The 2023 MLB draft is just around the corner, so we asked three of our own MLB experts to try their hand at selecting a first round consisting of this year’s top prospects.
The rules were simple: Jeff Passan, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez snake drafted through 10 rounds (30 total picks) to put together the best possible roster of 2023 draft prospects.
Each roster included a full lineup: Two pitchers, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop and three outfielders. They were allowed to draft positions in any order, and their strategies show which positions are deepest — and most shallow — in this year’s class.
After making their 30 selections — with a healthy dose of trash talk mixed in — ESPN MLB draft analyst Kiley McDaniel broke down all three teams and declared which was the champion.
Let the dueling mock draft begin!
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1. Paul Skenes, SP, LSU (Passan)
2. Dylan Crews, OF, LSU (Rogers)
3. Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida (Gonzalez)
Rogers: This is like the Astros taking Mark Appel, with the Cubs then getting Kris Bryant. Yes, please.
Passan: If you think Paul Skenes is Mark Appel, this is going to be much easier than I figured. Skenes was the most dominant player in college baseball, and he is the most big-league-ready draft pick in years.
McDaniel: The top three is a true toss-up here, but the depth of the outfield means Skenes gets the slight edge. Everyone made the right pick here, even if I slightly prefer Langford to Crews.
4. Kyle Teel, C, Virginia (Gonzalez)
5. Rhett Lowder, SP, Wake Forest (Rogers)
6. Max Clark, OF, Franklin Community (Indiana) High School (Passan)
Gonzalez: Kiley might think I reached with Teel, but I don’t love the catching in this draft, and I feel really good about getting the best player at the position — especially one who will surely stick behind the plate — before everybody else.
Rogers: I scrambled after Alden took my pick. I don’t think Teel is a stretch; he’s the real deal. I’ll have to take advantage of other mistakes he and Jeff are bound to make.
McDaniel: WHAT? I thought this group understood that the first five guys have to be the first five picks. How does Passan get three of the crystal clear top five picking first, sixth, and seventh?!
7. Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick (North Carolina) HS (Passan)
8. Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon (Rogers)
9. Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt (Gonzalez)
Passan: Here I am, thinking I’m in trouble because this is a five-player draft and I’m only going to get one of those players. Then Alden and Jesse decided to get cute. Thank you, boys. Thank you for acting like scouting directors who are bound to get fired.
Rogers: While you two were hitting the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday during spring training, I actually went to the campus of Grand Canyon in Phoenix and saw Wilson play. It is safe to say I have something in common with the scout who found Mike Trout: a keen eye for talent!
Passan: If you had as keen an eye for roster building, you’d know that shortstop is the deepest position in this draft and wouldn’t have wasted an early pick on one.
McDaniel: Alden, I like the thought of taking Teel to lock up the top catcher in a weak group, but Blake Mitchell isn’t wildly behind Teel, and the gap between Bradfield and Clark/Jenkins is huge. Real misstep there. Jesse: I like Wilson, but there are tons of similar shortstops this year, so I might have jumped at the other decent catcher in Mitchell to block Passan.
10. Chase Dollander, SP, Tennessee (Gonzalez)
11. Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton (Texas) HS (Rogers)
12. Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU (Passan)
Gonzalez: Since Jesse summoned Ruby Tuesday out of nowhere, I’ll provide another Rolling Stones nod with my Enrique Bradfield Jr. pick, because he’s going to be a “Star Star.” (I’m really, really sorry.) Also, I have to scoop up Dollander, up-and-down year aside, because the pitching drop-off thereafter seems quite steep. Tiiiime is not on my side. (Again: Really sorry.)
Passan: Well, that’s a double snipe. I was going Dollander or Mitchell there. I’m glad you two decided to wake up.
McDaniel: OK, Jesse made the right pick here just in time getting Mitchell. I have Hurston Waldrep and Noble Meyer over Dollander, but it’s close, so I might have held off on taking a pitcher here, Alden.
13. Matt Shaw, 2B, Maryland (Passan)
14. Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit (Oregon) HS (Rogers)
15. Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida (Gonzalez)
Rogers: I was hoping to land a left-handed batting, right-handed throwing power third baseman, but I missed out on Brayden Taylor. So I went with pitching — some young, raw prep pitching in Noble Meyer.
McDaniel: Uh, wait, is that Taylor and Shaw ahead of Jacob Gonzalez among college infielders? That’s a tough sell. There are six pitcher slots to be filled, and now my clear top five arms have been taken, so Passan will get the last pick.
16. Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest (Florida) HS (Gonzalez)
17. Colin Houck, 2B, Parkview (Georgia) HS (Rogers)
18. Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss (Passan)
Gonzalez: Time to make what might be my first big upside play of this draft, and being able to get Nimmala here feels like a steal.
Passan: I agree, Alden. Nimmala here is a steal. I was planning on taking him. But I do appreciate you wiping the board of pitchers last round and allowing me to get a value pick later.
In the meantime, I’ll get a steal myself: Jacob Gonzalez, who I almost took last round and would’ve let slip if I weren’t worried Alden was going to nab him and stick him at second base. And I’ll grab Nolan Schanuel, because the first basemen in this class are mid, which means the rest will fit right in on Alden’s and Jesse’s teams
McDaniel: Ah, a breath of fresh air: My literal top three available go in this round. Gonzalez slipped way too far in another win for Passan.
