Something that annoys me (Kate) about the actual MLB draft is that while, like the basketball draft or the football draft, the MLB draft represents young people being given the opportunity to chase their lifelong dream, unlike either of those two things, the MLB draft passes largely unnoticed outside of maybe the top one or two picks. Part of this is how long it takes MLB draft picks to make it to the majors; it’s hard to generate a lot of hype around someone who won’t play at the highest level of the sport immediately, if at all. But it’s also a fairly staid affair; outside of the few top-level picks invited to the studio, there isn’t a big to-do around the day. We at the site would like to change that, this year, with a live MLB draft thread which we ask you all to attend in your fanciest dress. In the meantime, here is a preview of how we think the night might go down, so you can become familiar with some of the names that might get called June 3rd. While there’s mostly consensus around the top two-ish draft picks, things unspool quickly after that, as our selections suggest. Tab this page and use it to tease the writers on Draft Day, when we inevitably go two-for-thirty on our picks.
1. Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State (Kate)
The Orioles picking the Beaver standout has been a fait accompli since last year, when run-down O’s fans, led by the Jake half of Cespedes BBQ, started the hashtag #PlayBadlyForAdley. There’s always some degree of guessing over who the top draft choice will be, but Rutschman’s name was written in at the top of draft boards as early as last year when he followed up a monster sophomore season as part of a championship Beavers squad with a strong showing for Team USA. “Clutchman” is about as well-rounded offensively as a player gets, in addition to being a superior defender at a premium position.
2. Royals: Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor (Eric)
Behold! The Royals’ Catcher of the Future! Currently a junior at Baylor, this 6’, 190 pound catcher is a born-and-bred Texas boy and was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school, but declined to sign and go to Baylor instead. He is primarily a catcher, but has some versatility at first base. He also played in the Cape Cod league in 2017. His right-handed bat projects to be average-to-slightly-above-average, but he gets consistently high marks for his catching skills and arm, having already thrown out 12 base stealers in 2019. After Rutschman, he’s the best catcher on the board and any team would benefit from having him in its farm system.
3. White Sox: Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California (John)
How well do you need to hit to be a 5’11, 210 R/R 1B-only and still be a top-5 talent? Andrew Vaughn is testing those waters, putting the finishing touches on his second-straight 1.200+ OPS season in the Pac-12. Vaughn toes a tricky line of limited projection but such immense production that he could be a quick riser through any system. The White Sox are struggling to ignite their pilot light at the end of a long rebuild, but Vaughn is a good fit by best available talent. Even better, it’s not hard to envision his fast-tracked college bat arriving in a few years to bolster a lineup with Nick Madrigal, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Tim Anderson that could make noise in the AL Central.
4. Marlins: Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage HS (TX) (Kate)
Witt, son of former MLBer Bobby Witt, has been talked about along with Rutschman as competing for the top spot in the draft, and many see him going #2 to the Royals. If he should fall this far, the Marlins can’t let Witt get past them, as he’s a potential five-tool prospect whom scouts have compared to Carlos Correa and would immediately improve their still-middling farm system. If Witt’s gone, the Marlins might go with one of the other shortstops available in the draft, like highly-touted prepster C.J. Abrams.
5. Tigers: J.J. Bleday, OF, Vanderbilt (Ben)
Over this past weekend, the 6’3” lefty-lefty outfielder became Vanderbilt’s new all-time single-season home run leader, surpassing Pedro Alvarez, who hit 22 his freshman year back in 2006. The 21-year-old has slashed .352/.465/.791 with nearly as many walks (39) as he has strikeouts (41) through 47 games this season. On defense, he’s said to be lacking in foot speed, but has plus instincts that more than make up for his shortcomings. He’s also got an above-average arm that should allow him to stick in right field going forward. While he’s lit up the college circuit this season, it was his success in the Cape Cod league last summer that really made me feel he justifies an early selection. Through 36 games using a wooden bat and facing the top amateur pitching the country has to offer, Bleday slashed .311/.374/.500 while swatting five homers, walking 13 times, and striking out just 20 times.
