With just nine weeks to go until MLB’s First Year Player Draft on July 17-19, we are officially in mock draft season! And CBN has you all covered as we proudly present the first of three mocks we’ll deliver to you between now and the big day.
Much like last year when there was intrigue up until the final minute when the Pirates shocked the baseball world and selected Henry Davis, we have no idea who the Orioles will take 1-01. Will it be Druw Jones, a tooled-up center fielder from Georgia and former Braves great Andruw Jones’ son? Will it be fast-rising Oklahoma prep Jackson Holliday, who also happens to have some impressive bloodlines? Will it be Cal Poly SS Brooks Lee? Or will it be someone else? One thing is for sure—unlike 2019, when Baltimore last picked 1st overall and selected Adley Rutschman, there’s no early consensus on who will hear their name called first. And as we know from his time in Houston and his current stint in the Charm City, Orioles GM Mike Elias likes to zig when others zag.
Even with all the uncertainty enveloping the very top of the draft, we are confident enough to predict several draft-night developments. These are:
The “Big 4” high school bats of Jones, Holliday, Elijah Green and Terrmar Johnson and at least five of the top six college hitters (Lee, Kevin Parada, Gavin Cross, Jace Jung, Jacob Berry, and Daniel Susac) will go in the top 10. This is the result of the group just being that much better than the rest of the field as well as the late-breaking injury to Georgia prep righthander Dylan Lesko.
However, after this gaggle of hitters, there is a steep drop in terms of offensive talent (both at the HS and college levels). As a result, teams picking in the 11-20 range will have some tough decisions to make—“Do we take our chances with a bunch of high risk/high reward college bats like Jordan Beck and Dylan Beavers or do we opt for one of the high ceiling prep arms (easily the most risky demographic of the entire draft). This could lead to far more arms going in the middle of the 1st round than people envisioned just several weeks ago.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not mention the impact that the Tommy John pandemic will have on this draft. As of press time, seven (yes, SEVEN) highly rated arms (five from the college ranks and two high schoolers) had gone under the knife. While we have just two of those guys—Lesko and Connor Prielipp—going in the first round, we concede that due to a variety of factors, that number could be a lot higher.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
1) Baltimore Orioles—Jackson Holliday, SS, HS (Stillwater, OK): Hear us out before you commit us—in 2012 at 1-01, the Astros selected a young SS who had flown up draft boards all spring and history could very well repeat itself in the form of Holliday, another prep SS who has enjoyed a meteoric rise this year. And Houston’s Assistant GM a decade ago? None other than current Orioles GM Mike Elias. While Holliday won’t take the $2.4 million slot haircut Carlos Correa did, this makes sense for so many reasons. Not only does Holliday have the second-best hit tool in the class behind Termarr Johnson, but he’s expected to stick at the six as a pro and his bloodlines (son of 6-time All-Star Matt Holliday) are also intriguing. In addition to Holliday, Baltimore has rolled in deep to see Johnson, Druw Jones, Elijah Green, and Brooks Lee.
2) Arizona Diamondbacks—Druw Jones, OF, HS (Norcross, GA): This would be Arizona’s dream scenario, as the D-Backs are able to nab the player with the highest ceiling. Arizona is also in on the other “Big Four” high school bats.
3) Texas Rangers—Termarr Johnson, 2B, HS (Atlanta, GA): Texas is said to love Holliday, but if he’s off the board we think the Rangers will opt for the other turn-key prep bat. Should Texas move in the direction of a college player, watch out for Lee or Jace Jung, whose brother Josh is a third baseman in the Rangers’ system.
4) Pittsburgh Pirates—Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly: The Pirates’ system is bursting at the seams with plenty of interesting talent poised to reach the majors before the end of next year. Thus, the addition of Lee would give Pittsburgh the best pure hit tool in the college class and a guy who would be able to fly through the minors over the next 18 months.
5) Washington Nationals—Elijah Green, OF, HS (Bradenton, FL): The Nationals’ brass have scouted Gavin Cross in nearby Virginia multiple times, but we believe they’ll instead choose Green, who would form one half of a fearsome, uber-athletic tandem with Brady House starting in 2025.
6) Miami Marlins—Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech: The Marlins have been all over the map in recent drafts, but this selection is cut and dry as Parada is enjoying a historical campaign. Any questions about his ability to remain behind the dish in pro ball are mitigated by 1) the fact that the running game in MLB is just a shell of what it used to be and 2) the likely transition to electronic balls and strikes will offset Parada’s pitch handling deficiencies. Miami is also very fond of Green and Johnson.
