Although the MLB draft doesn’t garner as much as hype as the draft for other sports, since the players don’t contribute at the highest level immediately, a case can be made that is actually the most intriguing draft of the three. After all, cost-controlled, young talent is the most valuable asset in the MLB, and since they aren’t expected to make an immediate impact, any player can end up turning out to be a star. Plus, with how proficient some teams have become at developing prospects, it can be very interesting to try to understand how a team believes they can develop a specific player.
Unfortunately, the draft will only be five rounds this season, and many of these prospects didn’t get a chance to showcase their skills this spring. That said, teams have more than enough opportunities to add impact players to their organization, and have more than enough information to “dominate” the draft. Today, we’ll deeply analyze each team’s position heading into the draft- we’ll discuss top targets, look at the state of their farm system, and will also try to get an idea of what they will do in the draft. Meanwhile, we’ll start with the Tigers, who have the #1 pick, and end with the Astros, who are the only team in this draft without a first-round pick.
Picks: 1, 38, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Target(s): 1B Spencer Torkelson
Organizational Tendencies: Usually Risk-Averse, Have Improved Analytically
State of Farm System: Thin on Position Players
Who They Should Target: CF Zac Veen, RHP Max Meyer, 3B/CF Austin Martin
Currently, the worst-kept secret regarding the draft is that the Tigers will take Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson with the first pick in the draft. That is certainly understandable, as Torkelson’s offensive upside is through the roof, yet, in my opinion, it would be wasting a prime opportunity to really improve the organization’s long-term outlook. Detroit is very weak on talent up the middle, and with a potential five-tool superstar available in Zac Veen, as well as a player capable of playing multiple impact positions in Austin Martin, they have more than enough options to continue to build their team the proper way. As long as they don’t take Asa Lacy, who they may try to cut a deal with, they’ll come out of the draft fine; Torkelson will be a fixture in the middle of their order for a long time. Nevertheless, in order for them to maximize their future well-being, they should probably strive for greater pastures.
Picks: 2, 30, 39, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: LHP Asa Lacy, 3B/CF Austin Martin, 2B Nick Gonzales, CF Zac Veen
Organizational Tendencies: Data+ College Heavy; Mike Elias Loves Power With Both Pitchers and Hitters
State of the Farm System: Adley Rutschman + Some Arms
Who They Should Target: CF Zac Veen, 3B/CF Austin Martin, RHP Max Meyer
Since Adley Rutschman was the easy top pick in last year’s draft, this feels like general manager Mike Elias’ first chance to really establish a blueprint for the Orioles moving forward. Coming from the Astros, Elias relies a lot on data, and will likely continue to target power pitchers and hitters, and also may continue to favor safer college players. With three picks in the top 40, the rumor is that he’ll look to go with a cheaper option with the #2 pick, with Asa Lacy and Nick Gonzales being their top targets. Yet, neither player really would figure to make a true difference for this organization moving forward. In my eyes, Elias could go three different routes. If he’s committed to going underslot with his first pick, then he should do so by shooting the moon with five-tool talent Zac Veen. Meanwhile, if he wants to continue to add a safe college bat, Austin Martin’s on-base skills and versatility would make him worth the pick, while Max Meyer and Emerson Hancock are the college pitchers they should target over Lacy. Plus, with picks 30 and 39 are the likely range for some of the intriguing pitching prospects in this year’s draft, such as Dax Fulton, JT Ginn, and Carson Montgomery, so I don’t understand why they wouldn’t take the best position player available. Oftentimes, teams can get too cute with their first pick, hoping to get the most out of their draft funds. However, doing so doesn’t always work, and not hitting on the #2 pick would certainly be a letdown for the sake of Baltimore’s rebuild.
Picks: 3, 40, 61, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: 3B/CF Austin Martin, LHP Asa Lacy, CF Zac Veen
Organization Tendencies: Toolsy, High Risk Players With Physical Abilities, But Poor Contact Skills. Much Safer With Their Pitchers
State of the Farm System: In Need of More Depth, Especially Safer Position Players
Who They Should Target: 3B/CF Austin Martin, RHP Max Meyer, CF Zac Veen
On draft night, the Marlins will need to pray that the Orioles do in fact take Asa Lacy with the second overall pick; Austin Martin would be perfect for them. Capable of playing center field, third base, and second base, his on-base skills are extremely polished, making him one of, if not the safest player in this year’s draft. For an organization that has taken a lot of shots on boom-or-bust players, and have failed to develop several of them, that refinement cannot be overstated. If Martin is gone, meanwhile, Lacy wouldn’t be a bad pick, but I just believe there would be better pitchers on the board if they wanted to go that route. At the end of the day, though, Miami drafted a Vanderbilt player in JJ Bleday last year, and going back to that prestigious school would be very optimal for them.
