We’re all enthralled by the likes of Elijah Greene and Termarr Johnson, but who is best-positioned to be the first college prospect off the board in the 2022 MLB Draft? 2022 will be nothing like 2020 in terms of the college arms that come off the board, but could the top-five collegiate prospects ALL be position players next year? That’s the way I have it drawn up as of right now, with Florida’s Hunter Barco, Arkansas’ Peyton Pallette and Alabama’s Connor Prielipp representing the arms most likely to break into the top five. But for now, it’s all bats — and as always, I have some bold opinions in my prospect rankings. So let’s get to ’em.
1. Jacob Berry | 1B/3B | LSU | S/R | 6-0 | 212
Jacob is Berry good. Did you happen to catch any of the NCAA Baseball Tournament this past June? If you did, then you got a good look at Berry, who was then playing at Arizona alongside fellow 2022 draft hopeful Daniel Susac — the former of which opted to follow head coach Jay Johnson’s departure to LSU. Berry’s freshman 2021 season was nothing short of remarkable, and as it relates to his offensive profile, I don’t have anything but praises to sing for the switch-hitting corner infielder: .352/.439/.676, 17 HR, 5 3B, 19 2B, 70 RBI, 54 R, 33 BB, 2 SB, 19.5 K%, 11.1 BB%. Berry reached base at nearly a 44% clip while clubbing 41 extra-base hits in 63 games — all as a freshman competing in the Pac-12 Conference. Berry will be tested even more as a known commodity in the SEC this year, but as a draft eligible second-year player, there’s few (if any) players in the 2022 class with an offensive ceiling as high as his. After watching him bat .387 with four homers in 11 games with the Collegiate National Team this summer, it’s Berry in a tier of his own for me personally — but you can make a case for any of the names to follow here if you subscribe to the “positional scarcity” concept. We won’t even get into that hullaballoo today — word has it that Grey is nearly out of comfort food.
The Berry blast puts @ArizonaBaseball up, 5-3!#RoadToOmaha x ? ESPNU pic.twitter.com/hN0pj0s2hV
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAABaseball) June 12, 2021
2. Jace Jung | 2B/3B | Texas Tech | L/R | 6-0 | 200
Razzball’s first mention of Jace Jung (not to be confused with his older brother, Josh, of the Rangers organization) came back on March 18, when he was off to such a scorching start to his sophomore season that I felt inclined to mention him in that week’s Collegiate Corner. Here’s what I said: “Even as a freshman in 2020, Jung walked more (18) than he struck out (15) while batting .264/.438/.604 across 19 games. He isn’t being talked about enough yet, but Jung 2.0 looks to be on the first round trajectory for 2022. He’s roughly two inches shorter than his older brother, standing at 6-foot-even, but he’s right around 200 pounds and size should be a non-factor in his draft stock. Make a note to keep tabs on Jung as he has the potential to be a four-category star in fantasy.”
Fast-forward five-plus months, and Jung is more-or-less a lock to be a first rounder next summer. In his second season at Texas Tech, Jung slashed .337/.462/.697 with 21 homers, one triple, 10 doubles, 67 RBI, 55 runs, 49 walks and four steals. He struck out fewer times (45) than he walked, translating to a 18.6 BB% and 17.0 K%. He struggled a bit in a very small sample size on the Cape this summer, but the body of work and family pedigree is there, as the elder Jung has seamlessly developed into a blue-chip prospect. He deploys a bit of an unconventional starting point with his hands in his stance, but the loading mechanism and connection point are low-effort and smooth. Jung’s bat will play at the next level and he should be able to stick up the middle while flirting with double-digit steals. He’s officially my second-favorite JJ, right behind the co-star of Netflix’s Outer Banks.
Jace Jung bringing some serious power to Eldredge Park this summer ? pic.twitter.com/kQy7hWSWKV
— Cape League (@OfficialCCBL) May 18, 2021
3. Kevin Parada | C | Georgia Tech | R/R | 6-1 | 197
Parada shouldn’t surprise anyone for making this list, since he was a top-50 overall draft prospect in 2020 and has done nothing but raise his stock with a stellar debut college season. Across 52 games at Georgia Tech, Parada batted .318/.379/.550 with nine home runs, two triples, 20 doubles, 42 RBI, 42 runs, 17 walks and one steal. His approach still needs some work, as evidenced by a miniscule 7.0 BB% paired with a 16.9 K% — but it’s hard to be turned off by a low walk rate when a player is sporting an OPS over .900 and a K-rate below 17%. Although the jury is out regarding whether or not Parada has the ability to be a big-league catcher, I’m not going to dock him for that. He still has time to prove his worth behind the dish, and we’ve seen some elite first base-only prospects valued highly by MLB teams in recent years (Andrew Vaughn, Spencer Torkelson). Parada batted .400 with a .520 SLG in 10 games with the Collegiate National Team this summer, adding to his impressive offensive profile.
Freshman C Kevin Parada is the real deal. One of the top freshman bats in the country. ?
Got to see Parada in HS a few times and came away more impressed every time. That hasn’t stopped. That swing is built to last. #CollegeBaseball pic.twitter.com/2EasRIQ18z
— Jake Tillinghast (@JTillinghast27) February 27, 2021
4. Jud Fabian | OF | Florida | R/R | 6-1 | 180
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!
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
MLB scouting departments voted Jud Fabian as the best athlete of any hitter in the draft.
This ball went 441 feet ?
Full list of best tools here: https://t.co/sY7FkCTVZf pic.twitter.com/TzGtOuJB85
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) February 2, 2021
5. Brooks Lee | SS | Cal Poly | S/R | 6-2 | 195
I’m not quite as sold on Lee’s swing the same way I am the three names above him, which is why he’s positioned at No. 5 on this list despite a standout 2021 season that was followed by arguably the most impressive offensive showing on the Cape this summer. After batting .342/.384/.626 with 10 homers and three steals in his second year at Cal Poly, Lee produced a .405/.432/.667 slash line with six homers in 21 games with the wood. If you combine Lee’s 2021 NCAA season and 2021 Cape season, you get a 14.8 K% and a 6.2 BB%. We should expect the strikeouts to rise a bit more drastically for a player transitioning from Big West Conference pitching to the MiLB than we would for a prospect coming out of the Pac-12 or SEC, so it’s evident that Lee will need to show a greater tendency to draw walks in 2022 — if nothing else. On top of that, Lee may be better-suited for second base in the long-term, although that remains to be seen. Still, you can’t question the pure bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate, and everything I’ve laid out here is simply an explanation as to why I have him at No. 5. Am I penalizing him too much for the lack of film and playing at Cal Poly? Perhaps, but I’ll move him up if he pops off again next year.
Brooks Lee (2022) @calpolystangs @YD_RedSox returned to the Cape from @USABaseballCNT earlier this week. A switch-hitting infielder w/power, here’s a look at open face swings from each side. #PGCape pic.twitter.com/lKQziOYPO7
— PG College Baseball (@PGCollegeBall) July 25, 2021
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.
Outside Looking In: Hunter Barco, LHP, Florida; Robert Moore, 2B, Arkansas; Carter Young, SS, Vanderbilt; Andrew Susac, C, Arizona; Hayden Dunhurst, C, Ole Miss; Peyton Pallette, RHP, Arkansas; Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama