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Florida vs. Auburn Photo by Lorenzo Vasquez/UAA

2023 MLB Draft: Who’s Going Where?

This year’s MLB Draft is now less than one week away, and there are plenty of big names in the 2023 class.

The draft kicks off on July 9 at 7 p.m. EDT in Seattle. LSU standouts Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes are expected to go back-to-back as the first and second selections of this year’s draft. Florida’s Wyatt Langford will likely round out the top three as the #3 pick.

Three soon-to-be-former Florida Gators will also find out their new homes in the coming week. Starting pitcher Hurston Waldrep sits at #19 in MLB.com’s 2023 draft prospect rankings. Reliever Brandon Sproat and shortstop Josh Rivera cracked the top 100 as well, with Sproat ranked at #54 and Rivera at #87.

Between LSU’s dynamic duo and Florida’s talent across the board, the SEC will likely dominate this year’s draft storylines.

Crews, Skenes and Langford Nearly Locked In As The Top Three

While most mock drafts largely fluctuated throughout the 2023 season, this year’s top three prospects always remained the same. From the moment they kicked off their final college seasons to their ultimate showdown in the Men’s College World Series Finals, one thing stood clear: Dylan Crews, Paul Skenes and Wyatt Langford were as good as it gets in college baseball.

Crews and Skenes have each dominated the college baseball world in their respective positions. Crews compiled a mind-boggling .426 batting average while knocking out 18 home runs and racking up 70 RBIs in the 2023 season. Meanwhile, Skenes scorched his opponents on the mound. He compiled a 1.69 ERA and struck out 209 batters in 122.2 innings pitched.

The LSU superstar duo took very different routes to where they are today. Crews had always been destined to be a star, earning All-American nods in his first collegiate season before eventually winning the 2023 Golden Spikes Award. Skenes, on the other hand, started his career relatively under the radar. After spending his first two seasons at the United States Air Force Academy, Skenes joined the Tigers prior to the 2023 season. He subsequently became LSU’s go-to starting pitcher, eventually securing the 2023 College World Series Most Outstanding Player award.

Not to be outdone, Langford has also made quite a name for himself in the baseball world. On a Florida Gators roster filled with talent, Langford led the team in batting average (.373), OPS (1.282), runs scored (83), doubles (28) and walks (56). He also chipped in with 21 home runs and 57 RBIs. Langford led the Gators to one of their strongest seasons in program history, finishing with a 54-17 record.

Projected Landing Spots for the Top Three in the MLB Draft

For the first time in league history, the MLB used a lottery to determine this year’s draft order. The Pittsburgh Pirates jumped two spots in order to land the first pick in the draft. As a result, the league-worst Washington Nationals wound up with the second pick. The Detroit Tigers also made a big jump to secure pick #3, while the Texas Ranger and Minnesota Twins round out the remainder of the top five.

All signs currently point to the Pirates selecting Crews with the #1 pick. He will join a rapidly rebuilding Pirates roster that already features loads of young talent. With Crews set to join international standout Oneil Cruz, 2021 Fielding Bible recipient Ke’Bryan Hayes and 2021 #1 pick Henry Davis, the future looks brighter than ever before in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, it appears that Washington hit the jackpot with Skenes falling into their laps. The Nationals have struggled majorly on the mound this season, with only one of their starting pitchers recording an ERA under 4.00. Washington continues to fight for relevance in a stacked NL East Division. They will look to Skenes for newfound hope in the bullpen down the road.

With Crews and Skenes projected to go off the board at #1 and #2, Langford appears as a lock to go #3. The Detroit Tigers have endured their fair share of misery over the past decade. Their last division title came in 2014, and they have yet to even sniff the postseason since. Nevertheless, with a generational player like Langford on the way, the Tigers may have something cooking for their future plans.

Waldrep Hoping To Go In Round One

While Langford has established himself as Florida’s top prospect, the Gators also have three other names to keep an eye on in the 2023 Draft. Hurston Waldrep, Josh Rivera and Brandon Sproat have all established themselves as MLB-caliber players. The only question that remains is where they will land.

Waldrep will likely end up as a first-round selection alongside Langford. Currently ranked as the fourth-best college pitcher in this year’s class, Waldrep pitched at Southern Mississippi for two seasons before joining the Gators in 2023. He finished his Florida career with a 4.16 ERA and a team-high 10 wins. Waldrep also tallied up 156 strikeouts along the way.

In addition to a strong regular season, Waldrep put together a fantastic postseason campaign for Florida. In his four NCAA Tournament appearances, Waldrep spent 23.1 innings on the mound. He maintained a 1.93 ERA and struck out 39 batters throughout the MCWS. The Gators ended up winning all four games Waldrep pitched in. MLB.com writer Jim Callis noted that Waldrep’s stellar showings throughout the MCWS may have moved him up on some team’s draft boards.

Sproat and Rivera Awaiting Their MLB Draft Future

Rivera and Sproat also played key roles in Florida’s breakout 2023 campaign. Rivera blasted out 19 home runs (including two clutch homers in the MCWS) with a .348 average at the plate. Only Wyatt Langford recorded a higher batting average for the Gators this past season.

Sproat has already has quite an interesting baseball journey. He has been selected twice in the MLB Draft (once out of high school in 2019, and again following his third collegiate season in 2022), but he opted not to sign both times. Rather than join the New York Mets in 2022 after they selected him in the third round, Sproat returned to Florida for his fourth collegiate season. He led the Gators in innings pitched (106.1) and WHIP (1.27) in 2023 while finishing with a 4.66 ERA and an 8-3 record on the mound.

It remains clear when Rivera and Sproat will come off the board in the draft next week. They have both been projected to go anywhere between the second and fourth round. Regardless of where they end up, both hope to make some noise as they prepare for their journey into the majors.

About Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year student at the University of Florida. He is majoring in Journalism and specializing in Sports and Media.

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