Kansas City Royals
Picks: 4, 32, 41, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: CF Zac Veen, 2B Nick Gonzales, RHP Emerson Hancock, RHP Max Meyer
Organizational Tendencies: High Spin Breaking Balls and Sinkers That Don’t Pair Great. Love Speed, Not Super Progressive and Haven’t Done Well With Prospects With Whiff Concerns
State of the Farm System: Some Interesting Players, But Lacking In Depth
Who They Should Target: CF Zac Veen, RHP Max Meyer, 2B Nick Gonzales
It’s rare that you have a chance to draft potentially the best position player with the fourth overall pick, yet that’s the position the Royals will find themselves in. With his exceptional power, plate discipline, and athleticism, Zac Veen has elite superstar potential, and should undoubtedly be the player the Royals select. Sure, Nick Gonzales is a safe pick and would move through the system quickly, but the Royals lack high-end young talent, and paired with Bobby Witt Jr., Veen would really allow them to set the foundation up the middle for the future of this organization. Kansas City has some college pitching to build upon, but without anyone settled in the big leagues, they’re still in the midst of a long-term rebuild. With three early picks, I’m hoping they opt to shoot for the moon with prep prospects.
Toronto Blue Jays
Picks: 5, 42, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: RHP Max Meyer, CF Zac Veen, RHP Emerson Hancock, 2B Nick Gonzales
Organizational Tendencies: High Spin Fastballs, Athletes with Good Frames, Power College Guys, Lots Of Pitching With Changeups/Splitters
State of Farm System: Some Intriguing Players, But Very Thin Outside of Nate Pearson; This May Also Be Their Last Time For a While With a High Pick
Who They Should Target: RHP Max Meyer, CF Zac Veen, RHP Emerson Hancock
With the way the organization is trending, the Blue Jays have to hope that this will be the last time that they’re picking in the top five for quite some time. If all goes well, they’ve established a core to build around, but unfortunately, they lack any sort of depth. While one player won’t fix that problem, it will give them an exciting prospect in their farm system when Nate Pearson eventually graduates. Plus, if the Royals do decide to take Nick Gonzales, they’ll be able to choose between my top three prospects in this year’s draft: Max Meyer, Zac Veen, and Emerson Hancock. Assuming they’re able to take one of these three players, they can’t really go wrong; a future rotation of Pearson, Alex Manoah, Simeon Woods-Richardson, and Meyer/Hancock would be exceptional, but they also could really use an impact position player like Veen. Most rumors have them attached to Meyer and Veen, though, so it appears they may be in a win-win situation.
Picks: 6, 43, 64, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: 2B Nick Gonzales, RHP Emerson Hancock, LHP Reid Detmers, RHP Max Meyer
Organizational Tendencies: College Heavy, Aggressive Assignments
State of Farm System: Lots of Pitching Depth
Who They Should Target: RHP Max Meyer, RHP Emerson Hancock, 2B Nick Gonzales
In an ideal world, Zac Veen would fall to the Mariners at pick #6, since they really could use more position player talent. However, it appears he’ll be gone by then, and although Seattle is rich in pitching depth, I think they should just take the best player available. To that end, it’ll almost certainly be a college pitcher, so Max Meyer and Emerson Hancock should be at the top of their board. At the same time, though, I’m also not opposed to them taking Nick Gonzales; although I’d much rather have them take one of those two pitchers, I can understand the logic of adding a second baseman with his offensive upside, and using their other top-64 picks to capitalize on this deep pitching class. Either way, though, Jerry Dipoto has done a nice job executing a quick rebuild so far, and I’m expecting him to bolster the farm system with another college prospect.
Picks: 7, 31, 44, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: OF Heston Kjerstad, RHP Emerson Hancock, 2B Nick Gonzales, CF Zac Veen, LHP Reid Detmers, RHP Mick Abel
Organizational Tendencies: New Front Office is Very Diverse, May Target Upside To Combat With Ownership Not Spending
State of the Farm System: Very Underrated, Filled With Pitching Depth
Who They Should Target: RHP Emerson Hancock, RHP Max Meyer, 2B Nick Gonzales
If one of Zac Veen, Max Meyer, and Emerson Hancock are available, the Pirates should rush to announce their pick. However, not only is there a chance that none of them are available, but it also appears that Pittsburgh has their eyes set on a specific prospect: Arkansas corner outfielder Heston Kjerstad. With his defensive limitations and plate discipline concerns, I personally don’t value Kjerstad as a first-round pick, so, obviously, I wouldn’t be on board with taking him with the 7th overall pick. There are too many excellent pitching prospects and athletes at more valuable positions to spend such a high pick on a flawed corner outfielder, and doing so could really blow a chance to jumpstart a quick “reboot”, rather than a full-on rebuild. Meanwhile, they’re also gifted with a pick just outside the first round, and with that, I’d really like to see them take advantage of the deep catching class; a player like Kevin Parada or Drew Romo is likely to be the best player available with the 31st overall pick, and also would help them fill an organizational need. This is general manager Ben Cherington’s chance to really set himself up for a successful tenure in Pittsburgh; he doesn’t have the assets that other organizations have, so he really needs to maximize on the team’s three top-45 selections.