6. Padres: Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty High School (FL) (Amanda)
One of the best, if not the best, high school hitters in the draft, Greene stands 6’2” and swings a left handed bat for power to all fields and average. His defense doesn’t draw the high praise that his bat does, but he has an accurate, if less than powerful, arm and his bat profiles him well enough to see a future at left field. Last season he put up a 23 to 9 walk to strikeout ratio, showing good plate discipline. He has also hit an exit velocity of 100 mph, putting him in the 99th percentile in a class that averages 83 mph. Greene also has below-average speed, a liability on the base paths and in the outfield. How high he goes in the draft will depend upon how much teams trust his bat and power developing. He seems like a good bet for San Diego Padres, who have shown a tendency toward high school players and already have plenty of pitching depth.
Pretty swing here from Riley Greene. #2 ranked HS player in nation pic.twitter.com/igU3tF2NhE— Kyler Peterson (@KPeterson813) October 27, 2018
7. Reds: Zack Thompson, LHP, Kentucky (Ben)
I’m a sucker for a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher, and at 6’3” armed with a heater that can touch 96mph, Thompson is just that. While injury concerns drove down his draft stock coming out of high school, when he was selected in the 11th round, he’s given scouts every reason to believe he’s fully healthy now as he’s logged a career high 78.0 innings for the Wildcats, striking out 113 hitters (13.0 K/9) and walking 30.
Atypical for a collegiate arm, Thompson already has a solid four-pitch arsenal, utilizing a low-80’s slider and curveball that both produce solid spin rates, as well as a decent change-up in addition to his dominant fastball, which features some run. There’s a little deception involved with his 3/4 delivery and he hides the ball well, which at the very least should make him a nightmare for left-handed hitters.
8. Rangers: Hunter Bishop, OF, Arizona State (Kate)
Arguably no prospect has done more to improve their draft stock than the younger brother of the Mariners’ own Braden Bishop. After struggling last year (in ways beyond baseball), Bishop has played himself into the first round with a red-hot spring, slugging over .800. There are questions about whether or not Baby Bish will stick in center, but with plus speed on his 6’5” frame and raw athleticism (there’s an argument Bishop, despite being a college player, is still raw; he was committed to play WR at Washington before making a last-minute detour to baseball), there are plenty of tools to work with here, even if the K-rate is slightly concerning. The Rangers love this mold of player; picture them floating towards Bishop at #8 like a cartoon character following the aroma of a pie cooling on a windowsill.
Hunter Bishop. Home run #19. It was a big one pic.twitter.com/2GCgxZpDg6— Jack Harris (@Jack_A_Harris) May 5, 2019
9. Braves: Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke (Eric)
Less than a reach than that Duke QB in the NFL Draft, Graeme Stinson is a bonafide pitching stud, in spite of his millennial-ass, Red Dead Redemption 2 cowboy name. Stinson is listed at 6’5”, 260 pounds, so yeah he is a Large Lad. So, Duke alumni status aside, I am on board. In 2018 in both starting and relief appearances, the lefty struck out 98 batters over the course of 62 innings while walking 19 and giving up only 3 home runs. Pretty good! Unfortunately, he had to cut his 2019 season short due to an arm injury in order to recover in time for the draft and hopefully for the beginning of his pro career, so that’s definitely a concern, but the talent is there so I think he’s worth the risk. Even if the injury proves to be significant, he’s got plenty of time for rehab and development in a loaded Braves system.
10. Giants: Corbin Carroll, OF, Lakeside HS (WA) (John)
At last, a player I’ve seen with my own human eyes. Carroll is the most hyped OF prep from the state of Washington since Bishop Blanchet’s Josh Sale was taken 17th overall in 2010. Where Sale was an overwhelming athlete, Carroll is a jack-of-all-trades. His compact lefty swing still delivers gap power and line drives that could grow into homers at the MLB level. His speed and glove are true CF talents, making his balanced profile a great fit for the cavernous Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park). Perhaps for the PNW connection, I’ve seen Jacoby Ellsbury comps, but I see a bit more early career Denard Span.
