Breaking Down The Top ’22 Draft Prospects Analytically

Mason McRae
12 min readMay 6, 2022

I’m still routinely updating my Draft Board — which you can access by clicking the embedded link — but I wanted to post a formal version of the present-day reports for the top guys. Below I’ve included exactly that, with reports for the top prospects in the draft.

Brooks Lee, Cal Poly

Brooks spent his first two years at Cal Poly demolishing baseballs and making contact more than virtually every player in college baseball, though he chased a lot. This year he started whiffing slightly more — an increase hardly meaningful — but chasing significantly less. Interestingly enough, he’s making contact more often on pitches in the zone. An improvement made by swinging less. Lee’s contact quality has also gotten better this year as a result of less contact on pitches out of the zone, and he’s seen a 13% increase in run production. He’s a plus-hitter with above-average swing decisions and plus bat speed. He’s peaked in-game at 110 mph, and doesn’t strike out. His combination of contact/power is impressive.

Lee’s had back and knee injuries dating back to his high school days which speculatively led to him making it to campus. He has range to his arm side in the field but the arm strength is only a 50, with 55 accuracy. I think he has the mobility/athleticism to play the spot, which is more important than arm talent with all of the player positioning tweaks possible at the pro level. For me he’s a 45 at short and a 60 at third.

Having a swing slightly more towards the flat side, he gets most of his in-game power due to the approach rather than path. He’s able to create positive angles via the bat by getting early to point-of-contact and underneath pitches. Lee’s swing isn’t aesthetically pleasing necessarily as when his front leg begins to open up his back foot kicks to the side and leads to some awkward body tilt, but this is why he’s able to create real power with his sort of swing. The pelvis stays closed off and attached to the rest of body as he’s beginning to rotate and uncoils at the last second just as his back elbow begins to drop bat into pitch flight.

Elijah Green, IMG Academy (HS)

This isn’t an exact science, but Elijah’s 99th percentile career outcome is probably the best player in professional baseball at his peak. He has arguably four 60+ tools with easy 70-power and 70-speed. His arm is a 6, and I’d say the glove is a 6 as well. Some whiff concerns and fringy — but average — swing decisions have his hit tool as a 45. Not many 18-year-olds have the ability to hit a baseball 110 mph with a wood bat, but Elijah is one of them. He’s a freak athlete. Some of the things he can do on the field are unbelievably impressive. His ability to lift balls, and do so with real 70-power is impressive. He’s able to mishit baseballs and still do damage thanks to his bat speed.

It’s a profile very similar to Byron Buxton; both have high-end athletic profiles with steep swings that create lift on balls and also naturally have their hardest hit balls come at impactful ball flights. Elijah has had serious whiff issues both in showcase and in high school, and while those have to be factored in, the guy is such a unicorn and physical specimen that you just have to accept how special he is. Dylan Crews, another prep outfielder out of Florida, got nit-picked to the bone his senior year because of his performance/whiffs and then put up the best offensive season in college baseball as a freshman in the best conference. Sometimes you have to bet on the outlier traits a player has, and in this case, that’s Elijah.

Druw Jones, Wesleyan (HS)

Druw is the son of former big leaguer and potential hall-of-famer, Andruw Jones. Similarly to his father, he is a plus-athlete and 70-runner that plays the field well with range in CF and a plus-arm. Druw played on the same team as Elijah Green in the summer and split reps but he held his own when in CF. Jones is still growing and has projection in a lean frame and so he could outgrow CF from a size-perspective, but he’s still an incredible athlete and he gets good reads on balls. It’s a 55-glove in CF with a 60-arm.

In the box he works with plus bat speed and creates his power through loft in a flat path that makes a ton of contact. He’s able to square up balls much easier than some of his peers in part to above-average swing decisions as well as some high-end pitch recognition abilities. He’s a plus-hit/plus-power bat with five 55+ tools and four at 60 or better. The talent and bloodlines line up as what is, in my opinion, the best player in this draft.

Cooper Hjerpe, Oregon State

In a world where fastballs are dependent on backspin and velocity, Hjerpe offers a unique value in the sense that his profile isn’t dependent on either of the two. He’s able to get good results by achieving an outlier spin direction with high spin efficiency from his release angle. Hjerpe throws his heater from a 1:30 axis, but has a 2:45 arm angle, and gets 14" of lift from a release just 4.5 feet above the ground.

