MLB Draft Review: Round One Grades

Alex Kielar | June 14th, 2019

Now that the MLB Draft is over, let’s take a look back at the first round, grading every pick. Note that these are rough grades, as most, if not all, of these guys, won’t see the Majors for at least two-three years, if at all. It is hard to judge what they will do and things can always change.

Our writers giving grades: Alex Kielar (AK), Gio Damico (GD), Joey Ricotta (JR), and Jamie Gatlin (JG).

Pick 1: Baltimore Orioles – C Adley Rutschman (Oregon State)

This pick was a no-brainer for the Orioles, now with a centerpiece for their current efforts to rebuild in switch-hitting and strong defensive catcher Adley Rutschman, the consensus No. 1 draft prospect in this year’s class. The guy got intentionally walked with the bases loaded, that says it all. With 60-grade hit and power tools, along with a very strong throwing arm and room for more power, Rutschsman should be able to have a fast track to Baltimore.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- A+, JR- A+

Pick 2: Kansas City Royals – SS Bobby Witt Jr. (Colleyville Heritage HS)

This is a very solid pick for the rebuilding Royals, selecting a highly-rated prep standout with a very high ceiling, having five-tool potential at shortstop was a great pick. He has shown signs of inconsistency at the plate, but his other tools are powerful enough that he can bat .250 and still be a great star. He has Gold Glove potential at short and is a potential 20-20 guy. The Royals already have some great talent in the farm and the majors, and stocking up on a solid prep guy that they can develop and groom is a great move for them.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- A+, JR- A+

Pick 3: Chicago White Sox – 1B Andrew Vaughn (California)

This is definitely the right move for the White Sox, adding a piece like Vaughn is exactly what they need. The power-hitting right-hander profiles as a dangerous middle-of-the-order run producer who will move up the White Sox farm system quickly. Even though there was a concern with his ability to play given his height (Approx. 5’11”), I see him as a solid fielder who can stick at first. With 32-year-old veteran first baseman Jose Abreu towards the end of his prime, and the White Sox looking to get younger, Vaughn is the perfect player to replace him within a few years. Vaughn could see himself up in Chicago within a year, and start getting groomed to play first base full time, while Abreu DHs at times.

Grades: AK- A, GD- A, JG- A, JR- A+

Pick 4: Miami Marlins – OF J.J. Bleday (Vanderbilt)

J.J. Bleday soared up draft boards after his ferocious junior season, tapping fully into his power tool with 26 long balls. While this was the safe pick, with high schoolers with maybe higher ceilings (Riley Greene and CJ Abrams), it was the smart move for the Marlins to take a proven guy with their very thin system. Taking an unproven high school guy isn’t always the best thing to do as a rebuilding team. Bleday should be placed right behind Marlins’ top prospect Sixto Sanchez in their rankings.

Grades: AK- A, GD- B, JG- A-, JR- A-

Pick 5: Detroit Tigers – OF Riley Greene (Hagerty HS)

This was the obvious pick here for the Tigers, drafting Greene as the top pure hitting prep bat in the class, who has the potential to tap into more power. Greene was able to hit off top pitching with such consistency that some teams even see him a future 70-grade hitter. His defense leaves quite a bit to be desired but the high ceiling he has at the plate makes up for that, as he is a potential threat in the middle of the order. The Tigers already have a crop of high-potential young players in their system, so adding a bat like Greene is exactly what they needed with their first pick.

Grades: AK- A, GD- A, JG- B+, JR- A

Pick 6: San Diego Padres – SS CJ Abrams (Blessed Trinity Catholic HS)

A great pick for the Padres, as there was always a consensus top six prospects in the draft, and the Padres were gonna lay back and select whoever was left. With Abrams, San Diego gets a player with outstanding speed, who MLB.com even compared to Dee Gordon but with a lot more pop in his bat. That is an outstanding comp as Dee Gordon has always been one of the fastest players in the league during his career. With that speed and plus power and bat, Abrams has a very high ceiling as a potential leadoff guy and table setter.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- A-, JR- A+

Pick 7: Cincinnati Reds – LHP Nick Lodolo (TCU)

This is a very safe pick and maybe a bit of a reach with a more developed and room to improve Hunter Bishop still available, but it still a fairly solid pick for the Reds. Alek Manoah perhaps would’ve been a better selection here if the Reds wanted to go with a college arm. Lodolo does have a high ceiling and potential to have a successful career as a midline starter, so if the Reds are careful with developing him, this will turn to a great pick. For now, we’ll rate this as an average selection.

