With the MLB Draft Combine and the College World Series concluding in the last few days, it’s time for teams to set their Draft boards in advance of the Pirates making the No. 1 overall pick on July 9. Between now and then, clubs will finalize their evaluations and try to determine signability.
For now, I’m sticking with the same top five guys in the same order for my fourth straight first-round projection, though they’re far from set in stone. The majority of clubs would take Louisiana State outfielder Dylan Crews with top choice, but there’s also a growing sentiment that teammate Paul Skenes is a once-in-a-decade right-hander and deserves to go No. 1.
Pittsburgh looked for a discount deal when it had the first selection two years ago and popped Henry Davis, and could employ the same strategy again. That could lead to the Draft kicking off with Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford (some teams prefer him to Crews) or high school outfielders Max Clark and Walker Jenkins. The Bucs haven’t made any decisions yet as they continue to do their due diligence on the consensus five best talents.
After that top five, the best pitchers are going to fly off the board early in a first round dominated by position players. My mock draft includes just six pitchers among the 28 first-round picks, and just two arms among choices 11-28. There are going to be some bats pushed down further than expected, which is why Mississippi shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, Grand Canyon shortstop Jacob Wilson and Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield may seem surprisingly low in this projection despite receiving at least some mild top-10-overall buzz.
1. Pirates: Dylan Crews, OF, Louisiana State (No. 2)
There are rumors that Crews wants $10 million, which would be doable because the No. 1 choice comes with an assigned value of $9,721,000 and the Pirates have the largest bonus pool at $16,185,700. If the Nationals have their hearts set on Skenes at No. 2, the only other club that might meet that price would be the Tigers at No. 3. If Pittsburgh wants Crews, it seems impossible that he could turn down any offer that starts with a 9, which would shatter the all-time bonus record of $8,416,300 set by Spencer Torkelson and the Tigers in 2020. In order of likelihood here, I’d go Crews, Skenes, Clark (he’d take the biggest discount), Langford (stronger chance than you might think) and Jenkins.
2. Nationals: Paul Skenes, RHP, Louisiana State (No. 1)
The biggest lock among the early picks is the Nationals taking Skenes, even if the Pirates pass on Crews. If Skenes is gone, Washington would grab Crews.
3. Tigers: Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida (No. 3)
The Tigers seem destined for Langford unless the Pirates cut a deal and Crews drops to No. 3. In a scenario where the SEC outfielders go 1-2, there’s one school of thought that Detroit grudgingly would select someone else from the consensus top five, and another that it’s hell-bent on college bats and would take Virginia catcher Kyle Teel.
4. Rangers: Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C. (No. 4)
Langford won’t get past the Rangers but probably won’t get to them either. So Texas would come down to Jenkins versus Clark, which could go either way.
5. Twins: Max Clark, OF, Franklin (Ind.) HS (No. 5)
The Twins’ decision may seem easy — just take whichever top-five talent remains. But many clubs believe Minnesota’s model prefers college bats, which could lead to someone like Gonzalez, Teel, Texas Christian third baseman Braden Taylor, Stanford shortstop Tommy Troy or Wilson. Don’t rule out the best high school arm, Noble Meyer.
6. Athletics: Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian (No. 15)
The A’s are tied to college bats, though it’s hard to see them passing on one of the high school outfielders if they slip out of the top five. Taylor and Teel get mentioned the most with Oakland, followed by Gonzalez and Wilson, who might have incentive to accept a discount.
7. Reds: Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest (No. 6)
The Reds would love for a miracle to occur and have Jenkins or Clark find their way to No. 7. They’re scouting every demographic (collegians, high schoolers, hitters, pitchers) and are most likely to take a college arm, with Lowder ahead of Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander. Gonzalez, Teel and the top prep pitcher (Meyer) and catcher (Blake Mitchell) are other possibilities.
8. Royals: Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton (Texas) HS (No. 14)
The two names that come up the most with the Royals are Mitchell and Meyer. The bias against high school catchers could drop Mitchell into the back half of the first round, so Kansas City might be able to save money and get an extremely talented player. Lowder, Teel and Dollander are other considerations.
