Just a few more hours until the 2012 MLB Draft. The MLB Draft has a completely different feel to it than the drafts of other sports. After the other drafts, immediately rankings go up as to the “winners” and “losers” of the draft. The players are going to play immediately (or close to it) and make a quick impact, positively or negatively. Players always slip through the cracks (with Tom Brady being a great example), but very often you see your draft class in football, basketball, or even hockey and know what you have. That is not the case in baseball. The draft is the start of a long, grueling process. You see what your team got and hope for the best. The players don’t become your heroes if they succeed or the banes of your existence if they fail. When you follow the draft picks as you move up the minor league ranks, you grow up with them, you establish a connection with them. You view the players in a different way, as not distant figures but relatable people. That starts on Monday night. Right now, we will give our final mock draft here at S2S and see how we predict the draft will play out. We’ll give tons of scouting reports along the way, especially when things have changed since our scouting reports from our first mock draft. Let’s get this going.
1st Overall: Houston Astros
Things could have been a lot more interesting. Mark Appel, a 6’5″, 215 right-hander out of Stanford University, has had big-time stuff for quite a while and has been considered one of the top talents for the 2012 MLB Draft for years. His fastball sits in the mid-90′s and can touch triple digits, and he also features a slider that’s unhittable when it’s on and rapidly-improving changeup that features nice sink. Plus, he was born in Houston, so that’s a nice Astros connection. But then there was Lucas Giolito, the 6’6″, 230 right-hander out of Harvard-Westlake High School in California that burst onto the seen with a high-90′s fastball of his own, a sharp curveball, and an excellent changeup, one that may be better than Appel’s despite the three year age difference. No team has ever selected a high school right-handed pitcher first overall in the MLB Draft. Giolito could have been first. Instead, after Giolito sprained his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, an injury not bad enough to warrant Tommy John Surgery, but certainly enough to make the Astros choice clear. Appel drives scouts insane in that his fastball doesn’t feature elite movement and his secondary pitches have flattened out at times, leaving him hittable. But the ability to dominate and the ability to be the ace starting pitcher that leads the Astros into contention after they move to the AL West in 2013. It will be shocking if anyone but Appel is the Astros’ selection.
The Pick: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford University
2nd Overall: Minnesota Twins
Just days after their former ace Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets, the Twins enter the 2012 MLB Draft starved for pitching. Their major league rotation has questions up and down, from the enigmatic Francisco Liriano to Scott Baker, currently out with Tommy John Surgery. And the farm system has been no help. Liam Hendriks came up to the big leagues and got tagged to a 9.00 ERA, allowed 2.5 home runs per 9 innings. Their top pitching prospect, Kyle Gibson, is also out with Tommy John Surgery. If you’re looking for upside pitching prospects in the Twins organization, you have to go all the way down to extended spring training and 2011 supplemental first rounder Hudson Boyd. The Twins desperately need an impact pitcher on draft night. Will they that direction with the second overall pick?
In the Twins’ dream scenario, Giolito never gets injured and goes first overall to Houston, allowing the Twins to select Appel here (that was the case in my earlier mock draft). But that’s clearly not happening. Could the Twins go for Giolito here? They have to be considering that, but the injury risk may outweigh the reward. There’s a nonzero chance that Giolito is selected second overall, but don’t expect that to happen. What about the other pitchers on the board?
LSU draft-eligible sophomore Kevin Gausman, a lean 6’4″, 185, features an impressive mid-90′s fastball with late sink and builds off it with a two-seamer and a nasty changeup. He throws two breaking balls, a slider and a curveball, both of which have flashed plus but neither of which has been a consistent weapon for him. He could find more success with his breaking balls when he focuses on one of them. Gausman may never be the overbearing ace that Appel (and Giolito) has the chance to be, but he still has the ability to an excellent number two starter for a topflight team and even an ace if he can get a consistent breaking ball.
University of San Francisco Kyle Zimmer burst onto the scene in 2012 with an arsenal that has looked about as impressive as anyone in the country. Zimmer, 6’4″, 220, features a mid-90′s fastball with late movement down but that may not be his best pitch. His curveball features dynamic 11-to-5 break when he gets on top of it in his delivery and he also throws an improving changeup that looks like his fastball out of his hand before featuring nice sink. He also throws a slider. Zimmer has excellent control of all his pitches, although his command isn’t always where he wants it to be and his secondary pitches do not look consistently plus. When his top three pitches are all in tune, Zimmer downright dominates.