Grades: AK- B+, GD- B+, JG- B+, JR- B+

Pick 8: Texas Rangers – 3B Josh Jung (Texas Tech)

I’m not sure if the Rangers picking Jung had anything to do with the fact he went to Texas Tech, but either way, I’m not too high on this pick. Jung was a productive hitter throughout his career and really came more onto the scene his sophomore year, but hasn’t shown much power or much production and ceiling overall in his career as players still available like Hunter Bishop and Shea Langeliers. He was projected as the 15th pick overall. He has had a pretty solid track record and potential, but there were certainly higher ranked bats left, so this is an ok pick for now.

Grades: AK- C, GD- C+, JG- C, JR- B

Pick 9: Atlanta Braves – C Shea Langeliers (Baylor)

The best defensive catcher in the draft with a 70-grade throwing arm, Langeliers is an excellent pick for the Braves. He obviously doesn’t have the offensive ability as No. 1 overall pick Rutschman, but if he can hit around .260 and tap into some power, he will be a great catcher in the league. He has the pop potential to hit 20 home runs, and his defense alone found him ranked as a top ten pick. I thought he could’ve gone even sooner than ninth overall, so this is almost a steal for the Braves.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- B+, JR- A-

Pick 10: San Francisco Giants – OF Hunter Bishop (Arizona State)

What an excellent pick for the Giants, watching as Hunter Bishop fell right into their laps at the 10th pick. Bishop was a highly ranked prospect out of high school as well, with strong athleticism, power, and speed tools. He ended up falling to the 24th round in the 2016 Draft with questions surrounding his hit tool, so he decided to go to college to polish it more. It wound up paying huge dividends for Bishop, as he got his strikeout-rate and swing-and-miss rate down, with some struggles. He will never fully get rid of his swing-and-misses, but that’s how a lot of the players in today’s game are. He needs to work on his ability to hit breaking balls, as he was seen swinging over the top of them. But he has a high ceiling, and if he can hit 30+ home runs a year while hitting .260, he will be a solid player.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- B, JR- A+

Pick 11: Toronto Blue Jays – RHP Alek Manoah (West Virginia)

The Blue Jays got the best pitcher in the draft in my opinion in Manoah, who can touch 97 on the radar gun with his fastball, has a solid slider, and a good changeup that can still be developed for plus. He has a very short track record as a starter, only serving as a swingman prior to this season, where he served as West Virginia’s ace, but with a breakout Cape Cod League and season, he has very high projectability. The Blue Jays needed to stock up on some more high-ceiling arms for their system and Manoah can be developed for a front-to-mid-level starter.

Grades: AK- A-, GD- B+, JG- B+, JR- A-

Pick 12: New York Mets – 3B Brett Baty (Lake Travis HS)

A bit of a reach for the Mets here with this pick, but that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible pick. With Baty, they get a very solid all-around prep hitter, with raw power and pop. He has the makings for being a good defensive third baseman with a strong arm and very athletic build and movements. As long as he can develop and adjust to the next level, he will be a solid table-setter at the top of the Mets’ lineup for years. With the Mets already having a slew of infield prospects, it will all depend on how they all develop as to where Baty fits in, but he should be towards the top of their prospect rankings.

Grades: AK- B, GD- B, JG- B, JR- B

Pick 13: Minnesota Twins – SS Keoni Cavaco (Eastlake HS)

A bit of a question mark pick here for the Twins, with higher-ranked and more proven prep bats still available in the next three picks, Bryson Stott, Will Wilson, and Corbin Carroll. Cavaco surely isn’t a player who’s lacking, with solid raw power and room to tap into more, above-average speed, and plus defense. The main reason this pick raises some questions is because of Cavaco’s lack of play against higher level competition, as he had no invites to any showcases. If he can hit consistently enough and be developed enough, he will tap fully into his power and be a great bat in the lineup for the Twins, with someone they can count on at short.

