Prospect Watch: Here are eight MLB draft candidates worth watching during the College World Series

The NCAA Men’s World College Series 2022 will begin on Friday after eight teams broke their tickets to Omaha, Nebraska, in recent weeks. These teams are: Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Texas, Notre Dame, Stanford, Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss. The national champion will be crowned no later than Monday, June 27.

With that in mind, this week’s Prospect Watch aims to highlight one player from each team who can be named next month in the Major League Baseball amateur draft. Keep in mind that the teams are presented in alphabetical order and that most teams had multiple candidates to choose from.

Arkansas: Kayden Wallace, 3B / OF

Wallace played a full game at third base in 2022, having previously split his time, both in his first season with the Razorbacks and in the Cape Cod League, between the hot corner and the outside corner. He hit .299 / .393 / .554 with 15 home runs and 17 doubles as a 20-year-old SEC player and did so while improving his drawing and walking speed. Wallace is a sophomore who qualifies for the draft, but his performance and increased chances of remaining in third base should make him come off the board in the first two rounds. Injured right-hander Peyton Pallet and infiltrator Robert Moore, son of Royals CEO Dayton Moore, also have to rank relatively high in the draft.

Auburn: Sony DiCiara, 1B

DiChiara, a transfer from Samford, hit the SEC pitching to the tune of the .320 / .460 / .665 slash with 22 home runs and 17 more walks than outsouts. As good as his season was, he faces a tough battle to be selected in the first few rounds. Common remarks about him are that he is older (he will turn 23 before the end of July) and that he is the right hand, which offers limited protective value.

Notre Dame: Jack Branigan, 3B / RHP

Branigan is a two-sided player who has appeared in more than 50 games as third baseman and who has also stepped on the mound 11 times throughout the season. It remains to be seen which role the professional teams will prefer for him, as there are pros and cons in each direction. He is a talented defender who has hit .296 / .361 / .557 with 12 home runs this season, although he did so while posting an ugly 2.55 draw-to-walk ratio. He has good arm strength on Branigan Hill, and he hit 28 of the 68 bumps he faced, although he gave walks to eight of them.

Oklahoma: Peyton Graham, SS

Graham jumped around the diamond during his stay in the Cape Cod League last summer. He is almost exclusively shortstop this season, hitting .336 / .416 / .660 with 20 home runs and 32 stolen bases (in 34 attempts) on the road. Graham did hit more than 2.5 times more often as he walked, and it’s reasonable to wonder how that would affect professional pitchers. However, some teams will probably be fascinated by his projected 6-foot 4 and 171-pound frame, his collection of physical gifts and his belief that the best is yet to come. Graham can get off the board in the top 50 selections.

Ole Miss: Hayden Dunhurst, K.

Dunhurst has some juice in his bat, but he will not be selected because of the strength of his offensive talents. (His .802 OPS ranked eighth out of 11 Rebels with at least 100 entries.) Rather, his catching and throwing abilities – with a focus on the throwing part – should earn him a selection before the first few rounds.

Texas A&M: Trevor Werner, 3B

Werner had 11 games in his first two seasons at Texas A&M, but he focused solely on playing in third base this season. Perhaps, as expected, he showed his best offensive so far, hitting .252 / .362 / .487 with six home runs. Werner has a big frame (6-3, 220) and obvious strength. Whoever prepares it will have to work on their approach, as he excelled in more than 21 percent of his performances.

Texas: Ivan Melendez, 1B

Melendez was selected in the 16th round by Marlins last summer, but was selected to return to Texas. The big 12 pitchers would certainly wish he hadn’t. He achieved .396 / .516 / .888 with 32 home runs (the most since the recovery of the bat odds in 2011) and four walks more (52) than outing (48) in 65 games. Melendez has tremendous stern power, to the point that he has to overcome his right-wing bias and be elected to the top 100. The Longhorns have several others who can also fall into this range, including catcher Silas Ardoin, shortstop Trey Faltain and left-hander Pete Hansen.

Stanford: Brock Jones, OF

Jones is a former footballer who offers strength and speed in bushels. He hit .327 / .455 / .665 with 20 home runs and 15 stolen thefts (in 20 attempts) this season. The trick is that Jones is inclined to strike out, with a K percentage north of 24 percent. A team that believes their player development team can help maximize Jones’ abundant athleticism can kill him at the end of the first round.

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