11. Blue Jays: Kameron Misner, OF, Missouri (Grant)
The Blue Jays looooove their college first round picks — six of their last seven first rounders have been college guys — so I’m going to give them this 6’4”, high-upside outfielder. Misner tore the cover off the ball last year, with a .360/.497/.576 slash line, and although he’s struggled this season, his plate discipline remains supreme, with more walks than strikeouts each of the last two years. That combination of raw power and plus speed in center field is a tough one to pass on. If Carroll is available here, the Blue Jays have reportedly been taking a hard look at him this spring.
12. Mets: Michael Busch, 1B/OF, North Carolina (Ben)
Were it not for the question marks surrounding his future home on the diamond, the Tarheels’ standout slugger would probably find himself a lot higher on big league draft boards than where many pre-draft media outlets have him slated to go, which is towards the end of the first round. At 6’0” he’s pretty undersized for the first base position, but as we have so glaringly seen on our very own Mariners’ roster, teams will make room for your name on the lineup card if you can hit. Playing in the highly competitive ACC, the junior has flashed a variety of skills at the plate, swatting a dozen homers while walking (46) far more than he’s struck out (30). Cementing his legitimacy with the stick, he was spectacular during his time in the Cape Cod League last summer, where he slashed .322/.450/.567 with six homers, 19 walks, and 17 strikeouts through 27 games.
13. Twins: Alek Manoah, RHP, WVU (Kate)
Manoah is a certified Large Lad at 6’7”/275. Always a hard thrower (95-98), Manoah has seen his draft stock shoot up this season as he’s refined a slider (82-84) to go along with an improved changeup. He’s also thoughtful about his craft, a passionate fan of the game, and beloved by his teammates, meaning whatever organization is lucky enough to draft him gets much more than an intimidating presence on the mound. Manoah has late draft helium thanks to a standout performance this season, but some might question if he faced the toughest competition as a Mountaineer. If he slips at all, I hope the Mariners are waiting with open arms at #20.
14. Phillies: Jackson Rutledge, RHP, San Jacinto (TX) JC (John)
There are few pitchers who look more imposing to face off against than Rutledge. The 6’8, 260 righty has a delivery more compact than you might expect for his size, but he blends mid-90s heat with a curve and a slider that are distinct and dirty. The natural run his heater gets seems to suggest a changeup could be molded to challenge lefties, but even as-is he’ll likely work as a late-inning bullpen guy or use his frame to eat innings in the middle of the Phillies rotation about halfway through the Bryce Harper contract.
San Jac RHP Jackson Rutledge with an easy 1st round look. Physical giant, outstanding size/physicality, low maintenance operation, FB sitting 93-97 (95), SL easily plus at 87-88, CB flashed plus as well at 81. Check out this SL for a whiff: #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/zvZLXBphq2— Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) March 2, 2019
(Note: Brian DeLunas liked this tweet. I hope Brian DeLunas has some influence over who the Mariners draft for pitchers. -KP)
15. Angels: C.J. Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity HS (GA) (Kate)
With all due respect to my esteemed colleagues, and the knowledge that I’ve picked several players who aren’t C.J. Abrams, I don’t think there’s any way Abrams falls quite this far, as he’s reportedly in most club’s top-5. If he’s available at 4 and Witt isn’t I think the Marlins, who love a toolsy HS prospect and have the time to develop him, nab him there. Abrams doesn’t have Witt’s potential power, but he’s the speedier of the two and has gotten increasingly positive reviews for his glove. I expect the Angels, who are aggressively moving up prospects in their farm system to try to take advantage of the Trout Window, to go with a college player, but if for some reason Abrams is available, he fits the Angels’ recent infatuation with highly athletic, highly risky prep prospects.
