It took six picks for a college prospect to come off the board at the 2022 MLB Draft in Los Angeles, but a string of eight-consecutive players from the collegiate realm followed — including seven straight position players to cap off the streak. Just like when you’re waiting the better part of an hour for your luggage to appear at baggage claim, then all of a sudden your suitcase, snowboard, pogo stick, camping gear, ninja swords, guitar, mechanical crossbow, and cat all appear on the conveyer belt in a row, one after the other. This has happened to me twice but is incredibly rare. In total, 21 of the 39 players selected in the first round came from the college ranks (including Round 1C and Round CB-A). As always, there’s a lot to unpack with these picks and the subsequent rounds beyond, as 616 total players had their names called across the 20-round, three-day event. I’ll begin by breaking down some of the biggest storylines from the draft and conclude with ranking a handful of sleepers and overhyped players that you should target more or less heavily than their draft position might otherwise indicate. The MLB Draft doesn’t work the same way as it does in many other professional sports leagues. Taking the top player available is quite often not the focus, as bonus pool allocation strategy is frequently at the forefront. Never, ever, ever copy and paste a list of the draftees in order and use that to directly dictate your first-year player draft rankings. Feel free to use it as a frame of reference, then apply your own opinion and the information provided by myself and The Itch to develop your own big board.

Not Berry Surprised

Some may have disagreed with the first college player to be taken off the board, but I’ve had the same name at the top of my rankings since the initial “way-too-early” installment: LSU corner infielder Jacob Berry. After posting a ludicrous .352/.439/.676 freshman batting line with 17 homers at Arizona last year, Berry slashed .370/.464/.630 in 2022 with 15 long balls. As a switch-hitter, he boasts excellent plate coverage from both sides and walked 27 times (10.9%) against just 22 strikeouts (8.9%). With just two steals in 116 college games, he’s not a five-category performer — but should provide plenty of value in the remaining areas to make him more than worthy of a top pick in any first-year player fantasy draft.

Rocking the Boat

Arguably, the biggest surprise of the first round was the Texas Rangers’ selection of Kumar Rocker at No. 3 overall (and no, he doesn’t count as the first collegiate player selected). Coming into the draft, the former Vanderbilt star was ranked as the 38th-best player in the pool — but clearly, Texas saw more upside and wanted to save some $$$ in the organization’s bonus pool. As you might recall, Rocker was unable to agree to terms with the New York Mets last year due to disagreements between the team and the hurler’s camp regarding his medicals and potential signing bonus. To showcase himself for the 2022 draft, Rocker pitched for the Tri-City ValleyCats this past spring and turned in a 1.35 ERA and 32 strikeouts across 20 frames. Some injury risk remains despite Rocker’s offseason shoulder surgery, but he still holds top-of-the-rotation potential at the next level. Could we see him at the MLB level coming out of the pen in 2022?

ArCade Style Finish

Less than two months ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a publication that listed Oklahoma righty cade Horton inside its top 200 draft prospects. At the regular season’s end on May 21, Horton owned a 7.94 ERA with just 15 strikeouts and 35 hits allowed in 22 2/3 innings of work. That, my dear friends, is bad. Enter the 2022 postseason. Beginning at the Big 12 Conference Tournament, Horton began toying with a cutter that led to a new and improved slider, and he began to see enhanced life on his 93-97 MPH heater. The results? 31 innings of 2.61 ERA ball accompanied by 49 strikeouts (14.2 K/9) as the Sooners went all the way to the College World Series Finals before falling to Ole Miss. Fast forward to Sunday, July 17, and Horton was the first college arm to be selected, going at No. 7 overall to the Chicago Cubs. In my opinion, it was quite a reach even given the recent helium, but it’s proof you can change your draft stock in a matter of weeks if things come together at the right time.

Hughes Right on Gabriel?

I didn’t have Gonzaga right-hander Gabriel Hughes in my way-too-early rankings or the preseason top-25. I did, however, move Hughes up to No. 20 when I put out the Top 30 College Prospects For 2022 MLB Draft: June Edition. Hughes far outperformed that ranking, as he went 10th overall to the Colorado Rockies. That made him the third pitcher to be drafted overall and the second collegiate hurler behind Horton, whereas I had him pegged as the sixth-best college arm in the class. I already wrote about Hughes in the pre-draft edition, so I’ll drop that blurb here before moving on: “Hughes wasn’t on my radar much in the preseason, but he’s vaulted himself into the late first-round/second-round conversation with a strong effort in 2022. Backed by a mid-to-upper 90s heater and a hard slider in the high 80s, Hughes has pitched to a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP this season with 131 strikeouts in 92 innings — translating to 12.8 K/9. He also wields an average change that he commands well enough and shows flashes of plus, but there’s frontline stuff here.”

