ESPN MLB Insider Kiley McDaniel answered questions on Wednesday via Zoom to preview the 2023 MLB Draft Presented By Nike, which ESPN will nationally televise on Sunday, July 9, at 7 p.m. as part of its MLB All-Star coverage. In addition, the entire first night of the MLB Draft will be available for the first time on ESPN+.
McDaniel’s Mock Drafts, draft rankings and MLB Draft analysis are all available on ESPN.com.
Below is a transcript of today’s call. For more information on ESPN’s MLB Draft coverage, visit ESPN Press Room.
KILEY McDANIEL: The top 5 is a very clear top 5. It is the best top 5 in a dozen years. I would say 2005 is the last year that seems like a real candidate to go head-to-head. From what I’ve learned analytically and sort of hands-on with drafts, drafts rooms and stuff like that, if the top 5 was really good and the rest of the draft isn’t notably terrible, it means it’s going to be the best draft because the top is sort of what defines it.
So this may be the best draft in a couple decades, and there could be like multiple faces of franchises and perennial All-Stars and guys that get Hall of Fame votes, like those kinds of dudes. Normally if that happens, you don’t know ahead of time. This is a particularly special group, especially because the top three are all dudes that played in the finals at Omaha and in the SEC and have been famous for over a year. So in terms of fan interest and whatnot, having it be a spectacularly good draft with guys you’ve heard of and have seen on TV, that’s like a pretty rare occurrence.
So I’m enthused with the potential, not that ratings drive my life, but I feel like it’s a good barometer of interest, and it seems like interest is high. So I’m excited that people will listen to me hopefully, fingers crossed.
Q. How do you see the top 3, Tigers are picking third, but how do you see the top 3, maybe even the top 5, unfolding as we sit right now?
KILEY McDANIEL: So you picked a terrible time to ask this question because I basically have been finishing all the rankings and various pieces of content that will be on screen or in social videos, and my sort of last leg of mock draft calls will be starting tomorrow, to where I really get the final stuff.
To be fair, I think this week, the dope you get from teams and agents is kind of useless. Like everyone is lying this week. Then Saturday, Sunday you start getting honest.
Sunday morning last year, I was told two picks, like, hey, this team hasn’t talked to us, and they just called us this morning. I think it’s because they’re going to take this guy and they’re trying to lie in the weeds. So I kind of assume Sunday’s mock will be the most correct. Now that I’m aware of when the lying happens.
All that to say, the top 3 college guys will go in some order 1, 2, 3, like 90 percent chance. Which order they will go in, I will probably change my mind five times between now and when the draft starts. I’ll probably be wrong.
That’s the intel I can give you. I would say it’s also very likely the two high school guys go four and five, but that’s like, 70 percent. So whatever version of that you would like to say, I think all of the various options that I just alluded to, which probably 10 of ’em, all of them have like a real shot of happening. I would love to give you some certainty and pound the table and yell at Skip Bayless or whatever would make this most interesting, but I do not have the precision to be able to do that. I think it would be disingenuous to try to.
So unfortunately that is what I can tell you.
Q. Just had a couple things for you: One was what you think about Jacob Gonzalez, improves his odds of being an effective Big League hitter, what about the skill set there impresses you?
KILEY McDANIEL: He’s interesting because the thing you hear from scouts a lot is we don’t see the left-hand-hitting, productive, hit, power, defense combo everyday potential shortstop coming out of the SEC getting to college. Like, coming with the level of certainty you get from guys that go that path. He is that guy. I would argue going back to Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman, those kinds of guys to have like a better college shortstop and sort of that level of proof and certainty, where the guy can play that position in the Big Leagues. So that gets people excited.
On the other hand, I’m not sure he has like a 60-grade plus tool. So the people that are looking at the Arjun Nimmala, Yohandy Morales, those kinds of guys with the big tools, they then look at Jacob Gonzalez and are like, eh, he’s just okay. And guys that are average hitters and average defenders at shortstop make $15,000,000 a year in free agency. So you are kind of nitpicking at that point.
