Top Three Picks from the 2017 MLB Draft Are All Clicking Now

Each of the top three picks in the 2017 MLB Draft are excelling in the big leagues, delivering on the sky-high potential they've always had.

Royce Lewis of the Minnesota Twins looks on during a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 13, 2024 at the Lee County Sports Complex.
FORT MYERS, FL- MARCH 13: Royce Lewis #23 of the Minnesota Twins looks on during a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 13, 2024 at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

What first seemed as if it was going to be an immense disappointment, the 2017 MLB Draft Class has made an impeccable comeback in the past couple of years. The phrase “Big Three” is mainly thrown around in basketball, but this class’s “Big Three” has surely made themselves known to be some of the best young players in baseball.

The first three picks went Royce Lewis to Minnesota, Hunter Greene was taken by the Reds, and rounded out with MacKenzie Gore was selected third overall by the Padres. Each of the three had plenty of hype behind them during the draft process and, for quite some time after, the optimism for them continued to grow. Aside from them, there are quite a few others that have also made positive impacts for their Major League ballclub, and some who just have not paNned out the way they would have hoped.

For now, let us focus on just how crazy the paths of the top three selections have been for them to get to where they are now.

Once the dust settled after the initial hype from the draft, things made a complete 180 as each of the three ran into obstacles that questioned not only their future in the Major Leagues but their professional careers as a whole.

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Royce Lewis

Royce Lewis is incredible. When he is on the field, he is arguably one of the most exciting players in all of baseball, and the emphasis is on the first part of that statement.

After being taken number one overall in the 2017 draft, coming as a slight surprise to many around the league, the prospect was labeled as a “high-waisted and broad-shouldered gazelle” by Baseball America at the time of the selection, he put a lot of the skepticism to rest after dominating pro ball in his debut.

The coolest part about his draft process, and what ultimately led to him being selected first by the Twins, was the story about long-time scout John Leavitt “falling in love at first sight” and going on the record saying “I believe he’s going to be a Hall of Famer, and I have been saying that forever”.

Those are lofty expectations to set on a player, let alone a draft pick. Yet, through the roller coaster of a career he has had thus far, Lewis has been nothing short of incredible for the Twins.

After a disappointing 2019 season, Minnesota sent Lewis to the Arizona Fall League and, with the help of a swing adjustment, which you can find a full breakdown by our own Aram Leighton in 2022 here, he was able to turn things around and carry that over throughout the end of 2019 at the Twins Development Camp. Then injuries began to derail his development when he tore the ACL in his right knee at the start of Spring Training.

The amount of injuries he has sustained since 2022 is shocking. The worst part is that they have all been severe injuries. Though, through all the injuries, and very early struggles in the Minor Leagues, the level of resilience he has shown is a true testament to the type of person he is. Not to mention his attempt at a position change to center field, where he suffered the tear to his other ACL on a play he made at the wall, and now him moving over to 3B to facilitate the signing of Carlos Correa.

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2023 was a year full of health setbacks. He suffered an upper-body injury, an oblique strain, and a hamstring injury. Then he suffered an injury to his quad in the very first game of 2024. All that, and the right-handed slugger currently finds himself on a historic pace.

When you look back at his run in the 2023 playoffs, where he hit four home runs in six games, you can tell that the bright lights do not impact him. After hitting his 27th career home run against the Athletics this past weekend, only five hitters in the history of Major League Baseball have hit more home runs than Royce in their first 86 career games. Not to mention his HR/AB ratio that would rank third in MLB history behind the likes of Mark McGwire and Babe Ruth.

The former first-overall pick is living up to all the expectations that come with the territory and then some. All we can do is hope that he can stay healthy going forward so we can truly see all of the feats he will accomplish in his career.

Hunter Greene

The Cincinnati Reds were willing to take a chance with the 100+ mph fastball that the electric right arm of Hunter Greene was throwing as a High Schooler. When it comes to this caliber of player, more often than not, the risk is worth the reward. Let’s also not forget that he was also playing shortstop when he first got drafted.

Coming out of Notre Dame High School, Greene was considered to be the number one overall prospect in the class and was labeled by this Sports Illustrated article as “the star baseball needs”. With a fastball flashing 102mph, and being an above-average athlete playing shortstop, there were lofty expectations set on Greene from the very beginning.

However, he suffered a setback in 2018 when he was diagnosed with an elbow strain that eventually led to Tommy John surgery and negated the entire 2019 season. The Reds had to face the news right as Greene was looking to build off of a strong first full season in the minors.

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Now, four years removed from the surgery, Greene has established himself as a strong top-of-the-rotation option for the young Cincinnati Reds and is a year into the pre-arb contract extension that he signed amounting to $53 million over six years, with a $21 million club option for 2029. The Reds have seen more than enough to justify getting ahead of having to deal with arbitration numbers for an arm they believed would be one of the best in baseball.

While he has dealt with a few other injuries since undergoing elbow surgery, Greene has been a steady option for the Reds rotation over the past few years. He has started over 20 games in both seasons heading into 2024 and has already started 16 this season. While the walk rate leaves a lot to be desired, watching him light up the radar gun is so exciting to watch.

He is still only 24-years old. With more experience under his belt, and the continued belief in his ability to dominate the opposing lineup on any night, bodes well for what Greene will be in the immediate, as well as the distant, future.

MacKenzie Gore

MacKenzie Gore is, by far, the most interesting story from the top three selections in this draft.

Coming off a 2017 season at Whiteville High in North Carolina in which he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year, Gore was viewed by most teams as the best left-handed pitcher, if not the best pitcher overall, in the 2017 class. The issue, like with Lewis, has been his battle with injuries ever since he entered professional baseball.

Gore had a recurring blister issue on his throwing hand that limited him to just 16 starts in his first full season in the minors. After getting the blisters under control, he bounced back incredibly, ultimately being named the MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year. Then came the global shutdown in 2020 and Gore lost himself. What many people would consider being diagnosed with the “yips”, Gore was seeing struggles in every facet of his game.

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However, he was able to regather himself and was called up to the big leagues in 2022 with the Padres and was later included in the trade package sent to Washington for Juan Soto.

Now, Gore is here. The “stuff” was always there, it was more so about him being able to lock in and become more consistent in his execution.

We all knew that he had a special fastball, but it is the emergence of all his secondary offerings that has taken his game to the next level. His ability to tunnel his curveball and fastball baffles hitters and is a big reason why he has been able to find success in limiting the walks and upping the strikeout numbers. The K/9 is at 10.5 and the BB/9 has seen a downtick each of the past three years by nearly a full percent each season. The biggest testament to his development has been his adjustment to now limiting the longball, dropping his HR/FB rate from 18.2% in 2023 to 8.0% heading into the final week of June.

In Conclusion

The result of this draft class could have faired far more different had these top three not rounded back into form after their setbacks. When we look back, the selections of Royce Lewis, Hunter Greene, and MacKenzie Gore could rounds out a top three that finds itself in the conversation for one of the best in the history of Major League Baseball.

If you are interested in seeing the full draft results for the 2017 MLB Draft, click here.