10 Biggest Storylines to Know Ahead of the 2022 MLB Draft
The 2022 MLB draft is fast approaching, with this year's event again scheduled to take place during All-Star Weekend and Round 1 set for July 17.
This year's draft is headlined by prep hitters Druw Jones, Elijah Green, Jackson Holliday and Termarr Johnson, along with Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee and Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada, and it's an unusually thin crop of pitching talent due in part to a rash of injuries this spring.
Ahead we've highlighted 10 storylines worth following as MLB draft talk starts to heat up in the coming days and weeks, from who could go No. 1 overall to where Golden Spikes winner Ivan Melendez could wind up landing.
The Potential 1st-Round Picks with MLB Fathers
Nothing will make a baseball fan feel old faster than seeing the son of a player they grew up watching pop up in the MLB draft.
This year's class is loaded with MLB bloodlines, and there could be as many as four first-round picks with MLB fathers.
The consensus top prospect in the 2022 draft is Georgia prep outfielder Druw Jones, who is the son of former Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones. He has the potential for five above-average to plus tools, and he's widely regarded as the best defensive outfielder in the draft class.
Not far behind him on big boards is Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday, whose father Matt Holliday slugged 316 home runs in 15 big league seasons. Expect to see his name called inside the top five.
One of the fastest-rising players of the spring has been Nevada prep outfielder Justin Crawford, who has a solid hit tool and top-of-the-scale speed just like his All-Star father Carl Crawford did during his prime with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Rounding out our list of potential first-round legacy picks is JUCO standout Cam Collier, who got his GED, enrolled at Chipola College, and reclassified to the 2022 draft after originally being part of the 2023 class. His father Lou Collier had an eight-year career as a utility infielder.
The Return of Kumar Rocker
The New York Mets selected Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
The two sides initially agreed to a $6 million signing bonus, but when his post-draft physical raised "unspecified concerns about his shoulder and elbow," the team walked back its offer and he went unsigned.
Rather than returning to Vanderbilt for his senior season, he decided to bide his time until the 2022 draft, eventually signing with the Tri-City ValleyCats in the independent league.
The 6'5", 245-pound right-hander has a 1.80 ERA with a 25-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 innings, and he was clocked at 99 mph with his fastball in his ValleyCats debut.
It's unlikely he'll go inside the top 10 again, but he could wind up being the steal of the draft even if he goes toward the end of Round 1 or early in Round 2.
The Reliever with a 105-MPH Fastball
Even if you don't follow college baseball, you've likely seen a GIF or two of Ben Joyce lighting up radar guns at the University of Tennessee this spring. If not, here's one of a number that can be found on the @PitchingNinja page in the last few months.
The 6'5", 225-pound right-hander had a 2.23 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 32.1 innings this spring pitching in middle relief for the best team in the nation, but he does come with some red flags.
"From a scouting perspective, Joyce's track record—long on injuries and, therefore, short on actual pitching experience—casts a cloud over that fiery fastball," wrote MLB.com, which ranks him No. 116 on its draft board.
That draft board positioning would make him a projected fourth-round pick, and despite the unlikelihood of his name being called on Day 1, he could still be one of the first players from the 2022 class to reach the majors.
The Best Prep Hit Tool to Come Along in Years
Prep outfielders Druw Jones and Elijah Green have received the bulk of the headlines at the top of the 2022 draft class, but it's another high school bat in Termarr Johnson who has a chance to be a generational talent when it comes to his pure hitting skills.
Baseball America called him "one of the most advanced pure hitters to come out of high school since perhaps Joe Mauer in 2001," and MLB.com wrote that "he might be the best pure prep hitter in decades" while giving him a 70-grade hit tool.
Taking that one step further, MLB.com also wrote: "One scout gave him a double Hall of Famer comparison by calling him a combination of Wade Boggs' plate discipline and Vladimir Guerrero Sr.'s bat-to-ball skills."
So why isn't he a lock to go No. 1 overall?
There's not much room for remaining physical growth in his 5'10", 175-pound frame, and he has some defensive limitations that will likely mean a shift from shortstop to second base at the next level. That won't be enough to knock him out of the top five, but it has opened the door for someone else to be the top pick.
The Switch-Pitcher Turning Heads at the MLB Combine
The MLB Draft Combine was held for the first time in 2021, and it returned once again this year to provide scouting departments an opportunity for one last look at some of the draft's top prospects in a setting outside of an individual workout.
The long list of invitees included a number of players who have been staples in the first round of mock drafts all spring, but it was switch-pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje who wound up stealing the headlines.
"I'm natural from the left side, but I think I throw harder from the right side because I was [catching and playing shortstop] my whole life," Cijntje told Jim Callis of MLB.com. "Two years ago, I moved to Miami and started throwing with my left hand and my coach thought I was a good both-hand pitcher, so that's how I started working back on my left hand again."
The Florida high school standout currently ranks No. 256 on Baseball America's list of the top 500 draft prospects, with his 5'10", 170-pound frame on the small side for a pitcher.
