Mock: Top 5 shuffle as Rocker enters 1st round

July 7th, 2022

Most of the top prospects in the Draft had their seasons end a month or so ago, but three potential first-round arms have affected their stock in the two weeks since my last first-round projection.

On Saturday night, teams received medical records pertaining to right-hander Kumar Rocker and learned that he had shoulder surgery last September. The Mets selected the former Vanderbilt star 10th overall last July and agreed to a $6 million bonus deal that fell apart when they balked at his post-Draft physical. After New York offered him a $0 bonus -- a formality so it could get the No. 11 pick this year as compensation for failing to sign him -- he opted not to return to college.

Rocker made five appearances with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the independent Frontier League beginning June 3, working from three to five innings, while hitting 99 mph with his fastball and displaying some of his trademark devastating sliders. His performance and the release of his medical records have made teams relatively comfortable with his health.

Oklahoma right-hander Cade Horton concluded a stellar postseason run on June 26 by striking out 13 batters without a walk in 7 1/3 innings against Mississippi in the final game of the College World Series, touching 98 mph with his fastball and 90 mph with a wipeout slider. He missed all of 2021 and didn't pitch until March 29 following Tommy John surgery, so he doesn't have much track record, but he might have the best stuff of any college starting pitching prospect.

East Carolina left-hander Carson Whisenhunt, who drew a season-long suspension from the NCAA after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, hasn't fared as well in his return to the mound in the Cape Cod League. The top-ranked healthy college southpaw entering the season, he has showcased his usual stuff (low-90s fastball, quality changeup, so-so breaking ball) but he has been rocked for a 7.87 ERA in four starts with the Chatham Anglers.

Rocker and Horton likely have pitched themselves into the first round -- or at least into first-round money, as teams with multiple early selections may maneuver to grab them with their second choices. We're 11 days away from the Draft and many teams haven't even met yet to begin their final preparations, so who goes where remains volatile.

As always, detailed scouting reports for all players can be found with MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 250 (rankings in parentheses).

1. Orioles: Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS, Peachtree Corners, Ga. (No. 1)
While the Orioles have five players under consideration, the decision probably comes down to Jones or prep middle infielders Jackson Holliday or Termarr Johnson. The current industry consensus is that they'll opt for the best player in the Draft. If Baltimore doesn't spend a third straight top-five choice on an outfielder, it could take a potential five-tool shortstop in Holliday or look for a big discount with Johnson, who's the best high school hitter in years, but otherwise might last another five or more picks.

2. D-backs: Jackson Holliday, SS, Stillwater (Okla.) HS (No. 2)
The dream for the D-backs is Jones. If he's not available, they'll look at Holliday, Johnson and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee.

3. Rangers: Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly (No. 5)
While it seems less likely that Lee could go No. 1 than it did two or three weeks ago, he seems to be gaining steam at picks Nos. 2 or 3. The Rangers love Jones (but have no shot) and Holliday, and if they're both gone, it looks like Lee vs. Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada and Florida high school outfielder Elijah Green.

4. Pirates: Termarr Johnson, 2B, Mays HS, Atlanta (No. 4)
There's increasing chatter that the Pirates will emulate their strategy from 2021, when they took a talented player with their top choice (Henry Davis at No. 1), while also securing a discount to free up cash for later selections. Johnson and Chipola (Fla.) JC third baseman Cam Collier are the most obvious candidates, as they both could go eighth or lower if they they get past here. Pittsburgh has been associated with college hitters as well -- Lee in particular.

5. Nationals: Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (No. 3)
Green may have the highest ceiling in the Draft, but there's a sense that he might be sliding. He probably falls to No. 9 or lower if he doesn't fit in the Top 5. Lee, Parada and Johnson are other options for the Nats as well.

6. Marlins: Jacob Berry, 3B/OF, Louisiana State (No. 7)
The Marlins are mostly tied to college bats: Berry, Parada, Lee and Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross. Don't rule out Johnson or a discount deal so they can go big in later rounds.

7. Cubs: Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech (No. 6)
The Cubs love Collier, but Parada might just be too good to resist if both are available. This also could be the floor for Lee and perhaps Johnson. If all those guys vanish in the Top 6, Chicago could turn to Berry.

