MLB Mock Draft 2023: LSU's Dylan Crews, Paul Skenes go 1-2 in college-heavy first round

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MLB Mock Draft 2023
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If baseball fans are looking for a little preview of the 2023 MLB Draft, all they have to do is tune in to the College World Series.

Omaha will be filled with several of the top draft prospects in the nation, particularly from LSU. The Tigers boast the two top names in the draft between outfielder Dylan Crews and starting pitcher Paul Skenes, who have each posted dominant campaigns.

That doesn't necessarily mean they will be the first names selected. While they are both widely projected to be the first two players picked (including in this mock draft), the MLB draft is always filled with surprises. And with a clear top five that appears unquestioned across the industry, that already sets the stage for some intrigue on July 9 when the first picks are being called.

The Sporting News is taking a stab at trying to guess who the picks will be in the first round, incentive round and Competitive Balance Round A of the 2023 MLB Draft, with write-ups on every team's first pick in the draft. This year, there are only 28 picks in the first round after the Mets and Dodgers lost their selections because they exceeded the competitive balance tax threshold by $40 million.

Here's a look at the first mock draft of the season:

MORE: 10 best MLB Draft prospects to watch in College World Series

Dylan Crews
(Getty Images)

MLB Mock Draft 2023

1. Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Dylan Crews, OF, LSU

The Pirates could look to cut a deal with another prospect to save money for later in the draft, but there's rarely a generational prospect at the top of the class that's the clear-cut top pick. Dylan Crews had a ridiculous regular season with a slugging percentage above the .700s and on-base percentage well over .500. He's a polished bat with power, speed and the ability to stick in center field. It won't be long until he's able to make a major impact in the big leagues.

2. Washington Nationals

  • Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU

LSU sends back-to-back picks at the top of the draft with Paul Skenes following Crews. There are some who believe Skenes to be equally qualified to go first overall ahead of Crews. He's a polished right-hander who dominated the most difficult conference in college baseball all season with a fastball in the upper 90s and reaching triple-digits, along with perhaps the best slider in the class. Throw in a reliable changeup as a third offering, and it's clear he has among the highest upside of any college arm in the draft since Casey Mize in 2018, possibly even Stephen Strasburg, widely considered the best pitching draft prospect of all time.

3. Detroit Tigers

  • Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida

Wyatt Langford is a compelling No. 2 college bat behind Crews. He has more power than his LSU counterpart, but is a tick behind him in speed and overall hitting ability, though both are more a testament to Crews' standout abilities than a knock on Langford, who in any other year would be the clear favorite to be the top college bat off the board. Langford is more likely to be a corner outfielder, but one with middle-of-the-order potential as a player who combines a well-rounded hit tool with power and speed to boot.

4. Texas Rangers

  • Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick High (N.C.)

The Rangers might be happy to take either of the top three college players, but if they're gone (as they are in this situation), Texas is probably headed toward the top high school bat in the draft, Walker Jenkins. For a prep hitter, he is incredibly polished, with a plus hit tool, plus power and above-average speed with the ability to stick in center. The Rangers haven't gone to the high school ranks in the first round since picking Cole Winn in 2018, but the upside of Jenkins is far too much to pass up.

5. Minnesota Twins

  • Max Clark, OF, Franklin Community High (Ind.)

The Twins lucked out in the draft lottery by landing the fifth spot in a draft where there are five clear top-tier talents. Since the other four are gone, that leaves Max Clark as the final one of the five. Unlike the other three batters, Clark is speed over power, possessing some of the best wheels in the class that help make him provide top-tier defense in center field. Clark also has a promising hit tool and enough power to at least get to the point where he could be a decent power hitter. The Twins have had a penchant for high school hitters in recent drafts (Byron Buxton, Nick Gordon, Alex Kiriloff, Royce Lewis and Keoni Cavaco), and Clark profiles as one of the best they'll have the chance to select.

Chase Dollander
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6. Oakland Athletics

  • Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee

The top five players in the draft are clear, and if any happen to fall to the Athletics at No. 6, Oakland would be quick to scoop up any of them. In this situation, however, none do, and the Athletics wind up taking Chase Dollander, the high-powered Tennessee arm believed early in the draft to be the top college arm in the field. Dollander struggled to build off a standout 2022, but the stuff is still there, and Oakland has reportedly had plenty of interest in college players with their top pick. There is upside to be had with Dollander given his stuff, and after high-risk/high-reward college picks in the past (Kyler Murray, A.J. Puk and Logan Davidson), Oakland seems like a team willing to take the gamble on the hard-throwing right-hander.

