2022 Bowman Draft Review

Another Bowman release quickly on the heels of Bowman Chrome? I love it! Year over year Bowman Draft has the deepest checklist of Bowman 1st prospects. This product stands out because, as the name indicates, every player with their 1st Bowman card in this product was taken in this year’s Draft. From Ignacio Alvarez to Steven Zobac, they’re all here. There were also some nice players excluded, but we’re not talking about what’s not in the product in this piece.

From a hobbyist standpoint, for me the benefit of the Draft release compared to Bowman and Bowman Chrome is that (silver) refractors are much more common. The refractors have less value individually, but in the crossroads of supply and demand, they’re great cards to hold that are easy to obtain.

As for the checklist subjects: my personal methodology of evaluation involves first and foremost data analysis, adds in reading of scouting reports, and then sprinkles a little tape-watching for verification. Then I translate what it all means for the hobby. So with Draft and its small professional data samples, my hand in the evaluations feels smaller. Don’t get me wrong, I still make a spreadsheet that spits out an overall hobby value for each player. I have confidence in how I’m ranking players. But my reasons are not enough of my own work – it’s too flimsy to put into a ‘formal’ evaluation that calls out floor and ceiling.

That’s why with Draft, I’m less comprehensive in my opinions. I’m giving you guys I personally like, as best I can figure. I follow the trends of the hobby. Very generally: tooled up high-school hitters do the best, prep pitchers are tough buys, and big conference college standouts usually do well at release.

I’ll walk through the draft from the top:

Picks 1-15

Lots of low-hanging fruit in this group, clearly. You can really take your pick from any of these guys – they’re a mix of highest floors and highest ceilings in the entire draft.

For me, the top name in this entire product is Elijah Green. At best he’s a 4-tool package with an upside as high an early-career Giancarlo Stanton (but Green has better speed) – but there are questions about his tendencies to be too aggressive, and that showed up in his very brief pro debut. There’s plenty of risk, but it’s entirely worth it, especially for the hobby. I don’t think Kumar Rocker will have great value in this product. Even putting injury questions aside – he has a ton of relief risk, he’s already 23, and being taken at number 3, he’ll be expensive. Of course, at HIS best he has two plus pitches with two others that play well off of them. If his command issues get straightened out, he has top-of-the-rotation upside. Brooks Lee, Gavin Cross, Kevin Parada, and Jace Jung are all in the same bucket for me and should be close in both price and value until they get going next year. Among those I like Cross the best.

Best Value: Maybe no one, so it’ll just be my favorite below.
Worst Value: It’s definitely Rocker, but the landing spot of Gabriel Hughes is about as bad as it gets. Rockies pitchers are, simply put, bad for both the hobby and real life baseball. If he’s very inexpensive to acquire though — the upside of a #2 SP is there.
Max’s Favorite: Zach Neto. He had a great debut that saw him hit .320 at AA. He doesn’t project to have plus power or speed, and I think that will spurn enough collectors to create a pocket of value. If his ceiling is only something like Dansby Swanson with a better hit, I’m completely fine with that.
Other Hobby-Significant prospects: Everyone, but especially Jackson Holliday and Termarr Johnson.

Picks 15-30

We’re still in a group of very obvious names, with a few surprises such as Mikey Romero mixed in. Nobody in this group is without risk of some sort. With someone like Cooper Hjerpe the risk is that he’s a back-end MLB starter – significant floor, but not good-for-the-hobby floor (love Hjerpe by the way, but being drafted so high puts me off him from a value perspective).

Best Value: I thought this was to going be Cole Young. He’s a cold weather prep who perhaps has some untapped ceiling. He’s already shown a great feel for hitting against top amateur competition, and he was taken this high because he’s such a solid infield defender. However, early indications are that he’s just as costly as any other 1st rounder in this range. Watch for a quick dip in that trend to buy in. If that doesn’t happen, take a look at Brandon Barriera.
Worst Value: I’ll just take the farthest away prep pitcher, which is Noah Schultz. It’s not a slight against the 6’9” lefty – he just has a long way to go with his body maturity. Optimistically, he has enough stamina to pitch 70 innings in his 2023 debut season given his history in high school. The hobby will be a bit betwixt with his giant projectability and his rawness, but to me the bottom line is that he won’t see a peak after release for years.
Max’s Favorite: Apologies to Chase DeLauter, but as a Brewer fan I’ll go with the homer pick and say Eric Brown Jr. Bizarre plate setup aside, I think he has a chance to be a great table-setter with pop. Sure, again, he’s in the bucket of not having a plus tool, but he’s a do-everything guy who has a shot to stick at short. If he does, the hobby value will be significant. Maybe a Jazz Chisholm-type hobby ceiling?
Other Hobby-Significant prospects: Still everyone, but especially Drew Gilbert.

Picks 31-60

I’m expanding the range of picks as I go along here. This section covers the supplemental picks and some of the 2nd Round. I’m not quite sure how expensive Dalton Rushing will be, but man did have a fantastic pro debut. His Single-A OPS in 134 PA’s was 1.317! You can ignore that he’s a catcher – his bat will carry him elsewhere if needed. Elsewhere in this section, there’s plenty of power bats such as Sal Stewart, Jordan Beck, and Cayden Wallace and power conference college pitchers such as Landon Sims, Connor Prielipp, and Hunter Barco. A la Tink Hence and Ricky Tiedemann, here’s where we also start to get to potential under-the-hobby radar prep pitching breakouts for the next few years. Absent Jackson Ferris (who was held back) my best guess to fit that mold is JR Ritchie.

