Written by Diego Solares (@deegsbaseball)
It’s finally arrived.
After several weeks of hard-nosed preparation, countless hours of video work, and an insanely high number of written words, the moment baseball fans across the globe have all been waiting for is here.
It’s Day One of the MLB Draft baby.
This much anticipated event has been the most talked about event across the industry for several reasons. Instead of your prototypical 40 round setup, Major League Baseball, for some reason, decided to cut this year’s draft down to a measly five rounds. Teams will have to strategically allocate their finances to the handful of players they’ll select in what also happens to be one of, if not the, best draft classes we’ve had in recent memory.
Two things are certain: these next two days are about to be absolutely wild and Dugout Dish will be here every step of the way with you. This article, in particular, will highlight some rather noteworthy occurrences from the draft’s first day.
Without wasting anymore time, let’s jump right to it:
The Tigers Didn’t Mess This Up
Even though we’ve had a clear-cut option at the number one overall slot each of the last three seasons, there will always be speculation on this highly coveted selection until it actually happens.
We did hear some murmurs early on in the draft process that Detroit was considering taking another player with the first overall pick over the consensus number one option, Spencer Torkelson. Talks that the Tigers were potentially looking to save some money and take a high school player first overall or go with Texas A&M lefty Asa Lacy were quickly silenced as several officials close to the club essentially confirmed Torkelson was their guy.
Thankfully for the Motor City and their fans, the Tigers did not mess this up. They selected the best player in this draft class right where he belongs. Torkelson is a different breed at the plate, boasting an above-average hit tool and easy plus power that could potentially even be double-plus. Nobody cares about him being a right-handed hitting first baseman because he’s going to absolutely mash baseballs for the entirety of his professional career. For a team that is severely lacking young impact bats, Torkelson slots right into the heart of their future lineup. Congratulations Detroit, you made the right move.
Breaking: The Orioles Messed It Up
It didn’t take long for a team to throw a wrench into this entire draft. In an under-slot move that was made to save money for the compensation round, the Baltimore Orioles selected Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad with the second overall pick.
From a production standpoint, Kjerstad belongs right up here with anyone. He demolished college baseball at Arkansas, especially this season, but prospect evaluation is obviously not based solely on college production. Kjerstad has an unconventional swing and his hands slot awkwardly prior to swinging. Several evaluators, including myself, project him to have a below-average hit tool at the next level and strikeout at a high rate, which is an obvious negative. His power will always be the carrying tool but I just don’t think he’s going to hit enough for that to truly be on display. The only way this ends up working out is if Baltimore ends up buying Nick Bitsko down to the 30th overall pick.
THE MIAMI SPLASH
With both Asa Lacy and Austin Martin on the board, the Miami Marlins shocked the world and selected Minnesota standout Max Meyer at third overall. Medical concerns with Lacy and Martin’s price tag ultimately lead to Derek Jeter and company selecting Meyer over both of those highly touted prospects.
There’s no denying that Meyer’s stuff is absolutely electric. He’ll run his fastball up into the high-90s with blistering life and commands it extremely well to both sides of the plate. His slider is the best overall pitch in the class, playing anywhere between 87-91 mph with hard late bite. It’s already a true swing-and-miss pitch that is going to miss bats at the next level at a high rate. The changeup is well behind both of these two pitches, but it doesn’t need to be anything crazy. As long as he’s comfortable enough to mix it in to mix speeds, Meyer is going to be a capable big league starter for a long time. He does top-of-the-rotation upside.
Kansas City Gets The Best Arm
After an absolutely bonkers top three picks, Lacy falls right into the Royals’ lap at the fourth overall pick. There were some medical concerns that surfaced a few days ago about Lacy’s shoulder and that was ultimately the reason why he fell to this slot.
Lacy has some pretty electric stuff. He pumps a mid-to-high-90s fastball down into the zone with excellent downward tilt and is a swing-and-miss pitch. His slider rivals that of Meyer’s, playing well off his fastball and is already a put-away pitch. Lacy’s changeup development has made vast improvements over the last calendar year and he’s comfortable enough with the pitch for me to grade it as an above-average offering. The only knock on Lacy are some mechanical issues, including a pretty prodigious head whack and short extension downhill, but a quality player development organization can certainly improve on those mechanics. He has the size, stuff, and build to be an impact arm at the next level.
Austin Martin Falls to Toronto
Toronto comes out of the first round as major winners with arguably the draft’s most valuable player falling right into their draft. Martin was right up there with Torkelson as the potential number one overall pick prior to the college baseball season starting and some even had him going there over Torkelson.
Martin’s overall value has been criminally under appreciated over the last few weeks. He boasts an elite hit tool and his bat-to-ball skills are incredibly impressive. This is someone who could realistically hit .280+ several times throughout his career and could even hit .300+ during his peak years. There isn’t much current power to his game, but he has room to add some more muscle and he drives the ball enough to potentially hit 15+ homers on an annual basis.
