PSA’s 2023 Bowman Draft Guide

Slide 1 of 1
Dec 9, 2023

For more than a quarter century, Bowman baseball cards have been the heart and soul of the MLB prospecting community. Largely responsible: Bowman’s checklists, centered around Minor League and newly-drafted ballplayers. Better than that, Bowman 1st Prospect cards have become some of the most valuable on the market, even outselling autographed rookie cards in some instances. In November 2023, a 2019 Bowman Draft Adley Rutschman 1st Chrome Autograph card sold for $250; the highest sales of his 2023 Topps Chrome Rookie Autograph cards never surpassed $150. 

In terms of the baseball card market, 1st Chrome is atop the throne. And inside the three annual Bowman releases, prospectors are hitting upon slow-burn successes that deliver value worth waiting for. 

The Seasons of Bowman

The hobby gets three major Bowman releases each year, and the rotation and release dates stay consistent year to year—Bowman drops in the spring, Bowman Chrome in the summer and Bowman Draft in the winter. But while each yearly set is similar in design, the checklists vary greatly.

Bowman is where you’ll find a broad general population of players, with each release packing immense depth and both MLB veterans and prospects appearing on Chrome or paper cards. Plenty of promising players pop up here; in fact, Topps will purposely leave key draft picks out of its wintertime Draft release to insert them in the following spring’s Bowman drop. They’ve also reportedly done this with some higher-tier International signees who would otherwise end up in a Chrome release. 

Bowman Chrome focuses primarily on players from the International Pool who have been signed to MLB teams in the most recent International Signing Period. As the name indicates, there are no paper cards in this release. It’s all about the shine. Bowman Chrome also has a mixture of prospects and MLB veteran cards peppered throughout, with each getting the Chrome treatment where you’d otherwise see standard prints. 

Bowman Draft focuses on both high school and college players selected in the most recent MLB Draft. There is a mix of Chrome and paper cards, but this is the only release that does NOT contain any MLB Veteran cards—prospects only.

Usually the most sought-after release of the year, Bowman Draft still deters some collectors with its typically lengthy pitcher checklist. If poor resale value on a handful of hurlers doesn’t faze you, Draft drops are considered by many to be worth the hype. 

Parallels Breakdown

  • Base Refractor

  • Sky Blue Refractor (1:8 Jumbo packs)

  • Lunar Glow Refractor (1:12 Jumbo packs)

  • Purple Refractor – #/250

  • Sparkle Refractor – #/200

  • Fuchsia Lunar Refractor – #/199

  • Blue Refractor – #/150

  • Aqua Lunar Crater Refractor – #/125

  • Aqua Wave Refractor – #/125

  • Green Refractor – #/99

  • Green Grass Refractor – #/99

  • Yellow Refractor – #/75

  • Yellow Lunar Crater Refractor – #/75

  • Gold Refractor – #/50

  • Orange Refractor – #/25 (Jumbo only)

  • Rose Gold Refractor – #/10

  • Rose Gold Lava Refractor – #/10

  • Red Refractor – #/5

  • Red Lava Refractor – #/5

  • Superfractor – 1/1 

  • Printing Plates – 1/1

Look Out for TB12

Watch for the 1995 Bowman Dream Draft Picks Tom Brady Gold Autograph insert, which features the iconic quarterback in his original Montreal Expos uniform. Fun fact: Brady was drafted in the 18th Round of the 1995 MLB Draft out of Junipero (Calif.) High School. Serial numbered #/50, additional Refractor parallels (Orange #/25, Red #/5 and Superfractor 1/1) are also up for grabs.

Image Variation Base and Autographs

Image Variations can be distinguished in a couple of ways. For one, the Image Variation card will have a different picture of the player from the base version. But there is a second way to tell: Each Bowman card (and each Topps card in general) features a code on the back of the card, and the last three digits for an Image Variation card will be different from base cards. 

These players have an Image Variation Card in the 2023 Draft set:

  • BDC-1 Ethan Salas 

  • BDC-4 Druw Jones

  • BDC-14 Paul Skenes

  • BDC-33 Matt Shaw

  • BDC-48 Chase Davis 

  • BDC-60 Brayden Taylor 

  • BDC-76 Max Clark 

  • BDC-106 Wyatt Langford 

  • BDC-118 Jackson Holliday 

  • BDC-188 Enrique Bradfield Jr.

Top 5 Hitters

#1 WYATT LANGFORD / 22.1 / OF / AAA / TEXAS RANGERS

Langford is one of the favorite bats on this checklist right now. He was drafted No. 4 overall by the Texas Rangers out of the University of Florida after wielding one of the most destructive bats in all of NCAA baseball last year. He sported a .373 batting average, along with a 1.282 OPS, 21 home runs and 31 extra-base hits. There are several other college batters on this checklist who had great NCAA seasons prior to the draft, but Langford has outperformed them all post-draft. Across four levels of minor-league ball — he made it all the way to Triple A in just three months after the draft, further than any other hitter on this checklist in their pro debut season — Langford hit .360, with 10 homers, 12 stolen bases, and a 17% strikeout rate with a sub-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. By some proprietary stat calculations — including the “Juggernaut Formula,” from Let’s Talk Wax — Langford ranks No. 1 on this list among all MiLB players in 2023. 

