A Sleeper No. 1 Pick For The 2024 MLB Draft

Southpaw pitcher Hagen Smith had an historic season at Arkansas and is slated to succeed as a pro

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When it comes to the 2024 MLB Draft, top prospects like Travis Bazzana, JJ Wetherholt, Charlie Condon, Jac Caglianone and Chase Burns have dominated the headlines. Here are the odds to go No. 1 in that Draft (via FanDuel):

Travis Bazzana (Oregon State, 2B): -115

JJ Wetherholt (West Virginia, SS/2B): +150

Charlie Condon (Georgia, OF/3B): +700

Jac Caglianone (Florida, 1B/LHP): +1500

Chase Burns (Wake Forest, RHP): +5000

However, there’s an under-the-radar gem who could be a game-changing choice for the No. 1 pick: Hagen Smith, the standout left-handed pitcher from Arkansas. With odds at +13000 to go first overall, Smith may seem like a long shot, but his remarkable achievements and potential make him a compelling candidate to shock the world and beat out Burns and the four standout position players.

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Dominating The College Scene

Smith established himself as the best left-handed pitching prospect in the 2024 draft class. He is Arkansas' all-time career strikeout leader with 360 strikeouts, and his 2024 season was nothing short of historic. Smith posted a 9-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and a program-record 161 strikeouts in 84 innings. His strikeout rate of 17.25 per nine innings led the nation, breaking NCAA records and showcasing his ability to dominate on the mound.

Smith's accolades are a testament to his talent and hard work. He was named the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings National Pitcher of the Year, College Baseball Foundation National Pitcher of the Year, and SEC Pitcher of the Year. Additionally, he was a finalist for both the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy, and he earned unanimous first-team All-American honors from multiple organizations.

A Look At The Arsenal

Smith's pitching arsenal is impressive. His fastball, which regularly sits in the 94-97 mph range and occasionally touches triple digits, is a major weapon. However, his slider, considered his best pitch, sits in the mid-80s and is lethal against both right-handed and left-handed batters. He also features a splitter in the upper 80s, which, despite occasional command issues, adds another layer of difficulty for hitters. 

One of Smith’s most remarkable outings came against seventh-ranked Oregon State at Globe Life Field (home of the Rangers), where he recorded each of his first 15 outs via strikeout, finishing with 17 K's over six innings. This performance tied an Arkansas single-game record and underscored his potential. He should be a force at the next level and should be able to rapidly progress through the minor leagues.

Smith’s journey has not been without challenges. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019, but his recovery and subsequent performance have been exceptional. His physical transformation since his freshman year, including improved lower-body strength and a refined delivery, has significantly contributed to his success. Moreover, his ability to stay grounded despite national attention speaks to his strong mental game.

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Potential Fit In Cleveland

While names like Bazzana (-115) and Wetherholt (+150) are favored for the No. 1 pick, Smith’s potential to become a top-flight starter in the Major Leagues is undeniable. His odds of +13000 might suggest he’s a dark horse, but his record-breaking season and elite skill set position him as a valuable contender for a team that’s in need of a left-handed frontline starter.

Other than Logan Allen, who projects as a back-end rotation guy, the Guardians have the following southpaws on their top prospects list: #8 Alex Clemmey (18 years old, Single-A), #10 Joey Cantillo (24 years old, Triple-A), #13 Jackson Humphries (19 years old, Single-A), #21 Parker Messick (23 years old, Double-A) and #24 Will Dion (24 years old, Triple-A). Gavin Williams and Daniel Espino are the top right-handed prospects and project to be mid-to-high rotation guys behind Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie and Tanner Bibee. 

Boasting one of the best offenses in baseball (if not THE best), Cleveland could opt to draft a pitcher with the first pick, especially after seeing the transformative impact that Paul Skenes is having in Pittsburgh. 

Smith might not be the obvious choice for the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft, but his dominant college career, award-winning performances, and unmatched strikeout ability make him a value option worth considering. His odds may be long, but as any seasoned sports fan knows, sometimes the best picks are the ones that aren’t immediately obvious. Smith has all the tools to become a major asset to any MLB team. 

The MLB Draft spans from Sunday, July 14 at 7:00pm ET to Tuesday, July 16.

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