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2022 Draft Preview: Second and Third Selection Thoughts

Here are some potential names to keep an eye on for day two of the draft.

The Diamondbacks possess a supplemental first round pick (#34, with a slot bonus of $2,257,100) and then their second round pick (#43, with a slot bonus of $1,817,600) in addition to the second overall pick. This gives them three selections in the top-50. Hopefully, that translates to not only landing a star with the team’s first selection, but two more quality, tier one starting players as well. Here are some interesting names that could be in play. Some may be gone by the time the Snakes draft at #34. Even more may be off the board at #43. Because of the size of their slot bonus at 1-2, the Diamondbacks should also have money left over from that selection to sweeten the pot at either (or both) of these spots should Mike Hazen’s front office decide to do so. More on that tomorrow.

Cooper Hjerpe - LHP, Oregon State

Age at Draft: 21.35
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 200
B/T: L/L
Previously Drafted: Never Drafted

Tools

Fastball: 60 Slider: 50 Changeup: 55 Control: 60
Prospect Grade: 50

In a year that is very light on arms in general and college arms in particular, it would not be surprising to see Hjerpe off the board before the 43rd pick in the draft. However, there are just enough other arms and dynamic position talent players in Hjerpe’s range that he just might slip to the Diamondbacks in the supplemental round. Playing in the Pac-12, the left-handed Hjerpe has dominated this spring and posted a 2.45 ERA over 16 starts and 95.2 innings, while striking out 39.7% of batters faced and walking just 5.3%. He’s dominated every lineup he’s faced despite throwing a fastball that averages just 90-91 mph. The key to Hjerpe’s success is a unique, 52-54-inch release height created by a sidearm slot that makes everything he throws play up. His vertical approach angle is elite, and while Hjerpe touches just 94-95 mph at peak, he generates plenty of whiffs with his fastball, especially at the top of the zone. When hitters do make contact, he has been difficult to elevate and allowed just three home runs this spring through those 95.2 innings of work. Hjerpe has the tools to fly through an organization’s farm as a bullpen arm, but he also has the stamina, work ethic, and repertoire to be developed as a starter.

Justin Campbell - RHP, Oklahoma State

Age at Draft: 21.43
Height: 6’7”
Weight: 221
B/T: L/R
Previously Drafted: Houston (2019, 18th Rd.)

Tools

Fastball: 50 Curveball: 55 Slider: 50 Changeup: 60 Control: 55
Prospect Grade: 50

This is another college arm that may well be off the board by the time the Diamondbacks get to make their second pick, but should be strongly considered if he is still around. A towering, lanky right-hander, Campbell entices with the notion that, as he bulks up some while playing pro ball, he may yet find even more velocity than he currently has. As things sit now, Campbell’s fastball sits 91-93 mph with a modest reach-back of 94-95 mph. The jump out of the hand with his fastball collects its fair share of swing and misses up in the zone and demonstrates late running action when Campbell attacks the outer black against left-handed hitters. Complementing Campbell’s fastball is his above average curveball with tight 1-to7 break. Sitting typically in the 75-78 mph range, Campbell’s bender comes at any time in the count, as he can backdoor it as well as bury in the dirt to get the strikeout. Campbell also features an 80-82 mph slider that he throws to right-handed hitters, more or less to mess with the opponent to keep them from timing his curve. It is not a great pitch, but it is at least average and he has a great feel for when to throw it as a “keep them honest” pitch. Topping off Campbell’s repertoire may perhaps be one of the best changeups in this year’s draft not belonging to Dylan Lesko. As with any plus changeup, Campbell sells it extremely well with fastball arm speed and maintains his slot. The late diving action that occurs prior to a fooled swing is just another element of the pitch that makes it near impossible to square up when executed.

Connor Prielipp - LHP, Alabama

Age at Draft: 21.52
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 205
B/T: L/L
Previously Drafted: Boston (2019, 37th Rd.)

