Predicting Draft's top 3 picks, first 5 college arms

April 26th, 2019

I don't know why this still bothers me, but it does. Kyler Murray was taken with the No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft tonight, and there are so many misconceptions about how the Athletics "bungled" the No. 9 overall choice in the MLB Draft last June when they spent it on Murray and let him play quarterback for a season at Oklahoma.

Murray, whose passion always has been football, had waited three years to be the undisputed starter at a college program. He wasn't going to sign if an MLB team wasn't going to give him that opportunity. No NFL team considered him anywhere close to the quarterback prospect he became, in large part because of his lack of size, so the very reasonable assumption was that he would join the A's full-time after spending the fall with the Sooners.

There were plenty of other teams who coveted Murray, and he draws comparisons to Andrew McCutchen (the most common) and Rickey Henderson (on the high end). If Oakland had passed on him, another club would have taken him soon afterward. It's unfortunate for the A's and for baseball that Murray is headed to the NFL, but it's silly to blame them for taking what looked like a relatively safe gamble to land an elite talent.

We'll have a full first-round projection next week, when MLB Pipeline revamps its Draft prospect rankings and expands from 50 to 100. But I'll give you a quick taste.

Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman entered 2019 as the favorite for the Orioles' No. 1 overall pick, and he only has strengthened his cause with a fabulous spring. A lot can happen between now and June 3, but as of now I'd be quite surprised if he doesn't head to Baltimore.

Texas high schooler Bobby Witt Jr., a potential five-tool shortstop, makes the most sense at No. 2 for the Royals. They spent the 14th overall choice in 2017 on a first baseman (Nick Pratto), which makes it easier to pass on the best all-around hitter in this Draft. That's California first baseman Andrew Vaughn, who seems like a good fit for the White Sox at No. 3.

For more on this question, watch the video at the top of this Inbox.

This is the lightest crop of first-round-worthy pitchers from four-year colleges that I can remember in 30 years of covering the Draft. There are five consensus first-rounders in 2019, compared to an average of nine selected in the opening round of the previous five Drafts.

Texas Christian left-hander Nick Lodolo likely will be the first arm selected this June, with West Virginia right-hander Alek Manoah (10 hits, no walks, 41 strikeouts over 26 innings in his last three starts) coming up fast behind him. Teams line up the other three college candidates in a variety of ways; my order would be Kentucky lefty Zack Thompson, Elon righty George Kirby and Campbell righty Seth Johnson.

Junior college pitchers are a separate group from four-year college hurlers, but San Jacinto (Texas) JC right-hander Jackson Rutledge should go in the upper half of the first round. He barely pitched at Arkansas as a freshman but his stuff rivals anyone's in this Draft.

I find it hard to believe that Langeliers would get out of the top half of the first round. The Baylor star is one of the best defensive catchers in the last decade, a quality receiver with athleticism and agility, not to mention a cannon arm.

Langeliers did create some questions about his bat when he hit .252/.351/.496 as a sophomore, and he's not at full strength after breaking the hamate in his left hand early in the season and returning after just three weeks -- which is unheard of, especially for a catcher. He's batting .331/.404/.496 anyway, making consistent contact and showing the potential for at least average power. He reminds me of Austin Hedges with more offensive upside, so he should fit somewhere in the 7-15 range.

How do you feel about the Midwest college class and who do you think will be drafted first?

-- David G., Green Bay, Wis.

It's a relatively strong year in the Midwest, which could produce as many as a dozen players selected in the first three rounds. The first choice likely will be Missouri outfielder Kameron Misner, who has some of the best all-around tools in the Draft but hasn't performed well in Southeastern Conference play.

The Midwest is home to a second potential first-rounder in Illinois high school right-hander Quinn Priester. The region's strength is college pitching with Butler righty Ryan Pepiot, Missouri lefty T.J. Sikkema, Ball State righty Drey Jameson, Michigan lefty Tommy Henry, Wayne State (Mich.) righty Hunter Brown and Kansas righty Ryan Zeferjahn. It's also home to a junior college lefty who gets mentioned in the same breath as David Price (Antoine Kelly of Wabash Valley, Ill.) and one of the most polished high school arms (righty Avery Short from Southport High in Indianapolis).

My top five prospects in the Midwest:

1. Kameron Misner, OF, Missouri
2. Quinn Priester, RHP, Cary-Grove Community HS (Cary, Ill.)
3. Ryan Pepiot, RHP, Butler
4. T.J. Sikkema, LHP, Missouri
5. Drey Jameson, RHP, Ball State