Could the Twins go in another direction? While they would love a pitcher, that is definitely an option, possibly the most likely one. That starts with Appling High School (Georgia) outfielder Byron Buxton, who is 6’2″ and 170 pounds. Buxton is a true five-tool prospect, featuring a smooth swing with a propensity for making contact and hard contact, and the ability to add power. His speed stands out on the basepaths, out of the batter’s box, and in centerfield, and his arm is very good for a centerfielder as well. Byron has the highest upside of any prep talent in the 2012 draft and it will be difficult to the Twins to pass him up. The Twins have a bunch of good but not elite outfield prospects in their system in, among others, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia, but that won’t hold him back if they think Buxton is the best player on the board.
And then there’s Florida catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino, 6’2″ and 220 punds, has everything you want from a catching prospect. He moves well behind the plate and knows all the intricacies of the catcher position, and he has a very good if not elite throwing arm. He is a leader behind the plate and calls a good game. In the batter’s box, Zunino has the potential for great power for a catcher with a big uppercut power swing that will leave him vulnerable to strikeouts but his power should compensate. He looks to be more of a .270 hitter than .300, but his skill-set lessens the importance of that. Zunino is an excellent all-around catching prospect and could be the perfect complement to Joe Mauer within a couple of years who allows Mauer to play some first base and DH.
Buxton is the best player on the board and the others are very good but not elite. The Twins may shake their heads after the draft about the Giolito injury, but they’ll be more than satisfied coming up with Buxton.
The Pick: Byron Buxton, OF, Appling High School, GA
3rd Overall: Seattle Mariners
The Giolito injury is victimizing everyone. The Mariners were hoping to get Buxton with Appel and Giolito going in some order in the first two picks. That’s still possible but not as likely as the Mariners would like. The Mariners will have to go in another direction. The Mariners have no need at starting pitcher with the impressive trio of Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton all approaching the big leagues, but you can never have too much pitching. The Mariners aren’t exactly stacked at catcher, although they do have Jesus Montero (can he be a big league starting catcher?), and Tyler Marlette is an interesting prospect. The Mariners love to draft for upside and the best upside player on the board is shortstop Carlos Correa out of the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy.
Correa is 6’3″, 185, which may be a little too big for a shortstop as he fills out, but he’s very nimble and his speed is good enough for him to stay at shortstop. His arm is excellent. At the plate, Correa has very good strength in his swing and although he still needs work, he has shown the ability to slam line drives and hit for good power. Correa’s ability to hit for average is probably the most questionable part of his game, but he has enough bat speed to be at least solid in that category moving forward, and his other four tools are very impressive. Correa is good, but not good enough to be picked here.
Who to the Mariners go with? Zunino fits here, but he’s not flashy enough for the Mariners. But they can care less about that. He is an excellent fit to work with their young pitching staff and could allow Montero to focus on his hitting. He makes a lot of sense here.
The Pick: Mike Zunino, C, University of Florida
4th Overall Baltimore Orioles
It’s draft time and the Orioles are suddenly contending. Are they for real? Only time will tell. But the sense of urgency from their farm system has definitely increased. The Orioles’ starting rotation has been a revelation thus far in 2012, but their starting staff beginning to crumble is the biggest reason why they have started to collapse. The Orioles have an excellent starting pitcher in their system from 2011 in their fourth overall pick that year, Dylan Bundy. But Bundy can’t do it all alone. Another starting pitcher here would be perfect for the Orioles. And luckily for them there are a couple of high quality pitchers here in Gausman and Zimmer. Gausman makes more sense here in that he’s a nice contrast with Bundy as a safer pick but still with the upside of a very good number two starter. He looks to be the pick here.
The Pick: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
5th Overall: Kansas City Royals
The Royals find themselves picking early again. Their previous drafts are starting to pay off in the big leagues, but the Royals are not getting the type of results they would like, especially with Danny Duffy requiring Tommy John Surgery, they still find themselves at least a year or two from contention. A player that Royals would have liked here would be Zunino (another possible ramification of the Giolito injury), but it will be pretty surprising if he’s still on the board here (although the Orioles are unlikely to select him so if the Mariners find Gausman, Zimmer, or Correa too good to pass up). The Royals will give a long look to Correa here, and with questions surrounding their organization’s starting pitchers, Zimmer and even Giolito have to be options here. I think the Royals are the first time that could legitimately select Giolito. But considering the Duffy injury, the struggles of Mike Montgomery and basically everyone the Royals are throwing out there in the big leagues, starting pitcher is a legitimate and serious need, and Kyle Zimmer looks to be the best player on the board in any event.
