Inbox: Which Draft picks will top team prospect lists?

Detroit Tigers

The two questions I get the most these days are: Are you recovered from the Draft yet? (No.) When will MLB Pipeline update the Top 100 Prospects list and the team Top 30s? (Early August, soon after the Trade Deadline.)

Which 2023 Draft picks immediately become their team’s No. 1 prospect once they sign?
— J.P. S., Springfield, Ill.

J.P. has asked me this question for years, going back to my “Ask BA” days at Baseball America, and it’s one of my favorites. I haven’t tracked the numbers but I suspect this year’s class may have the most candidates ever.

A year ago, the first two picks in the 2022 Draft (Jackson Holliday, Druw Jones) couldn’t displace Grayson Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson or Corbin Carroll from atop our Orioles and Diamondbacks Top 30s. I only saw two draftees whom I thought merited moving to No. 1 on Top 30s. This year, in one of the deepest Drafts we’ve had in a while, I have six definites and three possibilities.

There were five players who would be legitimate 1-1 candidates in most Drafts, and all of them will be their organization’s best prospect once they turn pro: Pirates right-hander Paul Skenes, Nationals outfielder Dylan Crews, Tigers outfielder Max Clark, Rangers outfielder Wyatt Langford and Twins outfielder Walker Jenkins. There are some tough calls there — Washington outfielder James Wood, Detroit third baseman Colt Keith, Minnesota shortstop Brooks Lee and Texas outfielder Evan Carter are no slouches — but I’m going with the new guys.

Right-hander Noble Meyer should ascend to the top of our Marlins list ahead of injured righty Max Meyer. I’d lean to shortstop Arjun Nimmala over left-hander Ricky Tiedemann (Blue Jays) and catcher Blake Mitchell over lefty Frank Mozzicato (Royals), but those are close. I can’t quite go third baseman Aidan Miller over injured righty Andrew Painter and healthy righty Mick Abel (Phillies), though I’d consider it.

One caveat to all this: Our Top 30 rankings flow from our Top 100 Prospects list, which is a joint effort from Sam Dykstra, Jonathan Mayo and me that’s vetted with a lot of industry feedback. So when we update everything in a couple of weeks, some of these decisions may play out differently.

The consensus top prospect in the 2023 international class, Salas is an athletic catcher and incredibly advanced offensively and defensively. He’s hitting .286/.391/.507 in Single-A, which is amazing considering his age and lack of any previous pro experience. Walcott has a crazy ceiling well, highlighted by well above-average raw power and arm strength, and he’s batting .316/.409/.643 with six homers and nine steals in 25 games in Rookie ball.

As mentioned above, Skenes, Crews, Langford, Jenkins and Clark all were legitimate No. 1 overall talents and on a tier by themselves in this Draft. In terms of talent and upside, Salas and Walcott would have been right behind that group. They would have been the best shortstop and catcher in this year’s Draft.

There’s more risk involved with Salas and Walcott because of their age and lack of track record compared to high schoolers and collegians, so they might not have gone with the sixth and seventh overall choices. The Athletics and Royals also opted to save more than a $1 million versus slot values with their picks at Nos. 6 and 8. But Salas and Walcott would have comfortably fit in the first 10-15 selections if they were part of the 2023 Draft.

I’ve been intrigued by Brewers sixth-round shortstop Cooper Pratt since we started working on the first iteration of our Draft lists last fall. There are a lot of parallels between him and a righty-hitting version of Gunnar Henderson at the same stage of their careers. They had similar offensive profiles playing at private schools in the Deep South and similar builds, though Henderson had a stronger arm and Pratt was a more consistent defender.

Kudos to Milwaukee for figuring out a way to get Pratt done with the 182nd overall pick. There are a lot of other non-first-rounders I can’t wait to see play in the Minors, with shortstop Walker Martin (Giants, second round) and left-hander Alex Clemmey (Guardians, second) two more who quickly jump to mind.

One of the best breakout prospects in the Minors this year, Anthony currently ranks No. 97 on the Top 100 and could vault somewhere into the upper half of the list when we overhaul it in August. A supplemental second-round pick who signed for late first-round money ($2.5 million) as a Florida high schooler last summer, he’s batting .263/.411/.461 with nine homers, 13 steals and 59 walks in 63 games. Since getting to High-A three weeks ago, he has been on a .338/484/.770 tear with eight homers in 21 contests.

Anthony has impressed scouts with his tools (big raw power, better hitting ability and center-field skills than anticipated) and analysts with his data (high exit velocity, advanced plate discipline) this spring. He’ll probably rank No. 2 on our updated Red Sox Top 30, behind only shortstop Marcelo Mayer.

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