The Biggest Winners and Losers from Day 1 of 2022 MLB Draft
The first day of the 2022 Major League Baseball draft went down in Los Angeles on Sunday, accounting for 80 picks spread out over multiple rounds and close to six hours.
It was a lot to take in, so allow us to give you the gist of it by way of a list of the biggest winners and losers from Day 1 of the draft.
We settled on four winners and four losers. These naturally concern individuals and groups of players who may or may not have had their dreams come true, as well as teams that made out like bandits and others who made highly questionable choices.
For starters, the first winner on our list is a literal family affair.
Winner: Sons of Former MLB Stars
The first two names called in this year's draft will sound familiar to baseball fans. The Baltimore Orioles took Jackson Holliday, son of Matt, at No. 1, and the Arizona Diamondbacks followed by nabbing Druw Jones, son of Andruw, at No. 2.
Believe it or not, this is the first time in history that the sons of two former major leaguers have gone back-to-back in the first two picks of the draft.
The father-son fun didn't stop there. Also in the first round, the Philadelphia Phillies chose Justin Crawford, son of Carl, at No. 17, and the Cincinnati Reds took Cam Collier, son of Lou, with the very next pick.
There's nary of a hint of nepotism going on here. Jackson, a sweet-swinging shortstop, and Jones, a speedy and powerful outfielder in the mold of his old man, were considered the two best players in this year's draft class long before they came off the board Sunday. For their parts, Crawford and Collier are also chips off the ol' block.
You could also call this run on talented sons of famous baseball fathers a variation on a theme. As Travis Sawchik wrote for FiveThirtyEight in reference to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr. and other contemporary stars whose dads also made it big in the big leagues, MLB is increasingly becoming a father-son game.
Loser: Brock Porter
It's not as easy to take note of the names that aren't called in any given draft, but the lack of any mention of Brock Porter got to be that much more noticeable as the draft got further beyond the top 10 picks.
And by the end of the day, his name wasn't called at all.
This is an upset if for no other reason than Porter, a 19-year-old right-hander out of St. Mary's Prep in Orchard Lake, Michigan, came into the draft as arguably the best pitcher of the class. B/R's Joel Reuter mocked him as the first pitcher off the board at No. 12 to the Detroit Tigers.
And why not, with stuff like this:
As for why Porter went unpicked on Day 1, the easy assumption is that he's been using his commitment to Clemson to angle for a big bonus. As he would be draft-eligible after his sophomore season with the Tigers, he would face less risk than the typical high school pitcher if he does indeed choose to enter the college ranks.
Even still, "less risk" does not equal "no risk." Even if Porter was able to avoid injuries at Clemson, he would still face a tall order in keeping his draft stock on par or even raising it above where it was at the outset of Sunday's festivities.
Winner: Kumar Rocker
When the Texas Rangers announced their choice for the No. 3 pick, they produced arguably the biggest and certainly most pleasant surprise of the draft: Kumar Rocker.
It was only last year that the 22-year-old right-hander went 10th overall to the New York Mets. Yet because of concerns over Rocker's medicals, the Mets opted not to sign him.
It only came out recently that Rocker—whose father, Tracy, is College Football Hall of Famer—had shoulder surgery last September. Yet he was healthy enough to get some reps with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the independent Frontier League this spring, and he pitched well to the tune of a 1.35 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 20 innings.
Rocker is best known, of course, for his dominant collegiate career as a Vanderbilt Commodore. Though he was up and down in 2021, at his best the 6'5", 245-pounder flashed a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a devastating slider.
The Rangers clearly believe Rocker's best days aren't behind him, and landing with them is a good outcome for him, too. He'll get to reunite with fellow former Vanderbilt ace Jack Leiter in the Rangers system, and Jon Heyman of the New York Post says he's already agreed to a $5.2 million signing bonus.
Though Rocker did well for himself, it's more so Porter who embodies the general experience that pitchers had Sunday.
This is to say that it was not a good one, and particularly for hurlers who were hoping to come off the board early. As noted by Pramana Labs, the eight pitchers chosen within the first 33 picks marked the lowest such number since back in the 1970s:
The 8 pitchers taken through pick 33 is the fewest since 1978, when only 7 were selected. <a href="https://twitter.com/BaseballAmerica?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BaseballAmerica</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLBDraft?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLBDraft</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLBDraft22?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLBDraft22</a> <a href="https://t.co/HPESaS246R">pic.twitter.com/HPESaS246R</a>
So, what gives?
Well, for one thing, this year's draft class is unusually lean on pitching talent. That's largely thanks to the injury bug, which Keith Law of The Athletic noted had felled as many as six potential first-rounders with Tommy John surgery.
But could this also be the start of a trend of greater risk-aversion toward draft-eligible pitchers? It's too soon to say, but that wouldn't necessarily be surprising. It's been out there for a while now that young pitchers are often asked to throw too hard and too often, so it was perhaps just a matter of time before major league clubs reevaluated the risk/reward balance of investing heavily in young arms.
