The Detroit Tigers selected Peyton Graham with the No. 51 pick in the 2022 MLB draft on Sunday night.
The shortstop out of Oklahoma is fresh off helping lead the Sooners to a runner-up finish in the College World Series. While doing so, he became the first Division I player with 20 home runs and 30 steals in a season since 2004.
The 21-year-old had a .335 average with 20 homers, 70 RBIs and 87 hits in 260 at-bats for OU in 2021. Ranked as the No. 28 prospect by MLB Pipeline, he joins second baseman Jace Jung as the Tigers’ first two picks in the draft.
Here are five things to know about the former Sooner:
He ended 2022 red-hot
Graham and Oklahoma’s 2022 season got off to a lackluster start.
After losing a three-game series to rival Oklahoma State in mid April, the Sooners were 19-12 and in the middle of the Big 12 standings. Graham and company then caught fire, and went on to win five straight series en route to OU’s third-ever Big 12 tournament championship.
The win also clinched OU’s spot in the NCAA tournament, where the Sooners won the Gainesville Regional and Blacksburg Super Regional before going 3-0 in the CWS to qualify for the championship round. Oklahoma lost the title bout to Ole Miss in two games.
In postseason play, Graham tallied 16 hits, 11 RBIs and four home runs. He also recorded his third grand slam of the season in the 16-3 win over Liberty in its first game of the tournament.
His unique resume
When the Sooners met Notre Dame in the College World Series, Graham pulled off a feat that hasn’t been done in 38 years.
In the 6-2 win, Graham tallied four hits and two steals. The last collegiate player to do this was Arizona State’s Barry Bonds in 1984.
He also ended the game with one run. In total, Graham led the Sooners in home runs, RBIs, runs scored, and stolen bases in the 2022 campaign.
His quiet high school career
Graham wasn’t a big name coming out of Waxahachie High School in Texas.
Despite hitting .374 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 99 at-bats and earning a Texas High School All-Star Game appearance, Graham was ranked as the No. 153 prospect and No. 27 shortstop in the state by Perfect Game in 2019. Still, he didn’t need long to make an instant impact at OU.
Before COVID-19 cut the 2020 season short, Graham had a .358 average with three homers, 10 RBIs and eight steals. His efforts landed him All-America honors.
In 2021, he started all 53 games at third base for the Sooners and batted .288 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs en route to second team All-Big 12 recognition.
What experts are saying
With two picks down and 17 more to go for the Tigers, draft experts are high on Detroit’s selections so far.
MLB Pipeline notes Graham’s struggles in early 2022, but wrote his quick adjustments to his swing allowed to improve his game and boost his draft stock.
“Graham has drawn some comparisons to Brian Anderson and his defensive versatility adds to his appeal,” the site’s scouting report of Graham reads. “His quickness, reliable hands and strong arm make him an average defender at shortstop, where he moved this season, and solid at third base, where he spent his first two years at Oklahoma and likely will return in pro ball if he slows down as he matures physically. He might be able to handle second base at the next level and impressed scouts when he played the outfield in the (Cape Cod Baseball League).”
D1 Baseball’s Kendall Rodgers tweeted shortly after Graham’s selection that he loves the pick.
“(Graham) has a wiry frame, but generated plenty of power for the Sooners this past season,” Rodgers wrote in the tweet. “Interested to see if he sticks at SS at the next level, too.”
His relationship with Jung
Graham and Jung go way back.
The two were roommates while playing for the Santa Barbara Foresters in summer tw years ago.
Graham earned player of the week honors for Santa Barbara after hitting .389 with four RBIs and a home run in a 6-0 win. He later played for Yarmouth-Dennis in 2021, where he had 81 at-bats for two homers and seven RBIs on a .247 average. He also had three stolen bases.
Chandler Engelbrecht is a reporting intern at The Detroit Free Press and can be reached at CEngelbrecht@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @ctengelbrecht.