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2024 MLB Mock Draft 1.0

Jerry Espinoza-The Sporting Tribune
The Sporting Tribune's Taylor Blake Ward gives his first version of the MLB Mock Draft with a West Coast college player leading the way.

Many ask why I wait until June to start writing mock drafts — which is a pretty reasonable question.

To keep it simple, there just isn’t enough information about club’s real interest in players until around this point in the draft, which is evidently later in the calendar than in years prior due to the draft date.

The rumor mill can start as early as it wants to and it’s up to whomever will listen to the rumors as to how much they’ll believe what they’re told or hear. Though it remains a constant cycle of information (and misinformation), we are in the late stages of the grapevine chatter and getting into more concrete material.

That comes with the caveat that it is still scuttlebutt, which doesn’t merit fact.

Super Regionals are essentially concluded (if you’re reading this after the N.C. State and Georgia game, it is over) and teams destined for Omaha have been decided. For the youngsters, they’re sporting caps and gowns as opposed to ballcaps and stirrups.

Most players have seen their seasons conclude with a few exceptions, whether on the collegiate or prep side, while some will head off to wood bat leagues before the draft.

There is still quite a bit to be done. Teams will have pre-draft interviews to both establish the makeup of players and to find out the signability and bonus demand factors. Doctors will examine medicals. Team meetings will occur somewhere around 1-3 weeks before the draft itself.

If the pre-draft interviews and medical examinations haven’t occurred yet, the MLB Draft Combine (to be held at Phoenix’s Chase Field on June 18-23) will be a spot amateur directors will key in on to have those conversations. The combine will also be a place to establish excess data on peak raw tools (exit velocities, pitch velocities and spin, etc.). It will be a place where players who may have been restricted due to amateur club development patterns can break free and play in a looser environment that fits their preferred style.

I mention all of this because when the combine was announced a few years back I was leery as to what benefit it would actually bring, but it has become a place for proper environment for association between player and club and place for teams to finalize their assessments.

As for the draft itself, I’m going to treat the reader (that’s you) as an educated peruser who has at minimum a basic concept of the draft and how it operates.

This draft class is viewed as a weaker one in general, with a top tier(s) seeing value prospects who would likely go in the top 20 of any given draft. But the falloff after around 10-15 players being guys you’d see more towards the comp rounds and later. There’s some depth in the day two category, but it still remains similar to recent drafts and a softer top of the board.

Tier 1 of the class consists of Travis Bazzana (2B, Oregon State) and Charlie Condon (3B/OF, Georgia), and then separates into Tier 1-A which isn’t an immense enough falloff to say it’s a “gap” with six players consisting of Jac Caglianone (1B/LHP, Florida), Braden Montgomery (OF, Texas A&M), Nick Kurtz (1B, Wake Forest), J.J. Wetherholt (IF, West Virginia), Chase Burns (RHP, Wake Forest) and Hagen Smith (LHP, Arkansas). Two prep players start Tier-2 in Konnor Griffin (OF/SS, Mississippi Jackson) and Bryce Rainer (SS, California Harvard-Westlake).

Tier 2-A or Tier 3 is enough falloff to create its own category with Florida State’s James Tibbs (OF) and Cam Smith (3B), Seaver King (IF/OF, Wake Forest), Trey Yesavage (RHP, East Carolina),and William Schmidt (RHP, Louisiana Catholic). Following that are players you’d see taken in the 20’s, 30’s and comp rounds of other drafts.

The top of the class lacks true up-the-middle defenders with most of the aforementioned players having a future at the corners or a non-premier defensive position. Because of that, you may see college players like Kaelen Culpepper (SS, Kansas State), Vance Honeycutt (OF, North Carolina) and Kavares Tears (OF, Tennessee) get an earlier run than probably expected.

The same can be said of prep players after Griffin, Rainer and Schmidt, so a run of prep talents out of the blue could be expected, though I’ll keep this mock fairly straight forward.

I’ll probably link this full explanation in each mock draft following this one, but if you’d like to tab it for future reference, feel free.

1. Cleveland Guardians: Travis Bazzana, 2B, Oregon State

The rumors at the first pick probably won’t stop until the first pick is actually made. That’s how it goes most years, and maybe it’s because we’re still over a month out, but it seems even more so this year.

Clubs behind Cleveland are positioning themselves to have both Bazzana and Charlie Condon available, and that tracks all the way to the back of the top 10 despite the tier divide. Bazzana checks a lot of boxes for Cleveland’s standard model with college performance, wood bat performance (particularly in the Cape) and being at least around young or average age for the class with a non-zero chance of staying up-the-middle (Bazzana will be a second baseman at the next level).

