2023 MLB mock draft, projections: LSU duo of Dylan Crews, Paul Skenes go 1-2. Who’s next?

With the 2023 MLB Draft less than two weeks away, it’s time to start mapping out how Round 1 could transpire as the action unfolds on July 9 in Seattle. A star-studded College World Series has concluded in Omaha, with LSU raising the trophy following the finals that may have featured the top three picks in the upcoming draft.

Earlier this month, I released my top 30 prospects in this year’s class, a selection of players I both viewed as the best available and felt most confident would hear their names early on Day 1 of the draft.

But the MLB Draft isn’t always as simple as the best players being selected in order — and every team’s draft board is different, of course. Negotiations between players’ agents and teams regarding signing bonus demands — particularly among the best prep players who can wield their college commitments as leverage — can alter the sequencing of the picks on draft night in ways that are challenging to predict.

This mock is my first attempt at forecasting the first 39 picks of the 2023 MLB Draft, which includes the standard first selections for all 30 teams, the 29th pick awarded to the Seattle Mariners as well as eight picks in Competitive Balance Round A. Remember, the top of this year’s draft order was determined by a lottery system for the first time, so the picks do not go strictly in order of worst record as they have in years past.

To the mock!

1. Pittsburgh Pirates — OF Dylan Crews; LSU (No. 1 on Top 30)

We’re going to hear all kinds of rumors over the next few weeks about whether the Pirates prefer to keep it simple and take the best player in Crews or try and spread their $16 million bonus pool around to a more balanced selection of players in the first few rounds. I don’t think this would be as much of a conversation had we not just watched Pittsburgh two years ago sign No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis for nearly $2 million under slot to save money for three high-priced high-school players later on at picks No. 37, 64 and 72. The Pirates again find themselves in a similar scenario with the biggest bonus pool and picks No. 42, 67 and 72 later on.

Whispers regarding Max Clark as a possible underslot pick at No. 1 overall makes some sense, but if the Pirates are looking to save money and secure some certainty, I think we’re more likely to see Wyatt Langford as the pick over a prep player in Clark or pitcher in Skenes. Langford represents a more comparable alternative to Crews as a high-floor, high-ceiling position player for potentially more bonus savings than Skenes would settle for. And considering where the Pirates are in their rebuild, they may prioritize prospects closer to Pittsburgh than A-ball when picking at the very top — they could still add high school talent later on, if they so desire.

All that said, I’m still rolling with Crews for this first go at a mock. We’ll see if the rumors about an underslot deal change my tone closer to Draft day, but let’s keep it chalk for now.

2. Washington Nationals — RHP Paul Skenes; LSU (No. 2 on Top 30)

Unlike Pittsburgh, the Nationals seem plenty content to take either of the LSU superstars and not think twice about the bonus-pool ramifications. The real interesting question is whether they’d prefer Crews to Skenes if both are still on the board. Crews falling out of the top two would be a fairly shocking development, but it’s clear Skenes has elevated himself to worthy of consideration for either of these top two picks. Regardless of how his free-agent contract has gone, I’d definitely say Stephen Strasburg worked out okay for Washington. I think they’d happily take another generational talent on the mound.

3. Detroit Tigers — OF Wyatt Langford; Florida (No. 3 on Top 30)

As incredible as Crews and Skenes have been all season, Detroit would be in great shape if Langford falls in their lap at No. 3 considering the absolute laser show he just put on for Florida in Omaha. And if Langford does ultimately go before them, at least one of the two LSU Tigers would be excellent additions. There’s some intrigue here regarding Detroit’s draft strategy now relative to past years with new GM Scott Harris at the helm, but the talent at the top of this class is so overwhelming that I wouldn’t expect too much chaos at this pick.

4. Texas Rangers — OF Walker Jenkins; South Brunswick HS (NC) (No. 5 on Top 30)

Whether the Rangers prefer Jenkins to Max Clark as the top high school bat available is tough to gauge, but either pick would make sense. As was the case in last year’s draft, Texas has a much smaller bonus pool than any of the other teams in the top 10 due to the picks forfeited for signing high-end free agents. They got creative last year with the shocking underslot selection of Kumar Rocker at third overall, which saved enough bonus money to add high-school right-hander Brock Porter later on in the fourth round. I’d expect them to take the more predictable route this time around, but I do wonder if they’d be able to resist passing up Skenes on the off chance he makes it here.

