2023 MLB Draft: Baseball America Staff Draft V 1.0
For the sixth year running at Baseball America, we’re putting staffers in big league war rooms.
Below you can see how the 2023 first round would unfold if five Baseball America writers—Ben Badler, Carlos Collazo, Peter Flaherty, Tom Lipari and Geoff Pontes—were making the decisions for teams and the draft were to happen today.
Keep in mind this is not a mock draft. We aren’t picking what we think teams will do, but making selections as if we were the decision makers for each MLB club.
Since we’re only entering the third week of the college season, we expect much will change between now and the time of the actual draft in July. We’ll continue to do this exercise on occasion as the 2023 draft gets closer.
|1||Pirates||Peter||Dylan Crews||OF||Louisiana State||1|
|2||Nationals||Geoff||Paul Skenes||RHP/DH||Louisiana State||8|
|3||Tigers||Ben||Max Clark||OF||Franklin (Ind.) Community HS||5|
|5||Twins||Tom||Brayden Taylor||3B||Texas Christian||9|
|7||Reds||Geoff||Walker Jenkins||OF||South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C.||6|
|8||Royals||Ben||Jacob Wilson||SS||Grand Canyon||7|
|13||Cubs||Ben||Rhett Lowder||RHP||Wake Forest||14|
|14||Red Sox||Carlos||Aidan Miller||3B||Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla.||10|
|15||White Sox||Tom||Will Sanders||RHP||South Carolina||17|
|17||Orioles||Geoff||Walker Martin||SS||Eaton (Colo.) HS||39|
|18||Brewers||Ben||Kevin McGonigle||SS||Monsignor Bonner HS, Drexel Hill, Pa.||21|
|19||Rays||Carlos||Noble Meyer||RHP||Jesuit HS, Portland, Ore.||15|
|20||Blue Jays||Tom||Matt Shaw||SS||Maryland||12|
|22||Mariners||Geoff||Colton Ledbetter||OF||Mississippi State||130|
|23||Guardians||Ben||Thomas White||LHP||Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.||18|
|24||Braves||Carlos||Bryce Eldridge||1B||Madison HS, Vienna, Va.||22|
|25||Padres||Tom||Travis Sykora||RHP||Round Rock (Texas) HS||24|
|26||Yankees||Peter||Arjun Nimmala||SS||Strawberry Crest HS, Dover, Fla.||28|
|27||Phillies||Geoff||Dillon Head||OF||Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Flossmoor, Ill.||38|
|28||Astros||Ben||Eric Bitonti||SS/3B||Aquinas HS, San Bernardino, Calif.||42|
|29||Mariners||Carlos||Charlee Soto||RHP||Reborn Christian Academy, Kissimmee, Fla.||33|
Dylan Crews, OF, Louisiana State (No. 1)
Rationale: Crews has arguably the highest floor of anyone in the draft class and has all-star upside in the majors. All he's done since arriving in Baton Rouge is produce, with a career slash line of .365/.470/.683 across more than two college seasons.
Paul Skenes, RHP/DH, Louisiana State (No. 8)
Rationale: No player has improved his draft stock over the opening weeks of the season quite like Skenes. After spending his first two seasons at Air Force, Skenes transferred to LSU and has immediately taken over as the Friday night starter. With a plus fastball and a potentially double-plus slider, Skenes is arguably the best college pitcher in the draft.
Max Clark, OF, Franklin (Ind.) Community HS (No. 5)
Rationale: If Tennessee righthander Chase Dollander is healthy and dominating at the end of the season, he might end up being the pick here. Or if Texas Christian third baseman Brayden Taylor continues to show more power, he could be a fit here if the Tigers want to go for the polished college hitter, as would Grand Canyon shortstop Jacob Wilson. But with Clark, you're getting not just an excellent athlete with premium tools, but also one of the most advanced hitters in the country. He's a dynamic, well-rounded player who can stick at a premium position, makes a ton of contact and should see a power spike as he continues to evolve at the plate.
Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee (No. 2)
Rationale: The consensus top pitcher in the draft entering the season, Dollander's year hasn't started with the bang that Skenes' has, but he's still quietly struck out 19 batters and walked two over his first two outings. I'd like to see the slider sharpen up a bit more moving forward, but I like getting a potential top-of-the-rotation arm here at No. 4.
Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian (No. 9)
Rationale: Perhaps the best pure college bat in the country who will continue to add size and strength with time.
Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida (No. 4)
Rationale: After seeing limited playing time as a true freshman, Langford exploded last season to the tune of a .356 batting average and 26 home runs. Langford has thunderous raw power and an advanced approach, while his above-average speed and defensive instincts could allow him to stick in center field as a pro.
Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS, Southport, N.C. (No. 6)
Rationale: A year after selecting Cam Collier the Reds go back to another talented lefthanded-hitting prep bat. Jenkins has plus raw power, strong athleticism and has been a high-level performer on the showcase circuit for years.
Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon (No. 7)
Rationale: The Royals are sitting in a good position right now because there’s going to be someone available at No. 8 overall who some teams will have ranked in the top three players on their board. Getting Wilson here feels like more value than there should be with the eighth overall pick. He’s an extremely difficult hitter to strike out, with the swing and hand-eye coordination that will translate against better pitching, and he’s a smooth defender at shortstop with big league bloodlines (his father, former Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, had 23.5 bWAR in 12 seasons).
Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi (No. 3)
Rationale: I'm not the biggest fan of the way Gonzalez swings it, but letting him fall further than No. 9 would be irresponsible. This is a proven college shortstop who hits from the left side with power, bat-to-ball skills and a sound batting eye as well. He has a better chance to provide impact than a few of the other hitters off the board already. If Gonzalez was not available here Hurston Waldrep would be tough to pass on, given his insane pure stuff.
Enrique Bradfield, OF, Vanderbilt (No. 11)
Rationale: Probably the best runner in the class who's definitely going to provide great defense in center field and brings strong bat-to-ball skills to the plate.
Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida (No. 13)
Rationale: Waldrep has some of the most electrifying stuff in the entire draft class, armed with a fastball that has touched triple-digits with great shape, a hellacious slider and a split-change. All three are 65-grade or higher pitches and the Florida righthander has front-of-the-rotation upside.
Kyle Teel, C, Virginia (No. 32)
Rationale: The versatile Teel can handle catching and the outfield corners due to above-average athleticism. He's performed well against high-level competition dating back to his prep days and pairs good plate skills with projectable power.
Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest (No. 14)
Rationale: I thought about Pennsylvania prep shortstop Kevin McGonigle here. Other than Cristian Hernandez, there aren’t any other middle infielders who rank among the top 20 prospects in the organization, so it’s a position of need and I love McGonigle. But you’re not drafting for need in the first round, and the Cubs could use more pitching anyway. They have gone college pitcher with their first-round pick in three of the last four years, and with Lowder at No. 13, they’re getting a better prospect than they did a year ago with Cade Horton at No. 7 overall.
14. Red Sox
Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla. (No. 10)
Rationale: I'm quite happy collecting proven hit/power offensive profiles that continue to slide down the board. Miller has done as much to prove his track record as a pure hitter as perhaps anyone in the prep class and he has solid power that comes with electric bat speed. In the top half of the first round I am hunting for impact and I think Miller brings that to the table.
Four Of A Kind? Examining The Candidates For The No. 1 Pick In the 2023 Draft
Just how good is this fearsome foursome? How much separation is there between them and how do the players compare and contrast with one another?
15. White Sox
Will Sanders, RHP, South Carolina (No. 17)
Rationale: Sanders is big and physical with the pure stuff to match, highlighted by a mid-90s fastball and a firm slider.
Tommy Troy, SS/2B, Stanford (No. 31)
Rationale: Troy is one of the top collegiate bats in this year's draft, and is coming off a sophomore season in which he hit .339 with 25 extra-base hits. He followed that up with a loud performance in the Cape Cod League, hitting .310 with six doubles and five home runs en route to winning the league's top pro prospect award. Troy has ultra-quick hands and plus bat speed, allowing him to really impact the baseball. This summer he posted multiple exit velocities greater than 105 mph, and this spring has already posted an exit velocity of 114 mph. Troy is an above-average defender with ample range in either direction and a great game clock.
Walker Martin, SS, Eaton (Colo.) HS (No. 39)
Rationale: Arguably one of the top athletes in the draft, Martin is a projectable prep shortstop with high-end skills from a cold weather climate. He's been a heavy riser over the last year and has cemented himself as a potential first-round pick. He would mark another steal for the Orioles here.