Best Value: Orioles fans will likely skew to top overall pick Jackson Holliday and the immense power potential of Jud Fabian, so I’ll go with the Orioles #3 prospect in this set, Dylan Beavers. Beavers doesn’t have the same extreme upside of the other two, but he does still have 5-tools at his best. With so many players of his ilk in this draft and the team focus divided, I think he could be affordable at release, and quickly gain value as he hits High-A in 2023.
Worst Value: Sorry everyone, I have to go with Ivan Melendez. He has huge power, sure. The fact that he showed it off on such a huge stage at Texas will boost his prices to a level that does not fit who he actually is. At best he has a fringe average hit tool, he’s limited to 1B, and he’ll be 23 in January. It’s a very narrow path to hobby success after release.
Max’s Favorite: In this area of the draft and a little later, I’m a glutton for punishment with players like Henry Bolte. Just because I personally missed (to date) with David Calabrese, Isaiah Greene, Daylen Lile, and Lonnie White doesn’t mean I want to miss on the next Evan Carter or Edwin Arroyo – Bolte is my pick for fitting that archetype.
Other Hobby-Significant prospects: Almost everyone still – Sterlin Thompson, Justin Campbell, Robby Snelling, Jacob Miller, Adam Mazur, Parker Messick, Tyler Locklear.

Picks 61-90

I love this group, because I’m confident that there’s value to be found. Before the draft I pegged Clark Elliott and Ryan Cermak as potential nice later hobby names. Their respective landing spots (Oakland and Tampa Bay) are less than ideal for the hobby but I think that pre-Draft opinion still holds true. Jud Fabian isn’t the one dimensional power threat that some may perceive him to be. His excellent defense gives him a floor, and he does get on base. He’ll be expensive because of that immense power, so it’s not a value, but he’s actually a good name to speculate on. I love the do-everything profile of Tucker Toman (who is autograph-only) for the hobby – and with being 20 picks later, they may be a better dart throw than Bolte from a value perspective. There’s a few big-name college pitching fallers – Peyton Pallette and Nate Savino – who should garner some hobby interest as well.

Best Value: Trusting the Brewers to convert on another JuCo pitcher is a wise move. It’s what they do. This year the JuCo du jour is Jacob Misiorowski. He reportedly looked great at Complex instructs, so look for the immediate breakout at Single-A to start 2023. I really think this one is that simple.
Worst Value: Ben Joyce has thrown 105 MPH – that’ll generate some interest! He was told he would be given a chance to be a SP in 2023. However, the doubts that he will stay there are immense, and the hobby has almost 0 love for relievers. Most collectors will realize that’s almost surely where he’ll end up. I’m putting him here to state it for those that don’t – he’s likely to be a sinking ship from a hobby perspective from Day 1. He needs to be something like Josh Hader to avoid it.
Max’s Favorite: I’m going to take a chance on a prep pitcher here and go with Karson Milbrandt. Though he got a significantly overslot bonus, it was merely to draw him away from a Vanderbilt commitment. He’s a great athlete but lacks the high-level competition experience many preps have. I wonder if, with professional coaching, his curve/changeup combo and 96 MPH fastball with good analytics improve exponentially. I think he has the high upside the hobby likes, and he’ll be quite inexpensive to acquire.
Other Hobby-Significant prospects: Jacob Melton, Robert Moore, Walter Ford, Cade Doughty, Christopher Paciolla.

Picks 91-136

Best Value: Being drafted in the 4th Round has a stigma to it, even if Nazier Mule‘s bonus indicates a 2nd round value. Likely a pitcher but still working out at the complex as a 2-way player, Mule’s fastball has been over 100 MPH, and he has a potential plus slider. He’s too raw to say how he ends up, but based on his size and athleticism it’s clear that his ceiling is quite high.
Worst Value: Nobody. This is the fun part of the draft product, where nobody (except Porter) will be overly expensive to acquire. Get your guy and hope for the best!
Max’s Favorite: I don’t think it’s cheating if I take another overslot guy as my favorite, so I’ll go with Brenner Cox. Swayed from his Texas commitment by a $1 MM bonus, Cox is an excellent athlete with a good hit tool and projectable power. It’s the same reason we go after J15 prospects – there’s simply no reason to not like him as a dart throw. With the 4th round discount, I’ll do it all day.
Other Hobby-Significant prospects (less than previous groups): Gabriel Rincones, Alex Freeland, Kenya Huggins, Chase Meidroth, Anthony Hall, Dominic Keegan.

After Pick 136

Most of the 5th round and later players are auto-only subjects. It’s hard to have an overly positive outlook on these inclusions – most have the fatal hobby flaws of having little power, a poor hit tool projection, or are very likely relievers. There are worthwhile prospects in this range, but these players – such as Chandler Pollard, Tommy Specht, and Ryan Clifford – are not in the checklist. I will call out one player: Jared McKenzie. It’s thin reasoning, as pre-draft he was just a CF who struggled with wood bats and had good on-base skills. But in his debut (72 PA in Single-A) his hyper-aggressive approach worked, hitting .400 with 10 XBH. Could he have figured something out? We’ll see as he moves to a full season. Nathan Martorella also had a great pro debut, so he should also at least be on the radar as well.

Max Arterburn lives in the Milwaukee suburbs. He loves coaching baseball, karaoke, film, and spending time with his wife & 3 boys. He loves the Hobby & uses it as an avenue to obsessively follow prospects. He also loves critiquing card design & fancies 1998 UD3 as his favorite childhood set. He is not an Instagram model.

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