The 2023 MLB First-Year Player Draft is an event that will shape the near and distant future of the Washington Nationals. It is considered by experts to be the deepest Draft class since the 2011 class that sent Anthony Rendon to Washington. While much of the discussion in D.C. revolves around the No. 2 overall pick and the debate over LSU stars Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews, this Draft offers a chance for the Nats to add crucial depth to their farm system. The first-round pick is easy, but Mike Rizzo and Co. have to take advantage of this class' depth. If they do, they could be set up for another long period of success. If they don't make hay after Round 1, it will have been a disastrous missed opportunity.
With this Draft being so consequential, I wanted to be able to follow along even more closely than usual. Therefore, I have created a composite Top 300 Draft rankings that combines Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, Keith Law of The Athletic and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.
To take it a step further, I am using those composite rankings as a guide for a fun thought exercise in which I mock the Nats' first 10 picks. Remember, it's just a fun exercise and it's unlikely any of these come true as the MLB Draft is very different from other sports. The only rule is that each pick had to be realistic based on the rankings; no dreaming.
This is so hard to predict and it's unlikely I will be correct about any of these after Round 1. With that said, let's get to it!
Round 1 (No. 2 overall)
RHP Paul Skenes, LSU – When all is said and done, I expect the top of this Draft to play out chalky as expected for so long. Although the Pirates are unpredictable, I think a lot of the pre-Draft rumors are nothing but negotiating ploys by both sides and the Bucs will take Dylan Crews No. 1. If it goes down like that, the Nats will turn in the Paul Skenes card within five seconds. And I truly believe they will take Skenes even if Crews is available. Everything about Mike Rizzo's history says Skenes is their guy and the only way he isn't a National is if the Pirates take him No. 1.
Round 2 (No. 40)
LHP Alex Clemmey, Warwick, R.I. – This is a spot where the Nats should look to take advantage of the extremely deep prep class, even if they have to go over slot and essentially sacrifice a later Day 2 pick to do so. Clemmey is an immense talent and a confusing case. Ranked No. 45 in the composite rankings, Clemmey could go earlier if another team falls in love with his left arm. He has arguably the most electric stuff in the Draft with a fastball up to 100 and two promising breaking pitches. However, he is still very raw, doesn't throw enough strikes yet and plays weak competition. But at 6-6, 205 and not even 18 yet, he's very exciting. Rizzo has never shied away from this profile. Clemmey also is a Vanderbilt commitment, and those guys can be tough to sign. But the slot value of this pick is over $2.1 million, so it could get done. I think it would be a worthwhile risk.
Round 3 (No. 71)
SS Josh Rivera, Florida – This is a pick that makes sense in many ways, especially if the Nats go over slot in Round 2, which they should absolutely do. Ranked No. 77 in the composite rankings, this is around the range Rivera should go. Rivera is more a floor over ceiling player but broke out his senior year in Gainesville as the Gators came a win away from a national title. Rivera is a solid all-around player who could save the Nats some money for the rest of the Draft while filling an organizational need. Currently, the Nats don't have any C.J. Abrams insurance as shortstop is one of the weakest positions in the organization. Rivera could be an option to start one day if Abrams does not pan out or become a utility player or trade bait if Abrams does figure it out.
Round 4 (No. 102)
RHP Seth Keener, Wake Forest – Keener is ranked No. 101 in the composite rankings with an average ranking of 105.8, so this is the range for him. If you watched the NCAA Tournament and College World Series at all, you definitely noticed this guy and wondered "How the heck does Wake have an arm like this coming out of the 'pen?" Indeed, Wake's staff was so loaded that they used Keener in relief, where his fastball played up to 97 with an invisi-slider. That said, Keener has the repertoire to start and will almost certainly be given a chance to start by whichever team drafts him.
Round 5 (No. 138)
C Zion Rose, IMG Academy (Fla.) – Rose is a premier athlete with whom you're drafting excellent tools. While he would likely start out behind the plate, he could move almost anywhere on the field so long as he hits. Additionally, he's reported to be an excellent leader and teammate with off-the-charts intangibles. Ranked No. 137 in the composite rankings, Rose is hard to forecast, but he could be available here. He's a guy you want in your organization. You're drafting great tools and a great person and then you figure out where he plays as you go along.
Round 6 (No. 165)
OF Zach Levenson, Miami (Fla.) – The Nats' system still needs more pure thump and Levenson could be good value in this range. Levenson is a LF/1B/DH profile, but he can crush baseballs and doesn't swing and miss as much as most similar players.
Round 7 (No. 195)
OF Andrew Pinckney, Alabama – Pinckney is a toolsy outfielder with upside who hits the ball hard and is coming off a strong season. However, he should slip into this range due to swing-and-miss issues, although his walk rate improved significantly, and is more a corner outfield profile despite good speed. Fun fact: He went 3-for-3 in a game against Paul Skenes this season.
Round 8 (No. 225)
RHP Cam Brown, TCU – Brown is a prototypical stuff-over-production Draft profile. He looks the part at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds with electric stuff. However, he completely loses his command at times despite flashing brilliance. For those reasons, Brown has serious reliever risk, but the talent would be worth betting on if he's available here.
Round 9 (No. 255)
RHP Alejandro Rosario, Miami (Fla.) – In a similar vein to Cam Brown, Rosario was a premier high school recruit whose Draft dreams were dashed by the pandemic in 2020, leading him to go to college. Also like Brown, Rosario was up and down but has the physical traits you look for in a pitcher. Too often, the Nats have picked productive college pitchers with little projection instead of enigmatic, talented kids who could turn things around with more development.
Round 10 (No. 285)
RHP Nigel Belgrave, Maryland – Editor's Note: The writer of this article is a huge Maryland fan. That said, Belgrave figures to go around this spot despite posting mostly bad numbers in College Park. Belgrave pitched exclusively out of the bullpen at Maryland despite possessing the best arm on some very good staffs. That's because he walked nearly a batter per inning over two seasons and was extremely on or off. It's the "on" part of his game that will get him drafted because when in the zone, good luck doing anything with a sinking fastball in the upper 90s that generates whiffs and ground balls at very high rates, complemented by a swing-and-miss slider. A team that drafts him could send him out as a starter just to get needed reps despite a future in the bullpen.