On the flip side, Sunday was a dandy of a day for young shortstops.
Holliday was obviously the first one off the board, and he was swiftly followed by Termarr Johnson to the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 4 and Brooks Lee to the Minnesota Twins at No. 8. And on it went throughout the rest of the first round:
Mikey Romero makes the 7th shortstop in the first 24 picks. That's one off the all-time record, but the 3rd time in the last 4 drafts with 7 selected. <a href="https://twitter.com/BaseballAmerica?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BaseballAmerica</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLBDraft?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLBDraft</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLBdraft2022?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLBdraft2022</a> <a href="https://t.co/5ILwIGBcbX">pic.twitter.com/5ILwIGBcbX</a>
All this was indeed reminiscent of what happened last year, when Marcelo Mayer and Jordan Lawlar kicked off a run of shortstops that saw 11 players taken at the position within the first 36 picks.
As was the case then, the caveat this time around is that not every player chosen as a shortstop will stick at the position. Johnson is a prime example, as he's generally seen as having a second base profile in spite of his desire to stick at short.
All the same, it's hard to fault teams for their sudden obsession with shortstops. It's always been the most valuable position on the diamond outside of catcher. And with the position as stacked with stars—seriously, wow—you kinda have to have a keeper at the position if you want to keep up with the proverbial Joneses.
Loser: Los Angeles Dodgers
As a consequence for blowing past the $250 million luxury-tax threshold in 2021, the Los Angeles Dodgers had their top pick in the 2022 draft moved down from No. 30 to No. 40.
This was also their only pick on Day 1 of the draft. So simply on this account, it's hard to single them out as one of Sunday's big winners.
Whether the Dodgers made good use of their one and only pick is also subject to debate. They landed on Louisville catcher Dalton Rushing, who went into the draft as MLB.com's No. 50 prospect.
The 21-year-old is coming off a huge 2022 season in which he hit .310 with 23 home runs in 64 games. Per Dodgers scouting director Billy Gasparino, the club also believes in Rushing's ability to stick behind the plate:
Fabian Ardaya @FabianArdaya
Asked Billy Gasparino what the difference was in picking 40th as opposed to the end of the first round this year, and he joked, “I blame Andrew Friedman.” Felt this was a deep draft. <br><br>Said the Dodgers feel Dalton Rushing is going to stick behind the plate long-term.
There would nonetheless seem to be some uncertainty about Rushing's long-term home. Whatever advances he makes with his framing and receiving could be undone by the ever-looming automated strike zone. And if he can't hack it behind the plate, his limited athleticism would make him a first base/designated hitter type.
It's therefore a good thing the Dodgers arguably already have baseball's best farm system, because Sunday wasn't a banner day for them in that department.
Winner: Cincinnati Reds
If you're thinking that it will be years before we can truly know which pick was the biggest steal of the 2022 draft, well, you're not wrong.
For now, though, it sure looks like the Cincinnati Reds nabbing Collier at No. 18.
In addition to notable major league bloodlines, the 17-year-old third baseman came into the draft with serious helium. Reuter mocked him to the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 4, and he even rated as the No. 2 prospect in the draft class for Law.
Despite his youth, Collier is already well put together at 6'2", 210 pounds. That kind of size naturally comes with intriguing power potential, yet reports on Collier tend to focus just as much on his beyond-his-years knacks for hitting for average and getting on base.
What's more, Collier doesn't look like a bat-only prospect. He gets good marks for his work at third base, specifically to the extent that he has more than enough arm for the position.
Add all this up, and a Reds farm system that ranked 24th in MLB in our most recent check-in suddenly looks a whole lot better.
Loser: Tampa Bay Rays
Few, if any, teams are as good as the Tampa Bay Rays at turning seemingly unremarkable players into useful everyday regulars or outright stars. As such, anyone who second-guesses their decision-making does so at their own peril.
And yet...Xavier Isaac at No. 29? Really?
An 18-year-old first baseman out of East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, North Carolina, didn't even crack the top 100 of MLB.com's list of the top prospects for this year's draft. He did for Baseball America, but only barely at No. 92.
Editor-in-Chief JJ Cooper explained why:
JJ Cooper @jjcoop36
Rays pick Xavier Isaac ranked No. 92 on the BA 500. Massive raw power but a first base only profile.<br><br>When I have studied this, taking HS position players who didn't play during the summer showcase in the first round is very risky demographic. Isaac had a foot injury last summer.
To be fair, it's not hard to imagine how this pick might pan out for the Rays. At 6'4", 240 pounds, Isaac is obviously built for power. If he fully taps into that while also developing his on-base skills, he'll be a dangerous offensive threat.
"Tremendous raw power, but I think we see a hitter with power," scouting director Rob Metzler told the media, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "I would single out just his ability to use the whole field, to cover the whole plate, with tremendous strength.''
It's a fair question, though, whether the Rays had to draft Isaac so high. With the Nos. 65, 70 and 71 picks also in hand for Day 1, they perhaps could have waited to scoop him up.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.