May 29, 2012
Top 30 Draft Prospects: Part One
To be clear, this is a talent ranking based on numerous conversations with a wide variety of scouts and team officials. This is not a mock draft; this is simply how I would line up the magnets on the board based on what I know. I don't think this will be the order in which the players will be selected, as bonus demands, risk (or safety) and obviously a team's own scouting reports will certainly change everything, and the biggest wild card is still how the new rules will affect how picks come off the board.
1. Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (PR)
Who he is: A big athletic shortstop with remarkable presence at the plate, quick hands, outstanding bat control and the potential for plus power. He's a plus runner who is graceful in the field and has one of the best infielder arms in the draft. The only concern is with his size, as he’s already 6-foot-3 and approaching 200 pounds, but he has more than enough ability to be a star at third base as well, and one scout believes he'd actually get to the big leagues quicker at that position. It's important to note that he is only 17, and multiple teams have cited Rany Jazayerli's draft/age study as entering into their evaluations this year.
Draft skinny: Correa has been inching his way up draft boards all spring, and while it's unlikely he'll go number one, he's at least in Houston's mix. Once seen as a prime target for the Cubs at No. 6 overall, now many teams don't think he'll last that long.
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
Who he is: Among the best high school righties in recent memory, as he has everything scouts look for. He's 6-foot-6 with long levers, throws in the mid-to-upper 90s while touching 100, and he's much more than just a pure arm, as many teams also saw his power curveball as one of if not the best breaking ball in the draft. He also has an advanced changeup for his age.
Draft skinny: Giolito is the biggest enigma in the draft after an elbow injury shut him down in March. While there is no structural damage, he's only to the point of throwing off flat ground, and his UCLA commitment is considered stronger than ever because he had a chance to be the first high school right-hander ever taken at No. 1 overall before the injury, and teams assumed he'll still want to be paid like one. If he goes in the top five picks, I will not be shocked. If nobody touches him in the first round due to signability fears, I will not be surprised.
3. Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS (GA)
Who he is: The best all-around athlete in the draft. He's a plus-plus (or more) runner who projects to steal plenty of bases and cover a ton of ground in center field to go with a rocket for an arm. He has fantastic bat speed, but reviews on his power are wide-ranging. To believe he'll be a home run hitter right now requires significant projection, but while many are convinced it's in him, others wonder how that can be when he's not showing it against sub-par competition in rural Georgia.
Draft skinny: Power or no, it's hard to match Buxton's tools and upside. He's firmly in the mix for Houston at No. 1, and it would be surprising for the Twins to pass him up at No. 2.
4. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Who he is: There are three big college arms in this draft, and Appel is generally seen as the best. He certainly passes the sniff test, due to a 6-foot-5 power frame and a 93-95 mph fastball that can touch 98. His breaking ball is a bit of a hybrid, but is effective and misses plenty of bats, and his changeup is average. He's excellent, but for some, he lacks the wow factor of a potential 1-1 pick. One scout commented, “The parts are greater than the sum,” as he can be surprisingly hittable at times.
Draft skinny: Currently the favorite to go No. 1 to Houston, but not yet a lock. He should get through the minors quickly, but he's also the top prospect being advised by Scott Boras, and teams are unsure as to what those negotiations will be like under the new rules.
5. Kyle Zimmer RHP, San Francisco
Who he is: There are many teams who have Zimmer ahead of Appel on their boards. He has size and extreme athleticism for a pitcher, along with plus command and control of a bigtime fastball that consistently touches the upper 90s while touching 98-99 mph. His curveball is a plus pitch, and while his changeup needs consistency, it has potential. With two dominant offerings in a non-elite conference, he's been able to blow hitters away, and will need to learn how to sequence as a pro.
Draft skinny: Zimmer could go as high as No. 2 overall to Minnesota, and it's hard to see him falling out of the top five picks.
6. Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (FL)
Who he is: One of the most toolsy players in the draft, but certainly the best pure baseball player in the high school crop. He gets easy plus grades for his quick bat and contact ability, and has average power projection due to his knack for hard contact. He has a good arm and is a plus runner and may be the best defensive center fielder in the draft right now, and that includes the college class. He's not the biggest or most physical player, with a frame that resembles Seattle's Dustin Ackley.
Draft skinny: Another Scott Boras client, Almora will certainly go with a single digit pick once the big college arms go off the board, with an outside shot at landing in the top five.
7. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State
Who he is: While Gausman is part of the Big Three college pitchers often talked about, he's generally seen as just a tick below the two California products. He has a lankier build than Appel and Zimmer, and while he matches them in velocity and has a better changeup than either, his breaking balls lag behind.
