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MLB Draft Preview - Lottery, Prospects, and More

by Ryan Myers


Troy Yesavage, P, ECU. Photo courtesy of ECU Athletics Creative Services.


Draft Lottery

The Major League Baseball world has started to awaken heading into 2024 with big news coming out of LA. The historic Ohtani signing has changed the balance sheets of baseball forever and other signings and trades around the league have begun. Hidden behind all of the buzz, the MLB Draft Lottery was completed and baseball draftniks now get to take a peak at what may be for their favorite teams. 


Draft Nation takes a look at the draft lottery results and offers a look at each team and their needs: 


1st Pick - Cleveland Guardians

Needs - SS, OF, SP


Cleveland was tested with injuries last season all over the field, but especially in their starting rotation with Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie missing most of the year. The farm system could not adequately fill these starting roles and exposed the Guardians’ need for arms. They struggled offensively with a lack of production from their outfield, and in the power department. Myles Straw and Will Brennan’s down seasons were the most apparent, and the team has lacked ideal slugging consistency in recent seasons. 


2nd Pick - Cincinnati Reds

Needs - SP, RP, Depth


Cincinnati showed promise last season with plenty of young talent with the likes of Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, Graham Ashcraft, and Hunter Greene. However, their bullpen struggled behind a good, but incomplete starting rotation. They have Alexis Diaz to rely on in the pen, but will need more reliable arms in the future. Cincinnati’s luck in jumping up during the lottery process was a case of the rich getting richer.


3rd Pick - Colorado Rockies

Needs - CF, SP, RP


Colorado showed some promise from young players such as Ezequiel Tovar, Nolan Jones and Elehuris Montero, but there was a rising question about the offensive production from CF. Brenton Doyle is without a doubt one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, but he struggled mightily at the plate last season


4th Pick - Oakland Athletics

Needs - OF, SP, RP


The A’s are searching for help in many areas, but the most glaring holes are in the outfield and pitching. They are working on developing young bats over time and still won’t be playing with the intent to be competitive, but with the intent to continue their rebuild as they gain more young talent. They have a few good young arms in the rotation, which they will continue to work with such as J.P. Sears, Ken Waldichuk, Luis Medina, Kyle Muller, and Mason Miller. Their bullpen struggles will also need some addressing. Whoever the A’s take with this pick, it will be with an eye on having him arrive in time to play in their new Las Vegas stadium. 


5th Pick - Chicago White Sox

Needs - 2B/SS, SP, RP


With the departure of Tim Anderson in free agency, Chicago’s middle infield is thin and will need to be addressed this offseason, and possibly in this draft. They have some farm system talents looking to fill these spots as top prospects, 21-year-old Colson Montgomery and 22-year-old José Rodríguez will be likely candidates to do so at the start of 2024, but they will still need more depth at those positions going forward. They will also look to add pitching, especially in the bullpen.


6th Pick - Kansas City Royals

Needs - CF, SP, RP


Kansas City had another disappointing season last year as their young names began to develop into decent pieces to their overall major league puzzle. Their lineup is filled with young talent that need more time to develop such as Nick Pratto, Maikel Garcia, Dairon Blanco, Nelson Velazquez, and more. This means that their needs for position players are limited, while their main focus this offseason will likely be pitching in both the starting rotation and the bullpen.


7th Pick - St. Louis Cardinals

Needs - SP, RP


St. Louis’s front office has announced their goals of adding starting pitching this offseason through any means, including the draft. Their rotation behind their front two has been a collection of rotating arms throughout the past few years, and if St. Louis intends to have postseason success, they will need more concrete, consistent performers on the staff. They will also likely look to add bullpen talent as the depth behind Ryan Helsley and JoJo Romero is very limited.


8th Pick - Los Angeles Angels

Needs - OF, RP


Los Angeles has many changes going on with both the departure of Shohei Ohtani and a possible trade of Mike Trout on the horizon. They still have a decent young core of both position players and pitchers to build from, but almost no farm system help. Their most glaring needs are their lack of outfield talent and their need for bullpen help. They will likely look to add both in the draft in some form.


9th Pick - Pittsburgh Pirates

Needs - 1B, OF, SP, RP


Pittsburgh has few farm system needs, but their most obvious option would be to add arms, especially for the bullpen. The young core of Henry Davis, Endy Rodriguez, Quinn Priester and more should have another year to continue to develop, but their time to compete in the division still seems to be a few years away. With the trade of Carlos Santana and the possible departure of Andrew McCutchen, some farm talent will likely be brought up to help with depth this season, opening up those same spots in the minors.


10th Pick - Washington Nationals

Needs - OF, SP, RP


Washington has a young group, but will still be a few years away from competition as they attempt to develop their prospects. They need to add arms and outfielders to their farm system as their top prospects, Dylan Crews and James Wood will likely see MLB action either this season or next. They will likely focus on pitching and power bats this draft as these are the places they have struggled most in recent seasons.


