2023 MLB draft rankings 1.0: Which SEC slugger is No. 1 overall?

College baseball season is officially underway, and that makes it the perfect time to start looking ahead at the 2023 MLB draft.

Since this is my first in-depth look at this year’s draft, which will take place July 9-11 in Seattle, here is a quick rundown of what to expect from a group that is strong, with a heavy SEC flavor to it. There’s a nonzero chance that prospects from the conference are the first five players off the board come July, as they represent six of the top seven in my rankings right now. There is some name, image and likeness/transfer portal influence, as two of the six transferred into the conference from mid-majors, but it’s also not that surprising that the entire top 10 is either playing at or committed to the SEC and the ACC.

There isn’t one generational- or franchise-type talent in this draft, but this class has a solid top tier of players along with strong depth down the board. Prep pitching is the weakest of the draft demographics in this year’s class, but that is also always the group with the most polarizing takes across teams on draft day, with the latest movement and the players who are most likely to get big bonuses later in the draft.

You can check out more on the Future Value (FV) system, the scouting scale, and see where these players could slot into a top 100 or your team’s prospect list. Here’s the 2023 mlb draft order.

And now let’s rank the top 100, starting with a tight battle for the No. 1 overall spot.

50 FV tier

1. Wyatt Langford (age on draft day: 21.7), CF, Florida
2. Dylan Crews (21.4), CF, LSU

I’ll continue to group them together because, while they are stylistically different in a way that is obvious to the eye, Langford and Crews have far more in common than not and are clearly in the top tier of players.

I broke them both down right after the 2022 draft, comparing their swing qualities (Langford’s is low maintenance; Crews’ is higher, though it is now simplified), surface-level production (Langford has a slight edge but both are excellent), tool grades (Langford has slight edges on bat, speed and defense, while Crews has more pop) and history (Crews has been scout-famous for years; Langford wasn’t notable to scouts until midway through the 2022 season).

Since that breakdown, I acquired some advanced data on both players, and surprisingly, Langford’s exit velocities (90th percentile exit velos, max EV, an analog stat for barrels) are better than Crews’, but Langford’s loft on balls hit at 95-plus mph (a great analog for the loft in their base swings, with an average of about 13 degrees) is 8 degrees, while Crews’ is 18 degrees.

This explains why Crews excels with a swing designed to make the most of his skill set (lift the ball more at the expense of some contact), while Langford’s simpler swing means more contact (Langford’s whiff rates are lower) with more balls hit at line-drive launch angles that don’t look to the eye to be the moon shots you’d expect from a classic power hitter. Crews also sees more pitches and has better pitch selection (as measured by chase rate) than Langford, all geared toward getting the chance to do damage. Think of Crews as a fully optimized power hitter who has tailored all facets of his approach to tap into that skill.

Some might think Crews having a more polished overall hitting approach means he projects as a better offensive threat at the big league level, while some teams will see Langford’s contact rates and bigger exit velos as more desirable because loft can be taught more easily than making a lot of contact or hitting the ball hard. In the draft, you have to be able to imagine a couple of years into the future and also lean into what your development excels at teaching. For reference, Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker (No. 14 on my top 100 prospects list) has some similarities to Langford in swing mechanics and this hit/power tradeoff; Walker’s loft on balls hit 95-plus mph is 11 degrees, and his exit velos are near the top of the scale.

I’m listing both of these prospects as center fielders, because I think they’ll both be sent out there to start pro ball, and both do have a chance to stick, but a corner outfield spot is the most likely outcome for both of them. Langford has posted some plus-or-better run times last season and again early this season, so that is an intriguing variable. In his first at-bat of the 2023 season, he put up a 4.20-second time on a turn legging out a triple. For a righty batter, 4.20 is a 60-grade run time in a straight line to first base, but he was taking a turn. This (and some recent times to first on ground balls that scouts have shared) suggests he’s a 60- or 65-grade runner with the instincts/feel to post some 70-grade run times.

Langford is playing left field almost exclusively in deference to a 70-grade runner in Michael Robertson this year and a plus defender (and Orioles second-round pick) Jud Fabian last year, but Langford has made some standout defensive plays and has an arm that’s enough for right field. Scouts wonder what Langford could do in center field if given the chance, and his quicker-than-his-pure-speed run times also suggest he could make better-than-average jumps if/when he does. The scouts I speak with slightly prefer Langford as a prospect now, and I agree with them, but this battle will go back and forth all spring and you could easily take all this information and decide you prefer Crews.

3. Max Clark (18.5), CF, Franklin Community HS (IN), Vanderbilt commit

For some scouts, Clark is the top prospect in this draft because he’s a slam-dunk center fielder with enough offensive potential (plus hit tool and 20-homer upside) and explosiveness to justify waiting a bit longer for a prep player to develop. His stock probably won’t move much during his prep season, provided his tools or swing don’t change dramatically, but the SEC performances of players ranked around him will cause a lot of movement.

