2023 MLB Draft Chat With Carlos Collazo
Draft expert Carlos Collazo hosted a chat to answer questions regarding the 2023 draft class. You can read the transcript below.
Carlos Collazo: Hey everyone, welcome to the first draft chat of the 2023 season! It's been fun to see players back in action and get around the country a little bit. I'm hoping to do these chats more routinely this season—hopefully that's good news for you all. Let's jump into your questions!
- What are your thoughts on Grand Canyon University's draft prospects Jacob Wilson, Cade Verdusco, Homer Bush Jr, Connor Markl, and Zach Thornton? Obviously a very talented group of players, but where do you see their ceilings?
Carlos Collazo: Hey Jordan! Thanks for your question. Obviously Jacob Wilson we view as one of the best players in the class. Currently we have him ranked as the No. 7 player on the board and the No. 2 shortstop. He has elite bat-to-ball skills and good defensive ability at shortstop. There will probably continue to be questions about his impact. The exit velocities are light and he’s a lean, skinny player in general whose power has almost exclusively gone to the pull side. He’s hitting well early this spring though. High confidence in the pure hit tool though and he’s looked like the same guy early on.… Thornton has been awesome over two weeks and was featured in this past week’s college hot sheet. His six innings against Ohio State was particularly impressive—six innings, four hits and no runs with 11 punchies and a walk. The pure stuff isn’t elite but it’s a bit of a funky delivery and he has shown good feel for both a slider and a curveball so far. Interesting depth arm in the class for sure and there’s some projection to the body as well… A lot of scouts viewed Bush as a pick-to-click player entering the year and expected him to take a big step forward offensively. The athleticism and speed is quite obvious but I think the swing itself still needs some work. Will be curious to see how it progresses over a full season… I have less current feel on both Verdusco and Markl, but I remember Verdusco’s name back from the 2019 NHSI as a good performer. I think and Markl has performed OK early this spring, but he's been hit around a bit much (13 hits in 10.1 innings) and the stuff is light with a fastball sitting in the upper 80s.
- How is his situation at Tennessee gonna impact Maui Ahuna’s draft status?
TeddyBallgame (Philadelphia, PA):
Carlos Collazo: I think it would have if he was out longer, but he was ruled eligible and was in the lineup in both of the team's games vs. Charleston Southern this week where he found his first hits in a Tennessee uniform. The industry is going to like his profile a lot if he hits. The swing itself is pretty fluid and he was a major performer in 2022. Now he gets to test the bat against SEC competition and didn't miss any of those big games. The defensive aptitude at shortstop gives him a reasonable floor in the draft in my opinion, as long as the hitting ability doesn't completely disappear. And there's no reason for me to think that'll happen. The lack of playing time and ABs was the only real question, and now that's been answered. He should be fine.
- Who is the biggest rising hitter and rising pitcher among the college ranks through the early season?
Carlos Collazo: A few names for both: I think Paul Skenes has elevated himself into the top tier of talent in the class even though he's not a 'big riser' in the sense that he was already a top-10 prospect entering the season. His improved slider has looked awesome and there's no reason why he can't challenge to be the first pitcher taken if the maintains this sort of stuff. Further down the board is Sean Sullivan, at Wake Forest, who transferred into the program from Northwestern and has been absolutely lights out over his first two starts. 10 innings, 21 strikeouts and just one walk and two hits allowed. That's super loud. His fastball is only around 90 mph on average but it has been a bat-misser and plays up with his low release point. Peter Flaherty compared him to Cooper Hjerpe from that standpoint from a year ago. There aren't a ton of established lefthanded pitchers in this class so he could fill that vacuum nicely.
Carlos Collazo: As for hitters, it would be hard to start with anyone outside of Colton Ledbetter, at Mississippi State. He looks the part and hit well with Samford previously, as well as in the NECBL in 2022 but now is doing it with Mississippi State. How hits against SEC competition will ultimately determine where he slots on the board, but he has the raw power, approach and athleticism that should serve him extremely nicely. Just look at where Geoff Pontes took him in our staff draft today to see how excited some people are about him.
Carlos Collazo: Let’s stick in Mississippi and go to Ole Miss for another hitter who has been really impressive: Kemp Alderman. Through nine games he’s hit .382/.475/.824 with four home runs and three doubles. The raw power is massive with Alderman and his exit velocities have consistently been impressive. If you haven’t seen his homers try and find a few of the clips on Twitter. It’s pretty fun to see him annihilate baseballs. He’s extremely strong.
- I know this is a 2023 draft chat, but if it's alright, I was curious if you could shed some light on Jac Caglianone for next year. I know it's really early, but do you have any early feel for how scouts prefer him as a hitter or pitcher? Thank you!
Adam (Crown Point, IN):
- I know this is 23 draft class, but I bet you will get more of this one, so hopefully you answer mine! Jac Cags, how high will he be in 2024? Draft based upon his pitching or hitting? Thank you!
Carlos Collazo: A few questions about "Jactahni," which is unsurprising given how he's looked so far. Happy to talk about him.
