Several 2022 MLB Draft prospects took large steps forward with their draft stock at the Men's College World Series, and no single prospect elevated his value more than Cade Horton (Oklahoma). The draft-eligible redshirt freshman elevated himself from a likely Day Three flier type who had not performed well enough to take the money he would have been offered, and turned it into a present value that likely surpassed his previous best-case thoughts for 2022.
The 6-3, 210-pound athletic right-hander dominated in Omaha, striking out 24 against just one walk in 13.1 innings. He did so with a swing/miss slider and curveball and mid-90s high-spin heat. The two breakers are distinct and both flash plus-to-better on the pro scale. His 86-88 mph slider and 81-84 mph curve were devastating weapons, and his fastball was overpowering, bumping 97 and sitting at 94-95 deep into the game. Remarkably, the slider is still a very new pitch for him, and it might already be his best weapon. Having learned the pitch a few days prior to the Big 12 championship game, the slider now looks like a legitimate plus-plus offering on the big league scale with late, tight bite and spin rates above 2700 rpm.
If there are dents in his armor, Horton’s fastball can find barrels, especially left-handed ones. Lefties swung/missed at his high velo heater in the zone just 12% of the time, compared to 25 percent for right-handed batters. His changeup is also a work in progress and the lack of an effective one is a significant cause of an opponents’ batting average split of .210 (.327 SLG) vs RHHs and .340 (.531 SLG) vs LHHs. Nonetheless, Horton looked like a first-round talent, both in the Notre Dame and the Ole Miss games, and given the lack of starting pitching in this year’s college draft class, somebody might just be willing to bet on Horton’s talent in the top 30 picks.
More rising 2022 prospects from the MCWS
Jake Bennett, LHP– The Sooners ace is one of the few lefthanders on this season’s Heat Sheet. Touching 96 on radar guns, the 6-6 Bennett also has some of the sharpest control, walking just 22 batters in 117 IP to go along with 133 strikeouts this season. He repeats an easy delivery with good direction and leverages the ball to the plate which produces consistent 91-94 mph fastballs. His No. 1 shows some tailing life to his armside with some crossfire angle and run into right handed hitters when he goes gloveside. No matter the movement or location he can spot to both sides of the plate. His best secondary offering is a plus 83-85 mph sinking changeup, but the improvement with the depth of his slider has been a key reason (in addition to good health) for his draft helium. In two CWS starts that totaled 12.1 IP, he struck out 13 to go along with no walks. Once a midseason draft projection to the 4th-5th rounds, Bennett has turned into a prospect who is likely to be selected in the top two rounds.
Trace Bright, RHP– Showed three legit pitches with a mid-90s fastball, plus changeup and big-depth curveball in his start against Stanford. His heater topped at 97 with fair life up in the zone, but his two-seamer showed good sink down. The 6-foot Auburn righthander slowed bats with his nasty circle changeup, locating it to both sides of the plate. Despite ordinary regular season statistics of a 5.13 ERA with 38 walks and 94 strikeouts in 80.2 innings, Bright’s eight strikeout and two runs allowed in five innings pitched for the win against Stanford was impressive enough that he’s likely to be considered around the fifth round.
Blake Burkhalter, RHP– The Auburn closer was overpowering against Stanford, punching out five over 2.2 innings of scoreless relief to finish the victory. He showed the ability to blow four-seamers by the Cardinal hitters at 95-97 mph, or to make them look helpless against his ridiculous cutter at 91-93. It was the most dominant pitch seen from any arm in Omaha this year. In addition to his swing/miss cutter, Burkhalter showcased a plus low-80s changeup during the Corvallis Super Regional.
The Auburn closer finished the 2022 season with 16 saves, 71 strikeouts and just seven walks in 46.1 innings. He projects to be a quick mover through a minor league system as a reliever, but with command of three pitches and a repeatable delivery, he has a chance to start pro ball. He has the stuff, feel and strike-throwing abilities to compete in Double-A right now and will likely be one of the top college relievers chosen in this year’s draft.
Adam Crampton, SS– The athletic-bodied Crampton caught my eye during the Pac-12 tournament in Scottsdale, but it was more on the defensive side of the ball where he’s a plus defender with an above average arm and better than average range. What sold me on his bat potential was his excellent at-bat against another draft riser on this list, Blake Burkhalter. Crampton finished the season 4-for-6 at the plate during the CWS, raising his season slash to .316/.395/.392. There isn’t much present power with just 12 XBH and a .076 ISO in 212 at-bats, but with solid bat-to-ball skills and a strong defensive skill set, this should put him into consideration sometime during the middle of Day Two (rounds 3-10). Think former Cardinal 6th rounder Tommy Edman who had a better BB/K ratio, but a similar .084 career ISO and .281 batting average in three seasons on the Farm.
Dylan DeLucia, RHP– The CWS Most Valuable Player began his rise against South Carolina in mid-April when he allowed just one run in 7.2 innings. He then threw a complete game with eight strikeouts vs. Mississippi State and continued to deal at Arkansas in late April. DeLucia turned it up another notch at the CWS allowing just one run in 16.2 innings to go along with 17 strikeouts against no walks. At 6-foot-1, 210-pounds and a higher effort delivery, he has limited projection, but with four quality pitches for strikes that include a 90-94 mph sinker, a same speed four-seamer, an 81-85 mph slider and a low-80s changeup, his stuff plays. His sinker stands out for its well above average -19” vertical break and 18” of horizontal action. His slider flashes above average and tops out with 2700+ rpm spin rate with good horizontal action. His third pitch is a near average pro quality changeup with big horizontal action. Expect DeLucia to be considered for selection in the middle rounds on Day Two.
