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Here are three notable storylines from the first day of the 2023 draft.
Chalk Up Top
All year long we heard that there was a clear-cut top tier of talent that included five players: Dylan Crews, Paul Skenes, Wyatt Langford, Walker Jenkins and Max Clark.
They didn’t all go in the exact order of the BA Draft board, but each of the top five players were selected among the top five picks—making the 2023 draft similar to the 2019 class which was notable for its top six group of players: Adley Rutschman, Bobby Witt Jr., Andrew Vaughn, JJ Bleday, CJ Abrams and Riley Greene.
Leading up to the draft there were plenty of rumors about non-top five players entering the mix, particularly with the Rangers and Twins picking at Nos. 4 and 5. However, the teams who were lucky enough to access the elite talent of the draft—and who were lucky enough to pick there after the first-ever draft lottery—didn’t play any games and simply took the best available talent.
That seems to be the way the industry operates when there’s a standout group at the top of the draft, and that also remained true throughout the first round.
There were few players who were announced who were much of a surprise at all. The Astros taking shortstop Brice Matthews at pick No. 28 was perhaps the biggest “off the board” selection, and he still ranked as the No. 57 player on the BA 500. Hardly a true reach when you consider the history of the draft.
In fact, every player selected among the first 30 picks of the draft ranked inside the top 45 of the BA 500. Only Matthews and No. 99 shortstop Tai Peete, whom the Mariners picked with their third overall selection at No. 30, were ranked lower.
And Matthews might have even been a more surprising name considering some of the pre-draft buzz around Peete entering the day.
Once the anticipation of who the Pirates were taking at No. 1 was resolved, it was mostly a very expected group of players picked in the first. Perhaps that’s simply what happens when the industry is picking from one of the best draft classes in years.
Record Year For First Round Shortstops
One of the biggest strengths of the 2023 class was the number of up-the-middle hitters in the class.
On the college and high school sides of the draft, there were plenty of players who had the bats to go in the first round and the defensive profiles to project for extremely well-rounded profiles at valuable spots on the diamond.
There’s perhaps no better proxy for that sort of player than shortstops—and there were plenty of shortstops selected in the first round this year.
In fact, according to our partners at Pramana, the 10 shortstops who were taken among the top 28 picks tied 2021 for the most shortstops selected within that range of any draft.
The shortstops selected went as follows:
- Jacob Wilson
- Tommy Troy
- Matt Shaw
- Jacob Gonzalez
- Brayden Taylor
- Arjun Nimmala
- Colt Emerson
- George Lombard Jr.
- Aidan Miller
- Brice Matthews
- Colin Houck
Granted, there are a few names here who are risks to move off the position, and three different players who actually played third base for most of the spring but were simply announced as shortstops. Those include Tommy Troy, Brayden Taylor and Aidan Miller.
Other shortstops, like Matt Shaw, Jacob Gonzalez and Arjun Nimmala, have at least a reasonable amount of risk to move off the position as they increase in size and mass, or are pushed off the position by more deft shortstops in their new organizations.
Even if you want to squint a bit at the total number of shortstops given some of these questions, here are the other players who have at least some chance to stick at premium, up-the-middle positions:
- Blake Mitchell, C
- Kyle Teel, C
- Ralphy Velazquez, C
- Dylan Crews, OF
- Max Clark, OF
- Walker Jenkins, OF
- Enrique Bradfield, OF
- Dillon Head
That’s 19 of 28 total first-round picks who were either selected at an up-the-middle position or have a reasonable chance to stick there in pro ball.
A 44-Year Draft Streak Comes To An End
While the depth of offensive talent up the middle was a clear strength of the 2023 class, the college lefthanded demographic was a very notable weakness.
In fact, we wondered earlier this spring whether a college lefthander would be selected in the first round in order to keep alive a 44-year draft streak.
That didn’t happen, and the streak is now broken. In fact, not a single lefthanded pitcher of any demographic was taken in the first round, with No. 19 Thomas White being the first southpaw selected in the supplemental first to the Marlins at No. 35.
Lefthanded pitching is a commodity in any draft because southpaws are so hard to find in the general population, and then harder still to find with comparable stuff to righthanders on the mound.
Kent State lefthander Joe Whitman seemed to be the late favorite to maintain the streak of college lefthanders going in the first round, and he sounded like a potential fit in the back of the first leading up to the draft, but he fell to pick No. 69 with the Giants and was actually the fifth of five total lefthanded pitchers taken on day one.
The full group is as follows:
- Thomas White
- Sean Sullivan
- Alexander Clemmey
- Caden Grice
- Joe Whitman
Another notable pitcher record this year was the fact that Noble Meyer was the only high school pitcher taken in the first round. According to Pramana, that is the new record for the fewest number of high school arms in a first round—ever!