The MLB Draft has so many potential No. 1s. Plus, a new ownership model in Oakland

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The MLB Draft is less than 100 hours away, so let’s get ready. Plus: the only draft picks that can be traded, a deadline primer while we wait and … who will replace John Fisher in Oakland? It could be you! (Sorta.) I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!

Gone Drafting: One last mock draft

The Cleveland Guardians have the first pick in this year’s draft, which starts Sunday night. My favorite line from Keith Law’s final mock draft is as follows: “rumors have them still considering six or eight or more names, which … come on, guys, it’s not like the draft is sneaking up on you.” He guesses they’re looking at four names or fewer, though.

I got curious, so I went back and spent way too much time analyzing Law’s first two mock drafts to see how things have developed. (No really, I made a spreadsheet and everything.)

  • Bazzana back to No. 1: Law has been pretty consistent in suggesting that the first two picks would appear to be Travis Bazzana and Charlie Condon, in some order. But teams are cagey — sometimes frustratingly so — about their intentions. (Also, it’s worth re-posting Brian Hamilton’s profile on the Australian infielder from Oregon State.)
  • Biggest climbers: Christian Moore (2B, Tennessee) was originally projected at 26 (Yankees), but Law now has him going to the Cubs at No. 14. Ryan Waldschmidt (OF, Kentucky) didn’t crack version 1.0, but has climbed to No. 17 (Brewers).
  • Biggest fallers: Walker Janek (C, Sam Houston St.) dropped from 20th (Blue Jays) to 28th (Astros), but that’s actually a rebound — he wasn’t in version 2.0. Meanwhile, Kaelen Culpepper (SS, Kansas State) dropped from No. 16 (Marlins) all the way off the first-round board.
  • No such thing as a sure thing: For all the jostling, there were two players who stayed in the same position for all three mock drafts: Nick Kurtz (1B, Wake Forest) locked in at No. 4 (A’s), while Carson Benge (OF/RHP, Oklahoma St.) stayed steady at No. 19 (Mets).

As Law has told us, this is an inexact science, relying on sources, trends, intuition and known approaches. Your best bet is probably reading all three versions, finding the team you follow and also checking out the guys a few picks on either side.

More draft coverage:

Ken’s Notebook: These rare picks could be traded this weekend

From our latest Trade Deadline Watch with Patrick Mooney and Katie Woo:

The deadline before the deadline is Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, two hours before the start of the amateur draft. What deadline, you ask? The one for teams to trade their 2024 competitive-balance round picks. Once the draft starts, those selections will be used to grab actual players.

Not surprisingly, the picks are the subject of trade talk, according to four heads of baseball operations who were granted anonymity for their candor. Deals involving one or more of them are possible, though not necessarily likely, over the next several days.

Competitive-balance round picks — six after the first round this year, eight after the second — are the only ones Major League Baseball allows to be traded. The selections, which go to teams who have either one of the 10 smallest markets or 10 lowest revenue pools, first were awarded in 2013.

Twenty-six of the picks have been dealt, according to STATS Perform. But only four of those trades took place within a month of the draft. From that group, the most successful pick was Connor Joe, whom the Pirates took at No. 39 in 2014 after acquiring the selection from the Marlins for Bryan Morris.

The picks can only be traded by the team to which they were awarded. The Brewers, holding the first choice in Competitive Balance Round A and 34th overall, cannot deal the selection after acquiring it from the Orioles for Corbin Burnes. The White Sox, holding the third choice in Competitive Balance Round B and 68th overall, also cannot deal their pick, which they obtained from the Mariners for Gregory Santos.

The Diamondbacks, Guardians, Pirates, Rockies and Royals are the other teams in Competitive Balance Round A. The slot values of the picks in that round, Nos. 34 to 39, descend from $2.698 million to $2.395 million. A club that acquires the selection also acquires the slot value, increasing the size of its pool and its negotiating flexibility.

The teams in Competitive Balance Round B are the Rays, Brewers, White Sox, Twins, Marlins, Reds, Tigers and Athletics. The slot values of those picks, Nos. 66 to 73, descend from $1.26 million to $1.08 million. The draft positions and slot values of those picks make them less valuable than those in Comp Round A.

