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June 5, 2012

Future Shock

First Round Recap

by Kevin Goldstein

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There is no question that the first round of the 2012 draft was a weird one, but the question is why. The eight players expected to be the first eight players selected turned out to be just that, just not in the order anyone expected. An anticipated college-heavy teens turned into a run on high school talent, but we might never know if that was because of a flattened ranking of talent, or (more likely) because teams were scrambling during their five-minute windows to assess signability. Regardless, here's how everything went down.

1. Houston Astros: Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
There were some rumblings on Sunday that the Astros had backed off a bit on Appel after making some initial feelers as to his signability. That seemed to make Buxton the obvious pick by default, but Correa was always in play here after his lights-out private workout. A surprise, but a pleasant one, as the Astros selected who I had as the No. 1 talent in the draft. The question remains as to whether the Astros genuinely preferred Correa, or if they think they can shave a little cash off the $7.2 million suggested slot, a theory that received a boost when Houston selected hard-to-sign Lance McCullers with the 41stoverall selection.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “I'm Amazed”

2. Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
This seemed like it would be a binary decision all along: the Twins would select who was left between Appel and Buxton. But suddenly both players were available. The Astros passing on Appel reinforced the tough negotiation rumors, and in the end, Appel might as well have not even been on the board. Buxton is the kind of high-ceiling, toolsy talent the system needs, but he does not project as a quick mover, so Twins fans will have to exercise patience.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “La La Love You”

3. Seattle Mariners: Mike Zunino, C, Florida
The Mariners were favored to take Correa by many in the industry, but those that thought otherwise all bet on Zunino, who might have had his biggest fan in scouting director Tom McNamara. With such a lopsided system in favor of pitching, Appel just wasn't in the cards, and Zunino is the perfect fit. He allows the Mariners to give up the ghost that is Jesus Montero at catcher; beyond Zunino's baseball talent, there's not another catcher in this draft you'd rather have your top prospects throwing to.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Head On”

4. Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
The Orioles loved Buxton, but knew that was never a realistic possibility. This was another poor spot for Appel to slot, as there was reason to believe that the Orioles actually had Gausman as the number one pitcher on their board.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Lovely Day”

5. Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco
The Royals seemed like a wild card leading up to this selection, much of that revolving around speculation that when GM Dayton Moore saw Zimmer late in the season, he saw the bad, injured version. In the end, Moore trusted his scouts for this pick. As for Appel, the further he fell, the more difficult it became to select him. If the Astros were turned off of selecting him at a slot of $7.2 million, how could the Royals think about it with a slot figure at less than half of that?
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Trompe Le Monde”

6. Chicago Cubs: Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (FL)
There was no pick in my—and I'm guessing anyone's—mock draft that inspired more confidence. In the last 72 hours leading up to the draft, there wasn't even a whisper of another name here, even under a strange scenario where Correa would also be available. 
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Here Comes Your Man”

7. San Diego Padres: Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
The Padres had visions of Correa and Almora dancing in their head on Sunday night, but it was always a pipe dream. Fried was always the backup plan, and not one the Padres would be disappointed in. Once the Padres passed (as expected) on Appel, the amazing speculation began that he could fall as far as 16 to the Nationals, or even 31 to the Yankees.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “I've Been Waiting For You”

8. Pittsburgh Pirates: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
And let the shenanigans begin. Speculation about Appel plummeting ended quickly, but while teams scrambled to figure out their own picks, they also wondered how a deal would get done. If Appel was going to be problematic at No. 1 overall, what happens to a team with a slot of $2.0 million in a system where creativity isn't anywhere close to as easy as it once was? We already have drama, as Appel released a statement that said, in its entirety: “I'm currently concentrating on winning a national championship & finishing my academic endeavors at Stanford. I will address the possibility of a professional career in due time.” Does that sound like somebody excited about getting going in professional baseball, or does it sound like a first shot across the bow? Expect shenanigans here, folks. Major shenanigans.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Something Against You” or “Gouge Away”

9. Miami Marlins: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State
The weirdness in the first eight picks might have created some conservative thinking in the picks right below, as the Marlins went from targeting high school outfielders to taking arguably the safest pick in the draft.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Levitate Me”

10. Colorado Rockies: David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS (AL)
At this point a lot of talk started about Texas high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins dropping, for reasons that are not quite clear yet. Dahl was the Rockies' first choice anyway after a monster private workout.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Blown Away”

11. Oakland Athletics: Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS (FL)
And this is where things get a little bit weird. The A's were in reaction mode all along, hoping for weird scenarios that had a player dropping to them. That didn't happen, and Oakland's board featured players of every type, but few thought they would take a player like Russell. Not only is he being advised by Scott Boras, but he's the first high school up the middle player for Oakland to tab with their first pick since Lee Tinsley in 1987.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Oh My Golly!”

12. New York Mets: Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS (LA)
The Mets seemed pretty fixated on taking a high school player here, and had a willingness to spend as well. That led to some Lucas Giolito rumors, but in the end they went with Cecchini, who was liked by plenty of teams, but had a price tag that was seen as a bit ahead of his talent.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Dig For Fire”

13. Chicago White Sox: Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll HS (TX)
The Hawkins drop was mysterious, but the White Sox couldn't pass on him after seemingly focusing on college arms. The second he signs, Hawkins becomes the No. 1 prospect in the system by a wide margin, and general manager Kenny Williams did the right thing by telling Hawkins to knock it off with the back flips.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “No. 13 Baby”

14. Cincinnati Reds: Nick Travieso, RHP, Archbishop HS (FL)
This was the first real eye-opener, and the first indication that teams in the mid-to-late teens were spending most of the five-minute allotments focused on signability. Either that, or the tier two college arms just weren't as enticing as originally thought.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Is She Weird?”

