The 2022 MLB Draft is (finally) just around the corner, set to begin Sunday in Los Angeles as part of the All-Star Week festivities, and as is always the case, Arkansas baseball will be heavily involved.
Several current and future Razorbacks could be among the 616 players who hear their name called during the three-day, 20-round event.
Because the MLB Draft is so unique and can be confusing to casual fans, Best of Arkansas Sports prepared this draft primer chock-full of prospect rankings, who won’t/might return to school and insider information.
How to Watch the 2022 MLB Draft
Day 1 – Sunday, July 17 – 6 p.m. CT (ESPN, MLB Network)
Day 2 – Monday, July 18 – 1 p.m. CT (MLB.com)
Day 3 – Tuesday, July 19 – 1 p.m. CT (MLB.com)
The first day of the draft consists of the first two rounds, followed by Rounds 2-10 on the second day and finally Rounds 11-20 on the third day.
(NOTE: The prospect rankings listed for each player come from a top-600 list by Prospects Live, top-500 list by Baseball America, top-300 list by ESPN, top-250 list by MLB Pipeline, top-100 list by The Athletic and top-100 list from The Sporting News.)
Potential Day 1 Picks from Arkansas Baseball
Between the first two rounds and all of the sandwich picks, there will be 80 players selected on the first day of the MLB Draft. These are the current Razorbacks with the best chance of being drafted Sunday.
Peyton Pallette – RHP
ESPN: 37 | Baseball America: 38 | MLB Pipeline: 43 | Sporting News: 44 | Prospects Live: 49 | The Athletic 57
Coming into the season, Peyton Pallette had high expectations that included being the ace of the staff and a potential top-10 pick in this summer’s MLB Draft. Much like many of the other top arms in this class, though, that was derailed by an injury just before the start of the season that required Tommy John surgery. Despite that setback, he is still viewed as a Day 1 pick.
“I think his rehab has gone really well,” Van Horn said. “He worked extremely hard. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and I think he’s going to be a really good draft, and I think he’s going to play for a really long time.”
While the Benton native has a solid fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can touch the upper-90s, what has scouts excited about Pallette is his curveball. In fact, MLB Pipeline declared it the best curveball in the draft and compared him to a two-time All-Star out of Vanderbilt.
“Pallette often gets compared to Walker Buehler for his wiry 6-foot-1 build and quality repertoire, which is highlighted by a hammer curveball that ranges from 78-83 mph with high spin rates and quality depth,” wrote MLB Pipeline draft expert Jim Callis.
Some fans may be holding out hope that he still returns to Arkansas for another season, but that is highly unlikely. Not only is he still probably a top-two round pick, but the timing of his surgery makes it questionable that he’d even be able to pitch for the Razorbacks in 2023 if he wanted to. He almost certainly wouldn’t be 100 percent.
The question then becomes where he’ll end up. ESPN insider Kiley McDaniel mentioned him as a possible “best fit” for seven different teams in his draft guide, specifically mentioning him for picks 46 and 47 by the Marlins and Cubs, respectively. The other teams are the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Brewers, Giants and Dodgers — the latter of whom Callis tweeted he projected to take Pallette with the 40th pick. Prospects Live’s latest mock draft has him going 66th overall to the Giants.
If that’s the range he ends up going, the slot value Pallette would be looking at is seven figures — around $1-2 million.
UPDATE: In his latest mock draft, McDaniel has Pallette projected to be taken 43rd overall by the Diamondbacks. That pick has a slot value of about $1.82 million. Prospects Live slots him going to the Orioles one pick earlier, at No. 42, which has a slot value of about $1.86 million.
Cayden Wallace – 3B
MLB Pipeline: 31 | ESPN: 42 | Sporting News: 51 | Baseball America: 53 | Prospects Live: 53 | The Athletic: 70
When he made it to campus a couple of summers ago, Cayden Wallace figured to be a three-year player for the Razorbacks. However, the draft moving back a month made him a draft-eligible sophomore because his 21st birthday is now within 45 days of the draft.
Van Horn’s disappointment in that fact was evident when he met with the media before the season because he knew what was in store for the Greenbrier native. Sure enough, he hit .298/.387/.553 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs, and Van Horn now believes he’ll be picked in the top two rounds.