7. Cincinnati Reds

  • Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest

The Reds have reportedly shown interest in taking a college pitcher with their first pick in the draft, and with a team that has a farm system nearing the major league level, picking a polished arm could be the best direction for the team. Rhett Lowder might be the most polished arm in the 2023 class, albeit without the same power stuff as Skenes and Dollander, though he does break out a dynamic changeup that rivals the best of any pitcher in the class. He could be a quick riser through the minors, and the Reds have found success with recent college pitching selections like Nick Lodolo and Andrew Abbott.

8. Kansas City Royals

  • Kyle Teel, C, Virginia

Kansas City went to the college ranks last year in selecting Virginia Tech's Gavin Cross, and after success with him, they might be inclined to look back at the catcher from the Hokies' rival. Kyle Teel tore the cover off the ball with the Cavaliers in 2023, and plays a premium position. Scouts believe he has the ability to stay behind the plate with a powerful arm capable of controlling the running game. 

9. Colorado Rockies

  • Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU

Brayden Taylor has been rising up draft boards thanks to a big spring, where he launched more than 20 home runs in helping to lead the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament. The Rockies have been connected with several college players, and have had a tendency to target bats in the first round of the draft. His promising hit tool and improving power would profile well in Coors Field, and would give Colorado's athletic farm system a versatile infielder.

10. Miami Marlins

  • Jacob Wilson, SS, Grand Canyon

There have been a plethora of names connected with the Marlins at No. 10, largely college bats. And in this scenario, Miami lands a player that might have the best pure hit tool in the draft. Jacob Wilson struck out five times in 192 at-bats in 2023 with a batting average of .411. There are questions about his future defensive home, and his lack of power and plus speed could lead to him sliding down on draft day. But if the Marlins want a polished batter who could be a quick riser to the big leagues, there would be no better fit than Wilson.

Jacob Wilson
(Getty Images)

11. Los Angeles Angels

  • Nolan Schanuel, 1B, Florida Atlantic

Going back to 2014, the Angels have selected college players with seven of nine picks. As was evidenced with last year's pick of Zach Neto, who is already in Los Angeles as the starting shortstop, the Angels don't mind getting a guy to the big leagues quickly if he's ready. Nolan Schanuel has the advanced approach that could allow him to adjust to the minors well, and the power to be an impactful talent (he was second among Division I players with a .868 slugging percentage). He's likely limited to first base or the corner outfield, but his bat will play anywhere he's positioned.

12. Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Colin Houck, SS, Parkview High (Ga.)

There has been plenty of buzz linking Colin Houck to the Diamondbacks in the draft, with Arizona looking to add another high ceiling high school bat to recent selections like Druw Jones, Jordan Lawlar and Corbin Carroll. Houck is a polished hitter for a high schooler with above-average pop, and the potential to stick at shortstop long-term. Even if he doesn't, the bat should still play well enough at third.

13. Chicago Cubs

  • Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Mississippi

The Cubs have found success lately taking college bats in the first round, with all four of their most recent college hitters reaching the majors in Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner. They could dive back into the top of the college ranks and select Jacob Gonzalez, a shortstop who has the power and approach needed to be an impact bat. Though he might not have the speed to stick at short full-time, he could play across the infield and give the Cubs their latest bat-first super-utility man.

14. Boston Red Sox

  • Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt

It's possible that Enrique Bradfield Jr. has been selected by the time the Red Sox get to make their selection. But if he falls to 14, he would be a hard player to pass up. He's the prototypical leadoff hitter with a good approach to the plate and above-average contact skills. But his carrying trait is his speed and defense. Bradfield has elite speed, which could be a major asset with stolen bases on the rise.

15. Chicago White Sox

  • Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton High (Texas)

Chicago has been rumored to be targeting bats over arms in the first round, with the biggest question being whether that means high school or college. The White Sox have gone with several fast-moving college bats in recent years, but with a barren farm system, they might look to go high upside and take the top prep catcher in the class. Blake Mitchell has an advanced approach with above-average pop and the ability to stay behind the plate. If all works well, he could be the top player in their system before long.

