The 2022 MLB Draft begins in UNDER two weeks. We are getting so close, folks, and the mock drafts are coming fast-paced. There are three new ones to get into today …
From Jonathan Mayo at MLB Pipeline, infielder Cam Collier goes 4th to the Pirates, and with everything else more or less going chalk, that leaves second base prep prospect Termarr Johnson for the Cubs at seven. It’s weird to think of him being a “leftover” at seven, but this could be the way it goes, and it would be fantastic for the Cubs: “Johnson is the best pure high school hitter in the class and it’s hard to imagine him going any later than this, especially with Collier off the board.”
Going by the “consensus rankings” – if there actually were such a thing – you increasingly see seven prospects as the top tier of the draft, in some order: Druw Jones, Jackson Holliday, Elijah Green, Termarr Johnson, Kevin Parada, Brooks Lee, and Cam Collier. Since the Cubs pick at seven, they will be guaranteed to have at least one of these guys still on the board. That doesn’t mean the Cubs will definitely take one of these seven – they may evaluate the individuals very differently than the rest of the industry – but it does mean they are guaranteed to at least have the option, and they are the last team that can say that.
Baseball America’s newest mock draft also has Collier going four to the Pirates, and in this one it’s college shortstop Brooks Lee who “falls” to the Cubs, whom BA has definitely preferring Collier or Johnson: “This could be a bummer scenario for the Cubs, as both Collier and Johnson come off the board in front of them. It sounds like the Cubs are high on both lefthanded bats and if either fell to them they would probably scoop them up. Collier has been mentioned most frequently at this spot and more recently with Pittsburgh at four. With neither available we have the Cubs taking another polished, pure hitter in Brooks Lee.”
It’s a tricky thing to allow yourself to become happy or disappointed by a given pick this year, because we don’t ACTUALLY know whom the Cubs prefer – only that the rumors have them most heavily on Collier and Johnson, each of whom are among the youngest, highest-upside bats in the draft. But it’s not at all hard to imagine that the Cubs actually prefer the crop of college bats this year, including Lee, Kevin Parada, and …
Zach Neto, the Campbell shortstop prospect whose stock rose throughout the year as (I suspect) more and more organizations got access to enough batted ball data to conclude that his success against arguably lesser competition wasn’t just about that competition. I mention Neto here because the third mock, from Prospects Live, has the Cubs going with him: “The Cubs seem to be focused on college bats with Parada, Lee, Collier, and Campbell shortstop Zach Neto all in play at this spot. The team is coveting a premium athlete in this spot, so we’ll give Neto the upper hand on Parada and Lee. The Cubs have become more and more data-influenced with their picks the last two years, so Neto checks that box as well.”
In the Prospects Live mock, Johnson and Collier are both off the board by pick four, and the Cubs pass on both Lee and Parada in favor of Neto. If the Cubs did go this route, I suspect we would see them signing Neto for an under-slot bonus (in the various mocks, he usually has a floor in the pick 15 range, so the Cubs would almost certainly be able to save on slot), and then aggressively targeting prep prospects in rounds two+. If you have a number of high school prospects whom you evaluate as first round talents, but whom you know will not actually be selected in the first round because of bonus demands, then it isn’t the worst idea in the world to save on slot if you’re picking in the top ten.
THAT SAID, you can’t go with this strategy in a draft like this unless you perceive the difference between your choices at seven as negligible (or you secretly actually think the under-slot guy is the better prospect). In other words, if the Cubs did go with someone like Neto despite full-slot types like Parada or Lee or Collier or Johnson still being on the board, it better be *MOSTLY* because they think Neto is massively underrated.