10 College Baseball Stars to Watch Ahead of 2022 MLB Draft

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2022

10 College Baseball Stars to Watch Ahead of 2022 MLB Draft

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    While we continue to wait on the start of the Major League Baseball season, the college baseball campaign is already in full swing.

    The 2022 draft is not until July, but it's time to examine the next wave of top college prospects in action.

    Ahead we've highlighted 10 college stars who could be first-round picks this summer based on their on-field production and projectability.

    From Florida left-hander Hunter Barco to Texas Tech infielder Jace Jung, these are the names to know if you want to get your baseball fix.

LHP Hunter Barco, Florida

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    2022 Stats: 3 GS, 2.65 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 2 BB, 28 K, 17.0 IP

    Hunter Barco was No. 32 in Baseball America's top 500 draft prospect rankings before the 2019 draft, but signability concerns caused him to slip to the 24th round. He then made it onto campus at the University of Florida.

    The 6'4", 220-pound left-hander went 10-3 with a 4.01 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 83 innings last season, and he began his junior campaign as one of the top draft-eligible college pitchers in an unusually thin class.

    He throws a ton of strikes, backs up his quality fastball with a 60-grade slider and an above-average changeup, and he has some deception in his delivery that helps his stuff play up. He might carry more of a high floor than ceiling, but that's plenty valuable if he can develop into a solid No. 3 starter.

1B/3B Jacob Berry, LSU

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    2022 Stats: 12 G, .340/.433/.700, 8 XBH (5 HR), 14 RBI, 12 R

    Jacob Berry won National Co-Freshman of the Year honors last season alongside four others, hitting .352/.439/.676 and picking up 19 doubles, 17 home runs and 70 RBI in 63 games at the University of Arizona. When manager Jay Johnson took the LSU job during the offseason, Berry transferred with him.

    A draft-eligible sophomore who turns 21 years old in May, Berry has picked up right where he left off, splitting his time between third base and the corner outfield spots while continuing to rake at the plate.

    He hit .387/.475/.871 with four homers for Team USA over the summer, and he has a chance to be the most sought-after college bat in the 2022 class. It's unclear where he'll fit best defensively, but his bat will drive his value.

Of Gavin Cross, Virginia Tech

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    Ben McKeown/Associated Press

    2022 Stats: 9 G, .351/.442/.649, 7 XBH (1 HR), 8 RBI, 15 R, 2 SB

    After a solid showing in limited action as a freshman, Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross assembled a breakout sophomore season last year, hitting .345/.415/.621 with 13 doubles, 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 51 games.

    He struggled in the Cape Cod League last summer but shined for Team USA, hitting .455/.474/.879 with four home runs in 11 games. With a strong 6'3" frame and average athleticism, he'll fit best at an outfield corner spot or at first base in the pros, which means his bat will need to carry him.

    He has a well-rounded skill set with a 55-grade hit tool and 55-grade power, and that's enough to put him among the top-tier of college hitters.

OF Chase DeLauter, James Madison

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    Ben McKeown/Associated Press

    2022 Stats: 10 G, .460/.544/.811, 7 XBH (3 HR), 18 RBI, 11 R, 2 SB

    After hitting .386/.508/.723 in 128 plate appearances during an abridged sophomore season at James Madison, outfielder Chase DeLauter put himself squarely in the first-round conversation with a stellar showing in the Cape Cod League.

    The 6'4", 250-pound outfielder posted a .986 OPS with nine home runs, 21 RBI and more walks (21) than strikeouts (18) against some of the best college arms in the country, helping to erase any concerns about how he'd fare against better competition.

    He'll post gaudy numbers this season while playing in the Colonial Athletic Association. He could profile as one of the top power bats in the draft, and he has the hit tool to consistently tap into that over-the-fence pop in the pros.

2B/3B Jace Jung, Texas Tech

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    2022 Stats: 13 G, .404/.569/.681, 6 XBH (3 HR), 13 RBI, 15 R

    Jace Jung is the younger brother of former Texas Tech star and current Texas Rangers top prospect Josh Jung, who was the No. 8 pick in 2019.

    There's a chance he'll beat his brother's draft position.

    "Most of Jung's value will come from his bat, which is fine because he may hit .300 with 30 homers on an annual basis," wrote MLB.com, slapping a 60-grade on his hit and power tools.

