The 2023 MLB draft is upon us and (some of) the Half Street High Heat staff is here to provide their thoughts on several pressing questions. The first two rounds of the draft will be held on Sunday night. The Nationals hold the #2 and #40 overall picks in the draft.
Who will be the #1 overall pick?
Monty: Dylan Crews. The Pirates have surprised people before and gone under slot, but I don’t think they do so here. If they do, it’s going to be for Max Clark.
Shack: Dylan Crews. There is a lot of smoke and noise about this pick. Talk of the pirates going Langford or even Clark. I do not see it, I do not think the Pirates are THAT incompetent. I think all of this chatter is just creating noise due to talks about Dylan Crews high asking price and the chalk pick is made.
Arthur: Paul Skenes. The Pirates are known to make picks under slot to save money for later picks (see 2021), and there are reports that Crews’ camp will ask for over slot, so I believe the Pirates will play it safe and take Skenes to avoid the risk of coming up empty-handed.
Tyler: Wyatt Langford. I think people will be slightly shocked at this pick but there’s been some rumblings, and I could 100% see it if the Pirates want an elite bat but don’t want to pony up to Crews asking price also at the rumored risk of him not signing for them. I don’t believe the Max Clark talk but I 100% could see Langford.
Zander: Dylan Crews. I think even the Pirates — who have recently shown they like to play the money game with their picks — can’t pass on Crews’ talent with their pick.
Danny: Wyatt Langford. I think the Pirates are serious about taking someone other than Crews first overall, and assuming they are, Langford makes the most sense. Langford and Crews skillsets are similar, with Langford having an edge in the power department and Crews being the better overall hitter and better fielder. I don’t think the Pirates value Crews that much more than Langford, especially not enough to give him $1-2 million more. I do think this pick comes down to Langford and Crews though. Taking Clark or Jenkins would be a huge mistake when there are three players sitting there that would all be deserving of the top selection in any other draft.
Who will the Nats select at #2 overall?
Monty: Paul Skenes. Mike Rizzo isn’t going to be able to resist.
Shack: Paul Skenes. The Nats appear to be completely honed in on Skenes and there is talk about the Nats taking him even if Crews is available. The Pirates make the decision for the Nats and the reigning Dick Howser Trophy winner comes to the Nation’s Capital
Arthur: Dylan Crews. I believe that Skenes will be gone, but even if both he and Crews are available, I believe (hope) they will take Crews. If both are available, I have heard both that the Nats will take Skenes and that they will take Crews, so it’s hard to tell, but I think it will be Crews.
Tyler: Paul Skenes. Rizzo absolutely loves his big right-handers that throw hard and Skenes is a match made in heaven for him. I think the only way the Nats select someone different is if Pittsburgh takes Skenes at number 1. But even if the Pirates take none of the two LSU guys and Crews is still on the board for the Nats, I think Skenes is 100% the guy.
Zander: Paul Skenes. The ties between the Nationals’ picks in recent memory and starting pitching run very deep, and even without those connections, Skenes’ college career has shown him to be an easy no. 2 pick. Although, I do somewhat hesitant to put him here as the Nats’ pitching development is fairly lackluster and he does have some injury concerns to go along with his talent, but I will simply hope for the best and say they take him anyways.
Danny: Paul Skenes. I see this playing out as every Nats fan’s nightmare. A good nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless. If the Pirates take either Crews or Skenes, then it’s a fairly easy choice here: you just take whichever one wasn’t selected. But if they’re both available, I don’t see Rizzo being able to pass on the 6’6 right hander. Rizzo has proven time and time again that he values good pitching over good hitting. He’s taken a pitcher in the first round of 10 of his 16 drafts as Nats GM. It would be a complete shock if he took anybody other than Skenes here, unless of course he’s unavailable.
If you were the GM of the Nats, who would you select at #2 overall?
Monty: Dylan Crews. I’ve been on the Crews train all season, and I am not going to change it up here. That being said, I will be happy with any one of the three college stars. I’d prefer Crews/Langford simply because I believe taking a hitter has less risk than a pitcher, but I’ll be over the moon if the Nats select Skenes.
Shack: Any of the Big College 3, This is kind of a cop out because it’s not just one answer but the Nats cannot go wrong this year. Three guys who would be the #1 overall pick if the others weren’t there. My rankings would go Crews, Skenes and Langford in order of who I would take as GM
Arthur: Crews. He has an insane bat and can make a big impact on the big league team by next season if all goes well. To miss out on a bat of that caliber would be very disappointing.
