As the Orioles prepare for the 2022 MLB Draft, the club’s options for their top selection are slowly coming into focus. The Orioles will pick No. 1 overall provided the rules for determining the draft order remain the same in 2022 with a new CBA looming.
The 2022 draft will feature strong college bats and toolsy high school position players, providing an opportunity for the O’s to add to a farm system already brimming with talent. But with a plethora of options comes a difficult decision: Which direction should the organization go in?
“I just think when you pick high, you have to take the best player,” MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis said on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 28. “You can’t say, ‘Well, we need a pitcher, so we’re going to push this guy up the board.’ I think you have to take the best guy. … If we’re just foreseeing the future today, I can’t imagine the Orioles not taking a hitter when I’m looking at what’s available in next year’s draft right now.”
Whatever player the Orioles select in the first round will join MLB Pipeline’s top-rated farm system, which is chock-full of solid prospects like catcher Adley Rutschman and outfielders Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser. Those three were selected by the Orioles in the first round out of Oregon State, Arkansas and Sam Houston State, respectively, the past three years.
The Orioles’ preference early in the draft since GM Mike Elias took over has been college hitters. Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee, Texas Tech infielder Jace Jung and LSU infielder Jacob Berry were recently ranked by Callis as the top college prospects in next year’s draft.
“Brooks Lee could’ve been a first-round pick out of high school a couple of years ago, but he wanted to go play for his dad at Cal Poly,” Callis said. “Jace Jung, his older brother is Josh Jung, who was the No. 8 pick in the 2019 draft. There’s all kinds of interesting connections.”
High school bats are very much in the mix as well, with some familiar names topping the prep rankings going into 2022. MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 high school prospect is Elijah Green, son of former Baltimore Ravens tight end Eric Green, and the No. 4 high school prospect is Druw Jones, the son of five-time All-Star Andruw Jones. Termarr Johnson, a power-hitting infielder, tops the high school list.
“[Green] has the best tools in the draft,” Callis said of the Miami commit’s scouting report. “And it’s not horrible swing and miss where you’re like, ‘Oh my God, this guy has no chance to hit,’ but I’d file it under swing-and-miss concerns. His swing can get long. He can look off-balance at the plate at times. That doesn’t seem like the type of guy the Orioles would take.”
“Termarr Johnson is a really gifted high school hitter,” Callis continued. “Druw Jones, I think his tools aren’t as loud as Green’s, but they’re pretty loud and I think you feel like he’s a better hitter. … If the Orioles want that position player who barrels a lot of balls, for [lack] of a better way of putting it, they’re going to have a number of options picking at one or two.”
With the baseball world enamored by two-way star Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, the Orioles could add an all-purpose player of their own in 2022 in UConn lefty reliever and first baseman Reggie Crawford. He hit .295/.349/.543 with 13 homers as a sophomore with the Huskies while striking out 17 of the 33 batters he faced out of the bullpen.
“He’s pitched a little in relief, he pitched a little with Team USA and in the Cape League,” Callis said. “All told at the three stops, he struck out 30 of the 56 hitters he faced, averaged 96 mph and touched 100, [has a] power slider up to 88, he’s a big, physical 6-foot-4 lefty, [and he] throws strikes.”
While Baltimore would seem to be looking for big-name lineup help, Callis isn’t counting out under-the-radar prospects like Crawford, who projects more as a pitcher than a hitter moving forward. Callis says Crawford could be in the mix for the Orioles if he can back up his 2021 campaign with a strong showing next season.
“We just haven’t seen him as a starter,” Callis said. “Now, if he does this stuff as a starting pitcher next year I think he is going to be in that discussion.”
For more from Callis, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credits: Owen Main/Cal Poly Athletics, Elise Bressler/Texas Tech Athletics, Courtesy of Perfect Game