2022 MLB Draft Preview: Cubs Could Be in Position to Draft Ace with 7th Overall Pick

With the exact date still to be determined, the 2022 Major League Baseball draft should be happening in as little as five months. For the Cubs, the 2022 draft is going to be an important one. They have the seventh selection in the first round and that prospect could become the face of the system after Brennen Davis moves up to Chicago at some point this year. Over the next few months, Cubs Insider is going to examine some of the possibilities for the Cubs in the seventh slot, but that list of names is going to fluctuate quite a bit as players rise and fall due to potential, performance, and injuries. 

As of right now, there is no consensus number one pick with most major publications. There is, however, a tier of players who are bunched near the top of most of the lists: Termarr Johnson (2B), Drew Jones (OF), and Elijah Green (OF) lead a parade of prep hitters while Jace Jung (3B), Brock Jones (OF), Brooks Lee (SS), Jacob Barry (3B), and Chase DeLauter (OF) are the big-named college bats right now.

Such a strong hitting class is overshadowing some exceptional pitching talent, and that could present a unique opportunity for the Cubs. It’s possible the Cubs could draft a top-of-the-rotation arm with the potential to be the golden prospect they’ve been searching for and trying to develop since 2012. 

Right-handed prep star Dylan Lesko’s name pops out on the marquee. The young 18-year-old could be the arm for whom Cubs fans have been pining. At 6-foot-2 with a projectable growing frame, Lesko is already sitting in the mid-90s with some solid movement. He also has a plus-plus changeup with some nasty horizontal run. Lesko’s curve is the pitch that needs the most work, but the Cubs have been pretty good about developing curveballs over the past two years and they could easily help him improve. 

Here’s a look at Lesko’s exploding fastball:

Here’s what MLB pipeline had to say about Lesko’s projection:

“Lesko generates premium stuff with ease and locates it well thanks to his ability to repeat a sound delivery with little effort. He gets good extension, making him even tougher on hitters, and draws praise for his intelligence and maturity. He has ace potential and may need little more than innings against pro competition to finish refining his stuff and reach his lofty ceiling.”

That is some pretty exciting stuff for a kid who is likely to be the first pitcher off the board.

There are plenty of other pitching prospects that could to rise up into the top 10 over the course of the spring season. However, the one guy who is not currently playing is none other than Kumar Rocker. The Mets took him at number 10 last year but he wound up not signing due to an apparent elbow issue showing up on his physical. Rocker did not return to Vanderbilt for his senior season and will likely play independent ball in one of the MLB‘s partner leagues this spring to prove his mettle and health. If that does hold true, those stadiums should be filled with radar guns, cameras, and stopwatches.

Rocker’s career at Vanderbilt was nothing short of spectacular. He had a little dip in the 2021 spring season but he seemed to bounce right back and was dominant in the College World Series. 

When I see Rocker, I see a bulldog on the mound, an arm that could be a number one type starter who takes the ball and just grinds it out for 100 pitches every start. That’s pretty much what he was in college and that may be the cause for the concern on the medicals. If he is healthy, it’s going to change the whole structure of the top 10. 

Here is what Prospects Live had to say about Rocker heading into this spring: 

“The weaponry is well-chronicled. A fastball that has been up to 98 but more often sits 92-95. A wicked breaking ball with tremendous depth has been graded as high as plus-plus by evaluators in the past. A cutter that flashes above average and a changeup that is below average more often than not. Rocker has the making of a big-league starting pitcher with at least three pitches in his arsenal. There’s some concern over his medicals after reports surfaced that he failed his physical with the Mets post-draft. Rocker’s pitching elbow will be a point of emphasis for scouts as evaluators try to determine where he fits inside this year’s class.”

Over the course of the next 5 to 6 months, it’ll be interesting to see who rises and who falls close to where the Cubs pick and if Rocker will be in that mix.

We are going to cover some of that movement as well as chronicle position groups once the college season is well underway. We’ll also take a look at the Draft League which gives hopefuls a place to play to get more exposure. In fact, the Cubs wound up picking a few players from that league last year including Chase Watkins and Christian Olivo. Just one more thing we will keep an eye on for you.

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