7) Chicago Cubs—Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech: Jung’s broad offensive skill set and the high probability that he’ll blitz through the minors make him an excellent fit anywhere in the 5-10 range.
8) Minnesota Twins—Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech: Minnesota is infatuated with big corner outfielders with well-developed hit tools (see Kirilloff, Alex; Larnach, Trevor; and Rooker, Brent) and Cross is the epitome of this. His batted ball metrics are elite and Virginia Tech’s current center fielder projects as a plus defender with a plus-plus arm in RF.
9) Kansas City Royals—Andrew Dutkanych, RHP, HS (Indianapolis, IN): The Royals under GM Dayton Moore are always a wild card and this year will be no different. After stunning the industry with their selection of Connecticut HS southpaw Frank Mozzicato last year, Kansas City will go back to the well this year by nabbing Dutkanych. Though the muscular righty has had an excellent spring and features a high-octane repertoire and improved command, industry consensus has him going lower than this.
10) Colorado Rockies—Jacob Berry, 3B/OF, LSU: Despite tremendous production in the ultra-competitive SEC (Berry has more XBS than Ks), Berry’s lack of athleticism and true position will hurt him on draft night. We feel that the Rockies, who are enamored with Berry’s hit tool and can envision him anchoring a future lineup that includes the likes of Ezequiel Tovar, Zac Veen, and Drew Romo, will take the plunge.
11) New York Mets—Dylan Lesko, RHP, HS (Buford, GA): With the 11th and 14th picks (the former is compensation for New York failing to sign last year’s 1st rounder Kumar Rocker), the Mets are in a position to gamble. Lesko, prior to his recent Tommy John surgery, was considered arguably the best HS righthander since Josh Beckett in 1999 and a potential top-5 pick. Hedge fund mogul Steve Cohen recognizes excellent value when he sees it and may encourage his baseball ops lieutenants to pounce.
12) Detroit Tigers—Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola JC: On draft night, the Tigers, faced with an anemic offense at the big league level, will be holding a candlelight vigil in the hope that one of the big college bats falls (they’re said to love Jung). Otherwise, they’ll be left with the choice of the 17-year-old Collier, who had an excellent season playing for the top JC program in the country, or one of the remaining supersonic HS arms like Brock Porter, Owen Murphy, or Noah Schultz. We bet they opt for the bat. Daniel Susac is also in Detroit’s orbit.
13) Los Angeles Angels—Daniel Susac, C, Arizona: Recently, the Angels have been avid shoppers at the draft’s pitching bazaar, but Susac still lurking on the draft board may be too tempting to pass up. He offers a polished offensive game with top-of-the-line batted ball metrics. Should the Halos decide to take the pitching route, we expect them to once again select a college arm like Tennessee’s Blade Tidwell or Oregon State’s Cooper Hjerpe.
14) New York Mets—Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State: Speaking of the devil! Hjerpe’s unique arm stroke and pitch characteristics have made him into somewhat of a unicorn—his floor may be former 16-game winner Alex Wood, while others suggest he has Chris Sale-like upside.
15) San Diego Padres—Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama: In this age of predominantly analytics-driven, cookie-cutter GMs, Padres honcho A.J. Preller is one of the few gamblers still left in the saloon. Who cares if Prielipp has only 28 college innings, most of them against subpar competition, on his resume due to the pandemic and last year’s Tommy John procedure? Not Preller, who could consider the Wisconsin native’s mid-90’s heater and venomous slider as the main reasons why he would roll the dice. Prielipp will throw a 50-pitch bullpen session for evaluators on May 23.
16) Cleveland Guardians—Walter Ford, RHP, HS (Pace, FL): The Guardians have become baseball’s best at developing young pitching, and in Ford, who reclassified earlier this year, Cleveland’s mad pitching scientists will be able to get their hands on a kid who has lights-out stuff and won’t turn 18 until the fall.
17) Philadelphia Phillies—Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison: As recently as February, DeLauter’s name was bandied about as a 1-01 candidate, but a poor opening weekend against Florida State’s triumvirate of tough lefties followed by questions about DeLauter’s swing mechanics clouded the big center fielder’s draft status. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s currently on the shelf with a broken foot. Still, his .437/.576/.828 slash line is Atari-like, and he offers a breath-taking blend of skills. Philadelphia has drafted high school right-handers Mick Abel and Andrew Painter in 2020 and 2021, respectively, and should the club follow this strategy again in July, Brock Porter, Owen Murphy, and Jacob Miller are all strong possibilities.
