The lockout may be wearing on in Major League Baseball, but minor league and amateur baseball continues apace. The lean winter months are when we at LL traditionally start preparing for the next year’s draft, and this year that tradition will be especially spirit-fueling as things remain quiet on the MLB front.
As a reminder, the Mariners this year will pick 21st in the Draft, right behind the World Series Champion Atlanta Braves. That’s a fun and not at all infuriating sentence to type. MLB Pipeline just dropped their Top 100 Draft Prospects list, so we’ll be starting out this year’s series by looking at who might be available around when the Mariners are slated to pick, while understanding these lists will vary wildly between now and draft day. But hey, you gotta start somewhere, so let’s start right at #21 on MLB’s current iteration of the list: infielder Cameron Collier.
As a high schooler, Collier was expected to be a top-five prospect in the 2023 draft before electing to reclassify into the 2022 draft, withdrawing from his Georgia high school and earning his GED before enrolling at Chipola College, a Florida junior college well-known for producing draft prospects. That means instead of being one of the older prep prospects in 2023, Collier, who just turned 17 in November, will be one of the youngest prospects in the ‘22 draft. In an August Instagram post announcing his decision to reclassify, Collier thanked his father, eight-season MLB veteran Lou Collier, for his guidance, along with former big-league mentors like Marquis Grissom and Marvin Freeman.
Like dad Lou, Cam Collier is a third baseman, although at 6’2”/210, he’s significantly bigger and stronger than his pops. His already-strong lower half leads some scouts to wonder if the younger Collier might eventually wind up a corner outfielder if his body continues to mature, but he draws praise at the hot corner for smooth footwork, a strong and accurate throwing arm, and solid defensive instincts. His defense has stood out at various showcase events, not necessarily with shiny highlight plays that blow up draft Twitter, but through capable consistency, solid fundamentals, and an innate ability to read the ball off the bat and react quickly that results in plays like this:
Georgia 2022 infielder Cam Collier (@Cam_Collier16) taking a flawless round of infield and showing off his smooth lefty stroke at our @NB_Baseball @P15Sports @ftrstarsseries Main Event. @LouisvilleBSB commit pic.twitter.com/FqbahGGjFW— New Balance (@ftrstarsseries) October 1, 2021
As intriguing as Collier’s defense at the hot corner is—especially considering the historical dearth of third base prospects in Seattle’s system—it’s not always productive to spend a lot of time discussing the future defensive position of someone who can’t even vote yet. Like most premier prep prospects, Collier has also seen success on the mound as a pitcher—and that arm strength certainly shows up in his throws from third—but it’s his hit and power tools that will make his future in professional baseball. As one might expect from a player who grew up steeped in the game and playing against older competition, Collier has a more-advanced-than-his-years approach at the plate, displaying patience in the batter’s box in selecting pitches he can drive to all fields without selling out for power. He can work a long at-bat and make mature adjustments on the fly even while down in the count.
Collier’s effortless lefty swing has earned him significant acclaim on the showcase circuit. Beginning from a wide stance to make use of that massive lower-half power, he has a relatively simple load, just a slight slide-step back with his lead foot, and quiet hands, relying on his natural strength to drive the ball. If you, like me, dislike the aesthetics of a longball-geared, violent swing of the Bellinger/Olson/Harper variety, bathe your eyeballs in the velvet smoothness of Collier’s swing:
The pure pulchritude of Collier’s swing is often described with adjectives like “effortless” or “easy,” but I personally favor “buttery.” And not that store brand barely-yellow stuff, but the rich, creamy, European butter that costs like ten dollars a stick.
From both a skills and makeup perspective, Collier seems like a solid match for the Mariners, and he’s the right age to slot into that next wave of prospects headlined by 2021 first-rounder Harry Ford. There is, unfortunately, a possibility he climbs out of the Mariners’ clutches with a strong performance in his jump-started college career. Currently MLB Pipeline are the high ones on Collier, with many other outlets positioning him later or outside of the first round entirely; FanGraphs, which has him in the mid-20s, isn’t sold on the consistent quality of Collier’s contact, noting his swing path could be limiting, and others have noted that with his physical body likely close to maxed-out, there’s less ceiling and projection than in the typical prep prospect. Collier’s tools, while solid, aren’t as loud as the kinds of things that generate top-of-the-charts-type buzz, and his speed grade has been dinged with some below-average running times, which keeps him in the Mariners’ draft vicinity for now. And while all that is subject to change between now and draft day, Mariners fans might consider following along with Collier’s college career, however short it might be.