The calendar is just flipping to May and we're about five weeks away from the 2018 Draft. So it stands to reason that projecting the first round should be a piece of cake, right?
Not so much.
Truthfully, any first-round mock this far out is tricky. This year, it seems even tougher. The main reasons are a lack of separation of players up top, so even the top 10 is tough to arrange, and injuries, particularly to high school arms, have made them even wilder cards than usual.
But that does not act as a deterrent. Here is a first stab at a first-round projection. With the aforementioned injury variable, missing from this go-round are prep arms Mason Denaburg and Mike Vasil, who easily could be top-half-of-the-first-round guys if they were healthy.
Don't worry, Jim Callis and I will do many more editions of this, with the hopes of being as close to right as possible in our last pass on June 4.
:: 2018 Draft coverage ::
1. Tigers: Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
Mize has separated himself more than any other player in the class, dominating as Auburn's Friday night starter in the ultra-competitive SEC. Jim Callis recently laid out the other candidates to go No. 1, with Florida's Brady Singer the next college pitching option and Matthew Liberatore (Ariz.) the one high school arm in play. Oregon State's Nick Madrigal, Wichita State's Alec Bohm, Georgia Tech's Joey Bart and Travis Swaggerty from South Alabama are the potential college bats the Tigers are looking at and Jarred Kelenic, a high school hitter from Wisconsin, has had his name mentioned, though that seems unlikely at this juncture.
2. Giants: Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
While Singer's stuff was a bit flatter than it had been previously at the start of this season, it's bounced back of late, including when he beat Mize in a marquee matchup last week. In addition, no one has the kind of resume Singer has, with three years of outstanding pitching for one of the top college programs in the country.
3. Phillies: Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State
Madrigal won't be for everyone as an undersized middle infielder who could be best-suited to play second, one who missed a good amount of time this year with a broken wrist. But he has a track record of flat-out raking, and came back from his injury swinging the bat well. There are other college bats to consider here, including Bohm and Swaggerty. Mize and Singer, obviously, would be of interest here as well.
4. White Sox: Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State
Chicago has gone the college route with its first pick in each of the six previous seasons (Tim Anderson was a junior college guy, to be precise), and there's no reason to think it'll deviate from that philosophy. Bohm has serious power and controls the zone well, though some see a move to first base in his future. If Bohm is gone, Madrigal is in play, as is Swaggerty from the offensive side. College arms still on the board who could be considered are South Florida's Shane McClanahan or Stetson's Logan Gilbert.
5. Reds: Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (Melbourne, Fla.)
The Reds are typically a "best available player" team when picking near the top, going high school right-hander (Hunter Greene) last year and college infielder (Nick Senzel) two years ago. They'd love for Singer to be here and would look at McClanahan if they want to go college arm, with Kelenic also a possibility, especially if Stewart's stock fades.
6. Mets: Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
The Mets have gone the college route recently, taking three college arms with first-round picks in 2017 and two in 2016. The last college bat they took was Michael Conforto in 2014, and he got to the big leagues in a hurry. The last high school pitcher the Mets took in the first round was Michael Fulmer back in 2011 and that seems like a less likely avenue for them, though they might look at Stewart and LIberatore.
7. Padres: Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (Glendale, Ariz.)
The top lefty in the class, Liberatore opened eyes this spring by hitting 96-97 mph in some of his early starts. He's settled into his more familiar 90-93 mph range, and has struggled with command at times, but his smarts and feel for pitching should get him off the board early. The Padres love upside and took a prep lefty, MacKenzie Gore, No. 3 overall last year.
8. Braves: Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
Last year, the Braves went the college arm route and were thrilled to have Kyle Wright available for them to take. McClanahan is a lefty with power stuff that will play at the next level. High school bats like Kelenic or Arizona-area third baseman Nolan Gorman also get brought up, as do the top two prep arms already off the board in this mock.
9. A's: Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
The A's did go the high school route with the No. 6 pick last year when they took Austin Beck, but took a college player with their first selection in the previous three Drafts. Swaggerty provides some tools and the ability to play up the middle in center.
10. Pirates: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS
Picking No. 12 last year, the Pirates went the high school arm route with Shane Baz. They could do that again with someone like Cole Winn or Ethan Hankins. But they don't shy away from high school bats, either (Austin Meadows, Reese McGuire, Cole Tucker were all first-round selections) and Kelenic is the best prep bat in the country, with solid all-round tools.
11. Orioles: Nolan Gorman, 3B, Sandra Day O'Connor HS (Phoenix)
After a tremendous summer, Gorman looked like a sure-fire top 10 pick, and he could easily still land there. But a bit of an uneven spring, perhaps unfair because of the comparison to his white-hot summer and because high school pitchers in Arizona rarely pitch to him, has put his stock a little bit in flux. He still has as much, if not more, power potential than any hitter in the class.
