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Baseball can be a weird sport when it comes to players. Earlier this year, Los Angeles Angels shortstop Zach Neto made his Major League debut, less than a year after he was taken in the first-round of the MLB draft. While a majority of the players taken in 2021 draft are still working their way up their respective teams farms system, Neto became the first player in the 2022 draft to debut.
That may be wild to think about but that’s how unpredictable the MLB draft can be. Sometimes players come up faster than anticipated and other times, they never sniff the Major League level. Usually it comes down to two things: how quick the player develops and how well the team that drafts them can help in it.
The wrong landing spot can turn a top prospect into a career minor leaguer. That’s one of the things that makes the MLB harder than most, even with more rounds. With that said, it’s time to predict this year’s draft, or at least the first round of it.
One quick disclaimer: we won’t be doing the compensation/competitive balance picks, so we’ll be stopping at the 28 picks. Since the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets spent well past the luxury tax and will be in the 30s in terms of overall picks, we won’t discuss them.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Dylan Crews – Outfielder, LSU
To say there’s a lot of hype around Crews right now would be an understatement. Throughout the season he’s been compared to Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout, and has been called the best draft prospect since Bryce Harper. Despite having a healthy surplus of outfielders in their minor league system, Crews’ ability to hit for both contact and power, as well as how well he can play the field, should make him too good to pass up.
2. Washington Nationals: Paul Skenes – Pitcher, LSU
Crews and Skenes are seen as the consensus first two picks in the draft and it’s not hard to see why. Both players have shown amazing ability at their respective positions, even to the point that they shouldn’t be in the minors too long. Skenes fastball averages 99 miles per hour, with a changeup that averages 91. If these two don’t go one and two in the draft, there may be some serious questions to answer.
3. Detroit Tigers: Wyatt Langford – Outfielder, Florida
The college World Series sees its third straight participant taken here. Detroit needs hitting, especially in the outfield. Langford has the power and contact ability that most teams would love in their line up. His speed and fielding may hold him back from being the top pick, but Detroit should see a quick return on investment here.
4. Texas Rangers: Max Clark – Outfielder, Franklin High School (Indiana)
Texas is going to have to make a hard pick between two terrific high school outfielders: Clark and Walker Jenkins. Both have major league potential bats and high floors. So why Clark? Despite Jenkins likely having the higher floor, Clark is seen as a more well round prospect, as well as someone who has the potential to be a five-tool player. Meaning…
5. Minnesota Twins: Walker Jenkins – Outfielder, South Brunswick High School (North Carolina)
Minnesota should luck out no matter who Texas takes. Jenkins has a very polished offensive game that should benefit Minnesota for years to come. It’s being said in some circles that Minnesota may be leaning more towards a college player, but if Jenkins can play as well as the last North Carolina prospect this highly touted (Josh Hamilton), then it shouldn’t be a stretch to see him go this high.
6. Oakland Athletics: Jacob Wilson – Shortstop, Grand Canyon
After the first five picks in this year’s class, there’s seemingly a sizable drop off in potential and the team it hits first is the Oakland A’s. While Kyle Teel would be a tempting option, Wilson may be the better option here. Oakland hasn’t had a top notch shortstop since Miguel Tejada (Marcus Semien didn’t heat up until 2021 while with the Toronto Blue Jays). Wilson’s baseball IQ and strong ability to hit purely is something Oakland (or potentially Las Vegas) needs desperately.
7. Cincinnati Reds: Kyle Teel – Catcher, Virginia
There are whispers that Cincinnati may be locked into three players: Teel as well as pitchers Rhett Lowder and Chase Dollander. With one-third of the Reds top prospects being pitchers, it may be in their best interest to grab probably the best catcher in this draft.
8. Kansas City Royals: Nobel Meyer – Pitcher, Jesuit High School (Oregon)
Kansas City has been looking at several high school talents, and while they’ve seemingly been enamored by catcher Blake Mitchell, it may be in their best interest to grab Meyer. At age 18, he’s hitting the strike zone well and he’s hitting triple digits with his fast ball – you can’t ask for more than that.
9. Colorado Rockies: Rhett Lowder – Pitcher, Wake Forest
While they have multiple holes to fill, Colorado needs pitching badly. Last year they drafted Gabriel Hughes (who is projected to be up in 2025) but they need more pitching. Lowder fills that need well with one of the best changeups in college baseball and good velocity on his fastball.
10. Miami Marlins: Arjun Nimmala – Shortstop, Strawberry Crest High School (Florida)
Miami doesn’t have to look far to find their next potential franchise player. Nimmala is only 17 years old but he has the hitting potential that almost any team would want. Add to it a good arm and range in the field, Miami could wind up with a cornerstone piece.
11. Los Angeles Angels: Brayden Taylor – Third Baseman, TCU
As mentioned in the opening, Los Angeles was very aggressive in calling up last year’s first-round pick, Zach Neto. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them go with the same approach again in this year’s draft. Taylor has the instincts, glove and arm to play the hot corner, mixed with a bat that would definitely give him a speed pass through the minor leagues.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks: Colin Houck – Shortstop, Parkview High School (Georgia)
Arizona has been tied to multiple high school shortstops including Houck and Nimmala. With Nimmala off the board, that leaves Houck as their most likely pick. Houck may be a riskier pick, as he’s split time between baseball and football. If he chooses to play baseball full time, he could be a lottery ticket like player.
13. Chicago Cubs: Chase Dollander – Pitcher, Tennessee
Chicago Cubs’ general manager Carter Hawkins has a keen eye to pitching. Having played catcher at Vanderbilt and then spending fourteen years in the Cleveland Guardians organization, seeing pitchers like Corey Kluber and Shane Bieber come and go, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him favor a pitcher in his second-ever draft. Dollander has had some struggles with his location, but his control, command and pitch selection are more than tempting to take a flier on.