The Pick: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, University of San Francisco
6th Overall: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are in the middle of their rebuilding process under Theo Epstein, and they need to continue to add more talents to end that process. The Cubs will have no qualms going for who they deem the best player available here. They will have to consider Correa. They are also an option for Giolito if they like his medicals. The Cubs could use a starting pitcher here, and a couple options for them to consider here are Marcus Stroman and Max Fried.
Stroman scares scouts away with his size as he’s 5’9″, 185, but his stuff is electric. His fastball hits the mid-90′s and he builds off it with an outstanding cutter and a good changeup. His best pitch at times is his dynamic slider, which disappears with sharp downward action as it approaches the plate. Stroman could be too much for hitters out of the bullpen and his size would seem to relegate him there as well, but his repertoire is real and enough for him to remain a starter long-term. Even at 6th overall he’s a nice value with his ability to be a very good number two starter in the big leagues and possibly move quickly.
Fried, a teammate of Giolito at Harvard-Westlake High School, is a 6’4″, 180 lefty with polarizing stuff. His fastball has been all over the place, ranging from as low as the mid-80′s to the mid-90′s, but the good news is that it does have excellent late action, and it also has forced him to work a lot on their secondary pitches, and they’re excellent. His curveball in the mid-70′s looks like his fastball out of his hand and then makes hitters look bad as they miss it by a mile thanks to his ridiculous 1-to-7 movement. His changeup is a nice pitch right now and looks to improve moving forward. If Fried was consistently in even the low-90′s he’d almost definitely be the pick here. But this questionable velocity leaves him questionable.
Correa is a great option, but I think either Stroman or Giolito is the pick here. The Cubs want to make a statement. A Giolito selection would certainly do that. Is Theo Epstein willing to bet his job on Giolito? If it works out, the reward is unmatched in this draft.
The Pick: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake High School, CA
7th Overall: San Diego Padres
The Padres are a team that is not pretty to watch (at all) at the big league level, but whose minor league system ranks among the best in baseball. With this pick, the Padres have a chance to get another premium talent. In the Padres’ stacked system, their two major weak points are starting pitcher and shortstop. They have their options open here. The Padres could be a team that could look towards Stroman and Fried, but they would be overjoyed if Correa will still on the board at this time. They would also have to give a look to Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, who I had as the pick here in my previous mock.
Marrero, 6’1″ and 194 pounds, stands out thanks to his smooth defense at shortstop with fluid actions and an excellent arm. He makes things look easy out there, and that’s not something you see too often. With the bat, though, is where the questions lie with him. Marrero has shown nice bat speed and some solid power at times, but those tools have been very inconsistent with games. At times he looks like a .300 hitter while at other times he looks completely lost. Marrero has also failed to harness his speed to steal bases. Marrero’s defense stands out, and that’s something the defense-conscious Padres will definitely have to consider. But his overall upside pales in comparison to Correa, who is still on the board as well. The Padres prefer to draft college players in the first round, but Correa’s upside is too good for them to pass up.
The Pick: Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
8th Overall: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Padres desperately need a shortstop. And they were this close to getting Correa in this mock. But they have two viable options remaining in the aforementioned Marrero and Barbe High School shortstop Gavin Cecchini.
Cecchini, 6’2″, and 185 pounds, is renowned for his baseball IQ, coming from a family that includes his parents, both coaches, and his brother Garin, a 4th round pick by the Red Sox in 2010. Cecchini is a natural leader and gets the most out of all of his tools. Defensively, he’s fluid and compact in his actions with a nice arm and projects as an above-average if not Gold Glove-esque defender. He has slighlty above-average but certainly not blazing speed, but his speed plays up on the basepaths thanks to his incredible instincts towards reading pitchers. In the batter’s box, Cecchini has a compact swing and excellent plate discipline for a high school product, and he has some power projection to come. Cecchini may never be a great hitter, but he’s extremely scrappy and will always be a difficult out. He could be a .280 hitter with 15 homers, 25 steals, and impressive defense. He has a nice package of tools but they come into play as much better than they are on the surface.
Marrero versus Cecchini is an interesting call. Marrero’s upside is probably best all-around, but he may very well end up a worse offensive player than Cecchini, the difference in defense is not so significant, and Cecchini’s intangibles are exponentially better than Marrero. Marrero seems like a Pirate in terms of his attitude- and that’s not a good thing. Cecchini is extremely polished for a high school product and has the ability and attitude to change that.
