When we decided what the mock Draft schedule would be earlier this spring, I got excited because I knew I’d get to use one of my favorite words for the whole draft projection process.
So, without further ado, welcome to my penultimate mock of the first round of the 2023 Draft.
Here’s where things stand a few days out (both Jim Callis and I will have one more projection leading up to Sunday). There’s definitely been an uptick in chatter, noise, buzz, rumor, whatever you want to call it. Figuring out what to listen to is the trick, and given that the Pirates didn’t decide to take Henry Davis with the top pick in 2021 until minutes before the actual selection, picking the top of the Draft still requires some guesswork.
There’s a lot of talk that the Pirates won’t take Dylan Crews, the standout LSU outfielder, but all signs point to them still working on and considering all of the top five (Crews, teammate Paul Skenes, Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford and prep outfielders Walker Jenkins and Max Clark). We recently discussed on the MLB Pipeline Podcast the percentage chance of each player to go No. 1. Honestly, we could update those numbers in real time and they could change regularly. As of this writing, I might be inclined to take about 10 percent from Crews and give most of it to Langford and some of it to Clark.
While there is far from anything set in stone, the Crews buzz does impact me, so I’m sticking with who I put in the top spot in my last mock two weeks ago. Let’s dig in.
1. Pirates: Paul Skenes, RHP, Louisiana State (No. 1)
Don’t be surprised if the Pirates are holding calls and zooms with all five of the top players until the very end. If Crews is indeed no longer the top target, Skenes’ generational talent on the mound makes a lot of sense. Langford and Clark come into play if the determination is made that the separation in talent isn’t that great while the money saved (estimating somewhere between $500,000 and $1.5 million) is something they’ll use later in the Draft. For now, I’m sticking with Skenes, who even if he signed for around, say, $9.1 million, would give the Pirates $600,000 in savings to sprinkle around.
2. Nationals: Dylan Crews, OF, Louisiana State (No. 2)
If Crews goes No. 1, Skenes likely goes No. 2, and it’s pretty clear the reverse is true. If the Pirates don’t take either of the LSU stars, it sounds like the Nats would go with the right-hander and Crews could land at No. 3 or 4.
3. Tigers: Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida (No. 3)
This continues to look like a best college outfielder spot, so if Crews is available, it could be him. If he goes in the top two spots, Langford continues to seem to be a very good fit.
4. Rangers: Max Clark, OF, Franklin (Ind.) HS (No. 5)
The Rangers Draft room could be a very interesting place to be a fly in the wall as they debate Clark vs. Jenkins, assuming the college outfielders are gone above. There’s buzz that there is love for both talented high schoolers and it might be a toss-up, but I’m going with Clark for this edition.
5. Twins: Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C. (No. 4)
This is the first spot where things could start going a little bit “off-script” in terms of one of the top five not going here. There still is plenty of interest in whichever high school outfielder is here, but the industry buzz is about a possible deal here for Mississippi’s Jacob Gonzalez or another college bat (Virginia catcher Kyle Teel, Grand Canyon shortstop Jacob Wilson). The Twins will keep kicking the tires on the next two college arms (Wake Forest’s Rhett Lowder and Tennessee’s Chase Dollander) with high school right-hander Noble Meyer still in the mix a bit.
6. Athletics: Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian (No. 15)
College hitters are getting most of the attention here, and the A’s could be discussing bats like Taylor, Teel, Wilson and Gonzalez, while they’ll still consider Lowder and Dollander. If the Twins go the college hitter route, the A’s could easily shift gears and nab whichever of the top five gets to them.
7. Reds: Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest (No. 6)
If the top six shakes out like this, it sounds like the top contenders are Lowder, the top college arm after Skenes, and Teel, the top catcher, though Meyer and high school backstop Blake Mitchell remain in the picture. There are those who believe that if the Twins take someone like Gonzalez, then Jenkins could land here.
8. Royals: Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS, Portland, Ore. (No. 8)
The Royals have definite interest in Meyer, the best high school arm in the class, and Mitchell’s name gets mentioned here in what would likely be a below-slot deal. From the college ranks, there’s some thought that Teel, Wilson and Dollander could be in play. High school shortstop Arjun Nimmala could be a fit here.
9. Rockies: Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee (No. 9)
The buzz here continues to be arms and with Lowder from the college crop and Meyer from the prep group off the board, Dollander, who had an inconsistent season this spring but has the potential to have premium stuff at the next level, is up next. The Rockies could still switch gears and look at a college bat like Wilson.
10. Marlins: Kyle Teel, C, Virginia (No. 7)
The Marlins would be happy if Taylor got to them on the hitter side or if Meyer were still available on the mound. With those options off the board, the next group of college bats come into play, with Teel perhaps at the top, with Maryland’s Matt Shaw, Stanford’s Tommy Troy and perhaps Wilson in consideration. This could be another home for Nimmala as well.
11. Angels: Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon (No. 10)
It’s mostly college bats here, though some talk of Nimmala or Virginia prep slugger (and right-handed pitcher) Bryce Eldridge pops up. Wilson looks very good in most team’s models because of his contact rate, his miniscule strikeout rate, his approach and his ability to play shortstop. Gonzalez could be another college hitter option for them.
12. Diamondbacks: Colin Houck, SS, Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga. (No. 14)
There comes a point when you hear a name so often with a team, you start to think it can’t be true. Yet here we are, another mock with Houck going to Arizona. They definitely like the prep shortstop, but they also could consider other high school bats like Nimmala, Aidan Miller or Colt Emerson.
13. Cubs: Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS, Dover, Fla. (No. 11)
The Cubs could still entertain a college hitter here, like Shaw, Troy or Gonzalez. But they also may not have thought Nimmala would be available and he could top a group of high school hitters like Miller and Eldridge here. If Nimmala doesn’t go here, it might become a little tougher to find him a home in this range.