Grades: AK- B-, GD- C, JG- C, JR- B-

Pick 14: Philadelphia Phillies – SS Bryson Stott (UNLV)

A very projectable contact hitter, with not much pop, who should put up strong average and on-base percentage numbers, Stott is a solid selection for the Phillies. I projected him going Top 10, and was surprised when he fell into the Phillies’ lap at 14. He also has the defense ability to be strong at shortstop and is a pretty sure candidate to be in an everyday lineup while being productive with the right development.

Grades: AK- B, GD- B-, JG- B-, JR- B

Pick 15: Los Angeles Angels – SS Will Wilson (NC State)

Even though Wilson was projected and ranked lower and seen by many as a bit of a reach at pick 15, I was high on him going into the draft. Very advanced prep outfielder Corbin Carroll was still on the board, but Wilson is the safer pick for a team like the Angels, maybe going more for a college bat who can develop quicker. Although you should never draft for need, with superstar Mike Trout locked up for 12 more years, going after a prep outfielder with not as much room to improve which the Angels would have to develop wasn’t the best option. Although, the Angels are always lacking pitching and with both highly rated college arms Zack Thompson and Jackson Rutledge still there, I would’ve liked to see them go that route.

Grades: AK- B, GD- A+, JG- A, JR- A-

Pick 16: Arizona Diamondbacks – OF Corbin Carroll (Lakeside HS)

I love this pick for Arizona, and I see it as an absolute steal for them. Carroll was one of the top prep bats going into the draft and he has outstanding hit, speed, and defensive metrics that the Diamondbacks can really groom to be a productive bat in their lineup. He doesn’t have too much power to be a potential superstar, but definitely has all the tools to be placed into an everyday lineup.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- A-, JR- A

Pick 17: Washington Nationals – RHP Jackson Rutledge (San Jacinto College)

Another pick that I view as a “steal” right now and that I love, is Rutledge who has a great arsenal of pitches, one of the best in the entire draft class. Standing in at 6’8”, 240 pounds, Rutledge has a lot of power behind his pitches, his fastball topping out at 99 mph and a powerful slider. Still needing to develop a plus changeup and work on his mechanics causes some question marks, but the high ceiling he has is what makes this a great pick.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- A-, JR- A+

Pick 18: Pittsburgh Pirates – RHP Quinn Priester (Cary-Grove HS)

Priester has some of the best raw stuff and potential of anybody in this draft class and a solid feel for pitching, making him more advanced than other prep arms and being at the level of college guys. Standing in at a very projectable 6’3”, Priester has a plus-plus fastball that can touch 96 and a curveball that’s ranked as one of the best breaking balls in the class, graded at 60. He has to work on developing a stronger changeup, and in doing so, he will develop into a solid starter for the Pirates. His ceiling is very high, and hopefully this time the Pirates don’t trade him away for an underperforming former ace (wink, wink).

Grades: AK- A-, GD- A, JG- B+, JR- B+

Pick 19: St. Louis Cardinals – LHP Zack Thompson (Kentucky)

Although health is a concern for Thompson, grabbing him at Pick 19 is a win for the Cardinals. He was able to stay healthy this season, which hopefully is a sign of things to come, and was as dominant as you can expect, posting an ERA of 2.40, striking out 130 batters in 90 innings with a 1.03 WHIP. He has a very strong four-pitch arsenal of pitches, all graded at 55 besides his changeup at a 50. He has a fastball topping off at 95-96 with run, curveball and slider with great spin rates with depth and deception, and his changeup needs some work but can develop to plus. He has posted solid strikeout rates throughout his Kentucky career and is a projected mid-level starter with the right development and health.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- A-, JR- A

Pick 20: Seattle Mariners – RHP George Kirby (Elon University)

