With the event itself still over a month and a half away, it’s still too early to say with any type of certainty which clubs will select which players in June’s draft. That said, we’ve become familiar enough with industry consensus and player buzz in recent weeks to take a stab at projecting the first 10 picks.
As mentioned yesterday in our updated draft rankings, signability is everything in a hard-capped draft, and most prospects haven’t even met with their advisors yet to set a number, though there have been indications in many cases.
The depth of the class is found in high-school talent in the 20-50 overall range. With the top of the draft unsettled — and with a couple teams featuring lots of extra picks and pool money (draft order) — there will likely be a pick or two among the top 15 signed for well below slot to set up some overslot bonuses at later picks. With the specific dope on every pick getting spottier around the 10th pick, we cut things off there, but there’s plenty of buzz on that 20-50 range as clubs line up contingency options should the board blow up for their first pick.
1. Detroit Tigers – Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
All of our intel suggests that Mize will be the pick here, provided he doesn’t get hurt and his medical comes back fine. It’s not a 100% slam dunk, but that scenario seems well over 50% likely. In the event things go sideways with Mize, Wisconsin prep CF Jarred Kelenic is the second option and would be signable for a lower bonus, but the weather and competition he’s facing this spring has made him tougher to scout than some other similarly ranked prospects. Wichita State 3B Alec Bohm is another player who has been mentioned here, but he seems like a longshot at this point.
2. San Francisco Giants – Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State
This pick is a mystery to the industry, and it appears to be in part because the Giants have bigger problems than the draft right now. The club moved their chips into the middle of the table for the 2018 season but have just a 7-10 start to show for it and all three of Madison Bumgarner, Mark Melancon, and Jeff Samardzija on the DL. The Giants are casting a wide net, taking a long look at Arizona prep 3B Nolan Gorman, Florida prep RHP Carter Stewart, and Georgia Tech C Joey Bart, along with the players projected to go in this area. We’re told they will not take Oregon State 2B Nick Madrigal, but the expectation is they will go for a college player given what the organizational direction is at this point. Bohm makes the most sense given all these factors.
3. Philadelphia Phillies – Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State
Multiple heavy hitters in the Phillies org have gone to see Bohm, Madrigal, and South Alabama CF Travis Swaggerty, according to sources, and this pick likely comes down to one of those players. Our best intel is that they club ranks those three as follows: Bohm, Madrigal, Swaggerty. Not every source agrees about that, though, and it’s unlikely the Phillies have made a call on it yet. Due to their spring-training home, the Phillies had GM Matt Klentak and multiple high-level scouts in to see South Florida LHP Shane McClanahan and Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert in March, but they don’t appear to be real options here.
4. Chicago White Sox – Travis Swaggerty, CF, South Alabama
The White Sox are also on all three of the top college bats (Bohm, Madrigal, Swaggerty), and it sounds like they’ll take the one who gets to them here. We’re also not sure how Chicago stacks up those bats, but there’s some belief that they have Madrigal tops amongst the three. McClanahan has been mentioned as an option here, but he’s faded the last few weeks.
5. Cincinnati Reds – Jarred Kelenic, CF, Waukesha West HS (WI)
The Reds appear to want one of the three aforementioned college hitters, and the buzz is they prefer Madrigal of the group, but it looks like all three will be gone for this pick. As for the Plan B, there’s some thought Cincinnati could go upside prep righty again with Stewart. After the club took Hunter Greene last year, though, we think they go in another direction. There’s some buzz Florida RHP Brady Singer is an option here for a below-slot bonus as a quick mover, but at this juncture and in this scenario, it looks like the decision will come down to Kelenic or Bart. Kelenic hasn’t been scouted much this spring due to a late start, a brief illness, and some inclement weather, but he’s a hot name whom some scouts think could break into the top four, possibly sliding one of the college bats back to this pick.
6. New York Mets – Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (AZ)
The Mets appear to be leaning college here and have been tied to Ole Miss LHP Ryan Rolison and Bart, who could move quick and help solve their big-league catching situation. Liberatore is the only prep player whom scouts think the Mets would entertain, and he’ll go quickly if the Mets don’t take him here. Liberatore has a huge matchup tonight against Gorman, another projected first-round pick, that should have one of the largest group of scouts of the year on hand.
7. San Diego Padres – Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (FL)
The Padres, like all of the teams picking outside the top four, would like to get one of the college bats mentioned above, but that seems unlikely at this point. In true Padres fashion, we’ve heard them tied to a number of high-school players, with GM A.J. Preller seeing Stewart, Tennessee prep LHP Ryan Weathers (son of David Weathers), and Georgia prep RHP Ethan Hankins last week. The buzz is that the Padres really want Stewart at this pick but would also take Liberatore. If things blow up, Weathers may be their cut-rate option to save money and allocate it to other high-ceiling players at later picks. We have a list of player the Padres are believed to covet at later picks listed below. Just this morning, we heard Stewart was 86-94 mph last night and didn’t have feel for his breaking ball, with heat from the Phillies, Padres and Giants in the house, so his next few starts are worth monitoring more than usual to see how he bounces back.
