Pick: OF Dylan Crews, LSU ($9,721,000 slot value)
We are in the golden age of prospect hyperbole and Crews, owner of a .434/.576/.735 slash line this spring, has been compared to Mike Trout and called the best draft prospect since Bryce Harper. I don’t know whether any of that is true. I do know Crews is an excellent prospect, the consensus No. 1 player in the draft class, and an easy call for the No. 1 pick in our mock draft. The Pirates are on the rise and Crews would give them a potential difference-maker who could arrive quickly.
It should be noted the Pirates have opted for the portfolio approach in recent years, meaning they took a player willing to sign a below slot bonus with their first selection, then spent the savings on high-upside talent later. Doing that with the No. 1 pick when a player as good as Crews is available seems unwise, though it’s certainly possible. Indiana high school outfielder Max Clark has been rumored as a possible No. 1 pick candidate should Pittsburgh opt for that strategy again.
Pick: RHP Paul Skenes, LSU ($8,998,500 slot value)
Never before in draft history have two teammates been selected with the No. 1 and 2 picks. Two teammates were taken No. 1 and 3 in 1978 (Arizona State’s Bob Horner and Hubie Brooks) and 2011 (UCLA’s Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer), but never the first two picks. Our first mock draft has it happening this year with Crews and Skenes. Skenes has struck out an absurd 46.3% of the batters he’s faced this season and has been called the best draft pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg. I have a hard time believing the Nationals would pass on Crews in the event the Pirates go in another direction at No. 1.
Pick: OF Wyatt Langford, Florida ($8,341,700 slot value)
All things being equal, the Tigers are likely to take a college hitter who is reasonably close to the big leagues, and Langford is the best college hitter in the draft class after Crews. High schoolers Max Clark and Walker Jenkins would be worthwhile picks here based on talent, though Langford’s proximity to the majors gives him an edge. For a Tigers team that seems desperate to return to contention, Langford’s skills and ability to climb the ladder quickly would be difficult to pass up.
Pick: OF Walker Jenkins, South Brunswick HS (North Carolina) ($7,698,700 slot value)
Last year, the Rangers surprised everyone when they selected Kumar Rocker with the No. 3 pick. Rocker was a well-known prospect, no doubt about it, though opinions were split and it was no guarantee he would even go in the first round. Texas took Rocker, paid him a below slot bonus, and used the savings on other players. Would the Rangers do that again this year? It’s always possible. For now, I’ll go with Jenkins and his exciting blend of power and speed.
Pick: OF Max Clark, Franklin HS (Indiana) ($7,139,700 slot value)
The Twins were the big lottery winner, moving up from the No. 13 pick to the No. 5 pick. This is their first top five selection since taking Royce Lewis with the No. 1 pick in 2017. It feels like Minnesota has the easiest decision in the top five — they’ll simply take whichever one of Clark, Crews, Jenkins, Langford, and Skenes is still on the board. If more than one is available, I suspect they would lean college over high school, and hitter over pitcher given their recent first round selections. Clark is the best available player at this point and a nice get at No. 5.
Pick: C Kyle Teel, Virginia ($6,634,000 slot value)
Just once since 2012 have the Athletics used their first pick on a pitcher (A.J. Puk in 2016) and their hitter-heavy approach seems likely to continue this year. Because of position scarcity, catchers are almost always drafted higher than the public draft rankings would lead you to believe, and Teel is the best catcher in this year’s draft class. It matters not that the A’s selected a college catcher in the first round last year (Daniel Susac). It’s impossible to know what you’ll need 2-3 years down the line. Teams typically take the best talent available this early in the draft and worry about how the pieces fit later.
Pick: RHP Rhett Lowder, Wake Forest ($6,275,200 slot value)
Lowder has separated himself as the best non-Skenes college pitcher in the draft and is a total package guy with a deep arsenal (including arguably the best changeup in the draft class), command, and pitching know-how. Wake Forest is a top tier pitcher development program and Lowder is as “safe” as any pitcher in this year’s draft. The Reds have a competitive balance pick (No. 38) and this draft class is deep in college hitters. They could grab one of the best college pitchers here at No. 7 knowing there will likely be several quality bats still available when they come up again.
