The 2012 amateur draft is still 9 months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about who the top prospects are, especially if your team is ready to pack it in for the winter. A lot will change with these players all having a season left under their belt to improve their stock, but this is how I see the first round going today.
1. Astros- Lucas Giolito 6’6 RHP Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
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The Astros aren’t going to be serious contenders anytime soon so they take the best high school arm in the draft and can be patient with him. At 6’6, Giolito is exactly what you want in a frontline power pitcher. Has 5 pitches at his arsenal, with his fastball routinely hitting 98mph. His curve projects to a plus pitch, as does his slider. Could end up being the best player of the draft and worthy of the 1st overall pick.
2. Twins- Mark Appel 6’5 RHP Stanford
The most polished and MLB ready pitcher in the draft, Appel has the stuff, and command, to be an ace for a suddenly downtrodden Twins team. His fastball sits in the 94-96mph range, his circle change in the mid 80’s with late fade and his slider is tight and still developing. Has great command and finesse for a player of his size.
3. Orioles- Nick Williams 6’3 OF Ball HS (TX)
The Ken Griffey Jr. comparisons get thrown out when talking about Williams. A phenomenal athlete with raw power, the left hander is an exciting prospect with a ton of upside. The Orioles are a team with a lot of needs and opt for one of the premiere offensive players in the draft.
4. Mariners- Lance McCullers 6’2 195 RHP Jesuit HS (FL)
When you can sling it 96mph as a sophomore in high school, you are going to get a lot of attention. And when your dad was a former major league pitcher, well, you are going to get even more attention. McCullers has been a big name in the 2012 draft for years now and has done nothing to hurt his cause. Along with his canon arm, he has a hammer curve at his disposal and a developing change up.
5. Padres- Devin Marrero 6’2 175 SS Arizona State
The Padres have a ton of pitching in their farm system, including Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin, who they picked up from the Rangers in a trade for reliever Mike Adams. They need a shortstop and Marrero could fill that void sooner than later. More offense than defense, his glove is respectable enough to hold down the position. Hit .397 as a freshman with 42 RBI and 11 SB. Has a great approach at the plate, striking out only 53 times in his 93 career games at Arizona State.
6. Royals- Michael Wacha 6’6 210 RHP Texas A&M
The Royals have assembled a nice offensive core through the draft in recent years with 1st rounders Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas all at the major league level, and last year’s pick Bubba Starling just getting under way in the minors. Wacha gives them a future ace to fill the void of Zack Greinke. A superb command pitcher, Wacha had a 123K/ 30BB over 129 innings this past season for the Aggies. He has a mid 90’s fastball to go along with a plus changeup and developing slider.
7. Cubs- Joey Gallo 6’5 205 3B Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
The Cubs need all kinds of help, and since most of the top pitching prospects are gone, they go with one of the best high school bats available. At 6’5, Gallo is a left handed hitting machine who smashed 25 home runs this season for Bishop Gorman. With a good haul from this year’s draft, the Cubs add more offense at a premium position.
8. Pirates- Jake Barrett 6’3 220 RHP Arizona State
The Pirates add more depth to a possible future rotation of All Stars after selecting Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole the past 2 years. Barrett is one of the more MLB ready pitchers in the draft and has command of 3 pitches that all project to being plus at the next level. His fastball sits in the mid 90’s, and his curveball is a nice secondary pitch.
9. Athletics- Kevin Gausman 6’4 190 RHP LSU
Gausman held opponents to a .213 average last season while posting 86K/23BB over 89 innings. Has great command of his fastball, change and slider to go along with outstanding mound presence. Could team with last year’s 1st round pick, Sonny Gray, to give the A’s a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.
10. Marlins- Gavin Cecchini 6’1 180 SS Barbe HS (LA)
Cecchini is a great athlete with one of the better bats in the draft. A pure hitter from the right side, he sprays the ball all over the field and should develop more power as he matures. His brother Garin Cecchini is a top prospect for the Red Sox and Gavin could be even better. Has 6.6 speed in the 60 and a strong enough arm to play either shortstop or third base.
11. Rockies- Kayden Porter 6’5 240 RHP/1B Spanish Fork HS (UT)
Porter can pitch, but why even bother with the Rockies, especially when you are 6’5 240lb and get to hit at Coors Field. Porter showed his immense power at the Triple-A home run derby this year. Going up against professional players, he stole the show by making it to the final round while launching several 450ft + home runs, including a 474ft shot to dead center field.
12. Mets- Trey Williams 6’1 210 3B Valencia HS (CA)
Big, fast and strong. Those are the adjectives that usually come up when describing Williams. Once walked with the bases loaded as a sophomore, he has been striking fear into opposing pitchers and coaches ever since. He already has the body of a major leaguer and could develop into the steal of the draft if he goes this low.
13. Nationals- Michael Zunino 6’2 215 C Florida
Zunino is an excellent catcher on both sides of the field. He hit .371 19 HR 67 RBI for the Gators this season, earning him SEC hitter of the year honors. Behind the plate, he committed only 3 errors and has the reputation as a very good game caller. The Nationals might want to keep Ivan Rodriguez around for awhile to be a mentor to Zunino.
14. Reds- Hunter Virant 6’3 175 LHP Camarillo HS (CA)
Considered one of the top lefties in high school, Virant went 6-1 1.87 ERA 0.97 WHIP for Camarillo this spring, including a perfect game against rival Rio Mesa on March 22nd. Strong armed and a bulldog on the mound, Virant could shoot up the boards come draft day with another breakout senior season.
