Major League Baseball’s owner-imposed lockout is now more than two months old, and is threatening the start of spring training. That doesn’t mean all forms of baseball are shut down, however. Seasons are beginning at high schools and colleges across the country, with some of those players hoping to join the professional ranks by being selected in this summer’s upcoming first-year amateur draft.
Who are those players, and what should you know about them? Below, CBS Sports has assembled a preseason top 50 ranking of draft prospects. This list was informed by conversations with scouts, analysts, and other evaluator types, with a sprinkling of the author’s evaluations as well. The order is based on a combination of expected draft slot and impact; for example, a player ranked No. 10 should be expected to go around 10, but they could go a few slots earlier or later, depending on their signability (that is, their financial demands) and their health status.
Throughout the list, you’ll see references to scouting concepts like the 20-80 grading scale (20 is horrid; 50 is average; 80 is elite), as well as the five tools (hitting for average; hitting for power; running speed; defensive ability; and throwing arm) and the idea of projectability (is there room for growth in this particular area). This jargon is used to paint the most accurate picture of what the industry thinks of these players.
With that in mind, it is worth remembering these 50 players are all talented in their own ways, and they’re all certain to have professional careers. Players, especially those of high school and college ages, can and will grow in unexpected ways. These rankings are merely a snapshot in time; not an unchanging edict that rules all.
Now, onto the gasbaggery.
1. Termarr Johnson, 2B, Mays HS (GA)
Johnson is a special offensive prospect as well as the beneficiary of a hype blizzard. One veteran scout told CBS Sports that projecting Johnson’s hit tool to become an 80 (that is, the highest grade and most important aspect of a player’s game) was an easy decision. Other evaluators have dared to debate how Johnson stacks up to Wander Franco when he was 17 years old, and have offered Guardians third baseman José Ramírez as a best-case scenario comparison. (Best case indeed.) Some, if not all of that could prove to be overzealous by the time draft day arrives. Still, Johnson offers a lot to like, including a mature approach and a feel for the barrel that has earned him a reputation for being able to hit any pitch in any count to any field. He came into his strength late last season, and the natural loft on his swing bodes well for his future power production. The biggest downside to his game is his future defensive position, with second base serving as the safest bet. Johnson hasn’t yet committed to a college; he won’t need to if his desire is to begin his pro career later this year.
2. Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison
DeLauter is (and will likely continue to be) the trendy dark horse pick to go No. 1 this summer. In two seasons with the Dukes, he’s pummeled Colonial Athletic Association pitching to the tune of a .385/.488/.657 batting line, 29 extra-base hits, 14 stolen bases, and 10 more walks than strikeouts. DeLauter eased concerns about his excellence being the product of substandard competition last summer by tormenting the Cape Cod League. He launched nine home runs and tallied three more walks than strikeouts while hitting .298/.397/.589 in 34 contests. DeLauter has a loose barrel and he hasn’t been impacted by his tendency to bar his arm; instead, he’s hit everything thrown his way, and he’s done it while displaying power to all fields. Did we mention that he can run and throw; that he might hang in center to begin his career; and that he won’t turn 21 until October? Factor in how he’s not likely to be challenged this season, and there’s a compelling case to be made that he could indeed be the first or second player off the board. If DeLauter does end up being picked by the Orioles, it’ll be appropriate; one scout said that he’s Colton Cowser with a grade and half more power. Cowser was, of course, happily selected fifth overall by the Orioles last draft.
3. Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly
Expecting the switch-hitting Lee to become the most decorated big-league player in Mustangs history would be unreasonable. Ozzie Smith is a Hall of Famer, and both Mike Krukow and Mitch Haniger made All-Star Games after playing their college ball in San Luis Obispo. Forecasting Lee to dethrone John Orton (25th) as the highest selected Mustang, however, is more than fair. Scouts have the utmost confidence that he’s going to hit, and possibly hit a lot thanks to his bat-to-ball skills and his track record; including his stints in the Cape Cod League and similar constructs, he’s batted .357/.412/.513 in more than 400 collegiate plate appearances. (He did record more than five times as many strikeouts as walks on the Cape, though it’s hard to knock his play there given he batted .405/.432/.667.) Evaluators are less harmonious about his chances of remaining at shortstop for the long haul. Lee, who plays for his father at Cal Poly, has great instincts and less-great athleticism; a move to second or third base would seem like a fine compromise between value and ability. Provided he stays healthy and reaffirms that he merits an average or better power projection this spring, he should go in the top five picks come the summer. And, perhaps, even first overall.
