What if the top 5 Draft picks went according to need?

May 28th, 2024

This story was excerpted from MLB Pipeline's newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Unlike the NFL and NBA, players in the MLB Draft almost never make immediate contributions at the big league level. That's why baseball teams don't select based on need in the first round, especially at the top.

But what if they did? Here's how the first five picks might play out ...

Guardians: Charlie Condon, OF/3B, Georgia
Cleveland finished last in the Majors in home runs last season and second to last in 2022. The Guardians currently own the third-best record in baseball, thanks in part to a power surge that has them 10th in homers, but they could use more true homer threats in their lineup beyond Josh Naylor and José Ramírez. Enter Condon, who leads NCAA Division I in batting (.443), slugging (1.043, the sixth-highest mark ever), OPS (1.601), homers (35, a BBCOR-era record), extra-base hits (55) and total bases (219). He offers the best combination of pop, contact and plate discipline in this class.

Reds: Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas
Though Cincinnati's lineup has been its weak link this year, the organization has more promising young hitters than places to play them and has ranked 13th in the National League in ERA in each of the last two seasons. After taking Wake Forest right-hander Rhett Lowder seventh overall a year ago, the Reds could upgrade their pitching again with Smith. Thanks to a wipeout fastball/slider combination, he's on pace to set a D-I record for strikeout rate (17.5 per nine innings) and also leads the nation in ERA (1.48) and opponent average (.139).

Rockies: Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest
It's difficult for pitchers to thrive at Coors Field and even harder to entice free-agent arms to go there, but it's no coincidence that Colorado's five playoff appearances in franchise history have coincided with success on the mound. Like Smith, Burns destroys hitters with his fastball and slider and his K rate (17.4 per nine innings) is the second-highest in D-I history. He tops the nation with 184 strikeouts and has fanned 71 batters in 33 frames over his last five starts.

Athletics: Jac Caglianone, 1B/LHP, Florida
Oakland could generate some fan interest with the top two-way player available. At the very least, Caglianone would give the A's a player to build their lineup around. After topping D-I with 33 homers while leading Florida to the College World Series finals in 2023, he's slashing .415/.525/.844 with 29 longballs and a minuscule 8 percent strikeout rate. He also can run his fastball up to 99 mph, though he'll probably concentrate solely on hitting as a pro.

White Sox: Travis Bazzana, 2B, Oregon State
Chicago has the worst record in baseball and ranks last in batting, on-base percentage and slugging. The White Sox could take steps toward correcting those deficiencies with Bazzana, the best pure hitter available, and he'd also plug the biggest hole in a lineup full of them. Rivaling Condon as the top player in the Draft, Bazzana is slashing .418/.581/.939 with 26 homers, ranking first in D-I in on-base percentage, second in slugging and OPS (1.520) and third in batting.