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The 2023 MLB Draft: CBN's First Mock Draft

With many high school seasons wrapping up, the college conference tournaments in full swing, and barely six weeks standing between us and the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft, now’s as good a time as ever for CBN to present our first mock draft. Rather than continue on with a long, flowery introduction, we’ll just warn you that this edition is a real zinger, with a shocker right at the top. And the surprises will keep on coming.


CBN will publish at least two more mocks prior to the actual draft on July 9th as well as provide crucial updates via Twitter when necessary. Feel free to follow me at @H_Frommer.


Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen!


1) Pittsburgh Pirates—Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida: LSU OF Dylan Crews has been the chalk pick here all season—and for good reason because up until several weeks ago he was flirting with a .500 batting average while showcasing exceptional batted ball data and pristine swing decisions in the ultra-tough SEC—but in the last week Langford has entered the 1-01 picture in a big way.


There are three primary reasons for Langford’s sudden ascent. First, multiple player evaluators have revealed to CBN that the gap between Crews and Langford is not as sizable as previously thought—their conventional numbers are strikingly similar, while Crews boasts better swing decision data. However, their exit velocities are nearly identical with Langford enjoying a slight edge in foot speed.



The second factor has to do with the team doing the selecting at 1-01, the Pirates. It’s no secret that Pittsburgh likes to go significantly under slot at the top and achieving a 7-figure savings there would enable the Bucs to land a pick 20-25 caliber player when they select next at 42. Again, this is all based on the premise that GM Ben Cherington & Co believe the gulf between Crews and his SEC counterpart Langford is not significant.


The third reason for our decision to buck convention and move Langford into the 1st overall pick is the seeming willingness of his camp to strike a below-slot deal at 1-01. Slot here is for $9,721,000, while slot at 1-03 (Langford’s perceived floor at this juncture) is $8,341,700. Let’s assume for a second that the Langford camp agrees to sign with Pittsburgh for $8,600,000. This would represent a win for Langford, as he would earn over $200,000 more than had he gone to Detroit at 1-03, as well as a win for the Pirates, who would now have more than $1.1 million in savings to use with subsequent picks.

Late last week, multiple draft insiders told CBN that the Langford camp was willing to explore a below-slot deal at 1-01 if one was offered. CBN was also informed by these same sources that Pirates officials had been rolling deep to Langford’s games.


It also bears mention that officials from an AL team picking in the top half of the 1st round confided to an SEC-based source they believed Langford would ultimately be the Pirates’ selection at 1-01 for all the reasons just discussed.


Obviously, we won’t know for sure whether Langford will be the 1st overall pick or if this is all merely subterfuge undertaken by the Pirates in an effort to drive down Crews’ asking price. But it all makes sense logically so we’ll go with it and continue to monitor the situation.


2) Washington Nationals—Dylan Crews, OF, LSU: In a normal world, the Nationals would follow the Pirates’ selection of Crews by picking LSU ace Paul Skenes. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is said to be enamored with the 6-06/245 Skenes, who’s had a season for the ages and may be closer to big league ready than any college hurler since Gerrit Cole in 2011.


But the world hasn’t been normal since Adam decided to go apple picking, so what happens if Cherington does the nasty with Langford? Does Rizzo stay true to his first love Skenes or does he go for a walk on the wild side with Crews? After conversations with baseball insiders, we assess that Rizzo would take Crews. Washington has never been an organization that shies away from Scott Boras clients (Crews is represented by the mega agent), as their past selections of Anthony Rendon, Stephen Harper, and Bryce Harper would indicate. Imagine a future outfield in the nation’s capital that features Crews alongside some combination of James Wood, Elijah Green, and Robert Hassell.


3) Detroit Tigers—Walker Jenkins, OF, HS (Oak Island, NC): New Tigers GM Scott Harris is pining for a polished college hitter who could rocket through the system and aid Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene in reviving a dormant Tigers lineup. But if Langford and Crews are both off the board as this scenario suggests, Harris is in a conundrum.