You Finally Want Hjerpes

One of the biggest breakout stars of the 2022 college baseball season was none other than Cooper Hjerpe, the 2022 National Pitcher of the Year according to Perfect Game and the College Baseball Foundation. Like Hughes, Hjerpe didn’t make any of my lists leading up to the season, but he used a phenomenal campaign to rocket up boards, and even my final, pre-draft rankings only had him at No. 24 (in retrospect, he should have been higher). Ultimately, he was picked 22nd overall by the St. Louis Cardinals, and I’m apt to believe that he will thrive in that organization. As a dominant southpaw with a unique release point, Hjerpe will remind many of Chris Sale, although he releases the ball even lower than the Red Sox star. Across 103 1/3 innings this past season, Hjerpe went 11-2 with a 2.53 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, .180 BAA, 14.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and 0.3 HR/9. Hjerpe could theoretically slide into a major league bullpen tomorrow, so it’ll be interesting to see how fast of a track St. Louis sends him on, considering his long-term upside resides on the hill. I’m surprised to see myself type it, but I’m interested in acquiring Hjerpe.

Thinking Outside the Crawford Box

The San Francisco Giants made one of the riskier selections of the first round at No. 30 overall, but that’s a commendable strategy for a team picking at the back end. By taking Reggie Crawford, the Giants got a two-way prospect with an absurd ceiling, albeit one who missed all of UConn’s 2022 season due to Tommy John surgery. On top of that, Crawford’s MLB future is considered to be on the mound — but he only has eight collegiate innings under his belt: 1-1, 2.35 ERA, 17 K, 4 BB, 5 H, .172 BAA. The main appeal comes from the left-handed-throwing Crawford’s arsenal, as he can touch triple digits and pairs it with a 60-grade slide piece, but there isn’t much to show for in terms of a tertiary pitch. He was in the top-10 in my initial way-too-early rankings but fell out of the top 30 after missing the entire season. Tread lightly.

Angels, ReJoyce!

With the 89th overall pick in the third round, the Los Angeles Angels selected Tennessee flamethrower Ben Joyce. After becoming famous during the 2022 campaign for his ability to touch 105 MPH, the right-hander finished with a 2.23 ERA, .157 BAA, 14 walks, and 53 strikeouts across 32 1/3 innings. Like fellow-former Vol Garrett Crochet, his velocity may accelerate his journey through minor league ball, and we could perhaps see him at the MLB level this year. If you need immediate help, he’s worth targeting — but he won’t be on any of my boards.

Post-Draft Sleepers (Ranked)

These players can be from any round. Target them MORE heavily than their draft position would otherwise indicate. Do not simply use draft order to compose your FYPD/prospect rankings.

1. Daniel Susac, C, Arizona (19th, Oakland Athletics)

2. Robert Moore, 2B, Arkansas (72nd, Milwaukee Brewers)

3. Sterlin Thompson, OF, Florida (31st, Colorado Rockies)

4. Brock Jones, OF, Stanford (65th, Tampa Bay Rays)

5. Parker Messick, LHP, Florida State (54th, Cleveland Guardians)

6. Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama (48th, Minnesota Twins)

7. Dominic Keegan, C, Vanderbilt (134th, Tampa Bay Rays)

8. Tyler Locklear, 3B, VCU (58th, Seattle Mariners)

9. Peyton Graham, SS, Oklahoma (51st, Detroit Tigers)

10. Peyton Pallette, RHP, Arkansas (62nd, Chicago White Sox)

11. Trey Faltine, SS, Texas (213rd, Cincinnati Reds)

12A. Colby Thomas, OF, Mercer (95th, Oakland Athletics)

12B. Jalen Battles, SS, Arkansas (164th, Tampa Bay Rays)

Overvalued College Prospects (Ranked)

These players are from the first three rounds, otherwise, it would be hard for them to be “overvalued.” Target them LESS heavily than their draft position would otherwise indicate. This does not mean removing them from consideration altogether or going out of your way not to own shares but is instead a recommendation to search for value instead of reaching.

1. Ben Joyce, RHP, Tennessee (89th, Los Angeles Angels)

2. Cade Horton, RHP, Oklahoma (7th, Chicago Cubs)

3. Spencer Jones, OF, Vanderbilt (25th, New York Yankees)

4. Drew Gilbert, OF, Tennessee (28th, Houston Astros)

5. Zach Neto, SS, Campbell (13th, Los Angeles Angels)

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.

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jah
jah
2 months ago

If you keep bringing that pogo stick around I doubt you’ll have trouble acquiring Hjerpes.

shaggingflies
shaggingflies
2 months ago

Hi Hobbs,
Recently I’ve been reading your posts regarding Max Meyer. I’m prepping for a sell off to build up for next year (and beyond) in a dynasty H2H 12 team league. Do you still hold Max Meyer in the same regard as you did back in your May 12th post? How do you view Max Meyer in comparison to Tarik Skubal or Aaron Ashby (two other young guns that may be acquirable on my end)? Thanks!

Shaggingflies
Shaggingflies
Reply to  Hobbs
2 months ago

Was just about to pull the trigger on a deal to acquire Max Meyer when I saw the news that he had elbow discomfort in last night’s start. Crummy….