4. Druw Jones, CF, Wesleyan High School (GA)
The name isn’t a coincidence. Jones is the son of Andruw, the longtime Braves center fielder who won 10 Gold Glove Awards and homered 434 times during his big-league career. Predictably, Jones the Younger should become an eraser himself thanks to his above-average speed and his innate feel for the position. At the plate, he has a fast bat and a projectable frame that betoken future muscle and power gains. Scouts do have concerns about the length of his swing, but they believe at his peak he could be an above-average hitter with plus grades on his defense and his baserunning. Jones has an outstanding commitment to Vanderbilt that he seems more likely to leverage in negotiations (à la Jordan Lawlar, the No. 6 pick last summer) than he is to honor it.
5. Elijah Green, CF, IMG Academy (FL)
Green has the biggest boom-or-bust profile in the class. He has well-above-average power and speed, giving him the kind of ceiling that can be measured in All-Star Game appearances. One scout even said Green has the loudest tools he’s ever observed in a player. Unfortunately, evaluators are pessimistic about him reaching his ceiling because of his swing-and-miss tendencies. Indeed, scouts start to sound like Dr. Seuss when they talk about Green’s whiffing: he will swing and miss on pitches fast and slow; he will swing and miss on pitches high and low; he will swing and miss all the time; he will swing and miss at this rhyme. To Green’s credit, he’s attempted to address his contact issues by going strideless in two-strike counts; it just hasn’t worked. Green’s upside is such that it seems unlikely he’ll honor his commitment to the University of Miami (FL); a rough spring could change that, however, as teams are convinced that he has a lower floor than you’d expect from a player ranked this high.
6. Jace Jung, 2B/3B, Texas Tech
Jung (whose surname is pronounced “young”) is the kid brother of Josh, the eighth pick in the 2019 draft and the Rangers’ third baseman of the near-future. He has an unusual setup at the plate, as he stands with his barrel angled 45 degrees toward the backstop, giving him an inverted bat wrap of sorts. The odd aesthetics didn’t prevent him from batting .337/.462/.697 last season with 21 home runs and more walks than strikeouts. While some scouts have thrown a 60 grade on his future hit and power tools, an analyst cautioned that he whiffed more frequently on pitches thrown within the zone than you would expect from his statline, suggesting the hit portion of that forecast could prove sanguine. That may seem trivial, but bear in mind Jung’s future is expected to be as a second baseman in the Max Muncy, offense-over-everything vein.
7. Brock Jones, OF, Stanford
Jones is the biggest wild card in the class among collegiate position players. He recovered from a rough 16-game introduction in 2020 to hit .311/.453/.646 and to lead the Cardinal last season in homers (18), steals (14), and OPS (1.099). (Stanford had two hitters drafted, albeit neither earlier than the 11th round.) Jones’ breakout occurred while he was splitting his energy between baseball and football, where he was a safety who played special teams. He’s now ditched his athletic duality to pursue baseball unity, or, at least, to better align his play with his potential. He has an intriguing power-speed toolbox and he’s shown a willingness to work counts. It must be noted that Stanford’s hitters have a reputation for disappointing in the pros: Jason Castro, Jed Lowrie, and Carlos Quentin are the only Cardinal hitters to make an All-Star Game since the last round of expansion. The cave you fear to enter is supposed to hold your treasure, so some team will likely pop Jones in the top 10 if he has a good spring.
8. Jacob Berry, 1B/3B, LSU
Berry, a switch-hitter, batted .352/.439/.676 with 17 home runs last season at Arizona. He’s since transferred to LSU to remain with the same head coach. While moving into the SEC months ahead of draft day would be an unwise decision for many hitters, Berry should be fine thanks to his well-above-average power and his appreciable feel for contact. He struck out in fewer than 20 percent of his plate appearances in 2021, and scouts expressed more confidence in his bat than they did with Alex Binelas’ entering last season. (Binelas was ranked 13th on CBS Sports’ preseason list, but he slipped to the third round after a poor campaign.) Berry’s offense will ultimately dictate his draft slot, as scouts believe his stiff hands and heavy feet will prevent him from playing third base. Should that assertion prove to be prophetic, he’s likely to end up at first base. It might not matter if Berry passes his SEC vetting; some team will jump on him early with visions of a mid-order slugger dancing in their noggins.
9. Brandon Barriera, LHP, American Heritage HS (FL)
Barriera may be on the shorter side (he’s listed at 5-foot-11), but scouts think he has one of the highest ceilings among this class’s prep starters thanks to his athleticism and his fast arm. One evaluator estimated he has the potential to boast four average or better offerings at maturation, including a plus fastball and a sharp slider. Barriera will need to prove that his body and his stuff can hold up to a greater workload, thereby confirming that he’s more than a “summer showcase pony,” in one scout’s parlance. If he does, he has a chance to be the first prep arm off the board come draft day, with his employer likely viewing him as a plausible mid-rotation arm.
10. Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford HS (GA)
Lesko, a Vanderbilt commit, might end up being the first prep arm off the board. He has a starter’s frame and delivery, as well as a fastball that sits in the mid-90s with riding life. Lesko’s changeup tends to receive high marks from evaluators, though one scout voiced concerns that it, along with his curveball, featured too much velocity separation from his heater. (A similar complaint was filed against Jharel Cotton, whose career had stalled before 2021.) One source who works in player development expressed confidence that pitchers like Lesko could be taught how to throw their pitches harder. An organization that agrees could take Lesko earlier than this.
11. Cole Young, SS, North Allegheny HS (PA)
Young is a polished, well-rounded prepster without much chrome to his game. He’s a capable shortstop with good footwork who could stick at the position. Offensively, he minds the zone and he possesses doubles power with the chance to add a touch more. One scout predicted Young will become a top 10 pick if he opts against signing and instead heads to Duke, à la Alex Mooney last summer. He might not have to wait that long. (Ditto for the scouts who would be justified in saying, “We dug Cole together.”)
12. Brock Porter, RHP, St. Mary Prep (MI)
Porter is an electric righty with a commitment to Clemson that he won’t need to honor. He’s large (6-foot-3) and projectable, yet he’s already capable of chucking his fastball into the upper-90s. In addition to the heat, Porter has a Bugs Bunny changeup that checks in more than a dozen ticks slower. (Scouts tend to have concerns when changeups feature too much separation, citing the possibility that big-league hitters can handle it in a way that amateurs cannot.) He also throws a pair of breaking balls, giving him a full arsenal. Porter has a long, whip-like arm action that will likely always limit him to zone-over-spot command, at best. One scout described him as “borderline wild” and warned that his relief risk is higher than what is commonly accepted. Even so, his upside is such that a team will gamble on him becoming a mid-rotation arm, with that window opening right around the middle of round one.
13. Robert Moore, 2B, Arkansas
Moore is the only player on this list who could be drafted by his father (Dayton, the Royals’ president of baseball operations). He’s a switch-hitting, smooth-fielding second baseman who surprised evaluators last season with his offensive output. Moore, listed at just 5-foot-9, led the Razorbacks with 16 home runs and batted .283/.384/.558 overall. Evaluators are skeptical he’ll pack as much punch heading forward, but he should continue to walk (14 percent of his plate appearances in 2021) and make a high amount of contact on in-zone swings (86 percent). Matt McLain, a shortstop and the first collegiate infielder taken last summer, slipped to the 17th pick; that seems like it might be Moore’s floor, depending on how this season plays out.
14. Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech
As tempting as it is to describe Cross as a “safe” mid-to-late first-round collegiate hitter based on his sky-high exit velocities, there’s good reason to resist the urge. It’s true that he hit .345/.415/.612 with 11 home runs in an environment that wasn’t friendly to the rest of the Hokies (they hit .271/.365/.425 with 52 home runs as a team), but analysts have concerns about his game will translate to the next level that sprout from his aggressive approach. Cross doesn’t take many free passes, and he finished the 2021 campaign with 31 more strikeouts than walks. His launch angle isn’t optimized, either, meaning he’s not necessarily getting the most from his ability to impact the ball. It’s conceivable that he could make gains in those areas if he lands with the right player development staff. There’s a chance, though, that he ends up with just one plus tool, in his raw power.
15. Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama
It’s a testament to the potency of Prielipp’s stuff (particularly his low-to-mid-90s fastball and swing-and-miss slider) and modern medicine’s efficacy that he’s expected to go in the first round despite throwing only 28 collegiate innings. He was limited to 21 frames in 2020 before COVID-19 shut down the world. He then threw seven innings last year before his elbow popped and he required Tommy John surgery. Teams have grown more comfortable drafting rehabbing pitchers in recent years, including Cal Quantrill, J.T. Ginn, and, last year alone, Gunnar Hoglund and Jaden Hill. Barring a setback during his rehab process, Prielipp should soon join the club.
