We're putting the finishing touches on our initial list of 2022 Draft prospects, which will go 100 deep and feature our usual detailed reports, scouting grades and videos. We'll unveil our rankings next week in an hourlong special on MLB Network, likely next Wednesday.
Which prospect are you taking, Marcelo Mayer or Anthony Volpe?
Pitting a Red Sox prospect versus a Yankees prospect is guaranteed to anger at least one vociferous fan base. Even if there's really no wrong answer considering both shortstops rank near the very top of our Top 100.
New York's first-round pick in 2019, Volpe won MLB Pipeline's Hitting Prospect of the Year award in his 2021 full-season debut, batting 294/.423/.604 with 27 homers and 33 steals in 109 games and leading the Minors in runs (113) and OPS (1.027) while placing second in extra-base hits (68). Mayer was our top-ranked prospect in the 2021 Draft after scouts rated him the best hitter and the best defender available, and Boston somehow landed him with the No. 4 overall selection.
Mayer and Volpe should become similar offensive players. I give Mayer the overall edge because he was more advanced at the plate at the same stage of their careers and he projects as a better defender with a stronger arm at shortstop.
How would you rank the 2022 MLB Draft class to the 2021 MLB Draft class?
The 2022 Draft is stronger in position players and high school pitchers but weaker in college arms compared to 2021. This year's crop stood out with prep shortstops at the top but not much else, and next year's crop is better overall.
I can't remember a high schooler ever drawing as many raves for his pure hitting ability as Mays HS (Atlanta) second baseman Termarr Johnson. Wesleyan HS (Peachtree Corners, Ga.) outfielder Druw Jones (son of Andruw) could have plus and plus-plus grades across the board, and IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) outfielder Elijah Green (son of former Pro Bowl tight end Eric) has even louder raw tools.
On the college side, Louisiana State third baseman Jacob Berry, Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee and Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung (brother of Josh) all could make a run at going No. 1 overall. A dozen or more college bats could fit in the first round after just five did this year.
Buford (Ga.) HS right-hander Dylan Lesko is better than any prep pitcher in the 2021 Draft. There are at least six more high school arms who could climb into the first round, which helps compensate for a college pitching group that has been weakened by injuries to many of the top candidates.
What prospect drafted in the 5th round or later has the best chance to become top 100?
Just three members of our current Top 100 Prospects list, which we compiled in August, were drafted in the fifth round or later: Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran (No. 25), Twins right-hander Jordan Balazovic (No. 81) and Rangers catcher Sam Huff (No. 91). The next closest would be Rays righty Taj Bradley, who led the Minors with a 1.83 ERA in 2021.
A fifth-round pick out of a Georgia high school as a 17-year-old in 2018, Bradley has improved throughout his pro career. He has a pair of plus pitches in his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider, continues to refine his changeup and throws plenty of strikes. He's pretty much a lock to make the Top 100 when we revise it again in early 2022.
Other potential Top 100 candidates who were drafted after the fifth round include right-handers Hunter Brown (Astros), Andre Jackson (Dodgers) and Joe Ryan (Twins) and left-hander Ken Waldichuk (Yankees). But they'll have to play their way onto the list next season.
Marlins Antonio Velez. With the prospects removed, how has this dude not even been moved into the top 30 yet?? 1st full season, high A, AA, was phenomenal. 2.55 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 8.45 K to BB ratio. He can flat out pitch. Yet, not even in the Marlins top 30??
The lone nondrafted free agent signed by the Marlins after the shortened five-round 2020 Draft, Velez did make a strong impression in his pro debut this summer. He doesn't have overwhelming stuff but he mixes a low-90s fastball with average secondary stuff and pounds the strike zone.
Velez is a pitchability left-hander who turns 25 in March and has made just three starts above High-A. His floor stands out more than his ceiling, and I tend to err on the side of upside when I put together prospect lists (and I do our Marlins Top 30). If he keeps performing, he could sneak on there next year.