As the 2023 MLB Draft approaches,The Baseball Prospect Kingdom is here with our mock draft collaboration. Making picks in this mock were myself (Alex Kielar), Johnnie Black, Eephus Tosser, Jamie Gatlin, and Joey Ricotta. We covered the entire first round, which is only 28 picks this year due to the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets exceeding the competitive balance tax threshold. Before the 2023 Draft kicks off in two weeks, on July 9 in Seattle, let’s dive into our team mock draft. 

Round 1, Pick 1: Pittsburgh Pirates (Jamie) – Dylan Crews, OF, LSU

During his time at LSU, Crews has terrorized pitchers with power and plus speed. With the Pirates selecting Crews, they add a star to the outfield to pair with Bryan Reynolds. The Florida native hits the ball hard consistently. He has driven in 178 runs at LSU and recorded 105 extra-base hits. 

Crews is expected to stick at center in the majors and has improved defensively every year since making his LSU debut during the 2020-2021 season. By adding Crews, the Pirates are adding an impact talent who will be a threat in the lineup and make them a constant threat in the NL Central. 

Round 1, Pick 2: Washington Nationals (Alex) – Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU

After a dominant regular season and postseason upon transferring to LSU, Paul Skenes jumped Chase Dollander as the best pitcher in the draft. On top of that, he also has a legitimate argument to be the top players selected ahead of his teammate. Skenes won SEC pitcher of the year honors and entered the NCAA tournament leading NCAA Division I in strikeouts (167), strikeouts per nine innings (16.6) and WHIP (0.79).

The Nationals are in an excellent position to build off their fantastic trade deadline last year. While most of the top-level talent in their farm system consists of position players, they have a chance to add a big-time pitcher to the pipeline. Skenes has shown grit and domination pitching in the tough SEC and in the College World Series, which won’t be too tough to translate to the pros. Throwing triple digits with ease gives him a legit shot to be in the pros very quickly. He would immediately be the top pitcher in Washington’s system and be within their top five overall. He is the best pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg, so the Nationals would be getting that same level of talent again. Here’s hoping Skenes can stay healthier than the 2019 World Series MVP.

Round 1, Pick 3: Detroit Tigers (Eephus) – Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida

Arguably the best player not named Dylan Crews from any of the last three drafts, Detroit is overjoyed to get a hitter the caliber of Langford. Pretty unheralded as a high school catcher, Florida converted Langford to the outfield in 2022 and he proceeded to demolish SEC pitching in his new position. 2023 brought more of the same, as he finished his junior campaign hitting .401 with a 1.344 OPS, and now owns a host of offensive records for the Gators.

A right-handed hitting and throwing corner outfielder wouldn’t necessarily be in the conversation as a top-three pick, but this year Langford began to show plus-plus speed to go along with the hit and power tools. I believe Detroit will start him off in center, where the athleticism will play, and the polished approach and solid bat will make him one of the more potent prospects at that position. He could move very quickly for a high-caliber prospect, as well, which makes him enticing for a team that sees itself as within striking distance of a playoff spot in the AL Central.

Round 1, Pick 4: Texas Rangers (Joey) – Max Clark, OF, Franklin Community (IN)

Clark is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound left-handed outfielder with a smooth stroke and mature approach at the plate for his age. The 18-year-old Vanderbilt commit plays an outstanding centerfield defense and has a pitcher’s arm capable of touching 97 MPH on the mound. If there is a concern about his game, it’s the in-game power. However, needing to add strength and making launch angle adjustments aren’t the worst problems to have. 

Maybe the best aspect of Clark’s game is his speed. Clark stole 35 bases this season in 28 games during his senior year for Franklin Community High School. He swiped 88 bags in 82 career games from sophomore through senior year at the varsity level. Clark is a four-tool plus player with five-tool potential if he adds in-game power. The Rangers are lucky to snag him at fourth overall as they continue to develop outfielder Evan Carter and now have a younger prep outfielder at their disposal to groom.

