All of baseball will be looking to the future today as it gathers for the start of the 2018 Draft, and fans can watch all of it on MLB Network and MLB.com.:: 2018 Draft coverage ::On Monday, MLB Network's Draft preview show begins at 6 p.m. ET, leading to the
All of baseball will be looking to the future today as it gathers for the start of the 2018 Draft, and fans can watch all of it on MLB Network and MLB.com.
:: 2018 Draft coverage ::
On Monday, MLB Network's Draft preview show begins at 6 p.m. ET, leading to the start of the real action at 7 p.m. There will be a total of 78 picks made on Monday, the first 43 of those broadcast live on MLB Network while every pick, from those 43 and the remaining 35 on Monday, to all 900 on Days 2 and 3 of the Draft, will be streamed live on MLB.com.
Here are 10 top storylines to watch as the Draft rapidly approaches:
1. What will Tigers do at No. 1?
It makes sense to start right at the top, doesn't it? The Tigers are still discussing three players for the top spot. Auburn's Casey Mize, No. 1 on MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 200 list, remains the front-runner. Scouts were able to get a last pre-Draft look at Mize during Auburn's Regional action as he gave up just one run on four hits, walking two and striking out 11 over seven innings against Army on Saturday. Other names still in the conversation: Georgia Tech's Joey Bart, who most see as the No. 2 choice, and Florida's Brady Singer.
2. Will a high schooler crack the top 5?
It doesn't seem likely, though it's not impossible. Mountain Ridge (Ariz.) HS left-hander Matthew Liberatore is the only prep player being discussed in that top spot. The Giants seem to have interest in SoCal right-hander Cole Winn as a money-saving option at No. 2. The White Sox have talked about Nick Schnell in the same way at No. 4. But as of now, the most plausible top five, and maybe even six, involves all college players: Mize and Singer on the pitching side; Bart, Witchita State's Alec Bohm, Oregon State's Nick Madrigal and Florida's Jonathan India on the hitting side.
3. Speaking of high schoolers, when will those high school arms go?
Assuming they don't sneak up to those top spots, it seems like No. 7 is the first landing spot for a high schooler, and the Padres have been linked to many prep arms, starting with Liberatore. Florida high school right-hander Carter Stewart gets mentioned here as well. If Winn doesn't go No. 2, the most talked about landing spots for him are at No. 10 or 11. Lefty Ryan Weathers, David's kid, comes up in some of the same spots and he and Stewart also seem likely to come off the board in the top half of the first round. The next tier includes Georgia right-handers Cole Wilcox and Kumar Rocker, who seem to come up in the end of the first round into the comp picks.
It's a little trickier to project a pair of very talented prep right-handers, Ethan Hankins and Mason Denaburg. Both have had some injury issues, Hankins with a minor shoulder problem very early in the spring and Denaburg with a biceps injury that kept him out for a good chunk of his season. Both returned to the mound to answer some of those concerns, but it means they could go anywhere from the middle of the first round into the Comp Round A (picks 36-43).
4. What will Royals and Rays do with five Day 1 picks?
Because of all of those picks, the Royals and Rays have the two largest bonus pools for the top 10 rounds this year, with Tampa Bay narrowly ahead of Detroit. That should allow both teams to continue their farm system restocking process aggressively. Some of those aforementioned high school arms, who might be top of the first round talents, could fall to these teams' picks in the 30s. They also have the ability to potentially go after players deemed to be tough signs, like two-sport star Jordyn Adams (more on him below).
5. It's not just rebuilding teams with several early selections. The Indians and Cubs have four picks each on Monday. How will they approach them?
