This year’s draft is pretty deep due in part to the 2020 Covid shortened draft landing a lot of top prospects in college rather than in a pro ball (Exhibit A: Dylan Crews). That said, there are two clear tiers at the top of the draft with the top three being an elite tier their own, and then two prep outfielders making up tier two.
1. Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU – While at Air Force, Skenes was a dominant two-way player with enough talent he would likely be a day two pick if he were only a position player. Instead, he transferred to LSU (doing so before his junior season means he won’t have to step away from the game to fulfill a military commitment) where they transitioned him to the mound fulltime and fine-tuned his slider. Now he runs his heavy fastball up to 102 with command, has as good a slider as any in the class, and a quality changeup even if it is thrown harder than some fastballs from others. Above-average command with a true 80-grade fastball and double plus slider, Skenes makes the cut as my top prospect in this year’s draft.
2. Dylan Crews, OF, LSU – Coming out of high school, Crews had some first round buzz but there were doubts about his ability to stick in center ultimately leading to him sliding enough to make it to campus. At LSU he has shown the fact he is more than capable of being a center fielder, and the bat took off even more than expected. He has a double plus bat tool with plus power to go along with an arm that is enough for right but the athleticism to stick in center. It would be no surprise if he goes 1-1, but he comes in ranked two for me, although it is really more like 1-B.
3. Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida – If Crews is 1-B, then Langford is 1-C. Much of the discussion as to ranking Langford behind Crews was the fact Langford hasn’t played center. Then, in the NCAA Tournament the Gators put him in center multiple times and he showed he can handle the position too, although he certainly appears more comfortable on a corner. The hit tool is plus rather than the double plus of Crews, but Langford certainly has more power. Crews also has a bit more arm and obviously the track record in center, which was ultimately the tiebreaker that lands Langford at the “bottom” of this very impressive first tier.
4. Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick (NC) – Jenkins has been a bit of an under the radar elite prospect based greatly on the fact he did not play much during the showcase last summer due to injury. That hasn’t proven to hurt his value, as he is my top HS prospect this year. He plays a quality center field currently, but there is some concern he moves off it as he matures, but his plus arm would make him a plus defender in right. He also has a plus bat and power, so there is plenty of offensive production to come from him.
5. Max Clark, OF, Franklin (IN) – Once in the conversation to be the top pick in the draft, Clark has “slid” to five for me where he makes up the two-player tier with Jenkins. Unlike Jenkins there is doubt about Clark’s ability to play center, in fact he could be a plus defender at the position, and he has an even stronger arm than Jenkins. Clark doesn’t have the elite power of any of the four outfielders ahead of him on this list, but he might have the best bat speed which helps contribute to his plus hit tool. Clark is also an elite runner, which looks like may be a bigger tool than it used to be given the new MLB rules that have made it more advantageous to steal bags.
6. Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest – The gap between five and six is real, but the gap between six and 12 is minimal, as any of the next six guys have been ranked six at some point in my ranks. Lowder may not your prototypical power pitcher we are used to seeing go in the top ten, but he is as polished a pitcher as you are going to get. He has a fastball that does run into the upper 90s, although 93-94 is typically where he sits with a quality slider. Meanwhile he has a truly elite changeup that is dangerous against right and left-handed pitchers, and he commands all three offerings extremely well. The two-time ACC Pitcher of the Year is the type of arm that could have success at the MLB level right away and has as high a floor as any pitcher in some time. He won’t ever be a massive strikeout guy (so maybe not a great target in fantasy) and is probably destined to be a quality number two starter or really good third member of a rotation.
7. Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss – One of the stars on the 2021 College World Series winning team, Ole Miss didn’t even make the SEC tournament this year. That is not due to Gonzalez having a down year as he hit .327 and walked more than he struck out for the third consecutive season. His power did dip this year and there are some concerns about his ability to stick at short long term due to his lack of foot speed. I feel he can beat the odds and be just fine as a big league shortstop thanks to his hands, arm, and instincts while being a guy who hits for average and power.
8. Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida – At his best, Waldrep is an elite, ace-level arm. At his worst, Waldrep can’t find the zone, or he is grooving too many fastballs. He has three true plus pitches with a fastball that could hit triple digits, a power slider, and ridiculous splitter. He is an incredibly athletic pitcher and fiery on the mound, but the athleticism doesn’t result in the command you want to see, and the fieriness can get him into trouble trying to blow guys away rather than pitching smart. A patient approach and the right organization should really be able to get the most out of Waldrep, but he isn’t a guy who will thrive regardless of where he is drafted, fit is going to be big for him.
9. Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon – The two Jacobs have been neck and neck all year as to who the top SS prospect is, and there really isn’t much separating them in terms of overall grade. If you are looking for a power bat at the position, lean Gonzalez. If you are looking for a hit first guy with a near certainty to stick at the position, lean Wilson. Wilson never did develop the power stroke it appeared he may have discovered at the end of 2022, but he has one of the better hit tools and takes after his dad, Jack Wilson, as an incredibly instinctive defender.
10. Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest (FL) – Nimmala is a fun prospect with much a much better hit tool than he gets credit for. There is reason to believe he can develop into plus power given his currently thin frame but quick hands and has flashed that power already. The swing reminds me of Mookie Betts some in the finish. There isn’t a position in the infield Nimmala can’t play and he can play all of them well.
11. Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit (OR) – There are some striking similarities between Meyer and another recent Jesuit High pitcher, Phillies Mick Abel. Both are 6’5″ tall and super lean with big fastballs and potential plus sliders. Meyer’s fastball has much more upside than Abel as he already runs it up to 97 and has plenty of late tail that has been known to actually knock a catcher’s mitt clean off (happened during the PG National last summer). His slider has good two-plane action and has a second version that could be tweaked into a solid curve. There is a ton of projectability in the body and he already has solid command of all his pitches.
12. Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee – Dollander is a tough evaluation as he has flashed the stuff of a frontline starter, but he has also flashed off-speed stuff that is average at best on certain days. His slider does have plus potential but need to see it with more consistency, but his fastball is an easy plus thanks to the movement it generates in the mid-90s. One other concern from Dollander this season has been his command. He has decent walk numbers, but he misses over the heart of the plate far too much, making him a control over command guy which always causes concern. That said, on his best days, he can come at you with three above average to better pitches in his fastball, slider, and change, while also mixing in a curve to keep hitters even more off balance.
13. Kyle Teel, C, Virginia – The second best college catcher will not be found in the top 50, and there is only one other catcher in the class that is even close to rivaling Teel’s potential. Teel could go as high as six (although not sure the A’s need another catcher) or could fall as far as 15, and I could justify any of those slots. He has a true plus arm behind the plate and does a really good job keeping the ball in front of him on balls in dirt despite his lower half being rather angled. He has a pretty big leg kick with less than two strikes, but times it well and calms it down and can fight off a pitcher’s best pitches with two strikes. Power is average at best, but the cannon arm and quality hit tool from a reliable backstop is certainly something you can get excited about.
14. Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt – Scouting scales stop at 80, but you may need to put a 90 or 100 on Bradfield’s speed it is that elite. He stole 130 bags in his three years at Vandy, including snagging an incredible 46 bags without being thrown out once in 2022. The wheels play in center field as well as he is one of the better defenders at the position in the class. Power is not at all part of his game, in terms of arm or bat, but he makes a ton of hard contact with a line drive swing that allows him to be a throwback leadoff hitter.
15. Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, James Madison (VA) – Being a top ten high school bat give you a good chance to be a first-round pick. Being a top five high school pitcher gives you a good chance to be a first-round pick. Being both makes you Bryce Eldridge! At the plate he has long levers, expected given he is 6’7″, but a quick swing despite them that allows him to hit for both contact and power. Most project him to be a first baseman positionally, but he has played right field and has more than enough athleticism and arm to be a solid defender there. On the mound he has a fastball that flirts with the high 90s, a sharp slider and quality changeup, with impressive feel and command of all three given his length. He absolutely has what it takes to be successful as a two-way player, and fully expect whoever drafts him to give him every opportunity to do just that.