Tools

Fastball: 60 Slider: 70 Changeup: 55 Control: 55
Prospect Grade: 55

If not for an injury requiring Tommy John surgery at the beginning of his sophomore season, Prielipp would be a virtual lock for selection in the top-10 of the draft. Unfortunately for the Alabama ace, he only managed three starts in his second season before he was shut down. This lack of recent exposure and the obvious concerns with injured arms has caused Prielipp to tumble precipitously down draft boards. However, Prielipp is now recovered from his surgery and has begun throwing again. During a May bullpen, Prielipp showed solid stuff, though he wasn’t quite as crisp as his pre-injury self. He touched 93-94 (pre-injury velocity) in that session, snapping off a few good breaking balls in the 82-84 mph range and an 82-83 mph changeup which he has exceptional feel for. He showed solid control, but scattered command within the zone. A team willing to take a gamble on the recovering Prielipp (like the Dodgers did with Walker Buehler) is betting on Prielipp showing no ill effects from his surgery and developing into a pitcher capable of pitching as a #2 or solid #3.

Given the lack of recent competition for Prielipp, here is a video of him at the combine, showing some of his pitching and discussing his recovery process.

Ryan Cermak - OF, Illinois State

Age at Draft: 21.13
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 205
B/T: R/R
Previously Drafted: Never Drafted

Tools

Hit: 50 Power: 60 Run: 55 Field: 60 Arm: 60
Prospect Grade: 55

If Ryan Cermak played for one of the Division I powerhouses, he would be a top-10 selection. Instead, he played for Illinois State, which has limited some of his exposure. Cermak is a name that may well be a sneaky pick at #34, much like Daulton Varsho was when he was selected #68 in 2017. Cermak projects to be one of the first center fielders taken in the draft not named Druw Jones. Offensively, Cermak swings a dangerous stick, with plus bat speed and damage-dealing aggression. When squared, he generates exit velocities up to 110 mph. None of his 19 home runs were cheap and after slashing .340/.441/.696 he established himself as one of the most dangerous hitters in the country. Currently, Cermak is a dead-pull hitter, which dampens his hit tool grade “all the way down” to 50. However, Cermak has started showing the ability to drive the ball the other direction. If he is able to do this with any consistency, Cermak’s offensive potential is scary high. Defensively, Cermak is already a polished center fielder. His college highlight reel looks like something that belongs on Sports Center’s Web Gems. Cermak is also an explosive runner with a decent top speed. He gets down the line to first very quickly and is accomplished at taking the extra base when it is available. As an added bonus, Cermak hits 95 mph when throwing from the mound. However, his bat and fielding assure that he will be drafted as a position player.

Noah Schultz - LHP, Oswego (Ill.) East HS

Age at Draft: 18.96
Height: 6’9”
Weight: 225
B/T: L/L
Committed: Vanderbilt

Tools

Fastball: 60 Slider: 55 Changeup: 50 Control: 50
Prospect Grade: 55

Noah Schultz is everything one would expect from a 6’9” lefty power pitcher with a fastball/slider combination. As such, it is also likely to be difficult to sign him away from Vanderbilt, where he has a very real chance of becoming their Friday night starter as a true freshman, putting him in a good position for re-entering the draft in a few years. It will almost certainly take substantially more than the slot value at #34 or 43 to entice Schultz away from Vandy, but the Diamondbacks are one of the few teams with the bonus pool to potentially pull off the feat. Schultz’s fastball sits in the mid-90s, though he can reach back for 98 when he needs to. Unlike other tall power pitchers, Schultz does not rely on his length to generate leverage on his pitches. Instead he has a shorter motion. He hides the ball very well and then allows it to explode from his hand out of a three-quarters arm slot. Schultz’s second offering is a slider which he shows a lot of confidence in. The slider rests 80-83 mph with big sweep that can surpass the 3,000 rpm mark. Scouts are impressed with Schultz’s shape and control of the pitch and seem convinced that there is a potential future plus-plus offering to be had there. Finally, Schultz also features a change that sits 81-83 that he uses effectively against righties.