But I guess another sort of concern that came up last year as it sort of became clear last spring that he would go high in the first round, his setup is a little bit funny. His direction into his swing is a little iffy. They all seem like either fixable or not that important, again, sort of nitpicky things. I don’t know, I feel like I’m tap dancing here.
He’s very good. He’s going to go very high. He’s very likely to make the Big Leagues. He’s probably not an All-Star. There’s a couple things to work on. He’s probably never going to hit 40 home runs or a Gold Glove or hit .300, but the amount of guys in a draft that have even like an okay chance to do that is like three or four of ’em, and usually like zero or one of them actually do.
So that’s just college hitters from six through the rest of the draft is either they’re not going to do anything or they’re not overwhelming, they’re just very good. And he falls into that group where you can’t sing Hosannas and talk about how he’s going to change the game of baseball. But I think he’s going to be a really good player and make a lot of money and make a lot of fans happy, because I think he’ll be an everyday shortstop, and that’s very valuable.
Q. Marlins obviously have had great success drafting pitchers, college pitchers. They got [Giancarlo] Stanton obviously out of the high school ranks. With college hitters they have struggled over multiple regimes – Colin Moran, [JJ] Bleday, who seemed as good a prospect out of college as you could imagine. Jacob Berry is struggling in high-A. I know it’s awfully early for him. And others. Why is it difficult to do what would seem in some ways the safest thing, which is taking a college hitter who achieves at a very high level in a Power Five conference? Why has that proven so problematic for the Marlins and maybe some other teams?
KILEY McDANIEL: I would say two things: One, during the College World Series there’s a very sharp scout that I text with, because one time we were at a game and it was a very high-level SEC game, and I was like, this game is as good as low-A. People usually say the top of end of college is like short-season, which doesn’t exist anymore, but between rookie ball and low-A, and he’s like, no, these three guys aren’t going to sign. That reliever throws 90. That’s not what low-A is.
I texted him during the College World Series when it was Wake Forest and LSU and Florida, and I was like, is this low-A? There’s first-round picks all over the field. Everyone in the bullpen is throwing 95. I think with these teams, the portal, NIL, resources, all that kind of stuff I think we might be there now, that like that level is low-A, and he was like, eh, there’s still like five or six guys on the field that probably aren’t going to play in low-A, if they do, it’s as a backup. So like maybe it’s not a very good low-A game with a couple guys that probably should be in high-A. That kind of thing.
All that to say, very good college hitters are almost as good as the lowest level of the minors. So there is still a long way to go. So while there is a false perception that college equals safe, equals Big Leaguer, equals how-do-you-mess-this-up, when in fact, it’s a little more likely they make it, and ‘making it’ a lot of times can be, gets lost on waivers a year into their career.
So the second thing I will say is the teams that I find are the best, hitting a very high percentage of their high school players making the Big Leagues, college players becoming useful guys that get to their third and fourth year in the Big Leagues, they have a specific point of view. The Dodgers are very good at taking players who are athletic but don’t lift the ball enough. Teasing out more power and lifting the ball. Cleveland is very good, and Tampa Bay and Milwaukee, take guys that can’t hit, don’t have a lot of power, and figure out how to make that a Big League package.
The Rays are really good at taking guys that look like they can’t play shortstop and making them good enough to play shortstop. Baltimore takes guys with a bunch of power that maybe can’t hit but has a pretty decent approach and is a pretty good athlete. They know how to tease that out. All of those teams have like seven examples of those kinds of guys that they’re good at. Cleveland takes pitchers that don’t throw hard and makes them throw hard. And they all lean into it. They take lot of those guys. They trade for those guys. They develop those guys.
I don’t know what Miami’s point of view is. I’m not sure they could tell you what it is. Now, you’ll notice I didn’t mention 20 teams. I’m not sure 20 teams have very clear ideas of we’re good at this, we draft this, it turns into that, here’s the proof. There’s like six or seven teams that are good at hitting or good at pitching or good at a specific thing and really top to bottom have the cohesion of a big staff that everyone’s on the same page. That’s like the hardest thing to do in baseball. That sounds very simple. I have worked for four teams, none of them were good at that. We were all in last place. We didn’t make the playoffs when I worked for these teams because it’s very hard to do that.
