This is my third mock draft for 2023, with the actual draft now just ten days away, and there’s a good bit more information floating around than there was even a week ago, although the first pick is still very much up in the air – and probably will stay that way until shortly before the Pirates actually make that pick.
I want to reiterate that this year’s draft is very strong. I see five players who could be a 1-1 pick in most years, certainly in the last two drafts, and depth in college position players we haven’t seen in something like a decade — the silver lining to the shutdown in 2020 that led to a five-round draft and a lot of top high school hitters heading to college. There are more players this year who would be first-rounders in other years than there are actual spots in the first round (technically just 28). So the absence of a player from this mock isn’t in any way a denigration of that player’s talent – many players will be drafted and signed after the first round who will get first-round bonuses, maybe even as late as the fourth round, as happened with Brock Porter and the Rangers last year.
This is, as I will remind you every time I post one of these, a projection of how I think the first round might shake out, based on the best information I have from sources in the industry and my own understanding of how certain teams and executives like to draft. It’s not my ranking of players, and it’s not who I would pick if I were acting for each team.
I have posted a Top 100 ranking for this draft, and drew from that here to provide scouting reports for each player. I will update next week before I take off for Seattle.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates — Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU
DOB: 05-29-2002 | Height: 6-6 | Weight: 247
Skenes pitched too much in Omaha, although I think LSU winning in a laugher on Monday night helped him significantly, as he avoided the extra inflammation in his arm that would have come from pitching on short rest. There’s a rumor running around that Dylan Crews doesn’t want to go to the Pirates for some reason, but I don’t think that’s going to alter the Pirates’ thinking. They’re going to try to strike the best overall deal considering the player and the bonus, since they have an extra pick at 67 and could try to replicate their 2021 draft success.
Scouting Report: Skenes is the hardest-throwing amateur starter I’ve ever seen, even beating out Hunter Greene and Gerrit Cole; when I saw Skenes pitch at the Box this April, he hit 100 or 101 mph seven times in the first inning and didn’t throw a fastball under 96. After transferring from the Air Force Academy, where he sat 92-95 mph as a sophomore with a 55 slider, the right-hander has averaged about 98 mph this year with an easy plus slider, helping him strike out just over 50 percent of batters he’s faced; coming out of the regular season he had 164 strikeouts, 40 more than any other pitcher in Division I. His delivery is fairly compact for a big guy and he has at least above-average control, with the potential for more. He hides the ball extremely well behind his body, so the two pitches he throws should continue to play well even against better hitters, but I did see some guys cheat a little on the fastball because he barely uses a changeup. Other than the development of that third pitch, I don’t see much that can hold him back beyond the injury risk of any hard-throwing pitcher. If you’re going into the draft hoping you can find a Justin Verlander type, he’s your guy.
2. Washington Nationals — Dylan Crews, OF, LSU
DOB: 02-26-2002 | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 203
I had a scout say to me that Washington is actually in the best position of any team in the draft – they like two players, and they’ll get one of them, and the most likely outcome is that the Pirates take one of the two and the Nats don’t even have to think before submitting a name on draft night. I imagine if Crews gets here, it’s full slot, if not slightly above.
Scouting Report: Crews was on scouts’ radar as early as his junior year of high school, when his ability to hit and potential for power and to perhaps stay in center marked him as a likely first-round pick when he graduated in 2020. He started that spring poorly, swinging and missing more than expected. After the pandemic, he decided to withdraw from the draft and go to LSU. As much as I dislike seeing kids forego a chance for an MLB team to offer them a ton of cash, Crews’ decision certainly worked out, as he’s the best prospect in this draft class, and going to get a decisively larger signing bonus than he could possibly have gotten three years ago.
Crews has performed for three years in Baton Rouge, hitting for average, getting on base, posting solid contact rates and even playing above-average defense in center. He destroyed non-SEC pitching, and while he was worse within the conference, he still led SEC hitters in average and OBP through the end of the regular season, and ranked seventh in slugging, with more walks (27) than strikeouts (22). He’s a 55 runner who’s actually picked up some speed since high school, benefiting from LSU’s strength and conditioning program to get stronger without getting slower, and making himself a viable candidate to stay in center in pro ball. Even if he has to go to right field, he’d be a plus defender there, and the bat will play anywhere on the diamond. He’s put up numbers, with the underlying metrics to back it up, in the best conference in college baseball for three years. He should be in the majors before the end of 2024.
3. Detroit Tigers — Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida
DOB: 11-15-2001 | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 225
I’ve heard weird rumblings that the Tigers are considering Kyle Teel or another college player who might take a deal here. I like Teel quite a bit, but he’s not at the level of Langford or either of the high school outfielders who’d be available here.