Does he take Skenes and all the risks associated with amateur arms (even those as supremely talented as Skenes) or does he opt for a high school bat that may be further away from the bigs?


Enter Jenkins. Though still a high schooler, he’s considered extremely polished and may even beat a number of the highly touted college bats taken right after him to The Show. Additionally, Rob Metzler, Tigers Assistant General Manager and the overseer of the team’s domestic and international scouting efforts, and Mark Conner, Amateur Scouting Director, are said to be very fond of Jenkins, which could be decisive in the Tigers’ war room on draft night.


It's important to note that both Metzler and Conner were in Atlanta last Thursday and Friday to watch Virginia C Kyle Teel torch Georgia Tech pitching. Is it possible that both senior evaluators were dispatched to Hotlanta by Harris as part of the latter’s search for a college bat? While Teel projects as a 60-hit tool with sufficient athleticism and catch-and-throw prowess to stick behind the dish long-term, he’s widely viewed as a slight overdraft at 3 and a better fit in the 10-15 range.


4) Texas Rangers—Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU: The Rangers are said to be infatuated with Jenkins and love Max Clark, but if Skenes “falls” to 4, expect Texas to grab him. An interesting scenario would arise if Texas continues to contend and is still in the playoff picture come late July or August. Officials from other teams have told CBN that they believe the Rangers would then ramp up Skenes to have him bolster their pitching corps down the stretch. Yes, he’s that good.


5) Minnesota Twins—Max Clark, OF, HS (Franklin, IN): The Twins are in a great position to snap up the member of the Lanford-Crews-Jenkins-Skenes-Clark quintet that falls and they do just that. Clark would be something of a local pick for Minnesota, and numerous high-level Twins officials have been in to see Clark on multiple occasions.


6) Oakland A’s—Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon University: The budget-minded A’s have always been about exploiting market inefficiencies, and in this era where power reigns supreme and teams are willing to live with sky-high K-rates, Oakland will opt for a kid with a deluxe hitting tool and just 5 K’s in over 200 PAs. The A’s have also appeared interested in Teel and Ole Miss SS Jacob Gonzlaez.


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.


8) Kansas City Royals—Enrique Bradfield Jr, OF, Vanderbilt: The Royals were always a logical candidate to take pitching this early, but with new GM J.J. Piccolo at the helm, that’s likely changed. Bradfield would give Kansas City a bona fide speedster and Gold Glove candidate to man Kauffman Stadium’s spacious CF for the next decade as the stolen base is once again en vogue.


9) Colorado Rockies—Matt Shaw, 2B, Maryland: The Rockies have been all over the map this spring. High ranking executives have been in to see Teel, Dollander, Wake Forest RHP Rhett Lowder, and Bradfield, among others. But we believe they’ll choose Shaw, whose upside as a Brett Boone-type 2B and proximity to the majors will influence their decision.


10) Miami Marlins—Noble Meyer, RHP, HS (West Linn, OR): There’s a school of thought that GM Kim Ng is feeling the heat and may therefore command her scouting department to move in the direction of a college bat like Gonzalez, Stanford’s Tommy Troy, or Virginia Tech’s Jack Hurley. We’ll believe that when we see it. Instead, the Marlins will stay true to their roots and select the flamethrowing Meyer.


11) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest: The Angels are seemingly always looking to replenish their pitching via the draft and this year’s no different. In Lowder, they’d be getting a guy with excellent command of his entire repertoire who could quickly establish himself as a mid-rotation horse. Teel and Troy also appear to be on the menu for LAA.


12) Arizona Diamondbacks—Walker Martin, SS, HS (Eaton, CO): In recent years, the D-Backs have demonstrated a propensity for taking high ceiling prep bats, and their strong presence at Martin’s games this spring is consistent with this trend. Another high school SS, Colin Houck, has been prominently mentioned here, as well as prep C Blake Mitchell.


13) Chicago Cubs—Arjun Nimmala, SS, HS (Valrico, FL): At this stage of the 1st round, there is no team tied to a player as closely as the Cubs are connected to the toolsy Nimmala.