Round 1, Pick 5: Minnesota Twins (Johnnie) – Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick (NC)

Jenkins and fellow prepster Max Clark are considered 1a and 1b as far as High School prospects go. With the Rangers selecting Clark with the fourth pick, the Twins grab Jenkins at number five. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, the 18-year-old is a physical specimen. He has considerable power and a smooth left-handed swing. Jenkins has shown the ability to turn and pull inside fastballs and also has the ability to blast one out the opposite way.

Defensively he may stick in centerfield despite slowing down a bit as he gains strength and fills out even more. However, he makes good reads already and his double-plus arm would make him an excellent right fielder if he needed to move over. Either way, Jenkins’ bat will be what gets him into Minnesota’s lineup around 2027.

Round 1, Pick 6: Oakland Athletics (Alex) – Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss

Although Ole Miss had a tough season, Jacob Gonzalez proved to be one of the top position player prospects coming into the 2023 Draft. While his ceiling isn’t as high as the likes of fellow shortstops Jacob Wilson and Tommy Troy, he is the safer pick of the group and his floor is much higher. Oakland also drafted a shortstop in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft, in the form of Thousand Oaks High School product Max Muncy. This year, the A’s have platooned Aledmys Diaz and Kevin Smith at shortstop, who are both not having great seasons.

Gonzalez has impressive range and arm strength to be a consistent defensive shortstop. He has solid bat-to-ball skills which allow him to maintain a high on-base percentage, while he also has the strength and bat speed to hit for power. He led Ole Miss in doubles (18) and walks (35) while finishing second on the team in on-base percentage (.435).

Round 1, Pick 7: Cincinnati Reds (Johnnie) – Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest

LSU right-hander Paul Skenes gets a ton of hype and rightly so as he has dominated college this season. Lowder has been pretty good in his own right. Over the past two seasons, he is 26-3 with a 2.47 ERA. Lowder has been able to get his share of swings and misses as well. He sports a 28.1 K-rate over 207.1 innings while only walking batters at a 5.6 percent clip.

His impressive results are attributed to having one of the best changeups in the draft. It has a ton of fade and he delivers it in the low to mid 80s. Lowder pairs that with a fastball that sits 92-95 and has some sink to it. His slider is a plus pitch and could become a nasty third offering if he can learn to command it better. The Reds are already building a dangerous rotation with Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and Andrew Abbott. Lowder should get a shot at joining this group by 2026.

Round 1, Pick 8: Kansas City Royals (Alex) – Enrique Bradfield, Jr., OF, Vanderbilt

Going for speed, the Royals take an absolute burner in Vanderbilt product Enrique Bradfield, Jr. He is never going to blow anyone away with power numbers, but Bradfield, Jr. has elite, game-changing speed which helps him wreck havoc on the base paths and provide excellent defense. He recorded more stolen bases than strikeouts in his first two college seasons, and fell just short of replicating that in 2023. Bradfield swiped 37 bags while striking out 40 times this season, while also walking 45 times. He also showed some sneaky power to the pull side, with six homers after blasting eight long balls last season.

The Royals drafted former Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross with their first round pick last year. Cross has struggled adjusting to High-A this season and is not looking nearly as good in the plate discipline department. Despite that, he still has the makings of a strong five-tool player and he showed a previous ability to make adjustments. Adding Bradfield to the mix in the outfield would give the Royals a bright future at the position. Cross may wind up sticking at a corner outfield spot, while Bradfield would give them a solid center fielder with his speed.

Round 1, Pick 9: Colorado Rockies (Johnnie) – Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee

After dominating in 2022, Dollander took a step back this season. He has had some command issues, walking hitters at 7.6 percent as opposed to 4.2 in 2022. He has also been hurt by the long ball, allowing just seven homers in 79 innings in 2022, but giving up 14 in 86 innings this season. Despite being somewhat average this year, Dollander’s stuff is exciting.

