players we’ve seen so far this summer—seemingly a natural leader on the field. Johnson is currently uncommitted.
Dylan Lesko, RHP (Georgia)
The reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year, Lesko entered the summer as the top-ranked arm in the class, and hasn’t done much to let that tag slip away from him—though the 2022 group is shaping up to be plenty strong on arms, at least on the prep side.
Lesko pitched at both PG National and East Coast Pro and showed a solid three-pitch mix at both outings. He struck out one and walked one in a two-inning stint at PG National and then fanned eight batters in three innings of work after getting the start in the event’s most anticipated matchup, which pits Florida players against Georgia players. Lesko joins Ethan Hankins and Daniel Espino as recent, high-profile arms to start that game at East Coast Pro.
He throws a fastball in the 91-95 mph range and touched 96 multiple times in both outings, with 1900-2300 rpm spin rates on the heater. At East Coast Pro, Lesko struggled in his first inning after not establishing his fastball for strikes, but when he began to attack the zone with the pitch in the second frame and get ahead, he quickly found success, generated whiffs and better set up his impressive secondary offerings.
Lesko throws a high-spin breaking ball in the 78-81 mph range, which has recorded spin rates in the 2700-3000 rpm range this summer. The pitch has three-quarter shape and plenty of depth and hard finish, but he has spiked the pitch and buried it out of the zone at times.
His changeup is his most consistent offering and potentially his best current pitch, in addition to arguably the best changeup in the entire class—though Michigan righthander Brock Porter, who we will touch on soon, has a case as well. It’s a Bugs Bunny pitch in the 80-85 mph range that he throws with fastball arm speed and features a tremendous amount of fading life and drop. It’s a pitch he can use for whiffs against both righties and lefties, and the pitch is good enough that he can successfully double- and triple-up on it without hitters feeling comfortable against it. At East Coast Pro, Lesko generated seven whiffs with the pitch and used it to finish four of his eight strikeouts.
Lesko is listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds and has a lean frame now that should be able to add good weight in the future. He’s committed to Vanderbilt but as one of the best pitchers in the class, has a good chance to go in the first round.
Nazier Mule, SS/RHP (New Jersey)
Mule (pronounced “moo-lay”) is one of the youngest players in the class and won’t turn 17 until the middle of October. He also appears to be one of the toolsiest players and one of the better legitimate two-way prospects in the class.
There are some shades of Masyn Winn here, though Mule is already bigger than Winn was during his draft year at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. A player comped to Winn should have big arm strength and Mule has that in spades, throwing the ball 94 mph across the infield at PG National and then showing one of the firmest fastballs at East Coast Pro, touching 98.
Mule is strong and athletic, with a 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame and plenty of natural strength and bat speed that translate to above-average raw power. Mule will occasionally run into an elevated pitch over the plate and drive it with impact, but his offensive approach is incredibly raw at the moment, with very questionable pitch selection, swing decisions and general swing-and-miss issues. Defensively, he flashes impressive actions that have led to a few highlight plays in the infield, with good body control and an ability to throw with strength and accuracy from multiple angles and positions. He doesn’t have an exceptionally quick first step or great side-to-side mobility, so third base might be a better fit, but his impressive natural arm strength could also allow him to play deeper than other shortstops.
While Mule’s tool set is exciting as a hitter, his upside might even be bigger on the mound. At East Coast Pro, he threw a pair of relief innings and struck out the side in his first inning of work while showing a legitimate three-pitch mix. As previously mentioned, Mule touched 98 in this appearance, and was mostly 95-97 in his first inning before ticking down to 90-96 in the second. His control was more scattered with his fastball, particularly in the second inning, but he showed swing-and-miss secondaries in a mid-80s changeup and 80-85 mph slider. He threw the change with good arm speed and the pitch featured solid drop, while his slider featured 10-to-4 shape and solid movement and spin in the 2300-2600 rpm range.
