Four years ago, the Devil Rays had the first pick in the draft, as they do today. Their internal debates came down to the wire, as they did not finalize their decision to select California high school outfielder Delmon Young over Southern University second baseman Rickie Weeks until the morning of the draft. There is no such drama this year, at least at number one. With a clear top talent who appears relatively signable, projecting who the number one pick will be is a slam dunk. After that, with various factors other than a player’s talent entering the picture, we’re hoisting up 40-footers from 15 feet beyond the arc, if I may mix my sports metaphors.
1. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
It’s the worst-kept secret in the game. David Price came into the season as the top prospect in the draft, and then went out and pitched as well, if not better than expectations. The D-Rays have insisted that Price is just part of a three-player mix that includes California prep third baseman Josh Vitters and Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, but that’s just a cover-your-ass move. It’s Price, and it has always been Price.
Pick: David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt
2. Kansas City Royals
As we get closer to draft day, it’s looking more and more like Kansas City will stay away from the player they prefer, New Jersey high school righty Rick Porcello, the top high school arm in the draft. While they are comfortable dealing with Porcello’s agent, Scott Boras, they’re not comfortable with an opening bid that could push into the $10 million range. Their attention has now turned to a three-player mix of Vitters, California prep slugger Mike Moustakas, and a cheaper option in local product Ross Detwiler, the lefty from Missouri State. Moustakas is also a Boras client, but is expected to be signable in the more reasonable range of $3-3.5 million, but the team looks like it will opt for Vitters, the top pure hitter in the draft.
Pick: Josh Vitters, 3B, Cypress HS (California)
3. Chicago Cubs
While the Cubs would love to take Wieters, he’s yet another Boras client. The Cubs have no problem with Boras, nor with his expected bonus demands, but Major League Baseball does. With the Cubs ownership situation in limbo, the Cubs have been instructed by MLB to adhere strictly to the slot system, with no well-over slot bonuses, and certainly no big league deal-and Wieters will require both. Rumors that the Cubs would go the super-cheap option with Virginia first baseman Sean Doolittle are more than a little silly, but they’ve been bearing down hard on Indiana high school righty Jarrod Parker of late, with GM Jim Hendry and special assistant Gary Hughes in attendance at multiple Parker outings in May.
Pick: Jarrod Parker, RHP, Norwell HS (Indiana)
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates would like to take Wieters here, but a request submitted to ownership to spend big money was quickly denied. That had the team turning to college pitching, with Detwiler their number one target. Unfortunately, the Pirates have been taking college pitchers in the first round for years, with each one requiring surgery and making the Pirates feel like they are stuck in the movie Groundhog Day. Which brings us to Devin Mesoraco. The catcher from Punxsutawney is the fastest rising player in the draft, thanks to outstanding private workouts, including one in front of Pittsburgh decision makers on Sunday in which he sprayed balls all over the field hitting with a wood bat. His combination of offensive and defensive skills rank with anyone around at this point and the local product angle makes for some much-needed good PR for a team that desperately needs it.
Pick: Devin Mesoraco, C, Punxsutawney HS (Pennsylvania)
5. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles have observed one draft mantra for years-they won’t deal with Boras. That seems to be the case once again, as Baltimore has been focusing on college pitching all year, with Detwiler and Clemson southpaw Daniel Moskos as the team’s top two targets. There are some late rumors that Baltimore will find it difficult to pass up Wieters here, but it still seems like they’ll go by the book in the end. Canadian high school righty Philippe Aumont has also entered the picture, but despite the confusion, the team will likely stick to the original plan when all is said and done.
Pick: Ross Detwiler, LHP, Missouri State
6. Washington Nationals
Are the Nats making a big splash, as many have rumored? Right now, the answer looks like yes. Washington has money to spend, and they’ve made no secret of their desire to invest heavily in their scouting and player development system. They’ll have their choice of Boras’ two top clients in Porcello and Wieters, but with pressure to improve the big league team as soon as possible, they’ll opt for Wieters, the powerful switch-hitting catcher who could move through the minors quickly. Early indications are that Wieters will require a deal similar to the one that the Rangers gave to fellow Boras client Mark Teixeira six years ago, which means a big league deal approaching $10 million. Washington is ready to pony up.