Tommy Troy
(Getty Images)

16. San Francisco Giants

  • Tommy Troy, SS, Stanford

San Francisco have picked college players in the first round of five straight drafts. This mock has them keeping that trend going for another year, this time going in their own backyard and picking Stanford third baseman Tommy Troy. It's a well-rounded profile with Troy, who is average to above-average across the board and offers a high floor. Troy could play second base, shortstop, third base or the outfield, and would give the Giants another valuable utility player at the top of their farm system.

17. Baltimore Orioles

  • Arjun Nimmala, SS, Strawberry Crest High (Fla.)

Plenty of models will like Arjun Nimmala because of his power, approach and age heading into the draft. The Orioles have found success with prep shortstops lately (Jackson Holliday and Gunnar Henderson), and Nimmala could become the latest in what has become a strong farm system. Nimmala could go much earlier in the draft, with some thinking he might be a top 10 pick. While the Orioles are deep in their system at shortstop, at this stage, getting a player with Nimmala's skillset and age at a premium position might be too much to pass up.

18. Milwaukee Brewers

  • Matt Shaw, SS, Maryland

Like Nimmala, Matt Shaw could fly off the board much earlier than the Brewers' pick at No. 18. But he's available here, and winds up being the pick for a franchise that has taken college players in the first round in six of the past seven drafts. Shaw is all hitter, with some questions on the defensive side, but has one of the better power/speed combinations of any college player in the draft. Combine that with his patience at the plate and ability to make consistent contact, and the Brewers would have a valuable bat at any position.

19. Tampa Bay Rays

  • Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit High (Ore.)

Noble Meyer is the consensus top high school pitcher in the draft, but prep right-handers haven't always panned out. The Rays haven't been afraid to dive into the high school ranks, including taking prep pitchers in two of the past five drafts in the first round. Meyer has some development still left ahead, but the arm talent is legit, with an upper-90s fastball and wicked slider that gives him plenty of upside. Given the Rays success developing arms like Shane Baz and Taj Bradley, they could be a team ready to maximize his potential.

20. Toronto Blue Jays

  • Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest

Toronto has been connected with several high school hitters during the draft, but four of the past five Blue Jay first-round picks have been from the college ranks. Brock Wilken combines the upside of some prep bats as an un-refined hitter with middle-of-the-order potential as one of the best sluggers in the class. He showed improvements in his approach in 2023 as one of the top sluggers in a potent Wake Forest lineup. He's got the arm to handle third base, though some question whether his mobility and glove can stick at the hot corner.

Hurston Waldrep
(Getty Images)

21. St. Louis Cardinals

  • Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida

The Cardinals have found success drafting college arms in recent years with first-round picks like Zack Thompson (Kentucky) in 2019, Michael McGreevy (UC Santa Barbara) in 2021 and Cooper Hjerpe (Oregon State) in 2022. While most have been control and command over stuff, Hurston Waldrep could give them a high-upside college arm in the system after underperforming in 2023 with overpowering stuff. His high velo and dominant off-speed offerings give him ace upside, even if a bit of risk given his struggles with command as a junior.

22. Seattle Mariners

  • Bryce Eldridge, 1B/RHP, Madison High (Va.)

For the third straight year, the Mariners go to the high school ranks. This time, they take one of the most intriguing players in the class in Bryce Eldridge. The 6-7, 223-pound two-way player has been praised both for his versatile repertoire on the mound and for his raw power as a hitter. Eldridge has a real shot of playing both ways in the minors, and would bolster a young and exciting farm system.

23. Cleveland Guardians

  • Kevin McGonigle, SS, Monsignor Bonner High (Pa.)

Cleveland has reportedly been interested in bats, and with several of the top names already off the board, the Guardians take one of the best pure hitters in the high school ranks. Kevin McGonigle grades as one of the top prep hitters thanks to his approach and ability to make consistent, solid contact. McGonigle is a high school version of Wilson, charting in as average in both power and speed, but his bat could be enough to carry him to a lofty pick.

