2012 MLB Draft: First-round selections and analysis

Carlos Correa was somewhat of a surprise pick at number one. (MLB.com)

As usual, the baseball draft remains totally unpredictable. The Houston Astros shocked many from the very start, some high-profile players slipped, some teams reached for players and, even after 60 picks, there are many projected first-round picks still out there. Rounds two through 15 are on Tuesday, with rounds 16 through 40 on Wednesday. Here is a breakdown of the first round.

1. Houston Astros – Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy

The Astros passed on the so called “safe pick” in Stanford ace Mark Appel and took a kid with one of the highest ceilings in the draft. At 6’-4” and 180 pounds, Correa looks like he can stay at his current position, although a move to third would be an easy transition with his strong arm and range. The right-hander has an extremely quick bat, and more power will come as he matures. Not a lot of speed but should hit for a high average with a lot of pop.

2. Minnesota Twins – Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS (GA)

The Twins grabbed the best high school player in the draft in Buxton, a 6’-2”, 190-pound right-hander who has drawn comparisons to Eric Davis and Justin Upton due to his power/speed potential. Also has a rocket arm and should remain at center field. Buxton hit .533 with 17 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 28 RBI and 35 stolen bases over 33 games this season.

3. Seattle Mariners – Mike Zunino, C, Florida

Zunino is an offensive force who also shines on the defensive end. Was the SEC player of the year as a junior, hitting .379 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI. Through 55 games this season, he is hitting .328 with 27 doubles, 17 home runs and 58 RBI. The 6’-3”, 220-pound junior is a big presence behind the dish and also brings outstanding leadership skills with him. Tremendous power to all fields.

4. Baltimore Orioles – Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU

The Orioles added another power pitcher to team up with Dylan Bundy down the road. Gausman, a 6’-5” power righty, has one of the best change-ups in the draft and can dial his fastball up to the high-90s. He is 10-1 on the season with a 2.84 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 125 K/24 BB over 107.2 innings. His breaking ball still needs work, but he still projects to a frontline starter at the next level.

5. Kansas City Royals – Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco

The Royals added pitching depth and took a kid who is still relatively new to pitching but has a ton of upside. His fastball can reach 98 mph and he has been clocked at 94 mph deep into games. He also features a power curve that projects to a wipe-out pitch at the next level. His slider is above average, his change-up is still developing, and he has excellent command of all four pitches. The 6’-3”, 220-pound flamethrower has a 2.85 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 104 K/17 BB over 88.1 innings this season.

6. Chicago Cubs – Albert Almora, OF, Mater HS (FL)

Theo Epstein grabbed one of the most polished high school players in the draft. Almora is a five-tool talent who was a six-time member of Team USA. He hit .603 with six home runs, 34 RBI and 27 stolen bases this season and his arm, glove and range should allow him to stick at centerfield at the next level. Has a very high understanding of the game and is a leader both on and off the field. Mark Appel may have been a better pick for the short term, but the Cubs are in full rebuilding mode and can wait on Almora to develop.

7. San Diego Padres – Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)

The Padres continue to stockpile pitching and took the best prep left-hander in the draft. At 6’-4”and 180-pounds, Fried has the frame to get bigger and turn into a workhorse. His curveball is already a plus pitch and his fastball sits in the low-90s with late sink. He went 8-3 this season with a 2.41 ERA and 111 strikeouts over 69.2 innings.

8. Pittsburgh Pirates – Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford

The Pirates had to be shocked to land Appel here. Thought by many to be the first player taken in the draft, he started to fall once the Astros selected Correa. The 6’-5″, 220-pound right-hander has three plus pitches with his fastball reaching the upper-90s. He is 9-1 with a 2.37 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 116 K/24 BB over 110 innings this season. With Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole on the fast track to the majors, Appel gives them another future ace at the front of their rotation.

9. Miami Marlins – Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State

Heaney was arguably the best pitcher in college this season. He is 8-2 with a 1.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 140 K/22 BB over 118.1 innings, and hitters are only hitting .168 against him. His change-up and slider are both above-average offerings, and his command is off the charts. His fastball sits in the low-90s with good movement. At 6’-2” and 185 pounds, he isn’t a power pitcher, despite his high strikeout totals. Instead, he relies on his pinpoint control and ability to throw any pitch, in any count.

10. Colorado Rockies – David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS (AL)

The Rockies took the best pure hitter among the high school bats in Dahl, a 6’-1″ left-hander with crazy speed. He was a perfect 29-for-29 in stolen base attempts and could contend for batting titles in the future. He should stick at center field with his range, arm and overall instincts. I see a lot of Mike Trout in his game, and Rockies fans are going to love his high energy.

