Baseball's annual amateur draft is quickly approaching. The three-day event begins Monday and will cover 40 rounds. The first 75 picks will be shown during a live MLB Network broadcast. Rounds 3-10 will follow Tuesday and Rounds 11-40 will take place Wednesday. Inevitably, several All-Star players will be chosen next week. Possibly an MVP or Cy Young winner. Maybe even a Hall of Famer or two.
The top of the draft gets all the attention for obvious reasons. That's how the vast majority of MLB's best players are acquired -- in the first round of the draft. So, with that in mind and the draft only a few days away, this is as good a time as any to put together a mock first round.
Before we begin, I must note three teams do not have a first-round pick this year:
- Colorado Rockies: Forfeited 11th overall pick to sign Ian Desmond.
- St. Louis Cardinals: Forfeited 15th overall pick to sign Dexter Fowler.
- Cleveland Indians: Forfeited 25th overall pick to sign Edwin Encarnacion.
Below is our official CBS Sports 2017 MLB First Round Mock Draft. In the interest of full disclosure, I will note I got exactly four picks correct in. Five if you count one team-player pick that happened in the second round rather than the first. Baseball's draft is unpredictable, and this is all little more than educated guesswork. Feel free to bookmark this post for future mocking purposes.
Time for the mock draft. Come with me, won't you?
1. Minnesota Twins
The Pick: RHP Kyle Wright, Vanderbilt
As expected, the Minnesota Twins have cast a wide net for the No. 1 overall pick, though over the last few weeks they've reportedly narrowed their focus to three players: Wright, Louisville 1B/LHP Brendan McKay, and California high school SS/RHP Hunter Greene. There has never been a high school right-hander taken first overall, and I don't see that starting now with Greene.
Wright has the best combination of upside and probability in the draft class, which is why the expectation is he winds up with Minnesota. He has now stuff in his mid-90 fastballs and knuckle-buckling curveball, and he has a big-league body at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Wright has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but is also very likely to carve out a big league career in some capacity (mid-rotation starter, high-leverage reliever, etc.), as long as he stays healthy.
Also, it should be noted Vanderbilt has become the nation's top player development program. The Commodores have had 12 players drafted in the first round over the last decade, including nine pitchers. Among them are David Price, a former No. 1 pick himself, and Sonny Gray. That won't hurt Wright's case.
2. Cincinnati Reds
The Pick: SS/RHP Hunter Greene, Notre Dame High School (California)
The Cincinnati Reds are said to be in heaviest on McKay and Greene, and this scenario, they'd have their pick of the two. Greene is the consensus top prospect in the draft class -- you won't find many who think it's all that close either -- and even while rebuilding, the one thing the Reds lack in the farm system is a prospect with true "star" ceiling. Greene would address that.
Like McKay, Greene is a top prospect at either shortstop or pitcher, so it'll be interesting to see how he gets sent out in pro ball. For what it's worth, Greene says he wants to stay at shortstop going forward, though most agree he has more upside on the mound. Either way, it's a no-lose situation for the Reds. Greene has super high upside on the mound and at the plate, and he has all the characteristics you look for in a franchise player.
3. San Diego Padres
The Pick: SS/OF Royce Lewis, JSerra Catholic High School (California)
The dream scenario for the San Diego Padres would be Wright and McKay going to the Twins and Reds in whatever order, and Greene falling into their lap with the No. 3 pick. I don't see that happening though. It's not impossible at this point, just really unlikely.
With that scenario off the table, I have San Diego going for Lewis, a local product who has some of the best athleticism in the draft class. Lewis can square up all types of pitching, and while it's not a true five-tool package because there is some question about how much over-the-fence power he'll have down the road, few 2017 draft prospects have this much all-around ability.
I should mention the Padres have an extra pick in Competitive Balance Round B (69th overall) and thus a very large bonus pool at nearly $12 million. They could cut a below-slot deal with a lower ranked prospect here, and use the savings on a higher profile player prospect who slips later in the draft. Several other teams with extra picks have done that in the past, including San Diego.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
The Pick: 1B/LHP Brendan McKay, Lousville
The Tampa Bay Rays have not picked inside the top 10 since 2008, when they chose Tim Beckham with the first overall pick. McKay gets the nod here because he's the best prospect still on the board, and I don't think Tampa will get cute with this pick. The real question is do they let McKay hit or pitch? His career college numbers:
- As Pitcher: 30-10, 2.13 ERA, 376/109 K/BB in 304 total innings
- As Hitter: .332/.436/.540 with 46 doubles, 27 home runs, 107 walks, and 110 strikeouts in 184 total games
The consensus in the scouting community is that McKay is a legitimate top-five draft talent both on the mound and at the plate, so there's really no wrong answer here. In situations like this, the general belief is the team should send the player out as a hitter because it's much easier to fall back on pitching than the other way around. Either way, McKay projects to be an impact player.
