In lieu of an updated mock draft, I have decided to keep it simple this month and list the top 30 draft prospects for the upcoming 2012 amateur draft which is to be held June 4-6. There is still a lot of baseball to be played at both the high school and college levels, so a lot can happen until then. For now, this is the way I see it.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS (GA)
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Last season it was Bubba Starling who wowed everyone with his ability to do just about anything he wanted on a baseball field. This year, Buxton is showing the kind of abilities not seen in many players his age, and maybe not since Ken Griffey Jr. After hitting .594 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI as a junior, the 6’-1” right-hander has been even more impressive this season. He is hitting .519 with 10 doubles and three triples, and he has only struck out one time over his first 18 games. He has been equally impressive on the mound where he is 6-0 with 67 K/9 BB over 34 innings to go with a 1.65 ERA. Buxton is a superior athlete with few holes in his game. His elite speed, mixed with his extremely quick wrists and power, make him one of the better power/speed guys in the draft.
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
The shoulder injury isn’t as bad as many thought when it happened, however, Giolito is still being shut down for the season as a precaution. Even with a little risk due to the injury, no one has the potential Giolito has on the mound in this draft. At 6’-6” and 210 pounds, the right-hander has the frame to be a frontline workhorse at the next level. Add in the fact he can get his fastball up to triple-digits, and both his slider and curveball are already above average pitches, and you have the makings of a future staff ace.
3. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Appel is one of the safest picks in the draft and should be a fast riser to the show. At 6’-5” and 230 pounds, the right-hander is a power pitcher who can get his fastball up to the upper-90s with ease. He also has a plus swing-and-miss slider, an above-average change-up with late fade and will also mix in a cutter. He is 4-1 on the season, with a 2.86 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 68 K/18 BB over 66 innings. His 8.3 innings per start show the kind of workhorse he will be.
4. Mike Zunino, C, Florida
Zunino is one of the more polished players in the draft on both sides of the field. He is one of the best defensive catchers available, and at 6’-2” and 220 pounds, he makes for a big target behind the plate. He has immense power while also showing the ability to be a high-average hitter at the next level. Through 35 games, he is hitting .338 with 14 doubles, 10 home runs, 39 RBI and a 1.092 OPS. Was the SEC Player of the Year in 2011 as a sophomore, hitting .371 with 19 home runs, 67 RBI and a .442 OBP.
5. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco
Zimmer offers four pitches that all grade out to above-average to plus. His fastball hits 99 mph with late sink, a power curve that projects to a wipe-out pitch, a slider that is getting better and he has great command of his developing change-up. Through nine starts this season, he is 3-3, with a 2.79 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 65 K/10 BB over 61.1 innings. At 6’-3 and 210 pounds, he is one of the best power pitchers in the draft as well as a great command pitcher.
6. Max Fried, LHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
The top prep left-hander in the draft, Fried is a 6’-4“, 185-pound athlete who transferred to Harvard-Westlake to join Giolito. His play on the mound, and at the plate where he is hitting .434, has kept the Wolverines ranked among the top-10 in the country despite the loss of his teammate for the season. He is 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 31.2 innings this season. His fastball can hit 94 mph, and his curveball is one of the best in the draft, a true swing-and-miss offering.
7. Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
One of the better defensive shortstops in the draft, Marrero also can hit. He came into this season hitting .349 over 91 games, with 40 extra-base hits, 22 stolen bases and just 54 strikeouts. He was the Pac-10 defensive player of the year in 2011 and should duplicate that feat this year. Hitting .290 with nine extra-base hits, 18 RBI and eight stolen bases over 34 games for the Sun Devils this year.
8. Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
At 6’-5” and 200 pounds, Gausman is a power pitcher who can dial his fastball up to 99 mph. His long, easy delivery gives his fastball late life, running in on hitters. His change-up has late, fading action and should be an above-average pitch, while his breaking ball is still developing. He is 6-1 on the season, with a 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 77 K/19 BB over 62 innings.
9. Lance McCullers, RHP, Jesuit HS (FL)
With another five scoreless innings on April 13, McCullers ran his season scoreless streak to 47.1 innings. He has allowed just 10 hits while striking out 85 batters. After allowing 50 walks over his first 77 high school innings, he has only allowed 10 this year, showing an improvement on his command that scouts wanted to see. Another kid whose fastball can touch triple-digits, his curveball has true plus potential, as well as his slider. The arm, mental make-up and genes will all make him a top-10 pick come June.
10. Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (FL)
Almora is a five-tool prospect with a very high understanding of the game. He also has played against the top competition in the world as he has been a member of Team USA a record-tying six times. He was named the MVP of the Pan Am Championships in Colombia this year as he hit .421 (16-for-38) with a team-leading 11 runs, five doubles, 11 RBI and nine stolen bases as Team USA went 9-0, winning the gold medal. Hitting .603 with five home runs, 28 RBI and 14 stolen bases on the season.
11. Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS (LA)
One of the best all-around athletes in the draft, Cecchini’s speed and defense will allow him to stick at shortstop at the next level. He hit .548 with 11 home runs, 41 RBI and 32 bases as a junior last season and is hitting .409 with four home runs, 19 RBI and is 22-for-22 in stolen bases over 28 games this year. Led U18 Team USA with a .469 average at the Pan Am Championships, adding 10 RBI and eight stolen bases over nine games. Has been timed at 6.6 in the 60.
12. Walker Weickel, RHP, Olympia HS (FL)
Weickel is a 6’-6” power right-hander with a deceptive downhill delivery. His fastball hits 94 mph and should generate more velocity as he matures. With both his low-70s curveball and low-80s change-up projecting as plus pitches, he is one of the top arms in the draft. Went 2-0 for U18 Team USA at the Pan Am Games with a 0.66 ERA and 12 K/2 BB over 13.1 innings. Is 8-0 this season with a 1.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts over 45 innings.
13. Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
Wacha is one of the more polished pitchers in the draft, and at 6’-6”, projects to a workhorse starter. His fastball touches 95 mph, and his change-up is a true potential plus offering. His curveball has come a long way, and he has superb control of all three pitches. He is 5-0 this season with a 2.42 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 66 K/11 BB over 63.1 innings for the Aggies.
14. David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS (AL)
Dahl is one of the purest hitters in the draft and has drawn comparisons to the Angles’ Mike Trout because of his all-around game. He has been clocked at 6.5 in the 60, and his strong arm and instincts should allow him to be a center fielder in the majors. As a junior, he hit .449 with 18 doubles, three triples and two home runs while driving in 29 runs. He struck out only 10 times in 118 at bats, posted a .703 slugging percentage, .493 on-base percentage and hit .488 with runners in scoring position. He then hit .364 with 11 runs, nine RBI and seven stolen bases for U18 Team USA at the Pan Am Championships. Through 29 games this season, he is hitting .392 with two home runs, 12 RBI, 16 stolen bases and a .529 OBP.
15. Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (PR)
At 6’-4”, 185-pounds, Correa projects better at third base. He also has some serious developing power that would suit better at the hot corner. As of now, he is a defensive whiz at shortstop with an incredibly smooth feel for the game. His strong and accurate arm will allow the transition to third as easy as the game comes to him. His quick wrists project to a high-average hitter to go along with the power that will come as he matures. Very high ceiling.
16. Stryker Trahan, C, Arcadiana HS (LA)
The best catching prospect in high school, Trahan is a left-handed hitting catcher with real power to all fields, as well as above average speed. Hit .460 with five home runs and a 1.281 OPS as a junior last season. At 6’-1”and 215 pounds, he has the ability to be an outstanding defensive back stop with good hands, footwork and a canon arm. A great athlete who could be a star right fielder if he chose.
17. Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M
Aside from being one of the best defensive outfielders in the draft, where his arm is legendary, Naquin is also a terrific hitter. Over 33 games this year, he is hitting .422 with eight doubles, three triples, two home runs, 30 RBI and 11 stolen bases. His slash line of .510/.578/1.088 shows the patience and power he has. At 6’-2”and 190 pounds, the left-hander should develop more power as he matures.
18. Chris Beck, RHP, Georgia Southern
Beck is another big, power right-hander whose fastball can reach the upper 90s. His slider and change-up are also both quality pitches with room for improvement. Went 9-5 with a 3.23 ERA and 109 K/40 BB over 103 innings as a sophomore in 2011, allowing only three home runs. Has gone 4-3 this season, with a 3.73 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 76 K/18 BB over 62.2 innings as his strikeouts have gone up while his walks have dropped.
19. Stephen Piscotty, 3B, Stanford
Piscotty is a 6’-3”, 215-pound right-hander whom scouts are hoping can develop more power down the line. As it is, he is one of the best hitters in the draft, and as of April 16, is hitting .337 with 40 doubles, 11 home runs, 113 RBI and an .872 OPS over 144 career games at Stanford. He is also extremely hard to strikeout as he has only fanned 55 times over 584 at-bats. He may find himself in left field if the power doesn’t come around.
