New Draft Top 150 list: Unprecedented 1st round?

Detroit Tigers

Quality crops of high school and college position players and a stunning number of sidelined pitching prospects could lead to a first round of the Draft that’s much more one-sided than usual.

It’s possible that the first 10 picks — or more — could be spent on hitters, something that never has happened since the Draft began in 1965. It’s also likely that no college pitcher will crack the top 15 selections for the first time since 1969, when the rules were much different and many collegians were diverted to January drafts or a secondary phase in June.

“I can’t remember anything like this,” said a scouting executive with an American League club, noting that the 2019 Draft led off with six straight hitters but featured impact college arms such as Nick Lodolo, Alek Manoah and George Kirby later in the first round. “There’s no one like that this year. This is truly unprecedented.”

Top 10:
Druw Jones, OF (Wesleyan, Ga.)
Elijah Green, OF (IMG Academy, Fla.)
Termarr Johnson, 2B (Mays, Ga.)
Jackson Holliday, SS (Stillwater, Ok.)
Brooks Lee, SS (Cal Poly)
Jacob Berry, 3B/OF (Louisiana State)
Jace Jung, 2B (Texas Tech)
Kevin Parada, C (Georgia Tech)
Dylan Lesko, RHP (Buford, Ga.)
Daniel Susac, C (Arizona)
Complete list »

High school bats occupy the first four spots on MLB Pipeline’s newly updated Draft Top 150. Wesleyan HS (Peachtree Corners, Ga.) outfielder Druw Jones, the son of five-time All-Star Andruw Jones, remains at No. 1 with tools reminiscent of his father’s and a more consistent offensive approach this spring. He’s followed by IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) outfielder Elijah Green, who has the highest ceiling in this Draft; Mays HS (Atlanta) second baseman Termarr Johnson, the best pure prep hitter in recent memory; and Stillwater (Okla.) HS shortstop Jackson Holliday, who has solid to plus tools across the board.

Green and Holliday also come from notable athletic connections. Green’s father Eric was a two-time Pro Bowl tight end and Holliday’s dad Matt played in seven MLB All-Star Games.

The college position players also have a number of potential candidates for the No. 1 overall choice, which belongs to the Orioles for the first time since they grabbed Rutschman in 2019. Cal Poly second baseman Brooks Lee, Louisiana State third baseman/outfielder Jacob Berry, Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung and Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada are all advanced hitters if so-so defenders. College bats are the deepest demographic in terms of first-round candidates and could produce half of the top 30 selections.

“The hitters will go high,” a scouting official with a National League team said. “Druw Jones is the best talent, and then there’s a debate. Elijah Green has improved this spring. Termarr Johnson has a great swing. Jackson Holliday is flying up boards. Brooks Lee, Jacob Berry, Jace Jung, Kevin Parada . . . There’s a lot to choose from.”

Meanwhile, college pitchers have been ravaged by injuries. Alabama left-hander Connor Prielipp won’t pitch in a game this season after having Tommy John surgery last May, though he’ll be able to throw for teams before the Draft and still could go in the first round. Right-handers Peyton Pallette (Arkansas) and Henry Williams (Duke) had their elbows reconstructed before the season began, and Mississippi State righty Landon Sims met the same fate after just three starts.

Tennessee right-hander Blade Tidwell missed the first six weeks with shoulder issues and didn’t make his first weekend start until Saturday. Florida left-hander Hunter Barco is out indefinitely with elbow soreness. That’s six potential college first-round arms with health concerns without counting righty Kumar Rocker, who didn’t return to Vanderbilt after the Mets took him 10th overall last July and walked away from a $6 million agreement when they didn’t like the result from a post-Draft physical.

Rocker has yet to pitch anywhere this spring. Nor has East Carolina left-hander Carson Whisenhunt, who’s healthy but drew a yearlong suspension from the NCAA after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug he said came from a supplement he bought at a national nutrition store chain. Gonzaga right-hander Gabriel Hughes is the lone active college arm without health issues ranked in the first 45 spots on the Draft Top 150.

High school hurlers haven’t gone unscathed either. Buford (Ga.) HS right-hander Dylan Lesko, the top prep pitcher and the first junior ever to win Gatorade’s national baseball player of the year award, hasn’t pitched since early April because of a sore arm. Oswego (Ill.) East left-hander Noah Schultz came down with mononucleosis after one impressive two-inning outing in late March and his return is uncertain, while Boerne (Texas) HS righty Cole Phillips hit 100 mph with his fastball in March only to undergo Tommy John surgery a month later.

Though Schultz’s and Phillips’ first-round aspirations have been dashed, Lesko still should factor into the first 30 selections. So could four other prep arms: Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary’s Prep right-hander Brock Porter, Brebeuf Jesuit Prep (Indianapolis) righty Andrew Dutkanych, IMG Academy left-hander Jackson Ferris and American Heritage HS (Plantation, Fla.) lefty Brandon Barriera. 

“It’s a very challenging Draft after the first few picks,” an NL scouting director said. “It’s loaded down with hitters and a couple of high school pitchers. When in doubt, we as an industry take college pitchers, and you can’t this year. There might be four or five high school pitchers who slide into the first round and blow past the college pitchers. The first round could look a little weird.”

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