Latest mock: There's a new top pick

June 23rd, 2023

Allow me to take a moment to break down how I think the Pirates’ decision-making process will go in the next couple of weeks as they hone in on who they will take with the No. 1 overall pick on July 9.

As of right now, they are still digging into the top five prospects we’ve been discussing for a while: LSU teammates Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes, Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford and high school outfielders Walker Jenkins and Max Clark. There obviously are all sorts of considerations all the teams up top will take into consideration, from the evaluation of the player and trying to build a consensus, if possible, as to how much it will cost to sign the desired player. But how will the Pirates whittle it down from five to one? It could go something like this.

First, they’ll put the players into different categories. Skenes, the lone pitcher, and the prospect I’ve decided to put in the top spot for this week’s mock, is kind of on his own. Crews and Langford belong in one basket as the college outfielders; Jenkins and Clark go in the other as the prepsters. Then the Pirates brass will look to rank within each group, deciding which college bat they like better and then doing the same with the high schoolers.

Once that’s completed, the logic goes, the Pirates can cut their list from five to three, as they’d remove the No. 2 guy in each of those categories from consideration. The only reason they wouldn’t do that would be a financial one, and it would have to be considerable for that to enter into play. To play this exercise out, let’s guess they have Crews ahead of Langford and Clark over Jenkins. That would mean that the field would become Skenes, Crews and Clark and Pittsburgh would go from there in deciding who to take 1-1.

1. Pirates: Paul Skenes, RHP, Louisiana State (No. 2 Draft Prospect)
Jim Callis and I have had Crews in this spot in every mock, and there’s still a very good chance the outfielder claims the top spot. But Skenes is still very much in play, with stuff many feel could get big league hitters out right now. So I decided to switch things up on the heels of his College World Series performance that saw him hit triple-digits with his fastball 46 times and saw him become the first college pitcher to hit 200 strikeouts in a season in a dozen years.

2. Nationals: Dylan Crews, OF, Louisiana State (No. 1)
There seems to be a little split thinking among the industry about what the Nats will do if the Pirates don’t take Crews. Some think they would pass on him because of outfield depth in their system, but that might only be if the Pirates also don’t select Skenes, who seems like a perfect fit for Washington. So if the Pirates take the right-hander, it’s a little harder to envision the Nationals not taking the No. 1 prospect in the class.

3. Tigers: Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida (No. 3)
The Tigers seem to be continuing to look at hitters, and Crews wouldn’t get past here, it seems. With him gone, having them go with the next college bat in Langford, whose 1.251 OPS as of Thursday is right there with Crews’ 1.287, makes a lot of sense. Like with all the teams at the top, they’ll continue to look at Clark and Jenkins as well.

4. Rangers: Max Clark, OF, Franklin (Ind.) HS (No. 5)
There are those who feel Jenkins is the clear choice here, especially if the top three goes as I’ve laid it out this week, and that’s certainly possible. But there are those who do like Clark and his five-tool potential, which could lead to a spirited debate in the Draft room.

5. Twins: Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C. (No. 4)
The safe play is to have the Twins taking whatever top five player is left here, and in this case, it’s Jenkins. And he’s certainly an option. If they decide to go in another direction, they are still considering the next tier of college bats (Jacob Wilson, Jacob Gonzalez, Kyle Teel), looking at college arms (Rhett Lowder and Chase Dollander, though Dollander might be a tougher sell now) and the top high school pitcher in the class, Noble Meyer.

6. Athletics: Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon (No. 7)
It’s wide open after the top five, and if none of them drop to the A’s, the prevailing thought is they’ll lean towards a hitter, while not ruling out Lowder or Dollander just yet. That includes guys like Teel, Gonzalez and Brayden Taylor, but I’m giving them Wilson this go-round to reflect some buzz about how good he looks in team models because of things like his contact rate (a strikeout rate of less than three percent the last two years), strike zone awareness, chase rate, ability to play shortstop and his strong performance over the summer for Team USA.