Pick: Matt Wieters, C, Georgia Tech
7. Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee normally shies away from Boras clients, but they’ve been on Moustakas all year long, being attached to him with this pick long before any other teams in this range were considering him. Late information had them targeting Mesoraco with the pick, but with him already off of the board, they’ll revert to the earlier favorite, and figure out a defensive home later, provided pre-pick money discussions don’t get too out of hand. If they’re uncomfortable with the initial demands, they could go cheaper here with Tennessee center fielder Julio Borbon.
Pick: Mike Moustakas, SS (for now), Chatsworth HS (California)
8. Colorado Rockies
After going the safe route at No. 2 last year with Greg Reynolds, the Rockies are looking for upside this year, focusing on some of the top tools players in the high school ranks. Moustakas and Georgia prep outfielder Jason Heyward have long been at the top of their lists, but a late entry has been Moustakas’ high school teammate, Matt Dominguez. Possibly the top defender in the draft, Dominguez is a player who has risen on draft boards thanks to a strong late-season surge. He began the year as a top ten pick, slipped during the first part of the season, and now finishes where he started.
Pick: Matt Dominguez, 3B, Chatsworth HS (California)
9. Arizona Diamondbacks
Like the Cubs, Arizona might be operating under some limitations from Major League Baseball, who is highly perturbed with the $4 million-plus deal the D-Backs recently handed out to Max Scherzer, last year’s first-round pick. Wanting to play nice, the Diamondbacks will simply take a player appropriate for the slot, focusing most on college pitching who might be able to help quickly. With Detwiler off the board, Moskos is the logical selection here.
Pick: Daniel Moskos, LHP, Clemson
10. San Francisco Giants
With three first-round picks, the Giants will be looking to save a little bit of money here and there, or a lot with just one. College closers are an attractive option in that scenario, as they can move quickly and pay off dividends, with Vanderbilt’s Casey Weathers fitting the bill to a tee, while also adding in the extra benefit of being highly signable as a college senior.
Pick: Casey Weathers, RHP, Vanderbilt
11. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners would like to add an impact bat to the mix, but have yet to identify one worthy of a pick this high who they expect to be available. They’ll turn to pitching, the strength of this draft, and go with Arkansas lefty Nick Schmidt. His projection isn’t equal to many of the high school arms, but he finished with year in style, nearly pitching a no-hitter in the SEC tournament and delivering seven shutout innings in regional play. He could help Seattle as early as late 2008, although it’s hard to see him as a future star.
Pick: Nick Schmidt, LHP, Arkansas
12. Florida Marlins
The Marlins had four first-round picks two years ago, and used every one of them to select a high school arm. Aumont and Texas high school righty Blake Beavan both have the kind of size and velocity that Florida covets, but they’ll go with upside from a hitter this time around, and take Jason Heyward. The Georgia high school talent has more raw tools than anyone in the draft, with power, speed, plus arm strength, and a body that draws comparisons to Dave Winfield.
Pick: Jason Heyward, OF, Henry County HS (Georgia)
13. Cleveland Indians
The Indians have been focused on the deep class of high school arms all along, with their sights firmly locked in on Beavan. He’s their top target, he’ll be there, and he’ll be the pick.
Pick: Blake Beavan, RHP, Irving HS (Texas)
14. Atlanta Braves
It’s not secret that the Braves like to stay local, in particular taking players from the storied East Cobb youth program right in their back yard. They’d love to see Heyward drop to them, with fellow Georgia high school star Josh Smoker, a power lefty, looking like their backup plan. The team is also enamored with another high school southpaw, Madison Bumgarner from North Carolina, who generally has received high grades from scouts. He has more size and better velocity than Smoker, but indications that he wants a deal in the $2.3-2.5 million range has scared off the Braves, who almost never go above slot.