5. Minnesota Twins — OF Max Clark; Franklin (Ind.) HS (No. 4 on Top 30)

Minnesota was the biggest winner of the lottery, having entered with the 13th-worst record but coming out with a top-five pick in a year where a clear top five players have emerged above the rest of the class. This puts them in an excellent position to scoop up whoever falls to them and not have to think too hard about it. In this scenario, it’s Clark. There is some thought that Skenes could fall in their lap if either of Pittsburgh or Washington gets cold feet and Detroit or Texas is keyed in on a hitter as expected, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

6. Oakland Athletics — SS Jacob Gonzalez; Mississippi (No. 11 on Top 30)

There’s a lot of smoke connecting Oakland to Virginia catcher Kyle Teel, comfortably the top college backstop in the class. But would Oakland really spend a third first-round pick in four years on a catcher after taking Daniel Susac at pick No. 19 in 2022 and Tyler Soderstrom in 2020? Not to mention having built the Matt Olson trade largely around acquiring catcher Shea Langeliers? MLB teams don’t tend to draft for positional need, but I also think it’s somewhat foolish to completely ignore organizational depth charts. Teel doesn’t seem likely to fall much further than this, but I’m going to go with a different college bat here in Gonzalez. His stock was hurt somewhat this spring being on a bad Ole Miss team but he looked like a lock top-10 pick before the season and his individual performance didn’t do much to dissuade that notion.

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7. Cincinnati Reds — RHP Chase Dollander; Tennessee (No. 7 on Top 30)

Like Gonzalez, Dollander seemed like a slam-dunk top-10 — if not top-five — selection entering the spring and I just don’t think Cincinnati would pass on the upside with Dollander here, regardless of his fairly volatile season with Tennessee. Wake Forest right-hander Rhett Lowder could represent a safer option (and still a good one) on the mound, while Teel could address a dearth of catching depth in the Reds’ farm system.

8. Kansas City Royals — C Kyle Teel; Virginia (No. 10 on Top 30)

Kansas City has succeeded more selecting from the high school players than college ones recently, and are once again connected to some of the top prep players, most notably right-hander Noble Meyer, the top high school arm in the class. However, it just doesn’t seem like Teel is going to fall out of the top 10 and this feels like a realistic landing spot.

9. Colorado Rockies — RHP Rhett Lowder; Wake Forest (No. 8 on Top 30)

The Rockies are difficult to peg when it comes to any facet of their front-office operation, and the draft is no different. Lowder sure fits the bill of a college performer on the mound whose wicked two-seamer would in theory play well in Coors Field sooner rather than later, but who knows if that’s really what Colorado wants? Last year’s selection of Gonzaga right-hander Gabriel Hughes stunned many in the industry who viewed him as more of a late first-rounder than a top-10 pick, so maybe the Rockies have another surprise up their sleeves we couldn’t possibly see coming. I’d expect them to go pitcher here, with Lowder or Dollander the leading options if they fall, but it feels foolish to expect anything with certainty with this organization.

10. Miami Marlins — SS Colin Houck; Parkview (GA) (No. 17 on Top 30)

Miami has an abysmal recent track record of drafting and developing hitters at the top of the draft over the past decade, but there are just so many talented ones to choose from in this range that I don’t think they’ll be able to resist trying once again to strike gold with a potential impact bat. Shortstop Arjun Nimmala would also fit as an ideal target from the high-ceiling prep demographic, while Miami native Enrique Bradfield Jr. would be a fun fit from the collegiate ranks. If they want to lean into their newfound affinity for high-contact hitters (hello, Luis Arreaz) Grand Canyon shortstop Jacob Wilson would make plenty of sense.

11. Los Angeles Angels — RHP Hurston Waldrep; Florida (No. 12 on Top 30)

It’s no secret how aggressive Anaheim has been with pushing their prospects to the big leagues in a hurry – we’ve seen it with each of their last three first rounders in Reid Detmers, Sam Bachman, and Zach Neto. Does this strategy change at all if Shohei Ohtani is expected to be out the door this winter and a more substantial rebuild of the farm system is imminent? Or will the Angels continue to prioritize building a winner around Mike Trout even if Ohtani leaves? If the latter is true, Waldrep – or Dollander if he falls – would make plenty of sense as a dominant college pitcher whose stuff could play at the highest level rather quickly. Otherwise, there should be ample high-upside high school players available here at No. 11.

12. Arizona Diamondbacks — SS Tommy Troy; Stanford (No. 6 on Top 30)

Arizona has been tied more to high school bats like Arjun Nimmala and Colin Houck, and we’ve seen them target similar high upside prep players in recent years with Druw Jones, Jordan Lawlar, and of course, Corbin Carroll. But as I made clear in my top 30, I’m a huge sucker for Troy as a top-10 talent and think he’d fit nicely on a D-backs team whose contention window has suddenly opened wide and could use some closer-to-the-big-leagues talent to bolster the roster sooner rather than later.

