The dust has finally settled on the college baseball season. On Sunday, Ole Miss wrapped up their first-ever NCAA Baseball National Championship, keeping the championship in-state (Mississippi State won in 2021). Now, it’s MLB Draft season. Jeremy Nygaard has had you covered brilliantly throughout the spring. Over the next three weeks at Twins Daily, there will be daily coverage of names to know, player profiles, mock drafts, and more. To kick things off this week, I’ll be dropping an overview of some hitters to know and some pitchers to know heading into the first round on July 17th.
A few notes before we begin. I mostly focused these two ‘overview’ pieces on who the Twins might take a number eight overall (as opposed to focusing on later picks). Additionally, I won’t go in-depth on players who the consensus believes will be gone by the time the Twins pick (I know, a dangerous game). Lastly, I’ll profile these players in alphabetical order, there's no preference here. So, essentially, who are some names the Twins might take at number eight, who are likely to still be around?
I’m going to assume the following players are off the board by the time the Twins pick at eight: Druw Jones, Jackson Holliday, Brooks Lee, Elijah Green, and Temarr Johnson (who the Twins are apparently high on). It’s also true that there are usually a few, outlandishly huge wrenches thrown into the draft works right from the jump resulting in some unexpected names being in play on draft night. Anyone on this list falling to eight would be an enormous boon for the Twins.
Jacob Berry, CI, LSU
Berry hasn’t moved much from a top ten spot on most big boards and in most mock drafts since the beginning of the college baseball season, a testament to his consistency. Berry played at LSU this season after transferring from Arizona. He’s a switch-hitting corner infield with 60-grade hit and power tools, although he has been more effective from the left side of the plate in his young career. There are questions about Berry’s long-term defensive home (likely to be first base). Berry has been extremely productive in two of the best conferences in the country. He should be a top twelve pick and move quickly through the minor leagues.
Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola JC
Collier is one of the most exciting players in this draft class and has joined an impressive class of high-school-aged hitters that includes Jones, Johnson, and Green. Collier will be just 17 on draft day (he left high school after his sophomore year), and spent this year playing for Chipola JC in Florida (former home of current Twins prospect Andrew Bechtold). Collier slugged .537 at Chipola to go with eight home runs and 12 walks. Collier shows good defense at third base with a strong arm. Collier projects to stay at third base and has a ton of projectability given his age. It’s likely he is off the board by the time the Twins pick and is trending closer to the top five picks as the draft approaches.
Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech
Cross, an outfielder from Virginia Tech, is one of the players most consistently linked with the Minnesota Twins from start to finish in the pre-draft process. Simply put, he does everything well. In 2022, he slugged .627 for the Hokies with 14 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Cross profiles as a power outfield bat, despite also possessing a strong hit tool. In 2022, he cut his K% from 20% to 14% and upped his BB% by close to five points. Cross projects to be an excellent defensive corner outfielder, despite playing center field for Virginia Tech. His only offensive weakness is a high propensity to swing and miss against breaking pitches, a trait he must curtail to be successful at the major league level.
Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Jace’s older brother, Josh, was a first-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2019. Jung put together an impressive season at Texas Tech on the back of 60-grade hit and power tools. In 2022, Jung slugged 14 home runs but perhaps more impressively, managed a 20% BB%. Jung, like Berry, is another name that has consistently appeared in the top half of the first round since the beginning of the season. There’s a good chance he’s still on the board when the Twins pick at eight.
Zach Neto, SS, Campbell
Neto to the Twins is a connection that has really gained traction in the last few weeks. A late riser in the draft process, he’s scattered a little more over mock drafts and big boards than some other prospects. Neto has a unique profile compared to other hitters the Twins might draft. Neto was a two-way player at Campbell, pumping a 93 mph fastball as a relief pitcher, and playing all over the infield, primarily as a shortstop in 2022. He will be drafted as an infielder, however, with the athleticism, defensive chops, and arm to stick at short. Neto clubbed 15 home runs in 2022 and is also a plus base runner, going 28-33 in his college career. Neto is predicted to go in the teens in the first round. Speculatively, I wonder if the Twins consider taking Neto, saving some money against his slot to add to their offer for their next pick at number 48 overall.
Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech
I couldn’t skip Kevin Parada, even though he will likely be off the board by the time the Twins pick at eight overall, due to a personal obsession. Parada had a season for the ages in 2022, blasting 26 home runs and driving in 88 runs in just 59 games. Parada has work to do defensively to be a strong presence behind the plate, but his elite offensive toolset makes him likely to go in the top five picks.
Arizona catcher Daniel Susac had a tremendous 2022 season, slugging .598 with 12 home runs, 19 doubles, and elite exit velocities to go along with an improving defensive skillset and excellent athleticism. The Twins have been increasingly linked to Pennsylvania prep shortstop Cole Young in recent weeks. The 18-year-old shortstop has an elite hit tool to go with a strong all-round game. Tennessee outfielder Jordan Beck was linked to the Twins earlier in the pre-draft process, and star center fielder Drew Gilbert (a Stillwater, MN, native) is predicted to go in the 15-25 range in the first round. Could he be a fit for the Twins? Finally, the Twins have been connected with Nevada prep outfielder Justin Crawford in recent weeks (son of former Rays’ speedster Carl Crawford).
If the Twins take a hitter at number eight overall, who would you like to see them draft and why?