4. Chase Dollander (21.6), RHP, Tennessee

Dollander is in the conversation for best pitching prospect in recent memory, but the biggest question being asked by MLB teams is how high anyone can take a pitching prospect in the draft, given the recent data point of Jack Leiter and his struggles since being taken No. 2 overall out of Vanderbilt. That is a bit unfair, but it’s something that is front of mind for scouts and there are some similarities between Dollander and Leiter. Both used mid-90s heaters with bat-missing life at the top of the zone and plus breaking balls to dominate their first seasons in the SEC. And both showed more control (throwing it over the plate) than command (hitting specific spots) while doing so.

5. Jacob Gonzalez (21.1), SS, Ole Miss

Gonzalez is a 6-foot-2, lefty-hitting shortstop with a track record going back to high school and a strong 2022 performance when he posted a .273/.405/.558 slash line with 18 homers, 50 walks and 32 strikeouts. There isn’t much argument about his above-average hit tool or pitch selection, and there is broad agreement that he has average-to-a-bit-above raw power with some feel to get to it. He’ll probably be able to stick at shortstop, but that isn’t completely unanimous among scouts. The pieces are here right now, and with another big step forward, he could land at the top of this list.

6. Paul Skenes (21.0), RHP, LSU

I wasn’t a huge Skenes fan as recently as this summer because I didn’t think he had a plus pitch, instead possessing a nice package of above-average stuff (92-95, touching 97 mph, 55-grade slider) as a durable sinker/slider type. In retrospect, there were flags for growth, like that he was often pitching at altitude for Air Force in the Mountain West Conference (he transferred after the season), he’s a later-blooming pitcher and he’s also a notable hitter with plus raw power.

The buzz this fall once he got to LSU was that his velo jumped and his slider took a different shape under the tutelage of celebrated pitching coach Wes Johnson — and that’s what we saw during his season debut on Friday. He sat 94-99 mph with a sweeping slider that is easily plus to the eye and the data says is one of the best pitches in college baseball.

For reference, one analyst I spoke with compared this new version of Skenes to former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber because of the elite sweeping slider, solid control and good fastball. But it is a heater without bat-missing life to it, so he relies on the velocity and placement more than the movement. We’ve seen this from Skenes only one time, but scouts are buzzing that Skenes vs. Dollander will be a debate all the way to draft day.

7. Enrique Bradfield Jr. (21.6), CF, Vanderbilt

Bradfield is well known to college baseball fans and scouts, and he seems likely to go in the top half of the first round, but takes on his overall value vary. He is an 80-grade runner who is a plus defender in center field with plus contact skills and plus pitch selection — but his power is below average. His power output has been low enough that some clubs that really emphasize it aren’t on him much, while others that value the contact/speed/defense skill set are certain that Bradfield will be a solid big leaguer.

8. Walker Jenkins (18.4), RF, South Brunswick HS (NC), North Carolina commit

Jenkins has possessed the best hit/power combo in this prep class for at least a year now. On the rosy side, he has a plus hit/power/pitch selection combo that has lots of history of hitting top arms with wood bats. But he is a prep corner outfielder, and you have to nail the offensive projection to justify taking him this high. Scouts will be watching to see how explosive he is at the plate this spring since he has had hip and hand injuries in the past.

45+ FV tier

9. Arjun Nimmala (17.8), SS, Strawberry Crest HS (FL), Florida State commit
10. Aidan Miller (19.0), 3B, Mitchell HS (FL), Arkansas commit

Both of these prospects are infielders with top-10 buzz who play in the Tampa, Florida, area. Nimmala checks a lot of boxes for analytics-minded teams because of his young age and scouts love his explosiveness. Miller gives off some Josh Donaldson vibes with plus bat speed and raw power along with a bat waggle and the way he walks to the plate looking to do damage.

11. Jacob Wilson (21.3), SS, Grand Canyon
12. Brayden Taylor (21.0), 2B, TCU

Wilson, son of former Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, has a similar profile to that of Bradfield as a player who is good at everything but with power being the main question. He does have a little more present pop and much less speed. Taylor is a classic advanced college bat who is well rounded but isn’t a shortstop, with some debate over whether he fits better at second or third base.

45 FV tier

There is a delineation point from the initial top two tiers of 12 players to the rest of this list where there will certainly be plenty of movement in the four-plus months until draft day, so here is an overview of some who stand out for making — or not making — the top 100 before we move on to listing the remaining players.

There are plenty of notable, volatile names to monitor on the prep side, with these four standing out to me: righty Charlee Soto (ranked 33rd), shortstop Adrian Santana (48th), lefty Cameron Johnson (60th) and center fielder Duce Robinson (84th).

