When MLB moved the Draft to All-Star Week in 2021 in an attempt to increase the event’s popularity, the shift also added a month to the process. So rather than clubs having their boards mostly set by now, everything is in flux with the Draft still five-plus weeks away.
The consensus top five prospects remain the same. Louisiana State outfielder Dylan Crews is the Draft’s best position prospect since Adley Rutschman in 2019, and teammate Paul Skenes is its best pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg (the best ever) in 2009. Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford isn’t far behind Crews and has posted better numbers this spring, while high school outfielders Walker Jenkins (South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C.) and Max Clark (Franklin, Ind., HS) would be favored to go No. 1 overall in many years.
But from a mock draft standpoint, it’s still early to discern actual intel from gossip. There’s chatter that the Pirates are leaning toward cutting a discount deal with the top pick as they did two years ago, that the Tigers want college bats and would pass on Skenes and the prep outfielders at No. 3 and that the Twins don’t want a high schooler at No. 5.
How much of that is real? The clubs certainly haven’t finalized any decisions this far in advance. For now, I’m sticking with the same top-five picks from my first-round projection four weeks ago, which means Pittsburgh takes the best player, Detroit avoids a quandary and Minnesota opts for the lone remaining top-five talent available.
Detailed scouting reports for all players mentioned below can be found with our Draft Top 200 (rankings in parentheses).
1. Pirates: Dylan Crews, OF, Louisiana State (No. 1)
Though Crews slumped some in May, he’s still hitting .420/.567/.710 and the majority of teams believe he’s the top player available. If the Pirates do look to save money to spread around to other picks, the most likely option and the biggest discount would come from Clark, with Langford the other possibility.
2. Nationals: Paul Skenes, RHP, Louisiana State (No. 2)
The Nationals are loaded with outfield prospects and need pitching, so what would they do if the Pirates pass on Crews? Most people in the industry think Washington would still take Skenes, whose strikeout rate (16.6 per nine innings) is just behind Ryan Wagner’s all-time NCAA Division I record of 16.8 in 2003.
3. Tigers: Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida (No. 3)
If the Pirates do a discount deal and the Nationals take Skenes, the Tigers could get Crews. More likely, they wind up with Langford, who’s hitting .398/.521/.823 entering NCAA tournament play. If the two college outfielders are off the board, it probably comes down to Skenes versus Jenkins. If they had to have a college bat in that scenario, it might be Virginia catcher Kyle Teel.
4. Rangers: Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C. (No. 4)
This is Langford’s floor and Jenkins’ likely home if the first three choices play out as projected above.
5. Twins: Max Clark, OF, Franklin (Ind.) HS (No. 5)
The Twins jumped from No. 13 to No. 5 in the inaugural Draft lottery, and their decision should be fairly easy — just take whoever remains among the top-tier players. But there are several clubs who believe Minnesota could prefer a college bat like Teel or Mississippi shortstop Jacob Gonzalez to Jenkins or Clark. There’s also some thought that the Twins are the ceiling for Noble Meyer, the best high school arm.
6. Athletics: Kyle Teel, C, Virginia (No. 10)
Barring a top-five talent getting to No. 6, the A’s are focused on college bats (Teel, Gonzalez, Grand Canyon shortstop Jacob Wilson) and arms (Tennessee’s Chase Dollander, Wake Forest’s Rhett Lowder).
7. Reds: Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest (No. 8)
The Reds are the last team with a glimmer of hope of landing one of the fab five, but the chances of that happening are minuscule. They’ve been associated with every demographic: college hitters (Teel, Gonzalez) and pitchers (Lowder, Dollander), high school bats (shortstop Arjun Nimmala, catcher Blake Mitchell) and arms (Meyer).
8. Royals: Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS, Portland, Ore. (No. 11)
Meyer would give Jesuit HS the top prep pitcher taken in two of the last four Drafts, following Mick Abel going 15th to the Phillies in 2020. Other possibilities include Teel, Lowder, Gonzalez and Wilson from the college ranks and Nimmala, Mitchell and third baseman Aidan Miller from the high school class.
9. Rockies: Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee (No. 6)
Dollander has been more inconsistent than expected, but he struck out 13 in his final regular-season start, and the Rockies never would have dreamed they’d have a shot to get him coming into the year. They’d also have interest in Teel, Lowder and Meyer and have spent time scouting Gonzalez, Miller, Mitchell and Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield.
10. Marlins: Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS, Dover, Fla. (No. 9)
As many as nine high school shortstops could go in the first round, and the Marlins could kick off that trend with Nimmala or Colin Houck. They’re also kicking the tires on college shortstops Wilson and Gonzalez, as well as Meyer and Miller.
11. Angels: Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi (No. 15)
After the Angels expedited Zach Neto from the 2022 Draft to the big leagues, they could opt for another college position player such as Gonzalez, Wilson or Bradfield.
12. D-backs: Colin Houck, SS, Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga. (No. 14)
There are no certainties this deep in the first round this far in advance, but Houck to the D-backs gets mentioned an awful lot. Nimmala and Miller are two more prep hitters in play, and some of the collegians projected above could be attractive if they get to No. 12.
13. Cubs: Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla. (No. 12)
The Cubs feel like the floor for Teel and Lowder, who probably won’t last this long. Miller missed much of the spring with a broken hamate but was the top hitter on the high school showcase circuit last summer. Also keep an eye on Houck, Bradfield, Maryland shortstop Matt Shaw (who has some Ian Happ parallels) and Florida Atlantic first baseman Nolan Schanuel.
