As we are just over a week away from the first selection of the 2023 MLB Draft, Taylor Blake Ward of The Sporting Tribune has put together his first MLB Mock Draft for the year. Team executives, decision makers, and crosscheckers flew in across the country last week and over the weekend to their respective club locations or draft meeting settings to finalize their big boards and systematically map out of a gameplan for the draft in their own personal favor following the College World Series and MLB Draft Combine where they finalized their collection of data and concluded some in-person interviews.
There is a consensus top five talents in this draft, with the often consensus top position player and top pitcher going 1-2 in some order between LSU’s Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes. The remaining three of the five have all been mentioned with the top two picks and further with some questions about one of them falling a few picks out of the top five selections. After that, Wake Forest’s Rhett Lowder and Virginia’s Kyle Teel are in an odd second tier that’s not distant from the top five or the next tier of about 12-15 players which could go anywhere from picks 6-20 with the eventual surprise one or two that fall into the 20-25 range.
This draft class has been praised for its talent depth, both in the first round and following into about the third round. It’s a hitter friendly draft with pitchers sporadically going early because of the lack of college arms and in particular, left-handed pitchers in general.
Taylor Blake Ward and The Sporting Tribune will have another mock draft late in the week and a name’s only mock on the day of the draft, Sunday, July 9.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates – Dylan Crews, OF, LSU
Consensus remains that LSU’s Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes will go with the first two picks but the order in which they go has not been established. Crews entered the year as the top prospect, and little has changed from that opinion this spring outside of Skenes bursting into elite status as the best draft-eligible pitcher since Stephen Strasburg. Skenes is viewed as a once-in-a-career amateur arm for executives and may be hard to pass on, which is why the attachment to the first pick sticks despite the risk of taking a pitcher with the first overall pick. As comes with the territory, rumors with both credence and absurdity arise this time of year, but I’m sticking with Crews despite both types of rumors. Long-founded rumors of Indiana-prep outfielder Max Clark wanting to go 1-1 and pricing himself to the pick still linger and no one seems to have ruled it out as a real possibility. I don’t gamble but if I’m playing percentages (and to express my uncertainty between Crews/Skenes) I’d put Crews at 41%, Skenes at 40%, Clark at 9%, Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford at 8%, and the field (including North Carolina-prep outfielder Walker Jenkins) at 2%.
2. Washington Nationals – Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU
There’s more faith here than with the first pick even with pending scenarios. If someone other than Skenes goes one, he goes here. If Skenes does go at one, Crews goes two.
3. Detroit Tigers – Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida
In the likely scenario that Crews and Skenes go 1-2, the Tigers should be set to take Langford who would be a 1-1 candidate most years. If Langford goes first, Crews goes here. If Clark goes first, it may be a tougher split between Langford and Crews with Crews getting the nod. There are some cost-cutting rumors with Detroit but I’m not buying.
4. Texas Rangers – Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS (NC)
Jenkins and Clark are the two primaries here with the scenario above playing out. Jenkins has been more frequently attached to Texas over the spring so I’m leaning towards him by a miniscule margin. If it’s Clark, Jenkins is the most likely of the top five to slide but it wouldn’t be a far tumble. This would be the floor for Langford if things change at the top.
5. Minnesota Twins – Max Clark, OF, Franklin HS (IN)
The first spot with actual credence to maneuvering away from the top five talents comes here. Minnesota tends to stick pretty tight to their draft models which puts a flurry of college bats here. There’s a lot of confidence Clark won’t fall outside of the top five so I’m making it easy on myself and going with the fifth of five in Clark here, but plenty of scenarios can alter that, landing multiple players at this spot.
*Author’s Note*: As an aside that’s kind of necessary for the randomness of the draft, the industry is prepared for one of the prep outfielders to fall outside of the top five picks while there’s a grouping of 10-15 players who will range from picks 6-20 in any alteration. Multiple teams will alter from that group, and someone will land in the 20’s that wasn’t expected to fall that far. The next handful (or handfuls) of picks can have multiple outcomes which may have a bit more solidarity a few days before the draft, but the amount of outcomes are too large to establish much confidence. The group of 10-15 consists of: college pitchers Rhett Lowder, Chase Dollander, Hurston Waldrep; prep pitcher Noble Meyer, catcher Kyle Teel; college infielders Jacob Gonzalez, Jacob Wilson, Brayden Taylor, Matt Shaw, Tommy Troy; prep infielders Arjun Nimmala, Colin Houck, Aidan Miller; college outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr.; and two-way prep Bryce Eldridge.
