Updated: Jun 23, 2022
“Mike Elias is King and the Rest of us are just his loyal Subjects”
With the 2022 MLB First-Year Player Draft less than four weeks away, it’s time for some action. “Action” as in a mock draft that will blow your socks off. And this is the perfect year for such mad, unadulterated chaos. Unlike 2019, when Adley Rutschman was considered by all to be the alpha male, or 2020, when Spencer Torkelson was the Big Dawg, 2022 does not feature that one guy who’s a slam dunk for 1-01. Now, throw in the fact that Orioles GM Mike Elias will be the guy with his hand on the nuke button when the festivities kick off on July 17th and you’ve got a recipe for carnage. Time and time again, Elias has gone off the grid on draft night, and we expect MMXXII to be no different.
Buckle up everyone!
1) Baltimore Orioles; Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly—Mike Elias is feeling good. Really good. Baltimore not only finished the 1st half of the season on pace for the team’s best record since 2017, but the organization is teeming with high-ceiling prospects up and down the minor league chain. Add to that the good news that Baltimore has the first overall selection, holds five of the first 81 picks, and boasts the draft’s largest bonus pool at almost $17 million.
This ain’t Elias’ first rodeo. Back in 2012, when he was Assistant GM of the Astros, Houston nearly brought the house down with its last-minute decision to draft Carlos Correa instead of Byron Buxton (saving $2.4 million of pool money in the process). And in 2020, when Elias was already steering the Orioles’ ship, he surprisingly picked Heston Kjerstad over “bigger” names like Austin Martin and Asa Lacy, netting his team millions in savings. With Elias and his posse, it’s not always about talent but about dollars and talent.
2022 is no different. Elias and his baseball ops people narrowed the selection down to high school bats Druw Jones, Jackson Holliday, and Termarr Johnson and two college hitters in Jacob Berry and Lee. While Jones is seen by many as the top available talent, it’s not by that wide of a margin. Holliday has been charging hard all spring and is a shortstop with a lethal left-handed bat. Johnson may have the best overall hit tool from a prep since Joe Mauer 20 years ago. And Berry had more XBHs than Ks playing in the ultra-competitive SEC.
Then there’s Lee. Baltimore’s evaluators have been high on the switch-hitting shortstop since he hit a mind-boggling .405 with wood in the prestigious Cape Cod League. While there are questions regarding how long Lee will be able to stay at the six because of his 6-02/205 frame, these are all offset by his offensive prowess. Moreover, as a collegian, he has less leverage than Jones and the other high schoolers Baltimore is considering. Thus, Lee, who really isn’t at play at picks 2 and 3, will settle for a $7.25 million bonus, over $1.5 million less than the slot amount of $8,842, 200.
Elias understands that with the addition of Lee into the fold, he’ll have a massive glut of left side infielders in Jordan Westburg, Gunnar Henderson, and Coby Mayo, but that’s a problem for another day. On this night, he’s got a plan to execute and the party has only begun. He grabs for the peanut M&Ms.
2) Arizona Diamondbacks; Druw Jones, OF, Suwanee GA (HS)—D-Backs GM Mike Hazen sees the game Elias is playing and can only shrug. Because in his mind Baltimore has played right into Arizona’s hands. The Diamondbacks are one of those teams that views Jones as the draft’s biggest talent and they’re thrilled to land him. With mega-talents like SS Jordan Lawlar and OF Corbin Carroll already on board, Hazen and friends think they’re on the verge of something huge in the desert.
3) Texas Rangers; Jackson Holliday, SS, Stillwater, OK (HS)—The Rangers are yet another team ecstatic at Elias’ draft day machinations because Holliday has been the object of their affection all along. The son of 7-time All Star Matt Holliday, Jackson doesn’t have his father’s physicality but does own a beautiful lefty swing that should produce ample power and a high average in due time. And most think he’ll be able to stick at shortstop. Had the Rangers not run into this good fortune, they would have most likely taken tooled-up HS OF Elijah Green.
