It’s hard to believe that 21 year old Michael Wacha, who shutout a potent Dodgers lineup for 6 2/3 innings last night to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead in the NLCS, was drafted only one year ago. It’s even harder to believe that 18 different teams passed on Wacha before the Cardinals snatched him with the 19th pick. If given the chance, at least 15 of those teams would swap their top pick for Wacha in heartbeat. Hindsight is 20/20 and many of the still unproven prospects from the draft still have a chance to get back on track, but we here at Grading on the Curve have decided to do a three part mock re-draft of the 2012 first ten picks anyway, starting with….
#1 Houston Astros: Byron Buxton
Actual Draft Slot: #2 Minnesota Twins
Player actually drafted here: Carlos Correa
Wacha may be grabbing the headlines at the show, but Buxton has been the talk of this year’s minor league season. While playing against predominantly older competition in the MIDW (A) and the FSL (A+), the 19 year old Georgia Native exemplified the five-tool player, playing a fluid centerfield and hitting a ridiculous .334/.424/.944 with 76 walks, 55 SB, 49 XBH. By July he had been named the number one overall prospect in baseball by ESPN, MLB.com, and Baseball America, and was starting in the All-Star Futures Game. The Astros originally passed on him and took Carlos Correa in an effort to save money with the first pick and pay overslot later for high schoolers Lance McCullers and Rio Rioz, but Buxton has proven himself to be better than all three combined.
#2 Minnesota Twins: Michael Wacha
Actual Draft Slot: #19 St. Louis Cardinals
Player Actually Drafted Here: Byron Buxton
There are guys with higher upside in this draft, but Wacha goes here because he is the only member of the class who has already established himself as an above average big leaguer. In nine starts and six relief appearances this year, Wacha went 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA, 9.0 SO/9, and a 1.7 bWar, before winning two games in two dominant postseason starts. He has already proven himself as a No.3 starter going forward, with the potential to be a very good number two, but he could be one of the most intriguing players of this World Series even before 2014 rolls around.
#3 Seattle Mariners: SS Carlos Correa
Actual Draft Slot: #1 Houston Astros
Player Actually Drafted Here: Mike Zunino
The Astros may have paid Correa significantly less than most first overall picks, but it wasn’t for a lack of talent. At an age when most players are still in short season ball, the 18 year old Correa raked to a .320/.405/.467 line. The power isn’t there yet (only nine home runs), but it will come, and he’s showed tremendous plate discipline for a player his age. He’s made a concerted effort to stay lean and remain a plus defender at short, but as he fills out, his 6’4 frame may outgrow the position. If so, he still has the potential to win a gold glove at third.
#4 Baltimore Orioles: SS Addison Russell
Actual Draft Slot: #11 Oakland Athletics
Actual Player Drafted Here: Kevin Gausman
It only took a couple months for Russell to force a handful of Major League GMs to rethink their decision let the prep shortstop fall out of the top 10. Over his first professional half season in 2012, Russell hit a ridiculous .369/.432/.594, reaching A ball as an 18 year old. He was subsequently ranked in the top 50 on most major prospect lists, including Baseball America, MLB.com, and Grading on the Curve’s, leading to lofty expectations for 2013. Although he came back to earth from his torrid 2012 pace, Russell was still brilliant, hitting .275/.377/.508 with 17 home runs and 61 walks over 504 California League (A+) plate appearences – high marks for a 19 year old shortstop. He should be able to stick at short in the long term, while being a middle of the order hitter. I often hesitate to make comparisons, but in his case, the words “Nomar Garciappara” are not unreasonable.
#5 Kansas City Royals Mark Appel
Actual Draft Slot: #9 Pittsburgh Pirates (Did not sign)
Player Actually Drafted Here: Kyle Zimmer
Appel was in fact the consensus first overall pick in this draft, and only fell to the Pirates at #9 because of high bonus demands. He couldn’t reach a deal with the pirates, but was drafted a first overall this season, an affirmation of his talent. With above average command of his mid 90’s fastball, plus changeup, and above average curve, he has ace potential and should be a good number three at worst.
#6 Chicago Cubs: RHP Lucas Giolito
Actual Draft Slot: #16 Washington Nationals
Player Actually Drafted Here: Albert Almora
As recently as March of 2012, then 17 year old Giolito looked to be the number one pick in the draft. Then the flamethrowing right hander sprained his UCL, missing his entire senior season and dropping to 16th overall due to injury concerns. Those concerns seemed to be warranted when Giolito underwent Tommy John Surgery after just one start with the Nationals, but he has returned quickly, posting a 1.96 ERA and a 9.6 SO/9 over the 11 second half starts. His stuff is as electric as anyone’s in the minors, and while the risk is high, there is cy young potential here.
#7 Padres: Albert Almora
Actual Draft Slot: #6 Chicago Cubs
Player Actually Drafted Here: Max Fried
If it weren’t for a signficant amount of missed time, Almora may be higher on this list, or at least at his actual draft spot. After missing the first month of the season with a wrist injury, Almora returned strong, flashing plus defense in center and hitting .329/.376/.466 with only 30 strikeouts in 61 games, before going down again with another injury, this one to his groin. He’s healthy again now and playing in the Arizona Fall League, and the only knock (aside from health) on the 19 year old is walks, as he only managed 17 of them in 272 plate appearances.
#8 Pirates: Kevin Gausman
Actual Draft Slot: #4 Orioles
Player Actually Drafted Here: Mark Appel
Polished out of college, Gausman was expected to rise quickly through the Orioles Farm System, but perhaps was promoted a little to aggressively as he got knocked around for a 7.66 ERA and 7 home runs in just five major league starts. Baltimore moved him to the bullpen after that, where he performed well, with a 3.52 ERA and 11.3 SO/9 in 15 appearances. Only 22, he already has three plus pitches, managed a 3.11 ERA with a ridiculous 2.44 FIP in eight AA starts, so he still has the potential to be a very good number two starter.
#9 Marlins: Kyle Zimmer
Actual Draft Slot: #5 Royals
Player Actually Drafted Here: Andrew Heaney
Zimmer has an ace caliber repertoire, but falls from #5 to #8 on this list because of pure ineffectiveness. In 89 2/3 innings Carolina League (A+ level) innings, he got battered around to a 4.82 ERA, despite being 21, a proper age for the league. The good news is that his peripherals were terrific – 3.0 BB/9, 11.6 SO/9, 7.6 H/9 – and he pitched exceptionally well in a brief AA stint – 1.93 ERA, 27 SO, 5 BB in 18 2/3 innings. He’ll start next season in AA, and could be in the majors soon if he can replicate his 2013 AA success for a full season.
#10 Rockies: LHP Andrew Heaney
Actual Draft Slot: #9 Marlins
Player Actually Drafted here: David Dahl
Dahl, who the Rockies actually took with this pick, almost looked like a steal at #10 after he hit .379/.423/.625 in half of a season after being drafted, but a combination of injuries, maturity concerns, and off the field issues has eroded his value and relegated him to just ten games this past season. Instead, we give the Rockies Heaney in our mock draft. A 22 year old lefthander, he suffered a lat injury before the start of the season, but was brilliant on return, posting a 1.60 ERA with excellent command (2.5 BB/9) and missing a decent number of at bats (8.4 SO/9). He won’t blow anyone away, but his floor is pretty high and he has the potential of a number two or three starter.