The Pick: Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe High School, LA
9th Overall: Miami Marlins
There is a culture change with the Marlins. Out is the Florida Marlins name and in is the Miami Marlins, and out are the relatively unimpressive uniforms and in are the bizarre uniforms that people still talk about. One thing that has remained the same is the team’s ownership. The move from “Florida” to “Miami” is symbolic of the Marlins’ mantra- we don’t care what you think, we don’t care what make sense, we just expect to win. This year, Jeffrey Loria finally allowed the Marlins to spend some money as they moved into their new stadium, and the signings of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle have certainly helped their cause as they sit one back back in the NL East entering Sunday after an outstanding month of May, going an MLB-best 21-8. The draft is a much smaller scale then free agency, but the Marlins would love to make another splash here. If Giolito was on the board at 9th overall, I think the Marlins would go for him. But with that not the case here, a player who the Marlins could go for is Mater Academy outfielder Albert Almora.
Almora, 6’2″, 170, can do it all. At the plate he has a smooth line drive swing with excellent bat speed and is a definite threat to be a .300 hitter long-term. His power hasn’t quite shown up yet, but he has shown intermittent flashes and more of his liners could turn into blasts as he fills out. Almora isn’t the speediest enterifielder you’ll see, but he is excellent at reading pitchers on the basepaths and reading balls off the bat in centerfield, and a quick first step allows his speed tool to play up. His arm is also very good for a centerfielder. The Marlins are loaded with outfield prospects, most notably Christian Yelich, but Almora’s combination of current polish and power upside has to put him in the forefront of their conversation with this pick.
The Pick: Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy, FL
10th Overall: Colorado Rockies
It’s nice to start this whole mock process with a pick in your head and finish the same way. I’ve had Daivd Dahl pegged to the Rockies at 10th overall since the start, and I’m not about to change my mind. The Rockies have needs all over, perhaps most notably at first base, where they lack an option to replace Todd Helton. If Vector Roache was healthy and playing well, he would be the pick here. But outfield is another position of need, and Dahl’s package of tools is awfully impressive.
Dahl, 6’2″, 185, is another five-tool centerfielder but the difference between him and Almora is that while Almora’s tools play up thanks to outstanding instincts, Dahl’s tools seem to leave you disappointed. Dahl has blazing speed that should make him an asset on the basepaths and in centerfield but that has not always been the case in both places as of yet. He does have a plus arm, especially in center. His bat speed as a lefty hitter often looks top-notch but at other times gets long. Dahl does have power projection, but his usual quick stroke has not been a good conductor for that power in game action. Dahl is a raw package of excellent tools, but whether those tools actually manifest themselves someday at the big league level is even more in question than for many high school products. But a lot of Dahl’s problems could just be from a lack of effort playing against weaker competition. Maybe getting drafted and starting his professional career is exactly what he needs to jumpstart his game. And if he begins to harness his ability, watch out.
The Pick: David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain High School, AL
11th Overall: Oakland Athletics
The Oakland A’s are in a rebuilding phase. This past offseason they traded Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Andrew Bailey, all for prospects.. How will they approach this pick? The Athletics’ last 26 first and supplemental round picks have been out of college. Could this be the streak-breaker? The A’s will definitely have to weigh all their options with this pick. But what could keep the streak alive is Marrero falling to this pick in this mock draft. The A’s lack shortstop depth in their organization and Marrero isn’t a conventional college pick. His defense is top-notch and while his offense is somewhat questionable at this point, he still has the upside of an excellent all-around shortstop.
But the A’s have a lot more things to worry about than need at this point. Stroman is a candidate for this pick, and another option is Tampa Jesuit High School right-hander Lance McCullers.
McCullers is 6’2″, 205, not exactly the frame you want from your prep pitcher pick, but his arm is as big as it gets. His fastball touches the triple-digits with ridiculous late sink and if that’s not enough he throws a nasty slider and a developing changeup. (He also throws a curveball for good measure.) But the concern with McCullers has been that the delivery that gets him to triple digits is max-effort and leaves him susceptible to injury. McCullers has made strides, but there still is the strong possibility that he moves to the bullpen in the future. If McCullers remains a starter, his upside is incredible. The team that drafts McCullers in the first round will be the team that thinks he can remain a starter. Drafting McCullers would be against every principle of Moneyball. McCullers will sign for a big bonus and while his upside is about as good as it gets, his risk, not just to move to the bullpen but for injury, may be the highest in the draft as well. The A’s don’t have the guts to pull the trigger on McCullers. If they do, good for them. I’ll doubt them until the moment they do.
