Friday, December 2, 2022

Romero tops local list of young talent as 2022 MLB Amateur Draft gets closer

Mikey Romero, a Menifee native and recent graduate from Orange Lutheran High School, is one of the top local amateur MLB draft prospects in 2022. Valley News/Courtesy photo

LOS ANGELES – Major League Baseball’s 2022 amateur draft will take place from July 17-19 with the Baltimore Orioles making the No. 1 pick for the third time in franchise history. This year’s 20-round format, just as it was last year, will happen in conjunction with Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game festivities in Los Angeles. This is the second year in a row that the Amateur draft will be half the length of the 40-round edition that was last held in 2019. During the 2020 COVID-19 draft, there were only five rounds.

Following the Baltimore Orioles will be the Arizona Diamondbacks with the No. 2 pick, then the Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals to round out the Top 5. This is the week that agents start to know whether their players are definitely in or out at certain picks, not to mention at what signing bonus. There is no doubt now that every MLB team has done all of their information gathering by now.

When it comes to the younger players, many scouts agree that this has been a tough class to draft. There is still a recognizable difference in ability when compared to players from the past few drafts. Undeniably, there is a more clear-cut choice for the top overall pick this year though, high school outfielder Druw Jones (from Suwanee, GA), the son of high-profile former big leaguer Andruw Jones.

“The pandemic in large part is to blame,” former Dodgers scout Hank Jones said. “Competition was lacking during that time. Hitters were not seeing firm fastballs and pitchers weren’t seeing top-tier hitters. The players this year still have a lot of catching up to do, so no matter where someone is in the rankings, there is a good chance to be drafted in 2022.”

Jones also agrees that there will also be a lot of organizational players drafted this year.

“The organizational player is brought on to help top draft picks compete through the minor league levels,” he said. “Usually, these are players that can play the game, but can’t compete at the highest level.”

Of course, the most notable part of this year’s class is the substantial number of sons of former big-league players who are projected for the top few rounds, including two of the top three players overall (most notably the sons of Andruw Jones, Matt Holliday, and Carl Crawford).

When it comes to the college pitching class this year, things were a bit ravaged by injury and it is one of the worst in recent years. Still, there are a number of injured pitchers and prep pitchers with over-slot demands who will be littered all over the second and third rounds, that’s for sure. As for the college hitter group, there is a lot of depth that will dominate the first round, but not many players with a reasonable shot to be impact, All-Star level pros.

According to ESPN reports, Menifee’s Mikey Romero, pictured at the recent MLB Draft combine in San Diego, is ranked at No. 56 in the upcoming Amateur Draft, which begins Sunday, July 17. Valley News/Courtesy photo

According to ESPN Major League Baseball insider Kiley McDaniel, who just put out rankings for the top players, only one local prep player cracked the Top 100 list. A second local prep player cracked the Top 200 list, and a third local prep player finds himself in the Top 300. Having three prep players from the valley, who haven’t even played college ball yet, is a great testament that Southwest Riverside County is still a hot bed for baseball talent. There are also a handful of prep players from just outside the area who find themselves in the Top 300, which includes players from schools like Yucaipa (Jacob Reimer), JSerra (Tyler Gough) and Orange Lutheran, just to name a few.

Orange Lutheran is the school that just graduated top local prospect, Mikey Romero, who hails from Menifee. Romero, a left-handed hitting shortstop committed to LSU, comes in at No. 56 on McDaniel’s rankings. He is also the little brother of a pair of former All-American softball players in Sierra Romero of Michigan and Sydney Romero of Oklahoma. Expect to see the Romero off the board by the end of the second round.

Also on that list of potential draft picks is Temecula Valley’s Christopher Paciolla, also a shortstop, committed to UCLA (No. 116 on the list), and Murrieta Mesa’s Daniel Carter Garate, a left-handed hitting shortstop committed to Oregon (No. 255).

There is no telling what could happen in the MLB Draft war rooms, which makes it exciting for any player that is eligible for the call. Should these local players decide to sign, wherever they get picked, and move forward with whatever their signing bonus may be, they will join a growing list of local athletes that have, or still are playing professional baseball.

There were 122 former California high school baseball players that were on current MLB rosters when Opening Day commenced Thursday, April 7, 2022. Of those players, two came from the area, and played at the same school, at separate times. Chicago Cub Patrick Wisdom (2009) and Angel Tyler Wade (2013), who both play infield, were drafted out of Murrieta Valley High School.

Of course, there are plenty of players from the area that have donned an MLB uniform in their time, which includes Allen Craig (Chaparral), Brooks Pounders (Temecula Valley), Reed Johnson (Temecula Valley) and Rich Hunter (Linfield), just to name a few.

Some of the local players currently battling it out in the Minor League ranks, according to links from baseballcube.com (Murrieta/Temecula), include recent NWL Player of the Week Andy Thomas (Murrieta Mesa), playing High-A in the Mariners organization; Kevin Padlo (Murrieta Valley) who is also with the Mariners, currently in Triple-A with Tacoma; Brhet Bewley (Chaparral), playing for Kansas City with the Midland Rockhounds (AA); Justin Toerner (Chaparral) playing for St. Louis with the Springfield Cardinals (AA); Eli Lingos (Great Oak) playing Triple-A for the Cleveland Guardians with the Columbus Clippers; Rob Brantly (Chaparral) playing for the Yankees with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA); and Ryan Lillie (Vista Murrieta), playing for the San Diego Padres with the San Antonio Missions (AA).

Padlo and Brantly have both already made their Major League debuts. Padlo in April of 2021 with the Colorado Rockies and Brantly in 2012, with the Miami Marlins. Brantly is no stranger to the difficulties of MLB life, having play time stints at the highest level with the White Sox, Giants, Phillies and recently with the Yankees.

In all, 616 players will get drafted this year with round one of the 2022 MLB Amateur Draft set to take place starting at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 17, on MLB Network.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.

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