We’ve come a long way from the 2020 college pitching class that featured Max Meyer, Asa Lacy, Emerson Hancock, Reid Detmers, Garrett Crochet, Bryce Jarvis, Cade Cavalli, Jared Shuster, Bobby Miller… the list is as long as Manfred’s balls are deformed and unpredictable. Think of the 2020 class as Max Scherzer and the 2022 pitching crop as Patrick Corbin. Collegiate hurlers continue to go down with the injury bug, as yet another first-round talent has hit the shelf since the last Collegiate Corner update. In MLB Pipeline’s latest mock, only one college pitcher is projected in the first 26 picks — the recently-recovered Blade Tidwell out of Tennessee. For comparison, eight college arms went in the top 26 selections in both the 2020 and 2021 MLB Drafts. Safe to say, dynasty managers should be looking at this year’s crop and strategizing far differently for first-year player drafts compared to the last two seasons. Personally, I recommend placing a pair of old boxer shorts over your head and pecking at the keyboard with your elbows to make each selection. Truthfully, there’s a lot to like about the bats at the top of the class and a plethora of value options on the hill later on. We’ll discuss a handful of those hitters today in addition to touching base on the health of the pitching class.
Sonny DiChiara – Looks like Triscuitt Messmer and hits like a combination of Fergie and Jesus. Or was it… Robin Ventura and Will Clark? DiChiara isn’t a highly-touted draft talent or a prototypical prospect, but you’d be more foolish than Will Craig trying to record a force-out if you ignored what he’s doing for the Auburn Tigers right now while leading the SEC in every slash category: .448/.601/.856, 12 HR, 15 2B, 38 R, 38 RBI, 13.9 K%, 24.3%. When you’re getting on base more than 60% of the time 37 games into the season while drawing 18 more walks (42) than strikeouts (24), while still managing 27 XBH and an .850+ SLG, it is safe to say you are outclassing the opposition. I don’t know if there’s a position other than DH for DiChiara at the next level with his six-foot-1 and 265 lbs. stature, but he can flat out hit any pitch in just about any location. As a four-year player in his first SEC season after transferring from Samford, Sonny won’t have much leverage come draft day due to his age and senior status, but the 2020 COVID-shortened season does provide him with more than he might have otherwise. Read up on the big man and follow along, because what he’s doing this season is nothing short of miraculous.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAABaseball) April 9, 2022
Jacob Berry – There haven’t been any major developments with our preseason No. 1 college prospect in the game, but the time has come to check in on the prized fruit of jakuberry. So far in 2022, Berry has been better than he was in 2021 in just about every facet, all the while maintaining a consistently mature approach from both sides of the plate and dramatically improving upon his strikeout rate.
2021: 19.5 K%, 11.1 BB%
2022: 8.2 K%, 10.4 BB%
That’s a pretty notable adjustment from Berry’s freshman year to his sophomore campaign, especially when you bake in the fact that he moved from the PAC12 to the SEC. He’ll hit for average and power as a big leaguer — the only real question is his long-term home defensively. He’s played third base in 29 games this year and corner outfield in 16, but he may be destined to be a first baseman/DH. Even so, he’s hands-down the best all-around offensive talent in the 2022 college draft class.
LSU’s Jacob Berry has homered in back to back ABs tonight!
The projected fourth overall pick in 2022 now has 12 HR this season
— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) April 22, 2022
Hunter Barco & Co. – Unfortunately for all baseball fans, lovers of college baseball, and prospect junkies, another blue-chip arm has gone down in the NCAA circuit. Barco now joins a ridiculous list of college hurlers with first-round grades that have hit the shelf due to injuries or other issues: Connor Prielipp, Peyton Pallette, Carson Whisenhunt (non-injury), Blade Tidwell (since returned), Landon Sims, Reggie Crawford, and Tanner Witt. There’s no word on the extent of time Barco will miss, but it’s certain to have an impact on his draft stock. Continue to monitor every name in this blurb. Tidwell should remain in the first round as he has since returned and thrown well. As for the others, your guess is as good as mine right now. Any of the aforementioned names that fall significantly will make for some potential first-year player draft day bargains.