6. Oakland Athletics – Kyle Teel, C, Virginia
After the top five talents, there’s a small bridge between the next tier with Teel and Wake Forest’s Rhett Lowder. The A’s are believed to take a college bat here with Teel leading the charge and regular visits to Virginia to see both Teel and Jake Gelof who they would like with their sandwich pick, but I wouldn’t rule out Jenkins or Clark here if they were to fall outside of the top five.
7. Cincinnati Reds – Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest
This is the first spot with real traction of taking a college arm not named Skenes, with Lowder separating himself from his fellow college pitchers. Cincinnati would likely be the floor for Clark or Jenkins if they were to fall, and they may stay on the prep side of things with the top prep pitcher in the class in Noble Meyer.
8. Kansas City Royals – Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
As noted, Teel and Lowder have created a small gap between themselves and the next tier and both have a potential landing spot with Kansas City. They’ve been attached to some of the top preps and may be the first landing spot for Texas-prep catcher Blake Mitchell. The college bat grouping all have some attachments here.
9. Colorado Rockies – Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee
Lowder has been attached to Colorado because of his draft range and his arsenal fitting perfectly with the Rockies philosophy. It sounds like arms to Colorado regardless and any of the next tier fit in Dollander, Meyer, and Massachusetts-prep Thomas White.
10. Miami Marlins – Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon
This is where the books opens up a bit more if it hasn’t already. Middle infielders continually come up with Miami with other demographics getting “yeah, possibly,” responses. I’ll stick with the longer attachment of Wilson but wouldn’t rule out Maryland’s Matt Shaw, or prep shortstops Colin Houck (GA) and Arjun Nimmala (FL). If you didn’t read the writer’s note, there’s a lot of potential outcomes at this point.
11. Los Angeles Angels – Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss
Under Perry Minasian’s regime with the Angels, they’ve consistently been attached to quick-moving college players and the industry doesn’t believe there will be much change in that this year. Lowder and Dollander are regularly mentioned with the latter having a better chance of getting here, and they could maneuver to Florida’s Hurston Waldrep to take advantage of the pitching market inefficiency. Gonzalez, Teel, Wilson, Shaw, TCU’s Brayden Taylor, and Stanford’s Tommy Troy all fit the assumed mold the Angels are looking at. They’ve been linked to some preps in Houck, Florida-prep infielder Aidan Miller, and Virginia two-way Bryce Eldridge (though that’s more for their affinity in two-way player development) but for the most part all is too noisy on the western front to narrow it down to a select group.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks – Colin Houck, SS, Parkview HS (GA)
It’s been a long-seeded rumor that Houck is one Mike Hazen’s favored guys and in the past, that’s been a strong confidence builder to mock a player to the Snakes. Plenty of the aforementioned names fit here, as well as the remaining group of second-tier bats in Taylor, Shaw, Troy, and Nimmala.
13. Chicago Cubs – Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU
It sounds like bats with Chicago with a lean to the college side in Taylor, Shaw, and Troy with some of the previously mentioned bats in play as well. Taylor has long been seen as a first-round talent but had a big rise late in the spring upwards of the top 10.
14. Boston Red Sox – Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS (FL)
It’s a repetitive scenario with teams picking 10-20 with a multitude of scenarios but it seems Boston is looking at bats. Miller gets the most traction here, but you can’t rule out Taylor, Shaw, or Troy. Some clubs view Boston as the first team to go outside of the second tier and grab a lefty power bat.
15. Chicago White Sox – Chase Davis, OF, Arizona
Preference seems to be a pitcher with Lowder or Dollander leading the charge but that’s becoming a less likely outcome. That leaves them with the remaining (or previous) bats, and they’re rumored (as is Boston) to be moving towards the perceived third-tier hitters pending outcomes ahead of their pick.
16. San Francisco Giants – Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland
Sticking with college bats, the Giants could just let one fall in their lap from the top grouping. In this scenario that is Shaw and Troy and there’s word the Giants really do like Shaw who has plenty of suitors ahead of this. With an affinity for players in the SEC and ACC you couldn’t rule out any players from the major conferences like Gonzalez, Vanderbilt’s Enrique Bradfield Jr. (whose range starts upwards of the seventh pick), Miami’s Yohandy Morales, Wake Forest’s Brock Wilken, or continue adding to their pitching depth with Waldrep.
17. Baltimore Orioles – Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS (FL)
Again, bats. It sounds more like preps here in Nimmala, Miller, and two-way Eldridge. This is the first place I heard Wilken mentioned.
18. Milwaukee Brewers – Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt
Milwaukee sticks pretty tight to their draft model which puts some emphasis on positional value from the college ranks. No one offers positional value quite like Bradfield who has Gold Glove potential in center field. As noted for repetition, there’s a lot of outcomes by this phase.
