From the start until the finish, Day 1 of the 2012 MLB Draft did not go until the way anyone expected. Fans who tuned in to the draft did not walk away disappointed.
Mark Appel was going to be the first overall pick. Every expert was saying that. There was a rumor that the Astros had already decided on Appel. But there was another rumor that people mostly ignored: that the Houston Astros were going to draft Puerto Rican Baseball Academy shortstop Carlos Correa. But that’s exactly what happened. Everyone was waiting for Bud Selig to say Mark Appel’s name up on the podium for the Astros pick. Instead, Correa was the selection. Correa, who was in MLB Network Studios for the draft, walked up towards the stage, put on an Astros jersey, and shook Commissioner Selig’s hand. He was overjoyed. Everyone was shocked. It isn’t that Correa isn’t an outstanding prospect. But Appel was going to be the pick the whole time, and suddenly he wasn’t. The Astros made a statement. They are going to shoot for the stars. They’re not going to run their team conservatively in any way possible. They’re going to make the tough decisions that give their franchise the opportunity to not just limp forward but thrive as they move from the NL Central to AL West. How will this choice turn out? Only time will tell. But the Astros made an impression on everyone tonight.
But the story had just begun. Appel kept slipping. The Twins at number two overall have a severe dearth of starting pitching in their organization, but they believed that 5-tool centerfielder Byron Buxton was too good to pass up. The Mariners went with catcher Mike Zunino to fill a need. The Orioles selected a pitcher, but not Appel but Kevin Gausman. The Royals then selected another pitcher, Kyle Zimmer. The Cubs followed by selecting outfielder Albert Almora. Then at 7th overall, despite several compensation picks that allow them with the budget to sign Appel, passed him by in favor of high school lefty Max Fried. Finally at 8th overall the wait ended as Appel was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Appel was an absolute steal for the Pirates and potentially gives them about as good of a trio of starting pitching prospects in baseball in Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, and Appel. But wait a second- this story may not be over.
In a statement released by #pirates, Appel said he’s concentrating on his studies and winning a national title at Stanford.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) June 5, 2012
“I will address the possibility of a professional career in due time,” Appel said in statement released by the club.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) June 5, 2012
Pirates fans have to nervous. But if they sign Appel, the results could be incredible.
With the new MLB draft rules, each team has a bonus pool assigned to them based on how many picks they have and the locations of their picks. One ramification of that is teams overdrafting players who will sign for slot money or below so they can have maximum flexibility in later rounds and possible go for a player with signability issues. We saw that quickly in the 2012 draft.
Andrew Heaney may have been a bit of a reach by the Miami Marlins at 9th overall but he’s a polished lefty starter who could make a big league impact before very long. But the Oakland Athletics made what looks to be a clear reach in shortstop Addison Russell. A few picks later, the Reds drafted Nick Travieso, given a late first round to supplemental round grade, and no one expected the Indians to go with centerfielder Tyler Naquin at 15th overall. But the most shocking reach was the St. Louis Cardinals, who at 23rd overall drafted James Ramsey, a senior outfielder at Florida State who has solid tools and hustles but is mostly unimpressive and will assuredly sign for slot or below. It will be interesting to see how those teams manage their bonus money the rest of the draft.
No one expected that we would have to ask where Mark Appel would go and how far he would fall. But two big question marks were Lucas Giolito and Lance McCullers. The questions for both of them were not stuff- both of them have as good pure stuff as anyone in the draft, but both of them faced injury concerns, Giolito after he faced a UCL strain and McCullers because of a violent delivery. Nobody knew where they would go in the draft.
At 16th Overall, the Washington Nationals tabbed Giolito with their selection. Without any supplemental picks, this pick may force the Nationals to draft very conservatively in subsequent picks. But his upside is about as good as it gets. Before the injury, Giolito was in the mix for the number one overall pick with a fastball that was touching triple digits, a plus curveball, and a good chnageup. If Giolito comes back healthy, his incredible upside remains. This is a team that has gotten Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Matt Purke in recent years. Giolito is another player with upper-echelon upside.
It wasn’t until 41st overall that McCullers’ name was finally called, with the Houston Astros doing the honors. McCullers was a player who, like Giolito, was once in the number one overall pick discussion, albeit a year and a half or two years ago, and his high-90′s fastball and absolutely nasty slider are awfully impressive. With the Astros making the surprise selection of Correa first overall, they may be able to sign him for slot or even a little less and pump in the money they saved into into McCullers to sign him as well. Two players with number one overall caliber talent- pretty impressive.