Pick: Josh Smoker, LHP, Calhoun HS (Georgia)
15. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have rebuilt a once-dormant farm system with some astute first round picks of late, including right-hander Homer Bailey and outfielder Jay Bruce, both high school products. They have been focusing on the impressive crop of prep third baseman all spring, and with Vitters and Dominguez out of their reach, they’ll take a risk that the third-best option, Kevin Ahrens, will still be around in the supplemental round. At 15, a high-ceiling pitcher like Aumont is just too good to pass up.
Pick: Philippe Aumont, RHP, Ecole Du Versant HS (Quebec)
16. Toronto Blue Jays
Looking for a quick and easy sign while also looking to address an organizational need, Toronto is reportedly all over college catcher J.P. Arencibia with one of their two first-round picks. Arencibia went into the spring as a possible top ten pick, but a nagging back injury kept him from playing at his best. If he can get healthy, he’s a solid pick here, and the team is suddenly worried that he won’t be around at 21.
Pick: J.P. Arencibia, C, Tennessee
17. Texas Rangers
The Rangers have a pair of first-round picks, and seemingly no budget concerns with the first of the duo. They have a positive relationship with Boras, and have been on Matt Harvey all year. Harvey entered the year as the second-best high school pitcher in the draft, but his stock dropped a bit due to inconsistent performances. Texas is still trying to gage his signability, and if it’s considered even halfway reasonable, they feel the power righty would be a steal this low.
Pick: Matt Harvey, RHP, Fitch HS (Connecticut)
18. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are a real wild card. Always tight-lipped, St. Louis has tended to go conservative and college-heavy under scouting director Jeff Luhnow, while throwing the occasional curveball with a high-ceiling talent like Colby Rasmus-who established himself as the top prospect in the system. No such position player makes sense at 18, so the guess here is that they’ll return to the college route here with the only center fielder worthy of a first-round pick in Borbon, yet another Boras client.
Pick: Julio Borbon, OF, Tennessee
19. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies love athletes with high ceilings, and conveniently enough, there will be a couple of options for them at this stage. Tampa-area high school outfielder Michael Burgess fits the bill, but he might be too raw for even Philadelphia’s taste, and there should still be some high-ceiling pitchers to choose from. In that case, Florida high school star Michael Main makes sense for Philly, as he’s a supreme physical specimen, with second- to third-round talent as a center fielder, although they’ll put him on the mound.
Pick: Michael Main, RHP/CF, DeLand HS (Florida)
20. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers also have high school arms bunched up at the top of their draft boards, and now that the top names gone, they’re said to be pondering the relative merits of a trio that includes Smoker, righty Kyle Blair from Southern California, and Phoenix-area right-hander Tim Alderson. Bumgarner’s price tag doesn’t scare them off here, however.
Pick: Madison Bumgarner, LHP, South Caldwell HS (North Carolina)
21. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are eying college pitching with their other first-round pick, and they’ve shown a historical affinity for command-and-control types. Nobody fits that bill better than James Simmons, who walked just 15 in 123.2 innings, while also striking out 116 batters at putting up a 2.40 ERA-impressive numbers for a team that values performance.
Pick: James Simmons, RHP, UC Riverside
22. San Francisco Giants
Connecting the Giants to Beau Mills has just made too much sense all along. The Giants have a long history of signing players from the NAIA powerhouse at Lewis-Clark State, and Mills just had a season from the ages there, setting a new record with 38 home runs in 62 games while leading the Warriors to their fifth NAIA title in eight years. With three first-round picks, the Giants need to save a little money here and there, and Mills is only a slight overdraft in this slot. While some see Mills as solely an American League style of player because of his defensive limitations, the Giants hope he can fill what has been a glaring at first base.
Pick: Beau Mills, 3B, Lewis-Clark State
23. San Diego Padres
The Padres tend to draft conservatively and go college-heavy, and there’s no reason to expect that to change in the first round this year. The late-season return to form of Rice’s Joe Savery-a top ten pick entering the year-is too hard to pass up here for an organization desperate for talent.
Pick: Joe Savery, LHP, Rice
24. Texas Rangers
If Texas goes with Harvey at 17, they won’t underdraft here, but they will look for no more than a slot talent. Ahrens is a perfect fit as a local star and a switch-hitter with power who should slide over to third base as a pro; he’s drawn a couple of comparisons to Chipper Jones.
