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Setting the Scene for the Amateur Draft

It could be the Astros, who may not see another top-15 pick for years

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The MLB draft is Monday night, and the Twins will be put on the clock at 7 p.m. ET. Every team builds toward the future in the draft, but for some squads the stakes are particularly high. Ben Lindbergh and Michael Baumann brought FanGraphs lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen onto The Ringer MLB Show to discuss who has the most at stake tonight.

His answer?

"Houston is definitely an interesting team to look at in this draft," Longenhagen said. "They pick down at 15th, but they have a little bit of extra money and a few extra picks because of the Cardinals’ hacking scandal. So it seemed like when the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler and, essentially, the opportunity for their first-round pick to be handed to Houston was off the table, I think Astros fans were a little bit disappointed by that, and I understand that. But it does look like that extra money is going to come in handy. Shane Baz, right-handed pitcher from Texas, high schooler, [showed] some elite spin rates measured during the summer showcases last year, up around 2,700 RPMs on the breaking ball. Bazz is up to 98 with three potential pitches. So if he were to be there at 15, that would be a nice coup for Houston."

The Astros aren’t the only team with a lot on the line.

"Houston is in an interesting place, and they’re not likely to be picking as high as even 15 for quite a while [after this year]," Longenhagen said. "And then the teams that pick in the early 30s, like Cincinnati, Tampa [Bay], San Diego, Milwaukee, any time you have that many picks in the top 50, you really need to leave Day 1 with a haul. So there’s pressure on those teams to get the names that will be there for them in the 30s right."

Later in the episode, Longenhagen outlined how he thinks the top of the draft will go.

"So the Twins at 1, it’s either [Brendan] McKay or [Kyle] Wright," he said. "With [Hunter] Greene and [MacKenzie] Gore as the dark horses. Hunter Greene probably goes no. 2 to Cincinnati. I have MacKenzie Gore at 3 [to San Diego], the lefty high schooler from North Carolina. Low 90s, very advanced command, very advanced secondary stuff. And then four, if McKay gets to no. 4, I think he’s the pick for Tampa [Bay]. If not, they’re probably deciding between Wright and Royce Lewis, high schooler from California. Elite speed, very good feel, big league physicality, probably not a shortstop long term. Probably moves to center field. So either Wright or Lewis at no. 4. And then the Braves at no. 5 are either an under-slot deal or somebody like Shane Baz, or whoever’s left among the five names that I’ve mentioned already — Lewis or Wright would be the favorites. And then after that there’s more variability, but I think those are the five best players in the class and I think they’re probably going to be the first five picks in some order, and so that gives me a pretty reasonable chance to not look like a schmuck [tonight]."

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.