His fastball is his calling card. Dollander pumps it regularly in the upper-90s with excellent spin and carry. His slider has very good sweep and he throws it in the mid-80s and can touch 90 with it. The right-hander’s curveball and changeup are a bit inconsistent but could both be above average offerings filling out an intriguing four-pitch repertoire.

Round 1, Pick 10: Miami Marlins (Alex) – Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon

The Marlins have been following a trend of acquiring players who put the ball in play and have low strikeout numbers. Luis Arraez, who they acquired in a trade from the Twins in January, follows that trend and is looking like an MVP candidate this season. Wilson fits that profile very well, as he consistently finds the barrel and rarely strikes out. The University of Grand Canyon product struck out just 31 times in his 620 career at-bats.

Round 1, Pick 11: Los Angeles Angels (Johnnie) – Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland

Shaw is one of the most advanced bats in the draft. After taking MVP honors last summer in the Cape Cod League slashing .360/.432/.574, the shortstop has gotten even better this season for the Terrapins. He slashed .341/.445/.697 with 24 home runs and 18 stolen bases. Shaw has also walked more than he struck out (43/42). 

The 21-year-old currently plays shortstop for Maryland. However, some scouts don’t believe his arm will allow him to stay there. Shaw has played second, third, and the outfield over the past few years so he allows the Angels some versatility. It will inevitably be his bat that gets him to the big leagues and in the middle of a major league lineup no matter where he plays on the diamond.

Round 1, Pick 12: Arizona Diamondbacks (Eephus) – Walker Martin, SS, Eaton (Col.)

A real standout at both the Perfect Game National and the Area Code Games, Martin is an athletic two-sport athlete at Eaton High School, serving as the team’s QB1 as well as their starting shortstop. He shows a lot of pop from the left side to go along with clean swing mechanics and a knack for finding the barrel. The Diamondbacks have shown that they are not afraid of taking athletic prep players at the top of their drafts, with Corbin Carroll already paying dividends and Druw Jones and Jordan Lawlar in the pipeline. There’s no reason to believe Martin won’t slot in right alongside them.

At 6’2”, 185 lbs., Walker has plenty of room to add muscle and get stronger. Along with that, of course, comes concerns about his ability to stay at shortstop. The Diamondbacks will be banking on him maintaining his athleticism under their careful tutelage, but even if he does eventually have to move to third base, it’s a good bet that his power and hit combination will work just fine for a corner infielder, and he would likely be a plus defender at the position, as well, with easy arm strength and solid average run speed.

Round 1, Pick 13: Chicago Cubs (Joey) – Kyle Teel, C, Virginia 

The 21-year-old left-handed hitting backstop has seen time in the outfield but seems like a long-term answer for a team at catcher. Teel sports advanced plate discipline while increasing his power output. Look at his slash line at Virginia this season – .407/.475/.655 (1.130 OPS) with 13 homers and 69 RBIs. His strikeout and walk rates are absurd also – 10.77 percent walk vs. 12.12 percent strikeout rate. 

The Cubs have a former top prospect they recently called up in Miguel Amaya that they believe in. They also have Moises Ballesteros, Pablo Aliendo, and Haydn McGeary in the minors. However, McGeary has transitioned away to first base, and only Aliendo seems like a long-term backstop. Teel brings the Cubs a possible solution at catcher, given his cannon arm, and is regarded by many as the top-catching prospect in this year’s draft class. He’s versatile enough to move to other positions and is a lefty bat with upside.

Round 1, Pick 14, Boston Red Sox ( Jamie) Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy

In the first round, the Red Sox stay local and add one of the best pitching prospects Massachusetts has ever produced. White has been impressing scouts for years and has a unique arsenal for a prep arm. 

