With the 2022 MLB Draft approaching, the Baltimore Orioles still have a lot to decide ahead of making the No. 1 overall selection, the third time in franchise history they’ll have the top pick.
Do the Orioles go the high school route with Jackson Holliday or Druw Jones, sons of former All-Stars Matt Holliday and Andruw Jones? Or does Baltimore elect to go with arguably the best college bat in the class in Cal Poly infielder Brooks Lee?
Under GM Mike Elias, the Orioles have selected college hitters — Adley Rutschman, Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser — with their first-round picks the past three seasons.
In 2022, Elias may break the trend and take a high schooler in the first round for the first time as general manager of the Orioles. But he would still have to decide which player to take, with Jones and Holliday leading the high school crop.
“I think both guys are can’t-miss guys, and I don’t think you could go wrong either direction you decide to go,” Jim Bowden said on Glenn Clark Radio June 10.
Bowden, the former GM of the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals, currently serves as a writer for The Athletic, the lead MLB analyst and insider for CBS Sports HQ and a host for MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.
Jones is an 18-year-old center fielder who plays the position very similarly to his father. In his senior season for Atlanta-area Wesleyan High School, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound outfielder hit .570 with 13 home runs, 39 RBIs, 72 runs scored, 33 walks, 32 stolen bases and a 1.702 OPS. He was named the Gatorade Georgia Baseball Player of the Year.
In Jones’ eyes, he feels he had a successful season:
“I like Jones’ overall package more, and I would take Jones,” Bowden said in comparing Jones and Holliday.
Another high school bat jockeying for the top spot in this year’s draft is Holliday, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop out of Stillwater High School in Oklahoma. Holliday’s father, seven-time All Star Matt Holliday, was a corner outfielder who never excelled on defense, but Jackson is capable of being an impact defender at a premium position.
Like Jones, Holliday was named his state’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. Holliday collected 89 hits, 29 doubles, six triples and 17 home runs. Holliday drove in 79 runs and walked 33 times to just seven strikeouts (4.7 BB/K rate).
Holliday finished with a .685 average and 2.141 OPS.
“[The swing] is a really good stroke and he can hit high velocity. [He] stays back well on breaking balls and changeups. The bat’s going to play,” Bowden said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s going to hit, he’s going to have power, and more importantly he’s going to be a winning player.”
Lee may be the lone college bat with a shot to go No. 1 overall. He excelled in his third season for Cal Poly this spring. Lee hit .357 with 15 home runs, 55 RBIs and 46 walks. He finished with a 1.125 OPS.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound shortstop was named the Big West Field Player of the Year for his phenomenal campaign with the Mustangs. Lee led the entire conference in hits, walks, doubles, home runs, runs scored, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases.
In addition to his Big West Player of the Year honor, Lee was named an All-American by Collegiate Baseball and is a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Award, given to the nation’s top shortstop.
Bowden believes Lee is still a notch below Jones and Holliday.
“When you’re picking at the very top and you’ve got guys like Jones and Holliday that check all the boxes they check, I don’t think that’s the time to go off script,” Bowden said. “… There’s a difference between a superstar and an All-Star, so maybe I’ll take Lee as an All-Star and these other guys as a superstar.”
For more from Bowden, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Josh Dean Photography and Perfect Game