16. Jackson Ferris, LHP, IMG Academy (FL)
Ferris is a left-hander with a tall, lanky build that is similar to that of onetime Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. He has an unusual delivery that includes — inhale — a high leg kick, a wrist wrap, some backward lean, a long arm stroke, and an open landing. Notwithstanding all the moving parts, Ferris has exhibited more than enough strike-throwing ability (MaxPreps credited him with 13 walks in 50 innings) to project him as a starter for the long term. It doesn’t hurt that he has a fastball that can get well into the mid-90s, as well as a breaking ball with plenty of spin. Provided Ferris continues to wheel and deal, he should go sometime in the middle to late of round one.
17. Carson Whisenhunt, LHP, East Carolina University
ECU has had six players taken in the top two rounds of the draft in school history. Half of those picks have occurred in the last two years. Whisenhunt, arguably the best healthy collegiate arm entering the spring, should improve both figures. He’s a tall, gangly southpaw who combines strike-throwing polish with an intriguing pitch mix. His low-90s fastball features a lot of carry, and analysts are high on his changeup, which checks in about 10 ticks slower and with muted spin. His curveball remains a work in progress, but he throws it with enough velocity and spin to project well. Former teammate Gavin Williams was selected 23rd last summer; Whisenhunt lacks Williams’ raw stuff, yet a team convinced there’s more chicken on the bone, either through velocity addition or breaking ball refinement, could take him before then.
18. Landon Sims, RHP, Mississippi State
Sims is the rare top collegiate arm in this class whose variability germinates from something other than his health. He’s been electric in his two seasons with the Bulldogs, amassing a 1.82 ERA and 16 strikeouts per nine. The catch is that Sims has done that exclusively in relief. How, exactly, he’ll fare this spring as a member of the rotation is to be seen. He has two premium bat-missing pitches (a low-to-mid-90s fastball and slider) and an extreme, crossfire release point working in his favor. His changeup isn’t as far along, however, and his command could suffer over longer outings. If Sims can ease concerns about his relief risk, he could jump into the top 10.
19. JR Ritchie, RHP, Bainbridge HS (WA)
Ritchie, an UCLA commit, receives high marks from scouts for his polish and for his interest in the concept of pitch design. His fastball has touched into the mid-90s and features good carry, and he’s flashed a quality slider. Ritchie struck out five batters in two innings of work at last summer’s Perfect Game National showcase, affirming his status as one of the most intriguing prep arms in this year’s class.
20. Dylan Beavers, OF, California
Beavers was the Golden Bears’ leading hitter last season, batting .303/.401/.630 with 18 home runs and 10 stolen bases (on 12 tries). While his regular-season success didn’t carry over into the Cape Cod League (he posted a .586 OPS in 35 plate appearances), there’s still reason to like him. Beavers frequently impacts the ball with a left-handed stroke that features plenty of loft. Evaluators believe he should grow into at least plus power as he adds muscle to his projectable frame. His firm grasp of the strike zone resulted in a better-than-average chase rate, yet scouts would like to see him be more aggressive at times. Defensively, he’s likely to end up in a corner; he’s athletic enough to patrol center for now, but he runs jagged routes and his reactions aren’t good enough to atone for him losing burst as he adds mass. Where Beavers stands in the outfield won’t matter if he can fulfill his upside at the plate.
21. Andrew Dutkanych, RHP, Brebeuf Jesuit Prep (IN)
Dutkanych is a polished prep starter who has an outstanding commitment to Vanderbilt. His four-pitch mix includes a fastball that has touched into the mid-90s, as well as a good slider, a curveball, and an improving changeup. One scout said Dutkanych’s arsenal may lack a 70-grade offering, but that he shows flashes of having at least one 60. Whatever reservations teams may hold about his abrupt arm action will likely be overshadowed by his track record of throwing strikes and staying healthy. He’s expected to come off the board sometime in the middle of round one.
22. Logan Tanner, C, Mississippi State
Tanner is one of three collegiate backstops on this list. He happens to be the surest bet to remain behind the plate heading forward, therefore he gets the nod heading into the season. Tanner is considered to be an above-average defender with a strong arm (he used to pitch), and he’s already had experience catching pro-level arms; last season alone, he caught three pitchers who were drafted in the fifth round or earlier — and that doesn’t include Landon Sims, who ought to go in round one this summer. Tanner does give away some of his advantage at the dish, but his raw power and willingness to walk should combine with his mitt to give him a fairly high floor.
23. Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has produced a number of high-quality catchers in its history, including Jason Varitek, Matt Wieters, and Joey Bart. Parada, who led the Yellow Jackets in batting average last season en route to hitting .318/.379/.550 with nine home runs and 22 additional extra-base hits, has a chance to join those three as a first-round pick. Although he didn’t fare well during a nine-game stint in the Cape Cod League, an analyst noted his OPS was higher in in-conference games (.966) than outside of it (.842), suggesting he didn’t just torment less-talented pitchers. The determining factor on where, precisely, Parada goes in the draft may boil down to how teams feel about his defense. A true believer who feels good about his chances of sticking behind the plate, even as an offensive-slanted backstop, could make him the first catcher selected on draft day; other clubs may view him as more of a late first-round pick.