Deal cutting is always part of the equation, but that usually comes when there’s a top duo or trio as opposed to top octet or so. That leads to the question of how much discount Cleveland — or anyone in the top 10 for that matter — would actually be getting since those eight are likely going to want near or over slot regardless of where they are picked.

Slot value for the first pick this year is $1.3 million over what the record bonus (Paul Skenes, $9.2M, 2023) is at present and agents and advisors tend to want to possess that record when taken first overall. So if Cleveland finds a deal with Bazzana (or Condon) for $9.3M, they’d still be operating with seven digits extra in their bonus pool, though the bonus demands of both Bazzana and Condon are likely unknown at this moment.

Maybe someone could converse their way into signing closer to $8-8.5 million, which would be enough to merit a discount. Leading candidates for deal cut are Chase Burns and J.J. Wetherholt.

The decision at the No. 1 pick will dictate the rest of the top picks (“duh,” he says), but with so many unknowns at the first selection, there are many variances to follow for clubs picking 2-10. That leads to uncertainty throughout the teams with $6-7 million in first-round slot bonus, which tails all the way back to the Pirates at nine.

Of note, I’ve heard interest in about Cole Mathis (1B, Charleston), Bryce Cunningham (RHP, Vanderbilt) and Braylon Doughty (RHP, California Chapparal) to some degree with Cleveland’s 36th and 48th picks.

2. Cincinnati Reds: Charlie Condon, 3B/OF, Georgia

I think if Bazzana goes one, Condon goes two. Same can be said in the reverse. If both are available, I still think it’s Condon.

For the second year in a row, there’s a bit more confidence in how the second pick will pan out than the first.

3. Colorado Rockie: Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest

Pitching is the chatter with Colorado. It makes sense with the mile-high environment that can put the pause button on for free agent pitchers, so why not build in-house, right?

If Bazzana and/or Condon is still on the board, that may alter the scenario, though I’m unsure which one Colorado would prefer.

4. Oakland Athletics: Jac Caglianone, 1B/LHP, Florida

There’s some shady chatter that with their upcoming move to Las Vegas, the A’s are looking for star power and there’s less than a handful of players in this class who might attain such upside status. However, it’s doubtful that owner John Fisher has anything to do with the draft room, or even knows where the war room would be, or cares.

Caglianone is one of those players with star upside, though it will take some serious development of his chase to get to that status. It would be interesting to see if any club would send Caglianone out as a two-way prospect, though it’s become pretty consensus that his future is at the plate, with pitching being a fallback if he can’t hit enough to get into his immense power.

I don’t see a scenario where Bazzana falls past Oakland.

5. Chicago White Sox: Bryce Rainer, SS, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)

This is the first spot that there’s real credence to seeing a prep player drafted. Rainer gets a little more run than Konnor Griffin — here at least — and you can’t rule out any of the top tier bats or arms. Wetherholt probably leads the class of collegiates still on the board.

6. Kansas City Royals: Konnor Griffin, SS/OF, Jackson Prep HS (MS)

Similar to Chicago ahead of them, it feels like a prep player will go in the first six picks.

Griffin has had a long run of rumors attached to the Royals and then kind of falls off towards the early teens. Rainer is also a fit and may even leapfrog Griffin if available.

There’s some open-ended ties here with all of the bats still in play if on the board, as is Hagen Smith, or a potential discount. This would seem to be the absolute floor for Condon if he had any trickle effect caused by a discount (or discounts) at the top.

James Tibbs III starts coming up around this range and beyond.

7. St. Louis Cardinals: Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas

If history tells us anything, it’s that the Cardinals like their pitchers (at least the ones taken early) to come from big conferences. There’s been a pivot to the Pac 12 in recent years, but it was SEC and ACC heavy prior to that.

St. Louis could have its pick between the top two arms in the class, and hey, look at that: They come from the SEC and ACC. Burns is off the board here, but Smith is not.

Still not ruling out the bats and this is the first spot that Trey Yesavage gets mentioned more frequently.

There are some in the industry who see Smith in the same category as Bazzana and Condon, strictly based on upside, though it comes with some red flags, which has some clubs playing the percentile and window outcome games. He has a violent delivery, throws in the triple digits and is five years removed from Tommy John.