So I think the Marlins just have that problem and there’s just a couple extra data points for hitters or whatever it is. And then they nailed [Luis] Arráez, so that seems good. That’s kind of the same skill set. I think they have just been a little unlucky and maybe aren’t quite as good as the best teams, but these margins are so small. The first three hitters could all be All-Stars this year and it will seem like a silly thing to say that. Peyton Manning can’t win the big one. Then he did. Oh well, next thing.
It might be that dumb because if you were to say which teams are actually bad at drafting and developing hitters, I would name two or three and that’s about it, and the Marlins aren’t one of them. If they wait for two or three more years, maybe they will be on that list. It’s a razor’s edge. It could be anything.
Q. Question for you with the Rangers at 4, assuming it’s [Max] Clark and [Walker] Jenkins still there for them. Is there one that profiles more as a guy the Rangers may like, and I guess at this point, what are they weighing as they possibly have to choose between the two?
KILEY McDANIEL: All spring they were tied to high school hitters generally speaking, and then it kind of became clear Jenkins and Clark were the two guys that would be there that make sense, that the three college guys are generally seen as ahead and probably go 1, 2, 3. So they just kind of continued to zone in.
I would say if you look at, like, their tendencies, like what they look at like internationally and other players, they tend to look for sort of longer-levered athletes, which Jenkins is a little more of that. But then they also will sometimes take compact, up-the-middle shortstops that can make contact, which obviously Clark is more that type. I would say the big money hitters that they have acquired in the amateur markets are kind of one of those two types. Tend to be more athletes. Tend to be a little more up the middle, and sometimes will be the big power guy. Sometimes will be the compact up-the-middle guy.
So I would say they don’t have a very specific point of view where one of those guys fits it better than the other. I think they both fit it, and I think both of them have the potential to be I guess I’ll say this a couple times, like face of the franchise kind of guys, multiple-time All-Stars. The track record of the high school guys that I have been watching for three years leading into draft is really, really good. Like, the worst you can be is, like, a pretty good backup that seems underwhelming, but is like a useful player to have. That’s about as bad as those guys end up being, and these guys have been identified as that for a long time.
I remember watching them two summers ago when they were the two underclassmen at an event for the kids for last year’s draft and I was like, they might be the two best guys on the field including Jackson Holliday, Druw Jones, all those guys when they were a year older.
So all that to say, these guys almost check every box you can for a 1-1 in a year, and now they will get to choose between them and they both have taken guys like this in the past. So it seems like a pretty easy call. I don’t think you can mess this up. Fingers crossed they don’t mess this up. I like everyone to succeed, and Texas should probably take one of those two players.
Q. Thomas White is local kid from up around here. You don’t usually see a high-level high school prospects come out of New England like him. I wanted to get your thoughts on what you believe his realistic expectations of what he could become would be, and maybe a realistic idea of like where he could go in the draft as far as like top 10, top 20, high, low, that sort of thing.
KILEY McDANIEL: Yeah, so in today’s rankings I linked to a tweet of mine from over two years ago when I first watched him. I had probably known about him since before then. But he was 91 to 95 with three above-average pitches as a 6’4″ lefty, as, I think he was 16 during that video. Like I started hearing about him when he was 14, 15, which is obviously incredible and also ridiculous.
As I referenced in that last answer, the track record of the high school position players with that kind of history of being that elite is really, really good. The history of that with high school pitchers is not very good. Because typically the way that high school pitchers differentiate themselves is they get bigger and stronger faster than other kids their age and throw harder, thus have a better breaking ball, thus their changeup lands better, they’re athletic enough to throw strikes. All these things happen because of physical development, and usually what happens is they just hit it earlier, and they’re just like 14 and strong, and then they’re 17 and strong and 18 and strong. Eventually all kids that are weak at 15, then become 17 and strong, 18 strong, and sometimes get better than them.