14. Red Sox: Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton (Texas) HS (No. 13)
The Red Sox have taken high school bats with each of their last four first-round picks and could go that route again with Houck, Miller, Mitchell or shortstop Colt Emerson. Bradfield or Shaw could sway Boston to the college side.
15. White Sox: Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon (No. 7)
This is probably too low for Wilson, who’s the best contact hitter in the Draft and could go as high as No. 6. There are conflicting reports that the White Sox are heavy on prep hitters (Houck, Miller, Mitchell) versus going the safer college route (Wilson, Bradfield, Schanuel).
16. Giants: Enrique Bradfield, OF, Vanderbilt (No. 16)
And this might be the low end for Bradfield, who stands out with his speed and defense but comes with questions about his offensive impact. Other names tied to the Giants include Miller, Shaw and high school first baseman/right-hander Bryce Eldridge.
17. Orioles: Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida (No. 20)
The Orioles need mound help, and Waldrep is the last definite first-round pitcher, offering premium stuff but also spotty strike-throwing. They’ve also had a lot of success drafting hitters and get mentioned with Miller, Mitchell, Eldridge and Schanuel.
18. Brewers: Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland (No. 18)
Shaw boosted his stock by winning Cape Cod League MVP honors last summer and would stretch the Brewers’ streak of taking college bats in the first round to four straight Drafts. Schanuel, Stanford shortstop Tommy Troy, Miami third baseman Yohandy Morales and Texas Christian third baseman Brayden Taylor would do the same.
19. Rays: Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison HS, Vienna, Va. (No. 21)
The Rays’ affinity for high school hitters in the first round could lead them to Miller, Eldridge (who’s the Draft’s best two-way prospect but offers more upside as a slugger) or one of the several shortstops we’re going to project going in the 20s.
20. Blue Jays: Tommy Troy, SS, Stanford (No. 19)
The Blue Jays get associated with college performers like Shaw, Troy and Schanuel. They’re also one of the teams more willing to pop a prep pitcher such as Thomas White, Charlee Soto or Travis Sykora.
21. Cardinals: Nolan Schanuel, 1B/OF, Florida Atlantic (No. 29)
Schanuel has had the best statistical season in the college class, as he tops NCAA Division I in hitting (.444), on-base percentage (.612), OPS (1.476) and walks (71) and also has nearly three times as many extra-base hits (41) as strikeouts (14). Taylor and Waldrep could be alternatives.
22. Mariners: Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian (No. 30)
The Mariners will make their second and third picks (Nos. 29 and 30) before any other club gets their second, giving them a much larger bonus pool than usual ($13,170,900) for a team selecting at No. 22. They could try to float someone with a high price tag down here, though it’s too early to know who that might be. Taylor’s stock is on the upswing after winning Big 12 Conference tournament MVP honors. If Seattle goes for a prep hitter in the first round for the third straight Draft, Eldridge, Emerson, shortstops Kevin McGonigle and Walker Martin and catcher Ralphy Velazquez could be their guy.
23. Guardians: Colt Emerson, SS/3B, Glenn HS, New Concord, Ohio (No. 27)
Emerson would be the first home-state product the Guardians take in the first round since No. 2 overall choice Mark Lewis in 1988. They also could be in play for other high school bats such as Eldridge and McGonigle and may represent the floor for Waldrep.
24. Braves: Kevin McGonigle, SS/2B, Monsignor Bonner HS, Drexel Hill, Pa. (No. 26)
The Braves would love a shot at Eldridge but likely will have to look at other prep position players such as Emerson, McGonigle and fellow shortstops Martin, George Lombard Jr. and Sammy Stafura.
25. Padres: Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Flossmoor, Ill. (No. 22)
It’s going to get heavy on high schoolers late in the first round, and the Padres are connected to just about every prepster mentioned in the back half of this projected first round. Teams view Head as the high school version of Bradfield, with some teams preferring the prepster because they think he’ll provide more impact at the plate. It wouldn’t be shocking if Head crept into the top half of the first round.
26. Yankees: George Lombard Jr., SS/3B, Gulliver Prep, Pinecrest, Fla. (No. 38)
High school shortstops are the best bet for the Yankees, including Emerson, McGonigle, Lombard and Stafura. A suburban New York City product, Stafura exudes some Anthony Volpe vibes.
27. Phillies: Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian Academy, Kissimmee, Fla. (No. 25)
All things equal, the Phillies may prefer a pitcher. That could lead them to Soto, who has emerged as the second-best prep arm available behind only Meyer.
28. Astros: Walker Martin, SS, Eaton (Col.) HS (No. 28)
The Astros get mentioned with a variety of college bat performers and high school shortstops, which encompasses almost every pick we’ve projected in the 20s. Also a star quarterback who figures to get better as he focuses on baseball, Martin is riding recent helium into the first round.
And by popular demand, here are projections for the Mets and Dodgers, whose top picks dropped 10 spots because they exceeded the competitive balance tax threshold by more than $40 million:
32. Mets: Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami (No. 17)
The Mets could opt for a slugging Atlantic Coast Conference third baseman, Morales or Wake Forest’s Brock Wilken.
36. Dodgers: Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. (No. 23)
White has first-round upside and is the best left-handed pitcher available, but he lacks consistency and hurt his cause by pitching poorly in front of a large crowd of scouts in late May. Other possibilities include Wilken, Texas right-hander Tanner Witt and another prep lefty, Alex Clemmey.