The 2012 draft kicks off tonight when the Houston Astros go on the clock at 7pm EST. It’s going to be televised live on the MLB Network, and the Indians pick 15th overall in the first round, then have a long wait until their 2nd round pick at #79 overall. Most of the “experts” have the Indians looking at a college arm, but most of them said that last year when they stole high school shortstop Francisco Lindor with the 8th overall pick. A lot can change in the next few hours, but here’s how I see the first 20 picks of the draft shaking out. When the Indians do get on the clock, I’ll use that time to get in last-second tweets on who I think the Indians will pick, and who I think they should pick. If you missed yesterday’s draft preview, check it out here as it has more in-depth scouting reports for most of the guys the Indians will likely consider at #15.
1. Houston Astros: Mark Appel, RHP-Stanford
Appel has been talked about as the potential top pick all spring, and he’s done nothing to dissuade that notion. He has a clean, easily repeatable delivery that generates plus-plus velocity, as his fastball sits between 94-97 and can touch 99. He’s not on the level of a Strasburg, Harper or even Gerrit Cole, but he’s a worthy #1 pick who could be a front line starter down the road.
2. Minnesota Twins: Bryon Buxton, OF-Appling County HS (Georgia)
Buxton is an elite athlete, a potential two-way superstar in CF. He’s going to be an outstanding defender in CF, a potential gold glover with one of the better outfield arms in the entire draft. His power ceiling is questionable, but he has strong wrists and a quick bat, so most talent evaluators are convinced that with the right coaching he will hit for both average and power as a professional. He’s not a sure thing, but he probably has more upside than anyone that will be selected in the 2012 draft.
3. Seattle Mariners: Carlos Correa, SS-Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
The Mariners passed on 2011’s fast rising shortstop (Lindor) and will not make the same mistake this year. Correa is a dark horse for the top overall pick, and has one of the best skill sets in the entire draft. He’s a potential 2-way star at SS, but his bat is his main tool and there are thoughts that he could outgrow SS and end up at the hot corner. Even if that happens, his bat will play there, and his cannon arm will serve him just as well at 3B. He’s just 17 years old and has incredible upside. I think Seattle would be making a big mistake if they pass on him here.
4. Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman, RHP-LSU
Gausman is seen as a bit behind Mark Appel in the class of college arms, but not much. He sits between 93-96 with the fastball, and has touched 99. His best secondary pitch is his slider, which he throws at 83-86 with excellent tilt and late life. He also features a solid changeup that can flash plus, as it has good down and away action from lefthanded hitters giving him a nice weapon to attack them with. His command isn’t elite, but it’s improved and most scouts see at least #2 starter upside here, if not #1. He’d be a great addition to an Orioles system that already features a ton of young pitching.
5. Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer, RHP-San Francisco
This is a spot that might feature a dark-horse pick, because I’m not sure the Royals are as high on Zimmer as most. But they are in dire need of advanced arms, and while you don’t draft for need in the MLB draft, I can see Dayton Moore picking the best remaining college arm on the board. Zimmer is an athletic starter who sits between 92-96 with a solid changeup, but lacks a go-to breaking ball. He’s a converted infielder, so he has more room to grow than most college starters, but he’s also not as polished as most college starters. This is one of those picks where I have to slot someone in and I have to slot Zimmer somewhere, so I’m basically making a SWAG that he ends up in KC.
6. Chicago Cubs: Albert Almora, OF-Mater Academy (Florida)
Almora is a potential all-star CF, the second best prep bat in the draft behind Buxton. He’s not as fast as Buxton and doesn’t have as strong of an arm, but he’s got a better power projection and should still be an above-average defender in CF. He has a compact swing and quick hands that explode through the zone, and most scouts see him as having 20-25 HR power eventually. He has above average speed that plays up due to his baseball instincts, and while not a burner should still be able to steal bases in the show. The Cubs have been high on Almora throughout the process, and it’s almost unanimous that this will be the pick if he’s on the board.
7. San Diego Padres: Max Fried, LHP-Harvard Westlake HS (California)
Fried is the draft’s top lefthanded high school arm, and has a lot of scouts predicting a future #2 starter in the big leagues. He already sits between 90-93 with his fastball, and does a nice job locating it to both sides of the plate. He has an above-average curveball that flashes plus, and an extremely advanced changeup for a high schooler. He’s a good athlete and has a very clean, repeatable delivery so there won’t be much for his professional pitching coaches to fix. He’s a rare high school arm that isn’t high risk, as he’s already got some polish and pitchability so he should move fairly quickly through the system.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates: Mike Zunino, C-Florida
Pittsburgh would have to be thrilled if Zunino fell to them, as he’s one of the better college bats in the draft. He’s not going to be an elite defensive catcher, but he should be able to remain at the position. That, plus above-average hit and power projections, have him coming off the board anywhere from 4-8. I can’t see him getting past Pittsburgh here, despite rumors of them taking Arizona State SS Deven Marrero (which I think would be a reach here.
