With the first day of the 2023 MLB Draft in the books, it’s time to take a look at which teams made out the best. We’re not going to do that just yet, but we will instead look at the five first round picks that stood out to us.
Pirates: Paul Skenes
After months of discussion, the Pirates did pass on Max Clark, Dylan Crews, and Wyatt Langford and instead went with the arm in Paul Skenes. The LSU right-hander accomplished virtually everything in 2023, as he broke the single-season SEC strikeout mark and won the College World Series with the title.
Skenes already has two ready-to-go MLB pitchers in a triple-digit fastball and a plus-plus slider, and his change should be a very solid third outing. What had to have made the Pirates confident in Skenes was when he shut down a formidable Wake Forest team in the CWS on just four days rest. His fastball velocity largely sat in the upper-90s in that outing, but it was more than enough to get the job done.
There is real risk with Skenes, but his potential — the righty could be a true ace when it’s all said and done — made him too good to pass up.
Angels: Nolan Schanuel
The Angels selected a college bat in Zach Neto in the first round last year, and he’s already in the Majors. Now, Los Angeles snared Florida Atlantic 1B Nolan Schanuel in the first round in 2023. It’s the first time that the Angels have taken a first baseman in the first round since C.J. Cron in 2011.
Just from watching him, it’s pretty evident that Schanuel is an unconvential bat. The 21-year-old positions his hands well above the shoulders, but that doesn’t stop Schanuel from staying short to the ball.
Schanuel has explosive power at the plate. He hit 19 home runs and 41 extra base hits with FAU in 2023, and his .447 average was second in all of NCAA
Giants: Bryce Eldridge
The Giants picked high school 1B/RHP Bryce Eldridge with the 16th pick in the MLB Draft. That’s right, San Francisco picked him as a two-way player.
Eldridge has a large, projectable frame, and he’s already hit the upper-90s with his fastball. At the plate, Eldridge possesses above-average power that could lead to a lot of balls hitting the water in San Francisco.
San Francisco’s not afraid to experiment with players with two-play capability. The Giants took UConn DH/LHP Reggie Crawford in the first round in 2022, but the odds are stacked against both him and Eldridge. Tampa Bay, for those who remember, took Brendan McKay as a two-way player in 2018 but eventually converted to a starter full time. Doing both can take a toll on a player, but the possibility of acquiring an player that can impact games both on the mound and at the plate is tempting.
Braves: Hurston Waldrep
University of Florida starter Hurston Waldrep looked like a surefire first round pick earlier in the year, but did struggle for the Gators this season. Waldrep did get taken in the first round, as the Braves selected the right-hander with the 24th pick.
Waldrep possesses a hard fastball, along with an incredible splitter that could grade out to be a plus-plus pitch when it’s said and done.
Command is an issue for Waldrep, as he walked 57 batters over 101.2 IP. If the Braves can get him on the right path, Atlanta might have picked yet another big arm in the MLB Draft.
Mets: Colin Houck
The Mets saw their first-round pick slip ten spots since New York exceeded the Competitive Balance Tax by more than $40 million. With their first pick at #32, the Mets picked a Georgia high school shortstop in Colin Houck.
Houck was rated the twelfth-best overall prospect in the draft by MLB.com and received rave reviews for his power and arm. The 18-year-old was a two-way star that also played quarterback in high school, but baseball will be his future.
The Mets first-round may very well move to third over time, but this was great value for a team that needed to add more high-end talent to the farm.