Sometimes they don’t learn how to pitch because they’re big and strong and don’t have to throw strikes really. They just throw past it everybody.
All that to say Thomas White hasn’t fallen into those traps. A lot of times that is what happens with a kid that hits 95 when he’s 14. Sometimes they turn into Lance McCullers. Sometimes they turn into, I could list five guys none of you have heard of, that I got excited about when they were 14 and hit 95 and you’re like, man! And it’s just like, usually not good on the whole.
So Thomas White when he’s right, will give you three plus pitches, starter command, good delivery, some projection to the body, hit 96, 97, pretty good like sort of data in shape to everything. All the underlying stuff is good. That is why there’s a chance he goes anywhere from 10 to 15, and gets full slot and is somebody’s top pitching prospect, and sort of goes down that road that we’re sort of familiar with.
Because he got, I’ll be polite, he got bombed a few times this spring by like not great hitters in Massachusetts, and didn’t throw strikes for a couple of his important outings over the summer. He hasn’t strung together five, six really good starts in a row, which is in some ways is asking a lot, but the expectations for him were like, hey this guy is good enough at age 15 or 16 to go No. 1 overall. That is a conversation we’re having. He was at the stage Brady Aiken was when he became the No. 1 overall pick. Obviously he’s now out of baseball. That sometimes happens.
His performance has not been there, and I mentioned in today’s report that there are some scouts who are trying to figure out why that happened, and they’re like, well he’s a big, long, 6’4″, 6’5″ and sometimes things look nice but he can’t quite repeat enough to throw good quality strikes, and I mentioned Sean Newcomb, because when I worked for the Braves we traded for him, and that was the problem he had. Everything looked great, Northeast, late bloomer, little different of a guy, bigger guy, but had that issue that sometimes scares me where everything looks good, it just doesn’t come out good and then he just never figures it out. That’s the fear, in addition to injury and whatever concerns you have with any pitcher.
So that is why I think, the expectations and the performance, is why he could go 8 to 15, or once he gets passed 15 maybe his bonus demands, I’m sort of speculating, informed speculation at this point, like Brock Porter last year, he might have gone 8 to 15, maybe 17 to 20. But then maybe the money at 20 is not what he wants, and if he gets to the comp round or the second round, all of a sudden, the money is that 8 to 12 range that he wanted. So he ends up floating his way down there. That’s sort of the perception I’ve gotten. If he gets past 12 or 15, then he has a real chance to really go a lot later.
But in the same way that like the article I wrote about Nimmala, if you want to imagine a lefty turning into Cole Hamels or whoever it is, Thomas White has given you all of the raw pieces you need to project that. It’s just such a rocky road from here to there for pitchers of this age and of this quality. It’s just so many things can happen that you don’t want to connect the two and be like, this will become that. But, that looked like this at one point. In some cases, he looks better than those guys looked at this age, but also everyone drafted in the top 15 picks was better than Mike Trout at the same age, and like none of them now are better than Mike Trout. So you can play that better-than-at-the-same-age thing and look like an idiot. Or it could turn into Clayton Kershaw, and you’re like oh, nailed it. He’s been good forever. That’s the game you got to play. And the good forever is like super-duper rare.
So getting into that game of prognosticating that to happen or someone being an exception to the rule will make you look dumb. So I wouldn’t recommend it, but like all the best to you everybody, I want everyone to succeed but not all of them will.
Q. So if he does go in the 10 to 15 range, that would put him right in the Red Sox potential wheelhouse as kind of the local kid. The Red Sox have put a heavy premium on high school hitters recently. Have you heard, or do you have any expectation, that trend could continue or is it actually even realistic to consider they could take a pitcher like White or just or just a pitcher in general and pick whoever who is available at that point?
