We’re finally here. This draft is one of the deepest I’ve seen in some time. Do I think I’m going to be spot on? Hell no! But I will make a prediction now that I think is pretty solid: this draft, especially in the first round, will be dominated by college talent. In recent years, prep players have taken the majority of the top-10 picks, but the college talent that’s coming in, and still coming in, is flooding the draft, which is great to see.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU
When the cards are laid out on the table, Skenes appears to be the best fit for Pittsburgh. While Crews is the best player in this draft and should be taken number one, his reported price tag is a little steep for a franchise who is known for taking the cheaper routes. There is a small, small chance the Pirates go way cheap and select Wyatt Langford, but I think the top of the draft is LSU’s to lose. If there was any doubt about where Skenes could fall or where he could play, those questions were answered during the CWS. I haven’t seen a pitcher this hyped since Kumar Rocker. While his fastball and slider are his most notable pitches, there’s something about his cutter that intrigues me. He can place it anywhere he wants and has a certain confidence when he throws it that I only imagine will become his finisher. And even though he’s dynamic at the plate as well, the CWS proved his ceiling is a future starting ace on a major league staff.
2. Washington Nationals: Dylan Crews, OF, LSU
In my last mock, I said there wasn’t any contenders who could dethrone Crews for the number one pick. While that still rings true, Crews’ reported asking price over slot value might take him out of being selected first overall– a place he sat since after 2022’s draft. Crews was one of the leaders of LSU’s roster this past season, batting .349 with an OPS of 1.153, 22 homers and 72 RBIs in 62 games. He was also a top-tier high school prospect in 2020. His ceiling is Mike Trout and his floor is Grady Sizemore. This is a no-brainer pick for Washington if he’s still there. If not, Skenes will be their guy.
3. Detroit Tigers: Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida
While all eyes were on Jud Fabian, Sterlin Thompson and Hunter Barco, Langford was quietly becoming a star for the Florida Gators last season. He was a hitting machine, smacking .356 with 63 RBIs, and 26 dingers in 66 games. This year he doubled-down and became exactly what the Gators needed him to be– their leader. He helped carry them to CWS only to come up just short to LSU. There is a bizarro world where the Pirates or the Nats draft him based on the cheaper price tag and the fact that his draft stock is still soaring with comps to Mike Trout, but if Langford is still on the board come three, the Tigers run to turn in their pick. They need a college bat that will fly through the minors to help out immediately, and that’s what they’ll get with Langford. If Crews falls, they would be just as happy, but I don’t see that likely.
4. Texas Rangers: Max Clark, OF, Franklin Community HS (IN)
I’ve went back and forth between Walter Jenkins and Max Clark for a while now for the Rangers. I think they go with the cheaper signing and that’s Clark. Clark wowed this season in Indiana. He’s currently committed to Vanderbilt, and it’s no wonder why. He has the best all-around toolset in the 2023 class. Raw power, plus arm, the bat speed is there with wicked exit velos that get scouts excited for what he could become. This isn’t Blaze Jordan 2.0. This is Max Clark 1.0.
5. Minnesota Twins: Walter Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS (NC)
Jenkins isn’t a consolation prize at all, if he falls to them. He’s the future. While some think a pitcher is much more of a need, I think you can’t pass on the kid from North Carolina. Jenkins power isn’t sneaky, it’s been there right in front of our faces. He’s a classic thumper who barrels up with a lot of bat speed to all fields. And he isn’t just power, his hit tool has a chance to go above 60 as well. Think Josh Jung in the outfield.
6. Oakland A’s: Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest;
Lowder brings it. His two-seamer sits at 97, and his changeup is a plus-pitch. Righty or lefty bats don’t matter because he eats them all up. There’s more in the tank coming as well, which is fun to think about. I had to drop Dollander down after a not-so-great season. Lowder’s loud play in the CWS made him this draft’s Asa Lacy. Oakland gets their pitcher of the future here.
