In his first mock draft of the year, Keith Law of The Athletic has the Red Sox selecting Clemson University third baseman Max Wagner with their top pick at No. 24 overall.
Wagner is not regarded by publications such as Baseball America or MLB Pipeline as one of the top prospects in the 2022 draft class, but Law has identified the 20-year-old infielder as one of the draft’s up-and-comers.
“Wagner is one of the fastest risers in the draft this year after a stretch in April where he hit 12 homers in 14 games, putting him second in Division I right now behind Texas’ Alex Melendez,” Law wrote on Thursday. “His pull-heavy approach would play very well in Fenway or Minute Maid [Park], although I’m not sure he’s going to stay on the dirt.”
Coming into play on Thursday, the right-handed hitter has slashed a stout .377/.506/.863 with 15 doubles, one triple, 24 home runs, 69 RBIs, 61 runs scored, one stolen base, 42 walks, and 43 strikeouts through his first 53 games (236 plate appearances) with the Tigers this season.
Defensively, Wagner has seen all his playing time in college come at third base. As noted by Law, though, the draft-eligible sophomore from Green Bay could be best suited for the outfield given his 6-foot, 215-pound frame.
That Wagner, who turns 21 in August, has posted a ridiculous 1.370 OPS this year is impressive when you consider the fact that he struggled to the tune of a .651 OPS in 35 games as a freshman. The improvement, per Law, comes from a swing change.
“Wagner changed his swing after an underwhelming freshman year for Clemson,” he wrote in his scouting report, “and now the draft-eligible sophomore is destroying fastballs with plus-plus power to his pull side, and shows solid command of the strike zone, although his defense at third isn’t great and he might end up in an outfield corner.”
The Red Sox last used as first-round pick on a college infielder in 2012, when they took Deven Marrero out of Arizona State University. Fast forward 10 years, and the assigned slot value for the 24th overall selection in the 2022 draft — which begins in Los Angeles on July 17 — comes in at roughly $2.975 million.
Will Boston use its first-round pick this year on a more experienced player such as Wagner? Or will they use it on a more highly-touted high schooler like Dylan Lesko? The next two months could determine the answers to these questions.
(Picture of Max Wagner: Bart Boatwright/The Clemson Insider)