Scouting Report: Langford only hit .250 as a freshman for Florida … because he went 1-for-4. Since then, he’s hit .373/. .480/.762 in 114 games for the Gators, with 42 homers and more walks (80) than strikeouts (78), while playing in, yes, the best conference in college baseball. He’s even outslugged Crews this year within the SEC. In a typical year, he’d be the no-doubt first pick, but this is an atypical year in all the best ways, with five players I think would reasonably be in the discussion for the first overall pick in the majority of draft classes. This year, he’s competing with Crews, who has a longer track record and slightly better performance, especially in getting on base, as well as maybe the hardest-throwing amateur starter ever and two elite high school outfielders. Langford is a 70 runner at full strength — he missed about two weeks this spring after fouling a ball off his … well, I don’t think he was wearing protective equipment, and while he didn’t have surgery, he wasn’t running quite as well after the injury. Despite that, however, he played left for Florida, and hasn’t looked great out there, giving some Derek Fisher vibes (another 70 runner who just wasn’t very good anywhere in the outfield). That defensive question is what really puts him behind Crews for me in the end, even with a slightly higher offensive ceiling, with more power and speed.
4. Texas Rangers — Max Clark, OF, Franklin Community HS (IN)
DOB: 12-21-2004 | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 190
I still think this is Clark or fellow prep outfielder Walker Jenkins, especially if picks 1-3 are the three college guys I just listed. The Rangers don’t pick again until the fourth round, just like last year, when they went under slot for Kumar Rocker at pick No. 3 and took the savings to give to Brock Porter with their next pick. If they want to do that again, it’s more likely to happen with Clark than Jenkins.
Scouting Report: Clark is an outstanding all-around athlete, a 70 runner with an incredible build and an easy, pretty left-handed swing that looks geared to drive the ball to all fields. He’s got bat speed and hand strength that should translate to plus power or close to it when he reaches his peak, even without the projection to add a ton of muscle between now and then. His speed translates to plus defense in center and he has the arm to play anywhere in the outfield. He’s earned praise from scouts for his competitiveness and his work ethic. He’s a Vanderbilt commit, but his future is in pro ball, with real superstar upside.
5. Minnesota Twins — Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi
DOB: 05-30-2002 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 200
This link has gained a lot of strength in the last week or so. The perception is that the Twins would take Langford or Clark, but probably not Jenkins, and that Gonzalez is at or near the top of their draft model.
Scouting Report: Gonzalez came into the year with a lot of top-five buzz, although he doesn’t offer the ceiling of the college hitters I have listed above him here. He’s a very solid player for what he is, but with limited potential for more. Gonzalez has excellent hand-eye coordination and strong bat control to make a ton of contact, moving the barrel around to meet the ball where it’s pitched so that he almost never whiffs on pitches in the zone. He hit 18 homers last year, but doesn’t project to hit for more than fringy power in pro ball as he doesn’t use his legs much, with no stride and a tendency to glide over his front side, with very little connection between how his upper and lower halves work. That might be his one path to upside, as his contact quality now is just fair and using his legs more might improve that. He’s hit .327/.435/.564 this spring, an improvement from his sophomore year but I don’t think enough to push him up into the Teel/Shaw/Troy tier of college bats. Gonzalez projects to stay at short with great instincts and soft hands, although he’s a fringy runner and some scouts use that as a proxy for a player’s ability to handle shortstop long-term. I think he’s a solid regular at short, not a star, and in some drafts that’s a top 10 prospect, but this year it’s probably less.
6. Oakland A’s — Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon
DOB: 03-30-2002 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 200
Oakland is mostly linked to college hitters here, including Wilson, Gonzalez, and Teel, although I wouldn’t rule out a college arm like Rhett Lowder or Chase Dollander entirely. There’s very little discussion of any high school players, though.
Scouting Report: Wilson struck out just seven times all of spring 2022, in 275 plate apperances, and this year punched out just five times in 217 apperances, finishing with a .412/.461/.635 line for the Antelopes and zero strikeouts in his last 100 trips to the plate. The son of former Pirates infielder Jack Wilson, Jacob is also a true shortstop, one of the better defenders in the college class. Despite an anxious approach at the plate – he never stops moving his hands or his legs – his hand-eye coordination must be off the charts. He gets all that contact by eschewing any attempt to hit for power, as he slaps the ball into play and will shoot it to the opposite field. He’s got a skinny frame that offers little projection. He doesn’t drive the ball at all or hit it hard, and his launch angle is barely over zero degrees, giving him one of the lowest of any college hitter who might go in the top-50 picks. He’s a fringe-average runner, as well. That’s a long way of saying that it’s a tough profile, albeit one we’ve seen go in the first round – Nick Madrigal and Kevin Newman are two recent examples. He is someone who projects to play in the big leagues with very, very high probability, but who may not have the ceiling of a regular.
7. Cincinnati Reds —Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS (NC)
DOB: 02-19-2005 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 205
Two weeks ago, this seemed improbable, but if the Twins do go off script and take someone from outside of the top 5, then one of those two high school guys from that quintet – Clark or Jenkins – slides a little. The Reds have shown in the last two years that they’re happy to take a player like that if he falls in their laps. If not, I’m still hearing the same names here – Teel, Lowder, maybe Matt Shaw.
