The 2022 First-Year Player Draft is set to begin exactly one month from Friday, and Draft mania is hitting another gear with the MLB Combine taking place this week in San Diego. Soon enough, we’ll know where some of the game’s best amateur players are headed to begin their pro careers.
But of course, the story doesn’t end there.
Members of the 2021 Draft class are already proving that stocks can go up and down after Draft Day, and with that in mind, we’ve rounded up one ’21 pick for each system off to a great start in Minor League Baseball this season. (All stats are through Wednesday’s game.)
This is based on performance alone, not future projection, yet it still might come as a surprise that only six of the 30 representatives below came from last year’s first round: Henry Davis, Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawlar, Andrew Painter, Colson Montgomery, Gavin Williams. The other 24 are proving early why the Draft -- for all its scouting and research -- remains an inexact science.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Ricky Tiedemann, LHP (No. 4, MLB No. 97)
A third-round pick last July, the 19-year-old left-hander is already looking potentially like the steal of the Draft. Tiedemann has shown improved velocity to where he’ll sit in the mid-90s and throw both his low-80s slider and mid-80s change for whiffs. The stuff has held up even after a move from Single-A Dunedin to High-A Vancouver, and Tiedemann now owns a 1.27 ERA with 77 strikeouts over 49 2/3 innings. His 0.72 WHIP and .122 average-against lead Minor League full-season qualifiers.
Orioles: John Rhodes, OF (No. 21)
Rhodes became eligible for the 2021 Draft only because it's start was moved to July for the first time and while he slumped in 2021, especially compared to how well he swung the bat in the 2020 season, the Orioles saw enough to take him in the third round. He began his first full season with High-A Aberdeen and was having success, with a .283/.433/.478 line, more walks than strikeouts and 11 steals in 11 tries before landing on the injured list with a wrist contusion in late May, something he should return from next week.
Rays: Mason Montgomery, LHP (unranked on Rays Top 30)
Tampa Bay snagged the 6-foot-2 southpaw in the sixth round after he posted a 4.09 ERA with 128 strikeouts over 116 2/3 innings in three seasons as a starter at Texas Tech. He’s been even better at generating swings-and-misses in his first full season. Montgomery leads all 2021 Draft picks in strikeouts this season with 88 in 51 2/3 frames at High-A Bowling Green, where he owns a 1.92 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. The former Red Raider throws in the low-90s with good carry on his heater from a high angle and possesses a slider and changeup that have been assets out of the gate.
Red Sox: Marcelo Mayer, SS (No. 1, MLB No. 10)
MLB Pipeline’s top-rated prospect in last year’s Draft, Mayer has lived up to that billing by batting .308/.390/.538 with four homers and eight steals in 29 games in Single-A despite dealing with a sore wrist. The California high school product also is a gifted defender who has been likened to a combination of Corey Seager’s bat and Brandon Crawford’s glove.
Yankees: Will Warren, RHP (No. 27)
Warren hit 98 mph toward the end of the 2021 college season at Southeastern Louisiana, prompting the Yankees to select him in the eighth round. Working with an 85-88 mph slider with wicked sweep and a 92-95 mph sinker, he has posted a 3.55 ERA and a 51/13 K/BB ratio in 50 2/3 innings between High-A and Double-A.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Gavin Williams, RHP (No. 6, MLB No. 100)
Williams rode a breakout fourth season at East Carolina to becoming the 23rd overall pick last July, and he ranks third in the Minors in opponent average (.155), fourth in ERA (1.42), eighth in WHIP (0.85) and 13th in strikeout rate (12.8) in his pro debut. Promoted from High-A to Double-A last week, he backs up a mid-90s fastball with a solid curveball and changeup.
Royals: River Town, OF (unranked on Royals Top 30)
The 15th-rounder out of Dallas Baptist is a clear member of the All-Name Team from the 2021 Draft, but he’s standing out for more than just that early this season. Town is showing a good mix of power and speed with seven homers and eight stolen bases in 47 games at Single-A Columbia. His .241/.256/.465 line translates to a 131 wRC+ in the Carolina League, making him a clear above-average hitter for the circuit. That should be the hope for a college player at that level, but the performance establishes a good foundation for such a late pick. Keep an eye on Frank Mozzicato, Ben Kudrna and Shane Panzini as they get more established with the Fireflies.
Tigers: Brant Hurter, LHP (No. 30)
Hurter could have been a prominent pick in 2020, if not for Tommy John surgery the year before. The former Georgia Tech starter went in the seventh round to the Tigers last July instead and is off to a solid start with a 2.98 ERA, 57 strikeouts and only six walks in 42 1/3 innings at Single-A Lakeland before a recent promotion to High-A West Michigan. His 9.5 K/BB ratio and 3.6 percent walk rate were both second-best among Single-A pitchers (min. 40 IP), and he has the control and three-pitch mix to hit the ground running in the Midwest League.
Twins: Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B/3B (No. 26)
Encarnacion-Strand spent two years at Yavapai Junior College in Arizona before raking at Oklahoma State in 2021. His 1.103 OPS landed him in the fourth round and he hasn’t stopped showing off his power since. His 14 homers this season in High-A places him second among all 2021 draftees, and he’s second in RBIs (53) and third in total bases (130).
