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The 2023 MLB Draft Will Be as Unpredictable as Ever

Sunday’s draft has a clear top-two players, but bonus considerations could throw the whole board out of whack.

The 2023 MLB Draft begins Sunday night in Seattle, with the first two rounds taking place. As is the case every year, we could see total chaos, and it frankly would not be surprising anymore. There are always players who seem to fall for no reason, and that is part of the nature of the MLB Draft.

Unlike in other North American sports leagues, even the very best players available do not jump right to the big leagues. Almost every player is years away from debuting, so teams effectively do not draft for need. While each franchise has their own preferences, a larger consideration is how to use their allotted money. Each pick in the first ten rounds has a slot value, so teams can only give out signing bonuses equal to the sum of their slot values without incurring penalties.

Every draft class has different strengths and weaknesses, and this year’s strength is high school position players, which adds to the intrigue. High schoolers have the most leverage of any demographic, because if they are not offered their desired bonus, they can still go to college and improve their skills. College juniors and the rare sophomores often sign for slot because that is roughly what they are worth. College seniors and graduates have no leverage since they have nowhere to go, so they usually sign for below-slot value. With so many high schoolers worthy of a first-round pick, teams must decide which are worth signing while keeping their later picks in mind.

A Surprise at Number One?

Part of what makes this year’s draft a mystery is the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates have the first pick. While LSU teammates OF Dylan Crews and SP Paul Skenes are clearly the two best players available, there is a real chance the Pirates turn elsewhere. Pittsburgh had the first selection in 2021, and they went under slot with C Henry Davis, so it is certainly possible they do something similar again. We have seen in each of the last three years that swerving up top completely throws off the board. Expecting the unexpected is a safe bet.

If the Pirates choose to draft someone else, there are three other players in the top tier. Florida OF Wyatt Langford and high school OFs Max Clark and Walker Jenkins are the other options. Anyone outside of the five players mentioned would be a true shock. It would even be pretty surprising if those five aren’t the first five picks, but taking someone else would be a significant discount to spread money around later.

Teams to Watch

Beyond the obvious, a few teams can guide the direction of this year’s draft. The Minnesota Twins were the big winners of MLB’s first lottery, getting the 5th pick instead of the 13th. Like the Pirates at #1 and the Texas Rangers at #4, the Twins are much better than their draft position implies. Unlike teams in a rebuild, they do not need to make sure they get a star, as a serviceable player will be just fine in the seasons to come. Minnesota might be thrilled to get whoever is left of the top tier, or they could cut a deal and start a domino effect.

The Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Angels have prioritized college performers in recent years with the hopes that they move through the minor leagues quickly. Both of them could take safer players at #10 and #11 while passing on higher upside guys further from the Majors. The Baltimore Orioles are not picking in the top five for the first time since Mike Elias became GM. No one really knows what they will do without their pick of the litter, and mock drafts are all over the place.

The Seattle Mariners might be the most interesting team, and that is not because they are hosting the event. In addition to their first-round pick at 22, the Mariners also have #29 and #30. The former is a reward for OF Julio Rodriguez playing all of last season and then winning Rookie of the Year, and the latter is the first compensation pick. Seattle has a huge pool for a team selecting so late in the first round, and they will have lots of options to choose from. There is a good chance they take two or three high schoolers.


Regardless of what happens, the MLB Draft will be a ton of fun to watch. Even without the ability to trade picks, we could (will?) be in for a night of shock and awe. Who will your team pick?

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