7. Cincinnati Reds: Kyle Teel, C, Virginia
Is Teel one of the best catchers in the last few years? No. I compare his game to a past prospect, now with the Detroit Tigers, Dillon Dingler. He can definitely hit and his power is spotty, but the power is still there, regardless of what others say. Thing is, will his hit tools still show at higher levels? I’m thinking they’ll plateau. Dingler has had a hard time figuring it out in Double-A. Teel could run into the same problem, or he could stay the course and blossom into a catcher like Patrick Bailey. Still, his ceiling is high and his floor is high enough, so I can see a team taking him in the middle of the first.
8. Kansas City Royals: Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
If there’s a hidden gem in the first round it’s Meyer. His game is smooth. He looks bigger than 6’5″, and I’m pretty sure he’s still growing. At 18-years old, his fastball can touch 98 consistently, and I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to say he could hit 99 or 100 one day with ease. I don’t want to get too excited about him, though, because it’s always hard to evaluate high schoolers accurately without talented bats to go against. If Meyer falls out of the top-20, I could see him staying true to his Oregon commitment and ride it out a couple years in college in hopes to get that top-10 money in a future draft.
9. Colorado Rockies: Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss
Gonzalez was a bat out of hell during his 2021 freshman campaign at Ole Miss. He then started hot in 2022, but slumped down the stretch. When the Rebels entered the postseason, he lit back up. He has a mature approach to the plate, taking more walks than K’s, which is good to see for someone his age. He’s got soft hands and quick feet at shortstop, too, so I expect him to hang there. With the woes of former first-rounderBrendan Rodgers and some swing and misses with other infielders, I think the Rockies are determined to score on one. Enter Jacob Gonzalez.
10. Miami Marlins: Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU
Miami is in one of the best positions in the draft. They can either take the best player available that falls to them or they can reach for a project; there isn’t any rush. That said, I think they add to their young, developing roster and take one of the best hot corner college bats in the draft. Taylor checks a lot of boxes. He’s not going to mash the ball over the fence a lot, but he makes constant contact and has shown flashes that he can hit to all fields. He’s also a decorated prospect, garnering honors 2021 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, 2021 1st-team D1 Baseball Freshman All-American, 2021 1st-team Perfect Game Freshman All-American, 2022 2nd-team All-Big 12, 2022 USA baseball Collegiate National team member among many more.
11. Los Angeles Angels: Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee
If Dollander falls to the Angels, fans will be screaming for them to take him. They need more pitching, plain and simple. The past few drafts they’ve stocked the farm with fresh arms, but they need more with high potential like current starter Reid Detmers. Tennessee has always had a fine program. In the last few years, they’ve been a top-10 program. While hitters are always popping out there in the Smoky’s, this season, all eyes have been lasered in on ace righty Chase Dollander. Some say Tennessee product represents the best college arm available in any draft since Stephen Strasburg. I’m not sure I agree with that. To note, his slider sits at the top of this class.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks: Aidan Miller, 3B, JW Mitchell HS (FL)
Arizona is the biggest head-scratcher of all. It’s hard to predict where they’ll go. They’re good up the middle, but could use more on the corners of the infield. Incredible bat speed that has the potential for double-plus power, Miller performed so well in the summer showcase that he’s risen on every board. He’s got long arms, fluid wrist action, and great bat-to-ball mechanics. His defense is no joke either. Every year, there is a first round high school prospect who drops in the draft and ends up going back to school. I wouldn’t be shocked if this happens to Miller as there this class is stocked full of third basemen.
13. Chicago Cubs: Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon University
Of the plethora of shortstops that will go in the first, Jacob Wilson is the player I think could drop the most. He could float from top-15 to the backend of the first. The more mature bat than most his age, Wilson is about has productive as they come. His approach at the plate you just don’t see from small school guys. I want to see what he does against better arms; that will be the true test for the California native. Chicago likes Matt Shaw and Tommy Troy too. Don’t be shocked if infielders Walker Martin and George Lombard Jr. make a surprise leap to the top-15.