Getting Kirby this late in the first round is a steal for the Mariners, the last of the top college arms still on the board. Kirby is graded as a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter with a very high floor, even without a high ceiling. Kirby never faced high-level competition but posted a crazy 107-to-6 strikeout ratio in 88.1 innings. To prove he can face higher level competition, Kirby also posted a 1.38 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 13 innings in the Cape Cod League last summer. The Mariners always could use more pitching that they could develop, and Kirby is a solid guy with a promising future.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- B+, JR- A

Pick 21: Atlanta Braves – SS Braden Shewmake (Texas A&M)

Not that I completely hate this pick, but this was way too high to go with Shewmake. It’s an extremely safe pick, going with a guy that has shown loads of potential but hasn’t proven he can hit against higher level competition and with wooden bats. He also doesn’t have fully developed power as of yet, and selecting someone like Kody Hoese or Logan Davidson would have been better here in my opinion.

Grades: AK- B, GD- B+, JG- B-, JR- B-

Pick 22: Tampa Bay Rays – SS Greg Jones (UNC Wilmington)

At first glance, this pick didn’t make much sense, and in all honesty, I had no idea who the heck Greg Jones was when the pick was announced. It would have also made more sense to go with a prep arm like Brennan Malone who the Rays could develop. I’m still not all too high on this pick for Jones, but after watching some tape and researching more, it starts to make some sense. Jones has blazing 80-Grade speed, a solid pure hitting tool, and a good eye at the plate with 55 walks to 44 strikeouts last season. He stole 42 bases in 52 attempts, and his speed could help him transition to playing centerfield. He doesn’t really have much of a power tool, but with his speed, he can make things happen.

Grades: AK- C+, GD- C, JG- C+, JR- C

Pick 23: Colorado Rockies – 1B Michael Toglia (UCLA)

It would’ve made a lot more sense for the Rockies to go with a pitcher like Malone or JJ Goss here, with their forever need for homegrown pitching and already having a boatload of infield prospects. That certainly doesn’t mean this pick is terrible, though it is sort of a head-scratcher. Toglia has the versatility and athleticism to cover the corner outfield spots and has plus-plus pop. A question mark is his considerable swing-and-miss part of his game, though that is a huge part of today’s game.

Grades: AK- B-, GD- B, JG- B, JR-B-

Pick 24: Cleveland Indians – RHP Daniel Espino  (Georgia Premier Academy)

This a fantastic pick for the Indians, one that doesn’t lack a ton of risk, however. Espino is a very high ceiling prep pitcher, and with the Indians quite possibly on the verge of a rebuild, they need to stock up on high ceiling prospects. He has a high velocity with an 80-grade fastball, and a plus curveball and slider. He may not work out as a starter with his small frame and may be more likely to wind up as a shutdown reliever.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- A, JR- A

Pick 25: Los Angeles Dodgers – 3B Kody Hoese (Tulane)

I swear to you I’m not trying to be redundant, but this is another pick I view as a potential steal with the Dodgers selecting high-rising and patient, power-driven hitting Kody Hoese at 25. He has a high ceiling and has drawn comparisons to current Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. Hoese very well may end up being groomed for Turner’s replacement a few years down the line. Before this season, Hoese wasn’t very well known, but with a stellar season, he jumped into everyone’s early big boards.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- B+, JR- A+

Pick 26: Arizona Diamondbacks – LHP Blake Walston (New Hanover HS)

The Diamondbacks had the best overall draft in my opinion, and that was helped by having four first-round picks. Their excellent first pick of Corbin Carroll was followed up by drafting highly rated prep arm Blake Walston. Walston has all the tools needed for a front of the rotation lefty arm, with great size and athleticism. He was also a great quarterback in high school, which shows he has good arm strength. He will need plenty of time to develop, but the Diamondbacks are great at pitcher development, so he should move quickly in the farm system and be in Arizona in a few years.

Grades: AK- B+, GD- A-, JG- C+, JR- B+

Pick 27: Chicago Cubs – RHP Ryan Jensen (Fresno State)

I really don’t know what to say here other than what in the curse of the billy goat was the Cubs doing with this pick? Jensen wasn’t even ranked as a second round pick, let alone a first. This is reaching at its highest, and Jensen, lacking size, hasn’t really proven much other than improving his command and control this past season. If he turns into a great pitcher for the Cubs, then hey good for them.