Hjerpe’s fastball isn’t his best pitch though — its still a 60 — that would be his 60-grade breaking ball, an upper-70s sweeper that breaks 15" to his glove side with around 40" of drop. He’s thrown an interesting cutter/slider hybrid in the mid-80s — which could’ve been accidental — that plays well as a medium pitch between the fastball and breaker. His CH’s axis is a reverse of the sweeper at 3:00 and a somewhat low spin efficiency, so he combines 18" of HB with an interesting gyro degree that could lead to some SSW traits.

Hjerpe is the classic pitch usage victim, except he’s so good that even poor usage can’t stop him from shoving. Generally, pitchers who throw a ton of fastballs have fringy secondary feel. This isn’t the case for Hjerpe, who has a high strike rate with his secondaries. Throwing 68% heaters, Hjerpe is somehow getting upper echelon whiffs on the pitch while throwing it more than 86% of qualified pitchers.

Often the case with heaters, the more they’re thrown, the lesser they perform. This hasn’t affected Hjerpe, yet. His unique release/movement combination is still getting good results at 90–94. Had Hjerpe been throwing more breakers/changeups — two pitches that combine for a similar amount of strikes — he’d likely have much better results. Given the fact that his sweeper and changeup combine for a 56% whiff rate and 43% zone rate, it’s safe to say he should be throwing those two pitches much more, and he definitely will in pro ball.

Daniel Susac, Arizona

Susac’s sophomore year results wise has been almost identical to that of his freshman one. But how he’s gotten them is somewhat different as he’s swinging much more, as a result he’s swung at more quality pitches (strike prob > 95%), more pitches in the zone, but more pitches out of the zone. The good thing is this hasn’t changed his ability to make contact at all; it’s the exact same. His impressive bat-to-ball/bat speed combination make up for above average swing decisions watered down by an aggressive approach.

Susac loves to swing, and the results support the decision. His peak exit velos are in the top percentile of college hitters, and he hits the ball hard on the sweet spot at a plus rate. Susac is one of a dozen college hitters with the ability to make elite contact, and also do elite damage when he does make contact.

Not for nothing, his hardest hit balls also come at meaningful flights as his swing works upwards and so when he’s able to achieve his 99th percentile power outcome he’s doing so with attack angles in the 10–15 degree range, leading to balls hit > 10 degrees and in the HR window. He’s a good athlete, above-average receiver with a 50-arm, I’d love to see him stationed in the corner outfield if not behind the plate depending on how robo-umps change the catching position.

Gavin Cross, Virginia Tech

An untraditional slugger, Cross has a path that works linearly and gets to his 70-grade raw power by getting out front and lifting balls. Prior to his junior year, Cross was whiffing a little too much for a flat path swinger, but this changed in ’22 when his swing rate dropped by 6% and below 50% for the first time in his career. As a result of less swings, he started chasing less, swinging at poor pitches less, and began swinging at more quality pitches.

The negative that comes from making more contact is a career-low average EV, which is overshadowed by a career-high 90th percentile EV. Even still, Cross showed that he could get the bat on the ball more often if need be. In his college career, Cross has hit 150+ balls above 95 mph, one of the highest totals in college. He’s a bonafide bat speed phenom with improving decisions and clear bat-to-ball skills.

It’s a 55 hit tool with a 60 in-game power tool, though it’s 70-raw. Tech moved him to CF this spring due to their starter last year missing time after an injury. This might’ve helped his stock a touch, but it looks like Cross is suited for RF. He’s a 55-runner with good enough tools to be a 50-defender at the spot.

Jace Jung, Texas Tech

Thanks to probably the best hit tool on the college side, Jung is one of the safer bets in this draft and also a good candidate to get pegged early in the draft. With one of the lowest swing rate on poor pitches in the country, Jung boosts some of the best plate discipline in the class, and is one of just twelve players with 95th percentile or better swing decisions as well as bat-to-ball. It’s a 70-grade hit tool that doesn’t lack thump, carrying 60-grade raw power, Jung can and does do damage when he makes contact. Very rarely do you see a college hitter with the ability to hit the ball on a line/in the air as often as Jung, which is why he’s been so successful.

