Most Ideal Landing Spots for Top MLB Draft Prospects

The best organizational fits for top MLB Draft Prospects

The success of a prospect is often determined by the organization in which they are drafted. There are the occasional outliers, who are so talented that the organization does not matter, but an organization can make or break a prospect’s development. To anyone who understands the inner workings of Player Development, it comes as no surprise that organizations like the Dodgers always pick at the end of the first round, but always seem to be stocked with Top-100 Prospects. Then teams like the Chicago White Sox or Los Angeles Angels can’t seem to hit on any prospects. That is because of player development. No matter what evaluation says of a prospect, the organization they are drafted by can be the difference between an underrated superstar or a high-end talent never reaching their potential. Let’s take a look at some of the best fits for the Top Draft Prospects in this year’s class.


Ideal Fits for Top College Draft Prospects


Jac Caglianone to the Rockies


These are not predictions, more ideal fits. But this fit makes a whole lot of sense. I think at the next level Cags will not be pitching. So with that being said, there is no environment that is more suited to Caglianone’s skillset than Colorado. Coors Field in Denver is the most hitter-friendly environment due to its elevation. Cags owns 71 career home runs with 33 coming in 2023 and 31 so far in 2024. He is the most recognizable power hitter in all of college baseball, consistently pushing BBCOR Era Home Run records. The fit between Caglianone and Colorado is a perfect match. A dominant home run hitter with a hitter-friendly park would increase the probability of Cags reaching his ceiling.

The main concern with Caglianone as a hitter is his free-swinging mentality. This season alone he has swung at 53.8% of the pitches he sees, with a chase rate of 38.0%. For reference, fellow top draft prospect Nick Kurtz has a 32.6% swing rate with a 13.8% chase rate. Kurtz has what many consider the best approach in the draft, but it shows the gap between Cags and his peers. The reason Colorado is a great fit is the impact Coors Field has on pitchers. Pitches are not able to create as much movement in the elevation of Colorado. This will make those just miss pitches a little easier to make contact with, which is a major part of his skill set. The combination of an environment suited for a power hitter, and pitchers not being able to expose him as easily with pitches out of the zone, makes for a very good fit for Caglianone.


Travis Bazzana to the Guardians


The Cleveland Guardians have a type. As an organization, they seemingly prioritize up the middle talent, with a bat-to-ball focused approach. On top of that, they have a preference for prospects that are hit over power. Bazzana fits that mold. The debate for first overall pick has been between Bazzana and Charlie Condon. While Condon has been historic this season, Bazzana seemingly fits what the Guardians prefer in their prospects. Bazzana has put up an impressive .415/.575/.937 season with 28 home runs, but the numbers are what make this match seem ideal.

When evaluating hit tool, the main pieces of the puzzle I want to look for are contact rate and chase rate. That shows the ability to make consistent contact, while also having an advanced approach. Bazzana has an 85.2% contact rate, with a 13.8% chase rate. For comparison sake, Condon has an 81.2% contact rate, with a 23.0% chase rate. This is on top of a 96.1 MPH average exit velocity and a 41.5% barrel rate. Condon has a 96.7 MPH average exit velocity and a 36.7% barrel rate. So Bazzana is not only the best hitter in this year’s draft, he also has shown massive developments in the power department. Coming into the 2024 season, he had 18 career home runs. That combination of power and bat to ball makes him truly one of the most dynamic offensive players in recent draft history, while also filling the typical Guardians mold.


Nick Kurtz to the Pirates


Another match that seems too good to be true. The Pennsylvania native, Kurtz, is widely regarded as the most advanced hitter in this year’s draft. As a power hitter, he has 59 career home runs across three seasons at Wake Forest, and he has also walked 188 times compared to 129 strikeouts. This season alone he had a 28.5% walk rate compared to a 16.2% strikeout rate, impressive stuff for a player who also prides himself on hitting extra base hits. Kurtz is the prototypical new-age major league hitter. He is a disciplined hitter (13.8% chase rate), with plus power (94.4 MPH average exit velocity), and good contact skills (79.6% contact rate). That’s a recipe for a quick riser through the MiLB, which the Pirates need worse than bad.

This match has less to do with player development, and more to do with organizational needs. The Pirates have seen their stock as an organization rise quickly over the last couple months. The debut of both Paul Skenes and Jared Jones gives them two legit ace-caliber MLB starting pitchers. As a small market organization, the time they have with both of them is limited. Also looking at the Pirates’ Top Prospects, two of their top 12 are position players. That is cause for concern for an organization that is not going to spend money on a free-agent impact bat or trade valuable assets for a Juan Soto-level impact bat. They need an advanced hitter to move quickly through the MiLB and make a large impact at the MLB level. Kurtz fits that mold, on top of also being a PA kid, it makes a ton of sense.