San Diego Padres
Picks: 8, 34, 45, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: CF Robert Hassell, CF Zac Veen, RHP Max Meyer
Organizational Tendencies: Lots of Under-scouted High School Picks. Bold, Don’t Care About Injuries. Tend to Go Underslot Early
State of Farm System: Still Very Strong, Especially at Top
Who They Should Target: RHP Max Meyer, RHP Mick Abel, C/3B Tyler Soderstrom
With a deep farm system with plenty of talent at the top, the Padres probably have the least amount of pressure to make good on their top-ten pick. Still, this should theoretically be the last time they pick this high for some time, so, similarly to the Blue Jays, it’d be very nice to make good on the eighth overall pick. Max Meyer and Zac Veen would be the dream picks here, and those are two of the three players they have been connected to, but I’m expecting both to be gone by the time they pick. Therefore, they’ll likely take one of the top pure-hitting prep prospects in center fielder Robert Hassell, which would allow them to save funds for their other early selections. Now, I’m in favor of the idea of taking a high-school prospect assuming Meyer and Emerson Hancock are off the board, but with there being three intriguing prep pitchers in this draft, as well as a player with an excellent offensive profile in Tyler Soderstrom, I would just take a different player. Hassell wouldn’t be the worst pick, but he lacks the typical “upside” to be picked in the top ten, especially since there are questions as to whether he can stick in center field. Regardless, it appears that, as per usual, the Padres are planning to make a splash with one of their later selections, which certainly is intriguing in a draft filled with prep pitchers.
Picks: 9, 35, 46, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: RHP Emerson Hancock, OF Heston Kjerstad, C Patrick Bailey, LHP Reid Detmers, C/3B Tyler Soderstrom, CF Robert Hassell
Organizational Tendencies: Continue To Target College “Pitchability” Arms That Don’t Work Out, Often Target Corner Players and Injury Risks
State of Farm System: Lacking Greatly in Depth, Especially on Pitching Side; Not Much Top-End Talent Either
Who They Should Target: RHP Emerson Hancock, C/3B Tyler Soderstrom, RHP Jared Kelley
Simply put, the Rockies have not done a good job drafting and developing players, and since they aren’t much of a factor in the international market, I’m not very optimistic about this current regime’s ability to build a contender for the future. At this point, almost any prospect Colorado drafts will be their top prospect, since their farm system is lacking in talent, especially with pitchers and up-the-middle players. In a perfect world, Emerson Hancock will be available for them, and given their inability to develop pitchers, his refinement would be awesome for them; Tyler Soderstrom is also a potential offensive star who fits them, assuming they end up going into a long-term rebuild. However, I’m very intrigued by the idea of them drafting prep pitcher Jared Kelley. It’s hard for a pitcher to succeed in Colorado, since pitches don’t move as well. Yet, Kelley would suffer from that less as a fastball-changeup pitcher, so he should be at the top of the Rockies’ board. In the end, though, I’m expecting them to play it safe with a college player, and for their sake, one can only hope that Hancock falls into their lap.
Los Angeles Angels
Picks: 10, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: LHP Reid Detmers, CF Robert Hassell, RHP Max Meyer, RHP Cade Cavalli, C Patrick Bailey
Organizational Tendencies: Athletic Outfielders and Injury-Risk Pitchers; Likely to Look To Cut Costs
State of Farm System: Very Thin, Especially With Pitching
Who They Should Target: LHP Reid Detmers, C Patrick Bailey, RHP Mick Abel
After owner Arte Moreno furloughed nearly the entire scouting department, it’s almost impossible to know what the Angels will do in the draft. If I had to guess, they’ll almost certainly look for a safe, cheap option in the draft, which could lead them to Reid Detmers. Ironically, that may be the best fit for them. This is an organization that has struggled mightily to develop players, particularly pitchers, and Detmers is one of the safest pitchers in this year’s draft. He’s an advanced pitcher who posts exceptional spin rates and has plus control, and for them, his low bust rate should be coveted. At some point, the Angels need to add some young pitching, right? Since it is so hard to find talented pitching in free agency or on the trade market, the organization needs to become more self aware, and whether it’s Detmers, or somehow Hancock or Meyer is available, it’s time for the organization to become more self-aware and finally take a shot on a pitcher.
Chicago White Sox
Picks: 11, 47, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: C Patrick Bailey, LHP Reid Detmers, CF Garrett Mitchell, C/3B Tyler Soderstrom
Organizational Tendencies: High Upside Athletes, Have Shifted To Safer Approach, Struggles With Player Development
State of Farm System: Some High-End Talent, Yet Needs More Depth
Who They Should Target: RHP Mick Abel, LHP Garrett Crochet, C/3B Tyler Soderstrom
After consistently being aggressive in the draft, the White Sox have gone with a college player in the first round in each of the past seven drafts. Even though he is a new scouting director, Mike Shirley is an internal hire, so it’s likely they once again take a college player. Catcher Patrick Bailey would appear to be their most likely target, and given his plate discipline and the position he plays, he would be a solid pick; the same goes for college pitchers such as Reid Detmers and Garrett Crochet. At the same time, though, given where they’re drafting, now may be the time for them to change their approach. Their farm system is already filled with players ready to contribute at the big-league level, and after their signed several players to multi-year deals, making a long-term play by selecting one of the prep arms, or Tyler Soderstrom, may actually be their best bet. In fact, their youngest prospect of note is Andrew Vaughn (21), who was drafted at of California last season, and at some point, they need to supplement their system with young talent with star potential. In other words, trying to improve their long-term outlook, rather than looking for a short-term gain, would be the optimal strategy for them.