20. Matthew Smoral, LHP, Solon HS (OH)
At 6’-8”, Smoral is a projectable left-hander with a ton of upside. He has an easy, fluid delivery and he features a low-90s fastball and a change-up with late sink. Both pitches are potential plus offerings and he has command of both of them. He is very aggressive on the mound, attacking hitters inside and out, without fear.
21. Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo HS (CA)
Another top prep left-hander, Virant is a 6’-4” control pitcher with late life on his 94 mph fastball. His curveball and change-up also look like plus offerings in the future. Virant is a superior athlete who has been timed at 6.6 in the 60, and is also a great hitter. On the mound, he is aggressive and will attack hitters with any pitch, in any count.
22. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
At 5’-9” and 175 pounds, some question if Stroman can remain a starter at the next level. He struck out 90 batters over 64.1 innings as a sophomore last season, then tossed eight scoreless innings for Team USA, striking out 17 to just one walk. Over 66 innings this season, he has a 2.05 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 93 K/18 BB. He is also doing everything he can to prove the critics wrong about his durability as he has averaged 114 pitches per start this season.
23. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State
The 6’-3” left-hander is quickly emerging as one of the best southpaws in the draft. Over 67.1 innings for the Cowboys this season, he has a 2.14 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 85 K/14 BB. While he doesn’t have quite the power as some of the other pitchers on this list, his fastball has improved a couple ticks this year and now can reach 93 mph. His command and off-speed stuff is better, however, and he is a workhorse on the mound. He mixes in a sharp curve, a deceptive change-up and a cutter to keep hitters off balance and uncomfortable on the plate.
24. Joey Gallo, 1B/RHP, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
Gallo has, perhaps, the best power in the draft. At 6’-5”, 220 pounds, the power he generates is scary. He hit .471 with 25 home runs, 78 RBI and a 1.756 OPS over 121 at bats for Bishop Gorman last season. He does have a long swing that leads to a lot of strikeouts, and his tendency to chase the breaking ball is something that will have to be corrected, but you can’t ignore the power from the left side. He might actually project better as a pitcher as his fastball can reach the upper 90s, and with his frame, has a lot of room for improvement with more focus on the mound.
25. Matthew Reckling, RHP, Rice
A 6’-4” right-hander, Reckling has improved by bounds from last season. His fastball hits 93 mph, and he added some movement to it. His curveball sits in the upper-70s and is his wipe-out pitch while his low-80s change-up has good depth to it. He has used that maturation to go 6-0 on the year with a 1.66 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 70 K/23 BB over 59.2 innings. He has also held opponents to a .159 batting average.
26. Travis Jankowski, OF, Stony Brook
Jankowski is a prototypical leadoff who is tough to strike out and can flat out fly on the base paths. He is hitting .333 on the season with 20 stolen bases and just 13 strikeouts over 34 games. He is very aggressive at the plate, as evidenced by his low walk total of 11. At 6’-3”, 190 pounds, he could develop some power down the road, as well. With his speed, range and above average arm, he should stick at center field at the next level.
27. Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS (FL)
Like Correa, Russell’s size (6‘-1“, 200 pounds), and power potential, may force him to make a move to third. His strong and accurate arm, along with his footwork would be an easy transition. He is a gamer who makes everything look easy on the field and also has played against some of the best competition in the world. Hit .393 with nine RBI and four stolen bases for U18 Team USA at the Pan Am Championships and hit the team’s only home run of the tournament, a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning against Canada in the gold-medal game that put the game away early for Team USA.
28. Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern
Roache suffered a broken wrist just six games into this season and will likely miss all of it. He is one of the better power hitters in the draft and lead the nation in home runs last season with 30. He has power to all fields, and his quick wrists allow him to catch up to any pitch. The 6’-1”, 235-pound right-hander strikes out a lot, but he also takes a lot of walks. His range and arm should play well in right field.
29. Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson
Shaffer brings tremendous power, along with a great approach at the plate. Over 37 games this season, the 6’-3”, 230-pound right-hander is hitting .386 with 14 doubles, seven home runs, 35 RBI and has drawn 39 walks for a slash line of .520/.667/1.187. He may end up at first base or the outfield but his strong arm and above-average speed would play well in right field.
30. Tanner Rahier, SS, Palm Desert HS (CA)
Rahier is a kid with as much potential as anyone on this list. He is one of those players with all of the intangibles you want in a player, plus the talent to go with it. His arm has been clocked at 93 mph, and his plus-range at footwork make him a legitimate shortstop at the next level. His short, compact swing generates plus power, and his bat speed allows him to catch up to any pitch, making him a great contact hitter. Has elite speed as he runs a 6.6/60. Finished second at this year’s Power Showcase held at Chase Field, after leading the first round with 11 home runs.