Jackson Holliday and 2022 MLB Draft Picks Off to Hot Starts in the Minors
It will be years before we truly know the hits and misses of the 2022 MLB draft class, but it's never too early to start zooming in on some of the hot performers.
High school shortstop Jackson Holliday was the No. 1 overall pick by the Baltimore Orioles, and he spent just eight games in rookie ball before his red-hot start earned him a promotion to Single-A Delmarva.
He is by no means the only player off to an impressive start in the lower levels of the minors, and ahead we'll highlight 10 players from the 2022 draft class—including Holliday—who are turning heads early in their pro debuts.
You'll notice the list skews heavily toward position players. That's partly because there were so many injured pitchers drafted early, and it also stems from the fact that teams rarely turn their top pitching draft picks loose in an effort to lighten their workload.
Let's start with an under-the-radar honorable mention.
Honorable Mention: 1B/OF Dakota Kotowski, Philadelphia Phillies
Slugger Dakota Kotowski posted a .933 OPS with 24 home runs in 59 games this spring during his senior season at Missouri State, but a .242 average and 36.1 percent strikeout rate led to him going undrafted.
The Philadelphia Phillies scooped him up as an undrafted free agent, and he hit .484/.543/.677 with five extra-base hits in 11 games in rookie ball to earn a quick promotion to Single-A Clearwater.
The 22-year-old still faces an uphill battle to reach the big leagues. Beneath the surface of his strong rookie-ball numbers, he also struck out 10 times in 35 plate appearances. Still, he has put himself on the prospect radar.
SS Jackson Holliday, Baltimore Orioles
Drafted: No. 1 overall
This season's rise of Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson has served as a light at the end of a long rebuilding tunnel for the Baltimore Orioles, and there is plenty more high-ceiling young talent in the pipeline, including this year's top pick Jackson Holliday.
After hitting .685/.749/1.392 with a national high school record 89 hits in 41 games this spring at Stillwater High School, Holliday landed an $8.2 million signing bonus, the largest ever given to a prep player.
He spent just eight games in rookie ball, going 9-for-22 with a double, a home run and an impressive 10 walks against just two strikeouts in 33 plate appearances. That was followed by a promotion to Single-A, where he reached base 11 times through his first six games.
Outfielders Dylan Beavers (77 PA, .355/.481/.548, 10 XBH at RK/A) and Jud Fabian (79 PA, .377/.494/.721, 13 XBH at RK/A/A+) are also thriving in their pro debuts in the Baltimore system.
OF Elijah Green, Washington Nationals
Drafted: No. 5 overall
A candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2022 draft before some concerns arose following an inconsistent spring, Elijah Green still possesses the highest offensive ceiling of any player in his class.
His 6'3", 225-pound frame belies the fact that he won't turn 19 years old until December, and as the son of Pro Bowl tight end Eric Green, it's no surprise he brings an elite toolbox of skills to the baseball diamond. His 60-power, 70-speed profile is a rare one, and he immediately became the top prospect in a thin Washington Nationals system prior to the Juan Soto blockbuster deal.
Through his first 12 games in rookie ball, he is hitting .302/.404/.535 with four doubles, two home runs and nine RBI in 52 plate appearances. That said, he has also racked up 21 strikeouts for a 40.4 percent strikeout rate, so he still has a long way to go in refining his approach at the plate.
SS Brooks Lee, Minnesota Twins
Drafted: No. 8 overall
The top college shortstop in the 2022 class, Brooks Lee hit .357/.462/.664 with 25 doubles, 15 home runs and more walks (46) than strikeouts (28) this spring playing for his father at Cal Poly.
After spending a mere four games in rookie ball where he went 6-for-17 with a pair of doubles, the Minnesota Twins made the aggressive decision to jump him over Single-A and send him directly to High-A Cedar Rapids for his full-season debut.
That speaks to the level of polish the 6'2", 205-pound middle infielder possesses at the plate, and while there is still some debate as to where he fits best long-term defensively, he appears to be on the fast track thanks to his bat.
OF Gavin Cross, Kansas City Royals
Drafted: No. 9 overall
Viewed as one of the safer college bats in the class, Gavin Cross starred for Team USA last summer before hitting .328/.411/.660 with 14 doubles, 17 home runs, 50 RBI and 12 steals in 57 games this spring at Virginia Tech.
With Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino both exhausting their prospect eligibility and both Nick Pratto and Michael Massey currently playing alongside them on the MLB roster, Cross has a case for being the top prospect currently playing in the Kansas City farm system.