KILEY McDANIEL: Pitchers sure. I wouldn’t rule out [Chase] Dollander or [Hurston] Waldrep there, the two college guys that could be at that pick and make sense. I do not get the impression that under this administration that the Red Sox have the general risk tolerance to take high school pitchers of any stripe in the top half of the first round. I would not say it’s a hard and fast rule that they won’t. They would seem to be almost least likely of that 10 to 15 area to do it, but I would say Thomas White and Noble Meyer both are good enough to justify it would be a good pick.
And if they take them I would then almost be enthusiastic as a Red Sox fan because the demographic they have not been bullish about at that kind of pick, that kind of money, that they took them, they have a point of view, an idea, they have a strong feeling, I would be enthusiastic but I would not expect them to take him. I think almost all of the other teams 10 to 15 would be more likely to take him than they would.
Q. I have two local kids I’m interested in, Arjun Nimmala and Aidan Miller.
KILEY McDANIEL: Yeah, I have written a lot about Arjun. I wrote a feature about him last week. Scouting report on him that went up yesterday. I did a podcast with Jeremy Schaap on ESPN Daily that went up this morning.
I guess the short version summarizing all of that is he has essentially all of the broad things that scouts are looking for in terms of being able to be potentially a shortstop but definitely an infielder. Has huge raw power, a projectable body, has a fun demeanor, has what you need between the ears to mentally make the adjustments and get through the sort of failure that is the minor leagues and baseball in general.
The question is how much is he going to hit, and I think everybody thinks he has all the components to hit. They haven’t quite seen it, but he’s also been a year to year and a half younger than everyone he has faced at this point in his life. So you’re kind of making an adjustment for being a good, not great performance to date. You don’t know how much to adjust it. That’s where sort of the conversation begins and teams that are inclined to like that kind of player with a huge, huge upside but like real risk, like maybe the biggest gulf between what he might be and like the bust potential.
If teams are into that sort of risk profile, to the previous question, the Red Sox are probably not that kind of team, they will be enthusiastic about him. There are teams in the top 5 that are talking about him, having private workouts and all that. Some people think he’ll last to the 20s, and maybe again that Thomas White thing of, once he gets past 15, does he then get more money waiting until 30? Like that is a possibility, although unlikely.
So I think he’ll go somewhere in the 8 to 15 range, probably the most likely spot for him, but the sort of upside of like he could become a face-of-the-sport star that defines a franchise that opens up India to Major League Baseball. He could be so many things and he could also not make the Big Leagues. Like he could be almost anything, which is really exciting to watch.
I really hope he’s good and I think he will be good. But it is risky and some teams are just completely scared off by that profile.
Aidan Miller is a guy that I would say, age 15 I became aware of him. He looked at age 15 like Josh Donaldson with that like hand waggle, bat speed, explosiveness at third base. He is now 19 and is considered old for the class. And so for some draft models that hurts him. I think the entire conversation will be about who was he at 15, 16, 17, 18. He has gotten bigger and stronger. He went from maybe a shortstop to definitely a third baseman. He had a broken bone in his hand, his hamate this year. So he missed almost the entire spring. So a lot of scouts that needed to see him this spring to feel good about him didn’t get to see him.
He was healthy enough to have pre-draft workouts. So there was a lot of private looks at him. That sounds like they were good. There are some teams in the 10 to 15 area that I think are very enthusiastic about him. Same with Nimmala I think he’ll go in the top 15, 20 picks, but the sort of question with him is what will the position be, what will the frame look like, how much power will he get to in games and sort of exactly what will this look like as he’s sort of gone along this path of being famous for so long, whereas Nimmala started playing travel ball three or four years ago. Whereas Aidan Miller looked like he was going to be a first-round pick three or four years ago.
So there’s sort of very different routes to getting to the same place of like probably going in the same area and being similar prospects and probably being compared to each other for awhile.