8. Twins: Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola (Fla.) JC (No. 8)
Johnson, Berry and Cross are other bats of interest to the Twins with a chance to get to them. Minnesota could be the first team that realistically would pop Alabama left-hander Connor Prielipp or Campbell shortstop Zach Neto.

9. Royals: Justin Crawford, OF, Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas (No. 13)
If Green drops, he could find a home with the Royals. They also could be the peak for Crawford and could target Cross if they want a college bat.

10. Rockies: Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech (No. 10)
It's mostly college bats for the Rockies with Berry, Cross, Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung, Arizona catcher Daniel Susac and James Madison outfielder Chase DeLauter in play. They could be the first team to take a pitcher, with Gatorade National High School Player of the Year Brock Porter from Michigan the best on the board.

11. Mets: Daniel Susac, C, Arizona (No. 12)
(compensation pick for failure to sign 2021 first-rounder Kumar Rocker)

The Mets get mentioned with several college bats (Cross, Jung, Susac, Neto, DeLauter) but are linked to Crawford and the top high school arms (Porter, Dylan Lesko from Georgia, Brandon Barriera from Florida, Robby Snelling from Nevada).

12. Tigers: Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech (No. 9)
The Tigers have interest in most of the same college bats as the Mets and also could go for a pitcher with home-state product Porter or Prielipp. Both Susac and Jung may be slipping a bit and could wind up more toward the bottom of the 11-20 range than the top.

13. Angels: Brock Porter, RHP, Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's Prep (No. 11)
The favorite to be the first team to select a pitcher, the Angels could go for high schoolers (Porter, Lesko, Barriera, Snelling) or collegians (Prielipp, Oregon State left-hander Cooper Hjerpe). Almost any arm mentioned as a first-round possibility has been tied to Anaheim.

14. Mets: Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison (No. 18)
It's also a very real possibility that the Mets take the top pitcher in the Draft (Porter) at No. 11 and pluck the best remaining college bat at No. 14. DeLauter has one of the best combinations of tools, size, performance and patience available, and there's buzz that he's moving from the second half of the first round to the 10-15 range.

15. Padres: Cole Young, SS, North Allegheny HS, Wexford, Pa. (No. 20)
It's possible that the Padres could be pleasantly surprised by a college bat who falls to No. 15, which also feels like the floor for Crawford. San Diego is on shortstops (Young, Neto, Texas prepster Jett Williams) and left-handers (Barriera, Snelling, Prielipp) and wouldn't be afraid to bank on Lesko's recovery from Tommy John surgery.

16. Guardians: Zach Neto, SS, Campbell (No. 17)
The Guardians collect sweet-swinging infielders and excel at developing pitching prospects. They could add to the former group with Neto, Young (though he's older than their typical preference for high schoolers) or Williams, or to the latter with Lesko, Barriera, Hjerpe or Horton.

17. Phillies: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Tri-City ValleyCats (Frontier League) (No. 38)
It's still hard to pinpoint where Rocker will land, but the industry consensus is that it will happen in the back half of the first round. Philadelphia took high school pitchers Mick Abel and Andrew Painter with its previous two first-rounders, and could go for three in a row with Barriera or Snelling.

18. Reds: Brandon Barriera, LHP, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla. (No. 15)
High school arms usually don't go as high in Drafts as the media ranks them because clubs are skittish about the injury risk (though college and pro pitchers get hurt an awful lot too). This projection reflects that with Barriera, as well as Lesko, Snelling and Jackson Ferris. With all the pitching injuries -- especially to a college class that saw at least six possible first-rounders sidelined by Tommy John surgery -- I can't remember a tougher year trying to figure out where all the arms will fit. The Reds also could go for a shortstop (Neto, Young, Williams, Oklahoma's Peyton Graham) here and try to drive a prep pitcher down to their next pick at No. 32.

19. Athletics: Dylan Beavers, OF, California (No. 22)
Beavers to the Athletics is the strongest connection in the second half of the first round, not that that makes it guaranteed to happen. Oakland also could be the high-water mark for fellow college outfielders Drew Gilbert (Tennessee), Jacob Melton (Oregon State) and Spencer Jones (Vanderbilt), as well as Arkansas third baseman Cayden Wallace, Oklahoma State right-hander Justin Campbell and Oklahoma left-hander Jake Bennett.