Soto has been up to 99 mph with plus stuff in the early going and could jump to being the second-best prep arm in the class within a few weeks. Santana has been the helium name in South Florida, showing the same plus glove and plus-plus speed from the summer with added physicality that is helping him move into first-round prospect territory. I’m still a bit dubious about Johnson because there is reliever risk, but he was up to 99 mph with a plus slider and strong strike-throwing in his season debut, so he could also pitch his way into the first round and make me look silly for doubting him.

Robinson is a consensus top-50 recruit for football as a 6-foot-6 tight end who hasn’t picked a school yet, but buzz is that it could be coming soon. He draws some comps to another recent Arizona high school player in Cubs prospect Brennen Davis for his potential upside in baseball, though Robinson is still pretty raw on the diamond with limited playing history. I think at least one team that targets these types of high-upside talents (the Rangers, Padres and Royals are among the teams that often chase this sort of player) will offer him a seven-figure bonus, but it’s too early to know how much exactly and if that will be enough for him to forgo football with NIL options also a factor.

As for those whose names you won’t see below, right-handed pitchers Grant Taylor (LSU) and Jaxon Wiggins (Arkansas) would sit comfortably on the list if not for elbow injuries that knocked them out for the year. They seem likely to be offered second- or third-round-type money given their body of work, but their stock won’t move much until draft day, so I opted to instead include some other players, but you can call Taylor and Wiggins Nos. 101 and 102.

Fireballing righties Andrew Walters (Miami) and George Klassen (Minnesota) are two other players who I’ll mention specifically because I think some will see them on television and wonder why they aren’t on this list — both are also in the 101-125 area. Walters didn’t have his price met last season as arguably the best reliever in the country and has an attractive analytical profile given his performance, broad arsenal and flat approach angle of a mid-90s fastball. Klassen will regularly hit 100 mph, and some scouts see Ben Joyce potential in him, but he’s a little too one-dimensional at the moment.

And finally, while I’ll delay including my 2024 and 2025 rankings until we get a few more weekends to see who makes big jumps, the top candidates to be top-half-of-the-first-round-type pitchers (cross your fingers for their health) in the next two classes are righty Chase Burns (Tennessee), lefty Hagen Smith (Arkansas), righty Brody Brecht (Iowa) and lefty Carter Holton (Vanderbilt) for 2024, while the early returns for the 2025 group point to righty Chase Shores (LSU) and righty Grayson Saunier (Ole Miss). Burns is another overwhelming power arm at Tennessee, Smith now sits in the mid-90s with a plus slider, Brecht is a 6-foot-4 wide receiver who was 98-101 mph on opening weekend, Holton is another lefty who was into the mid-90s opening weekend, while Shores has regularly been in the upper 90s since getting to campus, and Saunier sat in the mid-90s in his college debut.

13. Noble Meyer (18.4), RHP, Jesuit HS (OR), Oregon commit
14. Kevin McGonigle (18.8), SS, Monsignor Bonner HS (PA), Auburn commit
15. Tommy Troy (21.4), SS, Stanford
16. Rhett Lowder (21.3), RHP, Wake Forest
17. Grayson Hitt (21.6), LHP, Alabama
18. Blake Mitchell (18.9), C, Sinton HS (TX), LSU commit
19. Hurston Waldrep (21.3), RHP, Florida
20. Colin Houck (18.8), SS, Parkview HS (GA), Mississippi State commit
21. Juaron Watts-Brown (21.4), RHP, Oklahoma State
22. Maui Ahuna (21.3), SS, Tennessee
23. Will Sanders (21.3), RHP, South Carolina
24. Dillon Head (18.8), CF, Homewood Flossmoor HS (IL), Clemson commit
25. Matt Shaw (21.6), SS, Maryland
26. Brock Wilken (21.0), 3B, Wake Forest
27. Bryce Eldridge (18.8), 1B/RHP, James Madison HS (VA), Alabama commit
28. Kyle Teel (21.4), C, Virginia
29. Ralphy Velazquez (18.0), C, Huntington Beach HS (CA), Arizona State commit
30. Travis Sykora (19.1), RHP, Round Rock HS (TX), Texas commit

31. Yohandy Morales (21.8), 3B, Miami
32. Jack Hurley (21.3), CF, Virginia Tech
33. Charlee Soto (17.8), RHP, Reborn Christian HS (FL), UCF commit
34. Cole Carrigg (21.1), C/SS, San Diego State
35. Mitch Jebb (21.1), 3B, Michigan State
36. Myles Naylor (18.1), 3B, St. Joan of Arc HS (CAN), Texas Tech commit
37. Walker Martin (19.4), SS, Eaton HS (CO), Arkansas commit
38. Cade Kuehler (21.0), RHP, Campbell
39. Teddy McGraw (21.7), RHP, Wake Forest
40. Travis Honeyman (21.7), LF, Boston College
41. Jake Gelof (21.4), 3B, Virginia