5. Atlanta Braves
The Pick: LHP MacKenzie Gore, Whiteville High School (North Carolina)
Gore is one of the biggest risers in the draft class this year thanks to increased velocity -- he now sits closer to 93-95 mph than the 89-92 mph he showed in the past -- and an even filthier curveball. The Atlanta Braves are a candidate to cut a pre-draft below-slot deal so they can use the savings on high-end players in the second and third rounds, a move they've done in the past, including last year. In that case, Gore would almost certainly not be the guy with the fifth pick.
6. Oakland Athletics
The Pick: 1B Pavin Smith, Virginia
The Oakland Athletics have been heavy on college players with their top picks over the last several years, though if Gore were to fall into their laps here, I think they'd take him in a heartbeat. Since I have Gore going to the Braves, Smith is the guy for the A's and the sixth pick. He's an elite college performer -- he's a career .325/.402/.514 hitter for the Cavaliers and has more home runs (13) than strikeouts (12) this spring -- with the hit and power tools to climb the minor-league ladder very quickly. Don't sleep on his defense either. Smith can really pick it at first base.
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Pick: RHP J.B. Bukauskas, North Carolina
A completely new front office makes it difficult to project which way the Arizona Diamondbacks will go with their first-round pick. I think the dream scenario is either Lewis or Gore slipping to this pick. Absent that scenario, Bukauskas is the pick here because he is the best remaining player on the board. Arizona reportedly had all their head honchos at the ACC tournament two weeks ago to see Bukauskus (and Smith), a short-ish right-hander with a big mid-90s fastball and hard mid-80s slider.
It's worth noting the D-Backs drafted Bukauskas out of high school (20th round in 2014), though he did not sign and instead heading to college. That was under a different front office, however. There's no bad blood. Bukauskas was strongly committed to UNC and the D-Backs knew it, but they took a shot in the 20th round in case he changed his mind.
8. Philadelphia Phillies
The Pick: OF Austin Beck, North Davidson High School (North Carolina)
A knee injury prevented Beck from playing in summer showcases last year, though he's shown the same tremendous tools this spring, including top-of-the-line bat speed and power potential. He also has a rocket arm and is an above-average runner. Beck is one of the most tooled-up players in the draft class. The Philadelphia Phillies have a recent history of valuing raw talent and upside over polish and track record, so Beck fits.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
The Pick: OF Jordon Adell, Ballard High School (Kentucky)
This would make it three straight years taking an outfielder in the first round for the Milwaukee Brewers (Trent Clark in 2015, Corey Ray in 2016), though positional needs are no consideration this high in the draft. Just get the best talent available. Milwaukee has been connected to Adell, who has tremendous power potential and two-way ability, pretty much all spring.
10. Los Angeles Angels
The Pick: OF Adam Haseley, Virginia
The Los Angeles Angels have gone heavy on college players in recent years in an effort to quickly rebuild arguably the worst farm system in baseball. Haseley is a polished lefty hitter who excels at spraying the ball to left field, though this spring he started to figure out how to pull the ball to right field for power. He can also play a mean center fielder and isn't expected to require much time in the minors. If they're still on the board, either Smith or Bukauskas would be the pick here instead.
11. Chicago White Sox
The Pick: OF Jeren Kendall, Vanderbilt
This one just fits. The Chicago White Sox have a history of making risky picks with flawed yet extremely talented college players. Kendall was a candidate to go first overall coming into the spring, though there's a lot of swing and miss in his game, which is scaring some teams away. Still, when the package includes tremendous power potential, top-of-the-line speed, and excellent center field defense, it's not difficult to get excited.
12. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pick: 1B Evan White, Kentucky
The Pittsburgh Pirates tend to focus on bats in the first round, and White is gaining steam leading up to the draft. It's a very unique profile. White is a right-handed hitter and a left-handed thrower, and he stands out more for his pure hitting ability than his power. He's also a very good athlete with Gold Glove potential at first base, and he has played some outfield in the past. This isn't the best draft class for mid-first round bats, so if the Pirates decided to break the mold and go for an arm, this wouldn't be a bad year to do it.