Top Draft Prospects

  1. Nick Kurtz - 1B, Wake Forest

Bats/Throws - L/L     Ht/Wt - 6’6” 230 lbs.


Nick Kurtz possesses the most raw power in this draft class, and will suit the needs of any team looking to increase their power and slugging numbers. Last season at Wake Forest, Kurtz hit .349 with 22 home runs and 64 RBI while sporting an impressive .758 slugging and .525 OBP.


2. Travis Bazzana - 2B/SS, Oregon State

Bats/Throws - L/R     Ht/Wt - 6’0” 200 lbs.


Bazzana possesses decent power, and pairs it with great speed in the middle infield. He hit .374 with 11 home runs and a .500 OBP. He also set the school record with 36 steals in the spring.


     3. J.J. Wetherholt - 2B/SS, West Virginia

Bats/Throws - L/R     Ht/Wt - 5’10” 190 lbs.


Wetherholt has the best bat-to-ball skills in this draft and is likely the best all-around hitter in this class. In the spring with West Virginia, he hit for an impressive .449 average and a .517 OBP while slugging .622.


     4. Vance Honeycutt - OF, North Carolina

Bats/Throws - L/R     Ht/Wt - 6’3” 205 lbs.


Honeycutt shows the best physical upside and one of the best gloves in the class. His production from the plate dropped a bit from 2022 to 2023 as he hit .257 with .418 OBP, 12 home runs and 19 steals. If his bat comes around, Honeycutt will be a solid center fielder, possessing 5 tools.


     5. Seaver King - SS/OF, Wake Forest

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’0” 190 lbs.


King began his career at Division 2 Wingate, and had an impressive 47-game hitting streak over his two seasons there. Now at Wake Forest, King looks to show his prowess against Division 1 competition and continue his success. He has a great glove at shortstop and is a good contact hitter as he hit .411 with a .457 OBP. He may not have much power, but his speed, contact skills, and defense are his strengths.


6. Jac Caglianone - 1B/LHP, Florida

Bats/Throws - L/L     Ht/Wt - 6’5” 245 lbs.


Caglianone is a slugger at first base who posted a .322 average, .735 slugging, and 33 home runs. He also posted a 4.34 ERA in 74 ⅔ innings, and 87 strikeouts. He has a 95-99 mph fastball with his changeup being his best offspeed pitch. Teams will likely prefer him as a hitter rather than a pitcher.


     7. Chase Burns - RHP, Wake Forest

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’4” 215 lbs.


Burns began his college career at Tennessee where last season, he managed a 4.25 ERA and struck out 114 batters while walking just 22. He has two MLB caliber pitches already, which are his fastball, typically around 97 mph, but can reach 101, and his slider, which is typically around 86 mph and causes huge swing and miss numbers.


     8. Mike Sirota - OF, Northeastern

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’2” 190 lbs.


Sirota possesses a strong power/speed combination with a good glove in center field. He hit .344 with 18 home runs and 19 steals last season with Northeastern and is the school’s best prospect since Carlos Pena.


     9. Braden Montgomery - OF/RHP, Texas A&M

Bats/Throws - S/R     Ht/Wt - 6’2” 220 lbs.


Montgomery is a transfer from Stanford. He is a two way player in college, but is definitely preferred as an outfielder than a pitcher as he posted an ERA over 12 last season in his 14 innings on the mound. However, he hit .336 with .611 slugging and 17 home runs. Typically a right fielder, he will provide good power and a good arm from the outfield.


     10. Carson Benge - OF/RPH, Oklahoma State

Bats/Throws - L/R     Ht/Wt - 6’2” 180 lbs.


Benge is another two way college player with more upside at the plate than on the mound. He carried a 6.69 ERA last season, but managed a .345 average at the plate with 7 home runs. His bat-to-ball skills are exceptional and will help him succeed.


     11. Charlie Condon - 1B/OF, Georgia

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’6” 210 lbs.


Condon redshirted in 2022, and went on to be the nation’s consensus freshman of the year in 2023. He slashed .386 with an impressive .800 slugging percentage and 25 home runs. He is a gifted hitter, but is also athletic enough where his defensive skills may not be limited to first base at the pro level. He may be able to play corner outfield positions as well.


     12. Dakota Jordan - OF, Mississippi State

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’1” 215 lbs.


Jordan possesses fantastic athletic ability, and may be the most physically gifted player in this class. He has great speed and offers some power as well. His talents are still a bit raw, but his physical ability and bat speed will draw attention as he attempts to round out and develop his game this season.


     13. Trey Yesavage - RHP, East Carolina

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’4” 225 lbs.