Carlos Collazo: I looked back at our report from Caglianone in high school, when he ranked as the No. 122 player in the class out of Plant High in Tampa. At that point, it seemed like the industry preferred him as a lefthanded pitcher. He was touching 95-97 but needed to refine his secondaries, control and delivery. So far this spring he’s been the teams best starter on a runs allowed basis, but he’s also been the best hitter on a team that includes a guy who is likely to go among the top five picks in the draft in Wyatt Langford. Peter and I spoke about Jac at length in today’s draft podcast (which I would check out if you have not done so) but we came away both more excited about him as a hitter, since there’s still quite a bit of reliever risk for him on the mound. He’s leading NCAA D1 hitters with eight homers in just 10 games (!!) and has slashed .410/.477/1.077. I’ll be curious to see what sort of pure hitter he is when he starts to face the heart of the SEC schedule, but he already feels like one of the most impactful bats in the 2024 class, jumping right up there with Nick Kurtz at Wake Forest and Tommy White at LSU.
- How does this year’s class compare to prior classes? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Tom (Portland, OR):
Carlos Collazo: I'm very high on this year's draft class. We polled scouting directors to see what they thought about the class before the season (those results should be on the site in the near future) and they graded the class as average or better in every major demographic. I think we're still 'benefitting' from the 2020 shortened draft to help bolster the overall depth, I am very high on this class of college shortstops and I think we are looking at some of the better impact college arms at the top that we have seen in years. The high school class is solid as well, but it's really the college class for me that gets me maybe as excited as I've been about a draft class. Weaknesses for me would be catcher overall and lefthanded pitching. There isn't the same sort of elite high school shortstop at the top of the class that you like to see, but there's a solid group of those players right at the back of the first round range now, who could jump up the board. Overall I am high on the group. Maybe even higher than the industry itself.
Carlos Collazo: I'll also add that we did a position preview for the class at catcher, corner infield, middle infield, outfield, lefthanders and righthanders. I would recommend checking those out to get even more insight into how this group compares at various areas to an average draft class. I attempted to put a 20-80 grade on each group and I'll revisit those grades at the end of the draft cycle and adjust them where necessary. Hope that helps with your question!
- What are the chances of Thomas White falling to the Jays? Do you have idea if they are targeting him? Thanks.
Logan Field (Mi):
Carlos Collazo: Quite good. It's hard to overstate this but every single year the high school pitchers wind up sliding down draft boards and the college hitters wind up moving up boards. This is a strong class for college bats and perhaps more importantly, there are other good college pitchers that teams might prefer if they are looking for arms in the first round over the riskier prep demographic. It would be hard to see players like Hurston Waldrep and Rhett Lowder not going in front of White and perhaps all the other high school pitchers as long as they stay healthy and post throughout the season. Last year was the year you wanted to be a high school pitcher given the attrition to the college ranks, and even then Kumar Rocker, Cade Horton and Gabriel Hughes all went inside the top 10 picks—which is actually still a bit shocking to me. The Blue Jays are picking 20. We have seen comparable talents to White fall to that range and lower in previous years: Brandon Barriera just last year to the Blue Jays at No. 23, Chase Petty to 26 in 2021 (though it’s admittedly a much riskier profile IMO), Daniel Espino to 24 in 2019, etc. Too early for confidence in who's targeting who. Everyone is pretty much scouting all the top players at this point. Particularly if you are picking in the range the Jays are.
- With all the changes in the Tigers front office, how do you think their draft strategies will change? Who are a few players you think they could target at 3? Thank you!
Liam (New York):
Carlos Collazo: I think both Rob Metzler and Mark Connor have had a lot of success in the draft in recent years, and those guys are going to be calling the shots. From my point of view both of those clubs (Rays, Padres) went after exciting, high-upside profiles that come with more risk than some teams might be willing to take on early in the draft in recent years. Now, the Tigers are picking No. 3 this year so you should be able to find a player with both impact potential and relatively low risk, and I also think when you are picking that high it's more about who is taken in front of you than any specific organizational philosophy or draft strategy overall, though analytics will probably factor in more heavily now. I suppose it could be interesting to see how they try and use money and if they are willing to get creative or simply take the best player available. The Rays have played it pretty straight up in recent years in the first round and the Padres have been more likely to get some savings with pick one and spread it around. It's a tough comparison though. Will be fun to see what happens. In terms of targets, just look at all the top 10 players on the board for now. That would be more useful than trying to suss out any specific links this early.
- What is your take on Sammy Stafura? I’ve heard he’s got as good a chance as anyone to sneak into the first round with a good spring.
Carlos Collazo: I've not heard any first round buzz with Stafura just yet. That would be surprising to me. Their season doesn't get rolling until April up in New York so I wouldn't expect much noise in the near future and it's tough for a hitter to make massive jumps in the spring in that area—though not impossible if he comes out and shows the tools have taken a jump. I do like Stafura quite a bit. He was impressive on both sides of the ball for me last summer. Solid all-around game. I loved the defensive aptitude in the middle of the infield, like his actions, like the hands and the athleticism. The bat looked solid as well, even if it's more line drive, gap-to-gap impact right now. Solid baserunner as well. First round just feels a bit rich now in this class given what I know currently.