Pick: SS Jacob Wilson, Grand Canyon ($5,980,100 slot value)
Wilson’s father, Jack, spent 12 years in the big leagues as a light-hitting/spectacular-fielding shortstop. Wilson the younger offers a little less defense (few could match Jack’s glove) and more bat, and also the baseball smarts expected of a player with big league bloodlines. The Royals have had a real hard time developing pitchers in recent years, though I don’t think the new front office regime would shy away from Lowder if he’s still on the board. It seems possible the Royals will go with a below slot player here and use the savings on a top talent who falls to their second round pick (No. 44) and/or competitive balance pick (No. 66). Wilson would fit the strategy.
Pick: RHP Noble Meyer, Jesuit HS (Oregon) ($5,716,900 slot value)
Their recent MLB transactions and last year’s selection of Gabriel Hughes in the first round suggests the Rockies are prioritizing sinking two-seam fastballs, which makes sense in Coors Field. Meyer just so happens to have a nasty running two-seamer with upper-90s velocity. This would not be a reach; Meyer has significant upside and is the best high school pitcher in the country, and he fits the team’s recent M.O. The Rockies will always have an easier time signing free agent hitters than free agent pitchers, so they need to develop their own arms. Meyer has frontline potential.
Pick: SS Jacob Gonzalez, Mississippi ($5,475,300 slot value)
Miami’s last five first round picks have either gotten hurt (Max Meyer) or underperformed (Jacob Berry, J.J. Bleday, Connor Scott, Kahlil Watson) since being drafted and my hunch is that will lead to the Marlins playing it safe this year. That isn’t to say Gonzalez would be an unreasonable pick, as he’s arguably the top college middle infielder in the draft class, just that he’s considered to offer less long-term upside than some of the other shortstops available, specifically the high schoolers. Perhaps Miami’s on-field success this season lessens the pressure a bit and they feel free to shoot for the moon with this selection. I think they’re more likely to be conservative.
Pick: OF Enrique Bradfield Jr., Vanderbilt ($5,253,000 slot value)
The Angels have been so aggressive promoting their top prospects (Sam Bachman, Ben Joyce, Zach Neto) to the big leagues this year in an effort to return to the postseason that I can’t help but wonder if they would do something crazy like grab a college arm with an eye on putting him in their bullpen down the stretch, similar to the White Sox with Chris Sale and Garrett Crochet years ago. That seems unlikely, so I’ll instead give them Bradfield, a premier speed/leadoff threat who should climb the ladder quickly, even if he won’t be able to help get Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani to October this year.
Pick: SS Colin Houck, Parkview HS (Georgia) ($5,043,800 slot value)
The Diamondbacks have been connected to Houck all spring and, when in doubt, follow the rumors. Arizona has gravitated toward hitters with short levers and barrel control (like Corbin Carroll) in recent drafts and that’s not really Houck, who will swing and miss some but has power potential. That said, not everyone needs the organizational stamp. Houck is a top quarterback recruit and the thinking is he will really break out once he focuses on baseball full-time.
Pick: SS Matt Shaw, Maryland ($4,848,500 slot value)
Last year, the Cubs surprised everyone when they grabbed Cade Horton with the No. 7 pick based largely on the pitch-tracking data and his postseason performance. Horton has dominated this season and looks like a very wise selection. Shaw, last summer’s Cape Cod League MVP, is not a late riser like Horton, though the performance and underlying data is excellent, and a college middle infielder who can bang will never be out of place in the middle of the first round. He’s a safe bet to go in the middle of the first round, likely closer to the No. 10 pick than the No. 20.
Pick: SS Aiden Miller, Mitchell HS (Florida) ($4,663,100 slot value)
The Red Sox have used their last four first-round picks on high school hitters, including the last three on high school hitters with standout hit tools (Nick Yorke, Marcelo Mayer, Mikey Romero) under president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom. A hamate injury sabotaged Miller’s spring, though he has a long track record and is well-known to scouts, and fits Boston’s M.O. as a prep kid who can really hit. There’s a chance Miller would have played his way into the top 10 had his wrist cooperated this spring.
