2023 Mock Draft 1.0

Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a mock draft compiled using a combination of industry rumors, deductive reasoning, and pattern recognition of teams’ past behavior. I go down to pick 39, the end of Competitive Balance Round A, so that I get to touch on every team at least once. If you’d like to learn more about the players mentioned here, you’ll find rankings and scouting reports over on The Board. Some teams settled in for pre-draft meetings a few days ago, while others begin them today and tomorrow. The general industry sentiment is that buzz will grow and change between now and the weekend. In the event that I learn enough pertinent info between now and the draft, we’ll have another mock of just names up shortly before the first round kicks off. I’ll be chatting live from Lumen Field on Sunday during the draft, Woj’ing picks and providing reaction and analysis while pretending I’m putting a spin move on Walter Jones.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates
Pick: Dylan Crews, CF, LSU
2. Washington Nationals
Pick: Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU
3. Detroit Tigers
Pick: Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida

I think Skenes is a virtual lock at no. 2 regardless of who the first pick is, and I now think there’s a growing likelihood that that first pick will be Langford. Not enough to mock him there just yet, but enough that I’d consider him the second most likely player to go first behind Crews. Let’s talk through the Langford permutation. Recall that the Pirates played things extremely close to the vest the last time they picked first overall, with only a handful of people knowing that Henry Davis would be their pick until the Commissioner read his name at the podium. They have even more incentive to be secretive this year, especially if they’re entertaining the idea of taking a player for a pool space-saving discount first overall. Two agents/advisors represent four of the five consensus top players in the draft. This means that if teams are forthright with their interest, the agents have a more complete sense of what’s happening up top than usual, which might not be advantageous for the Pirates. If I’m Pittsburgh and even thinking about cutting a deal with one of Jenkins, Langford, or Clark, I wouldn’t indicate interest in my actual target until very late in the process.

Follow this example: If I think Langford is about as good as Crews, it would behoove me to make Langford’s camp believe he’s going as late as possible in order to make my pool savings as big as possible. I might smokescreen 1.1 interest in a red herring prospect (any non-Skenes/Crews player) knowing the falling dominoes would then probably put the LSU boys second and third, and Langford at best fourth. That would put Langford’s number as close to the slot value at four as I could possibly make it, assuming he actually has no viable alternatives prior to that pick. Because Clark and Jenkins are more likely to go later than the college guys, they represent the greatest savings. But based on how the Pirates have played their cards in recent drafts, it’s suspicious to me that there has been basically no connection at all between Pittsburgh and Langford even though he’s clearly talented enough to have kicked the tires. If Langford goes first, I think Skenes still goes second, with Crews going third.

4. Texas Rangers
Pick: Max Clark, OF, Franklin HS (IN)
5. Minnesota Twins
Pick: Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS (NC)

Early on in my dope gathering (a few weeks ago), Texas was viewed as a potential wild card, in part because of what they did at the top of the draft last year. It sounds like Texas is Langford’s floor, but in this scenario, he’s gone. Jenkins has had some injury issues, most significantly a procedure to repair a hip impingement he was born with, but Texas cleared Kumar Rocker last year and Minnesota cleared Brooks Lee, so it’s hard to imagine that being a barrier for either team. There is some buzz about the Twins taking a contact-oriented college prospect here, but I am also getting indications from teams picking deeper in the first round that some of those players (like Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez and Grand Canyon shortstop Jacob Wilson) are still looking for homes in that range. I think Jenkins goes with one of these picks, though if he goes fourth, it’s more likely the Twins cut a deal.

6. Oakland Athletics
Pick: Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian

If Minnesota doesn’t take one of the high school outfielders, I suppose it’s possible either could go here, though most industry rumors have the A’s on college bats like Taylor (strong buzz on that at the Combine) and Virginia catcher Kyle Teel, with Wake Forest righty Rhett Lowder also in the mix. If a high school outfielder is still on the board here, it might take an over-slot bonus to get a deal done, and if the number is high enough that it paints Oakland into a corner with their next two picks, it’s possible they blink and let Clark or Jenkins go by because they badly need depth in their system. A college guy here and two abnormally good high schoolers at 39 and 41 (thanks to the depth of the draft) feels better than an over-slot deal with Clark and at least one college guy later.

