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The Case For 1-1: Which 2024 MLB Draft Prospect Has The Best Argument To Be Selected First Overall?


Image credit: JJ Wetherholt (Photo by Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/Getty Images)

A defining feature of the 2024 draft class is that there’s no definition at the top.

Unlike a year ago at this stage, when our 2023 draft list was convincingly led by LSU outfielder Dylan Crews—who remained in the top spot and was eventually selected second overall after teammate Paul Skenes—the 2024 list has no true consensus 1-1 talent. 

West Virginia second baseman JJ Wetherholt is the de facto No. 1 in our recent top 200 update today, but there’s little or no separation between him and the players behind him with compelling 1-1 cases to be made for at least five others. 

Today we’ll make those cases for each of the top six prospects on the draft board and let you decide: who has the best case for 1-1? 

JJ Wetherholt, 2B, West Virginia

The Quick Case For: He’s the best pure hitter in the country

The most coveted tool in baseball is the hit tool. It’s notoriously difficult to scout and project at the next level. So when players like Wetherholt make their hitting ability exceedingly obvious, it’s easy to fall in love with the profile. Wetherholt hit over .300 in his 2022 freshman season with West Virginia and then put together one of the best overall offensive seasons in the country in 2023 as a sophomore. He led D-I hitters with a .449 average, ranked 11th with a .517 on-base percentage and ranked eighth with a .787 slugging percentage. 

Wetherholt has a fluid lefthanded swing and an ability to handle all areas of the zone with no clear weaknesses against any specific pitch type, and he also has excellent wrist and forearm strength that translates into all-fields power. He was also one of just five players with at least 15 home runs and at least 30 stolen bases, and of that five-player group, he was the only player to do it in a Power 5 conference.

After his terrific 2023 spring season, Wetherholt then played with USA Baseball’s college national team, where he ranked as the top prospect and once again stood out as the best pure hitter of the field.

The Quick Case Against: No second baseman has ever been 1-1

While Wetherholt checks all of the boxes offensively, he doesn’t fit the typical defensive profile of a 1-1 pick—at least not yet. Second base is the only position that has not been selected with the first overall pick in the history of the draft, but after manning the keystone in 2023 and third base in 2022, Wetherholt will move to shortstop this spring. If he looks the part of a pro shortstop defensively, it could be enough to cement him as the clearcut No. 1 prospect that the class currently lacks.

Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest

The Quick Case For: His offensive profile is more rounded than anyone’s

Good luck finding a nitpick with Kurtz as a hitter. He excels on all fronts, against all pitch types and grades out well both in terms of traditional scouting evaluations and with under-the-hood looks at his batted ball data. He has the easy plus raw power and physical frame that fits in the middle of a big league lineup as well as a compact and versatile lefty swing that places him among the best pure hitters in the class. And unlike other sluggers in this 2024 draft class, Kurtz has excellent strike-zone discipline. He is happy to take a walk as evidenced by his excellent 21.2% career walk rate.

He’s not just a hitter, either. Kurtz is regarded as one of the best defensive players in the country though that praise might be muted considering the fact that first base lies at the bottom of the defensive spectrum. Because he’s such a good athlete, there are scouts who believe he could transition to an outfield corner and look more than passable at the position. Others would prefer to keep his large target, deft footwork and reliable hands on the infield where his bat is more than enough to profile nicely.

The Quick Case Against: The college 1B track record this high is sketchy

The track record of college first basemen drafted in the first round is not a great one, especially if you only look at players drafted in the bonus pool era (2012-present). The list includes players like Casey Gillespie (2014, 20th overall), Chris Shaw (2015, 31st overall), Pavin Smith (2017, 4th overall), Evan White (2017, 17th overall), Andrew Vaughn (2019, 3rd overall), Spencer Torkelson* (2020, 1st overall), Aaron Sabato (2020, 27th overall) and Jacob Berry* (2022, 6th overall). 

They are not all busts, but almost the entire group would go later if their respective drafts were done over. There’s simply very little margin for error in an offensive evaluation to warrant taking a first baseman—high school or college—this high. If he doesn’t hit, and hit at an exceptional level in the big leagues, there’s a decent chance you could have simply gotten more value by targeting another position. 

Kurtz could be an exception to this history, but will the Guardians be willing to bet on it? 

*Torkelson and Berry were drafted as a third baseman but played first base in college and profiled as first basemen for most scouts at the time.

Travis Bazzana, 2B, Oregon State

The Quick Case For: His track record of hitting is superlative

Bazzana’s track record of hitting at a high level is on par with anyone in the 2024 class, including Wetherholt and Kurtz. He has tremendous bat-to-ball skills that pair with a great eye for the strike zone. That has led to a career .340/.463/.549 slash line at Oregon State and a 17.1% walk rate that’s right in line with his 17.9% strikeout rate. 

While he didn’t lead the entire country in hitting like Wetherholt in 2023, he can boast a longer track record of wood bat performance. He played in the Australian Baseball League as a teenager, then dominated the West Coast League as an 18-year-old in 2021 before his college career started. He ranked as the top prospect in 2023 in the Cape Cod League and slashed .375/.456/.581 with the best average in the league.