12. Blue Jays: Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi
The Blue Jays have taken a college pitcher with a first-round pick in each of the last four Drafts, so why stop now? There are several to choose from, including Gilbert and Singer's rotation-mate Jackson Kowar. Rolison's a pretty polished lefty with some upside, though he does have some leverage as a Draft-eligible sophomore.
13. Marlins: Triston Casas, 3B/1B, American Heritage School (Plantation, Fla.)
In a full-fledged youth movement now, the Marlins could go with some upside here. Casas joins Gorman as the high school player with the most raw power and Casas' name has definitely been on the rise of late. Drafting a kid from their own back yard has a nice ring to it as well.
14. Mariners: Jonathan India, 3B, Florida
No one has played his way up boards more than India, who went from a solid college guy to perhaps the best-performing college hitter in the country. The Mariners have taken a college bat with each of their last five first-round picks.
15. Rangers: Cole Winn, RHP, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS
The Rangers have never shied away from high upside high schoolers and took prepsters with their first three picks a year ago, including SoCal right-hander Hans Crouse. Winn has been as consistent as just about any high school right-hander, with an up arrow next to his name ever since he dominated during his National High School Invitational start in March.
16. Rays: Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS (Corona, Calif.)
Turang's a bit of a wild card because he appears to be a bit of a polarizing prospect among evaluators, but believers see a future shortstop with tools at the big league level. When the Rays had picks in this ballpark in 2015 and 2016, they went the high school hitter route, though it's also possible to see Turang go a bit later on.
17. Angels: Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma
Walker's best tool is his bat, to go along with his outstanding instincts and makeup that allow his tools to play up. He's also been one of the better offensive performers in the college game this year, something that could appeal to the Angels (see Thaiss, Matt).
18. Royals: Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Cumming, Ga.)
Hankins was No. 2 on our Top 50 last fall, but a minor shoulder issue has somewhat put a question mark next to his name. He did return and the velocity was back up, though his season is now over. A definite high school pitching wild card who could go much higher.
19. Cardinals: Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida
The Cardinals are not a slam-dunk college team, but they have taken advanced arms with their top picks in 2017 (second round), with one of their first-round selections in 2016, as well as in 2014 and 2013.
20. Twins: Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
The Twins last went college pitcher in the first round in 2015, with Tyler Jay. Gilbert has more pitchability over the pure stuff he showed over the summer, but reports were that it was starting to tick back up.
21. Brewers: Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State
Two college bats have been taken by the Brewers in the last two years with their first pick. They've also taken a lot of high school hitters in the last few years up top. Larnach, Madrigal's teammate at Oregon State, stepped up when Madrigal was hurt and has really produced.
22. Rockies: Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto (Tenn.) HS
David's kid really knows how to pitch (surprise, surprise). The Rockies have found a formula for developing pitchers who can succeed in Colorado and the prep southpaw would be a nice addition.
23. Yankees: Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS (Bogart, Ga.)
Another high school arm who could go higher than this, Rocker has tremendous arm strength and physicality on the mound. The son of a former NFL lineman, his power repertoire and athleticism should interest many teams from the middle of the first round down.
24. Cubs: Sean Hjelle, RHP, Kentucky
The Cubs have targeted college players up top the last few years and took two pitchers in the first round a year ago. The 6-foot-11 Hjelle won SEC Pitcher of the Year honors as a sophomore and has turned in another solid season with Kentucky.
25. D-backs: Noah Naylor, C, St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS (Mississauga, Ontario)
The brother of Padres prospect Josh Naylor, Noah can swing it from the left side of the plate as well, with plenty of power potential. There's work to do to stick behind the plate, but the D-backs are willing to be patient, taking an offensive-minded Canadian high school catcher (Andy Yerzy) in the second round of the 2016 Draft.
26. Red Sox: Seth Beer, 1B, Clemson
The Red Sox have alternated between high school and college players in the first round over the last four Drafts and if they were to follow the pattern, they'd go the prep route in 2018. But Beer's power and on-base skills are valued by teams who keep a keen eye on such things.
27. Nationals: Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek, Fla.)
A bit undersized, Edwards still has close to top-of-the-scale speed and the ability to stay in the infield. His Vanderbilt commitment could get in the way, but if he goes in the first round it's because a team feels it can sign him.
28. Astros: Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS (Tampa, Fla.)
The last time the Astros took a high school hitter in the first round they took Kyle Tucker out of Plant High School in the Tampa area, so why not go back there again? Scott has missed time with a hamstring injury, but his tools could still have him off the board earlier.
29. Indians: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights HS (Nacogdoches, Texas)
There are a number of high school arms who might fit in nicely in this spot. Rodriguez has some serious helium as his stuff has taken off, with a fastball now reaching 97-98 mph.
30. Dodgers: Jameson Hannah, OF, Dallas Baptist
Hannah's name was gaining steam in first-round conversations as a toolsy college hitter who has performed in his Draft year, one who should be able to stay in center field.