15. White Sox- Albert Almora 6’2 180 OF Marion Christian Academy (FL)
Almora is a 6 time member of Team USA, becoming the first player to accomplish the feat. That alone says a lot about the player, and person, he is. A true 5-tool talent, he does just about everything well on the field and has the frame to add more power to his game. Another kid who could move up the board come draft day but GM Kenny Williams would be thrilled to get a player of Almora’s caliber here.
16. Indians- Brian Johnson 6’4 220 LHP Florida
Johnson is one of the best control pitchers in the draft having walked only 29 batters over 152 career innings, striking out 125 in that span. A groundball pitcher, he keeps his fastball down while keeping hitters off balance with a plus curveball that breaks late. The Indians traded away former 1st rounders Drew Pomeranz and Alex White to the Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez and Johnson will help restore the depth of pitching that was lost.
17. Dodgers- Addison Russell 6’1 195 SS Pace HS (FL)
Russell is a 5-tool player at a premium position. His arm and range at shortstop could win him some gold gloves one day. Throw in his power and ability to hit for a high average, and you get a Troy Tulowitzki type player.
18. Blue Jays- Byron Buxton 6’1 175 OF Appling County HS (GA)
Buxton is the prototypical centerfielder. Long and lean, his speed is off the charts, having been clocked at 3.8 seconds to first base. Has a canon arm and covers a ton of ground due to his elite speed. At the plate, he has extremely quick wrists and should add some serious power as he matures.
19. Angels- Stryker Trahan 6’2 220 C Arcadiana HS (LA)
What’s not to like? A lefty with a short quick stroke that generates a ton of power, a canon for an arm, excellent plate discipline for a player his age, above average speed, and a name that is pretty badass, admit it. Could team up with Mike Trout to form one of the best linebacker duos in the majors.
20. Giants- Rio Ruiz 6’2 200 RHP/3B Bishop Amat Memorial HS (CA)
Ruiz is a 2 sport star who could probably play quarterback in the NFL someday if he chose to pursue it. As a baseball player, he excels both on the mound, as well as at the plate. His fastball hits 95mph and his curve is developing. As a hitter, he has tremendous power with good plate discipline. Whichever path he chooses, the Giants get a high character kid with loads of raw talent.
21. Cardinals- Kenny Diekroeger 6’2 200 SS Stanford
Diekroeger is a perfect fit for the Cardinals- A very smart ballplayer who does everything solid on the field. After an impressive freshman season for Stanford, hitting .356 with a team leading 41 RBI, he struggled a bit his sophomore year hitting .293 with 2 HR 31 RBI adjusting to the new bats. Should bounce back this season, and with a good showing, could move up the board come June. Either way, he is already secured himself a 1st round selection with his potential.
22. Rays- Nick Travieso 6’3 210 RHP Arch Bishop Edward McCarthy HS (FL)
The Rays have stockpiled pitching in recent years and that trend continues as they get a power arm in Travieso, who can dial it up to 98mph. Also features a plus changeup with a developing cutter. Could become a devastating closer if he chooses that path.
23. Braves- Jake Cosart 6’1 150 RHP Clear Creek HS (TX)
The Braves love their pitching, and while Cosart may fly up the boards come draft time, they would be thrilled to get the young flamethrower here. Cosart, whose brother Jarred Cosart is a top pitching prospect for the Astros, has been clocked at 98mph and his curveball should be a lethal pitch in the future.
24. Red Sox- Cody Poteet 6’0 180 RHP/3B Christian HS (CA)
Poteet has been getting national attention since dominating the mound as a freshman. He has a mid 90’s fastball and one of the best curveballs in the country. An outstanding hitter, Poteet plans to stick to the mound more as a senior which could improve his stock when the draft rolls around.
25. Diamondbacks- Victor Roache 6’1 200 OF Georgia Southern
Roache led the NCAA in home runs last season by blasting 30 in just 60 games. A deadly fastball hitter, he struggles with the curveball, something he needs to improve on to be a major league ballplayer. His lack of athleticism may push him from the outfield to first base. Shows a very good approach at the plate and projects to a high average hitter.
26. Rangers- Lucas Sims 6’2 195 RHP Brookwood HS (GA)
Sims could find himself in the upper half of the 1st round if he continues his development this year. His fastball tops out at 98mph with late movement. His 12-6 curveball and mid 80’s change up project to plus pitches at the next level. He struck out 52 in 32 innings as a junior and has a toughness and aggressiveness on the mound not seen in many high school players.
27. Tigers- Ty Hensley 6’5 220 RHP Santa Fe HS (OK)
Hensley is a big power righty whose fastball tops 96mph and still has room to get better. His curveball has late bite and projects to a plus pitch while his changeup is still developing. Has the frame to be a workhorse pitcher alongside another one in Justin Verlander.
28. Brewers- Rock Rucker 6’5 215 LHP/OF Redan HS (GA)
Rucker is all about power. On the mound, his fastball hits 92mph and his smooth delivery will allow him to increase his velocity. His curveball rates as plus and is still developing. At the plate, his long swing generates a ton of power and he has excellent bat speed. Above average speed and a solid arm will allow him to hold down a corner outfield spot.
29. Yankees- David Thompson 6’2 200 3B Westminster Christian HS (FL)
Thompson has drawn comparisons to David Wright of the Mets because of his size, power and ability to hit for a high average. As a junior, he hit .525 17 HR 45 RBI, including a 2 game stretch where he went 7-8 5 HR 10 RBI. The Yankees are going to need a replacement for A-Rod in a couple of years, and instead of buying one, they just drafted one.
30. Phillies- Max Fried 6’4 LHP Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
The 1st round starts and ends with a player from the same high school. Fried, a teammate of Giolito, owns one of the better curveballs in the draft and his fastball can hit mid 90’s. His changeup is developing and projects to a plus pitch. Fried is another guy that could make a huge leap up the boards with another stellar season.