40+ FV tier

42. Roman Martin (18.9), SS, Servite HS (CA), UCLA commit
43. Roch Cholowsky (18.2), SS, Hamilton HS (AZ), UCLA commit
44. Barrett Kent (18.7), RHP, Pottsboro HS (TX), Arkansas commit
45. Nolan Schanuel (21.3), RF, Florida Atlantic
46. Liam Peterson (18.0), RHP, Calvary Christian HS (FL), Florida commit
47. Dylan Cupp (18.9), SS, Cedartown HS (GA), Mississippi State commit
48. Adrian Santana (17.9), SS, Doral Academy HS (FL), Miami commit
49. LuJames Groover (21.1), 3B, North Carolina State
50. Max Anderson (21.3), 3B, Nebraska
51. Trent Caraway (19.2), SS, JSerra Catholic HS (CA), Oregon State commit
52. Tanner Witt (21.0), RHP, Texas
53. Jason Savacool (21.1), RHP, Maryland
54. Brandon Sproat (22.8), RHP, Florida
55. Jonny Farmelo (18.8), RF, Westfield HS (VA), Virginia commit

40 FV tier

56. Eric Bitonti (17.8), SS, Aquinas HS (CA), Oregon commit
57. Cole Schoenwetter (18.8), RHP, San Marcos HS (CA), UC Santa Barbara commit
58. Ryan Lasko (21.0), CF, Rutgers
59. Drew Burress (18.5), CF, Houston County HS (GA), Georgia Tech commit
60. Cameron Johnson (18.4), LHP, IMG Academy HS (FL), LSU commit
61. Christian Knapczyk (21.5), SS, Louisville
62. Gavin Grahovac (18.5), CF/C, Villa Park HS (CA), Texas A&M commit
63. Ryder Helfrick (18.4), C, Clayton Valley HS (CA), Arkansas commit
64. George Lombard Jr. (18.0), SS, Gulliver Prep HS (FL), Vanderbilt commit
65. C.J. Kayfus (21.7), RF, Miami
66. Thomas White (18.7), LHP, Phillips Academy HS (MA), Vanderbilt commit
67. Hunter Owen (21.3), LHP, Vanderbilt

68. Nolan McLean (21.9), RHP, Oklahoma State
69. Zander Mueth (18.0), RHP, Belleville Township HS (IL), Ole Miss commit
70. Landen Maroudis (18.6), RHP, Calvary Christian HS (FL), North Carolina State commit
71. Nathan Dettmer (21.1), RHP, Texas A&M
72. Carson Montgomery (20.9), RHP, Florida State
73. Garrett Baumann (18.9), RHP, Hagerty HS (FL), UCF commit
74. Jackson Baumeister (21.0), RHP, Florida State
75. Michael Carico (20.9), C, Davidson
76. Justin Lee (18.1), RHP, Notre Dame HS (CA), UCLA commit
77. Drew Bowser (21.8), 3B, Stanford
78. Colton Ledbetter (21.7), RF, Mississippi State
79. Luke Keaschall (20.9), SS, Arizona State
80. Matthew Etzel (21.1), CF, Southern Miss
81. Colt Emerson (18.0), SS, Glenn HS (OH), Auburn commit
82. Adam Hachman (18.2), LHP, Timberland HS (MO), Arkansas commit
83. Cooper Pratt (18.9), SS, Magnolia Heights HS (MS), Ole Miss commit
84. Duce Robinson (18.5), CF, Pinnacle HS (AZ), Uncommitted
85. Alex Clemmey (17.9), LHP, Bishop Hendricken HS (RI), Vanderbilt commit
86. Paul Wilson (18.6), LHP, Lake Ridge HS (OR), Oregon State commit
87. Mike Boeve (21.1), 3B, Nebraska-Omaha
88. Luke Shliger (21.8), C, Maryland
89. Kiefer Lord (21.0), RHP, Washington
90. Zion Rose (18.0), C, IMG Academy HS (FL), Louisville commit
91. Luke McNeillie (18.3), RHP, Milton HS (GA), Florida commit
92. Andrew Wiggins (18.8), CF, Heritage Christian HS (IN), Indiana commit
93. George Wolkow (17.5), 3B, Downers Grove North HS (IL), South Carolina commit
94. Jack Moss (21.7), 1B, Texas A&M
95. Carter Graham (21.8), 1B, Stanford
96. Tai Peete (17.9), SS, Trinity Christian HS (GA), Georgia Tech commit
97. Hunter Dietz (18.3), LHP, Calvary Christian HS (FL), Arkansas commit
98. Chase Davis (21.6), RF, Arizona
99. Wyatt Crowell (21.7), LHP, Florida State
100. Cam Brown (21.7), RHP, TCU

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