If you think it’s easy to put together a rankings list, please trust me when I say this: it’s not. Is it fun, though? Absolutely, especially since we’ve now intently followed the 2022 class for nearly a year and seen so many players in summer and fall events and high school seasons. But even after all the games, all the conversations with scouts and coaches and all the internal discussion about the 2022 class, settling on 1-55 was far from easy. Some of the toughest rankings decisions:

What to do after the top seven…

The downside to being some of the most famous high school players in the country heavily scouted during their senior seasons means having almost every little thing dissected. When the price is potentially a seven-figure number for MLB teams, it comes with the territory. We felt very strongly about the top five players on the list and then saw some noticeable improvement from both Chase Shores and Jace LaViolette this season. The former showed a better breaking ball and improved physicality this season and the latter started turning a loud all-around tool set into consistently dominant performances for one of the state’s best teams.

Beyond the first seven, I think I moved around the next four players – Justin Lamkin, Justin Vossos, Jayson Jones and Travis Sanders – around my Google sheet countless times, and I think there is a good case to be made that each should be No. 8 behind LaViolette. I’m sure some will think even higher than eight, but LaViolette turning his tools into better production, in a tough 6A district, than almost everyone is a separator for me. While some of the following discussion might seem critical, understand our goal is to provide transparency behind our rankings process and offer a glimpse into the types of conversations scouts and MLB decision-makers have when making their own respective lists and determining whether to meet what’s likely a seven-figure price tag for the following players. We’re discussing some of the premier players in the entire nation here…

Lamkin didn’t show quite the same stuff and arm speed he did in the summer, but I’m still a big believer in what he could become long-term – a left-handed starter who could throw three quality pitches for a strike with control and command and has some deception in his delivery. I did a deep dive on Lamkin after seeing him during the playoffs, and I think there are a lot of things Texas A&M could tweak to get more velocity out of the arm path and delivery. Oh, he did this, too: 11-2 record, 77.2 IP, 0.90 ERA, 32 H, 13 BB, 166 K.

During the 2021 summer, Vossos had a two-week stretch when he was the best player in the state and created a loud buzz heading into the fall. He mashed for power; hit for average; got on base; had plus run times; and showed outstanding twitch to go with impressive athleticism defensively. On a team with LaViolette, Blake Mitchell, Anthony Silva, Kaeden Kent, Jack Little and others, Vossos was the best player in July. From there, the Ridge Point infielder, who I think best profiles at second base with the athleticism to play center field, was really, really good but not quite as good as July, which is a high bar considering he looked like he might be in the conversation as the top player in the state. Long-term, I believe in the hands in the batter’s box, hitting ability and his athleticism and speed are separators. His best baseball is ahead of him and I expect him to add strength to his physical profile without sacrificing plus speed and athleticism.

Jones, who debuted at No. 4 on the Five Tool 55 last summer and was No. 5 in the post-fall update after a look with the Blue Jays Scout Team, is one of the most famous high school players in the country because of his track record of hitting on the summer circuit as a rising sophomore and was a tough evaluation for me because when it’s all clicking, a case could be made he’s No. 2 behind Jett Williams. Professional scouts look for carrying tools, and the Arkansas signee has a loud one – the most raw power of any right-handed hitter in the state. After a strong AABC Connie Mack World Series qualifier with the bat (his defense was surprisingly inconsistent, likely just a bad few days and not a long-term thing because it’s been consistently better in the past) in early June, Jones went to the MLB Draft Combine in San Diego and hit a couple of batting practice bombs just over 420 feet with eye-popping 110 MPH exit velocity.

So even though it didn’t consistently show this season and at the end of last summer, the power is undoubtedly there, and the future third baseman has a strong arm and we saw him as fast as 4.17 seconds down the line this season. It’s possible he’s finding his elite-level groove as he exits high school baseball, which is why he remains a top 10 player in the state and undoubtedly one of the top talents in the nation. If he can consistently tap into his power at wherever he plays next (pro or college), he’ll make No. 10 look like it should have been No. 2.

As for Sanders, his ranking slightly changed but that was because of the movement around him. He wasn’t really challenged much at the plate this season due to his high school competition, making his bat a more difficult evaluation than others, and his defense improved. If he does end up at Texas Tech, a good bet at this point, he’ll enter one of the best environments in college baseball to turn his quick hands into production with the bat.