Scouting Report: Jenkins flew up boards this spring after a modest summer showing when he was hampered by a hamate injury. He looks the part of a top-of-the-draft hitter, 6-3, 205 pounds, lean and athletic and twitchy but with lots of room to add 20-25 pounds. He’s a plus runner, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he slid a little toward above-average as he filled out. He’s a left-handed hitter with a great swing that’s boosted by his outstanding bat control, allowing him to adjust mid-swing more than most teenagers can, and once he fills out he’ll probably have 30-homer power. He’s a center fielder now and a good one, although I could see him losing enough speed to move to right. He looks like he’ll hit like an All-Star right fielder, and maybe the UNC commit will end up staying in center, too.
8. Kansas City Royals — Kyle Teel, C, Virginia
DOB: 02-15-2002 | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 190
Supposedly the Royals sent some senior folks to Omaha specifically to watch Teel, who’d be good value here and also a great fit in their system. I had them with Texas prep catcher Blake Mitchell in the last mock, and that’s still possible as well, along with Wilson or Gonzalez if either is here.
Scouting Report: Teel might have been a first-rounder had the 2020 spring season taken place, as he was already on everyone’s radar coming out of the previous summer and fall as a very athletic catcher who looked like he’d hit and would definitely stay at the position. He went undrafted in the five-round affair that June, then hit .335/.416/.526 as a freshman at Virginia, catching 20 games and establishing himself as a likely first-rounder for 2023 even that far ahead. After a slight dip in his sophomore production, he hit .414/.480/.668 through the regular season for the Cavaliers, with just a 12 percent strikeout rate, showing excellent bat speed and pitch recognition, with the bat control to even make some decent contact on pitches out of the zone. His swing produces a lot of line-drive contact and he might have another half-grade of power coming if he gets a little stronger. Behind the plate, he’s agile with a plus arm and receives well, needing some work on framing and handling pitches low in the zone, which he tends to catch by dropping the glove first before moving back up towards the bottom of the zone. I’ve compared his ceiling before to a left-handed-hitting Jason Kendall, a guy who puts the ball in play a ton, runs very well for a catcher, and is an asset on defense.
Virginia’s Kyle Teel tags out North Carolina’s Patrick Alvarezat the ACC Baseball Championship in May. (Eakin Howard / Getty Images)
9. Colorado Rockies — Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest
DOB: 03-08-2002 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 200
Heavy betting here that the Rockies take another college arm, as they did last year, with Lowder and Dollander the two most cited names, although I wonder if they’d do something out of left field if Lowder’s gone and take Hurston Waldrep or even Ty Floyd. I have heard them mentioned a little with Noble Meyer as well.
Scouting Report: Lowder might have the best pure changeup in the entire draft class, if we separate it from split-changes and splitters, and his other pitches aren’t too shabby either. He’s 92-96 mph with that plus changeup, a pitch that has great deception, power at 86-89, and tailing action that makes it deceptive to hitters on both sides. He’ll use it in any count, even to get ahead. His slider is solid-average, 82-86, with some tilt, more a swing-and-miss pitch against right-handers than one he’ll try to throw for a strike. The delivery isn’t great, as he starts all the way on the first-base end of the rubber and lands too early, so he cuts himself off and has to come slightly across his body to pitch to his glove side. He also plants his front leg too soon, spinning off the front heel and putting more stress on his arm with the abrupt finish. None of these are reasons not to take him, but they’re things player development will probably want to address sooner rather than later, to make him more effective — he’s got fringy command at best, although he does throw strikes — and keep him healthy. It’s at least No. 3 starter stuff and he could end up a strong No. 2 for most teams with some delivery help, assuming that gives him another half-grade of command.
10. Miami Marlins — Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland
DOB: 11-06-2001 | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 185
Another link that keeps coming up, although Shaw earned mentions from several teams as one of the best interviews they had at this past week’s MLB Combine in Phoenix, and I have to think some of the teams focused on college bats above this are at least reconsidering Shaw. I’ve also heard the Marlins with Meyer, Teel, and Wilson.
Scouting Report: Let’s get the big thing out of the way first — Shaw is a shortstop now, but he is not a shortstop, and if he’d just played second base all spring I think he’d sail into the top 10 picks. So much of the conversation around him has centered on his defensive shortcomings, notably his below-average arm, that there’s been too little focus on the fact that this guy hits. Shaw makes consistent, hard contact, and his average launch angle of 26 degrees puts him right in line for a high Barrel percentage. He’s walked more than he’s struck out so far this year, and after hitting 22 homers as a sophomore, he hit 23 this spring before even getting to the Big Ten tournament — despite getting COVID-19 early in the season, which cost him a weekend when he looked exhausted and may have given some scouts a bad look. I think he’ll be an above-average defender at second, as he’ll show adequate range at short; it’s his arm that will move him off, not his hands or feet. Even at second base, he has All-Star upside because of the bat.