Pick: SS Arjun Nimmala, Strawberry Crest HS (Florida) ($4,448,600 slot value)
This feels low for Nimmala, who has top 10 upside but could fall through the cracks in a draft that is deep in hitters at both the high school and college level. There’s some thought the White Sox will target a college hitter who could move quickly given their thinned out farm system and needs at the MLB level. At this point in the mock draft, I have a hard believing Nimmala will fall much further than this, so to the South Side he goes.
Pick: SS Walker Martin, Eaton HS (Colorado) ($4,326,600 slot value)
The Giants have not selected a high school player in the first round since Heliot Ramos in 2017, three general managers ago. It would be easy to give them another college player hitter — Stanford infielder Tommy Troy would be a good local fit — but there’s been some buzz about San Francisco and Martin in recent weeks. Martin is perhaps underscouted because he also plays football and hails from a cold weather state, making it easy to dream on his untapped potential once he focuses on baseball full-time and gets with pro instructors.
Pick: 1B/RHP Bryce Eldridge, James Madison HS (Virginia) ($4,169,700 slot value)
This is the first time the Orioles have picked outside the top five since taking Grayson Rodriguez with the No. 11 pick in 2018. The O’s have had a lot of success developing hitters with premium ball-tracking data and Eldridge, who owns perhaps the best raw power in the high school ranks this draft, fits the mold. He is considered a better hitting prospect than pitching prospect, though Eldridge has pro potential on the mound, and he’s reportedly told teams he wants to give being a two-way player a try. I assume whichever team drafts him will give it a go. Either way, Eldridge has the enormous raw thump the Orioles typically target on draft day.
Pick: 3B Brayden Taylor, TCU ($4,021,400 slot value)
The Brewers have not taken a high schooler player in the first round since Brice Turang in 2018 and, in recent years, they have jumped on college hitters with premium tools (namely Garrett Mitchell and Sal Frelick) who were weren’t necessarily expected to be available when Milwaukee’s pick arrived. There were times this spring Taylor looked like a potential top 10 pick, and he comes with a long track record of performance and maybe even a chance to play second base.
Pick: C Blake Mitchell, Sinton HS (Texas) ($3,880,100 slot value)
High school catchers are a risky demographic with a high bust rate, though Mitchell can really hit and is athletic enough that whichever team drafts him could move him to the outfield right away to get his bat moving through the system, similar to what the Nationals did with Bryce Harper years ago. Tampa also holds a competitive balance pick (No. 31) and could opt for a college player here, then take a bigger swing with a higher upside high schooler at No. 31. Stanford’s Tommy Troy is still available in our mock draft and would be a wonderful selection in that scenario.
Pick: RHP Chase Dollander, Tennessee ($3,746,000 slot value)
The Blue Jays are unafraid to gamble in the first round. They did it with Alek Manoah in 2019 (delivery concerns and a relatively short track record), Austin Martin in 2020 (throwing and positional concerns), and Gunnar Hoglund in 2021 (had Tommy John surgery in the weeks leading up to the draft). On pure arm talent, Dollander is the second best pitcher in the draft class behind Skenes, though his command lags and his performance has been all over the place. He struck out 13 in 5 1/3 innings in his final regular season start, didn’t make it out of the fifth inning in the Regionals, then threw eight innings to save Tennessee’s season in the Super Regionals. Dollander feels like the kind of dice roll the Blue Jays are willing to take.
Pick: RHP Hurston Waldrep, Florida ($3,618,200 slot value)
Waldrep is one of the biggest risers in the draft class. He’s had an electric postseason for the Gators, including punching their ticket to the College World Series with eight shutout innings and 13 strikeouts against South Carolina last weekend. The current big league staff may not show it, but the Cardinals remain a top pitcher development organization, and Waldrep would bring power stuff and pedigree to a team that can help him gain more consistency.
