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2022 MLB Draft 1st Round Primer: The Commits

Many of these are the commits we do not expect to wear the Gangster Pajamas in 2023. We’ve already got one of them, and if any more of them end up on campus, consider it a bonus.

MLB Draft Photo by Paige Calamari/MLB via Getty Images

*The 2022 MLB Draft takes place on Sunday July 17th through Tuesday July 19th. In the coming days, I’ll give you Vanderbilt centric primers of the current players and prospects, and my best guesses at where they are likely to be drafted. Today, we begin with the top ranked commits. In addition to giving you some info on the players, I will hazard my best guess at the probability they will eschew the MLB Bonus money and suit up in gangster pajamas in 2023. If you want to know about current players: Click here for the possible first rounders and here for the possible 2nd through 20th rounders.

Commits Who Might Hear Their Name Called on Day One (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A):

OF Druw Jones

The son of former Atlanta Braves CF Andruw Jones is not going to be our “Scotty Pippen, Jr.” so put that right out of your mind right now. That said, he’s a true 5 tool prospect and would likely be the best player who has ever played for our team, except he is definitely not going to play for our team. Either the Orioles at #1 or the DBags at #2 will take him (and the latter will only happen if and when the Orioles make their near-yearly dumb first round draft mistake).

Here’s what Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had to say about him:

Hit: 30/60, Game Power: 25/55, Raw Power: 50/60, Speed: 70/70, Field: 60/70, Throw: 70/70

I included the tool grades here for the top tiers of players so you can see plainly how elite some of these players are, even comparing them to tool grades on the minor league top 100. Jones (son of Andruw) has a real shot to be plus or better at everything with some 70s tossed in that are already present. I’d say there is about a 10-15% chance he could be an Acuna- or Tatis-level talent, and I don’t think anyone else in this draft has the upside to post multiple five-win seasons with the ridiculous tools to match. I think for that reason he has to be first, but he is not universally atop every scout’s board.

Here’s the scouting report from MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Run: 70 | Arm: 65 | Field: 70 | Overall: 65

Andruw Jones made five All-Star teams and won 10 Gold Gloves in a 17-year career in the Majors, and his son reminds scouts of his father’s game. Druw is taller and leaner than his dad was as a teenager, but he has similar five-tool potential as a center fielder. He improved throughout the summer on the showcase circuit and he has impressed scouts this spring with a more selective approach and more consistent at-bats. He led Wesleyan (Norcross) to the Georgia Class A private school state title en route to winning Gatorade’s Georgia high school player of the year award.

While Jones’ right-handed swing is still somewhat of a work in progress, he understands it well, shows the ability to make adjustments and does damage against quality pitching. He already has plenty of bat speed and drives balls to the gaps, and as he fills out his 6-foot-4 frame he should develop plus power. He’s a plus-plus runner when he turns on the jets and is capable of beating out ground balls to the left side.

Jones is the best defensive center fielder in the 2022 high school crop and might be the best defender in the entire Draft. His speed and instincts combine to give him tremendous range and his well-above-average arm strength stands out at a position not known for many cannons. Scouts who have seen the Vanderbilt recruit take infield say he has the tools and actions to play a fine shortstop as well.

Range: Top 3 (though more likely Top 2, but it really should just be #1 with a bullet).

MLB.com Top 250 Ranking: #1.

ESPN Top 300 Ranking: #1.

MLB.com Current Mock Draft: #1 to the Baltimore Orioles.

ESPN Current Mock Draft: #1 to the Baltimore Orioles.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%. It will take a miracle to get him to The Hawk. Put it right out of your mind, as this is never going to happen.

RHP Dylan Lesko

Lesko is a Kumar Rocker/Jack Leiter-esque ace in the making, and prior to this year, I had literally no expectations of him ever pitching at The Hawk. Then he got hurt (Tommy John surgery), and it opened the chances of him going to college just a crack.

Here’s what Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had to say about him:

Velo: 94-96 t97, Fastball: 60/65, Curveball: 50/60, Changeup: 70/80, Command: 40/55

In a feature on Brandon Barriera and the future of pitching, I pointed out the awful track record of the prep pitcher who gets the top bonus in a draft class. I think that Lesko will be the pitcher who gets a chance to buck that trend this year and before his Tommy John surgery this spring, it definitely would’ve been him. I would argue he’s the best prep pitching product in years, maybe a decade. I also pointed out in my latest ranking of the big league aces, that half of those aces have had Tommy John surgery, leading me to believe that those destined for aceness aren’t really slowed down by the procedure.

