Tommy tanks. Juddy jacks. Berry blasts. There has been no shortage of golden nuggets in the first month of the 2022 college baseball season, which was up and running in full force by mid-February while Major League Baseball and the MLBPA squabbled like Brian Kenny at a Golden Era Committee meeting. Truthfully, the college game may be healthier now than ever before, with so much talent concentrated into every conference from coast to coast. Although the 2022 MLB Draft is still four months away, pre-draft rankings are already beginning to shift as a result of notable early-season performances across the nation. I’ll highlight a handful of those today in the first Collegiate Corner installment of the year while sipping on a Fuzzy Leprechaun and proofreading out loud under my breath using my best Warwick Davis impersonation.

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Tommy White – Perhaps the biggest storyline so far in the 2022 college baseball season has been that of The Legend of Tommy White, the NC State freshman who blasted nine home runs in his first eight career games. As a true freshman first baseman, White is not eligible for the 2022 MLB Draft, but he’s earned inclusion in this column for no other reason than to help spread the word about some of the truly awesome feats occurring in the college realm this year. Since that tremendous eight-game run, White has gone eight straight games without a homer, but still boasts a .394/.449/.817 batting line with 12 extra-base hits, 32 RBI, 21 runs, and one steal in just 16 games. For a player with his White’s degree of power, his 16.7 K% isn’t shabby in the slightest, but he has made three errors already in his young career, and at 6-0 and 242 pounds, he’ll need to refine his skills over at first if he’s going to profile as anything other than a DH at the next level. Lucky for him and college fans across the country, he’ll have ample time to do so before he’s draft-eligible.

Jacob Berry – Positioned as the No. 1 player in my preseason college top-25 prospect rankings, Berry has done nothing but cement himself in that spot with his output through the first month of the season. Across 78 plate appearances in 16 games at LSU, Berry is slashing .382/.449/.794 with eight home runs, five walks, and five strikeouts — translating to K and BB rates of 6.4%. If we’re nitpicking, obviously we’d like to see him draw walks at a higher clip, but when you’re so clearly head-and-shoulders above the quality of pitching you’re facing, walks really aren’t all that necessary. Berry walked at an 11.1% clip as a true freshman at Arizona last year, so the potential to be more selective is certainly there. there are plenty of exciting prep bats in this year’s class, but I have Berry graded as the clear-cut top college bat and if he falls outside of the first five picks in the draft, I’ll be as confused as an Irishman at a dry St. Patty’s Day parade.

Jake Gelof – Jake’s brother, Zack, was the No. 36 prospect in my 2021 Complete College Top 100 and was ultimately drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the 60th overall pick in the second round last year. Now it’s the younger Gelof’s turn to raise eyebrows for the Virginia Cavaliers, and his 2022 numbers have been beyond impressive following a .252/.336/.468 freshman 2021 season. Gelof is tied for third nationally with nine home runs already in 2022, which comes accompanied by a .426/.500/1.130 batting line with 14 strikeouts and 10 walks through 16 games. Gelof has the ability to play corner infield or outfield, but profiles primarily as a third baseman at present. He has the potential to surpass his older brother’s ceiling and is a name to remember for the 2023 MLB Draft.

Trey Faltine – The Texas shortstop batted just .251 with six home runs, 63 runs, 44 RBI, and nine steals across 83 games in his first two seasons in Austin, but has taken his offensive game to the next level thus far in 2022. In the first 18 games of the campaign, Faltine is slashing .274/.370/.597, with the slugging percentage sitting .196 points higher than his previous career-high of .401 in 2021. Unranked in the MLB Pipeline Top-100 and positioned as the No. 133 overall draft prospect according to Baseball America, Faltine has the opportunity to drastically shoot up draft boards if he is capable of maintaining his performance with conference play on the horizon. He has the arm and athleticism to stick at shortstop for the long haul, and if he can prove his uptick in power is legitimate, he could hear his names called in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft. Faltine has a career 26.6 strikeout rate in college and hit just .154/.291/.262 with two homers in the Cape Cod League last summer, so concerns about his long-term offensive outlook are warranted. There’s a good shot he cracks my updated top-25 when the Complete College Top 100 comes out this summer.

