Believe it or not, draft season has arrived! While college baseball remains four weeks away, high school showcases are happening now, junior college baseball is about to begin, and hints of winter college breakouts are trickling in.
The Cubs are hoping – whether realistic or not – that the 2022 Draft will be their highest selection for years to come. Nailing that number seven pick is essential for a Cubs organization that has been dedicated to laying the foundation of another high-ranking farm system, and it will be a major storyline in these parts all spring long.
Leaning on the reports and videos of experts in the space, I’ve been diving deep into the top of the Draft to get some initial thoughts organized. While our finished draft board in June/July will be more mixed up, the clearest way I can see a top 10 right now is three high-ceiling prep bats at the top, six college hitters that follow them, and the top prep arm to finish out the top 10. Nice and clean and orderly. For now.
The Three High School Bats
1. Druw Jones, CF, GA HS.
With the unknown of the spring still to come, I think dreaming on Jones right now makes him the right number one. There’s a ton of projection remaining in his tall, wiry frame, with probably 30 pounds of muscle still to be found in the weight room. While I think it will all lead to a different build than dad Andruw had in his peak, Druw’s ceiling is similar as an elite centerfielder with 30+ home run power potential. I do think the hit tool is pretty inconsistent in the videos I watch, and I don’t have a significant gap between Jones and the two behind him here. But when I try to imagine the 90th percentile outcome of all three, Druw’s version would be the most valuable player.
2. Elijah Green, CF, FL HS.
When you combine Green’s elite bat speed with his generational build and athleticism, you have raw power potential that’s unmatched in the class. I think Major League organizations will find it very easy to help Green access that power even more regularly as he builds consistency in utilizing an early contact point.
The question of the past six months is whether Green’s lack of contact on the showcase circuit should send him sliding down the top ten. I don’t think so. Athletes like Green will make adjustments quicker than his peers to help mitigate those issues, and I think hitting coaches will be able to find some things in his upper body during the swing to help improve in-zone contact. Strikeouts will inevitably he high, but I think his impact contact will offset it in the long run.
3. Termarr Johnson, IF, GA HS.
His home run at a showcase last weekend was gorgeous, perfectly illustrating how his swing’s attack angle can produce plus power. I think the power projection is going to be the thing that separates his stock amongst various scouts, because all are going to agree this guy will make more than enough contact to be a Major League player. His quick hands are so good. Mason McRae throws out Jose Ramirez as a comp in his draft guide, and I love that in considering how this unique prospect can translate his skillset into big league success.
After showing off the hit tool earlier, Johnson shows off the power here with a monster HR off the building beyond RF. Has the ability to generate massive power that plays in-game despite a smaller build. Incredible bat to watch @B_Sakowski_PG @PG_Georgia #PGDraft #MLKWest https://t.co/WqC0e97yja pic.twitter.com/USeokQVt4a
— Perfect Game Four Corners (@PG_FourCorners) January 17, 2022
The Six College Bats
4. Chase DeLauter, CF, James Madison U.
The performance in the Cape Cod League should be enough to carry DeLauter through the spring as a top 10 pick given the lack of advanced competition he’ll face in his junior season. The hand load looks a little strange, but DeLauter’s bat through the zone is picture-perfect with controlled aggression. You love the swing adjustment he manages in the video below. I think there’s a little bit of strength development still to be had, which offers further offensive upside though it may well leave him facing a move to an outfield corner.
5. Gavin Cross, RF, Virginia Tech.
Besides Green, I think Cross offers the best physical frame in the class. It’s an ideal right field build, with his natural strength allowing him to produce huge exit velocities while staying short to the ball. I love the way he stays inside the ball in the below video, with numerous clips available showcasing his usage of left-center field. Scouts will be watching his plate approach closely this spring to see if he’ll take his walks, and FanGraphs notes that the advanced numbers suggest a weakness against breaking balls. This is the first guy listed that I think the Cubs have a good chance at being able to draft at number seven; I’ll be watching closely this spring.
The opposite field is being used and abused today. Gavin Cross hit one out, then TJ Rumfield joins the fun and hits it to the same part of the park. Good power in the Texas Tech transfer's swing. Game is tied at 3. pic.twitter.com/j7wR9AShL4
— Tyler Jennings (@TylerJennings24) April 3, 2021
6. Jace Jung, 2B/3B, Texas Tech.
It looks a little weird, and you wonder how much hitting coaches will change things, but I think baseball has passed the point in allowing unorthodox swings to scare teams away from this kind of statistical performance. While the set-ups aren’t the same, I still think of Jason Kipnis as a similar profile that also didn’t look normal in a batter’s box.
Jung seems to make some of the best swing decisions in the class, and that pitch recognition should get him to the upper levels as quick as any hitter in the 2022 Draft. If he shows this spring that he can handle second base, I think he sticks in the top eight.
Jace Jung appreciation tweet.
He’s hitting .405/.504/.865 with 15 homers already.
He has *two* games this year with three homers.
More here: https://t.co/3aal6Ry7Fq
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) April 13, 2021
7. Jacob Berry, 3B/1B/DH, LSU.
I guess it’s the switch-hitting power phenom with questionable defensive skills, but I’m always thinking of Mark Teixeira as I think about Berry. And that’s a good thing. It’s hard to see the arguments against Berry hitting his way to the Majors, be it the plate discipline, the ease of his power or the simplicity of his swing. I’m fine slotting him here even with a first base grade.
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) July 19, 2021
8. Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly.
I have some concerns on the lack of explosion in the profile: it strikes me as relatively average bat speed on video, and I’m not sure I have the same level of confidence in future above-average power if he heads down the defensive spectrum. But Lee’s Cape performance and contact numbers suggest a really, really good hit tool from both sides of the plate. He’ll get bonus points for being the son of a D1 coach, with smart, cerebral play being a common mention in his scouting reports. A favorite of area scouts that have followed him since a big high school career.
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
9. Daniel Susac, C, Arizona.
One of those players where it seems to come easier to him than most everyone else. Susac was successful last year on both sides of the ball, and I’m impressed with how fluid he looks for being a 6-foot-4 catcher. The swing isn’t as sexy as others on this list, but you can’t argue with the results, and he seems like a decent bet to have doubles turn into home runs down the line.
That Big-Time High School Arm
10. Dylan Lesko, RH SP, GA HS.
Has been mocked to the Cubs on more than one occasion this winter, which would be exciting for this blogger, as Lesko would be one of the highest upside pitchers the Cubs have drafted since Mark Prior. Already up into the 97 mph range, Lesko stays on-line and in control in his delivery so well. It’s easy velocity, even if I see a touch more effort in the arm action than others.
The feel for his changeup at this age is really strong, and the dozen-tick separation he gets with it off his fastball is fantastic. It shouldn’t take long for a good pitching coach to get the breaking ball to be a Major League out pitch; I actually think there’s a good bet that Lesko could move pretty fast if the team that drafts him allows it.
While we’re here, six more to keep in mind: Brock Jones, Kevin Parada, Brandon Barriera, Carter Young, Walter Ford, Cam Collier.