Our first full first-round projection of the year features more certainty than it typically does this early, more than nine weeks before the Draft begins on July 9 in Seattle.
The consensus top two prospects are Louisiana State outfielder Dylan Crews and right-hander Paul Skenes, who are bidding to become the first teammates ever to go 1-2 in the same Draft. After that, virtually every team would agree that outfielders Wyatt Langford (Florida), Walker Jenkins (South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C.) and Max Clark (Franklin, Ind., HS) are the next three best talents, lining them up in a variety of orders.
After that, it's mayhem. There's not a lot of agreement on the next tier of prospects and the back half of the first round is anyone's guess. The hitters outshine the pitchers in both the college and high school ranks, which is why we project bats to go with 20 of the top 28 choices.
Though the Pirates elected to do a discount deal with Henry Davis at No. 1 and spread their bonus-pool savings around later selections in 2021, don't expect to see a repeat this time around. There wasn't a Crews or Skenes (or Langford or Jenkins or Clark) available two years ago.
The top choice comes with an assigned worth of $9,721,000, so Pittsburgh can take the best player, break the existing bonus record (the $8,416,300 the Tigers paid Spencer Torkelson in 2020) and still have plenty of leftover cash. And with the Nos. 2 through 5 slots averaging more than $8 million, there's no reason for any of the top prospects to take a deep cut.
Detailed scouting reports for all players mentioned below can be found with our Draft Top 150 (rankings in parentheses). We only went 28 picks deep because the Mets' and Dodgers' top choices dropped 10 spots (to Nos. 32 and 36) because they exceeded the competitive balance tax threshold by more than $40 million.
1. Pirates: Dylan Crews, OF, Louisiana State (No. 1)
Crews has held onto his preseason No. 1 prospect ranking by leading NCAA Division I in hitting (.486), on-base percentage (.633) and walks (49) while also displaying more speed and a better chance to stay in center field than he had in the past.
2. Nationals: Paul Skenes, RHP, Louisiana State (No. 2)
Skenes has been just as spectacular as his teammate, topping D-I in strikeouts (124) and strikeout rate (17.1 per nine innings, ahead of Ryan Wagner's all-time record of 16.8 in 2003). He's the best college pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg in 2009, and Strasburg was the best ever.
3. Tigers: Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida (No. 3)
Langford's .403/.543/.784 season has been overshadowed by Southeastern Conference rival Crews. He has proven himself at the college level, while high schoolers Jenkins and Clark offer the advantages of hitting left-handed and more realistically projecting as center fielders.
4. Rangers: Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C. (No. 4)
Hampered by a hamate injury on the showcase circuit last summer, Jenkins has looked great this spring. He owns solid or better tools across the board and huge power potential.
5. Twins: Max Clark, OF, Franklin (Ind.) HS (No. 5)
The Twins were the biggest winners in the inaugural Draft lottery, jumping from No. 13 to No. 5 with a talent pool in which five players clearly stand above the rest. A no-doubt center fielder with four plus or better tools and at least average power, Clark would be a legitimate candidate to go No. 1 overall in many years.
6. Athletics: Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon (No. 7)
The first round gets a lot murkier at this point. Wilson is the premier contact hitter in college baseball -- he leads D-I in strikeout rate at 3 percent after doing the same a year ago -- and comes with big league bloodlines as the son of former All-Star Jack.
7. Reds: Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi (No. 8)
Gonzalez has the ability to hit for both average and power, though scouts are divided about his ability to remain at shortstop despite him starting there for the U.S. collegiate national team the last two summers.
8. Royals: Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS, Dover, Fla. (No. 14)
Nimmala has a lot of helium right now as an athletic shortstop with plus raw power. Of the seven shortstops in this 28-pick projection, he has the best chance of sticking at the position.
9. Rockies: Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee (No. 6)
Dollander entered the year as the clear best pitching prospect, but now teams are struggling to figure out what to make of an inconsistent spring during which he has lasted five innings in just one of his five starts. There's still time for him to pitch his way back into top-six-pick discussion, especially in a Draft with few college arms worthy of first-round consideration.
10. Marlins: Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS, Portland, Ore. (No. 16)
Many teams are leery of taking high school pitchers in the first round, but this might be more floor than ceiling for Meyer, who has a mid-90s fastball, potential wipeout slider and outstanding makeup.
11. Angels: Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest (No. 9)
Lowder appeals to teams who covet reliability, as he has posted eight quality starts in 11 outings while repeatedly working with a 92-95 mph fastball, plus changeup and plenty of strikes.