16. Diamondbacks: Matt Wallner, OF, Southern Miss (Eric)
Can you go wrong with a good-sized boy from a college in the South? Well, yes, you can, but Matt Wallner has the tools to make himself into a very solid MLB outfielder, something the Diamondbacks could use a few of. At 6’5” and 220 pounds, he hails from Forest Lake, Minnesota, so he’s got both the midwestern small-town angle AND the strong SEC college program pedigree. He’s known for having possibly the best arm in the 2019 draft class and has the potential to mature into a classic power hitter archetype. An all-around pretty safe bet.
17. Nationals: Nick Lodolo, LHP, Texas Christian (Grant)
Left-handed pitchers don’t grow on trees. Guys who can touch 96 MPH don’t grow on trees either. That makes Nick Lodolo a pretty rare breed, indeed. Standing 6’6”, Lodolo looks like a baseball player, and that projectability is a large part of why the Pirates drafted him at #41 overall in the 2016 draft out of Southern California’s Damien HS. Lodolo elected to keep his commitment to TCU, and after two up-and-down years, he’s put it all together this season with 89 strikeouts in 77 innings. That mid-90s fastball, paired with a biting slider and an above-average changeup, is what slots him as a future big leaguer. The Nats would be ecstatic if Lodolo fell this far; he’s currently ranked the #8 prospect by MLB Pipeline and #7 by Baseball America.
18. Pirates: George Kirby, RHP, Elon University (Amanda)
82.2 innings pitched. 105 strikeouts. 6 walks. 3 home runs. Eye popping stats from this season at Elon University show why Kirby is projected to go in the first round. The 6’3” righty slings a fastball that sits in the low 90s, but has been clocked at 98 mph. He has mainly relied on this excellent fastball, but his secondary pitches (curveball, slider, and changeup) have the potential to become quality weapons. A native of Rye, NY, Kirby was taken in the 32nd round of the 2016 draft by the nearby New York Mets. He opted out of professional baseball, knowing he wasn’t ready. He instead when to Elon University in North Carolina where he was able to pitch regularly his freshman year, and learn from a pitching coach who implemented Driveline techniques that Kirby credits with increasing his arm strength and velocity. He took his arm to the Cape Cod League last summer, displaying 24 strikeouts and 1 walk over 13 innings out of the bullpen, and raising his draft stock against the best college players in the nation. The Mariners are fans of Elon’s baseball program, having selected both SS Ryne Ogren (2018) and INF/OF Nick Zammarelli (2017) from the small school, and might go for him if Kirby makes it to #20.
19. Cardinals: Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy (GA) (Ben)
You’d be forgiven if you made the mistake of thinking you were watching a big-leaguer when Espino toes the rubber. Although he’s just 18 years old, he routinely cranks his heater up to the high-90’s, and complements that with a heavy sinking two-seamer, low-80’s slider, and an upper-70’s curve. Espino can apparently lose command of the zone at times, but he’s being selected here not because he’s the most polished player on the board, but because his stuff has nearly limitless upside. Whichever team selects him may need to pay up to steer him away from his commitment to LSU, but he offers enough to dream on that a team should be willing to pay the (young) man.
2019 #MLBDraft prospect Daniel Espino, an @LSUbaseball commit, flashed some 99 mph in yesterday's @PGAllAmerican Classic: https://t.co/xX2sl2pZtw pic.twitter.com/DILRU8MD8f— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 13, 2018
20. Mariners: Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson (Eric)
A classic high-makeup kind of draft pick. Logan Davidson is touted as a 5-tool player, is a switch hitter, an everyday shortstop, and his father spent 6 seasons as an MLB outfielder with the Twins and Astros. At ACC powerhouse Clemson, he racked up 202 hits over 3 seasons with a career .534 SLG%. He struggled a bit in the Cape Cod league as many college players will do, but it’s all part of the development process. Any talented middle infielder who can also hit will always be a tantalizing draft target, and the Mariners would definitely benefit from stashing a player like Davidson away in the farm for a few seasons.
