Atlanta-area center fielder Druw Jones is the top prospect in the 2022 MLB Draft because of a unique combination of present skills and future projection, according to ESPN baseball insider Kiley McDaniel, but there is one college hitter in particular who could be of interest to the Orioles with the No. 1 overall pick.
McDaniel believes the Orioles could be considering anywhere from six to eight players for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft but have probably eliminated one or two players at this point. Jones is surely at or near the top of the list of players the Orioles are considering. Jones is the son of five-time All-Star outfielder Andruw Jones, who hit 434 career homers across 17 big league seasons and is considered one of the best defensive center fielders ever.
Druw Jones is a 6-foot-4, 180-pound center fielder out of Suwanee, Ga. The 18-year-old attends Wesleyan High School and is committed to Vanderbilt. He is one of several high school players the Orioles may be considering, along with Atlanta-area infielder Termarr Johnson, Orlando-area outfielder Elijah Green and Stillwater, Okla., infielder Jackson Holliday. Green is the son of former Ravens tight end Eric Green, and Holliday is the son of longtime big leaguer Matt Holliday.
But if the Orioles are looking for a potential transformational talent atop the draft, then Jones is probably the way to go, according to McDaniel.
“He’s got all those things you want in terms of performance and now skills, but he has the frame and the twitch and athleticism,” McDaniel said on Glenn Clark Radio May 10. “I saw Fernando Tatis Jr. as a 15-year-old. He was just pretty good. And then by about 17, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a totally different guy,’ because he was long and lanky and projectable and sometimes that stuff can explode. Druw Jones has some of that same stuff. Now, it’s still one in five, one in six that he hits anywhere near those heights, but he’s the only guy that has a chance to be that kind of guy.”
The Orioles have had three top-five picks under GM Mike Elias and have taken college position players with all three of those selections: Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad and Sam Houston State outfielder Colton Cowser. Kjerstad and Cowser signed for significantly under-slot bonuses, allowing the Orioles to spread money around later in those drafts.
McDaniel said there has been conversation in the industry since the end of last season about whether the Orioles will pivot to a high school kid this time around. McDaniel explained that most superstar-caliber players were either high-end international signings or top-of-the-draft high schoolers. Jones may fit the bill.
“If you were to ask around and take a vote, [Jones would] get the most No. 1 votes,” McDaniel said. “But I think most teams see it as, ‘Yeah, there’s four or five guys you can talk yourself into,’ similar to last year when we saw everyone’s rankings get jumbled up in terms of the order based on the way the baseball draft is set up with a hard slotting process and everyone shops around for prices and then you pick who you think the best player is for the price rather than just the best player.”
If the Orioles choose to continue down the road of taking a college player, there are a few options the club could be exploring, including Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee and LSU outfielder Jacob Berry. McDaniel senses the Orioles would be more interested in Berry, who began his college career at Arizona but followed head coach Jay Johnson to Baton Rouge.
Berry, a 6-foot, 212-pound switch-hitter, is batting .378/.462/.672 with 15 home runs entering play May 13-15 but is currently slowed by a small hairline fracture in the middle finger of his right hand. He is expected to settle in as a right fielder in pro ball.
“If you’re just looking for the most advanced hit and power tool in the draft, it’s this guy,” McDaniel said. “The problem is there’s not a ton of speed and defense. He’s played a little third base in the past. It’s probably more right field and maybe just fringy in right field, so you better get a lot of savings and be really sure the bat’s going to play because you’re getting toward that [Spencer] Torkelson, Andrew Vaughn thing where if they come to the big leagues and don’t hit, then what do you really have?”
For more from McDaniel, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Perfect Game