4) Pittsburgh Pirates; Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola JC—Count Pirates GM Ben Cherington as one of those not amused by Elias’ antics as the Orioles GM 20 minutes earlier threw a massive monkey wrench into Pittsburgh’s plans. See, the Pirates viewed Lee as the perfect fit—a polished college bat who would move with lightning speed through the system.
But all is not lost for the Bucs as Cherington and his crew have a Plan B. Though still just 17, Collier already mashed with wood this spring then traveled to the Cape and the MLB Draft Combine, where his smooth left-handed swing elicited oohs and ahs by the dozen. Plus, he has MLB bloodlines, as his father Lou was a big league infielder for parts of eight seasons, including two with the Pirates. While Collier won’t make it to the Steel City as quickly as Lee, there’s confidence within the Pirates war room that the former may have the higher upside. Plus, he’ll happily take an under slot deal since the earliest he was slated to go was 7th to the Cubs.
Sitting not even 20 miles from PNC Park, in Wexford, PA, Cole Young’s face is pale white as he sets his iPhone down following a call with his advisor. Young’s life has just gotten far more complicated. Originally thought to be a late-teens pick and recipient of a bonus in the $3-$3.5 million range, Young has now found himself right in Mike Elias’ crosshairs, according to his advisor. The Orioles have encouraged Young to suddenly—in the 11th hour—express his willingness to fulfill his Duke commitment if he doesn’t receive a signing bonus of at least $4 million. This would conceivably scare teams into not picking the young shortstop. But will Young play ball?
5) Washington Nationals; Elijah Green, OF, Windermere, FL (HS)—Nats GM Mike Rizzo likes tools. Always has. And in Green he’s got plenty of them. The son of former NFL Tight End Eric Green, Elijah is a 6-03/225 specimen who has posted out-of-this-world exit velocities (EVs) as well as breathtaking sprint times. Although Washington has occasionally flirted with college bats Kevin Parada and Gavin Cross, Green’s total package is just too intriguing to pass up.
6) Miami Marlins; Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech—Marlins VP of Player Development & Scouting Gary Denbo has been enthralled with Parada since the first time he laid eyes on the Georgia Tech backstop. Parada’s defense has never been more than adequate (and even some in the business would call that assessment generous), but his offensive ceiling is immense. The draft-eligible sophomore nearly hit has many homers (26) as he had strikeouts (32) in ’22 and his lightning-quick wrists and compact swing ensure that elite velocity will never be a problem. Sure, Denbo considered the prep Johnson and Cross, but those were only contingency plans in case Parada was already off the board.
7) Chicago Cubs; Termarr Johnson, 2B, Atlanta, GA (HS)—The Cubs were vacillating for a month between Collier and Johnson, but the choice was made easy for them when Pittsburgh opted for Collier. Like Collier, Johnson has a deluxe hit tool. Undersized at 5-09/170, he has deceptive power.
Al Avila is drenched. In sweat. After about an hour, Avila realizes this is where things will get dicey for his Detroit Tigers. In desperate need of a big-time college bat to add to Detroit’s punchless system, Avila and his rat pack of Tiger execs have identified three hitters—LSU’s Jacob Berry, Virginia Tech’s Gavin Cross, and Texas Tech’s Jace Jung—as guys they believe may be available when Detroit picks at 12. So far, all are still on the board, but that was expected. Now things will get interesting. Avila reaches for a Scotch. The next hour will be a long one.
8) Minnesota Twins; Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech—In one of the more obvious picks within the top 10, Minnesota takes Cross. The Twins have always had a penchant for drafting hard-hitting outfielders early—Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, and Trevor Larnach quickly come to mind—and Cross with his hypersonic exit velocities are the epitome of this genre. The Twins’ brain trust will sleep soundly tonight.
Having decimated the peanut M&Ms, Elias makes a move for the Twix. Good thing he logged an hour on the treadmill this morning, he thinks to himself. Suddenly his cell phone rings—it’s Cole Young’s advisor. Yes, the Young camp is willing to participate in Elias’ draft night charade. The advisor and Elias agree on a final price--$4.25 million, which is nearly $2 million above slot at the Orioles’ next pick, 33. Young is worth it. He projects to have at least a 55 hit tool with burgeoning power and well above average speed. He’s also a dazzling defender at shortstop with oodles of range and a cannon arm. There is no doubt that he’ll be able to remain at the position deep into his pro career.