21. Braves: Bryson Stott, SS, UNLV (Kate)
Stott is a player I’ve seen listed everywhere from top-3 on FG’s early board all the way to a potential fit for the Mariners at 20. You can read more about Stott here, but the quick-and-dirty: he’s defensively plus and seen to stick at the position despite being a little on the bigger side for a SS, thanks to very strong fundamentals, good range, and an accurate arm. He possesses good bat-to-ball skills but some scouts wonder if he’ll hit for enough power outside of UNLV, where he’s slugging .650, after a summer hitting not as well between the Cape and Team USA, to grow into his Brandon Crawford-ceiling comparison.
22. Rays: Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech (Ben)
Watching the Red Raiders play, it won’t take long for Jung to stand out to you. He’s a big kid—he looks much larger than the 6’2” 215lb he’s listed at—that puts his body to work in his swing. He has a fairly pronounced leg kick, but produces a relatively compact swing with it. He’s been extremely impressive at the plate since stepping on campus at Texas Tech, and possesses a career slash line of .353/.457/.572 with 27 homers, 171 RBI, a 14.5% walk rate and 13.1% strikeout rate through 172 games. Scouts project him to have 25+ homer power in the majors, and reports are that he’s got the instincts to stick at the hot corner moving forward.
23. Rockies: Quinn Priester, RHP, Cary-Grove HS (IL) (John)
The Rockies carved out a competitive window by overachieving on developing a strong pitching staff to augment a few stud position players. Continuing that trend, Priester is a tinkerer with distinct a four-seam and sinker, as well as a high-spin curve. He’s a cold-weather arm, giving him perhaps a more appealing profile for the occasionally frosty Rockies. Despite a commitment to TCU, the Rockies could snag their next major rotation piece if they can lure Priester away.
24. Cleveland: Matthew Allan, RHP, Seminole HS (FL) (Kate)
I saw Allan in the Perfect Game showcase this last summer and thought he looked like one of the most polished and physically mature pitchers who toed the mound. 6’3” with a mid-90s fastball and a bowling ball curve, Allan is also working on a firm changeup. A consensus top prep arm before the season, Allan has been pushed down draft boards a little as other prospects have popped up, but he probably won’t get this far, although Cleveland would be ecstatic if he did. The Braves are reportedly hot on Allan, so Allan might be off the board just under their nose.
25. Dodgers: Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy (FL) (Grant)
The Dodgers have found strong prospects late in the first round within the past few years; look no further than Walker Buehler or Gavin Lux. Perhaps Brennan Malone can join those ranks. The UNC commit (he moved to Florida from North Carolina for his senior year) combines a 94-96 MPH fastball with a plus slider and an average curve. Given his 6’4”, 205 lb. frame, he’s certainly projectable, and the Dodgers’ player development system would be a perfect fit for his tools.
How good was Brennan Malone yesterday?— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) April 4, 2019
Well, it was the best we've ever seen him in person.
More on one of the top draft arms: https://t.co/WVbpWWSBAs pic.twitter.com/7DLMr7cgcX
26. Diamondbacks: Jack Leiter, RHP, Delbarton HS (NJ) (John)
Jack has a great shot at being the fourth member of the Leiter clan to make the bigs, following his father Al, uncle Mark, and cousin Mark Jr., but word is it’ll take a lot of moolah to break his commitment to Vanderbilt. Few teams are better equipped to splurge on a potential top talent than the DBacks, who have the 26th, 33rd, 34th, 56th, 74th, 75th, and 93rd picks in the draft thanks to trades, competitive balance, and free agent compensation from Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock. That haul gives them a whopping $16.1 million in their bonus pool to work with, over $2.2 million more than any other club (the Mariners have the 19th-most, for reference, with $7.6 million to use). Leiter’s curveball is an elite pitch, and he has the frame, fastball, and pedigree for the 1st round if he so chooses.
