Candidates for first overall pick in 2017 Draft

The 2017 Draft will take place Monday-Wednesday, June 12-14. Live coverage of Day 1 of the Draft, encompassing the first 75 picks, can be watched live on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com. Days 2 and 3 come exclusively on MLB.com, with live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2.

The front-runners

Hunter Greene, RHP, Notre Dame High School, Calif.

It’s easy to see why he’s No. 1 on the Top 100: Up to triple digits consistently with his fastball, solid secondary offerings and plus athleticism that helps him be a first-round talent as an infielder. Perhaps the main mark against him is that a high school right-handed pitcher has never gone No. 1 overall, and there was some frustration in the scouting industry that he was shut down from pitching in late April for the remainder of the spring.

“He’s an athletic kid and he’s very young (still just 17), with a loose, quick arm,” one scouting director said. “He’s up to 100 mph, pitches with a well above-average fastball, a slider and a feel for a changeup.”

2017 Draft: Hunter Greene, RHP 2017 Draft: Hunter Greene, RHP

Draft Report: Hunter Greene, High School pitcher

Greene features a live fastball that sits in the 94-96 mph range and can touch the upper-90s, backing it up with a quality breaking ball

Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Louisville

It’s not surprising to hear that a top college arm and a top college bat are in the mix to go No. 1 overall. The fact that it’s the same guy, well, that’s a tad unusual. There is still very much a split camp on which way McKay will be asked to play once he is selected. He’s an advanced lefty who really knows how to pitch and would get to the big leagues in a hurry on the mound. He’s also a first baseman with an advanced approach at the plate, one who can hit for average and power and who would, you guessed it, get to the big leagues in a hurry with his bat.

“Obviously, his versatility stands out,” the scouting director said. “He’s been a starter ever since he got to school and has pitched on the weekends in meaningful games since he got on campus. He was up to 95 (mph) early, but even though that’s backed up a little, he has a good curveball, a changeup and a really good feel for pitching. He also has the ability to play first, with a feel to hit and hit with power.”

2017 Draft: McKay, LHP/1B 2017 Draft: McKay, LHP/1B

Draft Report: Brendan McKay, College LHP/1B

Brendan McKay usually opens games by working with a 90-94 mph fastball and he led the U.S. Collegiate National Team in hitting and OBP

The contenders

Royce Lewis, SS/OF, JSerra Catholic High School, Calif.

There may not be a toolsier player in the class, and certainly not among those being considered at 1-1. Lewis can flat out fly and has the ability to square up baseballs, with power to come. The only questions about Lewis are where he plays defensively, shortstop or center field, and would the current struggles of Byron Buxton make the new management in Minnesota pause before taking another toolsy high school bat with high upside.

“He’s very athletic, a plus runner,” the scouting director said. “He’s a smart kid, has instincts and knows how to play the game. When you start with athleticism and an ability to play the game, that’s a good start. He probably has to go to center field, depending on how he physically matures. But he’s a middle of the diamond player, so that makes it an easier decision.”

2017 Draft: Royce Lewis, SS/OF 2017 Draft: Royce Lewis, SS/OF

Draft Report: Royce Lewis, High School SS/OF

Lewis is a veritable toolshed, with the chance to be a game-changer on both sides of the ball

Pavin Smith, 1B, Virginia

This might fit the category of a “safe pick” at No. 1 overall. Outside of perhaps McKay, Smith is generally regarded as the best college bat in the class. He has a history of success at a very good program, showing the ability to control the strike zone and be the kind of run producer teams like at the infield corner. He’s a solid defender as well.

“He has that hit and power combination as a first baseman,” the scouting director said. “He has a proven track record as a hitter with plate discipline and power. That profiles well at first base.”

2017 Draft: Pavin Smith, 1B 2017 Draft: Pavin Smith, 1B

Draft Report: Pavin Smith, High School first baseman

Smith really manipulates the barrel well from the left side of the plate, and he has a long track record of hitting for average

Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt

Wright entered the spring as one of the college arms who had a chance to separate himself and be a serious contender to go in the top spot, a big college starter with outstanding stuff, exactly the profile of a top pick. But he stumbled out of the gate, denting his profile a bit. However, he’s righted the ship over his last couple of starts and if he puts a few more of those together, he could still move into the front-runner category.

“He’s a power-armed right-hander,” the scouting director said about Wright’s desirable profile. “He wasn’t having the spring he wanted to have, but has the potential to have three plus pitches. He seems to be trending upward now.”

2017 Draft: Kyle Wright, RHP 2017 Draft: Kyle Wright, RHP

Draft Report: Kyle Wright, College pitcher

As Wright has gotten bigger and stronger in college his velocity has improved from 87-90 mph in high school to 91-94 with a high of 97

The long shots

MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville HS (NC)

While there has never been a high school right-hander selected No. 1, there have been some prep lefties to go first, though David Clyde, Brien Taylor and Brady Aiken might not be the best models to follow. Gore has had some serious helium this spring and some evaluators have said they like his overall package of stuff and feel for pitching better than anyone in the class, include Greene, though that is far from the consensus. He has moved into definite top 10 position, if not top five.

“He’s an athletic left-hander with a very loose arm,” the scouting director said. “He gets very good extension on his pitches. Being a left-handed pitcher with a plus fastball doesn’t hurt and he throws a lot of strikes with three pitches. He has an advanced feel for a high school kid.”

2017 Draft: MacKenzie Gore, LHP 2017 Draft: MacKenzie Gore, LHP

Draft Report: MacKenzie Gore, High School pitcher

Gore has shown some feel for spotting his heater on both sides of the plate while working at 89-92 mph and reaching up to 94

Shane Baz, RHP, Concordia Lutheran HS (Texas)

If Gore or Baz were to go No. 1, it would undoubtedly be for a money-saving deal so the Twins could be aggressive later on in the Draft. But while Gore’s name has moved into top-of-the-Draft consideration, Baz hasn’t quite gotten there, though he has had a very good spring in Texas. But if the Twins were to take this high school right-hander instead of Greene, a deal would have been struck.

“He’s a power-armed right-hander and he was just up to 97 mph in his last outing,” the director said of Baz. “He throws an above-average slider, but doesn’t need his changeup much. He’s an athletic kid with pretty good arm action.”

2017 Draft: Shane Baz, RHP 2017 Draft: Shane Baz, RHP

Draft Report: Shane Baz, High School pitcher

Baz has a pair of weapons in a 90-95 mph fastball with running and sinking action an 84-88 cutter that generates a lot of swings and misses

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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