Trey Yesavage possesses a great pitch mix with a high 90’s fastball topping out around 98, pairing it with a slider, curveball, and splitter, which all sit in the low to mid 80’s. Last season, he became the ace for the Pirates of East Carolina and managed a 2.61 ERA, 105 K’s and 23 walks in 76 innings of work.


     14. Cameron Smith - 3B, Florida State

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’3” 215 lbs.


Smith is a draft-eligible sophomore with a good glove and a strong arm from the hot corner. He batted just .258 at Florida State last season, but showed out in the Cape Cod league where scouts voted him the top prospect. He improved his approach and cut down on strikeouts while also tapping into his power a bit more efficiently. He looks to continue this with the Seminoles this season.


     15. Rodney Green Jr. - OF, Cal

Bats/Throws - L/L     Ht/Wt - 6’3” 195 lbs.


Rodney Green Jr. shows great physical ability with above average speed and range in center field. He also shows above average power from the left side of the plate with a solid swing built for exit velocity and loft. He hit .293 with 11 home runs for the Golden Bears last season, and aims to cut down on the swings and misses this year heading into the draft.


     16. Thatcher Hurd - RHP, LSU

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’4” 214 lbs.


Hurd was a transfer last season from UCLA to LSU. He initially struggled, but worked his way back to success in the postseason. He won against Wake Forest to go to the CWS, then beat FLorida in the finals to help LSU to their championship. He posted a 5.68 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 63 ⅓ innings. His fastball tops out around 98 mph, and he pairs it with a mid 80’s slider with massive whiff rates.


     17. Will Taylor - OF, Clemson

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’0” 175 lbs.


For those who follow MLB drafts closely, Taylor’s name may sound familiar. He would have been a high school draft pick a few years ago, but decided to attend Clemson on a football scholarship to play wide receiver. As one could guess, he provides great athleticism and physical attributes, but he also has a skillset at the plate similar to that of Mike Sirota (Prospect #8). Last season at Clemson, he hit .362 and provided some decent slugging to go along with 11 steals.


     18. Konnor Griffin - OF, Jackson Prep (Mississippi)

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’4” 205 lbs.


Griffin is the highest graded high school prospect of this season’s draft class. He possesses above average power and decent bat-to-ball skills. He pairs these with slightly above average speed and a strong arm from the outfield. He is a bit raw, but his ceiling is high enough to earn him a spot in the top prospects list for this year.


     19. Brody Brecht - RHP, Iowa

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’4” 225 lbs.


Brecht originally attended Iowa on a football scholarship as a wide receiver, but decided to focus on baseball last spring. His pitch mix has drawn comparisons to last season’s number 1 pick, Paul Skenes. His fastball reaches 101 mph, and his mid-80’s slider is devastating for batters. His only concern is that he does not possess nearly as much command of these pitches as Skenes.


     20. Tommy White - 1B/3B, LSU

Bats/Throws - R/R     Ht/Wt - 6’0” 245 lbs.


White transferred from NC State to LSU before last season. His pure hitting talent is undeniable as he hit .374 with .725 slugging last season. He had 24 home runs and was the NCAA’s leader in RBI with 105 as he helped LSU to their national title. His limited athleticism will most likely lead him to strictly be a first baseman at the pro level.


Pittsburgh Pirates - Pick Number 9

The Pirates have received the 9th overall pick in the draft lottery this season. Their needs for pitching and first basemen will likely be filled through free agency or trades this offseason as they attempt to fill out their big league lineup. They have already made moves, acquiring Rowdy Tellez from free agency and trading for Marco Gonzales. For this reason, they are projected to draft an outfielder with this pick with hopes of him reaching the AAA Indianapolis Indians by 2025.

 

Some of the top teams of the draft order are also looking for outfield help, so Pittsburgh will likely have their pick between a few leftover outfield prospects. Depending on how the picks fall before Pittsburgh’s, they have a chance to end up with the highest graded high school prospect of the year in Konnor Griffin. Griffin would satisfy the Pirates’ need for outfield depth in their system, and he would quickly rise to the top of that depth if all goes well. He is projected to have above average power along with his great glove and above average speed. If they were to draft Griffin, they would do so with hopes that he could turn into a cornerstone for their outfield unit for years to come. He provides good pop from the right side of the plate and has exceptional range in the outfield. 


If Griffin happens to be taken prior to the Pirates’ pick, and they still wish to take an outfielder, they will likely choose between Braden Montgomery of Texas A&M, or Mike Sirota of Northeastern. Montgomery provides a good presence from both sides of the plate, and Sirota from the right. They both have exceptional power, and provide strong physical traits.


If Pittsburgh decides to draft pitching with this pick, they will likely pick whichever top pitching prospect is left between Chase Burns, Brody Brecht, or Thatcher Hurd. Other pitchers not listed in the prospects above are Josh Hartle, LHP, Wake Forest and Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas. All provide upside in their own ways, but their performances over the course of the spring will likely decide their draft order.

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