13. Chicago Cubs — RHP Noble Meyer; Jesuit (OR) (No. 15 on Top 30)

The Cubs haven’t spent their first pick on a prep arm since 2005, but I think Meyer would be too enticing to pass up if he gets here, even as part of the ever-terrifying high-school right-hander demographic. GM Carter Hawkins has seemingly already brought some of his pitching development magic over to the North Side from his wildly successful tenure in Cleveland’s organization, and we’ve started to see the fruits of it with big years from recent top picks Cade Horton and Jordan Wicks. Meyer would be a huge upside talent on the mound to add to the mix. I could also see Waldrep here, or Dollander if he really slid.

14. Boston Red Sox — SS Arjun Nimmala; Strawberry Crest (FL) (No. 9 on Top 30)

Nimmala had buzz early this spring as a candidate to vault into the top 10 if not even higher, so this could potentially be a coup for Boston, a la landing Marcelo Mayer at pick No. 4 in 2021 despite some believing he was the best player in the class. They’ve gone heavy on high-school hitters in recent years and have had plenty of success, so I’d expect that pattern to continue with someone like Nimmala, Houck, Aidan Miller, or Blake Mitchell.

15. Chicago White Sox — SS Jacob Wilson; Grand Canyon (No. 19 on Top 30)

The White Sox have drafted high schoolers in the first round each of the last two years after picking college players for eight straight first rounds before then, but it’s tough to gauge if that’s actually a philosophical shift when the same front office and scouting department led by Rick Hahn has been making the picks for well over a decade now. Either way, I could see them going in either direction this year, but give them Wilson as a high-floor contact maven who would hopefully turn out better for them than the Nick Madrigal pick in 2018.

16. San Francisco Giants— OF Enrique Bradfield Jr.; Vanderbilt (No. 18 on Top 30)

Farhan Zaidi’s drafts since taking charge in San Francisco have been extremely college-heavy at the top, and he should have a plethora of talented players to choose from that demographic at this spot. Bradfield Jr. would be an awfully fun option to imagine roaming the spacious outfield at Oracle Park for years to come, but Troy or Maryland infielder Matt Shaw would also fit well.

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17. Baltimore Orioles — 1B/RHP Bryce Eldridge; Madison (VA) (No. 25 on Top 30)

It’s been all bats at the top of Baltimore drafts under Mike Elias and I’d expect that to continue, even as their farm system is practically overflowing with talented hitters. Eldridge wants to play both ways in pro ball if he signs, but it’s his massive raw power in the box that has most big league teams interested, and that profile fits what the Orioles have traditionally targeted. Lefty bats from the college ranks like Brayden Taylor or Chase Davis would also fit well. If Waldrep falls this far, he’s a hurler the Orioles may consider pivoting to over the wide selection of impact bats available.

18. Milwaukee Brewers — SS Matt Shaw; Maryland (No. 13 on Top 30)

Milwaukee has gone with up-the-middle college performers with each of their last three first-round picks and this class offers several strong options to continue that trend in 2023. Whether Shaw is the one that gets to pick No. 18 vs. someone like Troy, Wilson or Bradfield Jr. remains to be seen, but I’d expect the Brew Crew to go after someone of that ilk in this spot.

19. Tampa Bay Rays — 3B Aidan Miller; Mitchell (FL) (No. 21 on Top 30)

No. 19 is the highest Tampa Bay has picked since picking 16th in 2018. They’ve tended to go high school in the first round, followed by mostly college players with their next few early picks — and this class sets up nicely for them to follow a similar pattern. Miller might be long gone by this pick but he feels like a nice fit if he’s there – and it doesn’t hurt that he’s from the Tampa area. Catcher Blake Mitchell or left-hander Thomas White could also be strong prep targets.

20. Toronto Blue Jays — OF Chase Davis; Arizona (No. 23 on Top 30)

Having entered his junior season as more of a second- or third-round-level talent, Davis made himself a ton of money with his monster spring at U of A, and supposedly has suitors even higher than this pick. Toronto will have its pick of a ton of talented hitters in this range from the high school or college ranks – it’s Davis in this mock, but there will be no shortage of other attractive offensive options.