16. Tommy Troy, IF, Stanford – Troy has played second, he is playing third, some project him as a shortstop, but nobody doubts his ability to hit. He has an advanced approach at the plate, makes a ton of contact, and that contact is usually hard contact. There is some question as to how much home run power he will develop as there isn’t a ton of loft in his swing, but he will make up for that with plenty of doubles power.
17. Matt Shaw, IF, Maryland – Between Summer League and for Maryland, Shaw has played all three outfield positions, and three infield positions, so positional versatility is certainly something he has going for him. That said, he is probably best suited for second base as his arm is above average, but he does have plus speed. At the plate he has above average hit and power tools to go with an advanced approach at the plate.
18. Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton (TX) – For a while Mitchell was considered a two-way prospect with a mid-90s fastball and good slider, but there is little question his future is at catcher. His arm is a plus tool with decent feet and a solid receiver. He has a quick bat and turns his top hand over well, but there is also plenty of swing and miss in the bat. He uses the whole field and has plus power potential to the pull side, but he needs to adjust his approach some as the bat can be late too often.
19. Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy (MA) – The state of Massachusetts has seen exactly zero left-handed high school arms go in the first round of the draft, and that should end this year. White has a low effort 3/4 deliver that provides easy velo up to 96 with run. I have seen him throw two versions of a breaking ball, but the high 70s sweeping breaker is definitely his best as it flattens out too much at higher velocities. He rarely uses his change and currently spikes it too often, but it has shown good shape when it is on, and he uses it. There will be a team that is really happy to get White mid-to-late first round.
20. Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell (FL) – A broken hamate ended Miller’s senior season, but that shouldn’t hurt his draft stock too much as he had an excellent showcase circuit last summer. At Dodger Stadium over All Star Weekend a season ago he won the HS Home Run Derby and ripped four singles in the HS All American Game. The power is real as is the bat speed although the bat path can be a bit long and there is a sizable leg kick to go with it. Miller will start his pro career at third base where his plus arm plays well, but there is some concern he will lose some quickness over time and end up at first.
21. Colin Houck, SS, Parkview (GA) – A well regarded high school QB, Houck has plenty of options ahead of him, but it seems pretty clear his next step is as a pro ballplayer. A solid defender at short with good quick actions and a plus arm. If he ever has to move off short and over to third, he has enough power to project well there and has an advanced approach at the plate that could develop into a plus hitter.
22. Kevin McGonigle, SS, Monsignor Bonner (PA) – A left-handed hitting middle infielder, McGongle has excellent bat-to-ball skills and quick bat. There is some weight shift in the swing, but he keeps his balance well and it actually serves more as a power generating mechanism than something that takes away from his ability to make consistent contact. have seen hm put in below average times to first and that does hurt him in the field some too. He has the arm strength and IQ to stick at short, but his future very well may be at 2B.
23. Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian (FL) – Will still be 17 on draft day, but the maturing of his body has already begun as he has put on nearly 15 pounds since the summer which saw the fastball bump up to 98 this Spring. The fastball has plus potential while he has a late breaking slider and a change with a ton of late dip and run. He has solid command of all his pitches and good leg drive through his hitchy but balanced delivery.
24. Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU – While his future is almost certainly at 3B, Taylor filled in at short early in the season and showed solid range there. He is more hit over power which is a bit of a different profile for a 3B, but there is plenty of power in the bat and could eventually be above average. The arm is plenty strong enough to play well at third, but the defense could be plus there, but more than likely will settle as above average.
25. Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest – With an upright slightly closed stance, Wilken creates plenty of torque in his swing which helps generate a ton of power. It does lead to plenty of swing and miss concerns though, although the plus power will help offset that some. He is not the best defender, but the near double plus arm should allow him to at least start his pro career at the hot corner even if he eventually needs to move across the diamond to first.
26. Walker Martin, SS, Eaton (CO) – With a smooth stroke and smooth hands in the field, Martin looks every bit the part of a quality shortstop prospect. That said, there is plenty of projection left in the body and some thought he may have to move to third, but that won’t hurt his value. He helped lead his Eaton HS team to the state championship by hitting 20 home runs with an insane .633 batting average this season in 29 games. He is one of the older prep players in the class, but the talent overshadows the age.
27. Chase Davis, OF, Arizona – When at its best, Davis’s swing is among the prettiest in the class. He can overswing and come out of his shoes too often, but he really improved his pitch selection down the stretch. He has a plus arm that will be an asset in right, but enough range and athleticism that he could be rolled out in center. The power is above average bordering on plus and the aforementioned improved approach should allow him to tap into that power even more.
28. Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami – Another member of the college crop who likely would have been drafted and signed had there been a traditional season/draft in 2020, “Yoyo” Morales improved every year at Miami. A natural shortstop who outgrew the position, he is a much better defender at third than he often gets credit for, and the arm is a real plus tool. Once thought to be a pure power approach hitter, he made massive strides this season and now grades out to be at least an average hitter which will allow his game power to get closer to his natural plus raw power.
29. Nolan Schanuel, OF/1B, Florida Atlantic – A rare hit over power first baseman, Schanuel hit an unfathomable .447 this season. In addition to improving his batting average every season, he also improved his power output and that should be at least an average tool at the next level. He has played some third in the past, and there is a shot he can hold down a corner outfield spot, but his future is more than likely at first where he will need to tap into that power a little more to fit the profile.
30. Colt Emerson, SS/3B, John Glenn (OH) – Emerson has a polished swing with a quick bat, but the hands can get started a bit late, seemingly intentionally, to help find the opposite field gaps. When he fires his hands early and pulls the ball, he can really drive it, but he prioritizes contact over power, which will certainly be a benefit if he sticks up the middle. He has average at best wheels and range which does leave some question as to whether or not he can stick at short, but the contact rate along with mild adjustments to tap into the natural power in the swing will allow him to shine if moved to second or third.
31. Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor (IL) – While I have him ranked on the fringes of the first round, I have spoken with a number of teams who would have no hesitation pulling the trigger on Head in round one. He has elite speed, a well above average arm, and takes quality routes making him a genuine defensive asset in center field. At the plate he will never be much of a power hitter, but he has plenty of bat speed and makes plenty of contact that, along with the speed, could lead to a ton of doubles and triples.
32. George Lombard Jr., SS, Gulliver Prep (FL) – The son of a six-year MLB vet and current bench coach for the Detroit Tigers, George Lombard, the younger Lombard is fundamentally sound and smart ballplayer. He is long and lean with plenty of room to fill out, so there are some questions as to whether or not he will retain the athleticism to stick at short. If he does, it will be due to his baseball instincts, while moving off short leaves some questions as his arm is fringy as to being strong enough to move to third, although I do feel it will play just fine there. There are some swing-and-miss concerns as he has a long bat plane although it does generate plenty of bat speed. This helps him really drive the ball well and that is reflected in the fact he put together some impressive exit velocities while on the showcase circuit last summer.
33. Roch Cholowsky, SS, Hamilton (AZ) – With quick transitions from glove to throw, soft hands defensively, and a very accurate arm, there is little question Cholowsky can stick at short. There is some question in the bat as he does not possess much in terms of power nor does he project to develop a whole lot, but his hips clear well and are in sync with his hands so he can handle any pitch in any quadrant. This may also be the first truly difficult sign in the draft as he has is committed to play both baseball and football at UCLA, where he was recruited to play QB for the Bruins.
