2022 MLB Draft winners and losers: Four sons of big leaguers leave early; teams stay clear of pitchers

The 2022 MLB Amateur Draft began with the top 80 selections Sunday night. 536 other choices are available on Monday and Tuesday. The Orioles had the No. 1 pick for the third time in history and used it on Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday. Yes, he is the son of longtime big leaguer Matt Holliday. Here are all of this year’s first-round picks.

Similar to the baseball season itself, MLB draft evaluation requires a marathon mentality, not a sprint. Players drafted this weekend will disappear into the minors for a few years before resurfacing, going through growing pains, and then finally establishing themselves as big leaguers. This is not the event for instant gratification.

That won’t stop us from declaring winners and losers, of course. Here are some winners and losers from the 2022 MLB Draft, with a focus on the winners because no one likes to call people losers.

Winner: Son of Great Leaguers

For the first time in draft history, the sons of former MLB players were selected with the No. 1 and No. 2 draft picks. A total of four sons of big leaguers were drafted in the first round:

1. SS Jackson Holiday: Orioles (son of Matt)
2. FROM Druw Jones: Diamondbacks (son of Andruw)
17. FROM Justin Crawford: Phillies (son of Carl)
19. 3B Cam Collar: Reds (son of Lou)

Holliday is the second son of the former major league player selected with the No. 1 pick, joining Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. (No. 1 pick in 1987). It’s a pretty good company there. Teams value big league bloodlines and it was never more evident than in the first round on Sunday.

Winner: Kumar Rocker

A year ago, Rocker, the former Vanderbilt ace, was the 10th pick in the draft, but the Mets didn’t sign him because something about his physique scared them. Rocker underwent minor shoulder surgery last Septemberpushed to an independent league this spring, and went No. 3 at Rangers in this year’s draft. Rocker going where he did was a big surprise, he was expected to go somewhere in the back half of the first lap, but good for him. Things have settled down after last year’s disappointment. (Also, Rocker reunites with Jack Leiter, his running mate with the Commodores. Texas took Leiter with the No. 2 pick last summer.)

Because the Dodgers passed the third-tier luxury tax tier by $250 million last season, their first-round pick dropped 10 spots, so they didn’t have a first-round pick on Sunday. Their first selection was No. 40 overall, which they used on Louisville wide receiver Dalton Rushing. Los Angeles is so good at drafting and developing that Rushing will likely become a star, but it’s never fun not having a first-round pick. That’s especially true for fans watching at home (or in Los Angeles), who have to wait to hear their team call out a name.

Winner: The Reds

Cincinnati clinched Collier with the No. 18 pick even though he was a projected top-10 pick all spring, and sometimes even a top-five pick. Collier is a fascinating prospect because he’s a 17-year-old who got his GED and finished high school early, and enrolled in college so he could get into the draft like what amounts to a high school. Collier has a big advantage – he received comps from Rafael Devers for his bat – and having him with the No. 18 pick is a huge, huge win for the Reds. My favorite pick of the night.

Loser: College students

LSU batter Jacob Berry went No. 6 to the Marlins and was technically the first college player selected in this year’s draft. I say technically because Rocker, who spent two or three years at Vanderbilt, was drafted into an independent league. It’s the first time since 1971 that a college player hasn’t been selected in the top five. A total of 15 four-year-old middle schoolers were taken in the first round, the fewest since 2018.

Winner: Cade Horton

Two months ago, Horton being among the top 10 picks would have seemed insane. The Oklahoma ace returned from Tommy John surgery in late March and didn’t really hit his stride until June, when he dominated in the Sooners’ run to the College World Series Finals. Horton’s impressive playoff performance landed him with the Cubs as the 7th pick. He was by far the biggest draft lifter this spring. The kid made a ton of money in the Division I playoffs.

Winner: Diversity

For the first time in draft history, four of the top five picks were black players. Baseball struggles with diversity, both on and off the field, and I hope this year’s draft is an indication that the tide is turning. One of the most effective ways to grow the sport and reach new audiences is to make sure every kid sees someone like them on the pitch.

Loser: the pitchers

Teams are becoming more and more risk averse and it shows on draft day. Clubs focus on hitters because they are “safer” than pitchers, who come with so much inherent risk of injury. Additionally, many of the top pitching prospects in the draft class have been injured this spring. It was a mediocre pitching class and as a result only seven pitchers were selected in the first round, nine if you include No. 20 pick Owen Murphy and No. 30 pick Reggie Crawford, two two-way players. This is the fewest pitchers taken in the first round this century.

Winner: Fans of Two-Way Players

Two two-way players went in the first round! The Braves used the No. 20 pick on Illinois high schooler Owen Murphy and the Giants used the No. 30 pick on UConn’s Reggie Crawford. Both will begin their careers as two-way players. Crawford is recovering from Tommy John surgery and only pitched eight innings in college, but he throws 99 mph on the left side, and he’s also shown promise with the bat. The consensus is that Crawford’s future rests on the mound because, well, he throws 99 mph from the left side, but San Francisco intends to develop him as a two-way player. Fun!

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