14. Boston Red Sox: Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland
Boston could go a few different routes, but Shaw feels safe here. Kind of a late-bloomer in mocks, Shaw has asserted himself as one of the better all-around hitting prospects in this draft. Like his University of Maryland predecessors Brandon Lowe and Kevin Smith, Shaw has more tools. He can hit for average, he’s a thumper at the plate and he has good foot-speed in the field and on the base paths. His arm is less than desired but his bat will carry him.
15. Chicago White Sox: Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida
Chicago is in trouble. Their stud farm system is starting to become exposed with the duds that haven’t produced in the bigs. Waldrep is another safe pick who could fly through the minors to provide rotation help to a franchise that is staring down the barrel for another rebuild potentially if their plans blows up. If you’ve followed my mock drafts, you know I’m always high on Florida pitchers. The Gators could be considered ‘Pitcher University’ with the names they’ve produced the past 20 years. Enter latest ace, Hurston Waldrep. He’s a right-handed gem with a plus-plus fastball and a mid-80s slider that has a devastating break hitters despise. His changeup could use some work, but this kid has one of the highest ceilings of any player in this draft. He had a topsy-turvy 2023, which will hurt his stock, but I still expect him to hang around the top-20.
16. San Francisco Giants: Colin Houck, SS, Parkview HS (GA)
San Francisco get their next Brandon Crawford here. A three-star quarterback recruit, Houck knows his future lies on the diamond. He’s got speed and power at the plate and in the field, which is a deadly combo. At 6’2″ his frame will fill out more and when it does he could be a solid shortstop in the bigs. Plate discipline will be his biggest hurdle at the next level.
17. Baltimore Orioles: Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy (MA)
Baltimore, much like Miami, are in no rush. I think with what they have now and what they have coming, they grab a prep arm to develop into a future ace. White has been known for sometime in the class. He’s got a premium body that’s developed nicely for a future big leaguer. There’s a ton of deception with his short-arm three-quarters delivery that frustrates hitters when trying to pick up his stuff. He’s also got large hands, which for a southpaw, is nice to see. He projects as a future starter.
18. Milwaukee Brewers: Tommy Troy, IF/OF, Stanford
I heard Milwaukee is seeking a college bat. Not only do they get best player available here, but one that fits the Milwaukee mold. Troy can play anywhere at a high rate. No one tool stands out for him, which could affect his draft stock, but if you stand back and just watch him, it’s not the lack of the number of tools that should be focused on, it should be how he does everything just right. His makeup. He’s mature at the plate. He comes up with the big hit when his team needs it. He rarely makes mistakes in the field. He’s a mix of Tommy Edman and Darin Erstad rolled into one. While for some front offices that might be a boring pick, I look at him as a safe pick. You could put this guy in any lineup in any spot and he’ll find a way to succeed.
19. Tampa Bay Rays: Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS (FL)
Nimmala has been slotted from top-10 to the back portion of the first round. The Cubs and Diamondbacks have scouted him a lot, so I could see them make a move early to take the Florida native. Nimmala is a young player. He will only be 17-years-old on draft day. Any team drafting him will have to wait a while to see him in the bigs. Nevertheless, his tools pop on video. His smooth, fluid swing makes the ball blast off his bat at obscene exit velos.
20. Toronto Blue Jays: Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest
Cavan Biggio didn’t work out as a permanent third baseman for Toronto. Matt Chapman is now their guy, but for how long? Wilken fills a need for Toronto and he’s a college bat that will take a year or two to get to the show. Wilken reminds me of Alec Bohm; mixed with Nolan Gorman with a dash of Jace Jung. He knows how to find his pitch and take advantage of it. This past spring he hit 23 homers, and what’s scary is we haven’t even seen all of his power yet. A little plate discipline will go a long way with this prospect. He ended his college career with a .345 BA this season and hit 82 RBIs, striking out 58 times.
21. St. Louis Cardinals: Blake Mitchell, C/RHP, Stinton HS (TX)
St. Louis needs their catcher of the future. Mitchell is what you picture when thinking of a classic high school star. He can do it all. He reminds me of a Bryce Harper when he was gaining notoriety early-on. He has loud tools. On the mound, he hits low-90s with his fastball and shows a slider that has some life. His main gig is as a left-handed hitting backstop who has raw power and a feel for driving the ball. It’s hard to say if he’ll stick behind the plate or on the mound, and there is even talk that he could become a future infielder. This is a prospect I see making a huge rise in the draft; maybe top-15.