Walter Ford - RHP, Pace (FL) HS

Age at Draft: 17.56
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 193
B/T: R/R
Committed: Alabama

Tools

Fastball: 60 Slider: 50 Changeup: 40 Control: 55
Prospect Grade: 55

Ford is one of the more intriguing prospects of the draft. He will be one of the youngest players in the draft. He also has the tools that should develop well in college, pushing him up draft boards in a few years. A prep prospect with his tools would usually be very difficult to sign away from the college ranks unless he was taken in the top-10 or so picks. However, Ford has gone out of his way to make himself available for the draft a year early and has signaled that he is serious about entering pro ball instead of going to campus. Still, this feels very much like it will be a decision ultimately informed by the bonus money available as much as anything else.

Ford throws a fastball in the low 90s and he’s been up to 96-97 with the arm speed that could see him getting to triple-digits when he fills out and reaches physical maturity. His go-to secondary is a sharp slider in the low 80s which shows impressive two-plane bite at times and high spin rates in the 2,600-2,700-rpm range. Ford will also show a low-80s changeup that has some promise, but he needs to develop more feel and consistency of the pitch. Ford throws from a high, three-quarter arm slot and has some plunging action in the back of his arm stroke, with drop and drive in his lower half as he strides towards the plate and a bit of a spinoff in his finish. Despite the number of moving parts in his delivery, Ford still rates as having above average control and few expect him to need to make any significant changes to it.

Ben Joyce - RHP Tennessee

Age at Draft: 21.84
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 225
B/T: R/R
Previously Drafted: Never Drafted

Tools

Fastball: 70 Slider: 70 Changeup: 40 Control: 50
Prospect Grade: 50

There are few players not in the highest echelons of this draft with more buzz surrounding them than Tennessee’s Ben Joyce and with good reason. While some teams with good pitching development see Joyce as a potential front-line starter, other teams see a back-end bullpen arm that could arrive in the Majors as soon as this year. While Joyce’s future lacks any sort of certainty, his explosive tools do not. Joyce’s fastball has been making headlines all over the place, sitting comfortably at 101 mph, he has repeatedly been clocked hitting 105 and has topped out (so far) at 105.5 mph. Despite how amazing his double-plus fastball is, his slider may well be even better. The slider is a hard variant that he throws from 8-83 with big-time sweep. Mostly he uses it as a set-up pitch, intentionally throwing it to end out of the zone. However, the pitch was only put in play twice in the entire regular season this year.

The knock on Joyce is his current usage. A big fear with any pitcher that throws as hard as Joyce does is elbow health. Joyce is no exception. This version of Joyce is the post-Tommy John version. He has already had the surgery, recovered, and is now throwing this hard and maintaining his velocity, showing more stamina than was expected. However, given post-injury concerns related to how hard Joyce throws, his usage this season at Tennessee was very controlled, the program unwilling to risk re-injury less than 18 months out from major surgery.

As a starter, Joyce will be a three-year project, owing to the need to build up innings stamina. As a reliever, Joyce is nearly MLB-ready now and could slot into the back of essentially any minor league bullpen. Because of the loud tools and the variances to be found in how Joyce will be developed, it is difficult to peg just where Joyce will land in the draft. He has all the tools necessary to be considered a day one selection. He also has the reliever profile and stamina concerns that could push him down to the third round. Given the lack of truly dynamic arms in this year’s draft and the ever-present bonus pool concerns, Arizona taking him at #43 (if he is still available) would not be a terrible idea. Since Arizona will not be in a competitive position in September of this season, they could take this season and next to attempt to develop Joyce as a starter. If that doesn’t take by the end of the 2023 season, they could just as easily move him back into the bullpen again, letting him re-adjust to being a high leverage, back-end reliever just in time for the 2024 season, when Arizona hopes to have a competitive team again.

All 43 pitches 100+ mph in the NCAA tournament:

And a bit of variety:

Next up: Draft Strategies