2018 MLB Draft Picks 1-15
With a little more than a month until the draft, the first round is still less clear than teams would have hoped. Teams in the 2-10 range are sorting through a group of players who remain closely bunched together, trying to figure out how to line up the group after Auburn righthander Casey Mize, the consensus top player in the class.
While these teams have been starting to focus on a group of players, the list is likely longer than many would have anticipated by the end of April. And with no established pecking order after Mize, teams will have to be prepared for a number of different scenarios.
Several college hitters have risen up boards and are now being considered among the top 10 picks with impressive spring seasons, while Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal recently came back from a wrist injury that sidelined him for almost two months.
Teams are generally still a couple of weeks away from their organizational meetings and signability of the top players in the class is just starting to come into focus, so it’s still too early to peg teams with any rumored players with much accuracy.
At this point, the mock draft is like throwing darts at a bull’s eye while blindfolded—with the target constantly moving. Still, some players have risen up boards and this can be a useful exercise in examining how the class is starting to shape up with only a few weeks until June 4.
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The Tigers have a straightforward decision. Do they take the best player in the draft and likely pay him a modern draft system bonus record? Or do they take someone from the mass of players bunched behind Mize and know that by doing so they can save a couple of million dollars that can be used elsewhere in the draft.
Alec Bohm and Jarred Kelenic have been floated as players who could possibly end up as money savers at No. 1, but the logistics of the draft would make such a plan a dangerous one.
In 2015, the Astros were able to float Daz Cameron to pick 37 and pay him $4 million. In 2017, the Reds (Taylor Trammell), Braves (Joey Wentz) and the Phillies (Kevin Gowdy) all landed first-round money ($3 million plus) in the supplemental first round or later.
This year, if the Tigers tried to do something similar, they would do so knowing that the Rays and Royals each have three selections before they pick again at 44. If the Tigers focused on one or two players to try to push down to the second round (by the players floating large bonus demands to teams in between), they would have to worry that either the Rays or Royals could pick their pocket. And there’s always the chance that some other team in between could take the players anyway.
It doesn’t make sense to be cute. This is the first draft in the seven years of this draft slotting format where there is a top prospect who is a cut above everyone else. So Mize is the likely pick.
Pick: Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
Now it gets tricky. There is currently no clear cut No. 2 player in this draft class, but there are at least seven or eight players who could make a case to go second overall. That should mean that the Giants can find someone they like who they can sign at less than slot, saving some money for later picks.
Some scouts believe the Giants will end up choosing high school lefthander Matthew Liberatore. His scouting report has some similarities to what current ace Madison Bumgarner looked like coming out of high school. Both are physically impressive pitchers with solid command and plenty of stuff.
But San Francisco had plenty of high level heat in to see Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart last weekend in Chapel Hill. Instead of drafting Madison Bumgarner’s eventual replacement, they could draft Buster Posey’s instead. Bart wasn’t seen as a potential No. 2 pick when the season began, but he’s an excellent defensive catcher who is hitting .356/.470/.626 in the ACC with 12 home runs, so he’s earned his helium.
Pick: Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
The Phillies have an even bigger conundrum than the Tigers. The Phillies have the third pick, but don’t pick again until the fourth round with the 107th selection. Their draft is largely tied to getting it right with their first round pick, although if they can save some money here, they could use that money to spend a little above slot in the fourth through 10th rounds while many other teams are drafting a lot of senior signs.
After drafting hit-first outfielders three years in a row—none of whom currently rank in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects—we can safely expect Philadelphia to go in a different direction this year. The track record for college third baseman taken in the top 10 picks is nearly impeccable over the past 20 years, and Alec Bohm is considered by most evaluators as a worthy top 10 pick.
Pick: Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State
- White Sox
Chicago’s rebuild is in full swing. Teams are wise to never draft for need, but it doesn’t hurt to sync up your talent. With Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Zack Collins, Gavin Sheets and Micker Adolfo all in high Class A or higher, getting a fast-moving college bat would help further speed the upcoming talent infusion on the South Side.
Nick Madrigal is back on the field and showing no signs of rust after a nearly two-month layoff with a wrist injury. He has one of the best resumes in this year’s draft class and is a relatively safe pick as a polished college hitter who plays up the middle.
Pick: Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State
If the Giants don’t take Liberatore at two the Reds might be thrilled to get the Arizona lefty at No. 5. In this scenario, the Reds would have their pick of the top two lefthanded pitchers in the class between Liberatore and South Florida southpaw Shane McClanahan, but the latter has struggled in recent outings and the former offers a clean bill of health and more projection. Florida righthander Brady Singer figures to be in the mix here as well.
Pick: Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS, Glendale, Ariz.