Picks: 12, 48, 65, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: RHP Cade Cavalli, OF Austin Hendrick, CF Robert Hassell, RHP Mick Abel, LHP Garrett Crochet
Organizational Tendencies: Older High School Prospects with Reckless Approaches, Driveline Connection = Toolsy Pitchers?
State of the Farm System: Has Thinned Out Tremendously
Who They Should Target: RHP Mick Abel, RHP Nick Bitsko, C/3B Tyler Soderstrom
After making several aggressive trades to try to compete immediately, the Reds have seen their farm system decline in terms of quality; they’ve traded away three prestigious prospects- Taylor Trammell, Josiah Gray, and Jeter Downs. Add in the injuries that Hunter Greene has suffered, and the lack of power development by Jonathan India, and all of a sudden, they badly need an injection of young talent. Luckily for them, they’re in a great position to develop pitchers, as a result of their connection with Driveline, and there are multiple toolsy prep pitchers that they should look to develop; Mick Abel and Nick Bitsko have the power arsenal and projectable frames that are needed to be groomed into a future frontline starter. That’s certainly a route they may take, though prep outfielders appear to be taking the charge. Yet, that wouldn’t be the right choice, in my opinion, as the strength of this draft goes hand-and-hand with their strengths in player development, and passing on the elite high-school pitchers would appear to be a mistake on the surface. Similarly to the White Sox, this is an organization that needs to take more of a long-term approach in this draft, which means being aggressive targeting a prep prospect. Sure, it’s risky, but if you aren’t willing to target a prep pitcher, what’s the point of revamping your pitching development staff?
San Francisco Giants
Picks: 13, 49. 67, 68, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: C/3B Tyler Soderstrom, RHP Cade Cavalli, RHP Nick Bitsko, RHP Mick Abel, LHP Garrett Crochet
Organizational Tendencies: Toolsy Players Early, College Players Later. Likely To Not Be Worried About Injury Risks/Short Sample Sizes
State of Farm System: Great Combination With Luciano + Bart, Not Much Else To Get Excited About
Who They Should Target: RHP Mick Abel, RHP Nick Bitsko, C/3B Tyler Soderstrom
When he took over as the President of Baseball Operations of the Giants following the 2018 season, Farhan Zaidi inherited a roster filled with old, regressing players on large contracts, and a very poor farm system. As he has overhauled the player development staff, the team’s prospects have developed better than expected, but, at the end of the day, Marco Luciano and Joey Bart are the only players I’m confident saying will be All-Stars at their respective positions. In other words, they need to not only take the best player available, but certainly can’t afford to be too safe- they lack star talent. Well, that appears to be exactly what they’ll do. They’ve been linked to several prep prospects, which would follow suit with what Zaidi and scouting director Michael Holmes have generally done: target toolsy players early, and then go for college players later in the draft. In that regard, this is the perfect draft for Zaidi, as Mick Abel, Nick Bitsko, and Tyler Soderstrom shouldn’t command big bonuses with the 13th overall pick, and that would allow him to have the funds to extract value with the team’s other three picks in the top 70. Unfortunately for Giants fans, this is still not a team that is close to contending in the future. At the same time, though, they’re positioned to really improve their future in this draft, and a clear blueprint appears to be in place. The key for them now is to not fall victim to overthinking and shifting away from that approach.
Picks: 14, 50, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: LHP Garrett Crochet, RHP Nick Bitsko, CF Robert Hassell, CF Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF Austin Hendrick
Organizational Tendencies: Lots of Athletes, Were Safer Last Year
State of Farm System: Loaded With Underrated, Young Prospects With Tons of Depth
Who They Should Target: RHP Nick Bitsko, LHP Garrett Crochet, C Patrick Bailey
They don’t get the recognition they deserve, but the Rangers actually have one of the deepest farm systems in the MLB, and almost all of their top prospects are 22-years-old or younger. Therefore, their future appears to be bright, and they have the luxury of being able to adopt a very flexible approach in this draft. Whether that’s adding a polished player like catcher Patrick Bailey or Reid Detmers into a system with a lot of high-upside players, or taking a chance on an unknown like Garrett Crochet or Nick Bitsko, it’s safe to say there are a lot of talented players that fit what they’re trying to accomplish. If there is one route I wouldn’t go, however, it’d be drafting a project like Austin Hendrick, as that’s a prototype that they’ve struggled to develop, which is probably why they went had a more conservative strategy last year. Nevertheless, general manager Jon Daniels is apparently casting a very wide net with the #14 pick, and given the state of the organization, I applaud him for being open-minded.
