Top 50 draft prospects for 2012: 25 thru 1

Lucas Giolito is at the top of the 2012 draft class. (Scott Kurtz/ESPNHS)

This is a list of the top-50 draft prospects from high school and college. This by no means is a projected draft order, just a ranking by talent and potential. With all of these players having another season to work on their games, a lot can change come draft time. This is the way I see it right now.

(50 thru 26 can be seen here)

25. Rock Rucker — 6’-5”, LHP, Redan HS (GA)

He is 6’-5”, left handed, his fastball hits 95 mph and he is just starting to commit full time to the mound. Because of that, Rucker’s ceiling is very high, and with a strong senior season on the mound, could find himself in the upper half of the draft. Long and lean, there is still room for added velocity and his curveball projects to a plus pitch. One to keep an eye on this year.

24. Stryker Trahan — 6’-2”, C, Arcadiana HS (LA)

Left-handed hitting catchers are rare. Athletic ones who can hit for power are even rarer. Trahan is the top prep catcher in the draft and should be able to stay at the position at the major-league level. At 6’-2” and 215 lbs, he makes for a good target and has a very strong arm. He runs a 6.6/60 and would play well in right field, as well. Hit .460 with five home runs as a junior in 2011 with a 1.281 OPS.

23. Lucas Sims — 6’-2”, RHP, Brookwood HS (GA)

Sims has one of the liveliest arms in the draft. His fastball can touch 98 mph, and his 12-6 hammer curve can be filthy at times. His change-up is still developing and his control needs to be more consistent but his potential will land him in the first round. Went 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA with 52 strikeouts over 32 innings as a junior in 2011. Has a bulldog mentality on the mound, attacking hitters without fear. Could be a dynamite closer down the road.

22. Lewis Brinson — 6’-3”, OF, Coral Springs HS (FL)

Brinson hit .473 with four home runs, 23 RBIs and a 1.496 OPS over 20 games as a junior. He was 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts and had 16 walks, leading to a .623 OBP. His stock is soaring after more than holding his own at summer tournaments, establishing himself as one of the best all-around players in the country. Has plus bat speed and gap-to-gap power, which could turn into home-run power as he matures. His speed and strong arm make him a solid defensive player as well. With a strong senior season, could be first-round material.

21. Addison Russell — 6’-1”, SS, Pace HS (GA)

Russell has soft hands and a strong throwing arm, but his size may end up forcing a move to third base where is power is better suited. Extremely quick wrists and a consistent, easy swing allow him to hit the ball to all fields with more power coming as he matures. Played for U18 Team USA at the Pan Am Championships hitting .393 with nine RBI, four stolen bases and he 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. Makes the game look easy.

20. Hunter Virant — 6’-4”, LHP, Camarillo HS (CA)

One of the top prep lefties in the draft, Virant is a freak athlete who excels at just about everything on the baseball field. He hit .446 as a junior and has elite speed. His pitching abilities are what will make him a first round pick, however. Has four pitches that all grade out to at least average, and with his 6’-4”, 180 lb frame, has a lot of room for improvement. His fastball is his best pitch, sitting in the low 90s, and his curveball has serious potential. He is a gamer who plays his best during the biggest events and is a member of the U18 Team USA baseball.

19. Carlos Correa — 6’-4”, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy  (PR)

A defensive whiz with a ton of offensive potential, Correa has the frame to be a power-hitting third baseman while maintaining his gold-glove defense.  Has a strong and accurate arm, as well as great range and footwork. At the plate, he makes consistent contact and has an advanced approach at the plate. An exciting player to watch and a kid who will have a ton of scouts watching his every move this upcoming season.

18. Brian Johnson — 6’-4”, LHP, Florida

Johnson is the best left handed college pitcher in the draft. Has a low-90s fastball with sink, an above average change-up and his slider projects to a plus pitch at the next level. At 6’-3” and 225 lbs, he has great mound presence and teams usually eat up left handed college pitchers come draft day. Also a tremendous hitter and could be drafted high as an outfielder. In 12 at bats for Collegiate Team USA, he smashed three home runs, drove in five runs and walked three times. He also picked up a win, giving up one run over four innings, striking out four, while walking none.

17. Albert Almora — 6’-2”, OF, Marion Christian Academy (FL)

Aside from his five-tool abilities, Almora has leadership qualities not seen in many players his age. Those qualities were on full display during this year’s Pan-Am Championship games in Colombia. The six-time member of Team USA won MVP honors as the under-18 team brought home the gold by annihilating the competition. Almora 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, outscoring opponents 88-8. He has a plus arm and his speed should allow him to play center field at the next level. A total package of offense, defense, speed and an extremely high understanding and passion for the game, Almora should hear his name called in the upper half of next year’s draft.