#2 MATT SHAW / 22.1 / SS / AA / CHICAGO CUBS

Crazy not to have Max Clark at No. 2? Perhaps. But when it comes to proven NCAA bats vs. high school bats with small MiLB sample sizes, it is hard not to be biased. Shaw was the Cubs’ 1st-round pick (13th overall) out of the University of Maryland, and much like North Carolina-to-Baltimore Orioles slugger Mac Horvath, he had a dominant campaign in his final year with the Terrapins. Shaw boasts a significant hit/power/speed trio as he hit .341 with 24 homers, 21 extra-base hits and 18 steals while taking one more walk than strikeout. He made his pro debut in the ACL and finished up in Double A hitting .357 with 8 homers, 13 extra-base hits and 15 steals—one of the best pro debut performances on this checklist.  

Shaw's 2023 success in Double A puts him in a great position going into the 2024 season. He should be invited to big-league camp next year and could see a call-up at some point, as well, though his defense may keep him in the minors a bit longer. Defensively, he’s held a .978 fielding percentage at second base and .875 at shortstop. But he still ranks as a top prospect; Shaw landed at No. 5 on the final 2023 Juggernaut standings. 

#3 MAX CLARK / 18.9 / CF / A / DETROIT TIGERS

Max Clark was the 3rd overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft out of Franklin Community High School in Indiana, and at just 18 years old, he is one of the youngest players coming out of the 2023 draft. If it weren't for cosmic NCAA stars such as Paul Skenes (LSU pitcher-turned-Pittsburgh’s No. 1 overall pick) and Dylan Crews (Skenes’ LSU teammate-turned-Washington’s No. 2 overall pick), he could have easily been the top overall selection. Clark already possesses five-tool talent at the ripe age of 18, but no one can predict how he will transition his talents to the next level. He did well in the Florida Complex League, hitting for average and power with great strikeout numbers, but his 51 plate-appearance sample-size in Low-A wasn't as impressive. Clark is predicted to be the most expensive and highly chased autograph in this release, but a savvy collector needs to see a bit more production over the course of the 2024 season before going all in. One note: Clark ranked No. 222 on the final 2023 Juggernaut standings. 

#4 COLT EMERSON / 18.4 / SS / A / SEATTLE MARINERS

The Mariners took another high school shortstop in the first round of the 2023 draft in Emerson, one year after selecting Cole Young with their first pick in the 2022 draft. His strikeout numbers across two levels this season are phenomenal for his age; he is one of the top high school bats coming out of this draft class and quickly made it known in the ACL and Low A. Between the two levels, he hit two homers and 10 doubles while posting a .374 combined batting average. Emerson may not stick at shortstop, but he's got enough arm to make the shift over to third base. And regardless of where he ends up defensively, his bat will be the tool that takes him to the next level, and the main reason why Emerson ranked No. 6 on the final 2023 Juggernaut standings. 

#5 JACOB WILSON / 21.7 / SS /A / OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Jacob Wilson was drafted sixth overall out of Grand Canyon University, with one of the most advanced contact bats on this checklist. He entered the draft as a junior after hitting .412 with only five strikeouts in 217 plate appearances—the lowest strikeout percentage on this list. Wilson’s got the ability to stick at shortstop, but the contact tool makes things happen. While he doesn't have much thump, and his ground ball/foul ball rates don't promote it either, neither of those factors change one crucial fact: his hitting talent is truly elite. Following the draft, he became the A's top overall prospect—collectors and fans could see his bat in the MLB as early as 2024. Wilson ranked #79 on the final 2023 Juggernaut rankings. 

Top Hitters by Tier

This list rates hitters based on past NCAA and MiLB performances. There were a few college players who had great NCAA seasons but struggled in their pro debuts, which ultimately hurts their tier ranking. 

Elite (MLB MVP Potential)
  • Wyatt Langford, Texas Rangers

1 (MLB Superstar Potential)
  • Matt Shaw, Chicago Cubs

  • Max Clark, Detroit Tigers

1.5 (MLB Organizational Star–MLB Superstar Potential)
  • Colt Emerson, Seattle Mariners

2 (MLB Organizational Star)
  • Jacob Wilson, Oakland Athletics

  • Mac Horvath, Baltimore Orioles

  • Kendall George, Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Bryce Eldridge, San Francisco Giants

  • Tommy Troy, Arizona Diamondbacks

2.5 (MLB Above Average Regular–MLB Organizational Star)
  • Cole Carrigg, Colorado Rockies

  • Blake Mitchell, Kansas City Royals

  • Enrique Bradfield, Baltimore Orioles

  • Jacob Gonzalez, Chicago White Sox

  • Luke Keaschall, Minnesota Twins

  • Ralphy Velazquez, Cleveland Guardians

  • Dillon Head, San Diego Padres

3 (MLB Above Average Regular)
  • Brayden Taylor, Tampa Bay Rays

  • Homer Bush, San Diego Padres

  • Colton Ledbetter, Tampa Bay Rays

  • Devin Saltiban, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Cam Fisher, Houston Astros