Picks: 15, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: CF Garrett Mitchell, OF Austin Hendrick, C/3B Tyler Soderstrom, LHP Garrett Crochet, RHP Clayton Beeter
Organizational Tendencies: Generally Go Underslot Early and Overslot Later. Have Revamped Their Player Development Department
State of Farm System: Limited In Both Depth and High-End Talent
Who They Should Target: C/3B Tyler Soderstrom, RHP Nick Bitsko, C Patrick Bailey
Without enough young major league talent and a weaker farm system, the Phillies are kind of in no man’s land, at least in terms of their future outlook- it’s a tough spot for general manager Matt Klentak to be in, especially since he appears to be on the hot seat. Nevertheless, after revamping their player development staff, perhaps that can change. Klentak tends to target college players early, especially those with pure hitting skills, and when the draft comes around, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t take Garrett Mitchell if he’s available. Yet, Klentak should be aiming for greater pastures, which means going for a prep prospect. If Tyler Soderstrom falls to them, he’s a slam-dunk pick, and outside of that, taking a prep pitcher makes sense. Or, could they target Patrick Bailey? After all, JT Realmuto is in a contract year, and drafting Bailey would allow them to feel comfortable about not further limiting themselves long-term with another massive contract. Whereas the Rangers can’t go wrong because of how deep their farm system is, the Phillies are the opposite- they can’t go wrong because it’s unclear what they’re trying to build. Without a second-round pick, it’s safe to say that they really need to maximize on the 15th overall pick.
Picks: 16, 51, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: OF Austin Hendrick, CF Garrett Mitchell, LHP Garrett Crochet, CF Robert Hassell, C/3B Tyler Soderstrom
Organizational Tendencies: Tend To Draft Bats Early
State of Farm System: Needs More Talent ASAP, or Long-Term Rebuild May Be Needed
Who They Should Target: RHP Jared Kelley, RHP Nick Bitsko, SS Ed Howard
President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein did a fabulous job getting the Cubs their first World Series title in 108 years, but since that magical 2016 season, he’s made a lot of short-term-oriented decisions, and is starting to suffer the consequences now. With very limited financial flexibility and a poor farm system, this is a team that appears to be heading towards another long-term rebuild, especially with some of their key players, as well as Esptein, set to be free agents soon. Therefore, although Chicago could try to keep their window of contention open by taking a polished college player, I really believe they should be targeting a prep player. Similarly to the Phillies, Tyler Soderstrom would be the easy pick here, but any of the high-school pitchers, or a premier athlete like Ed Howard or Pete Crow-Armstrong would work as well. I don’t know what the future holds for the Cubs. Yet, it doesn’t appear to be bright, and now feels like a good time to acknowledge the inevitable rebuild that appears to be coming soon.
Boston Red Sox
Picks: 17, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: RHP Mick Abel, SS Ed Howard, CF Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF Robert Hassell, RHP Jared Kelley
Organizational Tendencies: Chaim Bloom Likely To Implement Rays Model- Versatility, Contact-Oriented Hitters, Creative With Pitchers
State of Farm System: No Depth Whatsoever, Needs Pitching and Players at Valuable Positions
Who They Should Target: RHP Mick Abel, RHP Jared Kelley, SS Ed Howard
The Red Sox lucked into hiring Chaim Bloom as their Chief Baseball Officer this past offseason, as, in my opinion, there is no better executive to lead them out of the peculiar situation they’re in. Financial constraints may have forced them to trade Mookie Betts, but Bloom was able to leverage that asset to dump some of David Price’s salary, and add multiple young players, yet there is much more work to be done- the Red Sox have no depth in their farm system and were stripped off a second-round pick due to sign stealing. Well, luckily for Boston fans, Bloom’s rumored approach for this draft is the perfect one- go all-in on a prep player in the first round. If Mick Abel is the pick for them, as most mock drafts believe it will be, then Bloom will have landed potentially a frontline starter who has no business being available with pick #17, and that’s the same with Jared Kelley and Nick Bitsko. Meanwhile, this is also an organization that is thin with up-the-middle talent, so a player like Ed Howard or Pete Crow-Armstrong would also make sense. Regardless, Bloom’s reputation is extremely strong, and I’m very excited to see what his first draft in Boston looks like.
Picks: 18, 33, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Most Likely Targets: RHP Nick Bitsko, CF Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF Austin Hendrick, SS Ed Howard, C Dillon Dingler
Organizational Tendencies: Vertical Movement Fastballs, Up-The-Middle Athletes
State of Farm System: Tons of Depth At Valuable Positions
Who They Should Target: RHP Nick Bitsko, SS Ed Howard, LHP Garrett Crochet
He isn’t as well-regarded as some of the other top executives in the MLB, but outside of Andrew Friedman of the Dodgers and Erik Neander of the Rays, there isn’t someone I want running my team more than Mike Hazen. He absolutely dominated the draft last year, and through the draft, international market, and trades, has built a farm system loaded with players at valuable positions, all while also consistently being competitive at the major-league level. With two picks in the top 33, I expect Hazen to continue to be aggressive in the draft, which would mean any of the prep pitchers, or up-the-middle players like Ed Howard or Pete Crow-Armstrong. Nick Bitsko particularly fits really well with the organization’s preferred prototype, while few teams would do a better job extracting power from Howard or Crow-Armstrong better than Arizona. Obviously, since they are a small-market organization, the Diamondbacks rely more on cost-controlled talent from the draft than others. As long as Hazen sticks with his usual approach, though, they’re likely to come out of this draft with multiple building blocks for the future.