24. Daniel Susac, C, Arizona
Susac, more so than any other catcher on this list, was identified by scouts as the player who could benefit the most from the eventual implementation of an automated ball-strike system. (Increasingly baseball’s version of Millenarianism.) He’s on the large side for a catcher (he’s listed at 6-foot-4) and he’s not regarded as a plus receiver. He does have a big arm, however, and the move to robot umpires would emphasize his strength and minimize his weaknesses. If the rules remain as they are, Susac will have to make up for his defensive shortcomings with the thump he can provide offensively. He hit .335/.393/.591 last season with 12 home runs and 25 troubles (triples plus doubles). It’s worth noting that Susac’s older brother, Andrew, has played in six big-league seasons after being a second-round pick himself.
25. Peyton Graham, 3B, Oklahoma
This is certain to be a misrank, one way or the other. Graham has hit .305/.414/.528 in two seasons with the Sooners, but those marks are less impressive than they appear considering Oklahoma as a team hit .287/.384/.458 in 2021. He didn’t help his cause during his stint in the Cape Cod League, either, as he struck out in more than a quarter of his trips to the plate and notched only six extra-base hits in 24 games. To Graham’s credit, he did see action at five positions on the Cape, and some scouts believe his best days lie ahead. He has good bat speed and a projectable frame that bodes well for him adding strength as he matures. He already has a knack for impacting the baseball, though evaluators have reservations about his zone control and bat-to-ball skills based on his chase and in-zone whiff rates. A strong spring may vault Graham into the top 10 by draft day; a so-so effort could drive him to the outskirts of the top 50.
26. Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee
Tidwell ranks far lower than he would’ve had this list been compiled before it was announced that he would miss the start of the season because of shoulder soreness. Teams have shown a greater appetite for risk when it comes to pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the shoulder is another matter. (It should be noted that he’s not expected to require surgery for this ailment.) Anyway, Tidwell is coming off an impressive season in the SEC, in which he posted a 3.74 ERA and a 2.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His fastball has been clocked into the upper 90s before and he has a swing-and-miss slider. If he can prove his health before now and draft day, he should be able to move back up the list. Otherwise, he could slip further.
27. Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola Junior College (FL)
Collier, whose father Lou appeared in parts of eight big-league seasons, was originally slated for the 2023 draft. He obtained his GED and opted instead for junior college, thereby allowing him to reclassify for this summer’s class. Collier just celebrated his 17th birthday in November, making him one of the youngest players in the pool. Scouts consider him to have a smooth left-handed swing with an advanced feel for the barrel and promising strength; inversely, they are concerned his frame might already be maxed out. Defensively, he has a strong arm and he ought to remain at third base. Model-based teams tend to view extreme youth bullishly, and that could play into Collier’s favor provided he terrorizes junior college pitching throughout the spring.
28. Peyton Pallette, RHP, Arkansas
Pallette recently underwent Tommy John surgery, wiping out his season before it could begin. He remains a candidate to go early in the draft based on the combination of his upside and teams’ confidence in drafting rehabbing pitchers. One scout said a healthy Pallette had as much swing-and-miss stuff as any collegiate arm in this year’s class. His fastball touched into the upper-90s and he complemented it with a plus breaking ball and a workable changeup. Pallette’s delivery might remind some of Jeremy Hellickson’s, and he throws enough strikes from it to project as a mid-rotation starter. Provided teams are comfortable with the progress he’s made in his rehab, he should become an option for teams beginning late in the first round.
29. Carter Young, SS, Vanderbilt
The Commodores have had at least one player selected in the first round in seven of the past eight drafts. Young represents their best hope of carrying the flame onward. The elevator pitch here is that he’s a capable defensive shortstop who homered 16 times last season in the toughest collegiate conference. The stairs pitch isn’t as thrilling. Whereas coming out of high school he was viewed as a polished batsman who could move the ball around the field, he’s now unexpectedly prone to the three true outcomes. In fact, Young’s TTO rate last year was 47 percent; Adam Dunn’s TTO rate for his big-league career was about 50 percent. That wouldn’t be a problem if the complexion of his outcomes were more favorable, but he finished last season with a 2.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Young has a chance to climb the board with a more encouraging spring; for now, he looks like a late first-round pick with question marks.