INJURY NEWS: @GatorsBB LHP Hunter Barco, one of the nation’s premier pitchers and No. 7 on our top College #MLBDraft prospects list, is shut down indefinitely with elbow discomfort. He will continue to be evaluated by doctors. Just terrible news for Barco and the #Gators.
— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogers) April 20, 2022
Trey Lipscomb, Jordan Beck, and Drew Gilbert – The Tennessee Volunteers have no shortage of pop this year with a nation-leading 94 home runs in 41 games, with Lipscomb, Beck, and Gilbert leading the offensive charge. Beck is the most notable prospect, opening the year at No. 19 on our preseason top 25 college prospects list and sitting at No. 21 overall on MLB Pipeline’s rankings. The 6-foot-3, 225 lb. outfielder has drastically enhanced his stock since then, slashing .315/.385/.574 with 10 home runs, 10 doubles, 40 runs, 34 RBI, and six steals in 182 plate appearances. Beck owns a 9.3 BB% and 19.8 K% in 2022, so the approach is far from a finished product, but he has pop to all fields and has been routinely comped to a Hunter Renfroe type. Meanwhile, the fourth-year Lipscomb is tied for the SEC lead with 16 homers while posting a .361/.427/.781 batting line, and he’s struck out just 21 times vs. 15 walks in 41 games/155 ABs. Like DiChiara, his senior status hurts his draft stock as he won’t have the same negotiating leverage as a third-year player, but he’s broken out to the extent that he simply can’t be ignored. As for Gilbert, he has worked himself into the first-round conversation, sporting more of a hit tool over power profile. While slashing .346/.468/.645, Gilbert has totaled 20 extra-base hits including four homers while adding three steals and walking more times (24) than he’s struck out (21). There’s room more even more in-game power as he swatted 10 homers in 68 games last year, and he should be able to play any of the three outfield spots as a pro. Say what you want about Tennessee and their bats, but they have some can’t miss-prospects on this year’s squad — not to mention the return of Tidwell to the mound as another first-round talent.
Gavin Cross – The third-year Virginia Tech outfielder has cemented himself as a top-15 pick with another phenomenal campaign. Every year of his college career, he has batted .345 or higher while reaching base at a .409 clip or better. Cross has swatted 20 homers the past two seasons while slugging above .620 in both years. Take a look.
|College (3 seasons)||102||478||416||110||147||25||10||20||72||23||4||43||77||.353||.427||.606||1.033|
If nothing else, he has been incredibly consistent, paving the way for him to be one of the first college bats off the board in July. On top of that, he has improved from a 20.5 K% last year to an 11.0% rate through 35 games in 2022. The left-handed-hitting Cross was No. 8 on my preseason list and resides at No. 11 overall over at MLB Pipeline, and should go somewhere from No. 8-15 in the draft.
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— ACC Network (@accnetwork) April 7, 2021
Brooks Lee – Projected as the first college player off the board and perhaps the only one in the conversation for No. 1 overall, Lee is a surefire top-eight pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. He has hit his entire career at Cal Poly, peaking with a .375/.480/.638 slash line this season. Lee has recorded seven home runs, one triple, 19 doubles, 37 RBI, 31 runs, and two steals with ridiculous strikeout and walk rates: 7.7 K%, 17.3 BB&. This is as polished of a college bat as we’ve seen in recent memory, although I have trouble putting him ahead of Jacob Berry, Jace Jung, or Kevin Parada from the college ranks. I won’t be paying the first-year player draft price that he is going to cost, but he’s a safe investment for dynasty owners and the switch-hitter stick at shortstop long term.
B3 | TWO RUN HOMERUN BY BROOKS LEE!!
— Cal Poly Baseball (@calpolystangs) April 2, 2022
That’s all for this week, Razzball fam! As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.