Tyler: Dylan Crews is my #1 option but I would be far from upset at landing Skenes or Langford. Personally I take the bat over the arm every time and I believe the talent of Crews talent outlast the Nats’ terrible player development and turn him into at worst an above average big leaguer. I don’t doubt Skenes’s talent and 100% see him as a future top of the rotation ace, but the injury risk with a hard thrower just worries me the. Any of those 3 I’m fine with though, but if they take a prep bat I’ll get suspended from Twitter.
Zander: If he’s still there then without a doubt Dylan Crews. He’s possibly a generational talent for whatever team lands him. That being said, there’s no wrong answer between Crews, Skenes, and Langford, with my preferences being in that same order.
Danny: If this draft plays out with Langford going first overall and both LSU guys are sitting there at #2, then I would take Crews. He’s a monster. He’s a guy you can plug into the 2 hole every day for the next decade (or the 7 spot if Davey is still the manager). My board is Crews, Skenes and then Langford, and truthfully I would be fine with any of the three. Mike Rizzo’s board is Skenes………..everybody else. In my eyes, the only way the Nats end up with Crews is if the Pirates take Skenes, which I think is unlikely.
What will be the biggest surprise in the first two rounds of the draft on Sunday night?
Monty: Max Clark goes Top 3, forcing one of Skenes, Langford, or Crews to fall out of the Top 3.
Shack: Chase Dollander falls a lot – Dollander (who I talk about later) is an interesting prospect and I think those command issues have teams worried and he falls past the 15th pick in the draft
Arthur: I think Kyle Teel will jump into the top 5. There are reports that the Rangers or Twins could take him over one of the top prep bats, so I believe that he will make an unexpected leap into the top 5.
Tyler: Max Clark does not go top 5.
Zander: I think Rhett Lowder goes several picks higher than expected. With Dollander’s slip in the rankings like Shack mentioned, I think Lowder goes much higher and I could see him possibly even jumping up to somewhere like 5th.
Danny: I think there’s a chance that Ty Floyd sneaks into the first round after his 17K performance against Florida in the College World Series. There have been some comparisons between Floyd and Spencer Strider, so I think there’s a chance that a team takes a chance on him late in the first round.
Who would you like to see the Nats take with the 40th overall pick in the second round?
Monty: I want to say Jake Gelof out of UVA here, but I worry about his reckless swing-out-of-his shoes approach at the plate. I would be fine going pitcher with either Brandon Sproat out of Florida or Ty Floyd out of LSU.
Shack: Ralphy Velazquez – There is a slim chance he falls to 40 but if he does I want the Nationals to be all over him. Velazquez is a big, athletic catcher and first baseman from southern California. His plus power projects him to be a middle of the order bat, he’s a great leader and his strong arm pans well for catcher. There are questions about whether he will stick behind the plate but, he plays a strong 1B which fits perfectly in the Nationals system
Arthur: If they take Crews, then I would want Ty Floyd out of LSU. He put on a stellar performance in Game 1 of the CWS with a great fastball and slider. If he can throw strikes consistently, he will be a difference maker quickly. If they take Skenes, then I would want Jack Hurley. He’s above average in the field, makes contact fairly consistently, and the power came along as the season progressed. He would be a great addition and has raw talent with the bat.
Tyler: Brandon Sproat out of Florida. Not sure if he’d be available here but I’ve seen him mocked to us and I think he’d be an incredibly solid arm especially if they take Crews at #2.
Zander: Jake Gelof from UVA if we could snag him. Gelof has a solid hit tool, hits for power, and he’s an above-average fielder in the corner. He would just make for a very solid 40th pick if he’s still on the board for the Nats.
Danny: This is dependent on if the Nats take Crews, Langford or Skenes at #2. If they go Skenes, then I’d like to see them go position player in the second round. If Gelof is available, then I’m with Zander, Gelof would be a great get at #40. If Gelof isn’t there then Mitch Jebb, the shortstop out of Michigan State, could make some sense. Jebb won’t hit for a ton of power, but he makes a lot of contact and can steal some bases. If the Nats happen to go Crews or Langford, then Ty Floyd (if available) or Joe Whitman would make sense.
Who’s an under-the-radar prospect in the first round?
Monty: Yohandy Morales. He’s an absolute monster out of Miami and doesn’t really get talked about enough. He can hit for contact and power while drawing a lot of walks.
Shack: Bryce Eldridge – The Northern Virginia GOAT! Eldridge excelled this year as a two way player in his senior season and also in his summer showcase circuits. He’s extremely athletic for 6’7 has a plus fastball sitting 96, a great slider and a changeup with potential with a little tweaking. He has good raw power and a nice short swing, pair it with a strong arm in the field, whoever drafts him is going to be very excited to work on his tools.