There is undeniable frontline starter upside here, as is severe injury risk (he’s a pitcher, there’s always injury risk). There is a small percentage of getting one of the best pitchers in the game, with a larger percentage of questioning how many innings you’ll get from him over a six-year entry level/arbitration contract if was to get injured again.

He has the stuff to be a premium reliever, which would deter from some of his rotation upside but could also be a useful way to keep his innings down. Either way, he is one of the riskier prospects in the class, with potentially the most upside.

8. Los Angeles Angels: J.J. Wetherholt, SS, West Virginia

With the caveat that I cover the Angels on the daily, there’s going to be more attention to this pick than others from the majority share of readers, so this may be a bit more long winded than the other writeups.

Discount deals continue to come up with the Angels in the likes of Yesavage, Tibbs, Seaver King and Cam Smith. Similar to the first pick and the ones following, a lot of discount deals may not come at the price cut it normally would with a bigger group of tiers in the first round.

The deal-cutting options are probably going to save the club around $750K to $1M, which is significant away from the first handful of picks but may not be enough to deter them away from what are considered the top tier college players. Also, the Angels have their largest bonus pool ever and have a second-round pick for only the second time since 2020 with more than two first-day picks for the first time since 2010.

The primary rumor about the Angels is that there are some in the top tier that they like less than the others, which may be reason for the discount player rumors. Who those players are? I don’t know. Maybe Wetherholt or Kurtz because of their injuries in the spring and in the past or Smith because of the outcome variance, but that’s purely speculation.

Another item that becomes popular with the Angels is “quick-moving” players, which had its credence with Reid Detmers, Zach Neto, and Nolan Schanuel all seeing time in the majors before being a calendar year removed from their last collegiate appearance (Detmers excluded only because of COVID).

The urgency to get players quick to the majors has lessened with the departure of Shohei Ohtani was more a victim to injuries with the club and lack of immediate depth ahead of them. That time seems to have passed, and I don’t think you can expect whoever they pick to be in the Majors by July 2025 (though I wouldn’t rule it out).

I believe this will be a fairly straight forward draft for the Angels, and whoever of the top eight collegiates remains will be the leading candidate for this pick. I’m leaning towards Wetherholt because of the scouting department’s affinity for the hit tool, and not going back-to-back on first baseman with Kurtz.

Montgomery is definitely in play here and might actually be the target. Local product Rainer is getting some noise if available.

I’ve also heard they have interest in a group of Big-12 infielders and prep shortstops with their other first-day picks, though the preferred shortstop likely gets popped before their next selection.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates: Braden Montgomery, OF, Texas A&M

Speaking of the Big 12 and local products, Wetherholt may be the preferred target here and it’s not a pipe dream that the kid who grew up less than an hour from PNC Park can land close to home. He’s not available here, but I suppose this is a good spot as any to put the lazy “anything and anyone could be anywhere” comment.

Montgomery has suitors all the way up to Oakland but seems to be one of the top eight that could be a fall towards the back of the top 10.

(Note: This was written on Saturday morning before Montgomery suffered a season-ending ankle injury while sliding into home plate during Saturday’s Super Regional game. His draft stock status is a bit unknown with the injury, but likely won’t hinder it significantly.)

10. Washington Nationals: Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest

Playing this a bit safe. Kurtz definitely has suitors ahead of this and seems to only be falling because of the first base demographic and some past minor injuries.

It takes the top eight out of the rest of the equation, and I think a more realistic outcome is that one of the top prep position players lands here, while I doubt Washington would maneuver off the top of the class and take whoever lands in their lap.

11. Detroit Tigers: Trey Yesavage, RHP, East Carolina

Yesavage is in play from around the sixth pick onward and expect his fall to go beyond No. 15. He has separated himself into a tier almost by himself as the best pitcher not named Burns or Smith.

Detroit has some prep attachments here, including those already off the board and some remaining.

12. Boston Red Sox: Seaver King, IF/OF, Wake Forest

I expect a run of college bats to start here, with a pair of prep arms scattered in somewhere. King has some impact tools and has some helium towards a discount a tick earlier than this.

This would seem to be the absolute floor for Griffin.

13. San Francisco Giants – Cam Caminiti, LHP, Saguaro HS (AZ)

Detroit and San Francisco are the two teams who are continually attached to high schoolers, and if things go a bit more awry in the first 12 picks, this is probably the ultimate floor for Rainer or Griffin (I know, I said it the picks before).