The Pick: Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State University
12th Overall: New York Mets
The Mets would love to draft a shortstop with this pick. In their organization they have Ruben Tejada at short… and not much else. But the top shortstops are off the board and the Mets will have to go in another direction. The best player on the board looks to be Stroman and then there’s the big-time high schoolers McCullers and Max Fried. The Mets are likely to be scared of a McCullers selection, but they would love to get Fried at this point. They have some nice pitching prospects but that may be more incentive than not to take Fried as they can afford to give him as much time as he needs to harness that velocity that has only come to him in flashes at this point and his upside, while not McCullers-esque, is impressive and he combines that with great polish. The Mets hope to get Cecchini or Marrero with this pick, but they couldn’t help but smile if they ended up with Fried.
The Pick: Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake High School, CA
13th Overall: Chicago White Sox
The White Sox feature a good MLB rotation. It better be good- their farm system isn’t providing much reinforcements. Nestor Molina is solid, and he may be by himself at this point. This pick will almost certainly be a college pitcher. Stroman is sitting there on the board, but the White Sox can’t like his size at all. That would leave Andrew Heaney and Michael Wacha.
Heaney is a perfect pick with the White Sox. He’s not exactly 6’6″, but everything else about him screams White Sox in my mind. The White Sox love to draft pitchers that can zoom through the minors. Check. Heaney is a 6’2″, 175 lefty out of Oklahoma State University and he has a ton of things going for him. Heaney sits in the low-90′s with his fastball and hits 95 with nice sink and his secondary pitches are a plus curveball, a nice cutter, and a good changeup. Heaney locates all his pitches extremely well. Heaney still might have some projection remaining and his cutter and changeup are still improving. Heaney is a pitcher that could probably be a solid number four in the big leagues by the end of 2012 (he won’t be), but he has the potential to be a big league number two if he gets his velocity consistently into the mid-90′s and refines his secondary pitches a little more.
Texas A&M right-hander Michael Wacha has the size- gotta give him that. He’s 6’6″, 220. But his current stuff has to leave you shaking your head. Wacha’s fastball hits the low-90′s but it’s pretty straight and it’s often completely unimpressive. He does feature an excellent changeup, but it’s more effective based on his arm action than its movement. And glaringly, Wacha lacks a breaking ball that’s consistently reliable. A lot of people like Wacha. He has impressive control, gotta give him that. Part of me sees him as a 5th starter or middle reliever (sounds like the White Sox with Sale).
The Pick: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State University
14th Overall: Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are contending. Well, at least they have been hovering around that for years now. An impact pitcher could help matters. Marcus Stroman could be in the big leagues faster than anyone in the 2012 MLB Draft. His size isn’t great, but his stuff is legit and he could be in a big league bullpen within a couple months. More importantly, Stroman has number two starter upside and could be a stabilizing force in a rotation filled with inconsistency.
The Pick: Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke University
15th Overall: Cleveland Indians
The Indians are, along with their in-state rivals, on the fringes of contention. The Indians aren’t going to draft for immediate big league impact but they’ll almost definitely go with a college pick here. Wacha is an option and two others are Mississippi State right-hander Chris Stratton and Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer.
Stratton, 6’2″ and just under 200 pounds, throws in the low to mid-90′s with a fastball that features natural late cut. His nice slider features sharp break and he also throws a softer breaking ball, a curveball, with bigger break that complements his arsenal well. Stratton has good control if not necessarily command, but he has very good stuff and firm number two starter upside.
The Indians’ current first baseman is Casey Kotchman. And that’s not a good thing- his OPS is .592. The Indians signed Kotchman because their minor league system lacks a viable first baseman. 6’3″, 205 Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer could fill that hole. Shaffer, in sharp contrast to Kotchman, features big-time power. His swing gets a little long and he’ll strike out a good amount of times. Shaffer may top out at a .280 batting average. But his plate discipline is excellent and he has good athleticism for a first baseman. Shaffer is unlikely to stick at third base, but he has the ability to be a more than passable first baseman.
Shaffer is a solid first base prospect, but taking him at this point would be idiotic and an overreaction to Kotchman’s poor play. Stratton’s overall ability is much more impressive, and it’s not like the Indians don’t need starting pitching.
The Pick: Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State University
We’ll continue this mock draft at noon today. Plenty to discuss with these first 15 picks, and the discussion will get more and more intense as the draft gets closer and closer.
Topics: Albert Almora, Andrew Heaney, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Chris Stratton, Chris Wacha, David Dahl, Deven Marrero, Gavin Cecchini, Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer, Lance McCullers, Lucas Giolito, Marcus Stroman, Mark Appel, Max Fried, Mike Zunino