Mule is committed to Miami and on a pure talent basis alone, is one of the most intriguing players in the class.
Tristan Smith, LHP (South Carolina)
Smith’s two-inning stint at PG National was arguably the best individual pitching performance of the event, as he dominated over two frames and struck out all six batters he saw with a lethal, two-pitch mix.
Smith is listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and throws from a three-quarter slot, with slight crossfiring action, but impressive arm speed and a balanced finish. At PG National, Smith was as locked in as you can get, firing fastballs in the 93-95 mph range from the left side, and locking batters up with a sharp breaking ball in the 79-81 mph range with two-plane bite in the 2200-2600 rpm range.
He showed tremendous feel to land the pitch in the zone for strikes. Smith’s feel for the pitch is so good that he’ll start pitching off of his breaking ball rather than his fastball at times, and that did hurt him a bit at East Coast Pro, when his fastball command lagged behind his breaking ball feel, and he looked a bit more scattered overall.
Still, it’s a plus breaking ball and when Smith made an adjustment and started putting his fastball over the plate more in Hoover, the pitch generated plenty of whiffs—six in three innings at East Coast Pro. In these two looks Smith hasn’t shown much of a third offering, but it’s a very loud two-pitch mix from the left side that should have the Clemson commit solidly among the top southpaws in the class, and top arms overall.
Noah Schultz, LHP (Illinois)
A 6-foot-9, 220-pound lefthander, Schultz is one of the tallest pitchers in the 2022 class, but he has shown standout athleticism and body control that make him a dangerous southpaw with stuff and the ability to harness it and throw it for strikes. It’s common for very tall pitchers—especially those who are still teenagers—to struggle to repeat their deliveries, stay in sync and put the ball over the plate, but Schultz did all of that at PG National and the PDP League.
He works out of a half windup and throws from a sidearm slot, which creates a tough angle in its own right but is only magnified due to his height and long levers.
The Vanderbilt commit has a three-pitch mix with a fastball that has been in the 89-93 mph range with running life, a mid-70s breaking ball with plenty of spin and sweeping depth and a straight change in the 78-80 mph range that he uses less frequently than his fastball/breaking ball combination. Schultz’s breaking ball will back up on him to his arm side at times, but looks like a real weapon that should always be a pain for lefthanded hitters, and he’s shown an impressive ability to spot and land the pitch.
While Schultz hasn’t posted the biggest velocities, it would be unsurprising to see him fill out his lean frame and throw harder in the future, and even if he doesn’t he should be able to find plenty of success with tough angles and deception.
Andrew Dutkanych, RHP (Indiana)
Dutkanych is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound righthander who dominated in his outing at Perfect Game National, striking out six straight batters in two innings. He wasn’t quite as overpowering at East Coast Pro a few weeks later, with more scattered strikes and a few hard hit balls against him, but he showed impressive stuff nonetheless and struck out five batters over three frames.
Dutkanych touched 95 mph at PG National and then touched 96 a few weeks later at East Coast Pro and sat in the 92-94 mph range in both events. He shows two distinct breaking balls, one a mid-80s slider and the other an upper-70s curveball. The slider seemed to be the better swing-and-miss offering for Dutkanych in both outings, though he throws both pitches with high spin rates in the 2400-2600 rpm range.
He throws with a short arm action and a higher, three-quarter arm slot and has a still-lean frame that should be able to add more weight and strength moving forward. Dutkanych is a Vanderbilt commit.
Termarr Johnson Would Be A Very Unusual Top-Five MLB Draft Pick
Termarr Johnson is seen as one of the top players in the 2022 class. If he is taken in the top-five picks, he will be an unprecedented pick in a number of ways.
Caden Dana, RHP (New York)
Dana matched up opposite Dutkanych during PG National and both pitchers faced six batters and struck out six to create a dynamic pitcher’s duel over two frames. Dana is a 6-foot-5 righthander listed a 225 pounds who showed one of the better breaking balls at PG National, a 74-79 downer with 12-6 shape and spin in the 2300-2500 rpm range.