  • Johnny Farmelo, Seattle Mariners

  • Max Anderson, Detroit Tigers

  • Tai Peete, Seattle Mariners

  • Tayshaun (TJayy) Walton, Philadelphia Phillies

Top 5 Pitchers

#1 PAUL SKENES / 21.4 / RHP / AA / PITTSBURGH PIRATES

The towering flamethrower was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft out of LSU. Why towering? And why flamethower? He stands 6-foot-6 and has no problem hitting triple-digits with his fastball. His change-up isn't fair against lefties, and his slider sits in the upper 80's to low 90's. Simply put: He's got electric stuff, a work ethic that is second-to-none, and he already has the makeup of a seasoned MLB ace. He led the NCAA in strikeouts with 209, more than 50 higher than second place, Stanford’s Quinn Mathews. His Double A debut was a bit rough, but judging Skenes based on a 2 2/3 innings wouldn’t be a fair shake. 

#2 HURSTON WALDREP / 21.7 / RHP / AAA / ATLANTA BRAVES

The Braves’ No. 24 overall pick out of the University of Florida, Waldrep has got one of the nastiest split/changes seen in ages. It is definitely worth finding some footage to watch. It's a swing-and-miss pitch at the Triple A level, and his go-to at the moment with two strikes. He also throws a mid-90's fastball with an above-average breaking ball and slider. Waldrep worked all the way up to Triple A in his professional debut but his command got a little fringy in both Double A and Triple A. Aside from the walks, his stuff plays in the upper minors and he could see some time with the big league club in 2024.

#3 NOBLE MEYER / 18.9 / RHP / A / MIAMI MARLINS

Meyer was the first high school arm taken in the 2023 draft and for good reason. He's already 6-foot-5 before his 19th birthday, and he throws a mid-to-upper 90's fastball from an effortless delivery. Aside from his double-plus fastball, he has an excellent slider and change-up. In low A ball, he utilized the top and bottom half of the strike zone pretty well, though he had some command issues in his pro debut over an 11-inning sample size, and there are times when it looks like he tries to overcook the fastball and gets a bit too east-to-west in his delivery. That being said, Meyer has front-end rotation zing, and his fastball could see an increase in velocity as he adds quality mass to his frame. 

#4 RHETT LOWDER / 21.6 / RHP / DNP / CINCINNATI REDS

Lowder was the second NCAA pitcher selected in the 2023 draft out of Wake Forest, and he immediately became the Reds’ No. 1 pitching prospect. He had a 15-0 record at Wake and ranked fourth among all NCAA pitchers in strikeouts with 143. Lowder throws a low-to-mid 90's fastball, but his best pitch is probably his change-up, which wreaks havoc on lefties and generates plenty of swing-and-misses on righties, as well. He does a very good job of moving the ball, and he was one of the hardest pitchers to barrel up in 2023. He didn't pitch in the MiLB this season, so we should get a good look at how his stuff plays in the season to come.

#5 CHARLEE SOTO / 18.2 / RHP / DNP / MINNESOTA TWINS

The five spot was a tough call between Soto and Bryce Eldridge. Soto was the pick because it may take a bit more time for Eldridge to develop two-way player abilities. Soto was drafted 34th overall by the Minnesota Twins out of Reborn Christian Academy in Kissimmee, Florida. This kid gives serious Gerritt Cole vibes, and he’s probably one of the highest-ceiling high-school arms on this checklist; his fastball sits in the mid 90's and comes from an effortless delivery. He's got a strong 6-foot-4 body that projects well as he matures—keep in mind, he's only a bit over 18 years old. His change-up has great differential at 84-85 MPH, and his slider has exceptional vertical break. Soto is someone to watch in 2024, as he's yet to log any innings following the 2023 draft.

Top Pitchers by Tier

Elite (MLB MVP Potential)
  • Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh Pirates

1 MLB Superstar Potential
  • N/A

1.5 (MLB Organizational Star–MLB Superstar Potential)
  • Hurston Waldrep, Atlanta Braves

  • Noble Meyer, Miami Marlins

  • Rhett Lowder, Cincinnati Reds

2 (MLB Organizational Star)
  • Charlee Soto, Minnesota Twins

2.5 (MLB Above Average Regular–MLB Organizational Star)
  • Bryce Eldridge, San Francisco Giants

  • Hunter Owen, Kansas City Royals

  • Jaxon Wiggins, Chicago Cubs

  • Joe Whitman, San Francisco Giants

  • Zander Mueth, Pittsburgh Pirates

Best Pick-Your-Own Break Teams

GOODBRAVES
GOODCUBS
GOODMARINERS
GOODMARLINS
GOODPIRATES
GOODRANGERS
GOODREDS
GOODTIGERS
GOODNATIONALS (BRADY HUNTING!)
OKDBACKS
OKDODGERS
OKGIANTS
OKGUARDIANS
OKMETS
OKORIOLES
OKRAYS
OKROCKIES
OKROYALS
OKTWINS
OKWHITE SOX
BADBREWERS
BADCARDINALS
BADPADRES
BADPHILLIES
BADRED SOX
AWFULYANKEES