“I think (scouts) like a lot of things about him,” Van Horn said. “No. 1, he’s very athletic, and he’s a big athlete. He’s not a kid who can really run that is small. He’s strong. He’s got a lot of power potential at the next level. He’s got an extremely strong arm. I think he’s versatile, too. You can play him at third — and that’s what they’re going to draft him as, a third baseman — but they also know that he can play right field, maybe even center.”
Wallace very well could be the Razorbacks’ first player off the board and sneak into the sandwich picks, 31-39, which is still considered the first round. That would make him the 10th all-time first-round pick from Arkansas.
He was actually invited to attend the MLB Draft in person, but turned down the trip to Los Angeles in favor of staying home to watch it with family, according to a source. His camp believes he could go anywhere from 31-45, with the Diamondbacks, Marlins, Cardinals and Royals showing particular interest.
ESPN also lists him as a “best fit” for the Rockies and Giants, with McDaniel actually projecting him 38th overall to Colorado in his mock draft on June 29. More recently, Perfect Game has Wallace going 35th overall to Kansas City and MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo has him going 37th overall to Cleveland.
Prospects Live’s most recent mock draft has him slipping to 49th. That is just slightly outside of his expected range, but it has the Royals picking him, which would make a lot of sense.
Not only did Wallace spend the last two years playing with the son of Kansas City’s general manager, but he was also heavily pursued by the club coming out of high school. He ultimately turned down a seven-figure offer to play for the Razorbacks. That gamble appears to have paid off, as the 31-45 range would come with a slot value of $1.7-2.4 million. Considering he’s still a sophomore, he would have a lot of leverage and likely command most, if not all or more than full slot value.
UPDATE: In their final mock draft, MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis each have Wallace projected to the Rockies at pick No. 31. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel also has him going to Colorado, but with the 38th pick. Those picks have slot values of about $2.43 million and $2.05 million, respectively. Prospects Live has him slotted quite a bit later, going to the Mets at No. 52, which has a slot value of about $1.47 million.
Robert Moore – 2B
ESPN: 86 | Baseball America: 98 | MLB Pipeline: 108 | Prospects Live: 139
Not too long ago, Robert Moore was considered the top 2022 MLB Draft prospect on Arkansas’ roster and a potential top-10 pick. He skipped his senior season of high school to get on campus early, flashed a lot of potential in the shortened 2020 season and then surprisingly hit 16 home runs as a sophomore.
While he still played elite defense, earning a national Gold Glove Award for second base, Moore struggled mightily at the plate this year. His batting average dropped 51 points and he hit half as many homers. He did strike out less, still drew a lot of walks and hit more doubles, but a .213 batting average in SEC play is hard to ignore.
“I don’t think any player had a more precipitous fall from preseason to draft day than Moore, son of longtime Royals executive Dayton Moore,” wrote The Athletic’s Keith Law. “The younger Moore went from a possible first-round pick to … I don’t actually know what to think of his draft stock now, as 5-8 college second basemen who hit .232/.374/.427 — and just .213/.358/.389 in the SEC — are not valued very highly, historically speaking.”
Before the season, CBS Sports’ R.J. Anderson listed him as the 13th-best prospect and wrote that his floor might be the 17th overall pick. Even in mid-April, Perfect Game still had Moore at No. 29 on its top-400 list. Now, he might not even be a Day 1 pick.
It’s been such a dramatic fall that it prompted speculation that he might return to school. Unlike most baseball players, that argument actually had some merit. He’d be a senior, but still have the leverage of the potential bonus year from the NCAA’s pandemic-related eligibility relief. Plus, he’d still be 21 at the time of next year’s draft, which was his original draft year before enrolling early.
However, Moore could potentially benefit from a change of scenery because he is a better hitter than he showed in 2022. The worst-case scenario would be him returning to Arkansas, hitting about the same and further damaging his draft stock. Likely for all of those reasons, Van Horn said he “would be surprised” if Moore came back to school.
“I don’t think the door’s closed, but I do think he’ll get picked pretty good,” Van Horn said. “If he would’ve had a little better year offensively, I think it would’ve been a slam dunk. But he still had a lot of good days. He played incredible defense.”
UPDATE: He is not included in McDaniel’s two-round mock draft, which features 80 players, but Moore was listed as one of six college players who just missed the cut.
Other Razorbacks Likely to be Drafted
Although each of these players was a senior in 2022, they could technically return for an extra season because of the NCAA’s pandemic-related eligibility relief. That said, all three of them are expected to get drafted and sign professional contracts.
