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Which 2024 MLB Draft Prospects Still Have A Case To Go No. 1?

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Image credit: Travis Bazzana (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)

With the draft just days away, it’s wise to revisit a piece Carlos Collazo wrote before the season started analyzing why—and why not—each of the top-five college prospects and top high school prospect should be drafted first overall. Though the dust has started to settle a little bit, the 1-1 race is still fairly open.

Charlie Condon, OF/3B, Georgia

The quick case for: His hit-power combination is second-to-none

Condon this season upstaged his excellent 2023 season to the tune of a gaudy .433/.556/1.009 slash line with 20 doubles, a 21st century record 37 home runs and 78 RBIs. Baseball America’s 2024 College Player of the Year drew 57 walks to just 41 strikeouts and also ranked inside the top five nationally in both RBIs (78) and hits (100). Condon has a uniquely compact and explosive operation for someone who is 6-foot-6, and he has had no issue tapping into his double-plus power in games. As a cherry on top, his advanced feel for the barrel has made him a near-impossible at-bat for college pitchers around the country.

The quick case against: He lacks a true position and wood bat track record…

There’s no secret that defense isn’t Condon’s calling card. Yes, he flashed his versatility this spring and has held his own at third base, first base, each corner outfield spot and even center field. That’s all impressive, but when you peel back the layers you’re likely looking at an every day left fielder—or third base in a pinch—professionally. It’s not the prettiest defensive profile, and he projects as an average (at best) defender.

The other small nitpick I have with Condon is his lack of wood bat track record. I realize that might be unfair, but given the current state of college baseball—where both bats and balls alike are hot—I think it’s both important and reassuring for hitters at or near the top of the board to have an established track record with wood. Across two summer seasons in 2022 and 2023, he slashed a respectable .282/.360/.442 with 19 doubles and eight home runs in 72 games. Again, that’s very solid but it’s not the dominance that other top prospects showed on the Cape or in other wood bat summer leagues.

Travis Bazzana, 2B, Oregon State

The quick case for: He has perhaps the most well-rounded offensive profile in the sport

Following a stellar sophomore season and MVP summer on the Cape, Bazzana this spring somehow further elevated his game and hit .407/.568/.911 with 16 doubles, 28 home runs and 66 RBIs. He has an ultra-explosive operation in the box with elite bat speed, outstanding feel for the barrel and plus power to the pull side. Bazzana also has a high-level approach and pitch recognition skills which translated to a video game-like 76-to-37 walk-to-strikeout ratio. There are really no warts in his profile, and he has enjoyed immense success at every stop in his career.

The quick case against: No second baseman has ever been 1-1

Carlos made this point back in February, but it still rings true today. For as impressive as Bazzana is in the box, he is a no-doubt second baseman at the next level. He is an above-average defender at the position with no shortage of arm strength, though nobody at the position has been selected first overall.

JJ Wetherholt, 2B/SS, West Virginia

The quick case for: He is the best pure hitter in the country

For as impressive of a hitter Bazzana is, Wetherholt is the only player who might have him beat. While a hamstring injury kept him to just 36 games this spring, Wetherholt made the most of it and hit .331/.472/.589 with eight doubles, eight home runs and 30 RBIs. He has double-plus bat-to-ball skills and an elite feel for the barrel. It’s as hitterish a look as you’ll find in college baseball. On top of his plus-plus hit tool, Wetherholt has shown a knack for driving the baseball with authority to all fields. From an offensive standpoint, Wetherholt can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

The quick case against: No second baseman has ever been 1-1

See the above argument against Bazzana. Wetherholt has hit at every stop and can impact the game in a myriad of ways, but no second baseman has ever been drafted first overall. Wetherholt played 27 games at shortstop this spring and while he made a handful of impressive plays, many still view him as a second baseman at the next level. What we said in February still remains true today: There is not a true college shortstop anywhere near the top of the board.

Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest

The quick case for: He has ace potential and the best pure stuff in the class

Burns this spring was named the ACC’s pitcher of the year after pitching his way to a 10-1 record with a 2.70 ERA and a Wake Forest single-season record 191 strikeouts in 100 innings. The 6-foot-3 righthander features a thunderous upper-90s fastball that has been up to 102 with life through the zone, as well as a double-plus power slider, a plus (at least) power curveball and a budding changeup. Burns has unmatched stuff and looks the part of a future frontline starter.

The quick case against: General risk of selecting a pitcher 1-1 and a high-effort delivery

To select a pitcher first overall, especially this year where bats like Bazzana, Condon and Wetherholt will be available, you have to be pounding the table for him. People will certainly be pounding the table for Burns, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think Cleveland will.

Jac Caglianone, 1B/LHP, Florida

The quick case for: He is the most prolific power hitter in the class

Caglianone has flashed his top-of-the scale raw power from the moment he stepped on campus. After hitting seven home runs across 28 games as a freshman, Caglianone blasted 33 and 35 home runs, respectively between his sophomore and junior seasons. His 75 career homers are a Florida program record, but it’s not just his sheer power that’s impressive. Caglianone this season hit a career-best .419/.544/.875 with 58 walks to 26 strikeouts. There are still approach questions and swing-and-miss issues, but Caglianone this season took a step in the right direction. His long levers allow him to hammer pitches across all four quadrants of the strike zone. He has been a nightmare for opposing pitchers to deal with.

The quick case against: Two-way players don’t exist

This could be harsh, but find me a high-impact two-way player in the big leagues not named Shohei Ohtani in recent memory. I’ll wait. The point is, while what Caglianone is doing is ultra-impressive—on top of his prowess at the plate, he is an athletic lefthander with a thunderous fastball and plus changeup—he will eventually have to pick one. All signs point to him becoming a hitter. While he has the most pop of any hitter in the country there are hit tool questions. Between the hit tool questions and potentially ending up at first base professionally, his profile isn’t typically drafted first overall.

Konnor Griffin, SS/OF, Jackson Prep, Flowood, Miss.

The quick case For: Griffin has immense upside

If you’re shooting for upside in this 2024 class, Griffin might be the prospect for you. He has some of the loudest physical tools in the class with plenty of 60s and 70s all across his scouting card—all bound up in an athletic and hyper-projectable 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame.

There are a handful of prospects who have 55 or better tools across the board among the four tools that aren’t the hit tool, but Griffin is the only player in the class who we have graded out with 60s or better in power, speed, fielding and arm strength.

He is a plus-plus runner now who should be able to play a premium position at a high level, whether that’s shortstop or perhaps more likely center field. His arm strength also makes him a legitimate pitching prospect, but would be an asset no matter where he plays on the diamond, and he has plus raw power now and a chance to add to that in the future as he gets to physical maturity.

In addition to the gaudy toolset, Griffin is also young for the class. He’ll be 18.2 on draft day and among high school hitters ranked inside the top 100 only two (Slade Caldwell and Braylon Payne) are younger than he is.

If Griffin is an average hitter he has star potential.

The quick case against: Questions about Griffin’s hit tool

That’s a significant “if” as Griffin’s pure hitting ability is really the only question mark with his profile. He doesn’t have the sort of swing, barrel skill or offensive track record to join the Walker Jenkins/Max Clark tier of hitting prospects from a year ago, which is the only reason he ranks ninth in the class instead of somewhere inside the top five.

Scouts are mixed on Griffin’s true offensive upside, though he did all he could to prove himself this spring in Mississippi when he turned in a High School Player of the Year caliber season and made solid progress with his swing.

The industry can be skeptical of high school hitters from the state of Mississippi because the track record of those profiles is dicey at best. There are safer hit tool projections in the class than Griffin and the first overall pick is not typically an area that teams want to take on significant risk.

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