Arthur: I may be a bit biased, but shortstop Matt Shaw from Maryland. He can play any infield position, has sneaky power, and is a very consistent hitter. He won the Cape Cod League MVP last season and led the Maryland offense, along with Nick Lorusso, to a Big 10 title and a spot in the playoffs. He will be a great addition to any farm system with his tools.
Tyler: Tre’ Morgan out of LSU. With all the smoke surrounding his two teammates in Crews and Skenes I feel like he falls under the radar a bit, made an insane play at 1B to save the game in the College World Series. Very solid hitter, slashed .316/.418/.502 with a .920 OPS this year. I don’t know if he’s necessarily first round worthy but I think he’s very underrated. If he doesn’t go first round I’d love to see Nats take him in later rounds, Lord knows this team needs 1B in the system.
Zander: I feel like with who we’re seeing as the likely 1st and 2nd everyone is going under the radar this year. My pick would be catcher Blake Mitchell out of Texas. I know it’s risky because he’s only in high school so he hasn’t really been tested as much as others, but he’s been scouted as a very good catching option. He looks like a consistent hitter with solid defense and an absolute cannon.
Danny: I don’t know how under-the-radar he is since I’ve seen him mocked as high as #6 to Oakland, but I like Jacob Gonzalez. Coming into the season he was viewed as a consensus top 5-6 player in the draft, but that’s changed. He’s coming off of his third consecutive season in the SEC where he’s walked more than he’s struckout. His power numbers are down from last year (18 home runs in 2022 compared to 10 this year), but the power is there. If I were picking in the latter half of the top 10, he’s a guy that I’d be looking at.
Paul Skenes is off the board. Which pitcher would you draft, Rhett Lowder or Chase Dollander?
Monty: I love Rhett Lowder, but I think Chase Dollander is the better pro prospect, so I’m taking the Tennessee right hander.
Shack: Rhett Lowder – The fall Chase Dollander experienced this year is insane. Entering the college season as the projected #2 pick and now he may not go top 10. Lowder has an elite changeup which to me, is one of the best offspeed you can have as a pitcher. Lowder fastball has more sink than ride so he is going to be a groundball machine as a pitcher and he also doesn’t have the command issues Dollander experienced.
Arthur: Rhett Lowder – Chase Dollander went from a projected top 2 pick to a fringe top 10 pick. He is still very talented, but just couldn’t find any consistency in a tough SEC. The right team may be able to develop him, but I would rather have Lowder. Lowder showed 3 above average pitches, with an elite changeup. He has a slightly lower arm slot, so he will likely be a ground ball pitcher, but he has solid command and is consistent, so I would rather have him than Dollander.
Tyler: Rhett Lowder – College World Series showed me enough, shut down a very potent LSU lineup and very poised and controlled for a college guy. He got that DAWG in him.
Zander: I’m just joining the crowd and echoing what I said earlier on this one. Rhett Lowder looks like he could be a seriously dangerous weapon for whatever team picks him up. His pitches are all solid, but his standout is easily his absurd changeup. He’s very in control of his command and his pitch placement as well.
Danny: I’d take Dollander. Coming into the season he was the guys alongside Crews that Nats fans were eyeing. Yes, he experienced a huge dropoff in production this year, mainly due to command issues. But if I’m picking between the two and I’m an organization who thinks they can fix those command issues, I’d be all over him. He throws a four pitch mix with an elite fastball (second only to Skenes) to go along with a great slider a solid changeup and a solid curveball. Lowder looked great, especially going toe to toe with Skenes in the College World Series, but I think Dollander can still settle into a top of the rotation starter. I think Lowder is the safer pick, but he maxes out as a #3.
Which first round prospect do you think will be a bust?
Monty: Enrique Bradfield Jr. out of Vanderbilt. He’s got incredible speed and defensive capability in center field, but I don’t think he’s going to hit at the next level.
Shack: Noble Meyer – The Royals love Meyer and what he brings to the table (lot of that being below slow value at this pick) Going to the Royals is rather unfortunate for any prospect and due to their issues as a franchise, Meyer gets the kiss of death and falls trap to this teams development issues.
Arthur: It’s hard to say who will be a bust, especially before knowing which team drafts which player, but Arjun Nimmala seems to be very up in the air when it comes to whether or not he can hit at the pro level. He has tremendous upside and all of the skills to be able to do so, but putting it all together is a different story. If the right team drafts him, he’ll be great, but if a team with poor hitting development drafts him, it may not be pretty.
Tyler: Whoever the Nats take.
Zander: I can’t really guess who will be an absolute bust, but I think that Hurston Waldrep will struggle with his control for a long time. His success in the majors will hinge on how he commands his pitches and if he can’t fix his issues with it, he will likely not see much success in the MLB.
