Since our last effort to project the top 10 picks in this year’s draft, things have come into greater focus in the top half of the first round, though it’s still hazy beyond that even to the clubs picking in the back half of the round. For those picks, what you’ll read here is more a product of partial intel and tendencies. We also have a good sense of the high-end prep players who may end up going to college, and the team/player that may define the top of the draft. For reference, here are the bonus pool amounts and slot values.
1. Orioles – Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State
We’re sticking with Rutschman here, but other teams still think there’s a chance new GM Mike Elias will, as he did with Houston, find a way to make an underslot deal with this pick to acquire more talent later. Cal 1B Andrew Vaughn may be emerging as a fit for this, if the Orioles are uncomfortable with Rutschman’s medical (he had a lower leg bruise, and back and shoulder soreness in 2018, and a shoulder injury prevented him from playing quarterback during his sophomore year of high school) or if they think the bonus he’ll command will undercut the rest of their class. As you’ll see below, Vaughn slides in this scenario. You could argue Vaughn belongs in a tier of his own behind Rutschman, so signing him for the slot value of pick four or five could mean reallocating as much as $3 million to other picks, which could be a very attractive option for Baltimore. Early rumors that Georgia high school SS C.J. Abrams would be an option for this type of sequence seem to have died.
2. Royals – Bobby Witt, Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage HS (TX)
It sounds like Kansas City’s options are Rutschman or Witt at this pick.
3. White Sox – C.J. Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity HS (GA)
Vaughn seemed tailor made for the White Sox here given how talented he is, and Chicago’s recent preference for college bats with high picks, but Abrams seems to be in the lead now. Sources have told us that heavy-hitting White Sox personnel have seen Abrams a combined five or six times recently. Since Abrams would likely slide to the sixth pick if he doesn’t go third, there may be some pool money saved here (about $1.5 million based on the gap in slot between this pick and the sixth). That money would go a long ways toward tempting another mid-first round, high-upside prep talent to the White Sox next pick at 45, as the savings plus their overage would be a late-teen’s value slot.
4. Marlins – J.J. Bleday, RF, Vanderbilt
The Marlins seem like they would take Bleday if things play out this way. New scouting director D.J. Svihlik coached him at Vanderbilt. The rumor in scouting circles is that Derek Jeter likes Abrams, but the shortstop isn’t available in this scenario and Jeter isn’t expected to assert himself in the draft. Texas prep 3B Brett Baty is the rumored underslot option here.
5. Tigers – Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Cal
Here is where things get really interesting. The Tigers have been locked in on Riley Greene all spring, and many expect him to be the pick here regardless of who else is on the board. But with the recent development that Vaughn could possibly get to their pick, it’s unclear where Detroit stands on him. They had personnel with an Edgertronic camera at Cal’s recent road series at Arizona, so they didn’t just assume he’d be gone by this point. He would at least get a long look here.
The Andrew Vaughn Scenarios
If Detroit opts for Greene, then where does Vaughn, arguably one of the best college hitters of all time, fall? Except for Texas, who may end up locked in an underslot deal, the next several teams are all NL clubs with big names at first base — San Diego (Eric Hosmer, Josh Naylor), Cincinnati (Joey Votto), Atlanta (Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley) and San Francisco (Brandon Belt, Buster Posey) — and we’re not sure how that might impact how teams value a likely quick-moving Vaughn. We tend to think someone would just realize he’s a great value and take him anyway. The string of NL teams with several good and/or highly-paid first base options certainly isn’t helpful, and possibly unlucky for Vaughn, though you could argue this is the sort of scenario that makes it more likely he goes No. 1. Vaughn had a dry spell earlier in the year as Cal played LSU and began PAC 12 play, but he’s hit in 17 of his last 18 games, batting .418 during that span, despite being pitched around in ways that have impacted his power output.
6. Padres – Riley Greene, RF, Hagerty HS (FL)
GM A.J. Preller was seen at Abrams and Bleday games last week while he was in the southeast for draft meetings, and each would seem to be in play if they are still here. We think any of the first six hitters we have mocked here would be the favorite to go in a mix that also includes Arizona State OF Hunter Bishop, TCU LHP Nick Lodolo, and Kentucky LHP Zack Thompson, who have all been scouted heavily by the Padres down the stretch.
7. Reds – Nick Lodolo, LHP, TCU
The Reds are believed to be looking for a college player, ideally a bat, but have been connected mostly to the bats going ahead of them. We think they would take Vaughn if he got here, but we aren’t sure. In this scenario, they get their pick from among of all the pitching, and while Lodolo hasn’t been as good of late, he’s still seen as the favorite to go off the board first among the college arms.
8. Rangers – Brett Baty, 3B, Lake Travis HS (TX)
For over a month, Texas has been rumored to be looking underslot here and we’ve heard three names, presented here in the order of their likelihood to be the choice: Baty, Texas JC RHP Jackson Rutledge, and Tulane 3B Kody Hoese. Baty is from a high school in Austin and is a trendy underslot target for clubs in the top 10 as he checks all the boxes of a Nolan Gorman or Austin Riley, but he’s 19.6 on draft day. We have the Rangers taking Baty’s prep teammate Jimmy Lewis with their next pick, following the blueprint of the Blue Jays taking Texas high school teammates last year (Jordan Groshans and Adam Kloffenstein from Magnolia HS). The Rangers may get a hometown discount if they did this, along with having extra money to spend at later picks.