Q. I’m just curious what your thoughts are on the Rays approach to the draft and what to expect from them.
KILEY McDANIEL: They are interesting within teams that are seen as sort of progressive and numbers oriented at the Big League level that they are not the sort of dogmatic, let the computer make the pick, numbers oriented team in the draft. They are very open-minded to different points of view. Sometimes the scouts will completely make the decision. Sometimes the data sort of leads them. Sometimes player development has a point of view. I think that’s the reason they’re seen as being so effective and efficient with their limitations with money.
In the draft they’re not scared of taking any sort of player at any pick. They often, because of their market size, will have multiple additional picks – losing players in free agency. So they are one of those teams that we’ll say, are sort of gunslingery. They could do anything at any time and they’re pretty good and they have made it this far by doing what they’re doing with a lot of the same people being there for a decade. So they are very intriguing and hard to predict.
Q. What do you think are the lasting impacts of the fewer rounds of the 2020 MLB Draft from the pandemic? Does that play a role at all in this year’s draft being stacked with prospects like you alluded to earlier?
KILEY McDANIEL: Yeah, it’s an interesting sort of set of things happening in baseball. Where once you had the shortened draft, you then have obviously fewer guys coming into pro baseball. You then, I think it’s two years later after the CBA, that cuts one level of the minor leagues. And then correspondingly makes the entire draft shorter from 40 to 20 rounds. So now — I remember I did a radio interview with a Baton Rouge station and they were asking me about like literally everybody on the LSU team and they’re talking about like 23-year-old guys with some power that I’m just like he’s — I don’t want to say he’s not going to turn pro, somebody might sign him, but like that’s the kind of guy that used to automatically get 10 grand, go play, one out of 15 of ’em would be good enough to get to like Double A, Triple A, maybe the Big Leagues. And there’s a lot of guys like Matt Carpenter that came from that group of players, like, the, eh, I guess I’ll sign this guy, he’s fine. You expect to release him in a year. Sometimes they make the Big Leagues.
Those kinds of guys are not getting signed now because there’s just literally not space for them. Like that sort of, they call them organizational players, guys you sign because they have good makeup, they’re good guys, they will be a good influence, they will probably be coaches or like instructors one day and they’re like good enough that, like, you know, they might be something of worth to the Big League team, but probably won’t be. Those guys are just, like, not getting signed my more. It’s like everybody has to be a prospect now because that’s just the amount of spots you have.
So what’s happening is, because there’s a shorter draft, there’s fewer roster spots, there’s fewer of these organizational players getting signed, bonuses are getting concentrated into fewer and fewer picks. And teams are talking about the idea of, like, oh, we’re just going to, you know, like, our bonus is 10 million, we’re going to try to spend that all on three or four guys. And traditionally, back in the 40-round days, it’s like, well, you’re going to sign 27 players, and so you’re kind of trying to spread it around and get as many guys as you can, take a lot of, you know, a lot of swipes, a lot of chances at the roulette wheel, I’m not really sure what metaphor I was going for there. But you want a lot of opportunities to sort of gamble and see if you can find someone that will like turn into a player and, you know, nobody’s signing more than like 15, 16 players. Like almost nobody’s signing all of their players in the 20 rounds. And you don’t have space to sign them anyway, or to put them on a roster.
So with that happening you then see these sort of invisible, lost Big Leaguers that I used to talk about when I would go to the Dominican. When I was with the Orioles we would go down there and after the DSL game would happen, a bunch of kids would want to work out. And there would be like a 19-, 20-year-old kid hitting 94. And I would be like, hey, let’s sign that guy. How much will that cost? And they’d be like, oh, like 20 grand. And I would be like, great, let’s sign tomorrow. And they’re like, no we can’t do that. Because like that’s the kind of guy you sign out a junior college for 20 grand and then you keep ’em for a year and release ’em. If he sings down here he takes a DSL spot, you got to get him a visa, like there’s all kinds of additional things. Also, there’s 70 guys that will show up in the next two months that are that good. Like that is just the amount of guys that are that good that are 19 or 20 that are seen as too old, but never get signed. And I said, how many Big Leaguers that never get signed are like that, that would have made the Big Leagues if somebody let them. And the guys I was standing there with that had been doing this for 20 years were like, oh like dozens, like there’s tons of dudes that would, like, be in the Big Leagues that never got a chance to play just because there was like a bias against the sort of player they are and they just didn’t have enough space. And they don’t get to go play college in the States to proof themselves or go to an independent league, which is where those guys go now. Those guys from LSU, if they go to an independent league and tear it up and they get signed into congressional ball, but like now a lot of those teams sign one or two indy guys the entire year and some of them are 27 and go straight to the Big Leagues, like different sorts of guys.