7. Cincinnati Reds
Pick: Kyle Teel, C, Virginia
8. Kansas City Royals
Pick: Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
9. Colorado Rockies
Pick: Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest

This is the area where the non-Skenes college arms should start to go. Teel and Lowder are in the mix at seven if the Reds can’t somehow buy a high school bat down to this pick like they did with Cam Collier last year. Similar to Oakland, the Reds have two more picks in the top 45 and the depth of the high school hitters in the draft arguably gives them incentive to take a slot college guy here and then multiple high-upside risks later on. But they took a ton of high schoolers last year and then punted on a second rounder (Justin Boyd) to fit everyone into their pool, so I consider them a better bet to get creative here than Oakland.

Noble Meyer’s range seems to be between here and Miami. The Royals have taken prep arms this high before. Texas high school catcher Blake Mitchell and Illinois high school outfielder Dillon Head have also been mentioned with them, though the Head interest may be at their next pick. Teams put Colorado with college arms. Lowder is here in this scenario, though GM Bill Schmidt was also seen at late Chase Dollander and Hurston Waldrep starts (and in to see high school infielder Colin Houck). Buzz more recent to mock publication indicates Dollander might be slipping, so if not Lowder, I’d put Waldrep here.

10. Miami Marlins
Pick: Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi
11. Los Angeles Angels
Pick: Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida

Teams are generally putting the Marlins with contact-oriented bats like Gonzalez and Jacob Wilson, especially if Noble Meyer is no longer on the board. This is the last place I’ve heard Meyer’s name mentioned, which makes me think it might be his floor. The Angels were associated with toolsy high schoolers early during my intel gathering (Colin Houck, Bryce Eldridge), but that has shifted to the hit tool-driven college guys and polished arms who can be run up the minor league ladder quickly, which is consistent with their recent approach. Waldrep could pitch out of a big league bullpen tomorrow.

12. Arizona Diamondbacks
Pick: Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS (FL)
13. Chicago Cubs
Pick: Nolan Schanuel, 1B, Florida Atlantic
14. Boston Red Sox
Pick: Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton HS (TX)

Miller’s name pops up at all three of these picks, and if the Cubs and Red Sox want him but have their pockets picked by the D-backs, they might each check down to a college safety valve. Maryland’s Matt Shaw is often mentioned in this general area, but Schanuel has been mentioned specifically with the Cubs (and as high as the Angels). I’m getting mixed signals on the BoSox, who have been mentioned with Mitchell and also as a team looking to cut a deal. It sounds like Stanford’s Tommy Troy is behind a bunch of the other college hitters on teams’ boards, so he might present the greatest savings here if that’s what Boston wants to do.

15. Chicago White Sox
Pick: Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee

At some point, Dollander’s fall will come to a stop, and I think it’s most likely to be with a team that seems to care less about fastball shape than others do. The White Sox fit that bill.

16. San Francisco Giants
Pick: Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison HS (VA)

Eldridge wants to try to play both ways and the Giants have recently proven willing to experiment with this with Reggie Crawford. There are scouts who think they’re also attached to Colorado high school shortstop Walker Martin, though that might be rich at this pick.

17. Baltimore Orioles
Pick: Colin Houck, SS, Parkview HS (GA)
18. Milwaukee Brewers
Pick: Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon
19. Tampa Bay Rays
Pick: Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy (MA)

Matt Shaw’s name is littered throughout the teens as a safety pick, and at this point he’d be good value, but the Orioles’ position player draft picks tend to have more overt big league physicality than Shaw, who is a little bowling ball. Yohandy Morales fits the bill, though I don’t have any Orioles-specific dope there, he just seems like their type. Folks picking behind Baltimore think they’re on the high school shortstops who could go in this range, including Houck and Colt Emerson. Milwaukee is the first place I’ve heard Kent State lefty Joe Whitman’s name get mentioned. The Brewers love contact-oriented up-the-middle guys. Wilson and Enrique Bradfield Jr. are in that mold, similar to Eric Brown Jr. and Sal Frelick. Teams are putting the Rays on high school hitters in the Comp round, so a good-value college pick to diversify their class, like Shaw, makes a ton of sense here. But unless the Rays are put off by how the Nick Bitsko pick has gone, White is their type and gives them an opportunity to acquire a pitcher with rare ceiling.

