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Five Things To Know About The 2024 MLB Draft


Image credit: (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

A month out from the 2024 MLB Draft, hype for this year’s class of prospects is starting to heat up. Here are five key trends to consider when examining this year’s field of players.

1. Overall Talent Is Light Because Of A Historically Poor High School Class

We were spoiled in 2023.

Last year’s draft was one of the strongest and deepest the industry had seen in years, thanks to a strong blend of both college and high school players with athleticism, tools and track records.

That’s not the case in 2024. Evaluators regard this year’s class as below-average and one of the weaker drafts of the past decade. The biggest reason for that is a down group of top-end high school players.

Prior to the 2024 season, 13 scouting directors voted both the high school hitting and high school pitching demographics as below-average. It is uncommon for both prep groups to be so shallow and unappealing to scouts.

In fact, a handful of scouts said the 2024 high school class is the worst they have covered in their careers.

2024 MLB Draft Rankings

From the top names to the under-the-radar gems, here are the top 500 draft prospects.

Helium high schoolers like shortstops Theo Gillen and Kellon Lindsey and lefthander Kash Mayfield have helped add first-round-caliber talent to the demographic with strong spring performances, but this group is still shaping up as one of the weakest we’ve seen.

Just eight high school players rank among the top 30 prospects for the 2024 draft. The last six drafts—2018 to 2023—have averaged 12 prep prospects among the top 30.

In 59 previous drafts, just seven have seen 10 or fewer high school players selected in the first round. The record low for first-round high schoolers taken is seven, which occurred in 1992.

The 2024 class is poised to join this inauspicious group of drafts, and there’s a real chance it matches or sets the record low for first-round high school selections, in part because the college hitting crew is above-average.

But the draft is nothing if not unpredictable. That 1992 first-round high school hitter group included Derek Jeter, Jason Kendall, Shannon Stewart and Preston Wilson—a Hall of Famer plus three other long-time MLB regulars.

2. This Class Has A Clear Top Tier

It’s not all doom and gloom this year—at least for teams picking at the top. The top tier of 11 players headlining this draft class are a clear cut above the rest of the field, and that should make GMs and scouting directors sweat a bit less.

“It’s a good class at the top 10,” one scout said.

Another had the same sentiment, albeit phrased a bit differently: “It’s definitely a no-brainer below-average class. I guess if you cut the draft off after the top 10 picks, it would be a good draft.”

For those clubs fortunate enough—literally, now that the draft lottery shapes the first-round order—to be picking inside the top 10 there’s a lot to like:

  • Georgia’s Charlie Condon shattered modern home run records and vaulted to the top of the class with a special hit-plus-power combo and improved defense.
  • Oregon State’s Travis Bazzana pairs elite pure hitting skill with developing power and standout athleticism.
  • Arkansas lefthander Hagen Smith and Wake Forest righthander Chase Burns had outstanding seasons with dominant pure stuff. West Virginia’s JJ Wetherholt and Wake Forest’s Nick Kurtz have polished hit tools.
  • Florida two-way sensation Jac Caglianone, Texas A&M’s Braden Montgomery and preps Konnor Griffin and Bryce Rainer have tremendous upside thanks to extremely loud physical tools.
  • ECU righthander Trey Yesavage has a combination of stuff, size, command and performance that eludes practically every other pitcher in this class.

While the top tier of players this year doesn’t quite match the five-headed monster of 2023, it’s a solid group in its own right. But starting around pick No. 12, chaos is to be expected in what could be a wild first round.

3. The College Pitching Class Has Outsized Reliever Risk

Speaking of wild: Where are all the strike-throwers?

Since the start of the season, it’s been clear that the first-round-caliber college pitchers had less in the control department than what is typical for the demographic.

In the bonus pool era, which dates back to 2012, a total of 81 college pitchers have been drafted in the first round. The group averaged 3.0 walks per nine innings in their NCAA careers, with a high-water mark of 4.8 from Sean Newcomb in 2014.

Seven college pitchers appeared in our preseason top 30 draft ranking. Collectively the group had a career walk rate of 4.6 per nine, with three pitchers faring worse than Newcomb’s 4.8 mark.

Heading into regionals, just six college pitchers remained inside the top 30. The group collectively took a step back in terms of strikes with a walk rate of 4.85 per nine.

A few pitchers improved their career walk rates, including a few of the most erratic pitchers like Hagen Smith (5.3 to 4.7) and Brody Brecht (7.8 to 6.8). But others took a step back. Jonathan Santucci’s career rate rose from 4.6 to 5.0—and the group also lost two of the best strike-throwers as Wake Forest’s Josh Hartle and Tennessee’s Drew Beam fell out of the top 30.

The question facing MLB clubs is whether they are okay with taking erratic pitchers in the first round or whether they’ll pass on early college pitchers entirely.

4. Where Are The Up-The-Middle Profiles?

The most valuable hitters in any draft class are those who pair great offense with up-the-middle defensive profiles. This was a key strength in 2023 but is lacking in 2024.

While the first round might be littered with hitters, there are fewer players who scouts will be able to confidently identify as future shortstops, second basemen, center fielders or catchers.

Of the 22 hitters ranked inside the top 30, just eight seem more likely than not to play an up-the-middle position. Of those eight, perhaps only a single player is likely to stick at shortstop: Florida prep Kellon Lindsey.

If teams are looking to spend top-end draft capital on a hitter, there’s a good chance they are drafting a player with a corner profile who will need to mash to return value.

Near locks to play a corner position: Jac Caglianone, Nick Kurtz, James Tibbs III, Cam Smith, Carson Benge, Billy Amick, Tommy White

More likely than not to play a corner position: Charlie Condon, Braden Montgomery, Malcolm Moore

Near 50-50 chance to play a corner position: Bryce Rainer, Seaver King, Christian Moore, Theo Gillen

More likely than not to play up the middle: Travis Bazzana, JJ Wetherholt, Konnor Griffin, Vance Honeycutt, Caleb Lomavita, Slade Caldwell, Walker Janek, Kellon Lindsey

5. The Most Intriguing Team This Year Could Be The D-backs

Each year, at least one team has more bonus pool money to spend than the clubs picking around them. In 2023, the Mariners turned three picks inside the top 30 into Colt Emerson, Jonny Farmelo and Tai Peete at a combined bonus total of $9.5 million.

This year, the Diamondbacks have an outsized bonus pool, similar to Seattle last year. Arizona holds the 29th, 31st and 35th overall picks, which carry a combined bonus pool value of $8.54 million.

The D-backs gained the second of those choices via the Prospect Promotion Incentive pick they earned from Corbin Carroll’s Rookie of the Year win. The third is a competitive balance round pick.

In total, Arizona has a bonus pool of $12,662,000. That is the 10th-largest bonus pool this year and more money than each team picking in the 18-30 slots of the first round. That could give the D-backs the ability to slide a higher-ranked player down the board to their first pick or package savings into multiple over-slot selections.

The last time the D-backs had this sort of pick surplus and pool capital was 2019. That year they added Carroll with the 16th pick and also drafted big leaguers Ryne Nelson, Drey Jameson, Tommy Henry, Blake Walston, Dominic Canzone, Dominic Fletcher and Andrew Saalfrank in the top eight rounds. 

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