TThe MLB Draft is a great chance for teams to restock their farm systems with young talent in order to build a formidable team for the future. However, whiffing on draft picks, especially first-round picks, can compromise a team’s future and put a front office in serious jeopardy. With around an hour left before the draft, let’s examine the teams that have to hit on their top picks in this year’s draft. We’ll go in descending order, from #8 to #1.
#8: Washington Nationals
The Nationals currently are in MLB purgatory. They are seven games below .500, have one of the largest payrolls, and have a very thin farm system. This is the highest they’ve picked since 2012, when they selected Lucas Giolito; this is an excellent chance for them to add the type of impact prospect they haven’t been in position to select in recent years. Washington is linked to three players: third baseman Josh Jung, catcher Shea Langeliers, and high school pitcher Matthew Allan. If they could come away with any of these three prospects, it would be a fantastic boost to the team’s future.
#7: Los Angeles Angels
After signing Mike Trout to an extension that will keep him in Anaheim for the next 12 seasons, the Angels have practically committed to being all-in to building a winner around Trout. However, amid several failed first-round picks, Los Angeles needs to find a way to add impact, cost-controlled talent. They’ve targeted high-ceiling talents in recent years, but honestly, this is a team that needs to be targeting refined talents ready to make an impact soon. High schoolers Keoni Cavaco and Kyren Parris have been mentioned as targets. If Los Angeles chooses an athletic, yet unpolished prospect rather than someone who is polished and already somewhat developed, it will be a letdown for an organization that is lacking young talent.
#6: New York Mets
This offseason, new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen made what could turn out to be a costly decision when he traded 2018 sixth overall selection Jared Kelenic as part of a package to trade for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. Basically, a team that was already short on high-level prospects surrendered their previous first-round pick, who has been terrific in his first season in professional baseball, for a bad contract and a closing pitcher. To make up for the loss of Kelenic, New York needs to add a big-time prospect in this draft. They aren’t known for having the greatest player development, but since they’re targeting college prospects, such as pitchers Alek Manoah and Zack Thompson, they’re already off to a good start.
#5: Miami Marlins
After taking over as a key executive of the Marlins, Derek Jeter has been a major factor in the team’s complete teardown. The issue is, they’ve sold short on several of their key players; the key centerpiece in the Christian Yelich trade, Lewis Brinson, looks like a bust, and the consensus is that they came up short on the returns they received for Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and JT Realmuto. Though they’ve been aggressive in the international market, this is still a team that needs to find young talent in any shape or form to guide them through what will be a massive rebuild. In other words, failing to find a franchise cornerstone with the #4 overall selection could be devastating for a rebuild that already hasn’t been exercised properly.
#4: Detroit Tigers
In recent drafts, the Tigers have done an excellent job adding high-level pitching prospects to their farm system, including last year’s top overall selection Casey Mize. However, Detroit has little in the way of position player prospects, which they have the ability to address with the 5th overall selection. Outfield prospects Riley Greene and JJ Bleday are two players they could select that could help them, while first base prospect Andrew Vaughn would be an absolute steal if he falls here. The Tigers will be picking near the top again next season, but since their pitching prospects are almost major league ready, this is the draft where they need to find some young offense.
#3: San Francisco Giants
New Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi has a difficult task in rebuilding this team; they have many bad contracts and little young talent. The previous regime put them in this position by missing on multiple first-round picks, so Zaidi needs to make sure he doesn’t fall down the same path. San Francisco should let the draft play out; the teams picking ahead of them (#7-9) are all expected to draft players willing to take underslot deals, meaning they’ll be in position to select a blue-chip prospect. That includes pitchers Alek Manoah and Nick Lodolo, as well as outfielders Hunter Bishop and Kameron Misner, third baseman Josh Jung, or maybe even high school pitcher Matthew Allan. Zaidi needs to identify a star in this draft, one that can be ready to contribute soon, and those are all justifiable options with the 10th overall selection.
#2: Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles are an obvious team under pressure in this draft; they have the top overall selection. That could be franchise changing for them; they are in a position to select catcher Adley Rutschman, who is one of the greatest catching prospects of all time. However, there are rumblings that Baltimore may pass on Rutschman in an attempt to save money. This is a decision that they are not in a position to make; this a weak farm system, and although picking Andrew Vaughn would somewhat make up for not taking Rutschman, who have to add a high-level catcher when you can. The Orioles not taking Rutschman would be one of the most baffling first overall pick decisions in recent years; no player will have the overall impact on a team that he could have as the face of the Orioles.
#1: Arizona Diamondbacks
Ironically, it’s the team that is picking 16th overall that is under the most pressure heading into the draft. However, the Diamondbacks have seven picks in the top 75, including four in the top 34. They sacrificed a lot to be in this position; they let go off impact players AJ Pollock and Patrick Corbin, and also traded Paul Goldschmidt. Now, it’s time for that risk to pay off, which means Arizona has to come away with multiple franchise cornerstones in this draft. They are in a terrific position to pay up for impact prospects that have high monetary demands, including high school outfielder Corbin Carroll and high school pitcher Matthew Allan. The Diamondbacks clearly trust their scouting department based on their decision to stockpile these picks, and if they fail to take advantage, their future could be definitely be hindered.