20. Toronto Blue Jays
Pick: Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS (FL)
21. St. Louis Cardinals
Pick: Chase Davis, OF, Arizona
22. Seattle Mariners
Pick: Matt Shaw, 2B, Maryland
23. Cleveland Guardians
Pick: Colt Emerson, SS, Glenn HS (OH)

Indications are that Nimmala, who struck out a ton this spring, is falling. Teams likely to present a soft landing for him are the ones that care most about his pre-draft age; Toronto and Cleveland have to be considered potential landing spots for this reason. This is the start of Davis’ range, with San Diego and Philadelphia the other two places where there’s the strongest signal. Joe Whitman is also St. Louis’ type, but I don’t have any intel connecting them. Nolan Schanuel also makes sense, but he’s long gone in this scenario. Teams are putting Seattle on lots of the prep bats, including George Lombard Jr. and Jonny Farmelo. If they want Lombard, they’ll probably have to do it here because he has homes before Seattle’s next pick. Shaw would be good value here and would help diversify their class. Emerson fits Cleveland’s contact-oriented middle infield archetype, but realistically, this whole group is keeping things wide open. Unexpected guys fall into this range just about every draft.

24. Atlanta Braves
Pick: Joe Whitman, LHP, Kent State
25. San Diego Padres
Pick: Walker Martin, SS, Eaton HS (CO)
26. New York Yankees
Pick: George Lombard Jr., SS, Gulliver Prep HS (NY)
27. Philadelphia Phillies
Pick: Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami

Breaking ball command is incredibly important to the Braves and Whitman arguably has the best slider feel in the whole draft. Plus, they tend to like guys who might just be scratching the surface and Whitman has very few college innings compared to many other juniors. The next few picks are potential landing spots for high-upside athletes. San Diego is on Martin, Chase Davis, and midwest prep arm Blake Wolters (though probably not at this pick). The Yankees are also rumored to be on Wolters, Lombard, Thomas White if he’s here, California high school catcher Ralphy Velazquez and New York high schooler Sammy Stafura. Philly is rumored to be Davis’ floor, but the entire Morales/Troy/Bradfield group represents outstanding value in this portion of the first round.

28. Houston Astros
Pick: Ty Floyd, RHP, LSU
29. Seattle Mariners
Pick: Kevin McGonigle, SS, Monsignor Bonner (PA)
30. Seattle Mariners
Pick: Jonny Farmelo, OF, Westfield HS (VA)
31. Tampa Bay Rays
Pick: Tai Peete, SS, Trinity Christian HS (GA)

Floyd has the vertical fastball/breaking ball attack Houston covets and there are basically no college arms left. Oklahoma State righty Juaron Watts-Brown is feasible here for the same reason and, coincidentally, he’s been mentioned with Seattle, too. That makes sense, based on their tendency to draft guys based on their breaking ball quality. Their pick at 29 is a prospect promotion pick following Julio Rodríguez’s Rookie of the Year win. In addition to McGonigle, the Mariners are on Virginia high school center fielder Jonny Farmelo.

32. New York Mets
Pick: Enrique Bradfield Jr., CF, Vanderbilt
33. Milwaukee Brewers
Pick: Josh Knoth, RHP, Patchogue-Medford HS (NY)
34. Minnesota Twins
Pick: Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest
35. Miami Marlins
Pick: Nazzan Zanetello, Christian Brothers (MO)
36. Los Angeles Dodgers
Pick: Steven Echavarria, RHP, Millburn HS (NJ)
37. Detroit Tigers
Pick: Tommy Troy, SS, Stanford

This feels too low for both Bradfield and Troy, but I don’t have firm dope attaching them to anyone above this. Bradfield could conceivably go as high as 11 to the Angels, and after that would be a nice slot-sign for any team with a comp pick or two that anticipates getting high schoolers with their next selection, like Seattle, Milwaukee, or Tampa Bay. Questions about where Troy fits on defense have him behind some of the other college hitters. The Twins care about measurable power and Wilken has plenty of it. If they cut with their first selection, then this is more likely to be a high schooler. California high school hitter Trent Caraway’s range sounds like it starts in this area. Zanetello would enable Miami to mix upside with a safer pick at 10. The Brewers and Dodgers tend to prefer pitchers with vertically-oriented stuff, and Knoth and Echavarria both fit the bill. Jonny Farmelo has been mentioned with the Dodgers, too. Both the Mets and Dodgers had their first pick dropped 10 spots because they exceeded the competitive balance tax threshold by more than $40 million.