Kevin McGonigle, SS, Monsignor Bonner HS, Drexel Hill, Pa. (No. 21)
Rationale: The Brewers have used their top pick the last four drafts on college players. That generally seems to be by design, but looking at who’s on the board, there isn’t a college hitter who’s especially exciting to me. McGonigle is exciting though, and the prep shortstop checks a lot of boxes that the Brewers look for in hitters with his advanced contact skills, good swing decisions and an impressive track record. He has a knack for consistently barreling balls in games, whether it’s high velocity, adjusting to offspeed stuff or covering a pitch in any quadrant of the strike zone with his quick, compact swing from the left side.
Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS, Portland, Ore. (No. 15)
Rationale: I've always been a bit more ready to go for the high school righthander demographic than some others here at BA. I acknowledge the risk, and am hoping for the reward, a la Phillies with Andrew Painter, by taking the best high school pitcher in the class in Meyer. I think Painter's repertoire was deeper at this stage and his command was more consistent, but Meyer's slider is probably a full grade better than what Painter's was at the same time.
20. Blue Jays
Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland (No. 12)
Rationale: Shaw hasn't gotten off to the best start this spring, but his middle infield profile and hit/power combination is an exciting one.
Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami (No. 16)
Rationale: Morales has been a huge name since his high school days and he's done nothing but perform since arriving to campus. After hitting .329 last year with 18 home runs and an OPS over 1.000, the 6-foot-4 third baseman added good weight to his lean frame and showed up this fall looking noticeably more physical. He's off to a hot start this season with three doubles and four home runs in nine games. His long levers and solid athleticism make him an above-average, rangy defender at third base, where he will stick at the professional level.
Colton Ledbetter, OF, Mississippi State (No. 130)
Rationale: This was certainly the most aggressive pick in this mock, but I believe in the combination of plate skills and plus power. Ledbetter will look to prove his mettle against SEC competition in 2023. He has the second-hardest batted ball in college baseball after the opening two weeks, with a 116 mph exit velocity.
Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. (No. 18)
Rationale: White is a talented ball of clay for the Guardians’ pitching development program to mold into an even more dangerous, polished pitcher. They took a prep pitcher in the first round in 2019 with righthander Daniel Espino, a high-octane arm whose arm action they helped shorten to throw more strikes. White already has a big fastball with the projection for more in the tank and a sweet changeup, with the Guardians pitching development program making for a great marriage.
Bryce Eldridge, 1B, Madison HS, Vienna, Va. (No. 22)
Rationale: I'm going to keep swinging for the fences with high-upside preps in this range of the draft and I am choosing Eldridge as a hitter if I have to pick one. I think he's a legitimate pro prospect on the mound, where he has impressive body control and a solid three-pitch mix, but I think I'm even more excited about his power potential as a hulking lefthanded hitter.
Travis Sykora, RHP, Round Rock (Texas) HS (No. 24)
Rationale: Sykora is a long, lean 6-foot-6 high school power arm with a fastball up to 100 and a plus slider. I love his mound presence and the way he attacks.
Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest HS, Dover, Fla. (No. 28)
Rationale: If this were an actual mock draft, my pick would have looked a lot different here. However, for this exercise, I had to snag Nimmala. He has already posted big-time exit velocities with wood and is an above-average athlete with a great swing path and tight turns. Nimmala will continue to add impact and physicality as he matures and his overall profile is one of the more enticing ones in the entire draft class.
Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Flossmoor, Ill. (No. 38)
Rationale: Head is an elite athlete with projectable power driven by serious bat speed. The Phillies add another standout prep athlete here to go alongside recent first-rounders Justin Crawford and Andrew Painter.
Eric Bitonti, SS/3B, Aquinas HS, San Bernardino, Calif. (No. 42)
Rationale: The last three years the Astros have had a first-round pick—they didn’t have one in 2020 or 2021—they used it to draft a college hitter picking in the 28-32 range. If they go the same route this year, the best fit for them could be returning to Tennessee to draft shortstop Maui Ahuna, one year after drafting Volunteers outfielder Drew Gilbert. The player I like the most here, though, is Bitonti, who by age is young enough to be a 2024 high school player, but he’s a physical masher with a lefthanded swing that should allow him to tap into that power in games. He has better body control and defensive actions than he typically gets credit for from people judging him too fast based on his size, so I think he has a chance to settle in as a power-hitting third baseman.
Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian Academy, Kissimmee, Fla. (No. 33)
Rationale: Even before the season started, scouting directors raved about Soto's stuff on the mound, voting him top three for his fastball, breaking ball and changeup in the high school class. Early this spring in Florida, Soto has been in the upper 90s with his heater and the overall delivery looks a bit less effortful than it was last summer. It wouldn't be shocking if he wound up being one of the first prep arms off the board.