A small blemish on the profile is that while Jung has 60-raw, he doesn’t get to it often and has a noticeable drop-off between his 75th/90th percentile EVs in relation to his max. An interesting thing about Jung’s profile is that amongst college hitters with double-digit HRs, he has one of the lowest wOBA’s on barrel rates; meaning that when he does damage the ball, he’s not getting rewarded. The main reason this is happening is because of the spin profile of his batted balls (getting side/top spin a lot) which is the result of not producing flush contact. Still though, there’s some element of randomness going on in those results that aren’t showing up in the box score.

Factor in Jung’s versatility in the field, and this is definitely a profile you can reasonable take in the top-5, maybe top-3 picks. In his college career, he has played the entire infield — including short — before finally settling in at second this spring; which was where he played on the cape.

Chase DeLauter, James Madison

Given the critics of his swing, it’s amazing that DeLauter can be so good at hitting. Not many pro players have been successful with a scissor kick swing, but I doubt there were many successful pitchers with one-hand prior to Jim Abbott. DeLauter’s swing is the closest an amateur’s can get to optimization given how he moves. He delays rotation until his back leg kicks to the side while his torso opens/front leg stiffens up. He’ll get creative with his backside to adjust to pitch depth/location and his able to create spinal tilt to get his hands through zone with a T-spine extension. He impacts balls with positive attack angles and connects with them early so he can lift them via path plus bottom hand elbow bend creating desirable finish.

DeLauter was very good as a freshman, and then he was really good as a sophomore. Following that he was very good on the Cape, and then he ended up being very good, again, his junior year before breaking his foot 2/3’s of the way through it. Every year since stepping foot on a college campus he’s been good, and it’s safe to say that’ll continue. Having plus plate discipline, he’s posted a low chase rate with a high zone swing rate, giving him one of the best Z minus O swing rates in his class — which is partially why his contact and zone contact rates are condensed. He’s played CF for the better part of his sophomore and junior years, but the skills seem better suited in RF. His reads off the bat on hard contact have looked odd, but he has surprising range and make-up speed so he can still track down balls to all sides. I’ve got him as a 50 in RF.

Eric Brown, Coastal Carolina

Starts with an interesting set-up, has his hands above his head holding the bat parallel to the ground. As he gets into his hinge, he brings it forward before dropping it into the slot; in position to hit as his front foot gets down. If he were late, or his timing was disturbed by the set-up, then there’d be an issue, but he’s regularly on-time. In fact, the set-up is probably a positive as he’s clearly comfortable having it, and he’s also creating some slight momentum with his bat as he’s beginning to launch.

Brown’s approach is one of the better ones as he swings just 1/3 of the time, and has progressively lowered his swing rate as he’s gotten older. Brown takes roughly 40% of quality strikes, but swings at just 16% of poor pitches and runs an elite level chase rate. So Brown’s strength isn’t his decision-making so much as his approach and willingness to be patient. It’s this approach that has helped him increase his wOBA every year in college. He has 60-grade raw power, and can do damage when he connects. The majority of his power is to his pull side, but he can mash line drives the other way with authority.

Due to the approach and bat-to-ball skills, Brown has a high-end hit tool. He’s whiffed on just ~5% of pitches in the zone, a feat that gives off Nick Madrigal vibes. Fortunately, Brown actually hits the ball hard when he does make contact — half of his batted balls were hit > 95 mph, and one-fourth of them were also between 8 and 32 degrees. This combination of bat-to-ball/bat speed is unmatched in this class, and best of all, he’s an above average defender at shortstop with the twitch/athleticism to stay at the spot. He’s a range over arm defender. This is a first round profile.

Kevin Parada, Georgia Tech

Parada is a catcher in a world where we’re expecting robot umps, making his position an offensive one. But because the entire profile revolves around the offensive tools, it probably doesn’t affect him as much as his peers. His arm is below-average, and he’s a below-average receiver.

Parada’s approach is aggressive, as a result he swings at a lot of good pitches, as well as some of the bad ones. The positive is that his bat-to-ball skills allow for some decision-making error, and he can get away with poor swings. On pitches in the zone, he rarely whiffs. Parada has some low hanging fruit in the profile on the player development side as any pro staff should be able to cut down the chases, limiting the majority of his whiffs, while also helping him keep that aggressive backbone.

As you’d expected for a player with 20+ home runs in the ACC, Parada’s batted ball numbers are good and he’s exceptionally well at creating the ideal attack angles to match pitches in order to connect with the bottom portion of the ball. Even if he’s a 1B/DH — I don’t think he is, my pick would be LF — this is still an electric offensive profile worth a top-15 pick.

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