The 2022 MLB Draft is now less than five weeks away, and the overall board has taken shape. The Arizona Diamondbacks will pick three times in the first night of the draft, starting with the second overall pick. This will be the highest draft pick for Arizona since the 2015 Draft, making it doubly important than General Manager Mike Hazen, special assistant Deric Ladnier, and Director of Amateur Scouting Ian Rebhan to nail this pick. In the off-season, I mentioned eight players to watch in the upcoming high school and college season.
Here are five candidates to go at the second overall selection, with second generation athletes littering the top of the draft board and a lot of familiar names from the last list:
Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS (Atlanta, GA), Age: 18, B/T: R/R, Commit: Vanderbilt
The best combination of present-day approach and future upside, Jones gives the Diamondbacks the best chance of drafting a marquee player. His availability to Arizona with the second overall pick will depend on what the Orioles may do with the first overall pick although my gut feeling says he goes at that selection. A 6’4” outfielder with an ultra-projectable frame, I believe there is a chance he develops plus power, arm, and speed tools in the future. He’s a great athlete as well on the mound, and has the tools to be a solid pitcher, but he’ll be a hitter once he goes pro. His best position is most likely center field, but also projects well for right field because of that arm.
His right-handed swing is still a work in progress, as the upper half isn’t quite in sync with his lower half. His swing path is more of a flat plane swing and he shows an ability to handle high velocity fastballs up in the zone, but he’s also shown somewhat of an aptitude to adjust his swing against breaking and off-speed pitches. He’s shown an improvement in selectively at the plate, showing a more advanced approach at the plate. With an improved approach and better swing mechanics could eventually push his hit tool to a plus.
This is a situation where the team should consider ceiling, since they might not be picking in the Top 10 in next year’s draft, even those Jones will need at least three years before considering an MLB promotion. The upside with Jones is similar to Ronald Acuña Jr., although there is some considerable bust potential as a tools over approach type prospect. I’m not too worried about his overall make-up grade, as he’s spent the entire year as being arguably the consensus top high school prospect and the territory that comes with that.
Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL), Age: 18, B/T: R/R
If you’re a fan of tools and upside, Green has the biggest ceiling in the draft amongst the top prospects in the class. In the showcase circuit, more advanced stuff such as high velocity heaters and quality breaking balls gave him fits, which I think may be potentially concerning about his ability to reach his ceiling. At the same time, he has light tower power and already generates plus exit velocities off the bat for an 18-year-old at 6’3”, 225-pounds. Even if he’s maxed out already, there are enough present day tools to drool over. Green is the type of guy who could develop into a quality regular in center if the hit tool develops just as average as the other tools will lift up his profile.
His other tools are very impressive, putting up 60-yard dash times similar to Corbin Carroll despite having a linebacker built compared to the 5’10” 165-lb Carroll. His swing is built to lift the ball in the air, where his plus-plus bat speed will turn those into extra base hits. He’ll do more damage against fastballs around thigh to belt high in the zone, which would explain why high velocity up at the letters was a problem in the showcase circuit. Green will be a test for the player development team in Arizona, but if they are up to the task Green has superstar potential. With his commitment to Miami and his expectations to be one of the first players selected in this year’s draft, I don’t expect Green to offer a discount. The ballpark to sign him will likely be at least $8MM, if not full slot for the 2nd overall pick ($8.185MM).
Green could very well end up having a career like Justin Upton, although I consider it to be close the upper end of his career projection. If he ends up in a system that has an excellent player development program, I could see him turning into one of the superstars in the game although I preface those odds to be about 1% at best.
Brooks Lee, INF, Cal Poly Tech (San Luis Obispo, CA), Age: 21, B/T: S/R
Lee is the most polished bat in the top group of players in this year’s draft class, but arguably has the lowest ceiling in this group. Taking him would signal the team doesn’t think high school prospects are likely to hit their ceiling and that Lee’s projected floor of a near surefire big league regular is more valuable. He played shortstop in college, but may end up moving to third base with Jordan Lawlar already in the system and could be a multi-positional starter like Ben Zobrist on a team that already has established regulars at most infield positions.
Lee wouldn’t take much more than two calendar years to reach the majors, barring injuries, and easily fits into the window of contention this team is trying to hit. The team doesn’t have a lot of long term options at the hot corner, so Lee does plug that hole. At the same time, I don’t believe teams should draft with positions in mind unless there’s a plan with that pick. I believe the pick would be a bit more palatable if the idea was if Lee agreed to an under-slot deal around $6.0-6.5MM and use the savings to secure a falling high schooler prospect with an over-slot deal at 34th or 43rd overall. Despite being a college junior who could return to school, I don’t see Lee turning down an under-slot deal in the $6.5-7.0MM range.
Jackson Holliday, INF, Stillwater HS (Stillwater, OK), Age: 18, B/T: L/R
Projected Tools: Hit 60, Power 50, Run 55, Arm 55, Defense 50, ETA: 2026
Holliday is the helium prospect who catapulted his way to a potential top-five selection in this year’s draft due to a big improvement in his physical profile. After struggling on the showcase circuit as a result of trying too hard to impress and in turn resulted in the opposite effect. When returning to the regular spring season, Holliday showed a much more advanced approach at the plate and barreling up the baseball more. Holliday should be able to stick on the left side of the infield, whether or not he moves Lawlar off the shortstop position.
Holliday is the most appealing option for a potential under-slot pick should Jones be taken by the O’s first overall. He could achieve the possibility of solving the long term problem at the hot corner whether he or Lawlar move over there and provides additional shortstop depth in the organization. I think he has more future upside than Lee, so unless there is a huge difference between the two I prefer Holliday over Lee on talent alone.
Termarr Johnson, INF, Mays HS (Atlanta, GA), Age: 18, B/T: L/R
Johnson is arguably the best bat in the class, holding high grades in both hit and power. He projects to hit anywhere in a run-scoring spot in the lineup. He will have to move across the diamond to second, but who better to teach him the ins and outs of the position than a three-time Gold Glove winner at the position. The situation in which the D-backs could take him with the second overall pick is if he presents better savings than the other guys to justify the lower upside on defense and baserunning. Of the entire high school crop, Johnson has the lowest bust rate due to already having the best bat in the class.
Whether or not the Diamondbacks opt to go for a Best Player Available or take a haircut will remain to be seen, although their past history suggests they opt more for the former than the latter. James will provide more detailed reports of each player he thinks is in consideration as we get closer to the draft.