SEATTLE – The Reds had bad luck in MLB’s inaugural draft lottery last December. Despite having the fourth worst record, they came away with the seventh overall pick in a year with five players who would be legitimate #1 overall picks in most drafts.
Cincinnati had some slight hope that one of those five would drop to #7 Sunday night, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the Reds decided to pool the best talent from all 30 clubs, based on our first impressions.
Yes, it’s too early to know with any certainty how the 2023 draft will turn out. Assuming that every player selected in the first 10 rounds will sign a pro contact, here are the eight clubs that seemed to be doing their best:
In a short draft of the college arms, the Reds picked off two of the best players in Wake Forest righty Rhett Lowder (first-round) and Louisiana State righty Ty Floyd (supplementary first-round), who both starred in the College World Series. Then they found a way to catch two standout high school talents much later than they should have been: shortstop Sammy Stavura (second round) and Cole Schoenwetter (fourth). Cincinnati also added a pair of draft college lefties in Arkansas’ Hunter Hollan (third) and Lipscomb’s Logan Van Trek (ninth), the best defensive catcher in the draft in Long Beach State’s Connor Burns (fifth) and two produced bats at the University of Virginia. Ethan O’Donnell (sixth) and Stanford first baseman Carter Graham (eighth).
The Giants highly considered Colorado High School’s Walker Martin with the 16th overall pick before selecting Virginia two-way star Bryce Eldridge. Late on, Kent State’s Joe Whitman, the consensus best left fielder available, had the go before the second start. However, Martin was waiting for San Francisco midway through the second round and Whitman was still available with the Giants’ pick to make up for the loss of free agent Carlos Rodon after the second round. Maui Ahuna (4th round) made the Giants the only club to pick four players from the top 50 of the MLB Pipeline draft rankings, while other top players such as Auburn Shortstop Cole Foster (3rd), Maryland Catcher Luke Shliger were acquired (sixth), Grayson (Texas) CC right-hander Josh Bostick (eighth) and Louisville Catcher Jack Payton (11th).
Biggest winners in their first-ever lottery, the twins moved up from No. 13 to No. 5 and had the first-caliber talent in high school player Walker Jenkins’ five-tool prospect. They followed that up with four more first-innings talents in electric coach Charlie Soto (first-round supplemental), Arizona State offensive second baseman Luke Keshall (second), high school player Brandon Winokur (third) and Southern. Mississippi righty Tanner Hall (IV). The latter’s changeup and control was rated among the best in the draft. Right-handed Dylan Questad (fifth), Arizona State’s lefty Ross Dunn (tenth), and California’s Bolchon Pascualto (twelfth) prepared three more interesting lefties.
The Tigers came up with two of the best high school bats in the draft as the third overall pick, Max Clark, who had the best all-around tools among the outfielders in the race for the top pick, and shortstop Kevin McGonigle (supplementary first-round pick). They featured the prepsters with four of their first five picks, and also took left fielder Paul Wilson (third) and power-hitting third baseman Carson Rucker (fourth). Nebraska second baseman Max Anderson (second) is a surefire college hitter, Tennessee right-handed Jaden Hamm (fifth) has a neat curveball and Pepperdine should hook John Beck (seventh) at shortstop.
With three of the top 30 picks, the Mariners were poised to do a lot of damage and did so with three intriguing starters. Shortstop/third baseman Colt Emerson combines hitting ability with power potential, outfielder Johnny Farmelo is a fast pacer with a promising hitter, and Ty Petty was probably the fastest hitter in his high school class as well as raw power, speed, and arm strength. Wake Forest tackle Teddy McGraw (third round) showed things to become a first-rounder before blowing his elbow just before the start of the college season. Aidan Smith (fourth) is an underrated outfielder who makes a lot of contact and also provides speed and extra arm strength.
The Marlins somehow managed to capture the best prep pitchers, taking right-handed Noble Meyer at #10 and somehow floating Thomas White — who was also the highest-ranking high school, college, or high school senior in the draft — all the way to #35. Mississippi hit outfielder Kemp Alderman (second inning) balls as hard as anyone in college baseball this spring, while Michigan State first baseman Brock Fradenburg (third inning) is a drive-line machine. Nebraska lefty Emmett Olson (fourth), Tennessee righty Andrew Lindsey (fifth) and Mississippi southpaw Justin Storm (seventh) give Miami some college shooting depth.
While the Nationals would have liked right-hander Paul Skenes, most clubs would have taken fellow Louisiana State Dylan Cruz with first pick and Washington nabbed the best offense in Destagh at second. In the top of the second, right-hander Travis Sikora, one of the best high school throwers, acted very well in the top of the third. Alabama Towes’ Andrew Pinkney (fourth round) and Indian River State (Florida) JC righty Gavin Adams (11) are also watching.
The Pirates started the draft with the Skenes, who rival Stephen Strasburg as the best prospect since the event began in 1965, and should make it to the big leagues sometime next year. A generational pitcher alone would make for a fruitful effort, and Pittsburgh has complemented him with eight other signable prospects for top 250 prospects, including a pair of college bats polished by Michigan State’s quick Mitch Gibb (second round) and Oregon State’s third baseman. Garrett Forrester (third) and high school right-hand prankster Xander Moth (second sequel). The Bucs may field West Virginia star reliever Carlson Reed (4th) as a starter, while Vanderbilt right-hander Patrick Riley (5th), Alabama State’s Hunter Furtado (6th), Georgia southpaw Jaden Woods (7th) and Arizona State right-hander Christian Curtis (12th) They have more of an upside than their sub-par college stats might indicate.
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