A month ago, Shane McClanahan looked like he might end up as the No. 2 pick in the draft. He still could, but since then rough outings at Houston and East Carolina have nearly doubled his ERA. More disconcertingly, McClanahan’s stuff just hasn’t been as sharp. The 6-foot-2 lefty continues to face questions over whether he’ll end up in the bullpen long term, but there are still few lefties in baseball that can match his fastball/slider combo.
Jarred Kelenic is another player who could fit here, but teams are just getting to see him in games in the last couple of weeks now that Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest are finally thawing out.
Pick: Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
Scouting director Mark Conner has taken a number of high school players in his first two drafts with the Padres and has seemingly hit it out of the park with No. 2 overall selection MacKenzie Gore last year.
Stewart is righthanded and doesn’t have the fully-developed arsenal that Gore had at this time last year, but his top two pitches could be 70-grade offerings and he has more projection left to offer with a 6-foot-6 frame. He’s been very solid this spring and might have separated himself among the prep righthanders.
Pick: Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS, Melbourne, Fla.
This sets up almost too well for the Braves. Yes, Alex Anthopoulos is the new general manager, but the scouting staff, including Brian Bridges, has been there for quite a while. And the Braves like to know their own area better than anyone. With Kumar Rocker and Ethan Hankins both in the Atlanta metro area, this mock gives them their choice of either of the two. Hankins would have been the likely pick coming into the season, but his shoulder injury and Rocker’s steady improvement has narrowed or closed the preseason gap.
Atlanta had decision-makers at Massachusetts righthander Mike Vasil’s first start this year and he would have been an intriguing upside play here, but he left his second start of the season with an arm injury and might no longer be in consideration in the top 10.
Pick: Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS, Bogart, Ga.
Two years ago, A.J. Puk slid from being a potential 1-1 pick to the A’s at sixth overall. Even with Puk recovering from Tommy John surgery, the A’s can be very happy with that pick, as pre-injury Puk was showing signs of being a future ace.
History could repeat itself this year. Brady Singer doesn’t have Puk’s upside, but he is more reliable and seen as a safer pick. Singer’s low arm slot bothers some, but it’s hard to argue with his track record of taking the ball on Friday night and dominating the SEC.
Pick: Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
The Pirates have drafted more hitters than almost any other team in the top five rounds in recent years and they’ve also been happy to dip into the high school ranks. A year ago it might have been hard to see SoCal shortstop Brice Turang fall to the double digits, but his star has waned a bit as teams have wanted to see more from the lefthanded-hitting Team USA star.
There’s not much history with lefthanded-hitting high school shortstops in the first round lately—just seven such players have been selected this century—but Turang does share some traits with J.P. Crawford and Nick Gordon, who were first round picks in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Pick: Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS, Corona, Calif.
Baltimore likely figured it would never have a shot at getting Hankins at No. 11 before the season, but a spring shoulder injury might put him in play. It would be a risky selection to take a prep righthander with shoulder issues, but Hankins had the best stuff in the high school class—and arguably the 2018 class as a whole—and would be a huge bargain if he’s able to return to form.
Pick: Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS, Cumming, Ga.
- Blue Jays
When the season began, it would have seemed silly to project Florida third baseman Jonathan India among the top 15 picks in the draft. However, with just over a month until the draft, India has been among the best hitters in the SEC and has also given scouts a few games at shortstop—though he’s unlikely to play the position as a pro.
Scouts have long liked the infielder’s overall toolset and baseball IQ, and he’s one of the few college bats who have stepped up in a class lacking them at the top.
Pick: Jonathan India, 3B, Florida
Figuring out where Jarred Kelenic ends up is one of the toughest assignments of this mock draft. For much of the spring, Kelenic has been virtually frozen in ice. While college players and high school players around the Southeast, Texas and California were being dissected and analyzed week after week, Kelenic had to wait patiently for the weather to warm up in Wisconsin.
When it finally did, Kelenic has understandably looked a little anxious. His timing has been off at times and he’s had more 0-fers than he would like in his first couple of weeks on the field.
Kelenic’s combination of a lengthy track record on the showcase and international stages could push him higher than pick 13, but in a draft with a lot of players bunched together, this is a solid landing spot.
Pick: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wisc.) West HS
Swaggerty has cooled off somewhat after a loud few first weeks to start the season, but he’s still hitting well and is a potential five-tool talent who should stick in center field. There are no real holes in his game and at No. 14 would be an excellent value in this draft class.
Seattle has also shown an inclination for college hitters in the first round in recent years, so this makes sense on a few levels.
Pick: Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
Many scouts will tell you that after the top few prep arms, the next tier is hard to seperate or line up in an order with any certainty. So, why not a big, pop-up Texas righty who has shown some of the loudest stuff this spring? Rodriguez’ name wouldn’t have been mentioned anywhere close to this pick before the season, but has had lots of heat from teams in the back half of the first round in to see him this spring.
The Rangers have a sweet tooth for toolsy players and Rodriguez might have the sort of stuff that satisfies them.
Pick: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights HS, Nacogdoches, Texas