9. Rockies: Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee (No. 9)
The Rockies are hunting arms: Lowder, Dollander, Meyer and the top prep left-hander, Thomas White. Dollander has an inconsistent season after entering the year as our No. 2 overall prospect, but many clubs think he’ll be an easy fix in pro ball. This seems like the ceiling for Bradfield on a below-slot deal.
10. Marlins: Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS, Portland, Ore. (No. 8)
The Marlins are better at developing arms than bats, which could lead them to Meyer, Dollander or even White. They also could continue their recent pursuit of pure hitters with Wilson or Maryland shortstop Matt Shaw, pounce on Teel or start a run on high school shortstops with Arjun Nimmala or Colin Houck.
11. Angels: Kyle Teel, C, Virginia (No. 7)
Teel should fit in the top 10 somewhere on talent and would be a nice get for the Angels, who are linked to several college position players who could move quickly like their 2022 first-rounder, Zach Neto. Florida Atlantic first baseman/outfielder Nolan Schanuel, who posted the best batting line (.444/.612/.864) in NCAA Division I, fits that mold and this would be his ceiling. Their need for pitching could divert them to Lowder or Dollander if one of them is available, and they also get associated with the Draft’s best two-way player, high school first baseman/right-hander Bryce Eldridge.
12. Diamondbacks: Colin Houck, SS, Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga. (No. 12)
Another club that wouldn’t mind a shot at Lowder, Dollander or Teel, the Diamondbacks probably will be choosing between high school infielders such as Houck, Nimmala, third baseman Aidan Miller or shortstop Colt Emerson. If they opt for a college hitter, it could be Troy.
13. Cubs: Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS, Dover, Fla. (No. 11)
The Cubs are sorting through several bats, with the high school group (Nimmala, Houck, Miller, Emerson, Eldridge) maybe ahead of the college crop (Taylor, Shaw, Gonzalez, Wilson, Bradfield). They’ve taken college pitchers in the first round of the three of the last four Drafts, and Florida right-hander Huston Waldrep would be their only viable option in this scenario.
14. Red Sox: Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla. (No. 13)
The Red Sox appear headed for a high school bat for the fourth consecutive first round, with candidates including Miller, Houck, Mitchell, Emerson and perhaps even shortstop Tai Peete. Schanuel, Bradfield and Arizona outfielder Chase Davis are college contenders.
15. White Sox: Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi (No. 18)
Though the White Sox desperately need pitching, they’d prioritize the available bats over Waldrep, the last of the four college arms who are first-round locks. Might they consider White? There are mixed reports as to whether Chicago prefers collegians (Taylor, Gonzalez, Wilson, Shaw, Troy, Schanuel, Bradfield, Davis, Miami third baseman Yohandy Morales) to prepsters (Houck, Miller, Mitchell, shortstop Walker Martin).
16. Giants: Tommy Troy, SS, Stanford (No. 17)
Like the White Sox, the Giants would love to get one of the top three college arms. They likely will pivot to the first-round college bats with helium (Troy, Shaw, Taylor, Schanuel), may be the landing spot for Bradfield and could go for a high school bat (Miller, Martin) or White.
17. Orioles: Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida (No. 19)
It keeps coming back to the same candidates with the Orioles: Waldrep, several prep hitters (Nimmala, Miller, Mitchell, Eldridge) and Schanuel. Davis has some buzz in the teens and could land here.
18. Brewers: Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon (No. 10)
The Brewers probably will extend their streak of college position players in the first round to four straight years with someone from among Taylor, Gonzalez, Wilson, Shaw, Troy, Bradfield, Schanuel or Morales. Miller and White are high school options.
19. Rays: Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland (No. 16)
Shaw and Troy are at the forefront of the available college bats, while Miller, Mitchell and Eldridge are among the prepsters who could be in play. The Rays like Peete and prep outfielder Johnny Farmelo, though both should get to them at No. 31.