18) Cincinnati Reds—Brock Porter, RHP, HS (Milford, MI): Their recent struggles notwithstanding, the Reds have enjoyed overwhelming success drafting and developing young starters and Porter could end up being the best of the bunch. The 6-04 flamethrower has exhibited improved command this year while honing his slider. His changeup already grades out as plus.
19) Oakland A’s—Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee: The small market A’s under club president Billy Beane are all about exploiting market inefficiencies and their selection of Tidwell would be the epitome of this. While Tidwell has come back from a shoulder injury touching the high 90’s and boasting a toxic slider, he has yet to make it out of the 5th inning in any of his five starts. Beane & Co will have no problem living with this uncertainty—a starter with Tidwell’s stuff would cost nine figures on the free agent market, an amount well out of Oakland’s price range.
20) Atlanta Braves—Thomas Harrington, RHP, Campbell: The Braves have selected college arms in the 1st round in 2020 and 2021, and this mock completes the trifecta. The polished Harrington has been one of the nation’s most consistent starters this spring and Atlanta would be an ideal organization from a developmental perspective.
21) Seattle Mariners—Zach Neto, SS, Campbell: The Mariners have not been coy about their intention to pursue a bat, and given where the organization is in its rebuild, it’s looking more likely that this pick would come from the college ranks. Neto has flashed keen instincts on both sides of the ball, and after his strong performance last summer in the Cape Cod League, he could be major league ready by the second half of 2024.
22) St. Louis Cardinals—Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga: The Cardinals have shown an affinity for HS power hitters and college arms in recent drafts, and in this mock we have them taking Hughes, who’s risen steadily this spring. Heavy hitting HS SS/3B Tucker Toman is an intriguing positional option.
23) Toronto Blue Jays—Justin Campbell, RHP, Oklahoma State: Toronto has dipped its toe into the college pitching pool often in recent drafts and we see that trend continuing on July 17th. The lanky Campbell evokes comparisons to Doug Fister and profiles as a mid-rotation starter.
24) Boston Red Sox—Roman Anthony, OF, HS (Parkland, FL): In the last several drafts, the Red Sox have become a clearing house for high-end HS bats, and Anthony would be a great addition. The tooled-up Ole Miss recruit had a banner April and catapulted over other, better known HS hitters. He may be a bit of a project, but the dividend will be worth it.
25) New York Yankees—Dylan Beavers, OF, California: This pick would be somewhat of a coup by the Yankees as Beavers’ power, arm, and speed grade out as plus; however, his hit tool has been inconsistent. Still, if the still-20-on-draft-day Beavers polishes his swing and approach, Yankee Stadium’s short RF porch could turn him into a menace.
26) Chicago White Sox—Jett Williams, SS, HS (Heath, TX): Williams may be of short stature (5-08), but he’s long on talent. He’s projected to stay at shortstop and has some serious juice in his bat. He’s not expected to be a difficult sign.
27) Milwaukee Brewers—Jordan Beck, OF, Tennessee: Beck is tough to figure out—he’s been in the conversation at the back end of the top-10 this spring because of his 70-grade power and arm, but his detractors cite a hit tool that “needs work.” Nevertheless, Milwaukee sees a lot of current RF Hunter Renfroe in Beck and at 27 this is phenomenal value.
28) Houston Astros—Brandon Barriera, LHP, HS (Hollywood, FL): It’s unlikely Barriera falls this far, but in a class chock full of talented prep hurlers something’s got to give. Houston traditionally does not have an affinity for HS arms, but Barriera at this level would be such a value proposition that GM James Click & Friends would have a hard time walking away—even if they had to go underslot at multiple later picks to meet the Vanderbilt commit’s asking price.
29) Tampa Bay Rays—Tucker Toman, SS/3B, HS (Columbia, SC): Don’t be shocked if Toman’s high-octane, switch-hitting bat propels him to a home in the high teens as several teams picking in the range have kicked the tires.
30) San Francisco Giants--Jacob Miller, RHP, HS (Baltimore, OH): The Giants are another club that has discovered developmental nirvana with young arms and Miller’s well-rounded repertoire would be an excellent fit.