With the draft less than a week away, College Baseball Nation has completed its final formal mock draft before Sunday’s festivities. While there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty—as there is leading up to all drafts—some things have begun to solidify. These include:
There’s a clear cut top 5 at the top of the draft that features LSU OF Dylan Crews, LSU RHP Paul Skenes, Florida OF Wyatt Langford, and prep outfielders Walker Jenkins and Max Clark. After this quintet, there’s a clear drop-off in talent.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that the Pittsburgh Pirates will NOT be selecting Crews, who is said to be demanding the full $9,721,000 allotted for pick 1-01. The Pirates generally prefer to create savings from this pick then go over slot with subsequent selections. Now, the question is who will Pittsburgh take in place of Crews. We tackle this issue immediately below.
Because of the huge financial issues—namely teams’ total bonus pool amounts and the amount of money allotted for each pick (aka “slot values”)—at play, we highly encourage our readers to consult this link that provides a comprehensive primer as well as all relevant slot-related information.
Please stay tuned to my Twitter feed @H_Frommer for the latest real-time updates.
1) Pittsburgh Pirates—Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida: We thought very seriously about putting Skenes here, but we’ve instead opted for Langford.
With all signs pointing to Washington taking Skenes whether or not Crews is still on the board, Skenes would almost certainly not be willing to take a bigger haircut than Langford, whose camp has signaled it would be receptive to a below-slot deal. In other words, Skenes is essentially guaranteed a bonus in the neighborhood of $9 million (Washington’s slot), so why would he accept anything less than that from Pittsburgh? Langford, on the other hand, was apparently headed to Detroit at the third pick, where the slot value is just north of $8.3 million.
Langford agreeing to an approximate $8.5 million deal would earn him a couple shekels more than what he would have earned as Detroit’s pick, while shaving over million bucks off the bill for Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh could then use this “new money” to go over slot with subsequent picks, much like it did in 2021 when it signed Henry Davis to a well under slot deal.
2) Washington Nationals—Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU: Over the last week or so, word has leaked out of DC that Skenes is the Nationals’ top choice, even if Crews is still on the board. This jibes, as GM Mike Rizzo did very well in 2009 picking San Diego State stud Stephen Strasburg, the pitcher the all-world Skenes has been most frequently compared with.
3) Detroit Tigers—Dylan Crews, OF, LSU: This shouldn’t come as a huge shock to anyone, given Pittsburgh’s penchant for thinking out of the box to avoid paying pull freight at 1-01 and the Nationals’ infatuation with Skenes.
One other important thing to consider: with the draft’s second-highest bonus pool of just over $15.7 million, Detroit is in an excellent position to give Crews the record $9+ million deal his camp likely covets and not feel excessive pain.
4) Texas Rangers—Max Clark, OF, HS (Franklin, IN): While the Rangers are said to prefer North Carolina prep sensation Walker Jenkins from a skills perspective, they’re also high on Clark. And, equally as important, with no 2nd and 3rd round picks (by virtue of having lost those picks due to the Jacob DeGrom and Nathan Eovaldi free agent signings), the Rangers have much less in total pool money to play with and are thus more likely to reach a deal with Clark, whose camp has appeared more financially flexible than Jenkins.
5) Minnesota Twins— Walker Jenkins, OF, HS (Oak Island, NC):The Twins are in a great position to snap up the member of the Lanford-Skenes-Crews-Clark-Jenkins- quintet that falls and they do just that. With over $14.4 million in total bonus pool money (versus the $9.9 million that’s in Texas’ safe), the Twins would be able to go over slot for Jenkins whose advisor is the hard-charging Scott Boras. Ole Miss SS Jacob Gonzalez is an interesting dark horse candidate whose name has come up lately.
6) Oakland A’s—Kyle Teel, C, Virginia: When Moses came down that mountain he actually dropped a third tablet with the inscription “Thou shalt not draft for need.” The Oakland brain trust must be ardent followers of scripture because even with promising young catchers Shea Langeliers and Tyler Soderstrom in their system, they look to take the best college receiver since Adley Rutschman in 2019. The A’s have also displayed strong interest in Ole Miss SS Jacob Gonzalez and Grand Canyon SS Jacob Wilson, though the latter is falling due to concerns surrounding his ability to impact the baseball.
7) Cincinnati Reds—Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee: Though Dollander’s slider has backed up this year, he’s still viewed as a unique talent who could emerge as a front-of-the-rotation stalwart if the right player development department gets its hands on him. The Reds, with progressive pitching coach Derek Johnson and other like-minded instructors, have never shied away from ambitious projects. Cincinnati has also been in to see Maryland 2B Matt Shaw, Gonzalez, and Teel.
8) Kansas City Royals—Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss: Though the Royals have exhibited strong interest in prep flamethrower Noble Meyer and prep catcher Blake Mitchell, we expect the regime of new GM J.J. Picollo to play it a little more safe and pop Gonzalez, a shortstop who’s performed at a high level in the uber-competitive SEC the past three seasons.
9) Colorado Rockies—Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest: The Rockies have been all over the map this spring, showing interest in Teel, Dollander, and Bradfield, among others. However, they’re very found of Lowder and believe he has the stuff to succeed at Coors Field.