14) Boston Red Sox—Colin Houck, SS, HS (Lilburn, GA): The two names we’re hearing the most here are Houck and Mitchell. Houck has been on a steady upward trajectory for over a year, and ESPN Analyst Kiley McDaniel has compared his overall game to Evan Longoria.


15) Chicago White Sox—Kyle Teel, C, Virginia: We’ve heard the ChiSox strictly on collegians—Teel, Hurley, Gonzalez, and Florida’s Hurston Waldrep. At 15, Teel is an excellent value play.


16) San Francisco Giants—Tommy Troy, 2B, Stanford: At this stage in the 1st round, we start to see a mini-run on college bats as teams look to tap into a largely untapped demographic. Troy, who the Giants’ brass has been able to see on numerous occasions due to Stanford’s proximity to Oracle Park, offers a mature bat who should fly through San Francisco’s barren system.


17) Baltimore Orioles—Colt Emerson, SS, HS (Cambridge, OH): It’s fair to say that the Orioles have had plenty of success in recent years picking left-handed-hitting high school shortstops with strong hit tools (Gunnar Henderson and Jackson Holliday). GM Mike Elias & Co will go back to that well in ’23.


18) Milwaukee Brewers—Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss: Gonzalez, once thought of as an almost surefire top-5 candidate, is falling as teams question his unorthodox swing mechanics and ability to stick at SS. The Brewers, who are also in on Hurley, take the plunge.


19) Tampa Bay Rays—Blake Mitchell, C, HS (Sinton, TX): The Rays, who mine value in the draft as well as anyone, have cast a wide net. We’ve heard them connected to Mitchell, who could easily go a half dozen picks earlier, HS OF Dillon Head, and HS SS Adrian Santana. This is also the first possible destination we’re hearing for fast-rising HS SS George Lombard Jr.



20) Toronto Blue Jays—Kevin McGonigle, 2B, HS (Aldan, PA): We don’t have a good feel for the Blue Jays’ intentions and therefore have them grabbing McGonigle, one of the best pure hitters in the prep ranks.


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—Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida: 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. Waldrep, despite a nuclear arsenal, has fallen because of lapses in command and questionable pitch calling. 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; however, a hamate injury this spring has pushed him down boards.


Back to Waldrep for a second—Seattle’s player development department has shown an innate ability to get the most out of young hurlers with electric stuff (see Miller, Bryce) and the hope here is that history would repeat itself with the enigmatic Waldrep.


23) Cleveland Guardians—George Lombard Jr, SS, HS (Pinecrest, FL): Lombard’s stock is exploding like a dotcom in the late 1990’s, and the Guardians’ draft model emphasizes youth and upside. Lombard is still 17. This is a match made in heaven.


24) Atlanta Braves—Charlee Soto, RHP, HS (Kissimmee, FL): For 30 years, the Braves mantra has been “pitching, pitching, and more pitching,” and primarily high-upside high school arms. Why change it now?


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—Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech: In recent years, New York has jumped on left-handed collegiate power bats like Austin Wells and Spencer Jones in an effort to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch. Hurley has plenty of power, as evidenced by some of the best batted ball data in college, and could continue this draft night trend.


27) Philadelphia Phillies—Dillon Head, OF, HS (Glenwood, IL): Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski views draft picks—even 1st rounders—as valuable trade currency and Head could be no different. The 5-11/180 Head can fly and has a burgeoning hit tool. If he has a good start to his professional career, he could become a valuable trade piece for the built-to-win-now Phillies.


28) Houston Astros—Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU: With a strong pitching pipeline in Latin America, it’s doubtful the Astros would opt for an arm this early. Houston also is notorious for seeking value in the draft. Enter Taylor, who some viewed as a possible top-15 pick but had a topsy turvy junior year while having difficulty with in-the-zone fastballs. He offers plenty of power, patience, and a refined glove at the hot corner and did start to come on as the college postseason was beginning.

 

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