11. Los Angeles Angels — Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee
DOB: 10-26-2001 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 200
The names here are all over the place – Dollander, Bradfield, Braden Taylor, Arjun Nimmala, Colin Houck. If you see a common thread there, let me know. Nothing wrong with just taking the best player available, though.
Scouting Report: Dollander will be one of the most fascinating names to watch on draft day, as he came into the year as the top college pitcher in the class but struggled all spring with command and never found the grade-70 slider he had as a sophomore. That slider was short and tight with what appeared to be very late downward break, and Dollander could throw it for a strike or use it as a chase pitch. This spring, however, it never had the same bite, and hitters whiffed on it less and chased far less, about two-thirds as often as they did the year before, so Dollander had to rely more on his fastball. His fastball is still 93-97 mph and he throws it for strikes, albeit not quite as much as he did in 2022, so if some team can figure out what went wrong with his slider – Did Tennessee try to get him to change the pitch? Is he dealing with some injury or discomfort? – there’s a good chance they’ll get the draft’s best or second-best college pitcher. He had No. 2 starter ceiling or better last spring, and that pitcher might still be in here.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks — Colin Houck, SS, Parkview HS (GA)
DOB: 9-30-2004 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 195
Another link that seems stronger than it did a week or two ago. I’ve also heard them with Shaw and Tommy Troy, and they’re a soft floor for Wilson – if he gets here and they pass, he’s probably sliding at least to the Giants at 16.
Scouting Report: Houck is a two-sport star who is committed to Mississippi State for baseball only, giving up the gridiron in favor of the diamond, although he’s done well enough this spring that he’s probably never going to Starkville except as a tourist. Houck has a super quiet approach, with some present power now that projects to plus, as he uses his hips and legs well and generates good launch angles off the bat. He’s reasonably disciplined already, with some weakness against high fastballs. He has the arm and hands for short but he’s already big for the position and may end up at third base instead. The bat is the real carrying tool here, regardless of where he plays.
13. Chicago Cubs — Enrique Bradfield, Jr., OF, Vanderbilt
DOB: 12-02-2001 | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 170
Bradfield’s range seems to be 11-16, except Arizona, while the Cubs are mostly linked to college bats like him, Shaw, Troy, and Taylor, as well as one high schooler in Houck.
Scouting Report: Bradfield brings two elite tools to the table – he’s an 80 runner and at least a 70 defender in center, maybe an 80, thanks to that speed and very good reads on balls off the bat. He’s stolen 129 bases in three seasons with the Commodores, through the end of this year’s regular season, with just 13 times caught stealing, none as a sophomore when he was a perfect 46 of 46. At the plate, however, he comes with some questions, including a swing that needs a ton of help. He loads his hands very deep, takes a big stride, opens his hips early, and collapses his back side … it’s a wonder he hits as well as he does, but also opens a world of possibilities for improvement. He’s slight, but not weak, with exit velocities that point to average power if he can sync up his upper and lower halves and stay more upright through contact. The 14 homers he’s hit since the start of 2022 are a promising sign to go with the floor his speed and defense provide.
14. Boston Red Sox — Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU
DOB: 5-22-2002 | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 180
The Red Sox might be the floor for Shaw, and they’ve been linked to Taylor, Troy, Bradfield, and Kevin McGonigle as well. I haven’t heard any pitchers here.
Scouting Report: Taylor has a very pretty left-handed swing with good loft in the finish to drive the ball in the air, with some of the best batted-ball data in the college class, from launch angle to hard-hit rates and more. He had a low BABIP this year of just .307, inconsistent with how hard he hits the ball and how often he does so. He also slumped in the middle of the season, but had a huge Big 12 tournament, going 8 for 16 with four doubles and three homers, with a .305/.430/.650 line heading into the regionals, and a career-best 21 homers. He’s just an average runner but savvy on the bases, with a perfect 23 for 23 record on the bases his last two years at TCU. He’s a solid-average defender at third with a 55 or 60 arm, although he’s athletic and rangy enough to become a plus defender with the right coaching. Taylor projects as a solid-average regular, with a couple of ways he could turn into something more.
15. Chicago White Sox — Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida
DOB: 3-01-2002 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 205
I’ve heard them on a couple of the college arms, including Dollander, as well as Taylor and Yohandy Morales. It sounds like there may be two camps in the front office, one favoring an arm and one a bat.