Caminiti and William Schmidt are the top two prep arms by a reasonably big margin, and I think they’d take the lefty over the righty. Schmidt has some noise in the top 10, though his demographic may keep him in this range and deeper.

14. Chicago Cubs: James Tibbs III, OF, Florida State

Continuing the run of college bats, Tibbs has just as strong a chance of being here as he does not. Don’t expect Yesavage to fall beyond here or Seattle, up next.

15. Seattle Mariners: William Schmidt, RHP, Catholic HS (LA)

Pitching comes up with Seattle more than college bats, but the jump from Yesavage to the next college arm is a bit much to believe they’d call on Brody Brecht, Jonathan Santucci, or Ben Hess this early.

I think there’s some interest in switch-pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje, but again, may be a bit too early to pull the trigger. If they go the college bat route here I think they’ll try to swing a pitcher to the second round.

16. Miami Marlins: Cam Smith, 3B, Florida State

Sticking college bats, though Miami has done a good job of moving the prep market around in their favor, as well as taking arms with a good fastball/slider combination knowing they can develop the changeup. Schmidt or Brecht, maybe?

17. Milwaukee Brewers: Theo Gillen, SS, Westlake HS (TX)

A team that tends to stick pretty tight to their models, it’s athletes with a fairly rounded hit tool and pitchers with great stuff. Brecht once again comes to mind, but it feels too early.

Gillen is a solid athlete who can really hit, but his arm will limit his defensive profile. This could be one of the high marks for Kaelen Culpepper and seemingly the floor for King.

18. Tampa Bay Rays: Carson Benge, OF, Oklahoma State

College bats, still. Benge is a pretty heavy riser who has a range from the mid-teens to mid-20’s, though his lefty-righty splits are causing some alarm.

Plenty of bats you could begin to fill in, and no real connection other than playing the range game from here on out. Caminiti gets a lot of run here and throughout the 20’s, so this may be a good landing spot if he isn’t taken earlier.

Would it surprise you to see Tampa go away from what the industry board is and take a guy who may be considered a second rounder? It wouldn’t surprise me. I’m looking at you Carter Johnson.

19. New York Mets: Christian Moore, 2B, Tennessee

Kind of a copy and paste from the picks ahead of this. College bats. Leaning towards power with New York as opposed to hit tool, though Moore has a solid hit tool.

20. Toronto Blue Jays: Braylon Doughty, RHP, Chapparal HS (CA)

Toronto is in the same mix as those above them where college bats seem to be the favorite, but I’ve heard a lot of local noise about them being attached to California prep arms. It’s more related to Boston Bateman who plays in the Northern LA region and is a lefty, which is a better/safer demographic than right-handers, but it’s enough noise for me to at least buy here and alter some of the writeup.

As mentioned in the introduction, preps and up-the-middle players (don’t rule out Culpepper or Vance Honeycutt here) are going to get a quicker trigger than the college bats who will just scatter the first round all together, so playing more of a game in my own mind with useful information than actually linking with legitimacy. Toronto doesn’t pick again until No. 59 and I’m not sold that any of the prep arms I’ve heard them linked to would fall that far, so taking a bit of an early-June shot here.

21. Minnesota Twins: Vance Honeycutt, OF, North Carolina

Minnesota has put an emphasis on power and tools on the amateur front. Honeycutt has some real game-changing tools, including the power department (both raw and in-game), while his ability to utilize his speed and defense really make him a well sought after player.

His hit tool comes with serious swing-and-miss concerns for a player considered a first-round talent and will be questioned until he proves he can cut down the only real problematic part of his game. Mentally for me, he is reminiscent of Jeren Kendall, who the Dodgers took 23rd overall in 2017 and ended up being a career .209 hitter in the minors who didn’t break free from Double-A.

Honeycutt does receive high marks for his makeup (not that Kendall didn’t) so I think there’s a real shot at tapping into his tools and getting more regular glimpses of an impact player. Because of the payoff tools, and hit tool, his range is anywhere from the early teens to early second, but I’m feel somewhat confident he’ll land closer to this range than his peak or floor.

Pending the demand bonuses, this could be a discount of sorts kind of pick with Minnesota holding another selection just 12 spots down the road where they might be able to swing a priority prep target such as Ryan Sloan or Slade Caldwell.

22. Baltimore Orioles: Slade Caldwell, OF, Valley View HS (AR)

Caldwell comes up in this range pretty regularly and is viewed by some as the next top prep position player after Rainer and Griffin. He possesses the talent of a prototypical first round prep and is one of the more model friendly players, which is part of Baltimore’s modus operandi. Plenty of prep options and college bats are still available before we get to the college arms.