New York Mets
Picks: 19, 52, 69, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: OF Austin Hendrick, CF Pete Crow-Armstrong, RHP Cole Wilcox, C Dillon Dingler, SS Ed Howard
Organizational Tendencies: Hard to Get a Read On, Not Afraid To Make a Splash
State of Farm System: Very Young, Lacking in Depth
Who They Should Target: RHP Jared Kelley, RHP Bryce Jarvis, RHP Cole Wilcox
During his short tenure as the general manager of the Mets, Brodie Van Wagenen has constantly been aggressive, and that mindset applied to his first draft- he took three prep players early, using most of the team’s bonus pool to do so. It appears that they’re hoping to land a high-school hitter in this year’s draft, but honestly, I think their fallback option is a better one. Simply put, I’m not very confident in this organization’s abilities to develop young talent, and given how thin their farm system is currently, I’d actually advocate for them playing it safe in the draft. Sure, if a refined prep arm like Jared Kelley is available, that should change their minds, but I’d like for them to take advantage of this deep college pitching class. Bryce Jarvis, Cole Wilcox, Garrett Crochet, and CJ Van Eyk are among the several pitchers that would fit with the 19th overall pick. Obviously, you don’t want to draft for need, but you should draft with your player development staff in mind, and the Mets haven’t proven the ability to develop “high-upside” prospects properly. Hence, why a safer prospect makes sense for them.
Picks: 20, 53, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: C Dillon Dingler, RHP Cole Wilcox, RHP Clayton Beeter, LHP Garrett Crochet, 2B Justin Foscue
Organizational Tendencies: Not Afraid of Injury Risks, Lean on Pitch Data, Covets Players With Unique Mechanics
State of Farm System: Barren
Who Should They Target: RHP Bryce Jarvis, CF Pete Crow-Armstrong, RHP Cole Wilcox
President of Baseball Operations David Stearns is a very smart executive that has done a nice job making the Brewers consistently competitive, but if he doesn’t act soon, the team’s future may be compromised by a lack of talent in the farm system. Christian Yelich’s new contract extension really hurts their long-term flexibility, and without a lot of long-term building blocks on the big-league roster, Stearns really needs to inject the organization with young talent, and in a hurry. This is a nice draft for him, as several pitchers in this draft have the pitch data he’ll be looking for, and there are plenty of athletic position players for him to target as well; there are a couple different approaches he can take. I definitely trust Milwaukee’s ability to maximize on a prospect’s potential, though, so they have much less margin for error than a team like the Mets, for instance.
Picks: 21, 54, 63, 70, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: RHP Bobby Miller, RHP Bryce Jarvis, 2B Justin Foscue, SS Jordan Westburg, RHP Chris McMahon
Organizational Tendencies: Very BPA, Power over Mobility, Value Sinkers
State of the Farm System: Decent, But Could Be Better
Who They Should Target: RHP Bryce Jarvis, SS Ed Howard, CF Pete Crow-Armstrong
After examining the Cardinals’ farm system, I don’t think it’s in as bad of shape as it once appeared to be. Their acquisition of pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore this offseason really helped them, and they have multiple intriguing young players. Their success in the draft has come from a strategy of drafting the best player available, and although that would appear to be an obvious strategy, it’s clear that not enough organizations actually adopt that approach. Based on this draft, it appears that a college pitcher should be their pick, though there is one area in their organization that could use some serious work: athleticism. St.Louis doesn’t have much in the way of up-the-middle athletes, and with Ed Howard and Pete Crow-Armstrong likely to be available, the Cardinals definitely should consider taking on of them. No matter what, with four picks in the top 70, they’re geared to do inject much-needed depth into their farm system, and I’m excited to see how they try to make the most of their available resources.
Picks: 22, 55, 71, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: RHP Cole Wilcox, RHP Clayton Beeter, JT Ginn, RHP Slade Cecconi, LHP Garrett Crochet
Organizational Tendencies: Target Pitches With Loads of Stuff and Durability Concerns, Try To Buy-Low on Prospect Whose Stocks Have Fallen, Have Clear Connection With Scott Boras
State of Farm System: Some Pitching Depth, Zero Position Player Talent
Who They Should Target: LHP Garrett Crochet, SS Ed Howard, RHP Cole Wilcox
Is any team in the MLB more predictable in the draft than the Nationals? It feels like every year that they target a high-upside power pitcher with injury/reliever risk, and there isn’t any reason to expect that to change. Garrett Crochet, Cole Wilcox, Bobby Miller, Justin Lange, and Clayton Beeter are among the pitchers that both fit their mold and would be adequate value with the 22nd overall pick, though, at some point, they need to inject some position players into their system, right? If a player like Ed Howard, Pete Crow-Armstrong, or Dillon Dingler is available, they certainly should be tempted, and if not, perhaps their strategy is too narrow. You can’t spend money on pitching and constantly draft it, while not addressing the position player side at all, and if Washington isn’t careful, the “bust” in boom-or-bust could come back to bite them.
