Ten months before the 2022 Draft, scouts are enthused about the quality of talent that will be available. A strong high school class plays a big part in that thinking, as does a much stronger crop of college position players than teams had to pick from this year.
Only two college bats went in the first 14 picks in 2021 and just five total got popped in the first round, numbers that could double next July. The college middle infielders are significantly better, led by Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee, Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung and Arkansas second baseman Robert Moore.
The college pitchers are more of a mystery at this point. Alabama left-hander Connor Prielipp ranked as the best before having Tommy John surgery in May and Arkansas right-hander Peyton Pallette injured his elbow that same month but has avoided surgery. Our top-rated arm, lefty Reggie Crawford, has worked eight innings in two seasons at Connecticut.
We’re not including right-hander Kumar Rocker on this list because he isn’t expected to continue his college career at Vanderbilt after the Mets failed to sign him as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2021 Draft.
1. Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly
Lee drew first-round interest out of high school in 2019, then missed almost all of last season following knee and hamstring surgery before returning in 2021 to win Big West co-Player of the Year honors after batting .342/.384/.626 with 10 homers. He also starred for the U.S. collegiate national team and in the Cape Cod League, displaying exceptional bat-to-ball skills and at least average power from both sides of the plate. The son of Cal Poly coach Larry Lee, he has fine instincts and a strong arm, though his fringy-to-average speed could dictate a move to second or third base in pro ball.
2. Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech
The younger brother of Josh Jung, the No. 8 overall choice in the 2019 Draft, Jace could go even higher next July after capturing Big 12 Conference Player of the Year honors by hitting .337/.462/.697 with 21 homers in his first full college season. Like his sibling, he’s a polished left-handed hitter with an advanced approach, and he has a bit more pop at the same stage of their careers. His speed and arm are just fringy, however, so he’s limited defensively.
3. Jacob Berry, 1B/3B, Louisiana State
Berry raked to the tune of .352/.439/.676 with 17 homers as a true freshman at Arizona this spring, then transferred to Louisiana State when Wildcats head coach Jay Johnson headed to Baton Rouge. Berry is a switch-hitter who stands out most with his considerable power, but he also displays fine hitting ability from both sides of the plate. With below-average speed and arm strength, he mostly DHed for Arizona before playing first base for Team USA, and he’s more likely to wind up at first than third.
4. Brock Jones, OF, Stanford
A premium athlete, Jones played safety on Stanford’s football team in 2019 before opting to focus on baseball. He’s a 6-foot, 203-pounder with well-above-average left-handed power and plus speed that translated into a .311/.453/.646 line with 18 homers and 14 steals this spring. A below-average arm is the only knock on his game, but it is playable in center field, where he has a good chance to stick.
5. Reggie Crawford, LHP, Connecticut
Crawford slugged 13 homers this spring but excites scouts much more on the mound, where he has shown huge upside in glimpses at Connecticut as well as with Team USA and in the Cape League this summer. A physical 6-foot-4 left-hander, he struck out 30 of the 56 batters he faced at those three stops in 2021, averaging 96 mph and touching 100 with his fastball while also mixing in a power slider that hit 88 mph. If he can hold up as a starter, continue to throw strikes and develop an offspeed pitch, he could vault to the top of this list.
6. Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison
James Madison played an abbreviated 28-game schedule, so DeLauter flew under the radar despite hitting .386/.508/.723, but he broke out by pacing the Cape Cod League in slugging (.589) and tying for the home run lead (nine) this summer. He has huge left-handed power thanks to his 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame, bat speed and strength, and he also sports one of the more disciplined approaches among the players on this list. He runs very well for his size, with his solid speed giving him a shot to stay in center field and his strong arm fitting well in right if needed.
7. Daniel Susac, C, Arizona
The top catching prospect in the college class, Susac has the potential to contribute on both sides of the ball. A switch-hitter with plus raw power, he batted .335/.392/.591 with 12 homers as a true freshman in 2021. The younger brother of Andrew Susac, he has plus arm strength but needs to polish his receiving and blocking.
8. Robert Moore, 2B, Arkansas
The son of Royals GM Dayton Moore, Robert enrolled early at Arkansas and has been a two-year starter for the Razorbacks, batting .283/.384/.558 with 16 homers this spring. He honed outstanding instincts while growing up around the game and they help him play above his tools, though he doesn’t always get as much credit for his physical ability as he deserves. He generates surprising pop for a 5-foot-9, 170-pounder because he repeatedly barrels balls from both sides of the plate. He also has solid speed and savvy on the bases, as well as quick feet and hands in the infield, albeit with a fringy arm that limits him to second base.
9. Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech
Parada has the ability to hit for power and average from the right side of the plate and batted .318/.379/.500 with nine homers as a true freshman this spring. He creates some mixed opinions, with some clubs liking him more than this because of the uncommon offense he provides for his position, while others question his ability to stay at catcher because his receiving, blocking and arm strength all grade as fringy.
10. Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech
After batting .345/.415/.621 during the spring, Cross was the U.S. collegiate national team’s best hitter in intrasquad play and went 4-for-11 in a three-game series against the U.S. Olympic team. A 6-foot-3, 210-pound athlete, he possesses at least average tools across the board, the best of which are his hitting ability and power from the left side of the plate and a plus arm that enhances his right-field profile.
11. Hunter Barco, LHP, Florida
Barco drew some first-round buzz in high school two years ago until he strained his shoulder, and he has been healthy and Florida’s best starter in each of his two college seasons (going 10-3 with a 4.01 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2021). He throws strikes with four pitches: a 90- to 93-mph fastball that tops out at 95, a slider and changeup that both sit in the low 80s and can be plus offerings and a get-me-over curveball.
12. Peyton Pallette, RHP, Arkansas
Arkansas ranked No. 1 for most of the college season and might have won the national title if Pallette hadn’t gone down in May. Armed with a fastball that operates at 93-95 mph and reaches 99 with quality carry up in the strike zone, a hammer curveball and a promising changeup, he posted a 4.02 ERA with a 67/20 K/BB ratio in 56 innings before getting hurt.
13. Cade Doughty, 3B, Louisiana State
Doughty could become the fourth player to go from Denham Springs (La.) High to college to the first round, following Ben McDonald, Russ Johnson and Travis Swaggerty. He moved from second base in 2020 to third base this spring, when he hit .308/.368/.546 with 13 homers. He makes hard contact to all fields with a quick, compact right-handed stroke and has the agility and plus arm to play a solid third base.
14. Logan Tanner, C, Mississippi State
Tanner’s work behind the plate could push him into the first round, and if he has a strong 2022 at the plate after batting .287/.382/.525 with 15 homers for the national-champion Bulldogs, he could go ahead of Susac and Parada. He’s a plus receiver and blocker with a plus-plus arm, and he offers enticing right-handed power as well.
15. Carter Young, SS, Vanderbilt
Known as a glove-first guy when he got to Vanderbilt, Young is still a quality defender with smooth actions, a solid arm and average speed. He went from zero homers in 18 games and slugging .377 in 2020 to 16 homers and a .559 SLG last spring, though the switch-hitter got too uphill with his swing and batted .252 with 84 strikeouts (the most in NCAA Division I).
16. Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
Fabian entered 2021 as a projected top-10 pick but had a streaky season, batting .249/.364/.560 with 20 homers (eighth in D-I) and 79 strikeouts (third) before failing to sign with the Red Sox as a second-round choice. He still offers some of the best right-handed power available and gets the job done in center field with solid speed and a strong arm.
17. Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama
Prielipp’s situation is analogous to that of Cal Quantrill, who sat out the 2016 season at Stanford following elbow reconstruction but still went No. 8 overall in that Draft to the Padres. Prielipp sports a 0.96 ERA with a 47/7 K/BB ratio in 28 college innings, showing the ability to pound the zone and miss bats with a 92- to 95-mph fastball, a short upper-80s slider and a low-80s changeup.
18. Dylan Beavers, OF, California
A part-time player during the shortened 2020 season, Beavers took a big step forward this spring by batting .303/.401/.630 with 18 homers and 10 steals. He’s an athletic 6-foot-4, 206-pounder with plus lefty raw power and speed, solid arm strength and a future in either center or right field.
19. Landon Sims, RHP, Mississippi State
The most devastating reliever in college baseball, Sims saved 13 games with a 1.44 ERA and a 100/15 K/BB ratio in 56 1/3 innings for the 2021 College World Series champions. He blows away hitters with two high-spin offerings, a mid-90s fastball that peaks at 98 mph and a mid-80s slider that tops out at 89. He has the stuff, command and competitiveness to quickly become a big league closer.
20. Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee
Tidwell was the best starter on a College World Series team as a true freshman this spring, going 10-3 with a 3.74 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings. He is still learning to harness his stuff but it can be electric, highlighted by a 93- to 95-mph fastball that hits 99, a sharp low-80s slider and a low-80s changeup with fade.