After he gets off the phone and polishes off the candy bar, Elias discusses with his consigliere, Sig Mejdal, how they’ll be able to afford such a large outlay. The O’s will already have the $1.5 million in savings from the Lee pick and will have to accrue about $500,000 in additional savings from going underslot at subsequent picks. Both men agree it’s very doable. Now the rest of the teams will have to cooperate.
9) Kansas City Royals; Brock Porter, RHP, Milford, MI (HS)—Royals President Dayton Moore is a simple man. He’s had a crew cut for as long as he can remember, eats the same thing for lunch every Friday, and has worn the same pair of shoes for over three years. But on draft night everything changes for Moore. He becomes a rebel. Last year, his Royals shocked baseball by taking Frank Mozzicato dozens of picks before the industry had him. And now this year the entire industry is on the edge of its seat, waiting for Moore to pull another rabbit out of his hat. Many expect KC to nab Justin Crawford, a speedy prep outfielder from Las Vegas who’s probably a better fit in the 20’s. But the Royals pivot and instead take Porter, the best high school arm since the elbow injury to Dylan Lesko. Prep righthanders have always been the riskiest demographic in the draft, but Moore isn’t having any of it. “This guy will be starting Game 7 the next time we’re playing in October!” he proudly exclaims.
10) Colorado Rockies; Jacob Berry, 3B/OF, LSU—It’s been no secret that the Rockies covet some thunder from the college ranks. Like many teams at this stage of Round 1, Colorado really likes Cross, but he’s gone. They also have a thing for Jung and helium-filled Campbell SS Zach Neto. But Berry is their guy. The Arizona native’s defensive deficiencies will always be an issue, but his refined offensive game is just too enticing to pass up.
“Mierda!” Avila responds to the Rockies’ selection of Berry. Only Jung remains of the troika Detroit has targeted.
11) New York Mets; Justin Crawford, OF, Las Vegas, NV (HS)—The Mets have been a black box the entire spring with many unsure at how they’ll spend zillionaire owner Steve Cohen’s money. And to make things even more uncertain, this pick is their consolation prize for failing to sign Kumar Rocker, their 1st round pick from last year. Some say they’ll go after Lesko, the best prep arm until he had Tommy John surgery. Others are convinced they’ll draft Arizona C Daniel Susac. Instead, they pull the trigger on Crawford, a speed-first center fielder at what will be a well under slot deal. It’s obvious the Mets have something big up their sleeve.
Right after this pick is submitted, Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline tweets that Cole Young has decided to honor his commitment at Duke. Sitting in the Orioles’ war room, Mike Elias smiles at Sig Mejdal, his front teeth still stained by the remnants of his Twix bar.
12) Detroit Tigers; Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech—As the Mets’ pick is announced, a huge roar bursts out in the Tigers’ war room in their Lake, FL spring training facility. With Detroit’s favorite pitcher in Porter already off the board, a Mets’ selection of Jung would have caused the Tigers to go even further down on their list and select either Neto or prep righty Owen Murphy. But with Jung in the fold, Detroit has added that much-needed bat. Detroit is lucky—Jung would have likely gone in the top 10 had a late-season hip injury not adversely impacted his performance down the stretch.
13) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Daniel Susac, C, Arizona—Last year, the Angels took pitchers with all of their 20 picks, and many anticipate the Halos will continue where they left off. But Susac, despite some questions around his defense and pitch selection, is just too good of a talent to ignore. There will be plenty of arms left in subsequent rounds, GM Perry Minasian says to no one in particular as the pick is read.