27. Cubs: Braden Shewmake, SS, Texas A&M (Grant)
I’m honestly not sure that Braden Shewmake isn’t a made-up name from a Millennial Name Generator. A rare top college prospect who wasn’t drafted out of high school, Shewmake grew up around baseball (his dad is the head coach at UT-Dallas) and has flashed solid contact skills every year at Texas A&M. His numbers have taken a slight dip in his junior season, but with an average above .300 every year and ability to play up the middle, combined with his plate discipline (17 walks and 23 strikeouts in 2019), should make him a solid prospect.
28. Brewers: Rece Hinds, 3B, IMG Academy (FL) (Amanda)
It’s hard to say exactly where Hinds will go in the first round, but he is a sure first rounder. His calling card is his extraordinary power. MLB Pipeline grades his power at 60, putting him the company of early picks Adley Rutschman and Andrew Vaughn. He has a huge right-handed swing that many scouts and evaluators project to be 80-grade as he develops. Along with the power comes a high strikeout rate, and a high risk pick who could just as easily find himself unable to develop a major league bat despite his raw potential. Scouts have mentioned his inability to recognize pitches and pick up spin. Currently a third baseman, Hinds is considered unable to play shortstop due to his height of 6’4”, which could limit his appeal as well. His bat flip, however, is 80-grade.
Rece Hinds winning HR at the 2018 @PGAllAmerican Classic @RawlingsSports HR Derby pic.twitter.com/3OJDYXfLjF— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) November 29, 2018
29. Athletics: Maurice Hampton, OF, Memphis University HS (TN) (John)
Last year, the A’s rolled the dice on a brilliant two-sport athlete who could’ve been a star if his tools were harnessed despite minimal game experience. A year after the Kyler Murray debacle, I’ll admit going for another football/baseball star is a dicey choice, but Hampton and Murray have a great deal that separates them even with their difficult choice ahead. Hampton is still a high schooler, and while his commitment as a four-star receiver to Louisiana State is compelling, football wouldn’t pay him for at least three years. Hampton’s speed and power are prototypical dream HS skills.
30. Yankees: Nasim Nunez, SS, Collins Hill HS (GA) (Kate)
Of course you don’t draft for need, but it’s impossible to look at the Yankees’ Top 30 on MLB Pipeline and not notice the lack of any infielders. (The list at FanGraphs isn’t much more robust.) NC State’s Will Wilson should be off the board by this point, but I prefer the cannon arm of Nunez anyway, who shows advanced defensive instincts, surfboard-smooth footwork, and plays the game with an ineffable joy that’s an outgrowth of his effusive personality. The question is the bat, but the Yankees certainly don’t lack resources in the player development department, and with a crowded major-league infield for the foreseeable future, can afford to take all the time they need with Nunez.
PG @RawlingsSports Defensive Player of the Year Nasim Nunez showed off his defensive skills @PGAllAmerican Classic https://t.co/zbaqPHgo81 pic.twitter.com/OhP6rZ7tGb— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) January 7, 2019
31. Dodgers: Will Robertson, OF, Creighton University (Eric)
Wow, the Dodgers still get draft picks? Huh, okay sure. Will Robertson is not the kid from Lost in Space, but a talented outfielder from Creighton University who really turned things up a notch in 2018 with a .641 SLG% and batting .333. Even the Dodgers and their massive, teetering pile of talented and toolsy outfielders would benefit from having Robertson around, so hey, why not?
32. Astros: Brett Baty, 3B, Lake Travis HS (TX) (Grant)
Baty, a UT commit, is a strong lefty hitter with a great bat and 60-grade raw power. I know high school stats are practically irrelevant, but a .635/.739/1.351 slash line is bonkers, to say the least. His power to all fields, not just right, certainly helps his stock, and his 92 MPH fastball from the mound lends credence to the idea that he could stick at third base. One potential hiccup: Baty is old for his level; when drafted, he’ll be closer to his 20th birthday than his 19th, which also means he’d be eligible for the draft after just two years of college baseball.