38. Cincinnati Reds
Pick: Brandon Sproat, RHP, Florida
39. Oakland Athletics
Pick: Dillon Head, CF, Homewood-Flossmor HS (IL)

The Reds have demonstrated a pretty strong Florida connection over the years, their big league team is competing for the division, and Sproat could arguably be bullpen’d right away. Plus, if they take an over-slot hitter at seven, they’ll need to balance it with an under-slot pick later. Head should go close to here. Virginia infielder Jake Gelof would also be a sweet A’s pick for reasons that I hope are obvious, but I have no intel on that.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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jason shuremember
7 months ago

Naive question: we hear that Skenes in the best pitching prospect in 10 years. And by most accounts Crews is a higher pick than Skenes. And now Langford rivals Crews. Is the world just producing better baseball players, same as a kid just broke the rubiks cube record and Earth keeps breaking heat records? If so, are we also producing More better baseball players, meaning … will Skenes have to face more of a Murderers row than Gerrit Cole has faced? Obviously I’m leaving out a lot of nuance.

7 months ago
Reply to  jason shure

This would be a rather strong draft even without Crews, but if I recall correctly Crews was last eligible for the 2020 draft. Baseball was canceled or curtailed most places and Crews didn’t like where he had landed in teams’ evaluations, and so Crews told teams not to draft him because he was going to LSU. This was a case where if things had proceeded normally he would have been drafted in the Top 5 in the 2020 draft instead.

This may or may not have been true of Langford. Skenes would have gone to school anyway though, it wasn’t clear that he was focused on a baseball career before he started pitching for Air Force.

OddBall Herrera
7 months ago
Reply to  jason shure

“And by most accounts Crews is a higher pick than Skenes.”

I don’t read this to mean that Crews (and Langford) are ‘in the last ten years’ level talents like Skenes. I just read this to mean that the risk on even a generational level pitching prospect is so high that if you’ve got a 1/1 worthy position player, that’s who you take.

Last edited 7 months ago by OddBall Herrera
7 months ago

Or, put another way: Skenes is the best pitching prospect in the draft since Gerrit Cole, but there have been a half dozen position player prospects that are as good or better than Cole since then That’s just because pitching prospects are so much more risky than position players. So Crews can be the third best position player prospect since Cole (behind Rutschman and Buxton), Skenes can be the best pitching prospect since Cole, and Crews can still be ahead of Cole.

7 months ago
Reply to  jason shure

well today’s players are definitely better than they’ve ever been if that’s what you’re asking. A replacement level reliever today is throwing 98 mph with a 6 inch vertical break on his slider, and he’s struggling to make a roster. That guy would be treated as an alien 50 years ago.

Of course, this is true of any sport. Watch and NFL or NBA game from the 60s, and you’d wonder if those guys could play on a high school team today

7 months ago
Reply to  Dmjn53

Ya every time I see those dumb polls on Twitter I laugh. Saw a great comment once; Michael Jordan is Harrison Barnes with a gambling problem. And while it’s a bit of hyperbole, it isn’t too far off base. Or when someone asks “what would Ty Cobb hit today”. He would hit zero. He wouldn’t put a ball in play. Course then they always do the “well if he has access to todays training blah blah” which could be true. But that isn’t what we are saying.

7 months ago
Reply to  carter

So Ty Cobb wouldn’t have the advantages in training and coaching and video, etc., etc., that today’s players have? and Mike Trout would somehow be the exact some player 100 years ago without all that he has today? What about Josh Gibson? Would he be a bust today because of when he was born? Would poor Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Ted Wiliams be relegated to the bench in low-A ball?

I’m not purposely being opaque and ignoring what you’re saying, but you can only judge players against the competition when they played, and admire their greatness then as in now. If 35-year-old Babe Ruth suddenly appeared in today’s game, he’d be horribly over matched. Bring forward 17-year-old Ruth with his talent and then give him all the advantages of today’s game, coaching, minor leagues, then I want that guy.

I’m not sure what the OP was suggesting about Gerrit Cole though. That nuance is lost on me.