I try to take a fairly simplistic view of the draft. My mind resists at times because the Major League Baseball Draft is an exercise in antitrust-exemption hyper-capitalism run amok, spotlighting primarily the lucky few blessed with generational gifts of wealth and circumstance along with their considerable physical skills. It’s a barefaced look at how structures that appear to be egalitarian in their theoretical bones are anything but in practice.
Whoops, I did it again. Got lost in the games. Keep It Simple, Guy.
Reset: it’s about the organizations as much as it is about the players. You’ll see Jackson Holliday third here even though I like Elijah Green more as a player because I think the Orioles are doing well when it comes to communicating with their young players and aiding their development. No knock on the Nats, who have developed some hitters of their own, but Elijah Green brings some swing-and-miss risk along with the big power and elite speed, and I can’t remember this team developing someone with that specific hang-up. Plus, I don’t know . . . something about the whole organization feels bad right now. Can’t put my finger on it. Oh yeah, they’re doing this weird dance with Juan Soto a year after giving Trea Turner to the Dodgers to offload Max Scherzer’s contract. Their minor league system is weak, partly because they insisted on major-league-ready players in return for Turner and Scherzer. Their 2021 first round pick Brady House, also a high school hitter, has not played particularly well this year (0 HR, 2 BB, 31 K in his last 20 games before landing on the IL).
I also like to take my time on stuff like this. Would prefer to see how these guys adapt to the pro game before ranking them for fantasy purposes, but I know some people have drafts that begin immediately after the MLB draft ends, so I burned the midnight oil for the past few weeks in hopes of replicating my best successes from FYPD lists of summers past like CJ Abrams, Corbin Carroll and James Wood.
1. Diamondbacks OF Druw Jones (pick 1.2)
Pretty clear consensus at the moment. If you haven’t checked his dad’s baseball reference page, I have to recommend it (click here to see the madness).
He fell off so early in his thirties that I think we (I) forget how dominant he was in his early twenties.
Pretty simplistic to just comp him to his dad and move along, but like I said, simplistic. Arizona is on a roll with early hitter picks, and Jones brings all five tools to the job site, and not the tools that are just good enough to do the job. This is heavy machinery and sets Jones up to be top ten overall prospect as early as this winter.
Between Jones and Suzuki (if Suzuki is available in your FYPD), I’d struggle to decide. Would have a lot to do w league structure and probably how each performs going forward. Today, I’m taking Jones in medium-shallow true dynasty (keep everyone) leagues. Probably Suzuki in setups where at bats are tough to come by, especially if I’m a contender.
2. Pirates SS Termarr Johnson (pick 1.4)
Ears perk up when you hear phrases like “best high school hitter in decades” from guys who’ve been scouting hitters for decades. Wonderful pick for Pittsburgh and for your dynasty teams. That park is perfect for lefties who can pull a homer and-or go oppo for a double or a triple in that wicked gap they have in left center. Plus they’ll have some offense in place by the time he gets there. Theoretically.
3. Orioles SS Jackson Holliday (pick 1.1)
Son of All-Star Outfielder Matt Holliday, Jackson is a left-handed hitter and right handed thrower listed at 6’1” 175 lbs. He could play a 12-year-old in Hollywood and nobody would blink. Have I mentioned how much I love Baltimore tailoring their roster to their home ballpark? They might have nine lefties in the lineup on a given night by 2024. Gonna work well in New York, too. Not that Holliday was picked just because he’s left handed. He’s long been in the team photo for the Top 5 of this year’s class and recently slid nearer to the center of the frame as the body seems to be syncing up with the swing the plate discipline. As I mentioned in the intro, this Orioles front office knows how to identify and develop a gifted hitter.
4. Nationals OF Elijah Green (1.4)
He’s the son of Steelers TE Eric Green, a man ahead of his time as an extra offensive lineman who could get down the seam and make a play over a defender a la Rob Gronkowski. Elijah is a similarly unique athlete who happens to be much faster than his father. Might’ve been a first round pick as a high school sophomore if such leaps were allowed. The pluses are his intense physicality and Asgardian power and speed. Easy case to take him 2nd in this class if that’s your jam and you don’t mind a little swing-and-miss.
5. Marlins 3B OF Jacob Berry (1.6)
A switch-hitter who’s always produced, Jacob Berry is just what the doctor ordered for Miami, who has been enamored with extreme tool sets over the past several seasons and is finally taking a kid who’s a good hitter first and whatever else later. He’s listed at third here, and that’s where Miami might have him begin his career, but he’s probably a 1B/LF/DH who’ll need a lot of defensive reps to blend in with major league defenders.
6. Royals OF Gavin Cross (1.9)
I’ve talked a lot about successful organizations in this piece, so it would be foolish to ignore what the Royals have been doing under hitting coordinator Drew Saylor. Makes perfect sense they’d draft the 6’3” 210 lb Gavin Cross in the nine spot after he posted 17 HR and 12 SB in 57 games this season at Virginia Tech, slashing .328/.411/.660 with 41 strikeouts and 30 walks. He’s clearly got an idea of the strike zone, and Kansas City has been on a hot streak selecting college hitters of late.
7. Angels SS Zach Neto (1.13)
Not many options for those seeking a college bat with speed who could cruise through the minors quickly enough to help you sometime soon in the standings. As a bonus, the Angels don’t have anyone blocking anything on the middle infield, with the possible exception of Luis Rengifo, who I’ve been adding and trading for across my leagues because I believe in his steps forward this season. One downside is Neto’s oversized leg kick, something he ditches with two strikes in favor of a contact-oriented approach. The big front leg isn’t necessarily bad, and I like that he’s got a two-strike approach, but he might need some adept coaching along the way in making the leap from Campbell and the Big South Conference. He’s hit well in wooden bat leagues against college arms, which assuages some of the small school concerns.