11. Oakland Athletics – Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS (GA)

This was somewhat of a surprising pick, as Billy Beane tends to go for college players in the first round. Russell is a right-handed hitter with some serious pop in his bat. He lost 20 pounds this season, showing a dedication to stay at his current position, and with his strong arm and footwork, should be an above-average defender. Wherever he ends up on the field, his bat is what got him drafted, and he should be a high-average hitter with 25-30 home run potential.

12. New York Mets – Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS (LA)

The Mets took one of the best athletes in the draft in Cecchini, a 6’-1”, 180-pound right-hander who has elite speed and projects to a high-average hitter. He hit .467 with seven home runs, 32 RBI, 31 stolen bases and had a .527 OBP as he lead Barbe to a state championship this season, mostly using a wooden bat. Will most likely make a transition to second base, and his power will play well there. Looks like a future number two or three hitter and has a very high baseball IQ. His brother, Garin Cecchini, is a top prospect in the Red Sox organization.

13. Chicago White Sox – Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll HS (TX)

Hawkins saw his stock soar all season as the do-everything player put together one of the most impressive prep seasons this year. The 6’-3”, 220-pound right-hander hit .424 this season with 10 home runs, 37 RBI, 17 stolen bases and a .569 OBP. He also shined on the mound and has a fastball that can reach the mid-90s. The White Sox got a high-character kid who could be a 30 HR/30 SB guy down the line. He also did one of his trademark back flips, which then prompted a call from GM Kenny Williams informing him his gymnastic days were over.

14. Cincinnati Reds – Nick Travieso, RHP, Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)

Travieso shot up draft boards when he was clocked at 99 mph this spring. He posted a 0.76 ERA with 70 strikeouts over 46.1 innings this season with only 11 walks allowed. At 6’-2″ and 220 pounds, he has the frame to be a frontline workhorse with some refining. He also has a mid-80s slider that shows plus potential but will have to develop his change-up. Reminds me of a Josh Beckett-type pitcher with his power and aggressiveness on the mound.

15. Cleveland Indians – Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M

Many thought the Indians would go after an arm here. Actually, they did, kind of. Naquin is one of the best hitters in the draft and is also known for having the best outfield arm in the country. Through 58 games, he is hitting .384 with 15 doubles, six triples, three home runs, 46 RBI and 21 stolen bases.  The 6’-2” left-hander has the ability to be a base-stealing threat, as well as the frame to add more power down the road.

16. Washington Nationals – Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

The Nationals took a kid many thought would be the number-one overall pick before the season started. At 6’-6” and 220-pounds, Giolito was hitting triple-digits on the radar gun with his fastball, and he also added a plus curveball and slider to go along with a developing change-up. He was shut down just two starts into the season with an elbow injury and no one seemed to know where he would get drafted. The Nats wouldn’t have taken him this high unless they knew he was healthy and they may have just added the best player in the draft. A future rotation of Stephen Strasburg and Giolito, along with Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon on offense, is a scary thought to opposing teams.

17. Toronto Blue Jays – D.J. Davis, OF, Stone County HS (MS)

Davis started the season out of the top-100 prospects. He finished ranked among the top 20 by flashing his extraordinary speed as well as turning himself into one of the better bats from the left side. Over 26 games this season, he hit .373 with seven home runs, 27 RBI, 27 walks and was 24-for-25 in stolen base attempts. He shows some nice pop in his bat and should stick at centerfield.

18. Los Angeles Dodgers – Corey Seager, 3B, Northwest Cabarrus HS (NC)

Seager is another kid whose stock was soaring all season. At 6’-4” and 200 pounds, the left-hander has raw power and scouts were impressed with his ability to go deep to left and center field. Has enough glove and arm to stick at the hot corner. One of the better moments of the draft was when they cut to his brother, Kyle Seager, of the Mariners watching Corey get drafted on a laptop in the dugout during pre-game warm ups. Kyle then went out and homered in the top of the first inning.

19. St. Louis Cardinals – Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M

The Cardinals were handed a gift when Wacha fell to them here. At 6’-5”, the right-hander has one of the best change-ups in the draft and can also get his fastball up to the high-90s. He is 9-1 this season with a 2.06 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 116 K/20 BB over 113.1 innings. A great control pitcher who should be a quick riser to the show.

20. San Francisco Giants – Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State

The Giants love taking projectable pitchers, and Stratton has a ton of potential. After posting a 5.25 ERA over a combined 154.1 innings as a freshman and sophomore, he has become one of the best pitchers in the country this season. Through 16 starts, he is 11-1 with a 2.21 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 123 K/22 BB over 102 innings. His coming out party was on March 16 when he fanned 17 LSU batters over 8.2 innings, allowing one run on four hits in a no-decision in match-up against Kevin Gausman. He features a fastball that can hit 95 mph, a curveball that borders on plus and an above-average change-up. He is a great command pitcher with power and he has a great mound presence.