Scouting Report: Waldrep might have been the No. 2 college pitcher coming into the spring, but a spring of inconsistent performance didn’t helped his draft stock, even with stuff that should have him in the top half of the first round. Waldrep’s splitter is one of the best swing-and-miss pitches in the draft. It’s got huge bottom to it at 85-89 mph, coming in like a fastball and dropping hard very late for the hitter, so he may already be committed to a pitch that’s no longer there. That’s also its weakness, as it usually finishes out of the strike zone. He’s got a hard curveball and a slider, both of which also generate misses but neither of which appears to be more than a fringe-average pitch because he doesn’t consistently finish them out front. I think batters are whiffing because they’re so geared up for the splitter, and that better hitters will pick up the spin and lay off the breaking balls. Even if you want to call the breaking balls average or better based on the whiff rates alone, Waldrep has two things he has to improve: He doesn’t throw enough strikes, and his fastball gets hit hard for something that averages 95 mph. This year Waldrep allowed a 4.83 ERA through the regular season with 12 homers in 15 starts. The whole is less than the sum of the parts, and that could represent an opportunity, because it’s a 70 splitter and plenty of arm strength that could make him a very effective closer, along with the history of durability as a starter.
16. San Francisco Giants — Tommy Troy, IF, Stanford
DOB: 01-17-2002 | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 197
I’ve heard them with a slew of bats, including Troy, Shaw, Bradfield, Taylor, and Morales, although they aren’t afraid to go way off the board – their first two picks last year were college pitchers who combined to throw zero innings all spring – and I could see them rolling the dice on someone like Ty Floyd for the tremendous characteristics on his fastball.
Scouting Report: Troy is a very high-contact hitter despite a swing that sometimes looks like it’s going to take him right out of his shoes, occasionally generating very hard contact but with only middling power. He almost never misses a fastball, whiffing on only eight percent of them this spring (through the end of the regular season) even when he goes out of zone, and he clearly hunts those pitches, doing the vast majority of his damage there. He has shown a vulnerability to changeups both this spring and last summer in the Cape Cod League, although not enough to dent his overall line. He’s a 55 runner who’s played all over the field, mostly playing third this year for the Cardinal, but with some shortstop experience. Teams that have been chasing contact should be all over Troy, as he doesn’t just make a lot of contact but solid quality contact, and if someone can get him to put the ball in the air more he might get to 55 power in time.
Stanford’s Tommy Troy after scoring against Tennessee in the College World Series (Dylan Widger / USA Today)
17. Baltimore Orioles — Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS (FL)
DOB: 10-16-2005 | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 170
All the rumors here are bats, mostly high school, including Nimmala, Bryce Eldridge, and the very obvious Nolan Schanuel as a stats darling. One source threw out the possibility that they might go after Noble Meyer if he gets here, even with Mike Elias’ known disinclination to take pitching in the first round, because he’d represent unusual upside and value at pick 17 – exactly the spot where Elias took Forrest Whitley as Houston’s scouting director – and he has some excellent pitch characteristics.
Scouting Report: Nimmala is one of the youngest players in the entire draft class, as he won’t turn 18 until November, which will appeal to all the teams that value age in their draft models. But he’s also very talented and would still be a first-rounder even if he were 18 already. Nimmala is a lean 6-1 and already shows above-average power with a strong swing that makes excellent use of his hips to generate that contact quality. He’s a rangy shortstop with good hands and an easy plus arm, and although he’s probably just an average runner in the end, he’s certain to stay at the position long term. Where he falls short of the high school hitters above him in my rankings is in his present hit tool, as he’s shown more propensity to swing and miss than his peers (though he seems to hit velocity fine). If he didn’t have that, he’d be in that uppermost tier of players, since he’d have the hit tool, power and defense at a critical position. Instead, he offers the potential for that sort of player with a slightly longer timeframe, and greater risk around his ability to hit when he enters pro ball.
18. Milwaukee Brewers — Nolan Schanuel, 1B, FAU
DOB: 2-14-2002 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 195
The assumption is the Brewers will take someone very model-friendly, as they skew that way with a smaller scouting presence and have had some success with college position players in the last few drafts. That could be Schanuel, Taylor, maybe Brock Wilken or Yohandy Morales, but I also think it could put them on Nimmala or Eldridge.
Scouting Report: Schanuel’s stat line might be the only one to rival Crews’, a hilarious .447/.615/.868 with 71 walks against just 14 strikeouts. He’s done so in Conference USA, not the SEC, so he hasn’t faced the same caliber of arms, and he’s limited to first base, which seriously dents his draft stock, as does a mediocre performance hitting on the Cape last summer. He can hammer a fastball, even at good velocity, and rarely whiffs on heaters or chases anything out of the zone. He starts with his hands high above his head, except with two strikes, when he starts a little closer to the helmet, but it’s mostly just for show as he gets his hands into position in time. Otherwise, it’s a simple approach, and his hands and hips work very well together for solid contact … but it’s not elite contact quality or huge raw power, which might indicate there’s a lower ceiling for the bat. If he could play anywhere else, he’d probably sneak into the top half of the round.