16. Joey Gallo — 6’-5”, 1B/RHP, Bishop Gorman HS (OK)

Gallo is a two-way star who could legitimately be taken in the first round as a hitter or a pitcher. As a junior for powerhouse Bishop Gorman, he hit .471 with a 1.756 OPS and 25 home runs over 121 at bats. He hits from the left side, and at 6’-5”, 210 lbs, what team doesn’t want that hitting in the middle of their lineup? He does have a big swing that could lead to a lot of strikeouts, but the power potential is what scouts love. On the mound he throws right handed. His fastball can hit 94 mph with ease and still room for more velocity once he commits full time. His curveball looks to be a possible plus pitch at the next level and his change-up will be at least average. Whichever route he chooses, he is a lock for the first round.

15. Nick Williams — 6’-3”, OF, Ball HS (TX)

Jaw-dropping power is something every GM likes to hear. Williams has it and then some. He is a regular on the home run derby circuits and the 6’-3” lefty generates incredible pull power and makes it look effortless with his short swing. He also has excellent speed, which should make him a threat on the base paths once he becomes a better base runner. His arm has been clocked at 93 mph, and mixed with his speed, makes him a plus defender as well. Williams has as much talent as anyone in the draft. He just needs some refining as he is still considered raw as a prospect.

14. Victor Roache — 6’-1”, OF/1B, Georgia Southern

Roache led the nation in home runs last year with 30. One of the best power hitters in the draft, he can hit the ball out to all fields with his superb bat speed. Not going to steal many bases, but the bat is what scouts and GM’s will fall in love with. Has a strong enough arm and footwork to hold down a corner outfield position. His approach at the plate is getting better and more refined every year, so he should be a good average hitter to go along with all of the home runs he is going to hit. Hit .316 with six home runs and 28 RBIs over 42 games at the Cape Cod League, leading the league with a 1.004 OPS as well. He struck out 44 times, but also had 30 walks, showing improvement at the plate.

13. Walker Weickel — 6’-6”, RHP, Olympia HS (FL)

With his long frame and pitching over the top, Weickel’s delivery is downhill and deceptive. 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. Another standout performer at the Pan Am Championships, he went 2-0 0.66 ERA with 12 K/2 BB over 13.1 innings for gold medal winning Team USA. Could find his way in the top-10 with another strong senior season.

12. David Dahl — 6’-2”, OF, Oak Mountain HS (AL)

Dahl is another member of U18 Team USA, and his recent play has his stock soaring up draft boards. He hit .364 with 11 runs, nine RBI and seven stolen bases batting leadoff for Team USA, while also playing stellar defense in the outfield at the Pan Am Championships. The lefty is one of the purest hitters in the draft, and his short, level swing allows for consistent contact, which projects to a high average hitter. Runs a 6.5/60 and should be a real threat on the base paths. Aside from his offensive prowess, Dahl also has a plus arm, and coupled with his speed and high baseball IQ, should be among the top 15 picks in the draft.

11. Trey Williams — 6’-1”, 3B, Valencia HS (CA)

Williams is one of the best hitters in the draft, regardless of age. Has exceptional bat speed which allows the ball to jump off his bat. Tremendous power to all fields, he was once walked with the bases loaded as a sophomore. In 182 at bats over the last two seasons, he has hit 19 home runs, rarely getting a pitch to hit. Also a standout defensively at third where his strong arm and footwork will allow him to stay at the position in the major leagues. Without many holes to his game, he falls under the “can’t miss” category and is regarded as one of the safest picks in the draft. His father, Eddie Williams, played 10 season in the major leagues and was the fourth overall pick by the Mets in 1983.

10. Max Fried — 6’-4”, LHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

When Fried was 12, he started honing his curveball. He modeled it after Sandy Koufax, and six years later, he now owns arguably the best one in the country. He also has a sinking fastball that touches 94 mph and a change-up that projects to a plus pitch in the future. At 6’-4” and 180 lbs, he has the frame to add more velocity as he matures. And being a lefty, he is a hot commodity, especially after impressing throughout summer league events. He is teaming up with possible number one pick, Lucas Giolito, at Harvard Westlake High School this year and both of them will get plenty of attention their senior seasons. Very high ceiling.