White’s fastball maxes out at 97 mph, and he has a plus curveball. He is working on perfecting his changeup, which will improve as he becomes more comfortable throwing it. The Vanderbilt commit has struggled to throw strikes at times but has shown the ability to make adjustments. By drafting White, the Red Sox add a future ace.

Round 1, Pick 15: Chicago White Sox (Joey) – Arjun Nimmala, INF,  Strawberry Crest High School (FL)

Nimmala wasn’t in high-end first-round serious consideration until recently. Don’t let that fool you. The 17-year-old shortstop out of Strawberry Crest High School in Florida has a future skillset many teams will clamor for. The India-born infielder started playing cricket, where he got his natural uppercut swing. Watching him take batting practice, the raw power is super apparent. Nimmala said he models a lot of his game after Fernando Tatis Jr. He also said he works out with Francisco Lindor in the offseason, which explains his natural and smooth actions between short and second base. 

If you believe that the White Sox are closer to a rebuild than their championship window, like many thought before injuries and managerial issues took shape, a future investment with a star upside like Nimmala might not be the worst strategy. 

Round 1, Pick 16: San Francisco Giants (Johnnie) – Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is looking to have outfielders drafted in the top 20 in back-to-back years. Former Hokie Gavin Cross was selected ninth overall by the Kansas City Royals last year. While Hurley played left field last year with Cross manning center, Hurley has moved over and has shown he can handle centerfield in 2023.

Hurley tapped into his power this season with 17 home runs and 15 doubles in just 210 plate appearances. He has not run as much but did have 10 steals in 2022 and has above average speed. The left-handed hitter does not have a true weakness and could be in San Francisco’s lineup as soon as 2025.

Round 1, Pick 17: Baltimore Orioles (Eephus) – Nolan Schanuel, 1B, Florida Atlantic

As the Orioles’ rebuild chugs along, they’re moving out of the top third of the draft and into less-familiar territory, but don’t expect a change in philosophy to accompany the shift. Premium college bats don’t just carry with them a track record, they also carry a ton of data, and Schanuel’s data shows a lot of promise. He may not have as sexy a profile as some of the other guys left on the board here, but he leads the nation in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS, and is second in slugging behind only BYU’s Austin Deming. He walked nearly 25% of the time, struck out less than 5% of the time, and showed a near-elite ability to read break.

Some have speculated that there may be some corner outfield ability, but if I’m the Orioles, I’m keeping him at first base, where I suspect he’ll be a fast riser and instantly become their top prospect at the position. He has a good feel for the game – exceptionally strong, yes, but also a good baserunner despite his below-average speed, as well as high character grades.

Round 1, Pick 18: Milwaukee Brewers (Johnnie) – Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian (FL)

Along with Noble Meyer and Thomas White, Soto’s name is being mentioned as a top prep pitcher in this year’s draft. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, the kid amazingly still has room to grow. He will be just 17 years old at the draft and that youth and prototypical size have the Brewers jumping on him here.

Soto brings heat, touching double digits with his fastball. While his secondary offerings are just above average at this point, his splitter and slider can easily become nasty pitches with some refinement and command. Soto has a quick arm and already repeats his delivery well for a teenager. Milwaukee is getting one of the best pure arms in the draft.

Round 1, Pick 19: Tampa Bay Rays (Joey) – Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)

While Mick Abel struggles with walks (13.4%) at Double-A Reading in the Phillies farm system, remember his prospect pedigree and where he came from. Selected with the 15th overall pick of the 2020 MLB Draft, the Phillies knew Abel would be a work in progress with a high-ceiling upside. Fast forward to 2023, and the same can be said about Meyer, who comes from the same high school Abel did.

Meyer is a tall 6-foot-5 righty with three pitches in his bag of tricks that grade out average-to-plus-plus. The fastball has reached 100+ MPH, while the slider devastates righties with sweep and late downward dipping action. The changeup sounds like a work in progress, although scouts believe it’s shown enough to be a future sustainable weapon. Outside of Taj Bradley’s recent callup, the Rays’ farm system isn’t overflowing with potential high-end pitchers. We know they are capable as an organization of developing them out of nowhere; however, I think they will select a prep pitcher early this year.

