We weren’t lying in February when we said the incoming freshman class was stacked. How stacked? So stacked that Jacob Gonzalez, the Ole Miss SS who slashed .355/.443/.561 while playing outstanding defense this season, wasn’t on either Preseason Freshman All-America team.
As we explained almost five months ago, the shortening of the 2020 MLB draft to just five rounds due to COVID-19 drove many talented high school seniors to campus and the immediate result was a true freshman class that made an immediate and significant contribution. The longer-term result should be 2022 and 2023 drafts that, from a college perspective at least, could be historically good.
Like the All-America Prospect Teams we put out earlier in the week, selection to both squads is more contingent on a player’s long-term potential and how he projects as a pro prospect than on merely statistical performance. Thus, some of the players on these teams—particularly pitchers—may not have the eye-popping stats one would expect from standard All-Americans, but rest assured their talent level is commensurate.
Kevin Parada (2022 draft eligible), RHH, Georgia Tech—Parada would have easily been a 2nd round pick last June but instead ended up in Atlanta, where he looks to add to the rich tradition set by former Yellow Jacket backstops Jason Varitek, Matt Wieters, and Joey Bart. He flirted with .400 for most of this season and will likely be a top-10 pick next year as a draft-eligible sophomore.
Caden Grice, LHH, Clemson—The 6-06/235 Grice has by far the most usable power in this class, though his 33 percent K-rate will have to improve.
Colby Halter (2022 draft eligible), LHH, Florida—Halter’s smooth left-handed swing and ability to work counts will make him a fixture in the top third of the Gators’ 2022 lineup.
Jacob Gonzalez, LHH, Ole Miss—Gonzalez won the Rebels’ starting SS job in Fall Ball and never looked back. The California native is the complete package—his 1.004 OPS is indicative of his excellent plate discipline and power to all fields, while he’s a silky smooth fielder who’ll have no problem staying at the six.
Cayden Wallace (2022 draft eligible), RHH, Arkansas—As a true freshman, Wallace was one of the primary power sources for the Arkansas juggernaut and hit .331 in SEC play. He also did an admirable job in RF, yet should move back to his natural 3B next year.
Dylan Crews, RHH, LSU—Crews went off this season to the tune of a .362/.453/.663 slashline and established himself as the most potent bat in the class.
Jacob Berry (2022 draft eligible), SH, Arizona—Yet another stud who will be permitted to enter next year’s draft, Berry’s profile will skyrocket next season if he demonstrates the ability play 3B full time. This spring, he anchored the Wildcats’ lineup with some .352/.439/.676 music.
Blade Tidwell (2022 draft eligible), RHP, Tennessee—Tidwell was a weekend starter as a freshman with an ERA comfortably below 4.00 on an Omaha-bound SEC team. Enough said.
Tanner Witt, RHP, Texas—If there’s one pitcher from this list who’ll be a top-5 pick in 2023, our money is on Witt. Not only does he have a vast, metric-friendly repertoire, but his size, projectability, and command all point to a hurler well equipped for big league success.
Christian Little, RHP, Vanderbilt—Little forewent his senior year of high school and instead matriculated at Vandy, where, at just 17, he eventually earned a mid-week assignment then started an elimination game in Omaha. Though his numbers this season were pedestrian, the sky’s the limit for this kid.
Victor Mederos (2022 draft eligible), RHP, Miami (FL)—Yet another freshman whose stats this year are not an accurate depiction of his talent. Mederos held his own in the gauntlet that’s the ACC and is still on track to be a first round selection next year.
Ryan Hagenow, RHP, Kentucky—In limited action, Hagenow exhibited great feel for both his lethal slider and filthy changeup. At 6-05/200 he also has plenty of projection left.