Grades: AK- D, GD- D, JG- C-, JR- C-

Pick 28: Milwaukee Brewers – LHP Ethan Small (Mississippi State)

This is an average pick in my opinion, with Brennan Malone and JJ Goss still on the board if the Brewers really wanted to go with a pitcher they could develop; they do lack pitching prospects and major league pitching talent. Small was second in the nation in strikeouts this year, and is an advanced pitcher, with solid use of his stuff, so I could definitely grow on this pick. If he can develop quickly and move up the ranks of the Brewers farm, and be of help to them within a year or two as a back end starter, this is a great pick. They are built to win now and their only concern is pitching, so developing pitching that can help out soon is a need.

Grades: AK- B-, GD- B+, JG- B- JR- C+

Pick 29: Oakland Athletics – SS Logan Davidson (Clemson)

I was pretty high on Davidson going into the draft and thought he would go slightly higher than this late in the first round. Davidson was a top-level college power hitter with excellent plate discipline. He struggled with wooden bats in the Cape Cod League, but if he can show he can hit with them like former Clemson teammate Seth Beer has in the Houston Astros organization, he will be a great hitter. He will be a solid shortstop and bat in the middle or near end of the A’s lineup.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- B+, JR- A

Pick 30: New York Yankees – SS Anthony Volpe (Delbarton HS)

I wasn’t too sure about this pick at first, with the uncertainty of Volpe signing. But his high ceiling with potential plus defense at short, along with some versatility and plus hitting ability, he is very much worth the signing bonus. In addition to that, he is a high school shortstop from New Jersey, and apparently, the last shortstop from New Jersey the Yankees drafted turned out pretty good.

Grades: AK- A-, GD- A-, JG- C+, JR- B

Pick 31: Los Angeles Dodgers – OF/1B Michael Busch (UNC)

Another solid potential value pick for the Dodgers, drafting a solid hitter with solid power with even more potential who was ranked in the Top 20. He has a high floor and may have reached his possible highest potential, with not too much projectability, but his abilities are solid enough to help the Dodgers. I really like this pick.

Grades: AK- A, GD- A-, JG- B+, JR- A-

Pick 32: Houston Astros – C Korey Lee (Cal)

The only question here is which pick was worse and more of reach: the Astros’ pick of Lee here or the Cubs’ pick of Jensen? It was almost as if the Astros were drafting for need here, which you most certainly never do. Lee was ranked by everyone as a day three selection, and outside of a solid maybe breakout year this year, Lee never really did all that great at the plate.

Grades: AK- D, GD- D+, JG- C, JR- C-

Pick 33: Arizona Diamondbacks – RHP Brennan Malone (IMG Academy)

The Diamondbacks selected a pitcher with the second straight pick, and Brennan Malone finally came off the board after I was thinking he would have been gone a couple times already. The Diamondbacks get a very solid high ceiling prep arm who has touched 99 and is projected as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. The only real reason Malone fell this far was because of how much pool money he would take.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A+, JG- A+, JR- A+

Pick 34: Arizona Diamondbacks – RHP Drey Jameson (Ball State)

With their final pick in the first round, the Diamondbacks selected another pitcher in Jameson who could be very solid for them. Jameson is a starter but he profiles more as a reliever, however, as high leverage, late inning arm. He has the solid stuff with a plus fastball that reaches 98, and a slider and curveball that both flash plus, both of them being very deceptive. The question of if he can make it as a starter comes from his small frame, 6’0” and 165 pounds.

Grades: AK- B, GD- B, JG- B, JR- B-

Pick 35: Miami Marlins – OF Kameron Misner (Missouri)

The Marlins got two of my favorite draft prospects in the first round, getting Bleday fourth overall and then Misner as he fell into their laps at pick 35. I was high on Misner and thought he should have gone a bit sooner. The Yankees had highly scouted him and thought when he fell to them, that’s where he’d go. But the Marlins got him, another SEC product with plus power potential. Misner has some of the best tools of any of the college prospects and a very high ceiling as a potential five-tool player.