8. Atlanta Braves – Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS (GA)
Many are curious to see what sorts of players the Braves draft this year with a new general manager in place, but most of what we’ve heard is more of the same, with Atlanta focusing on high-ceiling prep players, mostly arms. Kelenic, Liberatore, and Rocker all fit here and have been scouted by Braves decision-makers in the past week. It’s worth noting that there are rumors Rocker would demand an overslot bonus, even at this pick, but he’d be expected to sign if taken this high. GM Alex Anthopoulos, like Klentak, was also seen around Florida during March observing local top prospects (college arms McClanahan, Gilbert, Singer, and Jackson Kowar, along with prep arms Stewart and RHP Mason Denaburg) with other team execs and advisors like Bobby Cox and Tom Glavine. That said, he hasn’t been spotted at an amateur game since leaving spring training, and all of those games were within two hours of Disney.
9. Oakland Athletics – Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
The A’s are believed to be leaning college here but also tend to look for value, taking the best available up top over a specific tendency. In this case, Bart was in play at picks No. 2, 5, and 6, and his floor appears to be the Pirates at the next pick, if Oakland were to pass. Bart also fits the timetable of the club Oakland is building as a potential quick mover at a premium position. In this scenario, Bart makes it to No. 9, but you could shuffle the players projected to picks Nos. 5 through 9 in a couple different ways that jive with what we’re hearing. One scout with whom we spoke yesterday said he doesn’t think Bart gets out of the top five.
10. Pittsburgh Pirates – Ryan Rolison, LHP, Ole Miss
The Pirates tend to emphasize size, velocity and mechanical markers on pitchers along with exit velocity for hitters. We’re told they would take Bart if he got to this pick while Oregon State RF Trevor Larnach and Kelenic also fit their type on the hitter side at this pick. McClanahan, Rolison, Rocker and California prep RHP Cole Winn fit their type on the pitching side. Rolison has three above average pitches from the left side and needs some slight mechanical tweaks, but he could be far better than 10th best in this class. Rolison, and college players in general fit better with the time table the Pirates set with their recent trades, but we wouldn’t expect them to force a college pick here. McClanahan, Winn and Larnach would all appear to be options here as well but you can probably tell why we cut this off at ten picks since the specific dope starts getting spottier around this juncture.
We have Rocker going eighth and Pittsburgh showing interest in him with the 10th pick. Toronto (12) is another distinct possibility as they’ve been showing a lot of interest in recent weeks. The Blue Jays are also rumored to be on Florida prep CF Connor Scott — as is Texas (15) among others clubs in the Nos. 10-20 range.
Seattle (14) and Washington (27) are both believed to be looking for quick-moving college types, with the Nationals tied to Stanford RHP Tristan Beck and Kentucky’s 6-foot-11 RHP Sean Hjelle. Seattle was on Denaburg before his injury, but his stock is a question mark until things clear up on that front.
We mentioned Singer representing a backup option for Cincinnati (5), and he’s being mentioned as a quick-moving option in the Nos. 9-15 range, especially if he can finish strong. Singer matches up with Mize next weekend, and Kiley will be there.
Houston (28) has been tied mostly to high-school players, many with good TrackMan profiles. Cleveland (29) and the Dodgers (30) seem to be looking at similar pools of players, too. Houston and Cleveland have been associated most often with Pennsylvania prep CF Mike Siani, while Illinois prep CF Alek Thomas is a target of the Dodgers and Indians. The Dodgers are believed to be on Georgia prep C Anthony Seigler, who fits their mold of athletic multi-positional catchers (Austin Barnes, Kyle Farmer, Will Smith, Connor Wong).
The Dodgers, Royals (18, 33, 34, 40), and Rays (31, 32) are on Georgia prep CF Parker Meadows (brother of Pirates LF Austin Meadows) whom we compared to Indians CF Bradley Zimmer yesterday in the top 55.
With all their extra picks, the Royals can be creative and bet on upside prep players. Along with Meadows, they are linked to Georgia prep RHP Cole Wilcox (the Reds at pick No. 47 are heavily on Wilcox, as well), who should be a tough sign. Kansas City is also among the teams taking long looks at North Carolina multi-sport prep star CF Jordyn Adams, the others including Minnesota (20, 59), San Diego (38), and Texas (15, 55). Adams’ signability is unclear right now, but the number will likely be well into the seven figures.
Along with Adams, the Padres are tied to New York prep RHP Lineras Torres, Jr. and New Jersey prep RF Nick Decker, along with later picks/underslot options Tennessee prep RF Ryder Green and Georgia prep RF Lawrence Butler.
The Marlins (53) are the team showing the most interest in Florida prep SS Blaze Alexander.