I still believe Lesko has the best shot to become a major league ace from the prep ranks in a long time; he has the best changeup I’ve ever seen below the big league level and looks like a Walker Buehler clone when he’s not throwing that pitch. I’ve rounded down on his ranking due to the Tommy John surgery, but I’m just as enthusiastic that Lesko could be the dude you tell your kids about from this draft.

Here’s the scouting report from MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 70 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55

Lesko became the first junior ever to claim Gatorade national baseball player of the year honors in 2021, when he went 11-0 with a 0.35 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 60 innings. A dominant start to his senior season along with his combination of stuff, polish, athleticism and projection had the Vanderbilt recruit poised to become the first pitcher — college or high school — selected in July. But he injured his elbow in early April and had Tommy John surgery, clouding his status.

Lesko already works at 92-95 mph and tops out at 97 with his fastball, which features good carry up in the strike zone and armside run and sink when he keeps it down, and he should add more velocity as he gets stronger. He has the best changeup in the Draft, a dastardly low-80s offering that scoots sideways and also has some depth. His curveball is his least reliable pitch, but his upper-70s bender has high spin rates and the potential to become a plus weapon.

Lesko generates premium stuff with ease and locates it well thanks to his ability to repeat a sound delivery with little effort. He gets good extension, making him even tougher on hitters, and draws praise for his intelligence and maturity. He has ace potential and may need little more than a return to health and innings against pro competition to finish refining his stuff and reach his lofty ceiling.

Range: 1st Round (and if not taken there, consider him ours).

MLB.com Top 250 Ranking: #14.

ESPN Top 300 Ranking: #8.

MLB.com Current Mock Draft: #30 to the San Francisco Giants.

ESPN Current Mock Draft: #15 to the San Diego Padres.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 95%. This would be another miracle sign, even though he wouldn’t be able to pitch in 2023, as he will be recovering from shaking hands with Tommy John. Really, if not for the TJ surgery, Lesko is the #1 HS pitcher taken in this draft, as he’s viewed as a potential ace. The reason my prediction percentage for Lesko is not as high as for Jones is because even with the TJ, he’s likely still demanding top 10 money. If he gets past the Padres at #15 and the Phillies at #17, there’s a chance teams have decided not to match his number. In that case, we basically get another Jack Leiter or Kumar Rocker in 2 years. I do not expect this to happen, of course, but there is at least a sliver of hope for us.

LHP Brandon Barriera

We also are not getting this first round southpaw, who is likely to go somewhere in the middle of the 1st round. He’s good, and it would be great to have him... but it’s not going to happen.

Here’s what Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had to say about him:

Velo: 93-96 t98, Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 55/60, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 50/60, Command: 40/50

Barriera has a unique story in that he basically followed a path more associated with college running backs by opting out of the end of his season to prepare to the draft. He flashes three plus pitches pretty often and has the components to stay a starter, along with a track record of being at the top of this class all the way back to his freshman year in high school. I’m still hesitating because prep pitchers as a group scare me, but Barriera is the best of the bunch who is currently healthy.

Here’s the scouting report from MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55

American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., has churned out a good number of professional players, from All-Star Eric Hosmer to Red Sox prospect Triston Casas. Pitchers have been tougher to come by, with Shaun Anderson the one big league arm to come from the school, via the University of Florida. Barriera — a smaller lefty with electric stuff who threw very well on the summer showcase circuit, including a perfect inning at MLB’s High School All-American Game in Denver — has a very good chance of being the next. It was more of the same for him this spring, though he made his last start on April 19 as he shut things down out of caution, not injury.

While there are high school pitchers in this class who are more projectable, there aren’t that many who have better stuff than Barriera. His fastball sits in the low-90s and touched as high as 96 mph over the course of the summer. He has a low-80s slider that misses a lot of bats, and his changeup, which he sells with excellent arm speed, has the chance to be plus in the future.

Barriera, who reminds some longtime scouts of former Yankee great Ron Guidry, throws a ton of strikes and goes right after hitters. The only concern around the Vanderbilt recruit is about his size and whether he will hold up as a starter, but his stuff and feel for the strike zone have had scouts running to south Florida all spring and puts him firmly in first-round conversations talent-wise.

Range: Middle of the 1st round.

MLB.com Top 250 Ranking: #15.

ESPN Top 300 Ranking: #16.

MLB.com Current Mock Draft: #18 to the Cincinnati Reds.

ESPN Current Mock Draft: #17 to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%. Just stop thinking about it.