Round 1, Pick 20: Toronto Blue Jays (Eephus) – Cade Kuehler, RHP, Campbell

Let’s just get this out of the way: Cade Kuehler may be more of a vibe than a prediction here. Let’s consider him a stand-in for any of a number of polished college righties who are affordable and won’t eat up the bonus pool, because after picking here, the Blue Jays won’t get another selection until 89th overall, in the third round. Now, whether you want to call that Juaron Watts-Brown or Brandon Sproat or Tanner Witt, I’m going to call it Cade Kuehler, because I like his potent mix of athleticism and stuff.

Arguably the best mid-major pitcher in the country, Kuehler has an enticing package for a team like the Blue Jays, who are looking to develop pitching, and whose best prospects are still years away from the big leagues. Kuehler brings a present mid-90s (has hit 98) fastball with spin and a devastating hammer curve. There’s a slutter and a splitter to round out the mix, but it remains to be seen if his professional team will tinker with that half of his repertoire. He has struggled with command in his college career, and cutting down the repertoire may help with that, as well. Definitely some reliever risk, which the Blue Jays can absorb if necessary, but he has the potential to be a special starter if things fall right.

Round 1, Pick 21: St. Louis Cardinals (Johnnie) – Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami

Morales has some of the best raw power in the draft. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, the big right-handed slugger does not need to sell out for home runs. He has also improved his hit tool batting an impressive .408 this season and has cut his strikeout rate down below 20 percent. Morales still has a tendency to chase pitches, but when he makes contact the ball jumps off of his bat.

A former shortstop, Morales moved to third as his body filled out. He has the arm strength and quickness to remain there long term. While double digit stolen bases are not likely in his future, 30+ home runs a year certainly are as long as Morales waits for his pitch and lets his natural strength do the work.

Round 1, Pick 22: Seattle Mariners (Alex) – Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison (VA)

After drafting position players in the first round of the last two drafts – shortstop Cole Young and catcher Harry Ford – the Mariners take a swing at a two-way player. Most of the time, for a two-way prep player, scouts lean one way for whether the player’s future is at the dish or on the hill. But for Eldridge, the opportunity is there for him to take a shot at becoming the next great two-way star. He has legitimate tools both ways – top notch stuff on the mound and serious raw power from the left side.

Round 1, Pick 23: Cleveland Guardians (Eephus) – Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida

Frankly, if I’m the Guardians, I cannot believe that arguably a top ten talent has fallen to me at pick 23. The models all love Waldrep, and if anyone trusts their models, it’s Cleveland, especially when it comes to starting pitchers. Keep in mind that I made this pick even before Waldrep’s 12-strikeout performance in the NCAA Regionals, but that certainly didn’t hurt. Despite starting his career as a reliever at Southern Miss before moving into the weekend rotation in 2021, Waldrep has become one of the nation’s most dominant pitchers since transferring to Florida.

A classic power mix, with a 95-99mph fastball, a plus split-change, and a hard upper-80s slider that he can use to generate whiffs or fill the zone. Three plus- to plus-plus offerings that he throws for strikes is a great calling card for a pitcher, so why has he fallen here? No doubt in part due to some questions about his command, with a 12.7% walk rate raising some eyebrows among talent evaluators. But the stuff is as good as anyone’s, and Cleveland is willing to take on some risk here with the hope that they can ease his high-effort delivery and get even better results.

Round 1, Pick 24: Atlanta Braves (Johnnie) – Tanner Witt, RHP, Texas

Witt has not been a starter for very long. He was in the bullpen for the Longhorns in 2021 and immediately displayed wipeout stuff. Texas made him a starter in 2022 but after just two games, Witt had to undergo Tommy John Surgery. He returned this season and while he looked rusty, teams are still in love with his pure stuff.