While perhaps it doesn't seem fair that two of the more successful teams in the last couple of years have multiple Day 1 selections, they do. The Cubs' extra picks come at the end of the second round after losing Wade Davis and Jacob Arrieta via free agency. The Indians added a pick though the Competitive Balance Lottery and one earlier for losing free agent Carlos Santana. That gives Cleveland, at just over $9.1 million, a pool that's more thant $1.5 million larger than the Cubs ($7.5+ million). The Indians have a larger pool than any other 2017 playoff team and the Cubs trail only the D-backs and Rockies, who each have Competitive Balance Round picks. Both organizations have shown how well they can build a farm system, with the Cubs a little more barren than the Indians currently. They may not have the same financial wherewithal as the Royals and Rays, but the flexibility should allow them to add a very strong influx of talent on Monday alone.
6. When will the trio of first-round Florida Gators come off the board?
We've already mentioned Singer and India, albeit in passing. Both should hear their names called inside of the top 10, and quite possibly the top five. Singer, the Gators' ace, is still in that No. 1 conversation, though most believe him to be on the outside looking in. He's in play at No. 2 and No. 4, with most believing he won't get past the Reds at No. 5. India, the infielder whose junior season has catapulted him into the top 10, has potential landing spots at No. 5 and No. 6 to the Mets. Gator No. 3 is Jackson Kowar, the Saturday starter, who has tremendous stuff, but perhaps not the same polish as Singer. He seems like a potential fit at No. 19 (Cardinals) or No. 20 (Twins).
7. Kyler Murray and Jordyn Adams are the top two two-sport stars in this class. Will they get drafted and, more importantly, will they sign?
Baseball continues to try to attract premium athletes to the sport, and these are two of the best in the class. Murray has the chance to take over from the Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma. Adams has the opportunity to play football and baseball at the University of North Carolina. While Murray could have been a first-rounder in high school had he not been set on playing football in college, he didn't play his freshman year at Texas A&M and didn't play well, or a lot, after he transferred to Oklahoma. But he's been very impressive this year and his tools are showing up consistently on the baseball field. A team taking him would either have to pay him enough to walk away from being the quarterback at OU or allow him to do both, kind of like what the Blue Jays did with Anthony Alford.
Adams burst onto the national landscape with a strong showing at USA Baseball's National High School Invitational, in his own backyard, and he's had a very strong spring that has led his name to come up in first-round conversations, particularly with those teams with multiple picks. A talented wide receiver, he moved to Green Hope High School in Cary, N.C., because his father is now UNC's defensive line coach. It will take someone with a larger pool and flexibility to sign him away from playing for the Tar Heels.
8. Who will be the biggest surprise to land in the first round?
As is always the case, names pop up late in terms of who will go in the first round, though at this point, most of those names have come up in mock Drafts. There's been Draft Buzz on Schnell, Grant Lavigne and Osiris Johnson potentially landing in the opening round of the Draft. There's also some buzz about Virginia outfielder Jake McCarthy sneaking into the tail end of the first. Schnell seems the most likely to go in the top 35, but it wouldn't be a shock if Lavigne went there, too.
9. Who will be the biggest surprise to slide out of the first round?
Given what's been said about the high school right-handers with the injury concerns, perhaps it wouldn't be that big of a surprise. But Hankins was once thought to be a top of the Draft type of talent, and Denaburg was moving up into top 10 consideration. It's not completely unreasonable to see them landing in round 2 (in which case, they'd likely still sign).
10. Who will be the first player born in 2000 to get drafted?
That's right, there are a number of potential first-rounders who don't know what it means to party like it's 1999. There are eight players in the top 50 who were born in 2000, none younger than Lenny Torres Jr. (No. 47), who doesn't turn 18 until Oct. 15. But the one most likely to come off the board first is third baseman and No. 12 prospect Nolan Gorman (May 10) from Arizona. Miami area corner infielder Triston Casas (Jan. 15), No. 20 on the Top 200, could go soon thereafter, and we've talked about Schnell (March 27). Hankins (May 23), Noah Naylor (Feb. 21), Alek Thomas (April 28) and Adam Kloffenstein (Aug. 25) all could go in the top 35 picks.
We may even see the first draftee born in the new millennium this year. Taj Bradley, a Georgia prep right-hander who is No. 172 on our Top 200 list, was born on March 20 2001!
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.