20. Blue Jays: Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. (No. 24)
White faltered in his final start in late May before a large crowd of scouts, but he’s also the best left-hander available and there’s a sneaking suspicion that he’s going to go a lot higher than expected to a club coveting pitching. Prep right-hander Charlee Soto is in play as well, as are college position players (Taylor, Shaw, Troy, Schanuel, Morales) and high school hitters (outfielder Dillon Head, Emerson).
21. Cardinals: Nolan Schanuel, 1B/OF, Florida Atlantic (No. 26)
Unless Taylor, Shaw or Troy make it to No. 21, the Cardinals will be looking at some combination of Schanuel (this might be his realistic floor), White, Waldrep, Davis and Bradfield.
22. Mariners: Colt Emerson, SS/3B, Glenn HS, New Concord, Ohio (No. 29)
Owning three of the top 30 selections gives the Mariners the seventh-highest bonus pool ($13,170,900), so they could try to float a big-name player with a huge price tag to No. 22, though it’s unclear who that might be. There’s a lot of chatter that they’ll take three high school players and could start by plucking Mitchell, Emerson, Eldridge or shortstop George Lombard Jr.
23. Guardians: Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest (No. 25)
The Guardians could use some power and Wilken is one of the best sluggers available, finishing second in NCAA Division I with 31 homers and setting an Atlantic Coast Conference record with 71 career blasts. Schanuel could provide some pop as well. Eldridge and Emerson are two high school candidates.
24. Braves: Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison HS, Vienna, Va. (No. 23)
Barring a surprising college bat sliding to No. 24, the Braves will mull Eldridge versus high school shortstops such as Emerson, Sammy Stafura, Lombard, Martin and Kevin McGonigle. It’s not impossible that Mitchell could drop into this territory of the first round, where he’d be a steal.
25. Padres: Enrique Bradfield, OF, Vanderbilt (No. 21)
The best-case scenario for the Padres is to somehow find Houck, Miller or White available, but that has little chance of happening. While some teams question Bradfield’s offensive impact, others see him as a potential Kenny Lofton, so he may not drop this deep either. Other candidates to consider: Eldridge, Stafura, high school catcher/first baseman Ralphy Velazquez, Davis and Head.
26. Yankees: Sammy Stafura, SS, Panas HS, Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. (No. 32)
As a suburban New Yorker with Anthony Volpe vibes, Stafura seems like an obvious guy for the Yankees. They’re also on other shortstops such as Lombard, Peete and McGonigle and could opt for a pitcher such as White or Kent State left-hander Joe Whitman, who has helium.
27. Phillies: Chase Davis, OF, Arizona (No. 22)
Davis gets mentioned as high as the mid-teens and needs a home, so we’re stashing him here. A high school arm (White, right-hander Charlee Soto) or bat (Eldridge, Stafura, Lombard) in the first round would fit their recent modus operandi.
28. Astros: Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami (No. 20)
The Astros get connected mostly to college performers (Wilken, Morales, Davis) and prep shortstops (Stafura, Martin). Velazquez could factor in here as well.
As for the supplemental first round . . .
29. Mariners: Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian Academy, Kissimmee, Fla. (No. 28)
30. Mariners: Ralphy Velazquez, C/1B, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS (No. 34)
31. Rays: Tai Peete, SS, Trinity Christian HS, Sharpsburg, Ga. (No. 53)
32. Mets: Joe Whitman, LHP, Kent State (No. 37)
33. Brewers: Jake Gelof, 3B, Virginia (No. 35)
34. Twins: Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Flossmoor, Ill. (No. 27)
35. Marlins: George Lombard Jr., SS/3B, Gulliver Prep, Pinecrest, Fla. (No. 31)
36. Dodgers: Jonny Farmelo, OF, Westfield HS, Chantilly, Va. (No. 39)
37. Tigers: Walker Martin, SS, Eaton (Col.) HS (No. 30)
38. Reds: Cameron Johnson, LHP, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (No. 42)
39. Athletics: Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech (No. 36)