19. Tampa Bay Rays — Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
DOB: 1-10-2005 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 185
The best high school pitcher has to go inside of 20, right? If Meyer doesn’t go 9 or 10, there’s a gauntlet of teams that are unlikely to go that route from 11 to 15, maybe 11 to 18. The Rays will take a high school arm in the first, and if they do it’s likely to be someone with great pitch characteristics like Meyer has. I’ve also heard them with some projection high school bats like Tai Peete and Dillon Head. Last year, they went completely off the board with a high school first baseman, Xavier Isaac, so it’s quite possible they’re on none of these guys.
Scouting Report: In some years Meyer would be looking at a sure top-10 selection, and would be at least a little higher on my rankings, although new readers should bear in mind that I discount all high school pitchers based on the much higher attrition rates for such players taken in the first round. (They reach the majors at a much lower rate than other categories, and even if they get there, a lower percentage of them have sustained success.) Meyer has been up to 101 mph this spring, sitting 94-96 mph in most starts, with a hammer curveball that has huge spin rates and a power slider, barely using his changeup, perhaps because he just doesn’t need it yet. It’s a good delivery and good body for a starter, with a lot of projection left on his 6-foot-5 frame. I’ve heard scouts say they think the fastball plays down from its velocity, which is a fair concern but also a small one if that’s his biggest flaw. There’s at least mid-rotation upside here.
20. Toronto Blue Jays — Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton HS (TX)
DOB: 8-03-2004 | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 192
This might be Mitchell’s floor, as well as Bradfield’s, as the Jays are strongly linked to both. Aidan Miller’s name has come up here as well.
Scouting Report: Mitchell is the best high school catcher in the draft class this year, which probably puts him in the first round automatically, although the potential as a left-handed-hitting catcher with power and plus defense also qualifies him. Mitchell starts with a very wide stance and still strides forward from there, which gave him some trouble with better quality stuff last summer and probably cuts off some of his natural power. His hands work well at the plate and he has the finish to his swing to drive the ball in the air, with 25-homer potential if he hits enough to get to it. He’s a plus defender with a plus arm who is a no-doubt catcher, which is good since he doesn’t have a clear alternative position. He’s nowhere near the same sort of prospect off the mound, but does work 90-94 mph, showing his arm strength, just lacking anything like an average second pitch.
21. St. Louis Cardinals — Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS (FL)
DOB: 06-29-2004 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 210
Miller missed most of his senior year with a broken hamate bone, but he’s done some workouts where he’s shown big power and may be moving back up into the top 20 or so, where he was expected to go before the season. He is 19 years old already, which might knock him down for some model-heavy teams. I’ve also heard the Cards with Schanuel and McGonigle, although the word now is McGonigle was so intent on going to college in team interviews that clubs are concerned about how signable he is.
Scouting Report: Miller, whose older brother Jackson was a second-round pick in 2020, is a big, strong third baseman with above-average to plus power already, showing good feel to hit in showcases last year but missing a big chunk of this spring. He’s got a simple swing beyond a big hand movement to get started, preferring the ball middle to away but struggling badly on anything on the inner third. He looked slower in his return this spring from the injury, and as expected had less power – broken hamates or other wrist/hand bones can sap a hitter’s power for months, so he may not be 100 percent until the fall or even next spring, but the previous power should still be there. Miller’s a third baseman now with plenty of arm and the footwork to stay there, with fringe-average speed that will probably trend down to 45 as he fills out. If you’re willing to bet that the Aidan Miller of 2022 is still here, you might get a regular at third with plus power, with some risk as he has to adjust to pitchers working him inside.
22. Seattle Mariners — Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami
DOB: 10-09-2001 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 209
So the betting is still that the Mariners go college here and then go hog wild at 29/30 with high-ceiling high school guys. Morales and Brock Wilken would be the most obvious fits of guys who might “fall” to this point, although they could go under slot with someone like Chase Davis or even an arm like Joe Whitman so they have more to spend at the next two picks.
Scouting Report: Morales looks like an easy top-10 pick when you see him take batting practice, or a few game swings where he makes contact, but he whiffs too much for that and most scouts think he’ll end up in left field or at first base, making the bat that much more important. Morales looks the part, certainly, and has a pretty swing that can produce significant power but more often puts the ball on the ground. You can beat him with velocity up or breaking stuff down and away. Morales is neither natural nor easy at third and I think at least has to move to right field in pro ball. To his credit, he’s hit better in the ACC, .353/.430/.500 with just an 18.5 percent strikeout rate. There just seem to be better bets to hit in this class, between Morales’ two clear holes and the fact that a lot of the hard contact he makes comes in the form of ground balls.
23. Cleveland Guardians — Colt Emerson, IF, Glenn HS (OH)
DOB: 7-20-2005 | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 185
Emerson apparently had a good workout for the Guardians, and as a 17-year-old, he’s one of the darlings of their draft model. I assume Nimmala would be a dream scenario for them, but it doesn’t sound like he’s getting this far.