Witt has an excellent four-pitch mix with all of those offerings above average. He separates his mid-90s fastball with his mid-70s curveball. The right-hander also throws in a slider with good sweep and a solid changeup. The Braves have loved taking pitchers in the first round especially recently. Over their last 12 first round picks, Atlanta has drafted 10 pitchers.

Round 1, Pick 25: San Diego Padres (Eephus) – Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton (Tex.)

The Padres have not taken a college player in the first round of the draft since 2016, even going so far as to draft two prep players in the first round in 2022, 2020, and 2018. They won’t be picking again until the third round in this draft, but I don’t expect them to fundamentally alter their strategy, and the best prep player left on my board is Sinton (Tex.) High School’s Blake Mitchell. Despite many teams’ unwillingness to go all-in on a prep catcher in the first round, I believe San Diego will look at the overall package and agree that Mitchell’s patient approach, bat speed, and power potential are too much to overlook, perhaps even entertaining the idea of moving his athleticism and plus arm to right field or third base to focus on developing the bat.

He’s also pretty special as a pitcher, which was on full display with the U.S. junior team in 2022 and 2021, where he pitched 2-2/3 scoreless innings to help beat Taiwan in the gold medal game of the 18U World Cup, but I’m buying on the bat. A mature approach at the plate, present bat speed, and plenty of strength give him an enticing offensive profile. He has a knack for the barrel, though it does come with some swing-and-miss concerns.

Round 1, Pick 26: New York Yankees (Alex) – Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell (FL)

The Yankees desperately need help at third base the the Bronx and in the minor league system. Josh Donaldson just isn’t cutting it anymore – not that he ever did. DJ LeMahieu also frequently plays there, as well, but has looked slugglish offensively as he ages. The only legitimate third baseman within the Yankees’ top 30 prospects list is Tyler Hardman.

While the Yankees haven’t drafted a third baseman in the first round since 2013 when they took Eric Jagielo out of Notre Dame, now is the time to end the drought. Miller has a lot of offensive upside and the athleticism to stick at third. New York would be thrilled if he fell to their pick.

Round 1, Pick 27: Philadelphia Phillies (Johnnie) – Tommy Troy, SS, Stanford

As a freshman at Stanford, Troy looked a little overmatched at times batting only .247 and striking out 25.8 percent of the time. Fast forward to this season and the Cardinal has put himself firmly in the first round discussion with an OPS of 1.216 and 17 homers to go with 17 steals.

His patience and pitch recognition have improved immensely with 32 walks and 38 strikeouts in 2023. While most scouts believe he will move off of shortstop, Troy could be an excellent second baseman or centerfielder in the future.

Round 1, Pick 28: Houston Astros (Eephus) – Chase Davis, OF, Arizona

If Davis falls to the Astros here, it’s hard to imagine them not taking him. He fits their mold to a T – an athletic, speedy, up-the-middle defender with plus-plus raw power. It remains to be seen how much the Astros’ model will change with Dana Brown ensconced as their new general manager, but regardless, Davis is just too enticing a package to pass up at 28. A part-time player as a freshman at Arizona, Davis seized his opportunities as a sophomore in 2022, earning a spot on Chip Hale’s starting squad and slashing .289/.414/.583 with 18 home runs. He then spent the summer playing with Team USA and the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League before heading back to campus.

Davis’s calling card is his power from the left side, and he has continued to refine that at Arizona. Despite questions surrounding his hit tool, he walked more times (43) than he struck out (40) as a junior this season, en route to 21 home runs and a 1.231 OPS. He also boasts an arm bordering on plus, and at least above-average speed. Don’t be surprised if he follows in the footsteps of Drew Gilbert and Jacob Melton, getting an extended look in center field before being moved to the corner, where his power and arm will continue to play.

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