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MLB Draft’s top pitching prospects to watch as the NCAA baseball tournament begins

With regionals set to get underway this weekend, here are five pitchers who could hear their names called very early in the 2023 MLB Draft.

LSU Tigers outfielder Dylan Crews during the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the LSU Tigers on May 25, 2023 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama. Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2023 NCAA Baseball Tournament gets underway Friday, with 64 teams in 16 regionals battling it out across the country all weekend long. For the next month, the country will get and up close look at the best players the sport has to offer — and, potentially, their favorite MLB team’s next prized prospect.

Many of the players atop the 2023 MLB Draft board will be fighting for a spot in the College World Series over the next few weeks: Seven of this year’s top 10 draft-eligible prospects come from the college ranks, per MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, and six of those seven have reached the tournament. Here are five pitchers you should keep an eye on as regionals get underway.

NCAA baseball tournament: MLB Draft prospects to watch

Paul Skenes, SP, LSU

The most dominant pitcher in college baseball this year, Skenes and teammate Dylan Crews have a real shot at going 1-2 in the draft. The righty was a highly-coveted transfer after dominating as a two-way player at Air Force, and though he’s focused strictly on pitching this season at LSU, he’s lived up to the hype and then some. Boasting a fastball that can touch triple-digits at times, Skenes has put up a 1.89 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP in the toughest conference in the country, . He’s an eminently justifiable choice for the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 1 overall if the team decides it wants a pitcher rather than a position player.

Chase Dollander, SP, Tennessee

Skenes has soaked up all the headlines so far this year, but it was Dollander who began the season as the consensus top pitching prospect in the college ranks. Command issues have hampered him a bit this year — he’s pitched to a disappointing 4.28 ERA and 1.222 WHIP — but make no mistake: The stuff is as electric as you’ll find.

Still, despite the mediocre ratios, some team in the top 10 is going to talk itself into a guy with high-90s gas and the potential for four above-average offerings — especially if he shoves in the tournament.

Rhett Lowder, SP, Wake Forest

It’s been Lowder, not Dollander, who’s given Skenes a run for the title of best pitcher in college baseball this season, leading the Demon Deacons to a 47-10 record and the country’s top overall seed. The numbers are downright silly: a 1.69 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 114 strikeouts to just 19 walks in the sport’s second-toughest conference. He may not light up the radar gun like the first two guys on this list, but he boasts a Bugs Bunny changeup that no one’s been able to figure out.

With a legit out pitch and the ability to pump strikes, he’s the high-floor option for a pitching-needy team picking in the top 10.

Hurston Waldrep, SP, Florida

Waldrep is a power pitcher through and through, breaking out at Southern Miss last year before transferring to Gainesville and helping power the Gators to the second national seed. The heater is easy gas in the high 90s, and he pairs it with a slider and a split-change that may be the single funnest pitch you’ll see all month — seriously, watch how this ball just disappears, and against a righty no less.

Juaron Watts-Brown, SP, Oklahoma State

Scouts are a bit divided on Watts-Brown, who transferred to Stillwater this season and helped carry the Pokes to their 10th straight regional with 117 strikeouts in just 78 innings. The fastball isn’t much to write home about, but the slider is a wicked frisbee of a pitch, one he can throw in any count to lefties or righties. At a slender 6’3, he’s got the room to add some strength, and if that leads to gains with his heater, look out.