7. Reds: Kyle Teel, C, Virginia (No. 10)
This is another possible landing spot for Lowder and Dollander, and they’ll continue to look at the top high school arms in Meyer and lefty Thomas White (though my suspicion is they would have more interest in him with one of their ensuing picks should he get there). Wilson, Gonzalez and Teel are the college bats in play, with Teel’s strong season and ability to stick behind the plate the choice this week.

8. Royals: Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS, Portland, Ore. (No. 11)
There are a number of prepsters being considered here, with Meyer perhaps at the top of the list. If they want to go the offensive route, this is possible landing spot for Arjun Nimmala. Those top two college arms remain in play, as well.

9. Rockies: Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest (No. 8)
With all of the talk about bat preferences above, it’s refreshing that it’s mostly arms that are brought up here. Lowder’s consistency and feel for pitching might give him the slight edge over Dollander and Florida’s Hurston Waldrep, whose stock is rising thanks to a string of very strong postseason starts.

10. Marlins: Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS, Dover, Fla. (No. 9)
If the Marlins go high school hitter, Nimmala appears to be the top choice, with Colin Houck also a possibility. There are some college hitters in play here and they might be seriously interested if Teel or Wilson got here, with Taylor and Gonzalez possibilities with those two off the board already. Dollander will be considered, but it does seem like they are looking for a bat here.

11. Angels: Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi (No. 15)
Again, a college arm could come into play, with Dollander and Waldrep the leading contenders. But right now, it feels more like the Angels are looking for a hitter. With the success they’ve had with last year’s college infielder, Zach Neto, already reaching the big leagues, Gonzalez is a strong contender to be their pick. Taylor, Stanford’s Tommy Troy and Maryland’s Matt Shaw are others who could get a look to keep options open, with high school bats like Nimmala, Houck and Bryce Eldridge also in play.

12. Diamondbacks: Colin Houck, SS, Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga. (No. 14)
This still feels like a landing spot for whomever the D-backs feel is the best high school bat available. That could be Nimmala if he doesn’t go higher, and could also include Aidan Miller or Colt Emerson. But Houck has been the guy most often associated with Arizona and I’m sticking with him.

13. Cubs: Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian (No. 30)
As noted, Taylor’s name has been all over the map in the 6-13 range, with his power potential very enticing. Shaw and Troy could present other college bat options and this is another team that would stop to consider Dollander, who many feel wouldn’t get this far.

14. Red Sox: Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee (No. 6)
If Dollander were to get this far, there’s a good chance the Red Sox wouldn’t let him go by. If he’s gone, or they pass on the arm, there’s talk that they like Miller from the high school hitter bucket and this is the first place Arizona outfielder Chase Davis’ name seriously comes up.

15. White Sox: Chase Davis, OF, Arizona (No. 39)
The way things have unfolded in this projection, the White Sox will have a bunch of hitters to really consider here. That includes Miller from the prep class and college hitters like Troy and Shaw. I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz that Davis, who had a huge year at Arizona, was going to go in the middle of the first, and the White Sox do find him interesting.

16. Giants: Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland (No. 18)
This looks like another college hitter landing spot. Vanderbilt speedster Enrique Bradfield Jr. is a contender along with Shaw, who brings an intriguing power-speed combination (24 homers, 18 steals in 2023) in a middle infield package.

17. Orioles: Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida (No. 20)
The Orioles are looking at a variety of possibilities here and with Waldrep’s postseason performance, the Gators’ starter could be gone by now. They could also consider college hitters like Troy and Florida Atlantic’s Nolan Schanuel or high school bats like Eldridge or catcher Blake Mitchell.

18. Brewers: Nolan Schanuel, 1B/OF, Florida Atlantic (No. 29)
The talk in this spot remains college hitting, though there is some interest in Miller from the prep set. That pool continues to include Troy, Bradfield and Schanuel, who led the nation in OBP (.615) while finishing second in average (.447) and SLG (.868).