White Sox: Colson Montgomery, SS (No. 1)
A basketball star who would have had an opportunity to walk on Indiana’s hoops team if he attended college, Montgomery instead decided to focus on baseball after the White Sox drafted him 22nd overall. Often compared to Corey Seager as a 6-foot-4, lefty-hitting shortstop with plenty of offensive upside, he ranks among the Single-A Carolina League top 10 in all three slash stats at .306/.413/.483 and sixth overall in OPS at (.896).
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Chase Silseth, RHP (No. 16)
Silseth moved around a bit in college, starting at Tennessee, moving to College of Southern Nevada and then landing at the University of Arizona for the 2021 season. Part of the Angels’ all-pitching Draft last year, the right-hander got an above-slot bonus to sign in the 11th round and has already provided a return on investment. After six dominating starts in Double-A to kick off his first full season, he became the first member of the draft class to reach the big leagues, tossing six innings of shutout ball while allowing just one hit in his debut on May 13.
Astros: Chayce McDermott, RHP (No. 12)
Part of a basketball family that includes a brother (Sean) who made it to the NBA, McDermott was a supplemental fourth-round choice that the Astros received for the loss of free agent George Springer. Using a fastball that reaches 98 mph and a pair of solid breaking balls, the Ball State product ranks ninth in the Minors in strikeout rate (13.4 per nine innings), leads the High-A South Atlantic League in opponent average (.186) and sports a 4.35 ERA.
A’s: Brett Harris, 3B (No. 24)
Known more for his defense and leadership skills at Gonzaga, Harris did hit .350 with an OPS over 1.000 in 2021, making him an intriguing money-saving senior sign in the seventh round for the A's. He's proving he might be worth a lot more than just bonus pool manipulation, already earning a promotion up to Double-A. The infielder has had a combined .313/.401/.536 slash line with eight homers in 45 games so far this year.
Mariners: Edwin Arroyo, SS (No. 8)
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Arroyo moved to Florida for better competition as a high school senior, a move that helped him land in the second round of last year's Draft. The switch-hitting shortstop entered pro ball with a reputation for making contact and playing excellent defense, though there was a need for him to add strength. He clearly worked on that as he currently has a .316/.385/.522 slash line with 10 homers in 55 Single-A games, and he is one of only four 2021 draftees to have reached double-digits in home runs and steals already this season.
Rangers: Chase Lee, RHP (unranked on Rangers Top 30)
Lee spent his first year of college on Alabama’s club team before joining the Crimson Tide varsity and setting a school record for career ERA by a reliever (1.87) and becoming a sixth-round pick. A sidewinder with a nasty sweeping slider and an 86-90 mph fastball, he posted a 2.25 ERA, a .186 opponent average and a 30/8 K/BB ratio in 24 Double-A innings before getting knocked around in his Triple-A debut.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Andrew Hoffman, RHP (No. 24)
A 12th-round pick out of Illinois (by way of Oakland University and John A. Logan Community College), Hoffman helped himself out by pitching in the Draft League last year and becoming one of 39 players to be drafted from the circuit. The six-foot-five right-hander might need a new challenge soon as he has used his effective three-pitch mix to fill up the strike zone and strike out 10.4 per nine with a 2.89 ERA in the High-A South Atlantic League.
Marlins: Pat Monteverde, LHP (unranked on Marlins Top 30)
One of the better fifth-year seniors in the 2021 Draft, Monteverde made college stops at NCAA Division III Virginia Wesleyan and NCAA Division II Seton Hill before becoming Texas Tech’s best starter last year and going in the eighth round. A pitchability lefty with an 88-93 mph fastball and a quality changeup, he has recorded a 2.40 ERA, a .205 opponent average and 45 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings in High-A.
Mets: Mike Vasil, RHP (No. 21)
A two-seam specialist at Virginia, Vasil dropped to the Mets in the eighth round last July. New York started working on transitioning him to a four-seam fastball and his velocity almost immediately jumped to the mid-90s. Vasil is putting that improved velo to work early on at Single-A St. Lucie and High-A Brooklyn, where he owns a 2.88 ERA and has fanned 59 batters in 50 innings. His 29.5 percent K rate and 0.98 WHIP lead Mets' Minor League qualifiers.
Nationals: T.J. White, OF (No. 26)
White -- a fifth-rounder with true plus power potential -- has run hot and cold in his first full season at Single-A Fredericksburg. His monthly splits in April (.302/.388/.535 in 49 PA) and June (.342/.405/.658 in 42 PA) have been incredible but also in stark contrast to his 3-for-42, 26-strikeout stretch in May. On the whole, White owns a .236/.309/.423 slash line, 102 wRC+ and 36.5 percent strikeout rate through 35 games in the Carolina League, but this latest hot stretch should solidify his place as an above-average Single-A hitter in just his age-18 season.
