2022 MLB Draft grades: Pirates, Mets, Orioles nail early picks; Rangers reach for Kumar Rocker

Major League Baseball’s 2022 amateur draft got underway Sunday night, with a total of 80 selections made during the first night. That included the Baltimore Orioles making their third No. 1 pick in franchise history, choosing Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday, the son of longtime big-league outfielder Matt Holliday. You can find every pick from Sunday night in our draft tracker.

The draft will resume with Round 3 beginning on Monday afternoon. But first, let’s take a look back at a memorable first night by handing out grades for every first-round pick, plus the Dodgers’ first selection. As always, do note that this is more of an art than a science; what looks like a questionable pick on draft night can easily become a great one for a team in due time. This is, in a sense, a snapshot of this moment in time and nothing more.

Let’s get to the grades.

1. Orioles: Jackson Holliday, SS, Stillwater HS (OK)

Holliday, ranked No. 3 by CBS Sports prior to the draft, is a defensible top pick. He raised his stock this summer, showing an improved physique and a better plan at the plate that allowed him to use the entire field more frequently. The upside here is a left-handed shortstop with a plus bat. That’ll play. Grade: A

2. Diamondbacks: Druw Jones, CF, Wesleyan HS (GA)

Jones came into the summer ranked by CBS Sports as the No. 1 prospect in the class. He was the preferred choice of the industry sources who spoke to CBS Sports, too. The Diamondbacks, then, have to be pleased to land him at No. 2. A fully actualized Jones could feature five plus or better tools, including a good glove in center field. Grade: A

3. Rangers: Kumar Rocker, RHP, unaffiliated

One of the big surprises of the first round. Rocker’s stock was hard to pin down following a year that included a shoulder operation and a proof-of-life tour in the Frontier League. There’s no knocking Rocker’s past success at Vanderbilt, but clubs have expressed reservations about his long-term outlook because of his lacking changeup and the negative impact his delivery has on his command and, potentially, his arm health. The Rangers reuniting Rocker with former Vanderbilt teammate Jack Leiter is rad as heck though. Grade: C

Termarr Johnson went fourth overall to Pittsburgh.
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4. Pirates: Termarr Johnson, 2B, Mays HS (GA)

Johnson would have been a defensible choice at No. 1. A veteran scout told CBS Sports during the spring that he threw an 80 — or the highest possible grade — on his hit tool. Factor in that he’s got average or better raw power, as well as one of the highest baseball IQs in the class, and he’s a very interesting prospect. Grade: A

5. Nationals: Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy (FL)

Green is one of the biggest risk-reward prospects in the class. He has incredibly loud tools, including his power potential and speed, but teams have reservations about his hit tool. If he can corral his swing-and-miss tendencies, he could develop into a star-level player. Some scouts warned that the floor is lower than you’d expect from a top-five player with this kind of explosiveness. Grade: B

6. Marlins: Jacob Berry, 1B/DH, LSU

This one is puzzling. Berry is a limited defender who was compared by one scout to Seth Beer, the 28th pick in the 2018 draft. He hit well in his one year at LSU, boosting his stock, but evaluators warned that his underlying exit-velocity data suggested there’s not as much power potential here as you’d think. Given some of the other players on the board, we have no choice but to give the Marlins a low grade. Grade: D

7. Cubs: Cade Horton, RHP, Oklahoma

Horton had a phenomenal June for the Sooners, causing his stock to shoot up after the publication of our top 30 rankings. Those are the breaks sometimes. He has a big-time power arm, though none of the scouts or evaluators who spoke to CBS Sports were sold on him sticking in a rotation. The Cubs taking him this early, then, is a steep gamble, albeit one that may end up looking brilliant. Grade: C 

8. Twins: Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly

We have a simple rule of thumb. If you get the No. 2 ranked player at pick No. 8, then you get an A. Lee is a good hitter with strong instincts; he may have to move off shortstop as a professional, and there are some questions about the long-term health of his knee and back. Still, he seemed like a lock to go in the top five all summer, making this one of the better value picks in the draft. Grade: A

9. Royals: Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech

Cross is a perfectly fine corner-outfield prospect who trended in the right direction this season, improving his walk and strikeout rates and upping his power production. He played center field this spring, but he’s expected to wind up in a corner. Grade: B