So that like whole ecosystem got disrupted starting at the pandemic and is like sort of the starting to settle now and now we’re seeing more guys playing in colleges that are 23 and 24. Like there’s all kinds of second and third and fourth order effects that we’re kind of seeing happen now. And one of the most obvious ones is just there’s fewer guys getting drafted that seem like, oh, that’s a nice college player, like those guys don’t get signed any more.
Q. I took some time out to read your mock draft, Major League Baseball, your opinions that you just recently published. Out of all the top prospects which players do you feel as though will adjust to the league easier?
KILEY McDANIEL: So there’s a couple different ways of looking at that. One would be, which players will get to the Big Leagues the quickest. I didn’t mention that in today’s rankings, although I’m transposing all of my articles in my head right now. So Enrique Bradfield Jr., Vanderbilt, I think would be a good defensive replacement and pinch runner and bunter, like today in the Big Leagues. He will probably not make it until next year, maybe the year after, depending upon how quickly they want to move him.
Nolan Schanuel, first baseman at Florida Atlantic, like essentially broke every record in college this year, had I think two walks per game and 20 home runs and some people think he is like good enough to send straight to Double-A and could be in the Big Leagues next year. He is one.
Rhett Lowder, pitcher at Wake Forest. Obviously Skenes, pitcher at LSU. They both I think could immediately go to Double-A. Skenes could probably go straight to the Big Leagues. And there’s a catcher Connor Burns at Long Beach State, probably like a third, fourth rounder, could probably catch and throw in the Big Leagues right now and is like a pretty good hitter. So like those guys could all move pretty quickly.
Another way of looking at it would be the kind of guys that I think are underrated because they’re not the sort of like physical, NFL Combine style athlete, but I sometimes will describe that as, imagine if a guy goes in the first round, not looking like you want guys in the first round to look. There is like a measure of natural selection that is stronger within them. They have already survived — I think like Tim Lincecum. Like nobody in the first round is supposed to look like that guy but he went 10th overall. Like, of course he was going to be good in the big leagues. Like all he does professionally is beat expectations.
So the in past there’s been some guys like that that I’ve liked, like Drew Gilbert, Last year. Tyler Black, two years ago. This year I think Kevin McGonigle, a, we’ll say, not the most obviously athletic high school player out of Pennsylvania, he’s probably a second baseman, doesn’t have huge power. I think he’s really going to hit. I think he might move the quickest out of all the high school players in this group. I think he’s probably a second baseman that hits 20 home runs and hits .280. And if that guy looked the way you wanted him to look and played in the SEC he would go in the top 7 or 8 picks. But because he’s a high school guy playing in the northeast, not facing a lot of competition, that doesn’t, you don’t have like the proof you necessarily want for a traditional scout, I think he’ll go in the 20s or 30s and I think that’s a mistake and I will be writing an article soon about the guys I like most in the draft and I think he’ll kind of be the main guy that I spotlight. Because the industry has consistently been too low on that sort of guy. I think I have corrected, maybe correctly, maybe over corrected, and I don’t think the industry at large has appropriately corrected. Although I would love to be wrong and watch him go 15th overall because I think that’s probably where he should go.
Q. The Tigers, obviously with the new regime there with Scott Harris at the top and Rob Metzler and Mark Connor, how do you see them approaching the draft now? I mean, in what ways might they approach it differently than the old regime and if the answer is college bat this time around what can you tell me about the top two guys?