He currently slots somewhere in the 6th-10th round range, according to Callis, which may not be high enough to sign him away from his commitment to Mississippi State. However, don't be surprised if his combine performance pushes him up more than a few teams' draft boards.
The Small-School Stars in the First-Round Conversation
The list of top college bats in the 2022 draft class includes players from a number of major conference schools, including Georgia Tech (Kevin Parada), LSU (Jacob Berry), Texas Tech (Jace Jung), Virginia Tech (Gavin Cross), Stanford (Brock Jones), Oklahoma (Peyton Graham), Tennessee (Drew Gilbert and Jordan Beck) and Florida (Sterlin Thompson and Jud Fabian).
However, there is also a trio of small-school hitters who are consensus first-round picks in the 2022 class.
Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee was a top-50 prospect in the 2019 draft class out of high school but honored his college commitment when he slipped to the 35th round. That was the right decision, as he's poised to be the first college hitter taken after batting .357/.462/.664 with 25 doubles, 15 home runs and 55 RBI in 58 games this spring.
A bit further down the draft board, James Madison outfielder Chase DeLauter and Campbell shortstop Zach Neto are also expected to hear their names called on Day 1.
DeLauter is a 6'4", 235-pound slugger who posted a 1.404 OPS with eight home runs in 24 games this spring before suffering a broken foot, while Neto is vying to be the first first-round pick in Campbell history after batting .407/.514/.769 with 40 extra-base hits in 53 games.
The NCAA HR Leader Who Could Be a Day 2 Steal
Ivan Melendez was recently named the 2022 Golden Spikes winner as the top amateur baseball player in the country, and it was well-deserved after the gaudy numbers he put up at the University of Texas this spring.
The 6'3", 225-pound first baseman hit .387/.508/.863 with an NCAA Division I-leading 32 home runs and 94 RBI in 67 games. He homered once every 7.8 at-bats while also tallying more walks (52) than strikeouts (51).
The right-handed-hitting first baseman profile is always a risky one, and for every Pete Alonso there are a dozen guys who fail to produce in pro ball after productive college careers. That and the fact that he's already 22 years old are working against him in terms of his draft stock, but he could be a major steal on Day 2.
The Injured Pitcher Who Could Have Gone No. 1 Overall
When the spring season began, Dylan Lesko was squarely in the conversation to go No. 1 overall in the 2022 draft.
The 6'2" right-hander was touching 97 mph with his fastball and backing it with an elite changeup that was easily one of the best offspeed pitches in the draft, and arguably one of the best changeups in organized baseball.
However, an elbow injury in April ultimately resulted in Tommy John surgery, and that has left his draft stock clouded at best.
Lucas Giolito (No. 16 in 2012), Walker Buehler (No. 24 overall in 2015) and Cal Quantrill (No. 8 in 2016) are a few recent examples of pitchers with significant arm issues who still heard their names called in the first round and then went on to MLB success.
Lesko could be the next name to join that group somewhere in the mid-to-late first round this year.
No Pitchers Taken in the Top 10 Picks?
Dylan Lesko is not the only pitcher who saw his draft stock tumble following injury issues this spring.
From the collegiate ranks, potential first-round picks Blade Tidwell (Tennessee), Connor Prielipp (Alabama), Carson Whisenhunt (East Carolina), Peyton Pallette (Arkansas), Landon Sims (Mississippi State) and Jonathan Cannon (Georgia) have all missed time this spring.
That has made it a very real possibility that there will be no pitchers in the top 10, something that has never happened since the draft's inception in 1965.
The 2019 draft is the closest recent example, as TCU left-hander Nick Lodolo went to the Cincinnati Reds at No. 7 overall and was the only pitcher taken inside the top 10.
Teams probably should have steered clear of pitching in 2015 when Dillon Tate (No. 4 overall to TEX), Tyler Jay (No. 6 overall to MIN) and Carson Fulmer (No. 8 overall to CWS) all failed to live up to their draft position.
High school right-hander Brock Porter is expected to be the first pitcher taken in 2022, and there's a chance he could go as high as No. 9 to the Kansas City Royals. Don't be surprised if he has to wait until at least No. 11 when the New York Mets have their first of two picks inside the top 15.
The Short List to Go No. 1 Overall
It appears the Baltimore Orioles have narrowed their list of potential targets for the No. 1 overall pick to five players.
"The Orioles will continue to focus on five players—believed to be the first five prospects on the top 200 (high school outfielder Druw Jones and Elijah Green, prep shortstop Jackson Holliday, [Georgia high school second baseman Termarr] Johnson, Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee)—and will do so up until draft day," Jim Callis of MLB.com wrote.
We've already talked about the top-of-the-scale hit tool that Johnson possesses, and he was the pick to go No. 1 in MLB.com's latest mock draft, but that stems in part from the fact that he is expected to command the smallest signing bonus of that group.
Jones and Green have long been penciled in as the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects in the draft class, though concerns about Green's hit tool have caused his stock to waver a bit this spring.
There's always the outside chance that the O's will once again look to cut a deal, as they've done the past two drafts while reaching for Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser. If that's the case, LSU slugger Jacob Berry could wind up being the pick.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.