Dana paired that curveball with a fastball in the 92-94 mph range at PG National and four of his six strikeouts ended with the heater. In total in this outing, he generated seven whiffs with his fastball and four with the breaking ball. He also flashed an 87-mph changeup, but primarily worked with the fastball/curveball combination.
Dana also pitched at PDP and East Coast Pro but wasn’t quite as impressive at either event as his PG National showing. Specifically, he struggled with control more at the second two events, walking a pair of batters in a relief outing in Cary and showing scattered fastball and curveball control in a two-inning appearance at East Coast Pro. When Dana is landing his curveball, he’s plenty of trouble for hitters of either handedness, and his fastball racked up whiffs whether or not he was spotting the pitch with precision. Dana is committed to Kentucky.
Brandon Barriera, LHP (Florida)
One of the top lefthanders in the class, Barriera attended all three events and touched 95 mph from the left side in each outing thanks to some of the better arm speed we’ve seen so far. Barriera isn’t a physically imposing pitcher on the mound, listed at just 6-foot-1, 176 pounds, but he has outstanding pure stuff.
Barriera touched 96 mph at East Coast Pro and was routinely in the 90-94 mph range and his fastball has solid late life that allowed the pitch to miss barrels. He was erratic at times with his control and showed a tendency to overthrow his fastball, but also showed a hard slider in the low 80s that flashed two-plane bite and impressive power with spin rates in the 2300-2600 rpm range. Barriera also throws an 84-86 mph changeup that has some tumbling action at best, but he will slow his arm down at times.
He showed a curveball in between innings but we didn’t see much of the pitch during games. Barriera has some length in his arm action, including a wrist wrap in the back of his arm stroke, and a three-quarter slot. Barriera is a Vanderbilt commit.
Jayson Jones, 3B (Texas)
Jones is a physical, 6-foot-2, 190-pound infielder who routinely stands out as having one of the better swings in the class. He has great bat speed and plenty of natural strength to go with it and shows an ability in batting practice to drive the ball with authority to both the pull side and to the opposite field. He’s an explosive rotator within his swing, with a steep finish in his follow through and the ability to drive the ball with authority wherever it’s pitched.
At PG National, Jones tied Washington infielder Dominic Hellman for the best exit velocity of the event at 105 mph, and in games has shown the ability to turn around 90-plus mph velocity and make adjustments within an at-bat to breaking stuff.
There is some swing and miss in his game and he’s probably more of a corner infielder than a player who’s going to stick in the middle of an infield, but he has the sort of power potential that could make him a middle-of-the-order bat. Jones is committed to Arkansas.
Emaarion Boyd, OF (Mississippi)
Boyd already seems like one of the best defensive center fielders in the class, thanks to an outstanding defensive look at East Coast Pro. He’s a clear plus-plus runner who clocked a 6.56-second 60-yard dash at PG National and an almost identical 6.55 time at East Coast Pro.
Boyd’s speed alone would play well enough in center field, but on multiple occasions in Hoover, Boyd showed a fantastic first step and quick read off the bat, which allowed him to track down multiple hard hit balls that looked like no-doubt extra-base hits on contact. His speed and instincts in the outfield should allow him to stick in center field in the long run, where he has a chance to be an impact defender.
Offensively, Boyd showed a line drive-oriented swing, with solid contact ability and many squarely hit, low line drives in batting practice. He wasn’t a standout offensive performer during games at East Coast Pro, but showed a solid ability to drive secondary stuff, with multiple hard hit balls and 90-plus mph exit velocities against curveballs and sliders. Listed at 6 feet, 165 pounds, power isn’t a huge part of Boyd’s game at the moment, but he has a loose, wiry frame that could add plenty of strength in the future. Boyd is currently uncommitted.