KILEY McDANIEL: So that’s been a source of a lot of speculation from people in the draft world. Harris doesn’t necessarily have a, like he-makes-the-picks track record. He’s always been like underneath someone else, whether it’s Theo or Farhan or whoever. So we don’t really know where he stands.
I know people that he’s talked to have told me, like, oh, you know, he’s open minded, he can be talked into anything, but I think the general point of view is he’s probably going to want the sort of safer, quicker to the Big Leagues college bat, all things being equal, let’s get this thing going, let’s not try to take longer than we should, let’s not try to take on more risk than we should, let’s not try to rely on a pitcher that Casey Mize, like that whole group of guys, hasn’t quite done exactly what you wanted ’em do to do yet, so to your point I think everyone thinks it’s going college bat. Now, Mark Connor came from San Diego where they’re not super into analytics and take a bunch of high school guys and don’t mind bucking consensus and taking guys they like, which is almost like the opposite of what I just said Scott is.
And Metzler comes from Tampa, who I talked about earlier, who is like, we will do anything at any time. And also doesn’t really care what anybody thinks or what the consensus rankings are, and isn’t like married to analytics, and isn’t married to scouting, will kind of do anything.
So what I just described was basically three totally different points on a line of where the spectrum of where they could stand on things. So if you told me that they’re picking fourth and the three college players go 1, 2, 3, which high school guy would they take? I would be like, I don’t know, I’m not even sure they would take one of those guys. They might have some great other great idea that they’re going to do like the Frank Mozzicato Kansas City thing and like, cut there and not take one of those guys, they think they’re over-valued, and then go get five other guys. Or they could go over slot for either of ’em. You could really, if you’re profiling them, you’re not going to get a lot of new stuff revealed to you. But I think they’re going to want a college bat. These guys are the tools of kind of college bats that traditional scouts will be into.
[Dylan] Crews, I think, is a little more polished, a little better defensively, a little better approach and sort of launching optimization. He’s been famous for like six, seven years I think I’ve been watching him. So, like, he is probably the safest.
[Wyatt] Langford physically looks I think more like an NFL player than a baseball player. I wrote today when I asked scouts for a physical comparison of what he, like, looks like in uniform, they’re like, it’s either Mike Trout or an NFL player. He kind of looks like an, I don’t know, like a goal-line running back or like a middle linebacker, maybe like a box safety, he’s like that — he’s like surprisingly how physical he is, even if you watch video and when you get right up on him. And he could hit 35 homers and play center field and steal 20 bases. Like and the same with talking about Arjun Nimmala, like you could imagine a lot of the things, like Langford didn’t get to play center field and doesn’t really steal bases, yet is faster than almost all of these guys that are being projected to steal bases and has more power than Dylan Crews who many people are saying is like the best draft prospect in a long time. He could be so many things and I think he would, I think Langford scratches the itch that like Connor and Metzler may have from more of a traditional scouting background of, I can imagine this is something, this is new, this isn’t seven years of history, this is more upside, this is more exciting, but you get the certainty of like, this guy demolished the SEC for two years.
So if, you know, it they’re forced to, like, which one of them fits the best? I would say Langford fits them the best and he also may have the best chance of getting to the third pick. And I also don’t think of Langford as like a, let’s play for the Yankees and live in New York and have a bunch of endorsements kind of personality. I think Detroit might actually fit him a little better. So I think that would be a really good marriage of all those various points of view and players and all that. And I would say of the three, he’s probably the most likely to get there, although, you know, who knows at this point. I obviously have no idea.
Q. You feel like Crews is probably just the safest pick, Langford though has more upside? That’s kind of your general takeaway at this point?
KILEY McDANIEL: Yes. Yeah. And it’s sort of the polish and history is like the gap between them. How much do you value that and do you think Langford will make those strides or do you just think he can’t play center field and he’s not going to steal any bases and he’s not going get to all his power or, you know, how much do you want to imagine and how much do you want to have faith in your development people can like help him make that step. And being as I co-wrote that book about scouting and its value I’m going to go with the scouting point of view.