Pick: Kevin Ahrens, SS, Memorial HS (Texas)
25. Chicago White Sox
General Manger Kenny Williams has been openly critical of the team’s recent drafts, seeing them as far too conservative. The scouting department has been mandated to go with upside, and to focus on power arms. Alderson stands six-foot-seven and has excellent command of a fastball that has touched 97 mph, and he fits the mandate.
Pick: Tim Alderson, RHP, Horizon HS (Arizona)
26. Oakland Athletics
The Athletics are eying a local player, University of San Francisco pitcher Aaron Poreda. While he’s somewhat raw for a college arm, six-foot-five lefties with mid-90s fastballs don’t exactly grow on trees. Poreda comes with some risk, but his ceiling looks higher than that of many pitchers taken ahead of him.
Pick: Aaron Poreda, LHP, San Francisco
27. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are laying in wait, seeing which talent falls in their lap because of signability concerns. It worked last year with Andrew Miller at number six overall, and will work again this year. Porcello is the perfect fit here, and an absolute steal this low. Scouting director David Chadd loves tall pitchers who throw hard, and could be willing to open the checkbook for a talent like Porcello.
Pick: Rick Porcello, RHP, Seton Hall Prep (New Jersey)
28. Minnesota Twins
With a system heavy on pitching but light on bats, the Twins are taking a hitter here, but as to exactly who that hitter is, it’s hard to figure. The mix is reportedly quite deep. They strongly prefer high school position players over the college veterans, and they tend to like toolsy infielders. A late riser who has caught their attention is Will Middlebrooks, a two-sport star in Texarkana with plenty of size, raw power, and arm strength. He’s a shortstop who projects as a third baseman down the road.
Pick: Will Middlebrooks, SS, Liberty Eylau HS (Texas)
29. San Francisco Giants
The Giants are looking for a safe pick here, and their previous picks above this one limit them on a budgetary level to no more than slot money. Without a lot of hitters worthy of the pick, they could go with Rutgers star Todd Frazier, who projects as a power-hitting third baseman or corner outfielder down the road.
Pick: Todd Frazier, 3B, Rutgers
30. New York Yankees
The Yankees are playing the same game as the Tigers-sitting back and hoping one of the elite-yet-expensive talents falls to them. Hoping that would be Porcello, the Yankees might be forced to settle for Matt LaPorta, arguably the top pure hitter in college baseball. He’s limited to first base defensively, but the Yankees do need one of those.
Pick: Matt LaPorta, 1B, Florida
Grasping at Straws for the Teams Without a First-Round Pick
42. New York Mets
As a big-budget team without a first-round pick, the Mets have money to burn, and they’re hoping for someone to burn it on. Massachusetts southpaw Jack McGeary, could be available, and the Mets could be just the team to give him the big bucks it’ll take to buy him away from Stanford.
Pick: Jack McGeary, LHP, Roxbury Latin HS (Massachusetts)
55. Boston Red Sox
Another team with a big checkbook, the Red Sox are hoping to find a first-round equivalent late in the supplemental round, and could be the team to take a shot at Andrew Brackman. A six-foot-eleven right-hander who has touched 99 mph, Brackman hasn’t pitched since early May, after coming down with what has officially been termed as arm soreness; the rumor mill has stories involving everything from his needing Tommy John surgery to all those missed games being orchestrated by Scott Boras (who else?) in order to drop him to a team that can afford him… like the Red Sox.
Pick: Andrew Brackman, RHP, North Carolina State
58. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels are keen for high-ceiling players, and have a loaded system; much of the credit goes to scouting director Eddie Bane for some gambles that have paid off. As deep as the organization is, there are few outfielders to speak of, leaving smallish-yet-toolsy Alabama prep star Kentrail Davis as a player who could fall to them due to signability concerns.
Pick: Kentrail Davis, OF, Theodore HS (Alabama)
111. Houston Astros
To forecast the 111th pick in the draft in the equivalent of throwing a dart blindfolded. The Astros like athletes, so let’s give them a toolsy-yet-raw college talent who plays in their area.
Pick: Collin DeLome, OF, Lamar