Jalen Battles – SS
Baseball America: 143 | ESPN: 162 | Prospects Live: 217
Leading up to last year’s MLB Draft, Van Horn told reporters that he believed Jalen Battles could get drafted before the fifth round. Instead, when no teams met his asking price, the slick-fielding shortstop made the surprising announcement that he’d return for a second season with the Razorbacks.
Wearing the No. 2 jersey Van Horn wore his first 19 years as Arkansas’ head coach, Battles continued to play elite defense and also significantly improved at the plate. After hitting .269/.371/.407 with six home runs in 2021, he posted a .289/.364/.480 slash line with 10 home runs this season. He also increased his OPS in SEC play by more than 200 points.
Although he could technically return to school again, Battles is viewed by some as a top-200 prospect. His rankings by Baseball America, ESPN and Prospects Live would put him in the early-fifth to mid-seventh round, which comes with an assigned slot value of $211,800-$402,100.
Brady Slavens – DH/1B
Baseball America: 216 | ESPN: 256 | Prospects Live: 364
Similar to Battles, Slavens figured to be a one-and-done JUCO transfer, especially after he hit .300 for most of the year and finished with 14 home runs and a team-high 63 RBIs in 2021, but announced during the draft that he’d instead return to school.
The decision made sense because he was still pretty young, as he — like Moore — skipped his senior season of high school to start his college career early, plus he had the bonus year of eligibility as leverage if he returned. Plus, he likely wanted to show an ability to play corner outfield in an effort to increase his draft stock.
Unfortunately for Slavens, it didn’t quite work out like he hoped. He started just 13 games in right field and never looked fully comfortable out there. After starting at first base most of last year, he was relegated to designated hitter this season. Making matters worse, Slavens was inconsistent at the plate. Even though he still tied Wallace for the team lead with 16 home runs and finished second behind him with 58 RBIs, he hit just .255 with 66 strikeouts.
Likely limited to playing first base or DHing, Slavens is now looking at being picked somewhere in the middle of the seventh round or later. The final pick of the 10th round, No. 316 overall, comes with a slot value of $149,400, with all other picks in the 11th round and beyond allowed to receive bonuses up to $125,000 without counting toward each team’s bonus pool.
Evan Taylor – LHP
Despite not appearing on any of the prospect lists, it would be hard to imagine Evan Taylor not getting drafted after the season he had for the Razorbacks. Van Horn identified him as a breakout candidate during the fall and the left-hander didn’t disappoint, posting a 3.65 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings and holding opponents to a .179 batting average across a team-high 33 appearances.
One reason Taylor isn’t ranked is he’s likely viewed solely as a lefty specialist at the next level. Left-handed batters were hitless against him for much of the season and ended the year with a minuscule .095 batting average. He also struck out nearly half of the lefties he faced (33 of 70). However, Taylor generally worked less than two innings at a time — but, at the same time, he usually pitched twice per weekend. That kind of pitcher should be desirable for a professional team, even if it’s after the first 10 rounds.
Returning Arkansas Baseball Draft Prospects?
These are probably the two biggest names to watch during the MLB Draft, as there is a legitimate chance both of them return to school and bolster the Razorbacks’ pitching staff in 2023.
Zack Morris – LHP
Baseball America: 424
By the end of the season, Zack Morris was arguably the Razorbacks’ best and most consistent left-handed pitcher on the team. Working primarily out of the bullpen, he went 6-1 and posted a 2.31 ERA in 35 innings. One of his two starts was against Ole Miss in the College World Series and it was disastrous, but a couple of days later, he earned his first and only save by getting Arkansas out of a bases-loaded jam, extending the season for one more game.
Morris’ ERA is actually inflated by that tough start, as it would be 1.83 without it, and Van Horn said he was “outstanding down the stretch.” His performances caught the attention of scouts and will give him a chance to get drafted, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll take it — especially with the bonus year of eligibility giving him leverage again next summer if he returns.
“I don’t think he’s going to sell himself short,” Van Horn said. “I think he’ll come back unless he gets pretty good money. We’re hoping he comes back. We’re planning on it right now. But we also know that he has a decision to make.”