13. Miami Marlins
The Pick: LHP David Peterson, Oregon
A 6-foot-6 left-hander with a good fastball and a wipeout slider? Sign me up. Peterson figures to be one of the quickest moving players in the 2017 draft class, which fits the Miami Marlins well because the big-league pitching staff needs all the help they can get. Peterson has both a 17-strikeout and 20-strikeout game this spring.
I should note the Marlins have an extra pick in Competitive Balance Round A (36th overall), giving them a nice big bonus pool. They're a candidate to cut a pre-draft deal here so they can spend big on a player with the 36th overall selection. Texas prep righty Shane Baz is often mentioned as a candidate for such a maneuver.
(The reason teams save money with their top pick so they can spend later rather than vice versa is because if that tough sign player doesn't sign, the club would lose all their first-round slot money. If the player doesn't sign as a supplemental first-rounder or competitive-balance pick, it won't hurt as much.)
14. Kansas City Royals
The Pick: LHP D.L. Hall, Valdosta High School (Georgia)
The Kansas City Royals are said to be in on all top high school pitchers, and at this point, Hall is the best available. He operates with a low-90s fastball and a good curveball, and it plays up because he locates his heater well to both sides of the plate. I think they'd jump at the chance to pick Kendall should he slip this far.
15. Houston Astros
The Pick: RHP Shane Baz, Concordia Lutheran High School (Texas)
Thanks to the Cardinals' hacking scandal, the Houston Astros are in a wonderful position because they have loads of extra picks and bonus pool money. St. Louis sent Houston their second and third draft picks as compensation. The extra bonus pool money allows them to spend big on Baz, a top-10-ish talent with significant bonus demands. If Baz, a rare four-pitch high-schooler, is still on the board, the 'Stros are expected to pounce. And if they don't, Baz could fall out of the first round entirely.
16. New York Yankees
The Pick: 1B Nick Pratto, Huntington Beach High School (California)
The New York Yankees have a known affinity for Southern California players -- four of their last six first-round picks were SoCal players -- which leads them to Pratto, who, like Baz, is a top-10-ish talent with big bonus demands. As they did last year with the 18th pick and Blake Rutherford, another top-10 talent from SoCal, the Yankees will grab the best player available and figure out a way to pay him (by going cheap with other picks). Pratto is considered the most advanced high school bat in the draft class and New York won't pass that up, even though the track record of high school first basemen taken in the first round isn't very good.
17. Seattle Mariners
The Pick: 3B Jake Burger, Missouri State
The Seattle Mariners are said to be all in on college bats. They'd love one of the Virginia kids, Smith or Haseley, though that's a pipe dream. Burger is the best college bat still on the board and this dude can mash. He's a career .341/.421/.624 hitter with 47 home runs in 174 games for Bears. Burger will probably have to slide over to first base at some point -- not immediately, but a few years down the line -- though his bat is getting him drafted in the first round. He profiles offensively at any position.
18. Detroit Tigers
The Pick: LHP Trevor Rogers, Carlsbad High School (New Mexico)
They really want Hall but are going to end up with Rogers in this scenario. Rogers is 6-foot-6 with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and promising secondary stuff. It's worth noting he is already 19 and will turn 20 in November, making him one of the oldest high-schoolers in the draft class. The track record of older prep draftees isn't great, though at this point in the first round, the Detroit Tigers are going to be getting the player with the highest upside still on the board.
Since both the Royals and Tigers are in on prep arms, it's not impossible their picks are reversed, with Rogers going to Kansas City and Hall going to Detroit.
19. San Francisco Giants
The Pick: SS Logan Warmoth, North Carolina
A college hitter is never a bad bet with the San Francisco Giants. Warmoth is a no-doubt first-round player with some die hard fans who consider him a top-10 talent thanks to his sweet right-handed swing and all-around ability. Warmoth's detractors see a guy without one outstanding tool. Just a lot of average ones. San Francisco is a great player development organization with a knack for getting players to exceed their perceived ceilings. Given that, in five years people might look back at this pick and wonder how Warmoth fell all the way to the 19th overall. (Also, his name is Warmoth!)
20. New York Mets
The Pick: 2B Keston Hiura, UC Irvine
The way this mock draft plays out is basically the worst-case scenario for the New York Mets. They want Pratto or Warmoth and won't get either. Fallback options like White and Burger are off the board too. That isn't to say the Mets are going to get hosed, because they're not. They're still going to get a quality player at this pick. It's just that they won't get their first or second (or third or fourth) choice.