19. Rays: Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla. (No. 12)
The Rays like Miller, Mitchell and Eldridge from the high school hitter crop and they would certainly consider Troy from the college hitter bucket. If Miller hadn’t broken a hamate early this spring, he easily could have vaulted into the top 10.

20. Blue Jays: Tommy Troy, SS, Stanford (No. 19)
Troy had a big year for a College World Series team, finishing with a 1.177 OPS, 17 homers and 17 steals, and has shown an ability to play short and third (and would have no problem playing second). Some of the high school arms, like White or right-hander Charlee Soto, come here, and the Blue Jays did go that route with Brandon Barriera a year ago.

21. Cardinals: Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. (No. 23)
With the college hitters many thought to be in play here (Shaw, Schanuel, Troy) off the board, the Cardinals could turn their sites to White, the southpaw from New England who many feel isn’t far behind Meyer for best prep arm in the class.

22. Mariners: Enrique Bradfield, OF, Vanderbilt (No. 16)
Going back to the college ranks here, with Bradfield’s speed, defense and makeup getting the edge over high school hitters like Eldridge and Emerson for now.

23. Guardians: Sammy Stafura, SS, Panas HS, Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. (No. 86)
While some feel this is a little high for Stafura, he definitely has helium and he’s in the mix here as Cleveland considers a slew of high school infielders like Eldridge, Emerson, George Lombard Jr. and Kevin McGonigle as well. Other high schoolers like Mitchell and Dillon Head could be in play and if they want to go the college route, Brock Wilken’s power could be intriguing.

24. Braves: Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison HS, Vienna, Va. (No. 21)
A legit two-way guy who nearly everyone likes as a hitter at the next level, Eldridge could very easily be long gone by now. The Braves could then consider Mitchell, Lombard or Head if they want to stick with a prep bat.

25. Padres: Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Flossmoor, Ill. (No. 22)
We all know the Padres don’t shy away from high-end high school types. On the mound, that would be White if he’s still around, or perhaps someone like Soto. Offensively, Head could top a group that includes Lombard, Mitchell and Ralphy Velazquez.

26. Yankees: George Lombard Jr., SS/3B, Gulliver Prep, Pinecrest, Fla. (No. 38)
Prep hitters continue to be the focus, though there’d be interest in White should he still be on the board. With guys like Stafura and Head gone, Lombard could be the choice over guys like McGonigle, Mitchell or Walker Martin.

27. Phillies: Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian Academy, Kissimmee, Fla. (No. 25)
We sometimes worry about putting a player with a team over and over again, especially this late in the Draft, but the Phillies do indeed like Soto, the next best pitcher available. If they decided they wanted to go in another direction, Mitchell’s tools behind the plate are of interest.

28. Astros: Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami (No. 17)
Morales is a college bat who feels like he could/should go higher than this, but the Astros do like him.

Supplemental first-round picks
29. Mariners: Colt Emerson, SS/3B, Glenn HS, New Concord, Ohio (No. 27)
30. Mariners: Walker Martin, SS, Eaton (Col.) HS (No. 28)
31. Rays: Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton (Texas) HS (No. 13)
32. Mets: Kevin McGonigle, SS/2B, Monsignor Bonner HS, Drexel Hill, Pa. (No. 26)
33. Brewers: Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest (No. 24)
34. Twins: Ralphy Velazquez, C/1B, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS (No. 32)
35. Marlins: Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech (No. 33)
36. Dodgers: Adrian Santana, SS, Doral (Fla.) Academy (No. 34)
37. Tigers: Cameron Johnson, LHP, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (No. 40)
38. Reds: Jake Gelof, 3B, Virginia (No. 42)
39. Athletics: Joe Whitman, LHP, Kent State (No. 46)