30. Kumar Rocker, RHP, Unaffiliated
John Steinbeck once wrote that the only remaining heroes are the scientists and the poor. Rocker, though neither of the above, deserves your empathy after the events of last summer. As a refresher: Rocker was selected 10th overall by the Mets, who balked at signing him after they reviewed his physical. MLB rules dictate that he had no meaningful recourse, no ability to become a free agent and sign with a team of his choosing; his options were limited to returning to Vanderbilt, pitching professionally for an independent or a foreign league team, or sitting out until he could re-enter the draft as the most famous and, therefore, the most scrutinized player in the class again. Scouts already had reservations about Rocker’s durability, as well his command and his arsenal’s depth; he’s unlikely to resolve those perceived issues in what seems certain to amount to a proof-of-life start or two this summer. He should come off the board sometime in the first round on the strength of his track record and his hellacious slider, but the top 10 seems out of reach. Amor fati, or something.
31. Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State
Timing is said to be everything for comedians; it’s true for draft prospects, too. Consider Hjerpe (that’s “jerpy”). He would’ve been dismissed as a reliever as recently as 10 years ago because of his sidearm slot and a so-so arsenal: his fastball sat in the low-90s last season, and he lacks an elite secondary offering. He’s a top 50 prospect now because of the marriage between his extreme release point and his fastball’s carry. That combination creates tough angles on hitters, and makes him an analytics darling. It doesn’t hurt that Hjerpe struck out more than 11 batters per nine last season for the Beavers, or that his fastball was clocked up to 97 mph during the fall. It’s to be seen if he can hold that velocity heading forward, but he’s one worth monitoring.
32. Noah Schultz, LHP, Oswego HS (IL)
You would think that Schultz, listed at 6-foot-9, would throw from a three-quarters slot or higher, scraping his knuckles against the clouds as he released the ball. He doesn’t. Instead, Schultz releases from about shoulder height, creating a tough angle on batters that allows his three-pitch mix to play up. His fastball sits only in the low-90s for now, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him gain velocity as he matures. He also throws a sweeping breaking ball and a changeup, each with good control. Schultz has a commitment to Vanderbilt, but his unusual combination of polish and upside make it unlikely that he’ll ever pitch a home game at Hawkins Field.
33. Tristan Smith, LHP, Boiling Springs HS (SC)
Smith, as with his fellow Clemson commit Brock Porter, has experienced his share of command-related concerns. It may not matter. He authored an eye-opening performance at the Perfect Game National Showcase last summer, striking out all six batters he faced on the strength of two spin-heavy pitches: his mid-90s fastball and his breaker. (His firm changeup remains an afterthought.) Smith’s delivery includes plenty of tics that could be limiting his navigational ability: a brief arm stroke; a quick stride; and crossfire action. He could move up from here if scouts who see him this summer believe he’s showing improvements with his location and changeup.
34. Jordan Sprinkle, SS, UC Santa Barbara
Scouts saw more than a pinch of Sprinkle last season when they sat in on the starts of eventual first-round pick Michael McGreevy. He capitalized on the exposure, hitting .353/.402/.536 and leaving no doubt about his secondary value: one evaluator called him the best shortstop defender in the class, and another threw a 70 grade on his footspeed. There’s less harmony about Sprinkle’s bat, particularly his power output. His .183 ISO was above the .163 team average, but scouts fear he’ll max out with fringe-average pop. Nevertheless, Sprinkle’s defensive and baserunning value grant him a wide berth. He’s a more dynamic offensive player than Alika Williams, the 37th pick in the 2020 draft, suggesting that he should come off the board before then.
35. Cayden Wallace, OF/3B, Arkansas
Wallace has a history of playing on the dirt over at third base, but he played the outfield almost exclusively last season and it seems likely to remain his home in the pros. That’s important information to weigh, seeing as how it puts more pressure on his bat. From a surface level, Wallace did just fine in that respect last year. He finished tied for second in home runs in the Arkansas lineup (behind Robert Moore), and he later had the third-highest OPS on his Cape Cod league team. Analysts have warned that his swing-and-miss and chase rates were substandard, and that he didn’t perform as well as expected during conference play (a split they consider to be more descriptive than Karl Ove Knausgård). Wallace won’t turn 21 until August, so there’s no sense being too harsh. Besides, he has the athleticism and raw strength to shoot up the board if he can refine his feel for the strike zone between now and draft day.
