Most things about the 2022 MLB Draft class debuting in the Florida State League this past summer were about as expected. For starters, Termarr Johnson has impressive bat to ball skills. Another, Jacob Berry can impact the baseball. Some things, on the other hand, like Ben Ross in Fort Myers, were more in the category of pleasantly surprising. For better or worse, let’s take a look at some of the professional full season debuts that happened in the 2022 Florida State League.
About as Expected
Back to the bat of Termarr Johnson. The 4th overall pick in the 2022 Draft is listed at 5’7” and 175 lbs and he held his own in his professional full season debut for Bradenton. Hitting .275 accompanied by a healthy 18.9% BB rate in 53 plate appearances, the 14 game sample culminated in a .275/.396/.450 slash. A 24.5% strikeout rate might not be in line with how lauded the hit tool was before the draft, however, our 9th ranked draft prospect remains 18 years old until next summer. Next year figures to be a major one in his development, whether for Bradenton or beyond.
Sticking to bats performing about as expected out of the first round, we land on Kevin Parada, the 11th overall pick. The former Yellow Jacket had a dominant season at Georgia Tech in 2022, swatting 26 homers while batting .361 on his way to being named a Golden Spikes award finalist. The backstop played in 10 games for the St. Lucie Mets this summer and he hit one big fly while slashing .276/.463/.414. Our 5th ranked draft prospect could ride his polished bat to a big league debut sooner rather than later.
Another polished college bat in the FSL this summer was Jacob Berry. While he may not have a place to play in the field, the 21 year old was taken 6th overall by the Marlins out of LSU. Defensive questions aside, Berry impressed at the plate with Jupiter. The bat certainly plays at the level. Striking out only 15.5% of the time while clubbing 3 homers with a .264/.358/.392 slash, it was a performance in line with expectations for a college bat of his pedigree. The Hammerheads were the main beneficiaries and they surely had no complaints from our 9th ranked draft prospect. I imagine this was likely the last we’ll see of him in the FSL.
A much more athletic player than Berry, but one with a different set of unanswered questions around him, is Peyton Graham. The former Sooner played 27 games for the Lakeland Flying Tigers for his pro debut, skipping rookie complex ball entirely. His athleticism was certainty on display in Florida swiping 7 bags while hitting .270. Graham played 14 of his 21 games in the field at shortstop for what it’s worth. His long term defensive home, and his ultra wiry frame, will be worth monitoring as he progresses within the Detroit system. Graham slotted in at number 39 in our pre-draft rankings.
To cap things off in this section, we turn to the Yankees first round selection and behemoth of a person, Spencer Jones. Listed at 6’7″ Jones wasted no time in Florida crushing 3 homers in 22 games while slashing .325/.411/.494 for the Tarpons. The swing and miss in his game will be a major thing to watch for and so far so good for the Vanderbilt alum. Jones sported a 18.9% K rate to go along with a 10.5% BB rate. It was a full season debut the Yankees, and their fans alike, surely must be pleased with.
It wasn’t all first round picks debuting in Florida. 5th rounders did too and some turned heads with impressive showings. One of which was from Ben Ross, a 5th round selection out of Notre Dame College in Ohio. After hitting nearly .400 for a Notre Dame team that exceeded expectations this June, Ross has done that as well for the Mighty Mussels. Playing everywhere in the field save for CF and C, Ross logged the most games at short. Listed as 6’1” 180 lbs, the 21 year old stood out amongst the competition and not only for his long blonde locks. In 89 plate appearances, the Irish alum hit .257/.371/.446 with 3 homers and 6 steals. Ross has already begun to make his selection in the 5th round look like a wise one.
For another nice performance from a 5th round selection, we return to the Bradenton batter’s box, this time for outfielder Tres Gonzalez. The Pirates 5th round selection out of Georgia Tech hit .325/.413/.400 in 24 games this summer. He failed to clear the fence but swiped 7 bags. Gonzalez will be a name to watch in the upper minors after his performance in Florida.
Wanting for Impact
Shifting gears to a performance that left a bit to be desired, the Florida State League is in fact not always kind to newcomers. Josh Kasevich was one of my personal favorites in the draft as he showed plus bat to ball skills while at Oregon. Drafted 60th overall by the Jays in July, Kasevich played 25 games for Dunedin and it certainly wasn’t the most resounding debut for the former Duck. Playing shortstop the majority of the time, he slashed .262/.344/.336 while failing to register a homer or steal. Not a bad line by any means but not the most impactful for the former college bat. I remain optimistic about his ability as a hitter long term.
Nick covers the Florida State League for Prospects1500. Born and raised in the Bay Area he fell in love with the Oakland A’s at an early age. The A’s have never loved him back but that’s never stopped him from obsessing over all things baseball, especially prospects, the minor leagues, and dynasty baseball. Find him on Twitter @Leobaseball3.