“Hitters hit” is a cliché, but it’s true, and that’s all Bazzana has done for years. It will be hard to have more conviction in a hit tool than scouts will have with Bazzana’s this summer.

The Quick Case Against: No second baseman has ever been 1-1

The same case against Wetherholt is the case for Bazzana here. He is a second baseman and it doesn’t seem like he’ll have the same opportunity to prove otherwise this spring by moving to another position. Additionally, while Bazzana’s pure hitting chops stack up with Wetherholt, he has shown less in-game power and his swing is a bit less orthodox, which could be nitpicks against him when teams start stacking the two up.

Jac Caglianone, 1B/LHP, Florida

The Quick Case For: No one can match his pure talent and upside 

If you’re picking first overall and want as much upside as possible, Caglianone has to be the player you land on, right? He’s the most naturally talented player in the class with a big league body, big league power and big league velocity from the left side. There are many players in the 2024 class who have two-way potential, but none has proven that ability to the extent that Caglianone has with Florida. 

On a Florida team that included Wyatt Langford, it was Caglianone who led the team—and the country—with 33 home runs. You’d be hard pressed to find a 20-year-old hitter who managed the same 90th-percentile exit velocity of 113.3 mph that Caglianone put up in 2023.

That alone would make him a significant prospect, but he can also throw a fastball from the left side up to 99 mph and he took the ball for 18 starts in 2023 and posted a 4.34 ERA in the most competitive conference in college baseball. There are players who are better hitters than Caglianone and there are players who are better pitchers, but Caglianone’s value proposition comes from the fact that you get elite power potential and elite pitching upside in one package.

The Quick Case Against: With big upside comes big risk

For all of Caglianone’s huge tools, he has real areas of concern to address this spring and remove some of the risk that’s inherent with his profile. His swing decisions are overly aggressive and he’ll need to walk more than 5% of the time to create confidence in his approach and power fully translating to pro ball. He’ll also need to throw more strikes to convince teams he’s a starter and not a reliever.

Mike Sirota, OF, Northeastern

The Quick Case For: There are no holes in his game

In some ways Sirota is the anti-Caglianone profile. There are players with louder tools in one area or another, but it’s difficult to find a player who checks off as many boxes as Sirota does while profiling at a premium defensive position. 

He has all five tools. He’s an advanced hitter with a strong idea of the strike zone and is a career .338/.449/.611 hitter in two seasons with Northeastern. After homering just four times as a freshman in 2022 he upped that number to 18 in his follow-up 2023 season. He’s an above-average runner who will turn in plus times and can cover plenty of ground in center field where he is an above-average defender and has a chance for an above-average arm.

For critics of his small-school profile, he also amplified his hitting reputation by performing in multiple summers in the Cape Cod League with Hyannis. Sirota’s profile feels as safe and well-rounded as any in the class.

The Quick Case Against: He lacks typical 1-1 upside

As mentioned previously, Sirota might simply lack the sort of “oomph” teams are looking for with a first overall pick. His power didn’t fully translate to a wood bat in either of his summers in the Cape Cod League. His exit velocity data with a metal bat leaves a bit to be desired as well. On top of that, if Sirota was picked first he would be the first non-Power 5 hitter selected 1-1 since third baseman Phil Nevin went No. 1 overall out of Cal State Fullerton in 1992.

Vance Honeycutt, OF, North Carolina

The Quick Case For: He has a prototypical 1-1 package with tools, athleticism and defensive profile

While Honeycutt’s profile has more holes than Sirota, his combination of physical tools, high-end athleticism and center field profile combines for the most prototypical 1-1 package of this six-player group. Many scouts view Honeycutt as one of the best pure athletes in the class. His power/speed combination while playing an excellent center field defense is exactly what teams are typically looking for at the top of the draft—especially from a player who has been tested in one of the better conferences in college baseball.

He became the first UNC player in program history to hit more than 20 home runs and steal more than 20 bags in a single season, and he did that as a freshman in 2022 when he slashed .296/.409/.672 with 25 homers and 29 bags.

Between his two seasons in Chapel Hill, Honeycutt has totalled 37 home runs and 48 stolen bases. 

Honeycutt also has a case as one of the best defensive center fielders in the country. His plus speed allows him to cover huge swaths of ground and his athleticism is apparent on his many leaping grabs tracking back and into the wall. That defensive  

The Quick Case Against: He has never hit above .300 in a college season

While Honeycutt does a lot of things well, there are real questions about his pure hitting ability. He hit .296 as a freshman with a 29.7% strikeout rate. He did cut that rate as a sophomore, but in 2023 he hit just .257 with a 20.4% strikeout rate. Honeycutt also doesn’t have much of a wood bat track record to speak of to help clarify this part of his game. If a team thinks he’ll be a below-average hitter at the next level, those exciting supplemental tools he boasts suddenly become less applicable.

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