    After hitting .337/.462/.697 with 21 home runs, 67 RBI and more walks (49) than strikeouts (45) as a sophomore, he is off to an impressive start this year and should be squarely in the Golden Spikes conversation by the time the season ends.

SS Brooks Lee, Cal Poly

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    2022 Stats: 12 G, .457/.576/.761, 10 XBH (2 HR), 16 RBI, 8 R

    The No. 38-ranked prospect in the 2019 draft class out of high school, shortstop Brooks Lee informed teams before the draft that he intended to honor his commitment to Cal Poly where his father is the manager. His goal was to play his way into being a top pick, and he's done just that during his time on campus.

    He hit .342/.384/.626 with 40 extra-base hits in 55 games last spring, showcasing "otherworldly bat-to-ball skills" while striking out just 13.6 percent of the time. That was followed by an impressive showing in the Cape Cod League where he hit .405/.432/.667 with six home runs and 13 RBI in 21 games.

    There's a good chance he'll profile better at third base, but he has the power potential to go along with his elite hit tool to fit just fine there offensively.

2B Robert Moore, Arkansas

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    2022 Stats: 10 G, .316/.409/.553, 7 XBH (1 HR), 8 RBI, 6 R

    Arkansas second baseman Robert Moore is the son of Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore, and the Royals could face an interesting decision if he's still on the board when they make their selection at No. 9.

    The 5'9" infielder posted a .942 OPS with 10 doubles, 16 home runs and 53 RBI in 61 games last season, generating good power thanks to his plus bat speed and ability to consistently barrel the ball. He also has limited swing-and-miss in his game.

    His arm strength will likely limit him to second base, but he has a chance to be an excellent defender and a top-tier offensive player at that position. As one of the better college bats in the class and an up-the-middle player, he could be a top-10 pick.

C Kevin Parada, Georgia Tech

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    2022 Stats: 13 G, .472/.556/.962, 12 XBH (7 HR), 22 RBI, 19 R

    Georgia Tech has produced a pair of high-level catching prospects in recent years, as Joey Bart went No. 2 overall in the 2018 draft and Kyle McCann was selected in the fourth round in 2019.

    Kevin Parada is next.

    Despite checking in at No. 48 in Baseball America's predraft rankings in 2020, he had a firm commitment to Georgia Tech and went undrafted in the shortened five-round event that year. Now he profiles as the top catching prospect in the 2022 class and a potential top-10 selection.

    He's a decent receiver behind the plate and features a below-average arm, but he should be able to stick at catcher where his bat gives him a chance to move quickly through the minors and toward his ceiling as an MLB starter.

RHP Landon Sims, Mississippi State

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    2022 Stats: 3 GS, 1.15 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 2 BB, 27 K, 15.2 IP

    Right-hander Landon Sims was electric while closing games for Mississippi State last season, going 5-0 with 13 saves and a 1.44 ERA in 25 appearances while striking out 100 of the 213 batters he faced.

    He moved into the Bulldogs rotation this spring and was lighting up radar guns and piling up strikeouts before an arm injury forced him out of his most recent start against Tulane on March 3. Prior to the injury, he had thrown 3.2 no-hit innings, striking out 10 of the 11 batters he faced.

    With a fastball he can run up to triple digits and a 70-grade slider, he could dominate at the back of an MLB bullpen right now, and that might still be his long-term ceiling. However, the opportunity to prove himself in a starting role this spring could send his stock soaring.

    First things first: He needs a clean bill of health.

C Daniel Susac, Arizona

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    Rebecca S. Gratz/Associated Press

    2022 Stats: 13 G, .387/.409/.613, 11 XBH (1 HR), 16 RBI, 12 R

    A freshman All-American last year after going undrafted in 2020, Daniel Susac hit .335/.393/.591 with 24 doubles, 12 home runs and 65 RBI in 61 games.

    He is draft-eligible as a sophomore, and he looks like the best two-way catching prospect among this year's college crop. A switch-hitter with good bat-to-ball skills, he has plus power, a strong throwing arm and above-average athleticism behind the plate.

    If his hot start continues, he could push Kevin Parada to be the first catcher taken in the 2022 draft.

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference. Prospect tool ratings via MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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