The 21-year-old is hitting .279/.420/.595 with five doubles, six home runs and 19 RBI in 22 games between rookie ball and Single-A, and while he has tallied 24 strikeouts, he also has 19 walks to help offset any early swing-and-miss concerns.
3B Cam Collier, Cincinnati Reds
Drafted: No. 18 overall
One of the youngest players in the 2022 draft, Cam Collier was originally part of the 2023 class before reclassifying, getting his GED and enrolling at JUCO powerhouse Chipola College, where he more than held his own as a 17-year-old.
He then played in the Cape Cod League for good measure before landing with a Cincinnati Reds team that has quietly built up one of the best farm systems in baseball, and his 60-hit, 50-power offensive profile has been on full display early in his pro career.
The son of former MLB utility man Lou Collier is hitting .370/.514/.630 with one double, two home runs and more walks (seven) than strikeouts (six) in his first nine games at the rookie-ball level.
OF Spencer Jones, New York Yankees
Drafted: No. 25 overall
Part of a large crop of college outfielders projected to be chosen late in the first round or early in the second, Vanderbilt's Spencer Jones wound up joining the New York Yankees as their first-round pick.
The 6'7", 225-pound left-hander was once one of the best two-way players in his high school class, and that strong arm still serves him well in the outfield, where he moves extremely well for his size.
The Yankees have had some success in the past developing towering outfielders (see: Judge, Aaron). Jones is off to a terrific start in his pro debut, hitting .380/.450/.563 with four doubles, three home runs, 10 RBI and 12 steals in 19 games between rookie ball and Single-A.
C Dalton Rushing, Los Angeles Dodgers
Drafted: No. 40 overall
The Los Angeles Dodgers did not have a first-round pick in the 2022 draft as a penalty for exceeding the top level of the luxury-tax threshold, but they still managed to add another quality talent to an already-stacked farm system in catcher Dalton Rushing.
The Louisville backstop played sparingly as a freshman and sophomore while serving as the backup to 2021 No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis, but he thrived in an everyday role this spring, hitting .310/.470/.686 with 16 doubles, 23 home runs and 62 RBI in 64 games.
He played just two games in rookie ball before the Dodgers bumped him up a level, and he has been arguably the most productive player from the 2022 draft class thus far. The 21-year-old is hitting .442/.551/.805 with 10 doubles, six home runs and 22 RBI in 21 games at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, and just like that, the Dodgers have another high-level catching prospect.
OF Chandler Simpson, Tampa Bay Rays
Drafted: No. 70 overall
Chandler Simpson won the NCAA Division I batting title this spring, hitting .434/.506/.517 with 88 hits in 47 games at Georgia Tech. He also added 27 steals in 31 attempts, and he uses his elite speed extremely well as a slap hitter and on the bases.
The question now is whether he can carve out a niche as a zero-power player.
"Simpson comes with an extreme offensive profile, with multiple evaluators joking that he has 90 speed and 10 power on the 20-80 scouting scale," MLB.com wrote.
He shares some similarities with fellow Tampa Bay Rays prospect Xavier Edwards in that regard, and the early returns have been promising. He is hitting .370/.471/.482 with three doubles and eight steals in eight games in rookie ball.
IF Cade Doughty, Toronto Blue Jays
Drafted: No. 78 overall
A bit overshadowed by No. 6 overall pick Jacob Berry and 2023 top prospect Dylan Crews on a talented LSU roster, Cade Doughty had a terrific spring in his own right, hitting .298/.393/.567 with 19 doubles, 15 home runs and 57 RBI in 59 games.
He primarily played second base this spring but also saw significant action at third base during his time on campus. Thus far, the Toronto Blue Jays have split his playing time evenly between the two positions.
The Blue Jays sent him straight to Single-A Dunedin, where he is hitting .282/.393/.606 with five doubles, six home runs and 22 RBI in 18 games, and he has a chance to move as quickly through the minors as anyone in his class.
RHP Ben Joyce, Los Angeles Angels
Drafted: No. 89 overall
While most pitchers from the 2022 draft class won't be cut loose until next season, Ben Joyce is already pitching at the Double-A level.
The flame-throwing reliever made a name for himself this spring by lighting up radar guns and frequently appearing on the @PitchingNinja Twitter page, but spotty command and a lack of a reliable secondary pitch alongside his 80-grade fastball raised some questions about his pro ceiling.
So far, so good, though, as he has made eight appearances for Double-A Rocket City, where he has posted a 2.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and a 10-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in eight innings, recording one win and one save along the way.
Don't be surprised if he pushes for a spot in the Angels bullpen next spring.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Thursday's games.