The 2022 MLB Draft may still be six months away, but it should now start to come into focus more with the college baseball season slated to begin next week.
With that, Baseball America released the first version of their 2022 mock draft on Thursday, and they have the Red Sox taking a college bat with their top pick.
Boston owns the 24th overall selection in this summer’s draft after finishing last season with the seventh-best (or 24th-worst) record in baseball. As of now, the club is projected to take Mississippi State University catcher Logan Tanner.
In explaining why he has the Sox going in this direction, Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo writes that he does not “have much feel for the Red Sox pick tendencies, especially in this range. They’ve taken prep infielders in each of the last three drafts but all of those picks are quite a bit different both in terms of bonus, draft position, and player profile.”
Collazo adds that at this point in the mock draft, Tanner is the best player available as he comes into the year regarded by Baseball America as its No. 17 draft-eligible prospect, which ranks third among catchers in the class.
Tanner, 21, is preparing for his junior season with Mississippi State. The right-handed hitting backstop is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he batted .287/.383/.525 with 13 doubles, 15 home runs, 53 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 39 walks, and 48 strikeouts over 67 games (285 plate appearances) while helping the Bulldogs win a national championship.
Defensively, Tanner made 57 appearances behind the plate as a sophomore and threw out 11 baserunners who attempted to steal off him. Per his Baseball America scouting report, the 6-foot, 215 pounder is “the top catch-and-throw backstop in the class. His arm is a clear tier ahead of most other catchers in the class, with double-plus grades and should allow him to keep the running game in check.”
MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, has Tanner listed as its 19th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, right behind his battery mate in right-hander Landon Sims.
In their evaluation of Tanner’s offensive approach, MLB Pipeline notes that the Lucedale, Miss. native’s “strength and bat speed give him legitimate power to all fields from the right side of the plate, and he might provide 20-25 homers per year if he can lift more balls in the air. He draws walks, makes contact and has done damage against quality pitching at the college level. He’s a well below-average runner but that’s excusable for a catcher.”
As Opening Day for the college baseball season approaches, Tanner has been named to the preseason All-SEC first team and Perfect Game’s preseason All-America third team.
If the Red Sox were to select Tanner in this year’s draft, it would mark the first time since 2011 in which they used a first-round pick on a catcher (Blake Swihart). As Collazo previously alluded to, Boston has used its last three first-round selections on prep infielders in shortstop Marcelo Mayer (2021), second baseman Nick Yorke (2020), and first baseman Triston Casas (2018). They were without a first-rounder in 2019.
Last July marked the second time straight year the Red Sox had chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni orchestrating the club’s draft efforts.
Of the 20 players Boston selected in 2021, only one — Nathan Hickey — was a catcher. Hickey, like Tanner, played his college ball in the SEC for the University of Florida.
According to one scout, Tanner would surpass Hickey and emerge as the top catching prospect in Boston’s farm system if he were to join the Red Sox this summer.
All that being said, who the Sox take in this year’s draft has yet to be determined and plenty can change once the high school and college baseball seasons get rolling in the spring.
(Picture of Logan Tanner: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)