Phillies: Andrew Painter, RHP (No. 1, MLB No. 70)
The Phillies’ second straight high school right-hander taken in the first round (Mick Abel was their pick in 2020), the 6-foot-7 Painter evidently didn’t get the memo that prep pitchers need to move slowly. After nine starts in the Single-A Florida State League, Painter earned a bump up a level to join Abel at High-A with a 1.40 ERA, a .130 batting average against and a strikeout rate north of 16 per nine.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Tyler Black, 2B/OF (No. 6)
Last year’s 33rd overall pick profiled as a potential plus hitter coming out of Wright State, where he batted .353 in three seasons, and he’s lived up to that hype early on at High-A Wisconsin. Black has walked as many times (27) as he’s struck out through 185 plate appearances, and his .288/.405/.471 line in the Midwest League translates to a 148 wRC+, just below Top 10 overall prospect Marco Luciano (149) on the High-A leaderboard. On top of his time at second base, Black has been getting work in center and at third to keep his bat in the lineup.
Cardinals: Gordon Graceffo, RHP (No. 21)
No player drafted out of Villanova has posted a career bWAR above 0.0. Graceffo looks well on his way to being the first. The 2021 fifth-rounder has improved his velocity closer to the mid-90s since joining the Cardinals ranks and has shown promise with his slider and changeup as well, as he’s climbed from High-A to Double-A already in 2022. The 22-year-old right-hander owns a 1.58 ERA with 72 strikeouts and only six walks in 12 starts this spring. He’s proved plenty durable too -- his 68 1/3 innings lead all Minor Leaguers.
Cubs: B.J. Murray, 1B/3B (unranked on Cubs Top 30)
The Cubs took Murray in the 15th round after he led Florida Atlantic with 14 homers in 2021, and he has displayed solid raw power and a mature approach at the plate in pro ball. He batted .305/.441/.461 with three homers in 39 Single-A games before getting promoted to High-A on Tuesday.
Pirates: Henry Davis, C (No. 2, MLB No. 20)
While a non-displaced wrist fracture shelved him for a while, Davis has shown what all the fuss is about. He earned a promotion from High-A to Double-A after just 22 games (.341/.450/.585), and he’s just now getting his feet under him with a healthy wrist for Altoona. He has a combined .985 OPS with six homers in 29 games.
Reds: Andrew Abbott, LHP (No. 12)
Abbott was mostly a reliever during his time at the University of Virginia, but a move to the rotation in 2021 upped his profile and he’s already showing he’s one of the better college arms in the class performance-wise. The left-hander is already in Double-A and has a combined 2.02 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 58 innings. His 79 strikeouts (12.3 K/9) put him second among all 2021 draftees.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Jordan Lawlar, SS (No. 3, MLB No. 19)
No hitter from the 2021 Draft has been more effective this season than Lawlar. The sixth overall pick leads 2021 picks who have seen full-season ball with his .475 OBP and 1.104 OPS over 160 plate appearances, mostly with Single-A Visalia. He’s contributed seven homers and 18 steals with solid defense at shortstop in that span, proving why he’s a potential five-tool talent. Lawlar has been out of the Rawhide lineup since May 22 due to a benign bone growth on his ribs, but he’s already made two rehab starts in the Arizona Complex League as he’s worked toward a return.
Dodgers: Ronan Kopp, LHP (unranked on Dodgers Top 30)
Kopp pitched at South Mountain (Ariz.) CC before showing off one of the best arms in the MLB Draft League last summer, and the Dodgers popped him in the 12th round. He’s sitting at 95 mph and reaching 99 with his fastball and gets a lot of horizontal action on his hard slider, though he has trouble landing it for strikes. He has a 2.63 ERA, a .178 opponent average and 47 strikeouts in 24 innings in Single-A.
Giants: Vaun Brown, OF (unranked on Giants Top 30)
Brown has been a revelation since the Giants signed him for $7,500 as a fifth-year senior out of NCAA Division II Florida Southern. After posting a 1.100 OPS in Rookie ball in his pro debut last summer, he has batted .347/.433/.634 with 13 homers and 23 steals in 55 games and leads the Single-A California League in hitting, slugging, OPS (1.067), hits (74) and total bases (135). He has plus raw power and plus-plus speed, is a quality center fielder and plays with constant energy.
Padres: Alek Jacob, RHP (unranked on Padres Top 30)
We mentioned the 24-year-old reliever in our June story on the hottest pitching prospects in each system, and we’ll include him here too. The 16th-rounder out of Gonzaga has already jumped from High-A Fort Wayne to Double-A San Antonio in his first full season, and he’s been just as effective in the Texas League. Jacob hasn’t allowed a run in his last eight appearances (14 innings) with the Missions and now owns a 1.27 ERA with 41 strikeouts and six walks in 28 1/3 innings on the season. Given his age and role, Jacob, who can be difficult to face because of a low arm slot, needs to move quicker than most 2021 draftees, and he’s done more than enough to hit his early checkmarks.
Rockies: Hunter Goodman, C/1B (No. 20)
Goodman's carrying tool entering the Draft out of Memphis was his power after hitting 21 homers in his final collegiate season. So far in the California League, he's showing it will carry over to the pro game. Splitting time between catcher and first base, Goodman leads all 2021 draftees with 17 home runs and 57 RBIs. He’s among the leaders with his .600 SLG and .960 OPS.