19. Nolan Schanuel, 1B, Florida Atlantic (Passan)
20. Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami (Rogers)
21. Tommy Troy, 2B, Stanford (Gonzalez)
Rogers: Tommy Troy sounds like a small, light-hitting middle infielder — which is exactly what he’ll be for you, Alden. His power surge at Stanford last season fooled you, while Morales is a star at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. Smaller guys — Troy might be the smallest in the first round — are fun, but they don’t pay the bills. Morales will.
McDaniel: Two of my top three best available players go here, and Schanuel was my next best college bat. Good picks considering none of you knew my final rankings while doing this.
22. Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison (Virginia) HS (Gonzalez)
23. Chase Davis, OF, Arizona (Rogers)
24. Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor (Illinois) HS (Passan)
Rogers: Chase Davis is another player I personally scouted. Stardom awaits.
Gonzalez: I was going to save this as a potential value play late, but I couldn’t resist. Eldridge probably isn’t the next great two-way player, but he can be a standout right fielder. And if not, a first baseman. And if not, we’ll run the pickup basketball circuit together. The dude is 6-foot-7. That’s like one and a half Jeff Passans.
Passan: For the record, I’m 5-9, which is exactly the same height as … Alden. Though if we’re talking about coming up short: Jesse, you need another outfielder. Dillon Head lives 30 miles from you. Not only a subpar scouting director but a sellout too. So I’ll pick Head.
McDaniel: Eldridge is the right pick here, and those could be the next best outfielders, though I might slightly prefer Jonny Farmelo to these two.
25. Ralphy Velazquez, C, Huntington Beach (California) HS (Passan)
26. Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech (Rogers)
27. Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell (Florida) HS (Gonzalez)
Passan: Just to make sure you don’t use Velazquez as a first baseman, where he has played, I’ll grab him as my catcher, which is where he’ll play to start his minor league career.
McDaniel: That’s the correct pick for third catcher, with Cole Carrigg or a speculative Kemp Alderman conversion the other options. Infield is exceptionally deep in this area, so it would’ve been smart to rush to get outfielders, catcher and two pitchers quickly then take the infield leftovers.
28. Jake Gelof, OF, Virginia (Gonzalez)
29. Mike Boeve, 1B, Nebraska-Omaha (Rogers)
30. Thomas White, SP, Phillips Academy (Massachusetts) (Passan)
Gonzalez: I was scrambling a bit at the end here — you’re right, Jeff, first base is slim pickings at the top of this draft — but I feel good about getting 70-grade power in Gelof. He’ll play first base for me. All good.
Rogers: Are you trying to convince yourself of that pick, Alden? Sounds like it. Because you won’t convince us of it. My final one goes to Mike Boeve, from Nebraska-Omaha. I’m sure our esteemed, extremely handsome judge will allow me to move him to first base, right Kiley?
Passan: Let’s close this thing out the way it began, with a massive, hard-throwing pitcher — this time left-hander Thomas White, who will gladly join this team instead of honoring his Vanderbilt commitment.
Gonzalez: Wow, it’s pretty amazing how much better my team is. I’d like to thank the brilliant, tireless, illuminating research/analysis of the one and only Kiley McDaniel for all my success.
McDaniel: Boeve’s next-best position after second is probably first, so I’ll allow it. No Brock Wilken love? He seems to be a slam-dunk choice here for first base, which also is his second-best position, behind third base.
Why is your team the best?
Passan: Let’s start with this: I got three of the five best players in the draft. The difference between Skenes and Lowder is the biggest single-position gap in the draft, and letting Clark and Jenkins slip was some amateur-hour stuff. We can continue with this: I got the best first baseman, second baseman and third baseman, and the shortstops are all more or less in the same strata. And let’s finish here: I have a 50-50 split between college and high school players, giving my team a perfect proportion of steady performance and excellent upside. My team has the highest floor and ceiling, which is no easy feat.
Gonzalez: No, let’s start here: My roster includes the best catcher in this draft (Teel), arguably the best true center fielder available (Bradfield), one of the three can’t-miss position players (Langford) and the second-best pitcher (Dollander) in a really shallow pitching draft. I feel really good about my upside gambles with Nimmala at No. 16 and Eldridge at 22. And I filled out the rest of the roster with safer, high-floor picks in Waldrep, Troy and Gelof. If Dollander bounces back, like I think he should, it’s a laugher.
Rogers: I have the best overall balance, especially at the most important positions, having taken the best outfielder, best shortstop, second-best starter and second-best catcher. At least, that’s what my scouting department has told me. I also believe I have the right balance in players who can contribute soonish and those with more upside down the line. For example, Wilson’s mature approach — he was the toughest to strike out in college baseball this season — makes me think he won’t be long for the minors, while Meyer’s raw ability at 18 years old is going to pay off in a few years. Balance is the key word for Team Rogers.
McDaniel’s final verdict
I think Jesse comes in third. Boeve was the worst player selected, and passing on Clark and Jenkins with his second pick did the most damage, while my rankings are on the lower end of consensus on Hurley, Davis and Mitchell.
So that leaves Alden heads up against Jeff now. Alden’s top-end talent is lacking a bit, with only two of my top 10 players, while Jeff has five. Alden ended up going heavy in the Nos. 11-20 area by focusing on scarcity. But I give the nod to Jeff here because the top of the draft is what empirically matters, and he won this exercise there.