Top 5 Draft prospects for '23 among best ever?

May 12th, 2023

I've completed my first full first-round projection for 2023 and my 2013 redraft, so I'm fully immersed in the Draft now. And I'm loving it! Let's tackle some Draft questions ...

Are the top 5 players in the Draft in their own, very high tier? And are they better than any year since 2011? A's falling to pick #6 in Draft Lottery is some bad, bad luck -- @dhb38

There's a clear top five in terms of 2023 Draft talent, with Louisiana State teammates Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes on a tier by themselves, followed by a trio of outfielders: Florida's Wyatt Langford and high schoolers Walker Jenkins and Max Clark. Dropping to No. 6 in the Draft Lottery was horrible luck for the Athletics, especially considering that Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander has slipped out of the top group with a puzzlingly inconsistent season.

Crews, Skenes, Langford, Jenkins and Clark all would be candidates to go No. 1 overall in a typical Draft. The best crop of Draft talent in recent years was 2011, as David alludes to. I was still at Baseball America then and we rated the top five prospects as Anthony Rendon, Dylan Bundy, Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen and Trevor Bauer -- but Hultzen and Bauer weren't really candidates for the first pick.

This is the best Draft top five of at least the last decade, based on how the prospects were regarded at the time. Its strongest competition comes from 2019: Adley Rutschman, Bobby Witt Jr., Andrew Vaughn, CJ Abrams and JJ Bleday.

Where would Noble Meyer rank among prep arms over the last few years? -- @Sevento17

A right-hander from Jesuit HS (Portland, Ore.), Meyer is the top-rated prep pitcher in the 2023 Draft, with left-hander Thomas White (Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.) close behind him. Meyer had a projectable 6-foot-5 frame, a mid-90s fastball, potential wipeout slider, feel for a changeup and outstanding makeup.

Looking at our highest-rated high school arms from the previous five Drafts, I would rank Meyer fourth in that group while acknowledging that you could shuffle the three guys behind Jackson Jobe in any order:

  1. Jackson Jobe, 2021
  2. Matthew Liberatore, 2018
  3. Brock Porter, 2022
  4. Noble Meyer, 2023
  5. Matt Allan, 2019
  6. Jared Kelley, 2020

In terms of where they went in their Drafts, the order would be Jobe, Liberatore, Kelley, Allan, Porter. And in terms of signing bonus, it would be Jobe, Porter, Liberatore, Kelley, Allan.

What do you think Dillon Head's draft ceiling is? @soxmachine_josh

There are a number of high school position players with helium right now. Shortstops Arjun Nimmala (Strawberry Crest HS, Dover, Fla.), Colin Houck (Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga.) and Colt Emerson (Glenn HS, New Concord, Ohio) all are moving up Draft boards. So is Head, an outfielder from Homewood-Flossmoor HS in Flossmoor, Ill.

We have Head ranked 30th on MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 150 and projected him 25th to the Padres in our first full mock draft, but he may go closer to No. 15 and I even had one scout suggest this week that he could slide into the Top 10. He's appealing because he's one of the fastest players in the Draft, knows how to make the most out of his speed on the bases and in center field, and has shown more strength at the plate this spring.

Is Cristian Mena getting any buzz on possibly cracking/being just outside the top 100 list? -- @Sleepy_Harold_

We received four Mena questions this week, and that's an Inbox mandate if I've ever seen one.

The White Sox haven't developed much homegrown pitching in recent years, but Mena may change that. A right-hander signed for $250,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, he keeps getting better. He reached Double-A last year at age 19 as part of the organization's Project Birmingham, and he has posted a 46/7 K/BB ratio there along with a 4.55 ERA in 27 2/3 innings this season.

I saw Mena in Spring Training, where he looked especially sharp in a back-fields games against a loaded Dodgers Double-A contingent. He's just 20 and he keeps getting better with a four-pitch mix highlighted by a 92-96 mph fastball that rides and plus downer curveball in the low 80s. His mid-80s slider has been his best offering early in 2023, though some of that may be attributable to the pretacked-baseball experiment in the Southern League.

Mena isn't just outside the Top 100 Prospects list quite yet, but he's starting to make a push. Speaking of the Top 100, we'll have our first in-season update on Monday.