2023 MLB Draft Notebook: Surprises and Unexpected Picks
The dust has settled in the Pacific Northwest after baseball's biggest stars showcased their skills in the MLB All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. While some fans enjoyed the Midsummer Classic, others were locked in on the MLB Draft.
Every year, the MLB Draft serves as a launching pad for aspiring athletes paving their way to the big leagues. The 2023 edition was no exception, as teams evaluated and selected the prospects they believe have the potential to become future all-stars.
In this blog post, we'll unpack some highlights, explore unique picks, and delve into some of the names that went undrafted.
Brice Matthews (Houston Astros, Round 1, Pick 28)
Matthews entered the MLB Draft projected to be taken mid-2nd round, being ranked No. 57th on MLB Pipeline’s Top Prospects List. However, the Houston Astros thought differently and ended up taking the shortstop with their first pick.
The Nebraska product was selected by his hometown team, growing up in Humble, Texas just 20 minutes from downtown Houston. He was 9 years old when he started playing baseball and participated in the Houston Astros Urban Youth Academy. In high school, Brice was a two-sport athlete, playing the role of quarterback for his school’s football team.
Last season with the Cornhuskers, Matthews had a batting average of .359 while hitting 20 home runs and stealing 20 bases. He became the first player in school history and second player in Big Ten history to record a 20-20 season.
The 21-year-old has tons of speed and power with even more opportunity to develop in these categories. His max exit velocity recorded by Rapsodo is 98.75 MPH.
Kendall George (Round 1, Pick 36)
Following in the footsteps of Matthews is his fellow high schooler Kendall George. Both athletes went to Atascocita High School in Houston and both were drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft, within two picks of each other.
George was also projected to be taken in the later second round of the draft, but was swooped up by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 36th picks.
Arguably one of the fastest players in the draft, the Arkansas recruit isn’t known for his power, but has clocked an max exit velocity of 95.11 MPH on Rapsodo. He makes up for a lack of home runs with his contact hitting and base stealing.
George was the centerfielder for the winning 18U World Cup team last September, getting on base 10 times in 18 at bats with 5 stolen bases. In his senior year of HS, he hit .445 with an OPS of 1.296 and a team-leading 32 stolen bases.
Highly Projected, Highly Drafted
Cameron Johnson (Round 20, Pick 605)
Cameron Johnson is the No. 11th ranked player in the high school class of 2023 and No. 2 LHP from that group. He entered the draft ranked as the 42nd best prospect by MLB Pipeline.
The @Cardinals get a steal with the 605th pick of the #MLBDraft.— Rapsodo Baseball (@rapsodo) July 11, 2023
They take Cameron Johnson, who was listed as No. 43 on @MLBPipeline's Top 250 prospects.
Here's a look at his pitch arsenal:
- Changeup pic.twitter.com/jHzQDdpQql
The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Johnson in the last round with the 605th pick. However, it’s not certain that he will end up with that club. According to Cardinals beat writer John Denton, it’s likely that the 6’5” pitcher will end up attending LSU (commit) as they are set to defend the Men’s College World Series title.
The Maryland native who attended IMG Academy displays a powerful build with a fastball speed of 97.48 MPH on Rapsodo. His other pitches include a sweeping slider that touches 80 MPH and a changeup as his third option.
Tanner Witt (Round 18, Pick 541)
Similar to Cameron Johnson, Tanner Witt was ranked as MLB Pipeline’s 76th best prospect, but dropped all the way to 18th round after being selected by the Baltimore Orioles with the 541st pick.
Unfinished business🤘🏻— Tanner Witt (@wittnesstwitty) July 12, 2023
“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” pic.twitter.com/uF3hKk4h6t
Witt’s drop down the draft board could be due to a few different factors. One being that the 23-year-old is coming off of recent Tommy John surgery in which he made his return this past May. Witt also mentioned to MLB teams that he would likely return to the Longhorns in hopes of getting back to his pre-Tommy John form.
Best of the Undrafted
Roch Cholowsky (Undrafted)
Cholowsky was one of the top high school prospects in the MLB Draft and ranked 44th by MLB Pipeline. Yet, he didn’t hear his name called. Now, he will have to wait until his junior year of college.
The Arizona prospect is expected to attend UCLA where he will put his MLB career on hold to play for his dream school. Cholowsky told 12Sports that he turned down multiple offers in the first 20 picks of the draft because of his aspiration to play for the Bruins and their coaching staff.
The next time the shortstop will be draft eligible will be the 2026 MLB Draft.
Trent Caraway (Undrafted)
One of the best right-handed hitters among the prep prospects, Caraway announced that he would be attending Oregon State after being looked over in the first few rounds of the MLB Draft.
The 19-year-old from JSerra Catholic High School was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the 70th best option in this year’s draft. Similar to Cholowsky, however, Caraway never heard his name called.
With an above-average arm and powerful hitting, the biggest question mark for MLB teams is Caraway’s defense. Regardless, he will be draft-eligible as a sophomore in 2025.
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