Picks: 23, 36, 56, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: C Dillon Dingler, RHP Tanner Witt, RHP Jared Kelley, RHP Tanner Burns, RHP Justin Lange
Organizational Tendencies: Bat-to-Ball Hitters, High-Upside Arms, Young Prospects
State of Farm System: Super Deep, Tons of Prospects Who Fit Their Preferred Profile
Who They Should Target: RHP Jared Kelley, SS Ed Howard, RHP Masyn Wynn
The Indians are a very progressive organization, and whether you agree with their strategies or not, they’re at the top of the league in terms of developing young talent, especially pitchers. Right now, they have one of the deepest farm systems in the MLB, and with all of their key prospects 22-years-old or younger, they’re in prime position to be very competitive even after Francisco Lindor is either traded or signs with a new team in free agency. Essentially, Cleveland has the luxury of sitting back and taking whomever their draft models deem worthy of their two early picks, and I’d be surprised if they don’t take advantage of his deep class in terms of prep arms. While other organizations will likely be more conservative in this draft, they have the chance to be aggressive and target players with tons of untapped potential, knowing that they’ve had a lot of success developing those types of players. Even with their limited budget, they really are in a good position moving forward.
Tampa Bay Rays
Picks: 24, 37, 57, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: CF Pete Crow-Armstrong, RHP Jared Kelly, RHP Clayton Beeter, RHP Bryce Jarvis, SS Nick Loftin
Organizational Tendencies: Versatility, Contact-Oriented Hitting, Creative Usage With Pitchers, Full Faith In Their Development Skills
State of Farm System: Exceptional; Deep at Valuable Positions
Who They Should Target: RHP Masyn Wynn, CF Pete Crow-Armstrong, RHP Justin Lange
Speaking of small-market organizations with a tremendous front office, the Rays have proven to be the one of the masters of player development. Honestly, if I were a prospect, they’re the team I would want to be drafted by, and I expect them to come away with three talented players perfect for them in the first two rounds. At pick #24, specifically, they could continue their run on drafting athletes up the middle with Pete Crow-Armstrong or Ed Howard, which may be the preferred approach for them, at least in my eyes. Meanwhile, they are also the ideal landing for several of the toolsy pitchers in this draft, with Masyn Wynn and Justin Lange sticking out on that list. Luckily for the Rays, they might be able to get two of those four players, and because of how they are able to maximize on players’ potential, it’s hard to see them not having a productive draft.
Picks: 25, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Most Likely Targets: RHP Jared Kelley, RHP Chris McMahon, RHP Justin Lange, RHP Clayton Beeter, RHP Bryce Jarvis
Organizational Tendencies: Appear To Be Not Afraid To Take Players With Red Flags On A Specific Tool/Okay With One-Dimensional Players
State of Farm System: Some Pitching Depth, But Starting To Thin Out
Who They Should Target: RHP Jared Kelley, RHP Bryce Jarvis, RHP CJ Van Eyk
Depending on how you feel about the team’s outfield prospects, the Braves appear to be in need of a new injection of talent from the draft. General manager Alex Anthoplous was very conservative with his two first-round picks in last year’s draft, and without a second-round pick, it appears that he’ll be much more aggressive this year- they’ve been linked to the three top prep arms in this year’s draft. Of those prep arms, Jared Kelley appears to be the most likely to be available with the 25th overall pick, and he’d be a great pick for them. If not, based on where they’re picking, it almost feels like a guarantee that a college pitcher will be the appropriate choice, with Bryce Jarvis, Cole Wilcox, and CJ Van Eyk all being options to help them add some more pitching depth. Unless a player surprisingly falls, I’m not expecting this to be a groundbreaking draft for the Braves. Still, though, there is enough depth in this class for them to land at least one future contributor.
Picks: 26, 58, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: RHP Chris McMahon, SS Casey Martin, RHP Bobby Miller, RHP Slade Cecconi, SS Jordan Westburg
Organizational Tendencies: Tend To Go For Toolsy Players; College Players When Picking Later in The Draft
State of Farm System: Will Be Amongst League’s Worst Once Top Three Graduate
Who They Should Target: RHP Bryce Jarvis, RHP CJ Van Eyk, 2B Justin Foscue
This isn’t a mock draft, but I’d actually be somewhat surprised if the A’s don’t pick Arkansas’ Casey Martin with one of their two early picks. They’re a team that loves to target toolsy players to compensate for their lack of spending power, but tend to go for college players when picking towards the end of the first round. With 80-grade speed, Martin fits that mold for them, as would Jordan Westburg’s power. However, neither of those two should be the pick. Although they believe that they need to do whatever it takes to find a star, I actually think that since they rely more on prospects to contribute, they should take safer players. With this being such a deep college pitching class, there is bound to be at least one to two arms that can fit in their rotation in a couple seasons, while a player like Justin Foscue or Daniel Cabrera makes sense if they want a position player. Do I think Oakland will actually take one of those players? Probably not, considering their consistent endearment with players’ raw abilities, but with their farm system dwindling and their top players close to becoming free agents, they can’t take so many unnecessary risks.