20. Braves: Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama (No. 25)
The Braves seem destined to take a college arm in the first round for the third straight Draft, with candidates including Prielipp, Hjerpe, Campbell, Gabriel Hughes (Gonzaga) and Thomas Harrington (Campbell). A potential No. 1 overall pick before he had Tommy John surgery in May 2021, Prielipp has suitors all over the first round and could be a steal here.

21. Mariners: Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State (No. 34)
All of the arms mentioned with the Braves above could go here, as could Horton. This may be Neto's floor and other college bats such as Gilbert and Melton could be in play.

22. Cardinals: Peyton Graham, SS, Oklahoma (No. 28)
Graham toned down his swing and approach at mid-season and became the first NCAA Division I player with 20 homers and 30 steals in a year since 2004. The Cardinals also could keep the run on college arms going.

23. Blue Jays: Tucker Toman, 3B, Hammond HS, Columbia, S.C. (No. 35)
One of the best high school bats in the Draft, Toman could climb into the top half of the first round as a discount possibility. Every club from 23-28 seems to have interest in Florida outfielder Sterlin Thompson. The Jays could target other college bats, such as DeLauter, Beavers, Graham, Gilbert and Wallace.

24. Red Sox: Jett Williams, SS, Rockwall-Heath (Texas) HS (No. 21)
There's a good chance Williams won't last this long, which could leave the Red Sox looking at the college outfield crop: Tennessee teammates Jordan Beck and Gilbert, as well as Beavers, Thompson, and Melton. Rocker is an intriguing possibility too.

25. Yankees: Jordan Beck, OF, Tennessee (No. 23)
The Yankees might be the highest realistic hope for Beck, Thompson and Jones. They also could turn to another Volunteer in right-hander Blade Tidwell, who could have become the top college pitcher taken before he missed the first six weeks of the season with shoulder soreness.

26. White Sox: Cade Horton, RHP, Oklahoma (No. 24)
Horton's lack of college track record makes him tough to place, but he'd be a great fit for a White Sox organization lacking in upper-level pitching prospects. Rocker would be too. Chicago could pounce on Toman if the Blue Jays don't, or they could grab a college outfielder.

27. Brewers: Sterlin Thompson, OF, Florida (No. 29)
The Brewers are a good bet to take an accomplished hitter, such as DeLauter, Graham, Thompson, Gilbert or Melton from the college ranks, or Toman.

28. Astros: Drew Gilbert, OF, Tennessee (No. 32)
With their first first-rounder since 2019, the Astros appear to be pursuing college bats: Thompson, Gilbert, Melton, Jones. If Mississippi State right-hander Landon Sims or high school pitchers Jacob Miller (Ohio) or Owen Murphy (Illinois) sneak into the first round, it could be here.

29. Rays: Robby Snelling, LHP, McQueen HS, Reno, Nev. (No. 16)
The Rays are adept at the late-first-round upside play. Snelling, Toman, Lesko and California prep outfielder Henry Bolte fit that profile.

30. Giants: Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford (Ga.) HS (No. 14)
With their lowest top pick since they didn't have a first-rounder in 2016, the Giants could swing for the fences with Lesko or Rocker. Snelling and Ferris are two attractive and fully healthy arms who might be enticing, while Gilbert and Wallace would be more budget-conscious choices.

Supplemental first-round picks
31. Rockies: Spencer Jones, OF, Vanderbilt (No. 51)
32. Reds: Jacob Melton, OF, Oregon State (No. 39)
33. Orioles: Justin Campbell, RHP, Oklahoma State (No. 36)
34. D-backs: Cayden Wallace, 3B, Arkansas (No. 31)
35. Royals: Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee (No. 27)
36. Pirates: Jacob Miller, RHP, Liberty Union HS, Baltimore, Ohio (No. 37)
37. Guardians: Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga (No. 26)
38. Rockies: Thomas Harrington, RHP, Campbell (No. 45)
39. Padres: Jackson Ferris, LHP, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (No. 19)