9. Braves – Hunter Bishop, LF, Arizona State
The Braves have been tied to a number of players that go ahead of them here, with Bishop the last one among them. They may opt for a pitcher if Bishop goes seventh or eighth.
10. Giants – Bryson Stott, SS, UNLV
Missouri OF Kameron Misner is getting a long look by the Giants, but likely goes about a dozen picks later. They’re taking a long look at the pitching, with West Virginia RHP Alek Manoah believed to be their top option of the available arms. This is the spot in the draft where the Giants could have a final group of 3-4 players, with one of them going in the mid-20s because opinions vary much more team-to-team after the top tier of guys. The Giants have been tied to Stott for a while. He is often compared to Brandon Crawford (more for his build and bat; he’s not that level of defender), and fits the various tendencies of new GM Farhan Zaidi and new scouting director Michael Holmes.
11. Blue Jays – Jackson Rutledge, RHP, San Jacinto JC (TX)
The Jays have been tied to Thompson (who has an elbow that worries some teams despite never having surgery) and Rutledge (who had hip labrum surgery in 2018), along with some of the college bats above if they slide, and prep CF Corbin Carroll, who could be the prep bat who slides just enough to make it to the Diamondbacks’ pick, where they can assert their draft-leading pool.
12. Mets – Zack Thompson, LHP, Kentucky
Thompson has been mentioned here the most. A decision maker was in to see Elon RHP George Kirby shove last weekend. Most expect a college pitcher to be the pick.
13. Twins – Alek Manoah, RHP, West Virginia
The Twins are in a nice spot to pick through the leftovers of the second tier of talent and get a top-10 quality player for slot or below, to set up paying an overslot prep later. Manoah, Texas Tech 3B Josh Jung, and Baylor C Shea Langeliers all make sense here.
14. Phillies – Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech
It sounds like this would be Rutledge’s floor, as he’s in play at most of the last half dozen picks. The Phillies have sent in heat multiple times to see Alabama prep SS Gunnar Henderson, who has a couple interested clubs in the teens, but is seen by most as a late first round type. Chicago-area prep RHP Quinn Priester is also of interest here.
15. Angels – George Kirby, RHP, Elon
The Angels have been tied mostly to high school players: Henderson (who GM Billy Eppler has seen), Priester, Florida prep RHP Matthew Allan (rumors have him seeking $4 million, so he’d be overslot starting at this pick), Tennessee prep CF Maurice Hampton, and NorCal prep SS Kyren Paris, who is another polarizing prospect with interest in the mid-first round, but isn’t a top-40 prospect for some clubs.
16. D’Backs – Corbin Carroll, CF, Lakeside HS (WA)
The D’Backs have lots of picks and the most pool money, so they’re expected to flex this muscle and take some sliding prep talents; they’re also generally expected to lean toward upside prep types up top. Allan and the rest of the Signability Guys make some sense here, as does Priester.
The Signability Guys
The toughest sign in the draft is New Jersey prep RHP Jack Leiter, son of Al Leiter and a Vanderbilt commit. It’s long been rumored his price is over $4 million and may also come with a short list of clubs he would even be willing to sign with for that amount of money. (The rumor is that list may only include the Yankees and Mets.) Leiter’s prep teammate and fellow Vanderbilt commit SS Anthony Volpe is apparently looking for at least $3 million, and may also have a short list of clubs that he’d play for, believed to also be northeast-focused. We mentioned Allan (Florida commit) above, though his talent level is seen as close to $4 million, so he’s likely to get paid, while Leiter isn’t seen as being quite that good and might come with less willingness to sign in general.
Volpe and Leiter are both advised by the same group and headline what could be an all-time recruiting class for Vanderbilt. The only other top prospect with a good chance to get to campus, according to sources, is North Carolina popup LHP Blake Walston (N.C. State commit), as he has a polarized market, so there aren’t as many spots for him to be taken and paid, though it’s still likely that happens. The same goes for Georgia prep RHP Brett Thomas, a South Carolina commit. Two more lower-ranked prospects in Florida — RHP Brandon Sproat (Florida commit) and Arizona C Kody Huff (Stanford commit) — are threats to go to college as well.
The rest of the higher-tier of the signability list are all Vanderbilt commits: SoCal LHP/1B Spencer Jones, Florida RHP Kendall Williams, Maine CF Tre Fletcher, and Washington SS Carter Young. Vanderbilt already has seven players on our 2020 board and three more on our 2021 board, so they could end up with half of their scholarship roster in 2020 having top five round draft potential.
17. Nationals – Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
Kirby would make some sense here but we’ve heard they prefer Langeliers. Allan fits their tendencies and is the other loudest name mentioned here, but last year’s top pick was an overslot Florida prep RHP (Mason Denaburg) and he’s still in extended spring training, so it may be hard to do that again.