Picks: 27, 59, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: 1B Aaron Sabato, 1B Austin Wells, 2B Justin Foscue, SS Nick Loftin, RHP Carson Montgomery
Organizational Tendencies: Don’t Tend To Value Defense, Love College Performers
State of Farm System: Needs More Up-The-Middle Talent, Plate Discipline, and Pitching Depth
Who They Should Target: SS Ed Howard, RHP Bryce Jarvis, RHP Masyn Wynn
Although corner defenders are far less valuable than up-the-middle players, the Twins don’t seem to place a high priority on that. Rather, they love to take college players with proven production, so it’s easy to identify likely targets for them: Aaron Sabato, Austin Wells, Justin Foscue, Nick Loftin, and all the college arms fit their typical mold. Sure, Sabato and Wells have nice on-base skills and some raw power, but I think it’s time for Minnesota to add more athleticism into their farm system. Ed Howard may actually be able to fall to them, and if he’s available, he’s a match made in heaven for them. If not, though, their best strategy would be to dive into some of the pitching talent in this class, whether it’s with a safer option like Bryce Jarvis, or a player with untapped potential like Masyn Wynn, Justin Lange, Carson Montgomery or Tanner Witt- Minnesota is one of the best teams when it comes to developing pitchers. I think they’ll likely take one of the college corner infielders, yet I’m not quite on board with that.
New York Yankees
Picks: 28, 3rd, 4th
Likely Targets: SS Carson Tucker, SS Ed Howard, SS Nick Loftin, RHP Bobby Miller, 3B Jordan Walker
Organizational Tendencies: Target Hard-Throwing Pitchers and Aren’t Afraid of Injury Risk, Like To Take Prep Players
State of Farm System: Incredibly Deep With Young Players With Tons of Raw Talent
Who They Should Target: SS Ed Howard, RHP Masyn Wynn, RHP Justin Lange
Contrary to the A’s, the Yankees are so deep with financial resources, which always them to target high-ceiling prep players in the draft, while complementing them with a lot of international talent. After adopting a college-heavy approach previously, they’ve taken a high-school player in three of the past four drafts, and they only college player (Clarke Schmidt) was a flyer pick coming off of Tommy John Surgery. In other words, this organization doesn’t need to rely on a quick-moving player, so I agree with them not taking a college player. Tons of draft rumors have them attached to Arizona prep shortstop Carson Tucker, who definitely fits their mold, but what if they could land Ed Howard? That’d be one of the steals of the draft, yet he probably won’t be available, and if that’s the case, they should lean on their success developing hard-throwing pitchers with other red flags. Justin Lange, Masyn Wynn, and Tanner Witt are among the several prep pitchers in this draft with tremendous raw tools, and New York would be a fantastic landing spot for all of them. Without a second-round pick or fifth-round pick, this figures to be a quiet draft for the Yankees, but don’t discount their ability to draft a player that they’re able to mold into a future big-league contributor.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Picks: 29, 60, 66, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: RHP Bryce Jarvis, SS Ed Howard, 2B Justin Foscue, RHP Clayton Beeter, RHP CJ Van Eyk
Organizational Tendencies: Hit over Power, Injured Pitchers, Versatility, Players With Unusual Backgrounds
State of Farm System: Easily The Best
Who They Should Target: RHP Bryce Jarvis, SS Ed Howard, RHP Masyn Wynn
The Dodgers are essentially the Yankees, but with an even more innovative front office and easily the best farm system in the MLB. Because of that, they can’t go wrong with the 29th overall pick in this year’s draft, but if they are able to land Ed Howard, they once again will have played chess while every other team plays checkers. If he’s not available, though, a moldable pitcher like Bryce Jarvis, Masyn Wynn, CJ Van Eyk, or Justin Lange would make the most sense, and the same goes for second baseman Justin Foscue, who could blossom with a swing change. Los Angeles certainly has zero pressure whatsoever coming into this draft, yet with three picks in the top 66, they’re in a great position to continue their dominance of the NL West.
Picks: 72, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Likely Targets: OF Chase Davis, CF Isaiah Greene, RHP Jared Jones, RHP Cam Brown, RHP Alejandro Rosario
Organizational Tendencies: James Click Takes Over, No Idea How He Molds The Rays’ Approach With What Houston Has Done
State of Farm System: Loaded with Arms, Lacking in Position Player Talent
Who They Should Target: RHP Ryan Hagenow, C Jackson Miller, CF Isaiah Greene
Due to their sign-stealing scandal, the Astros forfeited their first-round pick and second-round pick. Simply put, it’s a rough position for new general manager James Click, who needs to find a way to inject some much-needed talent, especially on the position player side; Houston is also without their first two picks in next year’s draft. With a compensation pick, though, they perhaps have just enough ammunition to draft a prep prospect, even if it’s impossible to know who’ll be available. Whether it’s a pitcher like Ryan Hagenow, Jared Jones, Cam Brown, or Markevian Hence, a catcher like Jackson Miller, or a toolsy position player like Isaiah Greene or Drew Bowser, there should be someone that they like enough to be aggressive targeting with the 72nd overall pick. Therefore, although they have less draft capital than any other team, I wouldn’t count out the Astros doing something to improve their future outlook.