10. Rockies: Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga

The third of three surprise right-handers taken in the top 10. Hughes is a big, powerful righty who will need to work on his changeup in order to stick in a rotation. Scouts warned that there’s more relief risk here than is ideal for a top-10 pick. Grade: C

The Mets snagged Kevin Parada with their first of two first-round picks.
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11. Mets: Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech

The expectation throughout the summer was that Parada would be a top-five pick. The Mets should be happy to get him here. His ball-tracking data at Georgia Tech was excellent, and hinted at middle-of-the-order potential. Meanwhile, he improved his defense enough to envision him sticking behind the plate. That combination merits a starting projection. Grade: A

12. Tigers: Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech

Jung has an excellent feel for contact and the strike zone alike. The questions evaluators had about his game revolved around his power (he has plus raw strength, though he seldom taps into it) and his defense, which projects to be subpar even at the keystone. Still, he’s a fairly safe and proven collegiate hitter who can reasonably be expected to play a non-first-base position. That’s solid. Grade: B

13. Angels: Zach Neto, SS, Campbell

Had the draft played out a little differently, Neto could’ve found himself selected with a top-10 pick. He’s a well-rounded player who pummeled Big South competition all spring and summer, to the extent that he recorded nearly as many home runs as strikeouts. Neto is considered to be an instinctual player as well, an attribute that may help him stick at shortstop for the long haul. Grade: B

14. Mets: Jett Williams, SS, Rockwall-Heath HS (TX)

The Mets’ interest in Williams was a poorly kept secret running up to the draft. Nevertheless, they got their man with their second pick on the night. Williams is small but sturdily built; he’s also quite athletic and has what some scouts project as a 70-hit tool. That forecast might prove to be optimistic, but it’s worth the gamble. Grade: B

15. Padres: Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford HS (GA)

Lesko had to undergo Tommy John surgery earlier this summer, otherwise he might’ve gone a few picks higher. He has the best changeup in the class and a fastball with good spin. Lesko’s breaking ball lights up the Trackman output, but scouts have questioned if it will play effectively given the shape out of his hand. The Padres will gladly find out. Grade: B

16. Guardians: Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison

DeLauter entered the spring ranked by CBS Sports as the No. 2 prospect in the class. He struggled out of the gate against the only high-quality competition he faced this season, then later broke his foot. He has a track record of hitting everywhere, including the Cape Cod League, yet some scouts were worried that he’s a product of a weak conference. It doesn’t help that he has unusual swing mechanics that see him kick out his back foot. The Guardians, a data-obsessed organization, will take the risk. Grade: B

The Phillies took Justin Crawford, Carl’s son, in the first round.
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17. Phillies: Justin Crawford, OF, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)

Crawford was rumored to be a potential top-10 pick throughout the summer. He has a good feel for contact and top-notch speed. Ultimately, his ceiling will hinge on how much of his raw power he can tap into as he matures. Grade: B

18. Reds: Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola College (FL)

The absolute best value pick of the first round. Collier is a model team’s dream, as he performed well against junior-college competition as a 17-year-old third baseman. He would’ve been a defensible top-five pick, and a heck of a get in the back end of the top 10. To get him here, at pick 18, is a slam-dunk. Grade: A

19. Athletics: Andrew Susac, C, Arizona

Susac likes to swing the bat and he likes to lift the ball, with the latter allowing him to post good power marks. Unfortunately, he could stand to walk more often and strike out less often, as he had a strikeout-to-walk ratio north of 2.20. Susac has a big arm, but he would benefit from the implementation of the automated ball-strike system. Grade: B

20. Braves: Owen Murphy, RHP, Riverside-Brookfield HS (IL)

Murphy is an intriguing two-way player whose helium landed him in CBS Sports’ top 30. The Braves announced him as a right-handed pitcher, but will give him a chance as a two-way player. He shows some Jack Leiter-like qualities on the bump, as well as a lively fastball. Murphy does need to improve his slurvy breaking ball and changeup if he’s going to stick in a rotation, but he has ample time to figure that out. Grade: B

21. Mariners: Cole Young, SS, North Allegheny HS (PA)

Young is a well-rounded prep shortstop who lacks both a carrying tool and an obvious flaw. One scout predicted to CBS Sports in the spring that he would become a top-10 pick if he went to college. The Mariners hope that trajectory is correct, just without the college part. Grade: B