Scouting Report: Emerson is one of the better hitters in the high school class, with a chance to come into some power as well. He’s got a loose left-handed swing with the loft to drive the ball, although the swing is handsy and he doesn’t get much from his lower half. He’s strong for his size and age, so there’s some hope he’ll get to average power with some swing work, while right now it’s definitely hit over power. The Auburn commit is a shortstop now but is going to move to second or third in pro ball, as he’s just an average or fringe-average runner and that added muscle has him looking less like what we see in pro shortstops. He’s got quite a bit of upside as a high-average, 15- to 20-homer hitter at second base if he gets to the ceiling.
24. Atlanta — Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest
DOB: 6-17-2002 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 225
No specific link here, just a player type they like and very good value at the spot. Folks want to link them to local talents like Peete but I don’t think that’s how they draft any more, at least not in the first round.
Scouting Report: Wilken had an extended slump in ACC play this year, finishing the season with a .269/.493/.548 line in conference that was a huge improvement from where he was just three weeks earlier. He has a very good swing with great balance and excellent hip rotation, showing 55 power right now, with improved exit velocities down the stretch and one of the best barrel rates among college prospects in the draft class. He’s at least a solid-average defender at third with a 55 arm and good instincts that make up for a lack of speed or lightness on his feet. I could see him getting to 25-plus homers, or staying more in the teens in home run output with a high average and a lot of doubles, either of which would make him a solid regular at third.
25. San Diego Padres — Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, James Madison HS (VA)
DOB: 10-20-2004 | Height: 6-7 | Weight: 219
This might be Eldridge’s floor, although I know a lot of teams down in the 20s expect him to go in the teens, maybe to Baltimore. I’m hearing the Padres mostly on high school bats, including Eldridge, George Lombard, Jr., and Aidan Miller, although I also heard them connected to Chase Davis earlier this week.
Scouting Report: There was some buzz coming into the year that Eldridge would be a legitimate two-way prospect, but this spring created some separation, and he’s much more likely to go out as a hitter than as a pitcher. Eldridge is very tall for a hitter by historical standards at 6-7, with no hitter that height staying a regular past his early 30s. But he does offer a short swing given the length of his arms and excellent bat speed, with the strong exit velocities you’d expect from a hitter his size. On the mound, he’s 91-93 mph and can bump 95 mph with a repeatable delivery, but doesn’t have great feel to spin the ball and would likely require far more development as a pitcher than he will as a hitter. He played first base for his high school, ostensibly to protect his arm, but seems more than athletic enough to play a corner outfield spot. The Alabama recruit did miss some time in April with an ankle injury that kept coming back. I don’t think he’s the next two-way prospect, but he does offer a ton of upside as a power-hitting right fielder, even with the risk associated with players his height.
26. New York Yankees — Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS (IL)
DOB: 10-11-2004 | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 185
It’s mostly the same small group of names here – Sammy Stafura, Tai Peete, Head, Eldridge in the unlikely event he gets here – although I’m betting the pick is Head or Stafura.
Scouting Report: Head is a premium athlete and at least a 70 runner who can really play center field, with some potential for power given his body and frame, garnering mixed views from scouts on how advanced his hit tool is and whether he’s ready to go out and face pro pitching. He’s listed at 6-0, 180 pounds, although he looks an inch or two shorter, and he’s pretty muscular for that frame. He has plenty of bat speed thanks to quick wrists, definitely geared up for fastballs, but I’m not sold on the pitch recognition and think he’s going to have to improve his ability to pick up offspeed stuff when he gets into pro ball. Some of this might just be that he loads his hands very high and deep, so he’s got a longer path to the ball and has to commit sooner, rather than just a straight recognition issue. The defense/speed and ability to hit a fastball should still get him first-round money. He’s committed to Clemson.
Dillon Head, here at the 2022 Perfect Game All-American Classic for high schoolers in Phoenix, will likely be a first-rounder on the strength of his speed and defense. (Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)
27. Philadelphia Phillies — Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian Academy (FL)
DOB: 8-31-2005 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 210
Phillies scouting director Brian Barber took high school arms with his first two first-round picks in the role, taking Mick Abel and Andrew Painter, before pivoting to Justin Crawford last year. The Phillies have been linked to him as well as some hard-throwing college arms. I haven’t heard Travis Sykora here specifically but if they want a prep arm, he fits what they like.
Scouting Report: Soto has some of the best pure stuff in this draft class, with three pitches in his fastball, slider and split-changeup that can all show plus, along with a delivery he should be able to repeat for command. He’s been up to 98 mph with some riding life to the four-seamer, while the split-change has the sort of hard fading action you expect from that pitch and shows good separation and deception. His slider is more of a power slurve with a break almost straight down, but he seems to throw it for strikes and gets late bite on the pitch. He’s also one of the youngest pitchers in the draft, turning 18 at the end of August, and already is 6-foot-5 and listed at 210 pounds. Scouts found him difficult to see this spring as he’d often go two weeks between outings, and his command wasn’t where it was last summer on the showcase circuit. He’s as risky as any high school arm, but this stuff rivals that of White’s for the best among all prep pitchers this year.