The catchers…

I’m not ashamed to admit evaluating prep catchers is the toughest thing for me to do, and I bet many professional scouts would agree. We just don’t get many opportunities to see catchers catch the type of velocity and stuff they’ll catch at the next level and be forced to completely manage a pitching staff and run game. Sinton’s Rylan Galvan won me over with an outstanding 4A state semifinal game when he was the best hitter that day and the second-best prospect behind all-world Blake Mitchell. I believe so much in the bat, arm strength and physical profile that I had to move him up the list. Each time I watched Easton Carmichael, the Oklahoma signee smashed rockets all over the field. He has one of my favorite right-handed swings in he class and I like the chances he could stick behind the dish.

Blanco’s Dylan LaRue looked great physically when I saw him during the high school season and has a left-handed swing I really like that should transfer. Betting on sons of former MLB players is always a smart thing to do. Originally, we had LaRue rated as the No. 1 catcher in the state and I might regret not keeping him there. Regardless, I think he has a genuine chance to become a MLB player and should immediately impact the Houston Baptist program, assuming he doesn’t turn pro out of high school. In the end, I thought Galvan and Carmichael’s bats stood out a little bit more with a tick more power. That said, there isn’t truly that much of a difference between 22 and 32 on the list.

The run of pitchers from No. 39 to No. 44…

This class is a bit unusual. There aren’t as many premier pitching prospects – a theme that extends nationally – and the position players had some staying power, relatively speaking. But there is depth to this class of pitchers, many of whom have a chance to develop into standout college pitchers, and nowhere is that more obvious than the portion of pitchers on the list that begins with No. 39 Sean Fitzpatrick and ends with No. 44 Brandon Arvidson. How did I separate them? I spent a lot of time flipping a quarter. I’m kidding, of course.

I believe Fitzpatrick and Sdao have the best present combination of strike-throwing, arm speed, ability to repeat a delivery and long-term projection. In particular, both have standout arm speed and shoulder rotation and both have thin frames that have yet to come close to fully maturing. Reid presently has the best pure stuff among the bunch, but the separator was Sdao and Fitzpatrick’s stronger projection to consistently throw strikes.

Thompson is one of the pitchers who is ready to pitch now at the next level and has a long, long track record of performing and is one of the most well-known pitchers in the state. But we felt Fitzpatrick and Sdao are slightly better upside bets. Again, we’re splitting hairs here because where these guys are ranked means they’re all the same quality of prospect and it means they’re some of the best pitching prospects in the nation and not just Texas. Binderup is going to turn into a physical beast that might make some Marvel superheroes jealous and might have as much upside on the mound as any pitcher in the state. While he had a strong season, we didn’t see the stuff and consistently take the jump we thought it might coming out of the fall. The same could be said about Arvidson and Nate Yeskie could turn both of these pitchers into studs sooner than later. Don’t be surprised if Binderup puts on 25 pounds of muscle and starts pumping 96 MPH lightning bolts through the zone; it’s in there.

The toolsy outfielders…

I suppose I’m kind of on an island with Jack Little at No. 27 in the state, higher than than the industry consensus, and I’m okay planting my flag because I believe in the tools and trust them. I’ve seen him hit a screaming liner so hard it barely cleared the fence on a line before angrily shattering a car’s back window so loud you’d think Stone Cold Steve Austin was about to walk towards the ring. Also, I’ve watched him run sub 4.1 seconds down the line to first base and he’s a very physical and very athletic player with quick twitch actions. Oh, his dad played in the big leagues, too. At the next level, I think he plays center field and plays it well. Little hit .471/.562/.740 with 25 steals for Tompkins, which was elite production worthy of being a bit of a tiebreaker on the list.

Brenner Cox didn’t have as productive of a season with the bat as some other outfielders, but he has plus-plus athleticism, plus defense, and a plus-plus arm; I’d love to see what he’d look like on the mound in college, but in the meantime, if he realizes his hitting potential, he could be a game-changer in college. His tools are so notable it wouldn’t shock me if a MLB team drafts him and makes a very strong run at signing him because betting on the athleticism/talent/physical combo he has is something MLB teams often do.

Rocco Garza-Gongora was a late riser for me after I got another look at him during the THSBCA All-Star Game. He has a projectable lean, athletic frame and a really intriguing, natural feel for covering the plate and hitting. Among the outfielders outside the top 15, I think he’s the most likely to show up to college and immediately hit as a freshman, although he doesn’t possess the same power as a guy like Little or the defense and speed of Cox.

Carson Queck is kind of similar to Little because he has a loud, all-around tool set, too. I’ve seen him run 4.2 seconds to first base, mash homers, throw 91 MPH off the mound and perform well defensively. Again, trust the tools, and if he realizes his potential at Kansas State, he’s going to be an all-conference player at minimum.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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