9. Gavin Cecchini — 6’-1”, SS, Barbe HS (LA)

An incredibly gifted athlete, Cecchini hit .402 with six home runs, 43 RBI and stole 53 bases as a junior for Barbe last season. Was the MVP of the Under Armour All-American game and is a regular on every major summer team. His swing has few moving parts and his balance allows him to make consistent contact. Has gap power and the potential to be a major run producer to go along with elite speed. Has the arm, range and footwork to maintain the position but could move to second or third because of his bat. Brother Garin was a fourth-round draft pick by the Red Sox in 2010. Led U18 Team USA with a .469 average at the Pan Am Championships, adding 10 RBIs and eight stolen bases while playing a flawless second base. Extremely high understanding of the game. Cecchini is the 12th member of the gold winning U18 Team USA to make the list, showing just how impressive the assembled cast was.

8. Michael Wacha — 6’-6”, RHP, Texas A&M

Wacha is a 6’-6”, 200 lb future workhorse at the next level. With an easy delivery, and sound mechanics, he should be able to eat up innings as a front of the rotation starter. His fastball can touch 95 mph, but not a lot of movement on it. His change has true plus potential and his curveball is still developing. Went 9-4 with a 2.29 ERA and 123 K/30 BB over 129.2 innings in 2011, allowing only three home runs. He also pitched for Collegiate Team USA, tossing 11.1 innings, allowing one run with 12 strikeouts to only three walks.

7. Mike Zunino — 6’-2”, C, Florida

Zunino hit .371 with 19 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .442 OBP as he was named the SEC Player of the Year in 2011. He has a patient approach at the plate and generates a ton of pull power. As great as he is offensively, defense is where he shines. With good hands, a strong and accurate arm and tremendous footwork, he fields his position like a major-league veteran. Will be a high pick and a fast riser to the big leagues.

6. Lance McCullers — 6’-2”, RHP, Jesuit HS (FL)

McCullers has been a hot commodity since hitting 96 mph on the radar gun as a sophomore. Son of the former major leaguer with the same name, he has an electric arm and one of the most powerful arms in the draft. His fastball hits 97 mph with ease. He also has a knee-buckling curve to go along with a plus-slider. Has a feel and poise for the game not seen in many players his age. Also an outstanding hitter but the mound is where he belongs.

5. Deven Marrero — 6’-1”, SS, Arizona State

Marrero excels on both sides of the field and could be the first shortstop taken in the draft. Was a 17th-round pick by the Reds in 2009 but chose to attend Arizona State. Hit .397 with six home runs, 42 RBIs and 11 stolen bases as a freshman, earning first-team, freshman All-American by collegiate baseball while setting an Arizona State freshman record for batting average. Won Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors as a sophomore as his defense caught up to his offense. Shows a great approach at the plate, as he has only struck out 54 times in 96 games at ASU. Has the ideal size (6’-1”, 190), range and footwork to be a gold-glove caliber shortstop down the road. Brother Chris was a first-round pick in 2009 and made his major-league debut for the Nationals this year. Led Collegiate Team USA with 19 hits, 14 RBI, five doubles and six stolen bases over 14 games during the summer.

4. Kevin Gausman — 6’-4”, RHP, LSU

At 6’-4” and 190 lbs, Gausman is a power righty who can get 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. Had a 3.51 ERA with 86 K/23 BB over 89.2 innings as a freshman for LSU, allowing only five home runs. Another strong sophomore season should cement him into a top-10 pick, possibly top-5.

3. Byron Buxton — 6’-1”, OF, Appling County HS (GA)

Georgia is a hotbed for baseball talent, and Buxton may be the best of the bunch this year. His elite speed and strong, accurate arm will allow him to stay in center field at the next level. Has extremely quick wrists and an easy, fluid swing. Mainly a pull hitter right now, the power should develop with time. Buxton is one of those players with so much talent that his body isn’t ready for it yet. Justin Upton comes to mind when watching him play.

2. Mark Appel — 6’-5”, RHP, Stanford

Appel is the most major-league ready pitcher available in the draft. At 6’-5” and 200 lbs, he is a power pitcher with great command and poise rarely seen for a player his size. His fastball hits 95 mph, his circle change has late fade and sits in the mid-80s, and his slider is tight and a wipe-out pitch. He posted a 3.02 ERA with 83 K/26 BB over 104.1 innings for Stanford in 2011. He should be a frontline starter and could move through the minors rapidly.

1. Lucas Giolito — 6’-6”, RHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

Giolito has everything you want in a future ace. At 6’-6” and 230 lbs, he has the size to be a workhorse already. He has five pitches in his arsenal and can command all of them. His fastball can hit 98 mph, and both his curve and slider are already plus-pitches. He has a slow and easy delivery and makes pitching look effortless. And he stays poised and has great mound presence. With another year of development and maturing, he could be the clear cut number-one pick come June 6.

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