15. Cleveland Indians: Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M
This was the biggest surprise of the draft. Naquin certainly has a plus hit tool, but he could fit in a corner, where his power doesn't profile well. It looked like his most optimistic landing spot was with Atlanta at 21, and it's easy to think the Indians might have been looking to cut a deal in order to save money elsewhere.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Weird At My School”

16. Washington Nationals: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
Heading into the final hours before the draft, it became clear that Lucas Giolito was going to be selected in the first round. Washington makes sense due to their history of aggressive drafting, as well as their track record of not shying away from pitchers with injury histories, but there are questions about how the Nationals are going to sign him with a budget cap of just under $4.5 million for all of their picks in the first ten rounds. Either Giolito's price fell, or the Nationals have something creative in mind. They didn't just take him on a lark.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Stormy Weather”

17. Toronto Blue Jays: D.J. Davis, OF, Stone HS (MS)
With three supplemental first-round picks, the Blue Jays decided to spread their risk, and went conservative with their first pick in order to spend a little more money later, with a likely candidate needing an over-pay being supplemental first-round pick Matt Smoral.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Dig For Fire”

18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager, 3B, Northwest Cabarrus HS (NC)
The Dodgers seemed to be focused on high school arms, but made a statement with Seager, who has a rumored price tag well over the slot of $1.95 million here. This is the first good sign for Dodgers fans about how things will work under new ownership.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “The Happening”

19. St. Louis Cardinals: Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
When doing the mock draft on Sunday night, it was hard to find a home for Wacha. It didn't make sense to me at the time, but in the end, there really wasn't a home for him. This is a great find for St. Louis at 19, but he won't be an easy sign here, which likely led to their selection four picks later.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Brick Is Red”

20. San Francisco Giants: Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State
The second of the college arms expected to go in the teens, Stratton's age (he turns 22 this summer) possibly worked against him, as scouts had problems projecting him out, and his secondary pitches still need development.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Tame”

21. Atlanta Braves: Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood HS (GA)
After an uninspiring, college-based draft in 2011, the Braves returned to predictable form by taking the best high school arm from their back yard.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “The Thing”

22. Toronto Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
Stroman seemed to be the Plan B player for any number of teams in front of this pick, and this could be a steal here. If the Blue Jays sign him quickly and commit to a bullpen role, Stroman could be pitching important big league innings by September.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Isla De Encanta”

23. St. Louis Cardinals: James Ramsey, OF, Florida State
While the Cardinals where surely happy to get Wacha, it forced a budget-conscious pick here. Ramsey has no weakness, but just average to slightly-above tools across the board. His makeup gives him a chance to exceed scouting expectations.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Down To The Well”

24. Boston Red Sox: Devin Marrero, SS, Arizona State
Marrero was initially expected to go eighth, and then 16th, and ultimately 24th. He was just too good to pass up here as a plus defensive shortstop, despite the questions about his bat.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “The Sad Punk”

25. Tampa Bay Rays: Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson
It's rare to find the best college hitter in the draft at 25, and despite being linked to athletes like Davis and Lewis Brinson, Tampa Bay ended Shaffer's slide. If he's a third baseman, he's a steal here. If he has to move to first, he belongs here.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Vamos”

26. Arizona Diamondbacks: Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana HS (LA)
Arizona was expected to be focusing on youthful upside from position players and, with power at a premium, Trahan was their selection. Whether he's a catcher or not is an open debate.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “The Navajo Know”

27. Milwaukee Brewers: Clint Coulter, C, Union HS (WA)
Coulter was connected to the Brewers for a long time, and ultimately landed here. He's a big, physical, immensely strong player, with some questions about his pure hit tool.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Winterlong”

28. Milwaukee Brewers: Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern
The Brewers decided to double-dip on power with their second pick. With a healthy 2012 season, Roache would have been a mid first-round pick, but his severe wrist injury scared off too many teams. A risky pick, but there's a potential payoff here as well.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Break My Body”

29. Texas Rangers: Lewis Brinson, OF, Coral Springs HS (FL)
With a packed system and late picks, the Rangers tend to focus on upside athletes, regardless of the risk. Brinson's upside rivals that of some Top 10 talents, but there is sushi-grade tuna that is less raw.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Build High”

30. New York Yankees: Ty Hensley, RHP, Sante Fe HS (OK)
The Yankees decided to also focus on upside, and Hensley offers plenty of that. He's a massive right-hander with plenty of size and plenty of right-now velocity, but his mechanics will need some refinement, and there are concerns about his conditioning long-term.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Gigantic”

31. Boston Red Sox: Brian Johnson, LHP, Florida
As he's being advised by Scott Boras, Deven Marrero is not going to come cheaply, so the Red Sox balanced their first pick with some safety here. Johnson is an athletic and polished left-hander, but his stuff doesn't excite.
Accompanying Pixies Song: “Velvety Instrumental Version”

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  2012 Draft

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