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.