12. D-backs: Colin Houck, SS, Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga. (No. 18)
Another prep shortstop on the rise, Houck has all-around ability and stands out most with his power potential. The former quarterback should continue to get better as he leaves football in his rear-view mirror.
13. Cubs: Kyle Teel, C, Virginia (No. 15)
In a down year for catchers, Teel has really helped himself by improving tremendously at the plate (.423/.482/.665 following a .276/.402/.439 sophomore season) while maintaining quality arm strength and athleticism behind it.
14. Red Sox: Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida (No. 11)
Waldrep's upper-90s fastball and mid-80s slider and splitter/changeup all can earn plus or better grades at their best, though he's still working to harness them.
15. White Sox: Enrique Bradfield, OF, Vanderbilt (No. 10)
This is likely the low end for Bradfield, whose proponents love his top-of-the-scale speed and Gold Glove defense in center field. Others worry about his lack of physicality and ability to impact the ball.
16. Giants: Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland (No. 19)
Even if he probably isn't a big league shortstop, the Cape Cod League MVP has hitting ability, power, at least solid speed and some Ian Happ parallels.
17. Orioles: Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla. (No. 12)
Miller raked throughout the showcase circuit last summer and could be one of the steals of the first round after his stock slipped because he missed almost all of the spring with a hamate injury.
18. Brewers: Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian (No. 22)
Scouts wanted to see more pop from Taylor, who has responded by ranking second in the Big 12 Conference with a career-best 14 homers but also has seen his average slip to a career-low .268.
19. Rays: Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton (Texas) HS (No. 13)
Clubs also are wary of taking prep catchers in the first round, though the track record of those who also would profile well at other positions is much more promising. Mitchell fits that mold with his ability to hit for average and power -- and reach 97 mph with his fastball.
20. Blue Jays: Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. (No. 17)
White has similar stuff and less consistency than Meyer, though he does throw left-handed. It's hard to pinpoint landing spots for high school pitchers, who often land well over-slot deals in later rounds, though the Jays did spend lavishly on a prep lefty (Brandon Barriera) with their first-rounder at No. 23 last July.
21. Cardinals: Tommy Troy, SS, Stanford (No. 20)
Somewhat similar to Shaw, Troy leads the Pacific-12 Conference in batting (.380) and showed the ability to hit for average and power with wood bats in the Cape Cod League the last two summers.
22. Mariners: Colt Emerson, SS/3B, Glenn HS, New Concord, Ohio (No. 31)
Yet another high school shortstop who has boosted his stock this spring, Emerson is an advanced high school hitter who was an all-state wide receiver as a junior before deciding to concentrate on baseball.
23. Guardians: Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech (No. 29)
Hurley outperformed 2022 No. 9 overall pick Gavin Cross at Virginia Tech last spring -- he's also a better athlete -- and has posted even better numbers this year. Other potential first-rounders among college hitters: third basemen Yohandy Morales (Miami) and Brock Wilken (Wake Forest), first baseman Nolan Schanuel (Florida Atlantic).
24. Braves: Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison HS, Vienna, Va. (No. 21)
A legitimate two-way prospect, Eldridge almost certainly will get drafted as a hitter because he has huge left-handed power and elicits comparisons to 2022 Yankees first-rounder Spencer Jones.
25. Padres: Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Flossmoor, Ill. (No. 30)
Head is the high school version of Bradfield, with slightly less spectacular speed and center-field defense but greater ability to impact the ball. Other potential first-rounders among prep hitters: shortstops Kevin McGonigle (Monsignor Bonner HS, Drexel Hill, Pa.), Adrian Santana (Doral, Fla., Academy), Roch Cholowsky (Hamilton HS, Chandler, Ariz.), George Lombard Jr. (Gulliver Prep, Pinecrest, Fla.) and Walker Martin (Eaton, Colo., HS).
26. Yankees: Travis Sykora, RHP, Round Rock (Texas) HS (No. 27)
The archetype of the hard-throwing Texas high schooler, Sykora can reach 101 mph with good metrics on his fastball and also misses bats with his mid-80s short slider and splitter. Other potential first-rounders among prep pitchers: right-hander Charlee Soto (Reborn Christian Academy, Kissimmee, Fla.).
27. Phillies: Juaron Watts-Brown, RHP, Oklahoma State (No. 34)
The athletic Watts-Brown benefits from a soft college pitching market and one of the better sliders in that class. Other potential first-rounders among college arms: none at the moment.
28. Astros: Ralphy Velazquez, C/1B, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS (No. 28)
After starring at the National High School Invitational and the Boras Classic, Velazquez has made the biggest jump of any of these projected first-rounders. While it's uncertain whether he can stay at catcher, his booming bat should profile just fine at first base if needed.