5 Intriguing Phillies 1st Round Targets for the 2022 MLB Draft
The 2022 MLB draft is scheduled to take place in New Jersey from July 17-19 and the Phillies, who have only one of the top 92 selections, desperately need to hit on their first round pick.
The MLB Draft doesn’t work exactly like the other three major sports league, in that each selection has an assigned or recommended draft slot and teams are limited by how much they can spend in any given year.
For example, the Phillies had the highest allotment of any team in MLB history entering the 2016 draft and selected Mickey Moniak at 1st overall to an under-slot bonus because they wanted to spend more on talented prospects in the later rounds.
The Phillies currently have the fourth lowest draft pool allotment ($6,307,000) for any team entering the 2022 draft. For reference the #17 selection has an assigned value of $3,792,800, which means that if the Phillies decide to overspend on that pick, they will have to get creative in choosing players later in the draft.
They may very well be in the perfect position to overspend on a 1st round pick this season as their next pick at #93 only carries an allotment of $659,800.
These are five intriguing prospects for Dave Dombrowski and the scouting department to consider selecting in the first round.
Kumar Rocker -LHP, Vanderbilt University
Rocker, the son of Philadelphia Eagles defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, starred at Vanderbilt University, compiling a 28-10 record and 2.89 ERA from 2019-21, and finishing with a 12.2 K/9 rate and 2.6 BB/9. As a freshman, he pitched a 19-strikeout no-hitter and won Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series in 2019.
He entered the 2021 draft as the top pitching prospect on many boards and was taken with the 10th overall pick by the New York Mets, but was unable to reach an agreement with the team and did not sign.
Recently Rocker has been pitching and showing off for scouts ahead of this years draft for the Tri-City Valley Cats of the independent Frontier League. Still just 22-years-old, Rocker stands at 6’5″, weighing 245 pounds and just looks like a stud when you watch him pitch.
The Phillies have taken prep pitchers out of high school with their last two 1st round picks and while Mick Abel and Andrew Painter have impressed with their performances thus far, taking teenage arms that high in the draft is among the riskiest decisions a scouting department can make.
Rocker on the other hand, would more closely align with the Phillies win-now mindset and could be pitching in South Philadelphia as early as next season. The pick would remind me of 2014 when the Phils selected Aaron Nola out of LSU with the 7th overall pick. Nola would go on to make his MLB debut on July 21, 2015, almost exactly one year after he was drafted.
The odds are that Rocker will never reach the heights of Nola who has been a top of the rotation arm almost since the moment he entered the league, but I think his ceiling is worth taking a risk on. It would also be a nice ‘F-you’ to the Mets, to watch Rocker dominate them for the next 10 years.
Cole Young – SS, North Allegheny HS (PA)
The high school shortstop form Western PA is committed to play for Duke next spring, but that seems increasingly less likely as he has been skyrocketing up the draft boards in 2022.
The Oakland Athletics have reportedly been closely tied to Young, but now many draft pundits are unsure if he will even fall that far. Scouts project Young to be able to stick at shortstop with his above average arm and range.
But outside of national tournaments, Young has yet to play consistently against top players like many of his fellow draft prospects who live in Southern California or Florida. It turns out Western Pennsylvania isn’t exactly a hot bed for potential 1st round draft picks.
In 2016, Alex Kiriloff was selected 15th overall by Twins out of Plum High School. He rapidly rose through the minors making his major league debut in 2020 and played in the postseason proving that it really doesn’t matter where you play in high school if you are skilled enough.
- Cole Young is a 2022 SS with a 6-0 180 lb. frame from Wexford, PA who attends North Allegheny. Medium, athletic frame with square shoulders and present physical strength proportioned throughout. Quick-twitch, posted a 6.49 60-yard dash. Primary shortstop, fields it out front, soft hands and play extremely well at the ball, advanced defensive actions and very clean overall, shows first step quickness and lateral twitch, can throw accurately from multiple slots with arm strength and accuracy. Left-handed hitter, begins with a slightly open stance and a high hand set at the plate. Sound approach in the box, gets the barrel through the zone, tight turn in swing, gets the barrel through and flashes lift out front, able to work to all fields, line drive contact off of the barrel. – Perfect Game 2021 Showcase Report
#3 Dylan Lesko – RHP, Buford HS (Ga.)
Dylan Lesko Arguably was the #1 overall pick until he needed Tommy John surgery in April to repair an injured UCL in his throwing arm. In 2021, when he went 11-0 with a 0.35 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 60 innings.
Lesko is committed to play at Vanderbilt University and could very well choose to play at the collegiate level and then re enter the draft when he is 21-years-old. Another option is attending junior college for one season and entering the 2023 draft or taking a route similar to Kumar Rocker, which we outlined above.
For some scouts Lesko is one of the best high-school pitching prospects they have ever evaluated, but as i mentioned in the opening, teenagers are a risky proposition, let alone one that has just undergone a major surgery to his throwing arm.
The general consensus is that despite the injury, Lesko is still a sure fire 1st round pick, but could not fall into the bottom half of the round. Even then I would imagine that Lesko and his representatives will look to command a higher than slot bonus for his services, using the threat of going to school in their favor.
Any team that selects Lesko will have to be close to certain that they are able to sign the young right hander and most likely to an above slot deal.
Brandon Barriera – LHP, American Heritage HS (FL)
Like Lesko, Brandon Barriera is another star prep pitcher that is committed to play at Vanderbilt next year. Just last week ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel reported how Barriera, who chose to sit out his high school playoff games to avoid injury, was changing the way that pitching prospects prepared for the MLB Draft.
Some scouts have viewed his decision not to compete as an indication of a negative me first attitude, but we are clearly seeing this all over the sports world. Until Barriera gets paid a life altering amount of money, I don’t see any reason he should have to continue to compete in the amateur circuit.
The Vanderbilt commit is on the smaller side, 6’2”, 180 pounds, as top Draft prospects go, but features a great four-pitch mix. He is already sitting in the 90-95 mph range with his fastball and has flashed as high as 99 mph.
Much like with the situation regarding Dylan Lesko, the Phillies could be in perfect position to catch one of these falling prep arms that most teams will be hesitant to take a shot on.
Drew Gilbert- OF, University of Tennessee
As a fan of the University of South Carolina Gamecock baseball team, Drew Gilbert was the best player I saw all season in the SEC. Coming out of high school in Minnesota he was selected by his hometown Twins in the 35th round of the 2019 draft.
Gilbert was initially used a two-way player during his first two seasons in Knoxville but left the mound behind for good in 2022 and it paid off in a big way. In 58 games, Gilbert slashed .362/.455/.673, 60 R, 70 RBI. 11 HR, 4 SB.
He also had some memorable moments for the top team in the nation as they attempted to earn a spot in the College World Series on national television earlier this month.
Much like Cole Young, Gilbert is understandably skyrocketing up the draft boards after improving on a solid sophomore campaign in 2021. Scouts view him as an everyday centerfielder, who’s impressive hit tool and above average arm will give him an opportunity to develop into one of faster outfielders in the game.
Lord knows the Phillies have been unable to find anyone who can stick at center outside of Odubel Herrera in recent seasons. Gilbert’s defensive profile would also pair perfectly with the below average range of Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber in the corner outfield spots.
This is another good combination with the Phillies win-now mentality, as Gilbert could be roaming the outfield in South Philadelphia with as little as one year of seasoning in the minors. I also love the big balls attitude on this guy. If I am taking a collegiate position player with my 1st round pick I want him to be an absolute competitive dog. I cannot handle another weak mind like Alec Bohm.