Danny: Tyler’s right. But if you make me pick, then I’ll go with Hurston Waldrep. He’ll likely be the next pitcher selected behind Skenes, Lowder, Dollander and Meyer, but I just don’t see him giving a team first round value. He has command issues similar to Dollander and offers a nice 3-pitch mix, but I just don’t think taking a guy that walked 57 hitters in 101 ⅔ innings is the greatest idea.
Who would you rather draft, Max Clark or Walker Jenkins?
Monty: Max Clark. Depending on which team drafts him, he’s going to be a stud. I don’t trust a team such as the Nats to develop him properly, but if he goes to Texas for instance, he’ll be a big, big star down the line.
Shack: Max Clark – Clark has an extremely high ceiling, appears to have a 5 tool repertoire and I think his speed and agility keeps him in CF long term, whereas Jenkins has gotten slower as he has been putting on more muscle. I think Clark being able to stay in CF puts a little more value on him at the present.
Arthur: Max Clark – Clark put up insane numbers in high school and has potential to be a 5 tool player. He has decent power, great hitting ability, and will be a stud defensively. There have been questions regarding his character, but hopefully he will mature and I think he will be a very valuable piece. Jenkins doesn’t have the defensive upside or as good of a hit tool as Clark, but he will be great too. Clark just edges Jenkins out.
Tyler: Max Clark – At the moment him but I think it’s closer than people think. Clark has all the tools in the world at such a young age and I see why he’s been mocked at #1 overall as insane as that might be with Crews and Skenes at the top of the draft. If those two guys weren’t involved than I think he would be #1 on a ton of boards. I still think Nats should absolutely avoid prep bat at all costs though.
Zander: I think they’ll both be very good at the major level, but Max Clark beats out Jenkins purely on his future defensively. He’s already got the workings of all 5 tools and will continue to develop in each aspect with a very high upside.
Danny: Max Clark, but I think it’s extremely close. Clark and Jenkins are similar to Crews and Langford in that you’re looking at one who has 5-tool potential (Clark/Crews) and one who has the ability to be a middle of the order masher (Jenkins/Langford). I think if they’re both put in the right systems, both will be perennial All-Stars, but right now, I’d rather have Clark.
What would you consider to be a successful draft for the Nationals?
Monty: All they’ve got to do is take one of Langford, Skenes, or Crews and I’ll be happy to consider it a successful draft.
Shack: Nailing the first three rounds. The Nats have a chance to bring in a new potential face of the franchise with the second overall pick. Whomever they take there will be a top 15 prospect in baseball with an unreal ceiling. But, this is a deep draft. If they can strike gold at the 2nd and 3rd rounds (something this org has not been able to do ever) it will be absolutely massive for a rebuild that is off to a very bumpy start.
Arthur: Not drafting high school bats (or pitchers) with big risks. Brady House may be an anomaly, but looking at Elijah Green, Carter Kieboom, and other prep bats taken by the Nationals, it won’t go well if they go that route again (Green has the skills to turn it around, but the hitting “development” isn’t doing him any favors). Sticking with college players throughout the first few rounds would be great for the Nationals, as they have better development than high school bats/pitchers and will be closer to MLB ready. If the Nats want to compete sooner rather than later, taking college players should be the move.
Tyler: Taking any of the big 3 (Crews, Skenes, Langford) at #2 overall and then just hit wherever they can in the following rounds. As an organization that has absolutely STRUGGLED and I mean STRUGGLED to produce any kind of major league talent from their draft picks outside of the Bryce Harpers Stephen Strasburgs and Anthony Rendons they were handed on a silver platter (Crews/Skenes will be the next case of that), they just need to find a hit or two SOMEWHERE in later rounds. I’ll take any position, any guy, anywhere. This team just needs more talent out of the draft and especially the later rounds to help pick up their rebuild.
Zander: Obviously nailing the first round is key because I will lose a staggering amount of faith in this organization’s judgment if they mess up with the top 3 we have this year. Outside of that, just really honing in on sleeper picks or players that have fallen in later rounds and managing to pull something out of the draft that will help supplement their no. 2.
Danny: Truthfully, this draft turned out to almost be idiot-proof, even for a team that’s been incompetent at drafting for the past 10 years. There are three players in this draft deserve consideration to go #1 overall. All the Nats have to do at #2 is take one of those 3 players. Take Crews, take Skenes or take Langford. That’s it. Do that and it’s a successful draft. If they take one of the prep bats, it’s a failure. They need to hit on some of their later picks, but the three top prospects in this draft have enough talent to make this draft a success even if you don’t hit on any of your other picks.