19. Tampa Bay Rays – Tommy Troy, SS, Stanford
Troy is in play all through the teens, as are many of the college hitters who have already been mocked. The Rays have another pick at 31 and have open interest in a handful of toolsy preps so taking a college saver prior may fit their plan even if it’s someone slightly off the board with Troy and/or others off the board already.
20. Toronto Blue Jays – Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy (MA)
Continually hearing preps here with Miller seemingly the preference. In a draft very weak in southpaws, Thomas White is rising up boards where teams can take advantage of the dim demographic. White, Miller, Mitchell are all in play here and this is the first spot I hear Florida-prep infielder George Lombard Jr.’s name which makes sense with Toronto’s rapport with MLB bloodlines.
21. St. Louis Cardinals – Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida
Waldrep has 50/50 odds of making it this far (and further) down the board with pitching coming at a premium in the early/mid first round. For that same reason, don’t rule out White. FAU’s Nolan Schanuel regularly pops up in this range and here in particular. This could be the final landing spot for some of the top-tier college bats.
22. Seattle Mariners – Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton HS (TX)
Seattle has put a recent emphasis on up-the-middle players and could try and target one of the falling college bats: Shaw or Bradfield in particular. In this scenario they go back to a riskier demographic in prep catchers as they did with Harry Ford in 2021 (Mitchell doesn’t come with the typical risk most prep catchers do). New York-prep shortstop Sammy Stafura has some traction here and may be hard to pass on with multiple suitors in the 20’s and even teens. They lead off the sandwich round with picks at 29 and 30 with a surplus of bonus pool funds making them a potential threat to maneuver someone to this pick such as Houck.
23. Cleveland Guardians – Colt Emerson, SS, Glenn HS (OH)
No team sticks to their draft model quite like Cleveland with an emphasis on up-the-middle youth. Colt Emerson, an Ohio prep shortstop, fits that bill as he doesn’t turn 18 until two weeks after the draft. Wilken fits the age-based part of the model as a collegian, but I’ll lean towards the better chance of playing up-the-middle in Emerson.
24. Atlanta Braves – Nolan Schanuel, 1B, Florida Atlantic
Schanuel’s name is in play all over the teens after narrowly missing out on the D1 Triple Crown. I don’t think he makes it this far, nor do I think Eldridge tumbles down to the 20’s who would also be in play here. I think Atlanta takes a falling talent or goes to the third-tier college bats like Morales or Wilken.
25. San Diego Padres – Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison HS (VA)
As mentioned, I don’t think Eldridge falls this far with many seeing his range from 9-22. He’s the best prep which is the consistent demographic mentioned with San Diego. Emerson, Stafura, and Lombard are frequently mentioned here which may be more range-based and past example driven for Preller’s affinity for prep upside, but I’ll bite.
26. New York Yankees – Sammy Stafura, SS, Panas HS (NY)
This has been a somewhat lengthy connection since Stafura started rising up boards this spring. I think there’s some credence while in the back of my mind I think there’s speculative New York connection which includes a more tools-over-actuality comparison to Anthony Volpe. I’m buying on the connection and not so much the comparison. Stafura has some suitors ahead of this with Lombard, Florida-prep outfielder Dillon Head, and California-prep catcher/infielder Ralphy Velazquez getting traction.
27. Philadelphia Phillies – Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian HS (FL)
Prep arms continually get attached to Philadelphia and scouting circles tend to confirm it based on executive sightings, while Florida-prep arm Cam Johnson is getting some traction towards this range after a strong showing at the MLB Draft Combine.
28. Houston Astros – Joe Whitman, LHP, Kent State
Houston has taken advantage of market inefficiencies before, and this seems like a scenario pending outcomes ahead of them where they could take a falling college bat in the likes of Morales or Wilken. It’s been noted that southpaws are the biggest weakness in the class, and Whitman has proved himself the best of the college lefties with some data to support his potential first-round buy in.
INCENTIVE/COMP BALANCE A ROUND:
29. Seattle Mariners – George Lombard Jr., SS, Gulliver Prep (FL)
30. Seattle Mariners – Ralphy Velazquez, C, Huntington Beach HS (CA)
31. Tampa Bay Rays – Tai Peete, SS, Trinity Christian HS (GA)
32. New York Mets – Jonny Farmelo, OF, Westfield HS (VA)
33. Milwaukee Brewers – Adrian Santana, SS, Doral Academy (FL)
34. Minnesota Twins – Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest
35. Miami Marlins – Cam Johnson, LHP, IMG Academy (FL)
36. Los Angeles Dodgers – Cole Carrigg, C/SS/OF, San Diego St
37. Detroit Tigers – Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS (IL)
38. Cincinnati Reds – Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech
39. Oakland Athletics – Jake Gelof, 3B, Virginia