24. Atlanta Braves

  • Colt Emerson, SS, Glenn High (Ohio)

The Braves have been connected with several high school players in the draft, and could go for any number of the prep shortstops if they're available. Here, they wind up taking Colt Emerson, a shortstop in a similar mold to McGonigle, being a Midwest prep hitter with a plus hit tool as his calling card. Emerson has the potential to develop some better power than McGonigle, and comes with the added bonus of being 17 on draft day.

25. San Diego Padres

  • George Lombard Jr., SS, Gulliver Prep (Fla.)

There has been plenty of helium around Lombard, and he might not be around when the Padres make this pick. But if he is, San Diego might keep the run on high school bats going by taking the toolsy Vanderbilt commit. Lombard, standing 6-3, 190 pounds, has plenty of raw power and has added some speed to his game. Lombard would give the Padres a high-upside shortstop prospect, who could make a similar rise to 2021 prep shortstop Jackson Merrill.

26. New York Yankees

  • Samuel Stafura, SS, Walter Panas High (N.Y.)

Samuel Stafura has shot up draft boards, and brings back plenty of memories of Anthony Volpe, another Yankee shortstop that was drafted in New York's backyard. He's been connected with New York a lot, with the Yankees potentially eyeing the upside in Stafura's size and rapid ascendance. He's fast and has some power upside, though there are questions about his hit tool.

Yohandy Morales
(Getty Images)

27. Philadelphia Phillies

  • Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami

The Phillies have mixed things up in recent years with taking high school and college bats, but they've found more success with the college ranks, with Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott hitting on recent first-round picks. Here, Yohandy Morales drops down to No. 27, and Philadelphia opts to go with what works in taking the college hitter. Morales has questions about his strikeouts, but he has plenty of power and looks like a smooth-enough operator on the left side to stick at the hot corner.

28. Houston Astros

  • Chase Davis, OF, Arizona

Chase Davis entered the 2023 season with plenty of questions. The power was real, and he had a promising all-fields approach, but he still struck out too much. He appeared to correct some of that in 2023, cutting down on the strikeouts and walking 43 times to 40 strikeouts. The Astros have taken college performers in the first round of three straight drafts, with Seth Beer, Korey Lee and Drew Gilbert. Davis would have the upside to give them a potent middle-of-the-order slugger.

29. Seattle Mariners

  • Mitch Jebb, SS, Michigan State

The Mariners were awarded this pick for Julio Rodriguez winning Rookie of the Year in 2022.

Competitive Balance Round A

30. Seattle Mariners

  • Ralphy Velazquez, C, Huntington Beach High (Calif.)

31. Tampa Bay Rays

  • Dillon Head, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor High (Ill.)

32. New York Mets

  • Jake Gelof, 3B, Virginia

The Mets have done well in the past drafting collegiate bats, with players like Pete Alonso, Kevin Parada and Michael Conforto coming from the college ranks. With a few prep standouts off the board, New York goes back to a performing college slugger, taking Virginia's Jake Gelof. He has launched a team-high 23 home runs, prior to the College World Series, and has walked nearly as much as he struck out in 2023 with 47 walks and 50 punchouts. Gelof has plenty of offensive upside, and could be a quick riser if he finds a defensive home.

33. Milwaukee Brewers

  • Charlee Soto, RHP, Reborn Christian Academy (Fla.)

34. Minnesota Twins

  • Walker Martin, SS, Eaton High (Colo.)

35. Miami Marlins

  • Colton Ledbetter, OF, Mississippi State

36. Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Travis Sykora, RHP, Round Rock High (Texas)

The Dodgers have typically targeted high upside college arms early in drafts, but this year's class has a bit of a drop-off after Waldrep. Los Angeles could go the college hitter route, but given its success in developing arms, it might opt to look at the high school ranks. Travis Sykora fits the bill with a triple-digit fastball with a lethal splitter and a solid slider. He lacks polish, but the Dodgers always seem to find a way to get the most out of pitchers with raw talent.

37. Detroit Tigers

  • Adrian Santana, SS, Doral Academy (Fla.)

38. Cincinnati Reds

  • Jack Hurley, OF, Virginia Tech

39. Oakland Athletics

  • Thomas White, LHP, Phillips Academy (Mass.)
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Edward Sutelan is a content producer at The Sporting News.