9. Miami Marlins: Courtney Hawkins, OF-Carroll HS (Texas)
Breaking the hearts of Tribe fans desiring a toolsy outfielder, the Marlins take the best remaining prep bat on the board with Hawkins. For a more in-depth scouting report on Hawkins and some of the other guys who I have going off the board in the next few picks, check out yesterday’s MLB Draft Preview.
10. Colorado Rockies: David Dahl, OF-Oak Mountain HS (Alabama)
Colorado would love Hawkins if he’s here, and are reportedly on Fried as well if he drops. Another toolsy HS OF off the board, and another heartbreaker for Adam Burke. Dahl’s scouting report is also in yesterday’s piece.
11. Oakland A’s: Joey Gallo, 3B-Bishop Gorman HS (Nevada)
Gallo has a lot of swing and miss in his game, but he also has probably the best raw power in the entire draft. The 6’5”, 220lb lefthanded hitter has also touched 97 on the mound, but has made it abundantly clear that he wants to play the field at the next level. His defense is so-so, but if he can shorten up his swing to generate more contact but still maintain his power profile, his defense will not be a concern. Still, there’s a chance that he flames out as a hitter and ends up back on the mound at some point, which would be a nice fall-back option for whoever drafts him.
12. New York Mets: Lucas Giolito, RHP-Harvard-Westlake HS (California)
Here’s where things start to get weird. As I explained yesterday, Giolito has 1-1 talent, but is hurt. Teams are going to be scared off by both the injury and bonus demands, but if the Mets can work out the parameters of a deal beforehand, Giolito makes a lot of sense here. If he doesn’t go here, he probably doesn’t go till the later rounds as a backup in case a team can’t sign their high 1st-round pick. Have I mentioned that I hate the new draft rules? If not Giolito, look for the Mets to grab a college arm.
13. Chicago White Sox: Marcus Stroman, RHP-Duke
This would be the most White Sox pick ever. Kenny Williams, not a patient man by any means, would love to pick a guy who could help the pennant run this year, and if they move Stroman to the bullpen that’s exactly what he could do. Very similar to the Chris Sale pick, Stroman has outstanding stuff but it’s unclear as to whether he can hold up physically in the rotation. If this pick happens, expect Stroman to get jerked around between the bullpen and starting role for the next few years, similar to what we’ve seen with Sale. I’d love to see Stroman on the board at 15, but this seems like too easy of a pick for the Sox.
14. Cincinnati Reds: Andrew Heaney, LHP-Oklahoma State
Heaney, Stratton and Wacha are all in play here. Pretty much everything I’ve seen has the Reds on a college arm, and with Stroman gone those are the only three that make sense. All else being equal, take the lefty.
15. Cleveland Indians: Chris Stratton, RHP-Mississippi State
Sigh. This is who I think the Indians will take, not necessarily who I want them to take. With the way the board shakes out, really only a few options make sense here; Clemson 3B Richie Shaffer, high school arm Lance McCullers, or one of the reaming college arms (likely Wacha). I’d love to see them gamble on McCullers, who has much higher upside and much higher risk, but the sensible pick here is Stratton. I’d also rather see them take Shaffer, who has top-10 upside with the bat. I’d even prefer Wacha. This is probably a case of me planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
16. Washington Nationals: Michael Wacha, RHP-Texas A&M
The Nats jump on the remaining 2nd tier college arm. The Indians could take Wacha, leaving Stratton for Washington as well. Wacha is actually decent value here, as he was seen as a potential top-10 pick earlier this spring. Deven Marrero is also a possibility here.
17. Toronto Blue Jays: Lance McCullers, RHP-Jesuit HS (Florida)
The Jays have always drafted for upside; expect that trend to continue here. McCullers is a real boom or bust guy, and I think Toronto would love to see him fall to 17. He might be a tough sign with the new draft rules (that I hate).
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Ty Hensley, RHP-Santa Fe HS (Oakland)
With new ownership, the Dodgers are a bit of a wildcard; no one’s really sure what the mandate from on high will be, or if they will just step back and let the baseball people do their thing. Either way, Hensley makes a lot of sense here.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Addison Russell, SS-Pace HS (Florida)
An athletic SS who could stick defensively, Russell lost 25 pounds this winter to try and show scouts that he will be a shortstop long-term. Still, if he fills back out and has to move to his right on the diamond, the bat should play. He has plus raw power that could still improve, and while he’s not a great overall hitter he should improve to above-average after experience against better pitching. He’s got a couple of mechanical flaws that need to be worked out, but he’s a good athlete and should have no problem adjusting and getting coached up at the dish.
20. San Francisco Giants: Matt Smoral, LHP-Solon HS
I think that Clemson 3B Richie Shaffer makes more sense here, but supposedly the Giants are locked in on a HS arm. It’s not everyday you can add a 6’5” lefty who throws in the mid-90’s to your system, and Smoral only falls this far due to the foot injury that kept him off the mound most of this spring.