Peyton Graham, SS– The slender Sooner had already been on the high-rise since flipping the switch halfway through Oklahoma’s series against Texas on April 1-3. He progressed even further on the big stage in Omaha, highlighted by his 4-for-4 performance against Notre Dame. Graham’s midseason turnaround was highly impressive as he improved in the batter’s box from a near 30% strikeout rate and below .300 batting average to a final line of .335/.417/.640 with 20 home runs, 71 RBI and a 21.1% season strikeout rate. The key to his turnaround was his ability to better compete against the slider. Instead of near guaranteed swing/miss against hard benders, Graham figured out how to survive and succeed. Long and lean at 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, his body type is similar to former Big 12 star Braden Shewmake (Texas A&M). When he’s “right” he shows good balance and rhythm in his whippy right-handed stroke. Although he can struggle with spin, he can turn on velocity. He’s also a plus runner and a threat to steal at any time as he gets excellent jumps. Despite his long legs, he’s not a long strider and has good acceleration with a 70-grade baserunning IQ. Graham stole 34 bases in 36 attempts this season and was the only D1 player to hit 20 home runs and steal at least 30 bases. Defensively, Graham plays low, has sure hands, athletic actions and a loose arm. He looks capable of remaining at shortstop in pro ball –much more capable in my opinion than Shewmake who has remained there in pro ball. However, the weight gains needed to improve Graham’s overall game may necessitate a move back to the hot corner – a position he played exclusively during his freshman and sophomore seasons. His plus-to-better arm strength also shows solid accuracy. Listed as a potential top two round prospect in our preseason Top 250, Graham crashed early, but has since regained Day One value.
Trevin Michael, RHP– Graduate students typically don’t receive much draft hype or helium, but the Lamar transfer who became famous for his 360 degree delivery while at an Oklahoma Junior College in 2019, became even more notorious at the CWS. Pumping a fastball up to 96 with a plus 84-86 mph slider, Michael is confident, competitive and in command of that combo. The 6-foot-1 Sooner righthander also mixes an effective 76-79 curve and has shown a feel for a low-80s changeup in the past. He could now receive consideration as a late Day Two, bonus pool saver type of pick.
Jacob Palisch, LHP– Another grad student who excelled at the CWS is the former Stanford starter turned Aggie reliever. The lefty Palisch appeared in two CWS games out of the pen, filling the zone with 91-93 mph fastballs and a ton of breaking balls for repeated swing/miss. He struck out 13 in 8.1 innings. For the season Palisch appeared in 29 games, all out of the pen. He registered a 6-3 record with five saves, a 2.39 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 60.1 innings. It’s a borderline starter arsenal that plays up in the pen. Like Michael above, Palisch likely earned himself a selection later in Day Two as a bonus pool saver.
David Sandlin, RHP– Listed as a potential fifth rounder in our preseason Top 250, Sandlin has a ton of upside remaining, especially for a third-year college pitcher. Standing 6-foot-4, 215-pounds the Sooners’ third starter worked comfortably at 91-94 and bumped 96 in his standout start in the CWS against Texas A&M. He allowed just one run on five hits while striking out 12 in seven innings. Pitching from a high three-quarter slot with moderate effort he repeated his delivery well. His fastball, which was a bit straight against Texas earlier in the spring, showed more life in Omaha and missed barrels. Another barrel misser was his high-spin 80 mph curveball. With its spin, shape, depth and velocity it graded as a plus present Major League pitch. He also dropped a quality 84-86 mph slider into the zone, mostly against right-handed batters. His season numbers aren’t the sexiest with 31 walks in 97 IP and a 5.59 ERA, but overall Sandlin’s upside is tantalizing and he’s very much a pitcher on the rise.
Carson Skipper, LHP– Undrafted last summer as a third-year sophomore, the Auburn reliever first opened my eyes during the Corvallis Super Regional when his fastball topped at 95 and he pitched at 90-92 against the Beavers. His low-spin (950-1050 rpm) splitter has over a foot of vertical depth at times, but it’s his upper-70s big-breaking curveball that gives him left-on-left Major League value. The pitch is deadly to left-handed batters, easily dismissing them back to the bench. Skipper struck out 70 in 58.2 innings this season, including eight strikeouts in six innings in Omaha. His stuff hasn’t changed much from Week One of the season to the end of the CWS, but his ability to get outs in bunches during a postseason closely watched by club decision makers, makes for a nice ride up the draft board.
Michael Turner, Catcher– Showing much improvement behind the plate since April, Turner has shed many of the DH labels that were bestowed upon him the first half of the season, as well as those during his first four years of college at Kent State. Combine those improvements with a bat that has always been above average and you get a draft valued left-handed hitting catcher. Turner finished the CWS 10-for-22 with five RBI, raising his season totals to .323/.388/.502. Despite his age as a 2017 high school graduate and fifth-year college senior, expect him to be considered in the top 10 rounds as a bonus pool saver.