This is the sixth article we’ve written about college draft prospects for the upcoming 2022 MLB Draft. The goal is to give you an idea of some guys who could be available for Kansas City with the 9th overall pick in the draft. Here are the links to the first five that I wrote:
If you’ve been following up to this point, I’ve mostly just been giving updates on how some of college baseball’s top draft prospects have been performing this spring. I’ve been pretty vocal about the Royals need to draft a bat with the 9th overall pick this summer, so most everyone in our updates has been a college hitter. The offensive class in this draft cycle is one of the strongest that I’ve seen in a while, and with the Royals recent influx of arms early in the draft, it’s time to take an impact bat with their first pick.
We’ll have a full draft ranking later this summer in our RFR Draft Guide, but if I had to rank out a top-30 right now, probably 25 of the top 30 (ish…) would be hitters. This is a STRONG class for hitters. The Royals are very fortunate to have the 9th pick in a year when there are legitimately 12-13 good options at the top of the draft. Like I said, we’ll have more coverage as the summer rolls along, but for now, here are my top 10 draft prospects for the 2022 MLB Draft as we sit here on April 19th.
10. Jud Fabian, CF, Florida
The Florida outfielder is absolutely crushing the baseball right now. He’s a legitimately good defender in CF, with a cannon for an arm, and has the raw power you want in a top-10 pick. Fabian was an early candidate to be in the conversation for the first five picks in the 2021 draft, but slipped into the second round after he struck out more than teams were comfortable with in SEC play last season. Fabian returned to Florida and it appears to have paid off for him. He’s crushing baseballs again, with 15 HR and 22 total XBH in 36 games, and has his K% down to 19.4% with one more walk than strikeouts at the moment. Fabian’s 2021 season may still scare some teams off of him, but this is exactly the type of guy a team like Kansas City should be looking into, seeing as their hitting development has been nails lately and you might be able to get him a little under slot considering Fabian has lost some of his leverage after returning to school last year.
9. Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech
Cross has been mocked to the Royals at #9 a couple of times by Baseball America, and while it wouldn’t be my *favorite* pick at the moment, there’s certainly a ton to like about the 6′ 3″ lefty. Cross’ exit velocities are among the very best in the entire draft class, and he’s cut way down on his strikeouts this spring with just a 9.7% K% in 30 games for the Hokies this spring. He’s got more XBH than strikeouts and while he’s not a great runner or anything, he’s got four stolen bases and actually projects to be an above average defender in RF with good enough wheels and a great arm. I don’t really know what his absolute ceiling is, but I think he presents enough of a floor and some upside left to grow into to justify taking with the 9th overall pick.
8. Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford HS (GA)
Ironically, two of my top 11 draft-eligible prospects at the moment are prep arms (LHP Noah Schultz just missed the cut). In a class that is loaded with bats at the top, there is some serious firepower on the mound in the prep ranks. Jackson Ferris, Brandon Barriera, and Brock Porter are also probably top-30 overall prospects, which is nice in a class that lacks in the college pitching department. Lesko is clearly the best arm in this class, I think, and although I’m super hesitant to rank any prep RHP this high, it should tell you how good Lesko’s stuff is that I’ve got him way up here. Lesko is the type of guy that doesn’t come around every draft cycle. He’s got about as much hype as guys like Hunter Greene, MacKenzie Gore, Jackson Jobe, etc. If someone in front of Kansas City decides to take Lesko, it would allow another one of those big bats to fall to #9, but I actually wouldn’t mind the Royals taking Lesko if he falls to them. He’s a legitimately sensational talent that…I get it…there’s developmental concerns, but my goodness can this kid throw the baseball.
7. Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy (FL)
Elijah Green is the best prep power hitters to enter the MLB Draft since Bobby Witt Jr. in 2019. He’s got legitimately 60-grade raw power right now and could easily grow into 70-grade raw power before he reaches the big leagues, and an outside chance to reach that rare Seuly Matias range of 80-grade raw power. With that power comes some concerns about his hit tool, and there are some legitimate questions about his contact rate long-term, but we saw a lot of this with Bobby Witt Jr. as well during his draft cycle. How much of these concerns are legitimate and how much of them are just over analyzing remains to be seen, but if this kid hits, anyone who passes on him will feel really dumb in about two years. If he doesn’t…someone could be left holding the next Jason Heyward type of prospect (without the Gold Glove defense).