14. Boston Red Sox: Aiden Miller – Third Baseman, Mitchell High School (Florida)
Since Chaim Bloom took the job the Chief Baseball Officer for Boston, they’ve had a pattern in players they like: high schoolers with good bat-tracking ability. Miller fits the bill well and could go a long way for Boston. With the jury still out on current first baseman Triston Casas, moving Miller from third base to first base may be a sound plan, especially if the bat is worth it.
15. Chicago White Sox: Blake Mitchell – Catcher, Sinton High School (Texas)
There’s one position that Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn needs circled on his draft reports: catcher. Yasmani Grandal is heading into the home stretch of his career, they have two catchers in their top 30 prospects (both of which are near the bottom), and they have one of the worst ranked minor league systems (ranked 26th in May). While Mitchell may take some time to develop, Chicago needs to get a catcher in the oven soon or else their future could fall apart.
16. San Francisco Giants: Enrique Bradfield Jr., – Outfielder, Vanderbilt
Speed kills, so it pays to the be the fastest. San Francisco needs some top speed in their outfield, and Bradfield Jr. may be the speedster they need. While there’s a good chance he won’t develop a mean streak in terms of power, his ability to make contact coupled with his speed and a good glove to boot should more than make up for it.
17. Baltimore Orioles: Bryce Eldridge – First Baseman/Pitcher, Madison High School (Virginia)
With the success of Los Angeles’ Shohei Ohtani, it was only a matter of time before we saw another two-way player make their way into the game. Enter Eldridge, who fits Baltimore’s recent draft type very well (powerful and elite bat-tracking). Add to it a solid ability to pitch and Baltimore could be adding a dangerous weapon to the field or the rotation in the future.
18. Milwaukee Brewers: Matt Shaw – Shortstop, Maryland
Milwaukee has Willy Adames as their shortstop right now, and for probably one more season. After that, they’re going to need a new shortstop, and Shaw may be the Brewers’ best bet. A tremendous hitter, good speed and defensive versatility should allow him to get up through the minor leagues quickly.
19. Tampa Bay Rays: Hurston Waldrep – Pitcher, Florida
Tampa Bay has solid starting pitching but they can’t stay healthy. While they have a few pitchers that are seen as top prospects, it never hurts to have more in the minor leagues. Waldrep has great selection of pitches, and is generally near the strike zone. He’ll have to iron out some of his inconsistencies in control and command, but those are fixable things.
20. Toronto Blue Jays: Tommy Troy – Shortstop, Stanford
Toronto has a decision next year with second baseman Whit Merrifield (mutual option): if they choose to bring him back, he’ll hit free agency at age 36. That should be allow Troy to adjust to the speed of the game and morph into a new position. The bat and glove are there, it’s just going to some time to get used to the motions on the opposite side of the bag.
21. St. Louis Cardinals: Thomas White – Pitcher, Phillips Academy High School (Massachusetts)
Probably the best lefty high school pitcher in the draft, White will ultimately have a choice if he hears his name called: does he go to college or does he go to St. Louis? If he goes, he’ll be going into a minor league with a lot pitching prospects that will clear out either via trade or as the older pitchers move on. If he stays in college, he’ll have a chance to increase his draft stock.
22. Seattle Mariners: Yohandy Morales – Third Baseman, Miami
Current third baseman Eugenio Suarez will be under contract for at least one more year, with a club option for the 2025 season. This should be enough time to get Morales ready for the major league level. The young Cuban third baseman has good power, a strong arm and good defensive prowess: he’ll be someone that Seattle will want in their line up for years to come.
23. Cleveland Guardians: Dillion Head: Outfielder, Homewood-Flossmoor High School (Florida)
Cleveland should look for high school shortstops, as their versatility is always a plus, especially when you get this deep in the draft. However, Head’s speed may just get them to turn their heads. He has the traits to be a lead off hitter and centerfielder for the foreseeable future.
24. Atlanta Braves: Nolan Schanuel – First Baseman/Outfielder, Florida Atlantic
Atlanta is in an odd spot: they’re bare when it comes to position players in their minor league system and they may want to consider what happens when designated hitter Marcel Ozuna calls time on either his career or his time in Atlanta. If they can get Schanuel, it may help solve one issue: it can let them focus on moving first baseman Matt Olson to the DH role. Schanuel has the power bat this team could use and is fine enough in the field to play in a couple years.
25. San Diego Padres: Charlee Soto – Pitcher, Reborn Christian High School (Florida)
What do you give the team that has it all except a record suitable to their roster? How about a future starter? Soto is on track to being a reliable starter somewhere but needs development to reach that next level. With time, he could replace some of the older pitchers in that rotation.
26. New York Yankees: Joe Whitman – Pitcher, Kent State
As our own Ab Stanley bemoans every year, the New York Yankees need pitching! While they have a solid group of pitching prospects in their system, they could always use and develop more. Whitman’s slide should be tantalizing enough but add a decent changeup and a mid-90s fastball, and he could carve out a nice role for himself as a starter or at worst, as a closer.
27. Philadelphia Phillies: Brock Wilken – Third Baseman, Wake Forest
The Philadelphia Phillies need a first baseman because there’s not a lot to expect out of Kody Clemens. It may suit Philly to move current third baseman Alec Bohm across the diamond once Wilken is ready in a year-and-a-half to two years and roll on from there.
28. Houston Astros: Colt Emerson – Shortstop and Third Baseman, Glenn High School (Ohio)
Houston often has their success undercut by their cheating scandal in 2017, but not enough credit goes to how well they’ve drafted and developed players. Emerson has the potential to steady player on this team. Good hands, solid contact, and an infielders arm will find him a spot on this team somewhere in the future.