21. Atlanta Braves – Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood HS (GA)

The Braves once again pluck one from their own backyard and take one of the liveliest arms in the draft. Sims is a 6’-2, 180-pound right-hander who can reach the upper-90s with his fastball and also has a 12-6 knee-buckling curveball. There are questions about whether he will remain a starter or take the route of closer, but either way, the Braves added another high-upside pitcher to their stable.

22. Toronto Blue Jays – Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke

The steal of the first round. Stroman could end up in the bullpen by the end of the season as he has two major league ready pitches in an upper-90s fastball and devastating slider. At 5’-9”, there are some concerns about him remaining a starter at the next level, but he has routinely clocked at 96-97 mph late in games this season so he should be given a chance.

23. St. Louis Cardinals – James Ramsey, OF, Florida State

Ramsey is the prototypical Cardinal – a smart, high character guy who plays the game all out. While he doesn’t excel in particular area, he also doesn’t have a weakness. One of the best players in college this season, for one of the best teams, the 6’-1” left-hander is hitting .383 with 10 doubles, six triples, 12 home runs, 49 RBI and nine stolen bases through 58 games. He has also drawn 58 walks to just 37 strikeouts, showing a great approach at the plate. The Cardinals added two great college players who should contribute to the major league team sooner rather than later.

24. Boston Red Sox – Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State

Once thought of as a top-5 pick, questions about his bat made him slip a bit. His glove, however, never gets questioned as Marrero is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the draft. The Red Sox drafted him for his glove and are hoping the bat will work itself out. Through 54 games, he is hitting .284 with 20 extra-base hits, 33 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He also has a great approach at the plate as he has only struck out 17 times all season.

25. Tampa Bay Rays – Richie Shaffer, 3B/1B, Clemson

Many thought the Rays would go pitching again. Instead, they took one of the top power bats in the draft in Schaffer, a 6’-3”, 220-pound right-hander with great bat speed and the ability to take a ton of walks. Through 59 games he is hitting .339 with 19 doubles, 10 home runs and 46 RBI. He has also drawn 59 walks for a .480 OBP. A great defensive first baseman, he moved over to third base this year and could play either at the next level.

26. Arizona Diamondbacks – Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana HS (LA)

After taking stud pitchers Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin in the first two rounds last season, the Diamondbacks went offensive this year. Trahan is a left-handed hitting catcher with great power to all fields. He has a short stroke that generates a ton of bat speed and should also hit for a high average at the next level. He has also been clocked at 6.6 in the 60, showing great overall athletic abilities. His arm and footwork behind the plate should allow him to stick there and be an above-average defender.

27. Milwaukee Brewers – Clint Coulter, C, Union HS (WA)

His teammates say he is “country strong.” Coulter, a 6’-3”, 230-pound former all-state wrestler, has enormous raw power. He has quick writs which allow him to catch up to any pitch and is a great sign for a high-average hitter. Was working out both in the outfield and behind the plate for teams recently but should be able to stick at catcher with his footwork, arm and size.

28. Milwaukee Brewers – Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern

The Brewers added a ton of power in this draft so far. Roache, a 6’-1”, 235-pound right-hander led the nation in home runs last with 30 but missed almost all of this season with a broken wrist he suffered just six games into the season. He has power to all fields, and his quick wrists allow him to catch up to any pitch. His approach at the plate is getting better and more refined every year, so he should be a good-average hitter at the next level. The Brewers did a great job of reloading some of the power that Prince Fielder took to Detroit.

29. Texas Rangers – Lewis Brinson, OF, Coral Spring HS (FL)

Brinson is a lot like Byron Buxton in that he is a toolsy player with all five tools. The only difference is that he is still a little raw in most areas compared to Buxton. He has more home run power than Buxton right now, and even beat him in a home run derby at Wrigley Field at the Under Armour All American Game last season. Very high ceiling with the right development and the Rangers are one of the best in that area. This is a great fit for Brinson as he won’t be rushed along.

30. New York Yankees – Ty Hensley, RHP, Santa Fe HS (OK)

The Yankees have been adding a lot of quality pitching through the draft in recent years and Hensley could end up the best of them. At 6’-5” and 225 pounds, he can dial his fastball up to 95 mph and his curve is a potential plus/plus pitch. Struck out 111 batters over 55 innings this season while posting a 10-0 record with a 1.52 ERA. Has some mechanics issues, but those can be fixed with proper coaching and experience.

31. Boston Red Sox – Brian Johnson, LHP, Florida

With the last pick in the first round, the Red Sox took one of the better southpaws in the draft. Through 15 starts, he is 7-4 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 64 K/15 BB over 81 innings. At 6’-4” and 200-pounds, he features a low-90s fastball with sink, an above-average change-up and his slider projects to a plus pitch at the next level. Has great mound presence and an advanced feel for pitching.

Some notable players still on the board: Tanner Rahier, Nolan Fontana, Chris Beck, Hunter Virant, Max Foody, Kurt Heyer, Kyle Hansen, Jeremy Baltz, Ty Buttrey

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