10) Miami Marlins—Noble Meyer, RHP, HS (West Linn, OR): With the Marlins very much in the playoff picture, the pressure is off GM Kim Ng to select a fast-moving college hitter like Gonzalez, Shaw, or Stanford’s Tommy Troy. As a result, the Marlins will stay true to their roots and select Meyer.
11) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—Tommy Troy, 2B, Stanford: The Angels love Lowder and adore Teel, but with both of those guys off the board they’ll opt for Troy, a polished college infielder who’ll fly through their system much like their 2022 1st rounder Zach Neto.
12) Arizona Diamondbacks—Colin Houck, SS, HS (Lilburn, GA): Houck has been on a steady ascent since March, and this is one of the picks outside of the top 10 we feel the most certain on.
13) Chicago Cubs—Arjun Nimmala, SS, HS (Valrico, FL): This is the other pick outside the top 10 we feel pretty confident on. Both parties have been closely connected the past 6-8 weeks.
14) Boston Red Sox—Blake Mitchell, C, HS (Sinton, TX): The Sawx have gone high school bat in recent years and with Mitchell they remain on that trajectory with a high-risk, high-reward pick. 3B Aidan Miller has been coming on of late after a broken hamate bone and could be another contender here.
15) Chicago White Sox—Enrique Bradfield Jr, OF, Vanderbilt: We’ve heard the ChiSox strictly on collegians—especially Teel and Gonzalez—and the speedster Bradfield would be an excellent consolation prize.
16) San Francisco Giants—Matt Shaw, 2B, Maryland: We’re hearing San Francisco is in on a number of college bats, such as Shaw, Wilson, Troy, and TCU 3B Brayden Taylor. Shaw’s mature approach would be a good fit in the Giants’ system.
17) Baltimore Orioles—Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida: O’s GM Mike Elias recently went on record stating he’d be open to drafting a pitcher in the 1st round for the first time since taking over prior to the 2019 season. Was he signaling? Maybe. Maybe not. But Waldrep could be an excellent add to Baltimore’s hitter heavy program, especially with more reliance on his sharp secondaries.
18) Milwaukee Brewers—Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU: This is the first time we hear FAU 1B/OF Nolan Schanuel’s name, and it’s also a good landing spot for some other college bats, namely Taylor and Wilson.
19) Tampa Bay Rays—Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon University: The Rays, who mine value in the draft as well as anyone, would have a hard time bypassing Wilson, who at one point was thought to be a surefire top-10 pick.
20) Toronto Blue Jays—Dillon Head, OF, HS (Glenwood, IL): In recent weeks, we’ve heard a lot of prep bats here, none more prominently than Head.
21) St. Louis Cardinals—Thomas White, LHP, HS (Rowley, MA): Since 1998, it’s been the Cardinals’ m.o. to snatch guys who fall to them and they’ll play the game again that year by taking the Vanderbilt-bound White. A northern arm, White was at one point seen as a possible top-10 pick but has gradually fallen.
22) Seattle Mariners—Nolan Schanuel, 1B/OF, FAU: The Mariners are in an interesting position with the 22nd, 29th, and 30th picks and have already revealed they plan on playing “money games” to land an above slot talent at one of these selections. Schanuel doesn’t have the cache that comes from playing in a Power-5 conference, but his .447/.615/.868 slash line with a 71/14 BB/K ratio can’t be ignored. He’ll likely go below slot, thus clearing the way for the M’s to pop HS 3B Aidan Miller at either 29 or 30. Because of his long history of performing against showcase pitching, Miller was expected to go in the top 15 picks before the aforementioned hamate injury ruined his spring.
23) Cleveland Guardians—Chase Davis, OF, Arizona: Cleveland really likes local product Colt Emerson but Davis’ power and improved swing decisions will be too hard for an organization that has deficits in both areas to pass up.
24) Atlanta Braves—Sammy Stafura, SS, HS (Mohegan Lake, NY): Though the Braves are commonly associated with high school arms mostly from the sun belt, we’ve heard them on a bunch of prep hitters such as Stafura, Bryce Eldridge, and George Lombard Jr. Apparently, they’re smitten with Stafura.
25) San Diego Padres—Bryce Eldridge, 1B/OF/RHP, HS (Vienna, VA): There is no bigger wildcard in baseball than Padres GM A.J. Preller, so why not have the Padres take the most intriguing talent in the draft in Eldridge? San Diego has closely monitored Eldridge, along with a number of other preps like Lombard, Head, and Mitchell.
26) New York Yankees—Kevin McGonigle, 2B, HS (Aldan, PA): The Yankees really like the New Yorker Stafura, but with him off the board they opt for McGonigle, who some believe has the best hit tool in the high school class.
27) Philadelphia Phillies—Charlee Soto, RHP, HS (Kissimmee, FL): Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski has never been afraid to take power HS arms in the 1st round and in Soto he’d have quite the fireballer.
28) Houston Astros—George Lombard Jr, SS, HS (Pinecrest, FL): The Astros are more tied to high school bats than any other demographic so we’ll give them Lombard, a guy who’s catapulted up draft boards all spring.