While not as popular as other drafts, Major League Baseball has taken steps to increase the allure of the event, including televising the combine and making the draft a primetime event to kick off the festivities during the All-Star break. In 2023, the first round starts at 7 p.m. ET Sunday. There isn’t much drama about the top five picks, though the exact order is far from clear. Here are our predictions for the top 10, with a look at some other notable prospects, as well.
Pittsburgh Pirates- SP Paul Skenes, LSU
The Pirates are likely deciding between a pair of LSU stars in Skenes and shortstop Dylan Crews. Pittsburgh has already promoted several top prospects to its big-league club this season, nearly all of which have been hitters.
The team hopes that recently promoted Nick Gonzales and the currently injured Oneil Cruz man their middle infield for years to come, and while Crews could shift to center field, Pittsburgh generally lacks high-impact arms in their system.
Skenes is just that. He has a fastball-slider combo that could play in the majors on day one, though he may need some time to develop a third pitch. Whichever team selects him will also be careful to monitor his workload after he pitched extensively in LSU’s championship run through the College World Series.
Washington Nationals- SS Dylan Crews, LSU
The Nationals have reportedly fallen in love with Skenes, so he’s seemingly a lock to go within the first two picks. If the Pirates opt against Crews due to his reported contract demands, he could slip into the Tigers lap. However, assuming Skenes goes first overall, Crews is a safe bet to land in D.C. He should have above-average skills across the board, and he’s one of the best hitting prospects in recent years.
Detroit Tigers – OF Wyatt Langford, Florida
Jim Callis of MLB.com reported that the Tigers are targeting a college bat with this pick, leaving Langford or Crews as the options. There’s a scenario in which the Pirates select Langford, which would likely leave Crews available to head to the Motor City.
On the other hand, if the draft falls as expected in this mock, Langford is the sensible selection. The gap between he and Crews may be smaller than is perceived by the public, and Langford trades some hit tool for additional power as compared to Crews.
Texas Rangers – OF Walker Jenkins, South Brunswick (NC) HS
This is the Rangers’ only pick until the fourth round, and it’s essentially a coinflip between Jenkins and fellow high school bat Max Clark. Jenkins’ skillset is built around his power and hit tools. He also hits from the left side of plate, giving him one clear leg up over the college bats by gaining the handedness advantage more regularly.
Minnesota Twins – OF Max Clark, Franklin Community (IN) HS
Clark is the last in the top tier of prospects, which makes this selection quite simple – at least in theory. Also a lefty, Clark is unique as compared to the rest of his fellow top-tier prospects in that he has plus-plus speed and is somewhere between a plus and plus-plus defender. There’s an also an outside possibility that we see a college bat sneak into this pick, though that seems unlikely.
Oakland Athletics- C Kyle Teel, Virginia
Now things open up considerably. Teel is considered the top collegiate catching prospect in the draft, which makes him a relatively safe selection. He has the athleticism to play elsewhere on the diamond, but his defense is good enough to stick behind that plate. He could move quickly through a minor-league system, which the A’s will likely be paying attention to in an effort to improve their lowly squad in time for their proposed move to Las Vegas.
Cincinnati Reds – RHP Rhett Lowder, Wake Forest
The Reds have an embarrassment of riches in terms of hitting prospects, and we’ve seen many of them already this season — a key to their surprising run to first place in the NL Central.
The team also boasts a trio of impressive young big-league starters in Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Andrew Abbott. While they still have a few potential contributors in the upper levels of the minors, a college arm makes a lot of sense here.
Lowder already has three above-average pitches and the control of those offerings allows him to work efficiently. While all pitchers carry risk, Lowder’s is relatively low.
Kansas City Royals – C Blake Mitchell, Sinton (TX) HS
This is an interesting spot, because there’s a significant test of organizational philosophy. The Royals were supposed to be welcoming a new generation of productive starters by this point with the likes of Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic. However, each has struggled or is currently sidelined by injury.
The current front office is different from the one that selected those arms, so perhaps they go back to the well, with prep righty Noble Meyer particularly standing out as an option. Instead, we’ll project them to aim for a high-school catcher. Some reports suggest the Royals have regularly been connected to Mitchell in recent weeks. He is an excellent hitter across the board, and he’s also expected to stick at catcher in the long term.
Colorado Rockies – RHP Chase Dollander, Tennessee
The Rockies need arms, which has been true for nearly every year since they’ve been a major-league team. Coors Field will always take the shine off pitchers, but Dollander has a heavy fastball as his best pitch, which should give him at least some chance to tame his projected home park. If Lowder is available, he’d be another potential selection here.
Miami Marlins – SS Jacob Gonzalez, Ole Miss
Gonzalez has the potential to be among the first players to reach the majors in the draft class, as he’s a very productive and polished college bat. He doesn’t have the same eye-popping tools as those selected in the top five, but it would be fairly surprising to see Gonzalez fail to contribute in the majors. He may not be a star, but the Marlins need production along the infield and Gonzalez could provide that quickly.
Other Top Prospects
Noble Meyer, RHP – Meyer is the top high school arm in the class. That’s both a blessing (for obvious reasons) and a curse, given the risk associated with pitchers that are several years away from the majors. On skill alone, he’s a top-10 prospect in this class.
Arjun Nimmula, SS – Another high schooler, a team shooting for upside rather than safety should select Nimmula. He’s a decent bet to go inside the top 15, if not higher.
Brayden Taylor, 3B and Matt Shaw, SS – This duo hail from TCU and Maryland, respectively. They’re worth mentioning together as polished college bats. For teams looking for a quicker impact, they’ll be more appealing than the likes of Nimmula, Collin Houck or Aidan Miller. Chase Davis of Arizona and Tommy Troy of Stanford are two other college bats who should go in the first round.
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