21. St. Louis Cardinals — 3B Brayden Taylor; Texas Christian (No. 20 on Top 30)

Somewhat remarkably, the Cardinals haven’t used their first pick on a college bat since Kolten Wong in 2011, leaning college arms and high school bats in recent years to varying levels of success. A bat feels more likely this time around, with far fewer attractive college pitchers in this range. It could certainly be one of the talented prepsters for the Cardinals, but if Taylor makes it this far down the board as this scenario implies, I think his slide would stop around this point.

22. Seattle Mariners — 1B/OF Nolan Schanuel; Florida Atlantic (No. 24 on Top 30)

With a nearly unprecedented three of the top 30 picks, the Mariners will have all kinds of possibilities on Day 1 that make it tremendously difficult to project their choices. Rumors have them locked in more on bats than arms, but how they sequence these picks exactly will be one of the biggest stories on draft night. This mock rolls with Schanuel as the first of the three picks, as his borderline historic offensive production at FAU could offer a safer floor for Seattle and allow them to take bigger swings at picks No. 29 and No. 30.

23. Cleveland Guardians — 3B Brock Wilken; Wake Forest (No. 14 on Top 30)

Wilken may not seem like Cleveland’s type at first glance, but he’s a young-for-the-class power bat who performed exceptionally well over the summer, which is similar to what they took last year at pick No. 16 in Chase DeLauter. Wilken also boasts an ACC track record that DeLauter didn’t coming from a mid-major like James Madison. I might be overrating Wilken and it’s possible he slides into the comp round, but I like this match. If Cleveland wants to stick more with its traditional affinity for up-the-middle high-contact aficionados, high-school infielders Colt Emerson and Kevin McGonigle would make plenty of sense.

24. Atlanta Braves — RHP Charlee Soto; Reborn Christian (FL) (No. 29 on Top 30)

The Braves have not shared the industry’s fear of taking high-school righthanders with high picks in recent years, and Soto represents exactly the caliber of talent worth gambling on in this range. That said, Atlanta’s bottom-tier farm system is tremendously light on impact bats, and there might be too many good ones available here to pass up on.

25. San Diego Padres — SS Sammy Stafura; Panas (NY)

San Diego hasn’t taken a college player in the first round since Cal Quantrill in 2016. With such a ridiculously deep crop of high school talent available in this range, I’d expect that prep streak to stay alive with someone like Stafura, Eldridge, George Lombard Jr. or Dillon Head, or maybe an arm like Charlee Soto or Cameron Johnson.

26. New York Yankees: — SS/3B George Lombard Jr.; Gulliver Prep (FL)

There’s a lot of smoke connecting the Yankees to nearby native Stafura, so they’d be getting their pockets picked in this scenario. I’ll still give them a high school shortstop, and one who comes with notable bloodlines as the son of former big league outfielder and current Tigers bench coach George Lombard.

27.Philadelphia Phillies — LHP Thomas White; Phillips Academy (MA)

White feels like a left-handed version of Andrew Painter in many respects, as each was famous for years as one of their class’ top arms leading up to what was a disappointing spring showing as a senior. It’s possible some other team would pounce on White before he got to this point, but I’ll stick him with Philly for this mock if only for the Painter parallels combined with the organization’s willingness to bet on high-school arms at the top of the draft.

28. Houston Astros — 3B Yohandy Morales; Miami (No. 26 on Top 30)

We’ve seen a healthy dose of college bats in recent drafts for Houston, and Morales’ scorching-hot finish to his season with Miami should put him in a strong position to hear his name called early on Day 1, if not even earlier than this pick at the very end of the first round.

29. Seattle Mariners — C/1B Ralphy Velazquez; Huntington Beach (CA) (No. 28 on Top 30)

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a. Received for Julio Rodriguez winning AL Rookie of the Year

30. Seattle Mariners — C Blake Mitchell; Sinton (TX) (No. 16 on Top 30)

This scenario would land Seattle three of the top left-handed hitters in the entire class, which would be a remarkable haul for a team coming off a postseason appearance in 2022. Mitchell falling this far would be fairly shocking but I wanted to use him as an example of how Seattle might be able to flex its sizable bonus pool and “float” a first-round high-school talent to their pick with a significant signing bonus offer that teams in the 20’s may not be able to match. Again, all kinds of scenarios are in play for these picks — especially with them being back-to-back.

31. Tampa Bay Rays — SS/2B Kevin McGonigle; Monsignor Bonner (PA) (No. 22 on Top 30)

There’s some precedent for the Rays doubling up on prep hitters, having gone with high school infielders Carson Williams and Cooper Kinney at picks No. 28 and No. 34 in 2021, and I could see it happening again here with Miller and McGonigle. Prep bats are the deepest part of this year’s class so it wouldn’t be a bad time to double-dip on the demographic.