14) New York Mets; Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford, Georgia (HS)—Throughout the spring, scouts flocked to tiny Buford, GA in droves to watch the phenomenon that is Dylan Lesko pitch. With a fastball approaching the century mark, a plus-plus changeup and emerging deuce, Lesko was said by some to be the best high school pitching prospect since Josh Beckett more than 20 years ago. But when he succumbed to the scalpel like so many of his pitching brethren this spring he became a black box as far as his draft status was concerned. Would he still be the same after surgery? What were his bonus demands? Instead of turning pro would he honor his college commitment and head to the pitching factory that is Vanderbilt? These were all questions asked by executives and evaluators alike since late April, and no one had an answer.
Enter Steve Cohen, the Mets owner. Though Lesko’s bonus demands do not drop despite his surgery, Cohen doesn’t flinch. Armed with the $1 million in savings from the Crawford deal and the $700,000 in 5%-of-total-pool overage money (that comes with a 100% tax so many teams are loath to pay), New York has no qualms about meeting Lesko’s hefty asking price.
15) San Diego Padres; Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama—For Padres GM AJ Preller these are not unchartered waters. Six years earlier, he happily selected Cal Quantrill eighth overall based purely on Quantrill’s bullpen sessions after the Canadian missed all of his junior year at Stanford following Tommy John surgery. And after seeing Prielipp break the Rapsodo Machine with his 3000+ RPM slider and light up the radar gun with his 95 MPH heater, Preller decides to take the plunge again. It’s important to note that following his abbreviated freshman campaign, scouts had compared Prielipp to a young Mark Langston.
16) Cleveland Guardians; Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison—Due to their success in developing arms, many believe Cleveland will opt for a hurler here. But, instead, the Guardians pick DeLauter. DeLauter is somewhat of a divisive pick. He was anointed a potential top-10 selection at the beginning of the spring, but a poor opening weekend against FSU, questionable swing mechanics, and a broken foot have taken their toll on his draft status. Cleveland, on the other hand, sees a massive (6/04-230) five-tool talent who’s extremely young for the draft class. Prior to draft night, 1-16 is a rumored landing spot for Campbell RHP Thomas Harrington and none other than Cole Young.
17) Philadelphia Phillies; Robby Snelling, LHP, Reno, NV (HS)—Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski never met a hard thrower he didn’t like and that certainly doesn’t change now. Snelling flew up draft boards as he demonstrated a mid-90’s fastball and much improved command of two secondaries. The Phillies were also interested in DeLauter before Cleveland picked their pockets.
18) Cincinnati Reds; Owen Murphy, RHP, Riverside, Il (HS)—Cincinnati had been considered a possible landing spot for two college pitchers, Oklahoma State’s Justin Campbell and Gonzaga’s Gabriel Hughes, but the Reds like Murphy’s upside more. Murphy is on the smaller side (6-01/190) and some scouts see a lot of Jack Leiter in him. Also of importance is the Reds’ recent success in developing young arms.
19) Oakland A’s; Zach Neto, SS, Campbell—The A’s were all ready to pop Cal Berkeley slugger Dylan Beavers, but when Neto, who had been in play as high as 7 to the Cubs, was still available, Oakland changed course. After all, no one knows value better than club president Billy Beane.
Sitting with his family, Cole Young starts to have reservations. Late teens and early 20’s was where he’d been predicted to land, but with his draft night proclamation, Young realizes this won’t be happening. What if the Orioles don’t honor their word, Young wonders.
20) Atlanta Braves; Thomas Harrington, RHP, Campbell—The Braves spent their 2020 and 2021 1st round picks on college arms from the southeast and drink from the same fountain in 2022. As is par for the course for a number of teams picking in this neighborhood, Campbell and Hughes were also strongly considered.
21) Seattle Mariners; Peyton Graham, SS/3B, Oklahoma—Seattle’s brain trust would have swooped up Neto if he fell here but instead “settles” for Graham, who literally made himself millions with his heroics at the College World Series. More than one scout has thrown out a Trea Turner comp.