Connor Noland – RHP
Prospects Live: 242 | Baseball America: 469
When Pallette went down before the season, Connor Noland slid into the role of staff ace and, for the most part, lived up to the Razorbacks’ recent standard for Friday night pitchers.
Even with some serious struggles over his final five starts of the regular season, the Greenwood native still had solid numbers: 3.65 ERA, 113 strikeouts, only 34 walks and a .250 opponents’ batting average in 116 innings. When he was good, though, he was really good. In four postseason starts, Noland had a 1.53 ERA in 29 1/3 innings and held four loaded lineups to a .236 average.
What he did this season would certainly be enough to get drafted, and he’d probably get more money this summer than next year — even if he pitches better — because he’d be out of leverage in 2023 with no remaining college eligibility, but that doesn’t sound like it’ll be the deciding factor.
“I think that he loves wearing this uniform,” Van Horn said. “I just think if things aren’t exactly what he wants then there is an opportunity. Obviously there is a chance he’ll come back. I’ve met with him about it. We’ll see how it goes.”
For a more in-depth breakdown of why Noland should, and shouldn’t, return to Fayetteville for another season, read our analysis of his upcoming decision here.
Arkansas Draft Prospects Out of Eligibility
Each of the below five players were super seniors in 2022, meaning they were only eligible to play because of the bonus year the NCAA granted everyone in response to the pandemic. Because they don’t have the option of returning to school, they have no leverage and could be selected by a team in a money-saving move.
By selecting one of these players, or other seniors, a team can sign them for a ridiculously low amount, such as $5,000 or $10,000, and use the money saved from those slot values to sign other players over slot.
Braydon Webb – OF
2022 stats: .283/.418/.542, 8 2B, 15 HR, 42 RBI, 60 R, 42 BB, 7 HBP, 55 K, 11-12 SB
Chris Lanzilli – OF
2022 stats: .326/.424/.513, 9 2B, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 39 R, 26 BB, 12 HBP, 51 K
Kole Ramage – RHP
2022 stats: 4.80 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 61 K, 19 BB, .226 BAA, 50 2/3 IP
Michael Turner – C
2022 stats: .323/.388/.502, 17 2B, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 40 R, 27 BB, 3 HBP, 49 K
Zebulon Vermillion – RHP
2022 stats: 2.39 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 28 K, 10 BB, .220 BAA, 26 1/3 IP
Other Players with Arkansas Ties
- 1B Ethan Long – Arizona State (former Arkansas commit, flipped just before signing day)
- 1B Tyler Johnson – Coastal Carolina (Bentonville native, hit .357 with 19 HR and 61 RBIs this year)
- OF Curtis Washington Jr. – Purdue (played at Arkansas from 2019-20, hit .314 with 31 SB this year)
- RHP Mark Adamiak – Arkansas (transferring to Missouri, struggled with Hogs, but flashed potential in Cape Cod League last summer)
Curious which of Arkansas’ incoming players – from high school, JUCO and the portal – are considered draft risks? We’ve got you covered there, too:
What to Know About the MLB Draft
Traditionally a 40-round event, the MLB Draft has been permanently shortened to 20 rounds, the same length as last year.
The MLB Draft is not as straightforward as its counterparts in the NFL and NBA. In addition to making selections based on merit, teams have to consider each player’s “signability” – how likely he is to sign a professional contract.
High school and junior college prospects can choose to honor their commitments and college players, assuming they have remaining eligibility, can return to school if they don’t receive their desired signing bonus.
In 2012, a new wrinkle was introduced to the draft: slot values and bonus pools. Each pick in the top 10 rounds is assigned a recommended signing bonus amount – or slot value – with teams being allowed to spend up to the combined value of their top-10 round picks’ slot values – or bonus pool.
Players selected in the 11th round and beyond can receive signing bonuses up to $125,000 before it factors into the equation, with the excess counting toward the bonus pool. The signing deadline is Aug. 1.
If a team does not sign a player taken in the first 10 rounds, it loses that pick’s slot value from its bonus pool. That is why it’s rare for teams not to sign their early draftees, especially those with seven-figure slot values.
Last year, only three of 312 players taken in the top 10 rounds did not sign. Two years ago, all 160 players in the five-round draft ultimately signed. The year before that, just two of 317 chose not to sign.
The MLB Draft is just one aspect of constructing the Razorbacks’ 2023 baseball roster. Check out our three-part series detailing the challenges Van Horn faces in doing just that:
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