Draft skinny: The Orioles, Royals and Cubs draft fourth, fifth and sixth, and all are looking at the Big Three. Gausman shouldn't last past them.
8. Mike Zunino, C, Florida
Who he is: Zunino was being discussed as a possible No. 1 overall pick after a tremendous start to the season, but the conference play brought him back down to earth. His greatest strength is that he has no apparent weakness; while he lacks elite tools, he projects as a solid defensive catcher who can hit .270 to .280 with 18-20 home runs annually, and every aspect of his game plays up due to outstanding baseball intelligence.
Draft skinny: Positional scarcity will help Zunino, as will the general sense that he's the safest bet among position players. That might push him higher than this ranking, maybe coming off the board within the first five picks.
9. Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll HS (TX)
Who he is: A physical beast at 6-foot-3 and a muscular 210+ pounds, Hawkins has a prototypical right-field profile with plus-plus raw power, plenty of arm strength and excellent athleticism for his size. There are concerns about the amount of swing-and-miss in his game, and some see him as a high school version of Oakland 2010 first-round pick Michael Choice.
Draft skinny: Power is hard to find in this draft, and while that could move Hawkins into the top ten, he'll more like go in the early teens.
10. Lance McCullers, RHP, Jesuit HS (FL)
Who he is: With Giolito on the shelf, McCullers has the best velocity of any prep arm. He sits at 94-97 mph, has touched 100, and his slider can be a wipeout offering when it's on. He has a wide-bodied six-foot-two build, but his delivery is far from easy, and he did not begin starting full-time until this spring, leaving many scouts wishing they had more views of him in that role.
Draft skinny: Fewer players in the draft generate more wide-ranging opinions, as there are teams in the top 10 with significant interest, and teams in the 20s who don't care for him. Logically, he goes somewhere in the teens.
11. Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
Who he is: The top lefty in the draft and arguably the most projectable arm. 6-foot-5, skinny, and ultra-loose, Fried has shown a fastball that touches the mid-90s, he's shown an outstanding curveball with heavy, late break, and he's shown good feel for a changeup, but he's rarely shown it all at once, and his inconsistent outings have teams ranking him based on when they saw him.
Draft skinny: Fried is all over projected boards. If the college arms go quickly—and it seems like they will—he could go in the top ten, and there is little reason to think he'll drop past 12.
12. Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
Who he is: A plus defender at shortstop, which in this draft is more than enough to make him an elite pick. He's a quick-twitch athlete with great instincts, range, hands and plenty of arm for the position. He has enough bat to easily project as an everyday player who hits at the end of a lineup, and he has a shot at hitting second if his line drive bat fully develops. One scout compared him to Royals prospect Christian Colon, but with superior defense.
Draft skinny: It's harder than ever to find legitimate shortstops in the draft, and that's helping Marrero's stock considerably. He's a backup plan for several teams in the 7-10 range and won't last past the mid-teens.
13. Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson
Who he is: No college hitter is more likely to make an offensive impact in the big leagues than Shaffer. He's the rare combination of power, patience, but also pure hitting ability, as he should put up good numbers in all three triple-slash categories. The issue is that many see him as a bat-only prospect who will need to move to first base as a pro, with an outside chance at sticking in a corner.
Draft Skinny: In a draft that is especially thin on college hitters, Shaffer's ability stands out and is attracting nearly every team drafting in the early teens.
14. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
Who he is: The best bet to be the first from this year's draft class to reach the big leagues. Stroman has been a starter at Duke, but scouts all talk about his stint as Team USA's closer last summer, as at just 5-foot-9, few think he can handle a 200-inning workload. Out of the pen, his 95-97 mph fastball and plus-plus slider should work in the late innings, and in short order.
Draft Skinny: In a weak year with new rules, it's possible that an early drafting team could just throw up their hands and take Stroman early for the safety factor. Nobody is talking about him as a top ten pick at this time, but nobody picking in the 20s think he'll be there for them, either.
15. David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS (AL)
Who he is: Dahl is a prototypical first-round high school outfielder with plenty of tools. He runs well, has an outstanding arm and consistently barrels balls to all fields. Teams that believe in him see a long-term center fielder with 20/20 potential. Teams that have questions see him in a corner with only average pop.
Draft skinny: The difficulty of teams to find even potential up-the-middle talents has Dahl firmly in the first-half of the first round, with nearly no chance to still be on the board after the teens.
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Click here to see Kevin's other articles.
You can contact Kevin by clicking here