28. Houston Astros — Ty Floyd, RHP, LSU
DOB: 8-28-2001 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 200
Nobody helped himself more in Omaha than Floyd, who showed that he could go through some of the best lineups in college baseball with his unhittable fastball. The Astros immediately ended up linked to him, in part because GM Dana Brown was overseeing the draft in Atlanta when that club took Spencer Strider and his unhittable fastball. I’ve mostly heard the Astros with college players – Joe Whitman has come up, Colton Ledbetter earlier this spring.
Scouting Report: Floyd finished his year by setting a CWS record with 17 strikeouts against a strong Florida lineup. His fastball is elite – he got 26 swinging strikes on the pitch against the Gators — as hitters don’t see it at all, coming in at 94-97 mph with great ride and some added deception from a short and lightning-quick arm stroke. The knock on Floyd is that he doesn’t really have an average second pitch. He throws a slider and curve but neither is better than a 45, without great spin or break, and his changeup has good separation but not a ton of action. He walked just under 10 percent of hitters this spring for LSU, which he’ll have to bring down in pro ball regardless of the development of his offspeed pitches. Scouts are already comparing him to Strider for his ability to miss bats with his fastball alone, and I think you can project him as a starter given how well that pitch plays and the way the delivery works.
29 Seattle Mariners — Jonny Farmelo, OF, Westfield HS (VA)
DOB: 9-09-2004 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 205
30. Seattle Mariners — Ralphy Velazquez, C/1B, Huntington Beach HS (CA)
DOB: 5-28-2005 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 220
The world is Seattle’s oyster at these picks, and Farmelo is the one name I’ve heard most with them. Others connected to them here include Head, Peete, and Lombard.
Scouting Reports: Farmelo does it all wrong at the plate, with an arm bar and a bizarre launch-angly finish, but he’s so good at fouling stuff off that he performs anyway – and if someone just loosens him up and lets him hit freely, he might really take off. He had no trouble handling low-90s stuff from right-hander Bryce Eldridge in one of their matchups this spring, with exceptional hand-eye and a clear idea of what he needs to do at the plate to get a pitch he can hit hard. He’s a superb athlete and 65-70 runner who can definitely stay in center field, and should come into 55 power. He’s considered a strong commit to UVA, but that might be the worst choice for someone who needs this kind of swing adjustment, as UVA’s track record there is not strong. He’s a big upside play because even small changes to the swing could make him one of the best hitters for contact and average in the class.
Velazquez showed well early this spring after working on his conditioning and his catching in the offseason. He’s a strong kid whose body looks compact for its listed size of 6-foot-2, and when he stays back he can show plus power, although his over-wide setup often leads to him drifting over his front side. He is a high school catcher, however, and unlike Mitchell, he has some work to do to get himself to an average defender. He’s committed to Arizona State.
31. Tampa Bay Rays — Adrian Santana, SS, Doral Academy (FL)
DOB: 7-18-2005 | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 155
Another connection that popped up recently, and Santana is young for the class, which does somewhat fit. If the Rays are truly on him, it’s probably here, not at their first pick.
Scouting Report: Santana’s a young switch-hitting shortstop who won’t turn 18 until the week after the draft, with decent swings from both sides but nowhere near the strength to drive the ball yet. His left-handed swing shows quite a bit more bat speed than the right-handed one, but either way he has swung and missed too often in high school and doesn’t hit the ball hard when he does make contact. He’s undersized at 5-foot-11 (at most) and about 150 pounds, with some room to get stronger and perhaps pick up some bat speed in time, although that’s a big ask even with his youth. He’s a plus-plus runner who should definitely stay at shortstop, so if he fills out and can improve his impact quality he could be a strong regular, while he has the downside risk of a Nick Madrigal or Kevin Newman type who doesn’t make enough hard contact to be more than a bench player.
32. New York Mets — George Lombard, Jr., SS, Gulliver Prep (FL)
DOB: 6-02-2005 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 190
This link has come up a few times recently, although the further we get down in the draft the more uncertain it becomes who’ll even still be available at any specific pick.
Scouting Report: Lombard is the son of the former Atlanta prospect, the team’s second-round pick in 1995 and now the Tigers’ bench coach, but Junior is taller, more athletic and an infielder with some real upside at the plate. He’s got a straightforward swing and quiet approach with good loft for future 65-70 power. However, despite plenty of bat speed, he has struggled with better velocity and can get locked into a single bat path. He’s a solid-average runner who’s a shortstop now, with widely varying views on whether he can stay there; some scouts think he’s a certain shortstop, while others see a move to second or center field. He’s a Vanderbilt commit.
(Top image: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos of Skenes, Langford, and Crews: Jay Biggerstaff / Getty Images; Michael Wade / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)