The 2022 draft looks to be filled with many notable infielders, so what are some names we could see the Pittsburgh Pirates consider with the 4th pick?
The MLB Draft is still months away. However, there have already been draft rankings and mock drafts. The Pittsburgh Pirates have had high draft picks the last two drafts. In the 2020 draft, they had the #7 pick. Last year, they had the #1 pick. In this upcoming draft, they’ll have the #4 pick. With that, I want to go over some of what are considered the best prospects right now, starting with the infielders.
Arguably the best player in the draft is Temarr Johnson. The shortstop’s best tool is considered his hit tool but make no mistake. He has plus power potential. He’s also considered an average defender at short with ok range. His arm for a shortstop is a bit fringy, so long term he’s probably a second baseman. Still, the fact he has a plus-plus hit tool and plus power tool make him one of the best players available. He’d be the Pittsburgh Pirates automatic pick if he fell to them at #4.
Brooks Lee is another well-rounded shortstop. Lee is a switch-hitter from California Polytechnic State University. Lee posted a slash line consisting of a .342 average, .384 on-base percentage, and .626 slugging percentage. He was an extra-base hit machine. In 250 plate appearances, he had 10 round-trippers as well as 27 doubles, and 3 triples. Lee had a very low 13.6% strikeout rate, but also a low 7.2% walk rate. Still, he had a wOBA well above .400 at .424. Lee is a shortstop by trade. While he could stick at shortstop, he has the defensive toolset of a third baseman; average speed, strong arm, and solid glove at a position that demands defense (that being shortstop), but not a Gold Glove defender up the middle.
The best hitter going into the draft currently is Jacob Berry. The Louisiana State University product batted .352/.439/.676 with 17 home runs in 297 plate appearances. Berry is a switch hitter who had an 11.1% walk rate and 14.6% strikeout rate. Between his phenomenal display of power and plate discipline, Berry had a .483 wOBA. The biggest issue is that he’s a 1B/DH kind of player long-term. He has the arm for third base, but a poor glove. Plus a hamstring strain kept him at DH for most of the 2021 season.
Another player who profiles similarly to Berry is Jace Jung. Jung is the younger brother of Texas Rangers’ top prospect Josh Jung. The younger brother has demolished college pitching to the tune of a .322/.457/.678 line with 25 home runs in just 338 plate appearances. He’s walked 7 more times than he has struck out as well with a 67:60 BB:K ratio. The biggest issue is that Jung doesn’t have a defined position. He’s played a little bit of everywhere in the infield so far in his amateur career, logging at least 1 appearance at every infield spot (aside from catcher), but most of his time has come at 2B. However, he is an average glove at best with a weak arm, even for the keystone. According to MLB Pipeline, he has the talent to be a .300 hitter with 30 home runs consistently. What position that will come at remains to be seen.
Peyton Graham is another one of the best college position players in the draft. He’s shown quite a bit of versatility in his time at college and Cape Cod League. He’s mainly worked at third base so far during his tenure at the University of Oklahoma, but at the Cape Cod League, he has been utilized as a shortstop, third baseman, and outfielder. He’s arguably the best fielder in the draft as well. FanGraphs projects him to be a 70-grade defender in the future. Graham not only is versatile but hits well. He has a .305/.414/.528 with 14 home runs in 336 plate appearances. He has well above-average power, as well as a solid hit tool. Plus he runs well. He has 15 stolen bases in 19 attempts and has average speed.
One last infielder of note is Robert Moore. Moore is a student at the University of Arkansas. He’s a middle infielder by trade but has spent most of his time at second base. Last year in 284 plate appearances, Moore batted .284/.384/.558 with a .401 wOBA. The infielder is a switch hitter. He generates above-average power with his plus-plus bat speed and he projects to be an annual 20-home run a year hitter. Last year, he hit 16 home runs in just 284 plate appearances. He also has a fantastic hit tool. To go with that, Moore has displayed plus plate discipline with a 14.4% walk rate and 18% strikeout rate. Moore is a great defender at second base, so much so many believe he has the prowess to be a shortstop. The biggest thing that is preventing him from doing so is a fringy arm.
Don’t be discouraged by the amount of shortstop-capable prospects atop the draft. Usually, the best infield prospects in the draft are shortstops. In the history of the draft, 15.5% of the first 5 picks are shortstops, which comes third to pitchers (45.4%) and outfielders (16.5%). Regardless, these are the current infielders that are seen as top 10 prospects entering the 2022 draft. A lot can change between now and then, though the chances that the Pirates consider one of these players to go with their #4 pick is possible.