36. Walter Ford, RHP, Pace HS (FL)
Ford, who only recently celebrated his 17th birthday, reclassified from the 2023 class over the winter. He’ll be one of the youngest, as well as one of the most promising pitchers in the class. Ford has a Sonny Gray-like delivery and a fast arm, resulting in a heater that can touch beyond the mid-90s with good spin. He also has a promising slider. Ford plays third base as well, speaking to his athleticism. Barring a poor spring, it’s hard to see him going low enough to honor his commitment to Alabama.
37. Reggie Crawford, LHP, UConn
Divining when to draft Crawford this summer will be a challenge. He suffered an elbow injury last year that will continue to limit his availability, meaning he could finish his collegiate career having faced just 36 batters. (He’s appeared more frequently as a hitter, but scouts prefer him on the bump.) When Crawford has pitched, he’s shown impressive stuff, including a mid-to-upper 90s fastball with spin and a breaking ball with good depth. The lack of tape means scouts are operating with a lot of assumptions as it pertains to his changeup and his ability to withstand a starter’s workload. Crawford’s profile — an athletic left-hander with two potential plus or better offerings — is intriguing enough to land him a spot on here, anyway. Keep his name in mind, even if he’s bumped off the list by the time draft day arrives.
38. Zach Neto, SS, Campbell
Campbell has had only one player selected in the first two rounds since 1990, with that being pitcher Seth Johnson in 2019. Neto could become the second. He hit .405/.488/.746 last season with 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases. His performance out of conference wasn’t encouraging, but analysts have pointed to the damage he did against Friday night starters and his productive 16-game stint in the Cape Cod League as reasons to buy in. Neto, whose swing is somewhat reminiscent of Tim Beckham’s, doesn’t walk often; he does lift the ball, however, and he makes ample contact within the zone. A team who believes in either Neto’s bat or his ability to stick at shortstop (rather than foreseeing a move to second) could pop him within the top 50 picks.
39. Drew Thorpe, RHP, Cal Poly
It’s reasonable to think Thorpe will benefit from the scouting attention focused on teammate (and potential top-five pick) Brooks Lee, but he’s already done enough to stand out on his own. In addition to this being his second season as the Mustangs’ Friday night starter (read: collegiate for “ace”), he made appearances both with Team U.S.A. and in the Cape Cod League, where he struck out nine and surrendered a single run in 10 innings. Thorpe possesses a starter’s frame and control projection, as well as what might be the best changeup in the class. His chances of becoming the first Mustangs pitcher selected in the top two rounds since 2017 hinge on how teams feel about his low-90s fastball and his two breaking balls that often blend together.
40. Justin Crawford, OF, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
Justin’s father, Carl, played in parts of 15 big-league seasons, during which he made four All-Star Games and recorded 136 home runs, 123 triples, and 480 stolen bases. Predictably, the younger Crawford is one of the fastest runners in the class. He has more than enough speed to become a demon in center field. His stock is likely to deviate from this rank between now and the summer, though, in large part because so much of his bat remains pure projection. Scouts noted that Crawford didn’t attend many showcase events, limiting their chances to see him play against top-notch competition. He’s certainly shown flashes at the plate, and his frame suggests he should be able to add muscle as he matures. Whether or not Crawford makes those gains as a professional, or if he does so by way of attending LSU, is to be determined.
41. Jackson Holliday, SS, Stillwater HS (OK)
Holliday comes from a baseball family. His father Matt (a seven-time All-Star outfielder during his playing days) and uncle Josh both coach at Oklahoma State, where he’s committed to play should he attend college. Holliday is a good athlete with an advanced feel for the game in the bargain. He’s shown a feel for hitting from the left side, and he has ample arm strength and foot speed to stick at short. One evaluator wondered if legacy players, like Holliday, have their projectability overstated given they often have access to better trainers, equipment, and nutrition than the average player. Whichever team takes Holliday, ostensibly in the top 50 picks, will hope not.
42. Mikey Romero, SS, Orange Lutheran HS (CA)
Romero, an LSU commit, figures to be one of the first prep infielders to come off the board this summer thanks to his polish. He’s a left-handed batter with a smooth swing who projects to hit for a good average. Defensively, he lacks an elite arm, but he atones for it with his hands, feet, and overall feel for the position. Romero’s exact landing spot will hinge on whether or not teams believe he’s capable of bolstering his power output as he ages. Even if the answer is “no,” he should go in the top 50 picks.
43. Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
Fabian entered last spring ranked as the third best prospect in the class. Uneven play and bushels of strikeouts tanked his stock, causing him to slide to the second round and, subsequently, to return to Florida for another whirl. Fabian has already experimented with several potential remedies for what ailed him as 2021 progressed: he elevated his hand slot; he ditched his stride with two strikes; and so on. They worked until they stopped, and he still finished the season with a 29 percent strikeout rate. While Fabian’s ability to impact the ball is undeniable, scouts have expressed concern that his power will be his only plus tool. Additionally, they’ve warned about the putrid history of “wrong-way guys” — that is, players who bat righty and throw lefty. Maybe it’s a sample-size thing, maybe it’s something physiological; another strikeout-happy spring will render Fabian a different kind of “wrong-way guy.”
44. Henry Bolte, OF, Palo Alto HS (CA)
Joc Pederson is the only big-league player ever produced by Palo Alto High School. Bolte, who improved his stock with a high-quality showing at last summer’s Area Code Games, could become the second. He has a tall and projectable frame that scouts envision resulting in 20-plus home-run potential at maturation. He’s also a capable enough athlete that he could begin his professional career in center field, though the expectation is that he and his solid-average arm will end up in right before long. Ultimately, Bolte’s odds of joining Pederson in school history hinge on his bat.
45. Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga
Hughes, a physical right-hander with a big leg kick and a deep release point, might become the first Bulldogs pitcher selected in the top two rounds since Marco Gonzales in 2013. He has a low-to-mid-90s fastball that sometimes cuts; a hard, cutter-like slider; and a changeup that some scouts are high on. His control has proven to be his biggest hindrance thus far, as he’s issued a free pass every other inning for his collegiate career. If Hughes can rein in his sloppy geography, even just a touch, his potential as a starting pitcher could convince a team to break Gonzaga’s drought.
46. Carson Palmquist, LHP, Miami
Think of Palmquist as the east coast version of Cooper Hjerpe: he throws from a sidearm slot and has a rising fastball that’s been clocked over 95 mph. The other difference is that Hjerpe has had success as a starter, whereas all of Palmquist’s 33 career collegiate appearances have come in relief. He’s been dominant in those contests, amassing a 2.24 ERA and a 6.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but scouts who spoke to CBS Sports believe he’s less likely to start at the pro level than Hjerpe. Palmquist will attempt to change their minds by moving to the rotation this spring. How he fares will determine if he’s still in the top 50 by the time summer rolls around.
47. Malcolm Moore, C, McClatchy HS (CA)
History is unkind to prep catchers, but that hasn’t stopped teams from drafting them. Moore is in the running to be the first off the board. He’s a filled-out, left-handed hitter with strength and a good feel for the barrel. His bat will have to carry him because there’s division about his defense. The scouts who spoke to CBS Sports believe he offers just enough behind the plate to stick; if that opinion shifts, or if it turns out to be a minority opinion, then he could slip out of the top 50 by summer. Moore happens to be committed to Stanford, so he should be fine either way.
48. Gavin Turley, OF, Hamilton HS (AZ)
Turley is an intriguing prep outfielder who is committed to Oregon State. He’s a fast runner with big raw power and he could ascend draft boards with a strong spring. In order for him to do so, he’ll need to change his reputation of being a 5’o’clock hitter, or a player who excels in batting practice but doesn’t have the same success during games. Turley will have to max out and some if he wants to match the triumphs of the most famous Hamilton High School product: Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger.
49. Paxton Kling, OF, Central HS (PA)
Kling is a long-haired, tooled-up outfielder whose name sounds like The Neptunes’ sound. In addition to having good speed that provides him a chance to stick in center, he could develop into an asset at the plate thanks to his raw power. Kling has a busy swing that scouts feel can be rigid at times, however, and that might limit his in-game production. He’ll turn 19 in June, making him a touch old for a prep prospect. Kling’s upside is such that he should still land in the top 50, though his commitment to LSU could tempt him if he slips too far. Should he somehow win an MVP Award, he would become the second player from Central High School to do so: the first was George Burns, an outfielder who doubled 64 times en route to taking the hardware in 1926.
50. Nazier Mule, RHP, Passaic County Tech HS (NJ)
Everyone knows the ultimate spot on these lists is earmarked for a favorite or an upside play. Mule, a two-way player who won’t turn 18 until October, is the latter. He has a fastball that has been clocked into the upper-90s as well as a pair of secondaries that could mature into above-average offerings. Mule has much work to do on the nuance aspects of the craft, like his consistency and command. It’s possible he never throws a starter-level of strikes, in part because his delivery requires enough exertion to cause his hat to swirl around his head. Mule will also leave plenty of local hitters’ heads spinning this spring before he has to decide if he wants to attend the University of Miami (Florida) for a few seasons in an effort to solidify himself as a starter.