Candidates for first overall pick in 2017 Draft

April 30th, 2017

The Twins, by virtue of their 59-103 record in 2016, have the first pick in the 2017 Draft. And while putting Hunter Greene atop the new MLB Pipeline Top 100 Draft prospects list was an easy call, he hasn't separated himself enough to make himself the obvious choice to actually go No. 1.

It seems like the Twins are still looking at seven possibilities with the opening pick, though some are more feasible than others. Here's a rundown and handicapping of all seven candidates, grouped by what appears to be the likelihood of that player going No. 1 as of right now, keeping in mind there are still six weeks until the Draft.

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The front-runners

Hunter Greene, RHP, Notre Dame High School, Calif.

It's easy to see why he's No. 1 on the Top 100: Up to triple digits consistently with his fastball, solid secondary offerings and plus athleticism that helps him be a first-round talent as an infielder. Perhaps the main mark against him is that a high school right-handed pitcher has never gone No. 1 overall, and there was some frustration in the scouting industry that he was shut down from pitching in late April for the remainder of the spring.

"He's an athletic kid and he's very young (still just 17), with a loose, quick arm," one scouting director said. "He's up to 100 mph, pitches with a well above-average fastball, a slider and a feel for a changeup."

Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Louisville

It's not surprising to hear that a top college arm and a top college bat are in the mix to go No. 1 overall. The fact that it's the same guy, well, that's a tad unusual. There is still very much a split camp on which way McKay will be asked to play once he is selected. He's an advanced lefty who really knows how to pitch and would get to the big leagues in a hurry on the mound. He's also a first baseman with an advanced approach at the plate, one who can hit for average and power and who would, you guessed it, get to the big leagues in a hurry with his bat.

"Obviously, his versatility stands out," the scouting director said. "He's been a starter ever since he got to school and has pitched on the weekends in meaningful games since he got on campus. He was up to 95 (mph) early, but even though that's backed up a little, he has a good curveball, a changeup and a really good feel for pitching. He also has the ability to play first, with a feel to hit and hit with power."

The contenders

Royce Lewis, SS/OF, JSerra Catholic High School, Calif.

There may not be a toolsier player in the class, and certainly not among those being considered at 1-1. Lewis can flat out fly and has the ability to square up baseballs, with power to come. The only questions about Lewis are where he plays defensively, shortstop or center field, and would the current struggles of make the new management in Minnesota pause before taking another toolsy high school bat with high upside.

"He's very athletic, a plus runner," the scouting director said. "He's a smart kid, has instincts and knows how to play the game. When you start with athleticism and an ability to play the game, that's a good start. He probably has to go to center field, depending on how he physically matures. But he's a middle of the diamond player, so that makes it an easier decision."

Pavin Smith, 1B, Virginia

This might fit the category of a "safe pick" at No. 1 overall. Outside of perhaps McKay, Smith is generally regarded as the best college bat in the class. He has a history of success at a very good program, showing the ability to control the strike zone and be the kind of run producer teams like at the infield corner. He's a solid defender as well.

"He has that hit and power combination as a first baseman," the scouting director said. "He has a proven track record as a hitter with plate discipline and power. That profiles well at first base."

Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt

Wright entered the spring as one of the college arms who had a chance to separate himself and be a serious contender to go in the top spot, a big college starter with outstanding stuff, exactly the profile of a top pick. But he stumbled out of the gate, denting his profile a bit. However, he's righted the ship over his last couple of starts and if he puts a few more of those together, he could still move into the front-runner category.

"He's a power-armed right-hander," the scouting director said about Wright's desirable profile. "He wasn't having the spring he wanted to have, but has the potential to have three plus pitches. He seems to be trending upward now."

The long shots

MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville HS (NC)

While there has never been a high school right-hander selected No. 1, there have been some prep lefties to go first, though David Clyde, Brien Taylor and Brady Aiken might not be the best models to follow. Gore has had some serious helium this spring and some evaluators have said they like his overall package of stuff and feel for pitching better than anyone in the class, include Greene, though that is far from the consensus. He has moved into definite top 10 position, if not top five.

"He's an athletic left-hander with a very loose arm," the scouting director said. "He gets very good extension on his pitches. Being a left-handed pitcher with a plus fastball doesn't hurt and he throws a lot of strikes with three pitches. He has an advanced feel for a high school kid."

Shane Baz, RHP, Concordia Lutheran HS (Texas)

If Gore or Baz were to go No. 1, it would undoubtedly be for a money-saving deal so the Twins could be aggressive later on in the Draft. But while Gore's name has moved into top-of-the-Draft consideration, Baz hasn't quite gotten there, though he has had a very good spring in Texas. But if the Twins were to take this high school right-hander instead of Greene, a deal would have been struck.

"He's a power-armed right-hander and he was just up to 97 mph in his last outing," the director said of Baz. "He throws an above-average slider, but doesn't need his changeup much. He's an athletic kid with pretty good arm action."