Updated: Jun 23
“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 willin