- The A's were the big loser in the recent draft lottery, falling from the second pick under the old system to the sixth pick. What is your evaluation of the difference in the quality of talent available 4 picks later? Is the difference significant? Note the last two times the A's had the sixth pick in the draft they took AJ Puk and Austin Beck. Not exactly good omens for this year's pick... Thanks.
Carlos Collazo: Yeah the results of the last few A's drafts are pretty tough outside of Tyler Soderstrom. The jury is still out on Max Muncy and Daniel Susac of course, but after picking in the top 10 three years in a row I can't imagine you're anything other than disappointed with what has happened with Puk, Beck and then Kyler Murray. I don't think it's a terrible drop off between picks 2 and 6 at the moment, but that answer would have been much different if you asked me before the season. Things change quickly. Obviously your hit rates simply go down the lower you pick, but just having the leverage and flexibility of picking No. 2 and the slot money that comes with compared to No. 6 might be near as important. It wouldn't shock me if there was still a tier gap between 2 and 6 at the end of the day, but I still quite like the top 10 players in this class at the moment. Picking sooner is always better though, so yeah, tough for the A's to swallow those draft lottery results. As an observer, it's great though!
- Hey Carlos! Curious if you have any deep, deep sleepers for this draft class! Maybe guys that have caught your eye early, but aren't highly talked about yet?
Carlos Collazo: Yep, a few names who mount count as "deep" sleepers depending on where you draw the line for that. Maryland RHP Jason Savacool has looked good early, California high school shortstop Boston Baro was getting some helium last month, Roc Riggio at Oklahoma State is a good hitter who impressed me and might rise up boards. I quite liked RHP Jaxon Jelkin at South Mountain (Ariz.) JC with the video that I saw. Kemp Alderman might have counted previously but he's been raking so much he probably doesn't count for this. RHP Sam Knowlton at South Alabama is one of the hardest-throwing players in the country, Florida SS Josh Rivera has hit well to start and could be an interesting senior sign type, Grant Gray in California is another prep hitter who has gotten some buzz and is an impressive athlete... RHP Noah Hall at South Carolina has a devastating changeup with a ton of spin and movement that makes him interesting... Peter Flaherty really liked what he saw from Michael Forret, a righthander at State JC of Florida... and we also recently published a list of the draft-and-follow prospects from the 2022 class that you should keep an eye on as well. One of the best parts about covering the draft is there are always so many players like this who you can kind of dream on and get excited about deep in the class. I love it!
- I know Chase Dollander came in with “best pitching prospect since Strasburg” hype, but given his history, I can’t see Mike Rizzo passing on a 6-7, 250 behemoth such as Skenes at No. 2 if Crews is off the board. Am I wrong?
Carlos Collazo: I've been careful to not throw that label on him actually because I think it's really easy to forget about the guys who were viewed at a similar level at the same time but simply didn't pan out like we expected. When I talked with some scouts before the season, names like AJ Puk and Alex Faedo were both very highly regarded entering their draft years, for instance. I have stuck to saying the best in at least five years just because I think quite clearly there is not a college pitcher in any of those draft classes who entered the season with the sort of draft stock and expectations that Dollander entered 2023 with. But I think your point is a good one. Rizzo and the Nationals have very cleared shown a preference for physicality in the draft and that's clearly an edge for Skenes over Dollander if that's what you are looking for. Just look at the guys Washington has taken in recent years. I think both are excellent pitching prospects though. They each have plenty of time to make their cases and establish themselves this year. It'll be fun to watch. Now please don't let either of them get hurt.
- It seems like a lot of college prospects are off to hot starts (maybe expected with some soft non-conference matchups). Has anyone especially stood out to you in the first few weeks?
Bryce (Cincinnati, OH):
Carlos Collazo: Apologies for the brief reply but we are about to wrap up here. I think a lot of the names I've previously mentioned in today's chat would qualify for this. If you want more we also have introduced college hot sheets that we'll be doing weekly for the top 20 performers in the country and Peter Flaherty and I recently released a podcast on exactly this topic. Other names include Hagen Smith, Braden Taylor, Nick Kurtz, Jackson Baumeister, Kyle Teel and Tommy Troy.
- Outside of the big 3 of Dollander, Crews, Langford. Could you see anyone else going 1.1?
Carlos Collazo: Hard to count out Paul Skenes right now and I also wouldn't be shocked if either of Max Clark or Walker Jenkins did, even if I would bet on a college player as being more likely.
Carlos Collazo: OK everybody that's going to do it for today. Thanks so much for taking the time to submit a question and thanks for supporting Baseball America! I'm looking forward to doing more of these throughout the year. Hope you all have a great weekend and get to watch some baseball!