22) St. Louis Cardinals; Kumar Rocker, RHP, (non-affiliated)—Nearly a quarter century ago, the Redbirds drafted and signed J.D. Drew after Drew had failed to reach an agreement with the team that had originally drafted him (the Phillies), and St. Louis employs the same strategy again this year (albeit under much different circumstances). The Cardinals’ slot amount of just over $3 million is merely a fraction of what the Mets could have paid Rocker last year, but as a 22-year-old without college eligibility, the only leverage Rocker has is to test his luck is Japan.
Elias surveys the teams in the draft queue; however, he doesn’t really need to do this. He memorized the top-33 draft order weeks ago. Still, it never hurts to look. There’s currently a run on college players, which Elias believes will continue for at least the next several picks. But the small market wizards in Tampa Bay lurk at 29. If there’s any team that will call his bluff and ruin his master plan it’s the Rays. At this point, all Elias can do is wait. He wishes he had a pack of Camels nearby but makes do with a pack of Twizzlers.
23) Toronto Blue Jays; Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State —True to Elias’ assessment, the run on college players continues. Hjerpe has unorthodox mechanics but excellent pitch metrics—so excellent that some thought he’d be gone 10 picks before this. Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro pays homage to the baseball gods as he makes this pick. What a value play.
24) Boston Red Sox; Drew Gilbert, OF, Tennessee—In Gilbert, Beavers, Stanford’s Brock Jones, and Tennessee’s Jordan Beck, Boston GM Chaim Bloom realizes there’s surplus value to be had at this pick. He ultimately chooses Gilbert because of his speed, hit tool, and ability to stick in center field.
25) New York Yankees; Brock Jones, OF, Stanford—The Yankees, much like their chief rivals to the north, also have their eyes on the gaggle of college outfielders and like Jones in particular. His athleticism, speed, juicy lefty swing, and ability to grind out at bats reminds them of long-time lead-off man Brett Gardner. Beavers and 6-07 man child Spencer Jones from Vanderbilt are also considered.
26) Chicago White Sox; Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga—Hughes has been in the conversation for the past ten picks and finally finds a home in the South Side of Chicago. The ChiSox have been in on everyone—they really like diminutive high school SS Jett Williams, as well Beavers and prep IF Tucker Toman but ultimately deem Hughes too valuable to pass up this late in the draft.
27) Milwaukee Brewers; Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee—Brandon Woodruff. Corbin Burnes. Aaron Ashby. The Brewers have made a living in recent years by drafting and developing hard-throwing college arms. Enter Tidwell, who has some of the best stuff in the country and a projectable frame despite missing the start of the ’22 season because of a shoulder ailment. Beavers, Toman, and Beck are also on the docket for the Brew Crew, but Milwaukee simply cannot resist the allure of Tidwell’s high-90’s cheese and atomic slider.
Cole Young is uncomfortable, to say the least. According to his representation, the Rays have been poking around, asking if he’d be willing to take their $2.75 million, which is a full $1.5 million less than what Elias and the Orioles have offered. Of course Young’s advisor told them of his client’s intention to head down to Duke, but are the Rays really buying it? Will Young, who’s dreamt of being a big league shortstop his entire life, literally walk away from millions?
The only person more nervous in America than Young right now is Elias. If Tampa calls his bluff then he’ll have to turn to Plan B, which is still in the conceptualization phase. University of Texas-bound OF Henry Bolte? Lanky flamethrowing southpaw Noah Schultz? 17-year-old baby-faced assassin Walter Ford? They’re all good but wouldn’t quite be the heist Young is. Elias waits.
28) Houston Astros; Jud Fabian, OF, Florida—Fabian is one of the most divisive college hitters in years. He entered the ’21 campaign as a near lock for the top 5, but his inability to make consistent contact dropped him out of the 1st round. Still 20, he decided to return to Gainesville for his senior season, and though he significantly cut down on his strikeouts, he hit just .239 (albeit with 24 dingers and a .414 OBP). The ’Stros like Fabian’s power, patience, and defense and view him as their center fielder of the future.
Tampa Bay is on the clock. Though Young and Elias are separated by over two hundred miles, they both take a deep breath as Commissioner Rob Manfred steps to the podium.