18. Pirates – Gunnar Henderson, SS, Morgan Academy HS (AL)
The Pirates are tied to Henderson, Priester, Texas prep RHP J.J. Goss (who is in play at a number of picks starting around here), and Puerto Rican prep SS Matthew Lugo, though Lugo makes more sense at their next pick. Prep righties are the running backs of the MLB draft, as they tend to slide, but team preference also plays a big part (clubs are specific about frames and deliveries, and some just won’t take a prep righty with their first pick), so they are more likely to go in a non-consensus order than other demographics.
19. Cardinals – Will Wilson, SS, North Carolina State
Wilson may be in play for most clubs in the mid-20s but St. Louis is on him, and he fits the mold of the versatile middle infielders they prefer. Kirby also makes some sense if he gets here.
20. Mariners – Anthony Volpe, SS, Delbarton HS (NJ)
Volpe and Georgia prep SS Nasim Nunez are similar players and are both mentioned here most often.
21. Braves – Quinn Priester, RHP, Cary-Grove HS (IL)
Priester has lots of landing spots and given Allan’s demands and below average command, has more possible landing spots, so sources are calling him the likely top prep pitcher off the board. Wilson and Florida prep RHP Brennan Malone (who recently hit 99 mph) both make some sense here as well.
22. Rays – Keoni Cavaco, 3B, Eastlake HS (CA)
Lots of young-for-the-class prep bats (Cavaco, Paris, Henderson, Volpe, Hampton) are rising into this range and pushing down other prospects expected to go around here. Teams that lean on models will push these players up the most and those with loud tools will attract interest from a wide group of clubs; Cavaco does both but his weakness is a lack of track record.
23. Rockies – Kameron Misner, RF, Missouri
Misner has interest as high at pick 10 to the Giants and also could last until the 30s due to his lack of track record and spotty performance versus the SEC this spring, but there’s legit 70 power and deceptive athleticism if a club believes their player dev group can dial in the approach.
24. Indians – Kyren Paris, SS, Freedom HS (CA)
Paris may not even make it to this pick, but the Indians are known in the industry for targeting young-for-the-class bats, so expect a couple from that aforementioned group to be in their final mix.
25. Dodgers – Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy HS (FL)
The Dodgers have been tied to a few prospects, like Clemson SS Logan Davidson, Volpe, and handful of prep pitchers, which backs up their willingness to tap any demographic. Malone arguably has the best mix of now stuff, command, and delivery/arm action quality in the draft.
26. D’Backs – Matthew Allan, RHP, Seminole HS (FL)
Allan has flashed two 70 pitches (fastball, curveball) at times this spring and Arizona has the financial muscle to get him to this pick.
27. Cubs – Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson
Davidson strikes out too much, but he’s a big, switch-hitting shortstop who has always produced and some clubs think they can dial in the approach.
28. Brewers – Maurice Hampton, CF, Memphis University HS (TN)
Hampton fits the Brewers’ upside type as a young-for-the-class, up-the-middle athlete with big exit velos, though he’s raw enough to get to this pick. Hampton is also an LSU cornerback commit but should be signable in this range.
29. A’s – Michael Busch, 1B, North Carolina
Busch shouldn’t last this long on talent, but with young prep bats sneaking up, the college first baseman without a 70 tool may be the one to slide, where Oakland should be happy to scoop him up.
30. Yankees – Tyler Callihan, 3B, Providence HS (FL)
The Yankees are tied to Misner and Lugo, and figure to look for prospects with tools big enough to play a role for them in the big leagues. Some think Callihan could be a 60 hit/power third baseman and New York cares less about age for prep hitters than other clubs (Callihan is 19.0 on draft day, the same as Blake Rutherford in 2016).
31. Dodgers – Kody Hoese, 3B, Tulane
Landing spots for Georgia prep RHP Daniel Espino have been hard to find, with more than a handful of clubs totally out, but some clubs that emphasize now stuff amongst prep pitchers seem interesting in the 20-40 range. The Dodgers could pull the trigger here, but Hoese is a better value, and likely doesn’t get past Houston at the next pick.
32. Astros – Daniel Espino, RHP, Premier Academy HS (GA)
This is believed to be Hoese’s floor. They’ve taken a long look at UNC Wilmington SS Greg Jones recently, arguably the top athlete in the draft and with a decent eye at the plate, but in need of a swing overhaul. Espino makes some sense here and could move quickly in a system geared to his strengths.
33. D’Backs – Matthew Lugo, SS, Beltran Academy HS (PR)
34. D’Backs – J.J. Goss, RHP, Cypress Ranch HS (TX)
35. Marlins – Nasim Nunez, SS, Collins Hill HS (GA)
36. Rays – Greg Jones, SS, UNC Wilmington
37. Pirates – Brooks Lee, SS, San Luis Obispo HS (CA)
38. Yankees – Drey Jameson, RHP, Ball State
39. Twins – Braden Shewmake, SS, Texas A&M
40. Rays – Ryne Nelson, RHP, Oregon
41. Rangers – Jimmy Lewis, RHP, Lake Travis HS (TX)