32. New York Mets — SS/3B Colt Emerson; Glenn (OH)

a. The Mets’ first pick dropped 10 spots because they exceeded the competitive balance tax threshold by more than $40 million.

The Mets have a lot of work to do to build up the farm system to a place where owner Steve Cohen can consider it a legitimate strength, but they’ll now be picking later in the draft than usual because of how much they’ve spent in free agency. It somewhat balances out after having picks No. 11 and No. 14 last year following the failed signing of Kumar Rocker in 2021, but this year’s class is much stronger than 2022 and they may be missing out on an even better player were they picking 22nd. Still, they land a very talented player in Emerson here, and should have plenty of other strong options at No. 32.

33. Milwaukee Brewers — SS Brice Matthews; Nebraska (No. 27 on Top 30)

Sticking with the up-the-middle preference ascribed to Milwaukee at pick No. 18, Matthews also fits the mold as an athletic middle infielder with impressive production this spring to back up the raw tools.

34. Minnesota Twin — OF Jack Hurley; Virginia Tech

Who Minnesota targets here might be impacted by who they snag at fifth overall, as that selection and the signing bonus associated with it will likely determine how much pool money they have to play around with here in the comp round. In this scenario, I’m projecting they go college. Hurley, a powerful lefty hitter from Virginia Tech, just missed making my top 30 list but would be a strong get here at pick No. 34 as one of the higher upside college bats with underlying data to match.

35. Miami Marlins — OF Dillon Head; Homewood-Flossmoor (IL) (No. 30 on Top 30)

It’s possible Head is long gone before this pick but I like the fit here, especially with Miami’s rumored interest in Bradfield Jr. at their first pick. This mock has them going another direction at pick No. 10 with Bradfield Jr. still on the board, but scooping up the high-school version of the same archetype with arguably even more offensive upside in Head in the comp round.

36. Los Angeles Dodgers — OF Colton Ledbetter; Mississippi State

a. The Dodgers’ first pick dropped 10 spots because they exceeded the competitive balance tax threshold by more than $40 million.

The Dodgers have gone in all kinds of directions at the top of the draft in recent years, so it’s tougher to nail down a demographic of preference than with some other organizations. Ledbetter, coming off an impressive year in the SEC with Mississippi State after transferring in from Samford, seems like an ideal profile for the Dodgers’ renowned player development staff to work with. Hurley also fits this mold. There’d likely be plenty of intriguing prep hitters available in this range as well, including slick-fielding shortstops Roch Cholowsky from Arizona and Adrian Santana from Florida, or more offense-first types like outfielder Jonny Farmelo from Virginia.

37. Detroit Tigers — SS Walker Martin; Eaton (CO)

Martin will be one of the more fascinating prep players to monitor on draft night. Having already turned 19 in February, he’s one of the oldest high-school players in the class which gives some teams pause. However, he also had one of the loudest springs of any prep hitter as he downright dominated all season to a ridiculous degree, albeit against middling competition in northern Colorado. He very well could go in the 10-20 range, but I have him sliding to the comp round in this scenario. Either way, it would make sense for Detroit to pair a likely college pick at No. 3 with a high-upside high schooler here at No. 37.

38. Cincinnati Reds — LHP Cameron Johnson; IMG Academy (FL)

After White, Johnson and left-hander Alex Clemmey from Rhode Island are two other hard-throwing southpaws from the high school ranks who could realistically hear their names called at some point in the first round. The command is crude for each, but the fastball quality for Johnson especially is potentially special, and would represent a nice upside gamble for a system light on teenage arms. This is another case where the team’s top-10 selection will likely influence which direction they go here in the comp round.

39. Oakland Athletics — LHP Joe Whitman; Kent State

Whitman, a left-hander from Kent State who came on strong down the stretch and has pitched well this summer in the Cape Cod League leading up the draft, represents the best chance at keeping a remarkable streak alive: at least one college southpaw has been selected in the first round of every MLB Draft since 1979. With that history in mind, it’s quite possible Whitman goes higher than this, but I’m not sure teams will be overly sold on committing to Whitman too early with so much intriguing position player talent available, even if he stands out as the best available in his demographic.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He has covered baseball for his entire adult life, most notably for MLB.com, DAZN and The Ringer. He’s a Mariners fan living in the Eastern Time Zone, which means he loves a good 10 p.m. first pitch. You can follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.

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