Jud Fabian – In my preseason top 25, I wrote very little about Fabian — because I’ve gone overboard trying to explain his complexity in the past: “I’m done writing about him. There’s nothing left to say until he proves it or loses it in 2022. Until then, I’ll just die on this hill and let everyone throw things at me. Go ahead, see if I care!” I then included the below links.

For more: Top Five College Prospects for the 2021 MLB Draft | Five Post-Draft Sleepers: Searching for FYPD Gold | Prospect Watch: Post-Deadline Fallout, Top Prospect News & More

Fabian got off to a slow start to the 2022 season but is hitting .390/.544/.902 with six homers and 17 RBI over the last 12 games. During that time, he has drawn 14 walks and struck out just eight times. Fabian currently is tied for second in all of college baseball with 18 walks on the year, powering him to a .310/.481/.707 batting line with a 22.5 BB% and 17.5 K%. And don’t forget that he might be the best defensive outfielder in the draft class. It’s hard to put too much value on these numbers until Fabian faces SEC pitching, but if he finished his fourth college campaign anywhere close to a .310 batting average, 22.5 BB%, and 17.5 K% by year’s end, he’ll be a top-five overall pick in the draft, and I’ll be giggling at everyone in the corner, throwing sunflower seeds at you all while no one is looking.

Hunter Barco – As Fabian’s teammate at Florida, Barco has lived up to the hype in the first month of the 2022 season. A unanimous preseason All-American with first-round stuff, Barco owns a 3-1 record with a .193 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, and .159 BAA across 23 1/3 innings pitched. The 6-4 southpaw has 34 strikeouts against just two walks, translating to a 13.1 K/9, 0.8 BB/9, and 17.0 K-BB ratio. He’ll have to continue to prove it during conference play, but this could very well be the first college hurler off the board this summer.

Tyler Locklear – One of the biggest oversight’s in the top-100 draft prospect rankings at MLB Pipeline is the failure to include VCU corner infielder Tyler Locklear. Locklear is one of the best pure hitters in all of college baseball and also wields plenty of pop, launching 16 home runs, three triples and 12 doubles across 54 games in his first-full college season in 2021. By the end of last season, he owned an unearthly .345/.515/.686 batting line. That’s a 1.201 OPS while getting on base in more than half of his plate appearances, thanks to six more walks (46) than strikeouts (40). At 6-3 and 210 pounds, Locklear actually looks capable of improving upon those power totals this season: .327/.422/.745, six homers, five doubles, 15 RBI, 13 runs, and three stolen bases. Locklear has just seven strikeouts through 15 games, although the walks (five) are a bit down in the early part of the campaign. Baseball America included Locklear at the back-end of its top-200 draft prospects, placing the VCU standout at No. 172: “…some scouts view him as a stiff, first base-only type who will be challenged against better velocity at the pro level. Locklear split his time between third base and first base last summer in the Cape Cod League—where he hit .256/.333/.504 with nine home runs in 34 games—but has primarily handled the hot corner for VCU.” I find it trivial that scouts aren’t buying on Locklear’s ability to hit at the next level when we’ve seen players like Nick Gonzales (New Mexico State), Colton Cowser (Sam Houston), and Ethan Wilson (South Alabama) chosen early in drafts the last two years from midmajor conferences. I wouldn’t put too much stock in his stiffness being a problem. If necessary, I can ask him to be a little more rubbery. Elastilocklear!

Parker Messick & Bryce Hubbart – Hunter Barco may be straight shoving in Gainesville, but there are two hurlers nearly as talented just down the road in Tallahassee — both of which are top-50 overall draft prospects in Messick (No. 49) and Hubbart (No. 50). Of the duo, only Messick made my preseason top-25 rankings, coming in at No. 23. Each of these Florida State southpaws is off to a strong start in 2022:

Messick: 25.0 IP, 2-1, 2.52 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, .151 BAA, 15.8 K/9, 2.2 BB.9

Hubbart: 24.1 IP, 4-0, 1.11 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, .145 BAA, 15.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9

Their numbers are freakishly close aside from the ERA, although Messick technically serves as the Seminoles’ Friday night ace. Freakishly close, but not identical — like Hunter Pence and MJ from The Challenge. Even so, their performances to date in 2022 are worthy of note, and either arm has the ability to shoot up closer to first-round territory if they put together an elite season from start to finish.

That’s all for this week! As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.