Hagen Smith to the Reds


This is one that I do not see happening, and it worries me. Hagen Smith is a dynamic talent. This season alone he has struck out 48.8% of the hitters he has faced as a starting pitcher. This is with an overall 46.7% whiff rate. Impressive and dominant stuff from the lefty out of Arkansas. With that in mind, I wrote about my concerns with Smith, and how his profile is similar to fellow top draft lefty Asa Lacy. A lot of the feedback I received on that article was that Lacy had flaws, but the Royals did nothing to help Lacy. Player Development matters, and if Smith ends up being placed in the wrong organization, I worry he runs the risk of a similar fate.

The Reds would be an ideal fit for Smith because they will give him the necessary development to help him succeed. The Reds track record of success with Nick Lodolo (eerily similar profile to Smith), Hunter GreeneAndrew Abbott, and Connor Phillips, who are all starting pitchers with command concerns, saw a ton of success within the Reds’ development system. The issue I see with this fit, is the Reds have done so well with pitching talent, that they most likely use the number two overall pick on either Condon or Bazzana.

The teams that pick between 3-10, where Smith will most likely fall, all have their own questions in pitching development. The order after the Reds at two is Rockies, Athletics, White Sox, Royals, Cardinals, Angels, Pirates, and Nationals. The Cardinals could be a decent fit, but recent pitching development says otherwise. The Pirates are well suited, but as just discussed, would they really take ANOTHER pitcher?! The rest are just flat-out bad pitching developmental groups. Let’s hope, for Smith’s sake, that an organization puts him in a position to succeed because the talent is there to be great.


Vance Honeycutt to the Orioles


Vance Honeycutt has the highest ceiling in this draft class. He is an 80-grade runner with 80-grade defensive abilities. He has 62 career home runs with 76 career stolen bases. All of the traits are there for him to be an MVP-caliber player, except for one massive glaring hole, his hit tool. When discussing Bazzana, we already talked in detail about the traits we want in a hit tool: contact rate and chase rate. Well, Honeycutt carries a 68.1% contact rate with a 26.3% chase rate, which is not exactly the recipe for success against higher-level pitching. It is the only reason the chances of him falling outside of the top 15-20, even with the best toolset in this class, is a realistic possibility.

If there is an organization that can allow Honeycutt to succeed, it is the Orioles. In terms of offensive identification and development, the Orioles are arguably the best in the business. There has been no team in baseball since Mike Elias & Co. took over that has done a better job identifying the traits they prioritize in hitters and putting them in a position to succeed. I worry that the lack of contact would scare the Orioles off because they definitely prioritize contact quality, but they have not been completely scared off by swing-and-miss types in the past. Coby Mayo, Jud Fabian, and Honeycutt’s former teammate Mac Horvath all came with questionable hit tools, but impressive batted-ball profiles. None of those were first-round selections though. Do the Orioles think they can clean up the swing and miss enough to be worth a first round pick? If they think he is worth it, I trust the Orioles to maximize his potential as a player, because that is simply what they do.


Chase Burns to the Mariners


This one to me is the most fun to imagine. The Mariners have steadily crept up as arguably the best pitching development group in the MLB. They have been able to graduate homegrown talents like Bryce Miller, George Kirby, Bryan Woo, and Logan Gilbert who have developed into established MLB starters. The most impressive part of those development stories is that each of them outperformed their draft spots. Miller was a fourth-round pick, while Woo was a sixth-round pick. Gilbert and Kirby were both first-round picks, but Kirby was a low 90s elite command arm, who now throws 98 mph. The Mariners played a huge part in each of those developmental stories.

Chase Burns does not need development. This season he struck out 49.0% of the batters he faced while walking 7.5% of hitters. He generated a whiff on 49.4% of pitches he threw. His fastball averaged 97.8 MPH this season, and his slider generated a 71.2% whiff on the year. Coach Muscara aided in the development of his third offering this year at Wake Forest, which led to positive improvements in the curveball and changeup. The curveball sported a 74.5% whiff rate on the year, and the changeup generated a 51.4% whiff rate. The curveball usage went up as the season went on, and looked like a dominant third offering against NC State late in the year.

Burns will be in a good position, no matter the developmental group. But, the reality is an organization like Seattle is more likely to give him the tools to become an MLB ace. He had a tendency to get bit by the home run ball on his fastball, but that will change leaving the run-scoring environment that is Wake Forest and college baseball. Burns has all the tools to become a legit MLB ace, and the org he ends up with will help in aiding in him reaching his ceiling. Will he fall to 15 this July? I would be shocked, but one can dream what he would become with the Mariners.

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