34. Raffaelle Velazquez, C/1B, Huntington Beach (CA) – “Ralphy” Velazquez won the 2022 Perfect Game All American Classic Home Run Derby, and that raw power is real. His hands stay load through his load and has plenty of bat speed while being direct to the ball giving him a better hit tool than your typical prep power bat. He can sell out for the pull power and stop to the 1B side at times, but he usually stays square and balanced. He has a ton of arm and should be given every opportunity to stick behind the dish, but there are some questions about his receiving and agility at catcher that may ultimately move him to first, but the bat will player regardless of position.
35. Jack Hurley, OH, Virginia Tech – A genuine five-tool potential, proven college bat isn’t something you often see ranked outside the first round, but that is just what we have here with Hurley. The arm and power are likely future average tools, but there is enough arm to play right if needed and there is plus raw power in the bat too. He is very good bat to ball with enough athleticism he could very well stick in center field at the next level.
36. Adrian Santana, SS, Doral Academy (FL) – Santana is the epitome of an upside play as he oozes tools, but there are legitimate questions in the bat. Power will likely never be a real part of his game even after his 5’11”, 155 lbs. frame fills out, but I think he can become at least an average hitter, which is all he needs. He has double plus speed, a cannon of an arm, and is one of the better defensive shortstops in the class. Add to that he is a switch-hitter, and you have a player a team could certainly fall in love with, but patience will be needed as Santana develops.
37. Jake Gelof, 3B, Virginia – The younger brother of A’s prospect Zack Gelof, Jake is every bit the prospect of his older brother. He possesses plus power, as proven by the fact he has the most home runs of anyone who has ever played for Virginia, but there are certainly holes in the swing. At the plate, he does not get cheated, but he does make a good amount of contact for a guy as aggressive as he is. He will probably end up at first eventually given he really doesn’t have great quickness and the foot speed is well below average, but the bat will play anywhere.
38. Juaron Watts-Brown, RHP, Oklahoma State – A redshirt sophomore after missing the 2021 season due to a football injury he suffered in high school, Watts-Brown dominated for Long Beach State in 2022. He transferred to Stillwater for the 2023 season and fared well this season. His best pitch is a plus slider he pairs with an above average curveball. The fastball has plenty of velo, getting up to 96, but it can get flat too often. The change is a solid offering, and he repeats his delivery well, so he should have no problem sticking as a starter in pro ball, although there are some command issues.
39. Travis Sykora, RHP, Round Rock (TX) – Sykora is exactly what you expect from a Texas power righty. A big kid with a big leg kick and plenty of leg drive giving him plenty of extension, making his triple digit fastball get on hitters even quicker. He has a power slider, but his best secondary is a heavy splitter with some real run. His command of his pitches is solid for a prep arm, although he is already 19 meaning he would be a draft eligible sophomore if the Texas Longhorns managed to convince him to head to campus.
40. Brice Matthews, SS, Nebraska – There is real swing and miss concerns with Matthews, but he can also provide plenty of power while playing up the middle. He is one of the more athletic prospects in the class and has plus speed with an arm that can certainly keep him on the left side of the infield. Range is no concern for him at short, although the glove isn’t the most reliable and there is a shot he ends up in center, but he could very well be a plus defender if he were to move.
41. Cameron Johnson, LHP, IMG Academy – A big lefty with a fastball up to 97 is easy to fall in love with. Johnson has some stiffness in his delivery and gets his wrist in an odd position in his release which leads to some real command concerns, but the stuff is real. To go with that plus fastball he has a really good breaking ball that sits between 78-82 with plenty of two plane action. I like his change better than most do as it flashes really well; it is just extremely raw. There is a ton of risk in this arm, but with risk could come plenty of reward.
42. Cole Schoenwetter, RHP, San Marcos (CA) – With a 3/4 to lower arm slot with a loose and whippy arm, everything Schoenwetter throws has movement. While his fastball tops out around 95, it plays up because of his ability to spot is anywhere in the zone and the fact he can command his knuckle curve and tailing change as well. Unlike many prop arms, he is a pitcher more than a thrower and has real polish to his game. At the start of last summer there was a good chance he made it to campus at UCSB, now there is little chance he is still on the board come day two.