22. Seattle Mariners: Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami
Seattle needs productive bats now. That’s why I don’t see them going with Walker Martin right away. I see them going with Yohandy Morales, who has some young Victor Martinez comps to his game. The Miami Hurricanes have had some dudes the past few years. Somehow, though, Morales’ name kept showing up. He was little known because he was in the shadows of his predecessors, but not anymore. Morales had a very impressive spring. He hit 18 homers and even led Team USA with a .400 batting average. Make no mistake, the 6’4″ hot corner is for real.
23. Cleveland Guardians: Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt
Maybe one of the fastest players in the past ten drafts, Bradfield is a burner on the field and on the bases. He has maintained an 80-grade speed since his high school days and he’s not a power guy, instead, more of your classic lead off guy. But you can put him at the top or bottom of any lineup and expect results. If Cleveland does take him, they could be looking at their next Kenny Lofton, if the Florida native can reach his ceiling.
24. Atlanta Braves: Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison HS (VA)
Atlanta is tracking this guy hard. Nolan Schanuel could tempt them too, if he’s still available. But just the possibilities of Eldridge is hard to pass up on. There’s always exciting two-way players in the draft the past decade. A couple of my favorites in recent years were Brendan McKay and Spencer Jones. Eldridge profiles similar to them. He’s a towering 6’7″, 219 pounds with great bat-to-ball skills from the left side of the plate. He’s hard to pitch to because he can hit successfully all over the dish. On the mound, his fastball can reach mid-to-upper 90s and his low-80s slider is as solid as his changeup.
25. San Diego Padres: Nolan Schanuel, 1B/OF, Florida Atlantic
Schanuel reminds me a lot of Rockies prospect Michael Toglia, only more athletic. His 6’4″ 220 frame is pro-ready, and his left-handed hitting is hungry for hits. He draws more walks than strikeouts, which is good to see from a college bat. If he stays the course and shows he can handle pro pitchers, he’ll travel through the minors faster than most. San Diego is sort of a mess right now and they need a pick that lands.
26. New York Yankees: Joe Whitman, LHP, Kent State
Whitman is the top-rated college southpaw in the draft. The Yankees are plush with righties, so tossing in a big, powerful lefty with a killer slider to boot will go a long way on the farm. This could be considered a reach, but Whitman is a special talent and one that teams on the backend of the first, or even the Competitive Balance rounds will look to select.
27. Philadelphia Phillies: Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS
Head’s speed is off the charts. Even better, he’s got the high IQ to know how to use it. Either on the base paths or in center, he reads the ball very well like a top route-running NFL receiver. He can definitely hit the ball, but his power is on the lower end of the spectrum. If he can get on base consistently, he’ll be an asset for any team. Philadelphia loaded up on infielders the past handful of drafts, so outfield seems to be an obvious direction to go in the first round.
28. Houston Astros: Colt Emerson, SS, John Glenn (OH)
He’s a tall, lanky shortstop who reminds me a lot of last year’s draft prospect Peyton Graham out of Oklahoma. He’s got super sonic hands at the plate and in the field. A soft glove and a solid arm, both of which should keep him at shortstop long-term. He’ll need to add more muscle at the next level, much like Jackson Holliday from last year, but his strong summer performance really put him on the map. The Astros still aren’t strong up the middle on the farm. Emerson would help shore up that problem.
29. (Compensation 1) Seattle Mariners: Walker Martin, SS/3B, Eaton HS (CO)
Seattle has been obsessively scouting Martin. They might risk it all and go for him with their 22nd pick, but I feel they’ll roll the dice and wait to grab the Colorado native. Martin is about as athletic as they come. He excelled in football at Eaton as the school’s starting quarterback but committed to Arkansas for baseball. He profiles very well at shortstop and should stay, but if he fills out his 6’2″ frame more he can easily play third with his solid arm.