Top MLB draft prospects to watch in the College World Series

The final eight teams have made it to Omaha for the start of the 2022 baseball College World Series, which begins Friday. The teams vying for this year’s NCAA Division I title are Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Stanford, Notre Dame, Auburn, Arkansas and Mississippi.

It is worth noting the College World Series does not necessarily include the best prospects for the MLB Draft. For example, Tennessee and Florida will both likely have three players drafted in the top 50-60 picks, but neither team is in Omaha. Arkansas right-hander Peyton Pallette would be the top MLB draft pitching prospect in this tournament, but he won’t pitch after having Tommy John surgery earlier this year. Nonetheless, there are several players to keep an eye on with less than a month before this year’s draft. Here’s a look at the top-six 2022 MLB Draft prospects playing in Omaha this year.

1. Brock Jones, OF, Stanford

2022 stats: 63 G | 80 H | 13 2B | 5 3B | 20 HR | 56 RBI | 15 SB | 55BB | 75K | .327 BA | .455 OBP | .665 SLG

Jones came into the spring with top-5 pick buzz, then got off to a miserable start for the Cardinal, but he turned his season around when conference play started, hitting .350/.490/.795 in the PAC-12 β€” albeit with a 26 percent strikeout rate. A former football player who played one year for the Cardinal, Jones has 25 homer/25 stolen base upside if he hits enough to get to it, with the speed to potentially stay in center field. Even in this generally successful season, Jones has done most of his damage on fastballs, whiffing on nearly half the offspeed pitches he swings at. There are better pure hitters in this year’s draft class, and thus position players with more probability of reaching the big leagues and having some kind of positive value, but Jones beats most of them in potential upside.

2. Peyton Graham, SS, Oklahoma

2022 stats: 62 G | 87 H | 16 2B | 4 3B | 20 HR | 70 RBI | 32 SB | 24BB | 62K | .336 BA | .416 OBP | .660 SLG

A midseason swing adjustment that has Graham staying back more with less extra movement turned him from a guy who might have gone back for his senior year to a potential Day 1 pick. Graham was hitting .282/.351/.541 through the end of March, with a 27 percent strikeout rate; since then, he’s hit .370/.454/.721 (through June 10) with a 17 percent strikeout rate, even though most of that latter period was in Big 12 conference play. He’s a plus runner who has played a ton of third and shortstop plus a little outfield on the Cape, with enough of a chance to stay at short that he’ll almost certainly start his pro career there. Even with the changes to his approach, he still has some swing-and-miss concerns, especially on sliders, and probably isn’t a quick-through-the-minors guy. His upside as an above-average regular at short or third could be enough to get him into the late first round.

3. Sonny DiChiara, 1B, Auburn

2022 stats: 58 G | 76 H | 15 2B | 0 3B | 22 HR | 59 RBI | 0 SB | 68BB | 51K | .392 BA | .560 OBP | .809 SLG

Sonny D is a large senior slugger for Auburn, a transfer from Samford who has hit 22 homers with more walks than strikeouts for the Tigers, even hitting well in conference. He clobbers fastballs, can tell a ball from a strike, and doesn’t chase out of the zone very often. He’s also a DH in waiting, given his girth, and hasn’t shown that he can hit decent breaking stuff. He demolished left-handed pitching this year, but if a right-hander can land a breaking ball in or near the zone, DiChiara has trouble with it. He’s going to turn 23 in August, which will kill him in many teams’ draft models, but a team willing to take a chance on the power/OBP skills will get a great senior sign here.

4. Cayden Wallace, 3B, Arkansas

2022 stats: 62 G | 75 H | 17 2B | 1 3B | 15 HR | 57 RBI | 12 SB | 37BB | 51K | .299 BA | .393 OBP | .554 SLG

Wallace is a draft-eligible sophomore who has underperformed expectations this spring, cutting his strikeout rate from last year but also hitting for less power. His swing is sound with good rotation and what looks like the right angle for line-drive power, so it might be a matter of building strength, although he’s also had huge trouble on changeups.

5. Ivan Melendez, 1B, Texas

2022 stats: 65 G | 95 H | 18 2B | 2 3B | 32 HR | 94 RBI | 1 SB | 52BB | 48K | .396 BA | .516 OBP | .888 SLG

Melendez owns one of the best nicknames in the draft this year, β€œThe Hispanic Titanic,” and has earned the moniker with a Division I-leading 32 homers through 65 games for Texas, putting him three ahead of everyone else going into the College World Series. It’s power over hit, as his pitch recognition is just fair, and he can chase fastballs up and breaking stuff down, but when he gets a hold of one the ball flies off his bat. He’s limited to first base, and he’ll be 22 1/2 on draft day, so he’s more of a second-rounder even with the huge home run total.

6. Silas Ardoin, C, Texas

2022 stats: 67 G | 64 H | 20 2B | 1 3B | 12 HR | 50RBI | 1 SB | 39 BB | 44K | .276 BA | .399 OBP | .526 SLG

Son of former big league Danny Ardoin, Silas is one of the best defensive catchers in the draft class and has shown enough contact skills to project as a solid backup in the majors who could end up as more if he gets to better contact. He’s a plus defender with a plus arm, getting strong reports from scouts in all aspects of catching. At the plate, he has good hand-eye coordination, but struggles with good velocity and hasn’t hit well against breaking stuff either, with his .276/.399/.526 line this year by far his best, including 12 of his 13 career homers for the Longhorns. He offers a high floor as a Reese McGuire-type backup, and perhaps some team thinks they can convert his ability to put the ball in play into more production.

(Photo of Cayden Wallace: Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)


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