8. Guardians OF Chase DeLauter (1.16)
Premium athlete who went a little DeLauter than we might’ve expected a few months ago, when public-facing sites lauded him as top of the class. Cleveland’s patience with Will Benson provides a peak at how the Guardians will handle DeLauter if his hit tool troubles from early this season carry over to the pros. I don’t think they will. He was a young person dealing with a lot of hype facing some of the best pitchers he’d ever seen, and every one of them had him circled in the James Madison lineup. Plus he bounced back in a big way, slashing .437/.576/.828 with eight home runs and ten stolen bases in 28 games.
9. Mets C Kevin Parada (1.11)
Set the Georgia Tech record with 26 home runs this year and even kicked in 11 stolen bases. He’ll turn 21 next month and felt like a real win for the Mets at the 11 spot after the club botched its Kumar Rocker maneuver last season. Jury’s out on whether he can catch or not, and frankly I wouldn’t bother, at least not in an everyday capacity. I’d maybe have him catch once or twice a week then play outfield and first base in between in case his bat looks ready enough to let him race to the majors. In 60 games this season, Parada struck out 32 times and drew 30 walks.
10. Reds 3B Cam Collier (1.18)
He’s one of one among this class in terms of the path he’s blazed to get to this point, graduating high school early to play in a wooden bat college league then pushing himself again to play in the Cape Cod League against players 3.4 years his senior on average.
Son of major leaguer Lou Collier, Cam is listed at 6’2” 210 lbs at 17-years-old and features plus power and hit from the left side. The Cubs low key ruined my night when they passed on him at the seven spot to take a college pitcher. No offense to Cade Horton, but the Cubs don’t have anywhere near the positional prospect depth people seem to think they do, and the depth they do have is in the lower minors, which is worlds away from being a big league building block, which is how I feel about Collier today.
11. Phillies OF Justin Crawford (1.17)
Son of Carl Crawford, speedster of the Rays, Red Sox and Dodgers. I’ve heard some people down on the hit tool, but I think they might forget that Carl Crawford was a career .290 hitter despite a long downward arc impacted by injuries. Again, too simplistic to say “just look at his dad” and move along, but that’s also kind of exactly what every team seems to be doing, so . . . look at his dad! He was fast! Justin’s fast, too! And his swing is a little smoother than his dad’s. Carl Crawford stole 45 or more bases in seven different seasons. That would work. I don’t love the Phillies as an organization for developing hitters, so it’s nice that Crawford has extra familial help available to him.
12. Astros OF Drew Gilbert (1.28)
A lot of public facing outlets have been operating as if they know better than Houston about prospects, and that hasn’t typically proven true as the Astros unveil their assembly line of functional major league players. Gilbert might have lost some perceived value with a hissy fit that got him ejected and suspended during this year’s postseason, but I’d be lying if I said I cared. He might get ump showed a bit early in his career, but he’ll learn you can’t even look at those weirdos. Power corrupts, especially tenuous power. Gilbert can barrel up a variety of pitches in a variety of places, runs with attentiveness, aggression and speed, and he controls the strike zone, which is what got him ejected: his confidence in his ability to pick up spin and discern strikes from balls. He was the best player on the best team in college baseball for most of 2022. Sign me up for the discount he’ll bring on dynasty draft day as long as he doesn’t obliterate the minor leagues the rest of this season.
13. Twins SS Brooks Lee (1.8)
Lee will be higher on a lot of lists, and I’ve got no qualms with that. He fits well into this outstanding org for hitter development in that doesn’t strike out much (less than 10 percent pretty much his whole life) and has solid defensive hands and actions even as his athleticism and throwing arm aren’t going to wow anybody. Teams like what they like, and it all added up with Minnesota landed Lee. The downsides are a lack of speed and a plethora of options on the big league roster.
14. Tigers SS Peyton Graham (2.51)
I can’t help but wish this kid had landed elsewhere. He was among my favorite players heading into draft season. Listed at 6’3” 185 lbs, Graham looks skinnier than that partly because I think he’s built from rebar like a young Byron Buxton, delivering strength well beyond what your eyes would guess from afar. He even moves a little differently than most players, jolting around the field with a twitchy-fast smoothness of controlled movements that look like they might spill out of control at any given moment. He’s played third, shortstop, second and outfield, and I think he could hang just about anywhere on the diamond. On offense, Graham become the first D1 player in almost 20 years (2004) to hit 20 homers and steal 30 bases
15. Tigers 2B Jace Jung (1.12)
I don’t know why it’s funny to me that his brother is named “Josh” and he wound up with “Jace.”
“Hi, I’m Phil and this is my brother Fajita.”
“I’m Matt and this is my brother Magellan.”
I better stop now because I feel like I’m just getting warmed up here.
Jung was projected to go a little higher when the sorting hat began this season’s song, but he lacks the perceived upside of the more athletic types around him. Jung’s calling cards are hitting bombs and walking more than he strikes out, which he’s done every year of his college career. He’s not much of a defender, but he’s a left-handed hitter who’d be the strong side of a platoon even if his glove doesn’t get him in the lineup on an everyday basis. His baseline skill set and swing along with his brother’s early success give me hope. His organization gives me pause.
Thanks for reading!
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