We’re closing in on the end of an action-packed 2022, a year that began with uncertainty because of the lockout and ended with prospects doing amazing things at all levels, from Julio Rodríguez winning Rookie of the Year (and getting the Mariners an extra Draft pick!) down to breakout performances in the Minors, like the Brewers’ Jackson Chourio and the Reds’ Elly De La Cruz, both of whom are in the top 15 of our Top 100 Prospects list currently.
But you know us; we’re forward-thinking much more than we are retrospective. It’s why we put out our 2023 Draft Top 100 last week and it won’t be long until we start digging into our 2023 lists on the pro side of things.
I’m still in Draft mode, though. And even though we won’t know anything about these players until the spring (be sure to check out this week’s MLB Pipeline Podcast though, with special guest Max Clark, the top high school player in the class), I’m already looking at and mentally circling guys lower on the Top 100 who could easily make a big jump up the list once the season comes around.
Remember, the Top 100 we just put out is based largely on summer performances – the high school showcase circuit and college leagues – and, for the college players, some jumps forward in fall ball. So things will change, and change often. There hasn’t been a year since we’ve done this where the order hasn’t changed a ton -- players we thought could be top-of-the-Draft types don’t produce and slip, and guys the scouting industry wasn’t as high on have what we all like to call “helium” as the spring wears on.
Guessing who those players will be is a bit of a fool’s errand, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Here are three players who I think could go from the back half of the Top 100 up to first-round territory by the time the Draft rolls around in July. These are all guys from my areas, as Jim Callis and I split the Draft landscape in half.
Homer Bush Jr., OF, Grand Canyon (No. 88): While this is yet another example of how old I feel when covering the Draft -- I started at MLB.com when his dad had his best season in the big leagues, in 1999 -- he tops this list more because of what scouts have been saying about his raw tools and increased strength. If you go check out his numbers to date, you won’t walk away particularly impressed. He hit .270 with a .696 OPS as a sophomore at GCU and while hit a respectable .284 in the Cape Cod League over the summer, he had just two extra-base hits, so questions persisted. But Bush has shown glimpses of raw power in the past and I got multiple reports of him looking much stronger in fall ball and driving the ball more as a result. He has the kind of frame that could easily take on more strength without sacrificing his plus speed, and if he keeps trending in this direction in the spring, we’re talking about five-tool potential in center field. And he’s going to be seen a ton by decision-makers because his teammate, Jacob Wilson (son of Jack), is a potential top 10 pick.
Blake Dickerson, LHP, Ocean Lakes HS, Va. (No. 80): Dickerson caught my eye at the beginning of last summer’s showcase circuit in the PDP League at USA Baseball’s facility. He wasn’t that well-known before then, but he opened a lot of eyes there and pitched his way onto Team USA’s 18-U squad before finishing off with a very strong performance at Perfect Game’s WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. Dickerson is an intriguing combination of projection as a relatively fresh arm with a 6-foot-6 frame and feel for pitching. He’s sitting low-90s now, but he’s going to throw harder, his slider could be plus and he already has feel for his changeup. He also throws strikes, repeating his delivery well, and scouts tell me he loves the craft. After putting himself on the map over the summer, he’s going to be watched closely in the Virginia Beach area and while high school pitching carries risk, his left-handedness will help offset that.
Walker Martin, SS, Eaton HS, Col. (No. 73): I’m rolling the dice on this one a little bit, but hey, why not take a risk in a newsletter, right? Martin has very exciting potential, but he hasn’t been seen much at all to show whether he can use his raw tools consistently. The one place he showed up, and showed up in a big way, was the Area Code Games last summer. And that was in front of a ton of scouts, but it was only one week. He’s big, strong, a left-handed-hitting shortstop who is also his high school’s quarterback (his football obligations kept him from too many showcases). So it really was just a glimpse at what he’s capable of, as impressive as it was. And scouts will have to wait for things to warm up in the spring in Colorado to see what he can do. Eaton isn’t a big school, so Martin could be the type who moves up based on private workouts more than what he does in his high school season, but he’s worth watching to see if he can be the first Colorado high school hitter to go in the first three rounds since 1997.