Grades: AK- A+, GD- A, JG- A, JR- A

Pick 36: Tampa Bay Ray – RHP JJ Goss (Cypress Ranch HS)

Another player I thought would have gone sooner, as the Rays were able to grab a high-ceiling prep arm with a lot of projection remaining in his frame. With the Rays track record of developing pitchers, this is a very solid pick, Goss already touching 96 on his fastball and having one of the best breaking balls in the class with his 60-grade slider. He attacks hitters and will need to be patient with making adjustments as he develops more. Goss should be a solid 3-4 starter for the Rays.

Grades: AK- A, GD- A+, JG- A-, JR- A

Pick 37: Pittsburgh Pirates – OF Sammy Siani (William Penn Charter School)

Siani is a very polished hitter but doesn’t have too high a ceiling, as this is more a safer pick for the Pirates. Siani has a solid left-handed swing and very solid outfield defense, so if his game translates he will be a good bat to have in the lineup. This pick comes with a lot less risk than any other option, such as Gunnar Henderson, so that makes it more highly regarded.

Grades: AK- B, GD- B, JG- A-, JR- B+

Pick 38: New York Yankees – RHP T.J. Sikkema (Missouri)

As I mentioned earlier, the Yankees were tied to Misner, so as they watched Misner, they also watched Sikkema. Sikkema has an advanced feel for pitching, knowing how to attack hitters and throwing everything for strikes. He has a small frame with not much projectability, but that doesn’t matter for the Yankees, as they just try to stock up on pitchers who produced results in college. He should develop and produce as a back-end-of-the-rotation arm, or if not, as a reliever.

Grades: AK- B, GD- B, JG- B, JR- B-

Pick 39: Minnesota Twins – OF Matt Wallner (Southern Mississippi)

The Twins have always been high on Wallner, drafting him out of high school back in 2016. He was a solid two-way player at Southern Miss, but the Twins drafted him as an outfielder with plus power potential. There will be work to be done with his bat, but the Twins should see plenty of production. Solid pick here, but maybe a bit of a reach.

Grades: AK- C+, GD- C, JG- C-, JR- C+

Pick 40: Tampa Bay Rays – RHP Seth Johnson (Campbell University)

Another pitcher the Rays can develop, as Johnson had limited reps as a starter and has lots to work with. He has a very solid delivery, plus pitches, not much work haul, and is very athletic. This type of pitcher has Tampa Bay Rays written all over it, and the Rays should have fun developing the raw and talented pitcher. Johnson struck out 81 batters in 66.1 innings in the spring and still has much room to improve. I know, scary, especially for the AL East.

Grades: AK- A-, GD- B+, JG- A, JR- A-

Pick 41: Texas Rangers – 3B Davis Wendzel (Baylor)

The Rangers already reached for Josh Jung in the first round, so why go for another third baseman here? Maybe they want to stock up on third basemen to see which one works out and could be the “next” Adrian Beltre? Yeah sorry, that’s not happening, there won’t be a next Adrian Beltre. Not here, not now. Wendzel has solid power but has a high strikeout rate. He has a solid glove at third and maybe the Rangers will try grooming him for another position. Either way, I’m not too sure what this pick is about.

Grades: AK- C, GD- A, JG- B+, JR- A-

That’ll do it for first round grades. Again, take these grades and reviews very, very lightly. Some of these guys may end up working out that I was scratching my head at, and others may not work out who I was high on. Take it all with a grain of salt and just sit back and watch how it all plays out.

More in-depth reviews of these draft picks were in our Draft Profile Series. Check them out here:

Andrew Vaughn | Will Wilson | Jackson Rutledge | Hunter Bishop | JJ Bleday | Kameron Misner | Logan DavidsonSeth Johnson | Bobby Witt Jr. | Josh Jung|Adley Rutschman |Daniel Espino|Nick Lodolo|Kody Hoese| Matthew Allan|C.J. Abrams| Riley Greene|Corbin Carroll|Bryson Stott| Shea Langeliers|Brett Baty| Alek Manoah|Braden Shewmake|Brennan Malone|Jack Leiter | George Kirby | Zack Thompson|Quinn Priester

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