14. Red Sox: Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi (No. 18)
While talk about a high school hitter landing here still could come to fruition with someone like Miller, there could be a shift towards a more advanced college bat. Many feel Gonzalez will be gone by now, but he’s available, the Red Sox likely will have interest, along with players like Shaw, Enrique Bradfield from Vanderbilt and Arizona outfielder Chase Davis.
15. White Sox: Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla. (No. 12)
This is kind of the reverse of the Red Sox pick in that it’s mostly been college hitters creating buzz. And that could definitely still happen, with Shaw, Troy, Bradfield, Davis, Miami’s Yohandy Morales and Florida Atlantic’s Nolan Schanuel still available. But Miller, who might have been a top 10 pick if he hadn’t gotten hurt at the start of the spring, is definitely still in the discussion here.
16. Giants: Enrique Bradfield, OF, Vanderbilt (No. 21)
With Lowder and Dollander gone, there isn’t a college arm the Giants will look at, so if they want pitching, it could be prep lefty Thomas White. But they’re more likely to go for a college hitter like Bradfield, Troy or Shaw instead. They’ll continue to look at the top high school hitters, with Miller perhaps at the top of that list.
17. Orioles: Tommy Troy, SS, Stanford (No. 17)
This has often been a landing spot for Florida right-hander Hurston Waldrep, the next best college arm on the board, and that could still happen. But the Orioles have a history of going college hitter in the first, albeit at the top of the round (Adley Rutschman, Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser). They could also look at Schanuel and Shaw from the college group and if they wanted to look at a high school bat like they did last year, Eldridge or Mitchell could be in play.
18. Brewers: Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida (No. 19)
It was difficult putting anyone but a college hitter here given that the Brewers have gone that route three years in a row, and that could definitely happen with someone like Shaw, Davis, Schanuel or Morales. But Waldrep is definitely in the mix now and could entice the Brewers to take a college arm for the first time since they selected Ethan Small in 2019.
19. Rays: Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison HS, Vienna, Va. (No. 23)
While Eldridge does have two-way abilities, most evaluators like his bat a lot more than his arm, though the Rays have given players in the past the chance to do both, at least initially. A college hitter like Shaw could be of interest while Mitchell provides another high school hitter option.
20. Blue Jays: Nolan Schanuel, 1B/OF, Florida Atlantic (No. 26)
High school pitchers like White or Charlee Soto come here quite a bit, but right now a college bat seems to make more sense. That could be someone like Shaw or Morales in addition to Schanuel, who had one of the best offensive years in college baseball this season.
21. Cardinals: Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland (No. 16)
The general feeling is the Cardinals wouldn’t mind if one of the better college bats were still available, and in this scenario, Shaw has yet to come off the board, with Davis another possibility. If those hitters are no longer available, you could see the Cards switch gears and look at a prep arm like White.
22. Mariners: Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton (Texas) HS (No. 14)
Getting a lot of high school bat buzz here and Mitchell might be leading the way as a player whose tools belong higher but could be available because of the risk associated with high school catching (a risk the M’s were willing to take with Harry Ford in 2021). There’s also interest in Emerson, Walker Martin and George Lombard Jr.
23. Guardians: Colt Emerson, SS/3B, Glenn HS, New Concord, Ohio (No. 29)
This looks like another spot for a high school bat, with Eldridge and Sammy Stafura in play as well. If the Guardians wanted to go the college hitter route, they might be intrigued by Brock Wilken’s power.
24. Braves: Walker Martin, SS, Eaton (Col.) HS (No. 30)
A nice little run of prep position players could continue here, with the toolsy and athletic Martin in the mix (unless the Mariners snag him). Of those still available, Eldridge, Stafura and Lombard could be in the conversation.
25. Padres: Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. (No. 24)
The Padres have interest in high school hitters like Eldridge, Dillon Head and Ralphy Velazquez and it’s believed that Chase Davis is well regarded here. But they also might not think White will be available at this point.
26. Yankees: Sammy Stafura, SS, Panas HS, Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. (No. 32)
This is another possible landing spot for Davis, and the Yankees did go college bat in the first round the last three years. But there’s been more chatter that they’re leaning high school hitter this year, with Stafura the choice for now ahead of guys like Head, Lombard, Kevin McGonigle and Tai Peete.
27. Phillies: Chase Davis, OF, Arizona (No. 22)
While Davis could very easily go higher to teams looking for college hitters, there’s some industry belief that he doesn’t get past this pick. The Phillies could still have interest in a high school arm like Soto.
28. Astros: Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami (No. 20)
It’s mostly college hitters that come up here, with Wilken’s power a possibility as well. Morales, like Wilken and Davis, are mentioned all over the second half of the first round.
Supplemental first-round picks
29. Mariners: George Lombard Jr., SS/3B, Gulliver Prep, Pinecrest, Fla. (No. 31)
30. Mariners: Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian Academy, Kissimmee, Fla. (No. 28)
31. Rays: Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest (No. 25)
32. Mets: Kevin McGonigle, SS/2B, Monsignor Bonner HS, Drexel Hill, Pa. (No. 33)
33. Brewers: Jonny Farmelo, OF, Westfield HS, Chantilly, Va. (No. 39)
34. Twins: Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Flossmoor, Ill. (No. 27)
35. Marlins: Adrian Santana, SS, Doral (Fla.) Academy (No. 38)
36. Dodgers: Cameron Johnson, LHP, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (No. 42)
37. Tigers: Joe Whitman, LHP, Kent State (No. 37)
38. Reds: Jake Gelof, 3B, Virginia (No. 35)
39. Athletics: Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech (No. 36)