Hiura is one of the most fascinating prospects in the draft class because he can really hit. He's got a .442/.567/.693 batting line with 50 walks and only 38 strikeouts in 56 games this spring. But -- and it's a big but -- Hiura has been limited to DH duty all year because he a damaged ligament in his elbow and can't throw. He's one of the most advanced hitters in the draft class and would almost certainly be a top-15 pick if healthy. The concern is he'll need Tommy John surgery sooner rather than later, which would slow down his development.
21. Baltimore Orioles
The Pick: RHP Griffin Canning, UCLA
Bit of an easy call for the O's at this point of the draft. Canning is a polished four-pitch starter with a track record of success at a major college program. He's someone a team could plug right into their farm system and just let him go. No need to get the coaches involved with mechanical tweaks and whatnot. The Baltimore Orioles are reportedly focused on college arms and the quick-moving Canning is the best available here.
22. Toronto Blue Jays
The Pick: RHP Tanner Houck, Missouri
This would be four straight college right-handers in the first round and five in the last six years for the Toronto Blue Jays. Houck has arguably the best power arm in the 2017 draft class, as he features a heavy mid-90s heater that tops out at 98 mph and bores in on righties. His slider and changeup still need work, but you can't teach velocity.
There are two things worth noting here. One, the Blue Jays drafted Houck out of high school (12th round in 2014), and there's a good chance he still has some fans in the organization despite the recent front-office changes. And two, Toronto also holds the 28th overall pick, the first pick of the supplemental first round, so they're in position to get creative with their bonus pool money here. (That supplemental first-rounder is the compensation pick for losing Encarnacion to free agency.)
23. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Pick: OF Bubba Thompson, McGill-Toolen High School (Alabama)
It's not often you hear a team picking this late in the draft tied heavily to one specific player, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have been all over Thompson this spring. He's an exceptional athlete -- Thompson had Division I scholarship offers to play football -- who runs well and plays splendid center field defense. Thompson has shown increased power potential this spring, which has helped put him in the first-round mix.
24. Boston Red Sox
The Pick: SS Nick Allen, Parker High School (California)
The Boston Red Sox are typically opportunists that take any top talent who falls, though with a late first-round pick and no extra draft picks, Boston has one of the smallest bonus pools this year. They don't have much wiggle room financially. Allen is a scout's favorite because he plays very hard and knows the game well beyond his years. The downside here is that Allen is 5-foot-8 and 158 pounds, which is going to scare many teams away. The Red Sox have had success with undersized players in the past (Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts, most notably), so I don't think Allen's size will deter them.
25. Washington Nationals
The Pick: LHP Seth Romero, No School
The Washington Nationals are not shy about taking troubled players. They've rolled the dice on a few pitchers who had Tommy John surgery before the draft (Erick Fedde) or shortly thereafter (Lucas Giolito), for example. Romero's troubles are not injury related though. .
Teams have a way of overlooking stuff like that though if you can play. Romero was once considered a lock for the top 10 picks because he's a lefty with mid-90s gas, a knockout slider, and a very good changeup. The baseball talent is undeniable. The makeup is questionable. If the Nationals do take Romero, I'd be very interested to see if they fast-track him through the minors and get him in their big-league bullpen by September.
26. Texas Rangers
The Pick: RHP Matt Sauer, Righetti High School (California)
The Texas Rangers have the 26th and 29th overall picks -- the 29th pick is the compensation pick for losing Desmond to free agency -- so they have plenty of bonus money to spend. Sauer has an electric arm, one that produces mid-to-upper-90s fastballs and mid-to-upper-80s sliders on the regular. He's a project, though. He doesn't have a changeup and his arm swing is a little too long for some folks.
Bottom line: The Rangers have the extra pick and the bonus pool flexibility to shoot for the moon in the first round. Sauer throws fire and the team will work with him to improve his changeup and delivery. You can't teach what comes out of this kid's arm. Texas would probably end up balancing this pick out with a "safer" selection at No. 29.
27. Chicago Cubs
The Pick: RHP Sam Carlson, Burnsville High School (Minnesota)
To the victor goes the spoils. The Chicago Cubs are the defending World Series champs and they'll go into Monday's draft with an extra pick (30th overall as compensation for losing Fowler) and a nice big bonus pool. That allows them to grab Carlson, easily the best player still on the board, and pay him the mid-first round bonus it'll probably take to him to turn pro. Carlson is extremely advanced for a high school kid from a cold weather state. His fastball has sat in the mid-90s this spring and both his slider and changeup are quality offerings as well. The Cubbies are in position to take whichever highly-ranked player falls here.