Pick: 1B Nolan Schanuel, Florida Atlantic ($3,496,600 slot value)
There’s a lot of buzz Schanuel, who hit an absurd .447/.615/.868 with 71 walks and 14 strikeouts this spring (yes, 71 walks and 14 strikeouts), will come off the board on a below slot deal in the middle of the first round. The Mariners also hold the No. 29 pick (Prospect Promotion Incentive pick for Julio Rodríguez) and No. 30 picks (competitive balance round) and are in prime position to make such a move. They could get Schanuel here and secure one of the draft’s best pure hitters, save a good chunk of money, then spend huge on two top talents who fall into their laps at No. 29 and 30.
Pick: SS Colt Emerson, Glenn HS (Ohio) ($3,380,900 slot value)
For the longest time Cleveland’s thing was tooled up high schoolers who were young for the draft class in the first round (like Daniel Espino) and command college pitchers they could coach up in the middle rounds (like Shane Bieber). There’s been a slight shift with the Guardians going college in the last two first rounds (Gavin Williams and Chase DeLauter). Emerson is right in their wheelhouse though, and not just because he’s an Ohio kid. He won’t turn 18 until after the draft, he can really hit, and he has a chance to play shortstop long-term. A few years ago, this would have felt like a slam dunk pick. Now there’s a little bit of doubt given Cleveland’s last two drafts.
Pick: SS Kevin McGonigle, Monsignor Bonner HS (Pennsylvania) ($3,270,500 slot value)
This will be Atlanta’s first draft since former scouting director Dana Brown left to become the Astros general manager. Brown drafted much of the Braves’ current core, including non-first round gems like Michael Harris II (third round in 2019), Spencer Strider (fourth round in 2020), and Bryce Elder (fifth round in 2020). The Braves have their pick of several highly regarded middle infielders here and some consider McGonigle the safest bet among high school players this draft. There’s a strong belief his hitting ability and baseball know-how will allow him to carve out a big league role, even if the upside is not sky high.
Pick: OF Dillon Head, Homewood-Flossmoor HS (Illinois) ($3,165,400 slot value)
GM A.J. Preller typically shoots for the moon in the first round and goes for the biggest upside, and it’s generally served him will (mostly by giving the Padres attractive trade chips). San Diego forfeited its second- and fifth-round picks to sign Xander Bogaerts, so they’re working with a smaller bonus pool, and you’ll know whoever they take here they really, really love. Head is an electrifying athlete and arguably the fastest player in the draft class, and the sort of player who could develop into a top 10 pick in three years should he follow through on his commitment to Clemson. He’s expected to turn pro, however.
Pick: SS Sammy Stafura, Panas HS (New York) ($3,065,000 slot value)
The buzz here is as strong as it gets late in the first round. The Yankees have been in heavy on Stafura this spring, including sending all their top scouting personnel to get eyes on him. Stafura, who grew up not too far north of the Bronx, impressed last summer in showcases and continued to take more steps forward this spring. He’s now viewed as a likely first-round pick after being seen as more of a second or third rounder a year ago at this time. The Yankees forfeited their second- and fifth- round picks to sign Carlos Rodón, so they’ll be certain they can sign however they take here.
Pick: RHP Travis Sykora, Round Rock HS (Texas) ($2,968,800 slot value)
The Phillies have had quite a bit of success developing high school pitchers like Sykora in recent years (namely Mick Abel and Andrew Painter), meaning hard throwers with pitching aptitude who need to refine their secondary pitches. Philadelphia surrendered their second- and fifth-round picks to sign Trea Turner, so they’re working with a smaller bonus pool and won’t pick again until No. 98. That could lead them to the college ranks and a player they’re confident they can sign.
Pick: SS Tommy Troy, Stanford ($2,880,700 slot value)
I have a hard time believing Troy, a polished college middle infielder with tools and a long track record of performance, will fall this far on draft day. That said, this is a very deep draft class, particularly among hitters, so someone(s) is going to get squeezed down further than we all expect. In this mock draft, that’s Troy, who goes to the Astros with the final pick of the first round despite being a player who would not be out of the place in the 10-15 range somewhere. Houston is another team that has strongly been tied to Stafura in recent weeks.