6. Jacob Berry, OF, LSU
Berry isn’t much of a defender, which may affect his draft stock more than I’m giving it credit at the moment, but he is one hell of a hitter and the Royals probably shouldn’t overthink it if he’s the one who falls to #9. Berry is currently hitting .370 with a 1.101 OPS for the Bayou Bengals, with a 1:1 BB:K ratio in the heart of SEC play. He’s got 10 HR and 7 doubles at the moment, though there are some who question the legitimacy of his raw power. For me, the hit tool is so advanced and the approach is so clean that even if he’s Alex Gordon and just hits 20 HR with 40+ doubles at his peak, you can live with that given his approach and feel to hit. There’s not a ton of upside in terms of a guy that could potentially hit 40 HR in the big leagues or anything, but he’s got such a high floor that you can realistically bank on him being a productive big league hitter in some capacity, which is pretty good for the 9th overall pick.
5. Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison
DeLauter was the best hitter in the Cape Cod Summer League last summer, leading the best college summer league in home runs. He hits for a ton of raw power and has one of the best swings you’ll see for the modern game of throwing lots of four-seamers at the top of the strike zone. DeLauter currently has a 1.404 OPS at James Madison with with a 4:3 BB:K ratio and 17 XBH in 24 games. He’s probably a corner outfielder long-term, but he runs well and projects as a good defender in the corners. I’m not entirely sure he’ll still be there for Kansas City anymore, but he’d be a steal at #9 if he falls that far.
4. Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS (GA)
Much has been made about Druw Jones in this draft cycle, and the son of the should-be MLB Hall of Famer resembles his father in a lot of what he does on the field. He hits for a ton of power and is one of the most polished defensive center fielders that you’ll ever see at the high school level. I’m not quite as bought in on the hit tool as some, which is why I don’t have him #1 like a lot of places will, but there are so many tools here that there’s really no reason he should drop to the Royals at #9. If he does, he’d be a slam dunk pick and immediately becomes the Royals center fielder of the future with real 20-20 potential.
3. Termarr Johnson, 2B, Mays High School (GA)
Termarr Johnson has one of the best combinations of hit tool and power potential you’ll ever see on a left-handed prep prospect. My goodness gracious can this kid hit. He hits bombs like Druw Jones and Elijah Green and then turns around and shows off what might be the most projectable hit tool in the entire class. I’ve got him below a couple of college bats here because I prefer the known commodities to the prep bats, but I really don’t think there’s much difference between prospects one and four on this list. Johnson may be able to play SS for a while, but I think he’ll be a great defender at second base long-term and hit plenty to be an All-Star caliber player for a long time. I absolutely love this kid and wish like hell you could trade draft picks in baseball, because he’d be worth moving up for.
2. Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech
The amount of love that I have for Termarr Johnson ought to tell you quite a bit how much I like these next two guys. I gave the bump at #1 to Lee because of his defensive profile long-term, but I actually think that Jung is the best pure hitter in this entire draft class. He’s currently slashing .379/.527/.714/1.241 with 10 HR and 26 total XBH for the Red Raiders with 42 BB and just 24 K. I get it, he isn’t the greatest defender in the world, but teams would be outside their minds to let him fall to #9. Jung was actually mocked to the Royals in the latest Baseball America mock draft, so I guess it’s not totally out of the question, but for the life of me I cannot imagine why eight teams would pass up on him right now.
1. Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly
Brooks Lee is probably the most polished college hitting prospect to come out of the draft since Adley Rutschman in 2019. His floor is probably that of a replacement level big leaguer and his ceiling is that of a perennial All-Star. He may not have 40 HR power, or be able to steal 30 bases, or play Gold Glove defense at SS, but there isn’t anything he does poorly. He’s got 25 XBH, 30 BB, and just 10 K in 35 games at Cal Poly this spring, with an OPS of 1.196. You could probably slot the kid into AA as soon as he’s drafted (the team that gets him won’t, but I think you could) and he’d find a way to be successful. Lee has no chance of being available at #9, unlike just about anyone else on this list, and will probably be the first player from this draft class to debut in the big leagues. Good year to have the top pick.