Teams have different valuations for what picks actually are worth. Regardless, a low-revenue contender might be motivated to acquire a known major leaguer for an unknown amateur. A non-contender, on the other hand, might covet the pick as an additional way to bring young talent into its organization.

The picks are in play, until Sunday at 5 ET.

More Rosenthal: By getting Pete Alonso in the Home Run Derby, MLB shortchanged two of his Mets teammates.

Trade Deadline Roundup: Where all 30 teams stand

As I mentioned in this week’s trade deadline report, the action has largely been condensed into the two-week window after the All-Star break since MLB moved the draft to coincide with the break. Another factor: the expanded playoffs, giving more teams a bit of hope that one little hot streak could vault them into playoff contention.

One side effect: We also have a bit more time to analyze each team’s needs. Jim Bowden has gone “All 30” with it today, identifying buyer needs and the available players, and giving some insight into every team’s strategy.

Other notes:

  • Boston’s pleasantly surprising pitching has been a huge reason the Red Sox are a half-game ahead of the Royals for the final AL wild-card position. But as Jen McCaffrey points out, it hasn’t been quite as good lately. As a few starters careen toward career highs in innings (and the back half of the rotation struggles), they could certainly use a little help.
  • Likewise, the Padres need arms. Dennis Lin looks back to 2021, when San Diego was in a similar situation, but didn’t add an impact starter. That team ended up missing the playoffs after a second-half slide.
  • The Phillies have one of the best rotations in the sport, even as they await the returns of Taijuan Walker and Spencer Turnbull from the IL. Their bullpen has been exceptional as well. So what do you buy the team who has everything? Another high-leverage reliever, of course. They’re the new socks of baseball. Everyone loves new socks.

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Fresh Ideas: New owners in Oakland 

After this year, if Oakland fans have a problem with the local baseball team’s ownership, they won’t have to hold up signs and hope that John Fisher deigns to see them from a suite. Instead, they can just text a friend. Or talk to a stranger at a local dive bar. Or maybe just look in the mirror and have a serious talk.

That’s because the Oakland Ballers — who play in the Pioneer League — have announced that they’re allowing fans to purchase ownership shares. 

It’s a cool idea, no matter where it happens. But it seems particularly poignant in Oakland, where team ownership has long had a somewhat contentious relationship with fans — developing then trading star players due to budget constraints for years before departing for Las Vegas (by way of Sacramento).

Innovation is nothing new for the Ballers, who were formed last November and are playing their first season in 2024. Under the leadership of executive vice president Don Wakamatsu, they signed Kelsie Whitmore, who became the first woman to play in the Pioneer League (which was founded in 1939). They were also going to play a game in the Oakland Coliseum, but the A’s stepped in to block that — at least until next year, when they no longer have any say.

Handshakes and High Fives

The Home Run Derby field of eight is officially set, with Teoscar Hernández of the Dodgers and hometown hero Adolis García of the Rangers filling the final two spots.

Shōta Imanaga is doing his best to single-handedly pull the Cubs out of Sellers-ville. He was brilliant again last night, out-dueling Corbin Burnes and the Orioles.

Detroit’s Andy Ibáñez isn’t a star, but there’s always a place for a guy who does one thing extremely well. In Ibáñez’s case, that thing is: hitting left-handed pitching.

I was fascinated to read about Brandon Nimmo of the Mets having an epiphany from watching a video of Joey Votto talking about a conversation with David Ortiz. Nimmo has homered in three straight games, by the way.

The Yankees will likely make bigger moves, but adding two Tims to the bullpen — Hill and Mayza — could provide some marginal help.

After his latest rough outing, the Dodgers have optioned starter Bobby Miller to Triple A.

On The Windup Podcast: Can baseball ever be top dog in the major sports again? Also, we bid farewell to Marc Carig as a co-host as The Roundtable hits its 100th episode.

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(Photo: Jordan Prather/ USA Today)

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