43. Colton Ledbetter, OF, Mississippi State – With an advanced approach at the plate and smooth stroke, Ledbetter’s best tool is the hit tool, although some mild bat wrap does cause him to be a tick late against higher velos. There is average power in the bat and the line drive bat plane helps the ball jump. He has a below average arm meaning he would be limited to left if he ever has to move off center, but the routes and speed should be enough to make him an average centerfielder long term.
44. Alex Clemmey, LHP, Bishop Hendricksen (RI) – Clemmey will still be 17 on draft day, so there is a ton of projection left, which is good because there are certainly flaws in his game. The arm can trail behind his body and miss by a lot far too often, but the stuff is real. The fastball has been up to 99 but sits 92-95 where it is still flirting with double plus given the real tail on it. His breaking ball is a sharp bending curve, and he has a change that still needs a lot of work. He typically works out of the stretch, which may be foreshadowing as the command will probably land him in a bullpen, but the stuff is undeniable.
45. Jonny Farmelo, OF, Westfield (VA) – There are really good bat-to-ball skills in Farmelo’s left-handed swing, and he can really drive the ball into the gaps. The home run power is somewhat limited, maybe an average tool but probably a tick below. In the outfield he has enough arm for right but the accuracy within the arm is what allows it to play just above average. The right field aspect likely won’t be needed as he is a true plus runner and can hold down center and be a quality defender there long term.
46. Cooper Pratt, SS/3B, Magnolia Heights (MS) – Pratt will undoubtedly start his pro career at short, but there are some questions about his ability to stay there at his 6’4″ frame fills out more than the 195 lbs. it currently holds. He does field the ball well especially to his backhand and has a plus arm, so there is a real shot he can stick at short if he can maintain his average speed and range. At the plate his hands clear really well allowing him to handle velo on the inner half, and he has a good approach to go the other way. A team sold on Pratt staying at short gives him a shot at hearing his name late in round one.
47. Blake Wolters, RHP, Mahmet-Seymour (IL) – After sitting in the lower 90s on the summer showcase circuit, Wolters was the talk of PBR’s Super 60 in February when his fastball jumped up to 98. He pairs the newfound power fastball with a sharp cutting slider and a slurvy breaker in the low-90s that plays well off the fastball and slider. There is good balance and command pointing towards a future in a rotation, but the has the power stuff that will be just fine if he has to be moved into a bullpen in time.
48. Mitch Jebb, SS, Michigan State – The winner of odd batting stance award this season may go to Jebb as his hands and bat angle are very unusual, they end up in a spot that allows him to get direct to the ball quite well. This helps contribute to giving him a plus hit tool, but there is a rather limited amount of power upside given the bat path is quite short and just doesn’t generate the power. He has a good shot to stick at short as he has a solid arm and glove, but plus speed and range, so he is a bit of an old-school leadoff guy who can stick up the middle defensively.
49. Cade Kuehler, RHP, Campbell – Kuehler is a bit of a unicorn given his mechanics are all over the place but he somehow holds his stuff deep into games. Given those wild mechanics with a ton of short arm and herky-jerky delivery, the command can get away from him too often. When all is on, He can run a fastball up to 98 with two better than average breaking balls and a quality changeup. He has the stamina and pitch mix of a starter, but delivery and command that screams bullpen.
50. Gino Groover, IF, NC State – The biggest question with Groover is about the future defensive position and where he will play. He has well below average speed and a fringy arm at best, which suggests his future is limited to first. That said, he has seen time at second, third, and both corner outfield spots as well. The power isn’t your traditional 1B profile as it is more average, but the hit tool can be plus. He is aggressive at the plate, but doesn’t chase too often either. The bat is first round worthy, the defense will likely leave him waiting until late on day one to hear his name.