23. Los Angeles Dodgers: Ryan Waldschmidt, OF, Kentucky

Looking at tools here. Caminiti, Schmidt, Gillen and Caldwell all make sense here as off the board options. Kellon Lindsey has some similar traits to their first selection last year in Kendall George, while Kash Mayfield fits their arm profile and is regularly connected to LA.

With their next pick being 75 spots out and having the second smallest bonus pool, I’m a bit leery giving them a prep with a commitment to any powerhouse and will lean to a more well-rounded college hitter for now. Waldschmidt is a pretty big riser right now who has suitors in the teens and a clear analytical connection to the club ahead of this.

24. Atlanta Braves: Ryan Sloan, RHP, York HS (IL)

It’s hard to look at Atlanta and not think about pitching. They’ve used each first- and second-round selections since 2020 on pitchers and haven’t been afraid of prep right-handers in the past.

Of note, though it probably lacks any real significance: Ryan Sloan’s high school is about 10 miles northwest of where Braves 2022 first-rounder Owen Murphy went to high school, which is still Jeremy Gordon’s territory.

25. San Diego Padres: Kellon Lindsey, SS, Hardee HS (FL)

Eventually, a track record will find a crack. For me, it’s not happening in San Diego this year. Seven straight years of taking a high schooler in the first round, and I’m thinking eight.

Looking purely at impact tools and draft range here, and nothing more for the time being.

26. New York Yankees: Tommy White, 3B, LSU

Looking at power here, whether on the mound or at the plate. Tommy Tanks has had one of the most illustrious collegiate careers you could find. He won a College World Series with LSU in 2023 and finished his career tied for ninth on the NCAA home run all-time list.

Despite all of that he’s a bit harder to peg down because even if you’re buying in on the bat (which most are), his other tools are fringy at best and he’s more than likely going to land at first base. There has been talk of improved athleticism later this spring, but not enough to really alter his projection.

With his offensive projection and amateur track record and star power, someone will take him in the early parts of day one, but I’m just not sure where and whether or not other bats have surpassed him enough to see him fall into the comp or second round. This is more of a place and plug rather than feeling any information around the industry.

27. Philadelphia Phillies: Kash Mayfield, LHP, Elk City HS (OK)

A bit more place and plug, which is kind of expected at this point of the mock. Preps get a lot of run with Philadelphia and this is the best on the board right now.

28. Houston Astros: Kaelen Culpepper, SS, Kansas State

Following the sign-stealing and trash can banging, the Astros managed the draft penalties placed on them in 2020 and 2021 fairly well by taking advantage of the draft market. Culpepper could be off the board here and even be a teen pick as the one collegiate who has a fair chance of staying in the middle of the dirt while also possessing a solid offensive tool across the board.

It’s a market inefficiency, and Houston has worked their way into that market over the past few years.

29. Arizona Diamondbacks: Tyson Lewis, SS, Millard West HS (NE)

Selecting here at 29, again at 32, and then again at 35, Arizona has a little more $8.5 million in slot values to play with over the next handful-or-so picks.

With four different teams selecting between here and 35, the Diamondbacks can key in on so many potential targets, it’s hard to peg down even a handful of names. They’ve had an affinity for athletic up-the-middle preps and hard-throwing collegiates, so just sticking to the guns of that category.

Lewis gets traction all over the late teens to the comp round.

30. Texas Rangers: Walker Janek, C, Sam Houston

A lot of talk about catchers here, and Janek has a good chance of being plucked before this. Caleb Lomavita and Malcolm Moore would be the alternate options in the catching market with Lomavita getting a more solid run with a better chance at sticking behind the plate.

Compensation Picks

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Caleb Lomavita, C, California
  2. Baltimore Orioles: Carter Johnson, SS, Oxford HS (AL)
  3. Minnesota Twins: Billy Amick, 3B, Tennessee
  4. Milwaukee Brewers: Brody Brecht, RHP, Iowa
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks: Wyatt Sanford, SS, Independence HS (TX)
  6. Cleveland Guardians: David Shields, LHP, Mt Lebanon HS (PA)
  7. Pittsburgh Pirates: Malcolm Moore, C, Stanford
  8. Colorado Rockies: Jurrangelo Cijntje, SWP, Mississippi State
  9. Kansas City Royals: Boston Bateman, LHP, Camarillo HS (CA)