The signing deadline for the 2021 MLB Draft came Sunday afternoon, officially closing the book on this year’s process to add first-year players to each farm system. It’s never too early to turn to next year.
The Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League took place July 24-31 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, bringing together 96 of the best high-school players from across the country to four loaded rosters.
The process was meant to help USA Baseball choose its final roster for the 18U team scheduled to compete in the WBSC Baseball World Cup in September. Unfortunately, that event has already been postponed. But that didn’t stop some of the best Class of 2022 prospects from using their opportunities to show off the skills that could make them high picks next summer.
These were 10 standouts from this year’s PDP League:
1. Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy (Fla.)
Green got things going by smoking a leadoff homer off fellow right-hander and notable 2022 prospect Ian Ritchie Jr. in his first at-bat of the week and didn’t much look back from there. The ball went an estimated 430 feet, making it the longest homer of the week. The outfielder finished 3-for-13 with the homer and a double, but was also pitched around for much of the week, taking six walks (second-most this year) and finishing with a .474 OBP. He added two steals for good measure. That blend of speed and power continues to make Green a strong candidate for No. 1 overall next summer.
2. Tristan Smith, LHP, Boiling Springs (S.C.) HS
The 6-foot-2 left-hander built on a promising performance at the Perfect Game National Showcase with another strong turn in Cary, striking out six while allowing just one hit and one walk over three scoreless innings. His best outing came in a July 26 start, when he fanned five of the seven batters he faced over two frames. He added a one-inning save for Team Light Blue four days later. Smith touches the mid-90s already and will show a high-spin breaking ball that befuddles hitters in his age group.
3. Jayson Jones, INF, Braswell (Texas) HS
Watch a bit of Jones' BP, and he may look already like a professional hitter with the way he drives balls all over the park from a spread-out stance. He showed off several aspects of his offensive game at the PDP League by going 4-for-12 (.333) with a pair of doubles and an event-best seven walks. Compare those free passes to only two strikeouts, and it exemplifies the plate discipline Jones was able to show against the best arms in the country. He played all over the infield to get in the Gray lineup but is likely to settle in at third at the next level.
4. Noah Schultz, LHP, Oswego East (Ill.) HS
Listed at 6-foot-9, Schultz is always going to stand out on any diamond, but he backed up his size with some monster performances in North Carolina. The Vanderbilt commit fanned eight batters while scattering two hits and one walk over four scoreless frames in two appearances. Schultz throws in the low 90s with a mid-70s breaking ball that comes in with lots of spin. No matter the pitch, it’s awfully tough for hitters to pick up, given Schultz’s delivery from his tall frame. At 220 pounds, he remains plenty projectable too, and any team looking to take him will dream of what type of power pitcher he could be as he fills out more.
5. Dominic Hellman, INF, Henry M. Jackson (Wa.) HS
Only one player received double-digit at-bats and slugged at least .800, and that was the 6-foot-6 right-handed slugger from the Pacific Northwest. By going 5-for-12 with a homer and a triple, Hellman was also the only player during the week to reach double-digits in total bases with 10. Despite some middle-infield experience in his past, Hellman primarily played third base and DH to get his bat in the Team Light Blue lineup, and it isn’t hard to see why. Having posted some of the best exit velocities on the summer showcase circuit, Hellman’s bat will drive his future in the game.
6. Brandon Barriera, LHP, American Heritage (Fla.) HS
Barriera was already known for his command coming into the PDP League, and he certainly hit his spots in his two appearances, allowing just one hit and fanning four without a walk over a pair of appearances (three innings). The 6-foot-1 southpaw touches as high as 96, works a low-80s slider that can make batters look silly and shows a better changeup than most his age. Even without killer size, MLB Pipeline had him going No. 13 in a recent 2022 mock, and he could climb if these performances are the norm.
7. Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan (Ga.) HS
Jones featured in four games during the week and made his impact felt in all of them in some way. His homer in the PDP opener last Sunday was one of only two hit by Team Navy all week. He finished 4-for-10 (.400) with a stolen base for the week, showcasing both his solid all-around offensive talent and plus speed that could make him a top-10 pick in 2022.
8. Cole Young, INF, North Allegheny (Pa.) HS
Young can do many things well on the diamond, including making good contact and being a quick runner. He showed off both skills by picking up a pair of triples during the week as the only PDP player with multiple three-baggers. He finished 3-for-12 with three walks to post a .471 OBP and tied for the most in the league with three steals in four attempts. Mix in some solid defense that should help him stick up the middle, and Young is definitely working his way into the first-round conversation.
9. Ryan Clifford, OF/1B, Pro5 Academy (N.C.)
With the championship on the line Sunday, Team Light Blue made Clifford its No. 3 hitter, and he backed that up by going 1-for-2 with two RBIs, a run scored and a stolen base. It was just the latest in a string of good showings for the left-handed slugger, who picked up at least one hit in five of his six games. Clifford, who shows a good balanced swing, finished 5-for-14 with two doubles, five RBIs and two steals. He played some first base, but spent most of his time in right field -- notable given how much emphasis is already on the bat.
10. Owen Murphy, RHP/INF, Riverside Brookside (Ill.) HS
Murphy lacked the big name of others headed to Cary, but this list wouldn’t be the same without acknowledging him. On the mound, the 6-foot-1 right-hander led all participants with 10 strikeouts over four scoreless innings. At the plate, he went 4-for-9 with a homer, a double and four RBIs in five games. His standout performance came July 31 in the third-place game when he hit a two-run homer to left in the third inning and struck out six of the seven batters he faced in relief to help Team Navy capture bronze. Murphy throws in the low 90s with a curveball and changeup and is described more for his polish than his stuff at this stage, but he couldn’t have much drawn up a better week.
Termarr Johnson remains one of the most talented hitters of the class but went just 3-for-11 (.273) with a double and a walk during the small sample. …. Ritchie -- who can touch 95 already -- rebounded nicely from the Greene homer to finish with five strikeouts and just the one earned run allowed in four innings. But Greene’s blast showed what can happen when the right-hander hangs a breaking ball against good competition. … All-Star High School Home Run Derby co-winner Sal Stewart showed off some other tools by going 4-for-11 with a double, four walks and three stolen bases for Team Navy. …. Brock Porter still has some of the most high-octane stuff in the class as he’ll sit in the mid-to-upper 90s with his heater. But he struggled on July 25, giving up three earned runs on three hits and two walks in three innings.