22. Cardinals: Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State

The Cardinals have a well-earned reputation for taking polished collegiate arms in the middle to late stages of round one. Hjerpe, a funky lefty with a good vertical approach angle on his pitches, fits the bill. He could’ve easily gone higher than this, in part because he should be one of the first pitchers in this class to reach The Show. Grade: A

23. Blue Jays: Brandon Barriera, LHP, American Heritage HS (FL)

Barriera is a small left-hander whose fastball shape raised red flags for evaluators. The concern is that the shape plays into the zone, causing it to be less effective than it should be based on his velocity. Perhaps that worry will prove to be misplaced, or outdated. Someone was going to take a shot on Barriera in the 20s, so it’s hard to feel all too bad about the pick regardless. Grade: B

24. Red Sox: Mikey Romero, Orange Lutheran HS (CA)

Romero was not ranked by CBS Sports in the pre-draft top 30, but he did crack the preseason top 50 list. He’s a surefire shortstop with a sweet left-handed swing. It’s unclear how much power he’ll produce, which will limit his ceiling. There is a fairly high floor here, however, which makes it easier to forgive this being a slight reach. Grade: B

The Yankees took 6-foot-7 Spencer Jones with their first-round pick on Sunday. 
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25. Yankees: Spencer Jones, OF, Vanderbilt

Jones is one of several large human beings taken late in the first round. He’s an exit-velocity darling who runs better than his 6-foot-7 frame would suggest he should, but there are questions about his hit tool. To wit, he struck out in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances last season at Vanderbilt. You can argue that the Yankees, who employ Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, are perhaps uniquely suited to help Jones navigate his size as it relates to making more steady contact. This might be a bit of a reach, but we’re forgiving because of that aspect. Grade: B

26. White Sox: Noah Schultz, LHP, Oswego East HS (IL)

Schultz is another large human being, listed at 6-foot-9. He has a promising three-pitch mix and he throws from a low-three-quarters slot, creating an unusual angle on hitters at the top of the zone. Again, this might be a slight reach, but we’re not going to penalize the White Sox given the upside here. Grade: B

27. Brewers: Eric Brown, SS, Coastal Carolina

Brown has a very unusual pre-swing setup. It hasn’t stopped him from clobbering pitchers throughout his collegiate career, including a stint last summer in the Cape Cod League. Brown’s fans see him sticking at shortstop, which could make him a heck of a get this late in the first. Grade: B

28. Astros: Drew Gilbert, OF, Tennessee

Gilbert is a high-motor player who should provide value in center field. The one knock against him is the big one: whether or not he’ll hit enough to justify starting him. This is about the range he was going all along, so if the Astros end up with a fourth outfielder, it won’t be because they committed a major reach. Grade: B

29. Rays: Xavier Isaac, 1B, East Forsyth HS (NC)

Isaac might be the most unexpected first-round pick of the bunch. He has big-time raw power and bat speed, but he doesn’t have a lengthy track record against top competition and he’s just a first baseman. The Rays are presumably looking to pay him underslot and spend later in the class, but we can only grade this pick in isolation for the time being. Grade: D

30. Giants: Reggie Crawford, two-way player, UConn

Crawford didn’t play this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He flashed some loud stuff from the left side in the past, and he was announced as a two-way player, upping the intrigue level. There were some other injured collegiate starters on the board who we might have preferred, and that’s why we’re docking this pick slightly. Grade: C

40. Dodgers: Dalton Rushing, C, Louisville

The Dodgers had their first pick docked 10 slots because of their Competitive Balance Tax payroll. Rushing, who succeeded last year’s No. 1 pick Henry Davis as the Cardinals’ most-days catcher, boosted his stock last summer with a strong showing in the Cape Cod League. He carried that momentum over this year, homering 23 times and nearly walking as often as he struck out. Factor in a promising defensive foundation, and Rushing is an interesting catching prospect. Grade: B

40. Dodgers: Dalton Rushing, C, Louisville
The Dodgers had their first pick docked 10 slots because of their Competitive Balance Tax payroll. Rushing, who succeeded last year’s No. 1 pick Henry Davis as the Cardinals’ most-days catcher, boosted his stock last summer with a strong showing in the Cape Cod League. He carried that momentum over this year, homering 23 times and nearly walking as often as he struck out. Factor in a promising defensive foundation, and Rushing is an interesting catching prospect. Grade: B.

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