What separates Martin from the other top position players in this class is the value he brings defensively. He’s more than capable of sticking in center field with a quick first step and the athleticism that you want out of an everyday major league center fielder. If that were to flail out, Martin played a reliable third base for Vanderbilt and could even move over to second base if needed. From a strict WAR standpoint, Martin could end up being the most productive of the bunch five years down the road.
Dream About Zac Veen in Colorado
Zac Veen came into the draft as the top prep prospect on the board for several industry publications. He dominated Florida high school baseball early on against some high level competition and vaulted himself right up into the conversation for the number one overall pick a handful of months ago.
Veen’s a smooth swinging left-handed hitting outfielder that projects to be at least an average hitter with above-average pull-side power. He’s truly explosive at the plate with elite hip rotation that allows him to drive the baseball a long way despite not having much muscle on his frame. A minor hit tool improvement paired with 10-15 pounds of added muscle could unlock a whole new level for Veen, which is scary to think of. Picture that type of offensive profile in Coors Field and it’s easy to see why prospect evaluators will salivate over Veen’s potential.
Cincinnati Wins With Austin Hendrick
Had Austin Hendrick had the opportunity to play high school ball, it’s likely that he would’ve cemented himself as a top 10 pick in this class. There’s some pretty ridiculous raw power in his well-proportioned frame and he compliments that with elite raw power. The reason why he slips to Cincinnati is because of some growing hit tool concerns and growing swing-and-miss issues, which is why him being selected by the Reds was a major win for Hendrick’s future. Cincinnati has quickly become one of the top player development organizations and their highly analytical approach will help get the most out of Hendrick. It’s possible that this ends up being a legit draft-day steal when it’s all said and done.
Philly Nabs Mick Abel at 15
Mick Abel has gotten some huge traction over the last few weeks after video surfaced of him stringing together some incredibly impressive bullpens. We didn’t get to see Abel this spring because he resides in Oregon, but any baseball evaluator is certain to fall in love with the upside that this kid has. His fastball regularly registers in the mid-90s and touches 98-99 mph with late arm-side life. He pairs that fastball with two above-average secondary pitches: a wipeout slider and truly devastating changeup. Abel’s athleticism on the mound paired with his advanced ability to pitch give him a sky-high, top-of-the-rotation ceiling. An absolute steal for Philadelphia this late in the draft.
Ed Howard Stays Local
This is definitely one of my favorite moments of the draft thus far. Outside of being an absolute stud and the top shortstop in the class, the Cubs selecting local product Ed Howard with the 16th overall pick is a heartwarming moment. Howard boasts an above-average hit tool and people are certainly sleeping on his power potential. Pair that projectable offensive game with a truly elite glove at shortstop and it’s not hard to see why Howard was such a highly regarded up-the-middle prospect in the class. If we weren’t dealing with the current national circumstances, Howard could have potentially jumped into the top 10 conversation, making this a solid pick for the Cubs.
I don’t want to spend much time on this to ruin my good friend Ralph Lifshitz’s spirits, but this is hands down the worst pick of the draft. Yorke was not a top 100 talent in my opinion and to select him ahead of several different players, especially Pete Crow-Armstrong, was just not a good move. Maybe Boston knows something we don’t and we’ll all look stupid in a few years.
Milwaukee A Big Winner On Day One
From a pure talent and tools standpoint, UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell is a top five-to-seven player in the class. His athleticism, hit tool, and easy raw power give him an extremely high ceiling. Mitchell is talented enough to go well before this pick, but his Type 1 diabetes in this unique draft likely kept teams away. The one knock on Mitchell was his inability to consistently translate plus raw power into gameplay. From a developmental standpoint, however, Milwaukee excels at improving launch angle and elevation from their bats. Pair this type of talent with the developmental organization that was made for him and it’s hard to see why he’s such a lucrative prospect.
Nick Bitsko To Tampa Bay Is SCARY Good
You could not draw up a better talent + developmental team duo than this one. Bitsko reclassified from the 2021 class and has firmly been in the conversation for the top prep arm in the class. An electric athlete, Bitsko’s fastball sits in the mid-90s with explosive life out of the hand. His breaking ball projects as a plus pitch, giving him a solid one-two swing-and-miss punch in the arsenal. He didn’t have to throw his changeup much in high school to get hitters out and there’s a few more developmental steps that he has to take for it to be a serviceable big league offering. It has to be reiterated that Bitsko is incredibly young and the ceiling is sky-high. Tampa Bay is widely known as the poster team for player development, making this combination truly special. He could end up being one of the best players from this class when it’s all said and done.
Notable Names for Day Two:
- Dillon Dingler, C, Ohio State
- Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio HS (TX)
- Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia
- Chris McMahon, RHP, Miami
- Isaiah Greene, OF, Corona HS (CA)
- Jared Jones, RHP, La Mirada HS (CA)