LHP Noah Schultz

If you haven’t stopped reading yet, this entry is your potential reward. The 6’9” giant southpaw from where Wayne and Garth shot their public access show Waynes World may well just find himself in gangster pajamas in ‘23-’25. Current rumors around Schultz’s signability have him as a “tough sign,” both because he apparently is a strong commit to Vanderbilt, and perhaps more importantly, his agent (or “advisor,” or whatever nonsense the MLB is calling them now to avoid calling them agents) has supposedly floated a number close to $4 million. If that’s that case, and teams shy away from such a large number on a risky/projectable giant lefty, we’re going to have a new Mayor at Hawkins Field, and it will be party time. Excellent.

Here’s what Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had to say about him:

Velo: 91-94 t96, Fastball: 50/60, Slider: 55/60, Changeup: 45/55, Command: 40/50

Schultz was good last summer, then missed a couple months to start the spring because illness. He came out showing plus stuff at 6-foot-8 with an unusual, low arm slot. His command was bad early then solid in a college summer league. Rumors are his asking price for a bonus is at least $3 million and maybe $4 million, so there’s a real shot he ends up at Vanderbilt, where he would miss being sophomore-eligible by days.

Here’s the scouting report from MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50

With his 6-foot-9 frame and low three-quarters arm slot, Schultz conjures physical comparisons to Randy Johnson. He can’t match the power in the Hall of Famer’s arsenal, but Schultz is a lot more polished than Johnson was as a teenager. He’s also difficult to figure out because he barely pitched as a high school senior and is strongly committed to Vanderbilt.

Schultz’s biggest weapon is an upper-70s slider with horizontal break that’s nearly impossible for lefties to track because of the angle he presents, and he also can back-foot it against righties. His fastball sat at 89-92 mph and peaked at 94 with good carry and armside run on the showcase circuit last summer, and he’s not afraid to work it inside on right-handers. He hasn’t had much need for a changeup yet but shows some aptitude for throwing one with some fade.

Schultz has unusual athleticism and body control for such a tall youngster and he keeps all of his moving parts in sync by working out of the stretch. Scouts would like to see him add some more velocity and he began to trend up a bit during the fall before dealing at 92-96 mph and also showcasing a sharper, harder slider in a two-inning outing to open his senior season. But he came down with mononucleosis soon afterward and displayed shaky control when he returned.

Range: 1st or 2nd round (or not drafted until a late round flier if his reported signing bonus number scares teams away).

MLB.com Top 250 Ranking: #49.

ESPN Top 300 Ranking: #34.

MLB.com Current Mock Draft: N/A.

ESPN Current Mock Draft: N/A.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 50%. This one’s a coin flip, as if a team decides to reach Schultz’s number, he’s gone... but that’s an awfully big number for a guy ranked closer to #50 than #1. If you don’t see his name called in the first 2 rounds, teams have not hit his number, and he’s likely ours.

RHP Andrew Dutkanych

The Duke is coming to Vanderbilt. See here and here for more Anchor of Gold coverage on the big righty.

Here’s what Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had to say about him:

Indiana prep RHP Andrew Dutkanych (Vanderbilt commit) has already taken his name out of the draft and will be going to school; he’d rank around 60th overall if still eligible.

Here’s the scouting report from MLB.com:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50

Indiana’s best high school pitching prospect since Ashe Russell and Nolan Watson were both Royals first-rounders in 2015, Dutkanych had the potential to go in the same territory this July after looking spectacular at the start of his senior season. Besides having one of the most well-rounded repertoires in the prep class, he’s also one of its more polished arms and performed consistently well on the showcase circuit. But he also struggled at times down the stretch this spring and withdrew from the Draft, so he’ll attend Vanderbilt and be Draft-eligible again as a sophomore in 2024.

Dutkanych can show three plus pitches at times, with his tight mid-80s slider capable of reaching 90 mph and ranking as his best offering. His fastball sits at 93-94 mph and touches 97 with armside run, and he creates downhill plane with his high three-quarters arm slot. His upper-70s curve has less relative power than his slider but features good depth.

He hasn’t needed it much yet, but Dutkanych shows some feel for a low-80s changeup with some sink. His delivery features little effort and he repeats it well, which bodes well for his future health and control, though his stock took a hit with an eight-walk outing in front of a crowd of scouts in May. Athletic and physical, he still has more projection remaining in his 6-foot-3 frame.

Range: Would have been the top 2 rounds had he not done us all a favor and removed his name from consideration.

MLB.com Top 250 Ranking: #42.

ESPN Top 300 Ranking: #60 (*See above).

MLB.com Current Mock Draft: N/A.

ESPN Current Mock Draft: N/A.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 0%. He took his name out of the draft. The Duke is ours.