29) Tampa Bay Rays; Tucker Toman, 3B, Columbia, SC (HS)—Tampa Bay GM Erik Neander is no dummy. He realizes Young has a well-over slot deal waiting for him somewhere—likely Baltimore—and the threat to go to school is just a smokescreen. But a small market club that relies on its farm feeder system as much as Tampa can’t take any chances. Losing out on a 1st round pick in the unlikely event Young does matriculate would be devastating.
Neander & Co certainly do like Young. A lot. But they’re also smitten with Toman, who can spray line drives from both sides of the plate and offers a howitzer for an arm at the corner. He also has no qualms about signing at slot. At the end of the day, it’s not a hard decision for the Rays.
Once Manfred announces the pick, pandemonium ensues in the Orioles’ war room. Yet again, Elias gets his guy!
30) San Francisco Giants; Brandon Barriera, LHP, Hollywood, FL (HS)—The Giants player development machine has had success developing prep arms in recent history, most notably Kyle Harrison, and Barriera’s package fits the organization’s development philosophy.
Free Agent Compensation Picks
31) Colorado Rockies; Jackson Ferris, LHP, Mount Airy, NC (HS)—This will cost the Rockies as Ferris is a 1st round caliber arm who will undoubtedly want far more than the $2,429,000 designated for this pick. That’s not an issue for the Rockies who have the 5th highest bonus pool at almost $13.7 million, as well as the 38th overall pick. With the latter, Colorado will go well under slot to offset the overage on Ferris.
32) Cincinnati Reds; Cade Horton, RHP, Oklahoma—This time the Reds pivot and take a collegiate. But Horton’s no ordinary cat. He was more highly touted as a shortstop when he arrived on campus then almost immediately underwent Tommy John. It took him most of this season to regain his control and command but did so at just the right time—he’s dominated in the postseason, featuring a high-octane fastball and vicious slider. Cincinnati might have stolen one here.
Competitive Balance Round A
33) Baltimore Orioles; Cole Young, SS, Wexford, PA (HS)—The big moment arrives for Elias and his crew. After he calls in the pick, Elias reflects on what he’s pulled off. By landing Young, he has landed two of the top 20 talents in the draft class, including a guy who’s a lock to stick at shortstop. Young won’t come cheap, however. Not only will his pre-negotiated $4.25 million signing bonus take up his entire slotted amount of $2.3 million and the $1.5 million of savings from the Lee pick at 1-01, but will also force Baltimore to find an additional $450,000 of savings later in the draft. Elias, ever the creative one, has some ideas, including soon-to-be-22-year-old Oregon State OF Jacob Melton.
34) Arizona Diamondbacks; Gavin Turley, OF, Chandler, AZ (HS)—The D-Backs go all tools here, selecting the mercurial Turley. Turley oozes projectability and has immense power but his hit tool is a question mark.
35) Kansas City Royals; Andrew Dutkanych, RHP, Indianapolis, IN (HS)—For a while this spring, Dutkanych’s name was bandied about as a possible top-15 guy, but bouts of wildness pushed him out of the 1st round. Still, the Royals love pitchers with big bodies and bigger arms and the Vanderbilt commit certainly fits that description.
36) Pittsburgh Pirates; Noah Schultz, LHP, Aurora, IL—Remember when the Pirates saved some coin by taking Collier at 1-04? Well, here’s where they cash in. Schultz is a 6-09 behemoth who’s surprisingly polished for a prep hurler of his stature. He was also looking at a possible 1st-round selection before catching mononucleosis in March.
37) Cleveland Guardians; Walter Ford, RHP, McCalla, AL (HS)—Still 17, with a powerful, well-rounded arsenal, Ford fits Cleveland’s drafting strategy to a T.
38) Colorado Rockies; Max Wagner, 3B, Clemson—Looking to save a couple bucks to pay for Ferris, Colorado pops Wagner. Despite his otherworldly season, Wagner doesn’t really have a defensive home and was therefore seen as more of a 3rd rounder. He’ll gladly take several hundred grand below slot for the opportunity to launch balls at Coors.